Friday, November 20, 2009

Extra Credit

I believe that it is hard to say if Wikipedia is bias in general. I believe that it heavily depends on what topic that is being discussed. Some topics in general are easier to be objective than others. For example, if someone were to do an article on an artist they maybe more inclined to talk about their particular feelings for the artist. I feel like the articles we are doing for class are easier to be objective. Even though I do think that when writing about anything it is hard not to put your own opinion, I do think in certain topics it is easier for it be kept to a minimum. So in short i think that Wikipedia may have some biases in it that is only because it is hard to write without biases and certain articles may have fewer or more subjective views depending on the article.

Blog 11

Part 1:

In the end of the book Hasan marries Maddalena. This was a very unique because she was a Nun and had to get special permission. Not long after Hasan and Maddalena have been married she gives birth to a little boy. That's when events begin to turn for the worse. The current Pope dies and a new Pope takes over. His name is Pope Adrian. Pope Adrian did not like artists and non-believers. One day Hasan was caught with a pamphlet that went against the Pope and was sent to jail. Pope Adrian was poisoned and was then replaced by the Cardinal. When Hasan was released, Maddalena, Hasan, and their son tried to move back home.

Part 2:

I found it interesting that the Nun was able to get special permission to get married. I believe that this was interesting to me because I am not familiar with the Catholic religion so I did not know that she could even get permission to get married.

Part 3:
Did you like how the book ended? Why or Why not? If you did not like the ending what do you think would be a more fitting ending?

Extra Credit

Wikipedia is biased. If anyone thinks this research is objective, well they are wrong. All facts are somehow based on an opinion or perspective. Wikipedia is especially biased because those editing are arbitrarily choosing facts they think are relevant, while discarding other facts.

Example: Christopher Columbus discovered America. This is a "fact" often reported in scholarly sources, as well as Wikipedia. However, what about thousands of years before then, when Mongols possibly arrived first, etc...

My point is, all reported factual information most likely has a counterargument. Do not take Wikipedia, more over any encyclopedia, as absolute fact.

End of Leo Africanus

In this week's reading we ended the book Leo Africanus. The end of the book follows the same form as the rest of the book.Things start going well for Leo then all of a sudden something negative happens.

Leo marries a Maddalenna who is from a nunnery. In order to marry Hasan she had to recieve special permission. Soon after shes gives birth to a baby boy. After the pope passes away a new pope arises and is much more conservative than the previous Pope. his name was pope adrian and he was not supportive of artists and non-believers.

Leo gets sent to prison because he was caught with a pamphlet that went against the Pope. While Leo was in jail someone poisoned the pope. The Cardinal replaces him and Hasan and his family attempt to move back to Tunis.

I liked the fact that the book ended on hope. Leo was finally able to settle down with a wife and child and things seemed to come full circle. After all of the series of unfortunate events this conclusion was needed for readers not to leave this book with a sense of hopelessness.

I found it interesting that the pope was viewed as an evil dictator instead of a man of God. The pope of our time has no say in what humans do to their bodies, whether they shave or not. I just don't understand what the duties and the roll of the pope was in this book.

My question is do you think people took what the pope ordered seriously because of God's wrath or the Popes?

The "Arab World"

The Economist's Special Report on the Arab World is at the same time enlightening and disturbing. The overall tone is that the Arab World, (if you can even call it one world) is rapidly changing, yet also stagnating. The Arab population is younger, (the majority of Arab people are under the age of 25), more educated, and more urban than ever before, yet they are ruled by presidents who have been in power since before they were born. Imagine a president claiming to be "freely elected" for 28 years as Hosni Mubarak, the president of Egypt does! And in this climate of youth, increasing international interest, political corruption and nearly constant warfare, reform is imminent. But lasting reform has to come from within. The Bush Administrations attempt to force democracy into the Arab world, "lies in tatters" as one author of the article suggests, and many Americans feel. And many Arabs seem to feel the same way, as Hossam Bahgat, a director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights says, "What we learnt from the Bush years was that reform was our own business."

One major point of the report that I found particularly interesting was the description of the Arab world. Its easy to lump the region together into a neatly packaged "world" yet the reality is far from unified. Even within countries, the people are fractured and on the brink of warfare. This stems from the practically arbitrary division of nations after the European colonial era, and the nature of the Arab peoples. The nearly constant bloody warfare doesn't help either. Approximately 1 million Arabs have died violently since 1990, and all of this death must leave deep psychological scars. Beyond that, the "Arab" is such a loosely defined term, to Americans it is anyone from the itself vaguely defined Middle East. But to "Arabs" themselves, it is a term they may never even describe themselves as. It is not connected to a region, to a religion, to an ethnic group, or even a language, as not all "Arabs" speak Arabic, and it is so varied in dialect that Arabic speakers from different regions may not even be able to understand each other.

I found these readings incredibly informative, and easy to read (if you didn't read the Economist, I STRONGLY recommend it.) In addition to all of these thoughts, I've started to consider my own misconceptions about the Arab World. I never would have imagined how young, and rapidly growing the population is, and I was completely unaware of just how many civil wars/revolutions there were in the Middle East. If we, as a nation are so deeply invested and involved in a region, how can we be so ignorant of the true situation? I consider myself relatively aware, but I suppose the more you know, the more you realize you don't know...

Leo Africanus

In this week's reading we concluded Leo Africanus. This section followed the same formula as all the other sections. Leo gets things going well for himself and all of a sudden he gets into trouble again.

Leo marries a woman, Maddalena, who is from a nunnery. She had to received permission from the Cardinal to leave before she was able to marry Hasan. Soon after shes gives birth to a baby boy. Around this time the Pope passes away. This is not a good thing for Leo. A new Pope replaces his him and is much more conservative than the previous Pope. The new Pope, Pope Adrian required people to shave, and is less accepting of non-believers and artists.

Leo gets sent to prison because he was caught with a pamphlet that went against the Pope. Apparently Leo was not the only one that didn't really like the Pope because while he was in jail, the Pope was poisoned. The Cardinal replaces him and soon after Hasan and his family attempt to move back to Tunis.

I guess my question is do you think the Pope had too much power. Does anyone else find it slightly ridiculous that someone can command you to shave a certain way?

Americans are not Mongols, you fool.

Nader Fergeny is both correct and inaccurate in his analysis of U.S. intervention in the Middle East, especially as it relates to Iraq. He claims that the Americans are the Mongols of the 21st century. While it is true that we are an outside invader that has taken control of the heart of the Middle East and ‘conquered’ Iraq’s capital of Baghdad. However, there are stark differences to these two invaders. The Mongols come to conquer the Middle East because of its vast wealth and position in the world as a crossroads between East and West. The cities in the region, namely Cairo and Baghdad, were presumably the most wealthy and influential of the time. Today this is not true by a long shot, these are not centers of world economy or policy even if they have large populations they eminence is but a shadow of the past. At this point some might argue that the wealth that we are after is access to the oil market but I would ask that person, is your gas any cheaper today that it was before the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan or the 2003 invasion of Iraq? Out interests and foreign policy in the region does include oil but we do not wish to take it as our own like colonizing powers in the past would have done. We have a threefold policy in the Middle East: 1- security of Israel 2- containment of radical Islamic Terrorism 3- access to oil. These goals have been largely unchanged for decades, only the substitution of containment of radical Islam for the containment of Communism is different.

Back to the Mongol comparison, the success of the Mongol invasion was based on their superior military tactics. Ok, checkmark for the US led invasion of the region; however, the method of achieving victory could not be more different. The Mongols attempted the wholesale slaughter of the Middle Eastern cities population and was largely successful in urban areas. The U.S. stands on high moral grounds in that we do not promote large scale civilian casualties. They do happen but when we are at fault the people responsible are held accountable. This does not happen in authoritarian regimes.

The end of Leo Africanus

This weeks reading took us to the end of the book and through articles from the Economist. The end of Leo Africanus seemed to follow the same chain of events that Hasan has been put through in every section so far. Just when things seem to be going all right for the poor guy something happens and he is thrust back into turmoil. The happiness in this section is that Hasan finds a new wife after she leaves the nunnery with permission from the Cardinal and they have a son. Hasan enjoys a close relationship with the Pope and therefore, everything seems to be working out well in his life for once. Then, in a sudden turn of events, the Pope dies and is replaced by a far more conservative Pope who tells everyone to shave their beards. When Hasan goes against the Pope by refusing to shave his beard and possessing a pamphlet with information not endorsed by the Pope, he is thrown in jail. Upon the poisoning of the Pope Hasan receives pardon from the Cardinal and relocates with his family to Tunis.

