Sunday, May 28, 2017

In pursuit of a “Master Race” by Prof. Ram Puniyani

The RSS agenda of Hindu Rashtra draws heavily on the superiority of Aryan race and greatness of Brahmanical values. The ideology constructed by this organisation tells us that Aryans are the superior race. The whole foundation of the concept of Hindu nation as the teacher-leader of the World derives from twin and inseparable notions of the racial theory, promoted by British and Brahmanism, clothed in the language of Hinduism. This came to fore once again when the spokesmen of Garbh Vigyan Sanskar (Uterus Science Culture), an offshoot of Arogya Bharati (health wing) of RSS, committed to creating Uttam santati, (Best Progeny) based on ancient Indian knowledge of Ayurveda outlined their plans. The claim is that by following the proper instructions as put together by this outfit; one can get the children, which are tall and fair, despite their parents not being so.
RSS has many wings one of them being Arogya Bharati (health wing). It has devised meticulous plans for the couples to have a ‘perfectly customised child’. This is what has been reported in the media recently. As per the process devised by this outfit there is a period of three months of ‘shuddhikaran’ or purification for the parents. This means that the timing of intercourse is decided by the positions of the ‘planetary configurations’ and a period of abstinence once the baby is conceived. This is to be followed by series of procedures and regulations in the matters of diet in particular.
These days lot of illogical understanding is easily passing the muster of popular perception in the name of traditional knowledge. The extent of this is the belief that ancient India had advanced plastic surgery techniques, and great leaps in aviation science, including Pushpak Viman (Aeroplane), the truth is that modern medical science has broken lot of mysteries of the sconce of child bearing, growth and rearing. The conception of child does not depend on the planetary configurations but on the meeting of sperm with ovum, on and around the day of ovulation of the female. The Hindutva ideology is bent to promote the faith-based knowledge systems, undermining the immaculate researchers and gains of modern science. Even earlier Dr. Murli Manohar Joshi, in the previous NDA regime had introduced changes in the educational curriculum by introducing Paurohitya (Priest craft) and Karmakand (Ritualism). One of the components of this was Putra Kameshti Yagna (ritual to get male child), the performance of which should lead to the birth of a male child. As per current knowledge, the sex of the baby is determined by the male’s Y or X chromosome meeting the ovum and not by any other influence which these rituals are supposed to influence.
The health of the baby and its rearing has many components, which included proper dietary supplements, regular exercises of the mother and good nutrition and rearing of the child as she comes up in the society. The growth of body, physical and intellectual is a long process of rearing where the proper nutrition, games and intellectual stimuli, are the foundation of the health of the child. In contrast here in this scheme of things the planets, supernatural powers are projected as the main players along with the recommended diet.
RSS ideology has been inspired a lot from German Fascism not just in the matters of concept of nationalism but also in the projection of Aryan superiority. Being the World leaders-teachers as well is core part of this ideology. So a superior race is necessary in this ideology. Germany tried this in the form of eugenics. That experiment was a disaster. Nazis had the program called “Lebensborn” (“Spring of Life”), which aimed to create an Aryan master race. For this breeding of children of pure Aryan race, some 8,000 children were born in Germany and around 12,000 in Norway as part of “Lebensborn” under the direct supervision Nazi theoretician and leader, Heinrich Himmler. This encouraged women of “pure blood” to bear fair-tall Aryan children. The result was that most of such bred children did not grow on expected lines. This horrendous scheme was central part of the inhuman racial policy. This policy on one hand aimed at producing pure Aryan children and on the other hand wanted to eliminate non-Aryans like Jews, 6 million of them were killed and the forced sterilisation of people with hereditary diseases. This policy was harsh to non dominant people and to people with different ability. Needless to say that even the theory of race is totally discredited today and what we know is that we are all mixed up people with origin of Human race located in South Africa.
It is in this light that the statement of Tarun Vijay, (We have been living with dark skinned people) is to be seen. This reveals RSS understanding of white superior Aryans living with black South Indians. As such major RSS ideologue M.S. Golwalkar had already prescribed for a better race when he wrote, “now let us see the experiments our ancestors made in this sphere. In an effort to better the human species through cross-breeding the Namboodri Brahmanas [sic] of the North were settled in Kerala and a rule was laid down that the eldest son of a Namboodri family could marry only the daughter of Vaishya, Kshatriya or Shudra communities of Kerala. Another still more courageous rule was that the first off-spring of a married woman of any class must be fathered by a Namboodri Brahman and then she could beget children by her husband.” (Quoted in RSS journal Organiser, 2nd January 1962)
The spokesmen of this program tell us that they have begun their work from Gujarat, where nearly 450 babies have been born on these lines and now they intend to spread their branches in different states by 2020 as their work is already in progress in different states. What’s in store for us is very clear from this plan of health division of Hindutva fountain head. We need to harp only on rational scientific strategies in our health planning.

Harassment of Rohingya continues in Myanmar

Muslims around the world are observing Ramadan. But observing it in Buddhist Myanmar is becoming very difficult, esp. for the Rohingyas who have been targets of genocide for many years. Many of their mosques and schools have been burned by fascist Buddhists. So they must walk miles to participate in congregational prayer services like the Tarawih that are held in a mosque.

They are harassed, raped and killed to ethnically cleanse them from their ancestral homes in northern Rakhin (Arakan) state of Myanmar. Not a day goes by without some Rohingyas killed, raped, harassed or victimized in this den of Buddhist intolerance and hatred.

The RVision reported lately that the military raided Bossara (Thawan Chaung) village of Southern Maungdaw and arrested an entire family including women and children on 26th May 2017. Military personnel along with police arrived and besieged the entire village of Bossara (Thawan Chaung), where they falsely accused a Rohingya family by keeping their own military guns in the house.

Later to prove the accusation they arrested the entire family including women and innocent children and took them to detention.

In another separate incidence military and police also raided the Andang (Inn Din) village in Maungdaw, leaving villagers in threat and fear of arbitrary arrest and torture. Moreover fate of the arrestees in the both villages is still unknown.

Raid and arrest have created a dreadful situation in Rohingya villages. Where locals are made to expect arrests and any forms of human right’s violations, which have been happening in Arakan (Rakhine) since the beginning of Rohingya GENOCIDE.

Ma Ba Tha changes its name

I just got the news that Myanmar's ultra-nationalist, call it more properly fascist, Ma Ba Tha movement announced Sunday (May 28) it was rebranding under a new name, days after Buddhist authorities banned the network which has been accused of stoking Islamophobia. They have been doing actually worse than stoking Islamophobia.

On Sunday the group released a statement saying they would use a new name: the Buddha Dhamma Philanthropy Foundation.

"We urge all members in all regions and states around the country to work for the country, people and religion using the name of the Buddha Dhamma Philanthropy Foundation," said the statement, signed by its monk leader Tilawka Biwuntha.

Here below are my comments that I posted to the news:
What a joke this fascist organization Ma Ba Tha is making to the word 'philanthropy' by changing its name! What has philanthropy to do with fascism that not only instigates mass murder of a vulnerable minority religious community but also participates in such genocidal crimes? Changing names won't whitewash their crimes against humanity.
Shame on Ma Ba Tha and what it stands for - no matter under what banner it resurfaces!

Saturday, May 27, 2017

The Visitation: Trump in Israel

Here is the link to Uri Avnery's recent article on Trum visit to Israel.

Sri Lanka: Buddhist leader stokes anti-Muslim tension

We thought that we had seen enough of Buddhist intolerance and religious bigotry in Myanmar. Think again. The Buddhist majority Sri Lanka is not far behind in such criminal acts.
A manhunt is on in Sri Lanka for a hard-line Buddhist leader after a series of attacks on mosques and Muslim-owned businesses that authorities accuse him of encouraging.
President Maithripala Siresena had vowed to investigate anti-Muslim hate crimes after assuming power in 2015, however, attacks have escalated over the past two weeks. Another Muslim shop in the town of Kahawatte was reportedly burned to the ground this week by unidentified attackers.
Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) General-Secretary Galagoda Atte Gnanasara has encouraged his Buddhist supporters to lead another campaign against Muslims following the deadly Aluthgama riots in June 2014, which attempted to create disunity between Buddhists and Muslims.
Less than 10 percent of Sri Lanka's population of 20 million are Muslim. The majority are Sinhalese Buddhist, while most Tamils are Hindu.
Political analyst Amjad Mohamed Saleem told Al Jazeera it was worrisome that violent Buddhist nationalism had re-emerged.
"If the government doesn't address this issue, it will spill over. We all know the ramifications of these types of tensions that are unchecked. The government has to respond with rule of law and justice if it wants to assure communities it's not behind it [violence]," said Saleem.
A number of Sri Lankan Muslim ministers urged Siresena to take action this week in critical comments, and a meeting was arranged on Thursday to discuss a move to arrest Gnanasara, who is currently in hiding.
A Sri Lankan court has now issued a warrant for his arrest.
"The BBS secretary-general has re-started this anti-Muslim campaign as he himself was having problems with the police … for going against the authorities in a number of incidents," Hilmy Ahamed, vice president of the Muslim Council of Sri Lanka, told Al Jazeera.
"Gnanasara … wants to re-start his campaign to fuel tensions in the country. What he is trying to do now is to give the impression to the majority Buddhists that he will be imprisoned indefinitely due to Muslim complaints against him and his group. He is driving the attention away from his crimes."
Ahamed also accused BBS activists of intimidating the Muslim community.
"They have attacked holy places of worship such as our mosques and destroyed Muslim property and livelihoods… The problem was that the government had been lenient all this time towards the BBS crimes these last two weeks," he said.
Azath Salley, an advisor to the government, told Al Jazeera the Buddhist hardliners were allowed to flourish under the previous administration.
"The BBS had been very active in the last regime of Mahinda Rajapakse and have done damage to unity and created many problems for Muslims in the country. With the new President Siresena we hoped that improvements would be made to facilitate peace within the country.
"We had to bring in pressure to the government in order to take this case up against the BBS, and I am glad that finally action is being taken with special teams being deployed to find Gnanasera," he said.  
Salley noted the country's devastating 26-year civil war with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and said he didn't want to see any return of violence.
"As a politician, I am concerned about the tensions escalating. We are peace-loving people and we do not want another calamity after Sri Lanka already went through a war with the LTTE. We want coexistence and peace in the community. I am glad the government has realised that he [Gnanasera] is a threat to national security."

 Amanthi Ratanakaye, 48, is a Sinhalese mother who said the BBS group does not represent the majority of Buddhists in the country. 
"We want to live peacefully and we do not support the acts that are done on our fellow Muslim neighbours," she told Al Jazeera.
"They do not represent us, but they are worryingly influencing our young, which is why action must be taken against them."

Source: Al Jazeera News
WATCH: Who is behind Sri Lanka's religious violence? 

Zbigniew Brzezinski is dead

Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski  died on Friday at a hospital in Virginia. He was 89.
He was an extraordinary intellectual, a brilliant strategist. He was President Carter’s national security adviser from 1977 to 1981, and a trustee at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Like his predecessor Henry A. Kissinger, Dr. Brzezinski was a foreign-born scholar (he in Poland, Mr. Kissinger in Germany) with considerable influence in global affairs, both before and long after his official tour of duty in the White House. In essays, interviews and television appearances over the decades, he cast a sharp eye on six successive administrations, including that of Donald J. Trump, whose election he did not support and whose foreign policy, he found, lacked coherence.
Mr. Brzezinski was nominally a Democrat, with views that led him to speak out, for example, against the “greed,” as he put it, of an American system that compounded inequality. He was one of the few foreign policy experts to warn against the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
He remained a die-hard opponent of Russia and its meddling in world affairs. He supported billions in military aid for Muslim militants fighting invading Soviet troops in Afghanistan. Aside from his ideological principles, he had both personal and historical reasons for abhorring the Soviet system.
I post below some info on him that is extracted from the New York Times.

A Soviet Refugee

Zbigniew Kazimierz Brzezinski was born in Warsaw on March 28, 1928. His father, Tadeusz, was a diplomat who took the family along to France, then to Germany during the rise of Hitler in the 1930s and, fortuitously, to Canada on the eve of World War II. When the Russians took over Poland at the end of the war, Tadeusz Brzezinski chose to retire in Canada rather than return home.
The younger Mr. Brzezinski graduated from McGill University in Montreal in 1949 and earned a master’s degree there in 1950. Then it was on to Harvard, which granted him a doctorate in political science in 1953 and appointed him as an instructor. He and Mr. Kissinger were among the candidates for a faculty position; when Mr. Kissinger won an associate professorship in 1959, Mr. Brzezinski decamped to Columbia University.
His bond with Jimmy Carter developed through the Trilateral Commission, the group David Rockefeller created in 1973 as a forum for political and business leaders from North America, Western Europe and Japan to consider the challenges facing industrialized countries. Mr. Brzezinski was the commission’s first director. (Mr. Rockefeller died in March.)
In 1974, Mr. Brzezinski invited Mr. Carter, then the governor of Georgia and a rising Democratic star, to become a member. Two years later, Mr. Carter was the Democratic nominee for president, and he hired Mr. Brzezinski as a foreign affairs adviser.
A prolific author, Mr. Brzezinski published a memoir in 1983 about his White House years, “Power and Principle,” in which he recalled a range of policy objectives that went beyond containing the Soviets. “First,” he wrote, “I thought it was important to try to increase America’s ideological impact on the world” — to make it again the “carrier of human hope, the wave of the future.”
Mr. Brzezinski, who had homes in Washington and Northeast Harbor, Me., was married to the Czech-American sculptor Emilie Benes, with whom he had two children in addition to Ms. Brzezinski: Mark Brzezinski, a lawyer and former ambassador to Sweden under President Barack Obama, and Ian Brzezinski, whose career has included serving as a deputy assistant secretary of defense. All survive him. He is also survived by a brother, Lech, and five grandchildren.
Into his 80s Mr. Brzezinski was still fully active as a teacher, author and consultant: a professor of foreign policy at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies, a scholar at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and a frequent expert commentator on PBS and ABC News.
His last article, posted some 3 months ago in the NY Times, is posted below. ( Paul Wasserman worked as a research associate for the Center for Strategic and International Studies.)
Why the World Needs a Trump Doctrine

Washington — The global order is in disarray. The world is sliding into significant disorder with no international structure capable of handling the kinds of problems that are likely to erupt almost simultaneously. To compound it all, chaos among the major powers could generate truly disastrous consequences.
So far, President Trump has failed to formulate any significant, relevant statements about the global condition. Instead, the world has been left to interpret the sometimes irresponsible, uncoordinated and ignorant statements of his team.
Self-promoters seeking important positions should not be permitted to create the impression that their sometimes simplistic and extremist terminology is becoming national policy. The recent public embarrassment over American policy toward the Kremlin, culminating in the resignation of Michael T. Flynn as national security adviser after just 24 days in the job, speaks for itself.
While we did not support Mr. Trump, he is the president of the United States. He is our president, and we want him to be a success. Right now, he does not look like that to the rest of the world, or to us.
A vulnerable world needs an America characterized by clarity of thought and leadership that projects optimism and progress. “Make America Great Again” and “America First” are all very well as bumper stickers, but the foreign policy of the United States needs to be more than a campaign slogan.
So we would advise the president to give an address that offers a bold statement of his vision, including his determination to provide America’s leadership in the effort to shape a more stable world. This speech should not be a detailed blueprint for American foreign policy, but rather serve as a much-needed reminder that the president of the United States is on watch, is actively engaged and has a sense of historical direction.
What we need to hear from our president is why America is important to the world and why the world needs America. At the same time, he can take advantage of the opportunity to point out what the United States expects from the world.We may disagree with President Trump on day-to-day decisions, but we urge him to recognize that the ideal long-term solution is one in which the three militarily dominant powers — the United States, China and Russia — work together to support global stability.
Much hinges on the degree to which America and China can engage in successful dialogue. This would open the way for a more serious, strategic Sino-American understanding. That, in turn, could create the basis for a more lasting understanding among all three major powers, since Russia would realize that if it were not included in a Sino-American accommodation, its interests would be at risk.
America must also be mindful of the danger that China and Russia could form a strategic alliance. For this reason, the United States must take care not to act toward China as though it were a subordinate: this would almost guarantee a closer tie between China and Russia.
More immediately worrying is the problem posed by North Korea, which will require increased cooperation among North Korea’s more powerful neighbors, including China and Japan (and potentially Russia), as well as the United States. Isolated American efforts are unlikely to move Pyongyang in a positive direction.
If the United States is to improve its relationship with Russia, it must renew both sides’ acknowledgment that a commitment to abide by law is central to the international order. A superficial show of better relations must not be a cover for deception, maneuvering or violence against weaker neighbors. President Trump’s desire for constructive engagement with Russia is sensible, but there has to be a framework of acceptable conduct that, unfortunately, does not exist at present.
Russia is confronted by non-Russian former Soviet republics like Ukraine and Uzbekistan consolidating their independence, while China’s economic penetration of Central Asia has also reduced Russia’s role in that region. The stakes for all three major powers are high, but so are the potential rewards — and they know it.
In the near term, America should aim for specific regional agreements with partners like Japan and Britain, as these relationships will be essential for managing regional affairs. In this regard, the administration’s steps to reaffirm America’s commitment to defend Japan and South Korea are encouraging. But as the linchpin of NATO, America must also be ready to defend Western and Central Europe.
With his background, President Trump knows the power of business. The United States should make clear to Russia that any military incursion into Europe, including the “little green men” tactics seen at the beginning of the conflict in eastern Ukraine, would incur a punitive blockade of Russia’s maritime access to the West that would affect nearly two-thirds of all Russian seaborne trade.
Given the Trump administration’s abysmal performance so far in installing a leadership capable of strategic decision making, it is crucial that America and the world hear a vision of leadership and commitment from our president. A Trump Doctrine, any doctrine more or less, is sorely needed.

President Trump’s 9-day Trip

President Donald Trump had an eventful week visiting Saudi Arabia, Israel and some European cities including the Vatican City where he met with the Pope. He was bestowed with the highest civilian/national award in the Kingdom. There, as brilliantly noted by the veteran journalist Robert Fisk, Trump said he was not in Saudi Arabia to “lecture” – but then told the world’s Islamic preachers what to say, condemned “Islamist terrorism” as if violence was a solely Muslim phenomenon and then announced like an Old Testament prophet that he was in “a battle between good and evil”. There were no words of empathy, none of sympathy, absolutely not a word of apology for his racist, anti-Muslim speeches of last year, let alone the ‘Muslim-ban'.

As expected, the Saudi invitation of Muslim leaders/rulers did not include some of the Shi’ite majority countries, thus allowing Trump to blame Shi’ite Iran – rather than the Sunni extremist Daesh – for “fuelling sectarian violence”. He pitied the Iranian people for their “despair” a day after they had freely elected a liberal reformer - Dr. Hassan Rouhani - as their president, something that is unthinkable in his host country. He demanded further isolation of Iran, as if decades of failed policy and experience to isolate Iran had not taught any practical lesson to learn from. He painted the Iranian regime as being responsible for “so much instability” in that part of the world. The Shi’ite Hizbullah of Lebanon was condemned, and so were the Shi’ite Yemenis fighting the Saudis and their coalition.

There is no doubt that Iranian regime deserves blame for its support of the murderous Ba’athist Nusayri regime in Syria, but to blame it for the carnage in Yemen where according to human rights observers the Saudis are committing crimes against humanity is hogwash.

As I have repeatedly stated extremism of any kind is a threat to our entire humanity and our planet. Such must be defeated. But trying to defeat it without addressing the root causes behind such extremism is simply insane. Unfortunately, that insanity has become the norm in many parts of the world, including the UK, where a suicide bomber was able to attack and kill many music lovers in a crowded Manchester stadium when Trump was visiting the Zionist state of Israel. [Many analysts opine that the Manchester bombing was a classic “blowback” action. “The bomber is guilty, but so are those who endorsed the policies creating conditions for people like him to flourish," writes Daniel McAdams in the]

Trump signed $110 billion arms deals with the kingdom, and declared future sale of “a lot of beautiful military equipment” to Qatar, promising jobs to many, esp. in the USA, which are, supposedly, to secure peace in that part of the world. What an illusion when the wrong priorities are set!

On the flip side, Trump prides himself as a deal maker, and he delivered on that promise to bring more jobs to the USA. Who cares who is killing whom in that ‘nasty’ part of the world using American weapons as long the USA can sell arms! Forgotten in those deals, however, was also the joint statement of the Sheikh of Al Azhar University and the Pope (whom Trump was to meet in just two days) in Cairo two weeks ago against the evil of arms dealers. When the stuffs that kill and maim innocent people are called ‘beautiful’ toys by the president of the most powerful state in our planet, we have something to worry about big!

In his maiden speech to other NATO leaders in Brussels he berated them on sharing the cost of keeping that alliance suggesting that many of them “owe massive amounts of money” to the alliance. “Over the last eight years, the United States spent more on defense than all other NATO countries combined,” he declared as the leaders of other NATO member countries looked on uncomfortably. If his European hosts were looking for public support of Article 5 and hoping for a change in their guest who had earlier called NATO obsolete they got a nasty jab and were surely embarrassed. He declined to confirm the U.S. commitment to Article 5 of the treaty, which guarantees the U.S. would back a treaty partner in the event of a conflict with a foreign power.

