Evo Morales, providing leadership in times of adversity

September 18th, 2019


Morales has provided a personal example alongside firefighting brigades in the Amazon. PHOTO/Reuters

While other South American leaders delayed operations to fight fires for days as flames spread across the Amazon, Bolivian President Evo Morales Ayma personally led efforts to confront the tragedy

While other South American leaders stood idly by, and delayed operations to fight fires days after the flames began to spread across the Brazilian Amazon, the President of the Plurinational State of Bolivia, Evo Morales Ayma, personally led efforts to confront the tragedy in the area of Chiquitanía, located in the country’s southeast, between Gran Chaco and Amazonía.

In a Twitter message, Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla emphasized the Bolivian leader’s actions in the face of an environmental disaster, writing, “We recognize the leadership of President Evo and the brothers in Bolivia, who are confronting fires in their area of the Amazon. They can count on our solidarity and support…”

The indigenous President has adopted significant measures to protect Mother Earth from the flames that have affected more than 700,000 hectares in Bolivia. First was the key step of creating an Environmental Emergency Cabinet in Roboré, in the department of Santa Cruz, charged with evaluating the situation, facilitating help, and attending to the most urgent needs of the population and nature impacted by the fires, according to the country’s Ministry of Communications.

Official Bolivian reports indicate that working in the area are 1,800 soldiers, 450 police, 21 ambulances and 42 water trucks with their crews, as well as a large number of doctors and volunteers, for a total of more than 4,000 persons. This coordinated response has contributed to preventing any loss of human life, to date.

Some 2,000 residents and firefighters have been provided medical assistance, although no severe cases have been reported, according to statements by the country’s Health Minister, Gabriela Montaño.

Also deployed were veterinary personnel to aid domestic and wild animals, and refuge centers were created for the area’s fauna. A report on RT indicated that seven aircraft are fighting the fires, among these a Boeing 747 Super Tanker leased by the Morales government.

Of course, criticism from the opposition was not long in coming, but quickly lost steam given the preliminary results of measures taken by the President, who tweeted, “I thank the press for visiting Chiquitanía to verify the struggle underway against the fires. Together we confirmed a reduction in the number of hotspots over the last few days, from 8,000 to 162.”

Morales has provided a personal example of the attitude required to overcome a natural disaster: cooperating with the firefighting brigades; coordinating the Emergency Cabinet’s work; inspecting affected areas from the air; holding meetings with residents; and temporarily suspending his campaign as the Movement to Socialism (MAS) candidate for President in the upcoming October elections, given the difficult situation in Chiquitanía. He has additionally declared an “ecological pause” in affected areas, which includes a prohibition on land sales, and accepted international aid, which is still insufficient.

No less important is his call for a meeting, to address the fire emergency, of foreign ministers from the Amazon Treaty Cooperation Organization’s (OTCA) member countries, which includes Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, Suriname and Venezuela.

The Bolivian government, and its President in particular, have promoted the hashtag #UnidadEnLaAdversidad (UnityInAdversity), sharing news on the fires via social media. A good maxim for a sister people confronting a great challenge – a difficult task that requires the best from human beings, and especially unity to fight the flames and begin the recovery.

The Amazon’s importance for the world

–   The Amazon rainforest covers 7.4 million square kilometers, 5% of the world’s continental land surface, including areas in Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, Suriname and Venezuela.

–   The Amazon River is the largest in the world, carrying an average of 230,000 cubic meters of water per second, 20% of the fresh water on the planet.

–   Indigenous groups, with great cultural and linguistic riches, account for 17% of the population in the region. These native peoples have always used the rainforest’s resources in a sustainable manner thanks to their knowledge of its biodiversity and ecosystem.

–   Amazonia is a region of great geopolitical importance both nationally and internationally, given the scarce, strategic resources it holds, its environmental importance, and cultural patrimony.

Granma for more 17

Engelhardt, is Donald Trump Big Brother?

