Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Updates, and planning

Trying to fight the Urge to Wiki, I am going to start paying attention here.
  • I have made the template (layout, look-and-feel) a little lighter, with headings becoming smaller and less "heavy".
  • I have added a link to the Spider Blog from Pakistan to the right-hand column on this page [look under "Listening to Dem Po' Folk"].
Topics I intend to discuss often include:
and similar topics.


Engaging with the Wikipedia is a addictive; it gets in the way of this and other writing. I have gone to fighting the urge.

Progress, however, is steady :D. See:


Friday, September 17, 2004

WikiWikiWiki WikiWikiMe!

Growing up on the periphery (with the occasional foray, of course, into the heart) of, three or four different societies/cultures/civilizations/what-have-you, one often felt that encyclopedias and the other canons of modern life did not do justice to the world as one say it. Finally, there's an encyclopedia to end that; the Wikipedia that I have mentioned before. I think I am there to stay as a member of that community. You can follow my presence there at my User page on that system. Might even tell you a few things about me you didn't know and didn't care enough about to ask :D.

In particular, I have a list on the above page that describes Wikipedia Content I recommend highly.

Who's Winning?

Somebody once said:
The Cold War is over; Japan won.
I can't remember which talking head (or disembodied voice, if you will) was talking about this yesterday on NPR, but the following flashed through my mind:
The war in/on Iraq is not going as planned; Iran is winning.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Standing Pat on Iraq

The first step is to get over being startled at the fact that Pat Buchannan is against the War in Iraq. Given his isolationist stance this shouldn't really be a surprise; but so few people anywhere take stands purely on principle anymore, you can't really be blamed.

But once you get over that, actually listen to the guy; he has some interesting geo-political points to make. One place to do to this is the following (second-last segment):


The way he talks about and points out the importance and significance of Baghdad. I have not heard Muslims discuss that aspect. If I may say so, most Muslims are too busy being modern victims of the post-Ottoman period that we live in to own their own history and take in the bigger picture. As I have said before, in a lot of ways we are still living in the period of tying up the loose ends of that empire. More on that later.

Monday, September 13, 2004

Wikipedia--Encyclopedia of the Masses

I have recently become involved in Wikipedia. Check out what I am up to there. I will post interesting items and things I run into on that project here. Here's a start:
  • Wikipedia also has versions in other languages. Including Urdu.
  • Wikipedia has the best exposition I have seen on the Urdu-Hindi-Hindustani issue. Maybe not a perfect description for any of us; but still a better starting point than I have seen anywhere.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Human Rights and the Muslim World; Pakistan in Particular

During the Question-and-Answer session at a recent documentary showing event in the Bay Area [http://www.friendsofsouthasia.org/events/tfsa04/], someone asked something to the effect of "We keep talking about Human Rights problems [in the context of Pakistan], but is there any hope? Where's the silver lining?"

My answer included pointing out that there are people struggling for Human Rights in Pakistan and it is that struggle, for example, that has given the world the person that was, till very recently, the UN's Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Arbitrary and Summary Executions. A web search tells me, she has just been appointed...well, take a look:


Asma Jehangir is a founding member of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan [http://www.hrcp-web.org/], and has served as Secretary-General and later as Chair of the same. This group is often the lone voice against things that are against humanity in my country--often having to go against the interests of "the West". Like being the only ones to speak up against a military coup.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Background Reading on Pakistan

The link below provides an article for background reading. The interesting thing is, the article was written in 96.

Remember: The article is from 5 or so years before 9/11. On the Indian side, the massacre in Gujarat happened after this. The heyday of the Taliban was in the future. And there are other little things; for example, the article says that Pakistan's complaint about not receiving stuff they've paid for has been "partially resolved". Most Pakistanis are still very pissed, and as far as I know, no real money has been transferred.

I don't agree with everything in the article, but on the whole it gives a complete view of Pakistan--both the fundamentalists and the more democratic tradition. The conclusion sums things up well:
"Whatever fire may emerge from this tinderbox, Pakistan will be a pivot. Perhaps the source of conflict or perhaps a mediating influence."
One very important thing; don't base anything you think on only one paragraph in the piece. The article makes a complete point and reading a paragraph here or there out of context will give the wrong impression about what the writer is saying. Unless it is the following paragraph [which might show you my bias :D]:
"It was earlier suggested that the resurgence of Islam as a political force in the world presents us with what will be the 21st century's most important political problem. We shall have to deal with this in our foreign policy. But we shall also have to confront it as a national problem, as Muslims are now the second largest religious group in the United States and are becoming a widely recognized political force. Pakistan can help us understand this phenomenon in a unique way. Pakistan is one of the few countries which has a long history of reconciling Islamic and non-Islamic values, of interpreting in English a moderating Islam in the context of western culture. This unique reconstruction (some would say modernization) of Islam began with the work of Sir Syed Ahmed Khan (1817-1898) in pre-partition India. His orientation is revealed in the name of the institution which he sought to establish: Muhammadan Anglo-Oriental College, which ultimately became Aligarh Muslim University. This reconstructive or modernist orientation is continued in the work of Sir Muhammad Iqbal (1877-1938) the Muslim poet-philosopher regarded as the creator of the concept of a separate Islamic state on the South Asian subcontinent. His Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam is a classic in modernist interpretations of Islam. The pre-eminent Pakistani historian, Ishtiaq Husain Qureshi, was preoccupied for several years with articulating Islam to modem constitutionalism. His book, The Future Development of an Islamic Polity is a brilliant analysis marked by clarity and comprehension of other political systems. The point of view of the founding father of Pakistan, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, was in the same tradition - Islamic to be sure, but not militantly Islamic. Rather it was reconstructionist, progressive and modernist."
Now the link: