Monday, August 30, 2004

Survey Fun - maybe I'll make one later

Sister Scorpion's Survey
Your country of origin?USA
Your country of residence?USA
Bush, Kerry, or Nadar? (who you'd like to win)none of the above
Best World Leaderno one currently in politics
Worst World Leaderno one is leading the world.....
What did you have for breakfast/your first meal today?fruit juice called "Naked".
Best Olympic moment 2004Paul Hamm's comeback gold
Worst Olympic moment 2004controversy over scoring gymnastic men's all around
My bumperstickers, don't have any
Favorite colorred and blue
Worst insectflying beetles/cockroaches/ants
Best insectlady bug
All time favorite TV showGilligan's Island, Star Trek, Dead Zone
TV show you watch, but don't want anyone to know you watch Chappelle Show (sometimes)
Favorite book(s)Qur'an, LOTR, Hillerman's, Patrick O'Brien's, Ender's Game,....
Favorite subject of studystatistics, today
Top 3 hobbiescomputer stuff, geocaching, sleep
What's your calling?Hmmm....
Coffee, Tea, or Bebsi?Bebsi


My Own Dumb Quiz
If you could be instantly fluent in three languages, what would they be?Arabic, Urdu, and Spanish
Which talent or skill did you always wish you had?remembering everything perfectly
Favorite place to take a vacation?outside
What's your dream job?not needing one
If you had $500 to spend in a bookstore, which section would you head to first?science fiction
Favorite Islamic lecturer?I don't know
Chore you hate the most.all of them
Favorite dinner food?stuff I didn't make
Favorite car?one that runs, cheaply
Favorite type of weather?variety, but a bit cool and breezy
Favorite blog (there is only one correct answer to this). Ba ha.I plead the fifth
Favorite computer / video game?bejeweled
Top 3 fave films? LOTR(all of them)


Friday, August 27, 2004

Keys Handed Over

Militants Turn Over Keys to Najaf Shrine

Associated Press Writer

NAJAF, Iraq (AP) -- Thousands of pilgrims streamed into the Imam Ali Shrine on Friday, and militants who had been holed up in the site left it, handing the keys to Shiite religious authorities after Iraq's top Shiite cleric brokered a peace deal to end three weeks of fighting in this holy city.

Dozens of militants piled Kalashnikov rifles in front of the offices of their leader, radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. Thousands of al-Sadr's militiamen were still believed to be armed in the city, though most were staying off the streets. In one narrow alley, some militiamen could be seen pushing carts full of machine-guns and rocket launchers.

Iraqi forces took control of the Old City, which al-Sadr's Mahdi Army militia had used as their stronghold during the fierce fighting with U.S.-Iraqi forces.

Dozens of Iraqi police and national guardsmen deployed around the compound of the walled, golden-domed shrine in the Old City Friday afternoon - but did not enter. Some kissed the compound's gates, others burst into tears. Some residents of the devastated Old City neighborhood waved to them and yelled out, "Welcome. Welcome."

U.S. forces appeared to have maintained their positions in the Old City.

After a day of prayers and celebrations at the shrine - one of Shia Islam's holiest sites - civilians and fighters left, and al-Sadr's followers handed over the keys to the site to religious authorities loyal to Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the esteemed cleric who secured the peace deal.

"Now the holy shrine compound has been evacuated and its keys have been handed over to the religious authority," al-Sistani aide Hamed al-Khafaf told Al-Arabiya television.

The handover the keys was a symbolic, yet crucial, step in ending the bloody crisis that has plagued this city since Aug. 5, killing hundreds of Iraqis and nine U.S. troops, ravaging parts of the Old City and threatening the control of Iraq's interim government.

Al-Sadr ordered his fighters to lay down their arms and leave Najaf and neighboring Kufa after agreeing to the peace deal in a face-to-face meeting the night before with al-Sistani.

"To all my brothers in Mahdi Army ... you should leave Kufa and Najaf without your weapons, along with the peaceful masses," al-Sadr said in a statement broadcast over the shrine's loudspeakers.

Iraq's interim government also accepted the deal, and U.S. forces ordered their troops to cease fire. Police briefly exchanged fire with militants in one part of town Friday, and some U.S. troops were still receiving occasional sniper fire. Nevertheless, most of the city was calm.

