Monday, October 31, 2011

Congratulations on your 7 billionth child

Dear Mother Earth

Today, we are told your 7 billionth living child will be born somewhere in your abode of wonders. 7 billion of your children will now be living, breathing and enjoying the home you maintain for them.

It is quite an achievement, one worthy of respect. Only 13 years ago your 6 billionth living child was born. In fact, it is even more worthy of respect since while 7 billion of your children live now, over 80 billion have lived before. All of them nurtured and looked after by you, unquestioningly and in good faith. Indeed, we have prospered under your care, as the numbers show.

Sadly, we your children don't give the respect that you earned. We are a rebellious bunch and are extremely arrogant. While many of us sit here eating our way through your generous provisions, we pay little attention to where it comes from, who it goes to or what we'll do when your ample store runs out.

Indeed, we now fight over this generous gift and have done for generations! Hording, stealing and trampling over each other in our pursuit of your gifts. How angry you rightfully must be. This gift is for all, given without prejudice, yet we think we own it and have the right to say who get's what.

We even dig out all of the nasty stuff you had hidden away in your deepest darkest cupboards underground, safe from our inexperienced hands, and burn it in our orgy we call 'progress'. But this progress greatly hurts you, it chokes you, starves you. In our arrogance we hurt the very mother that looks after us.

You've tried to tell us, 'climate change' we call it as we ignore it's effects as we carry on with our 'progress'. Ignore as we slaughter some of your other children to extinction; the rhino, the tiger, the whale, all victims of our 'progress'. Ignore you despite your warnings, the storms, the floods, the earthquakes.

I feel you grow weary of nurturing us dear mother, I don't blame you. We, your children, cannot keep living like this in your home. One of us will reach breaking point. In your time, you have seen many of your children die out. Don't let us go the same way because of our stupidity.


Jack Cope

Child 80,418,626,841

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Dawa and why I don't 'do it'

EDIT: I am aware that you can spell 'Dawa' as 'Dawah'. I spell it the former way, not sure which is more 'correct' but you know what I'm talking about anyway.

I thought I'd give you two posts to make up for having a week off. I like to pair my 'Islam' articles with something different so everyone get's something to read, even if they are not a religious sort. I'm nice like that. For the non-Muslims here, Dawa is the act of 'calling people to Islam', evangelicalism if you like. Let us begin...

I often get asked 'why don't you do Dawa'? I'm told how good I'd be at it given my apparent 'skill' at writing and talking (this raised my eyebrows). I'm told how wonderful it feels to welcome new brothers and sisters into the faith. And I'm told how it is every Muslims 'duty' to do this.

Frankly I've always been slightly repulsed by the thought of going up to someone and shoving my faith in their face. We've all had the people knocking at our door trying to spread the 'good news' and I've yet to know anyone who has 'converted' because of it. By and large, Muslims don't go knocking doors, not that I know anyway, but similar tactics of 'approaching' people exist.

Again, this makes me feel odd. Why should I mess with someone's choice of faith? What concern of mine is it? None I feel. But I'm told how wrong I am and how I should be shoving it in their faces.

But here's the thing, Dawa, as in 'evangelicalism', isn't really Dawa. I know plenty of 'converts' from these evangelical activities. Most of them aren't 'Muslim' any more. The other thing is that, yes, one of a Muslim's 'duty' is Dawa. But again Dawa isn't evangelicalism.

It's not how many 'souls you can save'. There is no thing in Islam over 'saving souls' and indeed, the actions of others are not taken into account when a person is judged for their life. A person's actions are all that matters. Granted, causing someone to sin means that the 'cost' of the sin is born by yourself as well but the same goes for causing someone to do something good. However, 'converting' someone never falls in anywhere.

Because Dawa is living as a good Muslim. I always say that every Muslim is an ambassador for their faith. Most of the 'converts' I was talking about cease to be 'Muslims' because we aren't 'Muslims' ourselves. We show them how Islam is and should be and then act in a completely different way and thus, they drop the faith that they 'converted' to. I don't blame them.