We then turned to the articles from the Economist. These articles do a fair job at explaining the modern Arab world by showing how the area is governed and highlighting the major crisis which is the conflict over Israel. Along side this crisis the articles do a good job at discussing the different types of people in the area and how they all coexist even though they may not be of the same religion or general culture at all.

I always enjoy a good Economist article, especially those that focus on an area of the world or a topic with which I am not familiar. I also enjoyed the fact that Leo Africanus closed with Hasan finally being able to settle down with his family after so much strife in finding a way through the maze he was set in as a small child. The only question I have is, how did the Pope have so much power over so many people? I am Catholic and I can say from experience the the Pope has a say in what we do religiously and has some sway as to what we do in our daily lives because it is based on our beliefs but I can not image the Pope ordering every man to shave his beard and having that actually happen. Perhaps this is because the world was far more condensed at the time so regulation of decrees was far easier than it is today but it is still a puzzling occurance.

End of Leo Africanus

In the final parts of Leo Africanus, we see many somewhat surprising changes in Hassan’s life. Another woman is introduced into the story, who was formerly practicing to be a nun. She asks the cardinal if she can be excused from the program. Upon her removal from the program, Hassan is asked to marry her.

Following this – the Pope, who Hassan had built quite the relationship with, passed way. Pope Adrian, who is much more conservative in his ways, takes over; and things do not go down between him and Hassan. Pope Adrian decrees that every man must shave their beard, and Hassan refuses. Hassan, among other things done in rebellion, is caught with a pamphlet protesting against the current Pope and is jailed. Pope Adrian is later poisoned, and Hassan is released, and a new Pope takes reign. Eventually, Hassan receives help from a friend – Hans – and is able to make a return to Tunis.

We then moved onto articles focusing on the Middle East/Arab World. I found the articles on the Middle East very interesting. The first article discussed the recent stagnation in Arab politics and predicted a revolution in the very near future. Arab society has been progressing in recent years and modernizing. Bamyeh’s article discusses the three principles of the Muslim world: partial control, free movement, and cultural heteroglossia. He states that in order for these principles to function properly, no authorities can impose orthodoxies on the people. He also says that the authoritarian states in the modern Middle East would not be a possibility if the Islamic system was not affected by Western colonists.

I overall enjoyed Leo Africanus, and hope to read future stories like that in the near future. And as always, reading about the Middle East is quite interesting to me.

Leo Africanus 4

In this section, Leo begins to settle after meeting his new wife Maddalena, whom he met through the pope. She was a convert from the nunnery who was with child. The pope dies and a new one takes his place. The new pope is less accepting of non-believers and artists. Many artists take refuge in Tunis, but Leo is arrested for having a pamphlet that goes against the pope. During the year he is is jail, the pope dies and is replaced and Leo's wife leaves him for Persia. Leo then finds his life long friend and travels.

I found it strange how different the popes were. I couldn't believe that one of the popes believed art to be blasphemy. If this idea had caught on, or that pope had stayed in power longer, our world would be in a completely different place. And I'm really glad that it didn't. It was also interesting to read about how the pope called for every man to be clean shaven. Leo did not want to submit to such requests, putting himself and his family in danger. It's a strange concept to me that facial hair could get you into legal trouble. These are the small peepholes into a different life that make me want to learn more but also make me thankful for the freedoms we have now.

I also found the article to be extremely interesting, especially reading about Al-Qaeda's tie into the Arab world. I enjoyed reading the predictions of the future for the Arab world in the article (including a non-violent revolution).

Leo Africanus 3

In this section, Hasan's father dies and his wife, Fatima, dies during childbirth. Hasan is banished from the area for supporting his brother who is the alleged murderer of Zarwali, the man his sister married. He is exiled and sent as a slave with the Italians. Pirates bring him to Rome, where Hasan meets the pope and develops and intimate relationship. The pope treats Hasan as a son and is concerned with his education. They have discussions about things like church and state, and eventually Hasan is baptized by the pope under the name "Leo Africanus", giving us the title of the book.

It was most interesting to read about the development of the relationship between the pope and Hasan. It is strange to me that they even met, never mind developed such a relationship. I wonder what would have happened if Hasan were never exiled. It was interesting to see Africa for the first time as a part of the system and to read about the role of slavery in society. I could not imagine having an arranged marriage and wonder if people thought it was at all wrong or unfair at the time.

Leo Africanus 2

In this section, Hasan grows into an adult. Many events happen that bring Hasan into adulthood including the death of his grandmother. This was interesting to read about because I never knew about all the traditions of death and death as a celebration. After someone dies, there are six days of mourning, twenty more days before three last days of mourning. Hasan's first experience of school was after his grandmother died when his Uncle decides he is ready. At school he meets his first friend Huran. Hasan's sister was also engaged to be wed to a bad man. We read about the hardships that come with arranged marriages as we see that there was little for Hasan's sister to do in her situation. After having to flee from Spain to Morocco when the Castilians take over, Hasan goes to Timbuktu with his uncle, where his uncle eventually gets sick and dies. Hasan falls in love with a girl named Hiba while working as a communicator and diplomat at the caravan, or mobile community. But Hasan does not marry Hiba and marries his cousin, whom his uncle wanted him to marry, and is expecting a daughter.

It was interesting to read about the concept of caravans. They were basically cities along the highway. I also would like to find out more about the celebrations after someone dies. I have always known that I would rather have a party than a funeral. I agree that life should be celebrated at death.

leo 4

So in this section of Leo Africanus, Leo is found to be married to Maddalena who is from the nunnery. She had to get the Cardinal's permission to leave and marry Hasan. They then had a son together. Also at this time the pope passes away and another pope replaces him. This Pope, Pope Adrian is very conservative. He makes all the men shave their beard. Many of the people are against this and want to hold off on his rules. Hasan is then put in jail when he is caught with a pamphlet that goes against the Pope. Then the Pope is poisoned and dies. The Cardinal then goes in his place. Hasan and his family then try to relocate back to Tunis.

My question is that does an authority have so much power to tell everyone to do as he says? I mean for the Pope to tell everyone to cut their beard seems a little of the personal side. It's interesting to see how society has changed and so did the rules. How we have individual rights and personal freedom.

Leo Africanus Part 1

In the first section of the book, a Muslim couple living in Grenada in December, 1489 is introduced. Salma and Muhammed were cousins engaged to be wed. But after discovering Salma's unfertility, Muhammed goes on a trip and finds Warda through a soldier and bringing her back. Salma and Warda lead two very different lives as a wife and mistress respectively. Wives were expected to take care of their husband, children, and the house. Mistresses had much more freedom and were permitted to sing and dance. Salma denounces her infertility and finds Sarah Goudy to help her by giving her an elixir that helps her get pregnant after enticing Muhammed. The two women, both pregnant at the same time, compete their way to childbirth. Warda gives birth first, but to a baby girl. Salma has a boy and pleases Muhammed once again.

One thing I found interesting in this section was that only from reading the beginning of a story, I could learn a lot about the history of a culture. It's wild that I can read a book about one person to find out about parts of a culture I never knew. I was confused about whether or not women wanted to get married and would like to learn more about that. Also, did women enjoy polygamy?

I also found it interesting that at first, the three major religious groups (Jews, Christians, Muslims) were able to live together peacefully until the fall of Grenada. All three religions were considered religions of the book.

The Economist: The Arab World

I found this reading the most interesting of all of the readings we have done so far in class. The articles from “The Economist” were objective, concise, and easy to read. I learned a lot about the Arab world’s history from the past twenty years. This is not something I had learned in any of the history classed I had taken, which usually stopped before the 1970’s. I found the information in the articles very interesting, as a meaningful prerequisite to understand the complex situation in the Middle East of today.

The first article centered on the Arab world’s political stagnation for the past twenty years. Arab countries are still ruled by authoritarian regimes, practiced in the arts of oppression. Still, the most controversial and continuing conflict is the conflict over Israel. There are also conflicts over oil, and unity is difficult to accomplish with the many different Muslim groups present. There are Sunni, Shia, and Kurdish fragments that make cooperation very difficult. Arabic is a language that would seem to unite, but instead, there are so many differing dialects that it is hard for others in different regions to understand each other. Violent out breaks are constant, and unpreventable. Any attempts at unity have failed utterly.

