Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Fun Factoids: al Qaeda

Doing some research about al Qaeda recently, I learned some interesting things.

One: the reason there are so many ways of pronouncing the name is that the Arabic pronunciation requires being able to make a voiceless uvular plosive as well as a voiced pharyngeal fricative. The former is, I believe, the first consonant in the name Khomeini; sort of a combination of a k and an h. That's easy enough. But the voiced pharyngeal fricative is not so easy for us non-Arabs to get a handle on; even in phonetic symbology, it is represented by a question mark. To make matters even more difficult, there is controversy over whether this sound is truly a voiced pharyngeal fricative, or whether it is a voiced pharyngeal approximant, epiglottal consonant, voiced epiglottal fricative, epiglottal approximant, or pharyngealized glottal stop. In other words: don't worry about it.

Two: In writing my last post, I stumbled on al Qaeda's list of targets: "Western, Jewish, Israeli, Muslim apostate and Shiite" communities. (Muslim apostates are ex-Muslims. Shiites comprise 15% of the Muslim world and are concentrated in Iran and Iraq.)

That means that al Qaeda doesn't target quite a few groups, other than its own religion of Sunni Muslim. The groups that are getting off scot-free include Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, Confucianists, Christians who don't live in the West, Baha'is, Jainists, atheists who don't live in the West, animists, Taoists, Shintoists, Druze, and the Vodunsi.


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