Weekend Edition

May 22nd, 2015

Jammeh and Rohingya and Bangladeshi Muslims

May 22nd, 2015


Migrants from Myanmar (Rohingya Muslims) and Bangladesh looking for refuge. PHOTO/CNN

For many months, Muslim migrants from Myanmar (that is, Rohingyas) and Bangladesh have been drifting around in rickety boats. Some of them have succeeded in entering Malaysia and Indonesia. Nobody wants them. The Buddhist nation of Myanmar refuses to accept Rohingya Muslims as citizens, despite the fact they and their forefathers have been living in that country for decades, and in many cases for centuries.

The custodian of Islam’s holy places, the Saudi Arabian King, has not opened the door of the place where Islam was born for these Muslim migrants. Nothing to complain about. If the Saudi King were to invite these wretched people, very soon we would have seen thousands of more Wahabbi terrorists walking on this planet.

Pakistan couldn’t invite these migrants to make it their home because for extending invitation you need a head and Pakistan, for quite some time now, is a headless body – as if beheaded by its own destructive policies. Though on surface, it may seem as if the military is in control but it is not in total control. Relative to civilian government, it is strong but internally it is divided between secular and Islamist groups.

It doesn’t mean the world is devoid of caring Muslims. One of them is His Excellency President Professor Dr. Al-Haji Yahya Jammeh of Gambia. Yes, His Excellency has shown his willingness to take all the refugees. He said:

“As human beings, more so fellow Muslims, it is a sacred duty to help alleviate the untold hardships and sufferings fellow human beings are confronted with.”

He has appealed to the international community to provide Gambia with medicine, bedding, tents, and other necessary things so that it could set up

“habitable camps with decent sanitary conditions.”

It was in 1994 that Jammeh came to power after overthrowing Dawda Jawara’s government and gave a word that this is a

coup with a difference.”

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama greet His Excellency Yahya A.J.J. Jammeh, President of the Republic of The Gambia, and Mrs. Zineb Jammeh, in the Blue Room during a U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit dinner at the White House, Aug. 5, 2014 PHOTO/Wikimedia Commons

After 21 years in power, his coup is still making many differences. One of them is that his own people are fleeing Gambia by trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea en route to Europe. And many of them have died. Well, every tyrant has an excuse and Jammeh has one too.

“If these people are true Muslims … they should equally believe that their sons and daughters could have made it at home if they were ready to invest and work.”

Invest and work in a country whose President believes it is being hurt by the witches? To get rid of the witches, the President’s goons rounded up dozens of villagers and made them drink a foul-smelling concoction. It didn’t do any harm to the non-existent witches but it did kill many wretched villagers.

He is also famous for jailing his opponents and in some instances executing them. This bogot recently threatened Gambia’s gay community:

“If you do it [in Gambia] I will slit your throat.” “if you are a man and want to marry another man in this country and we catch you, no one will ever set eyes on you again, and no white person can do anything about it.”

So it would be better for the migrants to stay on the seas rather than becoming co-patriots of Jammeh because that would result in two things: They’ll be forced to drink life-extinguishing mixture and those not dying because of the drink will have to find the way to the Mediterranean Sea.

And what is Jammeh going to do with the things he has asked the world to donate to settle these migrants? He and his goons will sell the donated stuff and share the profit.

Last year, two idiots (Gambian born US citizens), Papa Faal and Cherno Njie, tried to overthrow Jammeh, an idiot too, while he was out of country. It was an unorganized and unplanned coup attempt. Nothing happened. Jammeh is in power while Faal and Njie are in US jail because the coup was plotted against a nation “with whom the United States is at peace.” And which countries deserve peace? Those who listen to the US dictates.

By the way, Jammeh was trained in the United States. In 1994, he attended a military police training course at Fort McClellan, Alabama.

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

The killing of Ismailis in Karachi

May 22nd, 2015

Are we not ‘Pakistani’ enough for them or are we not ‘Muslim’ enough?


Safora massacre death toll rises to 44 as Ismaili community say their last goodbyes PHOTO/AFP

I got to work and checked my phone; there were a dozen missed calls and messages from my friends and family – all in a span of 30 minutes. Being a Karachiite, I instantly knew something was wrong. As soon as I read my father’s message, I froze. I was stunned at the words before me.

