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Al Jazeera

Science in a Golden Age – Al-Razi, Ibn Sina and the Canon of Medicine

We explore the links between medical research in the Golden Age of Science and the modern practice of medicine today.

Standing in one of the largest neo-natal units in the world at Hamad Hospital in Qatar, you would not immediately be able to draw a link between the pioneering medical research being conducted and the work of physicists from the 9th century. In this episode of Science in the Golden Age, theoretical physicist Jim al-Khalili guides us through a journey of discovery where he highlights the links between medical research in the Golden Age of Science during the 9th and 14th centuries and the modern practice of medicine today.

At Hamad Hospital, a new treatment is being trialled for babies born with a neurological disorder called neo-natal encephalopathy. Senior consultant Dr Samawal Lutfi explains how the double blind placebo control method ensures the accuracy of the study. This notion of a control group goes all the way back over a thousand years to a Persian physician by the name of Al-Razi who built the first hospitals in Baghdad. He was an early proponent of applying a rigorous scientific approach to medicine and used a control group when testing methods to treat meningitis in the 9th century.

At Harefield Hospital in the UK, we meet Professor Magdi Yacoub, a pioneering transplant surgeon and one of the world’s leading heart specialists. Professor Yacoub explains how the 13th century Syrian scholar Ibn al-Nafis redefined the understanding of pulmonary circulation. He challenged the commonly accepted wisdom of the Greek scholar Galen, who had said that blood passes directly between the heart’s right and left ventricle through the septum, the dividing wall that separates them. Ibn al-Nafis put forward the idea that blood could not pass directly between the right and left chambers of the heart – and that the lungs had a role to play in this process.

Ibn al-Nafis’ description was not widely accepted at the time, and it wasn’t until his manuscript was re-discovered in the 20th century that his work was universally recognised. From Al-Razi, to Ibn al-Nafis, to the 10th-century philosopher and physician Ibn Sina, Jim examines the most influential medics of the Golden Age. He shows us his personal copy of Ibn Sina’s Al-Qanun fi al-Tibb (‘The Canon of Medicine’), a comprehensive text which was the pinnacle of medical knowledge at that time. It was widely copied and translated, becoming a standard medical reference across the world for centuries. Jim ends his journey at the Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar, learning how the institute is using the latest equipment to map the human genome.

The genome is the complex genetic code contained in every one of our cells and sequencing it can reveal possible diseases that are inherited. Focusing on genetic and hereditary diseases specifically affecting the Qatari population, scientists from around the world have come together to work on this ambitious project that some-what parallels Baghdad’s Bayt al-Hikma (The House of Wisdom), the renowned centre of learning that played an integral role in the Islamic world’s scientific advancement.

The Boy who started the Syrian War –

Empire : the Reckoning, from Obama to Trump




Marwan Bishara examines President Obama’s legacy following Donald Trump’s victory and what this means for America.

19 Jan 2017 15:32 GMT 

The reckoning.

Donald Trump ran on a promise to tear down everything and anything Barack Obama had done.
Now it’s time for the reckoning.
Will Obama’s legacy, in fact, all be wrecked?
Will some of it stand, no matter what?
Will some of it be knocked to the ground now, with resurrection sure to come in the near future?

Marwan Bishara embarks on a journey of discovery.
Into the immediate past, the eight years of Obama.
Coming into office when America – indeed the whole world –
was on the verge of another Great Depression.
Bringing the crash to a soft landing
guiding it into a recovery.
Trying to end the disastrous wars in Iraq and Afghanistan
but ending with even more chaos.

Into the shouting and confusion of today.
And a look into the future.

What will Obama’s legacy really be?
For America.
For the rest of the world.

Source: Al Jazeera News

Al Jazeera Investigations – The Lobby P1

Liberation: Acre and the End of the Crusades

The Crusades: An Arab Perspective’ is a four-part documentary series telling the dramatic story of the crusades seen through Arab eyes, from the seizing of Jerusalem under Pope Urban II in 1099, to its recapture by Salah Ed-Din (also known as Saladin), Richard the Lionheart’s efforts to regain the city, and the end of the holy wars in 1291. Part one looked at the First Crusade and the conquest of Jerusalem. In part two, we explored the birth of the Muslim revival in the face of the crusades. Part three examined the Battle of Hattin, Saladin’s siege of Jerusalem and the Third Crusade. And the final episode tells the story of the Muslim liberation of the Holy Land and the end of the crusades.  

