Saturday, November 14

An Israeli looks at India

Let me put this up right up ahead. A uniform civil law is a must in any land. I would say that it forms the basis of nationhood. This does not mean that it tramples over individual rights, far from it. Individual rights are sacrosanct but civil laws come into the picture when another person gets impacted by what your circumstances and actions. Talking about inheritance, adoption, marriage, divorce and the like. This has to have national applicability. You can get married under a tree, in front of a bus or in a church, does not matter. But if your marriage has to be dissolved, then other things being equal, the property division between you and your wife should not be impacted by where you got married, who married you and which deity you prayed to at that time. If you want to create a nation and a shared values society, then this kind of equality of treatment is important.

I have written many times on this topic here. This is specially evident when it comes to minorities. Yes, I understand that there is a problem with the tyranny of the majority, but that’s where your nationhood comes from. Every country and nation has to decide what their minimum common rules should be. If you want to live in a liberal democracy, then minimum common civil laws will apply. And when you dont, then problems occur, like with the Baha'i in Egypt, the Arabs in Israel, the Hindu’s and Christians in Pakistan, the Muslims in India, etc.

This paper by an Israeli academic was interesting. First the abstract:

This article focuses on the ambivalent effect of religious autonomy in India and the outcome for democracy in the country. The Indian constitution guarantees autonomy to its religious minorities, and promises the minorities the freedom independently to manage their religious affairs in addition to a proportional share of the budget. At the same time, the constitution emphasizes the aspiration to legislate 'uniform personal laws' for all the citizens of India in accordance with the principles of secularism, equality and with India's self-definition as a civic nation. This recommendation has however remained a 'dead letter' until today. In this domain, the state has constituted a civic law for Hindus, which adjusts Hinduism to democratic principles. In this sense, the state has nationalized Hinduism, and the government has assumed authority and reformed Hindu civic and marriage laws. However, although they have tried, the state's legal and political institutions have not interfered thus far with Muslim marriage and religious laws. Muslims are committed to the Sharia while Hindus must obey the state's civic laws. By avoiding enforcement of affirmative action for Muslims in the spheres of political representation or public employment, while simultaneously prohibiting Hindus' group rights, and providing religious autonomy to the Muslim minority, the Constitution, which stresses so-called secularism as well as minority protection, intensifies the conflict between these two governance principles. The conclusion is that this situation not only leads to ideological conflicts and resource competition but also, overall, threatens the stability of India's democracy.

This Shah Bano case was a blot on Indian democracy as it made sure that it hit the worst, the Muslim Woman, right in the solar plexus. All religions are patriarchal and there are many items in the Indian version of Islam which are decidedly anti women. And then the Indian state went and slept with the obscurantists and mullahs. See the wiki site mentioned above. This lack of a uniform civil code direction by the politicians is venal but judicial attempts have tried to make sure that the patriarchal stupidity and pandering to religious obscurantists is obviated to a certain degree.

Its the women who get hit all the time as usual.

The Other face of Saudi Arabia

Have been to Saudi Arabia, the armpit of the world and the magic kingdom personified. But it did show riches and largely the population of the various cities that I visited showed the rich, middle class Saudi’s and the expatriates (whites and non white population, and yes, there is a reason why I am using racist terminology, they are treated in a racist manner). But poor Saudi's were not in sight. Take a look at this photo blog.

Friday, November 13

Cubans free to buy peas and potatoes

Welcome to communism and state control. Now Cubans can buy as much as they want of peas and potatoes. Only problem is that now the prices are 20 times as much. Controlling the cost of basics is quite important in many poor countries but Cuba of course has to take it to the extreme. Reminds me of the fact that the price of bread in erstwhile USSR didn't change for decades altogether and then in the end, the cost of maintaining a highly controlled militaristic subsidised society made it implode.  Welcome to subsidies hell. And like all subsidies, they end up distorting the market, create weird incentives and ultimately fail to meet the objectives.

Thursday, November 12

International Conference to Criminalise War

Very laudable conference I thought but then when I read the list of people who were attending and what they all said, I was gobsmacked. Why do these buggers invite these loons? When will they learn that to hear that kind of drivel makes one feel sympathy for inhabiting the shallow end of the global human gene pool? Sad, very sad. Here are some examples:


He said that he followed the opinion of George Galloway, Member of Parliament of Britain, that we should distinguish between good Jews and bad Jews, and I agree entirely, I have many Jewish friends. But it should also not be allowed to call all Muslims terrorists, there are good Muslims and good Muslim terrorists, he joked to laughter of the audience.


