Saudi Arabia

Mecca's Most Prestigious Retail Address

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mecca

If the divine command for every Muslim to take a pilgrimage to Mecca isn't enough to get you moving, now there's another reason to go on the hajj: The shopping is fabulous!

Just "steps away from the holy mosque," says the promotional material for the Abraj Al Bait shopping center, "Makkah's most prestigious retail address" offers "Spectacular view of the Ka'abah" and "Innovative space for a new shopping experience." The seven-spired complex is not yet completed, but when it is it will tower over the Great Mosque (see photo).

From First Things, this look at why many (most?) Muslims are untroubled by this juxtaposition of holiness and commerce:

To a Christian, all that seems like putting a Victoria's Secret, Abercrombie & Fitch, Gap, Bloomingdale's, and the Chocolate Factory next to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, with extended hours during Holy Week. It looks to us like a desecration….

The hotel and shopping center, however, are not desecrations of their faith. Before he was a prophet, Muhammad was a businessman. And it is perfectly in keeping with honoring him that a market is set up next to the Great Mosque. In fact, there's always been a market next to the mosque; this one is just going to be bigger, and air conditioned. And more than the Christian heaven (which is primarily characterized by the intimate and intelligible presence of God), the paradise of Islam is the perfection of sensual pleasures. And what better way to give a foretaste of these divine gifts than a mall and a first-rate hotel? And what better place for it than the center of the holy city?

But Islam is different. Commerce is celebrated. And there's no embarrassment whatsoever about hawking the financial benefits of businesses, like these towers, that only exist because of the hajj. It really is an innovative shopping experience. And for the individual Muslim? Of course, if at all possible, go on hajj, circle the Ka'aba, throw the seven pebbles, perform the required sacrifice, and do it all with the greatest conviction, humility, and devotion. Then shop 'til you drop. Peace be upon you.

For more on the intersection of Islam and the free market, go here.

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  1. Before he was a prophet, Muhammad was a businessman.

    And that meant there was only one thing I could do…

  2. Isn’t there a place where a good Muslim like me can go without having a shopping mall around the corner 🙂

    I find shopping malls one of the most boring places on Earth. I thought my last resort would be Mecca. But now this! 🙂

    But Islam is different. Commerce is celebrated. And there’s no embarrassment whatsoever about hawking the financial benefits of businesses, like these towers, that only exist because of the hajj.

    It is worthwhile mentioning that Islam’s economics are pretty much free market-based. The two regulations in society are:

    (1) charity which is a religiously mandated small percentage of liquid money one saves (not including value of assets, possessions, property), which is another indication of the incentive to invest (to reduce amount of liquid money), and

    (2) no interest. This one is a tough sell in a free market. Lending is ok, but just no interest. Some have argued that this has an overall positive effect on society and avoids nightmares associated with lending (e.g., sub-prime lending?)

  3. From what I understand of Islamic banking, there are so many loopholes to the interest prohibition that it essentially is meaningless.

    Without the malls in Abu Dhabi, there truly would be very little to occupy the business traveler besides the OTHER readily available “outlets”.

  4. Oh, and I forgot to add that, there are no taxes, because the concept of “government-run” anything has no roots in Arabia in the 7th century.

    And, finally (I think), there is the contentious jizya, but I will wait till someone asks.

  5. From what I understand of Islamic banking, there are so many loopholes to the interest prohibition that it essentially is meaningless.

    Essentially correct, that is why international banks like HSBC, and many local and regional banks, as well as lenders like Guidance Financial, offer Islamically (or, sharia-) compliant mortgage lending. You end up paying a little more than regular mortgages, but the lending process itself (based on what is known as murabaha, essentially means “trade for profit”) is arged to be Islamically accepted.

  6. the concept of “government-run” anything has no roots in Arabia in the 7th century.

    Except that nearly everything of consequence is government-run or partially owned by the government (or individuals who happen to be members of the ruling families). And every citizen of an Arab country (AFAIK) gets an allowance from the government.

  7. Except that nearly everything of consequence is government-run or partially owned by the government (or individuals who happen to be members of the ruling families).

    Unfortunately that is true today. Many Muslims would argue that this is a modern ailment as a consequence of Arab nationalist socialist movements that arose since the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

  8. Timon19:

    I am not sure what “AFAIK” means, though — and I do speak Arabic.

  9. Yep, Islam has no problems mixing its religion, commerce, politics and bomb plots all into the mosque. It’s like a social club in addition to a house of worship.

  10. And that meant there was only one thing I could do…

    Allah built my hotrod?

  11. AFAIK = As Far As I Know? That’s how I traditionally read it

  12. Sal, I think it’s safe to say that. I’d put it like this. It’s a love affair. Mostly Allah, and my hotrod.

  13. Timon19:

    And every citizen of an Arab country (AFAIK) gets an allowance from the government.

    Thanks to ChicagoTom’s help with the (non-Arabic) acronym, as far as I know (or “AFAIN”), neither my parents nor the parents of my grandparents, nor the poor get any money from the government as long as they are extremely poor. Even this class of people has given up on the government since almost all society views, especially in Egypt, as being not there to help the common man. So, Timon19, I would say that that is urban legend.

  14. Some have argued that this has an overall positive effect on society and avoids nightmares associated with lending (e.g., sub-prime lending?)

    And those some would be quite wrong. Setting a price ceiling of zero on loans should reduce the supply to near zero. The only lenders left will be those who lend as an explicit act of charity. With no loans available, those with little capital cannot invest in an education or business, leaving them few opportunities to improve their position. A ban on interest hurts the poor.

    (Though if, as others said here, there are enough exceptions to render the interest ban meaningless, then we would expect these effects to be mitigated — not because a ban on interest is in fact harmless, but because Islam does not in fact ban interest.)

  15. Lamar:

    Yep, Islam has no problems mixing its religion, commerce, politics and bomb plots all into the mosque. It’s like a social club in addition to a house of worship.

    I’d thought I’d find some reasonable people to discuss this with, but your statements not only show your ignorance, it also shows the caliber of your character.

  16. From what I understand of Islamic banking, there are so many loopholes to the interest prohibition that it essentially is meaningless.

    Actually, Medieval and Renaissance Christian societies took the biblical proscription against usury (in the strict sense of charging interest on loans) as seriously as Muslim societies do today. The Christian lenders of the time adopted strategies such as discounting and profit sharing to get around it.

    I don’t know what strategies Islamic banks use, but I suspect they are much the same.

  17. Thanks to ChicagoTom’s help with the (non-Arabic) acronym, as far as I know (or “AFAIN”), neither my parents nor the parents of my grandparents, nor the poor get any money from the government as long as they are extremely poor. Even this class of people has given up on the government since almost all society views, especially in Egypt, as being not there to help the common man. So, Timon19, I would say that that is urban legend.

    It appears to be true in the UAE and at least parts of other Gulf states.

    Apologies for grouping Egypt in with that.

    Lamar,

    That was quite unnecessary.

  18. Shouldn’t it be “Muhammad (PBUH) build my hotrod”?

  19. but because Islam does not in fact ban interest.

