Thursday, December 31, 2015

Buddhist terrorists of Ma Ba Tha Threaten to ‘Skin’ Reporters

Buddhist extremists, the skinheads, esp. those belonging to the terrorist religious group called Ma Ba Tha in Myanmar have been behind much of the public face of terrorism against the Muslims. Thein Sein's government used them to do its dirty jobs, which it could not do itself to save its criminal face from international scrutiny. 
In recent weeks they organized big rallies against the death sentence handed down to Zaw Lin and Wai Phyo, two Thailand-based Burmese migrant workers accused of killing British backpackers David Miller and Hannah Witheridge on Koh Tao in September 2014.
Journalists from different media outlets were covering the rally, allegedly led by Ma Ba Tha and the Myanmar National Network, when Ma Ba Tha supporters pulled a boy onto the field for supposedly disturbing the protest. Several journalists were ready with their cameras.
“Beat the reporters, skin those guys,” one of the supporters said.
On Wednesday, several private newspapers reported that a minor quarrel erupted at the Ma Ba Tha demonstration and that one of the attendees attempted to attack journalists with a brick, though other rally participants were able to restrain him.

War On Women And Minorities In Colonial And Post-Colonial Burma – Analysis by Russell Whitehouse

Russell Whitehouse's article on Myanmar first appeared in the Eurasia Review. It later appeared in the International Policy Digest. It is worth reading.
You can read the article by clicking here.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Kolkata girl gang raped by Indian Army men


It seems no place is safe inside today's India from rapists. Even not a train, and surely not a compartment occupied by army men.
A 14-year-old girl, a resident of Dumdum of Kolkata in India setting out to meet her Facebook friend without informing her parents, was allegedly raped by three Army men in Amritsar-bound Howrah Amritsar Express on Monday morning. Police have arrested one Army man, who had allegedly forced the girl to take alcohol and then raped her with her other colleagues.
You can read the full text of the disturbing news by clicking here.

China’s expulsion of French Journalist underpins her repressive Uyghur policy



As I have noted a few times before China is in the denial process, very much like Myanmar. Just as in Myanmar (former Burma) the Buddhist people - from top to bottom - are in the denial of their Rohingya population (an indigenous people who has lived in the northwestern part of the country bordering Bangladesh for millennia) the same goes for China where its authorities are in the denial of the Uyghur (Uighur) people that live in their ancestral homeland of East Turkestan (now called Xinjiang province) in China's western frontier.


Beijing does not want the world to know of its horrendous crimes and abuses of human rights against the persecuted Uyghur people - how they have been made a third class citizen inside China and a minority in their own ancestral land of East Turkestan.


What these Uyghurs face is simply unacceptable by any civilized norm or standard. What the Chinese government is doing to them is simply racist, discriminatory and criminal to the core. Through a very calculated policy of political repression, social dehumanization, economic strangulation and religious persecution, it wants to Hanify (or Sinicize) the Xinjiang region so that the Uyghurs are marginalized as a people with no rights of their own in their own homeland setting the necessary backdrop for their forced exodus. As part of this policy, the Uyghurs are denied the same opportunities and privileges that are bestowed on the majority Han. Thus, they are forced to settle for a life of humiliation and uncertainty, which includes among others: lack of education, denial of employment and healthcare services, upward mobility, safety and security.  (It is worth pointing out here that in its zealotry towards Hanification of the region, the Chinese government has closed down Qur’anic and Uyghur language schools. This is also done partly to cut down their Islamic and cultural ties with other Muslims. Because of the Mandarin-based educational policy of the state, the Uyghurs can’t pass and find jobs in their own land. Consequently, their upward mobility in the society is almost impossible.) The party-state has institutionalized discrimination based on Uyghur’s distinct religion, habitus, physiognomy, language culture and socioeconomic status.


All these draconian policies against the Uyghurs are simply bizarre and inexplicable! After all, Xinjiang remains a very mineral rich territory where no Uyghur should live unemployed, undereducated or starved. And yet, they are forced to settle for a life of unemployment while the ethnic Hans from other territories are brought in droves into the job markets that the Uyghurs could do.


Rather than redressing the legitimate grievances of the Uyghurs, the Chinese authorities have been treating Xinjiang as their colony and are guilty of imperial itch in militarizing the territory. They are bent on changing the demography of the restive territory as if that measure would subside Uyghur sense of belonging and ethnic identity.


In the last few decades Beijing’s concerted Hanification efforts have only planted unfathomed mistrust and widened the animosity between the indigenous Uyghurs and the Han settlers. Tension has led to violence and brutal reprisals. Routinely, simple protests are brutally repressed. Even the moderate voices within the community asking for more inclusion have faced long prison terms.


Beijing is very crafty in exploiting terrorist events elsewhere to her advantage. It has often used the tragic events like the 9/11, Spain and London bombings by allegedly radicalized and misguided Muslim youths to justify its gruesome tortures and abuses of the Uyghur people. So, it was no surprise that it would again use the latest tragic events in France to unleash its unfathomed terror on the Uyghur people.


The matter was not overlooked by the veteran French journalist Ursula Gauthier, a Beijing-based correspondent for French magazine L'OBS since 2009. She wrote in an article published on November 18 -- less than a week after coordinated attacks killed at least 130 people in Paris -- that China had no basis in drawing parallels between the international pledge to fight against terrorism and its own version, that she calls "the merciless crushing of the Muslim Uyghur minority."


"In other words, if China declares its solidarity with nations threatened by Islamic State, in return it expects the support of the international community in its own entanglements with its most restless minority," she added.


In her article, Gauthier wrote that shortly after Chinese President Xi Jinping assured French counterpart Francois Hollande of China's commitment to fight against terrorism, Chinese police announced the capture of the leaders of a September 18 attack that claimed some 50 lives at a remote coal mine in Xinjiang's Baicheng County.


“But, bloody though it was, the Baicheng attack had nothing in common with the 13th November attacks," Gauthier wrote, according to an English translation of her original report published by China Digital Times. "In fact it was an explosion of local rage such as have blown up more and more often in this distant province whose inhabitants, Turkman and Muslim Uyghurs, face pitiless repression."


Chinese authorities and state media presented a different version of the event. They said security forces, along with local officials and residents, carried out a 56-day operation against a group of "violent attackers" responsible for ambushing police and civilians at the mine.


All the alleged attackers were killed by November 12, according to the police.


While the Chinese police did not specify the ethnicity of the alleged attackers, Gauthier said they were a small group of Uyghurs "pushed to the limit, probably in revenge for an abuse, an injustice or an expropriation."


"But so long as the Uyghurs' situation continues to get worse, China's magnificent mega-cities will be vulnerable to the risk of machete attacks." Gauthier wrote.


The piece drew strong criticism from the Chinese authorities. The Chinese authorities say they're not renewing the press credentials for her whose recent reporting questioned Beijing's "ulterior motives”. They want her out of China.


In a statement posted by the Chinese Foreign Ministry Saturday, spokesperson Lu Kang said Gauthier's article "overtly advocates for acts of terrorism and killings of innocent civilians, and caused public outrage among the Chinese people.” “Given that Gauthier failed to make a serious apology to the Chinese people for her wrongful speech advocating for terrorism acts, it is no longer appropriate for her to continue working in China.”


Human rights observers accuse China of being heavy-handed and treating the Uyghurs unfairly by restricting their freedom of religion and speech.


Gauthier is the first high-profile foreign journalist to be expelled from China since Al Jazeera's Melissa Chan in 2012.


On Gauthier's expulsion, Chan tweeted, "Gauthier was told she could stay in China if she publicly apologized for... yep, you guess it: hurting the feelings of the Chinese people."


Foreign journalists in China complain authorities are increasingly restricting press freedom in the country, making it harder and harder for them to report freely. Chinese officials deny the claim, and instead insist foreign journalists should play by the same rules as Chinese journalists and refrain from violating laws and regulations when reporting.


Well, that is how the authoritarian regime in China has been managing its business - crush it when it can, smile with a poker face when it suits and then expel when one cannot be touched by its draconian laws! Ms. Gauthier is expected to leave China on Thursday.


If China is serious about peace in the restive province it would be to her interest to listen to Ms. Gauthier’s advice and redress the grievances of the persecuted Uyghurs. The sooner the better!

