Thursday, July 30, 2009

Race in America (cont) a familiar pattern

July 24, 2009
Henry Louis Gates: Déjà Vu All Over Again
Stanley Fish (NY Times Blog)

I’m Skip Gates’s friend, too. That’s probably the only thing I share with President Obama, so when he ended his press conference last Wednesday by answering a question about Gates’s arrest after he was seen trying to get into his own house, my ears perked up.

As the story unfolded in the press and on the Internet, I flashed back 20 years or so to the time when Gates arrived in Durham, N.C., to take up the position I had offered him in my capacity as chairman of the English department of Duke University. One of the first things Gates did was buy the grandest house in town (owned previously by a movie director) and renovate it. During the renovation workers would often take Gates for a servant and ask to be pointed to the house’s owner. The drivers of delivery trucks made the same mistake.

The message was unmistakable: What was a black man doing living in a place like this?

At the university (which in a past not distant at all did not admit African-Americans ), Gates’s reception was in some ways no different. Doubts were expressed in letters written by senior professors about his scholarly credentials, which were vastly superior to those of his detractors. (He was already a recipient of a MacArthur fellowship, the so called “genius award.”) There were wild speculations (again in print) about his salary, which in fact was quite respectable but not inordinate; when a list of the highest-paid members of the Duke faculty was published, he was nowhere on it.
The Associated Press Henry Louis Gates, Jr., during a book signing in 2006.

The unkindest cut of all was delivered by some members of the black faculty who had made their peace with Duke traditions and did not want an over-visible newcomer and upstart to trouble waters that had long been still. (The great historian John Hope Franklin was an exception.) When an offer came from Harvard, there wasn’t much I could do. Gates accepted it, and when he left he was pursued by false reports about his tenure at what he had come to call “the plantation.” (I became aware of his feelings when he and I and his father watched the N.C.A.A. championship game between Duke and U.N.L.V. at my house; they were rooting for U.N.L.V.)

Now, in 2009, it’s a version of the same story. Gates is once again regarded with suspicion because, as the cultural critic Michael Eric Dyson put it in an interview, he has committed the crime of being H.W.B., Housed While Black.

He isn’t the only one thought to be guilty of that crime. TV commentators, laboring to explain the unusual candor and vigor of Obama’s initial comments on the Gates incident, speculated that he had probably been the victim of racial profiling himself. Speculation was unnecessary, for they didn’t have to look any further than the story they were reporting in another segment, the story of the “birthers” — the “wing-nuts,” in Chris Matthews’s phrase — who insist that Obama was born in Kenya and cite as “proof” his failure to come up with an authenticated birth certificate. For several nights running, Matthews displayed a copy of the birth certificate and asked, What do you guys want? How can you keep saying these things in the face of all evidence?

He missed the point. No evidence would be sufficient, just as no evidence would have convinced some of my Duke colleagues that Gates was anything but a charlatan and a fraud. It isn’t the legitimacy of Obama’s birth certificate that’s the problem for the birthers. The problem is again the legitimacy of a black man living in a big house, especially when it’s the White House. Just as some in Durham and Cambridge couldn’t believe that Gates belonged in the neighborhood, so does a vocal minority find it hard to believe that an African-American could possibly be the real president of the United States.

Gates and Obama are not only friends; they are in the same position, suspected of occupying a majestic residence under false pretenses. And Obama is a double offender. Not only is he guilty of being Housed While Black; he is the first in American history guilty of being P.W.B., President While Black.

Race in America (cont)

July 30th 2009

Two recent incidents that have come under public scrutiny are symptomatic of what many white Americans think but know better than to say on record:

Justin Barrett, a national guardsman in Boston referred to Professor Gates as "a banana-eating jungle monkey" in an email that came to light: “If I was the officer (Gates) verbally assaulted like a banana-eating jungle monkey, I would have sprayed him in the face with OC (pepper spray) deserving of his belligerent noncompliance,” the e-mail reads.

Boston Globe

Lee Landor, until recently deputy press secretary to Manhattan borough president Scott Stringer, posted comments on her personal Facebook page criticizing Henry Louis Gates and the President, and defending racial profiling"

I beleive Ms Landor speaks for many white people in America. Ms. Landor wrote in one post, “O-dumb-a, the situation got ‘out of hand’ because Gates is a racist, not because the officer was DOING HIS JOB!”

In response to one Facebook user who voiced disagreement, Ms. Landor referred to Professor Gates using a vulgarity and added: “And racial profiling does exist, but for good reason. Take a look at this country’s jails: who makes up the majority of inmates? Exactly.”

In another Facebook post, Ms. Landor wrote, “You know what, I am really getting SICK of hearing about how white people are evil racists.” She added: “I get it — white men have dominated for hundreds of years and there’s a lot of anger there. But HOW MUCH MORE can the white people do to correct past injustices of their ancestors?”

New York Times

Monday, July 27, 2009

Race in America (cont)

Drama in the People's Republic of Cambridge: Boston Has Two Faces

July 22, 2009 0
Richard M. Benjamin
in the Huffington Post

Q: What do you call a black man with a PhD?
A: Nigger

Q: Where do liberal white people go to socially die?
A: Cambridge

These two jokes come to my mind when contemplating the horrific Skip Gates arrest. The Harvard scholar was handcuffed having been accused as a thief on his own property.

The first joke reveals an age-old truism: All the credentials in the world do not protect black men from police abuse.

The second joke, well -- that's the New York take on Cambridge. My friend Chester, a white, cutting-edge architect who had a cushy professorship at Harvard's graduate school, nevertheless fled Cambridge, since he feared he would die of either boredom or conformity. Chester complained that Cambridge's upscale, vanilla lifestyle would condemn him to a life-sentence of smug liberal orthodoxy. Chester noted that Cambridge is the most socially conservative politically liberal bastion in America: The town's p.c. doctrinaire ways of thinking and living -- oh, the dull dinner parties discussing The Nation -- exact a stifling, conservative effect.

"Cambridge is where fancy white people go to spiritually die," Chester likes to say.

Having lived in Cambridge for six months in the mid-1990s, and visited several times in later years, I have similar opinions of Cambridge.

Liberals in Cambridge, in my experience, like to make big statements about improving the status of black people. But they don't have much use for ordinary blacks themselves. Hands down, Cambridge is one of the most racially hostile places I've ever lived.

And I am not exactly imagining things.

Sudhir Venkatesh, the William B. Ransford Professor of Sociology at Columbia University, and bestselling author of Gang Leader for a Day (Penguin Press), named Boston, in 2008, "America's Most Racist City."

"The city puzzled me. I knew about the strong liberal sentiment among the populace, but I didn't have to look far to see that racism was part of its historical core. For example, school integration was violently resisted by many of its white ethnic residents. In sports, the city has been home to some of the most extreme forms of racism -- check out Howard Bryant's terrific book, Shut Out, in which he explores the longstanding bigotry in the Red Sox baseball organization."

A paradox reigns: Next to the racism of theTom Yawkey Red Sox syndicate is the forward-thinking, inclusive racial legacy of Red Auerbach's Celtics.

Even sports expose the two faces of Boston.

Cambridge was ranked "The Most Liberal City in America" by a 2005 national study. Residents even call it "The People's Republic of Cambridge." Yet Skip Gates got reported by a neighbor and arrested by the police in an apparent bit of racial profiling.

Gates's arrest revives Cambridge's, and greater Boston's, two faces: the bastion of liberalism and the fortress of prejudice. After all, Cambridge's mayor, E. Denise Simmons, is a black woman who even grew up there. Before that, Cambridge was the first city to elect an openly gay black man as mayor, Kenneth Reeves. What gives?

Aggravating Boston's racial turmoil, of course, are class divides. The Cambridge police force that arrested Skip Gates is charged with keeping the upscale enclave "safe" from some decidedly downscale neighborhoods nearby. Wealthy communities abutting poor ones often produce a class anxiety that borders on paranoia. Gates' white neighbor who failed to recognize him works at Harvard magazine. This "neighbor" so evidently suffers from said class anxiety, at least as much as racism. Such community anxiety - every "outsider" is a suspect - often demands "tough" policing, which curdles into abusive policing.

Poor Skip Gates. He likely experienced racial profiling.

Race in America

Are the Falsely Accused Required to be Polite to the Police?

Rich Rodgers

I hope we make the most of the national discussion and debate generated by the July 16th arrest of Harvard professor Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. at his home in Cambridge, Massachusetts by Sgt. James Crowley of the Cambridge police.

If you've been under a rock for the past 10 days, here's the quick version: Gates returned to his house at noon after an overnight flight from China, with his driver, to find he couldn't get into his house. His white neighbor called the police and reported that two men were trying to break into the home. Crowley responds, and the police report is here. Gates tells his side of the story here.

While so much of the debate pretends that the key question is what Gates said to Crowley, it's actually not illegal to yell at a police officer in Massachusetts:

In several cases, the courts in Massachusetts have considered whether a person is guilty of disorderly conduct for verbally abusing a police officer. In Commonwealth v. Lopiano, a 2004 decision, an appeals court held it was not disorderly conduct for a person who angrily yelled at an officer that his civil rights were being violated. In Commonwealth v. Mallahan, a decision rendered last year, an appeals court held that a person who launched into an angry, profanity-laced tirade against a police officer in front of spectators could not be convicted of disorderly conduct.

