‘Why the Azaan Should Not be Broadcast over Loudspeakers’ by Omar Latif

: Jamia Masjid, Vancouver, the azaan was broadcast over loudspeakers for the first time in its 112-year history – photo from 30 Masjids dot ca

TO HELP PRESERVE SECULARISM
TO HELP PREVENT ISLAMOPHOBIA

It began with broadcasting one azaan call-for-prayer for one of the five daily prayers during the month of Ramzan at one mosque in Toronto. Within days, the practice spread to many cities – Mississauga, Brampton, Milton, London, Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver, and, Surrey – at the last count. One cleric has already said that he would like the azaan to be announced over loudspeakers for all five prayers, throughout the year!

If this was to remind Muslims about the time of prayer, it must be pointed out that Muslims and, for that matter, Jews, Christians, Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists, have all been saying their prayers at home or in their places of worship at prescribed times for hundreds of years without the call-to-prayer being announced from loudspeakers. And how, it was asked, would Muslims know the time of the other four daily prayers if the azaan was sent out over loudspeakers only once a day?

The rationale changed: Muslims couldn’t gather in mosques during their holy month of Ramzan due to Covid-19 and would find solace when they heard the azaan over loudspeakers. But, it was pointed out that the overwhelming majority of Muslims lived too far from any mosque to hear it! And what about believers of other religions who couldn’t congregate on their holy days either, for instance, Christians weren’t able to get together on Good Friday this April 8 or Jews during Passover from April 8-16? By that logic, shouldn’t religious invocations for all believers of all faiths be relayed over loudspeakers to provide them comfort during the lock-down? Would that cacophony calm jangled nerves and create harmony among people, or create greater stress and resentment against each other?

Is the push for the broadcasting of the azaan over loudspeakers coming from Muslims as a whole? According to Canada’s 2011 National Household Survey, there were a total of 1,053,945 Muslims in Canada – perhaps a total of 1,000,000 adult Muslims currently. Of these, only a small minority says any prayers, much less the daily five. Only a fraction of this small minority goes to mosques to say their prayers, and that too mainly for the Eid or for Friday noon prayers. Anybody can see for themselves how empty mosques are at other prayer times.

The push for the azaan over mosque loudspeakers is not coming from all Muslims but from a small number of Muslim clerics, mainly Sunni, mainly conservative. Some Muslims, thinking that the loud call to prayer demonstrates the power of Islam, or makes it more appealing, also support this idea. However, they are sadly mistaken.

Who has allowed these organizations to over-ride the local noise by-laws? Mainly mayors and municipal councillors from mainstream parties but, unfortunately some progressive ones too, who in return, want to use such organizations as sources for funds, volunteers and ‘vote banks’ at election time.

The broadcasting of the azaan over loudspeakers hardly serves the purpose of reminding Muslims of prayer times or for providing solace during the lockdown in Ramzan since reminders on watches, computers and cell phones would work better. In reality, it appears that this move is a flexing of muscle by conservative Muslim clerics and organizations who are on their way to play a larger political role in society; clerics and organizations who have us believe that they speak on behalf of one, monolithic, undifferentiated, Muslim ummah (nation).

What they are aiming for, a wish NOT shared by ALL Muslims, is to increase the influence of religion and religious values in public life; of views that do not support equality of women with men, views that are against secularism, choice, same-sex partnerships, evolution and other rational and scientific ideas such as, for example, the causes and cures of epidemics and other natural disasters like droughts, hurricanes, floods, earthquakes.

Public pressure has done away with Catholic School Boards in all provinces, and it demanded the same in Ontario in favour of one, secular, public education system for all. Contrary to the will of the people, these clerics push for publicly funded religious schools. It was only after a long struggle that the Lord’s Prayer and other overtly Christian teachings were ended in public schools. These clerics will push for more insertion of religious teachings in public schools. Far fetched? Can happen only in countries of the global south? Just look at what has happened in the US in a few decades!

Over the past four decades, the mainstream parties, at all levels, have enabled the de-regulation of big business, the lowering of taxes on large corporations, the whittling down of social programs, the weakening of labour laws, and the increase in the huge gap between the 1% and everyone else. They have supported militarism and wars, many are being fought against Muslim countries. They have backed Israel in its harsh and unjust treatment of the Palestinian people. None of this matters to these conservative Muslim clerics who are interested only in advancing their narrow, sectarian agenda.

The parties of big business will rely the more on conservative religious forces, of all religions – because they do not acknowledge the impact of privilege, disregard class analysis, the importance of trade unions, instead teaching submission and acceptance by the have-nots of the existing unjust economic structures since privilege and poverty are ordained by God, where justice and fairness is to be found not here but in the hereafter – the more the struggle for social justice grows.