A friend of mine is studying in the Middle East right now. She told me how rude the 'Muslims' are, how they don't care for others, how the behave badly. She is, might I add, and Asian Muslim so this behavior is new to her. Indeed, a lot of Muslims go to the Middle East and expect it to be and Islamic paradise for some odd reason! How mistaken they are, in fact I must say of all the 'Islamic' places on earth, the Middle East is way towards the bottom of the list. Not to say there aren't good Muslims there, but the attitude in general is all wrong. They are not good ambassadors by far.

The other issue is with the evangelical Dawa givers themselves. They are all seem to be happy to 'convert' dozens of people, but they seem to skimp on the actual important bit of looking after other new Muslims and making sure they are secure in their faith. There is more to Islam than repeating the Shahadah with meaning you know. I'm ofter suspicious of these 'great' Dawa givers who convert people after a lecture or on their doorstep. What sort of person learns all there is to know about Islam in a few hours?! And what happens to them after this 'conversion'? There seems to be stress in getting people through the door and not caring what happens to them after. That is not Dawa.

We simply, as Muslims on the whole, don't behave correctly. If you really want to give Dawa then start with yourself. Start behaving 'Islamicly'. That doesn't mean you dress in a certain way and spend all your time in a Mosque. It means having manners, respect for others and behaving politely. It's really all about being a better human as well.

It means that you treat others as Islam says you should, it means kindness, compassion and charity to all of mankind. It means becoming a better Muslim. It means you go that extra bit to help others. It doesn't mean you go around feeling good at the dozen 'new Muslims' you 'created'.

You should never aim to be 'converting' people, rather you should make 'conversion' a by product of your life. If someone looks at you and feels they want to find out more about your faith then isn't that better than shoving it in their face? If they want help with this then by all means give it, but you shouldn't make it your goal.

That is the best Dawa you can ever give and it is what will actually 'convert' people. Be an ambassador, not an evangelical.


Reflecting on a week without internet (plus a little note on 'donations')

Once again my blog has been silent. This time it's not because I didn't want to write, it because I've not had a stable internet connection as I didn't pay my bill, or rather couldn't afford to. This week in internet pergotary has led to me reflecting on how much we use it and how much our lives, and mankind's future, will depend on it.

The internet is far more than the sum total of it's parts. It is far more than an ingenious way to connect multiple computers together, one that evolved from a US scheme to ensure it's ICBM network stayed intact in the event of the USSR going postal and launching a nuclear strike. That in itself is interesting, necessity is the mother of inventions as they say, but the fact that something that was designed to help survive the end of the world ended up creating a new one just goes to show how unpredictable history can be.

The internet is, in effect, the world. On it, you'll find pretty much everything and anything that ever existed and/or that mankind knows about. Granted, some of these bits are locked away in highly secure networks like the Pentagon's [insert name here] system, but it's still there and the countless attacks on supposedly secure systems shows that it can be read.

It's also very much alive and changing. I believe that it will become some sort of Artificial Intelligence at some point in the near future and that will be interesting/scary/probably a bad thing. We keep feeding this beast of copper wire* information and ideas, somethings going to happen sometime. And it's a witches brew of 'stuff' in this beast. It knows your telephone number, your bank details, your hospital records, it probably knows you better than you do yourself. Worrying? Yes, probably.

But what for the future? I think we have now come to the stage where we simply can't live properly without an internet connection. Our world revolves around cyberspace now, if it were to die tomorrow then there would be chaos. Pretty much everything you do in your life is connected to the beast somewhere. And as I found out last week, living without it is hard.

Our society will develop as the internet develops and because of it. I remember Matt Ridley, who's book I reviewed, called it 'where ideas have sex'. Crude but true. On the internet, two completely unrelated ideas can meet in ways unimagined before. The struggling biochemist in Germany can bump into the confused industrialist in India and find their ideas and needs mesh. Before, the biochemist would be stuck in her shed up to her eyes in chemicals and the industrialist would be staring at his unproductive factory because they would never have met. Neither would have got anywhere.

