22 May 2007

kill them wherever you find them.

(them = the disbelievers. The Holy Qur'an, 2:191)

For your consideration, here is an excerpt from my Islam textbook, unabridged and unedited (much to the dismay of my inner grammarian):

"There are many organizations behind promoting securlarism in the entire world, particularly in the Islamic World, among them being the free Masons movement, which eventually wants to abstain all people from their religions, then to let Zionism control the world, as is visible today.

This movement refers to the hill Zion, (one of the mountains on which Jerusalem was built), it is a Jewish, colonial, and political movement which was arose in Basel, Switzerland, in 1897 by Theodore Hertzel.

From the start, the movement sought to achieve a Jewish majority in Palestine and to establish a Jewish state on as much of the land as possible.

They succeeded in the passing of the Balfour Declaration on November 2, 1917, this declaration gives Palestine to the Jews to be their National Land.

This movement is one of the main and most dangerous movements on the earth, they have their own secret protocols, on which they intend to corrupt the entire world, and then to let the Jews control it.

Later on, these secret protocols were came to light, most of what was mentioned in them was really implemented, and we, everyday, see other implementation of these protocols.

This movement has made a great effort to control the world by media, money, and women. Then they established their lobbies in the most powerful countries, such as Britain, then in US. After that they simply controlled the main foreign policy of such countries, and then most of countries.

In addition to Muslims, the western countries are paying the price for any decision they took against the Jews. Germany, for instance, is still paying money to Israel for the Holocaust which claimed to be happened to the Jews during the 2nd World War.

The main effect of Zionism on Muslim Ummah [community] is the division between it, and the entire backwardness in most religious and moral aspects, simply because it is the secularism which is promoted instead of the Islamic values and principles."

(Al-Majali, Muhammad Khazir. Islamic Culture and Thought, The Conservation of the Holy Qur'an Society. Faculty of Islamic Studies - University of Jordan, 2006: 148-9.)

18 May 2007

find a place to level out.

In honor of the World Economic Forum being held at the Dead Sea convention center (and the participants staying at the Marriott next door), I have the day off from work (water aerobics) since the road to the Dead Sea is closed for security. Since there are only a handful of major roads in the country, Jordan's going to have to work on its security apparatus so that the country can still function if important people are in town. Sadly, this means I don't get to hang out with important world figures by the pool today. I even made an excellent CD of music for the class, featuring classics like Ace of Base's "The Sign" and "We Didn't Start the Fire." I decided, in a moment of weakness, to leave "Bombs Over Baghdad" out. Life is awkward enough.

Candace and I found an apartment precisely where we wanted to live, for about a third of the price we were expecting to pay. We'll be in the lovely Jabal Amman, which I think best compares to DC's Adams Morgan - a neighborhood that isn't actually nice, but has been made hip and trendy by virture of its inhabitants. We're five minutes from our favorite pub too, much to the disappointment of everyone who's leaving Amman before we'll actually move in. I can't wait. We're making it our summer goal to learn to cook. And roll sushi.

I started my SAT teaching job (well, technically the shadowing part) this week. I'm reminded why I have the upmost respect for the education profession, and why I'll never do it for a living. The practice essay prompt involved individual responsibility in situations you aren't directly involved in (i.e. encountering an injured man on the side of the road - should you call the ambulance?), and I've gained yet another valuable anecdote in support of my theory of why the Middle East is stuck in an odd social time warp. All the kids said it's not their responsibillity, it's whoever saw the accident or caused it. No notion of thinking beyond oneself for a greater social cause (except, and this sounds horribly imperialistic to say, for the ex-pat American kid in the class, who said that individual responsibility helps a society progress). He said it, not me.

I've been medically cleared for Peace Corps, so now I'm just waiting for my final placement. No more blood draws without gloves for me! Classes are done in less than a week - my final paper is in for radical Islam, and we're not going to talk about the amount (or lack thereof) of effort put forth for said paper. I got the highest grade on his midterm, which is ironic considering I'm the furthest from god and have spent most of his class learning to play backgammon on my laptop. I'm getting quite good, if I do say so myself. In between games this week, I learned why it's more difficult for women to get divorced in Islam. It's because we're so fickle and emotional that we'd demand a divorce after every disagreement with our husbands, so there has to be a judge to decide if we're being logical or just female when we ask for a divorce. Thank god we cleared that up. There was also a twenty minute episode of blatant lies about nature of the international AIDS crisis, which, unfortunately, most of the class didn't realize was (pardon my French) pure bullshit. I've reached my breaking point with him, and given some of his previous comments, that says a lot. One more lecture, one day for the final, and I'll be done paying for an education founded on ignorance, hatred, and lies.