Trump said in a Twitter post on Saturday that “Many NATO countries have agreed to step up payments considerably, as they should. Money is beginning to pour in- NATO will be much stronger.” Although there is no evidence that money has begun to “pour in” if Trump’s claim is true, he must be happy with the outcome of his tough talk.

In a separate tweet, Trump wrote that he would make a decision on whether to support a landmark international agreement on climate change next week. "I will make my final decision on the Paris Accord next week!" he tweeted on the final day of a Group of Seven (G7), a group of some of the world’s wealthiest nations,  summit in Sicily, Italy at which he refused to bow to pressure from allies to back the landmark 2015 agreement. [In a much earlier, 2012 tweet citizen Trump famously wrote, “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive. The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.”]

Trump’s surprise tweet on the final day of his lengthy international trip came after his decline to commit to staying in a sweeping climate deal, refusing to give into intense international pressure. Earlier Saturday, the other six members of the G7 voted to abide by the Paris climate agreement.

Trump will return to the White House under a cloud of scandal, bringing to an end a nine-day trip that started in Saudi Arabia and Israel before moving on to three European stops.

A newly-appointed special counsel is beginning his investigation into links between the Trump campaign and Russian officials.  Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and close adviser, has become a focus of the probe, according to The Washington Post. The Washington Post has learned that Kushner reportedly discussed setting up a backchannel between the Trump transition team and the Kremlin during his meeting in December with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak. According to intelligence officials, during a meeting at Trump Tower that included Michael Flynn, Kushner suggested using Russian diplomatic facilities for a secret and secure channel with the Kremlin that would shield discussions between the two sides from U.S. monitoring.

The White House disclosed in March that this meeting had taken place, but only after media reports surfaced and has so far played down its significance. However, after the U.S. intercepted Russian intel discussing the meeting, eyebrows were raised.

James Comey, the former FBI director leading the Russian probe until Trump abruptly fired him, is still expected to testify before Congress about the memos he kept on conversations with the president that involved the investigation.

It is also reported by the CNN that Comey allegedly acted on information in the Hillary Clinton email probe he knew was false and had been created by the Russians. The issue at hand was that Russian intelligence officials reportedly made it look like former Attorney General Loretta Lynch had been compromised in the Clinton investigation.

Not only that, but the report suggests Comey feared the revelation would undermine the probe and the Justice Department. So instead of revealing the Russian disinformation, he announced the investigation was over and called Clinton "careless."

The way in which Comey is said to have covered up this information shows how Russian influence has affected the highest levels of US officials.

U.S. officials have also told CNN that Russia is still attempting to spread false information to cloud ongoing investigations.

Before heading home, President Trump told the U.S troops stationed in Sicily, Italy that "It was a tremendously productive meeting where I strengthen American bonds". "We have great bonds with other countries and, with some of our closest allies, we concluded a truly historic week."

Only the coming months would show how successful Trump’s trip was to strengthen U.S. position not just outside but his own position within the USA.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Interview of Swedish Human Rights Ambassador about Myanmar

Sweden’s ambassador-at-large for human rights, Annika Ben David, has been in Burma this week on her first official visit to the country. On Monday, she visited the DVB studio in Rangoon, where she spoke with Kimberley Phillips about a range of human rights challenges facing Burma amid its ongoing democratic transition, from concerns about press freedom and women’s role in the peace process to the still-unfolding conflicts and humanitarian crises in the country’s border regions.
You can view here interview by clicking here.

Women gangraped in India

India is increasingly becoming unsafe for women.
Four women were gang-raped and a man from their family was shot dead by six highway robbers on the Jewar-Bulandshahr road near the Yamuna Expressway, around 68 km from the national capital, on Thursday, the police said.
According to a report, the incident took place when the family of eight people was travelling in a car from Jewar, near Greater Noida, to Bulandshahr to visit a relative in hospital. The car reportedly stopped after hitting a metal object in the middle of the road around 1.30 am.
Soon after the robbers surrounded the car and started looting cash and valuables from the family. After that they dragged out the women and gang-raped the women. When the man tied to save them, he was shot dead.
Love Kumar, senior superintendent of police of Gautam Budh Nagar, told Hindustan Times that an FIR was registered against unknown men. The police teams were working on the case. He added that the medical examination results of the women were awaited.
A similar incident came to light in July last year from the Ghaziabad-Aligarh highway after five women, including the 13-year-old girl, of a Noida-based family were gangraped by robbers when they were going to their native place in Shahjahanpur in a car.
According to the 2014 data of the National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB), out of the 84,000 cases of dacoity and thefts on the highways across the country, Uttar Pradesh tops the list with 65,000 cases – almost 80% of the total.
On the other hand, the State Crime Record Bureau (SCRB) 2015 data states that as many as 2,250 cases of robbery – the maximum across India – were reported across the highways and roads in Uttar Pradesh.

Arrest warrant against "the pervert" Yogi

A US court has issued an arrest warrant against Bikram Choudhury, the Indian-American perverted yoga guru who was ordered in 2016 to pay over USD 7 million in connection with a sexual harassment case, a media report said.
Choudhury, the millionaire founder of global fitness business, has not paid the amount and last year claimed he was nearly bankrupt.
Authorities believe the 69-year-old has hidden his assets and left the country, the ABC News reported.
According to the report, the warrant allows authorities to arrest him if he returns to the US or, possibly, in Mexico.
In January last year, a jury determined that Choudhury had sexually harassed and then unfairly fired Minakshi "Miki" Jafa-Bodden, his onetime lawyer. He was ordered to pay nearly USD 6.5 million in punitive damages in addition to USD 924,000 in compensatory damages.
Jafa-Bodden was general counsel to Bikram's Yoga College of India but was fired after refusing to cover up allegations that Bikram had raped and sexually assaulted a yoga student.
"I feel vindicated," she told ABC News in 2016. "I'm elated."
She convinced the jury that Choudhury had repeatedly sexually harassed her and subjected her to obscene comments about women.
She also claimed she was fired after she tried to investigate another woman's sexual harassment and rape allegations against him. During the trial over Jafa-Bodden's allegations, Bikram strongly denied sexually assaulting any women. He also denied to ABC News ever having any sexual contact with his students or followers.
Bail was set at USD 8 million, the report said.
Choudhury was one of the pioneers of yoga in the US, setting up shop in Beverly Hills in the 1970s. Celebrities including Madonna, Andy Murray, Gwyneth Paltrow and Goldie have all participated in Bikram yoga.
Now his yoga studios are franchised worldwide.
Created by Choudhury 'Bikram Yoga', as this form of yoga is known, is made up of a series of 26 postures which are performed in an extremely hot room.
The 90-minute classes are taught in in rooms heated to 40.5C exactly. Because of this consistency across the world, Choudhury refers to the practice as McYoga.

Netanyahu's declaration about Jerusalem

The Temple Mount and the Western Wall will remain part of Israel forever, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday, a day after President Donald Trump left the country without an announcement that he would move the US Embassy to the capital.

Speaking to a Knesset session marking Jerusalem Day and the 50th anniversary of the annexation of the city, Netanyahu said he wanted to make one thing clear: “The Temple Mount and the Western Wall will forever remain under Israeli sovereignty.
To read more, click here.