Here’s another pearl of wisdom:

He also spoke about the military, as a Malaysian retired General yesterday had addressed the possible good uses of the military, and he explained that the military is like a sharp knife that can make beautiful carvings, but can also kill.

No shit sherlock.

Here’s another one.

Tan Sri Sanusi Junid, former President of the International Islamic University, summed up saying that although he had not been to war, he is very much against war. He said that the army arrested his uncle and nephew and raped his auntie, then chopped off his uncles head, then tied his nephew and chopped of his auntie's head. His uncles head was then sent to a grandmother. He said he does not blame the "soldier" who did this but he blames those who give the orders to go to war. He revealed that he asked a former CIA director "you hate Dr Mahathir so much, why don't you kill him" to which he received the reply "we don't want to make him a martyr" and that they felt he would be an "over" case within a few years, but he has kept on living and living, he said to the cheers of the almost 1,000 strong audience at the Merdeka Hall in the PWTC Conference Centre.

Good heavens. So a CIA Director was in conversation with a President of International Islamic University and he said to him that they have considered bumping off Dr. Mahathir? Say what?

Ok, one more and no more:

Al Qaidah and its relevant organisations are a construct of the CIA and he confirmed that the CIA knows this, we know it, and that the CIA does not deny it. The process of demonisation of Muslims and Arabs is continuing, and there must be a process to find and prosecute those behind the crimes of September 11th.
Dr Mahathir said that the odd thing about 9/11 was that all 3 buildings collapsed rapidly straight down, as if they had explosives already inserted in certain places, and not from the effect of the aircraft hitting them, but due to a demolition method. He wondered why the 3rd building collapsed in the same way (WTC7) although it was not hit by any aircraft. The collapse of this building had been admitted by its jewish owner, as a controlled demolition when he said "we pulled it."

heh. How amusing. I think we need to appoint these people to become professors and leaders of educational institutions so that they can teach more legions of students to believe in this wonderful self evident truths. Oh! I am sorry, they already are.

Wednesday, November 11

Pen mightier than the sword?

dont think so if this story is right. If this does happen, then people will be wincing at the poor bureaucrat. But this quote was great:

"With the slip of a Whitehall pen, the UK government has opened the way for the Spanish to lay claim to Gibraltar's waters," he said. "It's lucky that British ministers weren't sent to fight the Spanish Armada. They'd have rocked up in Hull when the fleet was in the Channel."

Tuesday, November 10

How the UK improved its Parliament

While the MP’s have proven themselves to be a bunch of slimy gits on the matter of expenses, quietly on another side of the equation, they have improved the quality of Parliament through a small but crucial step of introducing topical debate mechanism. Here, read the government response to the report in question which actually brought this about, specially the Recommendation 16 & 17. I quote in full including the government response:

Rec 16 The topicality of debates in the Chamber should be improved. We believe that the House will attract greater attention from Members, the public and the media if it finds a means of debating topical issues

Rec 17 We recommend that provision should be made in Standing Orders for topical debates on issues of regional, national or international importance to be held on one day each week. Topical debates would last for an hour and a half and be taken immediately after questions and statements but before the main business of the day. (Paragraph 59)

11. The Government agrees with the case made for improving the topicality of debates in the Chamber and in particular for a system of regular 90 minute topical debates on issues of regional, national or international importance. In accordance with later recommendation (Rec 23) of the report, this would be a debate on a motion ‘That this House has considered [the matter of xxx]’. Since such motions are intended to replace main ‘adjournment’ debates, they should not be amendable. The Government agrees also that specific provisions and understandings are needed to govern speaking time in such debates, in accordance with the
principles set out under Rec 32 of the report (see paragraph 28 below).

12. The Government agrees that such a debate should take place on a weekly basis. Although a pattern of such debates taking place on a particular day each week might emerge, in practice the scheduling of debates would have to remain with the Leader of the House to reflect the demands of other business (including, as the report observes, the desirability of avoiding Opposition Days where possible). The selection of debate – not least to ensure that the subject is genuinely “regional, national or international” which could not be guaranteed under a ballot system – would be announced by the Leader of the House following discussions in the usual channels and following representations from opposition parties and backbenchers. If the slot identified for the topical
debate in a given week is on a Monday or Tuesday then the subject would generally be announced at the preceding Thursday business statement. But in order to preserve maximum opportunity for topicality, then where the slot for the debate is on a Wednesday or Thursday, it is envisaged that the subject would be notified to the House by the tabling of the relevant motion on the preceding Monday.

