Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Some follow-up on recent Turkish history

Over at the serious but not very seriously named blog, The Duck of Minerva, a short discussion by an expert, Peter Henne (the right doctoral candidate is usually pretty expert) on recent developments in Turkish and Armenian relations. I feel that my discussion of post-Ataturk Turkey was pretty inadequate in the Islamic Civilization course, so for those of you who are still hanging around, here's a primer. I particularly draw your attention to this:

While there are many factors at work, it is very likely that this is part of a broader shift in Turkish security policy under the moderate Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP), which came to power in 2002. The party’s electoral victory prompted concerns about the group’s commitment to democratic norms and the possibility it will institute Islamic law. The concerns proved unfounded, however, with the AKP acting as responsible reformists; ironically, the Turkish military—the guardians of secularism—emerged as the greatest threat to democracy in the country, threatening several times to remove the AKP from power. Yet, while the AKP is not a radical force in the mould of the Taliban, their rise to power did change Turkey through the redefinition of Turkish identity and the incorporation of religious influences.

The Turkish political system began to open up in the 1990s, and increasing popular pressure on the state’s actions gradually broke the military’s exclusive hold on security policy. This also undermined the military’s monopoly over what security means, exposing this to popular contestation as well. The AKP’s rise was part of this, advancing a conception of Turkish security that questioned the state’s US ties and was more concerned with global Muslim opinion than its predecessors’. This was not a revolutionary rejection of the West, though, as Turkey continues to view itself as European and the AKP actually criticized the secular parties for not pushing hard enough on gaining accession to the European Union.

And this:

Yet, this has also involved a break with Turkey’s secular nationalist legacy, which could prove positive. While the AKP has advocated an increased role for Islam in Turkish society, it has simultaneously deemphasized the significance of ethnic divisions and attacked ethnic Turkic chauvinism. The party launched major outreach campaigns to the Kurdish population—although Kurdish parties won out over the AKP in 2009 local elections—and has proved more willing to compromise on the Armenian issue, as its identity is not tied as tightly to the founding myths of Turkish nationalism (which include downplaying crimes against the Armenians). Interestingly, the digging up of the Kurdish graves was enabled through the arrest of several security officials who were involved in actions against the Kurds; they were arrested on suspicion of plotting to overthrow the AKP in early 2009.

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Juan Cole's links on the situation in Pakistan

Juan Cole at Informed Comment provides us with some useful information and commentary on the situation in Pakistan. I particularly liked the following report and panel discussion:

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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Alex Andreev's "Hermetic Art"

So much for "an armed society is a polite society."

Gunfire for fun in the streets of Moscow. You have to be a bit patient see the point of this video.

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Saturday, April 25, 2009

Saturn seen through the haze of Titan's upper atmosphere

From the Cassini spacecraft and The Big Picture.

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Friday, April 24, 2009

The stars rotate above Cape Cornwall

Sabbatical leave 2009-10

As of July 1, I will be on a year's research leave, writing a book called Men at Arms and maybe learning elementary Arabic. For much of that year I will not be in the North Bay area.

However, as far as electronic contact goes I will be at the same e-mail addresses and blog spots as ever. Drop me a line if you need or just want to contact me.

I'm glad to have a break from teaching but I will miss having students to talk to. I am counting on current student readers to recommend this blog to newer students (if you ever talk to those yound squirts) to keep the NU/teaching aspect of the blog alive over this break. And don't forget to drop the occasional comment yourself!

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Thursday, April 23, 2009

Sharpless 308

A blue, massive Wolf-Rayet star, possibly pre-supernova, inside a 70,000 year-old nebula. From APoD.

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Saturday, April 18, 2009

Carnivalesque 49 -- Ancient/Medieval edition, April 2009

This is my first time editing Carnivalesque, the blog carnival that alternates between early modern (c.1500-1800CE) and ancient & medieval topics (up to c.1500CE). I hope you like my selections, which I've been collecting for a while.

