Terrorism, Shameless Religious Bigotry and Pakistani Mindset

Raza Habib Raja in Pak Tea House:

Anti-american-protests-in-pakistan As I write these sentences, the details of the most shameful attack on the religious sites of Ahmedis in Lahore are unfolding. However, this is not new as Pakistan has been the victim of this brazen behavior repeatedly. The thirty years of state sponsored “true” Islam is showing its colors. In Pakistan all the minorities are constantly harassed and state’s protection has often proved completely ineffective when a serious attack occurs. Although the counterargument can also be made that state is not also able to protect even when Muslims are attacked.

In case of Ahmedis it is a well known fact that they have been victims of state induced discrimination also apart from being openly hated by the public. In fact even today as this most in human barbarity was unfolding I had the opportunity to actually hear people in my office saying that though terrorism is bad Ahmedis deserved it. Muslims are an extremely intolerant group and yet extremely sensitive when it comes to their own religious sensitivities. And when such minorities are under attack the state protection has often been particularly inadequate and public condemnation virtually absent.

More here. [Thanks to Mustafa Ibrahim.]

sarah!

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If you want to watch Silverman’s TED routine, you can’t: It was never put online. So she tells me the joke. “The bit was tied into the theme of the conference, which was ‘What the World Needs Now.’ So I say I’d like to adopt a retarded baby because I don’t have this urge to have a little version of myself to get right this time.” She stops to explain her feelings about the word retard. “I don’t like it. I think it’s a negative bummer word. Retarded, however, technically means [mentally challenged].” She continues: “So I say I’m adopting a retarded baby and I’ll be worried about who will take care of my child when I’m gone. So, solution! I’m going to adopt one with a terminal illness. Now, you’re probably thinking, what kind of person looks to adopt a terminally ill retarded child? An amazing person! I don’t see those 9/11 firefighters adopting retarded children with terminal illnesses. I’m just saying. Of course, there’s going to be the uncomfortable, inevitable question in the adoption process: Are you sure there are absolutely no cures on the horizon?”

more from Will Leitch at New York Magazine here.

the larsson phenomenon

Girl_who_kicked_hornets_nest

It’s an authentic phenomenon. As “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest,” the last of three posthumous thrillers by the Swedish writer Stieg Larsson, goes on sale this week in the United States, his books have already sold 40 million copies worldwide in a mere five years, while the modestly mounted movie version of his first title has already grossed something like $100 million, with talk of remaking these Swedish productions in Hollywood versions. There is simply no precedent for figures of that magnitude, especially in the mystery-thriller category, where authors become brand names only after they have patiently added many titles to their bodies of work. It’s possible, of course, that Larsson’s own rather dramatic story is helping to fuel the phenomenon. The writer was well-known as a crusading anti-fascist journalist and as a genial, rather careless man whose addiction to cigarettes and junk food might have hastened his premature demise (at age 50, of a heart attack), not long after delivering his three manuscripts to his publisher. The fact that he also left behind a widely reported controversy is also a good story. Larsson died without a will, meaning his fortune in royalties went to his family, a father and brother with whom he was not close, instead of to his helpmate of 30-odd years, whom he never married but whom everyone (except the lawyers) thinks deserves more than a grass widow’s mite of his earnings. But none of that quite explains the mystery that lies beneath the phenomenon.

more from Richard Schickel at the LAT here.

Central European classics

From The Telegraph:

Vizinczey-m_1639782f Just as rich people assume that they have nothing to learn from poor people, big nations assume that they have nothing to learn from small nations. This is not true of scientists, nor does it apply to the super-educated in general, but the majority of big nations know very little of the wider world, starting with their ignorance of any language but their own.

Here it is possible to graduate from a top university without having read, even in translation, the classic authors of France and Russia, let alone of Central Europe. As the insights of small, poor, oppressed nations do not come naturally to the British, many aspects of life remain a closed book to them. Which is why this new series of Central European Classics is important well beyond simply providing 'good reads’.

More here.

