Friday, August 20

Low European Donations to Pakistan – Islamophobia or bad Pakistani reputation?

Found these 3 links on the Pakistani Floods situation.

1. Most Germans reluctant to donate to Pakistan

2. Why Europe Has Been Slow to Help Flood Victims. Quote:

"Many Pakistanis are struggling to understand why the response in the West has been so inadequate," writes Pakistani historian Tariq Ali in the columns of Süddeutsche Zeitung. "Some among them," he explains, "argue that Europe and the United States are reluctant to release funds because their country is now viewed as refuge for terrorists. In fact the issue is more complex, but it is clear that the problem has not been solely caused by Pakistan. The reality is that the main factor limiting international aid is the flagrant Islamaphobia that has that has emerged in Europe and North America since Sept. 11. In a recent poll, more than 50 percent of respondents associated the word "Islam" with terrorism.

"Of course," Tariq Ali remarks, "all of the people interviewed were in the UK, but the British, the French, the Germans, the Dutch and the Danes all think alike. Pakistan is under water and the rest of the world remains indifferent." And he bitterly insists, "Yes, latent prejudice against Muslim countries is one of the reasons for the lack of international aid. But the problem has also been compounded by another factor which is a specifically local: many Pakistanis themselves are reluctant to hand over money because they fear it will end up lining the pockets of the country's corrupt politicians."

In response, the implacable Jyllands Posten points out that "for years Pakistan has contributed to its terrible international reputation." The country "is now viewed as one of the most dangerous places in the world: a nuclear power with an army that is unwilling or unable to stand up to the Taliban and al-Qaida, and a secret service that supports the Taliban." Having said that, even if "it does not benefit from much sympathy, Pakistan still needs massive humanitarian aid," points out the Danish daily.

3. Record rains – but Pakistan is dying for water. Quote:

To put matters in their depressing context, the number of children who perish daily from water-related diseases is several times higher than the rate at which people perished in last week's devastating floods.

The poor Pakistani’s, somebody needs to save them from not only the floods, but their leaders, both civil and military, but the Islamophobia argument is very weak, based upon what I have read and figured, its more to do with the reputation of Pakistan due to corruption, terrorism and general incompetence all around.


Update: 21 August 2010: BBC asked some talking heads on this issue. I quote:

Dr Marie Lall, Pakistan expert at the Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House) and senior lecturer at the Institute of Education, says: "I think there is donor fatigue all around. The [2004] Indian Ocean tsunami, the Burmese Cyclone [Nargis, 2008], the [2005] Pakistan earthquake, and [this year's] Haiti earthquake. It is getting too much; we are in a recession and people are short of money."

Rebecca Wynn, Pakistan specialist for UK-based aid agency Oxfam, says: "Many donors have made substantial contributions in humanitarian assistance to Pakistan over the years, particularly in response to the conflict-related displacements over the last two years. Of course, the fact that the people of Pakistan have been hit time and again by disaster is even more reason to give."

Dr Elizabeth Ferris, senior fellow at the US-based Brookings Institution, a foreign policy think tank, says: "It should also be noted that the international humanitarian system isn't set up to deal with more than one major crisis a year. USAID, for example, committed one-third of its annual budget to the Haitian earthquake response. And among the general public there may be a feeling of, 'Well, I donated to the victims of the Haitian earthquake and Haiti is a far needier country than Pakistan.'"


Yale University economics professor Dean Karlan, an expert on charitable giving, says: "Corruption concerns may explain why giving is lower to developing countries than many would like it to be, but it does not explain why there is less money pouring into Pakistan now than does to disaster relief causes in other developing countries with similar governance issues."

Dr Marie Lall says: "People in Pakistan are sceptical the government will be transparent. But they are giving to philanthropic organisations. In the UK, I think people are sceptical of [non-governmental organisations'] overheads and costs. They don't know which ones are transparent and reliable, even though local organisations such as TCF [The Citizens' Foundation] are doing an incredible job."

Dr Elizabeth Ferris says: "People are always sceptical about their money reaching flood victims, particularly in countries with reputations for corruption. But Haiti didn't have a very good reputation in this regard. [Pakistan] President [Asif Ali] Zardari trip to Europe [during the floods] was not a good move. For a few days, that was the 'story' of the Pakistani floods, which doesn't inspire people to be generous, particularly in this economic climate."


Dr Marie Lall says: "British Prime Minister David Cameron's comments in India [when he said Islamabad promoted the export of terror] did not help."

Dr Elizabeth Ferris says: "People are less likely to donate to any country seen as a haven for terrorism. And more generally, the fact that so much Western news coverage in recent years about Pakistan has been negative, stressing its links with the conflict in Afghanistan. I think this is the major reason for the slow public response - the image of Pakistan in our media. There may also be a feeling, particularly in the US, that Islamic governments and charities should be stepping up to the plate to donate."


Rebecca Wynn says: "This disaster has come at a bad time, following the financial crisis and the Haiti earthquake. Many donors made huge commitments to Haiti, so may find it hard to fund another major disaster, particularly in the same year."

Dr Marie Lall says: "Timing may be a factor, but I think it's more to do with not realising the scale of the disaster, and the attitude by the British government; the UK should be leading the aid effort, given the Pakistani diaspora here and the fact that we need Pakistan for the war in Afghanistan."