An attack had taken place and this time it was our community. 45 of our people.

We were no longer the silent observers.

We were the victims.

When I reached my cubicle, I could hear news of the attack blaring from multiple TV screens.

I sat and watched news after news on the incident. I couldn’t believe it. It was people of my community on that bus – fathers, mothers, sisters, daughters, sons, humans. And they had been turned to mere numbers – 30, 41, 43, 47, 50, 56 – different channels were reporting different figures of the death toll. I didn’t know which one to believe. I was hoping I didn’t have to believe any of them. I didn’t know how many of them survived. I didn’t know if I knew anyone on that bus.

Everyone at work was talking about it. Everyone wanted to watch the live coverage of the aftermath. Ambulance sirens, reporters describing the scene of the incident, footages of the blood-filled bus – they wanted to see it all. But it made me sick. I didn’t know how to concentrate on work anymore. I just wanted to go home, get into bed, curl up and weep myself to sleep. I wanted it to be a bad nightmare I hadn’t woken up from yet. I wanted it be over by the time I woke up.

Every channel had its own perspective on what happened, how it happened and why it happened. Political leaders got their precious airtime and every Tom, Dick and Harry was busy passing absurd and insensitive statements. It was nauseating. There wasn’t a speck of empathy in their voices. Not an iota of compassion.

The respected Chief Minister of Sindh, Qaim Ali Shah, who was “terribly sorry” about the attack, informed the media personnel present that the SHO and DSP of the area had been suspended. He also proudly announced a compensation of Rs0.5 million to each of the deceased’s family and Rs0.2 million to each injured victim.

But do enlighten me, my dear chief minister will this money bring my people back, Sir? And do you think we need your money? Because one of the channels shamelessly labelled us as the “rich community of Pakistan” – as if that was the only identity we possess.

Our information minister, Sharjeel Memon, condemned the attack and said,

“It wasn’t a particular community that was attacked, but the whole nation.”

I am sorry Mr Memon but no, the whole nation was not attacked. It was just one community. My community. It has always been people from minority communities who are brutally killed for no reason other than their faith.

The Chief of Army Staff, General Raheel Sharif, cancelled his visit to Sri Lanka and the Sindh government announced ‘a day of mourning’. Our beloved prime minister was busy indulging in his lunch when the attack took place and is now planning to visit the survivors and the families of the deceased.

Mr prime minister, if you want to help them don’t visit them unless you can confidently say that you have the perpetrators behind bars. They are not in a condition to face the media or ‘cooperate’ with your security protocol or your meaningless sympathies. We don’t care.

The Express Tribune for more

Four ways to condemn violence against minorities in Pakistan that are all wrong!


2) “This is so shocking. The Agha Khanis are such a peaceful community…”

After the May 13th attack that killed 45 Ismaili Shias, the prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, said:

“Ismailis are a very patriotic and peaceful people who have always worked for the well-being of Pakistan.”

This sort of distinction that the Hindu, Christian, Bohri Shia, or Agha Khani Shia communities are apolitical and peaceful, while appears to make sense (why harm a community that only does good for the country), ultimately serves to justify the killings of Ithna?Asheri Shias. Hazara Shias, and by proxy all Shias considered ‘unpatriotic’, or with ‘split loyalties’. Apparently, according some people’s incomprehensible logic, Iran’s crumbling and unstable economy miraculously supports Shias worldwide. Labelling Shias as proxies of Iran offers a convenient way to rob the community of any political legitimacy when they rise up to assert their fundamental rights within their own country (also, take the example of Bahrain’s Arab spring).

So it is true that Hindu, Christian, Bohri Shia, or Agha Khani Shia communities are, to a large extent, apolitical (and it possible that they are such due to fear of repercussions), but being political is their right. If Shias are political, or sit outside with their deceased loved ones to demand justice, they are not being unpatriotic, or acting in the interest of Iran; rather they are taking ownership of their country.

The Express Tribune for more

‘In Pakistan, anyone and everyone can be a target’

May 22nd, 2015


Around 1,000 Shia citizens killed in two years.

