It’s a fast moving world, for sure

Momentous changes are underway. Completely unforeseen.

First there was Tunisia – it erupted after a young man committed suicide out of frustration. After a week of protests the government fell.

Then Egypt. In less than three weeks, a 40 year old hold on the country’s leadership was overthrown. The wonder was that it was done by peaceful but forceful, protests lead by Egyptian youth.

The government used its usual brutal methods to try and put the uprising down. It didn’t work.

Next came Bahrain. A non-sectarian group of young people gathered and peacefully protested. They were blindsided by a most brutal response from the security forces. It didn’t work. Thankfully the government decided to sit down and talk.

Libya is still unfurling. The government has lost its hold on the eastern side of the country. The government is trying to use brute force to crush the – once again, peaceful – protests.

The world may have to face up to a dilemma and it may have to face up to this very quickly and be forced to decide. Stand by and do nothing while the government of Libya massacres its people. Or put a stop to the killings.

Momentous times, no doubt.

Published in: on February 23, 2011 at 9:58 pm  Leave a Comment  

Viewpoint: by Mohammed Hanif

I’m taking the liberty of reproducing this article from BBC News. Mohammed Hanif raises some excellent points in his essay:

Pakistan viewpoint: Who is to blame for Taseer’s death?

The killing of Punjab Governor Salman Taseer has been described in the country’s media as awful, tragic and “a grim commentary on the state of affairs in Pakistan”. Author Mohammed Hanif asks whether a Pakistani culture which fails to challenge extremism is in part to blame.

When Pakistan’s television anchors and newspaper columnists describe Salman Taseer’s assassination a tragedy, they are not telling us the whole truth.

Because many of these very anchors and columnists have stated, in no uncertain terms, that by expressing his reservations about the blasphemy law, Salman Taseer had crossed a line on the other side of which is certain death.

This death could have come by way of his own guard, or an armed mullah, or a mob or the stroke of a pen in a court. It could break through a governor’s security cordon or, as has happened many times before, visit someone in a cramped prison cell.

The line that Governor Taseer is supposed to have crossed did not get drawn just by the text of a fatwa, or by the orders of Gen Zia who promulgated the blasphemy law as it exists now.

Religious groups are not the only ones responsible. The op-ed writers whose work reads like bloodcurdling fatwas are also not the only ones to blame.

It is a line that is drawn across all Pakistanis’ hearts.

Why are we so frightened of non-Muslims who make up less than 2% of this country’s population?

Why are we so fond of killing people in the name of the same Prophet who brought us the message that one murder is the same as the murder of all of humanity?

By using words like “ghazi” (warrior) and “shaheed” (martyr) for cold-blooded killers, are we trying to tame some ancient fear or placate the jihadi within?

Goad the butchers

Why do our TV reporters run to muftis and mullahs for answers to questions about everything from Ramadan moon sightings to causes of the solar eclipse?

Who has managed to convince us that Dr Aafia Siddiqui, jailed in the US for attempting to kill US military personnel, should be revered as a “daughter of the nation”, while another daughter of the nation, the condemned Christian woman Asia Bibi, is to be executed?

The same Islamabad where Salman Taseer bled to death in the middle of a pretty neighbourhood played host just a couple of weeks ago to a Namoos-e Risalat (Dignity of the Prophet) conference which was attended by individuals whose party manifestos include the death by murder of Shias, Ahmadis, Hindus and Jews?

Were some of our prominent politicians not in attendance?

Do these same people not inhabit our government corridors, media organisations and security agencies? Do we not break bread with them at weddings and funerals?

The line that Mr Taseer crossed exists within all of us.

And we are so frightened of crossing the line that would render us faithless that we are ready to sacrifice anyone and draw blood to feed our faith.

What if we do not have the stomach to wield the knife ourselves?

We can still goad the butchers on from the fences. For those of us who call ourselves liberal Muslims there is always the option of turning away and holding our noses.

Mohammed Hanif is a former editor of the BBC Urdu service and author of A Case of Exploding Mangoes.

Published in: on January 28, 2011 at 11:58 pm  Leave a Comment  

Best SMS ever …

I have a particular distaste for these ‘suicide’ bombers who kill and maim innocent people. They should be called what they are – homicide bombers.

I do not understand the need to do this – if you want to take your life, go for it. But why kill and maim innocent bystanders?

What do these people achieve by doing this? They certainly won’t garner public support.

That’s why I think that someone should set up a Bomber Training School. Invite all those who are inclined to kill in this fashion. Provide them all the material.

Then insist on a full dress rehearsal!

Which is why I smiled when I read this article:

Undoubtedly the best SMS ever!

