Posted on 06-11-2009
Filed Under (Current Affairs) by Rashtrakut

Major Nidal Malik Hasan’s rampage at Fort Hood yesterday brings to the forefront how to combat extremism domestically without alienating all other Muslims in a manner that would prevent them from cooperating with law enforcement.  Bracing for the inevitable backlash, most major Muslim organizations have already condemned the attack.  Inevitably the usual suspects on the right and on Fox News have giddily started tarring the entire Muslim community and suggesting solutions that would result in an alienation of the Muslim minority in the United States as is the case in Europe.  A link from Andrew Sullivan raising this point.

The Obama administration seems to understand this point.  Here’s hoping they stand up for their principles to avoid the counterproductive ethnic profiling of the past eight years to identify meaningful ways to separate the dangerous extremists from the rest.  To close this post out is an article about the thoughts of a Muslim soldier at Fort Hood who interacted with Major Hasan.

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Posted on 27-10-2009
Filed Under (Religion) by Rashtrakut

Kudos to the Obama administration for clarifying that they oppose the ridiculous UN motion regarding defamation of religion.  It is understandable that Muslims are upset about the assaults to their faith by prominent western politicians and the infamous Danish cartoon controversy.  But this resolution undercuts at the very essence of free speech and the exchange of ideas, even obnoxious ones.  What makes this resolution even more offensive is that it is being sponsored by countries like Saudi Arabia which do not permit free exercise of religion, prevent the importation of religious texts of other countries and insult other faiths in their academic curriculum.  Many of these states also have blasphemy laws that are often used to abuse religious minorities.  Even with some of the offensive comments made regarding Islam in the last decade and the documented cases of discrimination against Muslims, the West does not have any reason to feel defensive about their record on respecting religious freedom (particularly given the track record of some of the accusers).  People have noted that while the Saudis have funded the construction of a mosque in Rome, they are unlikely to permit the construction of a church in Saudi Arabia.  Freedom should work both ways.

This brings up a conversation I had with an extremely religious neighbor a few years back that free speech should not allow people to offend.  Actually it should…otherwise the speech is not truly free.  The assault on free speech is not unique to any ideologies, but it should be pointed out that free speech also does not  prevent others from calling out bigoted or hateful comments.  There is some unintended irony in the attempt by Muslim countries to pass such a resolution.  All of the founders of the Abrahamic faiths (including Islam) would have likely violated this resolution by “defaming” the religious practices of their neighbors.  But then this is not really intended to be an ecumenical resolution.

The Canadian representative at the United Nations this March got it right, “Individuals have rights, not religions.”  The OIC would be better off in assisting the victims of discrimination, cooperating with the West in combating incidences of bigotry and cleaning up their own acts at home.

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Posted on 25-10-2009
Filed Under (Current Affairs, Religion) by Rashtrakut

An interesting article by Time on the appearance by British National Party chief Nick Griffin on a BBC show last week.  An economic downturn combined with rising immigration seem to bring an upswing in the fortunes of parties like the BNP.

When mainstream parties latch on to this fervor it can backfire.  In the United States the California Governor Pete Wilson latched on to anti-immigrant fervor to win re-election in 1994.  When the fervor died down it emerged that he had driven Hispanic voters into the Democratic column for the foreseeable future.  Egged on by CNN commentator Lou Dobbs and Republican congressmen like Tom Tancredo, certain sections of the Republican party adopted a similar tack dooming the Presidential ticket in the Southwest and scaring off white middle class voters in the 2008 election.

But the Time article does raise a valid issue of how these concerns are to be addressed.   This issue has affected many other European countries like France, the Netherlands, Austria, Hungary etc.  The fundamental problem in Europe has been that as non-immigrant societies they have struggled to integrate their immigrants.  Even though the United States has had nativist outbreaks dating back to Benjamin Franklin grumbling about German immigration, the immigrant populations have generally integrated into American society.

The burden does fall both ways.  While immigrants should have a right to have their religious and cultural traditions respected, they must also understand that their is a reason why they left their homelands to settle down far away and the inhabitants of the country can feel unsettled by a sudden influx of people who look, dress, eat, worship and talk differently.  A healthy dialogue of communities is essential to prevent repeats of stories like this one from last month.  For the follow up click here.

Ultimately a lot of the BNP’s support appears rooted in economic malaise.  Immigrants are likelier to compete for jobs with people at the lower rungs of the economic ladder.  The added competition in a shrinking job market provides a simple breeding ground for the type of emotions the BNP feeds on.  And job creation is not an easy task in the current economic climate.

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Posted on 19-10-2009
Filed Under (History, Religion) by Rashtrakut

Kudos to Andrew Sullivan for managing to make an off the cuff reference to Girolamo Savonarola in a random blog.  Never thought I would run into a reference to the 15th century fanatical homophobic Florentine priest who ended up burned at the stake for his opposition to the notorious Alexander VI in a reference to a conservative flack.  Savonarola’s most famous contribution to pop culture is the phrase Bonfire of the Vanities.  I wonder how many people caught the reference.  In a country where a period drama set in Italy a 100 years later has its title changed from “Courtesan” to “Dangerous Beauty” because 95% of the country did not know what courtesan meant, the number cannot be high.

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I will let these two articles speak for themselves.  First is the column by two Republican Party county chairmen in South Carolina.  Next is an editorial by the Palmetto scoop.  One would think that after a year of racial gaffes by Southern Republicans a memo about using ethnic stereotypes would have been circulated by now.  Evidently not.  One hopes that the inevitable apology will be a genuine one, instead of the meaningless “If I offended someone, I am sorry” that public figures seem to think constitutes an apology.

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Posted on 14-10-2009
Filed Under (Current Affairs, Religion) by Rashtrakut

This story and the comments by the anonymous Internet warriors is disgusting. A bunch of Republican congressmen felt it incumbent upon themselves to have the House Sergeant at Arms investigate the “infiltration” of Congress through Muslim staffers and interns. Oh the horror!!!

This post brings up the question from General Powell quoted in a previous blog. “Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country?” The bigotry spewed from the right wing now reaches such proportions that Republican congressmen (albeit from the extreme fringe of an already fringe party) seek to initiate a McCarthyesque search for “infiltration” of Congress by the practitioners of a religion with over a billion practitioners world wide.

In this world view Osama Bin Laden, the Taliban and Wahhabi inspired fundamentalist preachers somehow represent the religious spectrum of an entire faith in a way that Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell could never do so for Christianity. While lashing out at the bloody history of radicalized Islam, they conveniently forget the violence wreaked elsewhere by other religions.

This must stop. Substitute Arab or Islam in these screeds with any other race or religion and even the supine Republican leadership that kowtows to these purveyors of hate would have to step in. The Republican Party attempted to re-brand itself with a new website this week, only to find that all its civil rights heroes dated before the Civil Rights Act or back to the Civil War and that baseball hero Jackie Robinson was an independent who turned against the Republican Party after the 1964 convention that nominated Barry Goldwater. The Republican Party lost its moral high ground on race when it embraced the Southern strategy. It is time it rediscovered its civil rights roots and displayed the moral fortitude to stand up to the rank bigotry some of its congressmen displayed today.

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