Saturday, January 5

Journalistic Awards for 2007

I found this absolutely fascinating. Two awarding bodies, and both provided brilliant counterpoints to each other. First is something called as Honest Reporting. Here are its nominees.

  • Worst News Director: Larry Register, formerly of Al-Hurra TV
  • Worst Use of Taxpayer Money (UK): BBC
  • Most Ridiculous Campus Article: Linda Quiquivix, The Daily Tar Heel
  • Most Curious Caption: Associated Press
  • Stupidest Unstifled Debate: The Doha Debates
  • Worst Advertising Account: International Herald-Tribune
  • Special Achievement in Verbal Gymnastics: Jeremy Bowen
  • Most Blatant Photo-Opportunism: Ismail Haniyeh
  • Dumbest Reaction to Alan Johnston’s Kidnapping: National Union of Journalists
  • Worst Film Editor: Charles Enderlin
  • Worst Moral Equivalence: Ed O'Loughlin
  • Worst Pundit: Abd Al-Bari Atwan
  • Best New Members of the Pro-Israel Cabal: Walt and Mearsheimer
  • Worst Cartoon: Jonathan Shapiro a.k.a. Zapiro
  • The Blog Post We Should've Taken Seriously: Fadi Abu Sada
  • Dishonest Reporter of the Year Christiane Amanpour

Second comes from Common Dreams. The nominees are:

  • SPINNING FOR ANOTHER WAR AWARD — Michael Gordon of The New York Times
  • “SOMETHING ABOUT A RETRO MACHO MAN” AWARD — Chris Matthews, host of MSNBC’s “Hardball”
  • “3-H CLUB” PRIZE — Too Many to Name
  • RISKY DEMOCRATS AWARD — L.A. Times, Washington Post
  • THE LOU DOBBS US-vs.-THEM AWARD — Bill O’Reilly of Fox News

Quite an interesting way to look at journalism, no? to find out who they poke and prod. Looking at these two lists, looks like they are doing well all over the place. But I loved the BBC editing piece on Verbal Gymnastics specially, lol.

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Egyptian Door Handles in rural India!

Mrignayni is the Madhya Pradesh's state tribal artifact development corporation. In other words, it sells tribal artifacts to the world, very badly. But more about that later.

We were at a small eatery called as Highway Dodi, on the Indore Bhopal Road. Lovely place, loved it, nice and clean, good service!


Nice trees, shady place.

You can see my son grinning away!

In a tiny Mrignayni shop in this eatery, I saw these door handles.

The picture is not showing them clearly but the door handles are clearly ancient Egyptian in nature. That kind of dress, hand ornaments, hair style, structure is totally foreign to MP tribal arts. I suppose globalisation has to strike everywhere! How on earth did they get to that tiny shop, I have no idea.

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Bhutto And The Jews: A Love Story

I suppose this was inevitable, sighs. Pond Life?

How to behead!

Do you remember my previous post on the Lyrical Terrorist? Well, here's the full poem which I got from here, also check out the comments. I am currently researching this rather bizarre and strange habit of beheading so watch out for an up and coming full length essay. In the meantime, think about this silly girl who got imprisoned.

How to Behead
Hold him
Tie the arms behind his back
And bandage his legs together
Just by the ankles
Blindfold the punk
So that he won't hesitate as much
For on seeing the sharp pointy knife
He'll begin to shake
And continuously scream like an eedyat
And jiggle like a jelly
Trust me–this will sure get you angry
It’s better to have at least two or three brothers by your side
Who can hold the fool
Because as soon as the warm sharp knife
Touches his naked flesh
He'll come to know what'll happen
It's not as messy or as hard as some may think,
It's all about the flow of the wrist.
No doubt that the punk will twitch and scream
But ignore the donkey's ass
And continue to slice back and forth
You'll feel the knife hit the wind and food pipe
But don't stop
Continue with all your might.
About now you should feel the knife vibrate,
You can feel the warm heat being given off,
But this is due to the friction being caused.

In case you do not understand what the entire fuss is all about, here are 3 short movies which I took in Bhopal of 2 chickens getting their throat slit, plucked and dressed. Pretty far cry from the nicely packaged chicken breasts that we get, no? I do not think this lyrical terrorist will think about treating chickens forget about men after watching how it is done.

WARNING!!, NOT FOR SENSITIVE SOULS!!!! you have been warned.



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Car Bombs are not terrorism!

Now I have heard everything, car bombs are not terrorism according to German Legal Eagles!

Either the reporting or the judgement itself is flawed because all this judgement now does is to hold the rather interesting German legal and constitutional model (based partially on the US legal and constitutional model) open for discussion. What is the state? the central government? the lander? all? difficult questions, all.

Award Winning Advertising!

