by B. R. GOWANI
Allah is the Muslim God
Muslim demonstrators chant slogans outside Malaysia’s Court of Appeal in Putrajaya, outside Kuala Lumpur, Oct. 14. Malaysia’s high court ruled on Monday that a Christian newspaper may not use the word ‘Allah’ to refer to God, a landmark decision on an issue that has fanned religious tensions and raised questions over minority rights in the Muslim-majority country. PHOTO/Samsul Said/Reuters/The Christian Science Monitor
On October 14, the Court of Appeal in Malaysia issued an order prohibiting non-Muslims from using the word “Allah“, an Arabic word for God. For centuries, many non-Muslims in Arabia, Indonesia, and elsewhere have used that word to mean God, the one they believe in. In South Asia, many Hindus, Christians, Sikhs, and followers of other religion use Allah (or Khuda, a Persian word for God).
Before the advent of Islam, Allah was one of the deity among many gods and goddesses. Prophet Muhammad, the founder of Islam, elevated Allah, the god of his tribe, as the Supreme God of the whole universe. Now Malaysia’s court has reduced Allah (at least, in Malaysia) to mean the god of Malaysian Muslims only.
Driving damages ovaries
Saudi Sheikh Saleh al-Luhaydan said driving “could have a reverse physiological impact” on women. PHOTO/Al Arabiya
A conservative Saudi Arabian cleric and a judicial adviser to the association of Gulf psychologists, Sheikh Saleh bin Saad al-Lohaidan has advised women to refrain from driving because
“If a woman drives a car, not out of pure necessity, that could have negative physiological impacts as functional and physiological medical studies show that it automatically affects the ovaries and pushes the pelvis upwards.”
“That is why we find those who regularly drive have children with clinical problems of varying degrees.”
About 25% of the world’s countries have a Muslim majority. Add to that the backwardness in education in those countries, compared to non-Muslim countries, and you’re bound to get a good number of idiots. (Non-Muslim countries are not far behind in this respect either.). May be they’re not idiots but pretend to be such in order to maintain the status quo, that includes keeping women under control. Al-Lohaidan is one of those persons. He is also a judicial adviser to the association of Gulf psychologists. It is not difficult to fathom the quality of treatment the patients should be receiving from psychologists who are being advised by al-Lohaidan.
One can safely assume, that being a Saudi and a religious cleric, al-Lohaidan must know a bit about Islam, which originated in Saudi Arabia, that camel was the mode of traveling for men and women both for a long time. (It still is for some people.) (Not to forget the famous Battle of Camel in which Aisha, one of Muhammad’s wives, fought against the forces of Ali, the cousin and son-in-law of Muhammad.)
If driving a car can injure ovaries, then there are hundred percent chances that camel riding would have totally destroyed ovaries of Saudi women millennia ago and there would have been no one left in Arabia to introduce Islam.
A hadith attributed to Muhammad says:
B. R. Gowani can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
by KWEI QUARTEY
With support from Moscow, Washington, and the former imperial capitals no longer assured, armed groups in Africa now compete for riches in diamond mines, gold pits, oil wells, and rare earth deposits.
Throughout the postcolonial period, internecine warfare—along with the poverty and underdevelopment that attend it—has been endemic to sub-Saharan Africa. The images are depressingly familiar: government forces fighting against armed rebel militias; terrorized, starving refugees fleeing for their lives; villages burned to the ground; women raped and men tortured.
Conflict seems to radiate from the continent’s heart. A 2001 Institute of Development Studies (IDS) report listed 28 sub-Saharan African countries that have been embroiled in some form of warfare since 1980, including Angola, Burundi, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Liberia, Rwanda, Somalia, and Sudan along with many others. Many have suffered fatalities in the hundreds of thousands along with the maiming and traumatization of countless victims.
And then there is the broader toll. “Armed conflict,” observes the IDS report, “is arguably now the single most important determinant of poverty in Africa,” although the linkages between conflict and poverty remain poorly documented and inadequately understood.
