Friday, May 30, 2008

Racism is in the Eye of the Beholder

James Stewart one turn away from winning the first moto of the 2008 Glen Helen National.
Photo by "mx_984",

bbas Hawazin at Catharsis is one of my favorite Iraqi Bloggers. He'd be the second to tell you it's not because we always agree on everything at all times. Not by a long shot. He does pass my litmus test of being against the violence directed at Iraqi civilians, government and security forces, and I don't think he's a fan of attacks on US forces either, though I predict that may change to ruffle our feathers - hopefully not in sincerity. But his posts are often thought provoking, his sense of humor well-functioning, and his coverage of a diverse range of topics makes him very high up on my "must read" list.

I don't expect that will change, but as you may know, I am now banned from commenting there along with my co-contributors.

Just for background, Abbas issued a slightly tongue-in-cheek
fatwa against IBC here. That was all fine, but lately comments between him and IBC'er Mister Ghost have turned ugly. See here (in comments), and here. So, now Abbas is banning us here, and again here.

In the first post, he has this to say:
Personally, I don't tolerate bigots, so, and while I have previously issued a fatwa against their blog, it was slightly in jest, as of today, I ban all members (although Rhuslancia wasn't really bad, but I'm sorry) from commenting at my flawed, prejudiced, cowardly blog.

And then in the second, this:
On a personal note, I cannot stand them, I totally abhor their views, their ongoing campaign to blame everything on the inferiority of Iraqis, their racist, sly mockery of Arab-Muslim culture, among other things.

I do appreciate the personal close-but-no-exception, even though I think a ban of Mister Ghost in particular or the collective banishment of IBC in general are neither warranted nor the best way to solve any problems he has with us. But, it's his blog and if he thinks that's the best way to approach this then it's his decision to make.

There are a couple of strange things here I'd like to note.

First, the second post announcing the ban has resulted in quite a number of IBC non-fans lining up to encourage Abbas, pat him on the back, throw feces at us, and so on. I am not too surprised at this. I know from experience that many of the arguments they make day after day and year after year regarding Iraq simply do not hold up to scrutiny. One example is the "Resistance to Occupation is a legal right under international law". Sure, there is some truth to that, but the exact legal principals do not apply to Iraq's legal status under the same international laws. Oh my, how they
do get upset when you ask them to prove otherwise! They can't, so the only thing left is to resort to insults and try to silence their opposition. Of course they're pleased that Abbas would do this for them.

Second, it is really weird to have so many comments devoted to us at IBC on his post, yet we are not supposed to be participating? The ban is apparently on our honor, because as far as I know he has not yet deleted our comments or blocked our IPs. In fact, in reviewing the comments just now I see he is being lenient, and maybe his sense of humor is shining through a bit (by deleting Jeffrey's comments).

Third, it is odd that "racist" comments from Mister Ghost may warrant banishment, but calling someone a dirty Indian cow-worshipper are not racist, or not bannable offenses? (Thanks, Anand, for defending us, by the way. Personally I think such overtly racist and hateful slurs against you come because a commenter has nothing grown-up to say to refute you).

Fourth, and to the title of this post, I believe racism is in the eye of the beholder. I really doubt Mister Ghost was
trying to be racist when he said what he did, but it was perceived that way by Abbas and he is clearly offended. I guess I can't speak to Mr G's character except for what I've seen, and his In-T-Views have been excellent in my opinion. I do see how Abbas could take offense in some of his comments, however.

As for my own possible racism, well, I appreciate those people (Abbas, Anand, Marcus) who have stood up for me. Full disclosure: I am Caucasian, blond-ish, blue-eyed, and of decidedly European ancestry. I listen to Air Obama all the time, and since I cannot see myself voting for him due to his Iraq position that alone might make me racist according to them. I don't know.

I do think the anti-Iraqi position is the more racist one- you know: the one that says A-rabs need dictators 'cause they can't do democracy and so on. I disagree with that strongly and think Arabs, Kurds, and Muslims of all sects can and will have a successful democracy and a stable Iraq. I personally chalk this up more to general optimism instead of racism, but maybe you see it differently.

Anyway, since I like those little polls, here's one for you:

Is RhusLancia Racist?
Yes, and he smells funny too free polls
Let's hear it!

Abbas, I seriously doubt you give a rat's *ss about me or my opinions. But I do enjoy reading yours and I hope that all goes well for you.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Graduations and Weddng Bells in the Iraqi Blogosphere

Three Iraqi bloggers have graduated this spring here in the United States of America. Bassam Sebti (Baghdad Treasure) graduated with a Master's in Writing from St. Joseph's University, a Jesuit institution in Philadelphia. In a profile on Bassam published recently for the school newspaper, we learn a little more about his plans after graduation.
After graduating in May, Sebti hopes to work for a New York City or Washington, D.C.-based non-profit organization that deals with Iraq, especially one that defends the freedom of speech and protects the media, extending to his fellow Iraqi journalists. He hopes to see continued coverage of the Iraqi political situation, but with more objectivity and a special attention to how the war affects the people.

"I think American journalists should concentrate on the human side of the story instead of just covering the surface. The war and the political struggle in Iraq are far from simple and not just a black-or-white vision. It's not just evil trying to dominate the good," Sebti says emphatically. "There is much that Americans are not aware of and it's the journalists' duty to educate the public so they can understand the real story in Iraq."
So it looks like instead of returning to Iraq, Bassam will stay in the US and try to help Iraqis from Washington or New York.

Omar Fekeiki (24 Steps to Liberty) graduated from the University of California at Berkeley with a Master's in Journalism this spring. For an in-depth profile on Omar, take a look at this piece in Salon by Gary Kamiya, one of his journalism professors. In it you will learn of Omar's belief that Iraqis need another strongman in charge of the country, a kind of Saddam-lite. He suggests Allawi.

At the graduation ceremony at Berkeley, Omar was invited to give a speech, during which he offered his own "breaking news" to the audience:
And then, from the podium, he called up the person closest to him right now, 30-year-old Ban Hameed, whom he'd met eight years ago when they were both college students in Baghdad. She made her way to the platform, looking embarrassed. "I was afraid she would pass out," said Fekeiki on Monday.