Monday, December 28, 2015

How much do you know about ancient India? An interview of Prof. D.N. Jha


Hindutvadis in India are trying to impose pure vegetarian diet for entire India. Muslims are killed simply for trading in cattle, let alone eating beef. Intolerance against non-vegetarian Muslims is at an all time high.
Here are some numbers that shows the clear hypocrisy in this matter. The slaughter of cows is banned in large parts of India but the country exports more beef than any other nation. India produced 43% of the world’s buffalo meat in 2015, the highest of any nation. India is expected to export 2.2 million tons of water buffalo in 2016, up from 2.1 million in 2015. The increase is due to rising demand from the Middle East, Africa and Southeast Asia. Vietnam and Malaysia are the largest export markets for India, according to the USDA.
The Hindutvadis are emboldened by Modi's government at the center, which is  under the direct control of the Sangh Parivar. The latter is promoting myths and superstitions to widen the gap between religious communities in India.  Their attempt is a calculated misrepresentation of early Indian and medieval history.
Dwijendra Narayan (DN) Jha is an Indian historian, specialising in ancient and medieval India. He was Professor of History at Delhi University, and member of the Indian Council of Historical Research. He (now retired) received death threats after the publication of a 2001 book about beef in Indians’ dietary traditions and based on ancient texts, “The Myth of the Holy Cow.”


Teesta Setalvad of Communalism Combat interviews Professor DN Jha on Dietary Traditions in Early India.

You can access his interview by clicking here. (His interview with WSJ on the whole debate around beef eating can be seen here. Here is a link on statistics on cattle in India.)

TRANSCRIPT

Teesta Setalvad: What are the real reasons behind the antagonism between your historical research and findings on the Lifestyle of early India and its Dietary Traditions and supremacist forces like the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and its parliamentary wing, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)?  What sort of threats have you had to face?

Professor DN Jha: They (the RSS/VHP/BJP) have attacked me. They have threatened me and filed a (false) case against me in 2001. The root of the issue is that the fact that the RSS-VHP combine w ant to declare India a vegetarian country. Someone had even recently suggested that “Cow should be declared the national animal”.

Their main aim is to project the country as a vegetarian country when this does not reflect the truth, the historical reality. We have large sections of Indians who are non-vegetarian: Kerala, Karnataka, Bihar, Bengal, North East, this entire region is where large sections, the majority of the population are non-vegetarian by cultural habit. This includes both Brahmins and non-Brahmins. It is therefore utterly incorrect to say, or to project that Indians, or large sections of Indians are vegetarians. That is the first point. The second part is the ‘Cow’ is part of this imposed food culture. This leads to another of the dictums that they want to promote, “Cow is our Mother and therefore should not be killed, or consumed.”

Teesta Setalvad:  There was an attack on you in year 2001 after which a Hyderabad Court issued a two year injunction against the publication of your book. Thereafter you had it published from London.[1]  What were the reasons for the antagonism against this book?

Professor DN Jha: In this book, I had specifically argued, that Indians consumed beef long before the arrival of Islam in India. This was specifically crucial to present, and argue because a common notion perpetuated by the propagandists of the Sangh Parivar is that it is only Muslims who consume beef. Long before the coming of Islam on the sub-continent, beef was widely consumed. In the Vedic period it was particularly widely consumed. This is what I have argued with evidence, in my book.

The sacrifices were so many and frequent during  the Vedic period which involved the sacrifices of many animals including the cow. Yagnavalka, the sage in fact expressed his preferences for the meat if it was tender (Taittiriya Brahman categorically tells us: `Verily the cow is food' (Atho annam via gauh) and Yajnavalkya's insistence on eating the tender (amsala) flesh of the cow is well known.)[2]. This is what made the forces who wish to declare India a vegetarian country tried to suppress. There was a many pronged attack on me: physical threats, attacks and a case. Their (intimidating ) tactics did not work, however.

Teesta Setalvad: Are you fearful of yourself and security with the brute majority of these forces, the RSS and this government?

Professor DN Jha: The fear and insecurity is always there. They have in the past targeted other persons like MF Husain also.

Teesta Setalvad: Last year, you questioned Arun Shourie’s rendering (interpretation) of Allauddin Khilji’s attack on the Nalanda Vihar. What is the politics behind this attempt?

Professor DN Jha: One thing is clear, that in the Medieval period, both Temples and Buddhist Vihars were sacked, and attacked, and damaged. I simply and firmly controverted that the attack on Nalanda Vihar was not conducted by Allauddin Khilji because there is no historical evidence that he went there, on that route, at all. Maybe if he had reached there, he would have attacked the university. He certainly attacked Bihar Sharief and ransacked the Monastery there and also the shrines near Bhagalpur. There was no question or attempt to deny that in certain areas some rulers, who were Muslim, did in fact ransack some places of worship.  But the point (in my rebuttal) was that Nalanda Vihar, regarded as an ancient university that housed learning and scholarship in the early Indian period – a symbol of knowledge – that particular University was not attacked/sacked by Khilji.

Teesta Setalvad: What were the motives behind such raids, attacks, and sackings of religious places of worship during the Medieval period?

Professor DN Jha:  In the medieval period, within India and outside there have been attacks and raids on religious institutions, Church(es) sometimes, Mosque(s) sometimes. And there should be no question of concealing this. But it is important to understand that the motive behind this destruction was not always religious. There were political reasons and other motives too. This complexity needs to be understood. The raid and sacking of the Somnath Temple was motivated by the wealth amassed there. But this was not always the case behind other incidents and raids. Often the motive was to get at/destroy the idol of the kul devata [3]in the shrine who the local Rajah/King worships and who/which provides legitimacy to the rule of that king. There are several such examples un South India, where temple idols were the motive and were sought after and destroyed.
The other thing is, that it was not only rulers who happened to be Muslim, who had used this strategy (in medieval times) Even Hindus used it, Hindu rulers in Kashmir for example. Kalhana’s Rajataringini provides evidence of this, where the Hindu kings caused immense damage to the Buddhist Viharas. There are also many instances where the loot from the Buddhist Viharas (by Hindu rulers) was used to build temples. This kind of evidence turns their (the Sangh Parivar) ill-conceived argument in Ayodhya regarding the Babri Masjid, on its head. (Their propaganda is that only Muslims destroyed temples because they wish to cast the Muslim as the enemy).It is critical to study and learn history from a rational and independent perspective.

Teesta Setalvad: Professor Jha, today we are witnessing a discourse today, from the Prime Minister downwards, from persons in official positions, that is officially promoting an irrational and non-scientific approach to the learning of history. I refer specifically to utterances like there was ‘plastic surgery in ancient times’, the ‘evidence of stem cell research in the Mahabharata’, aircraft technology in early India are being made by persons in responsible, official positions. [4](Official) books in the schools of Gujarat and Haryana (by Dinanth Batra) are actually officially promoting an un-scientific and irrational temper among the young. How grave is the danger of this to future generations of young Indians in the 21st century?

Professor DN Jha: The danger is very grave. I believe India under Modi rule is living in a dark age. It is shocking that the Prime Minister of a modern country should be making statements of the kind he has done: statements that legitimise superstition and irrationality: that there was plastic surgery, stem cell research and aircraft technology in early India.

Being a Prime Minister he simply must not make such statements. By doing so he is facilitating an age of supersitition , irrationality and ignorance. Source(s) and Evidence in the understanding of History will now have little place and Faith will replace Reason, Source and Evidence. This is a battle between Faith (Vishwas) and Logic (Reason, Tarq ) that we are witnessing.

Teesta Setalvad:  There is now an (official) obsession under the Sangh Parivar’s rendering of History, with pushing back the date of the Vedas (Rig Veda) and the Mahabharata and Ramayana by hundreds of years if not thousands, to enable a crass labeling of all that is Indian as ‘Hindu.’ How should this misuse of the state machinery by this ideological rendering that includes the re-writing of official texts based on this irrational history be countered?

Professor DN Jha:  The RSS (and its Parivar)  has been propagating that the Adivasis (indigenous peoples) are ‘Hindu’ and Muslims are the invaders and outsiders.  Behind this is the motive to claim original inhabitant status for the Hindus. It is therefore an obsession for them to prove the antiquity of the Vedas, Ramayana and Mahabharata. The American based Global Hindu Foundation in fact states so on its website that the ‘Hindu’ civilization is One lakh 18,000 years old!! This is an obsession to prove original inhabitation status.

Teesta Setalvad:  How should the ordinary citizen counter these moves?

Professor DN Jha: There is an overall atmosphere of irrationality and intolerance that prevails today. Prtests of writers has been called “manufactured protests and manufactured rebellion.” Is the RBI Governor also part of this manufactured rebellion is a moot question! Protests are important. But only protests will not make a dent any more. It is critical that we do more; all academic groups of History, Science and Literature should come together and mobilize the people.

Teesta Setalvad: There has also been a systematic assault on our institutions of learning as well; unqualified persons have been appointed to positions who have nothing to do with the disciplines of History or Science. I refer to the appointments to the Indian Council of Historical ResearchICHR), the National Book Trust (NBT), the Children’s Book Trust (CBT) and even the Science Congress. There is a calculated move to erode Institutions of Learning, from within. What will be the consequences of this erosion of institutions of research and learning?

Professor DN Jha: This is part of a calculated agenda. The Assault on Reason. Part of this agenda is to completely and utterly ruin and destroy Institutions like the ICHR, the NBT and other institutes founded with a vision and that ensured independent, rational thought and quality. This is part of a clear-cut agenda of theirs, towards un-Reason that they are pursuing. Their goal is what their Gurus have written or decreed,  be it Guru Golwalkar or Savarkar. What they do not understand is whatever their Gurus have stated in their time, it was ridiculous rnough in the early 20th century, it is now even more outdated and narrow (these articulations). There is a serious threat to this country. This country, Indian society is already and will, in future, suffer great damage from this. People need to fight this firmly and re-invent methods of struggle.

Teesta Setalvad: Last question, Professor Jha. What would be your message to the young person, with what approach should he or she approach the learning and study of History ?

Professor DN Jha: History must be read with a critical analsysis of Sources and Evidence. The approach must be critical and scientific. It cannot be, ‘whatever is written or stated in the Mahabharata is true.” If this latter (irrational) way is promoted and if that is the approach, then we will come up with the statements of the kind that the Prime Minister made on Karna and Stem cell research and Plastic Surgery in ancient times!
We must analyse critically all Sources, cross-check /study different the Texts; have a Multi-Disciplinary Methodology all of which are critical to the learning of History: Archaeology, Economic and other disciplines also provide an insight. We must enrich our understanding of history through this approach.

The interview is a joint production of CC, Newsclick and Hilleletv, the interview took place at Delhi in early November 2015.

References:
  1. One Man’s Beef http://www.theguardian.com/books/2002/jul/13/historybooks.highereducation
  2. Rightwing historians are obsessed with Rigveda because of their anti-Muslim stance: DN Jhahttp://scroll.in/article/752993/rightwing-historians-are-obsessed-with-r...
  3. Hindu right wrongly says Muslims brought beef-eating — Hindutva history is a mystery: D N Jha; http://blogs.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/the-interviews-blog/hindu-right...

[1] Holy Cow: Beef in Indian Dietary Traditions.
[2] References in the book: Many gods such as Indra and Agni are described as having special preferences for different types of flesh - Indra had weakness for bull's meat and Agni for the meat of  both the bull and cow, It is recorded that the Maruts and the Asvins were also offered cows. In the Vedas there is a mention of around 250 animals out of which at least 50 were supposed to be fit for sacrifice and consumption. In the Mahabharata, there is a mention of a king named Rantideva who achieved great fame by distributing food grains and beef to Brahmins. Later day,  Brahminical texts also provide the evidence for eating beef. Even Manusmriti did not prohibit the consumption of beef. As a medicine: In therapeutic section of Charak Samhita (pages 86-87) the flesh of cow is prescribed as a medicine for various diseases. It is also prescribed for making soup. It is emphatically advised as a cure for irregular fever, consumption, and emaciation. The fat of the cow is recommended for debility and rheumatism.
[3] Family/Community/ Deity (of a lineage)
[4] Indian prime minister claims genetic science existed in ancient times, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/oct/28/indian-prime-minister-genetic-science-existed-ancient-times; PM Modi takes leaf from Batra book: Mahabharat genetics, Lord Ganesha;   http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-others/pm-takes-leaf-from-batra-book-mahabharat-genetics-lord-ganesha-surgery/#sthash.V7LdaNIb.dpuf; Fears grow in India about Hindu 'Modi-fication' of education; The Prime Minister and Early Indian Science  http://www.ndtv.com/opinion/the-prime-minister-and-early-indian-science-686506; Fears grow in India about Hindu 'Modi-fication' of education   http://www.reuters.com/article/us-india-religion-education-idUSKCN0J50BZ...

A young Rohingya dreams of leaving Myanmar despite foiled boat journey

Shashank Bengali  a fellow alumnus from my alma mater USC (where he studied journalism and later earned a master’s in public policy from Harvard University).has written an article in the BBC.com about a Rohingya boy who wants to leave the den of intolerance called Myanmar.
You can read this by clicking here.

George Soros on combatting terrorism

George Soros has written an article on the above subject which has appeared in the Guardian. You can read this by clicking here.

Travails of being a Muslim in India - by Ram Puniyani

Professor Ram Puniyani's latest article in the Secular Perspectives discusses accusations against Muslim film stars of the Bollywood that are now routinely lobbed by Hindutvadi forces for their comments on the growing intolerance in India. It can be reached by clicking here.


Shahrukh Khan; on the occasion of his fiftieth birthday few weeks ago had said that there is a growing intolerance in India and that being non secular is the worst crime for a patriot. In response to this the Hindutva cabal descended on him and he was labeled as anti-Nationalist, unpatriotic and that he should go to Pakistan.
It is not the first time that Shahrukh Khan is being subject to such base abuses and charges of being anti national. In 2010, when he supported the idea of Pakistani cricket players to be allowed to come for IPL matches, Mumbai Hindutva group Shiv Sena protested intensely and the posters of his film, ‘My name is Khan’ were torn. At another level he has also been the victim of global Islamophobia as he was interrogated and strip searched twice in America. The other stars who have received similar fate are Aamir Khan and Dileep Kumar (Yusuf Khan). In the current times Aamir Khan while talking on the occasion of Ramnath Goenka Excellence in Journalism Award function shared his anguish that his wife Kiran Rao feels unsafe particularly for their son. To this Yogi Adityanath, the BJP MP retorted that Aamir Khan is talking like Hafiz Sayeed of Pakistan and that it will be better if he goes to Pakistan.
One also recalls the plight of thespian; Peshawar born, Dileep Kumar when he supported the film by Deepa Mehta, Fire. The Shiv Sena volunteers protested in front of his house wearing underwear’s. (1998). When he was awarded Nishan-e-Imtiyaz, the highest civilian honor of Pakistan, there was a lot of protest that he should not receive it. He went on to accept the honor. The Hindu nationalists in their spree of hurling abuses on him called him anti National, un-patriotic etc.


Prof. Puniyani writes, "One recalls that in the wake of acts of terror like Mecca Masjid, Malegaon, Ajmer and Samjhauta Express; number of Muslim youth was being arrested recklessly. After Hemant Karakare’s investigation showed that it was the Hindutva groups with Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, Lt Col Purohit, Major Upadhayay and Swami Aseemanand; who have role in those acts of blast; the arrest of Muslim youth got a respite. In the wake of that I remember having attended a meeting organized by group Anhad (Act Now for Harmony And Democracy) in 2009. The theme of meet was ‘What it means to be a Muslim in India?”. With great disbelief I heard prominent Muslim writers and activists pouring their heart out and confessing that they do feel that Muslims are being given a differential treatment and they have started feeling the pain of being a Muslim. Most of these friends are known mainly for being activist or for their literary contributions, much beyond their religious identity. This is what currently Naseeruddin Shah said that lately he is being made aware of his Muslim identity. And on similar vein Julio Rebeiro said that ‘as a Christian suddenly I am a stranger in my own country’.
 India has been a democracy with good space for secular, plural values. This has been much better than most of the countries in South Asia, where the democratic processes are comparatively weaker. Countries like Saudi Arabia are nowhere close what we have achieved in matters of democratic processes. It is disgusting to hear when India is compared with these countries in some way. We have been pursuing a path ahead towards better human rights, not a regressive path which countries with authorization, semi fundamentalist regimes have been pursuing. To say that Indian Muslims are better off than the Muslims in Pakistan or Saudi Arabia is degrading our own system which has emerged due to the freedom struggle, our system which is trying to keep Indian Constitution as the reference point. Needless to say we do need a course correction and those following the politics in the name of religion need to be countered to preserve our democratic-plural values." 
Last week, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi met his counterpart in Pakistan - Nawaz Sharif in Lahore on his return trip from Moscow giving an air of hope that the tense relationship between the two nuclear armed countries will cool down. However, his gestures outside don't seem to coincide with what his bigotry-ridden Hindutvadis are doing inside  India making life of Muslims and other non-Hindus almost impossible there.

