How Difficult it is to be a Woman!

men working“How can a working woman be a good mother?” An assertive comment disguised as a question comes across women so many times during the day that ultimately it becomes a huge guilt for them, to work (read work for getting paid). But did someone ever realize that it’s not only paid work that generates guilt, a woman’s mere living on her choice becomes guilt at the end of a day. One of my Facebook friends was narrating how she was harassed by aggressive onlookers when one evening she just wanted to drive on roads and listen to music in car. She pulled down the car windows, and here came the wrath! I can imagine how it would have been.

Just thought to get the idea from my Facebook contact list, as my list is a perfect microcosm of the society we’re living in. There are hawks, there are moderates, there are seculars and there are very few agnostics / atheists and anti-religious people as well. There are people from political / social / economic elite, there are people from urban middle class, there are people from semi urban towns, from lower middle class, from educated (academically speaking) and semi-literate class – all of them. I thoroughly enjoy comments coming from all of them as it gives me great insight to anthropology of issues; we normally deal with in complete isolation. Although, I do understand the limitations of FB user generally and completely understand that a sample that uses FB, can’t be taken as a representative of our society. Without an academic generalization, we can somehow get an idea where the collective opinion is tilting to.

In order to get that sense, I posted a scenario, which might not occur in daily life of most of the respondents, but the possibility of which could not be set aside considering the “subject” of our story, being a human being. My question was:

A young wife, mother of three, wants to go cinema with one of her friends. The friend is a male. Should her husband ALLOW her to go with a male at the dead of the night? Three of our characters live in Lahore. What should the husband do? Please be concise and clear. We’ll analyse the result, which is going to be interesting for you to read!

The first response was from a male with a western name, in a strong NO. There were total 139 responses, out of which only five said a straight yes, only two could get the trick of my putting the word “ALLOW” in caps and put a question mark as to why she should be allowed! Rest of the people either said no, or suggested the husband of our story to allow her if the friend is her brother, cousin etc. But there came some very interesting points during all this discussion, which amply showed how women are taken among the class that uses Facebook, means the computers and the internet. This class has to be effluent enough to buy a computer, rent a computer in a net cafe, access a computer at workplace, or borrow a computer for leisure purpose. It must be the class with minimum level of education, or at least literate. It must be the class that could access internet, means in bigger cities or smaller towns of Pakistan, or may be abroad. Since majority of the respondents (99.9%) had Muslim names and displayed linguistic nuances and social jargon of Pakistan (or at the maximum north India), it is assumed that they were mostly Pakistanis.

It must be noted that I changed my question twice in order to get more natural responses from them. The second set of responses came for the following question:

I think my question was unfair. Let’s change it. A young handsome man, father of three, wants to go cinema with one of his female colleagues/friends. Should his wife allow him to go with a female in the dead of the night?

I changed it once again to the following question:

Alright alright . . . The wife wants to go alone. No male or female friend. Just alone. Cinema for herself. Then?

And finally, this one:

So guys, do we settle that wife shouldn’t go alone, her security, our religion – – – so many issues. But husband can. Right?

I record my observation on their responses here:

  1. Most of the respondents were males. Only two women became part of the discussion. One of them came up with a very strange aspect of the whole issue. It was shocking to see how gender relations are seen even among women.
  2. Any contact between man and woman is linked to sex and sexual aspect of relationships
  3. Men seem to be extremely suspicious of fellow male folk, when it comes to their contact with women. It seems all men behave in the same manner with women, overtly or covertly, which is why they would not allow “their” women to have any contact with a male.
  4. There seems to be just no concept of a relationship between men and women, which has no sexual connotation. That makes me extremely uncomfortable with all the men on my list, who are unable to see their contact with women in a platonic manner.
  5. There’s just no concept what so ever, of a woman leading her life on her own will. Men take a woman as their “owned” being, with all the rights on her life. A woman is expected to do anything and everything with their permission. Only two responses recognized the fact that a woman should need no “permission” from anyone before exercising the right to recreation, and that no o ne should have any right to allow or disallow her.
  6. It was strange to note, that men had no concern about themselves going out, but when it came to women, they had their ‘defence mechanism’ in full force. For some it was equivalent to catalysing a deterioration of moral code, for others it was repugnant to the religious injunctions. Some thought it would be dangerous for a woman to go out considering the “mentality” of men folk, others said it would be insecure for women to roam about in today’s circumstances of terrorism. It was rather strange to note that none of these insecurities could be cited to hinder men’s right to mobility. Although bombs do not recognize sexes before killing, but danger of terrorism was put in the way of women’s freedom.
  7. A woman went to the extent of saying that such a husband (the one who ALLOWS his wife to go out with a male friend) would actually be promoting prostitution. This was one of the most honest comments I must say. When a woman is out, she is seen no lesser than a SLUT by all and sundry. And if her husband is not seen encaging or “disallowing” her to move freely, he would be seen as a PIMP who draws certain benefits in lieu of “sending” his wife with someone.gender symbol

Does that piss you off? I mean, the only reason for a woman’s existence is SEX. And this is conditioned so strongly among men and women alike, that it is just not possible for them to accept that women are human beings just like men. They can long for happiness, just like men do. Their happiness might lie outside the four walls of home, and outside the ambit of social roles attached to them, just like in the case of men. A woman might want to go out, without having to think about her being an object of sex. A woman might want to do little things to have fun, outside the home. A woman might like to have friends around her – male or female. A woman might like to experience the freedom of not asking her husband before going anywhere, at any point in time, just like men do.

On the contrary, she is expected to attach all her happiness around her family. Her morality, her goodness, her value of being – everything is linked to how she performs her social role. She has to be a good mother, a good wife, sister and daughter. Every role, please note, is to cater men. A woman is respectable only if she is a sister, mother or wife. There is no other way for her to claim respect in society.

A man would never think about religion before doing anything around his daily activity. But when it comes to women, religion rapidly comes into play. If it is mingling of the other sex with them, outside homes and family, things would be ok. But women of their own families should be taken in certain way, they should behave in certain way and talked about in certain way. This hypocrisy almost always goes unnoticed by our men folk, to sensitive about religious injunctions otherwise!

It is also interesting to see that religion which is brought in whenever it comes to the rights of women, it is never brought in play whenever cultural norms, which negate religious injunctions (Swara, karo kari, Badl-e-sulh, marriage with Quran, not giving women their right to inheritance etc.) are used to coerce women.

In brief, it was very clear to see all the responses that it is just not right for women to exercise their right to befriend with anyone, to have fun with their friends without being taken as object of sex, lead their lives with freedom of will and choice. And last but not least, to have fun.

Lets Read History Anew

It took me quite some time and effort to come to terms with the fact that we’re, sadly, living in a society where mediocrity is promoted with an unprecedented rigor, where ordinariness becomes your asset and where intelligence and ability to question is regarded as your super disqualification.

My increasing criticism of the happenings and our collective thinking has become my trademark of “negativity” for people from seemingly all kinds of ages, backgrounds and classes. An out of proportion emphasis on “positivity” in recent times has become more than delusional in our society. One would find no soul who’s left there able to see the damage all of us are collectively doing to this country by choosing wrong ways of responding to national disasters.

This refusal to reason, inability to analyze things objectively and incapability to question and process raw information has made people of Pakistan succumb irrecoverably to rhetoric. We are now the people who offer most profitable package to exploiters for befooling us. We love to be fooled and to live in fools’ paradise. It’s easy and requires no effort. Someone asks us to be happy we do it. Someone else asks us to be enraged we do it. Isn’t it sweet?