The agreement leaves the Mahdi Army intact and al-Sadr free, despite U.S. vows in the past to destroy the militia and arrest its leader. Since the transfer of sovereignty June 28, the Iraqi interim government has said it has no intention of arresting al-Sadr, but wants him to turn his militia into a political party.

Al-Sistani's highly publicized, 11th-hour peace mission also boosts his already high prestige in Iraq and cloaks him in a statesman's mantle, showing that only he could force an accord between two sides that loathe each other.

In the morning, thousands of Shiites marched through Najaf to visit the shrine, one of Shia Islam's holiest, which was at the center of the fighting since Aug. 5. Many kissed its doors as they entered, chanting "Thanks to God!"

U.S. soldiers looked on as people passed in the streets, heading to the shrine. Army 1st Lt. Chris Kent said the peace agreement "appears to be a final resolution. That's what it looks like right now."

Inside, the crowds mingled with Mahdi Army fighters and performed noon prayers. Afterwards, civilians and militiamen streamed out, with some militants chanting "Muqtada, Muqtada."

By the afternoon, the shrine appeared empty, clear of the visitors and the militants.

Police later set up roadblocks on the edge of the Old City, preventing people from entering and searching throngs of people leaving the shrine. Most of those leaving carried no weapons, but police detained four militants carrying grenades.

The U.S. military said it was continuing to monitor the situation and maintain "a supportive posture," according to a statement.

The five-point peace plan put forward by al-Sistani calls for Najaf and Kufa to be declared weapons-free cities, for all foreign forces to withdraw from Najaf, for police to be in charge of security, for the government to compensate those harmed by the fighting, and for a census to be taken to prepare for elections expected in the country by January.

There was no immediate word if the U.S. military would accept the provisions on the agreement calling on its forces to leave Najaf, though military leaders have said they were fighting there only at the behest of the government.

© 2004 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Thursday, August 26, 2004


Aide: Al-Sistani Brokers Najaf Peace Deal

Associated Press Writer

NAJAF, Iraq (AP) -- Rebel cleric Muqtada al-Sadr agreed Thursday to a peace deal presented by top Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali Husseini al-Sistani to end three weeks of fighting in the holy city of Najaf, according to a top aide to al-Sistani.

Al-Sistani, the most influential cleric among Iraq's Shiite majority, reached the deal in direct talks with al-Sadr in the evening, only hours after making a dramatic return to Najaf.

The five-point plan called for Najaf and Kufa to be declared weapons-free cities, for all foreign forces to withdraw from Najaf, for police to be in charge of security, for the government to compensate those harmed by the fighting and for a census to be taken to prepare for elections expected in the country by January.

"Mr. Muqtada al-Sadr agreed to the initiative of his eminence al-Sistani," Hamed al-Khafaf told reporters at a news conference outside the house where al-Sistani was staying here. "You will hear good news soon from the government and Mr. Muqtada al-Sadr."

"It's the same initiative that we had proposed ... almost the same initiative has been agreed upon," al-Khafaf said.

Following the announcement, the Iraqi interim government called an emergency news conference in Baghdad to discuss Najaf.

Al-Sistani, who had been abroad in London for medical treatment during much of the fighting, returned Thursday with a new plan to end the violence.

The fighting, which has spread to other Shiite communities throughout Iraq, has killed scores of civilians, nearly paralyzed the city and caused the biggest crisis yet for the new government of interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi.

A long-threatened government raid on the holy Imam Ali Shrine here, where the militants have sought refuge, appeared to grow increasingly likely in recent days as peace initiatives broke down and the militants refused to honor a promise to withdraw.

But al-Sistani's return, and his apparent determination to end the bloodshed in his city, brought new hope for a peaceful resolution.

"There will be a mechanism that will preserve the dignity of everyone in getting out of the holy shrine, and you'll see this in the coming hours," al-Khafaf told Al-Jazeera television.

The fighting here continued up until al-Sistani's arrival Thursday afternoon, when the government and rebels separately agreed to a 24-hour cease fire to give peace efforts a chance.

More than 90 people were killed in the 24 hours before al-Sistani's arrival, according to health officials, including 27 people killed when mortars hit the main mosque in nearby Kufa, where thousands had gathered in preparation to march to Najaf in support of al-Sistani.

The U.S. military and Iraqi government have backed al-Sistani's peace mission, but they have not said whether they would agree to his proposal. The government has long demanded that al-Sadr disband his Mahdi Army militia and join the country's political process, a condition al-Sadr has refused to agree to.

