Weekend Edition

December 15th, 2017

Democracy and monarchy on the same plane

December 15th, 2017

by B. R. GOWANI

PHOTO/Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation

US president is called a “fucking moron“/”dotard
Saudi king suffers from Alzheimer’s disease

but Trump’s son-in-low Jared Corey Kushner is not a fucking moron
he is a fucking bastard
Salman’s son Mohammad bin Salman has no dementia
his mind is overworking
to the extent that it’ll destroy him
without him even knowing it

JCK controls the US Middle East policy, literally -
United States has not appointed an ambassador to the Saudi kingdom
and JCK doesn’t care to inform Secretary of State Rex Tillerson -
MBS, the de facto ruler, handles all the Saudi policies

JCK is an Orthodox Jew
MSB is a Sunni Wahhabi Muslim

JCK fanatically supports Jewish Israel and wishes Iran’s end
MSB vehemently opposes Iran and wants Iran’s destruction
and this has brought both bastards closer
JCK flew unannounced to Saudi Arabia
and both buddies were in planning mode till 4 in the morning

Saudis have no diplomatic relations with Israel
but MSB doesn’t mind joining Israel to crush Iran
they’re planning to reshape the Middle East
according to their understanding
which is neither deep not wise

(Trump had expressed great hope in his son-in-low:

“If you can’t produce peace in the Middle East, nobody can.
All my life I’ve been hearing
that’s the toughest deal in the world to make.
And I’ve seen it.
But I have a feeling that Jared is going to do a great job.”

it’s like an idiot with zero knowledge of the entire issue
appoints another idiot with zilch understanding of the issue to handle it
by heaping lots of praise

Palestinians and other Arabs will suffer more
Israel will become more powerful and more ruthless
JCK will mint more money and influence
MSB will buy more paintings and yachts

B. R. Gowani can be reached at brgowani@hotmail.com

Infanticide

December 15th, 2017

by SANDRA NEWMAN

A Sister of Charity at the New York Foundling Hospital in 1943 PHOTO/Nina Leen/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty

There is nothing so horrific as child murder, yet it’s ubiquitous in human history. What drives a parent to kill a baby?

If there’s one thing we can still agree on in this era of political polarisation, it is that the life of a child is sacred. A mass shooting, air strike or natural disaster in which children are killed is considered far worse than one that slaughters only adults. When the ethicist Peter Singer suggested that, in theory, a baby’s life might be less worthy of protection than an adult’s because its consciousness is less developed, there were irate calls for him to lose his job. There is – our culture assumes – no love so great as that of a parent for a child, and no crime so unequivocally evil as the murder of an innocent infant. Furthermore, it seems reasonable to suppose that this attitude is genetically determined. What could be a more basic evolutionary imperative than to protect one’s offspring from harm?

The only problem with this simple account is that for most of human history infanticide was a common and accepted method of family planning, and the perceived innocence of children was less likely to win them special care and more likely to make them seem like ideal sacrifices to a bloodthirsty god. Evidence suggests that, while extreme protectiveness of children is hard-wired in the human brain, it exists alongside a predilection for murdering them shortly after they are born.

It is well-known that animals kept in confinement can kill, even devour, their own infants. It is a peril of buying pet hamsters for your child. Here, the common assumption is that the stress of manhandling these solitary, nocturnal creatures drives them to homicidal mania. Zoo animals are also known to kill their offspring, which fits with a model of infanticide as a pathological response to abnormal stress. It turns out, however, that many animals in the wild routinely kill their young, often as a brutally straightforward means of winnowing out the weak. In one study of Norway rats, infant survival was strongly correlated to the success of the parents; low-ranking, scarred female rats ate more than 60 per cent of their young, while high-ranking, unscarred females weaned 100 per cent of their offspring. Parents will also sacrifice babies to save themselves. A mother kangaroo, under pursuit from a predator, will scoop out the joeys from her pouch and throw them into her would-be slayer’s path. Among primates, researchers have witnessed a chilling phenomenon whereby one female steals another’s infant to use as a living doll, sometimes leading to the death of the baby through rough treatment or starvation.

