CONCLUDING PART: Govt response to communal attack in Ramu

by?rahnuma ahmed

In today’s column, I basically deal with three issues, firstly, a brief review of the government’s administrative responses, these suggest that higher-ups have ‘settled’ on making the officer-in-charge of Ramu thana the “fall guy” for the devastating waves of attacks on Buddhist temples, monasteries and houses on September 29; secondly, my examination of the report of the probe committee formed by the home ministry to investigate the occurrences in Ramu inclines me to think that the committee has produced a report according to the home minister’s requirements and guidelines as outlined in his public speeches instead of? investigating impartially as the committee is duty-bound to; third, in order to create appearances of communal harmony post-Ramu, government officials, ruling party members and ideologues, mostly Muslims (plus a few Buddhist quislings), have participated in government-funded Probarona celebrations this year, which has led to the (forceful) de-linking of religious rituals from a set of embodied practices which are a part of the Buddhist tradition; it bespeaks of government interference (hijacking), which again, is unconstitutional (freedom of worship).

Fanooshes being released on the eve of Prabarana Purnima during a so-called solidarity event held at Shoparjito Swadhinota, Dhaka University on October 28, 2012. The programme was organised by Prabarana Udjapon Parishad ? New Age

Continue reading “CONCLUDING PART: Govt response to communal attack in Ramu”

Contemporary art and cultural clashes in kathmandu.

by Satish Sharma: Rotigraphy


“Artist advised to paint works that are pleasing …not satirical…socio political works can only be exhibited during gai jatra..?
Artist’s paintings should be self explanatory? “a picture should speak a 1000 words”.
Artists need to follow traditional parameters while painting religious iconography….modern interpretations will be considered blasphemous
The state can take action against artists if these guidelines are not observed”
Sangeeta Thapa on ?Facebook?quoting or paraphrasing the?official?’police’ reaction.
Watching the Kathmandu gallery episode unfold on social media is a fascinating eye opener . ?So much to learn ?so ?much to think about. so many spaces to open up. in the ?minds of artists and even their local audiences. Continue reading “Contemporary art and cultural clashes in kathmandu.”

Don't pseudo-sentiments get hurt, not even pseudo-hurt?

Right-wing politics all over the world seeks to victimise the weak and powerless by falsely claiming victimhood, says Shivam Vij

In neighbouring Pakistan, an Islamic cleric recently accused a young Christian girl, Rimsha Masih, of blasphemy, a charge punishable by life imprisonment. He said she had burnt some pages that contained verses from the Quran. The 14-year-old girl hails from a poor family and suffers from downs syndrome. An eyewitness to the event showed courage and told a magistrate the truth: it was the Muslim cleric who had put those burnt pages in Rimsha’s bag. The cleric has been arrested and is set, in turn, to be charged with blasphemy.
I have been thinking about the incident. Insulting somebody’s religion is bad. It may cause offence. Often it is intended to cause offence. If somebody insults Islam, by doing things like burning pages containing verses from the Quran, it is bound to outrage a Muslim.
But what happens when the Muslim has burnt those pages to implicate a Christian? Where does the outrage disappear? Why are the right-wingers and the mullahs in Pakistan suddenly silent? The cleric’s lawyer had threatened the judge that if the girl is let off she could be lynched — such was the outrage! Where has the outrage suddenly disappeared? Where are the calls for lynching the blasphemer to death? Continue reading “Don't pseudo-sentiments get hurt, not even pseudo-hurt?”

The two faces of religious persecution in Pakistan

By??| 7th August, 2012

It?s a horrible time to be a Christian, Hindu, an Ahmadi or any other minority group in Pakistan.

For starters, let?s recount a few reported incidents of persecution carried out to ?safeguard Islam? these past few days:?minarets destroyed?at Ahmadi mosques, mentally unstable man?burnt alive?for blasphemy, Ahmadi leader?gunned down.
Not only is such persecution in contravention of many of Pakistan?s international human rights law obligations but it could not exist without the socially sanctioned public hypocrisy that breathes life into it. Continue reading “The two faces of religious persecution in Pakistan”

'Jai Bhim Comrade'

A film by Anand Patwardhan

The ongoing atrocity of caste.
Anand Patwardhan’s new film “Jai Bhim Comrade” took 14 years to?complete. Beginning with an incident at Ramabai Colony in Mumbai where?10 Dalits were shot dead by the police in 1997, the film goes on to?explore the music of protest of those who were treated as?”untouchables” by a caste hierarchy that has ruled the Indian?sub-continent for thousands of years.
Best film: Mumbai International Film Festival, India
Best film: Film South Asia Kathmandu, Nepal


The children are reduced to bones
And skin.  Their tiny bodies
Have heads appearing far too large
And eyes that cry for help.
But there’s no shortage yet of guns
And bullets — or of bombs.
And soon enough, you hear them come —
The jets that scream through skies
And drop the rain that’s so obscene
That voices then fall still.
The drones that fly like sightless birds,
The tanks that roll through streets,
The men who fire on passers by,
Who buys and pays these?
****** Continue reading “We”

The killer of my father

Subscribe to ShahidulNews


‘The killer of my father, Salman Taseer, was showered with rose petals by fanatics. How could they do this?’