Dispatches From the Other

From The New York Times:

Beuv In 1946, when Simone de Beauvoir began to write her landmark study of women, “The Second Sex,” legislation allowing French women to vote was little more than a year old. Birth control would be legally denied them until 1967. Next door, in Switzerland, women would not be enfranchised until 1971. Such repressive circumstances account for both the fierce, often wrathful urgency of Beauvoir’s book and the vehement controversies this founding text of feminism aroused when it was first published in France in 1949 and in the United States in 1953. The Vatican placed it on the Index of Forbidden Books. Albert Camus complained that Beauvoir made Frenchmen look ridiculous. On these shores, the novelist Philip Wylie eulogized it as “one of the few great books of our era,” the psychiatrist Karl Menninger found it “pretentious” and “tiresome,” and a reviewer in The Atlantic Monthly faulted it for being “bespattered with the repulsive lingo of existentialism.”

In her splendid introduction to this new edition, Judith Thurman notes that Blanche Knopf, wife of Beauvoir’s American publisher, heard about the book on a scouting trip to France and was under the impression that it was a highbrow sex manual. Knopf asked for a reader’s report from a retired zoologist, Howard M. Parshley, who was then commissioned to do the translation. Knopf’s husband urged Parshley to condense it significantly, noting that Beauvoir seemed to suffer from “verbal diarrhea.” Parshley complied, providing the necessary Imodium by cutting 15 percent of the original 972 pages. And so it was this truncated text, translated by a scientist with a college undergraduate’s knowledge of French, that ushered two generations of women into the universe of feminist thought, inspiring pivotal later books like Betty Friedan’s “Feminine Mystique” and Kate Millett’s “Sexual Politics.”

Constance Borde and Sheila Malovany-Chevallier’s new translation of “The Second Sex” is the first English-language edition in almost 60 years, and the first to restore the material Parshley excised. In this passionate, awesomely erudite work, Beauvoir examines the reasons women have been forced to accept a place in society secondary to that of men, despite the fact that women constitute half the human race. Supporting her arguments with data from biology, physiology, ethnology, anthropology, mythology, folklore, philosophy and economics, she documents the status of women throughout history, from the age of hunter-gatherers to the mid-20th century. In one of her most interesting chapters, “The Married Woman” (a chapter Parshley particularly savaged), she offers numerous quotations from the novels and diaries of Virginia Woolf, Colette, Edith Wharton, Sophia Tolstoy and others. She also scrutinizes the manner in which various male authors, from Montaigne to Stendhal to D. H. Lawrence, have represented women (and, in many cases, how they treated their wives). Urging women to persevere in their efforts at emancipation, she emphasizes that they must also do so for the sake of men: “It is when the slavery of half of humanity is abolished and with it the whole hypocritical system it implies that the ‘division’ of humanity will reveal its authentic meaning and the human couple will discover its true form.”

More here.

Saturday Poem

Storm on the Island

We are prepared: we build our houses squat,
Sink walls in rock and roof them with good slate.
This wizened earth has never troubled us
With hay, so, as you see, there are no stacks
Or stooks that can be lost. Nor are there trees
Which might prove company when it blows full
Blast:you know what I mean – leaves and branches
Can raise a tragic chorus in a gale
So that you listen to the thing you fear
Forgetting that it pummels your house too.
But there are no trees, no natural shelter.
You might think that the sea is company,
Exploding comfortable down on the cliffs,
But no: when it begins, the flung spray hits
The very windows, spits like a tame cat
Turned savage. We just sit tight while wind dives
And strafes invisibly. Space is a salvo,
We are bombarded by the empty air.
Strange, it is nothing that we fear.

by Seamus Heaney
from Death of a Naturalist,
Faber and Faber, 1999

Sister Margaret and the hierarchy of mostly aging men

Nicholas D. Kristof in the New York Times:

Pope Benedict and Cardinals - Purple and Scarlet Sister Margaret made a difficult judgment in an emergency, saved a life and then was punished and humiliated by a lightning bolt from a bishop who spent 16 years living in Rome and who has devoted far less time to serving the downtrodden than Sister Margaret. Compare their two biographies, and Sister Margaret’s looks much more like Jesus’s than the bishop’s does.

