Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Quran, Verse 9:5 - Allah Calling for Genocide Against non-Muslims?

Continuing from my previous post an anonymous comment requested (lets just say requested) I explain verse 9:5.

From the video it reads:
"Slay the idolaters wherever you find them"
Once again this has been paraphrased the full translation:
"Then when the Sacred Months (the 1st, 7th, 11th and 12th months of the Islamic calendar) have passed then kill the Mushrikin wherever you find them, and capture them and besiege them, and lie in wait for them in each and every ambush. But if they repent and perform As-Salat (prayer) and give Zakat (charity) then leave them their way free. Verily, Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful"
Mushrikin are idolaters (pagans, Athiests, etc).
Ouch eh? However this is taken way out of context, verse 9:4:
"Except those of the Mushrikin with whom you have a treaty, and who have not subsequently failed you in aught, nor have supported anyone against you. So fulfil their treaty to them for the end of their term. Surely Allah loves Al-Mattaq├╗n (the pious)"
Basically if there is no treaty between Muslims and non-Muslims then Muslims are allowed to go to war with them. Before you jump your horses, there is a treaty between Muslims and non-Muslims, I'm not sure about the US but here in Australia the treaty goes something like this:
From this time forward, under God,
I pledge my loyalty to Australia and its people,
whose democratic beliefs I share,
whose rights and liberties I respect, and
whose laws I will uphold and obey.

(All new citizens have the choice of making the pledge with or without the words 'under God')

Thats a treaty, I have pledged my loyalty to Australia and its people, who's democratic beliefs I share, who's rights and liberties I respect and who's laws I'll uphold and obey.

If a Muslim breaks with that pledge then they are committing a sin, yes that includes everything from starting a war with non-Muslims to bloody well driving without a license, they are not upholding the laws hence are breaking a treaty they have made with the non-Muslims.

So put simply verse 9:4 isn't god blatantly asking Muslims to kill non-believers every chance possible, it's god giving the go ahead that if there is no treaty between Muslims and non-Muslims then war is an accepted possibility. However even then without a treaty it doesn't make war necessary, like I said, all things in Islam fall under the basic principle that if there is peace then it must not be broken. Hence there is always a treaty between Muslims and non-Muslims (i.e. peace), even if the pledge of allegiance in Australia was taken down Muslims wouldn't have a right to attack non-Muslims lest they want to face Gods punishment.

Of course there are those who support the enemy (i.e. support conservative governments to go to war in Iraq for instance) but that doesn't justify war with non-Muslims. They are not specifically targeting Muslims, they say themselves they are going after terrorists who are a threat to world peace. In large part I support their intent, yes, go for it, make the world peaceful, however I disagree with them on principle that they aren't going about it the right way. So what do I do? I uphold the laws of this country and vote in the elections :-P

Monday, February 26, 2007

My Interpretations of the Quran #1

Just a note: I intend on making more parts for this pending comments from people and my own free time I'll have, remember I'm still a uni student who dreams of learning Japanese and working at Nintendo :-P so yeah, I do have dreams I'd like to fulfill someday and I can't do that by blogging all day long :-)

Islam is a tough religion, it gives harsh penalties but promises great rewards. To that end verses in the Quran might sound harsh, and often times they are harsh especially when looking at them with a pre-emptive bias against it from all the bad a person may have heard about it.



Afraid?

I’ll be taking verses from the video and showing how they are misleading, at the very least I’ll show you how they should be interpreted versus how most people think they are interpreted. In Islam peace is the only way up until the point others start trying to take away your religion from you, then its war. This is the pre-cursor to all violence in Islam, one cannot start an act of violence against non-Muslims unless there is a clear and present danger towards Muslims. Even then the enemy has to be clear and defined because Allah warns Muslims will be held accountable should they attack non-Believers who are not a part of a war against Muslims.

Whatever is written in the Quran does not supersede this fundamental, where there is peace between believers and non-Believers it is a sin for a Muslim to attempt to break that peace. This has been demonstrated countless times in history, however a lot of people purposely skew facts to meet their own ends as such this post is not about the history of Islam. It is about showing people how verses from the Quran can be deliberately misinterpreted.