    Islam does prohibit interest on it followers. The main focus of the prohibition is on those who lend with the sole purpose to profit based on interest. Borrowing based on interest is a little shadier, though many theologians recommend avoiding it, or prohibit it outright.

    But as always, there is a difference between one “should” and “shouldn’t” do and what they “can” and “can’t” actually do.

    Another principle in Islamic theology is weighing one’s options and choosing between the “lesser of two evils”. To the best of my Islamic knowledge and upbringing, borrowing money on an interest basis is less harmful (in the Islamic perspective) than sleeping on the street. In such cases, there are moral religious grounds behind borrowing.

  20. Anonymo,

    I think you’ve hit on why Islamic banks even exist in any capacity beyond charity.

  21. Aresen:

    “discounting and profit sharing” and that is exactly the words I was looking for in my attempt to translate the meaning of “murabaha” (which is the basis on which HSBC and other banks that have sharia-compliant systems use to lend.

  22. Ministry references and Islamic banking. Interesting mix. Now if we could just find a way to add ATHF in…

  23. No government huh? So the Arab world is a libertarian paradise i guess.
    who needs government when you have Islamic law anyway?

  24. Ministry references and Islamic banking. Interesting mix.

    It’s a new world order, I tells ya.

  25. Timon19, Anonymo:

    Banking is not just about lending and borrowing. There are interest-free investments. The stock market is a perfectly legitimate Islamic means to make money, as long as there is true risk involved (i.e., no guarantees on returns).

  26. the problem with malls is that people use what they want, then it’s over the shoulder.

    ovah tha shoulllldah

  27. Pinette:

    No government huh? So the Arab world is a libertarian paradise i guess.
    who needs government when you have Islamic law anyway?

    You are truly mixing things here. Who said that modern-day (predominant socialist) governments are Islamic. And no one said that Islam is Libertarian. I would argue though that there is room for that, along the lines of this reason article (cited above):

    https://www.reason.com/news/show/33315.html

  28. From what I here, such malls are very popular in Saudi Arabia because shopping and eating at restaurants is about the only thing you can legally do in public to entertain yourself!

  29. Dunno, this may be stretching the joke further than it will support. Hotrods exist, God be praised.

  30. This’ll be very interesting to see if it gets bombed. If they don’t, that tells me something. If they do, it tells me something else.

  31. “I’d thought I’d find some reasonable people to discuss this with, but your statements not only show your ignorance, it also shows the caliber of your character.”

    iih, Timothy: My comments do nothing more than demonstrate that I know the cultural value of a mosque to Muslims and that it includes such things that Christians find abhorrent. It isn’t just a house of worship, it is a social congregation where politics, commerce and philosophy are discussed. Your character is faulty if you can’t accept the fact that the good comes with the horrifically bad. How about you start accepting a little reality? Spanish authorities concluded that a large amount of the planning for 9/11 was done by a community surrounding a certain Madrid mosque.

  32. iih,

    I get that. However, those things are a very big part of banking.

    Anyway, I don’t think I’ve ever really had a full explanation of why interest is prohibited in Islam without it delving into somewhat impenetrable scripture quotation. It does seem pretty odd, especially for such a business-oriented society. The people of the Arabian peninsula are only a few generations removed from being master traders roaming the desert and that’s reflected in their negotiating style.

  33. jih, not sure what your first sentence even means.
    You were talking about the idea of government having no hold in the Arab world. While i have no idea how true that is, I was just pointing out that it certainly doesn’t mean more freedom.

  34. And every citizen of an Arab country (AFAIK) gets an allowance from the government.

    So do we here in the U.S.

    Poor people get welfare/food stamps. Middle class and rich people get home loan interest writeoff. And we all get social security at some point in our lives. Crack addicts get it at age 20. I’ll get it age…what, 59?

  35. Paul,

    Why would you expect it to be bombed? There are malls all over the peninsula, and few, if any, have even been threatened. There are many such malls in Saudi itself.

  36. Lamar:

    Your character is faulty if you can’t accept the fact that the good comes with the horrifically bad. How about you start accepting a little reality? Spanish authorities concluded that a large amount of the planning for 9/11 was done by a community surrounding a certain Madrid mosque.

    The key word here is that it is a certain Madrid mosque. Your earlier statement implies that Mosques are generally used for the purpose of bomb-making. Generalization generalization generalization.

  37. We don’t get an outright handout of ~$70,000 a year like UAE citizens.

  38. Timon19:

    We don’t get an outright handout of ~$70,000 a year like UAE citizens.

    🙂 and certainly neither do Egyptians, Syrians and the rest of the non-Gulf Arab states. It would have been nice though (I am being sarcastic, I am truly against any government intervention in social affairs — this supported by earlier, more extensive arguments that I made on H&R in the past).

  39. Pinnette:

    jih, not sure what your first sentence even means.
    You were talking about the idea of government having no hold in the Arab world. While i have no idea how true that is, I was just pointing out that it certainly doesn’t mean more freedom.

    You earlier said

    “No government huh? So the Arab world is a libertarian paradise i guess”

    In response to what I had mentioned earlier that

    “… there are no taxes, because the concept of “government-run” anything has no roots in Arabia in the 7th century.”

    So I thought that you were connecting between what modern-day governments’ existence in the Middle East (and their extensive government controlled economy) with my statement that taxes do not really exist in Islam because there is no concept of “government-run” businesses. I do apologize if I misunderstood you.

  40. Pinnette:

    I should add that Arabia in the 7th century was composed of tribes that were not quite nice to each other and Arabia itself was not a coherent entity with any one tribe have centralized control over the peninsula. Within each tribe, there were tribal leaders who only cared for their own businesses and the concept of running any business on behalf of society was non-existent. Hence, my comment regarding “… there are no taxes, because the concept of “government-run” anything has no roots in Arabia in the 7th century.”

  41. jih, quite alright, I apologize for my tone.
    You said you were against government intervention in social affairs; If my social life was restricted down to what I wear, how I speak, who I date, what I can eat, etc, It would make little difference to me whether it was an actual government, or my religion that did it. Especially since both use force, the religion sometimes more violently, to make those restrictions.

  42. To the Medieval and Renaissance Christians, the most convenient loophole was:

    19 ” You shall not charge interest to your brother — interest on money or food or anything that is lent out at interest.
    20 “To a foreigner you may charge interest, but to your brother you shall not charge interest, that the LORD your God may bless you in all to which you set your hand in the land which you are entering to possess. (Deuteronomy 23:19,20)

    Permission to charge interest to foriegners, carried forward from the Hebrew text, allowed Christians to use Jews as intermediaries [and scapegoats], as well as allowing Jews to act as moneylenders. In many parts of Europe moneylending was the only commercial transaction legally permitted between Christians and Jews.

  43. Why would you expect it to be bombed? There are malls all over the peninsula, and few, if any, have even been threatened. There are many such malls in Saudi itself.

    timon, I don’t expect it to be bombed. I merely wonder if it’ll be bombed. And I wonder if it’ll be bombed due to its proximity with and over the mosque. As I say, if it gets bombed, it’ll tell me something about the Muslims of the area… it it never gets bombed, it’ll tell me something else. Either way, it’s going to be educational.