In the past year, what had been a close friendship had turned into a close romance. Fekeiki told the audience he had one more thing to say, and then told her that he wanted to spend the rest of his life with her. They embraced, she sobbed and he gave her a ring. Although this came as a surprise to her, he had been reasonably sure she'd say yes. "I'm a good reporter," he said Monday. "I did research before I did it." They plan to marry in April.
Man, Omar seems to have a flair for the dramatic. He really is becoming American.

We haven't heard much from Morbido (Morbid Smile), but as far as I know she has graduated with a Master's degree in English Literature and may be finishing her dissertation at this time. All of her regular readers have been waiting for her to update her blog to see how she's doing.

Zeyad Kasim (Healing Iraq) graduated from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism back in January. As far as we know, he is in New York, probably still working for IraqSloggers on an H-1 visa. You can check him out on Facebook and become his friend.


On Saturday, over at Skies, Sami wrote about a childhood memory that stimulated a very interesting discussion in which commenter Laura helped me understand a memory from my own past.

Can you recall your earliest memory?


Friday, May 23, 2008

The Tormentors Don't Change In Iraq, Only Those Who They Torment

I would like to defend myself on a couple of points brought up by the deep-thinking but inherently Iraqi-flawed Abbas.

I tended to grasp the fact (this refers to both of you, NIW and Abbas), that Qurans weren't properly disposed of, by being thrown in trash bins or toilets, as some have done.

My point about the Quran burning being an act of blasphemy was in the context of how and why it was being burned. They, Rotten Gods are doing it as an act of desecration against the Quran and Islam.

The proper way to dispose of the American flag (like the Quran) is to burn it, but if you are setting it aflame in public (or otherwise) in protest, it holds a different connotation all together, being offensive to a lot, viewed as an act of desecration by many.

I tend to feel, that people should be imbued with enough civil liberties to be able to protest in such a way, and possessed of such liberties, that are sadly lacking in places as Iran, and Iraq of the past and present.

Strangely enough, if the Iranian regime discovers Rotten Gods, they are not going to see Burning as the proper way to dispose of the Quran, rather as an attack against their interpretation of Islam.

Abbas, if you don't think it is an act of blasphemy, go to Sadr City and have a Quran barbecue. LOL. Torch off a few hundred of them, show pictures on your blog, and rail against Sharia law. And post your email address and invite comments. See, if they think it is a proper way to dispose of Qurans.

As Rotten Gods themselves pointed out in the In T View, Muslims have threatened them for what they have done - if it is not considered blasphemous to these Muslims, why the threats? They are angry because they view Rotten Gods as desecrating the Quran. Well, other than being cranky fundamentalist Muslims. LOL.

I knew, that In T View, would provoke some interesting responses. Provoking is good.

And Rotten Gods, you have to give them credit for dissenting in Iran, where the penalty is death at times. Dissent is important.

How many of you Iraqi bloggers had the cojones to dissent during Saddam's time when there was a harsh penalty to be paid? Most of you were nice little cogs in the Baathist Caliphate. You may have not been pulling out tongues like members of the Mukhbarat, but you had accepted living in the cradle to grave welfare system. Free education, LOL, dirty money, which you all took advantage of. You were all part of the system, whether you want to admit it or not.

As far as Layla Anwar, ah ha, I knew my statement about her not being a bigot would be questioned by people.

Well, it was a toughie to characterize Layla in her proper context.

But I will say, she, like a lot of Iraqis, have deeply ingrained prejudices.

Would anyone disagree that Iraqis have deeply ingrained prejudices? LOL.

If she is a Bigot, then most of the Iraqis are bigots. Maybe they are.

The Iraqis in the last 60 years have basically run out all the minorities (non Kurds, but then they have their own state) from the country. Gone, Daddy Gone are the Jews, Christians, Mandaeans, Armenians...I think there are a few Greeks that lost their way and were thrown in to the mix.

The Iraqi Christians certainly are being forced to follow the path of the Jews. According to the well-informed Anglican vicar of Baghdad, Andrew White, there are approximately 100,000 Christians left in Baghdad, and certainly the population isn't likely to increase in the future, but steadily shrink.

The Jews of Iraq, now that's one of the saddest stories to emerge from Iraq's modern history. In the early Twentieth Century, Jews comprised one-third of Baghdad's population. Today, there are about five Jews left in Baghdad.

For the responsibility-avoiding Iraqis, there is no Christian version of Israel being formed in the Middle East this time around to be used by the Iraqis as a lame excuse for the disappearance of the Christians, the way you happily embraced your expulsion of those "dirty Jews."

It's so eerie. The same curses, such as being called "collaborators," uttered against the Jews by the Iraqis of 70 years ago, are the same mouthed against the Christians of today.

The tormentors don't change in Iraq, only those who they torment.


Thursday, May 22, 2008

Breaking News: Love Goes Unrequited in Iraq

Sam from Interps Life, one of the new crop of Iraqi bloggers, is having trouble with women. Like many guys, he's confused about the situation in which he finds himself. He loves one woman, Amy, but he's not sure if she loves him. There's another woman, Becky, that is interested in Sam, but he's still thinking about Amy. In a blog entry entitled "The Most Shocking Day in My Life, Please I NEED COMMENTS here!! Sam writes:
Amy I just have one question, in the past 3 years were there lies and acting or u really loved me and liked me? I know I'll never get an answer and I'll never go and ask her, cuz she'll hurt me again.. u just so pretty in your PAIN..

I found my way out and I'll never need u again.. but I MISS U Amy, I miss u to DEATH..

But I tell myself I'm not missing u, I hope you are missing me and realizing how much I was good with u and how much u hurt me!!
People have been stopping by Sam's blog to give him some advice, a lot of it worth reading. As violence decreases in Iraq, Iraqi bloggers will be able to return to those issues that all of us, men and women, have to deal with as we go about our lives, no matter where we live.


Kassakhoon notes that Jalal Talabani sent a letter to the emir of Qatar asking for help:
Today, our president Jalal Talabani sent a letter to Qatar's Emir, Sheik Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani, in which he expresses his appreciation to the efforts he made to solve the crisis in Lebanon and invites him to visit Iraq.

