A fundamentalist Islamist dictatorship

Max Fisher provides answers to nine basic questions about Saud-family Arabia.

Like, what is it.

Saudi Arabia is a fundamentalist Islamist dictatorship, an ultra-wealthy oil economy, and perhaps the most powerful country in the Middle East. It is a very young country in a very old part of the world. It formed in 1932, when a tribal leader named Abdulaziz al-Saud conquered an area three times the size of Texas and then named it after himself. He and his first generation of sons have ruled Saudi Arabia ever since.

The way that Abdulaziz al-Saud came to conquer and unify this country is crucial for understanding it: by allying with a fiercely conservative group of Islamist fundamentalists known as the Wahhabis.  Saudi Arabia became “the only modern nation-state created by jihad,” as the journalist Steve Coll once put it.

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My identity can beat up your identity

A Swedish tv reporter, Petter Ljunggren, did an investigative report on anti-Semitism in Malmo.

Ljunggren wanted to know what it feels like as a Jew in Malmo, so he put on a kippah and Star of David, and went out to walk the streets.

He was followed by an undercover reporter who filmed everything.

Along the town’s main road, Ljunggren was immediately confronted. One man told him he should leave if he was wearing that ‘Jewish shit’.

Another shouted at him that he’s a Jew-devil. People shouted at ‘dirty Jewish pig’ and “Jewish pigs, we’ll kill you’. In the neighborhoods of Lindängen and Rosengård, he was harassed so much, he considered just leaving.

So that’s horrifying.

Carry an umbrella

Enough of this exotic foreign far away bullshit, let’s look at some humdrum local bullshit. Let’s look at Cindy Jacobs and Bobby Jindal.

“A living prophet that has a direct line to God” was one of the dubious public figures that joined Bobby Jindal at a prayer rally this weekend.

Televangelist Cindy Jacobs, who claims to possess the ability to raise people back from the dead, joined the Republican governor of Louisiana for an event called “The Response,” which many speculated to be the kickoff to his presidential campaign. It was held Saturday at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, despite protests from students and faculty.

If Cindy Jacobs can raise people from the dead, can she show us? Can she show us one or more people she’s raised? From the dead? Can she raise someone from the dead on live tv while we watch? I ask because I don’t think I believe her claim, and I’d like to know what she’s done to substantiate it.

On Friday’s episode of The Rachel Maddow Show, Rachel Maddow reviewed the many bizarre claims of the self-proclaimed prophet. In addition to the revival of a dead child in Pakistan, Jacobs claimed that she was able to curtail the number of deaths at a past shooting at the Washington Naval Yard.

She also claimed that the repeal of “Don’t ask, don’t tell” was responsible for the deaths of thousands of fish and birds, which “fell out of the air” once gays and lesbians were allowed to serve in the military.

Oh well that one’s true. I remember that one. It was a mess.

In the segment, Maddow speculated that the event was an attempt to establish Jindal as the most right-wing of the presidential candidates, yet questioned the wisdom of partnering with bedfellows like Jacobs, as well as the event’s antigay sponsor, the American Family Association.

The competition to be the most ludicrously off-any-maps right-wing presidential candidate is the source of a lot of dead fish.

Attack on Maiduguri repelled for now

Reuters reports that Nigeria’s military finally managed to pull its socks up and stop Boko Haram from devouring yet another spot on the map, which is a good thing since this spot on the map has two million people in it. It’s a Chicago.

Other places weren’t so fortunate.

Nigeria’s military repelled multiple attacks by suspected Boko Haram militants on Borno state capital Maiduguri in the northeast, security sources said on Sunday, but the insurgents captured another Borno town.

The assault on Maiduguri, with a population of around two million, began just after midnight. Sources at two hospitals said at least eight people had died and 27, mostly civilians, had been injured. A second attempt to take the city’s airport in the afternoon was also repelled.

A raid on Monguno, 140 km (80 miles) north, began later in the morning and the town fell under militant control by the late afternoon.

The militants also simultaneously attacked another town, Konduga, which is 40 km (24 miles) from Maiduguri, but the military said it had thwarted the raid.

But don’t worry, the Super Bowl will still take place.



Read Massimo instead

Sure enough: Massimo knows how to do it. Compare his first paragraph:

Much has been written about the terrorist attack on the satirical paper Charlie Hebdo, which took place on 7 January 2015. Some of the commentary has been insightful, some full of pious platitudes about defense of free speech by sources with not exactly a stellar record in that department, and some of it has ranged from the woefully uninformed to the downright awful. It is, therefore, with some recalcitrance that I write these lines, particularly because Im coming to the issue from what I feel is an increasingly rare point of view: that of a moderate liberal atheist.

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Othering the other other

The academic journal Science, Religion & Culture has a special issue on Islam, Culture and the Charlie Hebdo affair. The first article I’ve opened is Free Speech is Free for Whom? by Hussein Rashid, an adjunct prof at Hofstra. I…don’t like it. It’s written in a form of academese that I’m very allergic to – the kind that wraps its points in such a cloud of pseudo-technical verbiage that…well that two things:

  1. people like me can’t stand to read it
  2. the unwary are fooled into thinking it’s profound

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We must overthrow the Mubarak at home

Amnesty has a new report on violence against women in Egypt. Melissa Jeltsen at the Huffington Post reports on the report.

The damning report, released by Amnesty International, urged the government to present a comprehensive strategy to combat violence against women before the upcoming parliamentary election.

“Recent measures to protect women taken have been largely symbolic,” Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Amnesty International, said in a press release. “The authorities must prove that these are more than cosmetic changes by making sustained efforts to implement changes and challenge deeply entrenched attitudes prevalent in Egyptian society.” [Read more…]

Put down the knife

An Egyptian doctor has been found guilty of killing a girl by cutting up her genitals, the BBC reports.

Opponents of FGM were dismayed when Raslan Fadl was acquitted in November of charges relating to the death of 13-year-old Suhair al-Bataa.

But after an appeal, a court in the Nile Delta city of Mansoura sentenced him to more than two years in prison.

The campaign group Equality Now called the ruling a “monumental victory”. [Read more…]

Repainting the break room

So there’s this hospital in Clermont-Ferrand with a mural of what looks like a gang-rape…

A fresco depicting four superheroes committing what has been interpreted as a gang rape is currently the subject of a huge scandal in France. The mural—which is painted on the wall of a hospital in Clermont-Ferrand—depicts Wonder Woman having anal sex with Batman while Superman comes in her mouth. Supergirl is there, fisting, and the Flash is getting a handjob. It’s causing its fair share of controversy in a country still dealing with the emotional fallout of the Charlie Hebdo attacks. [Read more…]