But perhaps the most cynical baby murders are practised by snowy egrets, which typically lay three eggs. In the mother’s body, the third egg gets only half the normal dose of hormones, and is born less aggressive than the others. If food is abundant, the larger nestlings throw their passive sibling out to die; if scarce, they gobble him up. The moral of these stories is not that animals are horrible, but that, in evolutionary terms, some infants are disposable. The evolutionary pressure is not to have the largest number of offspring, but the optimal number of healthy offspring at the optimal time.


Aeon
for more

Islamic schools in Pakistan plagued by cases of sex abuse

December 15th, 2017

by KATHY GANNON

PHOTO/The Nation

Kausar Parveen struggles through tears as she remembers the blood-soaked pants of her 9-year-old son, raped by a religious cleric. Each time she begins to speak, she stops, swallows hard, wipes her tears and begins again.

The boy had studied for a year at a nearby Islamic school in the town of Kehrore Pakka. In the blistering heat of late April, in the grimy two-room Islamic madrassa, he awoke one night to find his teacher lying beside him.

“I didn’t move. I was afraid,” he says.

The cleric lifted the boy’s long tunic-style shirt over his head, and then pulled down his baggy pants.

“I was crying. He was hurting me. He shoved my shirt in my mouth,” the boy says, using his scarf to show how the cleric tried to stifle his cries. He looks over at his mother.

“Did he touch you?’” He nods. “Did he hurt you when he touched you?” ”Yes,” he whispers.

“Did he rape you?” He buries his face in his scarf and nods yes.

Parveen reaches over and grabs her son, pulling him toward her, cradling his head in her lap.

___

“INFESTED” WITH SEXUAL ABUSE

Sexual abuse is a pervasive and longstanding problem at madrassas in Pakistan, an AP investigation has found, from the sunbaked mud villages deep in its rural areas to the heart of its teeming cities. But in a culture where clerics are powerful and sexual abuse is a taboo subject, it is seldom discussed or even acknowledged in public.

It is even more seldom prosecuted. Police are often paid off not to pursue justice against clerics, victims’ families say. And cases rarely make it past the courts, because Pakistan’s legal system allows the victim’s family to “forgive” the offender and accept what is often referred to as “blood money.”

The AP found hundreds of cases of sexual abuse by clerics reported in the past decade, and officials suspect there are many more within a far-reaching system that teaches at least 2 million children in Pakistan. The investigation was based on police documents and dozens of interviews with victims, relatives, former and current ministers, aid groups and religious officials.

The fear of clerics and the militant religious organizations that sometimes support them came through clearly. One senior official in a ministry tasked with registering these cases says many madrassas are “infested” with sexual abuse. The official asked to remain anonymous for fear of retribution; he has been a target of suicide attacks because of his hard position against militant groups.

Yahoo for more

(Thanks to reader)

Tipu Sultan: Diverse narratives

December 14th, 2017

by RAM PUNIYANI

Painting shows Tipu Sultan shooting at the British from the ramparts of the Srirangapatnam Fort on May 4, 1799 IMAGE/The Times of India

From couple of years around 10th November, BJP has been undertaking the smearing campaign against Tipu Sultan. Incidentally from last 3 years Government of Karnataka has been celebrating the anniversary of Tipu. As such he is the only King, who laid down his life while fighting against the British. This year around as November 10 approached, Mr. Anantkumar, the Union Minister and a major BJP leader from Karnataka, turned down the invitation of Karnataka Government to be part of the Tipu anniversary celebration. His argument was that Tipu was a mass murderer, wretched fanatic and rapist. At places there were protests organized by BJP.

