Friday, December 09, 2011

Quick Thought on Justice in Pakistan

There's been much discussion about justice for various people, corruption, and treason in Pakistan. What we need is justice that is delivered in a politically-conscious way and helps heal the nation, not angry vengeance that only opens old wounds and
creates new wounds.

The phrases "restorative justice" and "justice that heals" come to mind

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Zardari and what he deserves

A friend started the day by mentioning "AAZ finally getting what he deserves".

I asked him if he was saying that a fellow human being, an elected President of Pakistan, "deserved" heart disease?

On the other hand, is it that when AAZ gets in hot water, does he deserve to be able to just leave the country?

Personally, I don't give an eff what Mr AAZ deserves, but what Pakistan deserves. And it doesn't deserve selective prosecution. Because selective prosecution is not Justice; it is vengeance delivered in the anger of the moment. And you know what The Prophet said about anger.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Indian Muslims, Mujahirs, and the Bigger Picture

A friend just expressed frustration with Indian Muslims pontificating on the politics of the MQM. My reaction is that Indian Muslims can be do I put it politely...solicitous with us. If we both (Muhajirs in particular, but Pakistanis in general on the one hand and Indian Muslims on the other) were less so with each other, we *could* learn much from each other's experiences. [See, for example this blog post:]

I have said this before, but my own comment to Indian Muslims nowadays is that in matters of militancy, identity politics, and religious obscurantism, they are just a generation or so behind us—our problems today will be theirs in short order.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

On the PTI / Imran Khan's Jalsa

I have never been an Imran Khan supporter (let's leave the reasons aside right now), but following the comments, feelings, reactions, more than ever, my prayer is that the passion and, even more so, the sincerity and of the tens of thousands of young and old Pakistanis has its dreams and hopes fulfilled.

Friday, October 28, 2011

"don't afraid"—Words to Live By

One of cutest pop culture memes out of Pakistan is the phrase often seen on transport trucks and buses that says "don't jaluss" [don't be jealous]. It has started turning up on some of the T Shirts  now we see a similar idea from our sister nation;
Words to live by in this season of discontent.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Gaddafi: a Pakistani perspective

Love the statement at the end of the article providing a Pakistani perspective on Colonel Gaddafi by Khurram Ali Shafique, on The Republic of Rumi website:
"we have had our share of military rulers and civilian dictators, and some of them may have aspired to stay in power for forty years, or to set up dynastic rule. However, hats off to the people of Pakistan, such a thing has never actually happened here. "

Though I have to say, the really daring jaan-ki-amaan-pa'oon level of article on The Colonel is yet to be written.

The direct link to Khurram's article is:

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Revivification of the Pakistani Left

Readers of this blog might remember me talking about the Pakistani Left starting to come out of its comatose state over the last few years and "getting the band back together".

There's an article in New Internationalist article that's been making the rounds:

Here's a link to a previous post on this blog talking about the issue:

Sunday, October 16, 2011

There is no such thing as a "Muslim Ummah"

That was one of the first responses I got in reply to my call to "take back Islam for the Ummah". [See my intro to "Occupy Islam" in my last post.]

Ummah, as a lot of readers will know, is an Arabic word for community. whether you like it or not Muslims are a community. a community that is in the process of being completely taken over by a fanatic fringe. And it is because those of us in the silent, moderate majority refuse to take ownership that this has happened.

I went to graduate school and studied the idea of community. A community can be any group that has communal feeling--whether it is people stranded in an elevator or people who have sworn a blood oath, or people who are bound by a thousand/fifteen hundred years of faith, culture and civilization.

So, yes, Muslims are an ummah; and I say that as a done my-time-in-the-leadership Progressive Muslim.

