Monday, February 27, 2006

Minneapolis - Indian Ocean Restaurant

My first taste of Somali cuisine was the Indian Ocean Restaurant in Minneapolis thanks to a heartfelt recommendation from a cab driver. Everyone in my party enjoyed the fantastic food and excellent service and the endearing banana included with every meal.

Our salads were memorable. When was the last time you had a memorable salad? We ordered mediterranean greek salads with feta and chicken, which were presented elegantly with a subtle sauce on the chicken. It was one of my favorite feta salads ever, and at a quite modest price.

As for the main course, I combined into one order their Somalian Key Key and philly steak. It is a bit confusing to see philly steak on the menu, but they prepare it magnificently with Somali spices in bite-size strips. If you like things spicy, try their green sauce, bursting with coconut flavor.

Be sure to order some Somali spiced tea. It's chock full of cardamom.

I'm going to come back.


Here's more info.

Directions: The Indian Ocean is just off of 8th St. as you're heading from downtown towards Hiawatha. Turn right after Elliot Park, on 11th Ave, and it's one block down.

Wafa Sultan - "Civilizations do not clash"

Wafa Sultan speaks out courageously on Al-Jazeera. She packs a punch with six words.

The clash we are witnessing around the world is not a clash of religions, or a clash of civilizations. It is a clash between two opposites, between two eras. It is a clash between a mentality that belongs to the Middle Ages and another mentality that belongs to the 21st century. It is a clash between civilization and backwardness, between the civilized and the primitive, between barbarity and rationality. It is a clash between freedom and oppression, between democracy and dictatorship. It is a clash between human rights, on the one hand, and the violation of these rights, on the other hand. It is a clash between those who treat women like beasts and those who treat them like human beings.

What we see today is not a clash of civilizations. Civilizations do not clash, but compete.

translated from Arabic by the MEMRI TV Monitor Project

Danish cartoons and the 13th Muhammad cartoon

Not many people know about the 13th Muhammad cartoon. Here's a cartoon by my friend Anthony over at the Frenetic Pen Project.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Danish cartoons, blasphemy, and the Organization of Islamic Countries

Nat Hentoff of the Village Voice argues that the Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC) mapped out a strategy for pressuring international organizations to criminalize blasphemy back in December 2005.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Dear Deeyah - brilliant, brave, and beautiful - new video

Deeyah releases new music video

Despite death threats, Deeyah is doing it. She's releasing her new single "What Will It Be?" You can see the video here.

Her video brought me to tears. First video to do that ever. I think I was particularly affected when I saw my hero, Irshad Manji, taped at the mouth. Yes, Manji appears twice in the video. She rips the tape off near the end.

Deeyah also takes a cue from Theo van Gogh's movie Submission in displaying victims of honor killing on her own nude back.

The rapper Young MayLay is a force.

Deeyah has a MySpace profile here.


Alphabet City has some of the lyrics.

Interview (audio) of Deeyah found at DeeyahPoint

Deeyah discusses verbal abuse in another interview (part 1) (part 2) (part 3) (part 4) with Sonia Deol of BBC (available at DeeyahPoint). It's one thing to write about liberty in the abstract. Verbal abuse is where slavery begins amongst real-life people. It's where it creeps in, plants its roots. I recommend Patricia Evans' work on this subject, particularly her book Controlling People.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Danish cartoons, blasphemy, intimidation, and Kamran Tahmasebi

There are two key issues in the Danish cartoon wars. One is the freedom to blaspheme in general. The other is the freedom from initimidation in particular for Muslims from Muslims (and everyone else for that matter).

America was built upon the blasphemy of the Anabaptists, and it took a few centuries. Removing one portion of humanity from the muck of clerical intimidation was no mean feat. Now the UN and EU at the OIC's urging are considering anti-blasphemy edicts. How old-world can you get!

Then there is the matter of intimidation. Irshad Manji relates how young Muslims "fear persecution", persecution from Muslims, throughout the West.

What percentage of the Muslim population feels like they'll be punished for apostasy if they commit a thoughtcrime? Now I don't mean punishment by mere disassociation. I mean punishment by a violent breach of rights, even death. What percentage of Muslims would be threatened with death for apostasy? Is this a small percentage? Is it sizable? Is this threat explicit in any variants of Islam?

Finally, there's the story of Kamran Tahmasebi of Denmark. Hjörtur Gudmundsson writes, "Moderates such as Kamran Tahmasebi say they have had enough of fanatic Islamism and its intimidation of the Muslim immigrants in Denmark. 'It is an irony that I am today living in a European democratic state and have to fight the same religious fanatics that I fled from in Iran many years ago,' Mr Tahmasebi says. ... '[A]s a parent I feel a responsibility to fight, so that my children will not have to live under Islamist dogmas.'" Tahmasebi has joined a network of like-minded Muslims. I wish him well as he separates himself from the Batenburgers of our time.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Danish cartoons and Akron, Ohio

Without the freedom to cartoon, no matter what you do, you just can't win. Case in point...


