Saturday, April 25, 2009

Is Being an Extremist a Good Thing?

*Judith's face in "Judith Beheading Holofernes" by Caravaggio

Before you can answer, you need to know what the word "Extremist" means 1st correct?

The meaning according to today's media is usually referring to any "religious fundamentalist". Which is why recently news broadcasters are more careful to add "Islamic", so the title becomes "Islamic Extremist".

Sometimes non-religious groups such as the secular Turks go SO overboard that even they get to be called "Extremists". In their case, their secularism becomes a religion in itself (take one look at Attaturk's shrine and how Turks feel about him to confirm this).

Some Christians get called Extremists, some Orthodx Jews get called Extremists. So the term is definitely not specific to Muslims. But is really more related to Ideology.

But how about we go to the root of the word itself? EXTREME.

1. the farthest point
2. an unacceptable or extreme nature or degree: the extremity of his views alienated other nationalists
3. an extreme condition, such as misfortune
4. extremities hands and feet

So hands and feet are extreme too! because they are far from the center.

Also there's a negative connotation to it, "unacceptable", "misfortune".

Being Extreme basically means "far from the center". And we mostly feel that that is a bad thing, but why is it a bad thing? I'm not disputing, I'm only trying to understand why.

The center is good. Why though?

Most people in any given situation will be congregated around a fuzzy middle. And the farther away from that "average center point" the fewer people you'll find. So the Extreme sides of any argument usually finds the least amount of supporters for it, correct? (usually atleast)

If you stay in the middle, you'll find yourself closer to "most" people. And hence have the least amount of arguments. It's the point of equilibrium. The point of least resistance.

In contrast, if you stand on the edge of a spectrum, you'll have the biggest amount of argument with everyone else. It's the toughest place to sit peacefully.

A calculation of any airline's trip distances would show this clearly:

If you wanted to serve the same destinations from the far east of Egypt, (for example Sharm elShaikh), then the total of all these distances would become alot higher.

So if we correlate distance between places to differences in ideological views, then we can say that being in the middle makes you the most popular, and least hated among the people around you, right?

Which is exactly why Extremists are the most disliked people anywhere.

So the answer is clear here, Extremism is bad right?

Well, the answer will depend here on whether or not the views of the majority of society (which by definition is the middle) are good views, or bad views.

But if the definition of "good" is to "get along" and "be good to one another", then being in the "center" is the best thing for that as we just discovered right? I mean, in order to have the least amount of argument or "trouble" with other people, the best thing is to follow what the majority wants right?

After all that is what Democracy is all about.

Ok.. but it gets more problematic when the "center" of one society differs from the "center" of another.. so which is the "correct" center? In Muslim societies it's very inappropriate to drink alcohol, while in others around the world it's alright if taken "in moderation".

One might say it's ok to drink if you're in the West, but you should stop when you're in a muslim country. That is what my English friend visiting Kuwait would do. He'll try to "blend" in. He's again trying to "please everybody as best he can". Changing his position according to the surroundings.

But again, drinking a glass of wine is either "good", or "bad". Regardless of whatever everyone around you feels. It is either:
1- Poison. so it will harm you and is bad for you EVEN IF YOU'RE IN THE WEST.
2- Healthy in small doses and good for your heart as long as you don't get yourself drunk. So according to this view it is good for you EVEN IF YOU'RE IN SAUDI ARABIA.

So basically what I'm trying to say is, if we always assume the center to be good, we still don't have a clear picture of what rules we should apply in order to become good people. The Aztecs used to think they should sacrifice a person every day:

If you teleport an Aztec high priest to today's world he'd feel ashamed and depressed that he's forbidden to sacrifice people for his gods. Talk about severe culture shock.

Well to cut a long story short, because this post is already too long, I don't believe the center is always "good". I believe that whatever God tells us to do is always "good". Even when it becomes out of style. In the minority. At the extreme.

Alot of what is now considered to be the "norm", such as:
1- Athiesm or Idolatry (Worship of men or denial of God's existence)
2- Reba. (Usury, or Loans with Interest)
3- Zina. (Unmarried sex)
4- Gay and Lesbian sex.

These are only examples of things which God clearly forbids, and which today's western societies do not forbid.

People don't do these things because they think they're the "right" things to do, they do them because they don't like to be told to stop doing something they like. People did not make long and careful scientific studies to determine the long lasting effects (good or bad) of the above behaviors, and then base their judgement based on the results. People simply reject God's authority over them, and do whatever they like to do.

No one in his right mind would have speculated only 1 year ago, that the World's Economy would collapse because of debt. And now they can't stop talking about it. And the crisis is real and hereto stay.

