Most popular on Closer this week:

  1. Hizmetinizde – Voor al uw verkiezingsposters
  2. De Nederlandse Wereldomroep, maagdenvlies en een ontslagen Egyptische blogger
  3. Islamizing Europe – Muslim Demographics
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Featuring Afghanistan
Science Centric | News | Researchers collect data to aid Afghanistan reconstruction

Policymakers, potential private investors, and the public received valuable new information today to help identify fault lines and the potential location of undiscovered water, oil and gas, and non-fuel mineral resources in Afghanistan.

Data were collected by U.S. Geological Survey scientists, who flew over Afghanistan and conducted an airborne geophysical and photographic survey of the country. Today, survey data were unveiled at The Embassy of Afghanistan in Washington, D.C.

Social Scientists Under Fire | Smart Journalism. Real Solutions. | Miller-McCune Online Magazine

Mahard’s mission to Baraki Rajan sure didn’t look like war — at least not like Hollywood depicts it. No one ran. No one shouted. Nothing exploded. No helicopters swooped majestically overhead. The mission boiled down to a long walk through a quiet village, a few conversations with local residents, a lot of jotted notes and figures and some photos.

When Scholars Join the Slaughter in Iraq and Afghanistan

Anthropology, in particular, has been referred to throughout history as the “handmaiden of colonialism,” thus putting anthropologists, at least those with a moral conscience, on guard against anything that smells like exploitation or oppression of their subjects. Roberto Gonzalez, an associate professor of anthropology at San Jose State University and a leading member of the Network of Concerned Anthropologists, told Time magazine that the militarization of anthropology will cause the field to become “just another weapon … not a tool for building bridges between peoples.” Anthropology has core professional ethics standards that require voluntary, informed consent from subjects, and that anthropologists do no harm. How likely do you think these will be adhered to by the flack-jacket-wearing, gun-toting, embedded anthropologists working directly with regimental combat units in Iraq and Afghanistan?”

Analysis: Taliban reconciliation is easier conceived than achieved | Stars and Stripes

Although Thursday’s conference on Afghanistan laid out a plan to bring up to 35,000 rank-and-file Taliban over to the side of the Afghan government, it remains to be seen how easily Kabul and NATO forces will be able to sway these fighters.

Homegrown insurgents who base their allegiance to the Taliban on Islamist ideology will be harder to persuade than the local man who is just trying to earn a living, analysts say.

Film probes the use of academics in war

In the midst of war, is it possible to win the hearts and minds of the Iraqi and Afghan people?

An award-winning documentary by research professor/author James Der Derian examines a controversial U.S. military strategy that embeds academics and social scientists in war zones to gain cultural awareness, then uses the knowledge for counterinsurgency.

Oversimplifying Central Asia — Registan.net

I’ve written before on the absence of a coherent narrative from the United States’ perspective on Central Asia, and I’ve talked about the importance of using words with meaning when we’re doing analysis (others have agreed with me, here). But I haven’t talked as much about the local understanding of a narrative.

Dutch Soldiers Stress Restraint in Afghanistan – New York Times

But rather than advancing for reconnaissance or to attack, the Dutch soldiers pulled back to a safer village. “We’re not here to fight the Taliban,” said the Dutch commander, Col. Hans van Griensven, at a recent staff meeting. “We’re here to make the Taliban irrelevant.”

War Is Boring: Dutch Prepare for Afghan Deployment

The next Dutch battlegroup will deploy to southern Afghanistan in March 2010. Task Force Uruzgan 17 is composed of an army airborne company, a company of Dutch marines, a recon platoon, an engineer company and logistics staff.

Dutch Government Collapses Over Afghan Mission : NPR

The Dutch coalition government collapsed Saturday over whether to extend the country’s military mission in Afghanistan, leaving the future of its 1,600 soldiers fighting there uncertain. An early election is now expected.