Those of you who missed Carnivalesque 48 may have missed the announcement that medievalist Judith Bennett's History Matters: Feminism and the Challenge of the Patriarchy was to be the subject of a roundtable discussion by a series of feminist historians, with each post touching on some important questions about what it means to be a historian, what it means to be a feminist, and what it means for the two to intersect. The first discussion was hosted by Notorious PhD, and you can follow the now-complete series from there. Don't forget the freestanding comments by Magistra et Mater; the first of six is here. This excellent and substantial blogger has also recently delivered a well-deserved, commonsensical whack to that 18th-century sacred cow, "rational economic thinking."

Speaking of women in history, and neglected ones at that, did you know that Queen Zenobia hath a blog? Yes, the third century rebel against/savior of the Roman Empire in the East? Actually, it is Judith Weingarten who has the blog, Zenobia: Empress of the East, which is about that lady but includes other things as well.

Those of us who study distant but colorful eras (like Zenobia's) find our work all too often completely ignored by a public that would go nuts if they only knew what they were missing. If you write a book called Becoming Charlemagne, as Jeff Sypeck has, you are unfairly doomed to obscurity. Or are you? Go on over to Quid plura? and let Jeff explain to you why his opus should be the next pop-culture TV blockbuster series. After all, there is plenty of precedent; ancient material is very much at home on the Internet, as the alert Jennifer Lynn Jordan at Per Omnia Saecula, among others, have discovered for us.

I am a textual historian myself, but I have a lot of respect for people who deal with the material remains of the past, or reconstruct them. There are some good blogs out there on material culture. Darrell Markiewicz, a longtime blacksmith and historical metalworker talks about his work on a regular basis at Hammered Out Bits. Two of those "bits" caught my eye in the last little while. The first was where Darrell recanted his skepticism about legendary weapons made of meteoric iron. No such of a thing, he thought, until he stumbled across new evidence in the form of a wondrous weapon. I am glad he was honest enough to admit his mistake, otherwise I would never have known! He also put some time into reconstructing one of the first trademarked objects of northern European origin, +ULFBERHT+ swords. Don't miss his discussion of them.

From iron to slate: Jonathan Jarrett over at the excellent A Corner of Tenth-Century Europe reminds us once again that some Visigothic charters were written on stone, even though I don't think Jonathan's ever had the pleasure of handling such document. A good time to bring up hard copy in Iberia; at the other end of the peninsula, the most extensive inscription in the ancient Southwest Script has recently been found, which like all others on this sort was written on slate. Stephen Chrisomalis at Glossographia tells the story and supplies the links.

Will McLean at A Commonplace Book, also working at a bit of a remove from the originals, wants to know what an écranché shield was, what a targe was, and what an ecu was. Will, like me, is interested in late medieval deeds of arms, and for all I know he is building authentic shields as we speak. He is a serious reenactor and has built some amazing stuff in the past. He has worked on texts as well: this time he supplies us with a link to a fine article on German tournament rules of the 15th century.

A tournament/jousting fan? Don't miss the 16th-century Burgkmair Tournament Book at the beautiful and new-to-me booksite, BibliOdyssey. For me, however, it is hard to beat the visual impact of two photos from Kyrgyzstan, where the sports of the medieval nobility survive: Kok-boru (the same game as Afghan Buzkashi) and falconry, if that's what you call it when they use golden eagles instead of hawks and falcons. Both of these come from The Big Picture, the regular news photo blog from, one of the treasures of the Web.

One of the joys and/or torments of being a serious student of the farther past, whether as a pro or as a well read amateur, is the opportunity to try to correct popular and journalistic clichés about our favorite times. I say "try to correct" advisedly, because these things never get corrected -- there is an infinitely deep pool of misinformation, and journalists in particular seem to know exactly where it is. However, the effort of correction sometimes reaches the few people who actually care, and sometimes produces witty results.

