SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – A small, blue Chinese-built electric car lives on a narrow street around the corner from my apartment, in Rome. There is no charging post or electrical outlet nearby. So how does the owner juice up his car? He simply dangles an extremely long cord from his balcony and plugs it in.
That’s how recharging works for almost everyone who owns an electric car or scooter in Rome – an exceedingly small club, smaller even than the number of Roman drivers who stop at crosswalks. And that’s one of the main reasons why the e-car revolution has burnt out before it even started. In old, marginally solvent, tightly-packed European cities like Rome, there’s no way to recharge a battery-powered car and no municipal money to dig up streets to install a charging network.
The e-car revolution was supposed to be a sort of Manhattan Project for Europe, creating hundreds of thousands of new jobs devoted to e-car development, from creating long-life batteries to charging systems that could draw their power from solar or wind energy. Emitting less carbon into the environment was the other big attraction, since Europe takes climate change more seriously than the Americans and Canadians. To be sure, e-cars are not pollution-free. The electricity to recharge the batteries often comes from dirty coal, or natural gas-fired, plants. But an e-car’s construction-to-scrapyard cycle is certainly less carbon-intensive than that of a regular internal combustion car.
Various governments threw billions at e-cars (or e-mobility, to use the bureaucrats’ preferred jargon) and set outlandish targets for e-car sales. In their utopian, smog-free vision, millions of silent, zero-emission vehicles would fill the streets and gasoline- and diesel-powered cars would politely go to rust heaven. Up yours, OPEC.
Now those very same countries are rolling back or killing e-car purchase subsidies and industrial development loans and grants while quietly scaling back e-car use targets. In 2011, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she wanted to see 1 million e-cars on the road by 2020. In early last month, she admitted the goal was impossible and the figure came down to 600,000. Even that may be ambitious.
According to Germany’s Spiegel Online, there are fewer 5,000 battery-powered cars in Germany, a country normally obsessed with green-tinged technology. E-car penetration in the rest of the world is equally negligible. In China, they’re dudsville. China produced 18.5 million cars and commercial vehicles last year of which a mere 9,000 were electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids, according to The Australian newspaper. In the United States, 18,000 electric and plug-in hybrids were sold last year.
Hybrid cars like the Toyota Prius, which combine a gasoline engine with batteries, are the one bright spot on the green-tech spectrum. More than 2 million Priuses have been sold.
E-cars have already become the classic example of “push” industrial policy gone wrong. Governments, and some car makers, notably Nissan, were pushing a technology onto the market that was not ready for prime time. The cars were (and are) way too expensive, the infrastructure – urban and rural recharging stations – virtually non-existent and the battery technology, though improving, was not good enough to eliminate “range anxiety.” The best e-cars have a range of about 100 kilometres, though the marketing bumpf would make you believe it’s longer. If you own an iPhone and your battery is going dead just as you have to download a crucial hunk of data or send an e-mail to an impatient boss, you get the idea. Except e-car batteries can go dead in the middle of winter in the middle of nowhere.
The trickle of e-car sales is all the more unimpressive when you consider the taxpayer loot flung at the industry. Germany has funnelled about €500-million ($640-million) into e-mobility promotion and tens of billions into subsidies for solar and wind energy that, theoretically, could have powered the nation’s bumper-to-bumper fleet of battery-powered cars. In the United States, obscene amounts of money, probably $5-billion (U.S.) or more, has been thrown at battery and e-car development and to three auto makers – Nissan, Tesla and Fisker – to establish e-car production plants.
To be sure, e-cars have enormous potential. But until breakthroughs are made on costs and batteries, and charging networks become extensive, they will remain ultra-fringe products. The one pure battery car that may buck the trend is the tiny new Renault Twizy, a tandem two-seater that is a cross between a scooter and a car. It is not outrageously expensive (partly because you have to rent the battery), is narrow enough to thread its way through traffic like a motorcycle and is light enough to have decent range and acceleration.
The e-car disappointment shows the futility of trying to pick a winning technology, that is, foisting a technology on consumers that don’t want, don’t need or can’t afford it. There was a better way, one that was ignored. Governments instead could have seriously tightened up fuel economy and carbon-dioxide emissions standards and the market would have sorted out which technologies and fuels would have been best suited to achieve that goal. Fuels such as natural gas and ultra-efficient diesel might have competed with fuel cells, hybrids and battery-only cars or an entirely new propulsion system. The internal combustion engine will be around for a long, long time and that’s not entirely the car makers’ fault.— www.shafaqna.com/English
Source: The Globe and Mail
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – We’d understand if you’re skeptical — we are too — and we likely could have written this same title a year ago with no ill effects, but here we are.
According to sources at Pocket-lint, not only is HTC building the Facebook phone — yes, the phone that Zuckerberg says “wouldn’t make much sense” — but it’s in the testing phase, and even has a name. A Qualcomm Snapdragon S4-powered 1.4Ghz dual-core device showed up on the benchmark score site Nenamark last week with the codenamed OperaUL, and it seems that this would be the HTC-built Facebook phone that doesn’t really exist.
The device in question has a 1280×720 resolution screen and an Adreno 305 GPU, which is a lesser version of the Adreno 320 we see in the quad-core Snapdragon S4 Pro SoC. It’s also running Android 4.1.1 at the moment, but with a rumoured release date of mid-2013, you can bet that will change.