There aren’t many such resources online and I feel somewhat pressured to create this post, as such I don’t claim this to be the 100% true interpretations of the Quran but the inaccuracies are not deliberate nor would fixing any minor mistake drastically change the general meaning of the interpretation. I am not a scholar in anyway for my religion, I can't even speak Arabic, however I am a Muslim and I follow Islam while believing 100% in my heart that it is the truth. To that end I do not compromise on my religion and am very well prepared to leave my country (Australia) if I am restricted from practicing my religion in any significant way.

One last thing before I start, many of the verses on the video seem to be giving the bare minimum English translation of the Arabic verses. Arabic is more complex than English so it is actually impossible to have a straight English translation, however the video above has taken out bracketed parts that attempt to explain in English what certain words mean or are meant to imply. Given Arabic grammar and words often lack their English counterparts from a grammatical perspective or simply the word doesn’t exist in English.

To begin

Verse 2:6 From Video:
“Don’t Bother to Warn the Disbelievers. Allah has blinded them. Theirs will be an awful doom.”
More Accurate English Interpretation:
“Verily, those who disbelieve, it is the same to them whether you (O Muhammad) warn them or do not warn them, they will not believe”

I don’t see how this is implying anything bad upon non-Believers besides their inherent ignorance, there are those who disbelieve who will never believe in Islam. I know there are many such people out there who will never want to believe in Islam, what Allah is asking of believers is to simply not pressure them to change beliefs, even Muhammad cannot change their beliefs.

So basically in Islam it is not acceptable to go door to door knocking trying to convince people to convert to Islam. Allah says no matter how hard you press non-believers will never convert to Islam, it is their choice, if they come and ask a Muslim explains about Islam then you can explain to them all about it otherwise it is not a Muslims business trying to force Islam onto others.

Verse 2:10 From Video:
"Allah has sickened their hearts. A painful doom is theirs because they lie."
More Accurate English Interpretation:
"In their hearts is a disease (of doubt and hypocrisy) and Allah has increased their disease. A painful torment is theirs because they used to tell lies"
Lies? Well this verse is not refering to all disblievers, it is referring to those who believe in a heaven and hell but who have lied to themselves, from verse 6:8:
"And of mankind, there are some (hypocrites) who say: "We beieve in Allah and the Last Day" while in fact they believe not""

Muhammad Has said that those who are the greatest threat to Islam are those who claim to believe but who disbelieve (i.e. hypocrites). They are liars and Allah has sealed their fate. So verse 2:10 is referring to those who claim to be Muslim but are not.

If there is anything here that is advocating war against these hypocrites I clearly can't see it, Allah only says that he has sealed the hearts and prepared a punishment for hypocrites. This is the passing of justice of Allah upon these people, if Allah seems to punish hypocrites hard then I totally agree with you, if you think Allah is asking Muslims to kill hypocrites or any such thing I ask you to re-read the verses and point out where exactly.

Verse 2:24 From the Video:
"A fire has been prepared for the disbielvers, whose fuel is men and stones."
More Accurate English Interpretation:
"But if you do it not, and you can never do it, then fear the Fire (Hell) whose fuel is men and stones, prepared for the disbelievers"
By 'you do it not' it is referring to verse 2:23:
"And if you (Arab pagans, Jews and Christians) are in doubt concerning that which we have sent down (i.e. the Quran) to Our slave (Muhammad) then produce a Surah (chapter) of the like thereof and call your witnesses (supporters and helpers) besides Allah, if you are truthful."
This is essentially saying that if you do not believe in the Quran then you should produce a single chapter to compete with the Quran and call your people (witnesses etc) to debate with Allah on it, if you are truthful.

Back to the first, it is saying but if you do not do such a thing and you cannot infact replicate the Quran then you should fear hell whose fuel is men and stone. This is essentially a call for those who disbelieve to convert to Islam, since they cannot create a text equivalent of the Quran (more on that later) they should not try to do as such and simply fear the hell fire and convert to Islam to avoid it.