It remained an enigma for me as to how we were able to develop ourselves in such an unimaginative, dim-witted, obtuse and thick skinned heap of people, till I happened to see a social studies text book for grade 5 couple of years back. Since then, studying the level of incompetence promoted by these state prescribed text books has become my favourite pass time. Not only that the kids are subjected to “torture” of having to read these mind-numbing monotonous piles of raw paper, but they are also pushed into oblivion never to surface again.

The trick has been done by either telling the selective truth or by out-rightly distorting it. Not that I don’t understand the dilemma of those who run Pakistan, but still we can do it with half more decency! Yes we do understand how can they tell young generation six decades later that they did an unforgivable blunder? But at least they can let people come to terms with it by asking honest questions.

I can vaguely recall those days when we were strictly prohibited to read history textbooks written by people like Dr Mubarak Ali and K. K. Aziz sahib. It was easier to encage information then. But we somehow managed to get hold on alternative history. Today, when it’s a million times easier to get hold of any information you like, students are strongly conditioned to neither reach out to readings other than prescribed, nor to trust sources other than state-engineered ones.

Whenever someone asserted the need to rationalize the historical narrative, one was invariably called an anti-state element that has to be gotten rid of. One matter of special fragility has been the presentation of facts related to or covering the movement that lead to the partition in 1947 and resultant birth of Pakistan.

Very interestingly, when I see the textbooks for grade five in India, I don’t see such a Pakistan (or Muslim-centric) hate propaganda. Despite the fact that we in Pakistan have got significant Hindu and Sikh population in pockets of Sindh, Punjab and Pakhtunhwah (the North Western Frontier Province as the colonial bosses called it to be followed by us to date), our text-books have left no stone unturned to present these religious groups as not only the enemies of Muslims, but also a sub-human creature who is in humane and too mean to be allowed to exist – yes, I know I’m harsh here.

The difference in conceiving the curriculum and packaging the information therein is way too conspicuous to ignore. A grade five student in India, according to the online curricula available on the website of National Council of Education and Research and Training (NCERT), studies Mathematics, English, Hindi and Environmental Studies. In the land of the pure, a student of the same level becomes a guinea pig of the state and undergoes the injections of Urdu, Islamiat, Mathematics, Science, Social Studies. In private schools, Arts & Crafts, English and computing is added to this. The non-Muslim students are given a choice of Ethics in Islamiat’s stead.

One wonders why such a young mind needs religious education? But such a question should not come out lest you may not be labeled as a lesser Muslim. World saw all hell breaking when there was contemplation on government’s part back in 2004, of removing Islamiat from primary education. It had to be re-introduced from grade three this time after a strong propaganda campaign was led by the media to fuel right wing consumer of curricula against the change.

There were many at that time who would ask what was harm in religious education, which should be a must. When, in response to the latter part of the question, one would argue WHY, the answer invariably was: Because Pakistan was created in the name of Islam! And this answer has been universal. So incessant has been the hammering of this lie that after sixty-two years, no one is able to even imagine challenging this assertion. Who has benefitted from this lie? Who was damaged by this? People of Pakistan and the society.

The wrong notion created since the beginning of country’s birth has won the establishment an unquestionable hegemony on power and resources. That the Muslims are one nation, and all non-Muslims are distinctly different from them, amply gives Muslims a reason to get a different homeland, came to play soon after the partition as one of the biggest challenges to keep diverse sub-nationalities within newly created state.

Differences in language, traditions, culture, social norms were too manifest to give neo-Pakistanis enough adherent to survive as a nation. Religion was the easiest way out. It was forcefully made one adhesive factor for keeping the nation together, which was undergoing labour pains ever since it came into existence. The ethnic differences erupted as soon as Urdu was declared national language of the country. The schism widened when federal government chose to impose governor rule in NWFP, disrupting popularly elected government of Dr. Khan sahib, just because he was from Congress. The Baluchistan’s independent states i.e., Qallat etc. too were not very happy with the way center was trying to consolidate itself at the cost of provinces’ independence. Although Khan of Qallat was convinced by Jinnah to sign instrument of succession, it still demanded a lot to appease the sentiment of exclusion.