I, for example, would never have learned about the new medieval datum about the Robin Hood legend if various intelligent bloggers had not been irritated by superficial reports of it. The superficial reports seem to focus on the idea that not everybody loved Robin Hood. no wonder the papers made such a fuss! He must be the only person in history not universally popular. But the blog Medieval News filled me in on the substance behind the writeups, and had even more. Thanks!

And did you know that the hamster wheel was a medieval invention? Well, the people over at do, and surprisingly enough they are right! At least, Carl Pyrdum at the ever-reliable Got Medieval traces it back indeed to late antiquity and Boethius' underappreciated second work on consolation, The Consolation of Owning a Pet Hamster. Even experts in illumination and sixth-century philosophy may be surprised to hear that some striking pictures from this work still survive!

Alas, not all journalistic historical discoveries and popular misconceptions are created equal. Jonathan Jarrett has a rant, a very substantial and entertaining rant on Celtic fonts and interlace. A perfect example of how a good rant can be cathartic not just for the writer for the reader as well.

Myself, sometime in the last while I was tempted to rant or at least poke fun at, costume advertising featuring the Deluxe Barbarian Queen. But then Eileen Joy came along at In the Middle and showed me that I should not; at least not without some thought. In all seriousness it was a moment of enlightenment.

To tie this up, let me mention that Paul Halsall, that benefactor of all humankind, and especially students and teachers of the past, blogs over at English Eclectic. It's usually personal observation, but it's not seldom, well, heaven on earth or something much like it.

And, oh yes! Nokes is back. Now that he has a fully-functional computer, the Wordhoard is Unlocked once more.

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Thursday, April 16, 2009

Read me speaking Finnish

Last month I was contacted and interviewed by Juha Rudanko representing the Finnish print/online journal Kumppani, for a special issue on democracy, which is now out in both electronic and hardcopy form. The issue and the article which my interview contributed to are now out. If you'd like to see how I might speak in Finnish if I knew the language, go here. The original interview with Rudanko is below.

Image: a Finnish woman votes in an early parliamentary election (1906?) .

Interview (March 5, 2009):

1. What are the most important examples of democracy in the history of non-Western societies? Is there anything comparable to ancient Athens?

In part the answer to this question depends on what you mean by democracy.
Greek democracy in some ways seems much less democratic than the regimes in
modern democratic states, because so many residents, slaves and people of
foreign origin, not to mention women, were permanently excluded from the political
process. Greek democracy was called that because the ordinary or poorer male
citizens were involved in decision-making and the execution of the laws, and
if the involvement of male citizens is a measure of democracy, Athens for a few
generations was more democratic than modern states. Taking the Greek measure of
democracy, there are many independent and semi-independent small states in history
that qualify. Among them are the Indian republics from the time of the Buddha to
about the time of Alexander the Great. There is plenty of both Indian and Greek
testimony to show that they were numerous Indian republics with democratic
constitutions about the time when democracy was widespread in ancient

2. What is the significance of recognizing democratic traditions in non-Western
societies? Does such a recognition have political implications today (ie.,
countering the notion that advocating democracy in non-Western countries
is an imposition of Western values)?

Recognizing democratic traditions worldwide is important for the same reason
that studying world history impartially is important. The story world history
has been told for at least couple of centuries as if all the virtues of humanity
were concentrated in one region of the world arbitrarily designated as "the West." Every writer or speaker who invokes the West does so so that he or she can claim
to represent everything good in human culture, simply because certain books are
theoretically taught in the better schools of his or her country. That is why
you will never get a consistent and sensible definition of what is the West and
what is not the West. In regards to democracy, no one gets to claim it for their
own unless they actually implement democracy in daily life, both official life
and unofficial social interaction. It doesn't matter whether your high school
teacher read Thucydides or mentioned his history your history class,
it matters what you are doing now, whether you have honest, effective
elections, transparency in government, civilian control of the military, etc. Put it another way: Finns at the beginning of the 20th century were among the
first not only to implement women's suffrage but to elect women to governmental
posts on the quasi-state level (as a result of the revolution in 1905). Do you
think many people outside of Finland are aware of this? Don’t you think that
someone really interested in how democracy develops and thrives ought to be
interested in the Finnish case? And does it matter in the slightest whether
Finland was Western or Eastern in 1905-7, either in the eyes of contemporaries
or in the minds of scholars today? The same principle applies to looking at
democratic and quasi-democratic traditions wherever they exist, or have existed
in the past. Endlessly rehashing the French Revolution (fascinating as it is)
will not teach us everything we need to know about the human possibility of