The authors suggest that the continent’s often overlapping conflicts have arisen in various ways out of the “profound legitimacy crises” of post-colonial African governments, with the fracturing of weak states and the emergence of warfare as a means of accumulating power and wealth driving an endless cycle of violence. And with the drop in foreign assistance to many governments and rebel groups resulting from the end of the Cold War, belligerents have become more dependent upon private sources of support to sustain their military and political activities.
Foreign Policy in Focus for more
by SARA LOVERA
Mexican author and journalist Elena Poniatowska PHOTO/Wikipedia
British novelist, poet, and playwright Doris May Lessing PHOTO/Wikipidia
To relate human disasters with talent and courage, giving a voice to those who are always excluded, opposing and denouncing social injustice with journalistic and literary texts, these are tools that a diaspora of women in the world have made available to the revolutionary act of reading. Women who in the twentieth century and these few years of the twenty-first century reveal to us what Elías Caneti calls being writers of our time, keeping track of the system, indispensable chroniclers.
During the past week they have given witness, reminding us of this that I am saying, with a force that gives us hope in a difficult moment in human history. One of these women, alive, noisy in a low key, with her innocent girl’s smile, tireless reader of books and of life and today, winner of many awards. The other, unknown in our setting, who bid us adieu at the age of ninety-four without ever having been defeated. She fought tirelessly with her words.
I’m speaking of the two people who appeared in the news last week. Elenita Poniatowska, who won the 2013Cervantes Prize, qualifying simply for her extraordinary capacity to recall for us, with excellent narrative, stories that cannot be forgotten, such as that of Jesusa Palancares in Hasta No Verte, Jesús Mío, or El Tren que pasa Primero, where centre stage is occupied by railway workers in the context of Mexico and its economic miracle, based on the work and exploitation of its sons and daughters.
The other, no less than Doris Lessing, Nobel Prize for Literature in 2007, author of a fundamental book on human injustice, the discrimination against women and the accents of a vision free of dogmatism: The Golden Notebook (1962), her long narrative that made her, until the end of her life, a confirmed rebel. Lessing surprised us with her literature, with her undeniable intelligence; her novels picture the disgrace of our times. She was the sworn enemy of all dogmatism and fundamentalism.
One is a Polish princess, the other an Englishwoman born in Iran, then Persia. One with journalistic roots who was able to take note of history and break the frontiers of forgetfulness, the other, according to the writer Marta Sanz, cast light on the struggles of class, gender and culture, looking for common ground. Both on page one of El País, recognized and active.
Among the literary commentators in Mexico, there was not a word on Doris Lessing. Doris was born in Persia in 1919, and lived in Rhodesia. She died on November 17. Her emblematic book, The Golden Notebook, made her a universal figure, the source of an engaged literary production without fear of rejection, tenaciously opposed to apartheid and racial segregation in Rhodesia, a woman who until her last breath, could not be silenced. She has a moving narrative, unknown in Spanish, titled “Why a black child of Zimbabus stole a manual of high level physics”. Author of the news report “African Laughter”, she was persecuted, prohibited.
The 1970s: Elenita in Mexico with Jesusa Palancares introduces us to these women of the people, their daily tasks and their search, putting together a chronicle of her time, both inclusive and persistent, with those magnificent ears that mark the working journalist, begins to deeply move us. Meanwhile, Doris is widely read by the new feminists, due to her capacity to look at and narrate, with revolutionary language, the differences between men and women, in the midst of the social injustices of the capitalist system with its systematic exclusion.
Doris was able, in her novels, to trace the horizon of solidarity among women. With Simone de Beauvoir she narrated and made clear reflections on the repugnance that we feel in the face of the ravages of age. At the end of her life she left pregnant reflections on the drama of inequality, urgently seeking a society where no one would feel the guilt of the executioner nor the despotic weakness of the victim, as Marta Sanz wrote of her in El País on November 18.
