Left Behinds

The anti-andrewsullivan.com. Or, the Robin Hood (Maid Marian?) of bright pink Blogger blogs.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Blind Clerics

This article examines why there are so many blind Muslim clerics. It's kind of interesting if it is in fact true (I wonder if the blind clerics might just be getting more attention because they fit stereotypes). Ever since Tiresias there's been a correlation between blindness and wisdom.

A couple assertions are kind of questionable, though. First, I looked at the study he quoted to assert that there's a higher incidence of blindness in the Muslim world. Well, the authors of the study actually correlate blindness with poverty/access to health care, which makes a lot of sense, and which makes sub-Saharan Africa the location of the highest rates of blindness. And, of course, the Muslim world includes a lot more than the Middle East (that's a pretty common error, though). Second, a couple Turkish commenters noted that his assertion that "hafiz" is used to refer to blind people is just factually incorrect. Third, the following sentence doesn't make much sense: "Blind kids—who often make up for their disability with a finely tuned sense of hearing—tend to do quite well at [memorizing the Quran]." Um, what is the basis of this assertion, and what would hearing have to do with memorizing, anyway?

But that's quibbling. And mostly I just wanted to post a photo of the ever lovable Abu Hamza. Neda, I seem to remember your somewhat tongue in cheek observation a couple years ago that he's probably a plant of the MI5 (British CIA), since with that eye patch and waving his hook around like a pirate he seems straight out of central casting as a scary, insane cleric. An odd interview he did in Vice Magazine of all places made me think his persona is a bit tongue in cheek or something. For example:

You guys always train with guns. You were training people with AK-47s in the basement of your mosque and—
No, it wasn’t AK-47s, but B-52s [laughs]. I invited them to come and take a look, but they were too afraid.
We still keep weapons of mass destruction down there. If they send some inspectors with a false UN resolution, we will certainly let them in. And I am willing to let them check my palaces and all that [laughs].


  • At 4:40 PM, Blogger Neda Cole said…

    Hmm funny... ok so i was only 90% tongue in cheek about that - as the article says there is no central authority to ask why there are so many blind clerics (?), but also there is no central authority to pay clerics. Different mosques have different ways of supporting their preachers and providing them with salaries. Regent's Park mosque for example is funded by the embassies in London, some mosques (common in the gulf) are built by a wealthy family who set up a trust to pay wages for all those who work in them thereafter, and some are funded by donations from the community that use them. I don't know for sure about Finsbury Park but i want to say none of the above.

    Somebody is paying this nutjob to be Crazy Islam's posterchild in the UK. He's like the most widely recognized Muslim in London, and the least sane.

    Or is he?

    I've heard this guy speak. A few times. And each time he's ranted and raved and been a proper crazy person. With his eye patch and his hook and weird ideas. And he spits!

    That Vice interview was funny, and not like he comes off as a candidate for Prime Minister or anything, but he's coherent and way too normal.

    So, either that interview is with some cleaner who picked up the phone and thought it would be fun to be Abu Hamza for ten minutes, or Abu Hamza is the fabricated alter-ego of a funny looking arab guy with a very healthy bank balance.

  • At 5:57 PM, Blogger Solomon Grundy said…

    Yeah, that's exactly how I read it, like his whole Abu Hamza crazyman persona was a self-conscious performance. In the interview (before he was expelled from Finsbury Park, btw), he was not only coherent, but he had a sense of humor about himself, almost self-deprecating -- it didn't seem like the same guy you see everywhere else in the media.

    Of course, it's just Vice, so who knows. But something about an upper middle class engineer turning into ranty pirate Abu Hamza never quite felt right.

  • At 6:05 PM, Blogger Solomon Grundy said…

    Oh wait, I just re-read the intro of the interview and was reminded of this:

    A brief search of the Internet reveals a mobile phone number that leads directly to the man himself. So we called him.

    Hm, not exactly the methodology of your finest investigative reporters. So yeah, it might just be his butler or summat.

  • At 6:34 PM, Blogger Neda Cole said…

    Can i just add that if there is indeed any link between blindness and wisdom, Abu Hamza doesn't qualify. He's only got one dodgy eye and he got that fighting infidels (or that's his story.. more likely went to scratch his eye and forgot he had a hook)


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