September 18th, 2019


IMAGE/Pinterest/Duck Duck Go

Orwell Revisited in the Age of Trump

I, Winston Smith… I mean, Tom Engelhardt… have not just been reading a dystopian novel, but, it seems, living one — and I suspect I’ve been living one all my life.

Yes, I recently reread George Orwell’s classic 1949 novel, 1984. In it, Winston Smith, a secret opponent of the totalitarian world of Oceania, one of three great imperial superpowers left on planet Earth, goes down for the count at the hands of Big Brother. It was perhaps my third time reading it in my 75 years on this planet.

Since I was a kid, I’ve always had a certain fascination for dystopian fiction. It started, I think, with War of the Worlds, that ur-alien-invasion-from-outer-space novel in which Martians land in southern England and begin tearing London apart. Its author, H.G. Wells, wrote it at the end of the nineteenth century, evidently to give his English readers a sense of what it might have felt like to be living in Tasmania, the island off the coast of Australia, and have the equivalent of Martians — the British, as it happened — appear in your world and begin to destroy it (and your culture with it).

I can remember, at perhaps age 13, reading that book under the covers by flashlight when I was supposed to be asleep; I can remember, that is, being all alone, chilled (and thrilled) to the bone by Wells’ grim vision of civilizational destruction. To put this in context: in 1957, I would already have known that I was living in a world of potential civilizational destruction and that the Martians were here. They were then called the Russians, the Ruskies, the Commies, the Reds. I would only later grasp that we (or we, too) were Martians on this planet.

The world I inhabited was, of course, a post-Hiroshima, post-Nagasaki one. I was born on July 20, 1944, just a year and a few days before my country dropped atomic bombs on those two Japanese cities, devastating them in blasts of a kind never before experienced and killing more than 200,000 people. Thirteen years later, I had already become inured to scenarios of the most dystopian kinds of global destruction — of a sort that would have turned those Martians into pikers — as the U.S. and the Soviet Union (in a distant second place) built up their nuclear arsenals at a staggering pace.

Nuclear obliteration had, by then, become part of our everyday way of life. After all, what American of a certain age who lived in a major city can’t remember, on some otherwise perfectly normal day, air-raid sirens suddenly beginning to howl outside your classroom window as the streets emptied? They instantly called up a vision of a world in ashes. Of course, we children had only a vague idea of what had happened under those mushroom clouds that rose over Hiroshima and Nagasaki. As we huddled under our desks, hands over heads, “ducking and covering” like Bert the Turtle while a radio on the teacher’s desk blared Conelrad warnings, we knew enough, however, to realize that those desks and hands were unlikely to save us from the world’s most powerful weaponry. The message being delivered wasn’t one of safety but of ultimate vulnerability to Russian nukes. After such tests, as historian Stephen Weart recalled in his book Nuclear Fear, “The press reported with ghoulish precision how many millions of Americans ‘died’ in each mock attack.”

If those drills didn’t add up to living an everyday vision of the apocalypse as a child, what would? I grew up, in other words, with a new reality: for the first time in history, humanity had in its hands Armageddon-like possibilities of a sort previously left to the gods. Consider, for instance, the U.S. military’s Single Integrated Operational Plan (SIOP) of 1960 for a massive nuclear strike on the Communist world. It was, we now know, meant to deliver more than 3,200 nuclear weapons to 1,060 targets, including at least 130 cities. Official, if then secret, estimates of casualties ran to 285 million dead and 40 million injured (and probably underestimated the longer term effects of radiation).

In the early 1960s, a commonplace on the streets of New York where I lived was the symbol for “fallout shelters” (as they were then called), the places you would head for during just such an impending global conflagration. I still remember how visions of nuclear destruction populated my dreams (or rather nightmares) and those of my friends, as some would later admit to me. To this day, I can recall the feeling of sudden heat on one side of my body as a nuclear bomb went off on the distant horizon of one of those dreams. Similarly, I recall sneaking into a Broadway movie theater to see On the Beach with two friends — kids of our age weren’t allowed into such films without parents — and so getting a glimpse, popcorn in hand, of what a devastated, nuclearized San Francisco might look like. That afternoon at that film, I also lived through a post-nuclear-holocaust world’s end in Australia with no less than Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner, and Fred Astaire for company.

