Weekly Links: In the World

Nora Connor: According to Salon’s Wajahat Ali, the conversion of Oliver Stone’s son Sean to Islam last week prompted a worldwide Muslim face-palm. Why, the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims are wondering, can’t we get a convert with more upside? In a nod to one of Dave Chappelle’s best skits, Ali “reports” on the first worldwide celebrity religion draft, wherein the Muslims attempt to free themselves of Shaquille O’Neal and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. If you’re looking to boost your own profile, perhaps by adopting an African country as some sort of goodwill/school building/voice for the voiceless project, this handy chart will help you avoid stepping on any fellow-celebrity toes. Hint: South Africa is Oprah’s. Looks like Gabon, Chad and Equatorial Guinea are still up for grabs, though.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali has identified something that “transcends cultures, regions and ethnicities”: Muslim hatred of Christians, with Nigeria as Exhibit A. Patrick Ryan of RD takes exception to her analysis and many of her facts. Human Rights Watch observes that ordinary citizens of all confessions are suffering in Northern Nigeria, caught between Boko Haram’s attacks and the indiscriminate reactions of Nigerian security forces (also: either HRW’s Eric Gutchuss actually said Nigerian security forces must scrumptiously adhere to the law, or VOA news needs a new copy editor). Meanwhile, other news of Nigeria suggests that there may indeed be a human characteristic that transcends cultures, regions and ethnicities, just not the one Hirsi Ali thinks. Former Halliburton/KBR executive Albert “Jack” Stanley, having been sentenced to 2 ½ years in prison (rather than the recommended seven) explained what led him to orchestrate $180 million in bribes to Nigerian government officials and $10.8 million in kickbacks to himself:

Albert “Jack” Stanley told a federal court on Thursday his decision to bribe Nigerian officials in order to win enormous construction contracts was fueled by “ambition, ego and alcohol.”

Continue Reading →

Good Islam=Clergy, Bad Islam=Crystals

Amy Levin: A controversial religious tradition in Iran you wouldn’t expect to hear about is brewing in the news: occultism–or at least some relative version of it. The narrative arguably begins in medias res, when one of Ayatollah Ali Khameni’s aides accused allies of president Mahmoud Ahmedinejad of engaging in “occult practices.” The aide specifically targeted Ahmedinajad’s chief of staff, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie, who was blamed for “‘bewitching’ the president with magic spells, of having too much influence over him and of leading a “current of deviation” aimed at destroying the Islamic regime.”

As an effort to divert attention away from the accusations, the president launched an attack on occult practices and “nonconformist ideologies.” Continue Reading →