Can you imagine the number of ideas that never developed in the past because the bits of jigsaw never met? In this day and age the amount of development that happens purely because groups of people across the globe can 'meet' in cyberspace is huge. But more on that and our interconnected world another time I think.

In Africa two of the top things that development organizations are pushing these days are a) cheap computers and b) high speed internet. For a impoverished farmer and internet connection can be both a window to new techniques and a marketplace for his or her product. It's also a way to allow people to learn for a low cost. You no longer have to build a school, a $100 laptop and a 3G dongle is all a student needs to be linked into some cyber classroom and for the teacher to revive two dozen identical sets of homework all cut and pasted off Wikipedia. Don't lie, we've all done it and we've all been caught out. But with all this information at our fingertips and the ability to communicate ideas means that as a society we evolve faster than ever before.

The copper beast toppled the regimes in the Middle East as well. The old regimes had, on the whole, weathered decades of constant revolt but one thing changed this time. One thing meant that a bankrupt Tunisian student setting himself on fire as a protest over his food stall being closed down caused a tidal wave that touched every corner of the globe.

Expect for North Korea. Because they aren't allowed the internet. Never will they know the pain of searching through your Facebook 'friends' to see who unfreinded you. Never will they get the buzz from winning an Ebay auction. Never will they spend hours on Wikipedia looking up incredibly stupid stuff and somehow feeling fulfilled having done it. And never will those poor souls who live on grass overthrow their incredibly short and goofy looking 'Dear Leader' if they can't organize like the people of the Middle East did online.

Not all is good of course. I already stated how the beast knows more about you than you could possibly imagine. If it knows, anyone with a computer and a few skills can also know. And what about all the time that is 'wasted' on the internet? All the countless hours refreshing the Facebook newsfeed and the Twitter page, waiting for some inconsequential bit of 'news' about someone somewhere. I recall a study finding that companies lose hours of productivity per worker because of this timewasting.

Or the fact that some of the material online is 'undesirable'. Yes, free speech advocates love it but how do you feel that anyone can pick up the Anarchist's Cookbook or browse the forums of Neo-Nazi groups? Or the fact that organized crime makes trillions out of dealings on the net? Not all information is 'good' information.

But even with these blips I think it is for the better. As I said, the internet changed our world and continues to shape it. Because the internet really is the future. Whatever happens then, the internet will play a role, most probably a large one. If we fall back into the dark ages or enter a new dawn of civilization, it'll be because of what happens in the beast of copper wire. You read it here first.

Now, donations. After hearing of my internet woes one or two of you did offer to pay my internet bill. I'm touched, but I really don't like taking money off people. Especially for this blog, which I feel is nothing much to shout about and something I bash out in my spare time. Someone reading this blog and enjoying it is all the payment I need.

However, one of you was very persistent so I've written a 'help me' page with details of how you can help. Most of it is nothing to do with money and I'd like to keep it that way. However, if you must send me something then there is a PayPal button thingy there or you can email me and I'll sort something out. And if you donate in any way then please, let me have your address and I'll see if I can send a freebie.

Thanks for reading


* Yes, we don't use copper wire so much any more, but 'beast of fiber optic cable, up links, relays, satellites and other assorted bits of technical wizardry' doesn't have a ring to it. Sorry, but you must grant me artistic license.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

National borders; the lines in the sand and the minds

Watching the news recently I've seen that once again Indonesia and Malaysia have been having a little spat over their national border. As expected, it's quite funny and makes you die a little inside of embarrassment.

This time, some Indonesian MPs (read; people with low support looking to capitalize on fax nationalism for the upcoming elections) have accused Malaysia of moving the border markers from their designated positions and thus 'stealing' thousands of hectares of Indonesian land. Upon hearing this I had visions of Malaysian commandos sneaking out at the dead of night with tape measures instead of rifles and launching daring raids to claim another six inches of jungle.

Of course, it turned out to all be in the heads of these MPs and the Indonesian army went and confirmed that none of the border makers had moved. But not before these MPs had claimed their airtime and there had been the obligatory protest outside the Malaysian embassy. And it will happen again.

And again.

And again.