An All-American Hate Week

So my life — and undoubtedly yours, too — has been lived, at least in part, as if in a dystopian novel. And certainly since November 2016 — since, that is, the election of Donald Trump — the feeling (for me, at least) of being in just such a world, has only grown stronger.  Worse yet, there’s nothing under the covers by flashlight about The Donald or his invasive vision of our American future. And this time around, as a non-member of his “base,” it’s been anything but thrilling to the bone.

Tom Dispatch for more

Thirteen ways of looking at 2017

September 18th, 2019


Nuclear Weapons Controlled by Unstable Leaders

1) It was inevitable that nuclear weapons would come under the charge of ignorant and mentally unstable people. Both the leaders of North Korea and the United States believe that a nuclear war is survivable, ignoring the advice of scientists who believe such a war would make the planet uninhabitable. Kim Jong-un and Trump should visit the Peace Museum in Hiroshima. So horrified by the images on exhibit there, my daughter Tennessee, who was 19 at the time, ran, crying from the museum. By electing Donald Trump president, I nominate Trump voters as those who have committed a crime against humanity. Given the choice between yielding White supremacy and extinction, the majority of Whites, including 65% of White women without degrees and 44% of White educated women with degrees, chose extinction by electing a man who is a global warming denier and promises to toss some nuclear bombs around. Only the alternative media have attempted to inform the public of the consequences of a nuclear attack. Owned by corporations that make profits from nuclear energy, the mainstream corporate media refuse to educate their subscribers about the consequences of nuclear war. Senator Lindsey Graham says that if a nuclear war breaks out it will take place, “Over there.” There is no longer an “Over there,” Senator. If Un is provoked by a  tweet to explode a hydrogen weapon in the atmosphere, not only will the fallout affect his country, but South Korea, Japan and China, but Hawaii,USA’s Pacific territories and the  west coast of California and the states of Washington, and Oregon are still experiencing fallout from Fukushima.

Charles Murray and Cotton Mather are Big Winners.

2) Big Winners of 2017 were The Bell Curve’s Charles Murray and Cotton Mather. Murray’s disciple and puppet Paul Ryan was able to make a big step in Ethnic Cleansing with a tax bill that favors the rich, who, according to his idol Ayn Rand, should determine the course of human affairs. According to Murray’s Neo Nazi The Bell Curve, my IQ ranks lower than those of the average White’s, but even I noticed that Ryan quoted Murray in his celebratory speech following the passage of the tax bill, which ends health care coverage for 13 million. Charles Murray, whose research was funded by the Pioneer Fund, founded by a man who admired Adolf, is behind the benign extermination of the “unfavored races” and his policies can be seen in Flint and Puerto Rico where more people will die as a result of the Trump administration’s inaction than died after Katrina. Also Murray’s agent Ryan wants to go after Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid next. A method of reducing the population of undesirables that Hitler admirer Raymond Cattell called Genthanasia, the non -violent phasing out of undesirable groups, which can take the form of firing the president’s advisory HIV/AIDs council and replacing them with nutty holly rollers and snake handlers who believe that AIDs is a curse from God. Though the White men who marched in Charlottesville, parading swastikas and Confederate flags might believe that they have something in common with White men belonging to the one percent, the one percent’s philosopher Charles Murray has already abandoned them in a scathing rebuke of their values in his book, Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010. He says that they spend their time goofing off. Is he calling them lazy and shiftless?

