Saturday, 24 February 2007

The niqab

A few months ago, a school teacher was banned from wearing a jilbab to teach. The public reaction then was over the top, but the school gave a fair reason for its decision: it made communication difficult with younger children.

Now a young girl wants to wear a full veil (apparently it's called a niqab) at school. Her older sisters did the same thing, but the new headmaster wants to ban the practice.

Some of the arguments floating around, against this girl's right to wear what she wants, are rather feeble:

  • The niqab is a sign of separateness.
If you can't deal with other people being different from you, then perhaps you are in the wrong country. The niqab is certainly no more outrageous than, say, punks' garb seemed to be in the 70s.
  • It isn't Islamic.
It's up to her to decide what her religious beliefs are. There are plenty of interpretations of Islam. This is like saying, rosary beads aren't Christian.
  • Many muslims are against the niqab.
Well, they don't have to wear it then.
  • This girl has probably been put up to it by her parents.
She may well have been influenced by her parents. We call this "bringing a child up". Richard Dawkins believes that teaching any religion to your kids is a form of abuse. Perhaps it is, but it is not the kind of abuse it would be sensible to try and ban, in the foolish and unenlightened world we live in.
  • It might stop her learning.
It didn't stop her sisters, as far as we can tell. What is your evidence for this claim?
  • The school has a right to set its own policies.
This is the best argument and it puts me in two minds. I do understand that headmasters want to create a certain kind of atmosphere. I also think that in an ideal world, there would be a choice of different kinds of school, and accepting one would be like accepting a contract: you have to abide by the rules. But in fact there is not always a choice, the market for education is imperfect. And we don't allow headmasters to set just any rules.

I was made to wear uniform at school, and how I hated it! I used to tear it off as soon as I was allowed to, and change into my proper clothes. (And ever since I've loathed suits and formal wear, which is why I want to be a down-at-heel academic.) So, you see where my instincts lie.

(NB: According to a rather good piece on the Sky News website, even Nick Cohen is sounding vaguely sensible about this.)

(NB2: Occasionally - only very occasionally - I long for the good old well-meaning multiculturalist hegemony. The purveyors of received wisdom of are often unattractive, whatever the current received wisdom is: self-righteous, self-confident, thoughtless and narrow. But some kinds of received wisdom are more toxic than others.)

just another link

turns out that among the other people being targeted by death squads in Iraq are gays and lesbians.

Wednesday, 21 February 2007

more little glimpses

Iraqi konfused kid on the US plan:

"...and also I forgot to mention the lovely incident of Ubada, another college friend of mine who is also a glorious resident in Adhamiya, and precisely at the Sifeena, home of the most glorious freedom fighters - this Ubada is a bearded guy with blue eyes who likes to frequent the mosques and distribute Sunni bloc Accordance Front fliers, and one day his pop tells him to go bring something from his auntie's empty house, as she was a smart woman and left Iraq about a few months ago, little did poor Ubada know, but the house was rigged by the beautiful Iraqi resistance in case the infidels come in to try and search it.

"The limbs that were once Ubada were collected and buried at Abu Haneefa mosque, so long, martyr, too bad you didn't have any pussy in your short 21-years-old life while you were busy doing all that mosque touring, well, maybe in heaven with your 77,000 virgins."

Meanwhile Marshmallow26 posts this Johnny Cash song.

The video's got a lot of pretentious rockers and symbolist twaddle. No doubt Johnny Cash is set to become a post-mortem industry on the Tupac Shakur scale. I prefer to think of the song as dedicated to the political leaders who created the Iraq situation. May the mills of God grind exceeding small.

Monday, 12 February 2007

7 Friends in Iraq

...Then war bells started tolling and we knew that there is an unknown future waiting for us and our friendships. We were scared we would lose one of us.

We decided to get together again and go out for the last time before the war.
We decided to have quiet lunch and just talk for it might be the last time we would do that. While we were sitting, we all were very serious for most of our talks were on the coming war and what we would do to know about each other or whether we would be staying in Baghdad or leave to a ranch or something out of Baghdad like most of us did in the Gulf War. We used to stop talking and just gaze at each other and if it wasn’t for Z who used to crack a joke every now and then even in the middle of the saddest minutes we would have had a group cry.

After lunch we didn’t want to leave each other just like that and we wished that the day would last forever to prevent this war and to prevent the separation and everything that comes with wars.