3. The history of democracy is conventionally told in terms of ancient Athens
and the evolution of liberal thinking in Western Europe from the 17th century
onwards, culminating in the democratic revolutions of the 18th century. What do you
think of the conventional story? How would you tell the story of democracy?

The conventional story referred to is a perfect example of what James Blaut called
"tunnel history." This is the idea that nations or cultures move through history
in hermetically sealed tunnels which keep them from interacting with each other in
any essential way. The idea that we owe modern democracy to the Athenians or the
Greeks ignores the vast differences between Athenian institutions and the medieval
and early modern institutions that led to European and North American democratic
regimes. Efforts to democratize European culture have involved adapting medieval
institutions, such as the English Parliament, which originated in an era when even
the greatest English scholars knew next to nothing about the details of Athenian
life in the age of Pericles. Since the details have become widely known again,
Athens has served as an inspiration for thinking about the virtues and vices of
democracy, and plenty of people have taken the case of Athens as a bad example,
a terrible warning. An honest person has to admit that the record is ambiguous. If we think that democracy is an important aspect of human political life -- and
it is hard to argue against it even if you disapprove of democracy -- and if you
have a world view that truly takes in the whole world, historical study of democracy
should involve systematic investigation of attempts by various actors to make
government more open and inclusive, and how well or badly such efforts have worked
out, and why. This involves using an approach that is almost anthropological in
its orientation, but there are plenty of historians who use anthropological insights. There are already paleoanthropologists doing useful work in the evolution of human society and its relationship to modern political ideas and practices. Finally, there should be less isolated discussion of democracy in country X or democracy in country Y, and more efforts to see how democratic ideas and strategies move across conventional boundaries. How can one understand the events of 1989-91 without such an orientation?

4. Have the ancient democratic traditions in non-Western countries had an impact
on democracy in the 20th century? For instance, were the ancient republics of
India an inspiration for democracy in India after independence?

This is well documented in the case of India. Foreign scholars in the 19th century
tended to see Indian history as static, and the Indian political tradition as
entirely dominated by ahistorical ideas of caste with Oriental despotism
superimposed. This visualization supported the idea that Indians needed an
arbitrary (colonial) government to tell them what to do, and that it would be a
long time before such inapt students could learn to govern themselves. Thus when
scholars, both Indian and non-Indian, discovered in the sources that like Greece
India had its ancient republics, it was a big deal. This took place around 1900-20,
and among other things inspired one strain of Indian nationalism. In more recent
decades, the study of ancient Indian institutions of all sorts has been less
involved in actively promoting modern ideology, but as this very diverse political
community debates its democratic experience and future, this may be changing.

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Saturday, April 11, 2009

'Honour': Crimes, paradigms, and violence against women, edited by Lynn Welchman and Sara Hossain

I have read much of the introductory and theoretical chapters of this book, which concerns so-called "crimes of honor" against nonconforming women, and which is packed full of information and insight. I was particularly struck by the conclusion of an article by Purna Sen, "'Crimes of honour,' value and meaning." Sen objects to one common way that "honor killings" and "crimes of honor" are discussed, especially when the crimes take place in Islamic countries or communities. Sen find it less than useful to contrast the "culture" of the "West" or the "international community" with the "culture" of a criticized community:
Making culture the divisor also renders those who inhabit the culture under scrutiny problematic per se, and suggests that their salvation lies in abandoning this culture and, by implication, adopting another. Almost invariably that Salvation is Western, Judeo-Christian culture. Is this really the answer? If the problem were Islam, or Islamic culture, it might be -- but then only if Western culture and religion had eliminated violence against women. If violence against women exists in the cultures that criticise the "other," as it clearly does, then existing cultural practices do not determine the safety women, as in no culture are women assured freedom from violence.