If he is serious about warming relationship with others and against sectarianism that plagues his country, he needs to speak louder and make it a cardinal principle of his BJP party and the alliance. Otherwise, he will be sending mixed messages and turn India into a messy future that is highly polarized across religious fault lines.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Interview of Yanghee Lee, the Special Rapporteur on human rights in Burma

anghee Lee, the Special Rapporteur on human rights in Burma, is planning to make her fourth official visit to the country before the term of the outgoing government ends early next year. Lee’s last fact-finding mission in August was cut short by five days and access was denied to western Burma’s Arakan State—restrictions the South Korean child rights expert described at the time as hindering her ability to fulfill her mandate. With 2015 drawing to a close, The Irrawaddy spoke with Lee about Burma’s recent general election, her expectations of a new National League for Democracy-led government and rights issues including ongoing conflict and political prisoners.
You can read the full text of the interview by clicking here.

Bangladesh's shameful records of abuse against foreign NGOs that come to aid Rohingyas

I am sorry to say that Bangladesh has a shameful record on her treatment of the Rohingyas of Myanmar. The refugees that have taken shelter inside Bangladesh from Myanmar are maltreated and malnourished in the squalid camps and worse yet, all the avenues to uplift their lives are seemingly blocked by the government agencies. 
It is a crime and I am ashamed of being a Bangladeshi for her treatment of this most persecuted people in our planet.
Even the international NGOs with their noble intention of coming to the aid of the Rohingya people are frowned upon by the government and often face stiff penalties including prison times. 
Recently, Puemo Tchantchuing, who prefers to be known as Moussa Ibn Yacoub since his conversion to Islam, was arrested on Tuesday 22 December and has been detained since then.
As well as being accused of "suspicious activities", punishable by up to 10 years imprisonment, he may be charged with using a false identity, because the name he uses is not the one on his passport and identity card, according to lawyer Samim Bolaky.
He was working for the French-based NGO Baraka City, which says he was stopped at a checkpoint while going to schools and orphanages in the south of the country where the Rohingya camps are situated.
"He is being kept in catastrophic conditions in cells that contain more than 40 prisoners," Bolaky said.
He also faces charges for not registering with the authorities, according to Baraka City, which says that since the Rohingya are considered illegal immigrants it is not possible for the NGO to declare its presence legally.
The French embassy in Bangladesh has provided the "usual protection" and he is waiting to appear in court, France's foreign ministry said.

Bangladesh should stop such persecution and harassment of foreign NGOs that come to do the right thing to help the stranded refugees who are denied such means of livelihood inside Bangladesh. Shame on Bangladesh's criminal policy! I am simply ashamed!

An Idiot's Guide to why they hate us - by Paul Street

In the aftermath of the nihilistic attacks in San Bernardino and Paris by allegedly ISIS sympathizers, Republican presidential hopeful said something which is often missing from public discourse in the western world. In his attempt to interpret the sad events, "it is obvious to anybody the hatred is beyond comprehension. Where this hatred comes from and why we will have to determine,” Trump said in a statement. “Until we are able to determine and understand this problem and the dangerous threat it poses," the USA may not avoid repeat of such attacks, he opined. 
Paul Street in a new article - An Idiot’s Guide to Why They Hate Us in the Counterpunch.org has tried to revisit the case. It is worth reading, which can be accessed by clicking here.
Here are some excerpts from his writing:
An “Aerial Traffic Jam” of “One-Sided Massacre” (1991)
“No sense of reason or respect for human life”? Seriously? Among the countless episodes of mass-murderous U.S. savagery in the Muslim world, one that I can never seem to forget occurred a quarter-century ago. I am referring to the epic carnage wreaked by the U.S. military on Iraq’s notorious “Highway of Death,” where U.S. forces massacred tens of thousands of surrendered Iraqi troops retreating from Kuwait on February 26 and 27, 1991. The Lebanese-American journalist Joyce Chediac testified that:
“U.S. planes trapped the long convoys by disabling vehicles in the front, and at the rear, and then pounded the resulting traffic jams for hours. ‘It was like shooting fish in a barrel,’ said one U.S. pilot. On the sixty miles of coastal highway, Iraqi military units sit in gruesome repose, scorched skeletons of vehicles and men alike, black and awful under the sun…for 60 miles every vehicle was strafed or bombed, every windshield is shattered, every tank is burned, every truck is riddled with shell fragments. No survivors are known or likely…. ‘Even in Vietnam I didn’t see anything like this. It’s pathetic,’ said Major Bob Nugent, an Army intelligence officer…U.S. pilots took whatever bombs happened to be close to the flight deck, from cluster bombs to 500 pound bombs…U.S. forces continued to drop bombs on the convoys until all humans were killed. So many jets swarmed over the inland road that it created an aerial traffic jam, and combat air controllers feared midair collisions…. The victims were not offering resistance…it was simply a one-sided massacre of tens of thousands of people who had no ability to fight back or defend.” (Ramsey Clark et al., War Crimes: A Report on United States War Crimes Against Iraq to the Commission of Inquiry for the International War Crimes Tribunal,testimony of Joyce Chediac, emphasis added).
Less than a year after his forces conducted this colossal slaughter, U.S. President George H.W. Bush proclaimed that, “A world once divided into two armed camps now recognizes one sole and pre-eminent power, the United States of America. And they regard this with no dread. For the world trusts us with power, and the world is right. They trust us to be fair and restrained. They trust us to be on the side of decency. They trust us to do what’s right” (emphasis added).
As Noam Chomsky noted in 1992, reflecting on U.S. efforts to maximize suffering in Vietnam by blocking economic and humanitarian assistance to the nation it had devastated after the Vietnam War ended: “No degree of cruelty is too great for Washington sadists. The educated classes know enough to look the other way.”
“A Prodigious Effort”
Uncle Sam was only getting warmed up building its Iraqi and Muslim Body Counts in early 1991. As Sheldon Richman recently noted onCounterPunch:
“It takes prodigious effort to maintain an air of innocence about San Bernardino and Paris, because no one who claims to be informed can plead ignorance of the long history of U.S. and Western imperialism in the Muslim world. This includes the CIA’s subversion of Iranian democracy in 1953, the U.S. government’s systematic support of compliant autocratic and corrupt Arab monarchies and dictatorships, it’s empowering of Iraqi Shi’ite Muslims, and its unconditional backing of Israel’s brutal anti-Palestinian policies. (The savage 2014 war on Gaza killed many noncombatants.)”
“In the 10 years before the 9/11 attacks the administrations of George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton bombed Iraq while maintaining an embargo, most especially on equipment for the water and sanitation infrastructure the U.S. Air Force had destroyed during the Gulf War. Half a million children died. This was also when U.S. officials promised, then reneged on the promise, to remove U.S. forces from the Islamic holy sites in Saudi Arabia.”
“From the air Americans routinely kill noncombatants in Syria and Iraq, most recently this week, when ‘at least 36 civilians, including 20 children, in a village in eastern Syria’ were reportedly killed, according to McClatchyDC….Things like this happen all the time. The U.S. attack on the Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, was especially egregious against this background of war crimes….The U.S. government has conducted war by remote-controlled drones since 2001 in a variety of places, including Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia, and Pakistan.”
“A Price Worth Paying”
Five years after “the Highway of Death,” Bill Clinton’s U.S. Secretary of State Madeline Albright told CBS News’ Leslie Stahl that the death of 500,000 Iraqi children due to U.S.-led economic sanctions imposed after the first “Persian Gulf War” (a curious term for a one-sided U.S. assault) was a “price…worth paying” for the advancement of inherently noble U.S. goals. “The United States,” Secretary Albright explained three years later, “is good. We try to do our best everywhere.”
In the Streets of Fallujah
In a foreign policy speech he gave to the Chicago Council of Global Affairs on the eve of announcing his candidacy for the U.S. presidency in the fall of 2006, then-U.S. Senator Barack Obama had the audacity to say the following in support of his claim that U.S. citizens supported “victory” in Iraq: “The American people have been extraordinarily resolved. They have seen their sons and daughters killed or wounded in the streets of Fallujah.” It was a spine-chilling selection of locales. In 2004, the ill-fated city was the site of colossal U.S. war atrocities, crimes including the indiscriminate murder of thousands of civilians, the targeting even of ambulances and hospitals, and the practical leveling of an entire city by the U.S. military in April and November.  By one account:
“The U.S. launched two bursts of ferocious assault on the city, in April and November of 2004… [using] devastating firepower from a distance which minimizes U.S. casualties. In April…military commanders claimed to have precisely targeted…insurgent forces, yet the local hospitals reported that many or most of the casualties were civilians, often women, children, and the elderly… [reflecting an] intention to kill civilians generally…. In November… [U.S.] aerial assault destroyed the only hospital in insurgent territory to ensure that this time no one would be able to document civilian casualties. U.S. forces then went through the city, virtually destroying it. Afterwards, Fallujah looked like the city of Grozny in Chechnya after Putin’s Russian troops had razed it to the ground” (Michael Mann, Incoherent Empire,New York, 2005).
U.S. deployment of radioactive ordnance (depleted uranium) in Fallujah also helped create a subsequent epidemic of infant mortality, birth defects, leukemia, and cancer there. But, of course, Fallujah was just one especially graphic episode in a broader arch-criminal invasion that led to the premature deaths of at least one million Iraqi civilians and left Iraq “a disaster zone on a catastrophic scale hard to match in recent memory” (Tom Engelhardt, Tom Dispatch.com, January 17, 2008).
The Pentagon’s near leveling of the city was consistent with its early computer program name for ordinary Iraqis certain to be killed in the 2003 invasion: “bug-splat” As it turned out, Uncle Sam’s petro-imperial occupation led to the death of at least 1 million Iraqi “bugs” (human beings). According to the respected journalist Nir Rosen in December 2007, “Iraq has been killed…the American occupation has been more disastrous than that of the Mongols who sacked Baghdad in the thirteenth century” (Current History, December 2007).
The Most Extensive Terrorism Campaign of All Time
Chomsky has recently and rightly called Barack Obama’s targeted drone assassination program “the most extensive global terrorism campaign the world has yet seen.” The program “officially is aimed at killing people who the administration believes might someday intend to harm the U.S., and killing anyone else who happens to be nearby.” As Chomsky ads, “It is also a terrorism generating campaign – that is well understood by people in high places. When you murder somebody in a Yemen village, and maybe a couple of other people who are standing there, the chances are pretty high that others will want to take revenge.”
Given the remarkable geographic scope of the cowardly U.S. drone war, Obama’s terrorism campaign has spread jihadism across vaster terrain than any tool or tactic to date. George W. Bush may have Obama beat on total body count in the Muslim world. But Obama takes the prize when it comes to the geographic scope of jihad-fueling U.S. terrorism – and when it comes to instilling a ubiquitous sense of fear of instant mass death from the sky across much of that world.