Occupy Islam

Just started the Facebook page and twitter account for "Occupy Islam":

Let's take back Islam for the Ummah; for the Ijmaa of the People

Here are my first thoughts: We need to have the ijma of the people #OccupyIslam, and let ulema and da'ees do their own jobs:

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Steve Jobs: Obiter Dicta

Steve Jobs was a genius and a great man and I know a lot of people are hurting. I am starting to see a few dissenting voices. The charitable way to put it would be that one does not get to be that great a maker of omelettes without also being a prolific breaker of eggs. So once there's been a respectful period of time since his death let's also talk from the progressive point of view? Both the good and the bad. Apple's support of the education sector and institutions on the one hand, and their corporate practices on the other, such as building his devices abroad and the conditions at their factories, and so on.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Counting down to Revolution in Pakistan

Beena Sarwar just pointed (via Facebook and Twitter) to a very timely article on the Frontline website:
You Aren’t Hearing About Pakistan’s Biggest Problems – Afghanistan / Pakistan - FRONTLINE Every day headlines raise questions about Pakistan’s stability, but some of the real threats to the country are largely absent from Western media. From electricity shortages to a looming fiscal deficit, here are four of Pakistan’s biggest problems you might not be hearing about.

But even those are just straws in the wind. At the time of the anti-Pervez Musharraf/pro-Judiciary agitation, US media personalities were asking us "Is Pakistan going to become another Iran?" The best answer came from the person who is now the Pakistani Ambassador to the US (Husain Haqqani)—paraphrasing in my own words here—"No, not today, but if we all keep grinding our axes on the backs of the Pakistani people for the next 10 years, we'll get there."

It's been...let me see...4? 5? years now?

[Previous posts on this topic here.]

Thursday, September 29, 2011

"Give Peace a Chance" is now *Official* Pakistani Policy

And not just the Government of Pakistan; but all political parties.

Oh, and also "Trade not aid":
Source: Press Information Department, Government of Pakistan. Download the MS-Word Version here.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Challenge to those cussing the Media Blackout

Challenge: every time someone that starts a status/sentence/tweet with "What you won't see on the mainstream media..." Please end it with "... so here's what you should be watching/reading/listening to".

Don't just cuss the darkness; light a candle.

Another IMF Director; Another West African

So first, y'all saw the symbolism of the IMF chasing a poor West African down to brutalize her made all too real through the actions of the institution's director; now here's the next director literalizing another aspect of the organization: that of embracing a member of the West African ruling class:

[AFP Picture with the caption:
International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Christine Lagarde greets Nigeria's Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala prior to a meeting of the Intergovernmental Group of 24 (G-24) at the IMF Headquarters in advance of the 2011 Annual World Bank - IMF Meetings, in Washington, DC, September 22, 2011. AFP PHOTO / Saul LOEB.]

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Loving "Islamic Science" while you diss Traditional Muslims

My thought for this week is that I am very unsettled by those who wax eloquent about historic "Islamic" achievements and then condemn anyone or anything that actually still shows any sign of following or having any allegiance to the historic cultures and traditions that produced them.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Tarek Fatah on "Hijab" vs Dupatta

"I have no problem [with] Pakistani women wearing a dopatta; my issue is with those who wear the Muslim Brotherhood sanctioned Arab Hijab that is a political flag, not […] attire based on our culture and heritage."
—Tarek Fatah on Facebook

Sunday, September 11, 2011


 9/11 can and only should be a time for reflection. My thoughts were carried by Newsline Magazine and New American Media.

Let's hope the next 10 years are more positive.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

National Guard Airlifts Supplies to Vermont Towns Isolated by Irene's Flooding

I saw the above headline and couldn't help but remember Brian Williams's comment on The Daily Show after Katrina wondering how fast and how effective the response would have been if that kind of thing happened in New England in a mostly white town. "Where was the 101st Airborne?" he seemed to ask.