It’s also interesting, based on the tepid success of the HTC Status/ChaCha, why Facebook is still taking this phone thing so seriously. While Apple and Samsung have both shown there is money to be made in the industry, most other OEMs would tersely reprimand the young social networking company from even dreaming of entering such a saturated market. Indeed, even Motorola, under the auspices of Google, has yet to turn a profit from its smartphone division.
Whether Facebook would release a phone with these specs in six months from now, when such numbers would be positively entry level, remains to be seen. More interesting is that idea that Facebook plans to branch off Android like Amazon does, filling its own app store with content from its new mobile-focused App Center.
According to the source, the phone was originally intended for release late this year, but for numerous reasons has been delayed until next year to be more competitive.— www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – As a revert to Islam, Eid al-Ghadeer is the one Eid that always has made the most sense to me and has been the most significant in my worldview. Part of me has found Eid al-Fitr tempered by the loss of the holy days of the month of Ramadan, and Eid al-Adha significant if you or a loved one is performing the Hajj, but otherwise less so. But Eid al-Ghadeer has always been special to me, because it is a celebration of the culmination of Islam – a celebration of the very events that first enabled me to know the status of Imam Ali (peace be upon him) and the crucial role of the Ahlul Bayt (peace be upon them) in the preservation of the True Religion so that I, in 1994, had the blessed chance to discover true Islam for myself. It is only because of the Ahlul Bayt that I had that chance – without them, the True Religion would have long ago been lost in corruption and time.
I remember feeling exhausted after becoming Muslim. I had spent a year in intensive research, questioning the entire framework of my existence and engaging in deep self-evaluation so that in the end, I had turned my life upside down and accepted all the conflict and challenges that would bring my way. But I had yet to scratch the surface of Islamic knowledge and had so far yet to go. I had become aware of the sects and divisions between Muslims, much to my sadness. As a Christian, I had been dismayed by all the man-made churches, none of them holding God’s Truth more than any other. I regretted that I might again find nothing in Islam that provided complete access to Reality.
But then, I read about Ghadeer Khum. The more I read, the lighter my burden became. Here was what I had known must exist – the evidence that God had protected His message from corruption. Every time a revelation from God has come down, man has corrupted it. But the Qur'an has survived because God has protected it, and in Ghadeer Khum, I found the means. I felt tears of deep joy and gratitude to find the protectors of the Qur'an, the ones who have lived the real Islam; for without them, I would have no chance of ever finding the truth. I would have remained a deprived wayfarer, unsatisfied with the religions of man’s making.
If I had not been blessed to know about Ghadeer and appreciate the status and role of the Ahlul Bayt, I would have been left very disappointed after my struggle to find the Truth. While I would have gained the clarity of Tawhid (monotheism) that is in Islam, I would yet know I was stuck in a quagmire of man-made distortions that rip apart the Truth and replace it with ignorance and oppression.
In the Qur’an, Allah says, "And hold fast, all together, by the Rope which God (stretches out for you), and be not divided among yourselves; and remember with gratitude God's favor on you; for you were enemies and He joined your hearts in love, so that by His Grace, you became brethren; and you were on the brink of the Pit of Fire, and He saved you from it. Thus does God make His Signs clear to you, that you may be guided." (3:103)
Numerous narrations inform us that the Rope is none other than the blessed Ahlul Bayt.
I feel this verse resonating deep in the very fiber of my existence. Without the Rope, I would have nothing to hold to, no hope for access to God’s Truth. It is a great favor from God for which I owe immeasurable gratitude that I was able to find this Rope and try with my best effort to cling to it. I cling to this Rope with the love of the Ahlul Bayt, who made my journey to Islam possible,and who have provided me the means to hope for progress on the journey of Truth and salvation from the fire of hell.
The Ahlul Bayt have given me, and have given all of us, the chance to realize our potentials, the ability to hope, and the opportunity for the complete peace that can only be found in one who has glimpsed the Truth. Therefore, the Eid of Ghadeer is the most joyous and meaningful Eid to me. It is the Eid of hope and opportunity for all of us. May Allah bless Muhammad and the Family of Muhammad with His greatest blessings and grant them the most fulfilling peace, and may more and more of humanity come to realize the great gift given to all of us when Allah perfected religion by securing the role of the Ahlul Bayt at Ghadeer Khum.— www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — In Djibouti, a small East African country on the Gulf of Aden, the United States launches killer drones that strike in Yemen, Somalia, and elsewhere. Last spring, as one of the drones sat on a runway, it suddenly came alive "without any human direction, even though the ignition had been turned off and the fuel lines closed," the Washington Post reports. "Technicians concluded that a software bug had infected the 'brains' of the drone, but never pinpointed the problem." It's an anecdote that underscores how easily things can go wrong as America rapidly expands drone fleets and missions. It isn't just that drones are frequently crashing, sometimes on urban neighborhoods in the part of the world where John Brennan, the top counterterrorism adviser to President Obama, says that he's been most successful controlling the unmanned program. It's that a drone there isn't or wasn't entirely under the control of its minders!