PS. Another reason Sam Harris (and blasphemy) makes me smile.

"Jesus Christ - who, as it turns out, was born of a virgin, cheated death, and rose bodily into the heavens - can now be eaten in the form of a cracker. A few Latin words spoken over your favorite Burgundy, and you can drink his blood as well. Is there any doubt that a lone subscriber to these beliefs would be considered mad? The danger of religious faith is that it allows otherwise normal human beings to reap the fruits of madness and consider them holy. Because each new generation of children is taught that religious propositions need not be justified in the way that all others must, civilization is still besieged by the armies of the preposterous... In the best case, faith leaves otherwise well-intentioned people incapable of thinking rationally about many of their deepest concerns; at worst, it is a continuous source of human violence."

12 May 2007

no one would riot for less.

Driving down to the Dead Sea yesterday, the trip through the quiet desolation of the desert reminded me why, despite a culture antithetical to my core values and a religion to which I've grown increasingly hostile, I was drawn to this region in the first place. Although much of my idealism seems to have gone the way of the Middle East's water supply (after three days of no water at our apartment, there's now a full watermelon on my leaky toilet's seat to remind us not to use it until our landlord "sends someone to fix it." Ha! We're still waiting for the water filter promised on the day we moved in.), this place still fascinates me, albeit in a train wreck sort of way. It's precariously balanced on the cusp between a traditional past and the forces of globalization, and this dichotomy reveals itself in a way unlike any other place I've seen.

Despite the fact that Jordanians drive like over-caffienated, sex-deprived lunatics in the city, every car will always stop to allow a herd of sheep to cross the highway. Camels, sheep, and goats are as familiar a sight as the luxury cars speeding down the road. The Marriott where I work will house the participants for next week's World Economic Forum alongside the family of stray cats roaming the resort grounds. Billboards line the highway down to the Dead Sea, but the dark canvas of the low-slung, makeshift Bedouin tents still dot the desert landscape. While some of those families have forsaken the nomadic lifestyle for more permanently located one within range of the tourist cameras hoping for a glimpse of or a ride on an authentic Arabian camel, the majority go about their lives in virtually the same way as the preceding generations. Sure, they're drinking Coca Cola now, and the kids are often clad in jeans and t-shirts, but they've taken the bits of globalization they like and left the rest. Likewise, parked under the squat, sprawling trees along the highway are cars of families out for a Friday picnic. These same families probably donned their best outfits and crowded into a booth at McDonald's the night before.

Although these superficial elements of soft power may signal a future shift towards western liberal values, there's a darker side to this transitional phase. Little boys wearing jeans, drinking Coke, and playing soccer in the street grow into unemployed shabab squatting in the street, harassing women and smoking for want of anything else to do. Large numbers of disaffected young men with no outlet spells danger for any society, especially one with a historical narrative dominated by dispossession and colonialism (although the Palestinians best embody this attitude, it is by no means unique to their nation). It remains to be seen if Jordan can successfully reconcile its past with its future.

To take George Orwell slightly out of context, "If there is hope, it lies in the proles." The reformist-minded King can't do much if his adoring subjects aren't willing to go along. Case in point - Jordanian Islamic leaders ruled birth control acceptable for family planning/organization, but not pregnancy prevention, in an effort to reduce the country's unsustainable birth rate. It worked, to a point - while some women cut back, others just kept having children in an orderly fashion. The nurse at the Arab Women's Clinic, a European-backed version of Planned Parenthood, has eight children. She's probably not done yet, either. We can't change the world with well-intentioned policies dictated from the top down; someone on the ground has to also be convinced. Despite the best intentions or worst actions of the United States and the west, Arabs are ultimately the stewards of their own destiny. For better or worse, our own future in the West is now tied inextricably to the Middle East, and that is why my curiosity, if not my heart, continues to draw me back to this place despite my deep-rooted frustrations.

PS. I love Sam Harris.