Check out this video on YouTube:

Dangerous Every Other Sunday

I wish the global media--even the "not corporate media" like The Guardian, Al Jazeera English, Democracy Now!, etc.--would have some sort of consistent engagement with "The most dangerous country in the world" rather than this bungee-when-someone-yanks-our-chain attitude. I checked yesterday and the latter two had NOthing about the political crisis in Pakistan. And as for The Guardian, check out and see if you find the biggest story in Pakistan right now on there.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

HP Revives TouchPad after people actually buy it—Duh!!

"The resurrection of the TouchPad follows a spike in demand after H-P, desperate to clear out unsold inventory that had piled up at retailers, slashed the price of the low-end model from $399 to $99."

That's what I have been friggin' saying for months now! The market is DESPERATE for a tablet that isn't just about making some spoilt IT brat his first billion.

Silicon Valley and American industry's gotten so Wall Street-fixated, even the Onion couldn't make this sh*** up!

There; I said it.

More here:

and more details without paying here:

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Proletarian / "Awami" reaction to the Anna Hazare Movement

 A few things I have been following re: the Anna Hazare movement:

A Great Opportunity, A Serious Danger

Amongst the signatories here is Biju Matthew, who I know personally and greatly respect.

SaveConstitution dot IN

This was posted on Facebook by no less than Shabnam Hashmi, who a lot of us respect.

And a piece by a friend of mine:

And then there's the sound and fury within Indian Muslim leadership:

Top Indian cleric warns Muslims off Anna Hazare

on the one hand and the reaction of the All India Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawarat on the other:

Voting Rights for Overseas Pakistanis

The PTI, in particular, has been making a lot of noise about voter registration and the integrity of voter rolls in Pakistan. And, of course, a lot of their enthusiastic support is amongst youth--not a few of them overseas. (See their web page in this regard here.)

So, to get the discussion going and help set the expectation of enthusiastic overseas supporters, here's what I know so far about their own voting rights and process:

There is no process for overseas pakistanis. What the party is recommending is the best they can do: to behave like other Pakistanis and make sure we're registered in our "home" constituencies and then try to vote there. There is not absentee ballot or overseas voting like we've seen for Iraqis, or Americans, or others.

The then Minister for Overseas Pakistanis (Farooq Sattar) and the Prime Minister have committed to/approved the latter in principle (with Dr. Sattar's own party having its own strong base amongst expatriate Karachiites), but it seems it hasn't been implemented in time for the upcoming elections. It is something that parties and activists need to push for. Here's my previous post from when they announced that they would enfranchise Overseas Pakistanis.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Can I get an "Allelujah" for the Heartsong Church of Cordova, Tenn. (via @npr @goatmilk)

I am not a fan of treacly interfaith pablum, but this red sign pictured in the story made my heart dance.

Read the full story on NPR here. I guess that's my take on interfaith stuff; I know it's useful and nice, but the triumphalist, happy-happy-joy-joy gatherings leave me cold. It's this kind of actual practical relationships that are the real way to live one's faith. [As the Cory Booker quote from last week pointed out:
"Don’t speak to me about your religion; first show it to me in how you treat other people. Don't tell me how much you love your god; show me in how much you love all his children. Don't preach to me your passion for your faith; teach me through your compassion for your neighbors. In the end, I'm not as interested in what you have to tell or sell as I am in how you choose to live and give. "
Cory Booker, Mayor of Newark, NJ

Asma Jahangir is still my hero

Sunday, August 21, 2011

On Identity, Immigration, and being a "Muhajir"

I lived in Nigeria (14), Pakistan (10 yrs), and now the US (17 years as of this week). It has been an interesting journey. In fact, a lot of my life has been a journey of sorting out identity. I used the opportunity to spend the middle third of my life in Pakistan itself to ground myself in that culture—but even today, it's an evolving, changing thing. Today, I am the parent and uncle of people (one is officially an adult and in college as of this week) of Americans, but, and this is the one unmitigated joy of my life, rather well-rounded, well-grounded ones who know from whence they are their folks, as we say in America, are coming from.