In Sindh too, there were tensions between the local Vadera (feudal) politicians and migrated UP elite. Punjab’s Unionist party was also lured into coming in the lap of Pakistan Muslim League. An era of dirtiest politics started, which resulted into first military rule in Pakistan. No insight of politics in those times is available in any of the textbook in Pakistan. On the contrary, the history of Pakistan starts from Mughals (grade 6) and ends on August 14, 1947.

In my next post, I would be examining the way history is distorted and crammed up in young minds to make them belligerent against everybody who looks different in terms of religion.

How Islam Divorced Science

This post was published in the winter edition of Middle East Quarterly


Pervez Amirali Hoodbhoy (b. 1950) is one of South Asia's leading nuclear physicists and perhaps Pakistan's preeminent intellectual. Bearer of a Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology , he is chairman of the department of physics at Quaid-e-Azam University in Islamabad where, as a high-energy physicist, he carries out research into quantum field theory and particle phenomenology. He has also been a visiting professor at the University of Maryland, College Park, and was visiting professor at MIT and Stanford. For some time, he has been a frequent contributor to Britain's leading intellectual journal, Prospect. His extracurricular activities include a vocal opposition to the political philosophy of Islamism. He also writes about the self-enforced backwardness of the Muslim world in science, technology, trade, and education. His many articles and television documentaries have made a lasting impact on debate about education, Islam, and secularism in Pakistan. Denis MacEoin interviewed him by e-mail in October 2009.

Muslim Disengagement from Science

Middle East Quarterly: In 2007, you asked, "With well over a billion Muslims and extensive material resources, why is the Islamic world disengaged from science and the process of creating new knowledge?" How would you answer that question today? Has anything changed?

Pervez Amirali Hoodbhoy: Sadly, little has changed. About seven centuries ago, after a spectacular Golden Age that lasted nearly four hundred years, Islam and science parted ways. Since then, they have never come together again. Muslim contributions to pure and applied sciences—measured in terms of discoveries, publications, patents, and processes—have been marginal for more than 700 years. A modest rebirth in the nineteenth century has been eclipsed by the current, startling flight from science and modernity. This retreat began in the last decades of the twentieth century and appears to be gaining speed across the Muslim world.

MEQ: What role do you think is played by the ulema in blocking new knowledge by imposing the rulings against innovation?

Hoodbhoy: The traditional ulema are indeed a problem, but they are not the biggest one; the biggest problem is Islamism, a radical and often militant interpretation of Islam that spills over from the theological domain into national and international politics. Whenever and wherever religious fundamentalism dominates, blind faith clouds objective and rational thinking. If such forces take hold in a society, they create a mindset unfavorable for critical inquiry, including scientific inquiry, with its need to question received wisdom.

MEQ: Have religious conservatism and anti-science attitudes among Muslims always been as strong as today? Or were Muslims more pro-science, say, a hundred years ago?

Hoodbhoy: In my childhood, the traditional ulema—who are so powerful today—were regarded as rather quaint objects and often ridiculed in private. Centuries ago the greatest poets of Persia, like Hafiz and Rumi, stripped away the mullahs' religious pretensions and exposed their stupidity. Today, however, those same mullahs have taken control of the Iranian republic. The answer lies just as much in the domain of world politics as in theology. Khomeini developed the doctrine known as "guardianship of the clergy," which gives the mullahs much wider powers than they generally exercised in the past. Instead of being simple religious leaders, they now became political leaders as well. This echoes the broader Islamic fusion of the spiritual and the temporal.

Scientists, Technologists, and Islamists

MEQ: Explaining the emergence of so many Muslim doctors, scientists, engineers, and other technologists as Islamists and, sometimes, as terrorists, Malise Ruthven suggests that a superficial understanding of science leads to a belief in authoritative texts and this slots in with a belief in the infallibility of the Qur'an. What is your explanation?

