Sunday, August 8, 2010

Mosque in Manhattan

An intriguing debate has been rumbling along nicely in the United States. Park 51, a complex in lower Manhattan, is the location where The Cordoba Center (American spelling as it is in New York - forgive me conscience) has been earmarked for construction. The group of Muslims behind the $110 million project want the current building demolished and want to erect The Cordoba Center.

The only problem being that it is two "blocks" from "Ground Zero". As this became newsworthy the debate has fire-balled into an argument most prominently between anti-Islamist rhetoric and liberal voices - not so much Muslims as they don't really deserve a voice.

There are a few Muslims who have spoken out and the few represent a moderate voice. The voice that The Cordoba Center want people to hear. Voices 'Middle America' don't really want to hear because in their minds the planned construction is categorically insensitive to those that lost their lives on 11th September 2001. How dare any Muslim plan to establish a center for inter-faith discourse near Ground Zero.

Ultimately, Middle America has lost the battle - "the project surmounted a final hurdle on Aug. 3, 2010, when a decision by the New York City's Landmarks Preservation Commission cleared the way for the construction of Park51. The tower of as many as 15 stories will house a mosque, a 500-seat auditorium, and a pool. Its leaders say it will be modeled on the Y.M.C.A. and Jewish Community Center in Manhattan."

Again, this brings into question the level of tolerance Muslims feel in the United States. Quite inversely to what has been demonstrated by a minority of white Americans, Muslims have lived for a long time in the US without ever feeling the need to relocate and indeed the number increases with reversion and immigration.

What is surprising is that there is still a latent hatred that rears its loose limb from the ground every once in a while. In fact, much of the liberal United States is geographically retained in relatively small geographic areas. The same areas that are constantly democratic havens.

Sometimes it feels like a ticking time-bomb and while Michael Bloomberg came out with some utterly positive statements about the liberties of religious expression, it still must mean that much of the US is off limits for Muslims.

In any case Bloomberg's speech (thank you Dimitri) reasserted the importance of change, liberty and freedom of expression after the decree was passed.

The center can now be built. But much work needs to be done to educate even a small minority of the US that fears or hates Islam so much. Dr. Akbar Ahmed appeared on Jon Stewart recently and is looking to bridge a gap that is much wider than it is in Europe, however, it seems Muslims have an easier task in the UK or Germany than they do Stateside. France, Switzerland...perhaps there are problems but Muslims general liberties exist.

It is the fear of those freedoms being removed and the lack of some actual freedoms that harms the Muslim psyche so much and until that fear is removed there will always be a distinct gap in what interaction communities can do.

By the same token, where does America face its biggest problem with its Muslim communities? Middle-class Muslims. Again Middle America is so easily misinformed and is so easily malleable that one way or another they affect consumer, political and social decision making.

Who started it? We will never really know but when an empire holds power and responsibility it will never be perceived by the liberal as working without an agenda.

Despite Bloomberg or Municipal Commissions, the reason why middle-class Muslims in America have been moved to any degree has been affected by US foreign policy. And it isn't likely to change with any affect anytime soon.

Afghanistan and Iraq and any other movement or motion of military might continues to blight the good work done on the ground in the US. A unified voice is what Muslims need a la Akbar Ahmed and a unified effort would solve much of the problems America face...on the ground and at policy level.

I can't see it happening and I can't see middle Americans changing either so its to the pockets of inter-culture and inter-faith success that we look to maintain our hope and happiness.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Saudi Blackberry Ban

Looks like I told you so.

Saudi's ban was set to kick in earlier than the UAE's and lo and behold there is a deal already.

Posturing children, posturing.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Developments, copy cats and boxing champions

Developments at Liverpool seem reaching some kind of boiling point. I'm sure we've all been here before (as Liverpool fans). I wasn't so much disappointed when the Americans bought Liverpool as non-plussed as it didn't seem as magnificent as a DIC or a sovereign wealth fund - but it was something.

It hasn't worked out and now it is quite possible we will have new Chinese or Canadian/Arab owners in the near future. Apart from, which courts its own controversy, I've found a new Liverpool website that isn't as updated but is the most balanced writing I've seen online about LFC. - worth a read and written by a jingo.

Aside from football, if there is one thing I don't like it is plagiarism. Now I love Mo Zaher's blog, Irrelevant Combinations, but when I wrote my last post about Blackberry he essentially took my views to his larger audience. A bit like New Kidz On the Block making a Beatles' song popular. Anyway, check out his writings.

Staying on Mo, he has lost his crown as Boxing Champion. Much like I took Chuma's crown as FIFA champion, even though its an inferior game. Fight Night Round 3 despite being dated has provided some classic moments in my mind and next year they will release Fight Night Champion.

It was touted as a motion game but that looks to have been dashed as an option I'm not a big fan of the motion based games on the Wii and I'm equally apprehensive about xbox's future system. However, rather than reinvent games I think these systems will enhance the experience.

Much like Blackberry is a globalised extension of communication and not a real substitute for face-to-face interactions (my belief) I feel action and sports is the same. Who knows? Who cares?

Sunday, August 1, 2010

So, ummm Blackberry? Ah Dubai...

Hmmm, so I'm back. In Dubai. I don't really know how that happened.Very blurry. Almost didn't get on the plane but I did and the last 3 weeks are history. Like I never left this place.

Reporting and news here is essentially replicated on the most. The media uses major newswires and some of the shittest papers ( in England to relay news. However, local or national news is still evolving and with a lack of correspondents outside of the country, you can sense how insular a place this is.

One story of note is that of the Blackberry. The scourge of humanity and social interaction. It ruins any meeting or conversation and it is essentially worshiped by its users. I had one...a basic one for a little while. I find it vile...and so does the UAE government.

Bobbie Johnson blogged a year or so ago on the implications of government intervention in personal interactions utilising "BBM" so this has been bubbling up for a while now.

Well, the problem arises out of Blackberry's encryption coding for its BBM service, which 1) means that the government can't prevent National Security breaches and 2) becomes even more of a problem when Blackberry states that it doesn't even know how to decode it. Highly unbelievable.

The last couple of weeks has been about dialogue between the government and RIM (the slightly unfortunate name of the company behind Blackberry) so that the authorities have access to information exchanged.

Well, its all come to a head now, like a pulsating whitehead on the dotted face of my ex-wife. Blackberry is to be blocked in the UAE by both providers on the command of the government.

Good. I'm usually quite rebellious but Blackberries (I assume thats how you refer to them in the plural) are plastic shit that ruin social interaction on a REAL LEVEL. Virtual existences should be confined to desktops or work time or when you are alone not when we are in the middle of something.

However, I think this is posturing and pressure on RIM to give up the encryption to the government. Come October 11th I think it'll be a very different story. I am not one for tech stories but Mo is so techy is almost pixelated when we meet.

And if you are a bird and you like make-up this might be the place to go.