When I was in my early/mid-teens I once asked my father about all the immigrating and migrating our family had been up to in the last 3/4 generations (from Bara Banki District to Lucknow District to Karachi to--for a while--West Africa and back to Karachi and later to the US). His response was one misra from an old sheyr:
hai tark-e-wathan sunnath-e-rasool-e-khudha

(forsaking [one's] homeland is a tradition of The Prophet of God)
Whether you want to take it in a religious direction or not, the lesson I took from it was that it's a prophetic thing; embrace it, own it, be it. Muhajir for Eva! [And that's not a political statement; remember, the MQM itself has moved on from Muhajir to Muttaheda] 

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

On Corruption

 More later, but for now, allow me to quote a 1400-year old text:
"While selecting your officers ... Keep them also well-paid so that they may not be tempted to lower their standard of morality and may not misappropriate the cash of the State which they hold in their trust and if after being paid handsomely they prove dishonest, then you will be right to punish them."
In short, first fix the systemic causes/reasons for corruption that were part of the original, colonial, design of our systems. Low salaries for public servants; rules of engagement/procedure geared to control the public and not serve it and so on.

Then we will have the right to expect, much less demand, honesty. Before that, it is either naive, ill-advised, or disingenuous. And I am being polite there.

Extra points for folks that can tell me which text that quote is from--of course, other than followers of the Shia schools of Islam, since most of those brothers and sisters can quote this in their sleep.

Monday, August 15, 2011

On Anwar Al-Awlaki

I just had reason to observe, on Facebook, that a few years ago, I was the crazy radical that listened to the first few minutes of a CD by Anwar Al-Awlaki and said to my wife and the friend who bought it for us "This man is a fanatic." Everyone else was thinking of him as a the "moderate Islamist"--including the State Department, the Washington Post, and most of the people in my Muslim community. Here's a Salon article that details the transformation of Al-Awlaki

Friday, August 12, 2011

Addictions of Our Youth

Ghalib chhuti sharaab par abhi kabhi kabhi
Peetha hoon roz-e-abr-o-shab-e-mahtab mein

Ghalib, the bottle is in my past now, but yet, once in a while

I drink on days that are overcast, and on nights moonlit

[you have to remember that for people from desert climes, an overcast day isn't dreary, but full of the expectation of life-giving rain. see, for example,]

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

The Spirit of Ramazan

I haven't written anything new, but previous comments on Ramazan, Eid (and the moonsighting issue) are here (also available on, here and here

Friday, July 29, 2011

Why do they hate us (when we give them billions)?

 A lot of American friends (of all skin hues and ethnicities) wonder why all of America's giving to Pakistan (and other countries) doesn't really buy goodwill. Well, besides the whole idea of "buying goodwill", here are some facts, via Naeem Sadiq's email signature of why the current "aid" system should just be discontinued, as it does neither nation any good:

  • 50 percent of the aid has to be spent on US ‘contractors’ under US law, so this goes back to America.
  • 25 percent is wasted on administrative expenses.
  • The rest is given to the US Ambassador’s favorite NGO to be deposited in US accounts.
Almost none makes it to Pakistanis.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

On the End of the Shuttle Program

On the Shuttle program, I see the end of NASA's program as the transition point in the space business where government subsidies end and the private sector takes over and runs with it. Kinda like when the the Internet was opened up for commercial use in the early 90s.

Of course, this doesn't take in account the plans of other countries (mainly rising powers) for manned flight and programs to travel to the moon and mars. In fact, how their role plays out in space exploration might be a function and an indication of their status as players in forming the human experience in the years to come.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

#WTF: US-Pak Relations

Good to see @adilnajam wade right into the national discourse in #Pakistan now that he's back on the ground:

Especially since he uses the same word I did on a recent episode of WBT TV's "Wide Angle Zoom" (Urdu) Discussion Show (recorded 7/12/11) for where US-Pak relations are; "renegotiation":

Of course, I also used it for the Karachi situation, too (both episodes were recorded together):

 [Direct link:]