So Massachusetts law clearly provides that Gates did not commit disorderly conduct.

So Gates appears to have been guilty of nothing illegal, but is there any doubt that he is being judged in the court of public opinion for his alleged statements to the officer? You can bet that a large percentage of white Americans find it easy to believe in the falsehood that Gates's verbal challenges or resistance justified his arrest. This belief--that this black man or anyone else is obligated to be submissive to police officers in speech--should be called out and rejected.

It's human nature for an employee to consider taking a customer's behavior into account when deciding what kind of service to give to them. Professionals do a good job of ignoring insults or slights, but no one is immune from the temptation. For police, though, the bar has to be higher. Too much rides on the outcome. To begin to change the dynamics at the heart of racial profiling and the distrust that many minorities feel toward the police, the training that officers receive has to meaningfully recognize the negative experiences that most minorities in our country share.

In his recent column in the New York Times, Charles Blow cites a NYT/CBS poll from July 2008 that asked this question:

“Have you ever felt you were stopped by the police just because of your race or ethnic background?”

66 percent of black men said yes, compared to 9 percent of white men. That's a shocking statistic, but to really try to absorb what this means, you have to think about what really happens on some of these stops.

Blow tells the story of being stopped in Louisiana when he was 18, the president of his college freshmen class, in a car with his friend Andre:

Andre insisted on knowing why we had been stopped. The officer gave a reason. It wasn’t true. Then he said something I will never forget: that if he wanted to, he could make us lie down in the middle of the road and shoot us in the back of the head and no one would say anything about it. Then he walked to his car and drove away.

I was raised to treat police officers with respect, and have always figured it was in my interest to do so. I can think of three times when I was stopped for speeding and let go with a warning, and guessed that the 'yes sirs' and 'no sirs' didn't hurt my cause. But being deferential has never implied for me that I needed to swallow a sense of profound injustice. I've never thought for a second that I was or might be threatened, arrested or even shot just because I'm a white guy. Our experiences are so different, we might as well be living in different countries.

It's clear that the experience of prejudice at the hands of the police is all too common for black men and other minorities in the United States. It's asking too much to insist that someone show respect to an institution that has treated them unfairly. It's asking someone to accept a diminished or tarnished standing in the eyes of an entity that has the power to take away their freedom or even their life. For that respect to come, it's going to have to continue to be earned.

It seems certain that submission or deference is sometimes used by police officers as a litmus test for whether they will make an arrest or issue a citation, even when the expectation of submission goes beyond the legal obligations of a citizen in interacting with a police officer. This emphasis on submission and compliance no doubt has some of its roots in attempting to ensure the safety of our police officers, who must be prepared for any possibility. But when race and ego are injected into the mix, an expectation of "submission or consequences" is unacceptable as standard operating procedure for police officers-- even, or perhaps especially, when people are upset and saying so.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Barbaric Burqas

Melik Kaylan,


What if we were confronted, in our cities, by a neo-pagan cult with passionately held views that required all their votaries to walk around naked in our streets? No doubt after a hubbub of debate, largely stoked by loony freedom-of-speechers, we would soon arrest the cultists, wrap them in blankets and throw them in jail for indecent exposure.

But the questions will remain: Where do we get these notions of decency? With what right do we impose them on others? Why should our standards of dress trump those of the cultists? We may not resolve the matter intellectually, but this much, we will conclude, is clear: We do espouse a coherent set of rules about such things--at least we consider them coherent--and we are prepared to support them with legal sanctions. They may not be written into the Constitution, being largely a matter of self-evident cultural or civic or even moral norms, but we do stand by them.

Now let us think about French President Sarkozy's recent declaration that the burqa "is not welcome in France" and his official moves to discourage the wearing of it in France. The burqa, you will recall, is a gloomy robe worn by women in fundamentalist Muslim lands that covers the entire body and face like a death-shroud.

Mr. Sarkozy went on to say that "In our country, we cannot accept that women be prisoners behind a screen, cut off from all social life, deprived of all identity. … The burqa is not a religious sign, it's a sign of subservience, a sign of debasement. … I want to say it solemnly: It will not be welcome on the territory of the French Republic."

In response to which my colleague Elisabeth Eaves recently took Mr.Sarkozy to task in her column, saying that he was "twisting ideas of liberte beyond all recognition." She went on to talk about Europe as the "formerly lily-white continent," rather artfully bringing up the bogey of the "anti-immigrant far right" and ingeniously turning the matter on its head by portraying Mr. Sarkozy as the real oppressor of women's rights. Hers is a familiar enough argument: You ban burqas and you've effectively removed free speech for one and all, including Sikhs with turbans and punk-rockers. Pretty soon the French police will be arresting veiled women and making political martyrs of them while perversely glorifying the burqa as a symbol of resistance.

I am sure readers can supply the full panoply of libertarian arguments for themselves without my help--all very legitimate and hard to ignore. But how then do we effectively discourage the spread of the burqa in the western world? How does Ms. Eaves propose to stem the growing Islamization of Europe's streets--or does she not worry about such things because, after all, it's just a preoccupation of the anti-immigrant far right, and if it happens it happens: better we let events take their natural course than be accused of trafficking in fascistic measures.

Let us first dispose of the slippery-slope argument: Banning burqas will not, mutatis mutandis, lead to the banning of turbans and punk rock hairdos. We are, as a civil society, perfectly capable of drawing nuanced lines between gradations of extremes. We do so everyday. A micro-mini we tolerate but a woman walking around topless, or even bottomless, we consider beyond the pale.

Why is the burqa any different? Ah, you say, the burqa is a religious symbol and we guarantee religious tolerance in the West--precisely what differentiates us from intolerant Islamist societies. But the fact is, the burqa is not mandated anywhere in the Koran, nor indeed is the full veil. Such forms of sartorial female enslavement are tribal customs, as are clitorectomies--which we certainly don’t allow. We prohibit female genital mutilation because we do not acknowledge any circumstance in which women would willingly adopt it, even though many women do in certain barbarous cultures. We believe that those women are not in their right mind or acting out of free will, and we do not let them import such practices to our shores. To defend the right to wear the burqa as a matter of free speech begs the question. One can equally argue that it constitutes a curbing of expression and that women who adopt it are being suborned by outside pressure, just as female circumcision victims are.

There is a point at which our multicultural or pluralist tolerance makes a mockery of our own values. The danger we face over these issues is not the threat to our liberties but comes from the West's increasingly muddle-headed inability to defend its own customs. Yes our political traditions allow all manner of variegated freedoms of speech and action, but we do differentiate between the barbaric and the civilized. We are not only political animals. Our values do not end with those laid out in constitutions and bills of rights. In fact, one can argue that the U.S. Constitution does not comprise a morality in itself but rather lays down a framework that allows our actual code of values to operate, whether it's one based on the Bible or Cartesian empiricism or a host of inherited cultural traditions.

And here we must make a distinction between Europe and the U.S. For good or ill, the U.S. has increasingly chosen to base a large chunk of its national identity on its written political scriptures, thereby making it a country built around a "system" rather than an ethnos. European countries, however, have not founded their identity on the genesis myth of settlers or immigrants. A nation-state like France or Spain or the U.K. is built around an indigenous population with deep roots in the landscape and with ancient traditions. This does not make them racist or egregiously "lily-white" or inherently reprehensible. Not every country must be multi-ethnic like the U.S. to be virtuous. We do not ask Japan or Iceland to proceed in that direction. In such countries, as in those of Europe, the rituals of custom and unwritten consensus anchor stability and happiness even more than in the U.S. In short, they have a right to demand that immigrants adapt to their habits, more than the other way around, to become more French or Danish or Dutch in a host of subtle ways to be fully accepted as citizens.

Always at some point in the immigration debate the point is (quite rightly) made that many Muslim societies do not offer Westerners the same freedoms as the pushier Muslims demand from the West. In Riyadh, a woman may not show any flesh in the street and in Peshawar she's likely to get shot for doing so. Yet when citizens of such countries come to London or Paris they insist on the right to veil their women fully.

The same disparity applies in the area of other public liberties, from religious expression to pre-marital dating with local women. Until now, I have believed that the solution to this imbalance is to require such Islamic countries to offer equal levels of tolerance. I am beginning to think that this will ultimately benefit neither side, and anyway will not happen because backward Muslim societies are not about to change anytime soon.

Enough of trying to be more like each other. It's time to leave the Saudis to their unreconstructed habits as long as they don't bother us by exporting jihad and sharia in our direction. If they do, we have the unfettered right to export Western habits by any and all means to their countries. But we should also have the courage to say to immigrants, "You come here to seek a better life, one that's based on different values and habits from the country you left. We believe our society provides a better, more successful, way of life otherwise you wouldn't be here. Therefore it's up to you to change. That may be painful and demanding, but we will help you in the process through adequate education and color-blind employment opportunities. But change you must."

Shedding the burqa is as good a place to start as any.

Melik Kaylan, a writer based in New York, writes a weekly column for Forbes.

Giant Squids

invade California waters

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Hindus in Pakistan

Thousands of miles still to go

Daily Times (Pak)

July 15, 2009

KARACHI: Following the recent announcements from the Indian government, regarding the issuance of visas to the Hindus of Karachi so that they may take the ashes of their loved ones to India, the local Hindus have started preparing for the trip in full swing. They have shifted the ashes into transparent jars and have put these jars into large parachute bags.

