Wednesday, February 18, 2009

IMAX movie: Journey to Mecca, In the Footsteps of Ibn Battuta

A new IMAX movie, "Journey to Mecca, In the Footsteps of Ibn Battuta" recounts the adventures of the legendary traveler, Ibn Battuta, in the year 1325, as he traveled 3000 miles through the deserts of North Africa to Mecca in order to perform the Hajj.

The closest venue for the movie is in Dearborn, MI at the Henry Ford IMAX. For the world travelers in the audience, it is also playing in Montreal, Paris, Toronto, Jakarta and Abu Dhabi (in case you needed an excuse to visit those cities).

It looks really good from the trailers and they have a facebook page as well with pictures and more information.

Ibn Battuta published an account of his travels in Arabic and numerous translations are available. I also found an English translation, via Google Books, of an abridged version by Samuel Lee, who was a professor of Arabic at Cambridge in the 1800s available freely for your reading pleasure.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Obama Administration and Civil Liberties

Unfortunately, the Obama administration has decided to continue the "state secrecy" program which allows the "rendition" of suspects to foreign countries for interrogation without the need for evidence. Think about how scary that sounds, if you love civil liberties.

You can be shipped overseas, tortured and detained in a foreign country's prison and never be given a reason, a court date or any evidence to prove your involvement.

One of the more shocking stories is that of Binyam Mohamed, whose story has been covered by several sources (Telegraph, NY Times, Daily Kos, Salon). The Obama administration maintains that divulging information would threaten national security, but the details of Mr. Mohamed's case, and others like him, are already well publicized and documented.

Read the Los Angeles Times and NY Times editorials on these issues.

Quote from the LA Times Editorial:
If a man credibly claims to have been snatched from his home and family and tortured by or with the acquiescence of the government, he deserves a fair and impartial reckoning in court. Besides, the government's assertions about the damage that could ensue should be viewed skeptically. The history of the privilege suggests that the government may use it not so much to protect national security as to prevent its own illegal or embarrassing misadventures from coming to light.

Quote from the NY Times Editorial:
The Obama administration failed — miserably — the first test of its commitment to ditching the extravagant legal claims used by the Bush administration to try to impose blanket secrecy on anti-terrorism policies and avoid accountability for serial abuses of the law.

The opinion piece by Glenn Greenwald, on, is also well worth reading.

I had high hopes that Obama's legal background would make him a strong supporter of the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and the honored traditions of due process, of the American belief in innocence until proven guilty. It appears that Obama was only interested in marketing hope.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Al' America: Travel Through America’s Arab and Islamic Roots

A new book that chronicles the long history of Muslims in America. I haven't read it yet, but looks interesting. There is a recent review in the Washington Post by Paul Barrett.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

"Image of thy love," an excerpt from Hafiz

In some of my reading about Rumi, I have come across another great poet and Sufi, Shamsuddin Muhammad, who is known simply as Hafiz. He lived during the 1300s in the city of Shiraz and has legendary status among Persian poets and Sufi scholars.

His poems about love are suffused with mystical undertones and even the English translations, despite their many limitations, give one a sense of how beautiful they must be in the original language.

Here is an excerpt from one of his ghazals, translated by William Henry Lowe:

By the soul of the Master, and time-honoured truth, and the
faithful covenant
[I swear] that the companion of my morning hour is prayer
for thy welfare

My tears, which have surpassed the flood of Noah,
From the tablet of my breast have been unable to wash the
image of thy love

Transact some business, and buy this broken heart,
For in its broken state, it is worth a hundred thousand whole