Is the denial of the use of loudspeakers to broadcast the azaan a denial of the right of freedom of belief of Muslims? No it isn’t. First of all, a small minority wants this ‘right’ and only a fraction of this minority will actually hear the azaan. But the main point is that Muslims will still have the right to say the azaan so long as its sound remains within the confines of their prayer halls, and others outside, are not compelled to listen to it. Public complaints have put a stop to the pealing of church bells in many areas. It should be stopped everywhere.

The broadcasting of the azaan over mosque loudspeakers is another intrusion of religion into public space. If it takes hold, other religions inevitably will want to broadcast their chants, bells, hymns etc. over loudspeakers too. The right to religious freedom should be supported as long as it is not socially harmful or a bother to others. Prejudices like Islamophobia and anti-Semitism must be fought but religion whether Islam, or Christianity, or Hinduism or Judaism or Sikhism, should be a personal matter. The separation between state and religion should become more, not less, sharp. Canada should become more, not less, secular.
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Omar Latif is a Toronto activist who has been a long-time member of the Committee of Progressive Pakistani-Canadians and of the Communist Party of Canada. This article is based on his personal views, not on those of the CPPC or of the CPC.

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Uddari Weblog is published from
the unceded Coast Salish territories of
the Semiahmoo, Katzie, Kwikwetlem, Kwantlen,
Qayqayt, Tsawwassen, Musqueam,
Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations.

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China and the Uighurs

Chinese Uighur

The situation about the Uighur Muslims has attracted widespread media coverage in the past year.  In light of the West after 9-11 and India under Modi, it may be easy for observers to assume that this is a case of Islamophobia in China.

China’s human rights abuses, while they should be condemned unequivocally, do not constitute a case of Islamophobia as they do in the case of India and China.

First of all, Islam in China has a very different history compared to its history in the West and in India.

In China, Islam came through trade. During the cosmopolitan empire of the Tang Dynasty (618-906 CE). Arab and Central Asian merchants brought Islam to Turkestan (now north-western China) and to Chinese cities like Chang’an, Kaifeng and Luoyan.[1] Islam has long been associated with trade in China’s history and the most famous Muslim in China’s history, Zheng He (1371-1433), was a mariner and explorer.

Turkic migrations

China’s Han majority population also accepted Islam through conversion. Although a minority within the larger Han population, Han Chinese Muslims (known as the ‘Hui’) are virtually indistinguishable from their Han brethren except in their avoidance of pork.

Islam thus has a comparatively peaceful history in China. Compare this to the West where Islam was branded a Christian heresy from its inception and associated with the Crusades or in India where Islam has been associated (especially by Hindu Nationalists) with the looting of Hindu temples by Turkish mercenaries like Mahmud of Ghazni.

Secondly, the human rights abuses suffered by China’s Muslims have been confined to Xinjiang. They do not envelop the entire Chinese Muslim population the way they have Muslims in the West after 9-11 or in India under Modi.

China is home to over 20 million Muslims.[2] Of these, 41% are Uighur while 48% are Han Chinese (Hui) and the remaining 11% belonging to Kazakh, Uzbek, Tajik, Tatar and other ethnic groups.[3]

If Islamophobia were rampant in China, it would’ve been all over the Western media by now.  Instead, what has been making cover stories in the West (besides the Corona Virus scare and the crackdown on the Uighurs) is China’s ability to digitally monitor the activities of its citizens, Uighur, Han or otherwise.

Third, and most crucially, the crackdown on Muslims in Xinjiang should be understood in light of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) obsession with maintaining state power and control. This obsession extends to suppressing any religious fervour which threatens or is suspected of threatening the CCP’s grip on power.[4]

The CCP has a long history of penetrating and monitoring religious establishments, ensuring they are subordinate to the party-state.[5]  This is due in part to the official atheism of the CCP, but it owes far more to a long history in China of regulating religion and suppressing religious fervour as a political threat.

There’s plenty of historical precedents to make the CCP nervous. A Daoist sect called the Yellow Turbans undermined the Han Dynasty (206 BC–220 AD).[6] The Red Turbans, a Buddhist sect, led to the fall of the Yuan Dynasty (1279-1368). The Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) had to contend with the White Lotus Rebellion (1794-1804), another Buddhist sect. The Taiping rebellion (1850-1864), a Christian millenarian movement, fatally wounded the Qing and killed upwards of twenty million people.[7]

The CCP most notoriously suppressed the Falun Gong sect in the late 1990s and into the new millennium. Besides branding it an “evil cult,” the National People’s Congress amended article 300 of the Criminal Code on October 30, 1999, enabling the CCP to suppress spiritual groups deemed “dangerous to the state” (the Falun Gong claimed millions of members across China).

The oppression of China’s Uighurs is about the Chinese state maintaining its state power and control over the country and its citizens. It should be understood in light of China’s long history of regulating and suppressing any religious fervour (real or imagined) and not as a projection of the West’s own Islamophobia on to other societies.