“Pure Evil”: Nightmares That Remind
It isn’t just about body counts and science fiction-like technologies of mass murder. The natural desire for revenge among many in the Muslim world draws heavily on the hideous and perverse humiliation and torture that racist U.S. forces have carried out in that world. A remarkable teleSur English essay by Vincent Emanuele, a former U.S. Marine veteran of America’s arch-criminal Iraq invasion and occupation, is titled “I Helped Create ISIS.” By Emanuele’s account of his enlistment in an operation that gives him nightmares more than a decade later:
“I think about the hundreds of prisoners we took captive and tortured in makeshift detention facilities staffed by teenagers from Tennessee, New York and Oregon. I never had the misfortune of working in the detention facility, but I remember the stories. I vividly remember the marines telling me about punching, slapping, kicking, elbowing, kneeing and head-butting Iraqis. I remember the tales of sexual torture: forcing Iraqi men to perform sexual acts on each other while marines held knives against their testicles, sometimes sodomizing them with batons.”
“However, before those abominations could take place, those of us in infantry units had the pleasure of rounding up Iraqis during night raids, zip-tying their hands, black-bagging their heads and throwing them in the back of HUMVEEs and trucks while their wives and kids collapsed to their knees and wailed. Sometimes, we would pick them up during the day. Most of the time they wouldn’t resist. Some of them would hold hands while marines would butt-stroke the prisoners in the face. Once they arrived at the detention facility, they would be held for days, weeks, and even months at a time. Their families were never notified. And when they were released, we would drive them from the FOB (Forward Operating Base) to the middle of the desert and release them several miles from their homes.”
“After we cut their zip-ties and took the black bags off their heads, several of our more deranged marines would fire rounds from their AR-15s into their air or ground, scaring the recently released captives. Always for laughs. Most Iraqis would run, still crying from their long ordeal at the detention facility, hoping some level of freedom awaited them on the outside. Who knows how long they survived. After all, no one cared. We do know of one former U.S. prisoner who survived: Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS.”
“Amazingly, the ability to dehumanize the Iraqi people reached a crescendo after the bullets and explosions concluded, as many marines spent their spare time taking pictures of the dead, often mutilating their corpses for fun or poking their bloated bodies with sticks for some cheap laughs. Because iPhones weren’t available at the time, several marines came to Iraq with digital cameras. Those cameras contain an untold history of the war in Iraq, a history the West hopes the world forgets. That history and those cameras also contain footage of wanton massacres and numerous other war crimes, realities the Iraqis don’t have the pleasure of forgetting.”
“Unfortunately, I could recall countless horrific anecdotes from my time in Iraq. Innocent people were not only routinely rounded-up, tortured and imprisoned, they were also incinerated by the hundreds of thousands, some studies suggest by the millions….Only the Iraqis understand the pure evil that’s been waged on their nation…”
“….The warm and glassy eyes of young Iraqi children perpetually haunt me, as they should. …My nightmares and daily reflections remind me of where ISIS comes from and why, exactly, they hate us. That hate, understandable yet regrettable, will be directed at the West for years and decades to come. How could it be otherwise?” (emphasis added)
“You Haven’t Begun to see…the Things Done to Children”
The award-winning journalist Seymour Hersh told the ACLU last year about the existence of classified Pentagon evidence files containing films of U.S. soldiers sodomizing Iraqi boys in front of their mothersbehind the walls of the notorious Abu Ghraib prison. “You haven’t begun to see [all the]…evil, horrible things done [by U.S. soldiers] to children of women prisoners, as the cameras run,” Hersh told an audience in Chicago in the summer of 2014.
The United States tries to do its best everywhere.
“Humility and Restraint”
Why Do They Hate Us?! It’s an idiotic and childish question, as moronic as anything “The Donald” ever says. The media doesn’t call Trump him on this one, however, for a very simple reason. It is itself deeply complicit in selling the “American exceptionalist” myth of the United States as a noble and benevolent force in the world and therefore in regularly and systematically denying the savage and criminal behavior of the American Empire abroad.
“We lead the world,” presidential candidate Obama explained eight seven years ago, “in battling immediate evils and promoting the ultimate good…. America is the last, best hope of Earth.” Obama elaborated in his first Inaugural Address. “Our security,” the president said, “emanates from the justness of our cause; the force of our example; the tempering qualities of humility and restraint”—a fascinating commentary on Fallujah, Hiroshima, the U.S. crucifixion of Southeast Asia, the “Highway of Death” and more.
Within less than half a year of his Inauguration, Obama’s rapidly accumulating record of atrocities in the Muslim world would include the bombing of the Afghan village of Bola Boluk Ninety-three of the dead villagers torn apart by U.S. explosives in Bola Boluk were children. “In a phone call played on a loudspeaker on Wednesday to outraged members of the Afghan Parliament,” the New York Timesreported, “the governor of Farah Province…said that as many as 130 civilians had been killed.” According to one Afghan legislator and eyewitness, “the villagers bought two tractor trailers full of pieces of human bodies to his office to prove the casualties that had occurred. Everyone at the governor’s cried, watching that shocking scene.” The administration refused to issue an apology or to acknowledge U.S. responsibility.
Reflecting on such atrocities the following December, an Afghan villager was moved to comment as follows: “Peace prize? He’s a killer…Obama,” the man added, “has only brought war to our country.” The man spoke from the village of Armal, where a crowd of 100 gathered around the bodies of 12 people, one family from a single home. The 12 were killed, witnesses reported, by U.S. Special Forces during a late night raid.
A “Mainstream” Orwellian Triumph
“We are good…We use our power with decency, humility, fairness, and restraint.” Every modern U.S. President (none perhaps with more audacity than Barack Obama) and Secretary of State (including Hillary Clinton) has said and still routinely says things along the same psychotic and nationally narcissistic lines. They do so without facing any more criticism from U.S. “mainstream” media than Soviet rulers faced from Pravda, Izvestia, and Soviet state television when they described their nation and its Eastern European satellites as “great socialist people’s democracies.” U.S. media elites, being members of the properly “educated classes….know enough to look away” from the reality of what Uncle Sam does in and to the world.
No wonder so many US-of-Americans are befuddled by the anger the U.S. evokes around the world (particularly in the Muslim world), darkly clueless when it comes answering the pathetic question “Why Do They Hate Us?” In the US, and indeed across much of the West, “mainstream” media and in the reigning intellectual culture the record of ongoing US criminality is airbrushed out from official history and the mass culture even as it occurs.  It is instantaneously tossed down George Orwell’s “memory hole.” As Harold Pinter noted in his acceptance of the 2005 Nobel Prize in Literature, dominant Western cultural authorities behave as if US imperial violence does not exist and never has. “Even while it was happening,” Pinter said, it never happened.  It didn’t matter.  It was of no interest.” Pinter was speaking of the Cold War era. Nothing has changed in this regard since the collapse of the Soviet Union.  It’s very much the same today.
“It is difficult to get a man to understand something,” Upton Sinclair once noted in an oft-quoted statement, “when his salary depends on his not understanding it.” No doubt, some of the talking and writing media heads enlisted in the project of airbrushing Uncle Sam out of the global criminal record (no small act of distortion and deletion) know very well that “good” Washington’s role in the world is very different than what they report. They also know that telling even small truths about US imperial arrogance and criminality could cost them their jobs and future employment prospects. It is difficult to get a reporter to reveal his or her understanding of the real US role in the world when his or her salary depends on that reporter not revealing that understanding.
Millions of Americans are consequently left in a dangerously childish state of abject ignorance about the actions and evil of “their” nation’s military in the Muslim world and elsewhere and thus about the origins of anti-American Islamic jihad and terror abroad and at home. Whether “the Donald” himself is one of those millions is an open question, though there is reason to suspect that he knows better. The bigger issue is that he and the rest of the presidential candidates of both parties – “two wings of the same bird of prey” (Upton Sinclair, 1904) – will never be corrected by a corporate US war media that no more deserves the title “mainstream” than did Soviet state media in its day.
Paul Street’s latest book is They Rule: The 1% v. Democracy (Paradigm, 2014)
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Why 'they' hate us? - a revisit of a 2002 article

