Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Syria's situation and the U.S. role

The simplest way to describe the situation in Syria is: It's very complicated.
For some people, the latest violence in that country is the result of a corrupt regime trying to hang on to power by whatever means it can. For others, the conflict is a symptom of a long history of a sectarian war between two major Muslims groups: Shias and Sunnis.
But the question that most people face here is: What should the U.S. do in this situation?
Any thought of a military action by Washington reminds people of the consequences we've faced in Iraq, Afghanistan and the previous wars. And the proponents argue with the example of the U.S. role in ending the Bosnian war.
I guess the question that everybody should be asking to themselves is: What should the most powerful country in the world do when thousands of people are being killed in the neighborhood (the global neighborhood)?
Because doing nothing at this point is simply not good.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Egypt is learning the lesson, the hard way

No one, and I mean no one has learned this lesson by just reading books, or listening to inspirational speeches, or even watching Oprah. And the lesson is: human lives are more important than their differences.
The bloodshed we're witnessing in Egypt these days is a perfect example of how hard the journey to peace is. And that too if they are heading into the right direction. If not, then I am afraid it might be a vicious cycle of violence.
If you've seen The Lion King, you must remember Mr. Rafiki's lesson: "The past can hurt. But the way I see it you can either run from it or learn from it".
The problem in Egypt today is not that it's divided between two political groups who have extremely opposing beliefs. The problem is how they are fighting for those beliefs.
The war between the right and the left is not uncommon to any nation on earth, but how they fight it is what makes those nations more peaceful than others.
But again those who fight their differences in a civilized way only do it because they've learned the hard lesson at some point in the past. And Egypt is still in the process of it.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Women distraction!

Many Americans may be thinking the war in Afghanistan is about over and with the last batch of troops coming home by summer next year the game is over. Well it's not. Because we are not fighting the Taliban, or al-Qaeda, or whatever new names they keep coming with. We are fighting an extreme religious mindset.
A recent news item about religious leaders in northwestern Pakistan banning women from going to markets without being accompanied by a male is a perfect example of how that mindset is refusing to go away. Their reason for this ban is to 'keep men from being distracted during the holy month of Ramadan'. Really? Well if you ask someone in Pakistan what's the best distraction for men in that part of the world: the answer would be 'men'.
Anyways. The point I am trying to make is that terrorism is not the only think we should be worried about. In fact, an act of terror is the last destination of a long journey of this kind of extreme religious mentality. Acts of banning women from going to markets, imposing your beliefs on others by force, silencing minorities, and brainwashing your kids into believing that if you don't do all of these things God will not be pleased, certainly lead towards greater harm.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Christians in Pakistan can't 'turn thy cheek'

If Jesus resurrected in Pakistan today, he might have to review his message of ‘Turn thy cheek’. Instead I guess he might ask the Christians there to run for safety. In fact, the religious minority in Pakistan is wise enough to do that without any divine advice. And they did it when a large mob attacked their neighborhood in the city of Lahore over the weekend, ransacked their homes and businesses, and burnt them down.
All of this was triggered after a Muslim shop owner accused a Christian man, who was running a small business in front of his shop, of committing blasphemy. Police did register a case against the Christian man under the country’s controversial blasphemy law that punishes the responsible with death penalty, but that didn’t satisfy the angry crowd and they decided to punish the entire Christian town with nearly 200 families.
It’s interesting to know that when the Christian families ran for safety, they were sheltered by Muslims in a nearby neighborhood. Those Muslims are part of a majority of Pakistanis who sympathise with minorities, but are helpless to stand up against their crazy cousins for their protection.
And they have reasons to do that. When it comes to Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, or other sensitive religious subjects, even the government seems helpless. In January 2011, the governor of the Punjab province, Salman Taseer, was murdered by his own bodyguard who thought the governor had committed blasphemy. Two months later that year, a federal minister, a Christian, was gunned down in Islamabad because of his opposition to the controversial law. More recently, Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States, Sherry Rehman, faces a blasphemy charge and was forced to withdraw the legislation she introduced to amend the blasphemy law. And these are just a few high-profile examples. The mercury of religious intolerance in Pakistan is rising by the day, with no immediate steps to control it. In fact, Pakistan’s most powerful political parties are busy shaking hands with hardline Islamists, who often promote hatred against minorities, for upcoming national elections.