Certain sections of the society also consider him a tyrant who engaged in forced conversions. He is also accused of promoting Persian at the cost of Kannada. It is also alleged that his letters to his Generals, claimed to be in British possession now, show that he believed that kafirs should be decimated. There is no dearth of such periodic controversies being raked up around his name. What is being propagated on the basis of some flimsy sources is that he destroyed hundreds of temples and killed thousands of Brahmins!

Incidentally just a month ago, Ramnath Kovind, the President of India, who has a RSS background, was on a different trip. He praised Tipu by saying that “Tipu Sultan died a heroic death fighting the British. He was also a pioneer in the development and use of Mysore rockets in warfare.” Many BJP spokespersons, uncomfortable with this statement, undermined the President by saying that false inputs were provided to Rashtrapati Bhavan by Karnataka Government.

As such there are diverse attitude towards Tipu from within RSS-BJP stable itself. In 2010, B.S. Yeddyyurappa, the BJP leader adorned Tipu’s headgear and held a mock sword, on the eve of elections. In 1970s RSS had published a book praising Tipu, calling him patriotic, this book was part of Bharat Bharati series.

On the other side noted Kannada playwright Girish Karnad is all praise for Tipu to the extent that he supported the demand to name Bangaluru airport in his name. Karnad has also been stating that had Tipu been Hindu, he would have been accorded the same status in Karnataka, which Shivaji has in Maharashtra.

One recalls that Tipu has been made popular through the 60 episode serial based on Bhagwan Gidwani’s script, the ‘Sword of Tipu Sultan’, which also focuses on the fight of Tipu against East India Company. Tipu had corresponded with the Marathas and Nizam of Hyderabad to dissociate themselves from the British forces, the intrusion of which he saw particularly harmful for this region. This policy of his led to various battles against British. It was in the fourth Anglo Mysore war of 1799 battle that he lost his life. He has been immortalized in the popular memory of Karnataka people through folk songs. This is very much akin to iconization of Shivaji in popular memory in Maharashtra.

Why did Tipu use Persian as the Court language? It is important to recognize that Persian was the court language in the sub-continent at that time. Even Shivaji of Maharashtra was using Persian in his correspondence and had had Maulana Hyder Ali as his Chief Secretary, for doing this. Tipu was not a religious fanatic as he is being projected by them today. Tipu’s policies were not driven by religion. In fact, in his letter to Shankaracharya of Kamkoti Peetham, he refers to the Acharya as Jagatguru (World Teacher). He also donated rich offerings to his shrine.

When the Maratha army of Patwardhan plundered the Sringeri monastery, Tipu Sultan respectfully restored the monastery to its glory. During his reign, ten-day Dushehara celebrations were an integral part of the social life of Mysore. Sarfaraz Shaikh in his book ‘Sultan-E-Khudad’ has reproduced the ‘Manifesto of Tipu Sultan’. In it, he declares that he would not discriminate on religious grounds and would protect his empire until his last breath.

Communalism Combat for more

Britain & Arabs

December 14th, 2017

by A.G. NOORANI

What the British Did: Two Centuries in the Middle East by Peter Mangold (I.B. Tauris, 2016)

Three books of high scholarship together establish the enormity of the crime of the Balfour Declaration on establishing “a national home” for the Jewish people by placing it in the proper historical context.

Arthur Koestler aptly summed up the origin of Israel’s birth, the Balfour Declaration of November 2, 1917, as a document in which “one nation solemnly promised to a second nation the country of a third” (Promise and Fulfilment, page 4). The actual situation on the ground was described by Michael Adams, a distinguished journalist, in The Guardian on November 3, 1967: “Fifty years ago there was no Palestine ‘problem’. There was only Palestine itself, at that time a province of the Ottoman Empire, but a part of the Arab homeland like any other, occupied without interruption by Arabs for more than 1,300 years, and sharing the expectations of the rest of the Arab world. These expectations centred around the promise of immediate independence made to the Arabs by the British government in 1916, in return for which the Arabs had risen in revolt against their Turkish masters, to play a significant part in the final defeat of the Ottoman Empire.