Al-Sadr has agreed to one other peace deal that fell apart and later said he would pull his followers from the shrine, but the militants remained and the fighting has continued.

But all sides appear to be hoping the immense authority of al-Sistani can keep a deal together. The 75-year-old al-Sistani, who has long refused to intervene directly in the standoff between al-Sadr and the United States, has much wider support among Iraq's Shiites than al-Sadr, a much younger and lower-ranking cleric.

Al-Sistani arrived here in a 30-vehicle convoy that drove in from Basra, cheered by thousands of supporters in towns along the way. Heeding al-Sistani's calls, thousands more came from their hometowns to Najaf and gathered on its outskirts.

Late Thursday, Al-Sistani asked the government to allow them in to visit the sealed-off shrine compound provided they leave again by 10 a.m. Friday, al-Khafaf said.

© 2004 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Al-Sistani's return and call for march causes for hope

Al-Sistani returns to Iraq

Wednesday 25 August 2004, 16:18 Makka Time, 13:18 GMT

Iraq's most influential Shia cleric, Grand Ayat Allah Ali al-Sistani, is in the southern city of Basra and will head to Najaf soon to try to resolve the crisis there, an aide says.  

Al-Sistani's return comes as US and Iraqi forces tightened their siege of Najaf's Imam Ali mosque, where supporters of Shia leader Muqtada al-Sadr are holed up. 

"He has entered Iraq through Basra. He will head to Najaf tomorrow," Hamid al-Khafaf, an al-Sistani aide based in London, said on Wednesday.

Al-Khafaf called on Iraqis "to be ready … to march on the city of Najaf under the leadership of al-Sistani to save the city."

Iraq's most senior Shia Muslim figure, Iranian-born al-Sistani has returned from Britain where he had been treated for a heart condition. Al-Khafaf told Aljazeera that the Ayat Allah had overidden doctors' recommendations not to travel.

Initiative welcomed

Aides of al-Sadr, whose al-Mahdi Army militiamen have resisted attempts by US-led forces to expel them from the revered Imam Ali mosque complex, told Aljazeera they welcomed al-Sistani's proposal to lead marchers to Najaf.

Al-Sadr 's supporters have been
besieged for three weeks
"People welcome the return of his eminence Ayat Allah Ali al-Sistani and now men, women and children, in groups and individually, are heading to the city of Najaf to lift the siege imposed by the US occupation forces," said Aws al-Khafaji, an al-Sadr's spokesman from the southern Iraqi city of Nasiriya.

Asked about demands by al-Sistani's aides for Mahdi Army fighters to leave the shrine, al-Khafaji blamed besieging US-led forces for preventing a peaceful withdrawl.

"We repeatedly call on a peaceful solution but ... no one can leave the shrine as US snipers have taken up positions on the roofs of the neighboring buildings while the shells are falling here and there," said al-Khafaji.


"It is better that the fighting ceases so all those conducting their sit-in can leave safely".


'Silent' claim rejected

Al-Khafaf rejected charges that the Iranian-born al-Sistani, who has urged his compatriots not to take up arms against occupation forces, had been curiously silent over the situation in Najaf.

"It is absolutely incorrect. Despite his serious illness, his eminence and the team accompanying him were following the situation in Iraq.

"He has not spared any efforts to end the crisis peacefully. He has proceeded with contacts there that were not reported in the media."

Al-Sistani's propposed march is likely to put al-Sadr's movement under further pressure to withdraw from the mosque, whose occupation by al-Mahdi Army militiamen has directly challenged the authority of US-backed interim Prime Minister Iyyad Allawi.

Aljazeera + Agencies

Saturday, August 21, 2004

Star Wars Name

My Star Wars name is Beadi Ancol - what's yours?

Star Wars Name Generator

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Sistani Sistani and the future of the Hawza

The media continues to speculate wildly on the timing of Grand Ayatollah Ali Taqi Al-Sistani's unexpected departure from Najaf to London for emergency heart treatment. While several of his spokesmen have denied that the medical condition of the 74 year-old cleric is critical, I have personally heard from an informed source who is a close relative of Sistani's agent in Basrah that he has been suffering from ischemic heart disease for some time and that he had recently experienced a myocardial infarction just 2 or 3 weeks before the fighting broke out in Najaf.