D decided to take us to the Amusement Park !!! We all laughed. “Are you crazy?” I asked him. The girls were wearing skirts and even the guys were wearing nice clothes not for that kind of trip.
D said “Since what coming is crazy; let’s spend our last day in a crazy way. We will all remember it. Let’s get this anxiety out of our system and get crazy for a couple of hours to forget”

We rode every game there which made some of us very sick but we forgot the sadness and ended up having a good time despite the dizziness and the unappropriate clothing. We were like a bunch of formals going to a business meeting.

skimming the net instead of working...

... I'll have to update my list of blocked websites.

Israel to UK: don't let your policemen arrest our generals
from Haaretz, which seems like an interesting read

E-petitions call for Tony Blair to sing in a barrel of custard
and for the National Anthem to be changed to "You Suffer" by Napalm Death

On Wikipedia: where I used to live and where I live now
Now is that progress?

George Sand, mistress of the double entendre

A conversation with Tom Segev

Paul Foot debates socialism
back in the day....

Free speech in Iran

The Linux kernel summit is coming to Cambridge
(but why should you care?)

Tuesday, 6 February 2007

It's been snowing

Beautiful big snowflakes, like the ones on Christmas cards - hexagonal and some about a quarter inch wide. Everywhere is fluffy. Meanwhile, I can hear my flatmate Owen puking spectacularly in the toilet. Hey ho for winter.

Who said...

"...If the United States continues to be bogged down in a protracted bloody involvement in Iraq, the final destination on this downhill track is likely to be a head-on conflict with Iran and with much of the world of Islam at large. A plausible scenario for a military collision with Iran involves Iraqi failure to meet the benchmarks; followed by accusations of Iranian responsibility for the failure; then by some provocation in Iraq or a terrorist act in the U.S. blamed on Iran; culminating in a “defensive” U.S. military action against Iran that plunges a lonely America into a spreading and deepening quagmire eventually ranging across Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.
"A mythical historical narrative to justify the case for such a protracted and potentially expanding war is already being articulated. Initially justified by false claims about WMD’s in Iraq, the war is now being redefined as the “decisive ideological struggle” of our time, reminiscent of the earlier collisions with Nazism and Stalinism. In that context, Islamist extremism and al Qaeda are presented as the equivalents of the threat posed by Nazi Germany and then Soviet Russia, and 9/11 as the equivalent of the Pearl Harbor attack which precipitated America’s involvement in World War II.
"This simplistic and demagogic narrative overlooks the fact that Nazism was based on the military power of the industrially most advanced European state; and that Stalinism was able to mobilize not only the resources of the victorious and militarily powerful Soviet Union but also had worldwide appeal through its Marxist doctrine. In contrast, most Muslims are not embracing Islamic fundamentalism; al Qaeda is an isolated fundamentalist Islamist aberration; most Iraqis are engaged in strife because the American occupation of Iraq destroyed the Iraqi state; while Iran—though gaining in regional influence—is itself politically divided, economically and militarily weak. To argue that America is already at war in the region with a wider Islamic threat, of which Iran is the epicenter, is to promote a self-fulfilling prophecy.
"Deplorably, the Administration’s foreign policy in the Middle East region has lately relied almost entirely on such sloganeering.....
"One should note here also that practically no country in the world shares the Manichean delusions that the Administration so passionately articulates. The result is growing political isolation of, and pervasive popular antagonism toward the U.S. global posture."

Noam Chomsky?

John Pilger?

Zbigniew Brzezinski.

and this is hilarious. .

7 taxis

Iraqi konfused kollege kid takes 7 taxi rides.

Saturday, 3 February 2007


For a while I've been a faithful user of Lyx for my mathematical word processing needs. But recently I have been seduced by TeXmacs. This is a beautiful program. It's like an antique, in the best sense of the word - a real polished work of art. It's VERY Unixish, so much so that it practically has a beard. You have to download Cygwin to run it - though they bundle a version if you're lazy. It has a very well-designed set of keyboard shortcuts: if you are typing Maths and want to use a Greek letter, you just hit the Latin letter, then tab. Hitting tab again gets you variants. If you want to type a greater than or equals sign, it's just > then = and it will automatically compose them together for you. Similarly, the empty set sign is just @, / and tab.

OK, enough said - if you're the target market, check it out.

Chicago weather

My loyal readers can now have instant-on up-to-the-minute web-2.0 access to a question that I know has been troubling them: how cold is Dave?

The sidebar on the right now features a useful image which will tell you, at a glance, just how very, very cold I am.

You can then use these facts to perform further mental calculations such as: temperature in Illinois DIVIDED BY temperature in Florida TIMES number of hot, scantily-clad models per square inch in Miami DIVIDED BY (monthly pizza acreage consumed by hearty midwestern farmers' daughters of Chicago) SQUARED EQUALS ratio of Katja's to Dave's intelligence and forethought in planning their respective years in America.