I hope that Sheik Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani would accept Talabani's invitation to visit Iraq but with a magic key to get our country back on the track.
And then Kassakhoon asks an open question, which should invite some interesting commentary:
Do you think that Iraq's magic key is no long with the Iraqis?


One of the most moving blog entries that I have read in the last few months comes from an Iraqi psychiatrist and blogger named Sami. He posts his thoughts regularly over at Skies. In "Sumerian Friendship," Sami writes about his relationship with one of the janitors at the hospital where he works. You will notice right away the unusual candor with which Sami writes. It's a beautiful story.

Yesterday, in "A day in an Iraqi psychiatrist life (part one)," Sami wrote about something that happened to him back in 2006. A woman comes to the hospital suffering from having seen too much violence in Diyala. Sami tries to reassure her that she's safe in the hospital. But read what happens.


Today Sandybelle writes about a recent visit to a neighbor's house in Mosul. In the living room were a few Iraqi men and women discussing politics and Iraq.
They were five men, from different sects and religions ( different men gathered in Mosul), and the all kept praising the government and the last operation whose name was changed to Um Alrabeeayn ( mother of two springs), the all were happy for our continous victory against the terrorism, the all realize that there is no way to live happily without unity. The all realize that Iraqis should be united by Belonging to the same land, no matter if there were differences among tongues and religions and sects, we are all Iraqis. And together we can be strong.


Over at the NYTimes' Baghdad Bureau, Damien Cave, a reporter now working in Miami, reflects on living in the US after a year and a half of reporting from Iraq.


Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Iraqi Bloggers Central: Four-Year Anniversary!

On May 21, 2004, four years ago from today, I typed up my first entry for this blog. Since then, along with my co-bloggers here, we have posted over 700 entries and received around half a million visits, along with being blogrolled on a wide range of blogs and news websites. As a measure of our success, if you google "Iraqi bloggers," Iraqi Bloggers Central will be the first website cited, meaning that our weblog is linked to other websites more times than our competition.

But I am proudest of the fact that we have helped so many Iraqi bloggers -- from Omar and Mohammed at ITM, to Abbas, Shaggy, Chikitita, and Iraqi Mojo -- find a wider audience in the English-language blogosphere. We don't agree with everything they write, of course, but they are all found on our blogroll, and we both promote and engage them on a daily basis.

As I have done on past anniversaries, I first want to thank my great co-bloggers: CMAR II, Mister Ghost, and RhusLancia. Take a bow, fellas! As anyone who has ever attempted to blog knows, blogging is labor intensive, and my co-bloggers have put in a lot of time and effort to keep Iraqi Bloggers Central up-to-date and attractive to our readers and commenters.

Second, as always, I want to thank everyone who has stopped by and joined our discussions over the last four years. As I did for last year's anniversary, I would like to give a personal thanks to those regulars who joined me nightly four years ago on our comments pages to discuss and chat about a wide range of topics. Thanks to you all:

Louise, Kat in Missouri, Lisa in New York, Dilnareen, Fayrouz, Alan, leap_frog, Bridget, Elie, Muhannad in Oregon (Iraqi Mojo), Michael Cosyns, Sam (our dear Sandmonkey), Kender, Tater, Kris from Seattle, Um Ayad, Craig, Scott from Oregon, BK, Connie, Christina from Montana, Max Lane, Dougman, Andrea in Minnesota, Paul Edwards, Brian H, Whisper, Madtom, Ladybird, Dave, Rubin, Lynnette in Minnesota, and Exile-Iraqi.

To catch a glimpse of the fun we had on the comments page, one could do no worse than read my blog entry "Optimists vs. Pessimists?" (May 28, 2004) and then read the hundred or so comments that follow the post.


Iraqi Bloggers Central: Three-Year Anniversary! offers the reader a little historical background on this blog and how I came to choose the name under which we've been writing these last four years.


CMAR II says:
For two separate (but not alternate) histories of the origins of IBC, I highly recommend these two posts by me:

"I don't believe that man's ever been to medical school!"


Sunday, May 18, 2008

The In T View: Rotten Gods: Burning A Quran In Iran

Angel by Marc Quinn

Intriguing tiny praying skeleton in Winchester Cathedral,
Winchester, UK. Taken from a cast of a 22-week old
foetus skeleton, cast in bronze, then painted white.

Iranian dissenter(s) and rights activist(s) Rotten Gods of is/are the bravest of the brave. When you think of a nation that has a dissident(s) burning Qurans to protest against Islamic supremacism, Sharia law, and religiously-inspired totalitarianism, to tell you the truth, a Muslim country like Iran is not the first place that comes to mind.

It is easy for those in the West, especially in the United States, with its rights of freedom and press, and separation of church and state, to engage in acts of dissent and protest, because the penalty is limited for civil disobedience. Yes, perhaps the person may lose their job, spend a night in jail, or be forced by their parents to clean the basement, but for Rotten Gods, the price is much higher.

Discovery by the Iranian regime likely means a charge of blasphemy and death, perhaps even swinging in the polluted Tehran breeze from that dark, foreboding crane, we've all grown accustomed to seeing...

MG: Hello Rotten Gods, Welcome to the In T View.

Rotten Gods: Hello MG, Thanks for having me.

MG: The Quran is considered by Muslims to be the sacred and immutable words of Allah. To light it on fire is viewed by Muslims as a horrendous act of blasphemy. Why have you done it?

Rotten Gods: My country, "Islamic Republic of Iran" (official name) is a well-known fundamental Islamic country and it's 29 years old, started right after revolution in 1979. Here Islamic rules are the main focus of everything, I mean everything will be measured with Islamic rules and teachings! Now let's take a look at stats, 180+ executions in 2006, 317+ in 2007, and 23 executions just in the first ten days of 2008. We don't have stats of torture cases, in fact there is no need for stats, because torture is part of police and prison system in Iran. It's undeniable.

Simply I have to say, if word of Allah permit such actions on supposedly his own creatures then I have to burn Allah personally which I have started with his words. I had four reasons when I started my protest against Islamic dictatorship of Iran which are:

1. Abusing Human Rights,
2. Executions,
3. Lack of freedom in society, specially for dissidents and imprisoning any of them,
4. Widespread injustice in society and specially in Judiciary system.

