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On the origin of the minaret 21, February 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Islam, Syria.
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Also at the book launch at the Ismaili Center [see the previous post] the editor discussed a popular story relating to the birth of the Minaret. Back in the x century Arab forces retook Damascus. They went to what is today the Omayyad Mosque which was then a huge Christian church and saw the bell tower towering above them and decided that that would be a good place from which to announce the call to preyre. Lo and behold the idea of the Minaret was born. Or at least, so that particular story runs. Competing ‘versions’ of the origin of the Minaret are welcome…

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Book launch at London Ismaili Center 21, February 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in American ME Relations, Islam.
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Last week at London’s Ismaili Center there was a book launch. The Center is sponsoring a series of more accessible books on the Muslim world with “A Companion to the Muslim World” being the first. The editor, Aymn Sajoo, was interviewed by CNN’s Zain Verjee on stage where he discussed various aspects of the book.

From time to time he brought up Bernard Lewis in discussing how the media gravitate towards him and his ‘popular name’ when they seek coverage of an issue. I agree with him, though at times he did come across as being jealous of Lewis’ attention.

Later on Sajoo quoted the Jaroslav Pelikan:

Tradition is the living faith of the dead. Traditionalism is the dead faith of the living.

This struck me immediately as a pithy and exceedingly elegant sentence with a rather profound meaning. So far as I understand it, Pelikan sees tradition as being something positive, learned and passed down the generations. Whereas traditionalism for him has negative connotations of people blindly and devoutly following old creeds not because they understand them or agree with them but because they are simply old and thus feel duty-bound to follow them. Though being far from a theology student, I stand to be corrected…

US anti-‘Iranian’ missile interceptor fails 21, February 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in American ME Relations, Iran.
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A recent attempt to shoot down what was staged to resemble an Iranian-fired ballistic missile failed. The Department of Defense commented that part of the radar system did not work as expected.

Whilst I most certainly do not profess to be an expert on these matters, ballistic missile interceptors like this never seem to work that well. Moreover, fundamentally, I don’t really agree that they are that much use. For every advance in interceptor technology there can be an (easier) advance in missile technology countering it. Given the staggering sums of money involved in these projects, I just cannot believe that there are not better ways to spend it than on epically complex systems with high failure rates.

The Shisha car 21, February 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Random.
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The Shisha car…a more relaxing way to drive.

Hat tip: Will Ward

The typical and predictable Gulf dialogue 21, February 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Iran, Kuwait, Qatar, The Gulf.
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Overall, there seem to be but two types of comments that come from Arab Gulf leaders about Iran. Either Iran is being castigated for spreading fear, threatening its smaller neighbours and generally acting like a regional bully or Iran is portrayed as a country with justifiable rights to enrichment which has a close and interlinked history with its neighbouring states.

After a visit of Qatar’s Crown Prince to Iran last month, he came out with a statement of the latter. He highlighted Iran and Qatar’s common interests and stated that Iran was “a strategic force in the region”. Stating the obvious it may be, but it is still interesting.

A perfect example of the opposite comes, rather unsurprisingly, from the loud-mouth Kuwaiti Parliament. A conservative Parliamentarian castigated Iran’s Parliament speaker Ali Larinjani for implicitly threatening the Gulf countries in a statement saying that US bases in Arab countries must not be used for an attack on Iran.