The ashes of about 150 Hindus, who passed away during the last three decades, have been travelling from one room of the cremation ground to another and finally they will make their longest journey yet; they will travel thousands of miles to their holy river, Ganges, in India for their eternal transformation.

The local Hindus had been trying to take the ashes of their loved ones to India for quite some time now but the Indian government was not issuing visas and other necessary travel documents to them.

Majority of Pakistani Hindus, especially those who live in Sindh, bury their loved ones, but a few cremate their deceased and believe that for the eternal transformation these ashes must be immersed in holy water. Some Hindus are content with immersing the ashes in River Indus, as this river also holds some importance in Hinduism and is considered holy by some, while others prefer to make the tedious journey to India so that they can immerse the ashes in the River Ganges.

Very recently, as in on June 25, the Indian government agreed to issue visas to those Hindus of Karachi who wanted to go to India to immerse the ashes of their beloved deceased. This decision, which was taken at a meeting between he Union Ministries of Home and External Affairs South Asia Fraternity (Indian chapter), was welcomed by the Hindus of Karachi, although they opined that the visas should be extended to the Hindus living all over Sindh.

Nevertheless, this announcement was a ray of hope for the local Hindus and they rushed to the cremation ground to collect the ashes so that they could take them to India before the Indian government changed its mind. “The room, where these ashes have been lying in for the last several years, is in deplorable conditions and when the local Hindus started pouring into the cremation ground to pack the ashes of their relatives, we had to temporarily move the ashes to the main hall of the historical library, which was known as Gujjar Hindu Cremation Ground Library. When the families will finally get their visas they will take the ashes from here,” said Murad Baloch.

On one hand, the local Hindus have been celebrating the recent announcement made by the Indian government while on the other hand, Hindus from other parts of the province are demanding that the Pakistan government talk to the Indian government so that the visas are given to all Hindus of Sindh besides those of Karachi.

“The decision to issue visas to the Hindus of Karachi is a good one and we welcome it,” said Pakistan Hindu Foundation D M Maharaj, adding that Karachi only includes four districts of Sindh while Hindus live in 19 districts of Sindh. He went on to add that although he is happy with the decision it is unjust to the Hindus living in other parts of the province. “We demand the government of Pakistan to talk to India so that the visas are extended to other cities too,” Maharaj said.

The messy state of the Hindu temples in Pakistan

Amir Mir
Tuesday 7 July 2009

Of the 300 Hindu temples that Pakistan inherited in 1947 atthe time of partition, hardly three dozen have managed to survive,many of whom are in ruins and set to disappear with the passage oftime if due attention is not paid to their maintenance.

Following the demolition of the historic Babri Mosque in India in 1992by Hindu extremists, over 200 Hindu temples were destroyed acrossPakistan by angry Muslims. Many of the Hindus living in Sindh andNorth West Frontier Province lost their homes as the largest outwardmigration of the Hindu community since Partition took place duringthese years. But despite all that, Hindus still exist in Pakistan,numbering more than 2 million. The Hindu population is largest in theSindh province followed by the North West Frontier Province of thecountry, but there are Hindu communities dotted all over Pakistan whocontinue to suffer constant threats against their security, propertyand lives by extremist Muslims.

Together with the apathy of the general public, the Hindus of Pakistanremain a forgotten and voiceless people who have to live a low profileexistence and have to put up with many insults to their honour anddignity, without any safeguards. The Pakistani authorities rarelyintervene to help their Hindu nationals, despite the fact that there are frequent reports of the kidnapping of Hindu women and children andlooting of Hindu property, besides other forms of discrimination and persecution.

As things stand, most Hindu temples in Pakistan are non-existent whileidols in many ancient temples of historical importance are missing.The famous Temples at Katas, near Kalar Kahar, are in a dilapidated condition and require renovation. This is despite the fact that Pakistan had been already signed an agreement with India to restorethe Katas temples. The temples had been falling into disrepair, and parts of them had been cemented before Indian leader L K Advani’s 2005tour to Pakistan. One of the Katas temples in Pakistan had even beenconverted into a library, though Katas is sacred to Hindus.

The Katas Raj temples are located on a hill six kilometres from ChoaSaidan Shah of the Chakwal district of Pakistan’s Punjab province.Katas is mentioned in the Mahabharata, one of the three major ancientSanskrit epics of India. According to the Hindu religious belief, bothKatas and Paskar (Ajmer) are the eyes of Shiva, one of their gods.Paras Nath Jogi drew his last breath on Katas which also holds greathistorical significance, being the place where renowned Muslimscientist Alberuni attempted to measure the circumference of theEarth, studied Sanskrit and wrote his “Kitab-ul Hind”.

Similarly, the Doodhwali Mata Mandir and the Sheetla Mandir in Lahore,the aapital of the Pakistani Punjab province, built before theinvasion of Alexander, are in dilapidated condition. The ancient idolsat these temples have either been looted or are missing and thegovernment has denied permission to install new ones in place ofthese. The Sheetla Mandir at Lahore, built before the invasion ofAlexander, has seen many of its precious idols either looted or handedover to archaeological department. The Doodhwali Mata Mandir betweenthe Shah Almi and Lahori Gate in Lahore has somehow managed to survivein its dilapidated sanctum sanctorum.

The famous Parahlad Mandir and Jain Mandir near Anarkali in Lahore,which were largely damaged by fanatic Muslims after the demolition ofBabri Mosque in India in 1992, have been locked and an Islamic schoolis being run in its compound. Bhagat Hakikat Rai’s Samadhi in Lahore,where a fair used to be held every Basant day is also in a bad shape.However, the Pakistan government is not allowing local Hindus to lookafter their desolate temples on the pattern of Sikh gurdwaras, for unknown reasons.

Tharoor asks Pak to protect minorities from Taliban

Economic Times (India)

30 Jun 2009

NEW DELHI: India has asked Pakistan to take necessary measures to “protect” minorities who are reportedly being targeted by the Taliban in the
Battagram district of North West Frontier Province in Pakistan. Reacting to reports that the Taliban has demanded a tax from the minority Hindu community in the district, minister of state for external affairs Shashi Tharoor said, “We would hope that the Pakistani government would take necessary measures to protect people from extractions of a group like Taliban.”

Media reports from Pakistan had said the Taliban had allegedly demanded Rs 6 million as “jiziya”, a tax imposed on non-Muslims, from the Hindu community in Battagram. Last month a group of around 35 Sikh families were forced to leave their homes in the Aurakzai tribal region after they were unable to pay the “jiziya” of Rs 50 million demanded by the Taliban.

Mr Tharoor said that India would watch the developments but it was up to the Pakistani government to look after its people. “We do expect Pakistan to look after all its people, after all they are citizens of Pakistan. Since Pakistan is in effect in war with Taliban in its own territory, I think it is safe to assume that Pakistan will have no sympathy for such demands from such people,” Mr Tharoor told reporters.

At the same time, Mr Tharoor, talking about the composite dialogue process, said that it could resume only after Islamabad gives enough assurances that a Mumbai-type attack would not take place again. “The message is to take necessary steps in your own country to bring to book those who perpetrated these horrors on our soil and then give us enough assurance for your own conduct that we will not have to fear this again,” Mr Tharoor said, and added that the first steps would also have to come from Pakistan.

But the status of Indo-Pak ties will be decided after the meeting of the foreign secretaries which is likely to take place in Egypt on the sidelines of the NAM summit next month. Foreign secretary Shivshankar Menon and his Pakistani counterpart Salman Bashir are likely to meet in Sharm-el Shaikh in Egypt to specifically discuss the issue of terrorism and the steps that will be taken by Pakistan on terrorism.

New Delhi will be closely watching the developments of the meeting as it will precede the meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, to be also taking place on the sidelines of the NAM summit on July 15. Though the venue has been finalised, the dates for the foreign secretaries’ meeting are still being worked out by the two countries. Both the foreign secretaries’ will be in Egypt from July 11 for the NAM summit.

Monday, July 13, 2009

On Chinabounder


So You Want To Be A China Sex Blogger
Idlewords (blog)

Sometime this May there appeared a weblog called Sex in Shanghai, detailing the adventures of a British expatriate seducing various ex-students from his English classes. The blogger, who called himself chinabounder, was in his mid-thirties and had been living in China for five years. His sexual experience prior to moving to China had been limited to one long-term relationship, but after initially shacking up with a woman in Shenzhen he had decided to take full advantage of his new circumstances and start increasing his bedpost notch count in earnest.

He was not the first Western guy to treat China as his own personal sexual buffet. To put it in the D&D terms that many of the guys who benefit most from the effect will readily understand, living in China gives you +4 attractiveness. The love handles (metaphorically) shrink, the hairline advances, teeth straighten, previously soupy eyes blaze with a new rakish light. You are in a country where people actually *choose* to have brown hair. You find that things that are off-putting back home have magically transformed into positive attributes in your new environment. You're a computer programmer? You're quiet and like to read? You live with your parents? You never drink? You are sexually inexperienced?


And not only do your most pedestrian habits and opinions take on the shine of the exotic, but you'll find that expectations of you as a Western man have been conditioned by American movies, American television shows, and whispered stories about minor Casanovas like chinabounder. You're halfway to James Bond before you even step off the plane.

Most guys are able to take this in stride (so this is what it feels like to be a woman!), but there is always the small minority of men who find themselves up at one in the morning, writing blog posts entitled Undressing Tingting.