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Why do they call it a *mini*van, my 10-year old wanted to know…

Of course, I explained to him that "vans" are also a real category of vehicle and reminded him where he might have seen one. I just found this an interesting example of where the language we use are derived from concepts that are once commonplace and then either disappear or, as in this case, become less visible to parts of our society.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Teaneck, New Jersey Passes Anti-Bias Resolution

Every immigrant family (and in the US, all but a very few are immigrant families) has a place they first lived in and where their dreams started to put down roots and grow in the new soil, the new land. Teaneck is that for home for our extended family. So this news makes me particularly proud of the 07666
Mayor and Township Council of Teaneck, New Jersey Unanimously Pass Anti-Bias Resolution
(New Jersey): Mayor Mohammed Hameeduddin, the Muslim American mayor of Teaneck, New Jersey, and the Teaneck Township Council unanimously passed an anti-bias resolution presented by South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT), a national non-profit organization based in Washington, DC, on July 12, 2011. The resolution reaffirms the township's commitment to state bias intimidation laws and requires the municipality to: train law enforcement agencies in identifying and investigating bias crimes; gather and make accessible data on bias crimes; inform residents about their rights around bias incidents; and, improve engagement with communities impacted by such crimes. See the resolution here.

Terror Walks Our Deis

 Today, both Karachi and Mumbai burn--not to mention Lahore and other parts of our homelands. Here's a couple of older comments from me--they bear repeating both because they express some sentiments, and to point out that we ALL lose unless we can do something about the evil that walks our lands:​R

There IS such a thing as using the wrong means for the right end. And when that happens, we should all stand up and be counted. Terrorism is terrorism even if someone commits an act of terror, or other heinous act for my personal, social, or national benefit. Intelligent and principled people should be able to call out evil even when it is committed for a cause they might not disagree with. Here is a more detailed discussion of my position on Terrorism:​st

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Revolutions only bring down walls; building anew comes afterwards

Or, as I was saying in one conversation: Revolutions by definition only open the door to new possibilities; what follows is shaped by those who seize the moment. Russia, Iran, China...they all have taught us that.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Revolution in Pakistan? As in the Systemic Kind?

After my intemperate outburst yesterday, maybe it is time to finish up and post something that's been hanging out in my draft folder. I mentioned that post yesterday that my opinion is that if and when a revolution comes in Pakistan, given that the country already has an imperfect democracy in place, it will be on the basis of a revolt against the conditions of people's lives and a dysfunctional system.

The point to note that is there's a lot of  "there's a revolution a-brewing" rhetoric in Pakistan today. But it's not just since the Arab Revolts broke radio silence; it's been around for a while. Here's something adapted from a reply I sent a journalist here in the US before January:

People like Daniyal Mueenuddin dismiss it with a point of view held by quite a few people: the "Oh, these/us Pakistanis don't have it in them/us." But, the parallels to the time in which Chekhov and others wrote in Russia cannot be ignored. [See this for what I am talking about: and the whole series at: ]

But consider these factoids:

From Musharraf talking about the need for "a stronger distribution plan of wealth between the rich and poor" (in a Facebook status), to a nationalist blogger tweeting about Via Campesina, to Imran Khan and the MQM separately claiming to have "have always had a Progressive (taraqqi-pasand)" agenda. This in a country where commie thought has been anathema almost more than in the US.

Worth noting also is that each of the people/groups I just mentioned are those casting around for a way to connect with and build a broad base across the whole nation. On the other hand, as an uncle of ours here in California observed the other day, the professional politicians, the opportunists on the inside, so to speak, can often be found on talk shows opining that if we don't find a way to "make things better", then "inqalaab", revolution, could break out.

Flash back to the period when Musharraf was on his way out, and when Benazir was assassinated. One of the questions that kept coming up was "Is Pakistan, will Pakistan become another Iran?" And the best answer I heard was from the intellectual who is now Pakistan's Ambassador to the US, Hussain Haqqani, when he said (paraphrasing here) "Not right now; but if the people of Pakistan keep getting kicked around and dissed for another 10 years, then, yes; Pakistan will become another Iran-in-the-late-70s."