By a text equivalent we are referring to an extremely complex piece of literature that bares no inconsistencies. This point is somewhat moot in terms of disproving Islam, since you will need a person who is completely unbiased in everyway possible to judge this piece of literature non-believers may create it would be impossible to verify unless god himself looked upon this literature, being almighty and perfect he will make that decision. He invites people to attempt it and says they cannot, so simply he's saying don't try to replicate Islam or create a religion, because you cannot, fear hell fire and convert to Islam.

Once again I cannot see anywhere in this verse the advocacy of violence against non-believers. Yes, again the verses are strong but there is nothing in them that asks Muslims on planet earth to attack non-believers.



In my next post on this matter I will be explaining verses 2:190, 2:244 and 2:178.

Remember once again I'm not a scholar on this subject matter but I am a Muslim and I can read. What I write here are my opinions however I'm sure they reflect off on the majority 1.2 billion other Muslims in existence.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Stop Digg’s Abuse! – An Open Letter to Digg

So long as someone takes what I have to say into consideration I’ll be more than happy.
Dear Digg Team & Digg Users

Little Green Football has apparently been organizing a campaign of hatred towards Muslims using Digg. While I in no way am in support of stopping freedom of speech they are actually abusing the Digg voting system to meet their own end while ruining the quality of content that reaches the front page on Digg.

Digg is all about a democracy, no one group or entity should have a higher say than anybody else. What Digg should reflect is the community not individual groups who are in fact not at all related to Digg but rather have agenda's they wish to push forward they do so via Digg's voting system.

Little Green Football is in fact abusing Digg, I doubt the majority of members even knew what it was about before this campaign started as he says in the comments section on Little Green Football

"Who is/are digg.com and why does anyone care?
Until you recently linked to it at LGF I'd never heard of it."

As you can see this group is not using Digg for what it was created for, they are exploiting Digg to further their own political agenda's, they don't care what Digg is so long as it helps them further their own personal agenda's.

If Digg really turns into some sort of political tool for such groups then it will be a problem for all core Digg members who visit the site for the stories, not furthering political agenda's.

Of course I'm not as well versed on Digg's system and am not claiming to be a speaker on behalf of everyone who uses Digg. However it is upsetting to say the least that these people can use Digg as a political tool rather than what it was made for. It ruins the quality of content that reaches the front page on Digg as the system turns into a means for war, one way or the other.

Anyway, I'll leave it to you guys to decide whats best and if what I'm saying should matter at all. Just please understand I don't support censorship, but I don't support abusing Digg like this either, which is why I would like some sort of action taken against Little Green Football.


Thanks for taking the time to read this.

Obsessed Digg Fan
- Ahmed (Digg user linkedList)

As a personal note I’ve already mentioned on one of the wonderful Digg submissions from the Little Green Football campaigns that I am a Muslim, I have more Atheist and Christian friends than I do Muslim friends and I do not at all want to blow anyone up (least of all me :-P).

Do I need to say more? I pray five times a day, I read the Quran but I still have non-Muslim friends I still go to university and I still support freedom of speech. I support scientists who do research into evolutionary biology and the origins of the universe amongst other things, in fact I love learning about the world around me and like most Digg users always look forward to hearing about the latest discoveries in most fields of science.

Come on people, no matter what the people at LGF say they can’t change who I am, they can take verses out of context from the Quran to their hearts content and post trumped up news reports but at the end of the day I as a dedicated Muslim am not interested in blowing myself up and I definitely do not hate non-Muslims simply because they are non-Muslims.

Like almost every Digg member I’ve come across the only people I am intolerant towards are those who are intolerant, I’m intolerant to intolerance. No I am not lying to anyone when I say this either. So to all the people from LGF and other extremist right wing groups, stop trying to tell me I am not following my religion because of such and such out of context verse from the Quran.

I am a Muslim and I know how it is best to be a Muslim, and this is how I am a Muslim and all my friends regardless of religious background don’t give two bits that I am a Muslim (save for the fact I’m not too keen on going to the pub Friday nights).