If setting Quran on fire is a horrendous act of blasphemy in Muslims' viewpoint, I would challenge every Muslim to answer me; what would they call their Muslim-leaders-on-going-inhuman actions towards people?

MG: Is the Quran a sacred and holy book or is it just a book, similar to all books written by the hand of man?

Rotten Gods: Yes, I believe so it's just a book like every other book. I have not seen that any holy thing come out of it while I was burning them.

MG: What has been the reaction inside Iran, and worldwide to your website?

Rotten Gods: I had lots of threats and hate messages towards myself and my family in day one that I announced it in Iranian blogosphere community. In exact same day, they censored this blog in Iran so people couldn't read my blog anymore. Due to my blog filtering, I don't have enough response from Iranian communities in Iran. You wouldn't believe if I tell you that most hate messages came to me from Muslims in England, Australia, Canada, USA, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Emirates!

It seems that Muslims in western countries tend to be more fundamental than Muslims in other countries! I am not sure yet.

Also many people have supported me with their warm messages and I am very thankful.

MG: You believe religious disobedience is the key to saving the Iranian people from the ruling class of Mullahs. Can you tell us why?

Rotten Gods: Islam is a political way of life. It is a strict socioeconomic structure which enforce rules rigorously on masses including non-Muslims and non-believers. It leaves no way out of this religion and no right for people. Islam means submission or total surrender and every Muslim should surround oneself to God, so he will be a follower and there is no room to argue against its rules and instructions. And any argument against it has harsh capital punishments. Islam should separate from politics. Or simply it is better to put this way into words, Islam is totalitarian form of politics and in order to achieve to open society, Iranians should fight back with current religious dictatorship regime. So Muslims should compromise a little more during this fight although they are free to hold on to Islam while it doesn't hurt anybody.

MG: Are you under any illusions as to what will will happen to you, if the Iranian regime discovers your identity? Will they accuse you of blasphemy and hang you from that giant crane?

Rotten Gods: I wish. I mean I wish Iran was a democratic country and I was free to express my opinion without fear of terror, sudden death, or death penalty in public. In blasphemy cases, sharia law strictly orders to hang, behead, or throw convicted from height e.g. mountain.

MG: Rotten Gods, can you tell us about the significance of your name? Why did you chose this name? Are all Gods rotten or do you agree with someone like Robert Spencer that certain religions are more tolerant than others?

Rotten Gods: I guess it would be better that your readers tell us about significance of this name on the protest, what do you think?

I should mention that I borrowed this name from someone I know. This name is much relevant to my beliefs. I don't know Robert Spencer and I am not familiar with his belief but there is no doubt that there are some religions which are very much tolerant than others. I should mention that I am not religious.

: Is there a God?

Rotten Gods
: I don't think so.

MG: Frequently, Muslims will say that Islam is a Religion of Peace? Is this really so?

Rotten Gods
: No, not at all. I have seen hanging scenes in city while poor men/women were going to die, others hailed "Allah is great". There is no peace in Islam. If truly Islam was religion of peace, we couldn't see the terrorist attacks between very own Muslims.

MG: You are critical of the so-called "Moderate Muslims." Can you tell us why?

Rotten Gods: Moderate Muslims supposed to be critical of situations within Islam and Islamic societies while abusing human rights, injustice judiciary system, imprisoning dissidents in Iran (and all other Islamic states) are well-known problems, and especially executions in Iran. Not only they don't criticize these behaviors in Islamic, but many times they have supported them and consider these incidents as an internal affair of state, so the slogan has been "we should not interfere". On the other hand, these groups were so sharp to attack my protest, because I set fire on Quran, because they believe in the Quran.

It simply means they don't really believe in human rights as much as they believe in Quran. Many incident has happened in Islamic states and this brand, I mean moderate Muslims, if you will, has proved that is not functional.

And it can't be, because for a Moderate Muslim we need a moderate Islam and moderate education. Nobody can advocate for Moderate Muslim ideology while there is no moderate Islam at the first place. So these brand shouldn't call themselves Moderate Muslim while they don't have appropriate tools and moves. They have to develop a Moderate Islam which includes Quran, hadiths and many other Islamic teachings. Then, hopefully next generations can call themselves moderate Muslim, then we can drop "moderate" and it would be an Islam without barbaric teachings.

MG: Should Iran be allowed to develop Nuclear Weapons?

Lost Horizon

Rotten Gods
: Not at all, except if there is a suicide plan.

MG: Will there be a regime change in Iran?

Rotten Gods
: For sure it will. The problem is timing.

: Would you favor an American intervention in Iran?

Rotten Gods: I prefer diplomacy and simply if any one of world powers doesn't support Islamic regime of Iran, there won't be any intervention but if diplomacy doesn't work, I need to know pre-analysis of intervention before reply to your question.

If there would be some strategic analysis of Islamic regime of Iran's behavior then we will exactly know, how to deal with them, where to begin, and where to stop.

: Good Cop, Bad Cop, Iranian Style: We know that former Iranian president Mohammad Khatami is frequently portrayed as a moderate and a reformer, and the man that replaced him, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is an unabashed hardliner, but is this an example of the Persian version of good cop, bad cop with both men being part of the same system?

Dragon Ying-Yang

Rotten Gods: Exactly. Although I can't call Khatami, Good Cop. Just he doesn't say same things that Ahmadinejad have been saying doesn't make him any better. As you mentioned, both of them are part of the same system, the whole notion of Reformist party which Khatami has been part of it, in front of Conservative party, is just a puppet show for masses and all of them are part of the same system. The system suggests that we do have democracy in Iran because we can choose between these two opponent (!) parties and vote for whom we want but I call it Totalitarian Islamic Democracy.

For example, secret nuclear enrichment doesn't belong only to Ahmadinejad era, it has been going on in Iran for almost 20 years. Just figure it out how many presidents and PMs were informed.

MG: What is worse, the repression of the dictator or the repression of the Islamists?

Rotten Gods: Both because they use all means and resources to do what they want.

MG: So, where do you go from here?

Rotten Gods: Continuing this protest to pass the message to as many as people that we can.