'Sex in Shanghai' started with big aspirations. It was to supposed to be a pornographic Notes From the Underground (you had the sense that the author wanted someone to call his journal 'unflinching'). Between lurid descriptions of how sore he was making his various conquests there were David Brent-like interludes of introspection when our hero would peer into the spiritual abyss (glancing from the corner of his eye to make sure we noticed), and sigh over his inability to ever truly love. Behold, reader, the noble heart of Man!

Grappling daily with his conscience, Chinabounder unfortunately neglected to grapple with his writing style. As his taste for windy political and social commentary grew stronger, the site began to sound less like the confessions of a soulful libertine and more like Penthouse Forum as interpreted by Rush Limbaugh. Chinabounder found the Chinese press servile, Chinese men undersexed and passive, Chinese society paternalistic, the Communist Party a criminal gerontocracy, the city of Shanghai a loosely-disguised group of peasants, and he was not afraid of interrupting the sexy bits to go on and on and on and on about it.

Less forgivably, he was careless about hiding the identity of his lovers. These were women who never dreamed that their most intimate moments and words would find themselves on one of the most popular sex journals in China. While their names were changed, many details of the encounters were not, and the long verbatim chat transcripts and text messages chinabounder posted were simply mortifying. Where was the admirable, unflinching honesty in letting other people read your lovers' email? So I had no sympathy when the inevitable happened.

Chinese censorship is a bit of a creaky machine. There is no master blacklist of sites that are disallowed; instead, service providers are supposed to use their own good judgement about what hurts China. Naturally this leads everyone to err massively on the side of safety, but still the political mood has its ebbs and flows, and the list of blocked sites grows and shrinks accordingly.

A few days ago, Blogspot sites were taken off the banned list, and then it became a matter of time before someone with a Chinese audience found that weblog.

The lucky winner was Zhang Jiehai, a nutty professor of social sciences at a university in Shanghai who might charitably be said to have some issues regarding foreigners dating Chinese women. When Zhang visited chinabounder's site, he became very, very upset and decided to alert the Chinese Internet to what this 'piece of garbage' was up to in Shanghai. His lengthy post (translated in full at EastSouthNorthWest) was a call to arms to all patriotic, red-blooded Chinese 'netizens' to ensure that chinabounder was expelled from China. Zhang's jeremiad ended with a two point plan:

Phase One (From today to early September)

"During this phase, will various compatriot netizens please send this essay to all your friends via email and then ask your friends to send to all their friends? After sending this out five times, this may reach everyone who owns a computer in China. Through the forums and blogs, we will let more people (especially Chinese women) know about this affair. Since the affair occurred within the universities, we ask that this to be posted at all the university BBS's in Shanghai.

Only letting all the Chinese women know about this affair can have a truly educational effect. By reducing the number of that kind of Chinese women, we can destroy this kind of ugly foreigners. Otherwise, we get rid of one piece of garbage but many more pieces of garbage will come.
Phase Two (Early September to Mid September)

We let the Shanghai (and even the national) media pay attention to this affair and apply pressure to the relevant departments in Shanghai. With sufficient pressure, I believe that this piece of garbage can be kicked out of China. My goal is to kick him out of China before National Day! [Oct 1]"

Chinabounder responded almost instantly with an angry rebuttal that did his prose no favors. But events were moving quickly; Chinese readers had decided to skip straight to Phase Two of Zhang's plan. A Blogspot site called whoischinabounder was launched, with the goal of unmasking chinabounder's true identity based on details culled from his blog posts. This site was so successful that by the first day they had already found three of him, with signs that more were to come. English teachers in Shanghai had reason to be nervous.

By August 29th, after a massive spike in traffic, chinabounder closed his weblog. By August 30th, the story had hit many of the major mainland and Hong Kong websites. One of my posts from 2002 is titled 'sex in shanghai', and you can see the spike in collateral search hits that accompanied the kerfuffle:

As of today, Zhang's weblog post (in Chinese) has received almost 100,000 hits, and the story is spinning into one of the predictable storms that race across the Chinese internet. With its perfect blend of sex, politics, race and the inevitable Japan angle (one of chinabounder's rants ridiculed the anti-Japanese obsession here), the story looks ready to become a smash hit.

Net culture in China works a bit the way television media works in the States. People fix on one or two big stories of the day, and these get a national audience. There is also a tradition of online vigilantism in cases where someone has done something particularly vile - had an extramarital affair within the World of Warcraft online game, for example - and people will readily mobilize to defend good morals and the national honor. Chinabounder's case, which hits the trifecta of national pride, sex and Japan hatred, will be interesting to follow.

In autocratic and authoritarian countries there are often folk tales that involve someone with a grievance making his way past evil advisers and local powerful people to get to the benevolent but unaware monarch to seek redress. This is a universal theme - bypassing the Sherrif of Nottingham, reaching the tsar, telling your woes to Comrade Stalin, whomever - implying that justice can always prevail. The internet has added an interesting populist twist to this. Tell your story convincingly, and online heroes will take up your cause and fix your problem. In China, these 'heroes' take the form of stalkers who will work hard to track down and harass the offending party. This is the fate likely to befall chinabounder.

So now we have two sides - an unappetizing sexual taxidermist and a nationalist, racist mob whose response seems pretty evenly divided between blaming the dissolute sluts who allow this kind of shame to descend on their homeland and calling for the head of the filthy foreigner teachers who abuse their station. The only hero of the story is the indefatigable Roland Soong, author of the EastSouthWestNorth weblog, who makes it his mission to translate a river of material from the Chinese language press (mainland, Hong Kong and Taiwanese) into English every day. Having worked for a while as a short-notice translator, I can't begin to understand how he can find the time and energy to translate so much material, let alone provide context and very balanced commentary, but there it is. For anyone who wants to learn more about online culture in China without speaking the language his blog is a superb resource.

a reasonable western take - here
a much more common and typical western take - here.

Wearing the burqa is neither Islamic nor socially acceptable

July 13, 2009
Yasmin Alibhai-Brown in the Independent (UK)

To deny face-to-face interaction is to deny our shared humanity

I am a Shia Muslim and I abhor the burqa. I am offended by the unchallenged presumption that women covering their heads and bodies and now faces are more pious and true than am I.

Islam in all its diverse forms entitles believers to a personal relationship with Allah – it cuts out middlemen, one reason its appeal extended to so many across the world. You can seek advice from learned scholars and imams, but they cannot come between your faith and the light of God. Today control freaks who claim they have a special line to the Almighty have turned our world dark. Neo-conservative Islamic codes spread like swine flu, an infection few seem able to resist.

The disease is progressive. It started 20 years ago with the hijab, donned then as a defiant symbol of identity, now a conscript's uniform. Then came the jilbab, the cloak, fought over in courts when schoolgirls were manipulated into claiming it as an essential Islamic garment. If so, hell awaits the female leaders of Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Soon, children as young as four were kitted up in cloaks and headscarves ("so they get used to it, and then later wear the full thing," said a teacher to me who works at a Muslim girls' school) and now for the graduation gown, a full burqa, preferably with dark glasses.

White liberals frame this sinister development in terms of free choice and tolerance. Some write letters to this paper: What is the problem? It is all part of the rich diversity of our nation. They can rise to this challenge, show they are superhuman when it comes to liberty and forbearance.

They might not be quite so sanguine if their own daughters decided to be fully veiled or their sons became fanatic Islamicists and imposed purdah in the family. Such converts are springing up in Muslim families all over the land. Veils predate Islam and were never an injunction (modesty of attire for men and women is). Cultural protectionism has long been extended to those who came from old colonies, in part to atone for imperial hauteur. Redress was necessary then, not now.

What about legitimate fears that to criticise vulnerable ethnic and racial groups validates the racism they face? Racism is an evil but should never be used as an alibi to acquit oppressions within black and Asian or religious communities. That cry was used to deter us from exposing forced marriages and dowry deaths and black-upon-black violence.

Right-wing think tanks and President Sarkozy of France scapegoat Muslims for political gain and British fascists have turned self-inflicted "ethnic" wounds into scarlet propaganda. They do what they always have done. Self-censorship will not stop them but it does stop us from dealing with home-grown problems or articulating objections to reactionary life choices like the burqa. Muslim women who show their hair are becoming an endangered species. We must fight back. Our covered-up sisters do not understand history, politics, struggles, their faith or equality. As Rahila Gupta, campaigner against domestic violence, writes: "This is a cloth that comes soaked in blood. We cannot debate the burqa or the hijab without reference to women in Iran, Afghanistan or Saudi Arabia where the wearing of it are heavily policed and any slippages are met with violence." What happened to solidarity?

Violent enforcement is evident in Britain too. A fully veiled young chemistry graduate once came to my home, her body covered in cuts, tears, bites, bruises, all happily hidden from view. Security and social cohesion are all threatened by this trend – which is growing exponentially.

As for the pathetic excuse that covering up protects women from male lasciviousness – it hasn't stopped rapists in the most conservative Muslim nations. And what a slur on decent Muslim men, portrayed as sexual predators who cannot look upon a woman without wanting her.

We communicate with each other with our faces. To deny that interaction is to deny our shared humanity. Unreasonable community or nationalistic expectations disconnect essential bonds. Governments should not accommodate such demands. Naturists can't parade on the streets, go to school or take up jobs unless they cover their nakedness. Why should burqaed women get special consideration?