  44. Pinnette:

    If my social life was restricted down to what I wear, how I speak, who I date, what I can eat, etc, It would make little difference to me whether it was an actual government, or my religion that did it.

    Excellent point. I would not accept it either. And many do not accept this scenario in the Middle East either (you really have to visit Lebanon, Tunisia, Egypt, even Damascus, to believe me — there is no other way around it, and certainly not the mainstream media). The exceptions are/were most of Saudi Arabia, and a couple of other gulf states and former Taleban run Afghanistan. And I hope that you do not believe that Egypt and Taleban-run Afghanistan are the same.

    Islam-bashers and Muslinm extremists (like the ones who would implement the Taleban-like scenario that you portray) ignore orders from God in the Quran such as: “La ikraha fil deen” (“There is no compulsion in religion”, religion here means the general outlook to life, which includes beliefs as well as life-style/philosophies), which is verse 256 in Sura 2 in the Quran:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Al-Baqara,_256

    Or surah 109’s verse that says: “To you your religion, and to me mine”

    Now just so that everyone is clear I am no Islamist! I am a practicer. I believe in liberty and wish that reform takes place in the Middle East and the Muslim world, which implies: freedoms for the people to practice or not practice religions, de-emphasize militancy, and a more libertarian stances on issues (all these goals and others are within Islam’s reach and, I admit, that not all my co-religionists share the same belief. But as a “reformer” I have got to try. .And there is an increasingly loud wave of reformists in the Arab/Muslim world and the West have got to give them a chance. Many of these reformers are by the way Muslim believers and practice their faith. You can really be good at both: being a Muslim and being a progressive (and to a large extent libertarian).

  45. As I say, if it gets bombed, it’ll tell me something about the Muslims of the area… it it never gets bombed, it’ll tell me something else. Either way, it’s going to be educational.

    Sure, but let me add that since Muslims have to pray 5 times a day, it is a common even in malls and other public places all across the Muslim world to see a group of Muslims taking a corner to pray. So at least we know that they do pray in malls.

  46. Banking is not just about lending and borrowing. There are interest-free investments. The stock market is a perfectly legitimate Islamic means to make money, as long as there is true risk involved (i.e., no guarantees on returns).

    Agreed — banks serve other purposes and there are many forms of investments that do not involve interest, but those are useless to people without capital. That’s the function loans serve, moving capital from those who have capital but no use for it to those who have something to do but no capital to fund it, for the benefit of both. Since the lender forgoes the opportunity of using that money in the present and risks the possibility of not getting the principal back, the borrower must compensate the lender. The lender’s risk is proportionate to the amount loaned, and his opportunity cost is proportionate to the duration of the loan; thus, compensation is usually calculated as a percentage of the borrowed money paid over time as long as the loan is out. We call this interest, and it’s common because it usually makes the most sense for all parties. There can be other forms of compensation for a loan, but it makes little sense to draw a moral distinction between these and interest. It’s all a way of reimbursing the lender for his costs; the differences are merely superficial.

    Islam does prohibit interest on it followers. The main focus of the prohibition is on those who lend with the sole purpose to profit based on interest.

    I’ll defer to those who know more than I, which is why that was a conditional statement in my original post.

    It makes no sense (and this is directed at those who prohibit, not the poster) to prohibit lending for those whose “sole purpose is to profit based on interest” than it does to prohibit baking, practicing medicine or collecting garbage for those whose sole purpose is to profit. How (do)does (those branches/adherents of) Islam purport to determine whether one’s sole purpose is to profit? Perhaps some lenders also enjoy the business of lending, like some people enjoy baking or practicing medicine. But I’d bet few enjoy collecting garbage; those who do that professionally likely do so for the sole purpose of profiting. Why do they get a pass? If it’s because they perform a necessary duty for a healthy society, so do lenders.

  47. if it never gets bombed, it’ll tell me something else

    How long will you have to wait before you know if it never gets bombed?

  48. huh, so this is pretty interesting.

    Christianity has libertarian connections (Ron Paul).

    And so does Islam (iih)

    Is it the Joos that are the damned communists?

    Actually just kidding about the above. This is heartening news. If only the people running the effort here in Iraq understood the limitations of government and natural liberty, things could potentially run smoothly.

  49. How long will you have to wait before you know if it never gets bombed?

    touche. I just find the whole thing curious– a large, overtly commercial enterprise towering over the mosque- and actually linking it to the mosque somewhat. I may be making a mountain out of a molehill here, I admit that. Afterall, I’ve never been to Mecca so I don’t know the lay of the land.

    Osama had an overt hatred of large, tall commercial buildings– so it seems that this would make a tempting target. Just sayin’. Not making any predictions, not saying something “is” going to happen. Just wondering aloud, is all.

  50. Is it the Joos that are the damned communists?

    kwais, not all of them. 🙂

    There is Murray Rothbard who some see as Mr Libertarian. His parents, however, were anarchists who followed Emma Goldman, If I remember rightly.

    And then there’s Milton Friedman.

    Of course, I believe both were non-observant and Rothbard was certainly an atheist.

  51. I just find the whole thing curious– a large, overtly commercial enterprise towering over the mosque- and actually linking it to the mosque somewhat.

    Actually, I was wondering about that myself. Many European cities would not allow any building taller than the principal cathedral. It was felt that the occupants would be “putting themselves above God” in a physical sense. This was not canonical – more of a tradition, really – but, I wonder how Muslims might feel about this – especially with respect to the Grand Mosque.

  52. If Mohammed will not go to the mall, the mall must come to Mohammed.

  53. “Your earlier statement implies that Mosques are generally used for the purpose of bomb-making.”

    bomb plotting, not making. Anyhow, several mosques, including in Madrid, are under investigation for ties to terrorism. It’s sort of a marketplace for Islamic social life, everything can happen there from innocent socialization to the damnedest plots. Christian’s have a view of the house of worship as something entirely different than how Muslims view a mosque. Even Christian terrorists (I’m thinking IRA) would blush at the thought of plotting murder in a Church. Of course, they’d still plot the murder, just at a different location.

    By the way, I am not responsible for the assumptions and inferences you made regarding my post. To say that I “implied” all mosques are used for bomb plotting is a lame attempt to read my mind. Something in my post set you off, but instead of looking to yourself, you pointed the finger at me.

  54. Anonymo:

    The basic argument in Islam (not that it should make any more sense to the non-Muslim as, say, not eating pork) is that profiting out of (poor) people’s needs (by accruing interest) is really a mean thing to do. If you really really needed that small house, without which you would be on the street, then no one has the right to exploit your dire need for something. If you can not afford it, there is room to borrow (lending at no interest is a highly commendable virtue in Islam) or you can go to “beit-al-mal” (House of Money) where the wealthy deposit their (mandatory) charity.

    What is certainly acceptable is “joint-ventures”, where one or more people contribute the money and another, say, the ideas. The lender, in Islam, can not demand interest upfront. The lender has to accept the risk involved, though s/he has every right to put a condition in the contract where s/he would earn, say, 70% of the profit made. But if the enterprise is a failure, the lender has to accept the loss.