There have been many attempts by the US to try to facilitate some kind of peaceful solution in the Middle East. IN one article it mentioned that the bush administration planned to stop trying to create stability at any cost, and would instead focus on creating democracies. Barack Obama is also making attempts to repair America’s relations with Islam.

The most interesting part of the reading is the lengths that these governments will take to stay in power. They have massive security and intelligence power at their disposal to control the citizens. They set up sham voting procedures. It is very interesting how the youth has used to power of the internet to organize and let their wants be known. They organize over facebook and twitter, and express themselves over blogs.

The question I have is about the future of the Middle East is what the the future will hold. Will the various nations remain separated, and will the governments remain authoritarian? Will religious extremism continue to be the most effective and dangerous force in the Arab world?

Comparing two entirely different "worlds"

First, I think the Economist article does a brilliant job of being pretty fair and writing about all of the comparisons that are not one-sided (unlike ones we are used to). Specifically, the article references literacy tests in comparison to income and how Arab literacy is either equivalent or greater than those with equal income than most other countries with similar income. Interesting! Statistics about poverty in these Arab nations, lack of certain living conditions, etc, are definitely overplayed while statistics about things that are important (the improvements they've made, what they are actually doing literacy wise, etc) are not said.

I think what is especially interesting is the fact that a world-class infrastructure, 20 years on average life, and a tremendous increase in literacy was accomplished by the Gulf states. But the cost is rather pricey at $2 trillion dollars, don't you think?

How can we sit back and say "oh they are doing so terribly/not as well as us" when it takes $2 trillion to fix it? Let's be honest, our entire nation is an upheaval at billions of dollars, let alone trillions. So. What point am I trying to make? Globalization is key! Ultimately, the only way we can ever hope to improve more nations living conditions (and ultimately our relations with them and their relations with others) is through globalizing how we think and act. It has to be less of an elitist western attitude looking down on others, and more of a "we're in this together" kind of attitude, because all of us really are living on this same planet, at the same time.

Hint: we're in this together!

(also, if anyone cares, this is something that makes sense to me.)

Waking Up from Sleep – My View on the Arab World Politics

    The economist special report discusses the political situation in the Arab world. According to the reading, the Arab world has experienced two decades of political turmoil and confusion. But what are the causes of this political disaster? The answer is the authoritarian rule deriving from the struggle with Israel and a division within the Arab world. War is a significant and important situation for the countries involved. Because of the religious and political struggle within the Arab countries, that led to division, thus leading to civil war within the Arab continent. The reasons for the wars in the Middle East are due to various causes. One important cause is oil. The fact that 75% of the world's oil (that being a lot of oil) is within the Persian gulf, is significant because the countries and nations surrounding the Persian gulf area would try to invade and own that specific areas. This leads to civil disrupt and a lack of agreement of the countries to come to a consensus on how to deal with the mass amounts of oil. Furthermore, another issue is the problem with Israel. The religious significance of Israel manages and enables countries to fight for what they believe in. Finally, the most significant reason for the war is the Arab states themselves.

    It is important to understand that the Arab states were divided. This division led to a combination of political ideals and agendas. The lack of democratic form of government is imperative. Not one of the 21 states that are in the Arab League can plausibly claim to be a democracy. That fact is alarming to me. The fact that I am an American leads me to believe that's my form of government (democracy) is the correct form of government and I feel that it should be adopted by the entire world. I feel that if democracy is given a shot, then the world would be more successful and a lot more peaceful place. However, the rest of the world does not agree with that logic. The great struggle for Arabians is to decide what form of government works for them and the method for them to maintain and sustain their country.

    My total view on the reading was that it was filled with fantastic imagery and insight into the Arab World. The factual details provided insight for the reader to maintain a full understanding of the text. One interesting section of the article was the part entitled "Which way will they go?" This is because it presented a struggle for the Arabians on their political situation. This presentation of choice intrigued into reading deeper and attempting to do further research on the topic.

Can the Middle East be Democratic?



Now, as tempting as it may be to let that statement stand for itself, people generally like to see some sense of example/argument to back a statement up, particularly in this type of format.  So I will.  Parts of the Middle East are already democratic, yet the western world tends not to recognize that when elections don’t produce favorable results, and point to “democracy” in other parts of the world that doesn’t exist.  For instance, Yasser Arafat was always derided, yet he was democratically elected.  Democratic elections occur with regularity in the Palestinian territories.  They will elect a Yasser Arafat or Hamas, as in Gaza.  Elections in Lebanon sometimes elect moderates or pro-American candidates, but often allow a strong showing for Hezbollah.  Democracy doesn’t cease to count as democracy if you don’t like the results.  But in terms of a stable, western-style liberal democracy, there is a ways to go before we see that widespread across the region, a few things will need to happen.  I say a few because it is a relatively short list, yet each one will be very difficult and require a lot of work.  The first is very simple.  You cannot expect any kind of stable system if you cannot provide basic services to the people.  So the first step needs to be rebuilding the infrastructure of the nations of these nations.  You need to be able to provide water, electricity, and roads to the people, and they need to work, before you can legitimize any kind of rule.  Second, you need to create stable economic conditions in a country.  As Richard Nixon so eloquently put it, you can “make the economy scream” until a democratic regime falls.  And finally, if you can have both at the same time, great, but otherwise, opt for glasnost before perestroika.  Establish liberty firmly and democracy is likely to be stable when it follows.  Establish democracy without liberty and you are likely to lose it with great speed.  Checks on power are the best thing possible for stable government systems.  A society with free speech, free religion, free press, free association, etc is much more likely to successfully preserve a democratic system than one with out it.  And there you have it, a stable, liberal democracy filled world in three very difficult steps.


So this is the part where you say I’m a moron and completely wrong…

Finally Settling Down and The Arab World

This week we finished reading Maalouf’s Leo Africanus, and also read two articles about the Arab world. At the end Leo Africanus, Hasan, known now as Leo Africanus, finally settles down for a life with his family after around 40 years of moving around. It begins with Hasan marrying a new woman because a Cardinal in the Roman Catholic Church requested him to. Once the new pope comes to power he starts making new laws that Hasan opposes. Hasan begins writing and distributing articles against the new pope that wind up getting him imprisoned. The pope ends up getting poisoned and Hasan is released, which is when he finally decides to “retire” from traveling and settle down. We also read “Special Report on the Arab World,” and an article by Mohammed Bamyeh called “Global Affinities Beyond the State: Lessons from the Historical Structures of Muslim Society.” In the “Special Report…” it talks about the violent history of the Arab world, but it also proposes that there has been modernization and progression in the Arab world in the past years.

In the “Special Report on the Arab World,” I found the sheer facts amazing. I found this article to be more interesting than the other. One thing that truly stuck out to me was in the letter Mr. bin Laden wrote to Mullah Omar where he talks about how “75% of the world’s oil was found in the Persian Gulf region and that ‘whoever has dominion over the oil has dominion over the economies of the world.”’

The other part in this article that I found particularly interesting in the “Special Report on the Arab World” was how they worked back along in a string of events to possibly find the jumping off point that let to America’s “War on Terror.” The author of the article believes that “the year Saddam invaded Kuwait” in 1990 was a changing point that provided the way for multiple events including the attacks on September 11th. So what I was wondering, is if you believe that one event or outcome can be traced back years, decades or centuries to one event? Or do you believe that there are many different things put together to end up with an outcome? Any thoughts?

Arabs? Muslims? Which!?

In this week’s reading for global societies, we read a special report on the Arab world, specifically how the world really is viewed from the outside. The articles discussed how the Arab world was evolving throughout time. The article dives into the present issues that surround the Muslim world every day. One part talks about how the term Arab can mean many things to people apart of the 22 states of the Arab world. The article discusses how or what it is the Arab people find themselves in the world. Some that are not Muslim would not ever call themselves Arab; however to some people they would do the opposite. The article also talked about how the civil wars and battles have killed many of the Arab worlds, this all since only 1990. The states of Arab world are even divided inside their country. Take Iraq for example, the Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds still do not get along even though they are a part of one nation. Osama even said the Middle East can control the economies of the world because of the all the oil that are there. He said that people in that area should control it; this gave way to leader of Al-Qaida and Taliban. Also, the problems with voting in the Arab world, the article states that most of the governments are not democracies at all and fair and free elections were not happening. Also, that the Arabic Language is now so different across the world, it’s tough to go from one place to another without have to change the speaking a little bit. Finally, the article tells the tale that interference from the outside world will be the down fall of the Arab states. A quote said that the Arab world is just a vicious circle and none of the problem will be solved soon.
I really enjoyed this article; I think they should talk about how the world was responding to the recent events that have happened in the Arab world. I think that they did a great job capturing the whole world, but I wish they would have shown the stance of some of the world’s great power.
There is no question that the Arab affects the global economy and globalization itself, my question is simply how? The article gave me an up to date idea of what’s going on there, but how is this all tied to the world economy?