With that in mind, let's turn to Pakistan, where America has carried out more drone strikes than anywhere else. Remarkably, the man who has more power than anyone save Obama over America's kill list has unwittingly made an air-tight argument that the drone war, as presently waged, is deeply problematic. That's what I gleaned from a close reading of the three-part Washington Post series on kill lists, which quotes Brennan and others familiar with his thinking at length.
Start with this passage (emphases added):
Brennan is leading efforts to curtail the CIA's primary responsibility for targeted killings. Over opposition from the agency, he has argued that it should focus on intelligence activities and leave lethal action to its more traditional home in the military, where the law requires greater transparency.
So Brennan believes CIA drone strikes lack sufficient transparency. In addition:
There are many associates who use the words "moral compass" to describe his role in the White House. It is Brennan, they say, who questions the justification for each drone attack, who often dials back what he considers excessive zeal by the CIA and the military, and who stands up for diplomatic and economic assistance components in the overall strategy. Brennan's bedrock belief in a "just war," they said, is tempered by his deep knowledge of the Middle East, Islam and the CIA, and the critical thinking forged during a classic Jesuit education.
So Brennan regularly deems the CIA too eager to kill.
But at least he's always there to rein them in, right?
Unlike in Yemen, where the Obama Administration built "its own counterterrorism infrastructure," the Pakistani drone program "was always considered an initiative of the previous administration," Karen DeYoung writes, providing context for this noteworthy passage:
Eventually, Obama and Brennan decided the program was getting out of hand. High-value targets were becoming elusive, accusations of civilian deaths were rising, and strikes were increasingly directed toward what the angry Pakistanis called mere "foot soldiers." But with Pakistan's adamant refusal to allow U.S. military operations on its soil, taking what was considered a highly successful program out of CIA hands was viewed as counterproductive and too complicated. Although CIA strikes in other countries and military strikes outside Afghanistan require Obama's approval, the agency has standing permission to attack targets on an approved list in Pakistan without asking the White House.
As is clear from other reporting, some or all of these are "signature strikes," in which the CIA doesn't itself know the identities of the people that it is killing with Hellfire missiles shot from the sky.
Let's review. According to Brennan, transparency concerns alone suggest that the military rather than the CIA should wage America's drone war. In addition, the CIA is so zealous about lethal drone strikes that Brennan regularly reins them in when he reviews their kill wish list. But the CIA is nevertheless permitted to operate without White House oversight in Pakistan.
The program is imprudent by the logic of the most senior counterterrorism adviser in America! He agrees with several of the most significant critiques that Obama Administration critics set forth! As if the passages above leave any doubt about it, the Washington Post series also includes this:
Some intelligence officials said Brennan has made little substantive effort to shift more responsibility to the military. But Brennan and others described a future in which the CIA is eased out of the clandestine-killing business, and said the process will become more transparent under Defense Department oversight and disclosure rules. Said Brennan: "I think the president always needs the ability to do things under his chief executive powers and authorities, to include covert action." But, he added, "I think the rule should be that if we're going to take actions overseas that result in the deaths of people, the United States should take responsibility for that."
This is a guy who is universally considered to be Obama's most trusted adviser on counterterrorism, and particularly drone strikes. He is privy to all of the intelligence. He is said to share the president's thinking on these subjects more than anyone else. Ponder what it means that this man has reached the same judgment as every drone-war critic that shouts about how America's targeted killing program is overzealous, excessively secretive, and unaccountable. Even the man with more power over it than any other fears the parts beyond his control.
Others apparently agree:
"Do I want this system to last forever?" a senior official said. "No. Do I think it's the best system for now? Yes."
"What is scary," he concluded, "is the apparatus set up without John to run it."
In other news, "Republican Mitt Romney has edged ahead of President Obama in the new Washington Post-ABC News national tracking poll, with the challenger winning 50 percent of likely voters for the first time in the campaign." And "even if Obama is reelected, Brennan may not stay for another term."— www.shafaqna.com/English
Source: The Atlantic
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — By now you’re probably familiar with Humble Bundles. The short version of the story is that they’re bundles of digital goods which are sold for at least one cent, but at a “pay what you want” scheme. The money is then divvied between the creators, the Humble groups and charitable organizations. The latest of these, The Humble eBook Bundle, has just crossed $1 million in sales and still has three days left until the close of the deal.
This particular bundle is notable because it includes works by some favorites of Internet culture, including Neil Gaiman, xkcd and Boing Boing’s Cory Doctorow. With a starting price tag of just $13.84, purchasers have gotten their hands onto 8 books. Going even one cent above that mark unlocks five more.
The Humble eBook Bundle’s chosen charities are the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Child’s Play Charity and Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America.
So even if your weekend reading list is already full up, do some good and grab some great works. For the cost of two cups of coffee you could have weeks of great reading while supporting worthwhile causes.— www.shafaqna.com/English
Source: The Next Web
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) —This infographic is a collaboration between GOOD and Other Means, with support from MTV
As the election season kicks off, GOOD and MTV want to cut past all the blustering, pontificating, and finger pointing to get to the heart of some of the most important issues that America is facing today. Join us every other Wednesday for the next two months, when we'll be graphically exploring through interactive infographics what goes behind the nation's key issues.
