Andrew Sullivan Misunderstands Word Jihad

Andrew Sullivan, Founding Editor of The Daily Dish and former editor at The New Republic, responded to Glenn Greenwald’s column criticizing calling the Boston Marathon bombing attacks terrorism based on publicly available knowledge.

And when will they grasp that a religion that does not entirely eschew violence (like the Gospels or Buddhism) will likely produce violence when its extremist loners seek meaning in a bewildering multicultural modern world? This was an act of Jihad. That does not mean we elevate it above crime; it means we understand the nature of the crime. It only makes sense in the context of immediate Paradise, combined with worldly fame. And those convinced of the glories of martyrdom – of going out with a bang – are the hardest of all to stop.

I have two objections to this passage. One, the idea that adherents to Islam are more prone to violence than adherents of Christianity or Buddhism is an assertion that requires evidence.

Second, even if investigations prove that Tamerlane and Dzhokhar deluded themselves into think that they were doing an “act of jihad,” which is a meritorious act in Islam, wishing does not make it so. The vast majority of Muslims, especially religious scholars, have condemned acts of terrorism as hiraba, a term that covers piracy and highway robbery, definitely unmeritorious acts.

So I hope that Mr. Sullivan would at least change the sentence “This was an act of Jihad” to “The brothers thought they were doing an act of Jihad.”


I bought a bar of Strong Dark by Chocolove. It included this love poem inside. The copy included in the bar’s wrapper began at “an enchantress ‘mid embraces.”

Should I criticize Chocolove for using Orientalist imagery? The chocolate bar was good!

“The Talisman” by Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin – Is good flavor an excuse for Orientalism?

Thomas Friedman, Private Eye


“Thomas Friedman, Private Eye.”

[Image via Jillian York]

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Off-the-cuff Review of @PetruPopsecu #ScienceFiction Novel “Almost Adam”

Author Petru Popescu asked me via Twitter about my thoughts regarding his science fiction novel, Almost Adam.

I have not read the novel, but I listened to the abridged audio book.

The litmus test for my audio book experience is whether I get in the car wanting to continue listening or whether I’m falling asleep while I’m driving. I did not drive extra circuitous routes to listen to the book more quickly, but it did engage and entertain me.

Thinking about it, however, the audio book had two main weaknesses. The first is the weak science, and the second is the privileged place of the white man in Africa.

I like hard science fiction, and this book seemed a lot weaker in the science part of evolutionary biology than Greg Bear’s Darwin’s Radio. In fact, it has a similar premise to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Lost World (audio version), namely that geographical isolation could allow archaic species to persist. I am not an evolutionary biologist, so perhaps I underestimated the author’s attempts to merge the protagonist with the survivors of the ancient humanoid species. Another factor could be that the abridged audio book removed all the passages which explain the science supporting the story. For example, Michael Crighton’s book Jurassic Park is great in its discussion of chaos theory, while the movie hardly touches it.

My second objection is obviously political. I’m just tired of white protagonists in Africa. Blood Diamonds. Vampire Empire. Last King of Scotland. Ad nauseum. In many of these stories, the white male protagonist has sex with black African women at will. I could go on-and-on with this theme, but just read Orientalism.

Not trying to condemn Petru Popsecu here. Just giving my gut impressions of something I listened to more than a year ago.

US Security Class and N African-SW Asian Revolutions

This blog entry contains sources I cited and supplemental sources in my talk at the University of South Carolina’s Amnesty International chapter meeting on the Arab Spring.

Arms transfers to North Africa – Southwest Asia

Christians in Egypt

Egyptians providing media content in English

Others providing media content in English

Photos on Flickr


10 things USA activists can do to support the revolutions!