1 year ago I argued with another MBA student that the current form of loans is 7aram and is bad for the economy. And his answer was "If we stop doing interest loans, no one will loan, projects will stop and the economy will stop!". Why don't we consider that without interest loans the economy will continue to go ahead using Joint Ventures? partnerships. The people with money and the people with Ideas will become partners in success or failure, which makes the financier WAY more careful with their money and where they invest it.

1 year ago I was the Extremist on this particular topic. and now my view is inching it's way towards the center vveeeerry slowly. But in order to learn the lesson we needed a world-wide crisis? (and even now most westerners don't agree that the Islamic model is the best still, even though they lowered their interest rates from Gov. to Banks to almost Zero ANYway!).

The main outcome of being a muslim, is to believe that Allah's way is the best way. Without needing proof.

So I for one don't need a world-crisis to learn that Riba is bad. Even when the rest of the world is doing it.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Israel = 3abdAlla ... ?

Spirit of Nature by Betty Rubinstein

I was astounded too when I learned what Israel translated into. The sources (and here as well) I checked explain it by separating its two parts:

1- Isra (or the hebrew verb sara).
2- El, which is a short form for "the God" il-Elah.

So the 2nd is obvious, but what about the 1st part? They seem to point to the meaning of "Dominion" and "Rule". But then they go into really ugly blasphemous meanings where Jacob (who's name is Israel) supposedly fights and overcomes the Angel of God. And by extension, "He who dominated God". Which I think is ridiculous.

But from a Muslim's point of view, I think the meaning makes perfect sense if it simply means "Dominated".

So Isra -El would become "Dominated by God". Which in arabic is simply: Abd Allah.

So the prophet Jacob pbuh was simply named 3abdalla :)

Another translation for "ysera" mentioned was: "striven or saved".

Again I reject the meaning of "striven against God" which they suggest, but the latter is ok with me: "Saved by God"

I'm not sure which of the two is correct, "Dominated by God" or "Saved by God". But I like both.

Now, what started this whole question in my head was that I recently added a guy to my MSN contacts whose very NAME is Israel. I chat with Israel from time to time these days!

feels weird doesn't it?

So what's the background? who and why? the plot shall thicken I promise you.

About 1 year ago our ISP was facing a problem with people who consume lots and lots of bandwidth using bittorrent. They're usually 2-4% of the total number of users, yet they consume as much as 20-25% of the total pipes.

No devices existed at the time that cached the files which you get through bittorrent. Caching is so simple and useful, it basically means when more than 1 user tried to download the same file, then the system would save the huge file locally on its disks so the 2nd time it would not have to pull it through the expensive international links. Saving lots of bandwidth in the process.

However, we found 3 companies that did it for Bittorrent, and only 1 of them worked well enough to be used in a live network serving half a country.

The product worked so well and I loved it so much that I took it as my personal crusade to resell it to other ISP's in the region!

The catch was that the company that makes it originated in Israel. And dealing with Israeli companies is illegal according to Kuwaiti law. And also morally I would feel very uncomfortable handing cash to people who support bombing ghazans so brutally and so on and so forth.

The company did everything it can to "mask" it's true identity, by basing its main office in Boston US, changed the numbers of all it's support employees to US numbers. Yet, strangely the support engineers would "wake up and sleep" in sync with the middle-east's timezones?

Ya3ne i7na mo aghbiya or naive lhaddaraja.

Now, when it comes to my own moral dillema here, if there was a "Mexican" company for example that made a similarly effective product, I'd switch to it in a heartbeat. but there isn't.

So I decided to not only buy it with a strong conviction, but also to resell it and believe in it and add my own sales/marketing markup on top >:-P

I'm even giving a presentation this coming Thursday in Bahrain to other ISPs in the middle east showing them how this system benefited our network.

Either go all the way, or not at all. There is no middle ground.

What do you guys think? am I doing something wrong here?

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Cable Cut 2 Days Ago

"The Waiting" by Morteza Katouzian

And yet another cable cut in the FOG cable (sea fiber cable linking Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar and Dubai) happened 2 days ago, on 31st. March 8:30 PM.

This is the 4th cable cut that affects Kuwait internet in the last THREE MONTHS only *mumble grumble*

And to top it off, our Ministry of Communications officially tells us it has NO MORE capacity for ISP's to purchase to cross over the Khafji border into Saudi (The Saudi side has bandwidth to offer, but our side doesn't, because there's no minister to take the decision of buying the new equipment. We're talking no more than 20k-40k KD here).

So now we are about 20% down from our normal bandwidth capacity, which explains the congestion and latency last night. The latest update is that the ship reached the cable off the shore of Dubai last night, and estimated time to finish is 4 more days. Will update you inshalla.

Update 6th. April, 2009

The cable is now fixed since last night, and they began testing it and bringing the downed circuits back up this morning around 9:30 AM.

il7emdella 3alassalama