Saturday, October 17, 2009

Second Place Gets an AK-47

National Geographic magazine sponsors the National Geographic Bee each year here in the United States. This "entertaining and challenging test of geographic knowledge" is for students in 4th through 8th grade with representatives from each state going to the national competition in Washington, D. C. which is hosted by Jeopardy emcee Alex Trebek (who was, ironically, born in Canada).

My son, Sam, qualified for the Washington state competition in 2007, but had the unfortunate luck to be in the same group with Caitlin Snaring, the eventual national champion (the first female winner, and 5th winner from Washington state since the competition began in 1989 - it's something in the water). For her efforts Snaring was awarded a $25,000 college scholarship and a lifetime membership in the National Geographic Society.

This past Ramadan, while the residents of Istanbul, Turkey were celebrating by creating the world's longest Iftar table, folks in Kismayo, Somalia (a country with no functioning centralized government since 1991), had their own bee, a combination of questions about the Koran and Somali geography. However, instead of receiving a college scholarship, the winning team (from the city's Farjano district) was awarded a rifle, two grenades, a landmine and, most importantly, office supplies worth $1,000 (WTF???). The second place team was awarded an AK-47 and some bullets.

Said Sheikh Abdullahi Alhaq of Al-Shabab:
The reason the young men were rewarded with weapons is to encourage them to participate in the ongoing holy war against the enemies of Allah in Somalia.
That, my friends, is a different world from mine, and I hope it always will be.

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