Welcome To The Islamic Republic Of Switzerland – Do You Want Your Burqa In Black Or Blue?

Update: 30th November 2009

The vote to ban the minaret was passed. Switzerland, long pretending to be a liberal, democratic nation that respected the rights to the free practice of all faiths, has revealed its ugly underbelly. Details »

An Entity Conceived In Hatred, Survives On Hatred Or How Abul Kalam Azad’s Fears Became Pakistan

Maulana Abul Kalam Muhiyuddin Ahmed (11 November 1888 – 22 February 1958) was a Muslim scholar and a senior political leader of the Indian independence movement. He was a vociferous advocate for the unity of India, opposing the partition of India on communal lines. Following India’s independence, he became the first Minister of Education in the Indian government. Details »

Pankaj Mishra & The Heritage Of Indian Pluralism

Pankaj Mishra, one of my favorite writers and intellectuals, has written a fascinating essay for The National newspaper title Beyond Boundaries that speaks about India’s long and resilient syncretic traditions.

I have featured his piece, thanks to his kind permission, on my The Idea of India project website. For those who may not know, this is a long-term project I am working on documenting India’s heritage of pluralism and syncretism. Details »

Not In Our Name: Hamburg Artists Speak Out Against A Segregated City

A group of artists, intellectuals and concerned citizens have issued a ‘Not In Our Name’ statement to the city development authorities demanding that the ‘planned’ city and its extensive ‘gentrification’ be immediately stopped and that it not be used to create socially and class segregated ‘ghettos’ that privilege the few over the culture, social space and life of the city and it many diverse communities.

The original statement in Germany can be read here Not In Our Name, Marke Hamburg and an English translation is available here Not In Our Name. Details »

Saying ‘Fuck Off’ In Muslim And Why I Say It So Often!

I was days away from penning a piece about how we should neither ask or give ‘collectivist’ explanations for acts of violence carried out by people 1) using Islam as a justification, 2) with Arabic/Islamic/Muslim names, and 3) veiling their illegal, violent and inhumane activities behind a language and rhetoric of Islam.

But Ali Eteraz beat me to it, and did it more articulately and with greater clarity. By the way, I have quoted from Eteraz’s works in the past. He has also recently published what looks like a fascinating memoir. The book is called Children of Dust and chronicles his journey from a village in Pakistan to the USA where he remained the rest of his life. Details »

Getting The Pakistanis To Sing Our Songs But Sending Them Villains And Not Violins

A few weeks ago another typically obtuse and brain dead New York Times journalist lamented the said state of affairs of the country of Pakistan where apparently her pop singers were not entertaining him sufficiently with songs against the Taliban. Adam B. Ellick was confused and upset about this and pointed out, in a piece called Pakistan Rock Rails Against The West, Not The Taliban that there is..

…a surge of bubble-gum stars who have become increasingly politicized. Some are churning out ambiguous, cheery lyrics urging their young fans to act against the nation’s woes. Others simply vilify the United States. Details »

Remembering Faiz – As If We Could Ever Forget Him!

On the anniversary of the death of the man who in many ways changed my life…once I understood how to read, hear and comprehend his works. I wrote about his impact on my life in an earlier post titled Unraveling Bitter Threads & I refer to his works in a piece I wrote about the genocide in Bangladesh called The Dust From Blood Filled Eyes: On Bangladesh And The Acknowledgement Of Crimes. Details »

Voices Of Dissent In Times Of Consent: Anna Baltzar, Omar Barghouti And The Struggle For Justice

This is an American voice, and perhaps much needed. We are at a crucial turning point in the world opinion and understanding of the situation a.k.a. the occupation of West Bank and Gaza, and voices of people like Anna Baltzer are an essential complement to the decades of civic, intellectual, social and yes, occasionally, violent resistance and struggle by the Palestinians trapped inside Israel’s dreams and fantasies. Details »

Where The Head Spun: November 13th 2009

A wide range of issues came across recently and though I would love to wax lyrical about all of them I find my head space considerably limited to speak of each in some reasonable fashion. But I wanted to draw your attention to some interesting developments, a few of which are being carefully ignored in our press and oh-so-alert media Details »

Arundhati Roy On The Meaning And Idea Of Resistance

It has become fashionable to simply accept, to acquiese to power, to be obsequieous, to kiss-ass, to bend over to be taken from behind, to be grateful that your mortage can still be paid, to look for hand outs, to simply repeat the rhetoric and language of the powerful…to simply exlain the status quo and consider it insight.

Arundhati Roy continues, quietly and incisely, to remind us that dissent, all dissent, is the fundamental platform of democracy and of liberty.

One of my favorite commentators, Mark Slouka, recently penned a piece called Democracy & Deference where he ask, first the Americans, but then the world in general:

Turn on the TV to almost any program with an office in it, and you’ll find a depressingly accurate representation of the “boss culture,” a culture based on an a priori notion of—a devout belief in—inequality. The boss will scowl or humiliate you…because he can, because he’s the boss. And you’ll keep your mouth shut and look contrite, even if you’ve done nothing wrong . . . because, well, because he’s the boss. Because he’s above you. Because he makes more money than you. Because—admit it—he’s more than you.

This is the paradigm—the relational model that shapes so much of our public life. Its primary components are intimidation and fear. It is essentially authoritarian. If not principally about the abuse of power, it rests, nonetheless, on a generally accepted notion of power’s privileges. Of its inherent rights. The Rights of Man? Please. The average man has the right to get rich so that he too can sit behind a desk wearing an absurd haircut, yelling, “You’re fired!” or refuse to take any more questions; so that he too—when the great day comes—can pour boiling oil on the plebes at the base of the castle wall, each and every one of whom accepts his right to do so, and aspires to the honor.

And then leads us to the crucial question on which our democracy may hinge:

What kind of culture defines “maturity” as the time when young men and women sacrifice principle to prudence, when they pledge allegiance to the boss in the name of self-promotion and “realism”? What kind of culture defines adulthood as the moment when the self goes underground? One answer might be a military one. The problem is that while unthinking loyalty to one’s commanding officer may be necessary in war, it is disastrous outside of it. Why? Because loyalty, by definition, qualifies individualism, discouraging the expression of individual opinion, recasting honesty as a type of betrayal. Because loyalty to power, rather than to what one believes to be true or right, is fatally undemocratic, and can lead to the most horrendous abuses.

Indeed, what kind of culture is that? We would do well to consider answers.