Now do the math; how many of those years have passed since?

Will it really happen? Suddenly, with the rolling revolt moving our way from Tunisia, who knows?

Monday, February 14, 2011

A Pakistani Rants Intemperately

Apologies if the following is not too coherent. But I have just had it with people who have no skin in the game—or who think they have not skin in the game—talking down Pakistan and Pakistanis. Here's a rant I just posted on Facebook:

What is pathetic about Pakistan is not Pakistanis in Pakistan, it is those of us (yes, us) who are snug as a bug in a rug in the bosom of corporate America, happy to put out software and hardware used to repress, capture and deliver human beings to torture and worse.

On Pakistani civil society read the quote and, if you care, follow the link to the interview with Amartya Sen. I consciously am quoting a person with a "First World" stamp of importance and an Indian background:

And read on to:

and check in to Pakistan's largest blog aggregator at

My apologies for being so blunt, but only Islamists (not all Muslims), expatriates, Indians (again, not all of them, cf: Amartya Sen above), and people who think CNN is "news" think that Pakistanis are depending on Islamists or the Western and Corporate world to come fix their lives—any more than Arabs were before the last month or two.

By the definition of people who consider Pakistanis a lost cause, as of January 24th, 2011 Egyptians were worse than Pakistanis. We had pushed out a military dictator barely 3 years ago and then forced our elected government to restore a semblance of normalcy to our judiciary—the Egyptians (God bless them; their Youth have redeemed the Muslim and Arab World's honor) hadn't managed anything for nigh onto 60 years. What changed? Not the Egyptians, just the fact that people like Mona Eltahawy and Wael Ghonim (and that's just counting people from our English-speaking circles of technology, online activism, etc.) were not on your radar one day and they were the next. Mona had been talking of what would start on January 25 before that. (Listen to the segment with her at 45 minutes of this.)

In each of the three military dictatorships we've had in Pakistan, we have had people ready to go up against the jackboot (often with a "Made in USA" label on it and manufactured with American corporate technology):
  • In the 2000s, our youth used social media to organize everything from a nation-wide "Long March" to flash mobs against Musharraf's emergency—not long after Silicon Valley's OPEN was lapping up his and his ministers' speeches;
  • in the 80s Asma Jehangir and the women of WAF were being dragged by their hair by Zia's thugs; and
  • in the 60s the sister of our founder herself (the closest thing we have to acknowledging a "Founding Mother") stood as the presidential candidate against our first dictator. (That first presidential campaign, by the way, had such wide-based support that the Jamat-e-Islami—the Muslim Brotherhood's fraternal party in South Asia—had to issue a fatwa saying it was okay to support her as a woman running to be president of the world's 2nd largest Muslim country.)
About today, you ask? Well, Pakistan is boiling and bubbling. Our struggles against three dictators have brought us to where we have now have a rickety form of democracy. And because a lot of us want democracy to evolve in an organic fashion (while keeping the pressure on; like we did with the issue of the judiciary) is what seems like we're not reacting.

But be careful what you ask for. Because of the conditions in the common Pakistani's life, Pakistanis are frustrated and not a bit hot under the collar. And when it comes, the Pakistani Revolution will not be about one man or even one institution. When they explode, it will be about the conditions of their lives, the system that the British left and we compradors have been complicit with, and it will challenge a whole world order. Don't be surprised if it, or it's reaction, touches you in Santa Clara County.

And, if you do want to get involved, check out this little movement (on Facebook, of course) that a couple of kids have started here.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Why he won't leave; The Messiah Complex, Je suis l'etat and all that, old chap

The angst of the day, as we all follow "Al Thawra", the rolling revolution "فی کل مکان", as the slogan goes, is the regime in Egypt turning ugly and starting to break heads. "Why doesn't he leave now? The writing seems on the wall?"