“Everyone I know considers Sister Margaret to be the moral conscience of the hospital,” Dr. John Garvie, chief of gastroenterology at St. Joseph’s Hospital, wrote in a letter to the editor to The Arizona Republic. “She works tirelessly and selflessly as the living example and champion of compassionate, appropriate care for the sick and dying.”

Dr. Garvie later told me in an e-mail message that “saintly” was the right word for Sister Margaret and added: “Sister was the ‘living embodiment of God’ in our building. She always made sure we understood that we’re here to help the less fortunate. We really have no one to take her place.”

I’ve written several times about the gulf between Roman Catholic leaders at the top and the nuns, priests and laity who often live the Sermon on the Mount at the grass roots. They represent the great soul of the church, which isn’t about vestments but selflessness.

When a hierarchy of mostly aging men pounce on and excommunicate a revered nun who was merely trying to save a mother’s life, the church seems to me almost as out of touch as it was in the cruel and debauched days of the Borgias in the Renaissance.

More here.

Peter Beinart vs. the ADL

From the New York Review of Books:

Abraham H. Foxman:

Peter Beinart offers a conveniently impressionistic view of the American Jewish community to frame his critique of Israeli policy trends. He should know better than to fall into the trap of generalizing about the Jewish state without giving proper context for what is going on.

He sees an Israel that is clearly moving to the right, that has less regard for the “other,” no matter who that may be, and that is unwilling to take seriously efforts toward peace. Beinart seems to be suffering from the same problems we have seen in the Obama administration, ignoring what Israel has gone through over the last decade and thereby misreading what Israelis are thinking today.

Israelis, to a large extent, and this is shared by many in the American Jewish community (another of Beinart’s targets), feel frustrated that all their efforts toward changing the dynamic have been met with rejection and/or violence. Most Israelis understand that continuing to sit in the West Bank is not good ScreenHunter_02 May. 29 11.41 for the country. So at Camp David in 2000 they tried a solution of ending the conflict, which included withdrawing from 90 percent of the territories and eliminating the majority of settlements. They got a big no and suicide bombs…

Peter Beinart:

Abraham Foxman’s letter illustrates the problem my essay tries to describe: an American Jewish leadership that publicly defends the Israeli government, any Israeli government, rather than defending Israeli democracy, even when the former menaces the latter.

Obviously, as Foxman suggests, the Palestinians are not blameless. Yasser Arafat deserves history’s scorn for not responding more courageously to the chances for peace at Camp David and the much better ones put forward by Clinton in December 2000. And the election of Hamas was a tragedy, for both Israel and the Palestinians. But to suggest that Palestinian and Arab behavior fully explains the growing authoritarian, even racist, tendencies in Israeli politics is to don a moral blindfold, a blindfold that most young American Jews, to their credit, will not wear.

Firstly, Palestinian rejectionism cannot explain Avigdor Lieberman’s crusade to humiliate, disenfranchise, and perhaps even eventually expel Arab Israelis, the vast majority of whom want nothing more than to be accepted as equal citizens in the country of their birth. Lieberman is not a marginal figure. He was Benjamin Netanyahu’s chief of staff; he heads Israel’s third-largest party; he serves as foreign minister; and when Israel held mock elections in ten high schools last year, he won.

Nor are his views marginal. In 2008, in a poll cited by Yediot Ahronot, 40 percent of Jewish Israelis did not believe that Arab Israelis should be allowed to vote. Among Jewish Israeli high school students surveyed this March, the figure was 56 percent…

More here.

When the good amongst us go silent…

Adil Najam and Owais Mughal in All Things Pakistan:

ScreenHunter_01 May. 29 11.26 There can be nothing but rage and loathing for those who kill for the pleasure of killing. Who kill for the purpose of spreading terror and mayhem. Who kill to hide their own inadequacies of faith. Who breed in the fires of hate and kill as an expression of hate. These are the enemies of Pakistan. The enemies of the very religion they think they are safeguarding with venomous hate. They are, indeed, the enemies of humanity.