Two enormous narrators, chroniclers, journalists, novelists, writers rooted in their time and who mirror this time with their work, this necessary, urgent, fundamental need for reading, for reflection, for assuming the word that without sexist struggle has been given to millions of persons so that they cannot forget the basic halo that is life, without ceasing to look at the other, at all others, in each stretch of history.
ALAI for more
by WILLIAM BLUM
“If nature were a bank, they would have already rescued it.” – Eduardo Galeano
What do you think of this as an argument to use when speaking to those who don’t accept the idea that extreme weather phenomena are man-made?
Well, we can proceed in one of two ways:
- We can do our best to limit the greenhouse effect by curtailing greenhouse gas emissions (carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide) into the atmosphere, and if it turns out that these emissions were not in fact the cause of all the extreme weather phenomena, then we’ve wasted a lot of time, effort and money (although other benefits to the ecosystem would still accrue).
- We can do nothing at all to curtail the emission of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, and if it turns out that these emissions were in fact the cause of all the extreme weather phenomena (not simply extreme, but getting downright freaky), then we’ve lost the earth and life as we know it.
So, are you a gambler?
Whatever we do on a purely personal level to try and curtail greenhouse gas emissions cannot of course compare to what corporations could do; but it’s inevitable that the process will impinge upon the bottom line of one corporation or another, who can be relied upon to put optimization of profit before societal good; corporate “personhood” before human personhood. This is a barrier faced by any environmentalist or social movement, and is the reason why I don’t subscribe to the frequently-voiced idea that “Left vs. Right” is an obsolete concept; that we’re all together in a common movement against corporate and government abuse regardless of where we fall on the ideological spectrum.
It’s only the Left that maintains as a bedrock principle: People before Profit, which can serve as a very concise definition of socialism, an ideology anathema to the Right and libertarians, who fervently believe, against all evidence, in the rationality of a free market. I personally favor the idea of a centralized, planned economy.
Holy Lenin, Batman! This guy’s a Damn Commie!
Is it the terminology that bothers you? Because Americans are raised to be dedicated anti-communists and anti-socialists, and to equate a “planned economy” with the worst excesses of Stalinism? Okay, forget the scary labels; let’s describe it as people sitting down and discussing what the most serious problems facing society are; and which institutions and forces in the society have the best access, experience, and resources to offer a solution to those problems. So, the idea is to enable these institutions and forces to deal with the problems in a highly organized and efficient manner. All this is usually called “planning”, and if the organization of it all generally stems from the government it can be called “centralized”. The alternative to this is called either anarchy or free enterprise.
I don’t place much weight on the idea of “libertarian socialism”. That to me is an oxymoron. The key questions to be considered are: Who will make the decisions on a daily basis to run the society? For whose benefit will those decisions be made. It’s easy to speak of “economic democracy” that comes from “the people”, and is “locally controlled”, not by the government. But is every town and village going to manufacture automobiles, trains and airplanes? Will every city of any size have an airport? Will each one oversee its own food and drug inspections? Maintain all the roads passing through? Protect the environment within the city boundary only? Such questions are obviously without limit. I’m just suggesting that we shouldn’t have stars in our eyes about local control or be paranoid about central planning.
“We are all ready to be savage in some cause. The difference between a good man and a bad one is the choice of the cause.” – William James (1842-1910)
So, George W. Bush is now a painter. He tells his art teacher that “there’s a Rembrandt trapped inside this body”. 1 Ah, so Georgie is more than just a painter. He’s an artiste.
And we all know that artistes are very special people. They’re never to be confused with mass murderers, war criminals, merciless torturers or inveterate liars. Neither are they ever to be accused of dullness of wit or incoherence of thought.
Artistes are not the only special people. Devout people are also special: Josef Stalin studied for the priesthood. Osama bin Laden prayed five times a day.
And animal lovers: Herman Goering, while his Luftwaffe rained death upon Europe, kept a sign in his office that read: “He who tortures animals wounds the feelings of the German people.” Adolf Hitler was also an animal lover and had long periods of being a vegetarian and anti-smoking. Charles Manson was a staunch anti-vivisectionist.