Egypt blocks 21 websites

Sissi's Egypt has banned 21 websites, including the main website of Qatar-based Al Jazeera television and prominent local independent news site Mada Masr, accusing them of supporting terrorism and spreading false news. Such a measure against free media is not unexpected with a neo-pharaoh who rules Egypt.
The blockade is notable in scope and for being the first publicly recognized by the government. It was heavily criticized by journalists and rights groups.
The state news agency announced it late on Wednesday. Individual websites had been inaccessible in the past but there was never any official admission.
Reuters found the websites named by local media and were inaccessible.
The move follows similar actions taken on Wednesday by Egypt's Gulf allies Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which blocked Al Jazeera and other websites after a dispute with Qatar.
Qatar said hackers had posted fake remarks by its emir criticizing U.S. foreign policy but Saudi and UAE state-run media reported the comments anyway.
An official from Egypt's National Telecom Regulatory Authority would not confirm or deny the blockage, but said: "So what if it is true? It should not be a problem."
Two security sources told Reuters the 21 websites were blocked for being affiliated with the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood or for being funded by Qatar.

Cairo accuses Qatar of supporting the Brotherhood, which was ousted from power in Egypt in 2013 when the military removed elected Islamist President Mohamed Mursi following mass protests against him.
Ties between Qatar and Egypt were badly damaged after Mursi's fall. Doha welcomed a number of senior Brotherhood figures, although since then Qatar has asked several to leave.
Mada Masr, an Egyptian news website based in the country which describes itself as progressive and has no Islamist or Qatari affiliations, was also inaccessible.
Journalists at Mada Masr said the website was publishing articles on Facebook for now. It remains accessible outside Egypt or via proxy.

"Nothing explains this blockade more than a very clear intention from the authorities to crack down on critical media in ways that bypass the law," Mada Masr Editor in Chief Lina Attalah told Reuters on Thursday.
The website is registered in Egypt and its journalists are based in the country, she said. No one from the government contacted the management before or after the 21 websites went down.

Two other local websites, including that of a print newspaper registered with the authorities, were also down, as were several Brotherhood-affiliated websites and Egypt-focused ones that publish from abroad.
The Huffington Post's Arabic website also was inaccessible, although the international version could be accessed.
State news agency MENA cited a senior security source as saying the websites were blocked because they supported terrorism and that the government would take legal action.
"A senior security source said 21 websites have been blocked inside Egypt for having content that supports terrorism and extremism as well as publishing lies," MENA said.
Mahmoud Kamel, who sits on the board of Egypt's official press union, said was a clear attack on freedom of speech.
"This move is unacceptable. We oppose all blocking of news websites but this is unfortunately part of the general climate of fear we are experiencing in Egypt," he told Reuters.
Egyptian authorities have cracked down on the Islamist, secular and liberal opposition alike since President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, then the military chief, toppled Mursi.
Since then, hundreds have been killed and thousands arrested, including journalists. Sisi told CNN in 2015 that Egypt has "unprecedented freedom of expression".

Why Jerusalem is not the capital of Israel

Here below is an article by Seif Da'na, a professor of Sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside.
On this day, Israel is celebrating what it calls "Jerusalem Day", when it occupied East Jerusalem at the end of the 1967 war with Syria, Egypt and Jordan.

The annual celebration is a day when right-wing, mostly young Israelis rampage around East Jerusalem's Old City, carrying Israeli flags and shouting anti-Palestinian, anti-Arab and anti-Muslim racist slogans.

Some of the chants include calls for the death, destruction, and complete elimination of Palestinians in Jerusalem, such as "Death to the Arabs". Large groups often parade through the Muslim Quarter of the old city and provoke residents by banging on Palestinian stores and homes.
Israel - which captured the western half of Jerusalem in the 1948 Arab-Israeli war - frames the day as the "reunification" of the east and west of its capital.

Israel's occupation of East Jerusalem effectively put the entire city under de-facto Israeli control. The state's jurisdiction and ownership of Jerusalem, however, is not recognised by the international community, including the United States.

The status of Jerusalem remains one of the main sticking points in efforts to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

International community position 

Under the 1947 UN Partition Plan to divide historic Palestine between Jewish and Arab states, Jerusalem was granted special status and was meant to be placed under international sovereignty and control. The special status was based on Jerusalem's religious importance to the three Abrahamic religions.

In the 1948 war, following the UN's recommendation to divide Palestine, Zionist forces took control of the western half of the city and declared the territory part of its state.

During the 1967 war, Israel captured the eastern half of Jerusalem, which was under Jordanian control at the time, and proceeded to effectively annex it by extending Israeli law, bringing it directly under its jurisdiction, in breach of international law.

In 1980, Israel passed the "Jerusalem Law", stating that "Jerusalem, complete and united, is the capital of Israel", thereby formalising its annexation of East Jerusalem.

In response, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 478 in 1980 declaring the law "null and void".

The international community, including the US, officially regards East Jerusalem as occupied territory. Additionally, no country in the world recognises any part of Jerusalem as Israel's capital, with the exception of Russia, which announced its recognition of West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel earlier this year.

As of now, all foreign embassies are based in Tel Aviv.

The illegal Israeli annexation of East Jerusalem violates several principles under international law, which outlines that an occupying power does not have sovereignty in the territory it occupies.

Palestinians in Jerusalem

Despite Israel's de-facto annexation of East Jerusalem, Palestinians who live there were not granted Israeli citizenship.

Today, some 420,000 Palestinians in East Jerusalem have "permanent residency" ID cards. They also carry temporary Jordanian passports without a national identification number. This means that they are not full Jordanian citizens - they need a work permit to work in Jordan and do not have access to governmental services and benefits, such as reduced education fees.
Palestinian Jerusalemites are essentially stateless, stuck in legal limbo - they are not citizens of Israel, nor are they citizens of Jordan, or Palestine.
Israel treats Palestinians in East Jerusalem as foreign immigrants who live there as a favour by the state, and not by right, despite having been born there. They are required to fulfill a certain set of requirements to maintain their residency status and live in constant fear of having their residency revoked.
Any Palestinian who has lived outside the boundaries of Jerusalem for a certain period of time, whether in a foreign country, or even in the West Bank, is at risk of losing their right to live there.
Those who cannot prove that the "centre of their life" is in Jerusalem and that they have lived there continuously, lose their right to live in their city of birth. They must submit dozens of documents including title deeds, rent contracts and salary slips. Obtaining citizenship from another country also leads to the revocation of their status.
All the while, any Jew around the world enjoys the right to live in Israel and to obtain Israeli citizenship under Israel's Law of Return.
Since 1967, Israel has revoked the status of 14,000 Palestinians, according to Israeli rights group B’Tselem.


Israel's settlement project in East Jerusalem, which is aimed at the consolidation of Israel's control over the city, is also considered illegal under international law.