Published in: on January 28, 2011 at 11:47 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Close encounters of the nasty kind … the very nasty kind …

If you follow the press in India, you will come across references to “encounters” between the police and “criminal/terrorists”. These encounters usually mean that the “criminals/terrorists” are no longer able to tell their stories.

The New York Times carried a superb article on this subject. To read it, follow this link.

Published in: on October 4, 2009 at 3:08 am  Leave a Comment  
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We need more people like Professor Kanwar

I’m taking the liberty of reproducing the essay that Prof. Kanwar wrote some months ago.

I wish we had more people who think like this and are not afraid to express themselves openly.




Mahfooz A. Kanwar is an Emeritus professor at Mount Royal College and the author of Journey To Success. In April of 2009, he appeared on Steve Paikin’s The Agenda, on TV Ontario.

I was dismayed when I learned that Mr. Erik Millett, the principal of Belleisle School in Springfield, N.B., prohibited singing our national anthem because the families of a couple of his students objected to it.

As a social scientist, I have been opposing political correctness, lack of assimilation of new immigrants to mainstream Canada, hyphenated Canadian identity, and, among other things, the lack of patriotism to our great nation.

We are restricted to do things the Canadian way lest we offend the minorities. We cannot even say Merry Christmas. It is amazing that 77% of the Canadian majority are scared of offending 23% of Canadian minorities. We have become so timid that the majority cannot assert its own freedom of expression.

We cannot publically question certain foreign social customs, traditions, and values that do not fit in the Canadian web. Rather than encouraging the new immigrants to adjust to Canada, we tolerate peculiar ways of doing things. We do not remind them that they are in Canada, not in their original homelands.

In a multicultural society such as Canada, it is the responsibility of minorities to adjust to the majority. It does not mean that minorities have to totally amalgamate with the majority. They can practise some of their cultural baggage within their confinement, their back stage behaviour. However, their front stage behaviour should resemble mainstream Canadian behaviour.

Whoever comes to Canada must learn the limits of our system. We do not kill our daughters or other female members of our families who refuse to wear hijab, niqab or burka which are not mandated by the Quran. A 16-year-old Muslim girl named Aqsa Pervez should not have been killed by her father in Toronto because she refused to don a hijab. We do not kill our daughters if they date the “wrong” men. A 17-year-old Sikh girl should not have been killed in British Columbia by her father because she was caught dating a Caucasian young man.

We do not approve of testing the sex of the fetus, and aborting it if it is female. We do not practise the dowry system in Canada, and, therefore, do not kill our brides because they did not bring enough dowry. Millions of female fetuses are aborted every year in India, and millions of female infants have been killed by their parents in India and China. Thousands of brides in India are burned to death in their kitchens because they did not bring enough dowry. Thirty thousand Sikhs living abroad took the dowries but abandoned their brides in India in 2005. This is not accepted in Canada.

In some countries thousands of women are murdered every year for family or religious honour. We should not hide behind political correctness and we should expose the cultural and religious background of these heinous crimes especially if they happens in Canada. We should also expose those who bring their cultural baggage containing the social custom of female circumcision. I was shocked when I learned about two cases of this inhumane social custom that were practised in St. Catharines, Ontario a few years ago.

I have said it on radio and television; have written in my columns in both the Calgary Herald and the Calgary Sun; and I have written in my latest book, Journey to Success, that I do not agree with the hyphenated identity in Canada because it divides our loyalties. My argument is that people are not forced to come to Canada and they are not forced to stay here. Therefore, those who come here on their own volition and stay here must be truly patriotic Canadians or go back.

Let me put my words where my mouth is. I am a first generation Canadian from Pakistan. I left Pakistan 45 years ago. I cannot ignore Pakistan, because it is the homeland of my folks, but my loyalty is to Canada alone. I am, therefore, a proud Canadian, no longer a Pakistani-Canadian. I am a Canadian Muslim, not a Muslim Canadian.

I do not agree with those Canadians who engage in their fight against the system in their original countries on the Canadian soil. They should go back and fight from within. For example, some of the Sikhs, Tamil Tigers, Armenians, and others have disturbed the peace in Canada because of their problems back home. Recently, a lower level leader of MQM, the Mafia of Pakistan, came to Canada as a refugee and started to organize public rallies to collect funds for their cause in Pakistan. On July 18, 2007, the Federal Court of Canada ruled that MQM is a terrorist group led by London-based Altaf Hussain, their Godfather. As a member in the coalition government of Pakistan, this terrorist group is currently collaborating with the Taliban in Pakistan. That refugee was deported back to Pakistan.

Similarly, I disagree with Canadians who bring their religious baggage here. For example, Muslims are less than 2% of the Canadian population, yet in 2004 and 2005, a fraction of them, the fundamentalists, wanted the Sharia law in Canada, a secular country. They should go where Sharia is practised.

