Tehran Bans Dog Walking

Religious fundamentalism just has to ruin everything. From the BBC,

Iran’s capital city has banned the public from walking pet dogs, as part of a long-standing official campaign to discourage dog-ownership.

Tehran Police Chief Hossein Rahimi said “we have received permission from the Tehran Prosecutor’s Office, and will take measures against people walking dogs in public spaces, such as parks”.

. . .

Dogs are viewed as “unclean” by Iran’s Islamic authorities, who also regard dog-ownership as a symbol of the pro-Western policy of the ousted monarchy.

The Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance banned the media from publishing any advertisements for pets or pet-related products back in 2010, and there was a push in parliament five years ago to fine and even flog dog-walkers.

Sam Harris and The Number of Books Translated Into Arabic

In his criticisms of Islamist views, Sam Harris has repeatedly highlighted the intellectual isolation of the Arab world by repeating this claim:

Spain translates more books into Spanish each year than the entire Arab world has translated into Arabic since the ninth century.

A quick Google search suggests that Spain’s current population is about 47 million, while there are about 366 million Arabic speakers, so that would be an amazing statistic, if true. But is it true?

The source for this is the Arab Human Development Report 2003 – Building a Knowledge Society (2MB PDF), which was spearheaded by Dr. Rima Khalaf Hunaidi, director of the Arab regional office of the UN Development Program. According to that report,

Most Arab countries have not learned from the lessons of the past and the field of translation remains chaotic. In terms of quantity, and notwithstanding the increase in the number of translated books from 175 per year during 1970-1975 to 330, the number of books translated in the Arab world is one fifth of the number translated in Greece. The aggregate total of translated books from the Alma’moon era to the present day amounts to 10,000 books – equivalent to what Spain translates in a single year (Shawki Galal, in Arabic, 1999, 87)3 . This disparity was revealed in the first half of the 1980s when the average number of books translated per 1 million people in the Arab world during the 5-year period was 4.4 (less than one book for every million Arabs), while in Hungary it was 519, and in Spain 920. (Figure 2.9.)

The Alma’moon era refers to the seventh Abbasid caliph who reigned from 813-833 CE. So Harris appears to have good grounds for his claim.

In the United States, there are roughly 300,000 new and re-issued books published every year. Roughly 3 percent of those are translations or roughly 9,000 translated books per year for a country with roughly the same population as total Arabic speakers.

Part of the issue in the Arab world is that it isn’t just that there are relatively few translations published, but that there are few books published in general. Accurate statistics are hard to come by, but the Arab Human Development Report 2003 and other sources estimate that only 7,000-8,000 books are published in the entire Arab world annually. This is due, in part, to high levels of illiteracy,

Literary production faces other major challenges. These include the small number of readers owing to high rates of illiteracy in some Arab countries and the weak purchasing power of the Arab reader. This limited readership is clearly reflected in the number of books published in the Arab world, which does not exceed 1.1% of world production, although Arabs constitute 5% of the world population. The production of literary and artistic books in Arab countries is lower than the general level. In 1996 it did not exceed 1,945 books, representing only 0.8% of world production, i.e., less than the production of a country such as Turkey, with a population one quarter of that of Arab countries. An abundance of religious books and a relative paucity of books in other fields characterize the Arab book market. Religious books account for 17% of the total number of books published in Arab countries, compared to 5% of the total number of books produced in other parts of the world.

Recording Qur’an With a Woman’s Voice

Ran across this from Andrew Hall’s Laughing In Purgatory website, where he occasionally reprints fatwas from Assembly of Muslim Jurists of America. Below is the fatwa, Recording Qu’ran With a Woman’s Voice.


May the peace, mercy and blessing of Allah be upon you.
To proceed:

We have a publishing and distribution company operating in the United States of America and we would like to put out Qur`an tapes recited by one of the sisters. Would this be permissible in Shari`ah and what are the rules that must be followed so as not to fall into anything that would anger Allah and His Messenger (may Allah bless him and grant him peace)? Please let us know and may Allah reward you well.


All praise is for Allah, and may peace and blessing be upon the Messenger of Allah.
To proceed:

The perfect Divine Law (Shari`ah) has not ordained for women to make the call to prayer (adhan) or to announce the start of the prayer (iqamah) so that her voice does not come within hearing range of men, especially because the adhan involves raising the voice, and making it sound nice. Likewise, she does not say “Ameen”, recite Qur`an, or say “Allahu Akbar” out loud in the prayer, nor does she raise her voice with the talbiya, which is to say, “Labbayk Allahumma labbayk,” on her way to the Hajj in the presence of non-mahram men, in order to avoid temptation and to preserve a woman`s sense of modesty, for maintaining chastity is one of the prime objectives of the pure Shari`ah. On that basis, it appears that recording the voice of a woman reciting Qur`an in a pleasant, melodious way and distributing it amongst the people is one of the things that I would not like and there has been no permission for it due to the fact that it contradicts what has already been mentioned. That is especially true if there would be a considerable number of copies issued. All praise be to Allah, there are plenty of men whose recitations are beautiful and whose voices are moving; and success is from Allah.

