The 9-11 week is always difficult for me--it is equal parts heartbreaking and enraging. The excellent docu-drama "The Flight that Fought Back" was showing here in Malaysia this week, although the words "ALLAHU AKBAR" were silenced out by the Malaysian government censors every time the terrorists yelled or screamed it out. Watching such reenactments (as well as seeing Malaysia's censorship of the Islamic inclinations of the 9-11 bad guys) makes me very angry.
So for a welcome change of pace, I bring to you the following (I believe fictional) anecdote (hat tip Planck's Constant):
On a related, more serious note about Muslims in space:
The Iranian Ambassador to the UN had just finished giving a speech, and walked out into the lobby where he met President Bush.
They shook hands, and as they walked the Iranian said, "You know, I have just one question about what I have seen in America."
President Bush said, "Well, anything I can do to help you, I will."
The Iranian whispered "My son watches this show 'Star Trek' and in it there is Chekhov who is Russian, Scotty who is Scottish, and Sulu who is Japanese, but no Muslims. My son is very upset and doesn't understand why there aren't any Muslims on Star Trek."
President Bush laughed, leaned toward the Iranian ambassador, and whispered back, "It's because it takes place in the future."
When you're in orbit, which way is Mecca?
Malaysia's National Space Agency is trying to determine how its astronaut candidates will practice Islam in space. Three of its four astronaut candidates are Muslim, and two will be selected for a future Russian space flight.
Once in their orbiting spacecraft, they will circle the Earth once every 90 minutes. Traditionally, Muslims pray five times per day, at times connected to the position of the Sun in the sky. This will make prayer observance a challenge if they accept a "day" as being just 90 minutes long.
The "Malaysian Space Program" is a joke. It's a source of major local pride, but it's really nothing more than an empty shell. The only thing Malaysian about it is the nationality of the people that happen to be hitching a ride on a Russian rocket. The Russians themselves provide all the necessities--the training facilities, expertise, hardware, and the ride to orbit and back. There's nothing Malaysian about it at all.
In reality, the so-called "Malaysian Space Programme" is just a program to transfer hard currency from Malaysian coffers to Russian ones. The Russians get their money, and the Malaysians have something to feel proud about, something that is essentially meaningless.
So, that frees up the presumed Malaysian astronauts to worry about the really important issues, like about how to be a pious Muslim in space. How to pray in space, how to obtain halal food, keeping the genders properly separate, and all the other pointless petty rules that is Islam. Practical engineering or science? Forget that, it's been outsourced to the infidels.
It's not rocket science to figure this out--if everybody was a Muslim, humanity would never have gotten off the ground to begin with, let alone to space.