International Crisis Group – Security in Afghanistan

The political system itself is also in need of serious reform. It is now highly centralised and largely based on patronage, bringing personalities rather than policies to the fore. President Karzai wields enormous powers as head of state and has encouraged an ever-growing culture of impunity. The role of political parties has become increasingly marginalised. There now needs to be a focus on how the political system can be made more functional and representative. Broad agreement is needed on a balance of power among the branches of the state, among which the relationship is now very poor, as well as on identifying which body is the ultimate constitutional arbiter, and on ensuring a more appropriate role for political parties.

Anthropology
Reuters AlertNet – Kuwait: Critical Opinions Unwelcome

On February 11, 2010, Kuwaiti security officials canceled the visa of Madawi al-Rasheed, of Saudi origin and a professor of cultural anthropology at King’s College London, one week before she was scheduled to speak at a regional economic forum and lecture at the Women’s Institute of Development and Training.
In January, the government barred Muhammad al-‘Uraifi, a prominent Saudi cleric, from entering the country, despite frequent prior visits on which he publicly lectured and held sermons. In December, Interior Ministry officials turned away the Egyptian scholar, Nasr Hamid Abu Zayd, when he arrived at Kuwait International Airport, even though he held a valid visa. Abu Zayd, a scholar of the Quran who holds the Ibn Rushd Chair of Humanism and Islam at the Utrecht University for Humanistics in the Netherlands, had been invited to lecture on Islam and democracy by the Kuwaiti Women’s Cultural Society.

Religion science: if you pay the piper, do you call the tune?

A hot debate has been taking place these last few days, in the comments section of Harvey Whitehouse’s recent post on religion. Part of the dispute has to do with the way cognitive scientists working on that topic might be influenced by the money they get, particularly from a Christian foundation that hopes to promote a more favorable view of religion by funding research in that area, albeit in a nonintrusive way. What, everyone wonders, does funding of this kind do to the work it finances? Is Christian-funded research biased? Is it more likely to present religious people with a rosy mirror?

News: Sociologists Get Religion – Inside Higher Ed

When Darren Sherkat published a paper in a major sociology journal in the 1990s, focused on Max Weber’s The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, he said that the reaction from many senior scholars was “dismissive.” He remembers one telling him “this is garbage” for citing Weber’s views on the significance of religious values. “It can’t be religion” driving human behavior, the scholar told the then un-tenured Sherkat. “It’s got to be something else that caused the religion.”

Op-Ed Contributor – Disorder Out of Chaos – NYTimes.com

But a culturally meaningful distinction isn’t always a scientifically valid one. Almost everyone with Asperger’s also fits the profile of the more classic autistic disorder. Indeed, in the current diagnostic manual, a child who has good language acquisition and intelligence qualifies as autistic if, in addition to having restricted interests and problems with social interactions, he has just one of the following symptoms, which are common among children with Asperger’s: difficulty conversing, an inability to engage in make-believe play or repetitive or unusual use of language. Even the best available diagnostic instruments cannot clearly distinguish between Asperger’s and autistic disorder.

Beverly M. Weber, “Rethinking Islam and Masculinity in Germany”

Katherine Pratt Ewing’s Stolen Honor provides an interesting and original approach to analyses of discourses of Islam in Europe by focusing on constructions of Muslim masculinity in Germany. Pratt Ewing premises her book on the idea that so much attention has been paid to Muslim woman as victim that the stigmatization of Muslim masculinity goes unnoticed. The need for an analysis of the constructions of Muslim masculinity, Pratt Ewing argues, derives in part from the impacts of the stigmatization of Muslim men. Because the Muslim man is constructed against the modern “self” of the German national subject, the potential for a sense of full belonging, and thus for full cultural citizenship, is limited.

Challenging “West versus Islam” media paradigms | TwoCircles.net

At an international conference on “Islam and the Media” organised by the Center for Media, Religion and Culture at the University of Colorado-Boulder in January, many of the participants, including myself, examined the negative stigma attached by the media to Islam and Muslims, especially after 9/11 and various terrorist attempts made in the name of Islam by extremists and militants operating on the fringes of the larger mainstream Muslim community.