A Young Mind Is A Terrible Thing to Waste . . . Memorizing the Koran

The New York Times published one of the strangest religion-related stories when reporter Michael Luo wrote about schools in the United States where students aged 7 to 14 spend 8 hour days memorizing the Koran.

And that’s pretty much all they do, according to the New York Times. Luo writes (emphasis added),

Because the task is so difficult, most of the children at the Muslim center study only the Koran while they are enrolled in the class. Some parents try to tutor their children in other subjects on the side. But for the most part, it is after the children finish that they work to catch up in other subjects in preparation for going back to regular school.

As Luo notes, this is likely a violation of New York state law which requires private schools to offer instruction that is “substantially equivalent” to that received in public schools. And they do this for two years or longer.

The real kicker, though, that makes this story even more bizarre is that the children are learning to memorize the Koran so that they can recite it in Arabic. But most of the students at the American memorization schools don’t read or speak Arabic, so they are memorizing it phonetically. As Luo puts it, “Students know how to pronounce the words but mostly do not know what they mean.”

The children are essentially human tape recorders, regurgitating sounds in a language they don’t understand. Unbelievable.

In exchange for this sort of waste, the children are told they will receive a get-into-heaven-free card. Luo writes,

A hafiz [person who has memorized the Koran] plays an important role during Ramadan, when the entire Koran must be recited over 30 days to mosque members. But becoming a hafiz is also believed to bring rewards in the hereafter, guaranteeing the person entrance to heaven, along with 10 other people of his choosing, provided he does not forget the verses and continues to practice Islam.

”It’s almost like a bank account for the afterlife,” said Zawar Ahmed, 11, who recently became a hafiz through the Muslim Center and brought in sweets for his classmates to celebrate.


Memorizing the Way to Heaven, Verse by Verse. Michael Luo, The new York Times, August 16, 2006.

The NYT’s Version of a Moderate Muslim

On June 18, The New York Times ran a profile, U.S. Muslim Clerics Seek a Modern Middle Ground, that profiled Sheik Hamza Usuf and Imam Zaid Shakir who, according to The Times are “leading intellectual lights for a new generation of American Muslims who can help them learn how to live their faith without succumbing to American materialism or Islamic extremism.”

Reporter Laurie Goodstein goes out of her way to portray the men as people who previously had made extremist anti-American statements which they have since renounced on their way to moderation.

Fair enough, but just how moderate have the two become. For example, it is not until the second-to-last paragraph of the almost-3,000 word article that we come upon this nugget,

He [Shakir] said he still hoped that one day the United States would be a Muslim country ruled by Islamic law, “not by violent means, but by persuasion.”

This is what The Times views as a moderate view?

There is a very small movement in the United States called the Christian Reconstructionists who broadly want to do the same thing with Christianity — essentially create a Christian-based theocracy with the Old and New Testament as the fundamental basis for the legal system. Like Shakir, they don’t necessarily advocate violence, but I can’t imagine that The Times would agree that their views are “moderate” simply because they don’t advocate blowing shit up to get their way.

Similarly, in the context of American politics, Shakir is a religious extremist who seeks to overturn the American experiment with secular government for a religious theocracy not all that different from the Christian Reconstructionist vision. Shame on the New York Times for giving such extremism as pass as “moderation.”


U.S. Muslim Clerics Seek a Modern Middle Ground. Laurie Goodstein, The New York Times, June 18, 2006.

About Those Terrorist Video Games

In early May, Reuters ran a story about a hearing of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence where a Defense Department official claimed that terrorist groups were using video games as part of their recruitment efforts. According to the Reuters story,

Tech-savvy militants from al Qaeda and other groups have modified video war games so that U.S. troops play the role of bad guys in running gunfights against heavily armed Islamic radical heroes, Defense Department official and contractors told Congress.

The games appear on militant Web sites, where youths as young as 7 can play at being troop-killing urban guerillas after registering with the site’s sponsors.

“What we have seen is that any video game that comes out … they’ll modify it and change the game for their needs,” said Dan Devlin, a Defense Department public diplomacy specialist.

The basis for this claim was in-game footage of Battlefield 2 that Devlin showed lawmakers. Again, according to Reuters,

“Battlefield 2” ordinarily shows U.S. troops engaging forces from China or a united Middle East coalition. But in a modified video trailer posted on Islamic Web sites and shown to lawmakers, the game depicts a man in Arab headdress carrying an automatic weapon into combat with U.S. invaders.

“I was just a boy when the infidels came to my village in Blackhawk helicopters,” a narrator’s voice said as the screen flashed between images of street-level gunfights, explosions and helicopter assaults.

The only problem is that the evidence turns out to have almost certainly been this Battle Field 2 recording and the “narrator’s voice” mentioned in the Reuter’s piece is dialogue stolen from Team America.

In other words, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence got pwned by a parody passed off by idiot contractors and defense department officials as a genuine terrorist production.


Islamists using US video games in youth appeal. Reuters, May 4, 2006.