It's sad to say but this came to my attention when a six month old comment from the ultra neo-conservative Australian Treasurer Peter Costello made it to the front page on Digg. He simultaneously vilified Muslims as if they did not uphold the laws of Australia while making himself look like a great person who believes in separation of Church and State. Nothing can be further from the truth, he's pro-life, he has blocked RU486 based on religious grounds (of course he doesn't admit it) while also making derogatory comments on homosexual's. His party is allied with 'Family First', an extremist right wing conservative party which promotes such things as 'Christian values' being taught in public schools, such as prayers being recited before classes.

Peter Costello's brother is a 'humanitarian' who shares the same ultra conservative views, going to countries like Africa on humanitarian missions and god knows preaching what to the people there (I wouldn't be surprised if he was one of those people who claimed it was a sin to wear condoms).

I know a lot of my fellow American Diggers think it would be great if politics in the US was like here in Australia, I would gladly swap our governments, our prime minister is still increasing troop numbers in Iraq and our Health Minister is a religious nut case while our treasurer likes to speak outside his portfolio to gain political ground.

Oh what we'd do for a Barrack Obama equivalent here in Australia! As it stands our leading opposition party has been at each others necks for the leadership for the past decade! So please, I know the majority of people on Digg are North American based, but please understand our plight!


Yes, I’m sorry, blogspam *cough* but I’m not doing it for evil (well at least not trying to). Sometimes you have something to say you want everyone to hear, you submit it to Digg.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Top Ten Game Box Arts of All Time

Game cases are like tissue boxes, you want whats inside the tissue box yet it is the box itself that invites you. To that end the box art is very important with games, sure you just want the game, but it is the box art that gives it to you.

So here they are, starting from ten, going to one, my opinion on the best boxes games have been coming in since the time people started putting games in boxes and selling them.

10) System Shock 2

Typical space horror storyline, you wake up out of cryogenic sleep a prototype spaceship theres an alien menace that has killed all your mates and you've forgotten everything. Throw in some unexplained mysterious powers (known to the player as the almighty HUD) and you have your extremely generic typical alien sci-fi horror premise.

What System Shock 2 did really well which is perfectly shown through the box art is make you feel isolated on a spaceship with this constant feeling that an evil entity is looking down on you.



9) Metal Gear Solid

The Metal Gear franchise is the original espionage game. With its emphasis on stealth too fake to be real yet somehow believable storyline and Hollywood movie cinematography it broke new grounds in the innovation department.

Graphically the box art reflects the game, it's dark, muddy, difficult to make out and somewhat transparent, perfectly reflecting the game.



8) Deus Ex

Woo, conspiracies abound, secret government agents all over the streets, a dystopian future someone out there claims to be where were heading too, Deus Ex is the videogame worlds answer to such classics as Blade Runner.

So yeah, the damn box art is cool.




7) Wave Race 64

Jet Ski's, real time water physics (*gasp*) and transparency effects! If one unexpected thing Wave Race 64 proves it is that good gameplay and innovation are what sells games, not boobs (no, really, no joke).




6) Civilization

The Civilization Series has always had the same rough concept for its box art. The best however would have to be for Civilization 2, the hand drawn look gives it a golden era sort of look and the typical throughout the ages imagery is perfectly blended together to reflect the game perfectly well.




5) Super Mario Bros.

Revolutionizing not only gaming but also proving that box artcan also not have to look so damn cheesy and can actually look slick if done right. This is not only a gaming revolution, it's a revolution of box art.





4) Final Fantasy X

Probably the most colorful of all Final Fantasy box covers, the box art designer decided to only feature the games protagonist in one of the more beautiful locales to ever be featured in a Final Fantasy game.







3) Grim Fandango

Back when Lucas Arts continually pulled out games everyone loved and the adventure genre was thriving Grim Fandango pulled out to be one of the quirkiest and most engaging games of the era.