Their veils are walls, keeping them in and us out. We need an urgent, open conversation on this issue – which divides the Muslim intelligensia as much as the nation. Our social environment, fragile and precious, matters more than choice and custom should to British Muslims. If we don't compromise for the greater good, the future looks only more bitter and bleak. Saying so doesn't make me the enemy of my people.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

1.5 Billion for Pakistan from US

Subsidizing Pakistan

June 26, 2009

The New Yorker

The Senate yesterday passed by unanimous consent the Kerry-Lugar bill, as urged here and elsewhere. Here are some important passages of the bill, outlining U.S. policy and financial commitments:

It is the policy of the United States—
(1) to support the consolidation of democracy, good governance, and rule of law in Pakistan;
(2) to support economic growth and development in order to promote stability and security across Pakistan;
(3) to affirm and build a sustained, long-term, multifaceted relationship with Pakistan;
(4) to further the sustainable economic development of Pakistan and the improvement of the living conditions of its citizens, including in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, by expanding United States bilateral engagement with the Government of Pakistan, especially in areas of direct interest and importance to the daily lives of the people of Pakistan;
(5) to work with Pakistan and the countries bordering Pakistan to facilitate peace in the region and harmonious relations between the countries of the region;
(6) to work with the Government of Pakistan to prevent any Pakistani territory from being used as a base or conduit for terrorist attacks in Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, or elsewhere in the world;
(7) to work in close cooperation with the Government of Pakistan to coordinate military, paramilitary, and police action against terrorist targets;
(8) to work with the Government of Pakistan to help bring peace, stability, and development to all regions of Pakistan, especially those in the Pakistan-Afghanistan border areas, including support for an effective counterinsurgency strategy;
(9) to expand people-to-people engagement between the United States and Pakistan, through increased educational, technical, and cultural exchanges and other methods; and;
(10) to encourage and promote public-private partnerships in Pakistan in order to bolster ongoing development efforts and strengthen economic prospects, especially with respect to opportunities to build civic responsibility and professional skills of the people of Pakistan.; and
(11) to encourage the development of local analytical capacity to measure progress on an integrated basis across the areas of donor country expenditure in Pakistan, and better hold the Government of Pakistan accountable for how the funds are being spent.
(a) AUTHORIZATION.—There are authorized to be appropriated to the President, for the purposes of providing assistance to Pakistan under the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (22 U.S.C. 2151 et seq.), the following amounts:
(1) For fiscal year 2009, up to $1,500,000,000.
(2) For fiscal year 2010, up to $1,500,000,000.
(3) For fiscal year 2011, up to $1,500,000,000.
(4) For fiscal year 2012, up to $1,500,000,000.
(5) For fiscal year 2013, up to $1,500,000,000.

There are at least three serious, interlocking threats to the United States emanating from Pakistan today: Direct attempts by Al Qaeda to attack the U.S. and Americans abroad; the possibility that Al Qaeda-influenced jihadists could acquire direct or indirect influence over Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal; and the possibility that Pakistan-based jihadi groups could provoke a war between India and Pakistan. The only way to help mitigate these threats is to attempt to stabilize Pakistan, and then, in the longer term, construct a strategic partnership that breaks the patterns of the past and promotes normalization of ties between India and Pakistan. The best way for the U.S. to contribute to that daunting effort right now is to encourage and assist the Pakistani military as it tries to roll back the Taliban (which the Pakistan Army succored and created) while simultaneously attempting to strengthen Pakistan’s economy and its shaky power-sharing arrangements between the military and civilian politicians. These are the premises, essentially, that have produced Kerry-Lugar, and they explain the policy section’s emphasis on rebalancing U.S. engagement to address partnerships outside of the military realm.

The House has passed a companion bill, but the differences between the two versions are apparently serious enough that it might not be possible to reconcile them in conference. One alternative would be to substitute a new bill in the House that is closer to Kerry-Lugar. Either way, this is work that needs to be finished quickly.

Mother Teresa - Hell's Angel - must watch

Part 2:

Part 3:

Friday, July 10, 2009

on Arundhati Roy's writing.

... Roy, on the other hand, seems to be more a victim of her own intellectual laziness. Her recent article in this paper is mostly third-hand information, cherry-picked from a single Sunday Telegraph interview of a disgraced former Sri Lankan foreign minister. Instead of delving into the real issues, Roy chooses to skim across what pricks her outrage the most. At least MIA pretends she knows what she’s talking about, but Roy prefers emotion and drama, and makes even well-established facts sound like tribal tom-toms in the jungle. In addition to echoing MIA’s genocide charge, she claims that the Sri Lankan government is busily setting up concentration camps to enslave the Tamils of the island.

From an article on Sri Lanka by David Blacker

On Sufis

Unraveling the Sufis of India: Villains in the Guise of Saints

by Ibrahim Lone

25 Dec, 2008

India Has always was a land of diversity. Secularism and peaceful co-existence is not a concept in this land, it is a way of life. The credit goes to the understanding of our great Vedic ancestors (I count Hinduism as practiced today as not Vedic in spirit or essence) who were men of great letters and a mighty spirit. Christianity reached the Indian shores much before it reached Europe. There are Christians, know as Syrian Christians, whose links with the Christian doctrine far outdates that of any other country outside the Middle East. Jews, Zoroastrians, Bahai’s all have found home and safe refuge in this great country.

However the only exception to these immigrants was the Muslim, who did not come here to adapt himself to the local culture and live in peace and harmony. He had only one aim, which was to subdue the native populations and wave the flag through the length and breadth of this once great Nation which extended from Dhaka in the East to Khyber in the west.

Islam changed smeared the face of this country with a paint so horrific that the colours still refuse to wither out. While there is no denying the fact that Islam was spread in India mostly by the sword, there is another aspect of Islamic proselytization, which is ignored. This face is that of Sufism and the Sufis.

Most people in the India have been mislead into believing that the Sufis mostly by their own soft-headed scholars, to cherish the fond belief that the Sufis were spiritual seekers, and that unlike the Mullahs, they loved Hindu religious lore and liked their Hindu neighbors. The Chistiyya Sufis in particular have name chosen for such fulsome praise. The orthodox among the Muslims protest that the Sufis are being slandered. But the gullible Hindus remain convinced that they themselves know better. Professor Aziz Ahmad, a renowned scholar of Islam in India, clinched this matter in the following words: "In Indian sufism anti-Hindu polemics started with Muinal-din Chisti. Early sufis in Punjab and early Chistis devoted themselves to the task of conversion on a large scale. Missionary activity slowed down under Nizam al-din Auliya, not because of any new concept of eclecticism, but because he held that the Hindus were generally excluded from grace and could not be easily converted to Islam unless they had the opportunity to be in the company of the Muslim saints for considerable time." In other words the native Hindus were as a nation, not fitting to become Muslims. This is the sort of hatred that the Sufis had for the Hindus.

Of course, the Auliya who lived in a sprawling mansion and received rich gifts out of plunder was convinced that he himself was such a Muslim saint. His temper and teachings can be known easily from the writings of Amir Khusru, the poet, and Ziauddin Barani, the historian. Both of them were leading disciples of the Auliya. Both of them express intense hatred for Hindus, and regret that the Hanafi school of Islamic Law had come in the way of wiping out the "curse of infidelity" completely from the face Hindustan (India).

A similar Sufi saint who died a mere 79 years before Waliullah's birth, was Ahmad Sirhindi (1564-1624). He was always foaming at the mouth against Akbar's policy of peace with the Hindus. He proclaimed himself the Mujaddid-i-alf-i-sdni, (renovator of the second millennium of Islam). Besides writing several books, he addressed many letters to several powerful courtiers in the reign of Akbar and Jahangir. His Maktiibctt-i-Imdm Rabbant have been collected and published in three volumes. According to Professor S.A.A. Rizvi, "Sharia can be fostered through the sword' was the slogan he raised for his contemporaries.

Let us see a few specimens of his writings in which he expressed the love for the Indian infidels: "The honour of Islam lies in insulting kufr and kafirs. One who respects the kafirs dishonours the Muslims. The real purpose of levying jiziya on them is to humiliate them to such an extent that they may not be able to dress well and to live in grandeur. They should constantly remain terrified and trembling. It is intended to hold them under contempt and to uphold the honour and might of Islam." In Letter No. 81, he said: "Cow-sacrifice in India is the noblest of Islamic practices. The kafirs may probably agree to pay jiziya but they shall never concede to cow-sacrifice." After Guru Mun Deva had been tortured and done to death by Jahangir, he wrote in letter No. 193 that "the execution of the accursed kafir of Gobindwal is an important achievement and is the cause of the great defeat of the Hindus."

Sirhindi ranks with Shah Waliullah as one of the topmost sufis and theologians of Islam. Referring to his role, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, the first Education Minister of independent India, writes in his Tazkirah: "but for these letters Muslim nobles would not have stood by Islam and but for the efforts of Shaikh Ahmad, Akbar's heterodoxy would have superseded Islam in India."' Later on, when K.A. Nizami published a collection of Shah Walilullah's letters addressed to various Muslim notables, including Ahmad Shah Abdali, he dedicated it to Maulana Azad. The Maulana wrote back, "I am extremely happy that you have earned the merit of publishing these letters. I pray from the core of my heart that Allah may bless you with the felicity of publishing many books of a similar kind." That should give us a measure not only of 'Muslim Revivalism' but also of many Maulanas who masqueraded as ardent nationalists in order to fight the battle for Islam from within the Indian National Congress.