    The other argument that I have heard is that lending with interest encourages an industry where people would increasingly want things they really can’t afford. Many Muslims, for example, find it funny when an American says I own a house, while s/he really means that s/he has a 20 or 30 year mortgage on a house that s/he will really own in 20 30 years. That to them does not sound like ownership.

  55. kwais:

    Actually it is not only me, but there are (admittedly, very few) others:

    https://www.reason.com/news/show/33315.html

  56. Paul:

    Osama had an overt hatred of large, tall commercial buildings– so it seems that this would make a tempting target. Just sayin’. Not making any predictions, not saying something “is” going to happen. Just wondering aloud, is all.

    And Ossama must be really pissed now 🙂

    But despite my disinterest in all malls (as I said, they are the most annoying and boring places on Earth), I now think that this is a very good idea. Especially the tall structure.

    remember that Mecca was the central location where all of Arabian merchants for trade. It was sort of Wall Street of Arabia at the time.

  57. Aresen:

    This was not canonical – more of a tradition, really – but, I wonder how Muslims might feel about this – especially with respect to the Grand Mosque.

    I do not think that there is anything wrong with any structure as long as it is not over the Kaaba (not the Mosque, but just the cubic Kaaba in the center). No flights are allowed over the Kaaba (not that there are natural flight paths over it, but if there was, it would probably be prohibited).

  58. Indeed. Before I was a prophet, I made delicious tacos. I demand taco vendors near my shrines and houses of worship.

  59. iih,
    if you don’t mind me asking: Do you live in Egypt or the US?

  60. The reason I ask is that I should be in Egypt in a little over two weeks, we could have a Reason get together there. Maybe if we could get Mo to visit his family at that time, we could have a full on shindig.

  61. Lamar:

    In fact some puritan Muslims say that nothing in the Mosque is allowed except worship. Others believe that socializing in itself serves a Muslim form of worship (i.e., strengthening social cohesion). Most Muslims would frown upon anything that violates the sanctity of the Mosque, including plotting bombs or conspiring to kill.

    What ticked me off is this:

    Yep, Islam has no problems mixing its religion, commerce, politics and bomb plots all into the mosque.

    I.e., Islam has no problem mixing religion with bomb plotting in the mosque, again, implying that bomb-plotting is somehow a Muslim norm that gets mixed with other social norms. May be that was not what you meant, but this is certainly what I have read and understood from your statement, and what Timon19 seems to have understood as well (see his comment above).

  62. touche. I just find the whole thing curious– a large, overtly commercial enterprise towering over the mosque- and actually linking it to the mosque somewhat. I may be making a mountain out of a molehill here, I admit that. Afterall, I’ve never been to Mecca so I don’t know the lay of the land.

    I know it’s definitely not a problem in Abu Dhabi, where the Beach Rotana Hotel and Towers, with Abu Dhabi Mall inside, towers over the mosque nearby.

    It may not have the same emotional gravity that you might expect out of the Grand Mosque, but there are mosques all over Abu Dhabi and Dubai which are completely surrounded by unabashed commerce.

    It’s pretty surreal to a Westerner.

    iih,

    I find one of the greatest misconceptions among my fellow Westerners who have never been to the Middle East is that the entire region is wrapped in 100% stereotypical Muslim dress and customs.

    The popularity of Egyptian, Lebanese, European, and other Arabic media kinda blows that notion away. And some of those women are un-freaking-believable in those videos.

  63. kwais:

    I live in the US. Haven’t been to Egypt in many many years.

    Do you mind telling me where in Egypt you will be visiting? I may be able to give some useful pointers.

  64. Great. Now there’s something in Mecca we can crash some planes into.

  65. Timon19:

    And some of those women are un-freaking-believable in those videos.

    Especially Lebanese, my friend!

    But sometimes I wish Westerners would have a look (they do not have to understand what is being said, just look) at the spectrum of Arab TV programming and how very much more liberal they really are than what stereotypes paint of them. Very sad.

    May be those interested should try to get ART (at least for a month), offered in almost every major city via any one of the major cable companies. $15 a month. Westerners will note a few things: (1) How dramatic Arabs are. (2) How (relatively) liberal culture is (and that really reflects Egyptian, Lebanese, somewhat Syrian cultures, but not Saudi). (3) And despite what what would be considered un-Islamic that is portrayed on TV, ART would still broadcast some religious programs for the interested. Very surreal indeed.

  66. I’ll be in Cairo for a while.

  67. “”Crusader | August 20, 2007, 2:07pm | #
    Great. Now there’s something in Mecca we can crash some planes into.””

    We would never crash planes into a mall. They are sacred to us.

    As a matter of fact retard talk of “nuking Mecca” may not be on the table any more, as Mecca is now protected by the proximity of that which is holy to us, a mall.

  68. I’ve always respected Islam (as opposed to Islamism). With this story, I admire it more than ever. I’m so sick and tired of self-righteous people in the predominantly Christian world thinking that commerce and the profit motive corrupt and spoil everything.

    Many Western “liberals” today seem to deny the economic side of human nature almost as adamantly as Victorians denied its sexual side. Either way, the denial can cause trouble.

    I had great fun at the expense of one of these “humanistic” pinheads recently on my blog. Please enjoy.

  69. My take on Arab tv: There is an uncanny resemblance to Spanish tv 20 years ago.

    My take on hot Arabs: Saudis and Iraqis are the hottest, Lebaneese and Syrians follow closely.

  70. No flights are allowed over the Kaaba (not that there are natural flight paths over it, but if there was, it would probably be prohibited).

    Insert jokes about planes and terrorsts here.

  71. As a matter of fact retard talk of “nuking Mecca” may not be on the table any more, as Mecca is now protected by the proximity of that which is holy to us, a mall.

    Hey, they’re trying to reduce their dependency on foreign malls.

  72. And, finally (I think), there is the contentious jizya, but I will wait till someone asks.

    OK, iih, what is the “contentious jizya” (besides a great name for a rock band)? 😉

  73. It [a mosque] isn’t just a house of worship, it is a social congregation where politics, commerce and philosophy are discussed.

    Lamar, that sounds like every church I’ve ever attended. Or do you attend a church with a sullen, anti-social congregation? 😉

  74. I just find the whole thing curious– a large, overtly commercial enterprise towering over the mosque- and actually linking it to the mosque somewhat.

    What is so curious about locating a commercial zone right next to a religious site with huge foot traffic? Go to Salt Lake City and check out the huge ZCMI shopping mall right across from Temple Square. I find it comforting that at least some who practice Islam are not opposed to free markets. The blasphemy would be in locating the market inside the religious site — Jesus whipped the moneychangers inside the Temple, not the ones located outside it.

  75. kwais:

    I’ll be in Cairo for a while.

    I hope you will like it. I hope you will get a chance to visit, what I think is more beautiful, Alexandria and the Sinai (especially Sharm el-Shaik).

  76. We would never crash planes into a mall. They are sacred to us.

    🙂 Hilarious.