And cultured people: This fact Elie Wiesel called the greatest discovery of the war: that Adolf Eichmann was cultured, read deeply, played the violin. Mussolini also played the violin. Some Nazi concentration camp commanders listened to Mozart to drown out the cries of the inmates.
Former Bosnian Serb politician Radovan Karadzic, on trial now before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, charged with war crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity, was a psychiatrist, specializing in depression; a practitioner of alternative medicine; published a book of poetry and books for children.
Al Qaeda and other suicide bombers are genuinely and sincerely convinced that they are doing the right thing. That doesn’t make them less evil; in fact it makes them more terrifying, since they force us to face the scary reality of a world in which sincerity and morality do not necessarily have anything to do with each other.
Getting your history from Hollywood
Imagine a documentary film about the Holocaust which makes no mention of Nazi Germany.
Imagine a documentary film about the 1965-66 slaughter of as many as a million “communists” in Indonesia which makes no mention of the key role in the killing played by the United States.
But there’s no need to imagine it. It’s been made, and was released this past summer. It’s called “The Act of Killing” and makes no mention of the American role. Two articles in the Washington Post about the film made no such mention either. The Indonesian massacre, along with the jailing without trial of about a million others and the widespread use of torture and rape, ranks as one of the great crimes of the twentieth century and is certainly well known amongst those with at least a modest interest in modern history.
Here’s an email I sent to the Washington Post writer who reviewed the film:
“The fact that you can write about this historical event and not mention a word about the US government role is a sad commentary on your intellect and social conscience. If the film itself omits any serious mention of the US role, that is a condemnation of the filmmaker, and of you for not pointing this out. So the ignorance and brainwashing of the American people about their country’s foreign policy (i.e., holocaust) continues decade after decade, thanks to media people like Mr. Oppenheimer [one of the filmmakers] and yourself.”
The Post reviewer, rather than being offended by my intemperate language, was actually taken with what I said and she asked me to send her an article outlining the US role in Indonesia, which she would try to get published in the Post as an op-ed. I did so and she wrote me that she very much appreciated what I had sent her. But – as I was pretty sure would happen – the Post did not print what I wrote. So this incident may have had the sole saving grace of enlightening a Washington Post writer about the journalistic standards and politics of her own newspaper.
by PIP HINMAN
On the same day that Tasmania decriminalised abortion, the New South Wales parliament took a big step backwards for women’s rights. The Legislative Assembly voted 63 to 26 for a bill aimed at giving 20-week-old foetuses the same legal rights as human beings.
Abortions occupy a grey legal area, although they still illegal in NSW, they can be performed if there is danger to a woman’s physical or mental health. There are fears this new law will strengthen those seeking to challenge terminations that are currently allowed.
The bill has been debated in parliament for three months and the Labor and Liberal parties allowed their MPs a conscience vote on the issue. Nine Labor MPs voted for this bill.
In the end, the bill was opposed by just 26 MPs on the basis that severe penalties already apply under the Crimes Act to those inflicting grievous bodily harm to a foetus. The Crimes Act had already been toughened in 2005 by extending the definition of grievous bodily harm to include the loss of an unborn child (Byron’s law).
Green Left for more
PHOTO/Peter White/© Australian Museum
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA—Archaeologists digging at a 6,000-year-old site on Papua New Guinea’s New Britain Island have discovered a cache of obsidian tools that were deliberately shaped as phalluses. The researchers, led by the Australian Museum’s Robin Torrence, speculate that the stones played an important social or ritual role, since they would have been difficult to make and their thin edges show no evidence that they were ever actually used as tools. “It could indicate that the tools were used in an initiation ritual for boys or girls,” says Torrence. “Another theory is that the shape could refer to the power and status of the person who owned this object.” She points out that the tools were probably made by highly skilled craftspeople who used obsidian that came from outcrops more than 60 miles away from the site, suggesting these ritual objects may have been traded over a large area.
by RONALYN V. OLEA
Cristina Palabay, convener of Tanggol Bayi and secretary general of Karapatan, slams impunity under Aquino PHOTO/Ronalyn V. Olea/Bulatlat.com
MANILA — An organization of women rights defenders scored President Benigno S. Aquino III for the continuing human rights violations against women.