He was advised by his family and close supporters to leave Najaf immediately for treatment and rest in London. They had already coordinated with Iraqi, US and British authorities for the preparations. The old man stubbornly refused to leave, mentioning that he had remained in Najaf during even darker days. However, he resigned grudgingly to their suggestions later on. He was practically hauled to  London by his son and his senior aides. My source also tells me that the other three senior clerics of the Hawza were also aware of what was to take place in Najaf, and that they had been advised by the governor's office and SCIRI to either leave Najaf for safer ground or lay low. He says that people from Sadr's office grew extremely uncomfortable on hearing this and that they had sent someone to either beg/convince or prevent Sistani from leaving Najaf. They have been claiming that Sistani was forced to leave Najaf by the Iraqi and US authorities ever since.

Sistani refused to take a US helicopter and instead was driven to Baghdad Airport by the Diwaniyah-Hilla-Baghdad road in a closely guarded yet inconspicuous convoy. He arrived in London via Beirut, and there was some footage of his arrival at Heathrow. He was with his son Mohammed Ridha and one of his aides, and they were received by his London agent under the eyes of gawking British security personnel. More footage was  released yesterday of an old tired Sistani lying down in a bed at the Cromwell hospital. He is said to have been visited by an Iranian official who offered him Tehran's services, and that he snapped back at him that all he wanted was for Iran to leave him and Iraq alone.

So that settles all the conspiracy theories. Some people have been claiming that Sistani was flown away to London to 'remove' him from the scene in Najaf against his will. They underestimate the power of a supreme Hawza cleric, if Sistani wished, he could quite easily issue a fatwa or a statement from his hospital bed against the US actions. A supreme marji' can't easily be intimidated or silenced. They forget that Sayyid Mohammed Taqi Al-Shirazi issued the fatwa that sparked the massive 1920 uprising against the British while he was on his death bed, and he did indeed die days later but the revolt did not.

Also, the sensational media's talk of a power vacuum, or a struggle in Najaf among the  clerics on the event of Sistani's death betrays their ignorance of the traditional Shia leadership hierarchy. Sistani would be succeeded by either Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Ishaq Al-Fayyadh or Grand Ayatollah Bashir Al-Najafi, with the former being the most likely candidate even though they are equals in terms of scholarship and Islamic jurisprudence. Al-Fayyadh is of Afghani origin, while Al-Najafi is Pakistani. Al-Fayyadh was also, together with Sistani, one of Al-Khoei's most favourite students and esteemed aides. Grand Ayatollah Abu Al-Qasim Al-Khoei (who is Sistani's predecessor) even allowed Sistani, Al-Fayyadh, and Mohammed Baqir Al-Sadr to issue fatwas on his behalf at many occasions. His followers are all over the Shi'ite world from Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Bahrain, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India.

Furthermore, Grand Ayatollah Al-Fayyadh is known to be the most moderate of Shi'ite marji'iya, even more so than Sistani. He belongs to the traditional old school of  the Hawza (that of Abu Al-Hassan Al-Asfahani, Sadiq Al-Shirazi, Al-Barujardi, Hussein Kashif Al-Ghatta', Muhsin Al-Hakim, and Al-Khoei) that calls for a distinct seperation of state and religion and an utter contempt for the notion of Wilayet Al-Faqih (the rule of the jurisprudent) that was preached by Khomeini and taken up by the Islamic Revolution in Iran.

So I wish to comfort the sensational media that there will be no power struggles in the Hawza after Sistani's death. There will always be a peaceful consensus on who would be the supreme marji' in Najaf, as it has always been that way for centuries.

#  posted by zeyad : 8/10/2004 07:41:15 PM

Meeting with Ayatullah Al Udhama Syed Ali al Hussaini Al Seestani
The Office Bearers of The World Federation had a second opportunity of meeting Agha on Sunday 15 August 2004 at a London hospital. The President of The World Federation, Dr. Ahmed Hassam conveyed to Agha salaams from the Khoja community worldwide and informed him that our prayers are with him for his speedy recovery. Agha thanked the Office Bearers for visiting him and expressed his satisfaction at the work being done by The World Federation, in serving community and humanity at large.