Quite a good one, although one wonders how much respect do Indian Politicians and citizens actually pay to the nation, leave alone the national anthem. Still, good work here on popularising a national secular symbol which should paper over the religious symbols which are racking the country all over.

Mind you, few people actually know the history behind the National Anthem, it is quite controversial in many circles.



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Saudi Arabia to Include "Human Rights" in National Curriculum

I suppose this is a good idea, but one wonders which Human Rights will be taught? This one? or This one? Or This one? Quite a difficult challenge but I suppose this is sufficient for Saudi Arabia. Sighs, a long way to go indeed!

Saudi Arabia to Include "Human Rights" in National Curriculum

By Turki Al-Saheil

Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat- Saudi Arabia took its first step today towards including "human rights" curriculum within its education curricula after The National Society for Human Rights (NSHR) invited representatives from 16 high educational institutions to discuss the subject in a workshop.

The one-day workshop will emphasize on four proposals on how to incorporate the teaching of human rights at schools and colleges.

Dr. Bandar Al-Hajjar, president of the society told Asharq Al-Awsat, “We have underlined the importance of education in promoting human rights ever since the society’s formation.”

During the past years, the organization was busy preparing its infrastructure, such as a specialized library in Riyadh and a comprehensive data center.

"This infrastructure is essential to create a beneficial atmosphere for teaching human rights,” Al-Hajjar added.

The participants in today’s workshop include representatives from 14 universities, Naif Arab University for Security Sciences and King Khaled Military Academy.

Teaching human rights at educational institutions in the Kingdom is one the society’s strategies. The society has proposed to introduce the subject either to all university students irrespective of their specializations or to students of law, medicine and mass communication.

Burqa in Germany!

An interesting post here, you can see the rather interesting visual reactions when you find a person with a full niquaab roaming the streets of a small German coastal town. Mind you, I was curious to know why they used an Urdu song as a backdrop rather than Hazara, Pasto or other Afghan languages.

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See a horse about a bitten man!

Poor horse!

Patna : A horse that had bitten over two dozen people in a Bihar town was beaten to death, police said Saturday.

The horse strayed into a residential-cum-market area in Purnea, about 300 km from here, Thursday night and bit 27 people, creating panic in the area.

Those seriously injured had to be taken to hospital.

"Several people were injured in the attack. Some broke their hands and legs," said Mansoor Alam, a Purnea resident.

After failing to rein in the horse, people chased it Friday morning and beat it with bamboo sticks and iron rods.

"The horse jumped into a drain where it later succumbed to its injuries," the police said.

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Missionaries again in the spotlight!

Check out what the missionaries are again up to. Personally speaking, I do not like missionary activity which specially targets silly things like harvesting of souls or conversions. It creates far too many problems and while freedom of religion is supreme, freedom to convert is not. We HAVE to give a bit of a nod to group rights, not much, but a bit. So here you go. The Afghans are moaning about Christian Missionaries in Afghanistan. Similar troubles have been reported in Orissa in India as well as in Kenya. One has to be careful about this, in these religiously charged times, proselytisation can become a flashpoint.

Illiteracy and action in Arab Lands

As a rule, transparency and clarity is good when you want to address a problem. The issue of employment, education, empowerment in the Arab Lands is well known and is being addressed. While the The number of illiterates in the Arab world rose to 70 million last year from 50 million in 1970, it is actually a good sign because the rate of growth of illiterates is less than the growth in general population. This was reported by the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation. Personally speaking, I find this organisation as silly as the rest of them (check out the news releases, how on earth are the travels of the Director General conducive to scientific development? and the conferences it holds are breathtaking in stupid and silly topics), but there you go.

Mind you, I feel sad that a great opportunity was lost and this was done. Can you imagine what would have happened if along with these 25 million Quran's, a basic primer on literacy or schooling would have been distributed as well? Ah! well!.

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THE SUICIDE OF REASON Radical Islam’s Threat to the Enlightenment.

Now right after I had posted an article on how a Great Muslim Mughal Emperor had synthesized a new religion, this new book review comes forth. The lady reviewer AYAAN HIRSI ALI is very controversial and I have referred to her and her background tangentially before. Still, the book goes into my to be read pile and will report back later.

Mind you, given the sheer illiteracy of most of the west and its intelligentsia to the Indian and Sufi brands of Islam, the huge gaping holes are obvious. Also ignored are the work of the Muslim reformers, but all that has to wait.




Radical Islam’s Threat to the Enlightenment.

By Lee Harris.

290 pp. Basic Books. $26.

Several authors have published books on radical Islam’s threat to the West since that shocking morning in September six years ago. With “The Suicide of Reason,” Lee Harris joins their ranks. But he distinguishes himself by going further than most of his counterparts: he considers the very worst possibility — the destruction of the West by radical Islam. There is a sense of urgency in his writing, a desire to shake awake the leaders of the West, to confront them with their failure to understand that they are engaged in a war with an adversary who fights by the law of the jungle.

