It is encouraging to watch how Rachid Ghannouchi and Nahdha, the largest and most popular Islamic political party in Tunisia which is now widely expected to come to power again in the next election, have been transforming over time. Recently Ghannouchi astonished the world by declaring that “We will exit political Islam”, meaning that the country would be working to separate religious work from politics. Coming from one who once advocated Sharia law in governance, this change is amazing. Ghannouchi's leadership of remaining flexible, without compromising fundamental values and principles of Islam, has played a major role in helping Tunisia to become a vibrant democracy today, when other countries in the region have failed.
When blogger Rajib Haider was killed in 2013, the outcry was tremendous. But, over the next three years, at least 38 more were added to the list of those murdered, which includes writers, publisher, foreigners, religious minorities and LGBT rights activists. There have been reports about alleged IS involvement, and last week, the security forces launched a drive that resulted in the arrest of 194 'militants'. But the collective outrage over people being murdered seems to have mellowed.
“Xenophobic and racist rhetoric seems not only to be on the rise, but also to be becoming more socially and politically acceptable.”The warning has been heralded by the authoritative voice of Mogens Lykketoft, current president of the United Nations General Assembly, who on World Refugee Day on June 20, reacted to the just announced new record number of people displaced from their homes due to conflict and persecution.
It is always baffling, isn’t it, to see the yawning difference in our responses in South Asia to a gathering communal threat, for instance, as opposed to the catastrophic prospect of nuclear annihilation? Only recently, Pakistan toggled between public outcry and terrified whispers when teeming mourners showed up at the funeral of an executed religious zealot, the savage killer of a popular provincial governor.
Thanks to Edward Snowden dumping sensitive data on to the net, there now exists more accurate estimates on foreign fighters recruited by the Islamic State (IS). Indeed, going by The Combating Terrorism Centre at West Point (United States Military Academy) recently made available a report titled 'The Caliphate's Global Workforce: An Inside Look at the Islamic State's Foreign Fighter Paper Trail' which provides data of some 4,600 foreign fighters recruited between early 2013 and 2014. This study which is a compilation of 4018 Mujahid Data forms, 2 Excel files (with 155 individuals entered), Exit records (31 files, 431 individuals) and 15 miscellaneous files provide a pattern of recruitment, which interestingly points to something rather disturbing, i.e. Europeans are signing up in alarming numbers, mostly from smaller countries like Belgium and Denmark. We are talking continental Europe here and the IS has successfully recruited from East and West and the Balkans.
Donald Trump’s rise in America, a wave of pro-Brexit and xenophobic sentiment in the UK, mass demonstrations in France and Brazil, a political crisis in South Africa, communal polarisation in India, and religious zealotry coupled with anti-corruption agitation in Pakistan. On the face of it, there’s very little that connects these disparate events. Each appears unique to a country’s history and its contemporary interaction of domestic and global events.
“Hate is becoming mainstreamed. Walls – which tormented previous generations, and have never yielded any sustainable solution to any problem – are returning. Barriers of suspicion are rising, snaking through and between our societies – and they are killers…”
Allow me a rare personal anecdote. In 1965 I met Lord Hume, who had just left the post of Prime Minister and we had a mutual sympathy. Lord Hume invited me for lunch at the Chamber of Lords. Over an extremely delicious rump of Scottish lamb, I asked if I was allowed to ask a complex question. I explained that I had started my professional career as a Kremlinologist, which had served me well in following British foreign policy. One day London was looking to Europe as its compass, and another day, to Washington. All this on the basis of small signals, difficult to detect. Could his Lordship explain to me how to address this dualism?
When I first saw the news flash scrolling at the bottom of my TV screen, my first thought was, please God, not another Muslim!With Donald Trump waging his own “jihad” against Muslims – all Muslims, including those who are American – I was hoping that the shooter was from another religion, any religion but Islam. My hope turned into a nightmare when the shooter was confirmed not only to be a Muslim, but someone who was born in New York and had gone to US schools. Omar Mateen was just a regular guy, it seems, who wore a bandana, loved taking selfies, dated a Pakistani woman, and even occasionally visited the same gay night club where he unleashed his vengeance. He may have been a closeted gay.
In the departure lounge near Gate No 308 at the Istanbul airport there’s a coffee shop, which has thrown a few chairs and tables near the exit to cater to its needy customers whose flights are delayed. It was here that I got an important glimpse the other day of how one can still frontally approach issues of religious sensitivities. The young Turkish waiter asked an old Arab man to place the order. The man said he was only waiting for his flight to be announced. “Not here, please. This is a coffee shop.” The Arab vacated the chair without fuss.
Though the High Level Meeting on Ending AIDS ended with the adoption of bold and life saving targets, many organisations have expressed their disappointment in its outcomes.
The Pakistan Economic Survey 2015-16 reminds us of our ticking population bomb.We are told that today the country`s population stands at 195.4 million 3.7m more than it was the previous year. We have regressed.
Amid the hustle and bustle of downtown Hargeisa, Somaliland’s sun-blasted capital, women in various traditional Islamic modes of dress barter, argue and joke with men—much of it particularly volubly. Somaliland women are far from submissive and docile.
There was the incredible Ali Shuffle in the 1960s when a restless young athlete danced around his opponents in the boxing ring, delivering potent blows but taking few in return, the heavyweight champion of the whole world, as he frequently liked to put it.
It happens far more often than anyone is willing to admit or acknowledge. A woman who is a widow, or whose family owes a debt, or who has caught the eye of a lecherous boss, or who is no longer very young, or who fails to fit the fair and lovely demands of the usual suitors, is approached by an older man for marriage.