CounterPunch for more

Spectacles of the demolition of the Babri Masjid in Uttar Pradesh and the revocation of the autonomous status of Kashmir

September 17th, 2019


PHOTO/Duck Duck Go

While the conflation of religion and politics by the ruling party of a “democratic” and “secular” India gnaws at those of us who are invested in pluralism, those Indian-Americans who are closely aligned with the upsurge of Hindutva nationalism are gearing up to welcome Prime Minister Modi in Houston on September 22nd.  These transnational subjects, safely ensconced in the United States, are unaffected by the wreckage caused by Modi’s demonetization and other economic policies, so they have become uncritically loyal to the romanticized notion of the nation.

Despite the creation of a new global order, transnationalism has led to the politicization of identity in the form of fundamentalism, xenophobia, and a fanatical espousal of tradition. It is increasingly doubtful that transnational practices are generally counter-hegemonic. On the contrary, transnationalism enables the fortification of nationalist ideology. That couldn’t be more obvious than it is today with Hindutva groups in the United States supporting Prime Minister Modi’s arbitrary revocation of the autonomous status of Jammu and Kashmir, which is being celebrated by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its cohort as the fruition of a promise made by its precursor, the Praja Parishad. I would argue that cultural and religious fanaticism, legitimized by the ruling party of India, has emphasized a conception of identity between the “authentic” majority and “demonic” minorities.

This is not the first time that trasnational politics have led to the subjection of minorities—Muslims, Christians, and Dalits in India—to a centralized and authoritarian state bolstered by nostalgia of a “glorious past.” Transnational identities of Hindutva groups in the United States are related to the invention, transmission, and revision of nationalist histories. The transformations associated with the phenomena of transnationalism and fundamentalism that we are witnessing with the rise in Indian-American supporters of Prime Minister Modi’s Hindutva nationalism can be exemplified by the Ram Janmabhoomi agitation of 1989 and the revocation of the autonomous status of Jammu and Kashmir as well as the curbing of civil liberties and rights in the former state, particularly the Kashmir Valley.

A disused sixteenth-century mosque in Ayodhya, the Babri Masjid, was demolished by Hindutva supporters of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and Bharatiya Janata Party who hoped to construct a temple, the Ram Janmabhoomi, on that site. Hindu-Muslim riots swept Northern India in the wake of the Ram Janmabhoomi agitation. In the case of the majority Hindus, the militant Hindutva ideology that the Ram Janmabhoomi movement incited challenged the principle of democracy. The religious chauvinism that was manifested during this dark period in the history of India was transformed into bigotry supported by transnationals in the U. K. and the U. S. Bigotry defined identities and ideologies, treating the idea of a democratic and secular nation as if it were a myth. By blatantly advocating and supporting the destruction of the Babri Masjid, the Bharatiya Janata Party and its votaries negated the legislation of the Supreme Court of India that sought to protect the site by staying its appropriation by any political party. The legislation was not only abrogated by the active mobilization of the fractious crowd, but by the bigwigs of the BJP who presided over the demolition of the mosque.

The spectacles of the demolition of the Babri Masjid in Uttar Pradesh and the revocation of the autonomous status of Kashmir were stages as instances of mass hysteria and bacchanalian disorder. In both instances, the devotees of the BJP across India and the Indian diaspora were spurred on by an overwhelming sense of celebratory hysteria.

Vis-à-vis Kashmir, the BJP’s Hindutva ideology justifies repression of dispossessed classes and other sections of the Kashmiri populace, objectification of Kashmiri women, and humiliation of the people with the language of affirmative action and good governance. The dominance of the fundamentalist order is valorized by the political party that enjoys a brute majority in the Indian Parliament.

There has been a backlash, propelled by the Hindutva lobby in the United States, against those Democrats, like Bernie Sanders, Ro Khanna, Pramila Jayapal, and Tom Suozzi, who have been critical of the Government of India’s policies in Kashmir. While the complexities bred by transnational political, economic, and cultural practices can reinforce a nationalist and fundamentalist agenda, transnationalism can also have positive effects, which have been celebrated in terms such as multiculturalism, right to life and liberty, and freedom of religion by the founding father of the United States and India.