Harris, the author of “Civilization and Its Enemies: The Next Stage of History,” devotes most of his book to identifying and distinguishing between two kinds of fanaticism. The first is Islamic fanaticism, a formidable enemy in the struggle for cultural survival. In Harris’s view, this fanaticism has acted as a “defense mechanism,” shielding Islam from the pressures of the changing world around it and allowing it to expand into territories and cultures where it had previously been unknown.

With few exceptions, Harris sees Islamic expansion as permanent. Although this point is arguable, he bravely attempts to make the case that the entry of Islam into another culture produces changes on every level, from political to personal: “Wherever Islam has spread, there has occurred a total and revolutionary transformation in the culture of those conquered or converted.”

In describing the imperialist nature of Islam, Harris suggests that it is distinct from the Roman, British and French empires. He views Islamic imperialism as a single-minded expansion of the religion itself; the empire that it envisions is governed by Allah. In this sense, the idea of jihad is less about the inner struggle for peace and justice and more about a grand mission of conversion. It should be said, however, that Harris’s argument is incomplete, since he does not address the spread of Christianity in the Roman, British and French empires.

The expansion of Islam is perhaps more potent than the expansion of the Christian empires (including Rome after Constantine) because the concept of separating the sacred from the profane has never been acceptable in Islam the way it has been in Christianity. The Romans, the British and the French went about annexing large parts of the world more for earthly or material gain than for spiritual dominance. Under these empires, the clergy was allowed to propagate its faith as long as it did not jeopardize imperial interests.

Harris goes on to argue that the Muslim world, since it is governed by the law of the jungle, makes group survival paramount. This explains in part the willingness of Muslims to become martyrs for the larger community, the umma — uniting peoples separated by geographical boundaries, with different cultures, heritages and languages. According to Harris, this sense of solidarity is sustainable only with the weapon of fanaticism, which obligates each member of the umma to convert infidels and to threaten those who attempt to leave with death. That is, the aim of Muslim culture, so different from that of the West, is both to preserve and to convert, and this is what enables it to spread across the globe.

The second fanaticism that Harris identifies is one he views as infecting Western societies; he calls it a “fanaticism of reason.” Reason, he says, contains within itself a potential fatality because it blinds Western leaders to the true nature of Islamic-influenced cultures. Westerners see these cultures merely as different versions of the world they know, with dominant values similar to those espoused in their own culture. But this, Harris argues, is a fatal mistake. It implies that the West fails to appreciate both its history and the true nature of its opposition.

Nor, he points out, is the failure linked to a particular political outlook. Liberals and conservatives alike share this misperception. Noam Chomsky and Paul Wolfowitz agreed, Harris writes, “that you couldn’t really blame the terrorists, since they were merely the victims of an evil system — for Chomsky, American imperialism, for Wolfowitz, the corrupt and despotic regimes of the Middle East.” That is to say, while left and right may disagree on the causes and the remedies, they both overlook the fanaticism inherent in Islam itself. Driven by their blind faith in reason, they interpret the problem in a way that is familiar to them, in order to find a solution that fits within their doctrine of reason. The same is true for such prominent intellectuals as Samuel Huntington and Francis Fukuyama.

Harris does not regard Islamic fanaticism as a deviancy or a madness that affects a few Muslims and terrifies many. Instead he argues that fanaticism is the basic principle in Islam. “The Muslims are, from an early age, indoctrinated into a shaming code that demands a fanatical rejection of anything that threatens to subvert the supremacy of Islam,” he writes. During the years that this shaming code is instilled into children, the collective is emphasized above the individual and his freedoms. A good Muslim must forsake all: his property, family, children, even life for the sake of Islam. Boys in particular are taught to be dominating and merciless, which has the effect of creating a society of holy warriors.

By contrast, the West has cultivated an ethos of individualism, reason and tolerance, and an elaborate system in which every actor, from the individual to the nation-state, seeks to resolve conflict through words. The entire system is built on the idea of self-interest. This ethos rejects fanaticism. The alpha male is pacified and groomed to study hard, find a good job and plan prudently for retirement: “While we in America are drugging our alpha boys with Ritalin,” Harris writes, “the Muslims are doing everything in their power to encourage their alpha boys to be tough, aggressive and ruthless.”

The West has variously tried to convert, to assimilate and to seduce Muslims into modernity, but, Harris says, none of these approaches have succeeded. Meanwhile, our worship of reason is making us easy prey for a ruthless, unscrupulous and extremely aggressive predator and may be contributing to a slow cultural “suicide.”

Harris’s book is so engaging that it is difficult to put down, and its haunting assessments make it difficult for a reader to sleep at night. He deserves praise for raising serious questions. But his arguments are not entirely sound.