Thousands of Pakistanis showered rose petals on the assassin of Salman Taseer, the governor of Punjab who sought clemency for a Christian woman sentenced to death. Here his eldest son, Aatish Taseer, who lives in Delhi, mourns his death – and the nihilism of a country that could not tolerate a patriot who was humanitarian to his core.

Pakistan's religious divide on display

Supporters chant slogans in favor of Mumtaz Qadri, alleged killer of Punjab governor Salman Taseer?Photo: AP Photo/B.K.Bangash

By Aatish Taseer 7:30PM GMT 08 Jan 2011 The Telegraph UK
I have recently flown home from North America. In airport after international airport, the world’s papers carried front page images of my father’s assassin.
A 26-year-old boy, with a beard, a forehead calloused from prayer, and the serene expression of a man assured of some higher reward. Last Tuesday, this boy, hardly older than my youngest brother whose 25th birthday it was that day, shot to death my father, the governor of Punjab, in a market in Islamabad.
My father had always taken pleasure in eluding his security, sometimes appearing without any at all in open-air restaurants with his family, but in this last instance it would not have mattered, for the boy who killed him was a member of his security detail.
It appears now that the plan to kill my father had been in his assassin’s mind, even revealed to a few confidants, for many days before he carried the act to its fruition. And it is a great source of pain to me, among other things, that my father, always brazen and confident, had spent those last few hours in the company of men who kept a plan to kill him in their breasts.
But perhaps it could have been no other way, for my father would not only have not recognised his assassins, he would not have recognised the country that produced a boy like that. Pakistan was part of his faith, and one of the reasons for the differences that arose between us in the last years of his life?and there were many?was that this faith never allowed him to accept what had become of the country his forefathers had fought for.
Continue reading “The killer of my father”