But given the rise in religious majoritarianism and cultural supremacist politics the world over, these sort of terms cannot be a stopping place for our thinking about a world radically transformed by struggles for autonomy and self-determination.

(Nyla Ali Khan, a visiting professor at the University of Oklahoma,
teaches at Rose State College and is a member of the Oklahoma Governor’s International Team. She is also a member of the Scholars Strategy Network. Khan earned her PhD in Post-colonial literature from OU. She has written several books including The Fiction of Nationality in an Era of Transnationalism (Routledge, 2005), Islam, Women, and Violence in Kashmir: Between India and Pakistan(Palgrave Macmillan, 2010), Parchment of Kashmir: History, Society, and Polity (Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), and The Life of a Kashmiri Woman: Dialectic of Resistance and Accommodation.)

Jayati Ghosh says more…

September 17th, 2019


Professor Jayati Ghosh PHOTO/Jawaharlal Nehru University

Project Syndicate: In your latest PS commentary, you criticize the International Monetary Fund’s apparent belief in “expansionary austerity.” In the case of Ecuador – where you foresee IMF-imposed austerity leading to a growth slowdown – how could the current loan agreement be improved? Is it simply a matter of extending the timeline for fiscal consolidation, or do you think the IMF should actually be making the opposite demand: fiscal stimulus?

Jayati Ghosh: For Ecuador (and Argentina), two imperatives are abundantly clear: external debt must be restructured, and debt repayment must be enabled through economic growth, rather than wage suppression and fiscal consolidation.

Restructuring requires creditors to accept a haircut. There is nothing unfair about that: reckless lenders should not be protected from the consequences of their own folly. In any case, the interest rates financial markets demand are supposed to take default risks into account. Having taken advantage of higher interest payments from riskier borrowers, they cannot turn around and call for mommy (the IMF) when the risks materialize.

Moreover, experience has shown time and again that debts are most effectively repaid in a context of economic growth. For ailing economies, that requires fiscal stimulus, not fiscal consolidation. It was based on this recognition that, in the early 1950s, German debt was written off and its loan repayments were capped at 3% of export revenues – an approach that enabled its subsequent “economic miracle.” (Ironically, Greece was one of the countries that offered Germany loan forgiveness at that time.)

No country today gets anything close to that level of support from the IMF. Instead, the Fund forces borrowers to implement counterproductive economic policies, in exchange for loans that benefit only creditors. It is bizarre and depressing that global institutions that should know better and countries that have benefited from constructive strategies in the past should now feign ignorance about what is really needed.

PS: Last month, you warned that the hoarding of profits by the rich was coming at the expense of productive investment, raising the risk of economic stagnation, market failures, and even a breakdown of democracy. Yet governments have shown little appetite for counteracting this trend through taxation or regulation. What can be done to spur action on this front? Are there politically palatable first steps that can be taken now to bring about greater change in the future?

JG: Economic policy globally has become heavily distorted in favor of the rich, with governments increasingly beholden to corporate interests, and thus highly resistant to progressive policies. As economies have become increasingly dysfunctional, however, the likelihood that social forces will rise up against the current system is growing. Ultimately, the need for political legitimacy will force change, even if that does not seem likely in the immediate future.

There is some low-hanging fruit that should be easy for progressive forces to pluck, especially with regard to illicit capital flows. A first step could be greater international cooperation on taxation, ideally moving toward a system of unitary taxation for multinational corporations and the plugging of loopholes for tax evasion and avoidance by high net-worth individuals. Governments and citizens alike would win. The only losers would be the ultra-wealthy, and they have not justified lower effective tax rates by investing in more productive activities.

Similarly, people are increasingly recognizing that more stringent environmental regulation is urgently needed. Such regulation must be combined with public investment that drives a shift toward greener forms of production and consumption, and augments job creation.

