A few things....
In response to a question about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and discourse, a poster announced this site which is a completely open-source, open posting blog, with anyone permitted to post, delete or modify anything: Wikipedia without brakes.....
China's"One Boy Policy".... sorry,"One Child Policy" has resulted in gender ratios for recent births of 117 (105 is normal): classrooms full of boys; orphanages full of girls. India has pockets of similarly skewed demographics. A student asked me about the causes of this, and I said"sexism and technology," particularly cheap ultrasound and safe abortion in strongly patriarchal regions. Some people have suggested that this could lead to women having greater social power and freedom as they become rarer commodities (Frank Herbert's apocalyptic novel The White Plague takes this tack, after all the death and suffering are over)... but I tend to agree with those who argue that it will strengthen the patriarchal controls on women who are already seen as commodities. Though, as my wife points out, all those Chinese girls growing up in the US (many of them, in our circles, being raised by lesbian families) may find themselves in a particularly strong position, and, having been raised in the US, more likely to take advantage of it. China, ironically, had a serious oversupply of males in the 19th century as well, which contributed greatly to the instability of the late Qing era, but that went away as polygamy was eliminated. Now it's back.
And, while Arafat is, or is not, dying, there's a lot of money missing, and payday, plus the end of Ramadan, with the Eid festival, is fast approaching.
Daniel Lazare reviews a whole bunch of books on religion (well, Islam and Christianity, anyway) for The Nation and finds them all lacking, though the atheist comes off better than average [via Butterflies&Wheels]. The debates these books tackle, about the fundamental nature of religion as an historical actor, are likely to linger for some time. One historical comment jumped out at me:"Islam's origins are unclear--scholars increasingly reject the tale of a desert prophet propounding the Koran to a small circle of followers." My understanding of the historiography of early Islam focuses on the drive to analyze the hadith stories for provenance and reliability (and many of them have been found to be quite reliably transmitted), as well as analysis of the pre-Muhammad roots of some Islamic practices, but this is the first I've heard of anyone seriously questioning the basic narrative of Islam's founding. Anyone know more?
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Jonathan Dresner - 11/8/2004
Manan Ahmed - 11/8/2004
Whatever else, he gets the madrasa part wrong. Natural sciences, philosophy, mathematics, logic WAS taught in madrasas. Here is a very brief overview and I am sure there is better stuff out there on the internets.
Also, the beginning of Islam assertion is about 25 years late. Yes, some scholars (notables Michael Cook, Patricia Crone, John Wansborough - specifically in Crone & Cook's Hagarism) did suggest that Islam's earliest memories were fabricated in the capitals of Damascus or Baghdad but more recent work (Fred Donner, Lawrence I. Conrad, Uri Rubin, ) has discounted those suggestions and, at least, Cook and Crone have backed off from their initial wild-eyed assertions.
We don't know everything but basic facts (existence of Muhammad, monotheistic message, Medina, expansion) are borne out by numismatic, epigraphic and external textual sources.