The Burka Ban – 1

Subscribe to ShahidulNews


Europe’s Open-face Democracy

By Rahnuma Ahmed

France bans full-face veils in public. Women wearing the niqab cannot enter government buildings, public transport, streets and markets. Burkas are not “welcome” on French soil, says Sarkozy. It is a sign of women’s “subservience,” it undermines France’s secular tradition.?The Spanish parliament is debating a proposal. Burkas are hardly compatible with “human dignity,” says the justice minister. Barcelona bans burkas and niqabs from government buildings. They hinder personal identification. Full-face veil banned in Belgium. Streets, gardens, all buildings accessed by members of the public are no-go areas for women wearing the niqab.
It’s now or never, everything on hold till I finish my manuscript, no columns, no calls, no visitors, I thought as I furiously tapped away at the keyboard, barely scanned newspaper headlines, refused to download e-zines and newsletters, felt embarassed at repeatedly telling Zaman (deputy editor, New Age) as he nabbed me on g-chat, rahnuma’pa, how much longer? hmm, maybe a few more weeks?…but still, somehow, news of the burka ban gathering momentum in European countries seeped through, into my self-enforced confinement.
Less than a week after Belgium passed its law, an Italian woman was fined $650 for wearing a burka under a 1975 law, which prohibits people from covering their faces in public. Amsterdam and Utrecht propose cutting social security benefits to unemployed women who wear the burka. A German lawmaker calls for a complete ban on full-face burkas all over Europe.?Veiled women irritate her, she says; she cannot judge them for who they are, what their intentions are. It’s a “massive attack on the rights of women. It is a mobile prison.” Eight out of 16 federal states in Germany have already banned female schoolteachers from wearing the headscarf. If the burka is not banned, threatens the Freedom Party of Netherlands, it’ll not join the minority coalition government. The burqa and the niqab have no place in our society, says the Danish prime minister. Denmark is an “open, democratic society where we look at the person to whom we are talking.”
There is talk of banning the burqa beyond Europe’s borders too, in what were once white-settler colonies, and now, sovereign states. Quebec’s immigration minister says, “If you want to integrate into Quebec society, here are our values. We want to see your face,” as its premier pushes a bill banning any sort of full-face veil. If passed, women will be denied receiving or applying for government services, including non-emergency medicine and day care. An Australian blogger, appreciative of senator Cory Bernardi’s recent call for an Aussie ban on full-face veiling writes, if the burqa and niqab are accepted, if they are normalised and legitimised, what do we teach Australian girls? That they shouldn’t be proud to show their face and have a voice in society? “That women?s rights are [not] inalienable and worth fighting for, except where gender oppression is religiously or culturally endorsed?”
The mind works in curious ways. For some reason I am reminded of Laura Bush and Cherie Blair. Of Mrs Bush’s unprecedented radio broadcast to rally support against the Taliban; she was the first wife of a US president to deliver the whole of the weekly address (November 1, 2001), expressing profound sorrow and deepest sympathies for the women of Afghanistan. “Life under the Taliban is so hard and repressive, even small displays of joy are outlawed?children aren’t allowed to fly kites; their mothers face beatings for laughing out loud. Women cannot work outside the home, or even leave their homes by themselves.” Two days later, the wife of the former British prime minister joined in the commiseration. The Taliban regime, Mrs Blair informed us, is repressive, cruel and joyless. The human rights of women and girls within Afghanistan “have been denied, people have been executed in football stadiums in front of cheering crowds, girls have had to be educated in secret.” Britain needs to “help them free that spirit and give them their voice back, so they can create the better Afghanistan we all want to see.”
Twenty-two months after the US-led invasion there were no signs of an Afghanistan that was less hard and less repressive for its women and children. Linda S Heard wrote, millions of Afghan women and children continue to face major health and nutrition problems with maternal and infant mortality among “the worst in the world.” Gunmen commit human rights abuses and warlords have been “propelled into power by the US and its coalition partners after the Taliban fell in 2001.”
But surely a decade on, the spirits of Afghan women are now free? Girls are now receiving education? A better Afghanistan is being created? Malalai Joya, the youngest Afghan to be elected member of parliament (2005-2007) says, the current situation is a disaster. People suffer from extreme insecurity, many have stopped sending their children to school, especially girls for fear that they might be raped or killed. The most pressing problems are cultivation and trafficking of drugs and narcotics (the opium industry is “solely designed by the US,” its annual production during the Taliban regime was 185 metric tons, it has now magnified to 8,500 tons annually), 50% unemployment and severe poverty which forces some parents to sell their children for $10 for a piece of bread, appalling corruption (the present Afghan government is “the most corrupt in our whole history”), and the installation of war criminals and terrorists into power through fraudulent elections (a “dirty game” played by the US and NATO). Needless to add, Joya is hardly sighted in the mainstream western media.
In some cities women’s conditions have slightly improved since the Taliban regime. But the situation was far better in the 1960s, says Joya, when Afghan women had more rights. Rapes, abductions, murders, violence, and forced marriages are increasing at an alarming rate. Women’s suicide rate is climbing in many provinces. “Afghanistan still faces a women’s rights catastrophe. Every aspect of life in Afghanistan today is tragic.” We are sandwiched between two enemies, the Taliban on one side and the US/NATO forces and their warlord friends on the other. The policy of the US government and its allies is to foster warlords and criminals, to marginalise and put pressure on progressive and democratic movements and individuals “out of fear that the latter will mobilise Afghan people against the occupation forces.”
And who were among America’s coalition partners in Operation Enduring Freedom, in the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) which invaded and occupied Afghanistan in 2001? Among NATO countries, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands and Spain. Among non-NATO ones, Australia and Sweden.
They are still there (NATO update Oct 2010).
Do the rulers of these European nations?visionaries of open-faced democracy?have the courage to face up to the facts, as enumerated by Malalai Joya? Hardly. They’d have to face up to other facts then: that the invasion was an obvious breach of international law, having not been authorised by the UN Security Council. That Afghanistan was not involved in the events of 9/11. That if the US government’s account is to be believed, 15 of the 19 alleged hijackers were from Saudi Arabia, so why invade Afghanistan? That the Afghan government did not refuse to extradite Osama bin Laden, their offer was subject to conditions, which was unacceptable to the US administration. That the latter had not only supported the “Islamic terror network,” it was instrumental in installing the Taliban government (1995-96). That the politicians who arranged it, supported it, are liable to be tried as war criminals. And that, is quite a lot of facing up to do.
President Obama has escalated the war in Afghanistan by sending 34,000 more troops; he has extended it to Pakistan by expanding the CIA-led killer drone campaign, because al-Qaeda?who had, according to Bush, committed “faceless” and “cowardly” acts?now operates in the border areas. But drone pilots do not `show’ their face. They are `hidden’ tens of thousands of miles away from the so-called battlefield, `concealed’ behind computer screens and remote audio-feed. There are no means of `identifying’ them personally.