MG: If people want to get involved with your effort, how can they support you?

Rotten Gods: Regardless of which country you are, you should speak up to clean the world from this religious superstition. If you want to, set the Quran on fire, and send us your video. Also link to

Thanks MG for this interview.

Thanks to Rotten Gods for the In T View.

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Friday, May 16, 2008

BlogIraqi Assassinated

According to his friend Mohammed Alani he was meeting a man who was to provide documentary evidence of "corruption in some USAID office back in Baghdad". BlogIraqi and the man were found dead at their meeting location.

BlogIraqi and I did not agree about anything except in our desire for Iraq to prosper. In fact, he banned me from commenting at his blog. But one less Iraqi blogger is two too many in my opinion, and I feel such sadness for his family, his baby daughter, and his friends. God bless them. His death reminds me of the murder of Steven Vincent who was killed (probably) for his investigations into corruption within the Basra police force.

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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Hot Persian (Iranian) Babes: Why Muslim Women Should Never Wear The Hijab, Burqa, Abbaya, Chador, and Niqab

Abbaya-covered Iraqi Shiite women making a pilgrimage
to Abdolazim shrine in Tehran's southern outskirts.

Muslim women of the Middle East and beyond are shielded, clothed, and occulted away through a series of archaic dress rituals, collectively known as the Hijab, that subjugates and entraps them to an ossified code of conduct, which long ago, should have been abandoned.

Niqab woman with family in front of Jumeirah Mosque, Dubai. She is in the
process of putting on her gloves to shield her body from the views of outsiders.

The Abbaya, Burqa, and Niqab, function as baggy drapes of cloth, which render Muslim women formless, invisible to her surroundings, a non-entity outside the domestic sphere, and should be viewed as a transgression against God's wishes.

For it is God, whom has bequeathed to mankind, some of the most beautiful Muslim women on the planet, in the swinging little Middle Eastern nation of Iran. To force these Persian beauties, women of timeless splendor and style, grace and charm, in to being non entities, is the grandest sin of them all.

I present to you, the Beautiful and Vivacious Ladies of Iran, unhijabbed and free...

The Lovely Claudia Lynx, Iranian Actress.
Would you want her hidden away in an Abbaya?

Vida Tahamtanzadeh, Iranian Model
Isn't she beautiful sans chador?

An Unhijabbed woman riding on an fast, unlicensed bike with her boyfriend, Sadr highway, Tehran. With no license plate to identify them, the Iranian authorities only hope of stopping them is to set up a road block. Viva Civil Disobedience.

Dressed to the nines, these foxy Iranian women
with Big Hair preen
for the camera.

Iranian gals posing for a picture at
a party, likely Tehran.

Model Eli Alibeik, a dark Gothic beauty.

You wouldn't meet her dressed
like this in Najaf, Iraq.

Behind private walls, Iranian hotties like Aida here
from Shiraz, Iran, embrace the latest in Western
swimwear. That little girl really loves her dolly.

It's the one and only Saba.

Model Yasmin Chauri in a daring bikini.

Iranian-American actress Sara Shahi
of The L Word.

Looking mighty enchanting, it's a
cute Persian starlet in a bustier.

A long lashed Seniorita with great big eyes.

These two Mamacitas are not
puckering up for the Mullahs.

Iran, a country where you
can have twice the fun.

Yes, you are right, it is Ramona Amiri.

Narges, another in a long line of
attractive Iranian models.

Sara Racey Tabrizi makes
many men's hearts go racey

Well, these are four former medical students at
the University of Tehran, who all became Doctors,
including Dr.Neghin Haghi (far right), who is
one of Iran's premiere AIDS researchers.

Hello to actress Catherine Bell, best known
for Army Wives, JAG, and Bruce Almighty.

Setareh in a sweater, petit and chic.

Glamorous Persian model
Mahsa Tehrani.

The last of the Iranian
red hot party girls.

Who can resist the infectious
smile of this Persian lovely?

Maryam Fakourfar, the sultry,
tawny-maned Iranian-American model.

Just your run of the mill,
average Tehran girl.

Well, we started with actress Claudia Lynx
and finish with Iranian Pop Star Shaghayegh,
who are related to each other...



Liz Bella

Mehri Photography

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Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Rankings - Top 20 Iraqi Bloggers - 5/10/08

Which Iraqi Blogger is the "L Word?"
(Photo: Cast of Showtime's The L Word)

Come one, come all, read it and weep, here be the rankings for the Top 20 Iraqi Bloggers, as of today, May 10, 2008.

No. 20 Raed Jarrar - The Crazy World Of Raed Jarrar

They're creepy and they're kooky,
Malignant and poopy,
Raed is very loopy,
The Jarrar Family.

Their business is to scam,
His marriage is a sham,
They want visas to Amsterdam,
The Jarrar Family.

No. 19 Saminkie - Skies

Iraq doesn't need anymore Politicians or Clerics, but a good psychiatrist like Dr. Saminkie... well they come in handy in the land of a thousand Saddams. Dr. Saminkie, as the typical Arab doesn't do irony or snarkiness, so he'll delete your comments containing such things, but otherwise he seems rational enough...

No. 18 Bookish - Mosul is in heart

Well, Bookish is a 23-year-old male engineer at the University of Mosul who provides one of the few male perspectives among the the bloggers in Mosul. He shouldn't be alive as he tells us, but he is, and we are better for it. The only problem is the title of the blog, Mosul in in heart. I misread it and keep thinking Mosul is in heat.

No. 17 Sandybelle Soleil - The Sun Can't Be Seen...

Sandybelle is like the Barney of the Iraqi Blogosphere. She loves you, you love her. There's a whole lotta of love going on at her blogway to heaven. Although 27 posts in a row about how everyone likes me, might be pushing things a bit...

No. 16 Michome -
Micho La Jolie Fille

No one can understand what Micho is writing about half the time; the other half, she hits it out of the ballpark. But she's rumoured to be very pretty, and speaks French, which leaves me all tingly inside...