Monday, March 4, 2013

Let’s claim responsibility for the Karachi blast

It’s happened again. One more bomb attack in Karachi targeted a mosque in a packed residential complex mostly housing Pakistan’s Shi’ite minority and killed about 45 people. Many women and children were burnt to death in their homes after the explosion.
Right after the blast, the cops, the journalists, and all the regular facebooker and tweeters were waiting to see who claims responsibility for the massacre. The usual suspect in these attacks is a Sunni extremist group called Lashkar-e-Jhangvi or LeJ. The group has proudly claimed responsibilities for the past attacks, including the last one in Quetta that killed about 100 people.
I know who is responsible for the attack in Karachi, and the one before in Quetta, and all the other similar attacks that took innocent lives. We all are.
Everyone who has remained silent over this madness that has now grown out of control. Everyone who did not and do not stand up to the hate speeches (all kinds) that come out of the loudspeakers at mosques and political and religious rallies. Everyone who thought it was a good idea to stop one violent movement by raising another violent movement.
I am sorry to say this to all those Facebook and Twitter sympathisers, but just prayers won’t stop this. It never has and never will. The problem is in Pakistan and only the people of Pakistan have the ability to solve it. And they should start by first recognizing that there is a problem.
But it’s unfortunate to see it’s political and religious leaders busy preparing for their strategies for the next elections to get the most votes.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

A darkness of different kind

This weekend there was a near complete blackout in Karachi, the largest city of Pakistan with a population of about 18 million. It wasn’t just Karachi. People in other cities too were without electricity for many hours. And it’s nothing rare for a population that is used to of daily, multi-hour power breakdowns.
That’s not a problem to me. The real problem is: nobody gives a damn about taking that problem seriously. The recent darkness in Karachi was lifted in a day, but the real darkness of ignorance and inability of it’s leaders to take up a wolf pack of problems is getting thicker by the day.
Look up a few Pakistani news papers online and you’ll find it’s political leaders busy ganging up to take the most out of the upcoming general elections.
If there is anything that unites Pakistan’s left and right, it’s wackos (all kinds), it’s rural pharaohs and urban thugs, it is their common greed to stay in power.
Only a few weeks back, everyone seemed to have reached their tipping point over the massacre of religious minorities, now they are looking for their power points.
And in the next few weeks it will be something else.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Killing of Shi’ites in Pakistan: Who cares?

A latest bomb attack has killed nearly 90 people, mostly Shi’ites, in Pakistan. And if you add up about 100 deaths last month that were a result of a similar bomb explosion and a few targeted killings here and there, the body count has crossed 200 this year. And it’s only been two months. According to one report, about 400 Shi’ites were killed in Pakistan in 2012.
Who killed them? No mystery. A Sunni extremist group (Lashkar-e-Jhangvi) has claimed responsibility like it did for similar attacks in the past.
Why were they killed? No mystery. Sunni extremists hate Shi’ites in general, just like Shi’ite extremists hate Sunnis in general.
Unfortunately, Pakistan has a perfect environment for these extremists groups to kill innocent men, women and children. Many religious schools teach their students nothing but hatred against minorities. What next? You need a gun or a bomb. There is no shortage of that. What next? A soft target: markets, schools, places of worship. What next? No fear of the good guys (police - the good ones) coming after you. I don’t remember a single case where someone has been convicted of sectarian killings in Pakistan.
Just after the recent killings of Shi’ites, I spoke with someone in Pakistan who was more concerned about Sunni mosques not allowed to be built in Iran (a Shi’ite state) and some religious scholars (Sunni scholars) being killed in Karachi.
The fact is, as long as the majority of Pakistanis keep worrying only about their petty interests, there will be no end to the sufferings of the minorities, and eventually the majority as well.