It is strange that most of the present-day Muslim scholars refuse to cite the actual statements made about Hindus and Hinduism by their heroes such as Ahmad Sirhindi and Shah Waliullah while praising them to the skies as saviours of Islam in India. Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and Allama lqbal were shining examples of this intriguing silence. The late Professor Ishtiaq Husain Qureshi published two significant books on the history of Islam in India - Ulema in Politics (1972), and The Muslim Community of the Indo-Pakistan Subcontinent (1977). He has devoted many pages to Ahmad Sirhindi and Shah Waliullah in both the books. But he has not cited a single sentence written or spoken by the 'great sufis' on how they looked at Hindus and Hinduism. I have no doubt that Nizami has also suppressed those letters of Shah Waliullah in which the latter has poured out his heart about kufr and the kafirs. It is only Professor S.A.A Rizvi who has taken us into the secret chambers so to say. Professor Rizvi is a Shia. And the venom which characters like Ahmad Sirhindi have poured on Hindus and Hinduism is quite comparable to that which they poured out on Shi’as and Shi’ism.

Professor Rizvi has cited select passages from the original Persian of Ahmad Sirhindi's letters. It is only recently that the letters have become available in Urdu translation. Ahmad Sirhindi wrote to many Muslim notables in the reign of Akbar and Jahangir. Some of these letters were in strong protest against Akbar's liberal, equitable policies vis-à-vis Hindus. One of Sirhindi's patrons was Abdul Rahim Khan-i-Khanan whom many Hindus cherish as a Hindi poet and a devotee of Krishna. It is unfortunate that quite a few recipients of these letters cannot be identified straight away because they are addressed by their titles and not by their names. As the letters are not dated, it is difficult to say whether the bearer of a particular title belonged to the reign of Akbar or Jahangir. The same title was given to several persons in succession. I reproduce below some passages from these significant letters in order to show how the mind of this great sufi functioned. He was the leading light of the Naqshbandi sufi silsila, and the foremost disciple of Khwaja Baqi Billah who brought this silsila to India in the reign of Akbar. I may add that the Prophet appeared quite frequently to both Baqi Billah and Ahmad Sirhindi in their dreams or states of trance, and gave guidance to them.

Some of his statements translated from the original Urdu script have been reproduced below:

"It is said that the Sharia prospers under the "shadow of the sword" (al-Shara' tahat al-sait). And the glory of the holy Sharia depends on the kings of Islam."

"Islam and infidelity (kufr) contradict one another. To establish the one means eradicating the other, the coming together of these contradictories being impossible. Therefore, Allah has commanded his Prophet to wage war (jihad) against the infidels, and be harsh with them. The glory is Islam consists in the humiliation and degradation of infidels and infidelity. He, who honours the infidels, insults Islam. Honouring (the infidels) does not mean that they are accorded dignity, and made to sit in high places. It means allowing them to be in our company, to sit with them, and talk to them. They should be kept away like dogs. If there is some worldly purpose or work which depends upon them, and cannot be served without their help, they may be contacted while keeping in mind all the time that they are not worthy of respect. The best course according to Islam is that they should not be contacted even for worldly purposes. Allah has proclaimed in his Holy Word (Quran) that they are his and his Prophet's enemies. And mixing with these enemies of Allah and his Prophet or showing affection for them, is one of the greatest crimes."

"The abolition of jizyah in Hindustan is a result of friendship, which (Hindus) have acquired with the rulers of this land... What right had the rulers to stop exacting jizyah? Allah himself has commended imposition of jizyah for their (infidels) humiliation and degradation. What is required is their disgrace, and the prestige and power of Muslims. The slaughter of non-Muslims means gain for Islam. To consult them (the kafirs) and then act according to their advice means honouring the enemies (of Islam), which is strictly forbidden."

"The prayer (goodwill) of these enemies of Islam is false and fruitless. It should never be called for because it can only add to their numbers. If the infidels pray, they will surely seek the intercession of their idols, which is taking things too far. A wise man has said that unless you become a dewanah (crazy) you cannot attain Islam. The state of this mania means going beyond considerations of profit and loss. Whatever one gains in the service of Islam should suffice..."

"Ram and Krishan whom Hindus worship are insignificant creatures, and have been begotten by their parents... Ram could not protect his wife whom Ravan took away by force. How can he help others? It is thousands of times shameful that some people should think of Ram and Krishan as rulers of all the worlds. To think that Ram and Rahman are the same, is extremely foolish. The creator and the creature can never be one... The controller of the Cosmos was never called Ram and Krishan before, the latter were born. What has happened after their birth that they have come to be equated with Allah, and the worship of Ram and Krishan is described as the worship of Allah? May Allah save us!"

"Our prophets who number one hundred and twenty four thousand have encouraged the created ones to worship the Creator. The gods of the Hindus (on the other hand) have encouraged the people to worship them (the gods) instead. They are themselves misguided, and are leading others astray. See, how the (two) ways are different!"

"Before that kafir (Guru Arjun Dev) was executed, this recluse (meaning himself) had seen in a dream that the reigning king had smashed the skull of idolatry. Indeed, he was a great idolater, and the leader of the idolaters, and the chief of unbelievers. May Allah blast him! The Holy Prophet who is the ruler of religion as well as the world, has cursed the idolaters as follows in some of his prayers - "O Allah, demean their society, create divisions in their ranks, destroy their homes, and get at them like the mighty one."

"It is required by religion (Islam) that jihad should be waged against the unbelievers, and that they should be dealt with harshly. It is obligatory on Muslims to acquaint the king of Islam with the evil customs of false religions. Maybe the king has no knowledge of these evil customs. Some Ulama of Islam should come forward, and proclaim the evils present in their (unbelievers') ways... It will be no excuse or, the Day of Judgment that they did not proclaim the tenets of the Sharia because they were not called upon (to do so)."

"Therefore, it is necessary that infidelity should be cursed in order to serve the faith (Islam). Cursing unbelief in the heart is the lesser way. The greater way is to curse it in the heart as well as with the body. In short, cursing means to nourish enmity towards enemies of the true faith, whether that enmity is harboured in the heart when there is fear of injury from them (infidels), or it is harboured in the heart as well as served with the body when there is no fear of injury from them. In the opinion of this recluse, there is no greater way to obtain the blessings of Allah than to curse the enemies of the faith (be impatient with them). For Allah himself harbours enmity towards the infidels and infidelity..."

"Once I went to visit a sick man who was close to death. When I meditated on him, I saw that his heart was layered with darkness. I intended to remove those darkness. But he was not yet ready for it... When I meditated more deeply, I discovered that that darkness had gathered due to his friendship with the infidels. They could not be dispersed easily. He had to suffer torments of hell before he could get purged of them."

"Every person cherishes some longing in his heart. The only longing which this recluse (meaning himself) cherishes is that the enemies of Allah and his Prophet should be roughed up. The accursed ones should be humiliated, and their false gods disgraced and defiled. I know that Allah likes and loves no other act more than this. That is why I have been encouraging you again and again to act in this way. Now that you have yourself arrived at that place, and have been appointed to defile and insult that dirty spot and its inhabitants, I feel grateful for this grace (from Allah). There are many who go to this place for pilgrimage. Allah in his kindness has not inflicted this punishment on us. After giving thanks to Allah, you should do your best to ruin that place and their false gods ... whether the idols are carved or uncarved. Let us hope that you will not act slow. Physical weakness and severity of the cold weather, comes in my way. Otherwise, I would have presented myself, and helped you in doing the job. I would have liked to participate in the ceremony and mutilate the stones."

This is short history of the love that Sufis has for the native Indians. With the advent of Wahabism in India more and more Muslims are abandoning the practice of going to the tombs of these Sufis and offering Fatiha to them. However the funding to these shrines continues as Hindus visit these tombs. In fact many of these tombs in India get more Hindu visitors than Muslim visitors. Needless to say large amounts of money are dolled out by the gullible non believers at these tombs. What exactly this money goes on to fund is anybody’s guess. However all I can say here is that : Viva Hindus keep it up!

J Sri Raman

J Sri Raman has a bizarre, rambling article made up almost entirely of tangentially related quotes, that is once again loved by the Pakistani Press and Blogs.

His views on Sanskrit.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Decline and Fall of the British Empire

An interesting book that provides a comprehensive look at the British Empire - in the end although it gives examples of the atrocities they committed it exonerates them as being a well intentioned liberal Empire. Well, as the wag said history is written by the victors or as someone else put it " 'The victor will always be the judge and the vanquished the accused'"

What follow are some extracts from this book.


In the 1600s the Mughal Empire was a byword for might, majesty and magnificence. Its court was a self-proclaimed paradise of gems, silks, perfumes, odalisques, ivory and peacock feathers. English visitors were humbled by its luxury; when “John Company (as the East India Company was called) presented the Emperor Jahangir with a coach – the Emperor had all its fittings of base metal replaced with ones of silver and gold. The Mughals cities were bigger and more beautiful than London or Paris. Their bankers were richer than those of Hamburg and Cadiz. Their cotton producers clothed much of Africa and Asia and their hundred million population matched that of all Europe. What is more the seventeenth century was a golden age of Mughal art, poetry, painting and architecture.