“But before this promise to restore Arab independence could be kept, the British government had entered into another, much less precise, undertaking to the Jewish people, then scattered throughout the world. This later undertaking, which we know as the Balfour Declaration, conflicted with the earlier promise to the Arabs; indeed, it could only be fulfilled at the expense of the Arabs—and in this contradiction lies the essence of the Palestine problem.”

In 1917, the Jews comprised around 10 per cent of the total population. They could acquire a majority only by ethnic cleansing of the Arabs once the state of Israel was established in 1948. Even successive waves of immigration, assisted by Britain, the occupying power, could not convert the Arab majority into a minority. Israel was conceived and born in sin, an illegitimate child of British imperialism. The enormity of the wrong history fully establishes.
100th anniversary

It was, therefore, very appropriate that Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May should host a dinner for Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at 10 Downing Street on November 2, the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration. She is a discredited Prime Minister and the driving force behind the extinction of the two-state formula by misappropriation of the few lands still with the Arabs in the name of settlements on lands conquered after the 1967 war.

Frontline for more

Don’t be quick to celebrate the hijab-wearing Barbie

December 14th, 2017

by SHENILA KHOJA-MOOLJI

Olympic fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad holds a Barbie doll made in her likeness as she attends the 2017 Glamour Women of the Year Awards at the Kings Theater in New York PHOTO/Reuters/Andrew Kelly

It is no secret that Mattel Inc.’s Barbie doll has done well, not only in the US but also globally. The franchise contributed nearly 20 percent to Mattel’s worldwide gross sales in the last quarter and was ranked as one of the top-selling US toy properties.

However, the company has also been incessantly criticised for its portrayal of unrealistic beauty standards – its white, ultra-thin, blue-eyed, lusciously-haired, ample-bosomed Barbie, it is argued, belies the realities of women who must eat, labour, provide care to children and the elderly, and survive intimate and public violence.

Mattel has often dismissed such criticisms. Only a couple of years ago, Mattel’s lead designer for Barbie said that mothers are to blame for girls’ body issues, and not dolls.

However, in recent years, the company has launched multiple new product lines, from career, petite, and curvy Barbie dolls to dolls that are non-white, to appease its critics. Earlier this month, it launched its first Barbie in hijab. Designed after Olympic fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad, this doll is part of its “Sheroes” series. Mattel portrays this doll as serving as an “inspiration for countless little girls who never saw themselves represented in sports and culture”.

Many Muslims and non-Muslims alike welcomed the doll as a sign of inclusion and diversity. In the words of Miley Cyrus, “Yay Barbie! One step closer to Equality! We HAVE to normalize diversity!”

Given the current context of large-scale demonisation of Muslims through institutional policies such as the “Muslim ban” and the dismantling of DACA, a Barbie in hijab (a headscarf worn by many Muslim women who feel it is part of their religion) appears to be a welcome respite. According to Pew Research Center, hate crimes against Muslims in the US have surpassed the 2001 level. Just recently, a schoolteacher in Virginia ripped off a young girl’s hijab, and a teacher in Tennessee posted a video of a student’s hijab being removed, with captions “pretty hair” and “lol all that hair cover up”.

The hijab-wearing Barbie or the D&G abayas are classic instances of racial capitalism

There is no doubt that this doll offers representational possibilities for young girls (and even women) who often do not see their likeness in dominant textual and visual cultures. And the doll, being black, also disrupts the dominance of South Asian/Arab/Brown Muslims in the context of the US.

However, let’s not be too hasty in celebrating such moves by for-profit corporations.

What Mattel and companies like DKNY, Tommy Hilfiger, Nike, Dolce & Gabbana, and H&M, which have launched hijab, abaya and other products aimed at Muslim women, are selling is an imagined feeling of inclusivity to Muslim girls who often do not experience it in their daily lives.