'Wrong' disaster

Professor Dean Karlan says: "Sudden events seem to generate more funds. A flood (and droughts) happen gradually and build. There isn't any one single day in which news is huge. For the same reason, this pushes the story away from the media spotlight. But massive and sudden earthquakes or tsunamis draw our immediate attention and shock us."

Dr Elizabeth Ferris says: "It's important to note that in general people are likely to give more to emergencies occurring in countries geographically closer to them - although this didn't hold true for the tsunami. But when you trace contributions over time, you find that Americans and Canadians are more likely to respond to disasters in the Western hemisphere while Europeans tend to be more responsive to African countries (and their former colonies, in particular)."

Dr Marie Lall says: "This was not one cataclysmic event, but one which grew over three weeks. The fact that 25% of the country was or is under water is not understood. The low numbers of dead, relatively speaking, mask the disaster on the ground. The crisis has destroyed crops, dead livestock and damaged homes and infrastructure. Food prices are through the roof and there won't be a normal harvest. It will get worse. Farmers will starve."

So pretty much everything, eh?

Sunday, August 15

A revolt over Halal & Kosher Food

I came back home and found that somebody had handed over this crumpled up pamphlet to Diya outside her school.

This says:

To Parents

Did you know that your school is going to supply Muslim Halal meat for school dinners not just for Muslims but for all children. You dont know this because your Head Teacher, Katrina Mildner the Chair of Governors Ted Sturdy and Harrow Council choose not to tell you because you are of no importance. They are putting the Muslims beliefs before yours, the reason is they have no respect for you or your children or your beliefs.

English meat is slaughtered humanely so the animal doesn’t not suffer unlike the Halal method. The Bird of Animal have verses read from the Karan as part of the preparation before they slit it’s throat and let it bleed to death. This can take up to 370 seconds for a Calf to die. All the blood then has to be drained out. It is cruel and inhumane by our Western standards. Don’t let the Muslims force their barbaric ways on us, let’s stick to our principles and our way of life or we will lose them forever. This is our England.

You can tell the school you don’t want your child eating Halal. You can complain to the council. Or you can get other mothers and fathers to sign a petition and send this in.

Leave aside the painful grammar and strange punctuation, this made me wonder. What on earth is going on? This sounds ridiculous, but not for the stated reasons. Why haven't we been asked about this? They ask about everything ranging from temperature in the school rooms to colour of the damn school balls, but not about this. Curiously, this came just a few days after I read about the hoo haa about Kosher meat preparation in New Zealand. Here is one report on this issue. I quote:

On 28 May 2010, New Zealand became the fourth country in the world to outlaw shechita, the slaughtering of animals according to Jewish law to produce kosher meat and poultry.

New Zealand’s ban on kosher slaughter isn’t the first - it follows a position first adopted during the 1920s in Iceland, Norway and Switzerland, and most infamously by Nazi Germany during the early 1930s.

The New Zealand ban comes about as a direct consequence, apparently deliberate, not to consider kosher slaughter under the new Animal Welfare Commercial Slaughter Code as a humane method, and to disregard the scientific consensus supporting the humaneness of the method. New Zealand’s position not only runs counter to preexisting New Zealand laws, but is also contrary to the legal position in Australia and the United States.

The new Code, announced by New Zealand Agriculture Minister David Carter and prepared by the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee (NAWAC), mandates that commercially killed animals must be stunned before slaughter to “ensure that the animals are treated humanely and in accordance with good practice and scientific knowledge”. The Code took effect immediately following his announcement on 27 May.

So, what do we have here? We have a situation that the current standards of humanity and avoidance of senseless pain and cruelty is considered to be at variance with religious practise. And not just that, here in Harrow, because of somebody wanting to follow THEIR religion which leads to senseless pain and cruelty to animals, gets my daughter involved who doesnt even belong to that religion. Freedom of religion to freedom from cruelty to animals to freedom of choice, etc. etc. seem to have gotten into a right little tangle.

I hate cruelty to animals but then I love eating meat. So I would find it hypocritical to complain about animals being killed for meat anyway. But the question isnt about killing animals or not, its HOW they are killed. The fact that animals and plants do feel pain and have responses to it mean that that argument is not part of the equation, whether you are vegan or not, you will inflict pain on living creatures, both animals and plants.

But then, just because you have a donkey to carry your goods around does not mean that you can beat it mercilessly. Is that what the argument is with kosher or halal meat? There have been quite a lot of online and newspaper arguments about this. Here are some examples here, here, here. The Harrow Council has released a statement recently waffling around on this. The Jewish Chronicle is also worried about this.

Well, after due consideration, this is what I think. The fact that its religiously mandated is neither here nor there, there are many things in Islam and Judaism which are religiously mandated like slavery but we dont allow that, so the idea that everything that any odd sod religion says is fine has nothing to do with freedom of religion. There are rules and modern concepts about cruel and unjustified punishment and treatment towards animals. Here is a good overview of the laws in various countries. Here is a nice overview from the BBC on this. So you can take your halal and kosher food and shove it.

Second, no, I am not happy that my daughter is now a party to this inhumane and cruel practise without even consulting us. So Harrow Council, you can shove it too.

Rahu and Ketu in mythological and astronomological contexts

Fascinating paper. Publicly available, go check. And a great set of references tracking the development of Rahu and Ketu as mythological, astronomical and astrological aspects.