Last time, we looked at energy independence, job creation, student debt, immigration, and healthcare. This week's issue explores national security and how safe Americans feel today. What do we spend on homeland security and defense and are they still a priority for Americans? How does each candidate view America's defensive strategy in places like Syria and Iran? Find the answers and more here.— www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — The Holy Prophet of Islam (peace be upon him and his progeny) said: "In the event that Ali would not have been created, there would have been no one worthy to be Fatima's spouse."
A Marriage Made in Heaven
The extraordinary virtues of Lady Fatima (peace be upon her) on one hand, her blood relations with the Prophet on the other hand, and the nobility of her family furthermore, caused many of the high-ranking supporters of the Prophet to propose to her; but all heard negative answers. Each time, the Prophet would usually answer them, saying: "Her matter is in the hands of her Lord."
The strangest case was the proposal of Abdul Rahman ibn Awf. A rich man who, by the customs of Age of Ignorance, looked at everything through the viewing window of materialism, he visualized a heavy dowry as a sign of the woman's personal status and the superior position of the husband. He came to see the Prophet, saying: "If you will give Fatima to me in marriage, I will make her a dower of one hundred camels with loads of precious material from Egypt, along with 10000 Dinars in gold!"
The Prophet was so displeased with this meaningless proposal that he took a handful of gravel and threw it towards Abdul Rahman and said: "You thought that I was a servant of money and wealth that you are expressing pride in your money and wealth!" (Tezkerat al-Khawas)
Indeed, in Lady Fatima's marriage proposal Islamic examples must be defined, the customs of ignorance suppressed, and the standards of Islamic values made clear.
The people were speaking of these very things when suddenly it was heard everywhere that the Prophet wished to give his only daughter to Ali ibn Abi Talib (peace be upon him) in marriage. Imam Ali did not have access to worldly wealth and possessions, nor did he possess any of the standards of the Age of Ignorance; rather, instead he was from head to toe full of faith and real Islamic values. Indeed, this blessed historical marriage was a heavenly revelation, because the Prophet himself said: "An angel of God came to me and told me that God sends you greetings and says: 'I have made Fatima the wife of Ali ibn Abi Talib in the highest heavens already, so you should also marry her to him on earth.'" (Dhakair al-Abqa)
When Imam Ali went to the Prophet with his marriage proposal for Lady Fatima, his face was red with shyness. When the Prophet saw him, he became cheerful and smiled, asking him why he had come. But Imam Ali, because of the imposing presence of the Prophet, could not put forth his wish and, as such, remained silent.
Aware of Imam Ali's intentions, the Prophet said: "Maybe you have come for marriage proposal of Fatima?" He replied: "Yes, I have come for that very purpose." The Prophet said: "Ali, before you, other men had come for proposal of Fatima. Whenever I informed Fatima of this matter, she would not show her approval. Right now, let me inform her of this conversation."
It is true that the marriage was heavenly and must take place. But especially because of the high status of Lady Fatima, and to demonstrate the respect and freedom of women in choosing their husbands, it was necessary that the Prophet of Islam should not go ahead in this matter without the consent of Lady Fatima.
When the Prophet described the virtues of Imam Ali for his daughter, he said: "I wish to make you the wife of the best of God's creation. What is your opinion?" Lady Fatima, who was submerged in shyness and modesty, lowered her head saying nothing and denying nothing. The Prophet raised his head and spoke this historical sentence, which is a proof for Islamic jurists today in relation to the marriage of previously unmarried girls: "God is the Greatest! Her silence is the proof of her agreement."
Following these events, the marriage contract was concluded by the Holy Prophet.
Lady Fatima's Dowry
It is without doubt that the marriage of the Best of Men in the world with the Princess of the World's Women must in every way be an example – one for all centuries and ages. Therefore, the Prophet turned to Imam Ali and asked: "Do you have something to stipulate as your wife's dowry?" He replied: "May my parents be your sacrifice, as you well know, my belongings consist of nothing more than my sword, armor, and a camel." The Prophet said: "That is right. Your sword is needed during battles with the enemies of Islam. And you must water your palm orchards with your camel and also use it on journeys. Therefore, you may only stipulate your armor as your wife's dowry – and I give in my daughter Fatima to you against this very armor." (Ihqaq al-Haq)
This is one side of the story, but on the other side we read in narrations that Lady Fatima asked her father to make her dowry her ability to intercede for the wrongdoers of the nation on the Day of Resurrection. This request was granted, and Gabriel revealed this command to the Prophet from Heaven. (Akhbaru Duwal)
The materialistic simplicity and spiritual magnificence of Lady Fatima's dowry is an example for all of humanity. It is an example of how incorrect values must be torn down and replaced with pure values, of the custom of faithful men and women, and of the way of life for the true leaders of God's servants.
Lady Fatima's Trousseau
For much of society throughout time, the dowry, trousseau, and wedding ceremony have been the three expensive formalities placed before families, with the traces of its rain of adversity remaining with the couple until the end of their lives. Sometimes verbal disputes or bloody fights have arisen as a result of these matters. In the end, whatever wealth we may have is wasted because of our imitations of one another and our tasteless, childish rivalry.
To this day, traces of those ignorant thoughts are not rare in those who speak of Islam. Yet this dowry in itself – the trousseau of the Lady of Islam – must be a model for all. This might be surprising, but the Prophet ordered that Imam Ali's armor be sold and the money brought to him, which amounted to about 500 dirham.