A raid in progress. Afghan women still can't laugh out loud ? Perry Kretz (Der Stern)

Killed by "faceless" Predator drone operators. Dead children can't fly kites either. AFP Getty Images

But we too, would like to see their faces. We would like to see the face that’s doing the killing. Occupying forces are not `welcome’ either. Not on Afghan soil, nor on Iraq’s soil. For they bring with them a `massive attack’ on the rights of women, they make women and children prisoners in their own land. Their veil of rhetoric hides their `intentions.’
But may be `concealment’ is essential so that they can’t prosecuted for murder under the domestic law of the country in which they conduct targeted killings? May be they need to `hide’ their faces to avoid being prosecuted for violations of applicable US law??According to a news report, The Year of the Drone Strike, 2009, netted 5 actual militant leaders, killed 700 innocent civilians. What do these faceless killers teach us, the global public? That no face-saving gestures of European rulers can conceal their complicity in war crimes in Afghanistan (and Iraq)?
Ernest Hemingway had said, We must take away their planes, their automatic weapons, their tanks, their artillery and teach them dignity (For Whom the Bell Tolls). Dignity? Do those who are `subservient’ to America’s military and economic interests, have any?
concluding instalment next week..
Other articles on burqa ban
this one is funny

Anti-semitism, and the 9/11, Israel-Mossad Connection Part I


By Rahnuma Ahmed

We Jews should never, ever become like our tormentors — not even to save our lives. Even at Auschwitz, I sensed that such a moral downfall would render my survival meaningless.
— Hajo Meyer, An Ethical Tradition Betrayed. Huffington Post, January 27, 2010.
If it had been Daniel Pipes, an Islamophobic American columnist, I wouldn’t have bothered. According to him, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels too, are anti-Semitic.
But these were close friends of Shahidul, both are Jewish, both are gentle, thoughtful and intelligent people who had read my columns posted on his blog, had written to say that they were deeply upset at my “anti-Semitism.” One of them, as she explained in her letter to me, had demonstrated with Palestinians against recent Israeli attacks on Gaza. Against earlier attacks too, the ones in Lebanon. She was no lover of Zionism, definitely not of Mossad, she wrote. The other, a much older friend of Shahidul’s, said that he wholeheartedly supported the existence of a Jewish state, and a Palestinian state in it’s own right. But what I write on Israel and Palestine is `nonsense,’ the sort of stuff that a fine scholar like myself shouldn’t be writing.
What does one do in such a situation? Besides feeling deeply upset, of course.
Read what one has written through their eyes. Turn one’s ideas this way and that. Look underneath. Reflect.
For today’s column I had thought of writing about what has led careful observers to not only think that 9/11 was an inside job but, that Israel and Mossad are connected to 9/11. Regular readers may remember that I have directly, or indirectly, written about 9/11, in many of my previous pieces. `Conspiracy theories.’ Learning from 9/11 (April 13, 2009). Al-Qaeda and Western intelligence operations (April 27, 2009). The Unfolding Crisis in Pakistan, parts 1 – 4 (May 11, 17, 18, 19 2009). The West’s immortal terrorist (December 21, 2009). 9/11 suicide hijackers. Risen from the dead (December 28, 2009). Pentagon’s prayers (January 4, 2010). Padded underwear (January 11, 2010). Mirror, mirror on the wall. Who provides the best security of them all? (January 25, 2010).
Regular readers also know that I analyse and critique not only western powers, but also, dominant institutions and ideologies, at home. That some of my recent pieces had discussed how Bengalis are prone to portray themselves as `victims’ rather than perpetrators of violence and injustice in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (April 5, 2010). How nationalist narratives of Bangladesh, whether celebrating the language movement of 1952 or the liberation struggle of 1971, have always been ethnically `singular’ (March 8, 2010). How Bengalis have begun mimicking their erstwhile Pakistani rulers when it comes to explaining what has gone wrong in the CHT: they have blamed it on others. How Bengali/national imagination needs to be de-colonised (March 26, 2010). Those who’ve read what I’ve written in Bangla know of my edited and translated collection of interviews and writings by contemporary Muslim intellectuals who engage with questions that are considered to be socially taboo in Bangladesh: do Muslims need to re-imagine Allah in a manner appropriate to the 21st century? Should the state intervene (and govern) the relationship between Allah, and His believer, since in Islam, Allah is sovereign? Are hadis and shariah patriarchal? Since homosexuality is real, and homosexuals are discriminated against by the Belgian government, shouldn’t Belgian Muslims who’ve also been victims of government discrimination, extend their support to homosexuals? (Islami Chintar Punorpothon: Shomokaleen Musolman Buddhijibder Shongram, 2006).