The UN has affirmed in several resolutions that the settlement project is in direct contravention of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prohibits an occupying country from transferring its population into the areas it occupies.
Israel treats Palestinians in East Jerusalem as foreign immigrants who live there as a favour by the state, and not by right, despite having been born there. They are required to fulfill a certain set of requirements to maintain their residency status and live in constant fear of having their residency revoked.
Any Palestinian who has lived outside the boundaries of Jerusalem for a certain period of time, whether in a foreign country, or even in the West Bank, is at risk of losing their right to live there.
Those who cannot prove that the "centre of their life" is in Jerusalem and that they have lived there continuously, lose their right to live in their city of birth. They must submit dozens of documents including title deeds, rent contracts and salary slips. Obtaining citizenship from another country also leads to the revocation of their status.
All the while, any Jew around the world enjoys the right to live in Israel and to obtain Israeli citizenship under Israel's Law of Return.
Since 1967, Israel has revoked the status of 14,000 Palestinians, according to Israeli rights group B’Tselem.


Israel's settlement project in East Jerusalem, which is aimed at the consolidation of Israel's control over the city, is also considered illegal under international law.

The UN has affirmed in several resolutions that the settlement project is in direct contravention of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prohibits an occupying country from transferring its population into the areas it occupies.
Yet, since 1967, Israel has built more than a dozen housing complexes for Jewish Israelis, known as settlements, some in the midst of Palestinian neighbourhoods in East Jerusalem.

About 200,000 Israeli citizens live in East Jerusalem under army and police protection, with the largest single settlement complex housing 44,000 Israelis.
Such fortified settlements, often scattered between Palestinians' homes, infringe on the freedom of movement, privacy and security of Palestinians.
Though Israel claims Jerusalem as its undivided capital, the realities for those who live there cannot be more different.
While Palestinians live under apartheid-like conditions, Israelis enjoy a sense of normality, guaranteed for them by their state.

Source: Al Jazeera

US admits to killing at least 105 civilians in Mosul

In their continued struggle to handle the narrative surrounding one of the most calamitous US airstrikes in modern history, Central Command (Centcom) has now admitted that they killed at least 105 Iraqi civilians in an attack on Mosul’s residential neighborhood.
That’s the most they’ve been willing to admit to so far, despite reports repeatedly putting the toll in excess of 230. Even this admission is a major step forward, as while officials said they “probably” did the attack, they also totally omitted this death toll from their official statement on civilian deaths in March.
Even two months later, and even admitting to less than half the actual death toll, Centcom was still full of excuses, claiming they destroyed the buildings while targeting two “ISIS snipers” on the roof, and accusing ISIS of having filled the building with explosives so it was kind of their fault too.
They offered no evidence for either of these claims, and survivors of the destruction of the buildings have previously denied both claims, insisting the whole reason so many people were hiding in the buildings was because they were a bit away from ISIS and the fighting, hoping that would keep them from getting blown up by the US.
Even as half-hearted and full of excuses as it is, the offer of “condolences” from the US about all the people they killed that day in Mosul is, at the very least, a lot more than most of the in Iraq and Syria get when they are bombed by the Americans.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Azadi by Arundhati Roy

Last year Arundhati Roy's article on Kashmir problem appeared in the Outlook India. Here below it is reposted.
The people of Kashmir have made it clear once again, as they have done year upon year, decade upon decade, grave upon grave, that what they want is azadi. (The “people”, by the way, does not mean those who win elections conducted in the rifle sights of the army. It does not mean leaders who have to hide in their homes and not venture out in times like these.)
While we denounce—as we must—the gunning down of unarmed protesters by the security forces, the attacks on ambulances and hospitals by policemen, and the blinding of teenagers with pellet guns, we have to keep in mind that the real debate cannot only be about the violation of human rights by Indian security forces in the Kashmir valley. Egregious though they are, those violations are the consequence—the inevitable and unavoidable consequence—of the militaristic suppression of a people’s struggle for freedom. Kashmiris are not fighting for the establishment of the rule of law or an end to human rights violations. They are fighting for azadi. For this, they are prepared to face down bullets with stones. For this, they are prepared to die in numbers. For this, they are prepared to exhibit acts of open defiance that may lead to their death or incarceration in the most densely militarised zone in the world. For this, they are prepared to take to arms, to fight to the death, knowing full well that they will die young. They have proved that with tragic regularity. They have been nothing if not consistent.
It’s no use pretending that what the Indian government has on its hands is a fleeting law and order problem created from time to time by a fickle, volatile people. What is happening is a dangerous, spiralling crisis of unmanageable proportions in a region that is sandwiched between two hostile nuclear powers. For that reason alone it should concern the whole world.
If we really want address that crisis, if we really want to stop the endless cycle of killing and dying, if we really want to stem the haemorrhaging, the first step has to be a small concession to honesty. We have to have an honest conversation. However diverse the views may be, however opposed to one another—the subject of that conversation has to be azadi: What exactly does azadi mean to Kashmiris? Why can’t it be discussed? Since when have maps been sacrosanct? Should a people’s right to self-determination be denied at any cost? Are the people of India prepared to have the blood of thousands of ordinary people on their conscience? With what moral authority can we talk about all the other horrors being visited upon us, if we are prepared to swallow this one? Is the presumed “consensus” in India on the subject of Kashmir real or manufactured? Does it matter? In truth, it shouldn’t. What matters is what Kashmiris want, and how to arrive at that consensus in the most peaceful, democratic and informed way possible.
If there is to be a solution to this terrible, seemingly endless tragedy, we have to be able to think clearly, speak freely and listen fearlessly to things we may not want to hear. We have to find a new imagination. This applies to everybody, on all sides of the dispute.
Something beautiful could come of it. Why not? Why ever not?

Christian sect members attack Congo prison, free leader: government

KINSHASA (Reuters) - Supporters of a jailed Christian sect leader on Wednesday attacked the prison in the capital of Democratic Republic of Congo where he was being held, freeing him and about 50 other inmates, the government said.
A police officer and five attackers were killed in the raid on Kinshasa's Makala prison, said government spokesman Lambert Mende, who gave no further details.
Ne Muanda Nsemi, a self-styled Congolese prophet and leader of the Bundu dia Kongo movement, was arrested in March after a series of deadly clashes between his supporters and police.
The clashes have compounded tensions since President Joseph Kabila refused to step down when his mandate expired in December and added to fears of instability and civil conflict.
Residents heard gunfire near the prison at around 4 a.m. (0300 GMT) and saw prisoners wearing blue shirts with yellow collars in the streets.
One prisoner, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters more than 4,000 inmates had escaped, roughly half the population. But aside from Nsemi, the most prominent prisoners had not escaped.
These include opposition leaders, war criminals convicted by the International Criminal Court and soldiers convicted in the assassination of former president Laurent Kabila.
The prisoner said the attackers, armed with batons and three AK-47 rifles, easily overpowered the guards who he said had been drinking heavily.
A former prisoner, who said he had spoken to guards and escaped prisoners, also said more than half of the prisoners had escaped.
The United Nations warned its staff to avoid non-essential movement around Kinshasa, saying the situation was calm but unpredictable.
Soldiers stopped young men for questioning near Nsemi's house in the city's Ngaliema district and arrested some of them, a Reuters witness said.
The president of Bundu dia Kongo's political wing could not be reached for comment. A spokesman told the website that the group had no role in the attack and that he did not know Nsemi's whereabouts.
Nsemi has a strong following in southwestern Congo and wants to revive the Kongo kingdom, which flourished for centuries around the mouth of the Congo River.
At least six of Nsemi's supporters were killed earlier this year during the two-week standoff at his Kinshasa residence that led to his capture.