After Aurangzeb’s death in 1707 however the empire started to disintegrate, as internal revolts spread and the Marathas devastated large tracts of central India. Delhi was sacked by the Persians in 1739 and the Afghans in 1756, the former carrying of the famed Peacock and the Koh-i-noor diamond as treasures worth billions. The Afghans carried out rape and massacre on an inconceivable scale. Britain and France exploited and exacerbated the disorder – forming alliances with local rulers and fighting increasingly for political as well as for commercial ends although these were inextricably intertwined. Thus cash from commerce paid native troops (sepoys) to take territory which yielded tax revenues and opportunities for further gain.

Bengal where the British first established themselves was one of India’s richest provinces whose fertile alluvial plain was watered by the great rivers, Ganga and Brahmaputr. The Mughals called this region “the paradise of the earth.” The East India Company officers came to this region as tyrants who were described as “hybrid monsters” (J W Kaye: Lives of Indian Officers 1889). Clive himself garnered several hundred thousand pounds as well as rights to valuable annual tax revenues from land, others exhorted lavish “presents” exacted vast profits and levied taxes on the local population. They made fortunes comparable to those of great English proprietors or large West Indian planters. They outdid the Roman proconsuls who in year or two squeezed outo f a province the means of raising marble palaces and baths on the shores of Camania, drinking from Amber, of feasting on songbirds, of exhibiting armies of gladiators and flocks of camelopards. They transformed Calcutta into a Gomorrah of corruption. The deluge of gold coins from India dazzled the whole western world. In Corsica, the young Napoleon Bonaparte dreamed of going to India and returning rich. Bismark in his youth had much the same idea until he thought, “after all, what harm have the Indians done me?” The British had no such conscience.

Bengal was bled white and by 1756 its people were provoked into a desperate revolt that was brutally crushed and further taxes imposed. Indian revenues (which perhaps amounted to a billion pounds sterling between Plassey and Waterloo) spelled the redemption of Britain but for Indians, pushed Bengal into a hellish existence. Millions died of starvation and famines wiped out a third of the population while British “bullies, cheats and swindlers” continued to prey on a hapless population.

William Hastings - first Governor-General of British India from 1773 to 1785.

p. 36
Hastings connived at the judicial murder of one Maharaja. He despoiled rich provinces. To local rulers who could afford it, he hired out his sepoy army, the best equipped force in India, equipped with firelocks and bayonets. Hastings also acquired a small fortune (tiny by Clive’s standards), sending 70,000 pounds sterling home in diamonds alone. He was particularly indulgent towards his second wife Marian, who dressed like an Indian princess,, braiding her red hair with gems and amusing herself by throwing kittens into a bowl full of enormous pearls which slid under their paws when they tried to stand up.

Partly due to the excesses of Hastings the homeland took political control away from the East India Company (The Pitt’s India Act of 1784) and vested it in the British Government. This change was accompanied by the growth of a racist aggressive nationalism and missionary zeal among the British in the following years. Smarting from the guilt induced by the excesses exposed by Hasting’s trial the colonizers took on the mantle of noblesse oblige – they were there because the Indians needed to be civilized and ruled because they were backwards and inferior.

Cornwallis (the next Governor-General of India, 1786-93), defeated Tipu Sultan of Mysore and took his little sons (aged eight and ten) captive holding them hostage to ensure that the defeated ruler stayed under his control. Cornwallis extorted vast territorial concessions plus a huge financial indemnity from Tipu. On the suface Cornwallis made a great show of taking care of the princes – but under the guise of guardianship he was using the princes as human pawns in a ruthless game of realpolitik. The charge that their Empire was a system of hypocrisy was one which irked the British because it came so close to the truth.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Shame on India!!

Saurabh Kalia’s parents waging a lone battle to highlight war crimes
The Hindu July 6, 2009
PALAMPUR: Capt Saurabh Kalia, the first to report Pakistani incursion in Kargil in 1999, was taken captive by the Pakistani troops and a few weeks later his mutilated body was handed over to Indian authorities. Ten years on, the martyr’s parents fight a lone battle to highlight war crimes against their son and other Indian soldiers.

N.K. Kalia and his wife Vijaya, who have settled in this town in Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh, have been waging a war to highlight Pakistani violations of human rights and brutalities committed on their son, Saurabh Kalia, and other soldiers during the Kargil war in 1999.

Saurabh Kalia of 4 Jat Regiment, who was the first Army officer to report incursion by the Pakistani Army on Indian soil, had along with five soldiers - Sepoys Arjun Ram, Bhanwar Lal Bagaria, Bhika Ram, Moola Ram and Naresh Singh - for a routine patrol of the Bajrang Post in the Kaksar sector when they were taken captive by the Pakistani troops May 15, 1999.

They were barbarically tortured for weeks before being killed. Their mutilated bodies were handed over to Indian authorities June 9, 1999.

“Of course, his supreme sacrifice has made us proud, but what has exhausted, disappointed and dejected us is that the nation for which he has sacrificed his life least bothered to highlight the plight of war crimes at the international fora,” N.K. Kalia, 61, a retired senior scientist from the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, told IANS.

“We have been shuttling between various government offices and organisations with the hope of highlighting the plight of the war victims. The Indian government has failed to deliver justice as it has forgotten atrocities meted out on six heroes. For days, they were tortured. Their limbs were chopped and bodies burnt,” rued Mr Kalia.

“Though the then Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government at the Centre expressed concern over the heinous crime and promised to take up the issue at the international level, in all these years the issue got diluted,” he recalled.

“Even today our only demand is that it should keep its promise so that no POWs (prisoners of war) could face Saurabh’s fate. Had this happened to any American or Israeli soldier, the culprits would have been brought to justice.”

Vijaya, who runs an LPG agency allotted by the Indian Oil Corporation to honour his martyrdom, asked: “Is this the way the government treats its heroes?”

To highlight the plight of the war victims, Saurabh Kalia’s father has started an online signature campaign.

“The pain of losing a young son is hard to describe in words. But we feel contended with the fact that many citizens have supported us through online signature campaign. Till date more than 13,000 people have put up their signatures,” N.K. Kalia said.

Saurabh Kalia, who was posted in Kargil as his first posting after passing out of the Indian Military Academy, did not even live long enough to receive his first pay packet as an officer.

Today, his photographs, his uniforms, shoes and mementoes are kept in his room, which has been named ‘Saurabh Smriti Kaksha’ (a museum), in the Kalias’ four-bedroom house in the serene hills of Palampur.

The Himachal Pradesh government as a mark of respect has raised ‘Saurabh Van Vihar’ in a sprawling area of 35 acres here besides renaming a street in the town as Capt Saurabh Kalia Marg. A nursing college in the proposed Vivekanand Medical Research Trust Hospital here is being raised in martyr’s memory. - IANS

Mother caned in Bangladesh for talking to Hindu man

By Shafiq Alam – Jun 6, 2009

DHAKA (AFP) — A Muslim mother has been caned for talking to a Hindu man in Bangladesh, police said Saturday, prompting fresh concerns about a rise in cases of harsh treatment of women under strict Islamic law.

The punishment was carried out in a remote village in Muslim-majority Bangladesh on the orders of village elders, local police chief Enamul Monowar told AFP by telephone.

The village elders found Kamala Begum, 38, a mother of four, guilty under Islamic sharia law of chatting with an unidentified Hindu man, Monowar said. Hindus make up around 10 percent of Bangladesh's population.

"The villagers got bundles of 25 sticks and hit her four times on the back. They claimed it was a symbolic punishment. But she's humiliated and has been in great mental pain," Monowar said.

It was the third such reported case in two weeks in the country and stirred concern among women's groups in Muslim-majority but officially secular Bangladesh, about what they say is a rise in the brutal treatment of women under locally applied Islamic laws.

"In the last few months, we have seen villagers invoking sharia to mete out barbaric punishments to women," said Salma Ali, the head of rights group Bangladesh National Woman Lawyers Association.

Police have arrested one man and are looking for others who meted out the punishment to the woman in Shason in northeastern Bangladesh, Monowar said.

Earlier this month a man and a woman were caned for adultery after being convicted by a village court, police said.

Village courts are common in Bangladesh, particularly in more conservative rural areas, but are not recognised as legitimate courts of law.

Also this month, a 22-year-old unwed woman was caned 39 times and left fighting for her life after saying a neighbour was the father of her six-year-old son.

The case caused a national outcry with Premier Sheikh Hasina ordering the woman shifted from her village home to the capital for treatment. The woman is now in a stable condition.

So far, Bangladesh has been little affected by the spread of hardline Islamic sentiment that has badly shaken its South Asian neighbour Pakistan.

But women's rights groups say there has been a spike in the number of "fatwas" -- judgments in line with sharia law -- in rural areas.

"In the last few months, we've seen villagers invoking sharia to mete out barbaric punishments to women," said lawyer Ali.

"It's disturbing sign and a real concern. It shows some parts of the country are becoming more conservative," she said.

Bangladesh has been ruled by female leaders for 16 of the last 19 years and prides itself for empowering women.

But although women hold high government and private sector posts, a move last year to give equal property rights to women was scuttled by Islamist protests.

The Awami League government has vowed to eradicate militancy from the country, hit by series of blasts by outlawed Islamic groups in 2005, and has warned of "zero tolerance" for harsh sharia punishments.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Post WW II photographs that British authorities tried to keep hidden

Ian Cobain
The Guardian, Monday 3 April 2006

Archive pictures of German prisoners held by the British following the second world war.