"It is true that there are millions of people whose faith moves them to perform extraordinary acts of self-sacrifice for the benefit of others. The help rendered to the poor by Christian missionaries in the developing world demonstrates that religious ideas can lead to actions that are both beautiful and necessary. But there are far better reasons for self-sacrifice that those that religion provides. The fact that faith has motivated many people to do good things does not suggest that faith itself is a necessary (or even a good) motivation for goodness. It can be quite possible, even reasonable, to risk one's life to save others without believing any incredible ideas about the nature of the universe." - The End of Faith (79)

09 May 2007

the future of freedom.

Three reasons you should go read Fareed Zakaria's The Future of Freedom right now.

1. The entire two chapters on how the democratization of American politics created the current state of affairs dominated by special interests.

2. "But things have moved from one extreme to the other. Thoes who have resorted to such cultural stereotypes, the "Orientalists," that been suceeded by a new generation of politically correct scholars who will not dare to ask why it is that Arab countries seem stuck in a very different social and political milieu than the rest of the world. Nor is there any self-criticism in this world. Most Arab writers are more concerned with defending their national honor against the pronoucements of dead Orientalists than with trying to understand the predicament of the Arab world."

3. "The solution is less democracy, not more."

Seriously. It's fascinating. Makes you look at the world in an entirely new way, especially the section on the role of elites in American society. This coming from a girl who can count the number of nonfiction books she's read for fun on one hand, so you know it must be good.

06 May 2007

something more, like a feeling.

So, here I am, a year older and gainfully employed in not one, but two jobs. It's been an eventful week. My birthday (my first-ever foreign one) was a success - a night at the local Mexican pub and a jar of Tostitos queso from the roomies. Yum.

I had my first water aerobics class on Friday - the resort was gorgeous, and my class attendees were a riot. One fat, hairy Arab men, his smaller friend, his daughter, a few shabab-aged Arab women, and a British yoga instructor. I'll post pictures when I get them from Ghada - it was endless amusement.

Next week, I start shadowing AMIDEAST's SAT prep teacher so I can take over the class once the semester ends (thanks Matt!) - I'll be teaching all summer, maybe a few sections, so that'll be a financial windfall. Possibly doing some freelance editing-esque work on the side. Two more weeks of class, a paper for radical Islam, final exams, and then I'm free! Not that I'm counting or anything.

Most of my fellow Gators graduated yesterday - it's hitting me now that I won't really have that experience. My diploma will show up at my parent's house sometime after I move to Africa, and I'll frame it when I get back two years later. It's an odd feeling. Also an odd feeling to still have no real idea what I'm doing next year - still waiting on that Peace Corps invitation. After having blood drawn by a man not wearing gloves, they'd better take me.

Funny story - we went to see Spiderman 3 last night (terrible), and as we detoured by the bathroom, Craig overheard a man asking his son (in Arabic) "what number?" It seems some things are universal.

01 May 2007

words aren't meant for anyone.

Sorry I fell off the planet there for a bit, we had a three-day weekend in honor of International Worker's Day (technically today, but observed on Sunday to fully benefit from the day off). I guess there are perks to living in countries with less contentious relationships with Communism. I've been frequenting the dance festival performances as well. Some good, some odd (well, it's comtemporary dance, so they're all a little odd), some not-so-good. The Tunisian choreographer let me down, but the Serbians were great. Netherlands on Thursday, and then it's back to a world devoid of modern dance. But, I'm now officially a water aerobics instructor for the Dead Sea Marriott. Friday afternoons lounging by the pool at one of Jordan's best resorts, only getting up for a brief stint leading children and old ladies in my best imitation of sea creatures. Life's rough.

I finally discovered the paradise that is Carrefour, the French-owned Jordanian version of Walmart, but without the scent of exploited children in the air. For those who remember my Morocco stories, it's the same company that owns Marjane. They sell fresh mozzarella cheese and brie. And French bread. It's beautiful. I also bought a cheese grater, filling a great void in my life here. The only things they're lacking are Kraft mac and cheese (probably a French objection to American processed food) and toothpicks, so the roommates and I had to go to Safeway in order to complete our homemade chocolate-dipped strawberries for Worker's Day. We're a classy bunch.

Continuing my discussion of food, I find it strange that I've been to Japan, but didn't grow to love sushi until I moved to virtually land-locked Jordan. Better late than never, I suppose. The HoJo's restaurant has all-you-can eat on Tuesday nights. HoJo's is also one of the nicest hotels in Amman. Absurdism is alive and well in the HKJ.