Citing data from the human rights alliance Karapatan, Tanggol Bayi said 18 women were victims of extrajudicial killings while 23 women were arrested and detained under the Aquino administration. They are among the 34 women political prisoners who languish in jails because of trumped up criminal charges, according to Tanggol Bayi.
“The BS Aquino administration should be held accountable for these attacks against women human rights defenders,” Cristina Palabay, convener of Tanggol Bayi and Karapatan secretary general, said.
On Nov. 28, on the eve of the International Day of Women Human Rights Defenders, the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution calling on all states “to publicly condemn violence against women human rights defenders, amend legislation that hinders them and give activists free access to UN bodies.”
In 2005, the Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition, a coalition of 28 organizations from different countries declared Nov. 29 as the International Day of Women Human Rights Defenders.
Juvy and her two sons were killed on October 18, 2012 when elements of the 27th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army strafed the hut where they were staying in Kiblawan, Davao del Sur. Juvy was a known leader of Kalgad, a local group of B’laan tribe opposed to SMI-Xstrata’s Tampakan gold-copper project. Cristina Jose was a leader of survivors of typhoon Pablo who was gunned down on March 4 this year at Baganga bridge, Davao Oriental. Before her death, Jose was vilified by the 67th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army as councilor of the revolutionary group New People’s Army (NPA).
Bulatlat for more
by DR. NYLA ALI KHAN
Cease-fire line between India and Pakistan after the 1947 conflict IMAGE/Wikipedia
The past twenty-three years of armed conflict in J & K have witnessed the emergence of a plethora of political actors with diverse ideologies, motives, and aspirations. The conscription of a legitimate political space, attempts to decimate institutions of governance, and the inability of political organizations in the state, mainstream as well as separatist, to uphold and voice regional political aspirations have caused a loss of faith in the populace and, in my opinion, an unfortunate lack of knowledge about the evolution of a nationalist and political consciousness in Kashmir.
Shortly before the tribal invasion, while the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir was still an independent entity and had not accessed to either dominion, Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah sent emissaries of the All Jammu and Kashmir State People’s Conference to Pakistan to thrash out the terms of accession with those at the helm of affairs. Mohammad Ali Jinnah, who at the time was hesitant to get involved in the internal affairs of princely states, did not meet with these representatives, “and many people have since said this was a great mistake. He might have had Kashmir with its three million Muslims if he had been willing to recognize popular rule” (Bourke-White 202-203). The People’s Government of Jammu and Kashmir made a last-ditch effort to negotiate with the Government of Pakistan. The negotiations were still in the foetal stage when the truculent tribesmen of the Northwest Frontier Province began infiltrating Kashmir. The ink of their official seals on the “instruments of accession,” affirming their loyalty to the Pakistani dominion, hadn’t yet dried when these tribesmen began surging into Kashmir under the rallying cry of Islam, “making off with all removable loot—including women—leaving a trail of sacked and burned villages, and fighting their way through the heart of the Valley.” These tribesmen, with their sacks full of booty and whetted appetites, arrived in Rawalpindi only to indulge, yet again, in plunder and pillage to satiate their gluttonous selves. Their terrifying, unrestrainable, and fractious rioting caused the newspapers of Lahore to scream themselves hoarse in vociferously demanding an immediate withdrawal of the “crusaders,” who had become a law unto themselves and Pakistan’s proverbial Frankenstein (Ibid.: 204). The rebellion in Poonch, which some claim the tribesmen were strengthening, was a local one and did not go beyond the borders of Poonch.