I disagree, for instance, that the way to rescue Western civilization from a path of suicide is to challenge its tradition of reason. Indeed, for all his understanding of the rise of fanaticism in general and its Islamic manifestation in particular, Harris’s use of the term “reason” is faulty.

Enlightenment thinkers, preoccupied with both individual freedom and secular and limited government, argued that human reason is fallible. They understood that reason is more than just rational thought; it is also a process of trial and error, the ability to learn from past mistakes. The Enlightenment cannot be fully appreciated without a strong awareness of just how frail human reason is. That is why concepts like doubt and reflection are central to any form of decision-making based on reason.

Harris is pessimistic in a way that the Enlightenment thinkers were not. He takes a Darwinian view of the struggle between clashing cultures, criticizing the West for an ethos of selfishness, and he follows Hegel in asserting that where the interest of the individual collides with that of the state, it is the state that should prevail. This is why he attributes such strength to Islamic fanaticism. The collectivity of the umma elevates the communal interest above that of the individual believer. Each Muslim is a slave, first of God, then of the caliphate. Although Harris does not condone this extreme subversion of the self, still a note of admiration seems to creep into his descriptions of Islam’s fierce solidarity, its adherence to tradition and the willingness of individual Muslims to sacrifice themselves for the sake of the greater good.

In addition, Harris extols American exceptionalism together with Hegel as if there were no contradiction between the two. But what makes America unique, especially in contrast to Europe, is its resistance to the philosophy of Hegel with its concept of a unifying world spirit. It is the individual that matters most in the United States. And more generally, it is individuals who make cultures and who break them. Social and cultural evolution has always relied on individuals — to reform, persuade, cajole or force. Culture is formed by the collective agreement of individuals. At the same time, it is crucial that we not fall into the trap of assuming that the survival tactics of individuals living in tribal societies — like lying, hypocrisy, secrecy, violence, intimidation, and so forth — are in the interest of the modern individual or his culture.

I was not born in the West. I was raised with the code of Islam, and from birth I was indoctrinated into a tribal mind-set. Yet I have changed, I have adopted the values of the Enlightenment, and as a result I have to live with the rejection of my native clan as well as the Islamic tribe. Why have I done so? Because in a tribal society, life is cruel and terrible. And I am not alone. Muslims have been migrating to the West in droves for decades now. They are in search of a better life. Yet their tribal and cultural constraints have traveled with them. And the multiculturalism and moral relativism that reign in the West have accommodated this.

Harris is correct, I believe, that many Western leaders are terribly confused about the Islamic world. They are woefully uninformed and often unwilling to confront the tribal nature of Islam. The problem, however, is not too much reason but too little. Harris also fails to address the enemies of reason within the West: religion and the Romantic movement. It is out of rejection of religion that the Enlightenment emerged; Romanticism was a revolt against reason.

Both the Romantic movement and organized religion have contributed a great deal to the arts and to the spirituality of the Western mind, but they share a hostility to modernity. Moral and cultural relativism (and their popular manifestation, multiculturalism) are the hallmarks of the Romantics. To argue that reason is the mother of the current mess the West is in is to miss the major impact this movement has had, first in the West and perhaps even more profoundly outside the West, particularly in Muslim lands.

Thus, it is not reason that accommodates and encourages the persistent segregation and tribalism of immigrant Muslim populations in the West. It is Romanticism. Multiculturalism and moral relativism promote an idealization of tribal life and have shown themselves to be impervious to empirical criticism. My reasons for reproaching today’s Western leaders are different from Harris’s. I see them squandering a great and vital opportunity to compete with the agents of radical Islam for the minds of Muslims, especially those within their borders. But to do so, they must allow reason to prevail over sentiment.

To argue, as Harris seems to do, that children born and bred in superstitious cultures that value fanaticism and create phalanxes of alpha males are doomed — and will doom others — to an existence governed by the law of the jungle is to ignore the lessons of the West’s own past. There have been periods when the West was less than noble, when it engaged in crusades, inquisitions, witch-burnings and genocides. Many of the Westerners who were born into the law of the jungle, with its alpha males and submissive females, have since become acquainted with the culture of reason and have adopted it. They are even — and this should surely relieve Harris of some of his pessimism — willing to die for it, perhaps with the same fanaticism as the jihadists willing to die for their tribe. In short, while this conflict is undeniably a deadly struggle between cultures, it is individuals who will determine the outcome.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, is the author of “Infidel.”

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If you partition a country, what do you do with the ancient history artifacts?

A fascinating story about what happened to the ancient artifacts in India after Partition. They were not important at that time but 60 years down the line, they are important in forming our identity and culture. So when Iraq, Bosnia, Serbia etc. are being divided or being unified such as Ireland, these questions will need to be wondered and agreed upon.