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The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini

I have just finished reading this highly-acclaimed novel of the recent Afghan and Afghan-American experience. I recommend it if you can bear to read a novel that the Observer's reviewer called "shattering... devastating" and which features a lot of brutality towards children. I think, however, that I will be reading Hosseini's second novel.

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Friday, April 10, 2009

Carnivalesque nominations welcome!

I am editing this month's edition of Carnivalesque, a blog carnival dedicated to pre-modern history. It should appear at this very spot on midnight of April 18. If you have seen some good blog material on ancient or medieval history in the last couple of months, I would appreciate a note and a link. Send your nominations for inclusions to Steve DOT Muhlberger AT Gmail DOT com.


Thursday, April 09, 2009

Michael Bérubé talks about Tolkien, Lewis, and Pullman

And how good was the blog post? Good enough to inspire this response:
I’ve discovered, through writing my own fiction, that at some point you just have to lay your thesis all out there and say,"look, here’s what I’m getting at: women f**king isn’t the end of the world,” or what have you.

This is simply part of story telling mechanics. And yes, it’s reductionist, but that’s because a book (film, play, painting, etc.) is a self contained picture of a world, not the world itself. Your themes have to come to fruition, so either you obscure them in esoteric symbolism and creaky archaic language or you let the dramatic flow carry you to the end and have your characters duke it out in plain site of the Pope and everyone, shouting curses and bloodying their knuckles while they discuss quantum physics, Manicheanism, or the meaning of life. But they do have to defend their thesis until the last author is standing. If you let the other side linger, you get into ambiguity, which is fine for some stories but doesn’t work well for all themes (Manicheanism, for example. Good and Evil can’t have a cup of tea together after the final battle, conceding that the other has some valid point).

And that was hardly the only good one, or even necessarily the best.

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An end-of-term note for my students in HIST 3805

I have just about finished reading the essay based on Edwards' book Before Taliban and will be returning them at the exam. It occurred to me however that I should probably explain to symbols that I used in grading.

The backward P is the paragraph mark or, interestingly, the pilcrow. It has standard meaning: start a new paragraph here.

The tick or checkmark is as common as dirt, but I use it for specific purpose. It means, "you caught my attention; well said; an interesting idea." If your paper is extraordinarily good, you might get it returned without any ticks. That probably means that your presentation was consistently good right from the beginning.

The first student has already asked how much choice there will be on the final exam. It's my policy to say that you will always have some choice, but I'm not going to tell you how much. You can always dodge the short ID question or essay question that you hate the most, but no guarantees that you won't have to tackle the second most hateful one.


Monday, April 06, 2009

Calling all Charny fans...

The Vatican appears to endorse the Templars-Charny-Shroud of Turin connection.

The "Geoffroy de Charney" mentioned in the Times article is the uncle of the Geoffroy who wrote The Book of Chivalry.

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Sunday, April 05, 2009

And Winter reminds us...

...that she will be back soon, oh soon.

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How long do these fads last?

In my last lecture for the Islamic civilization course, I tried to balance negative and positive aspects of the current situation (current being since September 2000). One thing I felt compelled to point out to my young students, who might be under the impression that suicide bombing was a long-standing phenomenon in the Islamic world or the Middle East, was that this is not the case. The very first suicide bombing in Afghanistan was on September 10, 2001. Now it is a standard part of the operations of the Afghan/Pakistani Taliban to praise suicide bombing as an Islamic act and to indoctrinate children in preparation for using them later; but before 2001, that was never done.