Sources:

Darren Byler, “China’s hi-tech war on its Muslim minority,” The Guardian, April 11, 2019 (online): https://www.theguardian.com/news/2019/apr/11/china-hi-tech-war-on-muslim-minority-xinjiang-uighurs-surveillance-face-recognition.

André Laliberté, The Legal-Formal Status of Religions in China in In  Dirk Ehlers and Henning Glaser, ed.,  Political and Religious Communities: Partners, Competitors, or  Aliens? Baden-Baden: Nomos, 2019 (forthcoming).

Lipman, Jonathan Newman (1997), Familiar Strangers, a history of Muslims in Northwest China, Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press.

 

NOTES

[1] Lipman, Jonathan Newman (1997), Familiar Strangers, a history of Muslims in Northwest China, Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press, 25.

[2] https://www.pewforum.org/2009/10/07/mapping-the-global-muslim-population/

[3] Armijo, Jackie (2006), “Islamic Education in China”, Harvard Asia Quarterly, 10 (1), archived from the original on 2007-09-28

[4] Darren Byler, “China’s hi-tech war on its Muslim minority,” The Guardian, April 11, 2019 (online): https://www.theguardian.com/news/2019/apr/11/china-hi-tech-war-on-muslim-minority-xinjiang-uighurs-surveillance-face-recognition. Byler reports how the Chinese state has grown anxious over the growing sense of Uighur religious and cultural identity (fostered and disseminated through social media including Uighur Muslims praying five times a day, Muslim women veiling themselves and the import of food, movies, music and clothing from Turkey and Dubai) and in growing Uighur social and political activism.

[5] André Laliberté, The Legal-Formal Status of Religions in China in In  Dirk Ehlers and Henning Glaser, ed.,  Political and Religious Communities: Partners, Competitors, or  Aliens? Baden-Baden: Nomos, 2019 (forthcoming).

[6] The following historical examples are cited by Laliberté in The Legal-Formal Status of Religions in China.

[7] The Qing Dynasty also suppressed Muslim rebellions in the north-west during its expansion into Turkestan in the 18th century.

 

 

India’s Moment of Reckoning

TOPSHOT-INDIA-POLITICS-RIGHTS-UNREST

In 1938, a Nazi law forced German Jews to register their property and assets with the government. In 2001, the Taliban forced all religious minorities in Afghanistan to wear distinctive marks on their clothing to distinguish them from the country’s Muslim majority.

Now, in 2019, the BJP government of India has passed a law which, in effect, will decide whether Indian Muslims are citizens or not on the basis of their religion.

On the face of it, the Citizenship Amendment Act (the “Act”), states that (non-Muslim) illegal migrants who have fled religious persecution in Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan are eligible to apply for Indian citizenship.

When read in conjunction with the National Register of Citizens (the “NRC”), however, the Act threatens to render almost two million Muslims in India (who migrated to Assam from Bangladesh) stateless.

By making religion a condition of citizenship, the Act and the NRC throw the very idea of India as a secular state into question. Will the law apply only to Muslim migrants and their descendants (even if born in India)? Will it be used against those poorer Indian Muslims who have lived in the country since time immemorial but who have no documents to prove their citizenship?

In 2018, Republicans in Georgia threatened to blacklist African-Americans from voting because they could not prove their identity. Will disenfranchisement hang over the heads of Indian Muslims if they cannot show the right kind of documents if any at all?

Historically, citizenship in India (like elsewhere) was acquired by the citizenship belonging to one’s parents (the jus sanguinis or ‘right of blood’ principle) or by naturalization if the person has been resident in India for more twelve years. Descent and residence on Indian territory were sufficient for the sake of claiming Indian citizenship, not religion.

In protest of the law, India has witnessed some of its largest demonstrations in decades with public figures like Ramachandra Guha and Shabana Azmi expressing solidarity with the protestors. The Supreme Court of India has issued notices to the Government of India on petitions challenging the constitutionality of the law.

I hope that these protests are an illustration of the Daoist principle that when things reach one extreme, they revert and start moving back in the opposite direction. Just like we saw with the “wake” movement in the aftermath of Black Lives Matter, the demonstrations in India have the potential to crystallize into a mass-movement that challenges Hindu Nationalism if they are given the right direction and organization.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tomorrow in Surrey: Women Who Named the Unnamed: Pakistan’s & Local Women Heroes

pakistani women

What inspires me most about this program is the courage of the women it honours. Through their art, their activism, their poetry and their writing, they have dauntlessly challenged institutionalized systems of patriarchal, racial and religious authority, making the world a freer place for all of us regardless of who we are …

Tomorrow, Surrey Muse Arts Society (SMAS) presents “Women Who Named the Unnamed: Pakistan’s & Local Women Heroes” (Sept 28, 6 – 9 PM, Centre Stage, Surrey City Hall). It’s a groundbreaking three-hour stage show which recognizes, for the first time in Greater Vancouver, the contributions of 15 distinguished Pakistani, Punjabi, South Asian, Muslim and women of colour from Pakistan, Surrey and Vancouver to the development of our communities through literature, art, scholarship and activism.