Hoodbhoy: This question must be disaggregated and examined at many levels. It cannot be answered simply in terms of mere theology—the Bible contains elements of extreme violence and yet the vast majority of scientists who are believing Christians are also peaceful people. What brought about the global Islamist wave is a much more relevant question. It is, in some ways, the Muslim version of anti-colonialism and a reaction to the excesses of the West, combined with an excessive traditionalism.

But let me concentrate on the sociological aspects. To begin with, we need to separate the scientists from the technologists, meaning those who use science in a narrowly functional sense rather than as a means for understanding the natural world. I have never seen a first-rate Muslim scientist become an Islamist or a terrorist even when he or she is a strong believer. But second- and third-rate technologists are more susceptible. These are people who use science in some capacity but without any need to understand it very much—engineers, doctors, technicians, etc.—all of whom are more inclined towards radicalism. They have been trained to absorb facts without thinking, and this makes them more susceptible to the inducements of holy books and preachers.

MEQ: Has this been happening with Pakistan's home-trained scientists?

Hoodbhoy: Our best physics students in Islamabad are often the most open-minded and the least religious. They have enough social strength to keep themselves at a certain distance from the crowd. Among my colleagues, something similar takes place; the weakest ones professionally are the ones who demonstrate the greatest outward religiosity. I see a strong correlation between levels of professional competence and susceptibility to extremist philosophies.

MEQ: Is the situation the same in India?

Hoodbhoy: Yes, there, too, I find anti-science attitudes rare among scientists but rather common within the technological and professional classes, both Hindu and Muslim. The latter type of people pray for rain, attribute earthquakes to the wrath of God, think supplications to heaven will cure the sick, seek holy waters that will absolve sin, look to the stars for a propitious time to marry, sacrifice black goats in the hope that the life of a loved one will be spared, recite certain religious verses as a cure for insanity, think airliners can be prevented from crashing by a special prayer, and believe that mysterious supernatural beings stalk the earth. Their illogic boggles the mind.

MEQ: Does the fact that Indians and Pakistanis have both constructed nuclear weapons indicate that science now is firmly implanted on South Asian soil?

Hoodbhoy: To an extent, yes, but the battle against irrationality has a long way to go. For example, India's 1998 nuclear tests were preceded by serious concern over the safety of cattle at the Pokharan test site for religious reasons. Former Indian foreign minister Jaswant Singh wrote, "For the team at the test site—which included President Kalam, then the head of the Defence Research and Development Organization—possible death or injury to cattle was just not acceptable."

The Prohibition of Debate

MEQ: It seems that Muslims today are hampered by a culture that refuses to take on board the prerequisites for scientific and other intellectual progress—the Enlightenment insistence on freedom of speech and thought to enable open discourse and free debate. Even in the West since the Rushdie affair, Islamists seek to use the law to prohibit debate about Islam. Do you see a way to put an end to this pattern?

Hoodbhoy: On the scale of human history, the Enlightenment is a very recent phenomenon, barely four hundred years old. One must be hopeful that Muslims will catch up. The real question is how to shake off the dead hand of tradition. The answer lies in doing away with an educational system that discourages questioning and stresses obedience. Reform in the Muslim world will have to begin here. At the core of this problem, lies the tyranny that teachers exert over their students. In Urdu, we say that the teacher is not just a teacher—he is also your father. But in our culture, fathers are considered all-wise, which means that teachers cannot be questioned.

MEQ: Is this kind of education a source of authoritarianism?

Hoodbhoy: It is both a source and an inevitable consequence of authoritarianism. Instead of experiencing science as a process of questioning to achieve understanding, students sit under the watchful eyes of despots while they memorize arbitrary sets of rules and an endless number of facts. X is true and Y is false because that's what the textbook says. I grind my teeth whenever a student in my university class gives me this argument.

MEQ: How can countries like Pakistan develop a scientific mindset?