I thought about this for quite a bit after the lecture was over. I thought back to the end of the 19th century, when the bomb-throwing anarchist was a common figure. One day, even though they were still violent dissenters and explosive materials, the symbolism of throwing bombs to express dissent lost its charm, and people who in another time would have been bomb-throwing anarchists started doing something else. One can hope that a few of them found something constructive to do. But in any case, there were no longer recognizable bomb-throwing anarchists except in cartoons.

I wonder why? How do these violent fads get started, and why do they end? Is anyone investigating the life and death of such trends? It strikes me as a crucial topic in both mass psychology and history as a whole.

One phenomenon worth investigating and comparing to so-called Islamic terrorism would be terrorism in Ireland, which seems to be winding down. Of course, even in Belfast and Londonderry in Northern Ireland, most people of whatever religious identity took no part in terrorism, but there were enough looking for freedom or revenge or religious liberty or whatever who believed their cause justified killing. Now just about everyone is sick of it, and they have leaned on the rest in an effort to discourage the hardest of hardliners continuing the cycle. It took, however, decades to reach this point, and as we've recently seen there is no guarantee that the old grievances can't be brought back to life in the short or long term. If it is over, why now? If it is not over, how come? If everyone lives peacefully for half a century and then the old hatreds are revived and bombs start going off, why will it have happened?

Think of this as a problem in public health.

If you're interested in the recent history of suicide bombing, I found a well researched article on in the Washington Post from from 2005. Here are a few excerpts:
Unheard of only a few decades ago, suicide bombings have rapidly evolved into perhaps the most common method of terrorism in the world, moving west from the civil war in Sri Lanka in the 1980s to the Palestinian intifada of recent years to Iraq today. Since the Sept. 11, 2001, suicide attacks in the United States, suicide bombers have struck from Indonesia to India, from Russia to Morocco.

Now governments throughout the West -- including the United States -- are bracing to cope with similar challenges in the wake of the deadly July 7 subway bombings in London, which marked the first time that suicide bombers had successfully mounted an attack in Western Europe.

The pace of such attacks is quickening. According to data compiled by the Rand Corp., about three-quarters of all suicide bombings have occurred since the Sept. 11 attacks.

The numbers in Iraq alone are breathtaking: About 400 suicide bombings have shaken Iraq since the U.S. invasion in 2003, and suicide now plays a role in two out of every three insurgent bombings. In May, an estimated 90 suicide bombings were carried out in the war-torn country -- nearly as many as the Israeli government has documented in the conflict with Palestinians since 1993.

Yesterday, a suicide bomber detonated explosives strapped to his body inside a Shiite mosque south of Baghdad, triggering a huge fuel-tanker explosion that killed at least 54 people, according to police.

The bombings in London, which killed 55 people, illustrate the profound difficulty of preventing such attacks, experts say. Intelligence officials believe the bombers, in a common pattern, were foot soldiers recruited for the occasion, young men of Pakistani and Jamaican backgrounds reared in Britain who had recently converted to radical Islam. The four bombings required no exit strategy and were pulled off with devices that apparently were made in a bathtub and were small enough to fit in backpacks.

"With the exception of weapons of mass destruction, there is no other type of attack that is more effective than suicide terrorism," said Bruce Hoffman, a terrorism expert who heads the Washington office of Rand, a California think tank. "The perception is that it's impossible to guard against."

The motives behind suicide bombings are often mixed. Terrorism experts and intelligence officials disagree on the extent to which political strategy and religious fervor have led to the rising frequency of such attacks. But in addition to the death toll, a key objective of such bombings is clearly to sow terror by violating deeply held cultural and religious taboos against suicide, experts say.