My curiosity having been piqued by the feisty debates that were aroused by the tribal invasion, I dug into some of the archival material available to me. In a dog-eared copy of Life Magazine reporter Margaret Bourke-White’s book, Halfway to Freedom (1949), I found riveting details of her rich conversations with 20th century political stalwarts of the Indian subcontinent. Bourke-white, who was sent to India on assignment in the eventful late 1940s, writes about the former princely state of Jammu and Kashmir,
“Here such great strides have been taken toward democracy that it can serve as a beacon for the rest of India. . . . In the last lap of their long fight they were helped toward the achieving of democracy by their own Maharaja. He helped by running away.
. . . This took place at the very beginning of the invasion of Kashmir, in October of 1947, when hordes of fanatical Muslim tribesmen were pouring in from Pakistan, killing, looting, and burning villages. A startling sweep, which shook the whole Kashmir Valley by surprise, carried the raiders to the outskirts if Srinagar, the capital.
. . . Within forty-eight hours the People’s Party—or National Conference, as it is also known—had set up a new People’s Government, which administered food stores, organized a people’s militia for defense against the invader, and started working on a new constitution. . . . Torn by war and terrorized by fanatical invaders, Kashmir was the first spot on the newly freed Indian subcontinent to get its own constitutional plan down in black and white. Members of the People’s Party had studied constitutions from all over the world, particularly America. Their plan grants voting rights to all adult citizens—men and women—and guarantees equality of minorities and freedom of religious worship.
. . . The democratic quality of their achievement stems in part from the very depth of the oppression which they united to overcome, and is in large part a result of clear vision of their State People’s leader, Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah.” (193-194)
Apologists of the tribal invasion in Pakistan and present-day J & K emphasize the rationale of the invasion, which, according to them, was to save the Muslim populace from the persecution perpetrated on them by the non-Muslims in Kashmir. If that, indeed, had been the reason, it would have been strategically advantageous and beneficial to their “cause” to have entered the state through Sucheet Garh into the Hindu dominated part of the former princely state where the Maharaja and his cohort, still licking their wounds, were inciting the Dogra army to inflict atrocities on the Muslim populace of Jammu. Such a maneuver would have enabled the unruly lot to damage the Srinagar-Jammu route beyond repair, thereby, ensuring the severance of Kashmir from the rest of India and attenuating the possibility of its accession to the Indian union.
The Kashmir Valley, with its large Muslim populace and its resolute volunteer corps, did not require the services of the marauding and disgruntled tribals, whose deplorable prodigality on the Baramullah-Uri route created terrible misgivings among the people whom the marauders claimed needed to be saved by them. Even the patrons of the tribesmen couldn’t turn a blind eye to the savagery and barbarity evinced by them on that “campaign” (see Sardar Ibrahim Khan, Kashmir Saga, 1965, for details of the ruthlessness exhibited by the tribals during the invasion, which the author characterizes as an inevitability of war, but cannot ignore. Even people in the Pakistani military establishment have written about the indiscipline and brutality of the tribesmen and have admitted to having supplied logistics and flying supplies to the war front).
Dr. Khan can be reached at email@example.com
CHRISTINE NARAMU LEPEDO interviews a SAMBURU WOMAN
The Samburu people are semi-nomadic pastoralists in North-central Kenya, related to but distinct from the Maasai people.
Female Genital Mutilation – sometimes referred to as female circumcision or genital cutting – refers to procedures that intentionally alter or cause injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. In Africa an estimated 101 million girls 10 years old and above have undergone FGM.
What is your own definition of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)?
In Samburu it is ‘Muratare’ which is the initiation of a rite of passage so that you can be accepted and respected as a member of the community.
The practice of FGM began at the time when men from the community began hunting or cattle rustling. Hunting made them look strong and earned them respect from elders and community members. They could stay in the bush for over a year but when they returned they would often find their wives pregnant or with babies. This went on for a long time until one day the elders, together with community members, came up with FGM. This, for them, was a way to reduce women’s their libido so that they would wait until their men came back from the bush.
New Internationalist for more