This paper reviewed the performance of this small step and found that it was indeed quite good in its way to improve the quality of debate in the House of Commons. Given that usually parliament time is taken up by government pushed large topics of the day, the fact that time has been set aside to actually debate topics which back bench members raise means that the topics are now much broader, the topics relate to more esoteric and in many ways, more local constituency issues.

Something good that the Labour Party has done. Good work there. Small steps, small steps would assist in making the UK a better democratic society more responsive to its citizens.

Monday, November 9

The veil in France and Turkey

This was quite an interesting paper. First the abstract:

For the last two decades the human rights discourse has been increasingly used across the world - one could argue that there has even been a globalization of human rights. This discourse has also been intrinsically linked to positivism, enlightenment and secularism. It is with this in mind that this article looks at how religious Muslim individuals and groups in France and Turkey have been appropriating the human rights discourse and its national, regional and international legal channels to challenge state secular policies and redefine the relationship between religion and the state. By looking into two specific case studies - the work of the Collective Against Islamophobia in France (CCIF) and the Merve Kavakci case v. Turkey presented at the Strasbourg European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) - I investigate if groups and individuals have found through the use of this 'authorized narrative' a space where they can propose a new plural ethos that can better co-exist with their piety. This is a space where they can offer a more plural and de-centralized vision of secularism. To complement this analysis, I also highlight some of the possible paradoxes found within the human rights discourse - paradoxes that might enlighten us on the challenges of using such a discourse, particularly to ask for the right to display publicly one's religion. In other words, I attempt to shed some light on whether the use of a rights-based discourse by religious rights groups and individuals can help resolve democratically disputes between the religious and the secular - encouraging perhaps the democratization of secularism in specific contexts.

This use of human rights legislation by religious bodies to argue for greater religious freedom is quite an interesting element and in my view, very encouraging indeed. This will indeed keep the lovely secular mullah’s at bay (in many cases far right wankers but also many leftist goons). Many ways, secularism can be quite a danger to individual rights. In any case, remember there is a now a demand to stop people wearing the veil from the perspective of health and safety. Anyway, I digress.

But the idea that human rights conventions and laws are being used by religious protagonists is good, because in the long run, universal human rights, such as propounded by the European Court of Human Rights, will force the religious obscurantists into a more moderate position. In other words, its the sovereignty of the universal declaration of human rights (rather than the silly Islamic declaration of human rights, you cannot call it as universal and Islamic at the same time, you plonkers, but that’s for another post sometime), the human courts and stuff who decide what is important and what is allowable in the country rather than some bloody mullah sitting somewhere pushing women into wearing the veil. I dont understand women wearing veils personally, but its your human right to have green hair or shove yourself in a scarf. I mean, I saw somebody wearing pink socks yesterday. It takes all kinds. heh.

Still, lets see how things go, this long term movement towards having a human rights perspective fills me with a bit of a satisfaction kick

Sunday, November 8

What defines your religion?

What indeed? But first the story. I quote:

Is being a Jew a matter of bloodline or religious practice? The UK's new Supreme Court is debating the subject this week, in a case that could have a wider impact on faith schools

As it so happens, the public government run schooling system is frankly at the bottom of the pile, the top of the pile belong to the independent fee paid private schools, followed by the faith schools. It is a damning indictment of the same. But then, because going for better education for your children is a peculiarly middle class sentiment, parents do all kinds of strange things to get their kids into a good school.

The middle school where my kids go to was in the news recently when the local council decided to prosecute a parent for effectively lying to get her son into that school. See this story about how the local council trying to check (as usual, when you have a constrained supply then all these kinds of shenanigans will happen) parental fraud.

Anyway, lets get back to the religious schools. That’s where you had an issue with parents suddenly becoming religious and trying to enter into religious grant maintained schools. This particular case hinges on an interesting situation and raises questions like:

how do you define faith? Is religion a matter of who you are? What you believe? Or what you do?

Pretty tough questions, eh? Previously the Jewish school would give admission to any child born to Jewish mothers. So far so good, but what about if the father is Jewish and the mother is not but the child practises Jewish rituals and stuff? According to the Race Relations Act, the child is Jewish, but not according to the rules of the school which uses traditional Jewish Law.

Go to the BBC site, they have some very interesting comments, but if these religious schools are being funded out of my tax money, then by heck, they better be consistent. If I had my way, i would shut them down and open them as charter schools. Then there is no problem. You cannot resolve this problem when you have the other problem of a state run horrible schooling system.