Our distinguished guests for the evening are Sunera Thobani, Harsha Walia, Surjeet Kalsey, Darshan Maan, Indigenous scholar/historian Deanne Reder, and, Katheren Szabo. We will also recognize a Surrey Woman of Courage.

You can find out more about our program here:

https://pakistanswomenheroes.wordpress.com/2019/07/15/women-who-named-the-unnamed-pakistani-local-women-heroes-saturday-28-sept-2019-centre-stage-surrey-city-hall/

We look forward to seeing you tomorrow!

 

 

India’s Supreme Court Ruling

section-377.jpg
On September 6, 2018, the Supreme Court of India ruled that Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code was unconstitutional. The section – enacted in 1861 when India was still a British colony – effectively criminalized gay sex.

India’s LGBT communities erupted in euphoria. The Indian and international press joined in the jubilation with one BBC headline ringing, “India’s Supreme Court Legalizes Gay Sex … ”

The Supreme Court’s decision marks an important beginning for India’s LGBT and for the country. For India’s sexual minorities, it represents a victory in a long struggle against an inhumane and draconian law. For India, the ruling holds the promise of a new era where India starts to step out from the shadows of its colonial past.

I too was euphoric after reading the headlines only to confront a few sober realities.

First, the Supreme Court of India ruling has not legalized gay sex. It has declared that the law discriminated against LGBT sex is unconstitutional. The law is still in force and cannot be repealed or amended except by an act of Parliament.

Second, as long as it remains on the books, the section will continue to be invoked. Certainly, a better off and well-informed gay Indian will now challenge a policeman who tries to lay a charge. But those LGBT Indians who are poor, working class or villagers are less likely to contest the enforceability of the law.

Third, the ruling leaves untouched the more basic challenges facing India’s LGBT communities. In particular, the ruling does not recognize India’s LGBT communities as legal persons who can claim basic rights or freedoms as any other Indian. It has brought India’s LGBT persons out of the shadow of criminality, without making them persons under the law.

If anything, the Supreme Court ruling stands for the same principle that Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau made back in 1967 that “there’s no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation.” Tushar Mehta, the Assistant Solicitor-General for the Government of India, has otherwise made it clear that the Government of India will construe the ruling narrowly so as not to accord legal status to the LGBT citizens of India in terms of marriage, property rights, government benefits or inheritance.

India’s LGBT communities have just won their first battle against the state, but their war for recognition as equal citizens under the law has yet to begin.

The Causes We Cherish

Modi_and_Trudue_100455_730x419-m

Jagmeet Singh was interviewed yesterday on CBC Radio. The leader of the federal NDP was asked about a seminar he attended with the National Sikh Youth Federation in the U.K. in 2016. The organizer of the National Sikh Youth Federation, Shamsher Singh, was heard discussing the legitimacy of armed struggle by Sikhs in the creation of Khalistan.

In his radio interview, Singh condemned terrorism without condemning the Khalistan movement. He expressed sympathy with the pain and trauma suffered by Sikhs, while dodging any suggestion that the Khalistan movement was a terrorist movement.

Within hours, the internet was awash headlining Mr. Singh’s name with phrases like “Sikh separatist,” “blood hatreds” and “strange loyalties.”

The Khalistan movement was a violent and divisive movement. It bloodied the towns and villages of the East Punjab for nearly a decade. Its leader, Jarnail Singh Bhindrawale, turned Sikhism’s holiest shrine, the Golden Temple, into a military stronghold. And the movement turned a generation of young Sikhs into militant separatists.

Murderous and divisive as its legacy has been, the Khalistan cause has long since fallen on the losing side of history. The Canadian media is right to question such causes or, as in the case of Singh, its suspected supporters. Yet the same also fails repeatedly to question those politicians who support “winning” causes like Israel, Saudi Arabia or Canada’s policies towards its own Aboriginal peoples.

Justin Trudeau illustrated this point last month when he visited India. Trudeau met with India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, a man whose government has become perhaps the worst violator of human rights in independent India’s history. In 2002, when he was the Chief Minister of Gujarat, Modi presided over the worst anti-Muslim program in India since 1947. Since his becoming Prime Minister in 2014, India has witnessed widespread and repeated abuses of human rights and civil liberties.

Trudeau failed to condemn any of this, and the Canadian media failed to question Trudeau. His “loyalty” to Canadian values like human rights weren’t scrutinized. For Trudeau, unlike Singh, was on the winning side.