No. 15 Hammorabi (Sam) - Hammorabi

As a religious Shia Muslim, Sam's views are representative of approximately 40 percent of the Iraqi populace. Thus, it's important to pay attention to his words, because his opinions project a more accurate reflection of what the Iraqis themselves are thinking, than 95 percent of the other Iraqi bloggers. If Sam tells you, that the Americans are working with al Qaeda to destroy Iraq and that Bush and Blair are war criminals, who should be prosecuted, well he's voicing the same thoughts as many other Iraqis...

No. 14 Alaa - Children's Voice from Iraq

From the plains of Ninevah, a completely different and unique blog, which brought forth many interesting and well written anecdotes of Iraq's children. Children's Voice has been in hiatus for a while now, but it's still worth it to discover the stories for yourself.

No. 13 Calamity - Iraqi Calamity

Calamity took on the cruel and unjust task of cataloging Iraqi calamities by category and in different colors, a neat effect. Apparently, they became a calamity theirself. Iraq is a cruel mistress of a land, today, you are smiling under the sunny skies. tomorrow, someone bounces an RPG off your head...

No. 12 HNK - My Alien Planet

Triskaidekaphobic-riddled Number 13 goes to HNK, the most soulful blogger in Mosul:

Breathless, hopeless, and fatigue
That's what I am now..
I am between the devil and the deep blew see (sic)
and between them
I am wishing I am never be...

This Mosul Mama has soul... For HNK, we present our Musical Interlude of the day, Smelly Cat by Phoebe, because it's her favorite song (Warning, this Video may contain offensive material, so everyone rush to check it out.)

No. 11 McClatchy Bloggers - Inside Iraq

Although many Conservative types dismiss McClatchy's (News Service) coverage of Iraq as being too liberal, the Inside Iraq blog contains a nice -- albeit critical of American policy -- cross-section of Iraqi journalists, presenting their everyday interactions in the new Iraq, at times, not a pleasant situation.

No. 10 Mama - Emotions

Our Young Mammy has been through a lot in Mosul, and the latest plague, death threats from insurgents against her husband, may be the worst yet. Frankly, I don't know how Mama has held up so well under the constant exposures of pain, illness, and fear, but we're glad she is still with us.

No. 9 Shaggy - Baghdad Bacon & Eggs

We love Shaggy, Iraq's premiere Slacker blogger. Who else in the Iraqi blogosphere would want you to click on his Google ads, so he can travel to Egypt to meet a sexually insatiable hot Iraqi divorcee? We look forward to Shaggy's upcoming autobiography, Good News from Iraq, My Piles are Gone.

No. 8 Ladybird - Roads to Iraq

The Conspiracy hostess with the mostess, she's the Israel-hating National Enquirer of the Iraqi blogosphere, breaking many stories ahead of time, filling us with waves of insurgent propaganda and stark-raving bon mots from the laughable Arab media.

No. 7 Layla Anwar - An Arab Woman Blues

Mon petit papillon has exquisite taste in music and art, and is simply, the greatest and most prodigious writer ever to grace the Iraqi blogosphere. Some would call our Iraqi ingenue with a lot to say, a bigot; I call her an Iraqi, with all their dislikes and prejudices spread over millennia of civilization.

No. 6 Abbas - Catharsis

He would have been named Iraqi Blogger of the year in 2006, if we had a vote, but after he moved to Jordan and his father Arab-smacked him in the head, his momentum was ennuied. Still a Momma's boy at heart like all Arab men, but we won't hold that against him, Abbas is one of the more transcendent and thoughtful Iraqi bloggers.

No. 5 Eye Raki - Eye Raki

My Ayatollahman can some day be Prime Minister of Beth Nahrain. It will be a long and arduous journey, fraught with danger and moments of personal insanity, but if there's one Iraqi blogger who can pull the task off, it's the best source for news out of Najaf, Hayder al-Khoei.

No. 4 Marshmallow - It is all about our life

From her sister's abortion to UFOs to deaf people to dreams of her dead mother and the safest foods to eat before her upcoming marriage, Marshmallow stands out as the quirkiest blogger in the Iraqi blogosphere... and we like her very much for that distinction.

No. 3 Queen Amidala - Chaldean Christian in Basra

Where has Queen Amidala gone? I certainly miss the Bravest Blogger in Iraq, the Queen, a Chaldean Christian under siege in Basra, whom frequently guest-blogged at Fayrouz's. The anti-Michael Yon, she provided a non-embedded and more accurate view of the conditions affecting the people of Basra, especially Christians under persecution by the many Shia militias and their Sharia-enforcing ways.

No. 2 Sunshine - Days of My Life
We've watched the Anne Frank of the Iraqi War grow up before our very eyes, and are very much looking forward to her upcoming tome on life in Mosul. She may not always present the happiest news, but Sunshine handles herself with class and dignity.

No. 1 Sam - Interp's Life

He shot out of nowhere to launch himself in to the top spot of our survey. Finally an Iraqi blogger with the testicular fortitude to fight for his country, rather than running off to Graduate School in the U.S. Wearing his heart on his sleeve and emotionally complex, his answers to the Interpretor questions are the most engrossing stuff written by an Iraqi blogger the entire year.

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Monday, May 05, 2008

The In T View: Hayder Al-Khoei: I Believe Muqtada al-Sadr Ordered My Father's Murder

The Creation by Michael Parkes

Hayder Al-Khoei (Eye Raki) is not your average Iraqi blogger. As a scion of the powerful and prestigious Al-Khoei family, he stands out as one of the great hopes for Iraq and one of the few Iraqi bloggers who can truly make a difference.

MG: Hayder Al-Khoei welcome to The In T View. As Neil once said on The Young Ones, "Boom Shanka: May the seed of your loin be fruitful in the belly of your woman."

First question, What's your favorite flavor of ice cream and where can you find a decent ice cream cone in Najaf?

Hayder Al-Khoei: I don't eat ice cream because we don't get much sun in London and I doubt you can find a decent cone in Najaf.

MG: Second question, Will there ever be a Doctor Who convention in Najaf?

Hayder Al-Khoei: Yes, after a beauty pageant is held in the Vatican.

MG: Well Hayder, I think it's safe to say, you are not the average Iraqi blogger. Although it's difficult to define exactly, whom the average Iraqi blogger is, generally the average Iraqi blogger does not have profiles of their father and grandfather in Wikipedia.