Campaign-Archive for more

Understanding the fires in South America

September 17th, 2019


Amazon fires 15-22 August 2019 PHOTO/NASA/Wikipedia Commons

Satellite data in late August painted an apocalyptic picture of South America. Pinpricks and clusters representing the fierce forest fires engulfing the heart of the continent stretched in all directions, ignoring national borders.

Fires in the Brazilian Amazon spiked by at least 35 percent compared to the previous eight years, with blazes also arcing into the Cerrado savanna. Choking banks of smoke descended on cities in Peru’s portion of the rainforest—where fires doubled from 2018 levels—mirroring the ominous clouds that plunged São Paulo into darkness 4,000km away. Fires also spread among the Pantanal wetlands and the vast Chaco forest shared between Bolivia, Brazil, and Paraguay, setting at least 40,000 hectares of vegetation alight, and further hemming in fragile Indigenous populations like the Ayoreo and Yshir, already cornered by the advance of agroindustrial deforestation.

But perhaps the most hellish scenes are still ongoing in the Chiquitano region, a vast transitional zone of dry forest in eastern Bolivia linking the Amazon and the Chaco, and sometimes classified as lying within the Amazon biome. Here, 782,000 hectares were set aflame in August alone, adding up to over one million in 2019 so far—nearly triple the annual average rate of recent years. As in Brazil, Paraguay, and Peru, the damage to fragile vegetation and endangered wildlife will likely be untold, with local environmentalists reporting that affected areas will take centuries to recover.

Organizations like the Coordinator of Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon River Basin (COICA)—which represents the Amazon basin’s three million Indigenous people—were quick to perceive that the threat transcended territorial and political divisions. In an open letter, the group blamed the governments of Jair Bolsonaro and Evo Morales “for the disappearance of and physical, environmental, and cultural genocide in the Amazon, which through their actions and inaction worsens every day.” The respective presidents of Brazil and Bolivia, it continued, were no longer welcome in the rainforest, having repeatedly demonstrated “their racism and structural discrimination against indigenous peoples, and only looking to favour the interests of major economic groups that seek to parcel up the Amazon for agroindustrial, mining, and hydroelectric megaprojects.”

Understanding the commonalities across borders is the first step towards building strategies to help support South America’s forests and their peoples.But international coverage has been slow to look beyond the Brazilian Amazon, and adopt a similarly wide-lens, structural view. To do so is not to draw a false equivalence between Morales, the Aymara former coca leaf grower, or Bolsonaro, the nationalist ex-paratrooper. Rather it is to accept, as Uruguayan ecologist Eduardo Gudynas writes, that “we face a situation where all political ideologies seem incapable of putting out the fire,” a grim panorama in which fires are raging in all the major tropical and subtropical ecoregions of South America, “in the jungles, the dry forests, the savannas and grasslands, and even in the Pantanal.” Understanding the commonalities across borders is the first step towards building strategies to help support South America’s forests and their peoples.

Fires across the continent in the period between August and October are customary, but not natural. Farmers typically use the dry season to set less valuable, already-felled wood ablaze, clearing the space for cattle or planting. In Bolivia, this practice is known as chaqueo—a traditional, low-tech process with dubious benefit to the soil. But in both Bolivia and Brazil, many of the hundreds of thousands of individual fires were started in or spread to primary forest itself. The true damage may be even higher as blazes beneath the forest canopy are harder to detect by satellite. And in both countries, the unusually severe scale of fires corresponded to direct government encouragement. Bolsonaro’s aggressive dismantling and defunding of much of Brazil’s environmental enforcement infrastructure seems to have spurred some farmers to organize a “day of fire,” burning forest to show their willingness to advance the agricultural frontier. In Bolivia, environmentalists point to at least six presidential decrees and four new laws passed by Morales in the past six years that expand agricultural use of forests, with deforestation leaping by 200 percent since 2015. Morales also defended the fires started by smallholders—many of them poor Andean migrants and a key part of his support base ahead of elections in October—as essential for their survival, and his government has been slow to accept international assistance.