Thank you to Z. Makhdoom for inspiring me

The Honorable Asma Jahangir

Last Rites
2:30 PM
Tuesday, February 13
Outside the Gaddafi Stadium
Lahore, Pakistan

Last Public Speech
facebook.com/justiceforpashtuns/videos/1169041573198913

Last Tweet
‘Nehal Hashmi’s tone and words cannot be defended but use of contempt law selectively only undermines confidence in the system of justice’

human-rights-icon-asma-jahangir-passes-away-in-lahore
great-women-of-punjabi-origin/#ASMA
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Thinkfest Promotes ‘gutter literature’ in Punjabi

Thinkfest 2018 chose to promote a sub-standard work on the life of Punjabi author, radio artist and arts activist Nasreen Anjum Bhatti. There was an intense demonstration of solidarity with the late author by people who were there to protest against this choice.

Nasreen Anjum Bhatti reads from her first collection of poetry ‘Neel Karayaan Neelkan’.

The aware Punjabi writers and artists have described the story as ‘yellow journalism’, ‘tabloid literature’, and, of course, ‘gutter literature’.

The text proceeds to carry out ‘character assassination of progressive Punjabi writers such as Nasreen Anjum Bhatti, Shaista Habib, Zubair Rana and Fauzia Rafique’, and it does so in a misogynistic, homophobic and degrading manner. The story is penned by Nain Sukh aka Khalid Mahmood in his book called ‘ayi buray de wa’. The so-called story is a collection of inaccuracies where there are as much as FIVE factual mistakes in FOUR lines of text- about one of the writers attacked who, incidentally, is still alive to point them out.

Uddari fully supports Naeem Sadhu, Lahore’s Feminist Collective, and other individuals and organizations that are getting together to stop this attempt to legitimize yellow journalism as literature, and to resist this onslaught of conservative patriarchal mindset that demeans and degrades women, lesbians, gay men and religious minorities.

Down with the erstwhile ‘friends’ who are promoting and supporting this abusive and filthy text, and who are insisting that it should be accepted as Punjabi literature.

Fauzia Rafique
https://gandholi.wordpress.com/
frafique@gmail.com

Also view
‘Nasreen Anjum Bhatti Ke Leeye – For Nasreen Anjum Bhatti’ a poem by Amna Buttar
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Pakistan: ‘The Lowest Moral Ground’ – Women Action Forum


Ayesha Gulalai Wazir is a Pakistani politician who is currently a member of the National Assembly
of Pakistan representing Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf on a reserved seat for women.
‘ Wikipedia

Press Release

‘Women’s Action Forum is shocked and incensed at the male abuse and threats against Ayesha Gulalai for speaking out against her alleged sexual harassment within the PTI. WAF is more dismayed at those women who are themselves targets of abusive misogyny, and then join the male squads in suspecting women for lying and fabricating their abuse for financial gain. Abuse against political women like Benazir Bhutto and those who stand up for their rights against cruelty, such as Mukhtara Mai, Malala and so many Pakistani women is a deliberate strategy to intimidate all women who dare to enter or speak out in male public spheres.

‘Those cowardly social media users who are exhibiting blatant criminal behaviour and terrorizing Gulalai with threats acid attacks and sending jirgas to her house should come into the real world and meet women survivors of such crimes. When party leaders tolerate or laugh off verbal abuse and harassment of women, it creates impunity and encourages the harassers to become more violent in their threats.
There is not doubt that the PTI has introduced a culture of openly abusive politics in Pakistan. If Naya Pakistan is so empty of empathy, compassion, neutral reflection and is so morally hypocritical then maybe the old Pakistan was a better place, which was at least not brazen in claiming pride over such spiteful misogyny against women.

‘We urge all political parties to take urgent action against such political persecution of women and open inter-party investigations over such serious allegations. WAF rejects all constitutional farces introduced by Zia ul Haq, including articles 62/63. Our message to abusive Pakistanis; Forget sadiq and ameen… just be law-abiding, respectful human beings.’

Women’s Action Forum, Karachi.
August 5, 2017

Uddari is in full support of the standpoint expressed by WAF in the press release.

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‘Now Just Five Men Own Almost as Much Wealth as Half the World’s Population’ by Paul Buchheit

Last year it was 8 men, then down to 6, and now almost 5.

While Americans fixate on Trump, the super-rich are absconding with our wealth, and the plague of inequality continues to grow. An analysis of 2016 data found that the poorest five deciles of the world population own about $410 billion in total wealth. As of 06/08/17, the world’s richest five men owned over $400 billion in wealth. Thus, on average, each man owns nearly as much as 750 million people.

Why Do We Let a Few People Shift Great Portions of the World’s Wealth to Themselves?

Most of the super-super-rich are Americans. We the American people created the Internet, developed and funded Artificial Intelligence, and built a massive transportation infrastructure, yet we let just a few individuals take almost all the credit, along with hundreds of billions of dollars.