Inspired by the film Stigmata.

In Bamyeh’s article, he focuses on three principles: 1) partial control, 2) free movement, and 3) cultural heteroglossia. He discuss the possibility that globalization occurs only when the control over the network is shared rather than controlled by one individual. While Bamyeh defends the idea that a peaceful global society revolves around his three principles, he ignores the fact that their application, although found in the Islamic world, are impractical on a global scale.
Maalouf ended Leo Africanus odyssey with his marriage to Maddalena. This decision was heavily influenced by the wishes of Pope Leo X. When the new Pope comes into power, Pope Adrian, Leo Africanus was accused of disloyalty, because he refused to shave his beard. He was then imprisoned for the insubordinance. He was released from prison when Cardinal Julius became pope. It was interesting to see how influential religion was and still is throughout the world.
It is interesting to see how influential religion in within Leo Africanus’ life. His life is constantly on the line in the name of religion. Maybe it is because I was raised in a lax religious environment, but I have found that religion is often a dangerous instrument when wielded by a corrupt man. Religion in theory is a great idea. The world is such that no one individual may every know all there is to know. Religion gives people an outlet to fight off fears and anxieties about the unknown. It allows us to not live in fear of what we are incapable to accomplish, but the patience to allow use to break down the situation. Religion gives the individual hope and faith. Even if their hope is founded in logic unbeknown to themselves. However, the problem with religion is that the fallible man runs it. The blind faith is dangerous. Those who have come to trust an authority to have their best interest at heart are vulnerable. Throughout history, especially in Leo Africanus, we see how religious authorities abuse their power.
My question is do you think this type of corruption can be eliminated without dissolving organized religion? Or will the potential of corruption always exist within religion?

Leo Africanus and Arab Articles

This week we finished Leo Africanus and read an article by Mohammed Bamyeh called “Global Affinities Beyond the State: Lessons from the Historical Structures of Muslim Society,” as well as an article from the Economist title “A Special Report on the Arab World.” At the conclusion of Leo Africanus, Hasan marries a Grenadian woman at the request of the Cardinal. A new Pope takes lead of the Roman Catholic church in Rome who is more conservative and instates new laws such as demanding men to be clean shaven and condemning art as a sin. Hasan lead an opposition against the pope and was imprisoned for distributing propaganda against the pope. Eventually the pope was poisoned and the Cardinal who requested Hasan and his wife together took the papalship, letting Hasan out of prison. From there, Hasan reunited with his family and planned to relocate to Tunis. So after 40 years of traveling which made him the famous man we know today, he settled down and relaxed with his family for the rest of his life. I think this can be interpreted as a cultural thing, but I think it is also a timeless feeling and doesn’t have any cultural borders. It’s also a personal feeling. But I like how he finds most satisfaction staying in one place with his loved ones.
I found the articles on the Middle East very interesting. The article from the Economist discussed the recent stagnation in Arab politics and predicted a non-violent revolution in the near future. Arab society has been progressing in recent years and modernizing. News is being less restricted and more accurate, popular websites like Facebook and Youtube are being more popularly used, and education is spreading. Bamyeh’s article discusses the three principles of the Muslim world according to Bamyeh: partial control, free movement, and cultural heteroglossia. Bamyeh attempts to apply these old principles of the Muslim world to the current day globalization there. He states that in order for these principles to function properly, no authorities can impose orthodoxies on the people. He also says that the authoritarian states in the modern Middle East would not be a possibility if the Islamic system was not affected by Western colonists. I enjoyed both these articles. It was great to hear about globalization happening right now as opposed to previous world systems, and it was particularly interesting to connect this trend with previous systems.

End of LA, and beginning of modern Islam

This week found the end of the interesting and emotionally riveting book Leo Africanus. I liked this book quite a bit because it was able to relay key historical events and social customs and the status quo of the time in a way that was easy to understand, internalize and see with multiple perspectives. Seeing history through the microperspective really gave the otherwise objective historical events some humanity.
We moved on to modern day dynamics with Islam. The statistics regarding the Arab/Muslim's preoccupation and prioritization of the "Israel problem" to be an interesting point. The conclusion from the statistic even more important. While the "Israel problem" continues, countries are often in states of emergency that allow leaders to seek respite from having to address internal problems with jobs, infrastructure, etc. While the citizens see the "Israel problem" as one of the most important things to address, how and when will they push for other changes (infrastructure, jobs, etc). The third article talks about three things that allowed Islam to flourish in the past, partial control, freedom of movement and heteroglossia. These three principles have been largely violated in modernity and because of this trangression, the world of Islam is no longer as it was nor as "successful." These principles are not unique to Islam, but are needed for any global type system to work. In the present day, sovereigns have tried to take complete authoritarian control of their regions, borders have restricted movement, and states (in conjuction with total control) have tried to force a single orthodoxy on their people. The idea is that if we go more towards these core principles, a successful global system is likely.

I found the connection, relevance and importance of government in violating the three core principles of the past very interesting. By directly violating the idea of partial control and recognizing others forms of authority outside of the sovereign government, the governments now have to face the problems associated with authoritarian states. This includes, having to censor and restrict cultural beliefs. This leads to the violation of heteroglossia. It seems like the violations reinforce and perpetuate eachother.

One question that I think would be interesting to think about would be if there was a single event or a small group of events that occurred close together that shifted the balance from the core principles to not the principles. What changed that gave rise to these authoritarian regimes, etc?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

the Muslim world, then and now

At the end of Leo Africanus, it seemed that a united Muslim world was a finally a reality. Harun tells Leo that "at present from the borders of Persia to the coast of the Maghrib, from Belgrade to the Yemen, there is one single Muslim Empire” (335). Today that ideal seems to be an impossibility. Having a common religion is not enough to keep the modern Arab states together. Factors like internal sects, language and ethnic differences, varying economies and power struggles keep the Muslim world from uniting as it once did under the Ottoman Empire. Religion, in fact, no longer seems to be the strongest bond that Arab states have. Instead, a common anger over the conflict in Israel seems to be more important.

In Leo’s time, the economy of the Muslim world seemed to be centered on international trade. That remains true today, except that today the main commodity is oil. Although, as the Special Report on the Arab World pointed out, that is a generalization that certainly does not apply to many poorer Muslim countries, such as those in northwest Africa. However, it is safe to say that the Arab world needs to diversify their economies in order to remain relatively prosperous. They rely too heavily on oil, and although they became concerned enough to begin diversification a few years ago, they were lulled into false security when oil prices rose so dramatically in the past decade.

Since Leo’s time the Arab world is often thought of as being in a perpetual state of conflict. Whether it is over oil or religious convictions or terrorism, it is a huge issue. As Americans we may automatically think of Iraq, but the true stalemate in the Middle East is not the relatively recent war in Iraq but rather the ongoing conflict in Israel. Without the intervention of powers such as America, Israel could have easily been crushed by its Muslim neighbors long ago. However, unwilling to defy America but equally unwilling to give up on their Palestinian brothers, the Arab states have created a deadlock that in a way works to their advantages. Or at least to the advantage of the leaders and politicians. Many politicians are elected solely on the basis of their position towards Israel, and many rulers keep power by claiming a state of emergency due to the conflict in Israel, despite the obvious lack of impact that the war has on their citizens.

Religion v. Science

This week’s reading was on the last section of Leo Africanus. What I found most interesting about this section was the focus that was placed on the transformation from a religious to a scientific society in the Western world. This transition to science led to a larger focus on the military, as technological advancements led to many military improvements. I find it very interesting that this transition to science took place in the 1500s and it is still at the core of our society today. Religion is still a large part of many individuals’ lives, but as far as the way in which our society is run, it is clear that there is a much larger emphasis on science. There is a separation of religion and state in the United States, and although “state” does not mean science, there is a clear relationship between the two. Science is the basis of many fields in our society and is taught in numerous forms in all of America’s schools and universities. Religion, on the other hand, although extremely prevalent, is not as visible in the educational or occupational sector. For example, religion is not taught in any public schools, and there was a huge controversy during the debate on whether or not Darwinism should be taught in school; a scientific theory that presumes that humans evolved from apes. This illustrates that religion is still is a large source of controversy within our society, and is even more so across societies. It is my opinion that science will continue to run our society, but religion will never fade away and will continue to be a source of conflict among people and peoples.