This form of tokenistic inclusion often does more harm than good. It distracts us from engaging in deeper and tougher conversations about meaningful social reform to create a more inclusive society. Instead, it commodifies Islam and sees Muslims as yet another target market. Critical legal theorist Nancy Leong reads such forms of commodification of otherness as “racial capitalism” – “the process of deriving social and economic value from racial identity”.

Al Jazeera for more

(Thanks to reader)

Faith, myths, and Black Prometheus

December 13th, 2017

In A Black Theology of Liberation, James H. Cone controversially asserted, “If God is not for us, if God is not against white racists, then God is a murderer, and we had better kill God. The task of black theology is to kill gods that do not belong to the black community; and by taking black history as a source, we know that this is neither an easy nor a sentimental task but an awesome responsibility.” Cone’s threat of deicide is one of his most frequently misunderstood and frequently criticized assertions. Often misconstrued as a rejection of Christian orthodoxy, Cone’s assertion is instead a challenge to the notion of a white God who either sits idly by or supports the oppression of black people. Cone instead contrasts this with a vision of a God who is intimately involved in the suffering and liberation of black and other oppressed peoples. And, as Jared Hickman demonstrates in his new book Black Prometheus: Race and Radicalism in the Age of Atlantic Slavery, this motif of liberation as a rebellion against the gods is one with origins in ancient mythology and its applications have deep and pervasive roots in the history of thought on race and liberation.

The origins of the myth of Prometheus are unclear and the story is never told in full in any of the ancient sources. Instead, various aspects of the Promethean mythos are retold and applied with variations in emphasis by a host of ancient writers, including Hesiod (8th century BCE) and Aeschylus (5th/4th century BCE). What all of the retellings of the myths hold in common is the presentation of Prometheus as a figure who stands in defiance of the reign of Zeus and the other gods of Mount Olympus. He is instead a partisan of the Titans, the older gods whose reign was overthrown by the Olympians. He is also frequently represented as possessing a certain tenderness toward humankind, working to counter the cruelty and indifference of the Olympian gods to the lives and sufferings of humans.

Black Prometheus (Jared Hickman)In one early myth, Prometheus tricks Zeus into accepting the fat and bones of animals as sacrifices, leaving the nutritious meat to the humans to consume. In another myth—perhaps the most famous of the Promethean myths—Prometheus is able to steal fire from the Olympians and give it to humans. The gift of fire becomes for humans the means by which they will build civilizations, allowing them to cook their food and forge metal tools. Prometheus’s theft is punished with characteristic cruelty by Zeus, however; he is chained to a mountainside in the Caucasus where an eagle picks at his liver for eternity. The Athenian playwright Aeschylus presents Prometheus in this state of suffering but in eternal defiance of the rule of Zeus. Prometheus at last predicts that another will eventually rise up to overthrow the reign of Zeus.

Monthly Review Online for more

Malaysia’s ‘Arabization’ owes to Saudi ties

December 13th, 2017

by NILE BOWIE

A Malaysian religious student is seen inside the Federal Territory Mosque in Kuala Lumpur on May 20, 2017 PHOTO/NurPhoto via AFP/ Muhammad Shahrizal

Prime Minister Najib Razak has taken cues and cash from Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud to push the Southeast Asian nation in a more Islamist direction

The deepening politicization of conservative Islam and concerns over the erosion of traditional religious practices and culture in Malaysia have brought the traditionally moderate multicultural nation’s ties to Saudi Arabia under new scrutiny.

Karima Bennoune, the United Nations Special Rapporteur for cultural rights, noted during a September visit deepening involvement of religious authorities in policy decisions, developments she said were influenced by “a hegemonic version of Islam imported from the Arabian Peninsula” that was “at odds with local forms of practice.”

The rapporteur’s statement alludes to the long reach of Saudi cultural influence made possible by decades of oil-financed proselytization via mosques and madrassas that promote Wahhabism, a puritanical interpretation of Islam, and the growing role of Saudi-trained Islamic scholars recruited into Malaysia’s civil service and religious establishment.