Ultimately, the person who is killed is not a Pakistani or Indian or American or even Muslim or Jew or Christian or even Barelvi or Ahmadi or Wahabi. Ultimately, the person killed is just another human. And the person who kills, is not. Because in the very act of killing for hate he has stripped himself of that distinction, of his own humanity.

Words escape us, once again. What can we say that we did not say about Karachi, about Quetta, about Swat, about Peshawar, about Islamabad, about Kohat – indeed about Lahore itself, again and again.

What can one add except to wipe the tears from ones eyes, to say a silent prayer – a silent prayer that society’s silence over these atrocities may break. Because when the good amongst us go silent, then only the hate of the bad resounds.

More here.

Why Pakistan needs the Separation of Religion and State

Juan Cole in Informed Comment:

The Pakistani military has been conducting a military campaign against the Pakistani Taliban in the northern tribal area of South Waziristan since last fall, provoking retaliatory terrorist attacks by Pakistani Taliban on the cities of Peshawar, Rawalpindi and Lahore.

What Friday’s attack suggests, if Geo is right, is that small networks of Punjabi fundamentalist vigilantes had gathered in Waziristan, from which they are now being expelled by the Pakistani military. They are attempting to take their revenge by destabilizing Pakistan. Hitting the Ahmadis, considered heretics by most Muslim Pakistanis, puts Pakistan’s politicians in the awkward position of having to defend them, and so cleverly tars the government with the brush of heresy itself.

Geo quoted a prominent Muslim cleric, Mufti Munib-ur-Rahman, who underlined that in a Muslim nation, the lives and property of non-Muslim citizens are sacrosanct. On the one hand, if this atrocity pushes the Pakistani elite to admit this crucial principle, that would be all to the good. On the other, the militants will use such statements to stir up fanatics.

The horrifying assault on the Ahmadi congregations underlines why Pakistan needs a separation of religion and state. The problem with using Islam as the state ideology (as the country’s founder, Muhammad Ali Jinnah clearly foresaw) is that there is no generic Islam.

More here.

Dreaming of a Free Iran: Akbar Ganji’s Friedman Prize Acceptance Speech

Ganji_35.3_headshotIn the Boston Review:

I would like to start by thanking the CATO Institute for awarding me this prize, which I accept as a moral and ethical endorsement of Iran’s Green Movement. I very much hope that this award will facilitate our struggle for advancing democracy and human rights in Iran.

Human history has been interpreted in many ways. I read this history as a sustained course of struggle for liberty—the struggle of slaves, women, people of color, the poor, the disenfranchised, of religious minorities and dissidents of various sorts, to rid themselves of the tyranny they have endured. The history of emancipation movements in the United States is in fact a perfect example of such endeavors for liberty: the struggle against foreign domination, the revolt against slavery, the women’s rights movements, and the civil rights movement are all prime examples of such uprisings, which have in turn become inspirational for similar movements around the globe. The American tradition of struggling for freedom has been instrumental in spreading the culture of liberty and democracy throughout the world. Today the American people and their social institutions continue to help disseminating the same humane principles that inspired their own founding fathers.

Today one can see many societies that are reaping the benefits of these sustained struggles for liberty. There is no doubt that the relative freedom in these countries is the result of the institutionalization of a more-or-less acceptable degree of democracy; and needless to say, democracy is the result of a powerful civil society, and that is in turn contingent on the freedom to elect a representative government, which is itself predicated on freedom of expression, action, and organization. Good or bad, the fate of a people, however, is not entirely in their own hands. Appropriate international circumstances are also necessary preconditions for the empowerment of civil societies and a transition to a democratic system that is committed to popular sovereignty and human rights.

The misfortune of the people who live in the Middle East, the region from which I come, is that the international conditions have never been conducive to achieving democracy.