For almost 60 years, the evidence of Britain's clandestine torture programme in postwar Germany has lain hidden in the government's files. Harrowing photographs of young men who had survived being systematically starved, as well as beaten, deprived of sleep and exposed to extreme cold, were considered too shocking to be seen.

As one minister of the day wrote, as few people as possible should be aware that British authorities had treated prisoners "in a manner reminiscent of the German concentration camps".

Many other photographs known to have been taken have vanished from the archives, and even this year some government officials were arguing that none should be published.

The pictures show suspected communists who were tortured in an attempt to gather information about Soviet military intentions and intelligence methods at a time when some British officials were convinced that a third world war was only months away.

Others interrogated at the same prison, at Bad Nenndorf, near Hanover, included Nazis, prominent German industrialists of the Hitler era, and former members of the SS.

At least two men suspected of being communists were starved to death, at least one was beaten to death, others suffered serious illness or injuries, and many lost toes to frostbite.

The appalling treatment of the 372 men and 44 women who were interrogated at Bad Nenndorf between 1945 and 1947 are detailed in a report by a Scotland Yard detective, Inspector Tom Hayward. He had been called in by senior army officers to investigate the mistreatment of inmates, partly as a result of the evidence provided by these photographs.

Insp Hayward's report remained secret until last December, when the Guardian secured its release under the Freedom of Information Act. The photographs seen here were removed before the Foreign Office released the report, apparently because the Ministry of Defence did not wish them to be published. That decision was reversed last week, following an appeal by the Guardian.

One of the men photographed, Gerhard Menzel, 23, a student, was arrested by British intelligence officers in Hamburg in June 1946. He had fallen under suspicion because he was believed to have travelled to the British-controlled zone of Germany from Omsk in Siberia, where he had been a prisoner of war. His weight, measured several weeks after his arrest at 10st 3lb, had fallen to 7st 10lb by the time he was transferred from Bad Nenndorf to a British-run internment camp eight months later.

In the meantime, he told Hayward, his hands had been chained behind his back for up to 16 days at a time, periods during which he was repeatedly punched in the face. He had also been held in a bare, freezing cell for up to two weeks at a time and doused in cold water every 30 minutes from 4.30am until midnight, a practice the detective discovered to have been common.

A doctor at the internment camp reported that Mr Menzel was one of a group of 12 inmates transferred from Bad Nenndorf, all emaciated and dressed in rags. Previous arrivals had also been half-starved. Some had facial scars, apparently the result of beatings. A few had scars on their shins, said to be the result of torture with shin screws which had been retrieved from a Gestapo prison at Hamburg.

Mr Menzel "was only skin and bones," the doctor wrote. "He could neither walk nor stand up without assistance, and could only speak with difficulty because his tongue and lips were swollen and broken open.

"It was impossible to take his body temperature because it was not higher than 35 degrees Celsius and the thermometer only starts at 35."

The prisoner was also confused, anxious and suffering memory loss, his lungs were badly infected and his blood pressure was dangerously low. Only after being washed, fed and heated with lamps could his body temperature be raised to 36.3C, but the doctor feared his chances of survival were slim.

Another man pictured, Heinz Biedermann, 20, a clerk, had been arrested in October 1946 because he was in the British zone, while his father, who lived at Stendal in the Russian zone, had been identified as "an ardent communist". By the time he was transferred from Bad Nenndorf four months later his weight had fallen from 11st 3lb to 7st 12lb. He said he had been held in solitary confinement for much of the time, threatened with execution, and forced to live and sleep in sub-zero temperatures while barely clothed.

One British army guard told Inspector Hayward that Mr Biedermann had "wasted like a candle" during his imprisonment. Another, a private in the Essex Regiment, told the detective that he complained that he and his comrades were behaving as badly as Germans. "I became very unpopular after this ... the sergeant appeared to take a poor view of my remarks."

On Mr Biedermann's transfer to the internment camp, an officer at Bad Nenndorf requested he be detained "for an adequate time" to prevent him giving the Soviets "detailed information on this centre and methods of interrogation".

Foreign Office records show that the navy officer commanding the internment camp, Captain Arthur Curtis, was so shocked by the condition of the men being sent to him that he ordered these photographs be taken to support his complaints about the treatment of these "living skeletons". Photographs of several other prisoners, taken at the same time, appear to have vanished from the Foreign Office files.

On the other side of the British zone, meanwhile, a Royal Artillery officer was complaining about the state of Bad Nenndorf inmates who were being dumped from a truck at the entrance to a military hospital. Some weighed little more than six stones, and two died shortly after their arrival.

The records show that Bad Nenndorf was run by a War Office department called the Combined Services Detailed Interrogation Centre (CSDIC).

By late 1946, CSDIC appears to have lost interest in Nazis, and was targeting communists. It appears the prisoners were questioned about Soviet methods and intentions, rather than about the Communist party itself.

Some of Bad Nenndorf's inmates were indeed spying for the Soviets: one prisoner, who was half-Norwegian and half-Russian, told Hayward he was an officer in the NKVD, the predecessor of the KGB, and had been operating continuously in Germany since 1938. Another, a German journalist who had been freed by the Soviets from a Gestapo prison, was caught flying into Croydon aerodrome with false British papers. Both men were starved and badly tortured.

Others clearly were not spies, however. One man who was starved to death was a gay ex-soldier caught with forged papers while crossing into the British zone in search of his lover, while the other was a young German who was being interrogated because he had volunteered to spy for the British in the Russian zone, and was wrongly suspected of lying because of an official error over his medical records.

Four British officers were court martialled after Hayward's investigation. Declassified documents show that the hearings were held largely behind closed doors to prevent the Soviets from discovering that Russians were being detained.

Another consideration was admitted to be the determination to conceal the existence of several other CSDIC prisons. While it is now known that one interrogation centre was in central London, little is known about those in Germany, other than their locations.

Following the courts martial, the prison at Bad Nenndorf, which was in a converted bath-house, was replaced with a purpose-built interrogation centre near an RAF base at Gütersloh, and orders were issued for inmates to be examined by a doctor before interrogation. It is unclear when this centre closed.

The only officer at Bad Nenndorf to be convicted was the prison doctor. At the age of 49, his sentence was to be dismissed from the army. The commanding officer, Colonel Robin Stephens, was cleared of a charge of "disgraceful conduct of a cruel kind" and told he was free to apply to rejoin his former employers at MI5.

Britain has moral duty to allow Mau Mau case to proceed

June 23, 2009
Caroline Elkins
Times (London)

Since the 1950s, Mau Mau has often been synonymous with atavistic savagery. It was a grassroots movement that sought to end British rule in Kenya, and with it the privileges of an African minority loyal to colonialism. Comprised almost entirely of Kikuyu – Kenya’s largest ethnic group — Mau Mau perpetrated some heinous crimes. But, so, too, did the agents of British colonialism, and on an order of magnitude that dwarfed Mau Mau acts of violence.

For the duration of the emergency (1952-60), the colonial government embarked upon a campaign to suppress Mau Mau using a two-pronged offensive. The first campaign was waged in the Mount Kenya and Aberdares forest against some 20,000 Mau Mau guerrillas, over whom British forces gained the initiative by the end of 1954.

It was the second-prong of Britain’s offensive aimed at African civilians that was by far the largest, most violent and longest in duration. Targeted against some 1.5 million Kikuyu who were allegedly Mau Mau sympathisers, Britain’s civilian campaign grew in its intensity, systematising and brutality over time. By the end of 1955, colonial authorities had detained nearly the entire Kikuyu population in either one of some 150 detention camps – known as the Pipeline – or in one of more than 800 barbed-wired villages.

Behind the wire, British agents perpetrated unspeakable acts of violence against men, women, and children. Castrations, forced sodomies with broken bottles and vermin, tortures using fecal matter and gang rapes were but some of the tactics used to force detainees to comply.

Such acts were not the result of a few “bad apples”. The systematic use of violence was conceived and approved at the highest levels of British governance in Nairobi and London. There is much evidence to support this, despite the fact that British officials received, and executed, orders to purge their files at the time of decolonisation in 1963.

The years I spent trolling through documents in British and Kenyan archives revealed a story of Britain’s routine violation of international law in Kenya, and consistent efforts at cover-up, all with the knowledge of top officials in Nairobi and London. At the time, critics within and outside government demanded an end to British colonial violence. Barbara Castle, the Labour MP, condemned her country’s actions, stating: “In the heart of the British Empire there is a police state where the rule of law has broken down, where the murder and torture of Africans by Europeans goes unpunished and where the authorities pledged to enforce justice regularly connive at its violation.”

Today, survivors of the Mau Mau camps and villages seek their day in court, and with it, reparations. Despite – or perhaps because of – the evidence, it remains to be seen whether or not the British Government of today, like that of yesteryear, will attempt to silence their efforts, this time through legal manoeuvrings.

It is morally incumbent upon the British government to allow this case to go forward, not just for the survivors, but also for the British and Kenyan public who have a right to full knowledge of their pasts as they search for new directions in the future. At the very least, the weight of the archival evidence and survivor testimony warrants an official apology as the start of a new systematic effort, this time to make amends.

Caroline Elkins is a Professor of History at Harvard University and and Pulitzer prize- winning author of Imperial Reckoning: The Untold Story of Britain’s Gulag in Kenya