Defenders of the out-of-control wealth gap insist that all is OK, because, after all, America is a ‘meritocracy’ in which the super-wealthy have ‘earned’ all they have. They heed the words of Warren Buffett: “The genius of the American economy, our emphasis on a meritocracy and a market system and a rule of law has enabled generation after generation to live better than their parents did.”

But it’s not a meritocracy. Children are no longer living better than their parents did. In the eight years since the recession the Wilshire Total Market valuation has more than TRIPLED, rising from a little over $8 trillion to nearly $25 trillion. The great majority of it has gone to the very richest Americans. In 2016 alone, the richest 1% effectively shifted nearly $4 trillion in wealth away from the rest of the nation to themselves, with nearly half of the wealth transfer ($1.94 trillion) coming from the nation’s poorest 90%—the middle and lower classes. That’s over $17,000 in housing and savings per lower-to-middle-class household lost to the super-rich.

A meritocracy? Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and Jeff Bezos have done little that wouldn’t have happened anyway. ALL modern U.S. technology started with—and to a great extent continues with—our tax dollars and our research institutes and our subsidies to corporations.

Why Do We Let Unqualified Rich People Tell Us How To Live? Especially Bill Gates!

In 1975, at the age of 20, Bill Gates founded Microsoft with high school buddy Paul Allen. At the time Gary Kildall’s CP/M operating system was the industry standard. Even Gates’ company used it. But Kildall was an innovator, not a businessman, and when IBM came calling for an OS for the new IBM PC, his delays drove the big mainframe company to Gates. Even though the newly established Microsoft company couldn’t fill IBM’s needs, Gates and Allen saw an opportunity, and so they hurriedly bought the rights to another local company’s OS — which was based on Kildall’s CP/M system. Kildall wanted to sue, but intellectual property law for software had not yet been established. Kildall was a maker who got taken.

So Bill Gates took from others to become the richest man in the world. And now, because of his great wealth and the meritocracy myth, MANY PEOPLE LOOK TO HIM FOR SOLUTIONS IN VITAL AREAS OF HUMAN NEED, such as education and global food production.

—Gates on Education: He has promoted galvanic skin response monitors to measure the biological reactions of students, and the videotaping of teachers to evaluate their performances. About schools he said, “The best results have come in cities where the mayor is in charge of the school system. So you have one executive, and the school board isn’t as powerful.”

—Gates on Africa: With investments in or deals with Monsanto, Cargill, and Merck, Gates has demonstrated his preference for corporate control over poor countries deemed unable to help themselves. But no problem—according to Gates, “By 2035, there will be almost no poor countries left in the world.”… continued

Continue to read at Common Dreams

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‘My SUFI GHUTI’ by Sana Janjua

I clear my goddamn throat
with organic, saffron-shaded, Sufi Ghuti-

its superfood ingredients hand picked
from indigenous, stolen territories
by migrant workers and undocumented laborers,
patiently turning their ethanol-dusky sweat
into plastic-protected fruits I peel labels off from
– a brew of California apples, BC berries
reddened, like desire, with local beets-
which I lick as a concoction to give my
goddamn chest a birth-inducing thrust

to say “ALLAH!”,

as I gurgle out the news of a
“bomb nearly as nuclear as a bomb can be”
-thrown acid-facedly on Afghani soil-
into a pale sink turning blight and spongy
like my own mindless mind.

Some native informant,
I contemplate,
capture the scene of this acid faced-ness

-Phallic Pentagon: the imperial center
of rape, and rupture-

and make an award winning documentary,
so I could applaud
with all my limbs in limbo,
like a freak unleashed.

Every night, as a narcotic balm,
I turn to my Sufi Ghuti
– licking it-
to assuage my guilt of seeing too much suffering
with a tradition
set aside for balancing the worse with the good
-a tradition that a few good men
(residing in an hypoxic,
upper class intellectual wardrobe)
curated to get past the thorny delirium

that organizing and agitating,
and losing one’s mind happens to be-

because the oppressor ambushes from
“both sides now”, as Joni Mitchell sings.

Adrift on a low sail and high moon,
I soften the edge of the Ideological
with the narcotic mirth of my Sufi Ghuti,
and whirl into misty obscurantism

-the throttled misery of a child in echolalia-

as I ponder if it’s Marx or Bakhsh,
that makes me more air-lifted?

To my lover,
I write: I will fight for the visa
regardless of the contradictions-
so dialectical it sounds that I,
feeling enough ghuti-ized,
hum my forlornness
into the lungs of the daylight.

But, the night descends, you know,
and, I get lonely.
It feels like the end of days, as Syrians tell us,
and frankly speaking,
the Promised Messiah isn’t coming to town this year either.