Was Manchester Blowback?

Was the terrorist act in Manchester a blowback? Ex-congressman Ron Paul thinks so. To view his argument, click here.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Saffron politics with education in Assam

BJP is on a roll and has won many of the Indian states' legislative assemblies including Assam, next to Bangladesh, showing its ugly fascist Hindutvadi face. The state has a significant population of minority Muslims many of whom sent their children to madrasas for education.
It is worth noting here that the Madrassa Education Board was established as long back as 1934 and has been regulated since. There are more than 700 schools under this board.
Assam's current deputy chief minister is Himanta Biswa Sarma, a die-hard Hindutvadi, of the BJP government wants to stop madrasas in Assam. He has no moral qualm to grant Rs 10 crore to the schools run by Vidya Bharati, a sister organization of RSS, the Hindutvadi fascist organization.
The minister’s fixation with government-run madrassas is an example of his recent fondness for promoting Hindutva than a real intent to reform education. A few months ago, Sarma announced that state-run Madrassa schools would be closed only on Sunday and not on Friday, a day which is considered holy in the Islamic calendar and which has been general practice in Assam. He went on to point out that it was only madrassas in Pakistan and Bangladesh that remained closed on Friday.
A few days ago, Sarma tweeted that separate directorate for Madrassa education would be abolished and its functions supervised by the Board of Secondary Education.
As noted by Uddipan Dutta it is too early to comment on the modalities of this proposed change. However, one needs to be watchful of the manner in which Sarma is surreptitiously pushing a saffron agenda. This certainly doesn’t augur well for Assam which is rightfully proud of its long cherished secular tradition in education.

Come clean on Middle East air strikes: HRW

Human Rights Watch has demanded the Defence department come clean on past air strikes in Iraq and Syria and the extent of civilian casualties.
The department has begun a new attempt at transparency making fortnightly reports available on its website.
The day before the federal budget in early May, it's first report carried a brief descriptions of seven strikes in Mosul, Iraq, between April 18-30, but did not specifically mention any civilian casualties.
The second report was due to be released on Monday.
Human Rights Watch spokeswoman Elaine Pearson said the reports were a good first step and urged the department to provide backdated reports from the past two and a half years.
She called on Defence Minister Marise Payne to detail any past investigations carried out into civilian casualties and the outcomes.
"We urge you to immediately release details on civilian casualties caused by Australian air strikes, and if you are not collecting such information, to start doing so without delay," she said in a letter to the minister.
Ms Pearson said reliance on video assessments taken from the air wouldn't give the full picture of casualties, especially in densely populated areas.
"The government should actively seek this information and not wait for it to be publicly reported before beginning an investigation," she said.
Documents released under freedom of information in March said the federal government did not collect "authoritative" data on the enemy or civilian casualties.
Ms Pearson said the government should also collaborate with Airwars, a non-government group monitoring air strikes and civilian deaths in the Middle East.
It estimates 3530 civilians have been killed in coalition air strikes.
The US-led coalition acknowledges an estimated 352 civilian deaths.
Airwars last year rated Australia one of the least transparent members of the international military coalition.
A spokesman for Senator Payne said Defence would disclose allegations of civilian casualties if they were made but ruled out issuing backdated reports.
The US is the only member of the coalition against Islamic State militants that has admitted to causing civilian casualties.


Monday, May 22, 2017

Commencement speech of Mahsheed Mahjor

This evening, while listening to the PBS Newhour, I was simply amazed to listen to the commencement speech of a young Afghan student studying in the USA. Her name is Mahsheed Mahjor, a graduate of the class of 2017 from Muhlenberg College, PA. She delivered her student address at commencement on hardships and inequities around the world, the role of citizenship and the value of her education.
Hers was a very powerful speech, which must be listened by many. I have not heard too many of her kind. It is really worth listening to this young girl who is already so wise at such a young age. Simply impressive!
You can hear her speech by clicking here.

Shame on India!

Major Nitin Gogoi, who tied a civilian to an army jeep as a human shield in Kashmir, has been awarded by the Indian Army for counter-insurgency operations.
Army Chief General Bipin Rawat has awarded Gogoi with a commendation card for 'sustained efforts' on counter-insurgency operations.
"Major Gogoi has been awarded Chief of Army Staff's Commendation Card for sustained efforts in counter-insurgency operations," Army spokesperson Aman Anand said.
This news is simply shameful! It bares the ugly side of Indian occupation of Kashmir. Shame on India and its army chief!
The army had come in for criticism one the video was out, with reports saying that the act constituted a war-crime.
Sources said Major Gogoi was given the award during Gen Rawat's visit to Jammu and Kashmir last week.
The Army Chief's 'Commendation Card' is considered a prestigious award and is given for distinguished services and devotion to duties.
A video, showing the man tied to the army vehicle during polling in the Srinagar Lok Sabha by-election on April 9, had triggered a public outcry, prompting the Army to institute a probe.
The CoI was tasked to look into the circumstance that prompted Major Gogoi to tie the Kashmiri youth to the jeep's bonnet as a "human shield".
The man, who was seen tied to an army jeep on polling day had been identified as Farooq Dar, while the army unit involved in the act was 53 Rashtriya Rifles.
Dar was later quoted as saying, “I am not a stone-pelter. Never in my life have I thrown stones. I work as an embroiderer of shawls, and I know some carpentry. This is what I do.”
In a separate news, I was equally perturbed to learn that a former Bollywood actor and now a BJP  Parliamentarian Paresh Rawal has tweeted that writer-author Arundhati Roy should be used as human-shield in the Kashmir valley instead of stone-pelters. Rawal's tweeting is simply inexcusable and sickening and shows where is India heading these days under Hindutvadi fascists.
Booker Prize winner Roy’s causes have all landed her in conflict with the Hindu Right that freely bandies the phrase ‘anti-national’.
In a tweet that instantly attracted a series of crticism as well as support, the Padmashree winning-actor made an open attack on Roy who has, on various ocassions, spoken against the human rights violation in Kashmir.

Why Tulsi Gabbard cannot be defended

Today while browsing the Internet, I was surprised to see an article in defense of Tulsi Gabbard, the hypocrite congresswoman from Hawaii.  It was probably posted by a staffer working for Tulsi. It was a shameful display of indefensible argument for Tulsi to support a controversial petition HR 608. I have reviewed Tulsi's hypocrisy in the past quite thoroughly and find her insincere and opportunist.
The interested reader may like to click here to read my points of view on Tulsi.

Hypocrisy and Condescension - by Robert Fisk

Robert Fisk writes for the Independent, where this column originally appeared. Here is the link to his latest article on Trump's visit of the Middle East.

Not remembering USS Liberty attack

It is safe to assume that when President Donald Trump lands in Israel Monday, he will not have been briefed on the irrefutable evidence that, nearly 50 years ago – on June 8, 1967 – Israel deliberately attacked the USS Liberty in international waters, killing 34 U.S. sailors and wounding more than 170 other crew. All of Trump’s predecessors – Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama – have refused to address the ugly reality and/or covered up the attack on the Liberty.
It is not too late for someone to fill Trump in on this shameful episode, on the chance he may wish to show more courage than former presidents and warn the Israelis that this kind of thing will not be tolerated while he is president.
A new book by Philip Nelson titled: Remember the Liberty: Almost Sunk by Treason on the High Seas, is a must-read for anyone wishing to understand what actually happened to the Liberty and to contemplate the implications.
To read more on this subject, click here.