Making International Pressure Count

North American Congress on Latin America for more

Inaction on China and India’s crimes emboldens Myanmar

September 16th, 2019


Rohingya refugees flee from Myanmar into Palang Khali, near Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh on November 2, 2017 PHOTO/Hannah McKay

On August 25, Rohingya refugees and survivors in refugee camps, as well as their diasporic communities, commemorate the second Rohingya Genocide Memorial Day. On this day two years ago, a new campaign of genocidal violence was launched by the Myanmar military against the Rohingya.

In recent months, small steps have been made to hold those responsible for this tragedy to account. The Prosecutor’s Office at the International Criminal Court is said to be determined to open a full investigation into crimes against the Rohingya including, but not limited to, the deportation of close to 750,000 Rohingya in 2016-2017. 

The UN General Assembly has authorised the establishment of the International Independent Mechanism with a budget of $28m in order to collect evidence of Myanmar’s atrocities against the Rohingya and other persecuted minorities for potential use in any future tribunals.  

Additionally, there have been serious calls for mounting a legal challenge against Myanmar at the International Court of Justice for failing to honour its obligations under the Genocide Convention.

While these steps are a welcome development, the so-called “international community” continues to fail to protect the rights of the Rohingya and provide them with safety and dignified living conditions. Those who remain in Myanmar continue to be confined to camps and face effectively an apartheid regime which refuses to grant them their rights as citizens. Those in refugee camps in Bangladesh and elsewhere still live in horrendous conditions and continue to face the threat of forced repatriation.

The international community has also failed to take the necessary measures to punish and isolate the Myanmar regime for its atrocities. Except for a few travel bans and limited sanctions, there has been no serious action against those in power in Naypyidaw. Increasingly, one of the main causes of this lack of action has been the rise of anti-Muslim sentiment across the world.

Europe is currently struggling with the growing influence of the far right and its anti-Muslim agenda. The United States is led by an administration which has openly expressed Islamophobic views and implemented anti-Muslim policies, such as the Muslim travel ban. In Asia, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has also struggled to take action, while two regional powers – China under assertive Xi Jinping and India under Narendra Modi‘s far-right Hindu nationalist party – have openly victimised their Muslim populations.

While serving as Myanmar’s most important and powerful protector within the UN system, particularly the Security Council, China is, without a doubt, committing crimes against humanity against several million ethnic Uighurs.

Beijing’s acts of rounding up a substantial segment of Uighurs and putting them in what the communist authorities euphemistically and variously term “vocational training schools” or “re-education camps” are also indicative of a mounting genocide. Beijing has also imposed various restrictions on the use of the Uighur language and has started razing monuments of the Uighur culture and religious buildings; it also recently banned the use of Muslim and Arabic symbols across the country.

China has responded to criticism with denial and has employed its international influence to push Muslim-majority countries to back its campaign of human rights abuses against the Uighur people.

Similarly, India has become stridently anti-Muslim in recent years under the rule of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). New Delhi’s Home Affairs Minister Amit Shah has openly called Muslim migrants “termites” and vowed to forcibly deport any Rohingya refugees and asylum seekers back into harm’s way in Myanmar. 

The ruling BJP party has promulgated and used far-right Hindu nationalism, targeting primarily Indian Muslims at home, as a way of capturing Hindu majority votes. After India’s most recent election, Modi and BJP’s powers remain completely unchecked, both domestically or globally. Two policies recently enacted speak volume about the rise of Hindu fundamentalism.

First, last year India struck off its National Register of Citizens nearly four million of its own Muslims in Assam which borders with Bangladesh, in a move reminiscent of the Nazis’ denationalisation of all naturalised Jews at the party gathering in Nuremberg in 1933. 

Second, earlier this month, the Indian government stripped predominantly Muslim Kashmir of its special political status and put the disputed region under martial law-like conditions. Telecommunications have been cut off and protests against the decision are being brutally put down.

The international response to these brutal actions has also been rather muted, whether in the West or the East.