In 1193, Salah Ed-Din Al-Ayoubi, known in the west as Saladin, fell ill and died, leaving the Ayyubid dynasty in disarray. Six years earlier, he had defeated the Christian forces in the Battle of Hattin and opened the way to the liberation of Jerusalem.

“The successors of Salah Ed-Din ruled over Egypt, the Levant and Iraq. But they failed miserably, unlike the founder of their family. Salah Ed-Din had gained his legitimacy, and that of his state, by embracing the project of defending the Islamic nation and its sanctities against crusaders. His successors relied on a policy of reaction. They never took positive action, relying instead on peace initiatives,” explains Qassem Abdu Qassem, head of history department, Zaqaziq University.

Pope Innocent thought the Islamic world was a snake that can only be killed if its head was chopped off. The head of the Islamic world, right up to the present day, is Egypt. If Egypt could be crushed, the whole Islamic world would fall apart.

Afaf Sabra, professor of history, Al-Azhar University

The First Crusade, a century earlier, had succeeded in establishing four Christian enclaves in the Levant and, above all, in the capture of Jerusalem. The Second and Third Crusades, each led by powerful and famous European monarchs, had ended in abject failure.

By the end of the 12th century, after 100 years of Muslim fightback, the territory under crusader control was reduced to a tiny coastal strip in the Levant. The crusaders were forced to adapt and revise their targets.

“Pope Innocent III called for a crusade to atone for the failure of the Third Crusade, but the campaign could not secure a means of transport,” says Abdu Qassem.

“The main army hired the Venetians in 1202 to ship them to the east. They couldn’t afford to pay the Venetians the fee that they had agreed,” adds Christopher Tyerman, Hertford College, Oxford University.

So instead of heading towards Palestine and Egypt, the crusaders landed in Constantinople in 1204 – and sacked it.

“This is a remarkable thing for a crusade to have done. To have sacked the greatest Christian city in the world. It provoked outrage across many parts of the west, of course in the Greek world, too. And interestingly, one contemporary Greek writer says ‘look, when Saladin recovered Jerusalem what did he do? He spared the Christians and what have you done? You Christians, you have taken a Christian city and you have killed Christians. You should follow the example of Saladin. He was superior to you in the way that he behaved here,” explains Jonathan Phillips, professor of history, University of London.

“Innocent III. was a pope obsessed with crusading. He inherited the failure of the Third Crusade to recover Jerusalem and the Fourth Crusade that he launched that captured Constantinople, the great Christian city. He tried to inspire yet another expedition that we know as the Fifth Crusade and this was designed to go through Egypt and use the fertility of the Nile and the wealth of Cairo to have the resources to then recover Jerusalem,” says Phillips.

What does Crusade mean today?

In 1218, the crusaders finally found their way to the Nile Delta. The armies of the Fifth Crusade landed in Egypt and captured the port of Damietta. For three years, the crusaders made no move to advance southwards towards Cairo. But when they finally did, their move would prove disastrous.

“This went down in history as a failed crusade due to the flooding of the Nile and the fact that the crusaders had no clue what happens to Egypt during the flood season, how hard it would be for the horses to move on such wet land. All these reasons caused the crusade to fail and achieve absolutely nothing,” says Afaf Sabra, professor of history, Al-Azhar University.

Meanwhile, the three Ayyubid brothers were engaged in deep infighting. And one of them, Al-Kamel, the ruler of Egypt, took an infamous decision. He decided to seek an alliance with the Holy Roman emperor, Fredrick II . Fredrick helped Al-Kamel and in return, was given the keys to Jerusalem in 1229. This came to be known as the Sixth Crusade.