The Prophet divided this money into three parts: one part he gave to Bilal to buy a nice scented perfume and the other two parts were put aside for buying clothes and household goods. It is clear how simple and cheap these goods must have been, to have been bought with such an insignificant amount of money. In historical records, it has been written that the trousseau bought with this money consisted of 18 items, of which the most important are listed below:
One large scarf for four dirham
One piece of dress material for one dirham
One bed made of wood and palm leaves
Four pillows of sheep skin filled with a sweet smelling grass called Azkhar
One woolen curtain
One hand mill
One leather water-skin
One copper wash-tub
One large container for milking
One large green-colored earthen pitcher
These things accounted for most of the trousseau of the Lady of the Women of the Universe.
The Wedding Ceremony
This ceremony took place for the establishment of a family, by which an important part of Islam's history was changed, and by which the pure successors of the Prophet would all come into existence. The Prophet executed such a program that his enemies became jealous and his friends became proud! His actions urge others to ponder and even act upon it.
Lady Umm Salamah and Lady Umm Ayman – two virtuous women of Islam and had great affection for the noble Lady Fatima Zahra – came to the Prophet of Islam and said: "O honorable Prophet of God! Indeed, if Khadija (peace be upon her) were alive, she would really be happy with the convening of Fatima's wedding ceremony, isn't that so?"
Tears came into the eyes of the Messenger of God upon hearing the name of that devoted Lady, and he began remembering all of the kindness and generosity of Khadija, saying: "Where can a woman be found like Khadija? Those days when all of the people denied me, she confirmed me, placing all of her wealth and life in my hands for spreading of God's religion. She was the very lady whom God ordered me to inform that an emerald castle will be granted to her in the exalted Heavens."
When she heard this, Umm Salamah said: "O Messenger of God, may my parents be your sacrifice! Whatever you say about Khadija is the truth, but at any rate, she welcomed God's invitation and has rushed to the vicinity of His Mercy. Hopefully, God will house her in the best place in Heaven. But, the matter for which we have come to your blessed presence is something else, and that being this: your brother and cousin, Ali, wishes you to permit him to take his wife Fatima to his home, and in this way bring order to his life."
The Prophet asked: "Why didn't Ali bring this proposal to me himself?" Umm Salamah replied: "Shyness and modesty prevented him." Here, the Prophet told Umm Ayman: "Go and tell him to come here."
Imam Ali came and sat before the Prophet, but his head was lowered out of shyness. The Prophet said: "Do you wish to take your wife home?" While his head was still lowered, Imam Ali said: "Yes, may my parents be your sacrifice."
What is interesting to note is that, contrary to what is usual among those people who worship opulence and who begin planning months ahead of this ceremony, the Prophet happily said: "I will arrange for it either tonight or tomorrow night." Right then he gave the orders to arrange for the preparation of a very simple celebration that was full of spirituality and holiness.
As for the formalities of this heavenly celebration and its ceremonies, it was conducted so simply and without trouble that hearing about it is quite astonishing for us these days.
Imam Ali said: "A bit of the money from the armor I had sold previously had been given to Umm Salamah for safekeeping, and during the nuptial ceremony, the Prophet took ten dirham from her and gave it to me, saying: 'Buy some oil, dates, and kashk with this money.' I did this. Then the Prophet himself rolled up his sleeves and mixed these things together with his own hands, preparing a meal and serving the people with this very food.
"Then he said, 'O Ali, invite whomever you wish.' I left for the mosque where many companions of the Prophet were gathered. I said, 'Answer the Prophet's invitation.' They arose and headed together towards the Prophet. I told the Prophet that they were a large crowd; he covered the food with a sheet and said: 'Show them in, ten at a time', and so I did. The people kept going in, eating, and leaving, all the while the food seemed unabated. In all, seven hundred men and women ate from that (date and yogurt) dish with the Prophet's blessing."
At the end of the ceremony, when all of the people had returned to their homes and the house became empty, the Prophet of Islam placed Lady Fatima on his left side and Imam Ali on his right and wished them good luck by spraying a bit of sacred saliva from his mouth on both Lady Fatima and Imam Ali and prayed for them, saying: "O Allah! They are of me, and I am of them. O Lord! Just as you removed every kind of filth and impurity from me, also remove it from them, rendering them pure." Then he said: "Get up and go home. May God bless both of you." (Tarikh al-Zahra)
Those who seek the material world and the weak believers who are under the influence of the material world's sparkle, who see a family's respect, honor, status, blessings and grandeur of the wedding ceremony in backbreaking, oppressive formalities and luxurious objects should examine this example and learn a lesson. They should see and gain inspiration from this event that is a lesson in humanity, and is the substance of the happiness of all boys and girls. Learn about and act upon the Islamic teachings in a practical way, as seen in the events of the proposal, dowry, trousseau, and wedding of Lady Fatima Zahra in the annals of history.— www.shafaqna.com/English
Source: Islamic Insights
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — During the Cold War Washington and Moscow constructed the barricades that made for what Alexander Solzhenitsyn called “a world split apart.”