He asked Dr Hassam, to convey his salaams and duas to mu'mineen and to thank them for their concern for his health. He also asked mu'mineen to continue praying for him and advised us to always remain steadfast on the path of the Ahlulbyat (AS).     
The President asked him for his advice to the community on the recent events in Najaf.  Agha responded by asking that mu'mineen pray for a quick peaceful resolution of the conflict and once peace returns to Iraq, to assist in the rebuilding of the Hawza Ilmiya and the other infrastructure that have been destroyed over the years. He also advised that mu'mineen not to be involved in any political activities. After the brief meeting which lasted for 25 minutes, he requested us to continue remembering him in our prayers as he does us in his prayers. 
Alhamdulillah Agha is in stable condition. Please continue to pray for his quick and full recovery.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Culebra Peak

Will new owners open access to Culebra Peak?

Climbers await news on fourteener's status after sale


Climbers trying to bag all of Colorado's 14,000-foot peaks often settle for what they call A.B.C.

All but Culebra.

The pyramid-shaped summit of Culebra Peak is off limits. It lies on the private 77,000-acre Taylor Ranch in the Sangre de Cristo mountains just north of the New Mexico border, and only a few lucky hikers a year are allowed by the owner to set foot on its summit.

But the peak may open now that the ranch has new owners - and hundreds of dedicated climbers await the news.

"We're holding our breath," said Kristy Judd, executive director of the Colorado Mountain Club. "They may decide to keep it closed. They may open it. They may build Elitch's up there. We just don't know."

The new owners, Bobby and Dottie Hill and Richard and Kelly Welch of Texas, finalized purchase of the ranch last Thursday aug5 for an undisclosed sum.

They have yet to announce whether they will open up the trail to the summit, or keep it locked tight.

"It's just too early to tell," Bobby Hill said Wednesday. "We want to take our time and learn about the place and the issues before we go off and make a decision."

Every other 14,000-foot peak in the United States lies on public land where anyone can climb it them.

For much of the 1990s, Culebra Peak could be climbed for a price. Owner Jack Taylor charged hikers a $20 to $40 entrance fee.

Former Enron executive Lou Pai bought the ranch from Taylor in 1999 and let only a small number of Colorado Mountain Club members climb the peak one weekend a year.

The club added its own restrictions: Only members who had already climbed the 53 other fourteeners in the state could enter their names in a lottery for a chance at the last peak.

Half a million people climb Colorado fourteeners each year, according to the Colorado Fourteener Initiative, a group that builds sustainable trails on the peaks. Only about 60 get a chance to climb Culebra. A climber's name can take years to come up on the estimated 400-person waiting list.

Many mountaineers these days say "the heck with it" and embrace the considerable accomplishment of A.B.C.

"I've never been up there," said T. J. Rapoport, the Initiative's director. "I'm anxious to see it. It's supposed to be very pristine, very untrammeled."

So is the majority of the above-treeline crowd, which is buzzing over whether A.B.C. will finally R.I.P.

"The owners will have a real opportunity to build a sustainable trail that will preserve the alpine ecosystem," he said.

Mountaineers are only one group curious about the new owners.

For generations, people in the town of San Luis at the foot of the mountain have feuded with owners over their traditional rights to hunt, graze, and gather firewood.

In 1975 someone shot owner Jack Taylor in the ankle for closing the ranch to outsiders. Later, someone burned down his ranch house. Protesters have chained themselves to the ranch gates to protest logging on the property during the 1990s.

Owners, in turn, have aggressively prosecuted trespassers.

"You'd have to be an idiot not to know that this ranch has had its problems. I knew that. But we want to make a clean start," said Hill. "We plan to respect the people here, and we hope they will respect us."

To start from a clean slate, Hill has renamed the ranch Cielo Vista, or heavenly view.

He said he is interested in finding recreation-focused ways to make the ranch ecologically and economically sustainable. Allowing climbers onto the property could be part of that, he said, but he did not want to commit to specifics.

He plans to meet with locals in San Luis to start hashing out the public's place on Cielo Vista next Friday aug 20 but said it would take several months before things get settled.

Locals are cautiously optimistic.

"We view this as a new opportunity to have a good relationship," said Charlie Jaquez, a founding member of the Land Rights Council, a group based in neighboring San Luis that recently won a 44-year legal battle with various owners of the ranch to get them to respect historic land-use rights. "I think that's a really good sign. I hope they do open it up. It's a gorgeous place. The community has a real spiritual connection to that mountain. They want to befriend it again."


Thursday, August 05, 2004

Can you find a 3 or greater?

The Oracle

Did you ever see the movie 6 Degrees of Separation (Will Smith)? This is a program that tells you the degrees of separation between any two (famous) people. I've only played with it for a little while, but so far haven't gotten more than two degrees between people I've tried. Can you?