Joining a civilisation
Nayanjot Lahiri

January 04, 2008
New Delhi’s National Museum houses an outstanding Harappan gallery, one that unfailingly attracts visitors. Not many, though, stop to wonder about the objects from Mohenjodaro and Harappa displayed there. If India — as we have been told — had lost her Indus heritage because most Indus sites in 1947 fell within the national boundaries of Pakistan, how has she retained such a superb collection of Indus artefacts from those ‘lost’ cities?

An answer to this can be excavated out of the treasure trove of files in the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). This is because the ASI was centrally involved in tortuous negotiations through which undivided India’s past was partitioned.

Why, though, were these negotiations so twisted and prolonged? The Partition Council itself, in October 1947, had resolved that museums would be divided on a territorial basis. This Council had been set up to deal with the administrative consequences of Partition, and decided on a wide range of issues, from revenue and domicile to records and museums. In addition to its decision concerning a territorial division of museums, the council also stipulated that when the territory of a province was partitioned, the museum exhibits of the provincial museums would also be physically divided. On this basis, the exhibits in the Lahore Museum which belonged to the united Province of Punjab before Partition, were to be split between East Punjab and West Punjab. This was straightforward enough.

More complicated though was the fate of objects that had been sent on temporary loan to places which, on August 15, 1947, happened to be on the wrong side of the border, far away from the original museums to which they belonged. On that date, we know that there were objects from Harappa, Taxila and Mohenjodaro in India, and in London as well. 
These were on loan to the Royal Academy of Arts. In its wisdom, therefore, the Partition Council ruled that all objects that had been removed for temporary display after January 1, 1947, were to be returned to the original museums.

For Pakistan, this did not pose any problems in relation to most museums, since nothing had been removed from their precincts after January 1. At Harappa, some antiquities had been taken out of its site museum in July and September 1946, and these they were willing to treat as belonging to India. The real problem, though, revolved around the antiquities of Mohenjodaro.

This is because, on the day of Partition, as many as 12,000 objects from Mohenjodaro were in Delhi. Since Mohenjodaro fell within the territory of Pakistan, the objects should have fallen in their share. 
However, India’s negotiators maintained that these rightfully belonged to India because they had not been removed for after January 1, 1947 from the original museum (which was at Mohenjodaro) but came from Lahore. Similarly, they had not been removed for the purposes of temporary display but because, as early as 1944, the Director General of Archaeology, Mortimer Wheeler, had wanted to concentrate all the best Indus objects in a Central National Museum. It was in the absence of such a museum that it had been decided that Lahore Museum would act as a substitute, pending the establishment of a Central National Museum. Wheeler had continued to reiterate that “all objects from Mohenjodaro now on exhibition at Lahore are deposited by the Central Government on loan, and the Punjab Government has no lien upon them.”

It was this — the question of intention about the future disposal of the objects in a Central National Museum — that was central to the contentious dispute around how the antiquities were to be divided. 
Several formulae were suggested and rejected, pressure tactics were used by both parties. In order to make things difficult, the West Punjab government postponed the actual handing over of East Punjab’s share of the Lahore Museum holdings till such time that India had handed over to Pakistan their share from the central museums. And a final decision on the central museums remained pending till the Mohenjodaro matter was sorted out.

That India considered Indus objects to be an integral part of its own heritage was equally an issue. N.P. Chakravarti, who succeeded Wheeler as Director General in 1948, said it in so many words when he declared that “The Indus Valley Civilisation as such does not merely represent the civilisation of Pakistan but has a direct bearing on the civilisation of the whole of India and Pakistan and certainly the 300 million in India have quite a large interest in that civilisation, particularly as India has no longer any jurisdiction over these sites.” As it turned out, Chakravarti was prescient — over the past five decades hundreds of Indus civilisation sites have been discovered and several excavated across the states of Gujarat, Rajasthan, Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh. When Chakravarti wrote though, such sites could be counted on the fingers of one hand. 
Gujarat has more than a hundred Harappan sites today;   around 1947, 
Rangpur was perhaps the only site which had been reported and studied.

In any case, eventually, after many rounds of negotiations and a massive exchange of correspondence, the Indian representatives on the Museum Committee in 1949 agreed to a division down the middle. As they put it, in order to “provide a firm foundation for future good- will and collaboration”, they were willing to oversee the division of antiquities from Mohenjodaro, and two other Indus civilisation sites (Jhukar and Chanhudaro), between India and Pakistan on a 50:50 basis. 

This physical division, as it came to be implemented, covered all kinds of Indus objects ranging from seals and statuary to ordinary artefacts of stone, clay and metal. Even potsherds were equally apportioned, although Pakistan waived all claims to any share in the skeletal material from Mohenjodaro and Harappa. Pakistan was also expected to give India as comprehensive a duplicate collection as possible from Taxila.