The cartoonist Chip Bok writes about his meeting with leaders of the Council on American Islamic Relations.

Irshad Manji - What's the buzz?

Irshad Manji, in this interview on Studio 4 with Fanny Kiefer, describes the impact her book The Trouble with Islam Today: A Muslim's Call for Reform in Her Faith has had on young people in the Muslim world.

Remember that the greatest support for a book like this has actually come from those who are living these realities on the ground, .... young Muslims in particular. They obviously not are just the future. They are the present. And they're the ones who are saying, Keep going. Because the more you use your privileges to speak out from the West, the more you're creating a ripple effect for us to be able to create these kind of conversations in our own communities. And I've got evidence of that when I was at the World Economic Forum this past January. A number of Arab journalists and politicians came up to me and said, You don't know me, but I know you. And do you know how much buzz our kids are making about your book? And I played dumb. 'Course I knew. But I asked them, Tell me more. And you know what they told me? Please stop! And that's exactly when I knew you gotta keep going.

The other day I was happy to see an article of hers in the Wall St. Journal regarding the Danish "cartoon wars", to use Manji's phrase. She's made it available at her website

On the other side of the Atlantic, The Economist uses the very same phrase, "cartoon wars", as the title for its lead opinion piece. It starts with a brilliant misquote of Voltaire, I disagree with what you say and even if you are threatened with death I will not defend very strongly your right to say it. This captures well the miserable Milquetoasts I have talked with in the past week. Where's liberalism? When I was a teen, there was a poster hanging in the Stevenson high school library with the Voltaire quote, I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it. That poster inspired me deeply through the years.

Unfortunately, it appears that Voltaire may not have actually said that, but he did write something similar. The really real quote is Monsieur l'abbé, I detest what you write, but I would give my life to make it possible for you to continue to write.

This brings us back full circle to the interview. Manji says:

I had occasion to ask [Salman Rushdie], Why would you support a young, Muslim woman writing a book that might invite into her life the kind of violence and chaos that has been visited upon yours?

And without any hesitation, he replied, Because a book is more important than a life.

Now I laughed, Fanny, thinking this guy's a joker. He's poking fun at his situation. He's about to tell me the serious answer.

No, no, he said. Let me tell you the serious answer. It is this. Whenever a writer puts out a thought, it can be disagreed with vigorously, vehemently, even violently, but it cannot be unthought. And that is the great permanent gift that the writer gives to this world.

Now what I loved about his answer is that he wasn't denying I might die as a result of this work. He was implying strongly that it may still be worth it. And try as I did for the next two weeks to come up with a counter-argument. I couldn't. And that is when I knew I had made the emotional commitment to write this book

There's liberalism.

UPDATE: 2 AM - Just listened to an interview of Irshad Manji with John Moore on CFRB where she validates my point on idolatry last week.

UPDATE: Next day 1 AM - Voltaire himself dallied in Mohammed depiction. Two months ago it became an issue in Geneva for the Théâtre de Carouge.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Danish cartoons and South Park

Thank God for South Park and our freedom to cartoon ...

Here is the famous short animation that started it all, "The Spirit of Christmas". It proved so popular on the internet that "South Park" was born. At this time of cartoonist consternation, let us give thanks and remember that in "The Spirit of Christmas" Trey Parker and Matt Stone artfully have Cartman call Jesus a pig-fucker, and it's funny.

The cartoon lampoons religious war. At the mall, Jesus confronts Santa for his blasphemy. Santa retorts, "This time we finish it. There can be only one." Little Stan laments, "Dude, this pretty fucked up right here". As Jesus and Santa do battle, one kid (Wendy?) is tossed from Santa's lap. Worse yet, Kenny is decapitated, and six other children become collateral damage. Stan finally interjects, "Wait, wait, just a second, we've got to think here. Now let's see. What would Brian Boitano do?" Finally, after Brian's sermon on the skates, Santa and Jesus realize what they're doing. In his apology to Santa, Jesus says "I've been a right bastard." Ouch.

In America, we declare the right to free cartooning for all humanity, and Parker and Stone exercise it. Not only do we get to see Jesus and Santa wrestle it out, we also get to portray, belittle, compare, and criticize our religious icons. Who's the real idolator? Now don't shirk the question.

In the hands of artists, we might get a glimpse of the true spirit of religion. With uncritical orthodoxy, only a cartoon version of religion remains.

Thursday, February 02, 2006


Manderlay is brilliant. Lars von Trier comes through with a masterpiece, again, meeting the high-water mark he set with Dogville. Two down, one to go, in his trilogy "USA".

Von Trier creates a microcosm where slavery breeds despite the best intentions of his protagonist, Grace. Slavery seems so distant. Lars brings it in close. In both of his works, we see his characters get comfortable with slavery. How does this happen? How could this have ever happened? Surely it would not happen on my watch. Surely we can undo it if only given the power. If you're so sure, watch Lars...