But why? Why do we as a people, I mean the world here, put so much emphasis on these lines we draw in the dirt? They don't exist in reality, I've accidentally crossed the UAE - Oman border enough times when I lived there to verify that, yet so much stress is put on them. And a lot of blood is spilled fighting over their positions.

I'm going to talk a little about the Malaysia - Indonesia issue for a while as I think it shows how farcical borders can be. Now, Malaysia and Indonesia are peas in the same pod. They both share basically the same language, largely the same faith, the same shared culture, traditions and so on. Heck, they often even dress the same and to the untrained eye there is little to tell them apart. This is because they are both of Austronesian ancestry, the so called 'Malay race', as are most people in the Philippines.

In fact, if we take a look at the ancestry of many in Asia then we find they are of the same orrigion. Going east from Madagascar, taking in the Malay Peninsular, most of what we call Indonesia and the Philippines, then going down around Australia to New Zealand and right the way across taking in all the islands of the Pacific up to the coast of the Americas. Here is a map from Wikipedia illustrating the distribution:

This grouping is in fact some of the first humans out of Africa and a lot of people can trace their ancestry to them. The so called 'Beachcomber Express' was the rapid migration of people from Africa along the coastlines of Asia (which were far more linked) before spreading north to populate much of Asia. In fact, it is theorized that even many Africans have ancestry from here as it is believed that the 'original' Africans were different to most humans, for example the 'pygmies'.

Interesting of course, but we are going off topic here. The point is that people of Indonesia and Malaysia have a lot in common, from race to language. But they fight! And often over very stupid things. For example there was another spat recently where Indonesia accused Malaysia of 'stealing' certain 'cultural icons' such as the Rasa Sayang song, the Barongan dance and various musical instruments in it's TV adverts promoting tourism in Malaysia.

It's not the first time a TV advert has done this either, in 2009 a Discovery Channel program on Malaysia incorrectly identified a certain dance as being of Malaysian origin when in fact they are from Bali. This lead to Malaysian flags being burned and Malaysian students at universities being egged, despite Malaysia issuing an apology.

Indeed, certain radical elements got very violent and set up roadblocks to 'search' for Malaysians, as well as a pretty amusing proposal to send 1500 Indonesians armed with sharpened bamboo staffs to 'invade' Malaysia. Seriously! Over a TV add! Mind you, at least they haven't had a full out war for a while. And to be honest on the whole most Indonesians and Malaysians don't engage in the sort of junk that the radicals do.

But why all this? Well of course a lot of this is just political point scoring, the more radical groups especially, but there is a deeper cause. It's becuase in 1824 the Dutch and the British drew a line on a map, creating two countries that had never exited before.

And that is the problem with borders, they are lines on the map, draw with little consideration for anything other than territorial gains, power and suchlike. Indeed most of our borders come from a time, the colonial era, where territory meant power and as such we have badly drawn ones! India and Pakistan is another example that springs to mind of a badly draw border causing strife.

Borders make people hate their fellow man, despite their common traits. Borders also cause us to think of people as defined by the bit of dirt they were born on, not the person they are. These are both very dangerous things and have caused a lot of fighting in the past. Why for instance from 1939-45 did young men with a lot in common shoot each other in massive numbers? Of course, borders weren't the only reason but they were a big one. One side in that conflict felt that it's borders had been drawn unfairly and were to small, the other side begged to differ. That's putting it mildly to say the least.

Could we live in a world without borders? Quite possibly, we never really had borders anyway until a few hundred years ago. Could it happen again, that in this imperfect world we live in that mankind could stop fighting over lines in the sand? Could see that really, there is only one nation, the nation that is Earth? And one race, Mankind? Who knows, I think the change comes from within as they say. Once humans realize their stupidity, then maybe we can move on.

One person at a time huh?


Saturday, October 15, 2011

Ethics: Would you save the life of a smoker?

I know a fair few medics and as a quasi-trained medic myself I was reflecting on this question. Fairly recently the NHS (National Health Service) in the UK said that it would not provide hip replacements to those that were obese under the NHS (they would have to pay for it themselves) and it got me thinking. Should a health service use it's time and resources dealing with 'self inflicted' conditions? I also am aware that all medics take an oath, but we are going to pretend that the oath doesn't apply here purely for the debate.