Tragic, however, was the fate of four articles whose form was fragmented because this formula was foisted unthinkingly on everything that could be divided in this way. These were two gold necklaces from Taxila, a carnelian and copper girdle of Mohenjodaro, and a magnificent Mohenjodaro necklace made up of jade beads, gold discs and semi-precious stones. They were broken up and divided down the middle. So, for example, India and Pakistan agreed to break up the Mohenjodaro girdle, each receiving one terminal, 42 elongated carnelian beads, 72 small globular beads and 6 spacers. Oddly enough, nowhere in the correspondence is there a sense that the character of these objects was being destroyed forever. There is only anxiety about carefully adhering to the arithmetic of division.

Some 60 years after those turbulent years, is it possible for our nations to be self-reflexive? Can these beads and terminals be brought together again? Can we create a unified Indus exposition and exhibition which will travel to and give the younger generation of both nations a fuller sense of its shared heritage? While this cannot change the principles on which our pasts were partitioned, it will certainly restore — if only temporarily — some integrity  to those sundered objects and collections.

Nayanjot Lahiri teaches archaeology at the University of Delhi

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Counter Terrorism - a purely political or military or both solution?

An interesting book review here. The review is curious as it is obvious that the reviewer has not been exposed to actual counter terrorism efforts. For example, he talks about the fact that because USA is such as vast country, it is impossible to stop terrorism. Well, d'oh, of course it is. But that kind of blanket security checks stops the vast majority of terrorist events. It is like saying, you cannot stop dying because the number of diseases is so many that you cannot stop them all. So no point in medicine at all and lets just stick to prayer or perhaps sing kumbaya.

Fighting terror needs both military and political solutions. For those who are looking to get their rewards in heaven, well, you can do nothing but to help them get it without getting it from us here on earth. But you have to make it very difficult and expensive for the terrorists to force them to the political negotiating table.

Then there is the communist school of fighting terrorism which I am sure he would know about. Whether we are taking about Ukrainians in old USSR, Chechnya in Russia, the Uighurs or Tibetans in China or the peasants in Communist ruled West Bengal, the idea is simple, kill them all. If you cant kill them all, then kick them all out. If you cant kick them all out, then migrate your own people into the affected region to change the demographic character (such as the Lop Nor region or the Tibet region). And if that does not work either, over-react massively with state forces on the local citizenry.

Thank god liberal democracies tend not to follow the communist school. I have now got the book on my reading list and will review the book in due time!

The GCC - Common Market takes place

A quiet step took place on 1st Jan, 2008 when the Gulf Cooperation Council formed a common market. This promises to be great news for many reasons. You see, more international and supernational bodies are formed, the more individual country idiosyncratic behaviours are exposed and removed. For example, take the mentioned issue of free movement of labour of GCC citizens. Now let me ask you a question. Can a Christian Citizen Doctor of say UAE practice in Saudi Arabia? At this moment, nope, not officially at least, but it would be difficult to stop in the next few years and decades. Think about the financial regulation system or labour disputes, which Islamic school of jurisprudence would be used? or would you use say the London Centre of Arbitration? Or what? This kind of economic structure can also help absorb (if the assorted royals take their finger out) the armies of under and unemployed native youth. But very good news and bears watching.


JEDDAH, 1 January 2008 — The six-member Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) with a combined economy of $715 billion makes history today with the launch of a common market, which is expected to draw more foreign investment to the region.
GCC Secretary-General Abdul Rahman Al-Attiyah described the launch of the Gulf Common Market on Jan. 1 as “historic”, adding that it would ensure “economic equality” among GCC citizens.
The GCC, which was formed in 1981, groups Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates.
The decision to launch the common market was taken by the group’s leaders at their last summit, which was held in Doha on Dec. 3 and 4. They also announced plans to achieve a currency union by 2010.
“The Gulf Common Market aims to create one market... raising production efficiency and optimum usage of available resources and improving the GCC’s negotiating position in international economic forums,” said a final communiqué issued at the end of the two-day summit.
The market offers equal opportunities for all GCC citizens including the right to work in all government and private institutions in member states, buy and sell real estate and make other investments, move freely between the countries, and receive education and health benefits, the communiqué said.
GCC economic chief Mohammad Al-Mazroui said the common market would increase investments and trade between member countries. “It will also strengthen the position of member states in free-trade talks,” mainly with the European Union, Agence France Presse quoted Mazroui as saying.
Some 35.1 million people live in the GCC, although citizens of the member states represent around only 60 percent of the total population, the remainder being guest workers.
In addition to allowing the free flow of capital, the common market gives GCC nationals freedom of movement, residency and employment — in both private and public sectors — in all six countries, Attiyah said.
“The common market... will allow the citizens of GCC member states to benefit from opportunities offered by the Gulf economy and will open important areas to GCC and foreign investments,” he said in a statement.
The GCC states also represent more than half of the oil reserves of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (484 billion barrels).
Trade between GCC member states currently account for just around 10 percent of overall foreign trade. But this should increase to 25 percent in the next two years, said Issam Fakhrou, president of Bahrain’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
According to statistics on the organization’s website, GCC foreign trade was $282.8 billion in 2005, a figure which predates the sharp surge in oil prices which boosted revenues for the six countries. “The launch of the market will mark an important step in GCC economic integration,” said Eckart Woertz, program manager in economics at the Dubai-based Gulf Research Center.
He said the new move demands opening of GCC markets and harmonization of regulations, ranging from labor laws to pension schemes and social security entitlements.