“An excommunicated king [Frederick II.] realised the ultimate aim of the pope’s crusader project. Ironically, he came with a small fleet and 300 knights and entered Jerusalem without shedding a single drop of blood,” says Abdu Qassem.

Frederick II had managed to take Jerusalem, but 15 years later, in 1244, Jerusalem was reconquered and thereafter would remain under Muslim rule for the next seven centuries.

In 1218, the armies of the Fifth Crusade landed in Egypt and captured the port of Damietta [Getty Images]

The ‘Knights Templar of Islam’

“The idea of conquering Egypt was still firmly planted in the mind of the pope. It did not change and he was adamant Egypt should be the target. The man who would fulfil this idea for the papacy would be the king of France, Louis IX,” says Sabra.

The king’s army marched towards Egypt through Damietta, but “Louis had learned nothing from the failure of the Fifth Crusade and ignored Egypt’s geography. The Seventh Crusade also faced a new class of opponent. Muslim historians called them the ‘Knights Templar of Islam.’ They were the Mamluks. They were likened to the Knights Templar, the veteran crusader soldiers,” says Sabra.

RELATED: The legacy of the crusades in contemporary Muslim world

According to Mahmoud Hassanain, professor of Islamic Arts, Cairo University, “the Ayyubid military forces relied on new troops drawn from the white slaves bought from Central Asia. They were brought up in Egypt and given a military and religious education.”

Retracing the path of the Fifth Crusade, Louis IX led the armies of the Seventh Crusade south from Damietta towards Cairo, and was eventually defeated and taken prisoner in 1250 by the Mamluks in a spot called Al-Mansoura, meaning “the victorious.”

The year 1250 not only marked the Ayyubid victory over the Seventh Crusade, but also the end of the Ayyubid dynasty.

Bolstered by their strength and number, the Mamluks, the slave warriors, rose up to overthrow Salah Ed-Din’s successors and take control of their masters’ state.

“This emerging force faced a greater threat than crusaders: the Mongols. They’d swept across the known world. The Muslim world was destined to face the spearhead of that force, Hulagu Khan. He sacked Baghdad in 1258 and put an end to the Abbasid Caliphate. Baghdad succumbed and so did the Muslim caliphate. That was the ultimate test for this newborn force,” explains Sabra.

After destroying Baghdad, Hulagu Khan advanced westwards, and two years later, and with the help of the crusaders in the Levant, he captured Aleppo and Damascus. The only Muslim power remaining in the region was the Mamluks in Egypt.

The Mongols swept across the Muslim world, putting an end to the Abbasid Caliphate [Getty Images]

The Battle of Ain Jalut and the fall of Acre

The Mamluk sultan, Saif Ed-Din Qutuz, defeated the Mongol army in the battle of Ain Jalut in 1260 in Palestine, legitimising the Mamluk state.

By the time Antioch falls to the Mamluks in the late 13th century, the Frankish states are pretty weak. Antioch itself is not the great principality the great power that it had been during the 12th century. That really does spell the end for the crusaders.

Jonathan Phillips, professor of history, University of London

“This battle opened the door for the Mamluks to enter history. Shortly after the battle, Qutuz was killed and Baibars became sultan. The Sultanate of Baibars is considered the real start of the Mamluk state,” says Sabra.

Sultan Baibars made it his mission to capture all the crusaders’ citadels on the road between Cairo and the Levant, which he did before annexing Antioch.

“By the time Antioch falls to the Mamluks in the late 13th century, the Frankish states are pretty weak. Antioch itself is not the great principality, the great power that it had been during the 12th century. That really does spell the end for the crusaders,” says Phillips.

Sultan Baibars was succeeded by Mamluk sultan Al-Mansour Qalawun who took over Tripoli in 1289.

“If Baibars destroyed 50 percent of the crusaders’ force, Qalawun smashed 40 percent of what remained. What did Europe do in response? It didn’t send a single soldier,” says Mahmoud Imran, professor of European medieval history.

In the late 13th century, several European states emerged as sovereign nations with their own challenges and agendas.