Leo Africanus

In the last part of the novel we see many developments with Hassan and his relationship with the clergy. Hassan is asked to mary a Grenadian woman. This woman was formely studying to become a nun but asked the cardinal if she could get out. The cardinal grants her wishes and Hassan is asked to marry her.
After the passing of the pope a Pope Adrian takes over. This pope is much more conservative than the previous one. He condemns art and even decrees that every man should shave their beard. Hassan runs into conflict with this pope. He refuses to shave his beard. He is also caught with a pamphlet which talks against Pope Adrian. He is jailed and not released until Pope Adrian is poisoned and a new pope takes over.
Eventually Luther’s fanatics reach Rome where they pillage and sack the city. The pope, as well as anyone with him are in grave danger. Hans, a former student helps him get to Naples where they make plans for Hassans return to Tunis.
I really enjoyed this book much more than the other readings. I found it as entertaining as it was informative. I am glad this reading was part of the course.

Dar al-Islam

In Bamyeh’s article, he argues that Dar al-Islam, or the Muslim world, could only function as a unit to the extent that it followed three fundamental principles: partial control, free movement, and cultural heteroglossia. These principles extend beyond the Muslim example to any global system with “maximal systematicity and minimal interruption.” Though attempts have been made to replace these principles, most notably through colonialism or the nation-state, these attempts were unsuccessful and not as efficient as older systems.

The first principle of partial control contrasts the European principle that the state is the ultimate organizational and governmental body. The Islamic state was only one of several sources of societal authority. The success of early Islam was in many ways attributed to the shared spiritual landscape that created consistencies across tribes. Thus, public institutions and religion were unified, and government was usually left open. When there was an attempt at forming a single state power, conflict was created because of the number of diverse groups that had their own organizational forms.

Despite these differences in organization of politics and institutions, free movement was prevalent within Dar al-Islam. This movement allowed for valuable communication and exchange of intellect, leading the development of a global society across several urban centers. It further contributed to the multicultural nature of these cities. In contrast to a sovereign state, this society did not define borders. Finally, free movement allowed for consistency in education and mannerism and a mix of social experience, leading to similar opportunities across the Muslim world. The combination of education and clear communication networks helped the development of a global society of many prominent urban centers.

Heteroglossia was originally used to describe a work of literature that had multiple voices representing several viewpoints. Its application in religion is its distinction from diversity. Heteroglossia does not imply the competition of voices, but rather the imposition of order on a society with several voices and viewpoints. Heteroglossia allows voices to be expressed to similar voices. Because of the inherent lack of competition, heteroglossia is inherently invisible. Because of this, it is better equipped than diversity to make advances toward universality. Within Islam, “a variety of social forces and interests imagined themselves to be the addressees of a single divine message.” This has an important implication in that opposing thoughts and voices do not destroy a society. Eventually, mutuality in religion and compromises amongst ideals lead toward unity. So, with heteroglossia in combination with the first two principles, a global society works best when there is no authoritarian government, a tenet of Islam.

In application of these principles, is it best to establish capitalism because of its free movement of goods and less than partial control on “invisible” forces? Is a global culture possible beyond Islam, or in other words, can unique nations still exist without competition? As the article asks, is imperialism or globalization our future, though the current trend seems to be toward globalization.

Leo Africanus : The Journey Ends

After a forty year grueling adventure taking Leo all around the world he finally settles down with his new wife and family while heading toward Tunis. The last few chapters of the book continue with Leo in Rome and in hospitable care of the Pope. The pope persuades Leo to take a new wife,Maddalena, whom is pregnant and also a convert. Although, somewhat reluctant Leo is blessed with his first son. The pope, Leo once benefactor passes on and is replaced with a pope less than interested in art, beauty, and "non-believers." Leo is confronted several times and urged to make leave from Rome as it's aura is changing. Painters, sculptors, and many others take refuge heading toward Tunis or Naples.
Leo one day before his plan to leave Rome with his wife and child, he is imprisoned by the Pope for having a phamphlet ridcolouling the pope. Leo is imprisoned for a years time until his is released by the new Pope, as the old one fell ill do certain poisons. Generally, one misfortune bestows another and his other wife and daughter who waited for him patiently, finally gave up and left for Persia. I find this point particulary interesting too, as i know that marriages at the time were arranged and the man was allowed to take more than one wife, yet i didn't realize that the wife had the choice to leave. He is sent as an emissary of the Pope where he encounters his life long almost brother, Hasan the Ferret, now working for the Grand Turk. After attempts to get the Muslims and Christians to live in peace were over, Leo traveled around with Givivanni in the Black Band, until Givivannis death. One interesting view point you get through Leo travels is how much religion was used as a hope and as a will to impose rules and restrictions. The pope at one point imprisons Leo. In today's society I have not heard of case involving religious figures imprisoning anyone. It seems that religion in that day had as many believers as people exploiting religion for some monetary or political gain. One more interesting point that is only seen differently from a first hand account, is the rise and fall of nations such as Granada. Coupled along with the the routes in trade that separated many, again, because of religion. My question for everyone is if religion was not used as a divider for many nations how would the World System be different overall?

The Arab World

The Arab world has been and is still currently ruled by authoritarian regimes. There are many countries that the people are classified as being Arab, however, ethnicities, religion, and language differ between these countries. In addition, inter-Arab divisions are extremely bitter toward each other and a great deal of violence is still seen. The author gives his stance on why the Middle East is particularly prone to violence and war. He claims that fighting over oil is a major cause and also the continuing conflict with Israel. Finally, he states that the absence of democracy in these Arab nations causes violence because they instead rely on domination in order to stay in power.

The author talks about President Bush’s efforts of setting up democracy in the Arab regimes failed for numerous reasons. The first reason was that that Arab reformers believed the Bush administration lacking as successful messengers. Arabs felt that reform should have been their own business. In addition, the war in Iraq caused controversy. Arabs did not feel America had their best interest in mind because they were killing their people and ruining their land. Now with the Obama administration, pushing for freedom reform is no longer the issue. In Cairo, Obama states, “ Each nation gives life to this principle in its own way, grounded in the traditions of its own people. America does not presume to know what is best for everyone.” The author makes the point that this might be a better way to go than the Bush administration, however it still does not address the problem of political stagnation in the Arab world.

I think it will be interesting to see how the Obama administration’s plan of withdrawal will play out. It seems that Arabs are divided in their opinions of whether or not they think outside interference is beneficial. The dynamics between outsiders and the Arab states, I think have been necessary in order to develop the Arab states internal politics. Also, it is amazing how the impact of war with Israel has such a stagnant effect on Arab nations. When will this controversy be resolved, if ever?

Leo Africanus/Arab and Islam Readings - Blog 4

Due to the variety in the readings for this week, I am not sure how to address all of them. Therefore, my unabashed focus will be on Mohammed Bamyeh’s “Global Affinities Beyond the State: Lessons From the Historical Structures of Muslim Society.” However, in short summary, Leo Africanus concluded with Hasan marrying a woman named Maddalena at the request of the Pope. She gives birth to his first son, Giuseppe. Pope Leo X died, leaving “Adrian the Barbarian” to take his place, which eventually leads to the imprisonment of Hasan due to his perceived failure to cooperate with the new pope by refusing to shave his beard. Pope Adrian was then poisoned, and Cardinal Julius, a friend of Hasan’s, assumed the role of pope and released Hasan from prison. Hasan and Guicciardini attempt to act as political messengers to facilitate an alliance between Rome and Constantinople. Hasan ends up having to deal with Harun, but it is to no effect because the political wars take their course anyway. Rome was pillaged, but Hasan was allowed a safe escape with aid from one of his former pupils. After this final flight from danger, Hasan concedes that he is finally ready to settle down and live out the rest of his life quietly and safely with his family. “A Special Report on the Arab World” basically described how the Arab world has been experiencing political stagnation, but there is hope for some form of a revolution in the future. It is unlikely that it will be a violent one because the problem of unemployment for the youth is not something that will rile them up to that extent. However, sites like Facebook and Youtube are increasingly being used among Arabs. An innovative television station, al-Jazeera, also paved the way for more accurate coverage of news in the Arab world. Education is becoming more widespread, although the quality is not great. Basically, the Arab people are finally starting to speak out about their complaints, but this will most likely continue in a passive manner for the time being. As for Bamyeh’s article, it describes how imperialism and globalization do not have to be inexplicably linked. He argues that through the principles of partial control, free movement, and cultural heteroglossia (which all occurred previously in the Islamic world), a global system is possible that does not include absolute control by one power.