Pakistan is a country of ghosts. They are everywhere, the victims and the perpetrators both. On Wednesday morning, six gunmen wearing police uniforms stopped an Al Azhar Garden bus carrying 60 Ismaili Muslims in Karachi. The bus picked up Ismailies from the housing society dedicated to their community on the outskirts of the city and drove them to work. It was a journey the passengers made every day.

The gunmen boarded the bus. Sub ko mar dalo, one of them is reported to have said. Kill them all. By the time the gunmen got back on their motorcycles and fled, they had murdered 43 people.

The Hindu for more

The Killing of Osama bin Laden

May 21st, 2015


Osama Bin Laden PHOTO/Wikipedia

It’s been four years since a group of US Navy Seals assassinated Osama bin Laden in a night raid on a high-walled compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. The killing was the high point of Obama’s first term, and a major factor in his re-election. The White House still maintains that the mission was an all-American affair, and that the senior generals of Pakistan’s army and Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI) were not told of the raid in advance. This is false, as are many other elements of the Obama administration’s account. The White House’s story might have been written by Lewis Carroll: would bin Laden, target of a massive international manhunt, really decide that a resort town forty miles from Islamabad would be the safest place to live and command al-Qaida’s operations? He was hiding in the open. So America said.

The most blatant lie was that Pakistan’s two most senior military leaders – General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, chief of the army staff, and General Ahmed Shuja Pasha, director general of the ISI – were never informed of the US mission. This remains the White House position despite an array of reports that have raised questions, including one by Carlotta Gall in the New York Times Magazine of 19 March 2014. Gall, who spent 12 years as the Times correspondent in Afghanistan, wrote that she’d been told by a ‘Pakistani official’ that Pasha had known before the raid that bin Laden was in Abbottabad. The story was denied by US and Pakistani officials, and went no further. In his book Pakistan: Before and after Osama (2012), Imtiaz Gul, executive director of the Centre for Research and Security Studies, a think tank in Islamabad, wrote that he’d spoken to four undercover intelligence officers who – reflecting a widely held local view – asserted that the Pakistani military must have had knowledge of the operation. The issue was raised again in February, when a retired general, Asad Durrani, who was head of the ISI in the early 1990s, told an al-Jazeera interviewer that it was ‘quite possible’ that the senior officers of the ISI did not know where bin Laden had been hiding, ‘but it was more probable that they did [know]. And the idea was that, at the right time, his location would be revealed. And the right time would have been when you can get the necessary quid pro quo – if you have someone like Osama bin Laden, you are not going to simply hand him over to the United States.’

This spring I contacted Durrani and told him in detail what I had learned about the bin Laden assault from American sources: that bin Laden had been a prisoner of the ISI at the Abbottabad compound since 2006; that Kayani and Pasha knew of the raid in advance and had made sure that the two helicopters delivering the Seals to Abbottabad could cross Pakistani airspace without triggering any alarms; that the CIA did not learn of bin Laden’s whereabouts by tracking his couriers, as the White House has claimed since May 2011, but from a former senior Pakistani intelligence officer who betrayed the secret in return for much of the $25 million reward offered by the US, and that, while Obama did order the raid and the Seal team did carry it out, many other aspects of the administration’s account were false.

London Review of Books for more

Bin Laden’s assassination: A volcano of lies

May 21st, 2015


Barack Obama, who pledged to restore ethical honor to the White House after the Bush years, is now burying himself under an active volcano of lies, mostly but not exclusively concerning the assassination of Osama bin Laden.

There was scarcely a sentence in the President’s Sunday night address, or in the subsequent briefing by John Brennan, his chief counter-terrorism coordinator, that has not been subsequently retracted by CIA director Leon Panetta or the White House press spokesman, Jay Carney, or by various documentary records.

The White House photograph of Obama, Clinton and top security advisors supposedly watching real-time footage of the Navy Seals’ onslaught on the Abbottabad compound, their killing of two men and a woman (excuse for the latter killing: the standard “caught in crossfire”) and liquidation of OBL himself turns out to have been a phony. BO and friends could have been watching basketball replays. Panetta has admitted the real-time video link stopped working before the Seals got into the compound.