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One of the greatest emperors known to mankind!

Akbar was one of the greatest of the Indian Moghul Emperors. Before I begin, let us not make the mistake of thinking that he was a latter day saint, he did his fair share of destruction of temples and raping and pillaging. But towards the second half of his life, he synthesized a new religion from the best of all in India. For those who are looking for Islamic Reform, you could do worse than to check out his career and what happened to his ideas and his religion after his death! I cannot see that happening again, I am afraid, without some major divine assistance! :)

A good review here.

Book review: Akbar’s ‘enlightenment’ mind by Khaled Ahmed

Hindu Myth, Hindu History: Religion, Art, and Politics
by Heinrich von Stietencron
Permanent Black, Delhi 2005
Pp327 Price Rs 1390
Available in Bookstores in Pakistan
Akbar’s rule was a patch of effulgence in a general darkness on earth. Poets and artists gravitated to it; faiths rejected in other lands escaped to India to find tolerance. Today, Akbar is irrelevant to what is happening in the Islamic world
Stietencron is no ordinary mortal. He represents the great German legacy of Indology, something most of us here in Pakistan may be unaware of. He has been professor of Indology and Comparative History of Religion (1973-1998) at the University of Tuebingen, and has won India’s Padma Shree Award in 2004 for his work on the Indian epics and the Puranas. His discussion of the concept of Kalyug, and survey of how the early Brahmins resented the going of Hinduism to the masses through temple and image worship, are simply new ground for us to break. But it is his essay Planned Syncretism: Emperor Akbar’s Religious Policy that alerts the mind with new insights.
Mughal king Emperor Jalaluddin Akbar (1556-1605) ruled when the Hijra millennium (alf) was ending and the Islamic world was waiting for the Mehdi with baited breath, and the air was filled with rumours of some kind of revival and correction. In India at least it received two gifts, one enriching but heretical in the shape of Akbar, and the other Sheikh Ahmad (d.1624) who grabbed the epithet of Majaddid Alf Sani (Renewer of the Second Millennium). Sheikh Ahmad simply railed against the pluralism of Akbar, returning the Muslims to a hardline backward looking Islam, ‘renewing’ nothing in a religion that needed correction. Muslims will forever have their idiosyncratic definition of the root of tajdeed which can mean modernisation but has been taken to mean revitalisation of the ancient faith, just as ‘reform’ in Islam means going back to the original inspiration.
Looking for exemplars for its textbooks after 1947, Pakistan plumped for Sheikh Ahmad and rejected Akbar because he was not anti-Hindu. This was a non-intellectual but ideologically correct choice that Pakistan may live to regret as Sunni orthodoxy takes it down the slippery slope of state failure.
Akbar was syncretic because no religion standing alone inspired him. He wanted to rule over a multi-religious India and created an intellectual pluralism too early for his times. He had the genius of Abul Fazl serving him as his brains trust; he was opposed by trenchant critic in the Sunni orthodox person of historian Abdul Qadir Badayuni, a genius of almost equal stature. Akbar arranged debates and got all sorts of religious representatives (Muslims, Christians, Parsis, Hindus, Jains, Shiites, Sunnis, Sufis) to advocate and defend their faiths. When he died in 1605 no one knew what faith he had belonged to.
It is difficult to convince anyone in Pakistan about the wisdom of Akbar because of 60 years of anti-India textbook brainwash. In fact, one reason for the failure of General Musharraf’s idea of ‘enlightened moderation’ was the groove formed in the national psyche against Akbar as an unforgivable Muslim heretic with the help of such textbook exemplars as Sheikh Ahmad Mujaddid Alf Sani.
The faith of Akbar called Din-e-Ilahi did not develop into a religion. It was a royally founded syncretic order intended to embody the best of all religions. Akbar had reacted to all kinds of changes taking place among the Muslims on the coming of the new millennium in Islam, triggering massive collective illusions of the coming of the Mehdi. He put the Muslim ulema in front of the visiting Jesuits for debate and found the ulema lacking in knowledge, which led him to making Abul Fazl do a translation of the Bible.
Akbar rejected Trinity and refused to believe in miracles; nor did he agree with the Christian priests that he turn to monogamy. He grasped that Christians were involved in inter-sectarian violence and treated them with reservations. His contact with the Parsis had happier consequences because of the ancient Persian idea of the royal farr proclaimed by Firdowsi. (Ghalib explains farr in his famous letters.)
He took the sun into his Din because farr came from the sun. Akbar rejected polytheism of the Hindus but took their veneration of the sun which in itself was an Aryan memory. But he rejected Parsi dualism; he was too eclectic to accept any one faith. He took ahimsa from the Jains whom he engaged in debate at Fatehpur Sikri, learning from them that they were not atheists. In 1582, he made Delhi observe abstention from killing birds and animals during the Jain ritual of paryushana at the end of the rainy season. Through his minister Birbal he got to know all the branches of Hinduism, and visited Gokul to meet a saint there. He got the great Sanskrit texts translated, forcing even Badayuni to translate the Ramayana which Badayuni did with great revulsion.
From Hinduism, he took the doctrine of reincarnation and three worships daily after giving up the Muslim namaz and faced east towards the sun instead of west in the direction of Kaaba. (Many heretical mystics had also reduced the namaz.) Badayuni remarks that Akbar had become convinced that good things were contained in all religions and that there were good men and bad in all of them and ‘why should truth be confined to one religion’?
He also writes that Akbar had decided to change religion ten years before the onset of the Islamic millennium and had used his names Jalal and Akbar as a pointer to his divinity because they were also among the 99 names of Allah. He had ten tenets of faith which he recommended — like vegetarianism — but did not want to enforce them under duress.
The tenets were as follows: tolerance (Sufis, Hindus and Jains); vegetarianism (Jain, Hindu); renunciation of the world (Hindu); desire for others’ property removed (all); Avoid killing anything living (Jains); answer wrath with gentleness (Christianity); practise mediation in front of the sun (Hindu, Parsi). The virtues contained in the tenets like liberality, generosity, asceticism, altruism, and piety were all traced to Islam too.
Akbar’s eclecticism brought about a pluralist ambiance that history associates with his governance. He got Todar Mal from Gujarat to set up the revenue system of the kingdom. It was like England and the rest of the world taking Adam Smith from Scotland and making him the father of modern economics. It is Todar Mal that we owe variation in taxation on the basis of fluctuations in rainfall and nature of the soil which he achieved through resurvey of the land in India.
Akbar’s rule was a patch of effulgence in a general darkness on earth. Poets and artists gravitated to it; faiths rejected in other lands escaped to India to find tolerance. Today, Akbar is irrelevant to what is happening in the Islamic world. *