I thought it was extremely interesting that heteroglossia means that the “social unconscious of religion” imposes order, but not unity, on the people (11). Thus Islam binds people together, but it does not make them conform. Bamyeh describes the opposing views that can still exist within Islam: gender inequality as well as gender equality, economic policies that benefit the merchants as well as those that benefit the poor, and even praise for austerity as well as ostentation. These dichotomies fascinate me because they would be unable to exist in harmony within our capitalist society. I also thought it was interesting that although we see immigration as a problem, it is actually a positive step toward achieving a peaceful world system based on the principle of freedom of movement. Bamyeh emphasizes that despite various restrictions on goods and people, both will continue to move transnationally because “Global order, after all, does not consist only of that which is allowed” (15). I thought that statement best described how the world may move toward the three principles that Bamyeh outlined, whether the imperialistic societies like it or not.

I think a major fault with this article is that Bamyeh almost refuses to address the fact that imperialism is still winning out. Although he makes a good point – that a peaceful global society could be achieved through the historical principles of partial control, freedom of movement, and heteroglossia – imperialism is very tenacious and predominates in most of the world. I understand his conclusion that there is no “end” of history and so imperialism does not make sense in the long run, but I think he could have elaborated more on the Islamic world, let alone the rest of the world, will come to adopt this view. Part of the article is Bamyeh describing how the Islamic world has partially left these principles behind, although it has not benefited them. I would like to know how he thinks they will be convinced to readopt these ideas and follow through with them, as well as how he believes the rest of the world will change its ways. Although these principles may be more rational and beneficial, I cannot see the entire world easily making the transition.

what going on with the arabs

The article from the Economist, “A special report on the Arab world,” is much more intriguing to me because it is a contemporary issue that needs to be dealt with. This article makes solid points to explain why the Arab nations have fallen behind the western nations. In most areas, they have showed little if any advancements towards a stable form of government. Not only do many states lack a stable government, but they have nothing to account in positive change for that last twenty or so years. In the article they use a comparison of Rip Abu Winkle and say what if he fell asleep in the 1980’s and woke up now, not much would be different.

There are many reasons for the lack of development in the Arab states. One of the major reasons is because of oil. A nice graph shows proven world oil reserves with the Middle East and North Africa having 60.4% of the world’s oil reserves. I think there are a couple Arab states in the Middle East and North Africa, right? It would not be that big of a deal if it was never discovered as a natural resource that humans could exploit, and if the U.S. wasn’t so dependent on foreign oil. Unfortunately, with the industrial revolution oil was going to be needed and our good friend Rockafeller and big business came along.

Another reason is the ongoing conflicts between Arab and Iranian conflict with Israel. What are these conflicts over anyway: religion, oil, power? Whatever the problem is I would hope that someone could fix the bloodshed, the instability, and the ignorant leaders who gain power in corrupt ways. The article explains how there is no nationalism. They are all separated not by distance and borders, but by many factors and they don’t even have their own identity.

This was a good read because something needs to be done. I thought the article was quite objective, but it does explain the situation well with good use of charts. Either way, why did we originally invade in 90’ and 91’ and when will we be out. The Vietnam conflict was consistent for 16 years with a strong U.S. military presence for only five to six years. We have had a strong military presence in the Middle East for at least the last nine years, some may say more especially if you count desert storm. I am not against the war, but I hope the government isn’t making the same mistakes. Also, is it the Unites States responsibility to make sure that all the countries that have oil, have democracy?

The Crises of Islam

One of this week's readings, The Economist's Special Report on the Arab World, was very insightful. The Report highlighted many problematic areas in the "Arab World" that The Economist pointed out might hinder the Arab world from modernizing and democratizing any further.

One of the major problems highlighted in the article is that Western imperialism has damaged and retarded the economic and political growth of the Middle East. Western colonialism and imperialism did this by carving out borders in the region, exploiting resources, and supporting puppet regimes, all the while ignoring any need for democracy (which the Western nations had for themselves). I think that this was (and still is) a very large problem: Western nations were the first nations to move from agrarian societies to urban societies, thus democratizing and liberalizing. So, the Western nations/societies were the first to "modernize," while the Middle East is still painfully trying to catch up. (And this is a "crisis of Islam" (i.e. the Islamic world).)

One thing that I found surprising was the fact that most of the Arab world is under the age of 25. I wonder what the repercussions of this fact will be. Will these young Arabs look fondly upon the United States (and the rest of the Western world)? Will they push for more modernization and liberalization?

-Stefan Larson

Week ... i don't remember..

The tension that exists between religions arise from one group thinking that they are “right” and the superior people. In my twelve years of Catholic education, the only time this was addressed was a teacher telling me about how religion is like looking up at a pyramid to God. Depending on what side of the bottom of the pyramid you are looking up from, God and religion appear different when compared to other sides (Meaning the different monotheistic religions- Christianity, Islam, and Judaism). But when you get to the top you realize it’s all the same God and belief. This was the only time that it was conveyed to me that maybe all the religions are equal and that one isn’t “right” or “wrong”. I think this representation of religion is helpful in that it promotes tolerance and equality. Since religious beliefs cannot be proven right or wrong, it is unnecessary to fight about them.

Islam is probably my favorite religion to study. I am fascinated with life in the Middle East and that I’m finally being exposed to the history of this society. I’ve come to realize that all the current problems concerning the Middle East has primarily stemmed from Western involvement. It is difficult to understand their society since they have a different set of values. Likewise, I’m sure the Middle East has difficulty understanding our culture since they differ. I hesitate to form an opinion of what role the West should have in Arab society—I almost feel that it should be equal to the role Islamic society has to the West, practically none. Unless we can truly act understand the people of the Middle East, I feel that our actions are self-serving and blind to the needs of the masses. I’m torn between wanting what I feel is best for the Middle East, based on my Western understanding and question interfering with another society. If Iraq invaded the US because it felt like the American people were oppressed under the government, we would quickly dismiss their claims and question their right to any aspect of our government.

blog 11-

At the end of the novel, Hasan is asked by the Cardinal to marry a beautiful Grenadian woman, raised in a nunnery. At first Leo is hesitant, but after speaking and seeing to her, Leo is overcome by her, and thus he takes on another wife and family. Soon after, a new Pope comes to power. This new Pope is much more conservative than the previous Pope was, for example, the new Pope mandated that all men be clean-shaven, he also believed that art was a sin. The Pope faced much opposition by the Romans. Hasan too, was against him, even refusing to comply by not shaving his beard. People looked to Hasan as a leader of opposition; one day Hasan was caught with a propaganda pamphlet (anti-pope) and was imprisoned for it. The new pope was poisoned and the Cardinal who had setup Hasan and his wife was named Pope. Hasan was let out of Prison for some involvement he had with the conflict between the Turks and France. Hasan seeks refuge with friends and has plans to relocate his family to Tunis.
I found 2 things about this very interesting. The first was just how conservative this new pope was, chastising art and beautiful things made by humanity. It seems as if he is taking a step back from modernization. I also found Hasan’s inability to shave interesting. I understand it is an Islamic tradition not to shave, but he was no long Muslim, so what was the big deal?
My two questions are: Is it possible Hasan was being too self-centered? He endangered his life and his family because he would be embarrassed to succumb to the Pope after all the years of having a beard. I find it bizarre that he favored his beard over his family, and family was important to Hasan. Also what would have happened to Rome and Italy itself if the Pope had stayed in power? I think it’s possible that much of the architecture and artwork that came out of Italy and makes it unique would be gone.

