... in islam

Sharia exam (why is copying called stealing even though the original does not disappear?)

23 Oct 2007 | 407 words | amsterdam islam file sharing piracy copyright

Since i am going to iran in less than two weeks i thought it might be useful to go take the sharia exam at paradiso tonight. but as i was kind of late, i did not get a chance to participate (no more voting machines). the whole thing was about screening recordings of questions posed to TV imams (like Yusuf al-Qaradawi) who have shows on arabic TV stations such as Al Jazeera. After a questions was shown you would be given three possible answers and had to decide which of the three answers would be given by the imam (typical questions are something like ‘is it allowed to kiss my husband while i am fasting?’ with ‘yes, the prophet did this himself’, ‘no, humans are too easily tempted for more intimate conduct’ and ‘yes, but only on the cheek’ as possible answers’).

Both questions and answers were highly entertaining and it is hilarious to see how blunt these TV imams are: generally someone would pose questions in third person (‘my friend has not been doing his prayers since….’) and the imam or TV anchor person would respond by directly addressing the caller (‘so you have not been doing your prayers…’).

After the show there was the possibility to pose questions to 4 locals imams which made me go and ask 2 of them if downloading/copying things from the internet is considered equally bad as stealing (which clearly is considered to be haram). the first imam (Yassin el Forkani) expressed the opinion that this can only be considered stealing if it is done while there are other ways to obtain the work that do respect the interest of the author to get paid (e.g if i am downloading a film that is not available legally, it is ok, even if the film is protected by copyright). guess this means that there would be no orphan works problematic under sharia law.

Now unfortunately the other imam was of a slightly different opinion, as according to him downloading/copying is haram if it violates other peoples copyright regardless if there is actual harm being done to them. Sounds a bit strange to me to make the interpretation of the sharia depended on local copyright legislation, but then the guy works as imam for the Dutch prison service so i guess he values local law a bit more than your average imam. Guess i will stick with the first interpretation for now…

One Friday

01 Nov 2006 | 236 words | england islam migration xenophobia media terrorism

The Guardian is running quite an impressive piece titled ‘One Friday‘ on its website today [i know that it is wednesday today but then those brits drive on the wrong side of the road and are generally confused when it comes to just about every measurement, so this not all too shocking]:

Criticised for their beliefs, clothing and attitudes; accused of not being British enough; reviled as the enemy within – not a day passes without Muslims being attacked in the media. So how does it feel to be Muslim in Britain today? Guardian writers asked people around the country – from a rear admiral to an organic farmer, a rapper to a gay rights campaigner, an accountant to a niqab-wearing teacher – to tell us how they spent last Friday. A G2 special.

Go read it here (warning, it is really long!). My favorite sentence is ‘the other day the internet cafe opposite me was raided, allegedly as part of a transatlantic terror plot. It was ridiculous.’

Which reminds me that we still know next to nothing about that transatlantic terror plot in question. still no news on how exactly they planned to blow up those planes without passports, explosives or tickets. Also not much more information on why liquids on a plane are dangerous. We do however know that denying people to take liquids on a plane is not only stupid but actually dangerous.

For the benevolence of expression....

08 Oct 2006 | 311 words | europe media islam modernity civilisation

Patrice (thanks!) posted a translation of a posting by the french philosopher Fréderic Neyrat to the internal multitudes mailing list to nettime. It was made as a comment on the appeal by French intellectuals for a Salman-Rushdie-style protection of Robert Redeker, a philosopher threatened by fundamentalist groups after publishing statements deemed insulting to Muslim culture in general (more background here). well worth the read:

For the benevolence of expression and against the ‘clash of civilisation’ discourse.

Against a commonly held belief, the “clash of civilisations” monicker is not a descriptive, but a prescriptive statement.

Thinkers, university professors, publications that pretend to be ‘modern’, and politicians, all have actively participated in the manufacture of conflicts between a West gone delirious and the Orient it imagines.

This mind-set is grounded in despise and fuelled with insults. When the aggrieved party reacts violently, one can exclaim : “DidnÂ’t we tell you so? They’re all savages !”

This is a vicious circle. No identity, no civilisation will be ever its outcome – but deaths certainly will. This circle must be broken.

As far as intellectual work is concerned, this first and foremost requires to avoid the pitfalls of what Hegel has called “the fiendishness of expression”.

The media would like to impress on us that one is entitled to say whatever one likes to whomever one likes in whatever way one likes. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Words do matter. They shape the reality in which we live.

The issue at stake is not one of (self-)censorship, or of freedom of expression, but is about the need for a ‘benevolence of expression’ : we must avoid those words that make our common space unliveable.

Then, there will be no need to call in the police, to demand protection from the state, and no man shall henceforth need to live in fear.

Fréderic Neyrat

Sharia compliant cash machine

20 Aug 2006 | 6 words | technology islam religion london

On Whitchapel road in East London:

Playboy == hijab?

12 Oct 2005 | 105 words | fashion religion islam london

Another trip to london another blurry phone-cam picture of girls in black (here is the last one). i was sitting on the Hammersmith tube on my way to the hotel when two college girls stepped in. One of them was wearing a black dress and a black headscarf quite obviously for religious reasons. Generally one would assume that women who dress this way do this to comply with the modesty that the Qur’an requires from muslims. However this girl was openly carrying a playboy branded notebook which – at least me – is hard to reconcile with the very concept of hijab…

schoolgirl in london

meanwhile... is the personal weblog of Paul Keller. I am currently policy director at Open Future and President of the COMMUNIA Association for the Public Domain. This weblog is largely inactive but contains an archive of posts (mixing both work and personal) going back to 2005.

I also maintain a collection of cards from African mediums (which is the reason for the domain name), a collection of photos on flickr and a website collecting my professional writings and appearances.

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