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Great Quotes!!

Suppose you were an idiot.
And suppose you were a member of Congress....
But then I repeat myself.
-Mark Twain

I contend that for a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle.
-Winston Churchill

A government which robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul.
- George Bernard Shaw

A liberal is someone who feels a great debt to his fellow man, which debt he proposes to pay off with your money.
-G Gordon Liddy

Democracy must be something more than two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner.
-James Bovard, Civil Libertarian (1994)

Foreign aid might be defined as a transfer of money from poor people in rich countries to rich people in poor countries.
-Douglas Casey, Classmate of Bill Clinton at Georgetown University

Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys.
-P.J. O'Rourke, Civil Libertarian

Government is the great fiction, through which everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everybody else.
-Frederic Bastiat, French Economist (1801-1850)

Government's view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases:
If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it.
And if it stops moving, subsidize it.
-Ronald Reagan (1986)

I don't make jokes I just watch the government and report the facts.
-Will Rogers

If you think health care is expensive now, wait until you see what it costs when it's free!
-P.J. O'Rourke

In general, the art of government consists of taking as much money as possible from one party of the citizens to give to the other.
-Voltaire (1764)

Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn't mean politics won't take an interest in you!
-Pericles (430 B.C.)

No man's life, liberty, or property is safe while the legislature is in session.
-Mark Twain (1866 )

The government is like a baby's alimentary canal, with a happy appetite at one end and no responsibility at the other.
-Ronald Reagan

The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of the blessings.
The inherent blessing of socialism is the equal sharing of misery.
-Winston Churchill

The only difference between a tax man and a taxidermist is that the taxidermist leaves the skin.
-Mark Twain

The ultimate result of shielding men from the effects of folly is to fill the world with fools.
-Herbert Spencer, English Philosopher (1820-1903)

There is no distinctly Native American criminal Congress.
-Mark Twain

A government big enough to give you everything you want, is strong enough to take everything you have.
-Barry Goldwater

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