I once supported multiculturalism in Canada because I believed then that it gave us a sense of pluralism and diversity. However, I have observed and experienced that multiculturalism has encouraged convolution of our mainstream culture. It has also been exploited by some sub-cultural and religious groups in terms of government grants.

For example, all places of worship in Canada are tax exempted costing millions of dollars. Yet, some of them are known to engage in disloyalty to Canada. I was very disturbed when I learned that 17 fundamentalist Muslim Canadians wanted to kill our prime minister and destroy our parliament building and the CN Tower. They preached hatred towards Canadians, including secular Muslims in Canada.

Here we stand on guard for Canada, not for countries we came from. Like it or not, take it or leave it, standing on guard only for Canada is our national maxim. Remember, O’ Canada is our national anthem which must not be disregarded by anybody, including the teacher in Springfield, N.B.

Published in: on September 28, 2009 at 1:24 am  Leave a Comment  
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Pure Evil

If you want to witness pure evil, check out [WARNING! What you will see and hear is disturbing. If you are easily upset, do not click on the link.]

It’s a documentary of the November 2008 attacks in Bombay (a.k.a. Mumbai).

You will hear the terrorists consulting their handler who plays God – he decides who dies and when.

That is the voice of a real coward – he sends others to do the dirty work and exhorts the terrorists to kill and be killed. He speaks to hostages in a calm voice, and then asks to listen while they are killed.

To me this is evil incarnate.

Published in: on July 29, 2009 at 3:12 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Power hungry

The election in Iran has been an eye-opener.

The mullahs who rule came to power on the strength of the vox populi who wanted the Shah removed. The theory was that Iran would be democratic and set their own path.

Thirty years later, Iranians are upset that their election doesn’t look like democracy in action.

But the ruling mullahs have dug in and won’t budge from power. Without transparency, there’s no democracy. And Iranians don’t have transparency in their government from all accounts.

In all this, as I see it, the ruling council is not very different from the monarchy under the Shah. Power is concentrated, citizens are powerless, a casual militant force (apparently not very different from thugs) turns on protesters, and chaos follows.

What a pity that a country with so much history and heritage is denying a voice to its people.

Published in: on June 24, 2009 at 7:59 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Technology on airplanes

AF 447’s tragic accident got me thinking (as I’m sure many others are) about the use of technology on airplanes. Sometimes it’s hard to believe that we are in the 21st century – in a very wired world of GPS trackers and Twittering.

Some food for thought:

  • Why are we still totally reliant on onboard “black boxes”?
  • Why can’t the same data be transmitted in real-time to a safe server so that there is redundancy built into the system?
  • Why can’t the onboard “black boxes” be designed to detach from the aircraft and float – or be very visible – on land or sea?
  • Why can’t their batteries be made to last longer than 4 weeks to operate the beacon that transmits their location?
  • Why can’t their location be transmitted using some sort of GPS locator – just as many mobile phones have?

Condolences and sympathy to all those who lost loved ones.

Published in: on June 8, 2009 at 7:17 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Elections in India

Back in the ’80’s, several of us friends spent many evenings debating world issues. Inevitably, elections in India would surface as a topic of discussion. Some took the view that voters were easily bought and the results hardly depicted the desires of citizens.

My view was always that the voters of India have used their power to vote governments in and to kick them out as well. A look back in history is all we need for evidence of this. Mrs Gandhi was ignominously tossed out after her Emergency-era. When India realised that the alternate was just awful, they brought her back with gusto.

More recently the BJP was given an opportunity to rule – and failed. They were kicked out.

The mandate to the Congress government in 2009’s elections is most interesting – now that they have a majority in Parliament, they now have no excuse not to deliver on the myriad issues facing India.

I will watch with great interest to see how this plays out.

The FT explains the results in this article,  with commentary here on what needs to be done in the country. Here’s another interesting article.

Published in: on May 20, 2009 at 10:21 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Slumdog Millionaire

If you’ve seen the movie, you’ll know that it’s an interesting and fast-paced story.

In my opinion it’s quite well done.

A story of hope and optimism. That destiny (fate, karma – whatever) doesn’t always deal a cruel hand. Good can triumph over evil. That sort of thing.

Seems that some people don’t recognise that this was not intended to be a depiction of India. It’s a novel (Q&A by Vikas Swarup). It’s fiction.

Good storyline. The movie screenplay was done well. Good music by the genius, A R Rahman.

In the end it’s a story.

People are pontificating about how it depicts India etc etc … but the story was never about India.

It’s about hope. And optimism. And destiny (or fate or karma – whatever you choose to call it or believe in).

Lighten up folks. Enjoy the story.

And congratulations to the entire cast and crew for a job well done.

Published in: on February 26, 2009 at 9:13 pm  Leave a Comment  
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