Featuring the surreal art style and sporting on the cover 'an epic tale of crime and corruption in the land of the dead' anyone with half a brain would know this is the game to get, if for anything, for the box.





2) Legend of Zelda: A Link To The Past

Nintendo really created quite the following with the original Legend of Zelda and saw no need to put too much effort into the sequel, just the sword and shield and Zelda was enough for the rabbid fanboys.




1) Secret of Mana

So this might seem like an odd choice, why 'Secret of Mana'? Sure it was an exceptional game for its time but it was no Chrono Trigger of Final Fantasy 3. Truth is this is not about the game, it's about the box art. Secret of Mana had an epic box art, just look at it, it is well ahead of its time, even today you don't get box art like that, covering such scope and detail of what the game was all about.



Honorable Mention: Terranigma

This game never enjoyed a North American Release, as such I have left it out of the list though I do believe it is deserving a spot (even possibly number 1).

Email? Emails Are For Geeks!

Wait what!? Where’d that come from? I think a part of me just died, for geeks? Emails? Come on…

So what do you use then? ‘My Space!’ exclaimed the thirteen year old girl. Yikes, MySpace? Well I guess it’s a nice networking site and all but come on, if she wants to sign up for Neopets she really should have an email.

Well she did, with hotmail, never been used save for the MySpace account. Well we’ll just use that instead, and so we did, she created her cute little puppy dog neopet and I left her at that.

I was left wondering, her ‘emails are for geeks’ thing kind of shocked me. Are they really? Is MySpace the new ‘it’ thing? Now not only is email not used for communications it is considered as something for geeks.

Maybe she’s one of those brats, spoiled rich kid. My friend, her brother, jokes about how spoiled she is and all. Damn kids, damn them to hell for making me feel like a geek.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Nicking IP’s

Just like in the Music industry were the artist does not even own the rights to the song he or she sings in game development the publisher usually buys the intellectual property that the developer made as part of the publishing agreement.

Enter bullshit mode, where your favourite franchise is butchered, taken to hell and back with every sequel, spin off, trilogy, prequel, hexology (in that order) before you know it you’re not even sure what the first game was all about.

Ubisoft for instance published Far Cry, a game developed by CryTek and retained the copyright. The original Far Cry was a great game, then along came the Xbox version which wasn’t too bad, then the Xbox sequel and Xbox 360 version, ok, now the Wii version and still a PSP version in development.

Clearly this is bad for the poor old fans but relatively good for business as publishers suck IP’s dry. Bigger development houses can afford to keep their IP’s and press hard on publishers to publish the game without buying out the IP’s. Other developers such as Nintendo are really very nice, even letting second party publishers (such as RARE) keep their created IP’s such as Perfect Dark and Banjo Kazooie.

The benefit of letting developers keep their IP’s is one of creativity, they can instead of exploiting it for more and more profits through spin offs and the like develop them further in a positive manner, take Insomniac with Ratchet and Clank as an example.

As developers get bigger it gets harder for publishers to buyout the IP’s of their products, developers can be far more independent, they can fund their game beginning to end and tell the publisher ‘here it is, were 80% done, you want to publish it or not?’. Of course if the game is good the publisher will want to have its name tacked on even if they don’t get the IP rights (such as EA with Pandemic on Mercenaries 2).

Thursday, February 22, 2007

C# As a Game Development Tool

My university course does not teach C#, I know I’ll have to learn it by myself if I want to gain any sort of foothold in the gaming industry, particularly since the Xbox 360 development Kit (XNA) uses the simplicity of C# as a means to increase productivity and reduce overhead costs.

Microsoft is pushing C# as more or less a direct competitor against Java, it shares virtually all the same principles, such as pulling the programmer by the ear telling him what to do and how to do it.

Why would Microsoft want to push C# as a pseudo standard language for games development? No matter how hard they press C# it will never substitute the power C++ gives programmers, it simply isn’t designed in anyway to compare to C++ when it comes to doing what C++ does best, blowing peoples legs off.

Developers will definitely buy into the XNA and C# because it can reduce overhead development costs significantly, C# is easier to use, easier to debug. Sure it can’t squeeze more out of the hardware it’s running on but that never was the point of C#.

