Saturday, February 24, 2007

Enemies of The Faith, Fire and Brimstone

In terms of who is a moderate and who is not--and things like one recent global survey about the acceptability of strikes on civilian targets in various countries--here's something I had reason to say on a mailing list I am on:

On vacation this winter, I went "home" to Pakistan and India, which together have more than about 330 million Muslims (based on semi-official and official figures--cf. The Sachar Report on "Social, Economic and Educational Status of the MuslimCommunity of India" and various figures for Pakistan's population). Having actually lived in those countries, it is my starting assumption that most Muslims in those countries are moderates. But it can still be startling how moderate the vast majority of Muslims are, despite the inroads made by the Maududists, Qutbists, Wahabis, etc.

There's a very fiery Mullah who gives sermons you can hear from inside my parents' home in Karachi. This is the kind of guy that, amongst other things, condemned Nawaz Sharif for having the temerity to lead an "Islamic Republic" while starting each day with a "gunah-e-kabira" (grevious sin)--shaving his face clean every morning. (Heard this with my own ears, by the way--and you have to remember that NS was the right-leaning half of our political yin-yang back then.) Anyway, so I had the opportunity to attend Friday prayers in "his" mosque again this December. (Take a look at the picture above; see the little yellow'ish gate next to the mosque? My parents live 8 townhouses down the row behind it.) When he led the faithful in prayer at the end of the congregation, he, of course ended with "O Allah, help Muslims wherever they are in trouble and where they are oppressed," etc. And then, where I would challenge you to find a Western preacher (Muslim OR Christian) who would not have followed that up with a "...and bring down your wrath on the oppressors of my brothers," this gentleman went on to say "And the oppressors; Allah, give them guidance, help them see the light."

Now you tell me the man's an unredeemable militant fanatic and/or terrorist.

[The picture above is from the following BBC story, based in part on the institution in the picture:]

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Sunday, February 11, 2007

Big Ed on Anna Nicole, the Media and...Paris?

I have mentioned Big Ed Shultz here before. He's a lot f fun--and, like all fun speakers, will often say the ruddiest things. Friday, in all the hubub about Anna Nicole Smith's passing, he said something that--while a little inappropriate so soon after a death--was a very interesting comment on mass media (and not necessarily just American "MSM", either). His comment was this:
Let's increase security around Paris Hilton; because I don't think we can handle two stories like that at a time.

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Friday, February 09, 2007

Reflecting on The 'M' Word

Quite simply, a person who does not wear a uniform and operates in a war zone carrying out functions that soldiers usually do and, most importantly, carry arms, all of this in return, only, for a salary are, in the English language, called mercenaries.

Listening to a story Amy Goodman is covering about "private security contractors" in Iraq:

What I notice is that both the title of the book by the guest she has, and the title of the segment itself on the Democracy Now! website use the "M" word, but no one besides that guest/book author uses that word.

Several things come up in this regard:

Firstly, why doesn't Amy use the word? I have a feeling it's because she doesn't want to get too far outside the mainstream of American discourse and sound like a crazy hippy.

Secondly, why won't Congressman Waxman use the word? He is looking at--and quoting--evidence about private persons carrying arms and wearing armour and so on. Why won't he call a spade a spade?

And the common person on the globe today--American or non-American. And even Muslim activists. Why won't anyone use the word?

In the segment above, Jeff Cahill asks why there is no follow up on a private contractor killing a civilian. And I don't understand why Jeff Cahill is even talking about Iraqi law which, as he says, has been completely compromised. In previous decades and centuries, as the global community moved towards nation states and a respect for the rule of law and justice on an international level, the phenomenon of mercenaries was one that was given special attention. Basically, they were declared illegal. Meaning that such a person is, by definition an illegal combatant of the most clear, well-defined kind. And meaning that, in the context of war, it was a crime to be one. A war crime.

[One problem, however, is that the Geneva Conventions do leave a weird loophole for citizens of a country that is a "party to the conflict". See the Wikipedia for more. Of course, maybe we need a better word for people who are private players under contract to a country that is party to a conflict...a privateer, maybe? Of course, that was the origin of the phenomenon of Pirates, wasn't it?]

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Thursday, February 08, 2007

It's the War, S...

I actually saw this first in the International Herald Tribue, but later realized they were reproducing a New York Times Op Ed. Either way, the sentence--at the very beginning of a piece--just jumped out at me. It said, simply, that
It is not an inspiring sight to watch the U.S. Senate turn the most important issue facing America into a political football, and then fumble it.
What else can one say?

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Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Catch-Up: Saddam's Execution

One of the short pieces I wrote right after returning from vacation in mid-January:

I just got back from 3 weeks in the Muslim world (2 in Pakistan, 1 in India), and which coincided with a certain execution. The points made in the Tarek Fatah's article about Saddam Hussain's execution:
"The fact is that far from fostering democracy in Iraq, the execution of the Iraqi dictator has turned a murdering monster into a martyr of mythical proportions for the Arab people.


His death will be a relief to those in America who feared being exposed for having aided Saddam as he murdered so many of his countrymen.

To the teeming millions in the Muslim world who saw Saddam being led to his death by slogan-chanting masked men, his hanging was an act of revenge, not justice, a lynching, not the carrying out of a death sentence.
" for full article.
is not accurate--it is a huge understatement. Especially from the point of view of the reputation of the US in the Muslim world. What one heard all week long that week in Pakistan--and I am talking about people with absolutely no fundamentalist leanings or sympathy for Saddam--was "They shouldn't have done that on Eid [on the day of the Festival]." And the thing to note specifically was that the "they" in that sentence was always meant to be the "The Americans". (People in Third World countries do not, when looking at the big picture, really pay attention to the thin facade of witless stooges, however brutal or self-agarandizing they might be.)

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Friday, February 02, 2007

Back from Vacation...

I have been away from posting for a little bit, I think this time I have a real reason. Like I was saying, I went on vacation from Christmas till the middle of January, and this was to "go home for Christmas", so to speak. Or, as we say in Pakistan, Eid manawan waasthay, pind gayaa see. And while I like to think I am not one who gives in a lot of the tendencies of expatriates, "going home" after 6 years (8 in the case of India) can leave you smacking your forehead--and more than a little short tempered. And not because I am learning things that are new--but because what is obvious to any citizen of "The Third World" hits you in the face. And hits you hard. I have been reduced to conversations like:

"What's changed in Pakistan?"
"A lot has has changed. But a lot hasn't."
"So what's changed?"
"What hasn't changed?"

Of course, a long conversation usually follows. But frankly, what I'd really like to mention is things I think folks should be paying attention to.

So it gets complicated.

I think I am getting to the point where I can think straight. Trying to create an outline for a long piece that ties everything together helped, I have to admit. Now it's a question of sitting down to write it. While I work at trying to do that, I am going to try and work things I "learned" while on vacation and how it relates to our world. One thing I did do was make a conscious decision not to take notes or sit down and write a lot. I was hoping to blog more than I did, but the vicissitudes of Internet access, etc., got me there.

So I look forward to writing more ... and to comments. There's at least a few posts in the near future that should be mentionable. In the mean time, I thought I would leave folks with a picture of Junior that captures the spirit of vacation.

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