A couple of things go through my head on that. Firstly that kind of person has a psychosis all their own. The Messiah Complex (a phrase often used when Musharraf was in power); "Je suis l'état. L'état c'est moi." or what have you.

Secondly, people keep asking "Who will negotiate from the other side?" Well the crowds ARE negotiating. The people set up the table. Appointing a Vice President was Mubarak's opening gambit. The people didn't blink. Agreeing not to run again was his next gambit; one, of course, also backed by one of the folks that, as we say in the US, "brung him" to the dance. Now we see him trying to follow through on that gambit by seeing if he can't last out till September—however unrealistic that might be, he's not got much to gain by going right now in his ken, I think. And the aim might be to enable the next layer of this regime (which, after all, means the power structure, not just the man at the pinnacle of it) to dig in and even start to ingratiate itself with all the stakeholders (from the people to the patrons).

What are you thinking?

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

…and Obama makes a last ditch effort to bolster Mubarak

As I was just saying the Israelis are really supporting democracy by embracing Mubarak in public, so the people dump him as a traitor.

By the same coin, Obama is now making a last-ditch effort to bolster Ol' Hosni by showing the Egyptians that he's not someone America loves after all.

Technorati tags applicable to this post: - -

Why is Israel Supporting the Dictator Hosni Mubarak? Best-Case Conspiracy Theory

Have you considered that maybe the Israelis, "the only democracy in the Middle East" secretly wants to support democracy in Egypt and they know that the fastest route to getting Hosni dumped by any group of Arabs or Muslims is for them, the Israeli Government, to embrace him in public?

Update/Breaking News: …Obama has now made a last ditch effort to bolster Mubarak

Friday, January 28, 2011

Slogans/Chants: ثوره ثوره في كل مكان Revolution Revolution in all the Land

Okay! Found a source for the slogans being chanted, at least in Egypt. The Angry Arab News Agency comes through; check them out:

Though as I have done in the subject line above (and in my previous post) let's keep working to create  translations that capture the meanings, the atmosphere and spirit behind the words.

Whither the Revolution?

Like previous times "when any form of government becomes destructive to" the people's "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" and "right of the people to alter or to abolish it" comes into play, the revolutions play out the way they play out. The forces, institutions, movements, organizations, ideologies, and other tectonics, both internal and external will go into motion and the process begun in and from Tunisia, is just getting started.

For one thing, it took a while—praise The Lord!—but I inevitably ran into someone (not an Egyptian, but a Pakistani like me) who brought up Syed Qutb as the original "Shaheed" of the Egyptian Revolution. Like I said in a previous post, the revolutions happening are inevitable. But it is where they end up and where they go will be interesting. My first reaction was that that's how it starts; the process of diverting and destroying the legacy of a proud people's effort to rid themselves of oppression. It starts with people taking their own ideologies (in this case, whether pro- or anti-Ikhwan; Islamic, Islamist, or otherwise) and declaring this or that point of view the only solution. Just to use the Ikhwan's example, I am not very familiar with Egypt, but if Sidi Al Baradei is to be believed, it represents 20% of Egyptian society. In our country, their equivalents from all shades of reactionary religious thought hold about 13% of the nation's loyalties. Other points of view (in Pakistan, it is about 35%+/- Peoples', 30%+/- various Muslim Leagues, and so on). Unless we learn to be interlocutors, competing for how best to better our societies, nations and the Ummah, rather than enemies to be eliminated and done away with, we, excuse the expression, continue to be f****ed.

What are they chanting in #Egypt, #Yemen, #Tunisia? Tell us; translate for us.

Update: Since I wrote the text below, I found a list of slogans on The Angry Arab News Service and have posted a link to it. However, the process of capturing the slogans, their meanings, context, and capturing their magic continues. For example, I used part of a translation in my post about the list at ANN, but updated it a bit. Check it out, and please contribute!