The 'Muslim World' Does Not Exist

Dr. Zareena Grewal is an Associate Professor American Studies and Religious Studies at Yale University. She is a historical anthropologist and a documentary filmmaker whose research focuses on race, gender, religion, nationalism, and transnationalism across a wide spectrum of American Muslim communities. Her first book, Islam is a Foreign Country: American Muslims and the Global Crisis of Authority (NYU 2013), is an ethnography of transnational Muslim networks that link US mosques to Islamic movements in the post-colonial Middle East through debates about the reform of Islam.
Her latest article on President Trump's visit to Saudi Arabia appeared in the Atlantic and can be read below.
“I chose to make my first foreign visit a trip to the heart of the Muslim world,” President Trump said in Riyadh on Sunday, in a speech billed as a call to Muslims to promote a peaceful understanding of Islam and to unite against terrorists.
Riyadh is the capital of Saudi Arabia, but it is not the capital of the Muslim world. In fact, it’s worth remembering that “the Muslim world” is not actually a place. It’s a Western idea built on the faulty racial logic that Muslims live in a world of their own—that Islam is an eastern, foreign religion that properly belongs in a distant, faraway, dusty place. (This is arguably the logic that underlies Trump’s Muslim travel ban, currently held up in the courts: Islam is foreign, “Islam hates us,” Islam cannot possibly be a real American religion and that is why we can ban its adherents. Stephen Miller, an architect of the travel ban, was also reportedly among the writers of Trump’s Islam speech.)
If the Muslim world were the modern equivalent of the premodern concept of “Islamdom” (lands ruled by Muslims), it would refer only to Muslim-majority countries; countries where Muslims are national minorities, such as China and India, would be left out. If the Muslim world is a euphemism for the Middle East (sometimes Afghanistan and Pakistan are mistakenly lumped in, too), what to make of the fact that 80 percent of the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims live outside the Middle East, including American Muslims like me?
Trump will also visit Jerusalem and the Vatican on his Abrahamic religions world tour, but we certainly do not imagine him addressing all Jews or all Christians from those cities. We understand Israel to be a modern, Zionist nation-state, not the representative of all Jews worldwide. Similarly, we understand the Vatican as the institutional center of a global Catholic network, not the heart of Christendom.
The same should apply to the theocratic Kingdom of Saudi Arabia; the Kingdom does not and cannot speak for all Muslims around the world just because sites Muslims consider sacred are contained within its borders. In fact, when Muslim pilgrims arrive in Mecca, they are often dismayed to find that the Saudi government has allowed hotels, fast-food chains, and malls to encroach right up to the very edges of Muslims’ holiest sites. It’s hard to imagine the U.S. government allowing a Starbucks to be built next to the Grand Canyon; the Saudi government’s urban planning aesthetic, driven by profit, is not sensitive to the sensibilities of most Muslims. And the Saudi government’s bombing campaigns in Yemen, and blocking of humanitarian aid, have sparked moral condemnation among ordinary Muslims and human rights activists worldwide.
Muslims around the world are expressing a wide variety of reactions to Trump’s address, just as they expressed a wide variety of reactions to President Obama’s address in Cairo in 2009. Obama’s “Muslim World Address” was framed as a renewed bid for the Muslim hearts and minds that had been the “other” front in President Bush’s War on Terror, in order to signal that Americans were not “at war with Islam.” Every word of Obama’s speech had been carefully weighed by both the president himself and by his Muslim American speechwriter, Rashad Hussain, and every word was thoroughly scrutinized afterwards. Was Obama’s tone too conciliatory or too critical of Muslim societies? Was it a mark of integrity or of weakness for him to admit American complicity in upholding the Iranian shah’s brutal regime? And what about Obama’s decision to cite American Muslims like Muhammad Ali as proof of American exceptionalism and as evidence of the success and tolerance enjoyed by Muslim minorities in the U.S.?
Nevertheless, Obama’s speech did inspire hope that the U.S. would begin to properly promote democracy, freedom, and stability in the postcolonial world. On the eve of Ramadan, date sellers in Cairo named the most expensive, juiciest holiday fruit after Obama and the cheaper, dried up ones after Bush, reflecting the political mood.
Trump, too, has given a pre-Ramadan speech that is sure to be widely dissected—but his actions speak louder than his words. He is not only countenancing Saudi Arabia’s strikes against civilians in Yemen, which the United Nations reported could constitute crimes against humanity, but appears to be actually rewarding the Saudis: He just inked a weapons sale to them worth $110 billion. Obama had also sold billions in weapons to the Saudis, but he did freeze weapons sales after a strike on a funeral home reflected a pattern of attacks on civilians. Trump’s deal is a sinister reversal of Obama’s policy and belies anything he said in his Islam speech about peace or refugees. The war in Yemen, after all, could produce the world’s next refugee crisis.
Trump’s visit also marked the launch of a joint Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology. He called the fight against terrorism a “battle between barbaric criminals who seek to obliterate human life, and decent people of all religions who seek to protect it.” It was clear from his praise of autocratic Muslim leaders what the criteria are in Trump’s view to be a “decent” or “good” or “moderate” Muslim. The “moderate” Muslim is the Muslim who will endorse a version of his or her own religion that has already been endorsed by the U.S. government. The “moderate” Muslim is the Muslim who will uncritically toe the line when it comes to U.S. policy. The “moderate” Muslim is the Muslim who will suppress dissent; no protests of Trump’s visit were permitted in Saudi Arabia.
This is why I disavow the politically loaded label of “moderate Muslim.” In fact, I always introduce myself as a “radical Muslim” in order to recuperate the term.
As I’ve written before, we have come to understand the term “radical Muslim” as a slur, a synonym for “terrorist.” And yet, around the world, Muslims who are committed to social justice, anti-racism, feminism, anti-imperialism, and, yes, peace, describe themselves as radicals. There is an alternative, thriving, radical strain of Islamic thought based on peaceful dissent, represented through figures like Muhammad Ali. Ali, who Obama propped up as a moral exemplar to the Muslim world, opposed both the policies of the U.S. government and militant Muslims—be they the perpetrators of the Iranian hostage crisis or the San Bernardino shooters—whom he felt misrepresented the authentic teachings of Islam with their violence. In Saudi Arabia, the radical Muslims who give me hope are the young Muslim feminists, and committed Muslims, who are agitating for political reform and peace.
Although many Western analysts are focusing on Trump’s softened language on Islam, I do not find anything heartening or politically meaningful about the fact that Trump traded the vitriolic anti-Muslim rhetoric that helped get him elected for a more conciliatory tone aimed at pleasing his Saudi hosts. This is crude political expediency, ripped straight from his playbook, the art of the (weapons and oil) deal.
Trump’s dangerous fantasy world is one where violence flows out of America’s borders to a faraway “Muslim world” in the form of weapons sales and military operations, while jobs and dollars and oil flow back to the United States. Violence flowing toward America can be blocked at the borders simply by banning Muslim bodies. The Muslim world is tolerated, so long as it serves American interests from afar.