The debate is really thus:

- Smokers inflict harm on themselves by smoking, in full knowledge that it will cause them massive harm in later life yet they still keep going

- Public knowledge of this is great and there are even government sponsored schemes in many countries to get people off cigarettes

- Smokers tie up beds and other scarce resources in hospitals that could be used by others, especially in government hospitals

- If a smoker were to come in to A&E (Accident and Emergency, for Americans that is ER) for a smoking related condition then they are still eligible for emergency treatment even if there are other 'genuinely' injured patients there

- Most if not all smokers will end up in hospital over a smoking related illness at some point, often a government hospital which again ties up resources from 'genuinely' injured people

I must say that I lose a lot of respect for someone once I find they smoke and a I'm quite up front in telling them how stupid I think they are (I often point out that jumping off a bridge is cheaper if they really want to commit suicide). In my opinion there is absolutely no reason why someone should smoke and it's a sign of weakness. That said I am also very quick to offer my support if they want to quit. Thus in this debate I am heavily biased towards not treating smokers for conditions they have 'inflicted' upon themselves.

That is really the crux of it for me. Why should an over stressed, massively over worked government paid surgeon have to spend his or her time operating on someone who is only really on his or her operating table becuase of stupidity? Especially if said smoker is likely to go out and smoke again. Let me add however I have great friends who do smoke and I'd probably be devastated if they were to die.

I'm really for the overall banning of cigarettes and smoking. My argument is that there is no reason for them to be here. If they were invented yesterday do you think that they would be allowed on the market?! For me the issue of 'right to chose' doesn't come into this. If someone has a right to chose to smoke, shouldn't the health service have a 'right to chose' not to treat them for their self inflicted injury?

The other argument often called against me is that smokers put a lot of tax revenue into the treasury. This, for me, is really the only reason smoking still exists and governments don't have the guts to ban it; a strong tobacco lobby and cash in the coffers. But really, how much do they put in? And then how much is taken out again to have to pay for their treatments?

We're sliding away from the topic at hand here, we are not talking about banning smoking. We are talking about treating self inflicted conditions and here is where it get's a bit messy. Becuase there are other self inflicted conditions.

For example, if a drunk driver crashes his car because he is drunk should he be treated? After all, his drunkenness caused the accident. What about a woman that threw herself off a bridge? Again, she did it to herself.

I think it is fair to say that in both of these cases most would say they should be treated. But why? Is it any different to the smoker? They caused their situations didn't they? Again, it's messy but I do think there is a difference. Because in both cases they are really 'one time' instances, not brought on by years of self abuse.

This is especially true of the woman who jumped off a bridge as it is highly likely that she did it for a reason such as depression. And depression, by and large, isn't a self inflicted condition or one that you pick up on purpose. This I feel is the difference when compared to smoking. She made a mistake in all probability, shouldn't she be given another chance? I feel that she should.

But what about a smoker? Shouldn't they get another chance? Actually, I feel they have already don't you? It tends to take years before smoking will end with you in a hospital, so a smoker had years of chances to alleviate their condition.

In the end however, I feel that most doctors will, quite rightly, feel strongly against not saving a life if they can. Even me, with my loathing of smoking, would probably feel the same in the situation. But it's a tough topic and one that in a world where health budgets are being slashed will surely come up. We'll be back on this topic with certainty.

Share your views


Friday, October 14, 2011

Photo of the week: The Lybian Guitar Hero

My random stumblings around the WWW lead me to this pretty fascinating picture out of Libya:

Photo credit: Aris Messinis/AFP/Getty Images
You've got to wonder what song was he was playing...

For me it symbolizes the final coming together of Libya and the bravery of Libyans themselves in fighting for their freedom. Even if you can't haul a gun, then you can haul a guitar and still be just as brave. May they stay strong and rebuild their shattered nation. And ay tyrants everywhere tremble at this simple man and his guitar.

Dedicated to all those fighting to free their country, at home and abroad.