Gameplay code, development tools, these things don’t need to be optimized so much, they don’t need to be mapped out onto the hardware in some inane way to get the most out of it.

Think of it this way, when programming a game engine you want to have direct access to as many parts of the hardware as possible, even API’s won’t let you run your software the way you would want to, as such C++ is a necessity, you’ll put up with the complexity because of the performance pay off.

But what if performance was not a factor? Would you want to bother about managing memory first hand? Would you want to go around looking for memory leaks or optimizing the garbage collection process? Well obviously not, which is exactly why C# excels in applications where performance is not the biggest factor. It handles pointers automatically as such you can avoid memory leaks, it runs high level so there won’t be any hardcore debugging happening, it just works.

Lets take a game like Gears of War for instance, based on Unreal Engine 3 which was written in C++. All the gameplay code is in C#, the game itself is built right on top of the XNA, the engine of course is C++ based. My assumption is that the gameplay programmers (whatever their titles are) can directly interact with the engine via the XNA through C#, they won’t need to look any further than that, save for bugs that might be present in the game engine itself. So they won’t be spending precious hours hunting down memory leaks but being productive.

Which is why XNA with the simplicity of C# is a great tool for developer, it not only gives developers an option to reduce workload but also encourages it. This also gives the edge to Xbox 360 developers over Playstation 3 developers. While the Playstation 3 requires C++ compiled programs it can technically support C# too, providing the software is written for it via C++ for it to support C#.

Naturally this won’t happen, the XNA concept is Xbox 360 exclusive, Sony isn’t simplifying game development on their console anytime soon, it really will be giving Xbox 360 developers an edge in terms of overall productivity.

Blu-Ray Won't Save the Playstation 3

My dad doesn't know much about technology which is why he brought me along when shopping for a new HDTV. At the store they had two huge Sony Bravia sets, side by side, one was playing a Blu-Ray movie while the one next to it was playing the DVD version.

Naturally the difference was nothing short of stunning, the sharp image, great colour, you literally don’t know what you’re missing out on until you see 480p and 1080p side by side.

Being the cautious enthusiast that I am I suggested to him we just buy the HDTV and buy a Blu-Ray player later and explained to him all this new fangled HD format war. He fondly recalled back in the day were it was Betamax and VHS, ah yes, old war stories indeed.

We did do a bit of window shopping, looking at the Blu-Ray players, or just player, there was only one. It was retailing at $1500 (AUD), was damn well heavy and fat too. I suggested we could wait up and get a Playstation 3 when it releases down under since it will have Blu-Ray playback and be cheaper than retail Blu-Ray players.

His response was a definite no, not because he has something against gaming (quite the opposite in fact) but because he simply could not accept a videogame console would play Blu-Ray movies as well as a dedicated Blu-Ray player could. Talking of poor quality, tacked on for extra marketing, he even questioned the resilience of the Playstation 3 in the long run and if it could last a good five years without breaking down.

This got me thinking, all he said was on the spot thinking, he wasn’t so sure himself but that was his thoughts on the matter, however true or false they may have been he is a consumer, the principle consumer that Sony needs to sell to in order to get Blu-Ray off the ground via the Playstation 3.

In the next three years were planning on buying a Blu-Ray or HD-DVD player (whichever suits our needs) and either way it will definitely not be in a Playstation 3 or an Xbox 360. So imagine were looking at a whole lot of Blu-Ray and HD-DVD players, shifty salesman walks in. He’s not going to want to sell the cheaper Playstation 3 or Xbox 360, he’s going to want to sell the expensive dedicated Blu-Ray or HD-DVD player, more likely than not he’ll pump my dad full of, what he would call ‘facts’ even further pushing him towards buying a dedicated Blu-Ray or HD-DVD player rather than a videogame console.

It’s all about money, no matter how much people claim about the Playstation 3 winning because it will be a cheap Blu-Ray player won’t change the fact that consumers like my dad will be more cautious than optimistic.

After all, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.