The question why 'they' hate us has come up many times, esp. during election times in the USA. By 'they', obviously, what is meant are the Muslims, esp. Arabs. Back in 2002, I wrote an article refuting Princeton Professor Bernard Lewis's Washington Post Op/Ed - “Targeted by a History of Hatred,” The Washington Post, 9/10/02), which was posted in various newspapers and internet sites. (See, e.g., here and here.) I wish we had taken prudent measures to create a world of compassion and understanding, correcting the wrongs so that our posterity won't blame us for the mess we continue to leave behind. But that was a wishful dream! Nothing much in the international arena has been done to fix those root causes that are behind the mess we are leaving behind. 

I put below the old piece for new readers who did not read it.
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In recent days, in remembrance of 9/11/01, there has been a plethora of articles, some even by people who are portrayed here in the United States as "experts" on Islam. Professor Bernard Lewis of Princeton is one such "expert," who has written about the Muslim world for nearly three decades. While writing about the motives of those people who terrorized the U.S. last year, he rightly points out that such terrorist activities "is a common feature not of Islam as a religion but of these terrorist movements .." (Ref: "Targeted by a History of Hatred," The Washington Post, 9/10/02) 

But then he mixes up the issue to suggest that Muslims hate Americans because the U.S. has become a world power at the expense of the former. To quote him, "For many centuries Islam was the greatest civilization on Earth – the richest, the most powerful, the most creative in every significant field of human endeavor. … And then everything changed, and Muslims, instead of invading and dominating Christendom, were invaded and dominated by Christian powers. The resulting frustration and anger at what seemed to them a reversal of both natural and divine law have been growing for centuries, and have reached a climax in our time. These feelings find expression in many places where Muslims and non-Muslims meet and clash – in Bosnia and Kosovo, Chechnya, Israel and Palestine among others. The prime target of the resulting anger is, inevitably, the United States, now the unchallenged, if not unquestioned, leader of what we like to call the free world and others variously define as the West, Christendom and the world of the unbelievers."
Nobody can deny that most territories in Asia, Africa and Latin America were at one time colonized by Christian nations from Europe and America, and that the experience of colonized people was anything but pleasant. Before the imperialists left those territories (after World War II), they created artificial boundaries that would later foment tension and unrest among newly emerged nation-states. As a matter of fact, the cross-border violence that we have been witnessing for the last few decades in Africa and Asia is directly related to this phenomenon. One should not also lose sight of the fact that during colonial period, the doctrine of "Divide (along communal, ethnic, religious lines) and Rule" was exploited to its hilt. And then there were territories like Chechnya, Daghestan, Xinjiang, Kashmir and the Mindanao Island, among others, which to this date have not been that lucky to emerge as autonomous, independent states. It is, therefore, not surprising that the struggle of these people for self-determination still continues.
I have to disagree with Professor Lewis by stating that the so-called "frustration" of Muslims did not cause the tragedy in Bosnia and Kosovo. Muslims did not start the war there but were themselves victims of a calculated ethnic cleansing program in both places in the hands of a fascist Christian (Serbian Orthodox) government, led by Slobdan Milosevic and his murderous gang. The same ugly head of Christian fascism is still visible in Serbia and Macedonia.[2]
What is saddening is that the horrendous genocide in Bosnia took place right before our eyes in a place, which was the most secular, multi-ethnic Muslim community in the world. Europe truly wanted to sign the Bosnian suicide note. Here again, as much as it was true during the Jewish Holocaust, Europe and America have shown themselves to be guilty of non-assistance to endangered nations. Not only was the West guilty of condoning the murder of unarmed civilians, it must also share the greater blame of not allowing the Bosnians to arm themselves to repel Serbian aggression. The defense of one's life and property, after all, is an inalienable right of all human beings. By the time our western governments intervened, the Serbian Christians slaughtered a quarter million Muslims. Where was the Western resolve to punish the aggressor? Are we to assume that such punishments are only reserved for Muslim aggressors, the likes of Saddam Hussein of Iraq, and not for Christian brutes? Does aggression pay? Looking at the Bosnian and Kosovar tragedy, it appeared so.
As to Chechnya let me remind the professor that in the year 1860, shortly after the Czarist Army moved into the Caucasus, more than 400,000 Muslims were killed. During Stalin's rule another 300,000 were massacred. That is too high a price for a tiny nation: almost half the entire population! If that is not genocide, what is? Even then, the Chechens are still there and are fighting for their basic human rights. Yeltsin and Putin have, in recent years, razed Chechnya over and over again. Yet they are fighting for those basic rights. No cluster bombs or artillery fires have been able to deter this brave, freedom-loving people from their resolve to live as a free nation, like so many others, who did not even have to make the kind of sacrifice this people have made over the last two centuries.
While the West European countries and the United States never recognized the annexation of the tiny nations of Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia into the Soviet Union, and eventually recognized their independent status soon after the collapse of the so-called Evil Empire, it is difficult to fathom why our western governments would have a different set of standards to go by for the Muslim territories in the Caucasus. After all, how much blood did the people of Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia shed for their independence?
The people of Chechnya along with their fellow co-religionists in the neighboring Ingushetia were dragged from their homes in 1944 on Stalin's whims to wastelands of Kazakhstan on a cooked-up charge of collaborating with the Germans. Both these peoples were sentenced to penal servitude and subjected to systematic genocide, worse than those of the Siberian Gulag. For a time being they were declared an extinct people, who did not exist in Stalin's time. Thirteen years later, under Khrushchev, both these peoples were reinstated, told it was a mistake and invited to return to their homelands. Many did so on the foot. While Chechens still had a home to return to, the Ingush Muslims found their lands and houses occupied by Christian Ossetians.
I wonder, how much more sacrifices do these people have to make before our western governments recognize their right to live as a free nation, the same recognition which was not denied to the people of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia? What is the basis for a nation's claim to independence? Must a people wander in the wilderness for two millennia (like the Children of Israel) and suffer repeated persecution, humiliation and genocide to qualify? Until now, history's answer to the question has been pragmatic and brutal - a nation is a people tough enough to grab the land it wants and hangs onto it. Period.
One would have thought that after the collapse of the so-called evil Soviet empire, its government-run propaganda machineries would change their Goebbles-style policy of misinformation feeding to one of truth and frankness. As is obvious, that was not to be in the Yeltsin-Putin's nation. Naturally, Moscow did not mention that (the assassinated Chechen leader) Dzhokhar Dudayev was popularly elected on the strength of his promise to free Chechnya from Russia; that Chechnya is rich with oil and minerals; that it controls the oil pipelines between the Caspian and the Black seas and, thus, is essential to Russia's economic interests. When we had the opportunity to condemn the massacre of Chechens by Russians, our Vice President Gore condoned such human rights abuses by stating that the Chechen problem was an internal affair of Russia. And now after 9/11, the Russian human rights abuses in the Caucasus have reached a new height.