Today, there are still many issues on which the U.S. and the West stand on opposite sides of the barricade from Russia. Now, however, the twilight socialist-capitalist ideological struggle is absent. The only ideological aspect to new divergence (and competition of interests) is external to the immediate Russia-West relationship––and is “religious” not economic.
Specifically, it consists of the Islamist theo-ideology and the growing polarization between Sunnis and Shias across the Muslim world. While the U.S. and the West tend to come down on the side of the Sunnis, Moscow tends to side with Shia Iran, its allies in Syria, and the Shia opposition in Bahrain. This trap is complicating efforts to coordinate Western and Russian policy on the revolutionary situation in the Muslim world in addition to the related global jihadi revolutionary alliance.
Iran and more recently Syria have become foci in this divergence of views. Originally, and for several reasons, Moscow was less than sanguine about revolutions in both Shia Iran and Sunni Arab countries like Egypt and Libya. First, they have been hesitant about Western-led “humanitarian interventions” because they tend to enhance Western power––often at the expense of Moscow’s power. Equally important in Moscow’s calculus, however, is that Shia and secular regimes like Mubarak’s Egypt, Qadaffi’s Libya, and Assad’s Baathist Syria are seen as bulwarks against Sunni Islamism, which would become more emboldened with the resources of state or states’ power behind them.
Moscow is concerned that humanitarian intervention and ‘Arab spring’ revolutions targeting these regimes could create a jihadist blowback. Russia’s North Caucasus is plagued by a growing jihadi terrorist insurgency (the so-called Caucasus Emirate) with links to the global jihadi revolutionary movement represented by Al Qa`ida, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, Islamic Jihad Union, and other groups. To a lesser extent even more moderate Tatarstan and Bashkortostan and Russia’s neighboring Central Asia are experiencing jihadist and Islamist violence. In such circumstances, Moscow is wary about moves that could undermine these regimes and make matters worse in the Muslim world. Believe it or not, matters could be and are likely to get much worse there in coming years.
Instructive from Moscow’s point of view is the U.S. intervention in Afghanistan and its impending withdrawal which risks a possible revival of the Taliban regime with an upsurge in jihadi activity in the above mentioned regions of, and around Russia. Islamist regimes in Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, and Libya paint an even darker picture. With these, and perhaps further developments, the Caucasus Emirate’s prospects for success become less bleak and Moscow’s security challenges multiply and become more complex. Even in pre-Arab ‘spring’ circumstances, much financial, material, and personnel support made its way from Sunni-populated countries to the Caucasus Emirate mujahedin. Despite vailed threats, Iran is unlikely to be able to have any leverage, no less the same leverage that Sunni Islamist regimes can have over Sunni Islamists and jihadists.
Therefore, the Sunni states’ efforts to parlay the opposition in Syria into an overthrow of Shia Iran’s key ally, along with Moscow’s reluctance to support Western and Sunni efforts to at least mediate the conflict (if not engineer a Sunni takeover) have led to rising tensions between Russia and Saudi Arabia.
Now, with Moscow’s initial opposition to UN resolutions on Syria, much of the impetus created by Moscow’s Arab gambit has dissipated. Riyadh is charging Russia with opposing itself to the Sunni world, allying itself with an Iranian-Syrian-Iraqi-Hizbullah axis, rejecting Syria’s Sunni majority, and adopting the Assad regime and its positions. For its part, the Russian Foreign Ministry issued a communiqué on March 2nd accusing Saudi Arabia of supporting terrorism in Syria and announced plans to refer the matter to UN institutions responsible for fighting terrorism \[H. Varulkar, “Rising Tensions between Saudi Arabia, Russia on Backdrop of Syrian Crisis,” Inquiry & Analysis Series Report No. 820, Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), April 2012].
In response to Sunni and Western criticism that Russia has sided with the Shia world versus a supposed Sunni demand for democracy, Moscow began to charge the West with backing Sunni leaders, most notably in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. Russian media and even some officials were critical of continuing U.S. and Saudi support for Bahrain’s monarchy in the face of Shia protests during the so-called Arab spring.
Russian state media has reminded everyone that the House of Saud was using U.S.-supplied weapons when it stepped in to help Bahrain put down Shia demonstrations last year and noted Washington’s extension of military supply agreements with Bahrain after the crisis. In short, Moscow was attempting to expose Western and Sunni (in particular Saudi hypocrisy) in which the latter has opposed weapons sales to Syria but make them to Bahrain and have supported or at least ignored their suppression in Sunni monarchies like Bahrain and Yemen.
Of course, much of the Western and Sunni criticism of Russia’s position on Iran and Syria is overstated. Moscow has voted along with its fellow UN Security Council members on several resolutions dealing with Syria, and it has played a much more constructive role on Iran’s nuclear weapons program than is generally understood.
Recently, Russia’s second-largest bank, VneshTorgBank (VTB) quietly closed the bank accounts of the Iranian embassy in Moscow in compliance with recent U.S. laws (Avi Jorisch, “How Moscow Is Helping to Solve the Iran Problem,” Moscow Times, 12 April 2012). Prior to that Russia has joined in other sanction efforts against Iran, horsetrading for some softening albeit in the bargain. Moscow signed the UN Security Council Resolution 1929 in 2010 that imposed harsher sanctions on Iran after it refused to comply with previous UN resolutions regarding its nuclear weapons program. It also supported the blacklisting of Iran by Financial Action Task Force, of which Russia is a member, as a “high risk and noncooperative jurisdiction,” which will help to enforce these and any future sanctions against Teheran.