Anthropology vs Me

What does one do when he finds himself at odds with the foundations of his topic of study? I find myself in such a position as I wade my way through introductory anthropology courses and prepare to declare it as my major. As much as I have enjoyed the opportunities to explore Major Debates in the Study of Africa or Chinese Society over the past semesters, my resistance to the required courses for the major has resulted in a sudden collision with the most basic theories of the anthropological method of thinking. To my dismay, I find myself shaking my head in disagreement as my venerable professors outline, from square one, how a true anthropologist goes about viewing the world.

New Statesman – Reflections on the Revolution in Europe: Immigration, Islam and the West

Europe: Immigration, Islam and the West

By Christopher Caldwell

Reviewed by Ziauddin Sardar – 11 February 2010

Predictions of a Muslim takeover of Europe reproduce the worst sorts of orientalist prejudice.

anthropologyworks » Call for participants in a panel on public anthropology for a world in crisis

This panel explores how a contemporary public anthropology might be imagined, is emerging, and is capable of making interventions outside academic contexts. We are interested in theoretically and methodologically informed case studies, position papers, critical and historical considerations.

Gender-based violence
Honor Killing by Any Other Name

evidence suggests honor killings are still relatively common in the West as well, not only among Muslim immigrants, although such crimes may take a different name.

A Practical Approach to Talking About Honor Killing – Deepak Chopra & Intent

Recently, a story appeared in Huffington Post about a 16 year old Turkish girl who was buried alive by her father and grandfather for having talked to boys. The West rightly finds this a horrific practice. However, many in the West also misunderstand and conveniently condemn honor killing as a practice of Islam. The mistake with this condemnation is that Islam does not permit or condone honor killing. However, it is precisely this misunderstanding and ignorance that allows many in the West to participate in a climate of hate, mistrust and even the idea of war against all of Islam.

Remembering Aasiya Zubair | Wajahat Ali | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk

Remembering Aasiya Zubair

A year on from the tragic death of Aasiya Zubair, American Muslims have mobilised to confront domestic violence

Muslim women inside out
Mideast Youth – Thinking Ahead » Once upon a burka – Part 1

Once upon a burka – Part 1
February 16th, 2010Marian (Somalia)

It’s oppressive. It’s degrading. It’s this, it’s that. Jack Straw claimed this, Nicholas Sarkozy mentioned that. Let us liberate them in Afghanistan, let us liberate them in France. Yawn. I am getting fed up of these burka stories. They seem to be never ending and at times very cringe worthy. ’Burka woman sacked from her job!’ ’Lets liberate the burka women!’ ’Lady in burka aids Al Qaeda!’ ‘Burka lady almost kidnaps Obama!’ Now, I know you are probably raising your eyebrow, I wouldn’t blame you actually. Before you jump to conclusion about what I am going to express, give this veiled woman the voice that many claim I do not have and kindly listen to me.

A Niqabi Living in the Bastion of Secularism! – IslamOnline.net – European Muslims

In the center of one of the Muslim communities located at the French commune Aulnay-sous-Bois in the northeastern suburbs of Paris, we met Najat (37 years old), who refused to come out except with her twin sister Asmaa’ who is not wearing niqab. There is a great similarity between the two sisters to the extent that you may think they are the same person, only in different dresses.

New Statesman – Doing it for ourselves

Muslim women are talked about by others in the west as if they are powerless victims, in need of rescue. Give us a break.

Misc.
Yes to female circumcision?

Is it a good idea to fight against female circumcision? Not neccesarily according to Sierra Leonean-American anthropologist Fuambai Ahmadu.

Life after female genital mutilation | Society | The Guardian

Life after female genital mutilation
Consultant gynaecologist Geetha Subramanian is one of only a handful of medical professionals in the UK to carry out FGM reversals

Westernization vs Arabization | The Jakarta Post Mobile

Globalization is often perceived as Westernization, a growing influence of Western values in opposition or in competition with local values and identity. But in a country like Indonesia, globalization can also mean Arabization, a process of adopting Arab culture and traditions.