As to the Israel-Palestine issue, let me remind the professor that on Nov. 29, 1947, the General Assembly of the UNO, under heavy pressure from the USA, Europe and USSR, despite strong opposition from all Arab, Asiatic (except the Philippines) and African (except S. Africa and Liberia) countries, recommended that a "Jewish State" be established in Palestine. It allotted 56% of Palestine to the Jews (comprising then only 32% of the population in Palestine). Interestingly, the UN broke its own charter by not allowing Arabs the rights to decide their own fate. Before the British mandatory rule ended on May 15, 1948, Zionists seized 80.48% of the total land. But the land by itself was not enough for them; it had to uproot its Palestinian people. And this it did by terrorizing Arabs. In one village alone (Deir Yassin) they massacred every man, woman and child of its 254 inhabitants on April 9, 1948. Later, Menachem Begin, the leader of the terrorist organization, Irgun, responsible for such atrocities, gloated that without such savagery there would not be any state of Israel. [Ref: The Revolt] During this process, they evicted 770,000 Palestinians from their ancestral homes. Of the occupied 524 villages, the Israelis completely destroyed 385 villages. David Ben-Gurion wrote in 1954 in his introduction to the "History of Haganah" (another terrorist organization), "In our country there is no room for the Arabs. We shall say to the Arabs: Get out! If they don’t agree, if they resist, we shall drive them out by force." It is quite interesting to discover that Israel would later put these words in the mouth of the Palestinians!
Zionism has revealed itself to be racist, conspiratorial, deceitful, inhuman and murderous. In the last 54 years, it has proven itself to be as repulsive as its author’s (Theodor Herzl) thoughts who declared, "Universal brotherhood is not even a beautiful dream. Antagonism is essential to man’s greatest efforts." [Ref: Jewish State] Such being the thesis of Zionism, it is easy to see why UN Resolution 242 and others have been ineffective in halting the plunder of Palestinian lands in full view of the world community.
Israel’s policy of dislodgment of Palestinians has also produced the corollary Zionist imperative: that the displaced Palestinians must not be permitted to return to their homes. The explanation is provided by Moshe Dayan in an interview on June 11, 1967, given on CBS News program "Face the Nation": "It would turn Israel into either a bi-national or poly-Arab Jewish state instead of the Jewish state, and we want to have a Jewish state." It is the same issue around which the Clinton-brokered peace initiative in 2000 between Arafat and Barak failed. Israel never had and still does not have any intention of signing a genuine peace deal that involves the return of Palestinian refugees to their homeland.
Israel’s settlement policy ignored repeated UN resolutions which asserted the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their lands. Israel’s stance against de-colonization (UN Resolutions 3481, 3482, 3382), Palestinian rights (UN Resolutions 3376, 3419C), along with its stance in favor of racism (3377, 3378) clearly sets them apart from the more progressive forces that are shaping world history. So, when the 30th session of the General Assembly of the UN, in Nov. of 1975, considered and adopted its historical decision that "Zionism is a form of racial and radical discrimination", it did so for the right reason.
To atone for a collective Christian guilt, our western governments for the past 54 years, have chosen to shut our eyes and plug our ears from seeing and hearing the suffering of Palestinians. State terrorism is the logic of political Zionism, and is being routinely practiced by the state of Israel. The indiscriminate bombing and shelling of civilian targets, political assassination of its adversaries, unprovoked bombing of foreign military and civil installations, attempted plots to kill leaders of the Palestinian movement are all legitimate arsenals with the Zionist state. As such, the massacre of Palestinians in Kafr Qassem, Sabra, Shatila, Tel et-Zaatar, southern Lebanon, Gaza, Jenin, Ramalla, Nablus and other occupied territories and the resulting unfathomed misery and suffering of non-Jewish people are only a few footnotes to be repeated over and over again in the bloody history of Zionism. With total immunity, Israel can bomb any place or assassinate anyone. The only excuse she has to offer is that her security was at risk. Just imagine the kind of outcry that would have resulted if a fraction of these crimes were to be committed by any of the Muslim states.
Yes, any conscientious, fair-minded human being is bound to get "frustrated" when he/she sees how Israel treats the inhabitants of the Occupied Territories of Palestine, in clear violation of the Geneva Convention. Israel is the only country in the world that uses tanks and helicopters to fire on rock-throwing teenagers, a crime that the erstwhile racist regime in South Africa even did not dare to commit against the Black Africans. Such is the level of arrogance! Why won’t Israel behave as a pariah state when her criminal activities are condoned, encouraged and rewarded by the most powerful nation on earth? President Bush has no moral dilemma, no bite of conscience in inviting the Israeli Prime Minister Sharon - a cold-blooded murderer, who killed 20,000 Palestinians in 1982 invasion of Lebanon, not to mention the thousands that he has killed since coming to power in less than two years, a war criminal who should be tried for crimes against humanity - six times to the White House, while he won’t meet with the Palestinian leader Arafat - winner of the Nobel Prize for Peace. While I write this piece (9/22/02), Sharon’s army has blown away several buildings inside Arafat’s PA headquarters, the Palestinian equivalent of the White House, and has also hoisted the Israeli flag there. But not a single condemnation would come from our State Department or from our President. (It took a few days of siege before our government would issue a mild rebuke for Sharon’s crime.) What a sell-out of our government institutions to the Zionist lobby! Many people now wonder if the so-called "Axis of Evil" actually originates from the White House! When the numerous U.N. Resolutions and the civilized world refer to the West Bank and Gaza as the "Occupied Territories," our trigger-happy Defense Secretary Rumsfeld audaciously refers to these as the "so-called occupied" West Bank. Does this mean: all those talks about an independent and democratic Palestine were a mere hogwash?
In the light of above facts, is it wrong for the people of the Orient to surmise that the West does not have a conscience, and it never had? Hypocrisy had been her trademark. Truly, if hypocrisy is an art, our Western governments have mastered it, and the Bush Administration, in particular, has specialized it. If Malcolm X were alive, he possibly would have said: There is no system more corrupt and more hypocritical than a system that represents itself as the example of freedom, the example of democracy, the example of fraternity and can go all over this earth telling other people how to strengthen out their house, how to manage their affairs, still deny the inhabitants of Palestine and Chechnya their basic human rights.[3]
When the late Mahatma Gandhi was calling for the independence of his country - India, he was invited to visit and plead his case in England. In one occasion, an English reporter asked him as to how he felt about the European civilization. He sarcastically asked the reporter, "What! European civilization? I did not know if they had any." What the Mahatma meant was Europe had not then (that is, in the early twentieth century) evolved into a "genuine" civilization; if it had it would not have committed the kind of brutality and savagery in colonized territories of Asia, Africa and Latin America. Nearly seven decades have passed since those remarks were made, however, looking at the world events, one is justified in stating that the West is still not ready to make this giant step forward towards a "genuine" civilization. The West has always shown indifference to human life and has instead glorified violence. The seeds of racism are so deeply rooted in western subconscious mind that most western men are unaware of it until it emerges when put to the test.