End of Leo Africanus and Bamyeh

This week we come to the end of the story of Hasan, of Leo Africanus. In the year of the Conversa, we learn that the Pope wishes for Hasan to take another wife, Maddalena. He does not particularly want another woman in his life, but Hasan succeeds to the Pope’s will. Something that I found very interesting in this chapter was the character of Julius, the Pope’s cousin. He is the one who introduces the girl, however, he also has a great appreciation for Hasan’s travels. As Hasan recounts, “He[Julius] made me swear that one day I should commit an account of my travels to paper, promising to be my most eager reader”(304). I think it is fascinating that people then and now realized the special quality in Hasan’s experiences and travels. The Pope dies, Hasan leaves Rome and has some more adventurous travels, but the most interesting thing to me was the end of the book, again going back to the idea of family. Sociologically speaking, we see here that the family unit was the most important thing in life. After forty years of exciting travel, all Hasan has the desire to do is to “live long peaceful days in the bosom of my family.”(360). We also see in the end, the emphasis on religion. The last line, “towards the final place where no man is a stranger before the face of the Creator”, solidifies Leo Africanus as above all, a man of faith.
One of the questions I have about this book is the idea that Leo Africanus was truly a convert to Christianity. I believe he converted in order to explore and be able to get into the inner workings of Rome. For example, he refused to shave his beard, which is innately an Islamic tradition. Furthermore, he himself seems to never shake off his Islamic education and is remembered throughout history as an “Islamic scholar”.

The other reading for this week was the article “Global Order and the Historical Structures of Dar Al-Islam” by Bamyeh. This focuses on modernization and colonialism, however, Bamyeh uses the principles of previous Islamic “global structures” to demonstrate how globalized Islamic civilization actually was and to hypothesize if this type of system could be used today in the age of globalization. Bamyeh stresses three principles of Islamic civilization that maintained the vitality of the Muslim world: partial control, free movement, and heteroglossia. Throughout the article, he emphasizes the idea that for these principles to function properly and thrive, the authorities of the system should not have enough power to impose “orthodoxies” on the people. Lastly, he supports the claim that current authoritarian states in the Middle East would not be possible if the Islamic system was not weakened by the effects of Western colonialism.
I found Bamyeh’s reading interesting because I had never read anything about the structure of historical Islamic civilization being used as a model for current global systems. Furthermore, I had never come across the term heteroglossia before and found the explanation fascinating. I also thought the concept of the state being just one aspect of the governing system of society was very logical.

Last Chapters of Leo

In the last chapters of Leo Africanus, Leo finds himself married and with child again with a woman named Maddalena. She was from the nunnery but pleaded to get out to the Cardinal which he granted her wishes. During these chapters the Pope passes away which gives rise to a new Pope, Pope Adrian. This new Pope was very against art and sculpture, and demanded that all men be clean shaven. Many people were against the new moves including Hasan, and there were a lot of resistance to the new Pope. His old wife, Nur, writes him about his son which brings tears to Hasan’s eyes. He is caught with a pamphlet that is against the Pope so he is imprisoned. The Pope is then poisoned and dies, and the Cardinal that allowed Maddalena out of the nunnery became the new Pope, Pope Clement. There is conflict between the Turks and France, and Hasan finds a safe haven for his family with a friend. At the end there are plans for Hasan and his family to return back to Tunis.

One thing that I found interesting in these chapters was Pope Adrian’s taste about art. He viewed as a challenge to the creator, creator being God. He views art as blasphemy, because art and sculpting was created for the replica of humans, and he thought that should not be a human’s job. The top of the Sistine Chapel for Adrian was too much to bear. He thought that the naked bodies were against everything the church should stand for. It is interesting for me to think about what would have happened if someone did not poison him and he stayed in power. Would the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel still exist?

Another issue that I have found in whole book is the marriages of Hasan and children he has with these marriages. At the end when Nur writes to him, and he is married to Maddalena, that he is brought to tears. I am surprised that he did not pine for her if he was that in love with her to cry.

leo Africanus 4

Leo Africanus

In this chapter, Hasan was married to a beautiful granadan woman sey up by the Pope. She was raised in a nunnery. Soon after the Pope died and was replaced . Unfortunately he was replaced by a much more conservative puritanic person who then began a crusade against art in Rome. The pope ordered that all men shave, however Hasan will not. After he was founf with an anti-adrian pamphlet, he was put in jail once again. Next, this new horrid Pope was poisoned and replaced by Pope Clement. After much political upset Hasan and his family finally are able to return to Tunis.

It was interesting that Hasan insisted on not shaving his beard. It seems like such a simple thing. Yet he risked his safety and the safety of his family. He kept it because it would have been humiliating. To shave would be the straw that broke the camels back. I would like to think of what I can compare this to today… like what would qualify as an equal idea of not wanting to shave you beard. And is it likely that people would act the same way?

---Dorothy Smith

End of Leo Africanus

The end of the reading of Leo Africanus took place in the time before war. In this time, Science was taking precedence over religion in their culture and agriculture was soon turning into industry. Women began joining the workforce, and this brought on a mass culture of working people. But now, with all of the new information that was entering the world due to discoveries and curiosity, education was getting harder. There was too much information being spread into the culture that people could not handle all of what they were being given. Due to this overwhelming situation, experts began to develop in different fields, specifically, the fields of science.
Science opened even more doors for jobs. With all the previous advancements in world communication and travel, science became more global. The west loved science and in turn created a scientific revolution. However it divided the countries that excelled in science because of technological advancements, because they began creating war weapons and better forms of communication. The east never took a grasp on science because they were too fond of religion. They never developed the way the west did unfortunately for them.

Commentary 11

A Special Report on the Arab World; Waking From its Sleep
The Economist

The Economist’s article, entitled A Special Report on the Arab World; Waking From its Sleep, details exactly that. Arab nations have been in a sleep-like standstill in terms of political power and progression within the world. For approximately two decades, Arabs have been divided between maintaining the currently authoritarian rule versus following the rest of Europe towards unionizing politics and economics. The author describes a persistent lack of freedom, unity, and especially passing of history. What this means is that Arab nations are constantly in wars or at ends with neighboring countries, causing attention on internal development to lose focus.

Subsequently, Al-Qaeda’s influence and terror became quickly rooted within Arab society. This was possibly a result of the abundance of oil, increased conflict with Israel, and a non-democratic government. Another issue is nationalism. Nationalism can be symbolized by a flag to create a sole meaning of identity, but in Arab nations this ironically fragments Arab society.

I like how this article heavily included the impact or the attempted impact of the United States within Arab countries. I find this topic to be very interesting because of its controversial and always debatable sides. Do you think the United States has the right to interject in Arab affairs? What extent is appropriate/ inappropriate? How could the United States help stabilize and improve Arab politics and economy without forcing democratization?

Truth and Utility

(this post is for extra credit)

Recently in a class discussion we talked about what things in a society are necessary for that society to function. The question can be taken one step further: what things in society are absolutely necessary for a global society to function? More specifically, what universals are necessary for our inter-societal exchanges (such as commerce, communication, etc.) to function?

I think that all societies value at least two things (it does not matter if they have knowledge of these things): truth and utility. Further, truth and utility are necessary for inter societal exchanges to work. Truth is easy to explain as being necessary to and valued by societies and relationships between societies (on a global scale). Societies value truth because without truth or honesty, relationships would break down because such relationships require truth. Less circularly, without truth or honesty, we would have no reason to believe or value anything (i.e. no reason to believe a teacher, friend, doctor, business, vendor, product, etc.). The more specific reasons as to why truth is required vary like opinions: philosopher Kant would say that it would be contradictory (irrational) for a society not to place any value on truth; Hume might say that truth is very useful, thus it pleases us, and we do or like things that please us.

Utility is the second requisite that I believe is necessary for a society or a global society to function. Utility is more than just hedonistic pleasure (which is a common conception); it is usfulness, satisfaction, desirability... Economists say that utility varies from person to person, but that it is very important; it is our preferences. (It is important to point out that democracy/peace does not equal a quest for profits.) Without utility, people, and on a larger scale societies would have no reason to interact with one another, because there would be no derivation of utility.

-Stefan Larson

Modern Middle East

A question in the discussion of lecture asked how important the source of oil was to the Middle East and to countries. Obviously, modern Middle East has mainly been a concern for the oil that is available there. According to IAGS 66% of the Middle East regimes are in control of the oil reserves today, the highest being Saudi Arabia of course. Many countries are trying to increase their oil production to take away the Middle East's power over the oil industry. I would say that oil is VERY important for the Middle East because that is one of the main sources of trade it has with most countries, and it's hold over them. In the United States however many companies and such are trying for a new source of energy to over take the oil industry. Although, America is dependent on the Middle East for oil, it is also very abundant in other energy sources that can be cleanly and cheaply used in such activities as fueling our transportations. However, even with the emergence of "other resources" America can still not function properly without oil and/or natural gas in the picture; two resources that we are not wealthy in. An article by Reuters on Thursday November 19, 2009 stated that major oil companies are pressing the issue of oil on Congress. The companies are expressing the interest of opening more offshore areas to drill for oil and natural gas, so that America does not have to depend on outside sources. Even with the rise of energy knowledge, oil and natural gas are going to be very important in our rise of future energy. I believe that America will be relying on the Middle East and elsewhere for oil for a while.