Al-Arqam outdoes itself with new book (UPDATED)

The farce that is Al-Arqam is getting lively again. After a few months respite where this irritating group sat and did nothing, this week they outdid their last joke (sorry, serious organization) by releasing a new book. The book's title is:

“Seks Islam, perangi Yahudi untk kembalikan seks Islam kepada dunia".

For those of you not familiar with Malay that reads:

"Islamic sex, fighting Jews to return Islamic sex to the world".

Just wow. Al-Arqam, you outdid yourself! I though that the 'Obedient Wives Club', where you preached that wives should act like prostitutes for their husbands, was the best joke you'd pull but this... this I have no words for. No words to state how much I laughed reading this over breakfast and no words to state how a small part of me died from embarrassment. And you even managed to blame 'Jews' for all your problems again, bonus points for you! One wonder's how exactly 'Jews' are stopping 'Islamic sex' but I guess I have to buy the book huh?

Yes, Al-Arqam, one of the jesters in the arena that is the sad state of the Muslim world today. And you can guess that they will be liberally splashed over every news paper in the land and a lot of international ones as well. Because that is what these people want. Unsatisfied with the dismal and boring lives they lead and unwilling to change the world for good they instead waste everyone's time.

These pathetic outbursts of stupid, un-researched and deliberately outrageous 'books' and 'groups' purely to get in the papers, get them a little attention and then back to the plotting room for the next farce. They never try and change anything, they just push something into the open and don't care if people laugh. Anyone heard anything from the 'Obedient Wives Club' since it was 'announced' all those months ago? Me neither.

American readers might like to liken these groups to the Westboro Baptist Church, the cult like 'Church' who like to picket military funerals with outrageous signs becuase they know it will rile everyone up. Or the Dove World Outreach Centre who had the little dance over the Quran burning. They are insignificant, pointless, small and of no relevance but you can bet they will get in the papers a lot! Because that is all they want.

Muslims have already spoken out against this 'book'. Sisters In Islam were, as expected, one of the first to release a statement and the Kelantan mufti, Datuk Mohamad Shukri Mohamad, stepped in to correct the 'book's' over emphasis on sex. For non-Malaysians, Kelantan is the state where the 'book' was released and the mufti is the person appointed to run Islamic affairs. He stated correctly that the Quran likens the husband-wife relationship to 'the ‘wife clothes the husband and you (the husband) clothes the wife''. In other words, an equal relationship where both parties get fulfillment. Interestingly he hasn't issued a ban on the book (as he can do so for 'Islamic' books) and I feel this is wise. Any such ban will just fan the flames so to speak, bringing more attention to the farce.

Now, I must admit here that I do agree with Al-Arqam on one thing; Muslims don't talk about the 's' word enough. It's mostly embarrassment and culture, heck no one likes talking about it, but actually Islam states that sex between husband and wife is like charity, not something to be ashamed of and something to be enjoyed. Most couples have 'dips' in their 'sex lives' during marriage and we shouldn't let it damage relationships. It's an issue that we should face, but not by releasing crappy books with little foundation in Islamic practice.

But Al-Arqam, no, they don't care about this at all. A few newspaper headlines, a little bit on the TV news and they're happy. What a sad world we live in.


UPDATE I: JAKIM, Malaysia's government 'Islamic Development' department, have stepped in to state they will be restricting distribution of the book (if not outright banning it) as it is in their words “shameful” and “nonsensical”. The Woman, Family and Community Development Minister has also been quoted as saying: “Should this publication be in contravention of the law whether civil or syariah (Sharia), then the law here will take its course,”. Let's just pray that is the end of that and nothing more is said about this ridiculous publication.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Back by popular request

I said I'd blog. I didn't blog. I said I'd blog again. And guess what...

This time though I've had so many requests to actually stick to my word that I'm starting to suspect people do actually read what I write and like it. Weird and no accounting for taste!

So, I've reactivated this old site and from here on in I will blog. One post a week, minimum, full of all my ramblings. Promise. Hold me to it. Send me ideas. Comment. Email. Heck just read it and laugh. And as always, enjoy.