Nothing short of wild horses would have driven me to make this list but I do so to pre-empt attempts to deflect criticism of Israel and Zionism, usually conducted by raising counter-questions: But what about the oppressions and injustices in your own society? Why don’t you write about those?
I do.
And when I do, I don’t try to `balance’ my account of atrocities committed in the name of Bengalis in the CHT (can atrocities ever be balanced?). On the contrary, as a Bengali, I think it is obligatory that I write in the strongest possible terms, and what better day than our independence day to pen lines such as these:
Thirty-eight years on and I look at myself. I look at us women. I look at our normal, peacetime lives. And I wonder, if justice had been done, if the war criminals had been tried, if women had returned to their families, to their parents, husbands, lovers, brothers, if they did not have to go Pakistan, or to brothels, or to Mother Teresa’s in Kolkata, if those pregnant could have had their babies if they had wished, would my life, would our lives have been differently normal? If justice had been done, would the rape of hill women have been a necessary part of the military occupation of the Chittagong Hill Tracts? Would the offenders have enjoyed impunity? Would there not have been independent judicial investigations? Would those guilty have gone unpunished? Would the Chittagong Hill Tracts have been militarily occupied at all?” (Distances, Independence day supplement, New Age, March 26, 2008).
As the writers of When Victims Rule: A Critique of Jewish Pre-eminence in America argue, `Injustices perpetrated by the powerful, whoever they are, must always be challenged.’
Exactly. No balancing acts please. Like Yael Kahn, a courageous Jewish activist, who termed the recent JCall petition of 3,000 European Jews to the European Parliament as being “wholly inappropriate” to what the present demands. The petition had said that the systematic support of Israeli government policy is dangerous. That the Israeli occupation and settlements are morally and politically wrong. That Israel is going down the wrong path. That the current Israeli policies are a source of injustice for the Palestinians. Kahn welcomed the petititon but blasted JCall for failing to mention Israel’s barbaric seige of 1.5 million Palestinians living in Gaza. Neither do the petitioners speak out against Israeli restrictions on the amount of food Gaza’s Palestinians are allowed to have. Every person of conscience, she said, must take action to lift Israel’s seige of Gaza (al-Jazeera, May 4 2010).
And to this I’d like to add, why is it that these actions of the Israeli government are not considered to be anti-Semitic? As Curt Day points out, there are three dictionary definitions of Semite and one of these includes those living in Southwest Asia . In other words, Arabs. If Semites include Arabs, then is not this restricted use of the term anti-Semitism “racist”?
And maybe that is part of the problem. The assumption of an essential anti-Semitism. Fixed. Unchanging. Outside history. Regardless of what Jews do. Even if they become oppressors. Even when they become oppressors, so intent on oppressing that they become forgetful of which lessons to learn from history. For instance, this Israeli officer:
“In order to prepare properly for the next campaign, one of the Israeli officers in the (occupied) territories said not long ago, it’s justified and in fact essential to learn from every possible source. If the mission will be to seize a densely populated refugee camp, or take over the casbah in Nablus, and if the commander’s obligation is to try to execute the mission without casualties on either side, then we must first analyze and internalize the lessons of earlier battles?even, however shocking it may sound, even how the German army fought in the Warsaw ghetto.”
Amir Oren, military correspondent, Haaretz, had added: If this officer believes that the casbah of Nablus resembles the Warsaw ghetto, who, in his mind, resemble the officers of the Israeli army?
But then, as Auschwitz survivor Hajo Meyer tells us, Auschwitz and the Holocaust have been elevated into a new religion in Israel. “In the beginning is Auschwitz,” as Elie Wiesel had said. “Nothing should be compared to the Holocaust but everything must be related to it.” It is this that has allowed one of the worst genocides in history to be “exploited for political ends.” When Holocaust was turned into a religion it came to mean that Israel can do no wrong.
And I would like to add, Israel’s wrongs are not only confined to the occupied territories/ Palestine, but extends to Afghanistan and Iraq. To Pakistan. It reaches out to Iran, too.
Had the situation been the opposite, I would have been as vocal in defence of what would then have been the Israeli cause.
An earlier version published in New Age

Concluding instalment, next week

Earlier version published in New Age Monday May 10, 2010