Professor Lewis writes, "For a long time politicians in Arab and some other Third world countries were able to achieve their purpose by playing the rival outside powers against one another --- France against Britain, the Axis against the Allies, the Soviet Union against the United States. The actors changed, but the scenario remained the same." However, he fails to share with us what that purpose was. As to the rest of his above statement, suffice it to say that he is dead wrong again. It was the western powers which actually used Muslim nation-states against each other. The examples are plenty. As a matter of fact, I won’t be far from the truth if I were to state that all the clashes between Muslim nation-states in the last 90 years, since the days of Lawrence of Arabia, were fomented and orchestrated by western powers. Because, it was the prudent way for the West to "divide and rule" and sell weapons to warring parties. Just look at the billions of dollars spent over the last two decades by the Gulf States in buying mostly American weapons.
Writing about the reasons for the so-called Muslim hatred, Lewis writes, "The reasons for hatred are known and historically attested…. The basic reason for this contempt is what they perceive the rampant immorality and degeneracy of the American way …" That is again news to me! Is that why al-Qa’eda attacked us last year?
I have to disagree with such assertions. Truly, his writings epitomize the Orientalist view of Islam and the Muslim world. His is a world that is polarized between "Them" and "Us"; "Us," obviously, meaning people who live in the western world. Like his mentors - the Imperial historians of the old - when Lewis writes on "Them," i.e., the eastern people, esp. Muslims, he had never been and could never be objective, and has always displayed a penchant for dehumanizing "Them." In the above, I have tried to show the flaw in his hypothesis.
To his kind of bigoted, biased, and hate-mongering analysis of the painful events of September 11, 2001, the root cause had to be a history of hatred of Muslims towards the West. He does not see this as a terrorist activity by a group, similar to those of Gush Emunim among his co-religionists. He forgets to educate our readers that it was our CIA, our U.S. Administration that had recruited and trained individuals like Osama bin Laden (OBL) to wage holy war (a concept that was hitherto dead for almost a millennium until the Carter and Regan Administrations had to resuscitate it among Muslims) against the Soviets so that the "Evil Empire" could be torn apart. American operatives went about the Muslim world recruiting for "Jihad" in Afghanistan. The volunteers came from Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Qatar, Occupied Palestine, Egypt, Somalia, Sudan and elsewhere. Lewis forgets to mention that in this chess game between two world powers, millions of Muslims would simply be used as pawns to die for the "noble" cause of defeating the Soviets and eventual death of communism. He fails to mention the broken promises to rebuild Afghanistan and how the Afghan society was torn apart because of U.S. meddling over the last two decades. He fails to mention how our government helped to bring the Taliban into power, and how the relationship cooled down only after the oil-pipeline deal went sour.
Who could forget the image of President Ronald Regan receiving Afghan Mujahedeen in the White House in 1985? Pointing to those bearded men with turbans, he said, "These are the moral equivalent of America’s founding fathers." In August 1998, another American President – Bill Clinton – ordered missile strikes against OBL and his men in the camps in Afghanistan. What went wrong with those moral equivalent of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson? Lewis naturally fails to see the entire episode as a "blowback."
Saudi Arabia never had foreign troops there before 1990. In 1990, during the Gulf War, our American forces went there to defeat Saddam Hussein. Saddam was defeated, yet to this very day our forces stayed on in Saudi Arabia, much to the annoyance of local public, the tribal people of the desert, who do not like occupation by foreigners. The tribal code of ethics consists of two things: loyalty and revenge. As late Professor Eqbal Ahmad had rightly stated, "[To the tribal people] You are my friend. You keep your word. I am loyal to you. You break your word, I go on my path to revenge. For him [Osama], America has broken its word. The loyal friend has betrayed. The one to whom you swore blood loyalty has betrayed you. They’re going to go for you. They are going to do a lot more. These are the chickens of the Afghanistan war coming home to roost."[4] How prophetic Professor Ahmad’s analysis had been, given the fact that he stated this on Oct. 12, 1998, nearly 35 months before the fateful day of 9-11!
Now in OBL, you find a person who was both a millionaire and a master planner. His engagement in the "Jihad" in Afghanistan has already made him a folk hero among Arabs. His recruitment drive was further facilitated, rather exponentially, by our government’s irresponsible and immoral support of Israel that has emboldened its government to unleash its most brutal and inhuman campaign against Palestinians in the Occupied Territories. Muslim youths from Arab countries saw day in and day out how American Apache helicopters, fighter jets, missiles and tanks wreaked death and destruction on Palestinian towns and refugee camps, thanks to. Al-Jajeera TV, the Qatar-based TV station. Instead of condemning state terrorism, practiced by the Israeli government, what they heard was always a blanket condemnation of the Palestinian Authority by our government officials. And add to this list, the decade-long sanction against Iraq that has killed more than half a million infants. It was, and still is, clear that our Administration was not interested in lifting the sanction until Iraq was destroyed and its dictator removed from power. We were interested in cheap flow of oil and not in removing misery of suffering Iraqis.
Whether our Administration likes it or not, it cannot shy away from taking some responsibility for the fateful day of September 11. Our U.S. government was at war with Osama and his group much before the WTC and the Pentagon were hit. They killed nearly 3000 of our innocent men and women on that fateful day, and we have killed more than 4000 of innocent Afghans since then.
Our Administration’s naked, one-sided policy, tilting towards Israel, in the Middle East, its neo-imperial arrogance and double-standards on global issues, thanks again to Lewis and his group of disingenuous intellectuals and the "Amen Corner" in the Capitol Hill, have already polarized straight-thinking people outside the U.S. We are losing credibility among our one-time admirers and trusted friends. A superpower cannot afford to complain about Palestinian terror when it condones and promotes Israeli terror. To stop the cycle of violence and find genuine peace, it has to be an honest broker, even-handed, search for root causes and not symptoms, and then solve the problem justly. Truly, peace without justice is only an illusion. For political problems, do not look for military solutions. They cause more problems than they solve.
Lewis forgets the age-old maxim that you cannot fool all people all time. Lies of today can haunt you big time later. If people like him, who, sadly, acts as think tank for our government, had been sincere and honest (like Prof. Ahmad) to making this world a better place for all mankind - irrespective of race, color, creed or religion - we would all be living in a safer world today. But to these bunch of imperialist-minded and intellectually corrupt individuals, the world had to be divided between Them and Us. War and death are only means to that end for world hegemony.
While Lewis may need one, we don’t need any extra filter to discern the root cause for the violence that struck us on that fateful day.
Notes:
[1] Written Sept. 22, ’02.
[2] See the Philadelphia Inquirer, Sept. 22, ’02 for an article on election in Macedonia.
[3] One of Malcolm X's speeches (Malcolm Speaks, p. 50) has been slightly changed to fit into the European context.
[4] Terrorism: Theirs and Ours by Eqbal Ahmed, a speech presented at the University of Colorado, Oct. 12, 1998 (seewww.indiatogether.org/opinions/talks/ahmad01.htm for details).
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by courtesy & © 2002 Habib Siddiqui