Beliefnet
City of Brass

I’m not particularly keen to judge another man’s faith, so I pass no judgement on Michael Jackson’s conversion to Islam. However, I will note that Islam is big enough to contain me and Jackson within itself.

Check out the discussion about Jackson’s conversion at Talk Islam.

UPDATE (2/13/09): Jackson’s lawyer denies it.

Celebrated blogger Hossein Derakshan is literally the godfather of the Iranian blogsphere. Iran is one of those countries where speaking out requires courage, and where speech is anything but free. He has been living in Canada recently, but returned to Iran just a few weeks ago – and now has been arrested, rather ironically, on charges of spying for Israel:

hossein_derakshan.jpgTravelling on a Canadian passport, he made a highly publicised trip to Israel
in 2006 on a mission to show his “20,000 daily Iranian readers what Israel
really looks like and how people live there”. He also wanted to “humanise”
Iranians for Israelis.

Mr Derakhshan was acutely aware that his efforts to foster understanding
between the two countries that are bitter enemies could jeopardise any
return to Iran. … Commentators in Israel, however, noted Mr Derakhshan recently had become
“vehemently anti-Israel in his blog”.

The 33-year-old techno-wizard has had a controversial and often turbulent
career. Bitterly disillusioned with the Iranian reformist leaders that he
once championed, he recently became a grudging admirer of Iran’s hardline
President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. … Mr Derakhshan has defended Iran’s right to nuclear weapons for defensive
purposes, and announced that he would return to defend his homeland if
America ever attacked. “I can’t let myself to sit down for a moment and
watch make a Baghdad out of Tehran,” he wrote.

Yet Iran’s thin-skinned regime apparently remained deeply suspicious.
According to Jahan News, a conservative website reputedly close to Tehran’s
intelligence community, Mr Derakhshan is under interrogation and during
initial questioning “admitted” to spying for Israel — a grave offence if
charges are pressed. The report, citing “credible sources”, claimed that Mr
Derakhshan’s alleged confession included several “intricate points”.

Derakshan’s views, as the article describes, are complex and informed as much by his genuine nationalism and pride in his country as they are in his principles and ideals. Reading his English-language weblog also shows that he’s passionate about what he believes, about right and wrong, and shares the same basic values as we do when it comes to freedom and justice. I don’t know what we in the blogsphere can do to try and help him, apart from spreading the word as widely as we can. So please do.

(via Talk Islam)

I am pleased to announce the launch of Planet Islam, an aggregator of posts from blogs from around the Islamsphere, including muslim blogs as well as non-muslim ones that post on issues related to Islam and muslims. Planet Islam is a sub-project of Talk Islam, where those same bloggers meet and share links and discuss the issues (such as, is Ayman Al Zawahiri a racist?). These two sites really let you take the pulse of the muslim blogsphere in real-time and are well-worth bookmarking – go check them out!

Obama has announced another top-level appointment, Eric Holder, who served as deputy Attorney-General under Clinton and now will be (pending Senate confirmation) the nation’s lead lawman. The relevant and important information about Holder is his record and reputation:

A New York City native who graduated from
Columbia University and Columbia Law School, Holder spent years as a
federal prosecutor–a job in which he earned a reputation as tough and
aggressive foe of public corruption
. After serving in the public
integrity section of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and
later a District of Columbia Superior Court judge, Holder was named by
President Clinton as U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia. He
became deputy attorney general in 1997 under Janet Reno and was viewed
as a centrist on most law enforcement issues
, though he has sharply
criticized the secrecy and the expansive views of executive power

advanced by the Bush Justice Department.


Excellent.