Being the son of Sayyid Abdul Majid Al-Khoei and the grandson of Grand Ayatollah Abdul-Qasim Al-Khoei, has there been pressure on you to follow in the footsteps of your family members? Why aren't you in Qom right now gaining your Ayatollahness?

Hayder Al-Khoei: There has always been more pressure from outside my family than in. My father always taught me to think for myself and make my own decisions.

His father like-wise never pressured his own sons to become clerics,and he was the marja'. I still haven't decided what to do after I finish my Politics degree here in the UK, but if I do study in the 'hawza' its not going to be in Qum.

MG: Your grandfather passed away in Iraq in 1992, while under a Saddam-imposed house arrest; your Uncle, Sayyed Mohamed Taghi Al Khoei died in a mysterious car accident in Iraq in 1994; and your father was assassinated in Najaf on April 10 2003... and here you are away from your home in London, back in Najaf. Do you ever say to yourself, "Hayder, what the hell are you doing here?" Why exactly have you returned to Najaf and is it a dangerous place for you?

Camel Spider, Najaf Area, C/O of bound4glory1884.

Hayder Al-Khoei: Najaf was and will always remain my real home. London is my home away from home. So no I've never felt out of place in Najaf. I personally don't think Najaf is a dangerous place for me. I travel without protection around the city. When we get stopped at police checkpoints, some Taxi drivers who would find out my identity would refuse to take the fare or invite me to their homes. I never once felt I was in danger.

MG: Who do you believe murdered your father and why do you think he was killed?

Hayder's father, Sayyid Abdul Majid Al-Khoei

Hayder Al-Khoei: I believe it was Moqtada al-Sadr who ordered the murder. My grandfather did not accept Moqtada's father as a Grand Ayatollah and was attacked (verbally) many times by the senior al-Sadr and his followers. Ever since my father left Iraq he was seen as a traitor by them who left the Iraqis to suffer while living a life of luxury in London. My father was older and had more religious credentials than Moqtada and was a natural rival.

The theory that my father was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time, i.e., he simply got in the way of the real target, Hayder al-Rufai'i, is nonsense because the first thing members of Moqtada's office did was look for my father. It was a perfect opportunity to take out two of Sadr's enemies with one stone.

MG: In 2004, there was an arrest warrant issued by Judge Raed Juhi against Muqtada al-Sadr and his followers in the death of your father, but it was never enforced. As to why the warrant was never served, some say it was buried by the CPA (Coalition Provisional Authority), but others claim the Iraqi Government under Prime Minister Ibrahim al Jaafari squelched the warrant, because he needed the support of Muqtada al-Sadr to become Prime Minister. Why was the arrest warrant never served and can you update us on its current status?

Hayder Al-Khoei: The arrest warrant is still standing, but it was not enforced by the CPA or following governments, not just Ja'fari's. A time and date had been set by the CPA to arrest Moqtada for murder charges and it was supposed to be an Iraqi led-operation with US forces on stand-by just in case things went wrong. In the very last minute the Americans pulled out and the Iraqi forces refused to go ahead with the operation.

Until this day, the case has been at the mercy of politics, and politics has no mercy.

MG: Iraq is the land of conspiracy theories and rumors, so it's not surprising there is a lot of conjecture related to your father's death. One rumor I'd like to ask you about, that has been prominently mentioned, is your father was given $3 million dollars by the American CIA/Defense Department to purchase influence among the Iraqi Shia. Is there any veracity to this rumor?

Hayder Al-Khoei: Is it $3m or $13m? Which one is used more in the press? My father did not need money to purchase influence in Iraq. His name alone could influence a lot more Iraqis than US dollars can buy. Like Moqtada, it is simply his name that makes him such a popular figure. But let us speak about the $3m or $13m. That money could not have been wired in an account because its not like my father could have used his credit card to buy kebabs in Najaf. That money would have had to be hard cash. Cash would have to be carried by someone and the people with him would have seen it or at least known about it. Why is it then that only an "anonymous source" knows about this money?

I went with him to Washington DC before the war and in the meetings he had with various officials, money was never mentioned.

MG: Before your father returned to Iraq in 2003 from exile in England, he must have discussed the post-Saddam future of Iraq with his family. Can you tell us about your father's vision for Iraq?

Hayder Al-Khoei: My father would spend a lot of time traveling and working so when he did spend time with us it would be devoted to his family, not his work. So naturally Iraq was not discussed much. I however had interest in politics ever since I was a kid, and had the privilege of traveling a lot with him. His vision for Iraq, which he would repeat over and over again, was to start a new page in Iraq's history. He wanted to forget everything associated with the past and look to building a new forward-thinking democratic Iraq that respects all walks of life.

MG: And what is your vision for Iraq? What type of society would you like to see Iraq evolve in to?

Hayder Al-Khoei: I hope to see an Iraq where "wasta" no longer works. An Iraq where individuals are elected and appointed based on merit and qualifications, not name and connections. Iraq has a very traditional and conservative society. I don't think it will change but I want it to be a society that is tolerant and understanding of other cultures/beliefs. I wish to see a secular Iraq where religion plays little or no role in government.

Iraqi's sometimes look to places like Dubai with amazement and awe, I want the entire Arab and Muslim world to look at Iraq and say "wow". I am optimistic but a realist at the same time, I know we are decades away from that but I hope to see that Iraq within my lifetime.

MG: Your grandfather, Grand Ayatollah Abdul-Qasim Al-Khoei, seems to have been a larger than life figure. Born in Iran, before he moved to Najaf at age 13, he wrote 37 books and treatises, established numerous Islamic charities, foundations, and institutions around the world, and was the Marja (Islamic scholar) who instructed everyone from Ayatollah Sistani to Mohammad Baqir As-Sadr to Abdolkarim Mousavi Ardebili, former Chief Justice of Iran to Mahdi Al-Hakim.

Did you have a chance to spend any time with your grandfather before he was arrested by the Iraqi government, and what are your memories of him?