  77. “Lamar, that sounds like every church I’ve ever attended. Or do you attend a church with a sullen, anti-social congregation? ;)”

    The churches I’ve attended were either catholic or crazy-protestant, business wasn’t really discussed. And I felt that I had to include the planning of violence because I can’t imagine any christian doing such a thing “in god’s house.” Perhaps I’m mistaken and taking Hollywood too seriously.

  78. Paul:

    Hey, they’re trying to reduce their dependency on foreign malls.

    Actually I find that very funny. And please feel free to make jokes, I would not be offended (I am not one of the people who would angrily march in the street because of stupid cartoons.)

    Though as Bernard Shaw once said: “Liberty means responsibility. That is why most men dread it.”

    So joking regarding or about Islam (or any other ideology or religion for that matter) is perfectly anyone’s right, I just hope that it is accompanied by some “responsibility” (and define “responsibility” whichever way you want — “being respectful” may be?)

  79. Paul:

    On a second thought, I think that “being respectful” is not what I should have said, because that is very hard define or comprehend. I would replace it with “‘being sincere'” may be?” I certainly believe that free speech and disagreement on issues is a right, but when differing on issues transforms into senseless antagonism, this is what I have trouble with. And sincerity is very easy to detect.

  80. jizya is (and I think that this quote from Wikipedia gets right on the mark despite what Muslim-bashers would argue):

    In states ruled by Islamic law, jizya or jizyah (Arabic: ?????; Ottoman Turkish: cizye) is a per capita tax imposed on able bodied non-Muslim men of military age. The tax is not supposed to be levied on slaves, women, children, monks, the old, the sick,[1] hermits and the poor,[2] though these provisions were abandoned in later periods of Muslim history.[3] Non-Muslim citizens who pay the tax are permitted to practice their faith and to enjoy a measure of communal autonomy as well as being entitled to Muslim protection from outside aggression and being exempted from military service amongst numerous other exemptions to levies upon Muslim citizens.

    (from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jizya)

    Jozya has been (ab)used to justify discrimination against minorities by Islamic rulers in the past (especially in India under “Muslim” rulers).

  81. jh:

    Do you see why it is contentious?

  82. iih — Yup. The phrase “taxation without representation” springs to mind. Are non-Muslims forcibly prevented from serving in the military and thus exempting themselves from the jizya, or do you have to pay it no matter what? Basically, it seems to make non-Muslims second- or fortieth-class citizens.

    I read about halfway through the Quran, and quit when I got to the surya about it being OK to beat your wife if she displeases you. Perhaps it was a bad translation — if so, please elucidate. There is some good stuff in Islam, but the intolerance of other faiths, the allowance of killing others under some circumstances, and the subjection of women do not seem to me to be what God / Allah is about.

    That being said, Islam and Mormonism have a lot in common — not drinking alcohol, an emphasis on modesty and non-marital chastity, a belief in plural marriage (currently in abeyance in the main LDS church, of course).

  83. I have a question for a devout Muslim or someone very familiar with their beliefs. What is the Rationale behind not allowing non-Muslims into Mecca? It would seem that if you truly want to educate non-Muslims about Islam that Mecca would be a perfect place to do so.

  84. AHQ,

    Not really the answer you are looking for, but have you ever seen how crowded it gets there?

  85. I thought that was only during the Hajj. KInd of the way Vatican City gets crowded during the Holy Week or when they get a new Pope. I could certainly understand not allowing non-Muslims in Mecca during the Hajj. But why the rest of the year????

  86. jh:

    See, I told you it is controversial.

    iih — Yup. The phrase “taxation without representation” springs to mind. Are non-Muslims forcibly prevented from serving in the military and thus exempting themselves from the jizya, or do you have to pay it no matter what? Basically, it seems to make non-Muslims second- or fortieth-class citizens.

    If abused (and it has been abused many times in history), jizya could be a really bad thing. And I am not defending its bad implementation, and may be not jizya itself — I am merely explaining it.

    Just to put things in perspective. As a US resident (legal I should add :-)) but non-citizen, I pay taxes in this country (and lots of it) even though I do not have the right to vote and am not represented at any levels of government. I pay taxes for government services (highways, parks, and security, defense [wars :-(] ) but have no say in where my taxes go because I am not a citizen.

    Jizya is an opportunity to exempt non-Muslims from serving in the army (since the assumption is that this is an Islamic state) if the individual in question a male at a certain age. If they choose to serve, I think they are exempt from jizya. Note that not all non-Muslims pay jizya. Only able-bodied men of a non-Muslim faith do, as mentioned in the quote. In comparing this with modern day understandings of equality may be a bit unfair and I do not think this is one of the aspects of the faith that are absolutely mandated for all time. I.e., there is room for putting it on a moritorium or abandoning it altogether. I am not even sure if it is mandated in Quran.

    But since many Libertarians (including myself) have issue with taxation (jizya or otherwise), I would not see why this would be an issue on which readers of reason magazine would particularly like about Islam.

  87. AHQ:

    I really do not know, especially that non-Muslims are certainly allowed in any mosque on the planet. Interfaith events used to happen every single local mosque in all the US cities I have lived in. But why not Mecca? But I think this is not unique to Islam. I think other religions prohibit non-adherents into their shrines.

  88. jh:

    Beating of wives is quite contentious. Many (very many) indeed take the verse you mention as a blank check on beating wives. But many (also very many) indeed take it to mean a symbolic expression of rebuke (in response to expressions of similar resentment of the wife — i.e., the situation is already pretty much messed up with divorce on the verge, that is in extreme situations only).

    If you do a quick google search for “wife beating” and “Gamal Badawi” you will get the view point of Badawi (a Muslim Canadian Islamic scholar who teaches at Nova Scotia), which I think is shared by most Muslims. You will also find rebuttals to his viewpoint (mostly by anti-Muslim websites using this as proof for Islam’s backwardness, and I mention those out of intellectual honesty).

  89. Final note:

    I have taken the risk of being labeled “Muslim Apologist” (not that anyone here has called me that — at least not yet) for the sake of trying to clarify some questions being asked on this thread by non-Muslims. I emphasize that I am not a religious scholar, but thought to take the opportunity to respond to some of the inquiries. I have tried my best to be honest in my responses, even included remarks made by anti-Muslim propagandists. My ultimate goal (in this thread) is to show that the story of Islam is not being fully told and that there are aspects of it (e.g., financial dealings) that are not entirely foreign to Western norms. As a reformer (and I think of myself as one), I believe that Muslims can be reformed. But it is not easy. I also believe that, probably an outrageous proposition from the outset, Islam is prone to Libertarian ideals. And I admit that there is only a very few of like-minded libertarian Muslims. See for example:

    https://www.reason.com/news/show/33315.html

  90. iih,

    This is one non-Muslim who appreciates what you’re doing here. If you want a real challenge, try here: http://www.topix.net/forum/topstories

    Talk about your ignoramii. It is entertaining in a very sad way all the shit that goes on there. I try my best, using my experience, even if I lack the knowledge.

  91. The blasphemy would be in locating the market inside the religious site

    jh,

    Next year… next year.