Similarly, Moscow’s suspicions regarding Western and Sunni intentions are overdrawn. The Kremlin is beginning to understand that Assad’s overreaction to the early protests pushed the situation out of control and provides the basis for Western and Sunni involvement in the crisis. In addition, Moscow recriminations regarding Western and Sunni support for authoritarian regimes in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Yemen are equally as hypocritical given Moscow’s comfort with similar regimes in Central Asia, Iran, Belarus, and elsewhere.
Moscow’s Shia gambit, albeit limited, is a risky venture. By siding with Shia Iran and its main ally, Assad’s Syria, against the Sunni Arab world, it invites a much greater involvement of Sunnis in the North Caucasus and the rest of Russia. Afterall, it was the involvement of the Sunni Al Qa`ida and its and Saudi Arabia’s various philanthropic organizations that helped plant the seed of Sunni jihadism in the North Caucasus by providing fighters, trainers, theo-ideologists, funding, weapons, and theo-ideological framework in the mid-1990s. That seed gradually blossomed into a full-fledged Sunni jihadi terrorist insurgency by the early 200s, producing the Caucasus Emirate in 2007. Indeed, some of the Saudi media invoked Chechnya and the North Caucasus in criticizing Russia’s Syria policy. Jasser 'Abd Al-'Aziz Al-Jasser, columnist for the Saudi daily Al-Jazirah, wrote: “These are the same claims the Russians made in supporting the Serbian rule in Yugoslavia and in justifying the murder of Muslims in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which only ended with NATO's military intervention. The Russians do not want the Muslims to rule their own countries and to break free of the minority governments that sustain themselves through killing and oppression – as the Russians themselves do in Chechnya and the Caucasus, where the Muslim majority is subject to a Russian minority that rules it with fire and the force of arms” (Varulkar, “Rising Tensions between Saudi Arabia, Russia on Backdrop of Syrian Crisis”).
Now Moscow risks standing on the other side of the barricades from not just Sunni jihadists but more traditional Sunnis as well. The latter, like Russia’s traditional Hanafis and Qadiriya Sufis, despite their own shortcomings, remain a more moderate bulwark against the global jihadi revolutionary alliance. The Russian perception that all jihadists are Wahhabis is also a barrier, given the Wahhabi influence among Arabian Peninsula Sunnis. Moscow would do well to remember that Salafi trends are strong among Sunnis (and some Shias) far from Riyadh and across the Muslim world. Sunni Salafis from (or educated in) Pakistan, Egypt, the Maghreb, Africa proper, and Central Asia, have helped to spread jihadism in the North Caucasus.
Although Iranian willingness to support the Caucasus Emirate’s Sunni mujahedin cannot be entirely excluded, it remains unclear whether they would possess sufficient leverage in the region given the small number of Shias in the North Caucasus. In addition, Teheran would be risking the ire of predominantly Shia Azerbaijan, which could turn the tables on Iran and foment Azeri separatism in Iran.
Moscow’s diplomatic offensive among Sunni states, in particular Saudi Arabia, from a few years ago, seemed to hold greater promise. To be sure, the monarchies are doomed and appear incapable of engineering a transition to either democracy or to an authoritarianism sufficiently soft to undercut Islamists during the first wave of regime transformation in the Muslim world. This will put Moscow, the West, and Israel in the crosshairs of some truly horrendous Islamist regimes. Therefore, the longer secular and monarchical regimes can hold off the Islamists, the better. This gives time and hope for a moderately revolutionary outcome.
Unfortunately, the myriad of cross-cutting interests and values that messily make each country’s foreign policy, complicates – if it does not ultimately confound – the formation and execution of a coordinated multilateral (West, Russia, and others) policy. One is needed to deal with such multifaceted and unpredictable political phenomena as societal and regime transformations, revolutions, religious extremism, and terrorism.
Moscow’s recent compromises on Syria and Iran, plus the high level of U.S.-Russian cooperation in the war against jihadism globally, offers some hope that all anti-jihadi forces will ultimately operate on the same side of the barricade.— www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) —1. Dura-Europos church
The Dura-Europos church is the earliest identified Christian house church. It is located in Dura-Europos in Syria and dates from 235 AD. The site of Dura-Europos, a former city and walled fortification, was excavated largely in the 1920s and 1930s by French and American teams. Within the archaeological site, the house church is located by the 17th tower and preserved by the same defensive fill that saved the nearby Dura-Europos synagogue (Wikipedia).
The designation of the oldest church in the world requires careful use of definitions, and must be divided into two parts, the oldest in the sense of oldest surviving building, and the oldest in the sense of oldest Christian church congregation. Even here, there is the distinction between old church buildings that have been in continuous use as churches, and those that have been converted to other purposes; and between buildings that have been in continuous use as churches and those that were shuttered for many decades. In terms of congregations, they are distinguished between early established congregations that have been in continuous existence, and early congregations that ceased to exist (Wikipedia).