Panetta also admits Osama bin Laden was not armed, and that he did not hide behind his young wife’s skirt. He conceded that under military rules of engagement Osama should have been taken prisoner, but then added vaguely that he showed some unspecified form of resistance. He probably reached for his walking stick, since he has been ailing from kidney and liver problems. As any black or brown resident in, say, the purview of the Ramparts Division of the LAPD knows full well, reaching for a walking stick or even holding a cell phone can be a death warrant; multiply that likelihood by a factor of 100 if you are the world’s most wanted terrorist in front of a score of heavily armed and homicidal Navy SEALs, no doubt amped up on amphetamine.

Counterpunch for more

Losing my religion

May 21st, 2015


Identifying Muslims who have renounced their faith is tricky. Few are open about doing so, even in safe and secular Britain. But among the country’s Bangladeshis and Pakistanis, who overwhelmingly describe themselves as Muslims, the numbers are growing, albeit from a tiny base. According to official statistics, between 2001 and 2011 the proportion of Bangladeshis who say they have no faith has more than tripled, from 0.4% to 1.4%. For Pakistanis it has doubled, from 0.5% to 1.1%. Some who explicitly identify as ex-Muslims are becoming more vocal. Groups such as the Council of Ex-Muslims in Britain (CEMB), set up in 2007, are helping.

Former Muslims’ reluctance to admit to their lack of faith rarely stems from a fear of violence, as in countries such as Sudan where laws make apostasy punishable by death. Rather the worry in Britain is about the social stigma, moral condemnation and ostracism that follows, says Simon Cottee of the University of Kent, who has written a book on the subject.

Many do not divulge their unbelief to their families, let alone the wider community. At events organised by the CEMB, some come straight from the mosque. Women say they continue to wear their veil at home to conceal their change of heart. Those who are openly godless often use the language of gay rights, talking about “coming out” to those close to them.

Despite such difficulties, the internet is making life easier. Muslims questioning their faith can talk to others online. The CEMB’s forum has over 4,000 users, says Marayam Namazie, the group’s founder. In the past would-be atheists had to sneak off to libraries to explore their doubts. Doing so online is easier and more discreet. Nonetheless the CEMB also offers guidance on concealing such activities, advising those with doubts to erase e-mails and search histories and to use a computer to which others do not have access.

The Economist for more

(Thanks to reader)

Brazil: Fundamentalist missionary accused of ‘enslaving’ isolated Indians

May 20th, 2015


One quarter of the Zo’é were wiped out by disease after being contacted by missionaries in the 1980s PHOTO/© Fiona Watson/Survival

A missionary with links to the controversial US-based New Tribes Mission (NTM) has been accused of keeping nearly 100 Amazon Indians in shocking conditions “analogous to slavery.”

Between 2010 and 2012, 96 Zo’é Indians were reportedly forced to work in the lucrative Brazil nut trade, collecting nuts in the forest in return for old clothes, pans, and other industrial goods. Public prosecutors brought the case, which is now being considered by a local court.

The prosecutors’ report states that the “Indians were camped in shelters made of tarpaulins and straw… food was lacking and they were visibly thin, and some of them were ill.”

The missionary, Luiz Carlos Ferreira, and the Brazil nut trader, Manoel Ferreira de Oliveira, were both allegedly members of the NTM, who illegally contacted the then-uncontacted Zo’é in 1987.

One quarter of the Zo’é were subsequently wiped out by disease. The Brazilian authorities expelled the NTM missionaries in 1991, and Brazil’s Supreme Court banned them from returning.

But Luiz Carlos Ferreira established a base on Manoel Ferreira de Oliveira’s land, near the Zo’é’s territory, apparently to lure them off their land in order to evangelize them.

Survival for more

Tagore’s sense of wonder in Indonesia:

May 20th, 2015


Poet Rabindranath Tagore Tagore at Borobudur, Java, 1927

[These letters (Java-Jatrir Patra in the original), written between the middle of July and the very early October of 1927, are not a mere chronicle of Tagore’s visit to Indonesia. For that we would do better to look up his travel companion, Suniti Kumar Chatterji’s book Rabindra-Samgame Dvipamay Bharat o Syam-Desh (Island India and Siam in Rabindranath’s company). Written to a few select persons tuned to his cast of mind, Tagore’s twenty-one letters are also in part intimate journals—his classic in that respect having been Chinnapatra(loose leaves) written much earlier to a niece.