  92. Timon19:

    Lots of ignorance, I agree, in a very sad way. There was one dedicated to Muslims.

    I personally do not go about trying to “enlighten” people about my heritage on the web as a “mission”. I am the “intellectual” type. I just stick to reason and similar well-reputed online magazine.

  93. iih, is there a well respected Muslim scholar (either ancient or modern) who tries to interpret the Koran via reason simmiler to what someone like St. Thomas tried to do in Christianity?

  94. “To a Christian, all that seems like putting a Victoria’s Secret, Abercrombie & Fitch, Gap, Bloomingdale’s, and the Chocolate Factory next to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, with extended hours during Holy Week. It looks to us like a desecration”

    There is one big difference here, though. Muslims and jews, or anyone else for that matter would be able to shop at the Christian version.

  95. St. Thomas, as in Thomas Aquinis.

  96. “I could certainly understand not allowing non-Muslims in Mecca during the Hajj. But why the rest of the year”

    How is this understandable? This is a novel line of pro-discrimination apologia: “I am sorry, it’s just too damn crowded to let jews in.”

  97. “Yep, Islam has no problems mixing its religion, commerce, politics and bomb plots all into the mosque. It’s like a social club in addition to a house of worship.

    I’d thought I’d find some reasonable people to discuss this with, but your statements not only show your ignorance, it also shows the caliber of your character”

    I am sorry, but if you find what Lamar wrote to be unreasonable and ignorant, then it is you that is ignorant. To deny that this is widespread in the muslim world shatters any pretensions you had of serious scholarship.

  98. Historically, Averoes:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Averroes

    Scroll down to Philosophical opinions and works on “Islamic Law”. Feel free to search other sources on the web.

    And even though he is fought by many here in the US, there is Tariq Ramadan in modern times. He is considered controversial by right-wingers:

    http://www.salon.com/books/int/2007/02/20/ramadan/

    TNR was on his case recently.

    Khaled Abou El Fadl is another. Here is an article that I found (and that I admit have not read yet)

    http://www.bostonreview.net/BR28.2/abouRE.html

    There is a compilation on Wikipedia of other reformers, but I have not heard of many of them and I already note that there are highly controversial ones (e.g., Irshad Manji):

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Muslim_reformers

  99. Goldthwait:

    “Yep, Islam has no problems mixing its religion, commerce, politics and bomb plots all into the mosque. It’s like a social club in addition to a house of worship.

    I’d thought I’d find some reasonable people to discuss this with, but your statements not only show your ignorance, it also shows the caliber of your character”

    I am sorry, but if you find what Lamar wrote to be unreasonable and ignorant, then it is you that is ignorant. To deny that this is widespread in the muslim world shatters any pretensions you had of serious scholarship.

    I had already explained my concerns above. In a nutshell, it has to do with the “bomb-making in mosques” generalization.

  100. Goldthwait:

    In fact, I have never claimed scholarship — just an honest and sincere reflections of a Muslim (and Libertarian) on matters relating to Islam and Muslims. Moreover, I stated above that I am not a scholar at:

    https://www.reason.com/blog/show/122067.html#769073

    Can you substantiate the claim that that bomb-making in mosques is somehow a norm?

  101. Ah yes, the no-interest stuff….which meant in Renaissance Italy “we’ll let the Jews lend us money and charge interest, then get pissed off at them for being so evil and have pogroms.”

    Christian usurers had problems. Ex-communication. Wrangling as to whether their wills had any validity. And similar.

    As pointed out, “usury” as a crime was quietly dropped by the wayside as European economies moved from agriculturally based to depending on trading.

    Interesting to see what will happen in Islam.

  102. grumpy realist (sorry to call you “grumpy”, but its your choice 🙂 ):

    despite everything said above, interest-free trade only takes place in a minute part of the Muslim — I think parts of Pakistan and some Gulf states. But since their economies (especially in the Gulf) is tied in with global economies, they pretty much have to deal with usury. The standard lending in Egypt for example is interest-based, whether for car loans, mortgages, or business. So interest-free economies are pretty much hypothetical nowadays. But it is increasing in popularity on individual bases, especially here in the US and Canada, since Muslims are becoming more and more religiously self-conscious.

    A point I mentioned earlier is that there is no way around it. Usury is prohibited in all dealings, with Muslims and non-Muslims.

  103. Thank you iih, I will look into those.

  104. iih,

    How much do you want to bet you won’t even get a direct response to your request for substantiation?

    Opening bid is $20.

  105. Timon19:

    Oh, I forgot, and betting is not allowed either! :-)))

    But a virtual bet may be acceptable I guess. I will match your $20.

  106. Timon19:

    So I guess with no betting, lottery or usury, Islamic finances are pretty dull, huh?

    But other than ban on betting, mandatory charity, ban on usury, and the question of jizya, I think pretty much everything is ok. (one possible other thing is trading in Islamically unaccetable products, e.g., pork (for consumption) and alcohol.)

  107. I think other religions prohibit non-adherents into their shrines.

    iih, correct. You need a current Temple Recommend to enter one of the 120+ Mormon temples (as opposed to the thousands of meetinghouses, which are open to everybody), so in fact most members of our church are not eligible to enter. The reasoning is that the temples are sacred places, and that one must be spiritually pure and meet the church’s standards for worthiness to enter. That said, everyone in the world is invited to make the spiritual and lifestyle changes necessary to qualify to enter (accepting Jesus as your savior, giving up drugs, no sexual relations outside marriage, baptism, etc.)

    I would suspect that the same logic underlies the prohibition about entering the most holy place in Islam without making the spiritual and lifestyle changes necessary to qualify as a faithful member. Correct me if I’m wrong.

  108. jh:

    I would suspect that the same logic underlies the prohibition about entering the most holy place in Islam without making the spiritual and lifestyle changes necessary to qualify as a faithful member. Correct me if I’m wrong.

    I think yes. It is about spiritual “preparedness”, though some Muslims and non-Muslims would argue along the more negative lines of “spiritual impurity”, which may obviously be very offensive. Muslims who argue using such language are probably the extremists with their Muslim-superiority attitudes and non-Muslims who seek to bash Islam as racist (but any Muslim who has been to a Hajj, or Muslim or non-Muslim who has been to a neighborhood mosque, would tell you how diverse and egalitarian Hajj, or simple daily prayers at the mosque, are.)

  109. iih –

    I enjoyed your comments and found them very instructive.

    Thank you.

  110. I read the Khaled Abou El Fadl article, the guy is brilliant. I think some of the same symptoms he describes can also be found among some “Fundamentalist” Evangelical Christians who fear modernity just as much as the extremists who claim to be Muslim.

    http://www.bostonreview.net/BR28.2/abouRE.html

  111. Just came across this after jumping from one link to another in the original discussion: http://www.burjdubai.com/

    Quite impressive.

  112. SixSigma:

    It is only disheartening when decision-makers (or “deciders”) make decisions based on half-truths or misinformation. There are many who have different motives for spreading misinformation about Muslims, and unfortunately the general public and some politicians base their decisions and views based on these half-truths. The outcomes are usually disastrous.