Berlin’s Museum of Islamic Art reaches out to new audiences | Culture & Lifestyle | Deutsche Welle | 01.02.2010

Berlin’s Museum of Islamic Art will have tripled in size and will house one of the largest collections of its kind in the Western hemisphere. But showing off its wares is not all the museum aspires to.

After burqa, halal menu target of French ire – Europe – World – The Times of India

A French fast food chain’s decision to serve only halal meat in eight restaurants with a strong Muslim clientele has sparked a wave of criticism from politicians decrying the step as unacceptable.

Bosnian film ponders strict Islam’s place in West | Reuters

A powerful Bosnian drama examines how people living in a Westernized, multi-cultural society and those observing a strict interpretation of Islam can co-exist, if at all.

The wannabe British jihadist who said no to Al-Qaeda – Times Online

It took months to get to the man I must call “Kasim”. I’d heard about a wannabe British jihadist who had been injured in a US drone attack in Waziristan, Pakistan, but he was not easy to find, and, once found, he was clearly uneasy. With good reason. There are probably many people far scarier than me who would like to meet him.

Midad al-Suyuf and al-Maqdisi: Sworn Enemies? — jihadica

Strangely enough, as late as 2008 al-Maqdisi’s writings were sometimes posted on the Midad al-Suyuf forum without any commentary or accompanied by praise, occasionally even by people like al-Mihdar, who would later criticise him severely. This change of tone from neutrality or even support for al-Maqdisi to downright hostility cannot be explained by simply pointing to al-Maqdisi’s criticism of al-Zarqawi; after all, this was expressed in 2004 and 2005, implying that if this was the reason, the change in attitude towards al-Maqdisi would have taken place earlier. This raises the question: what caused this change?

Dutch
De waarheid van Geert Wilders – Trouw

Messcherp analyseert Paul Frissen het populisme van PVV-leider Geert Wilders. Het is anti-politiek en anti-democratisch en heeft geen ruimte voor debat.

Column Paul de Krom | vvdnext.nl

De vraag die mij al een tijdje bezig houdt is waarom een relatief kleine groep van jihadistische extremisten zo’n grote impact heeft op onze samenleving.

Wereldjournalisten 515 terroristische aanslagen in EU: 1 door moslims

In 2008 meldden 7 EU-landen 515 pogingen tot terroristische aanslagen. Slechts 1 daarvan was afkomstig van moslimzijde. Zo blijkt uit het trendrapport van Europol: the European Union Terrorism Situation and Trend Report (TE-SAT) 2009.

What Would the Prophet Do?

Het is niet makkelijk om de islam van de profeet en zijn metgezellen te volgen. Wat zou Mohammed in deze tijd doen? Internetsites bieden uitkomst.

Bruggenbouwers » Geven moslims geen tegengas? Echt wel!

Het wordt zo vaak en zo gemakkelijk gezegd: Moslims participeren niet in dialoog, ze laten christenen de kastanjes uit het vuur halen. Ook laten ze zonder enig commentaar zelfmoordenaars of de Taliban hun ding doen zonder geweld te veroordelen, ze laten de eerwraak gebeuren en nemen vrouwenbesnijdenis voor lief en ga zo maar door.

Het verhaal van de enige Westerse zelfmoordterroriste – Mensen – kanaal – Knack.be

In zijn nieuwe boek Vrede zij met u, zuster vertelt Knack-journalist Chris de Stoop het verhaal van Muriel Degauque, de enige Westerse vrouw die ooit een zelfmoordaanslag pleegde.

‘Racistisch geweld is structureel fenomeen’ – Trouw

Racistisch geweld, vernielingen en bedreigingen komen in Nederland al tientallen jaren stelselmatig voor. Dit terwijl Nederlanders juist vaak denken dat het niet om een structureel fenomeen gaat. De overheid ontkent zelfs regelmatig dat dergelijke misdrijven een racistisch karakter hebben.