Wider public support for an interpretation of Islam and Muslim identity influenced by Saudi-sponsored ultra-conservatism has grown under the tenure of Prime Minister Najib Razak, whose office funds an Islamic bureaucracy promoting an exclusivist interpretation of the faith through various religious organizations.

This drift toward Islamism and its stranglehold on Sunni religious discourse has complicated communal relations in the country and galvanized pushback from Malaysia’s constitutional monarchs, who last month issued a rare statement expressing their collective concern over rising ethno-religious polarization.

“There’s this idea that the more like Arabs you are, the better Muslim you are. That’s the very real obliteration of our cultural heritage,” Marina Mahathir, founder of the Sisters in Islam organization and daughter of former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad, said in a recent interview. “Arab culture is spreading, and I would lay the blame completely on Saudi Arabia.”

Asia Times Online for more

Ishmael Reed interviewed in The Barcelona Review

December 13th, 2017

by AYÉN XAVI

Essayist, playwright, novelist, poet, editor, songwriter and publisher Ishmael Reed PHOTO/Wikipedia

Although Harold Bloom included his novel Mumbo Jumbo (1972) as one of the titles that formed the western canon, Ishmael Reed (Chattanooga, 1938) had no luck with the Spanish public, which only came a version of Grijalbo in 1975 which reflected the difficulties of translating slang. Now, La Fuga publishes a new translation of Inga Pellisa that reads, this time yes, following the rhythm with the foot. The plot: a strange epidemic invades New Orleans – and then the United States and the world – forcing people to dance possessed, prey to an uncontrollable frenzy that culminates in ecstasy. White secret societies try to stop it. Mainly set in New York’s Harlem of the twenties, the play is a burst of vitality and its major themes are blackness, music and religion. The center of everything is the Mumbo Jumbo Kathedral, syncretic temple ruled by guru Papa LaBas. Reed responds to La Vanguardia via email.

It’s amazing how a book written in 1972 can be so modern, and even postmodern, do not you think?

That’s because I was inspired by musicians, painters, dancers, poets and filmmakers who were creating innovative art in the mid-60′s in New York. The New York Times called it “pioneering work of the graphic novel.” I mixed so many cultural influences because I was very influenced by the painters, who were devotees of the collage.

Have you read James Ellroy or Marlon James? Do not you think that these two authors of different generations follow a path drawn by Mumbo Jumbo?

I did not read Marlon James. I met him last year, when he was given an American Book Award. He is handling very well with his fame. Unlike other black writers who have achieved notoriety, he has not been supported by any little chap. Black novelists who have come to something in our country are usually supported by a small group of whites. At the moment they are mainly white bourgeois feminists or neocons. There are hundreds of black writers as good as those chosen for fame, but they lack a godfather. All important media – right, left and center – have their ethnic representatives, whose job it is to explain to white readers the tendencies of black culture, tendencies not determined by blacks. Ironically, David Simon, who produced the series The Wire, which represents blacks in the same way that the Nazis did, has more power to define the black experience than all black artists, filmmakers and writers together. This is the problem. Others tell our stories.

Do you see yourself as someone who has created a style?

I have a unique style, it’s true. Critics link me to Paul Beatty, Colson Whitehead, Victor LaValle and EL Doctorow. The problem I have with Beatty – Booker’s last winner – is that he often knocks down instead of up. His comic scalpel, his satirical aggression, points to the lower class, the modest, are people who do not have the power to strike back. I follow the example of Dante, who placed the powerful in hell. That’s why I feel, as a writer, an exile, not physically, uh, I live very well in the United States. That is so since the first novel of my trilogy The Terribles, which deals with the selfishness and racism that Ronald Reagan introduced us and whose social Darwinism still hangs over our country and influences politics. Of course, social Darwinism refers only to the poor; The rich are allowed to fail and are always taken out of trouble.

Are cultural minorities marginalized in US literature?

Of course.

Ishmael Reed for more