Marriage, Imprisonment, and Homecoming for Leo Africanus

Hasan suddenly finds himself married again at the beginning of the end of his tale. To his surprise and eventual delight, the woman arranged for him by Pope Leo is Granadan. Maddalena is beautiful, intelligent, and has suffered much at the hands of Catholicism during her time raised at a nunnery. Her escape by appealing to Cardinal Julius on his visit there lead to the spread of rumors and the Pope, convinced by the tales due to the Cardinal's lascivious style, turned her over to Hasan to cover up the deed. As Hasan cultivates a loving new family, however, the Pope dies only to be replaced by the Dutchman Adrian, the conservative, puritanic opposite of his predecessor who sets out on a crusade against art and ostentation in Rome. Anti-Adrian activists find Hasan an icon of their resistance for he refuses to shave his beard despite the Pope's mandate that all men be clean-shaven. Eventually he is caught with an opposition pamphlet (which were always being given to him) and he finds himself a prisoner once more, the day just after his decision to join his friend Abbas in Naples. Luckily for Hasan, the Pope is poisoned and replaced by Julius, renamed Pope Clement. Immediately he is needed as counsel regarding the heightening threat of Charles V ever-expanding empire, the growing numbers of Huguenots. Charged with fostering negotiations with France and the Ottoman Turks, he comes in contact with Harun, a representative for the Turks. Despite his efforts, the deaths of the French king and the Italian defender standing between the Huguenots and Rome lead to disaster. Luther's fanatics reach Rome, pillaging and setting it on fire. Trapped in the armory, Hasan finds salvation for his family through Hans, a former student, who gets him to Naples where 'Abbad welcomes them and makes plans for them to finally return home to Tunis.

One of the things I found interesting was how important it was for Hasan to keep his beard, even when it meant risking his own and his family's security. He asks, "Would anyone believe me if I were to say that I was ready to die for my beard that year? And not only for my beard, because all the battles were confused in my mind, as is the Pope's: the beard of the clergy, the naked breasts on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, the statue of Moses..." (315). Although it was accepted in his country not to have one, especially foreigners, it was humiliating to shave one after having it for many years. That something that is merely fashion to us should have such deep significance for Hasan is fascinating. That he should cling with more determination than before is not unimaginable, because as he says, he is surrounded by affronting images to his moral/religious sensibilities, and shaving his beard would seem to be the last straw.

One of the questions in class has been, what are the advantages and disadvantages of reading about history from a first-person account? Do you think that this cultural detail about the significance of the beard is something that we would understand better if we learned about it another way? Is knowing these details important?

The End of Leo Africanus

The last part of this novel deals more with Hasan's journey through life. During the Year of the Conversa he was called to come see the Pope and Cardinal Julius. While there Hasan is informed that there is a young woman whom he is to take as his wife. Her name is Maddalena, and at first he did not want to become her husband instead putting it in God's hands. However after meeting Maddalena and hearing her tell the story of her life, he becomes enchanted with her and even feels a spring of love popping up for her. The next year however the Pope ends up dying of an ulcer and Cardinal Julius was exiled to Florence. The new Pope was a bit less materialistic and book and picture orders were unfilled because he found them a waste of resources. After these turns of events Sulaiman became powerful and stopped the brutal practices of his own father. Hasan eventually got arrested and was thrown in jail for two years after he was found to have pamphlet someone slipped into his pocket while he was at church. After those two years though Guicciardini came to get Hasan out of prison because the Pope apparently wanted to talk to him. Instead of Pope Adrian though Cardinal Julius came into the room. Apparently while in prison Pope Adrian had died and now Julius was in charge. Upon his release from prison he was greeted enthusiastically by a lot of people.

What I found to be interesting about this last part of the book was the foisting of Maddalena onto Hasan like she needed to be given away. I know Cardinal Julius caused a scene when he took her from the convent withput permission, instead just putting her in his carriage and leaving, but I did not understand why they were so anxious for Hasan to take her. Did they want Hasan to take her because she was causing too much of a scandal and Hasan was the first person they thought of to have her, or was there another motivation. Because both the Pope and Cardinal Julius seemed anxious to get rid of her, even saying that Hasan could meet her today, not wasting any time. I just thought that dynamic was interesting.

Maalouf last blog

The last reading of Amin Maalouf’s Leo Africanus takes place from 1525 to 1527 and contains two sections entitled The Year of the Black Bands and The Year of the Lansquents. Leo is introduced to Giovanni de Medici in Bologna, where he learns of his past. Giovanni was the epitome of Italy, commanding an army of venal and generous, tyrannical and lovers of justice, indifferent to death, matching the characteristics of Giovanni himself. He had just entered the Pope’s service that year and he and his troops soon took the name of the Black Bands. Eventually, everyone referred to the man as Giovanni of the Black Bands. Leo travels with Giovanni and his men, the two becoming close along the journey. However, this is short lived. Giovanni is hit by a falconer’s ball and has his leg shattered during battle between the Black Bands and imperial armies from the north. Giovanni has his leg amputated but dies shortly after. Leo gives the man honor stating that he was one of the most courageous men he had ever met. Panic set in all over Rome, and with Giovanni dead it was as if the enemy was about to march through the front gates at any time.

I found the relationship between Giovanni and his son to be quite interesting. Leo was walking towards the Palazz Salviati when he heard the procession of Giovanni drawing close. He was accompanied by forty of his men, making his way down the street when he suddenly called out his son’s name, Cosimo and made his way to his window. The boy appeared, and Giovanni walked underneath the window, drawing his sword and telling his son to jump. Everyone but the two was shocked at what was happening. However, Cosimo jumped into the air and at the last minute, Giovanni puts his sword away and catches him in his arms, then holding him to the sky and asks how his prince had been, which is followed by laughter between Cosimo and his father. It is interesting to see this sort of father son relationship. I was close to my father but we never joked around like that and Giovanni did not spend a lot of time with his boy; today, a son would not be as accepting towards a father who was barely around but Cosimo seems to genuinely love his father.

First impressions sometimes prevent certain people from being given a chance. Giovanni gave the impression of being unpleasant to Leo, but this soon changed once the two spent some time together. My question is do you think being in a position like Giovanni’s would prevent someone from having a joyful, friend filled life or do you think these men accept positions knowing the sacrifice that must be made in order to be in command?


In this week's reading of Leo Africanus, we follow the adventures of Hasan. One of things that most caught my attention was the hanging of the man. It took a three tries before the string held and the man hanged. I found this absolutely shocking, especially considering today's whole moral dilemma with capital punishment. If someone were executed in public, albeit THREE times, there would be an uproar unlike no other. But in that society, it was condoned.

This brings to light the way societies have changed. Due to the different receptions such a scene would get in the book's time and in present time, does that mean we have grown to value human life more? Execution and even the idea of euthanasia is much deliberated in today's society, and even the thought of the electric chair is much debated due to the different voices on either side of the moral scale. Capital punishment is such a touchy subject and goes into the whole idea of religion and morals, but in Hasan's story, it was considered normal and even a spectacle for people to gather to witness.

Times have really changed, huh?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Progression of Science

This section was about the time period leading into the war. Science was progressing and religion lost much attention just as we made the move from agriculture to industry. Math and logic became more abstract. Science grew as an industry and as a mode of thought even though it was harder to teach and harder to learn. It was not possible anymore for one person to know everything, so experts in specific fields grew increasingly prevalent. More people became interested in science as the field opened up to include: psychology, sociology, technology, physics, medicine and others. More opportunities arose in the workforce for people interested in science. Because of progression in communication, transportation, and all other technology advances, science was able to become global. The western portion of the world took nicely to the conversion from religion to science, but the eastern hemisphere was still founded on religion and remained in its ways for the most part. The transformation of the western mind eventually evolved into a revolution that brought about distinguishing factors between core and periphery countries. Imperialism thrived on science with military and technology advancements.

It's hard to imagine what life would be like if this transformation into a more rational mindset had never occurred. The debate of science versus religion is an everlasting argument that has forced me to reconsider what I believe should be the focus or foundation for a society. It's interesting to think about the overlap of science and religion in society and in government.

I also found the cycle of science and society affecting each other and progressing each other to be interesting. Science creates progress; progress requires more science; more people were developing interest in science, creating more teaching, learning, and job opportunities.