Plight of the Living Dead

PhpThumb_generated_thumbnailjpg Michael Atkinson on George Romero's zombies, in In These Times:

In the pop sphere, zombie may be the new vampire, but with the release of George A. Romero’s Survival of the Dead, you have to truly wonder what in the gamey name of Lazarus is going on. This is, after all, the sixth zombie film from one filmmaker, amid a recent cataract that has included big-budget remakes of Romero’s older films (Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead), loads of zombie indies (with titles like Dead and Breakfast), an upcoming TV series (Frank Darabont’s The Walking Dead), and of course zombie farces (Shaun of the Dead, Zombieland), the spry likes of which should’ve signaled the end of the genre’s new heyday.

Unfortunately, it shows no sign of waning, and it’s Romero’s doing. With 1968’s Night of the Living Dead—still a roughshod masterpiece of anxiety that may inadvertently be the best film “about” Vietnam made during the war—Romero introduced the flesh-eating, white-pupiled grave-stumbler, and the rather trite rules that apply to them. (Why only head shots? Why not?) Despite the success of his first sequel, Dawn of the Dead (1978), Romero and his living-dead paradigm spent more than 20 years in neutral, and then suddenly zombies became fashionable again, reemerging after 9/11. Coincidence or social unease? Are zombies—gross, easily killed people who aren’t really people anymore—our way of neutralizing the haunted experience of mass death on American soil?

China and India: Awakening Giants, Feet of Clay

Bardhan Over at Vox, an audio of the interview:

Pranab Bardhan of the University of California, Berkeley, talks to Romesh Vaitilingam about his new book ‘Awakening Giants, Feet of Clay: Assessing the Economic Rise of China and India’. He argues that significant poverty reduction in both countries is mainly due to domestic factors – not global integration, as most would believe. The interview was recorded at the London School of Economics in May 2010.

Dispatches From the Other

Gray-t_CA0-articleInlineFrancine du Plessix Gray in the NYT:

How does Beauvoir’s book stand up more than a half-century later? And how does this new translation compare with the previous one? I’m sorry to report that “The Second Sex,” which I read with euphoric enthusiasm in my post-college years, now strikes me as being in many ways dated. Written in an era in which a minority of women were employed, its arguments for female participation in the work force seem particularly outmoded. And Beauvoir’s truly paranoid hostility toward the institutions of marriage and motherhood — another characteristic of early feminism — is so extreme as to be occasionally hilarious. Every aspect of the female reproductive system, from puberty to menopause, is approached with the same ferocious disdain. Females of all living species are “first violated . . . then alienated” by the process of fertilization. Derogatory phrases like “the servitude of maternity,” “woman’s absurd fertility,” the “exhausting servitude” of breast-feeding, abound. (How could they not, since the author sees heterosexual love in general as “a mortal danger?”) According to Beauvoir, a girl’s first menstruation, which many of us welcomed with excitement and pride, is met instead with “disgust and fear. ” It “ inspires horror” and “signifies illness, suffering and death.” Beauvoir doesn’t appear to have spent much time with children or teenagers: a first menses, in her view, leads the girl to be “disgusted by her too-carnal body, by menstrual blood, by adults’ sexual practices, by the male she is destined for.”

If Beauvoir’s ruminations on “the curse” are pessimistic (and pessimism runs through “The Second Sex” like a poisonous river) her reflections on sexual initiation and marriage make them sound like torture. She chooses the most brutal examples of deflorations — mostly rapes — to make her points. Wedding nights “transform the erotic experience into an ordeal” that “often dooms the woman to frigidity forever.” It isn’t surprising, she adds, “that ‘conjugal duties’ are often only a repugnant chore for the wife.” “No one,” she argues, “dreams of denying the tragedies and nastiness of married life.” Conjugal love, in Beauvoir’s view, is “a complex mixture of attachment, resentment, hatred, rules, resignation, laziness and hypocrisy.” Even marriages that “work well” suffer “a curse they rarely escape: boredom.”