To coin a phrase, the graffiti that revolutions yield lives after them; the slogans are oft interred with the bones. The most exhilarating part of a street movement is often the slogans being chanted. They range from crude obscenity-laced condemnations to sublime, uplifting calls to the better angels of human nature. But almost invariably, chanted right, they have one thing in common: they are lyrical, musical, and poetic. Just as government and society is, at least for the duration of the movement itself, democratized and taken over by the people, in moments like the one we're seeing in The Maghreb, Al Ifriqiya, and the Arab lands today, my art—communication in general and the language and musical arts in particular—is taken back by those it belongs to: the People. The People of The Language, "Ahl-e-Zubaan" we call them in South Asia, take the art form to passionate heights that only those passionately engaged with the subject matter can attain.  And, quite frankly and selfishly, I would like be a part of it; to partake of this revolution by partaking of this art form. And if this is a revolution that belongs to all of us, then everybody else should, too.

My own experience in this art form is mainly from South Asia (Pakistan and India, mainly) with some exposure to US and Nigerian chants, I am tantalized by bits and pieces I am hearing chanted in one of the world's oldest and richest languages in the streets of Tunisia, Misr, and Yaman (and even The Hejaz?). Did I hear "Barra! Barra! Barra!"? That's Down! Down! Down! right? as in "Down with Mubarak"? How is What was the line that went after it? How is "Kefaya!"—Enough! the name of the movement and iconic exclamation of Egyptian protesters for a few years now—chanted?

I would like to request, beg, supplicate those on the ground, and watching from afar and who speak Arabic to please post the words, chants, songs, etc. and—as importantly—translate for us what is being said. And, of course, translations can not and do not do complete justice to any work of art; but let us get alternate translations, word help, and dare I say a concordance going.

You can post your input as comments below, or on my Facebook status where this turns up, or via twitter with the hashtag #ArabicChant

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Revolutions Don't Happen on Cue …

Revolutions, it strikes me, don't happen on cue; they don't happen according to a script. And once they start, they play out the way they play out. The process in Tunisia, for example, is just getting started.

What do you think?

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Corruption and Terrorism

Corruption has been a long-running problem in post-colonial and post-conflict states. Corruption of money and corruption of power. And even in states led by people who waged self-less struggles for independence. We can follow in the headlines of the New York Times and other Western media outlets the process of it's being institutionalized in a "new" post-conflict state in Afghanistan. Just read what is NOT mentioned in the stories, in particular. You read that corruption is a big problem—and, without irony—often the same article will tell you that the same person who is corrupt and a drug lord, "is also on the CIA payroll". The point made being that "we" should not be giving money to a person who is "corrupt". Huh? A foreign intelligence agency paying someone a stipend is not "corruption"? In a country that could afford self-respect, it would be considered worse than monetary corruption; it would be considered treason.

Anyways, it was a conversation on Twitter with @weddady and which started with a mention of terrorism, as so much does nowadays, that finally helped me sort out my thoughts. It started by my noticing a comment by him saying that terrorism is why Western governments support dictators. Here's my response, compiled from multiple tweets to (hopefully) one coherent para:

I don't think terrorism is the the reason the West supports criminals. It starts—or started, back in colonial days, and re-started again in the post-colonial (some would say neo-colonial) age as the struggle for influence, resources, and hegemony took off—with corruptible folks. It is the corruptible that sell out to people looking to buy influence. That leads to the corrupt having the resources necessary to gain power. Terrorism turns up further down the road as constructive avenues for political participation and redress are cut off. [Interesting article on the cycle as it has played out in the Maoist troubles in India here. Which is not to say that all of the actions of the Naxalites are terrorism, but then, terrorism is one tact too often used by insurgencies of all sorts.] Long and short of it; terrorism only helps strengthen that cycle. So, yes, it strengthens the criminal/corrupt but it's not the original sin.