Setting off for Acre, the last crusader stronghold in the Holy Land, Sultan Qalawun’s army headed to the Levant, but as soon he reached the outskirts of the city, he fell ill. On his deathbed, he appointed his son, Al-Ashraf Khalil, as his successor.

Subsequently, in April 1291, after a six-week-long siege, Acre fell to the Mamluk sultan, Al-Ashraf Khalil.

“The crusaders fought hard, not heroically… They fought ferociously because they failed to recognise the moment to leave had arrived,” says Muhammad Moenes Awad, professor of history at Sharjah University.

With the fall of Acre, the crusades came to an end after almost two centuries of bloodshed.

The crusades ended centuries ago, but the impact of this chapter of history lives on, and is very much alive in the modern world. In fact, for hundreds of years, the struggle has continued in the very same lands with Jerusalem at its heart.

Source: Al Jazeera

The Crusades, An Arab Perspective – Part 1: Shock

The dramatic story of the Crusades seen through Arab eyes. In this first of a four-part series, we look at the background to the holy wars and the First Crusade’s conquest of Jerusalem, a holy city for Jews, Christians and Muslims.

The Philippine’s Drug Problem: Hitmen, Dealers And Duterte’s War On Addicts

Al Jazeera : The Caliph – Part 1: Foundation – Featured Documentary


For almost 13 centuries, from the death of the Prophet Muhammad in 632 to the overthrow of the last Ottoman caliph in 1924, the Islamic world was ruled by a caliph.

Translated from the Arabic ‘Khalifa’, the word ‘caliph’ means successor or deputy. The caliph was considered the successor to the Prophet Muhammad.

It is a term that has, at times, been abused.

In June 2014, a militant group calling itself the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (known as ISIL or ISIS) declared the establishment of a caliphate and proclaimed its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, a caliph. This proclamation was rejected by the overwhelming majority of the world’s Muslims.

ISIL had attempted to appropriate a title imbued with religious and political significance – and in doing so had cast a dark shadow over a rich history.

This is the story of the caliph, a title that originated 1,400 years ago and that spanned one of the greatest empires the world has ever known. 

For more on The Caliph view the interactive

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Hollywood shoots Arabs: The movie



‘American Sniper’ replays the age-old racist roles.


Khaled A Beydoun

Khaled A Beydoun is an Assistant Professor of Law at the Barry University Dwayne O Andreas School of Law. He is a native of Detroit.



Abed Ayoub

Abed Ayoub is the legal director of the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee in Washington, DC, and is a native of Detroit.

Art and propaganda share an intimate relationship. Particularly today in the US, where the wartime film stands as a sacred genre – intimately depicting everyday Joes plucked from mundane middle America, then planted within the perils of a foreign battleground where they become larger-than-life heroes.

The newest edition of this genre, “American Sniper”, centres on Iraq. The Clint Eastwood-directed picture contains every essential hallmark of the wartime film genre; the lionised soldier protagonist, the good versus evil paradigm, and the accompanying illustration of the latter as unyieldingly wretched, menacing, and bent on the destruction of everything pure and civilised.

“American Sniper” does not disappoint, and delivers these damaging binaries bolstered with the banal tropes of Iraqis and Muslims that attracted viewers in droves. So much that the film set a box office record its opening weekend, which is set to continue as the movie stretches into its second week.

Debating art

Film is art – and creative expression should not be legally restricted. However, art has the potential to incite, particularly when the villains in a box-office hit are flatly constructed, maliciously misrepresented, and positioned as the irredeemable opponents of America and its gun-toting hero.


In “American Sniper”, Iraqis are nothing more than fodder and foes, whom Chris Kyle is hell bent on gunning down to carry forward a parasitic patriotism that a robust segment of the US is not only drawn to, but also committed to perpetuating.

Every single Iraqi in the film is presumed guilty. And thus, deserving of the twisted justice Kyle is more than willing to dish out, over and again.

While the familiar misrepresentations on the screen are damaging, the racist backlash inspired by “American Sniper” evidences that the film is equipping hatemongers with even more ammunition.

And the targets are Arabs and Muslims, “ragheads” and anybody resembling the Iraqi caricatures in “American Sniper”.