(April 14, 2017)

Sana Janjua is a poet, performer and playwright who is a Founding Member and the President of Surrey Muse. She works as a Registered Psychiatric Nurse, and enjoys working in the field of mental health.
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View the Deleted United Nations Report on Israeli Apartheid

Below are links to the ‘disappeared’, ‘deleted’ and ‘taken down’ United Nations report on Israeli apartheid. The report titled ‘Israeli Practices towards the Palestinian People and the Question of Apartheid’ was removed from the website of U.N.’s Economic and Social Commission for West Asia (UNESCWA) at the end of last week ‘following pressure from the U.N. Secretary General.’ As well, Rima Khalaf, the head of UNESCWA, resigned ‘after she was asked to withdraw a report her agency published earlier this week that stated Israel is an “apartheid regime.” (mondoweiss.net/2017/03/resigns-refusing-apartheid)

Electronic Intifada has made it available, check it out below
electronicintifada.net

The 75-page report states in the beginning:

‘This report concludes that Israel has established an apartheid regime that
dominates the Palestinian people as a whole. Aware of the seriousness
of this allegation, the authors of the report conclude that available evidence
establishes beyond a reasonable doubt that Israel is guilty of policies and
practices that constitute the crime of apartheid as legally defined in
instruments of international law.

‘The analysis in this report rests on the same body of international human rights
law and principles that reject anti-Semitism and other racially discriminatory
ideologies, including: the Charter of the United Nations (1945), the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights (1948), and the International Convention on the
Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (1965). The report relies for its
definition of apartheid primarily on article II of the International Convention on the
Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid (1973, hereinafter the
Apartheid Convention):

The term “the crime of apartheid”, which shall include similar policies and practices of
racial segregation and discrimination as practiced in southern Africa, shall apply to…
inhuman acts committed for the purpose of establishing and maintaining domination by
one racial group of persons over any other racial group of persons and systematically
oppressing them.

‘Although the term “apartheid” was originally associated with the specific instance
of South Africa, it now represents a species of crime against humanity under
customary international law and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal
Court, according to which:

“The crime of apartheid” means inhumane acts… committed in the context of an
institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group
over any other racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining
that regime.

‘Against that background, this report reflects the expert consensus that the
prohibition of apartheid is universally applicable and was not rendered moot by
the collapse of apartheid in South Africa and South West Africa (Namibia).’

It is outrageous that the report was removed and that the Honorable Rima Khalaf had to resign. Freedom of expression? International Law? Human rights? Integrity of research? Not if it doesn’t suit Israeli Power Holders in the United States.

Photo from: scribd.com

Fauzia
gandholi.wordpress.com

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Nigar Ahmad – A Great Punjabi Woman

nigar-ahmad1Nigar Ahmad (1945 – 2017)

Nigar Ahmad, an educationist and a woman’s rights activist, was one of the founding members of Women Action Forum (WAF) established in the 1980s to fight General Ziaul Haq’s Islamicization policies that attacked women’s status in Pakistan. Later, Nigar founded Aurat Foundation and served as its Executive Director for many years.

Her contributions to the enhancement of the status of women include mobilizing women candidates to run for local government during the 1993 and 1997 general elections, organizing networks of citizens’ action committees in 70 districts to provide support to women; organizing national conferences and radio programs to inform peasant women on health and agricultural issues. ‘She was a consultant to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in 1991 on the gender impact of a watershed management project in Azad Kashmir. She presented a case study to the Asian Development Bank on a pilot on credit for rural women, and, as a consultant to the United Nations Development Fund For Women, has been involved in a rural credit and gender sensitization training program of UNDP staff. Nigar has also been involved with the National Commission on the Status of Women, and the South Asian Partnership. She was a coauthor for the report on Women’s Development Programs for Pakistan’s Eighth Five-Year Plan.’ (wikipeacewomen.org)

Nigar was awarded the Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah Life Time Achievement Award in 2010 for her work for the empowerment of women. She was one of the 1000 women proposed for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005, and a nominee from Pakistan of the Global Sisterhood Network.

Nigar was suffering from Parkinson’s disease. She was admitted to a hospital in Lahore for chest pain where she passed away on February 24, 2017. She was the daughter of Mian Riaz Uddin Ahmad, a prominent civil servant in the Punjab.

nigar-ahmad-2

This is what Nigar had to say for George Bush, i wonder what she would have said for Donald Trump.

Fauzia Rafique
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frafique@gmail.com

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‘A standing ovation and a burning fire…’ by Harsha Walia

Arthur Manuel was undoubtedly one of the most committed and passionate and strong and inspiring Indigenous leaders of our time. I remember a talk that I was moderating that Art was a speaker on and someone else before him was describing three generations of Indigenous struggles. When Art spoke he said “So all these three generations you were talking about, I was part of all of those” as he went on to recount his forty plus years of unwavering efforts to challenge Canada at every level.

He was received, as he often is, with a standing ovation and a burning fire in everyone’s bellies.