History of Suicide Attacks

The use of suicide attacks is not new. Japanese kamikaze pilots in World War II tried to cause maximum damage by crashing their fighter planes into U.S. ships. Walter Laqueur, an expert in the history of terrorism, also says that, for centuries, any attack on military or political leaders was a form of suicide because the act usually occurred at close quarters and brought swift and certain death for the killer.

One watershed came in 1983, when a Hezbollah operative drove his truck into the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut, killing 241 U.S. service members in an attack that remains the deadliest terrorist strike on Americans overseas. Hezbollah would later carry out several dozen more suicide attacks.

Most experts agree that the modern style of suicide bombings first gained its greatest prominence outside the Middle East, in the island nation of Sri Lanka.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, popularly known as the Tamil Tigers, is an avowedly secular rebel movement of the country's Tamil ethnic minority. It carried out scores of suicide bombings from the late 1980s until a cease-fire in 2002. The conflict between the Tigers and the government, which is dominated by members of the Sinhalese majority, began in 1983 and claimed an estimated 65,000 lives.

Though dominated by Hindus, the Tigers are predominantly ethnic and nationalist in outlook, with religion not playing a significant role in their actions. The Tigers' early and aggressive use of suicide attacks, analysts say, reflected a pragmatic calculation of the need to level the military playing field against a larger and better-equipped foe.

The group created an elite force to carry out such attacks, the Black Tigers, whose members underwent rigorous training and were reportedly treated to dinner with rebel leader Velupillai Prabhakaran before being sent on their missions.

The rebels carried out their first suicide bombing in 1987, when a captain blew himself up along with 40 government troops at an army camp in the northern part of the country...
As you might guess from my remarks above I am not so sure that continued suicide bombing is really simply a pragmatic choice of the weaker side. As the article says somewhere else, in reference to the West Bank,
The boys all know the way to Ahmed Abu Khalil's house, tucked along an alley in a neighborhood of the West Bank town of Atil known as Two Martyrs. Abu Khalil, 18, became its third after he blew himself up Tuesday near a shopping mall in the Israeli city of Netanya.

It is safe to say Abu Khalil knew how he would be remembered here for his twilight attack outside the HaSharon Mall, which killed five Israelis, including two 16-year-old girls who were lifelong best friends. Scores more were injured in Israel's third suicide bombing this year.

The neighborhood is named for two local members of Islamic Jihad, the radical Palestinian group, who died fighting in the West Bank city of Jenin in 2003. The stylized posters of young men, posing with assault rifles and draped with ammunition belts, wallpaper the city. Graffiti urges uprising.

"This has given us a lot of pride, what he has done in Netanya," said Ibrahim Shoukri, 14, who used to follow Abu Khalil to prayer at the mosque. "We hope all of us will be like him."

The cult of glorification -- a mix of nationalist, personal and religious fervor -- that surrounds suicide bombers has long been one of the most difficult challenges facing Israeli security officials. Religious justification taught in the more radical West Bank mosques and intense familial pride -- at least in the days immediately after the attacks -- often outweigh the Israeli deterrent measures designed to make would-be suicide bombers think twice.
Just at a guess, as long as the neighborhood is named after the two martyrs, and their story is known there and the underlying conflict still exists, that neighborhood has a chance of producing more of the same, as in the case of Abu Khalil. And as long as there is a big deal sectarian marching season in Northern Ireland, there is a chance that those who take part or do not take part in those marches may remember the old causes and act on those memories.

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Thursday, April 02, 2009

Out in the field, spring is coming in

Top Ten Good News Stories in the Muslim World, 2008 (That Nobody Noticed).

I cited the above-named article by Juan Cole in class yesterday; here's a link.

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News from Kaffiristan

The Big Picture
has a portfolio of pictures from Afghanistan, including a number from Nuristan (formerly Kaffiristan). Lots of poppy fields, Canadian troops, and debris from explosions.

Image: Doesn't this have an uncanny resemblance to Catal Huyuk?

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