This cannot but embolden the Myanmar regime and cause despair among Rohingya that there will ever be enough international pressure to hold their abusers to account and ensure their safe return home. India’s decision to strike off Muslims from the national register and China’s campaign of locking over a million Uighurs in interment camps serve as a powerful example for Myanmar’s leadership that international law is something to discard and global public opinions do not matter.

Al Jazeera for more

Ravish Kumar’s Magsaysay speech: WhatsApp and public are my newsroom

September 16th, 2019

NDTV’s Ravish Kumar, who won the prestigious Ramon Magsaysay Award 2019, delivered a speech on “The Power of Citizen’s journalism to Advance Democracy”, in the Philippines. Ravish Kumar won the award for “harnessing journalism to give voice to the voiceless” and his “unfaltering commitment to a professional, ethical journalism of the highest standards”. He is among the five recipients of the 2019 Magsaysay award, the Asian equivalent of the Nobel, which recognises the “greatness of spirit and transformative leadership in Asia”.

NDTV/You Tube

#UnfollowTrump: Why we should stop engaging with the US president on Twitter

September 16th, 2019


While unfollowing Trump may seem like a tiny gesture, it is actually a big deal. Trump is obsessed with ratings and his social media metrics. PHOTO/ Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

Ohmygod, you are never going to believe what Donald Trump said on Twitter this morning! It sounded like it was written by an extremely racist and unusually stupid seven-year-old; nevertheless, it has already had a million retweets and 15 gazillion replies, and inspired approximately 10bn thinkpieces.

That, my friends, is what you call an evergreen story. Every single day, the president of the US tweets bigoted and factually incorrect nonsense, and every single day, his tweets seem to constitute 50% of the news; we are stuck in a hellish groundhog day that rotates around Trump’s verbal diarrhoea. Important issues get shoved to the sidelines as we argue about whether Trump’s latest racist comment means he is a racist (spoiler: yes), hypothesise about what “covfefe” signifies or cackle over typos such as “Prince of Whales”.

I am obviously far from the only person being driven to distraction by the president’s antisocial media habit. On Sunday, Chris Murphy, a senator from Connecticut, tweeted that he was unfollowing the president “because his feed is the most hate-filled, racist, and demeaning of the 200+ I follow and it regularly ruins my day to read it. So I’m just going to stop.” His announcement started a small movement; Twitter users began urging the president’s 62.4 million followers to emulate Murphy and #unfollowTrump.

While unfollowing Trump may seem like a tiny gesture, it is actually a big deal. Size matters to Trump. He is obsessed with his ratings and social media metrics. According to the Daily Beast, he frequently complains about having fewer Twitter followers than Barack Obama – who has 107.4 million. This has nothing to do with the fact he is less popular than Obama, of course; rather, the president has tweeted that Twitter is biased against conservatives and stops people from following his account (this is nonsense). Trump also reportedly spent a large portion of an April meeting with Jack Dorsey, Twitter’s founder, complaining that the platform limits his followers (this, again, is nonsense). If enough people unfollowed him, it would deal a huge blow to his fragile ego.

I also think it is worth remembering that there is nothing positive to be gained by following or engaging with Trump on Twitter. The only reason I’m spelling it out is that a large number of people appear to labour under the delusion that retweeting the president and attaching a snarky comment constitutes an act of #resistance. It doesn’t. All publicity is good publicity for a guy like Trump. The same is true, by the way, for the likes of Nigel Farage, who owes his high profile to the media’s endless attention. In a recent cover interview for Campaign, an advertising trade magazine, Farage laughed about a New York Times headline calling him “the most dangerous man in Britain”. “I loved it,” he said. “I’d have paid for advertising like that.”

It’s easy to feel helpless about the state of the world. But there are simple things that we can all be doing to take back control, and unfollowing Trump is one of them. Most of the world isn’t on Twitter, and when Trump’s tweets are elevated into mainstream news, we are helping spread his vile statements. We’re doing his work for him. We’re complicit.

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September 13th, 2019