    This does not mean, however, that all people should like Islam or accept its tenets, such as the often seemingly indefensible sharia — but it all depends on one’s interpretation of the literal text. I, as well many many other Muslims, do not interpret jihad verses the same way OBL does.

    That does not mean, moreover, that there is nothing wrong with Muslims/Arabs nowadays. A lot of reform is needed.

    What I aspire to happen is change and reform occurs. The best way to do this, in my opinion, especially by the West, is to follow truly libertarian attitudes about the Middle East. That is all what I hope people realize in the West. Ron Paul would probably do good in serving that goal by the way (based on the interviews I saw).

  113. AHQ:

    I am glad.

  114. On another related note, the architect who designed Sear Towers is called Fazlur Rahman Khan:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fazlur_Khan

  115. But other than ban on betting, mandatory charity, ban on usury, and the question of jizya, I think pretty much everything is ok. (one possible other thing is trading in Islamically unaccetable products, e.g., pork (for consumption) and alcohol.)

    Speaking of pork and alcohol, I hear Egypt is similar to the UAE in that pork sales are allowed on a limited basis (to ex-pats, natch) as is alcohol. True?

    There are some great bars in Abu Dhabi and an awesome German restaurant.

  116. Just came across this after jumping from one link to another in the original discussion: http://www.burjdubai.com/

    Quite impressive.

    I need to make a point of checking that out on my next trip to Abu Dhabi. Take a weekend and see the Burj.

    I already have pictures of the Burj al Arab hotel. That’s a hell of a sight.

  117. “I would suspect that the same logic underlies the prohibition about entering the most holy place in Islam without making the spiritual and lifestyle changes necessary to qualify as a faithful member. Correct me if I’m wrong.”

    Prohibiting an individual to enter a shrine is not even remotely the same as prohibiting entrance to an entire city. Does Salt Lake City bar muslims from entering?
    It is absolutely amazing that anyone would even try to rationalize the policies in place in Saudi Arabia. That someone would try to legitimize such discrimination is as nauseating as it is obnoxious.

    I suppose now you will tell us it should in fact be illegal to bring Bibles into Saudi Arabia, or perhpaps you can give us a rationale for laws concerning apostasy.

  118. I wrote:
    “I could certainly understand not allowing non-Muslims in Mecca during the Hajj. But why the rest of the year”

    Goldthwait wrote:
    How is this understandable? This is a novel line of pro-discrimination apologia: “I am sorry, it’s just too damn crowded to let jews in.”

    I mean from a pragmatic standpoint. Muslems are required to visit Mecca at least one time in their lives if they are financially and physically able. Non-Muslims are not. Having a period in which the city is crowded for festivities by make an intersting time for non-Muslim tourists to visit creating even more of a crowd. This extra non-muslim population might prevent Muslims from booking hotel rooms etc. in a city thier faith requires them to visit if they are able. From a pragmatic standpoint it might make sense to restrict the city in this period to people who’s faith requires them to be there.

  119. Goldthwait:

    May I ask, what is in Mecca other than the mosque? Mecca is not like Salt Lake City in that Mecca is essentially the Grand Mosque and the Grand Mosque is Mecca. Sort of like The Vatican “City”.

    I suppose now you will tell us it should in fact be illegal to bring Bibles into Saudi Arabia, or perhpaps you can give us a rationale for laws concerning apostasy.

    You have clearly not read a few posts above where I deplore Muslim-superiority and the extremists’ degrading views of non-Muslims and their beliefs.

  120. AHQ:

    But I think jh probably got it right in that Mecca (and I think it is only the Mosque, and as I said earlier, the difference between the two is negligible) is open only to the spiritually ready, as is the case for other religious shrines in other religions.

    Now some may call it discrimination based on religion. All I can say is that Hajj (which is an event with Muslims from very diverse backgrounds) is the most egalitarian human endeavors on the planet (at least in terms of the number of people involved in Hajj).

    It is really not about discrimination as in “people of other faiths are impure or inferior”, but rather along the lines that jh describe above:

    https://www.reason.com/blog/show/122067.html#769175

    Regardless of what one feel’s about Malcolm X, he describes his “race” experience in Mecca:

    http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Letter_from_Malcolm_X

  121. Goldthwait:

    I wonder, by the way, if it were ok for non-Muslims to visit the Mosque, (1) would you go visit? and (2) Why would you visit? I am sincerely curious as to the reasons why you’d want to visit.

    Putting it bluntly, may be, if you are not a Muslim, why would you want to visit? After all Kaaba is literally a cube. Much of the structure built around was built in the 19th century. So it literally is a cube! Since Muslims would probably have no reason to go there, those who do may wish it ill or do things that Muslims will naturally not want to do there (i.e., sacrilegious practices). May be it is a mean to protect it from becoming a tourism “destination” and the associated implications.

  122. I wish to re-phrase:

    Since Muslims would probably have no reason to go there, those who do may wish it ill or do things that Muslims will naturally not want to do there (i.e., sacrilegious practices). May be it is a mean to protect it from becoming a tourism “destination” and the associated implications.

    to:

    Since non-Muslims would probably have no reason to go there, those who do may wish it ill or unintentionally do things that Muslims will naturally not do there (i.e., sacrilegious practices). May be it is a mean to protect it from becoming a tourism “destination” and the associated implications.

  123. “I had already explained my concerns above. In a nutshell, it has to do with the “bomb-making in mosques” generalization.”

    Perhaps I assume too much. I take it as given that 99.99% of Muslims do no bomb plotting anywhere. I assume we all know that, and take it as the unassailed (and obviously true) viewpoint. I was just trying to point out that the mosque is a place different from churches or synagoges in the sense that extremists don’t feel guilt about plotting their extreme acts there. I think it’s true in the sense that the mosque is much more than a house of worship where some politicking might incidentally go on. I just meant to point out that even the extremists do their business in the mosque, and it isn’t really a surprise to see lesser, much more legitimate business, such as a shopping mall, go on. I didn’t mean to be, as Archbishop Romero said, “incendiary.”

  124. Lamar:

    Then I owe you an apology for my over-sensitivity. The way it read first time did seem a bit incendiary. No hard feelings. Thanks for clarifying.

  125. Lamar:

    And you are certainly correct, to Muslims the Mosque is many more things than just a place of worship. On the mosque grounds one would for example find the local libraries, hospitals, and even (theological) universities (most famous of which is Azhar University in Cairo).

  126. It is really not about discrimination as in “people of other faiths are impure or inferior”, but rather along the lines that jh describe above:

    Bullshit. The Saudi government has official propaganda calling jews pigs and monkeys (just read their school books), prohibits Bibles from entering the country and won’t let non-muslims into Mecca ever (not just during the Hajj), on pain of death and you think people with IQs over forty will actually believe your line of “reasoning”.
    It is also amazing how you can actually claim that an event that is exclusive to one religion is the most egalitarian event on earth. Give us all a fucking break.
    And please quit trying to imply that other religions are barred only from the religious sites. They are barred from entering anywhere in the city.