When people ask me about law school, I say that I learnt more from Art than any class I attended. What (little) I do know about injuctions, trespass, criminal contempt, section 35, Sparrow, Calder, Delgamuukw, Tsilhqot’in is from Art. Like many others, I turn to Art’s words and cite him (including his trail blazing book Unsettling Canada) when it comes to understanding the scope of settler colonization and land theft.

His voice and clarity of vision is unparalleled, especially for settlers like me to heed.

When people ask me about burnt out in the movement, I recount the countless times I spent with Art in the middle of the night or early morning when he was passing through town on his way on the road in his truck for the next thirty hours straight to a community he had been invited to to speak about Rights and Title, the UN, the Treaty Process.

And when I would ask Art about if he ever got tired, he would say “when I get tired, I sleep. And then I get up and fucking fight for my land back.”

When people ask me about solidarity and alliances, I think of Art making so much time and room in his heart to listen to struggles of marginalized peoples resisting everywhere. He made so many trips into the city to attend gatherings in the downtown eastside, migrant and refugee community meetings, meetings in labour halls, and most especially with Indigenous peoples worldwide fighting extraction.

Art was also uncompromising and relentless, being a thorn in so many peoples side and yet winning everyone’s respect for his unwavering dedication.

When people ask me about intergenerational movement organizing, I speak about Art and how he patiently took me under his wing when i was an eager clueless (still am) twenty year old and so generously invited me into his whirlwind world of archives, maps, maze of policies and laws from the UN to WTO.

I think of the tremendous lineage of the whole Manuel family and what intergenerational legacies of resistance look and feel like, in the everyday teachings shared around kitchen tables that I’ve had the honour of joining at times.

Art was a leader and a mentor, and also a wonderful and generous and kind friend – he came for almost every cheesy birthday bash, when he drove through town every few weeks we’d go to his favourite Chinese restaurant (and sometimes if i could convince him to go to Green Lettuce :), he insisted on being our unofficial wedding photographer, he gave my baby her first basket that she slept in.

When things were hard in life, I would wake up to short late nite texts “Hang in there” or a personal favourite “Knock knock. Whose there? Hug”

All my love and prayers go out to Art’s family, his siblings, his children, his beloved grandchildren whom he absolutely loved sharing photos and antecodes of, the Secwepemc nation, and all those who held him close and were touched by his fire and heart. Art was a brilliant visionary, an inspiring leader, a mentor, teacher and a most generous friend. He is irreplaceable and it will take all of us to fulfill his consistent and clear vision of Indigenous self-determination and nationhood. As an ancestor, Art will continue to guide and lead us.

Rest well friend, rab rakha.

arthurmanuel-harshawaliaHarsha and Art

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artfamily-statement

More here:

Intellectual, activist, ‘giant’ Arthur Manuel sung out by family across the threshold to the other side

Arthur Manuel was loved and respected by many including my friend journalist Haider Rizvi, who came to know Art while working at the UN and whose accidental death in 2015 i haven’t mourned yet.
Fauzia Rafique

Film Review: Muzaffarnagar Baaqi Hai

muzaffarnagar-riots-_032716094254

Directed by Nakul Singh Sawhney

There was a time when Muslims and Hindus lived together in Muzaffarnagar. Their children played cricket. They celebrated Eid, Holi and Diwali. They worked the fields and sat on farmers’ collectives like the Bharatiya Kisan Union. The town was referred to as “Mohabbatnagar,” the city of love.

In September 2013, however, the Muzaffarnagar and Shamli districts of Uttar Pradesh suffered one of the worst pogroms in modern India’s history. Over 100 people (mostly Muslim) were massacred while more than 80,000 were displaced. Homes were wrecked, mosques were vandalized and dreams turned to dust.

In Muzzafarnagar Baaqi Hai, Sahwney probes the underlying causes of the pogrom. He shows how the BJP (and its agents) instigated the pogrom to win the general election of 2014 which brought Narendra Modi to power. The BJP was assisted in Muzaffarnagar by local Hindu Jats who used the pogrom to seize Muslim property, women and wealth.

Sawhney also unravels the BJP’s strategy in stirring up violence for votes. First, they turn Islamist terrorism into the new bête noire deeming Muslim youths as members of ISIS. Second, they revive the idea that Hindus have been “cheated” with election banners and posters speaking about “struggling” for Hindus. Third, they play on old anxieties of Hindu men about Muslim men stealing Hindu girls through the new “Love Jihad” conspiracy.

Those who survived the pogrom were put into camps. As Sawhney shows, however, the refugees failed to receive adequate provision for food or medical care. When it was discovered that over one hundred children died in the camps due to disease, the government has the camps bulldozed to avoid any unwanted scrutiny.

Muzaffarnagar Baaqi Hai is a difficult film to watch. Sawhney could have reined in the many threads in the documentary (such as the Bharatiya Kisan Union) for a tighter narrative and unity of theme. Still, in giving voice to the unheard and letting us enter their world, Muzaffarnagar triumphs.