Young Hayder with Grampa Grand Ayatollah Al-Khoei
Photo courtesy of Hayder al-Khoei

Hayder Al-Khoei: I remember a few things about my grandfather. I think its safe to say I wasn't his favourite grandchild. He used to tie my legs with rope to stop me moving around because I would constantly flip over the fruit or sugar bowl in front of important guests. The thing he hated most was when I was around his office. Although he deals with millions of dollars, my grandfather was well-known for his strict oversight so when I would rip (or eat) a receipt for a few dinars he would become extremely angry and blame my mother for letting me near his papers.

MG: Would it be accurate to say that your grandfather as senior Shia cleric/Marja was the closest thing to a Shia concept of a Pope?

Hayder Al-Khoei: The Pope is the undisputed leader of Catholics, but there is usually more than one Grand Ayatollah. But yes, it is the closest thing we have to a Pope.

MG: And, there was an ideological battle between your grandfather and Ayatollah Khomeini. Can you describe to us, why they were in disagreement?

The Evil One Himself, Ayatollah Khomeini

Hayder Al-Khoei: His differences with Khomeini were on the role Islam should play in the state. My grandfather believed politics should be left for the politicians and religion to the clerics and saw no place for Islam in the government. He saw the religion as something pure that is a matter between the created and the creator and that should not be mixed with

Khomeini on the other hand believed that it is the cleric himself who should be the head of state and that Islam should play a fundamental role in government. Khomeini went further by stating that the head of state should be obeyed by the Muslim world in the same way the Prophet and Imams were obeyed. The Prophets and Imams in the Shia faith are divine figures, so when Khomeini gave these lectures in Najaf, people began to accuse him of being a self-proclaimed semi-divine figure.

Khomeini and my grandfather rarely bumped into each other in Najaf, but when they did they both respected each other and greeted each other warmly. When Khomeini landed in Baghdad, his son Mustafa called my uncle to let him know they were on their way to Najaf. It was their students who would argue with each other and have heated debates regarding which idea is more 'Islamic'.

Revolutionary fanatics hated my grandfather for not supporting Khomeini's take over in Tehran. They would publicly chant "Farah don't worry, when the Shah dies Khoei will marry you" in reference to the Iranian Empress who visited my grandfather.

MG: Because you are part of the al-Khoei family, there has been a lot of emphasis placed on the deeds of the male members in your family, but what about your mother? Can you tell us about your mother and what type of influence she has had on your life and the lives of your

Happy Mother's Day to Hayder's Mom

Hayder Al-Khoei: My mother is my role model. She lost her husband and father within a month of each other but still stood strong. What ever life has thrown at her has bounced straight back. She is a wonderful person with a great heart whose family mean everything to her and who means everything to her family. I look up to her with respect and admiration, as does everyone who knows her.

MG: And what is your favorite dish, dessert, or meal that your mother makes?

Hayder Al-Khoei: Everything she makes is my favourite.

MG: Hayder, you live in Najaf, one of the most conservative places in Iraq, where women are forced to wear Abbayas and are harangued by the clergy and other men, if they are not properly attired in their view. Myself, I am very much anti-Hijab and if I were in power, I would ban the Hijab in the West, because it subjugates women, and I would certainly outlaw the Abbaya or Burqa, which renders women invisible. What are your thoughts on the Abbaya and other forms of Hijab? Should Muslim women be forced to wear them or should it be a personal choice in clothing?

Raquel Welch in Najaf, Iraq - 1,000,000 Years BC.
Today, she would be wearing an Abbaya.

Hayder Al-Khoei: Hijab has a cultural as well as religious aspect to it. My wife for example does not wear the same hijab in London as she does in Najaf because of the cultural 'norms' of a certain society or place but at the end of the day women should be free to wear what they want. I am against banning the hijab as passionately as I am against forcing the hijab. It is a personal choice that should be made by the individual, not big brother.

MG: Hayder, what's the best book that you've read in the last six months and why?

Hayder Al-Khoei: The Shia Revival by Vali Nasr because he explores the political and religious trends across the Middle-East and gives explains the Shia way of life (or ways of life). It also gives the reader an insight into the 1400 year old battle between Shia Islam and Sunni Islam and why they are at each others throats again.

MG: Hayder, it seems a natural thing for you to run for political office in Iraq, say the Prime Minister's spot, since you are the scion of a powerful, influential, and well respected family that carries a lot of Wasta, you are Western-trained, have a liberal education, speak fluent English and Arabic, and seem moderate and tolerant in your positions. Do you have any interest in Iraqi politics and could you use an American campaign manager?

Hayder Al-Khoei: I think if he you had told Maliki he would become Prime Minister of Iraq 6 years ago he would have laughed in your face. So who knows what could happen in 20 years time? Yes of course I have an interest in Iraqi politics but hopefully by then, my name will not be enough to run for office.

I hope to see Iraqi experts reach a standard that a US Presidential candidate would be looking for an Iraqi campaign manager, not the other way around. Thanks for the offer.

MG: You recently met with liberal Shia cleric Iyad Jamal Al-Deen, whose views about the United States, Israel, and the need for secularism in Iraq society are of great appeal to the West, but have alarmed his fellow Shia and Sunni clerics, who label him as a heretic.

Being cognizant of the fact of what happens to those who are labeled heretics in the Islamic world, do you think the political alliance of IIyad Allawi and Jamal Al-Deen will have an impact in the next Iraqi election, or will the Iraqi voters once again reject Secularism, and see the Shia voting for Shia parties, the Kurds choosing Kurds, and the Sunni electing members from the Sunni lists?

Hayder Al-Khoei: I was surprised that over 35,000 Iraqi's voted for secularism in Najaf, whose community is extremely religious. I cannot predict how good/bad Allawi will do next time but I think the overwhelming majority of voters will still vote along sectarian lines. Obviously the Shia voter believes the Shia politician will benefit him more than a Sunni politician, and vice versa. Maybe 15% of Iraqi's will not vote along sectarian lines, but I hope that number will rise with every election.

MG: Hayder, thanks very much for a nice In T View, and you have to promise me, if you ever become an Ayatollah, you'll begin one of your sermons with, "I am the ayatullah of rock-and-rollah..."

The Ayatullah of Rock-and-Rollah

Hayder Al-Khoei: Your welcome. Fat chance.

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