“American Sniper” is far more than merely a character study. The main protagonist, Chris Kyle, is an American everyman, who thoroughly embodies the utter disdain for Muslims which is endemic – and intensifying – in the US today. Further, Kyle views his tour in Iraq as an opportunity to avenge the 9/11 terrorist attacks, reducing patriotism into a blood vendetta against a populace utterly disconnected and disassociated from that attack.

Caricature study?

These ideas, and the worldview from which they emanate, are not Kyle’s view alone. Rather, through the film positioning of Kyle as an archetype, Kyle represents a grand perspective held by a substantial segment of the US. Moreover, these views are not being relayed through a tragic figure or a nihilist.

But a hero, donned in military fatigues, a baseball cap, and played by Hollywood A-lister and heartthrob Bradley Cooper – who views his indiscriminate mowing down of 255 “despicably evil savages” as both a political and spiritual crusade.

Through Kyle’s distorted gaze, the viewer similarly sees Iraqis as targets. Whether a veiled mother, young boy, or the fictitious rival Mustafa – the black-clad, brooding embodiment of evil that is committed to the demise of Kyle, and everything he represents.

Through Kyle’s distorted gaze, the viewer similarly sees Iraqis as targets. Whether a veiled mother, young boy, or the fictitious rival Mustafa – the black-clad, brooding embodiment of evil that is committed to the demise of Kyle, and everything he represents.

Both art and propaganda, “American Sniper” carries forward the tradition of the wartime film genre. But, within the context of considerable anti-Arab and Muslim bigotry in the US, the film is reminiscent of another critically heralded yet racist wartime epic, DW Griffith’s Birth of a Nation, which, paralleling the binary in “American Sniper”, lionised Klansmen by way of deplorable depictions of black Americans. Subsequently, it calls its viewers to take arms against the villains.

Like scores of films before it, “American Sniper” conflates Iraqis with Arabs and Muslims, “al-Qaeda” and “jihadists”.

For Kyle, and Eastwood, the distinctions are irrelevant. Redeploying age-old Orientalist images, the film’s Iraqis are thinly constructed foes of the democratic and divine – who must be methodically gunned down for both God and country. A belief, in the US today, that is far more fact than fiction.

Following the release of the film the, American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) issued a community advisory and warned of a “significant rise in violent hate rhetoric targeting the Arab and Muslim-American communities”.

The advisory was issued in response to the significant number of violent messages targeting Arab and Muslim Americans following the release of the film “American Sniper”. Many of the threats were made over social media.

Box-office backlash

The threats advocate for the murder of Arab and Muslim Americans, one going as far as posting: “Great f**king movie and now I really want to kill some f**king ragheads.” In another threat, since deleted, Twitter user Dex Harmon wrote: “American Sniper makes me wanna go shoot some f**kin Arabs,” which was followed by emojis of three handguns.

Hate speech and threats such as these should not be ignored. Instead, they must serve as a warning sign. Hate speech and rhetoric will only continue to add to the culture of violence, which will lead to more incidents and more attacks. Particularly within an already rife context of anti-Arab hatred and Islamophobia.

Statistics gathered by ADC, as well as by the Southern Poverty Law Center, show that there was a 50 percent increase in the number of reported hate crimes against Arabs, Muslims and those perceived to be Arab or Muslim in the US. The increase is correlated with the start of the “Ground Zero Mosque” controversy, which is surely to intensify with the domestic and global backlash against Arabs and Muslims following the Charlie Hebdo attack.

For as long as the negative imagery and permissible hatred against Arabs and Muslims exists, members of the respective communities will continue to live in a state of constant fear that they may be the next victim of a hate crime. The precedent is there, and history has shown us that as the rhetoric worsens, the culture of collateral indictment and the prospect of violence increase.

“American Sniper” is art. But it is also ammunition. The right of creative expression should be tempered by responsibility. Otherwise, “American Sniper” is only performing what propelled its central figure into the limelight – indiscriminately targeting Arabs and Muslims for simply being.

Which, we hope, isn’t the film’s aim.


Source: Al Jazeera


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