2. Megiddo church
Megiddo church in Tel Megiddo, Israel is one of the oldest church buildings ever discovered by archaeologists, dating to the 3rd century AD. In 2005, Israeli archaeologist Yotam Tepper of Tel-Aviv University discovered the remains of a church, believed to be from the third century, a time when Christians were still persecuted by the Roman Empire. The remains were found at the Megiddo Prison, which is located a few hundred meters south of the Tel. Among the finds is an approx. 54-square-metre (580 sq ft) large mosaic with a Greek inscription stating that the church is consecrated to “the God Jesus Christ.” The mosaic is very well preserved and features geometrical figures and images of fish, an early Christian symbol (Wikipedia).
3. Monastery of Saint Anthony
The Monastery of Saint Anthony is a Coptic Orthodox monastery standing in an oasis in the Eastern Desert of Egypt. Hidden deep in the Red Sea mountains, it is located 334 km (207 miles) southeast of Cairo. It is one of the oldest monasteries in the world, and was established by the followers of Saint Anthony, who is considered to be the first ascetic monk. The Monastery of St. Anthony is one of the most prominent monasteries in Egypt and has strongly influenced the formation of several Coptic institutions, and has promoted monasticism in general. Several patriarchs have been pulled from the monastery, and several hundred pilgrims visit it each day (Wikipedia).
4. Saint-Pierre-aux-Nonnains basilica
Saint-Pierre-aux-Nonnains basilica is a historic church building in Metz, France that was built in 380 AD and is one of the oldest churches in Europe. The building was originally built to be part of a Roman spa complex, but the structure was converted into use as a church in the 7th century becoming the chapel of Benedictine monastery. A new nave was constructed in the 1000s with further interior renovations. In the 16th century the building became a warehouse and remained so until the 1970s when it was restored and opened for concerts and exhibitions (Wikipedia).
5. Church of Our Lady Mary of Zion
Church of Our Lady Mary of Zion of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church is the most important church in Ethiopia. The original church is believed to have been built during the reign of Ezana, the first Christian emperor of Ethiopia, during the 4th century AD, and has been rebuilt several times since then. The church is in the town of Axum in the Tigray Province. Its first putative destruction occurred at the hands of Queen Gudit during the 10th century. Its second, confirmed, destruction occurred in the 16th century at the hands of Ahmad ibn Ibrihim al-Ghazi, after which it was rebuilt by the Emperor Gelawdewos, then further rebuilt and enlarged by Fasilides during the 17th century (Wikipedia).
6. Cathedral of Trier
Cathedral of Trier is a church in Trier, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany. It is the oldest cathedral in the country. The edifice is notable for its extremely long life span under multiple different eras each contributing some elements to its design, including the center of the main chapel being made of Roman brick laid under the direction of Saint Helen, resulting in a cathedral added on to gradually rather than rebuilt in different eras. Its dimensions, 112.5 by 41 m, make it the largest church structure in Trier. Since 1986 it has been on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites (Wikipedia).
7. Church of Saint Simeon Stylites
The Church of Saint Simeon Stylites is a well preserved church that dates back to the 5th century, located about 30 km northwest of Aleppo, Syria. It is built on the site of the pillar of St. Simeon Stylites, a famed hermit monk. It is popularly known as Qalat Seman the ‘Fortress of Simeon’ (Wikipedia).
8. Hagia Sophia
Hagia Sophia is a former Orthodox patriarchal basilica, later a mosque, and now a museum in Istanbul, Turkey. From the date of its dedication in 360 until 1453, it served as the cathedral of Constantinople, except between 1204 and 1261, when it was converted to a Roman Catholic cathedral under the Latin Patriarch of Constantinople of the Western Crusader established Latin Empire. The building was a mosque from 29 May 1453 until 1934, when it was secularized. It was opened as a museum on 1 February 1935 (Wikipedia).
9. Saint Catherine’s Monastery, Mount Sinai
Saint Catherine’s Monastery, Mount Sinaiies on the Sinai Peninsula, at the mouth of a gorge at the foot of Mount Sinai in Saint Katherine city in Egypt. The monastery is Orthodox and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. According to the UNESCO report (60100 ha / Ref: 954), this monastery is one of the oldest working Christian monasteries in the world together with the Monastery of Saint Anthony, situated across the Red Sea in the desert south of Cairo, also lays claim to that title (Wikipedia).
10. Church of the Nativity
The Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem is one of the oldest continuously operating churches in the world. The structure is built over the cave that tradition marks as the birthplace of Jesus of Nazareth, and thus it is considered sacred by Christians. The site is also revered by followers of Islam (Wikipedia).
Source: The Wondrons Design Magazine
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — One of the ways we simulate making a phone call is to hold our thumb to our ear, and with our pinkie to our mouth like a microphone. Well if you’d rather be seen doing that while walking down the street, instead of having a Bluetooth headset stuck in your ear, then this Hi-Call glove by Hi-Fun might be worth checking out.
Spotted at IFA by the folks at Macitynet, the Hi-Call gloves feature a battery, microphone, speaker and Bluetooth radio integrated into them. According to its manufacturer, it will allow for around three hours of talk time and up to 20 hours of standby time. No word on pricing but according to Macitynet who spoke to Hi-Fun, the Hi-Call gloves will be made available sometime in October. So, any takers?—www.shafaqna.com/English