Eighty-five years ago Indonesia came alive to Tagore, not merely as a repository of some strands of Indian culture of yore but also as an indigenous culture, remarkable for her love of ritual and art. What struck him most was her primacy of dance, as if dance was her natural language. The letters are full of it. Indeed the letters carry a sense of wonder in meeting a people so familiar and yet so unfamiliar, that have taken so much and yet have so much to give.

It is this sense of wonder that I propose to trace in rereading these letters.— 18 October 2012]

If we ride the time-machine and go eighty-five years back, then on this day, 18 October, we would have a glimpse of Rabindranath Tagore at Penang ready to sail back after a three-month visit to Singapore and Malay, Indonesia, and Siam, that is, Thailand. In fact on 19 October he boarded the Calcutta-bound Japanese ship Awa-Maru. Of these three months about one was spent in Singapore and Malay, a day in Sumatra, two weeks in Bali, a little over three weeks in two stretches in Java, a week in Siam, the rest in travel to and fro in the South East. This visit was in detail chronicled by one of his travel companions, Suniti Kumar Chatterji the famous linguist (Rabindra-Samgame Dvipamay Bharat and Syam-Desh—‘Island India and Siam in Rabidranath’s Company’). On his part Tagore wrote twenty-one letters and five poems. His letters are called Java-Jatrir Patra, ‘Letters from a Traveller to Java’, which indeed they are, Java including Bali. He hardly says anything about Singapore and Malay, and only announces the trip he is taking to Siam. However, two of the five poems are on Siam, the first at first sight, the second at departure. The other three poems are one on Java, one on Bali and one on Borobudur. Of these the Bali poem, first named ‘Bali’ then renamed ‘Sagarika’ (‘Sea-maiden’), is best known. Though my focus in this article is on the letters, I shall also touch on his Indonesian poems.

Parabaas for more

The language of class in China

May 20th, 2015



Over half a century after the 1949 revolution, China is again being radically transformed, this time from a variant of state socialism to a variant of state capitalism. The country’s double path dependency – on the one hand, from pre-reform Chinese socialism, and on the other, from its newly endorsed globalization – distorts or limits its transition to capitalism, a transition project that is no longer tentative or politically hidden. Yet this project still cannot be openly embraced in official statements due to the enshrined commitment of the People’s Republic to socialism and the enduring attachment of the Chinese people to revolutionary and socialist traditions. This peculiar disjunction causes some extraordinary difficulties, not just in the articulation of class politics, but also in the way class politics operate in practice.

The weakness, if not the complete absence, of an independent working class movement in China cannot be explained by repression alone. Multiple impediments to class consciousness and stronger labour mobilization arise from contradictory social changes and their confusing messages. In people’s subjective perceptions, when the ambiguity involved in a ‘socialist’ state taking a capitalist path is set aside, the contrast between visible gains in material prosperity and past scarcity hampers even the most ardent critics of the market transition. Such contradictions function dialectically to stabilize an otherwise crisis-ridden process, in the context of a formerly (and officially still) communist party undergoing a profound self-transformation.

The refusal of the language of class, to be discussed in this essay, is a titanic act of symbolic violence on the part of the Chinese state, committed as part of a political strategy to make way for ‘reform and opening’. The tactic is also evident in official phrases such as ‘socialist market economy’, ‘primary socialist stage’, or ‘socialism with Chinese characteristics’ – all of them largely devoid of socialist content. By the same token, China’s working men and women need an alternative vocabulary as a politico-ideological weapon for articulating their situations and demands. At issue is thus not only the way the concept of class is diluted or muted in China’s de-revolutionized polity; it is also about the way in which the lack of a language of class based counter-hegemony helps to explain the lack of counter-hegemonic organizational capacity. To say this is not to endorse the views of those who imagine that class conflicts can somehow be overcome outside the realm of political economy. The damage caused by the kind of identity politics which involves discursive political attacks on ‘class essentialism’ are manifest. The alarming retreat from both gender equality and ethnic peace in China, following the imposed denial of class, makes this powerfully clear. In that light class continues to be what the renewal of a multi-dimensioned, universal struggle for liberation ultimately depends on.

Socialist Register for more