  127. Bullshit. The Saudi government has official propaganda calling jews pigs and monkeys (just read their school books), prohibits Bibles from entering the country and won’t let non-muslims into Mecca ever (not just during the Hajj), on pain of death and you think people with IQs over forty will actually believe your line of “reasoning”.

    Firstly, why all the dirty words? Are you really that angry? Well, why don’t you direct your anger at the KSA government. No where in this, or any other thread, have I attempted to defend any Arab government as I believe that they are all crooks and corrupt. Anyone familiar with my history on H&R in the last couple of months knows my stances on Middle Eastern governments.

    Would it surprise you that I believe that all aid to Arab governments should stop? (In past discussions I gave economic and social reasons for why it should be stopped).

    I have made every sincere effort to be honest in answering some of the inquiries made in this thread. I even, without any request, have highlighted that (1) Islamic, interest-free economies do not make modern economic sense, and (2) that jizya is a very contentious process that have been used in the past to treat non-Muslims as second class citizens. I was the one who brought these issues up.

    I have been very honest in discussing the issue of wife-beating, and even gave pointers to anti-Muslim arguments regarding the issue.

    I have also respectfully responded to your and AHQ’s inquiries about barring non-Muslims (all non-Muslims — not just Jews, so do not make into some sort of anti-semitism question). As I have already explained, this is not unique about Islam and it does not necessarily translate into hatred for other religions. So — Muslims and non-Muslims alike — do translate as such, which is wrong and unfortunate.

    I can not and do not want to defend KSA’s other policies regarding the bible entering the counter, etc. This is because, and let me be very clear, these policies are wrong, stupid, racist, and hypocritical.

    For some reason, you seem to want to ignore my explanation that Mecca and the Grand Mosque are sort of one and the same thing. So it is not as if an entire city (of a multi-million population) is barred from the rest of the world.

    You seem to ignore the letter from Malcolm X describing his experience in Mecca, especially in regards to the iddue of race. That should be a counter argument to the racism question. Barring other religion adherents may have its theological and pragmatic reasons as I have described above.

    Other than that, all other KSA government policies barring non-Muslims from KSA is morally wrong and I have never attempted to defend their position.

    Finally, you refuse to answer my pragmatic questions: If permitted into Mecca, would you go there? Why would you want to go there?

    Oh, one last thing, a lot of people ask: Why aren’t moderate Muslims speaking out against what is done in the name of their religion? Well, one of the reasons is probably because of people like you. After reading your comments, I felt very discouraged and had to drag myself to respond. Many moderates feel that a great portion of US society has already decided on the issues, like you seem to do, and have already condemned Islam and Muslims. I will resist that sentiment and will keep doing my best to speak out against injustices done in Arab and Muslim countries against both Muslims and non-Muslims (by the way, if you think that Muslims live happily without persecution in Middle Eastern Arab countries, you would be mistaken — surprise huh?). I will speak out against terrorism and racism in the name of my religion and heritage. but, I will try to do my best to honestly and sincerely respond to all those who want to know something beyond what is being fed in the mainstream media.

  128. Remark:

    The last paragraph in my last post was also meant and directed at Goldthwait (as the rest of the post). But some of the readers here may find the last paragraph of interest to them to — regarding moderate Muslims’ lack of willingness to speak out more loudly, or more systematically against crimes committed in the name of their religion.

  129. iih,

    Keep responding and don’t let the rubbish get you down.

    On the other hand, the profanity (which I am quite prone to myself – hanging around pilots too much) is probably a manifestation of frustration. That frustration may be ill-directed and – by definition – an indication of impatience.

    I know that I get that way pretty easily when I’m arguing with the simpletons on that forum I linked way upthread.

    Your insights here are very valuable and help me to fill in the blanks of a society I’ve come to respect a great deal in my travels (while of course maintaining a very critical eye).

  130. Keeping with the spirit of this thread, and before it falls off the bottom, I have an honest question (to borrow a moniker). Maybe it’s an obvious or simple answer staring me in the face, but I often wonder:

    Why is it that a large portion of the Muslim world (mostly Arab Muslim) is particularly susceptible to believing the wildest of conspiracy theories with very little to no questioning, while at other, ordinary times said members of the society appear to apply more skepticism than even the most cynical Europeans?

  131. Timon19,

    Thanks for the encouragement. I have actually decided to keep this page open, waiting to hearing back from Goldthwait. And I do understand his frustration and anger. I am angry about the situation too. But anger will not do much good. It is reasonable, deliberate thinking and actions is what is make some good change.

    I think we lost our initial $20 bets. Do you want to bet again now?

  132. Timon19:

    As I mentioned in a much earlier H&R thread (from a few weeks ago), blaming others is a chronic problem in Arab culture. Some of it has to do with a general distrust of the West that goes back to the colonial days (nothing to be belittled). Colonialism has a lot to do with the ease with which many in the ME tend to blame the West for their problems in what they perceive as post-colonial (cultural, and sometimes military) imperialism. Note that colonial powers have left some very painful memories in their former subjects, especially in Algeria under France, Libya under Italy, and Egypt under the British.

    Moreover, propagandist governments have no choice but to propagate such conspiracies to secure their power. Hence, the standard “it is not our fault that we are screwed up today. It must be the fault of America or the Zionists” kind of argument. The ease of blaming others, especially America and Israel, to me really hurts any hope for progress in the Middle East (not that these two countries are not to blame for some serious problems in the ME).

    Some of what may sound to some of those in the West as obvious or blatant conspiracy theories, may not be much so to others elsewhere. For example, many have dismissed the basic thesis of Syriana as a major conspiracy theory, but to many in the Middle East (as well as here in the US) such a thesis is very close to reality.

  133. If you hadn’t seen Syriana, the basic thesis I am referring to in the film is that the US’s ME foreign policy is based on the principle that chaos in the Middle East is in the best interest of the US. I.e., as long as there is unrest and lack of stability, Arabs will spend their time quarreling among themselves, selling oil at much cheaper prices to get some military support from the US. To many in the West this sounds like bogus. To many in the ME it is almost reality, sometimes backed by strong arguments. I was very surprised to find that even a lot of Italians, for example, firmly believed that Syriana basic thesis got it right on the mark.

  134. Saw the movie (actually, on the way to the UAE one time), own the DVD. Thought it would suck. Found it to be very good and at least as much a study in the fact that there really are no truly good guys in the whole narrative of ME/West relations.

    I also was somewhat spooked by the accuracies contained within and the fact that Dubai let them film there and essentially show a lot of the warts of the way things are done where European tourists don’t tread.

    Talk about a surreal experience – on my 4th or 5th trip there, I see a movie that is extremely familiar on a lot of levels to a world that only recently I had no clue about.

    The one pilot I was traveling with had much the same reaction.

    The director of the film had a quote about the title that was more of a generalized notion of what has often been seen as a somewhat sinister thing, and I think that keeps with the theme of the movie, from a Western perspective.

    He said he saw Syriana as “a great word that could stand for man’s perpetual hope of remaking any geographic region to suit his own needs.”

  135. Thanks for your answer above, BTW. It’s mostly kind of what I was expecting based on what I’ve learned.

    It might have been close to an answer I would have come up with.

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