Hoodbhoy: College and university come much too late; change must begin at the primary and secondary school level. Good scientific pedagogy requires the deliberate inculcation of a spirit of healthy questioning in the classroom. Correct attitudes start developing naturally when students encounter questions that engage their mind rather than their memory. For this, it is important to begin with tangible things. One does not need a Ph.D. in cognitive studies to know that young people learn best when they deal with objects that can be understood by visual, auditory, tactile, and kinesthetic means. As their experience grows, students learn to understand abstract concepts, to manipulate symbols, to reason logically, to solve theorems, and to generalize. These abilities are destroyed, or left woefully undeveloped, by teaching through rote memorization.

MEQ: What, then, should normal practice consist of?

Hoodbhoy: Teachers posing such questions as: How do we know? What is important to measure? How can we check the correctness of our measurements? What is the evidence? How are we to make sense out of our results? Is there a counter explanation, or perhaps a simpler one? The aim should be to get students into the habit of posing such questions and framing answers.

Religion Trumps Science

MEQ: You have said, "No Muslim leader has publicly called for separating science from religion." Do you detect any real movement by Muslim secularists and scientists to reverse this trend?

Hoodbhoy: Nothing of this kind is visible in Pakistan, but I see this happening in Iran, the most intellectually advanced country of the Muslim world, a country that boasts an educational system that actually works. Ayatollah Khomeini was quite content to keep science and Islam separate—unlike Pakistan's leaders who have made numerous absurd attempts to marry the two. Khomeini once remarked that there is no such thing as Islamic mathematics. Nor did he take a position against Darwinism. In fact, Iran is one of the rare Muslim countries where the theory of evolution is taught. This may be because Shi'ites, as in Iran, have a different take on evolution than Sunnis and are generally less socially conservative as well. Shi'i women may wear the chador or hijab [head covering] but never a burqa [full body covering]. I've seen women taxi drivers in Tehran but never in New York City. Moreover, Iran is a front-runner in stem-cell research—something which George W. Bush and his administration had sought to ban from the United States.

MEQ: How far have madrasas in Pakistan, especially the Deobandi schools, made intellectual progress hard or impossible for society as a whole?

Hoodbhoy: The Deobandi-Salafi-Wahhabi axis of unreason does not seem capable of accommodating the premises of science—causality, an absence of divine intervention, and scientific method. Ever since Khwaja Nizam-ul-Mulk of Persia established madrasas in the eleventh century, these schools have stuck to their pre-scientific curriculum. However, they became dangerous when the Saudis used their petro-dollars in the 1970s to export Wahhabism across the world. Thousands of new madrasas were established in Pakistan by the United States, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia to provide fodder for the great joint, global jihad against the Soviets. The CIA provided madrasas with millions of Qur'ans, as well as tens of millions of textbooks published in America designed to create a jihadist mindset among young Afghans resident in Pakistan. These madrasas eventually became nurseries for the Taliban.

MEQ: Have no attempts been made to reform the madrasas?

Hoodbhoy: Following the 9/11 attacks, General Pervez Musharraf was prodded by the Americans to initiate a madrasa reform project aimed at broadening the madrasa curriculum to include the teaching of English, science, mathematics, and computers. Huge sums were spent but to no avail. These misogynist bastions of anti-modernism and militancy cannot be reformed. The Pakistani state literally cowers before them. They have the power to bring every Pakistani city to a halt. On the other hand, in East Africa, India, or Bangladesh, one sees that madrasas can be quite different. While conservative, they do permit teaching of secular subjects. Some even have small minorities of non-Muslims, which would be unheard of in a Pakistani madrasa.

MEQ: You point out the emergence of low-quality scientific periodicals in Iran and elsewhere, in which scientists publish articles of a poor standard. Also, most Muslim countries tolerate outright plagiarism in Ph.D. theses and published books. What do you suppose is responsible for such self-defeating behavior that clearly acknowledges the superiority of properly assessed articles and dissertations yet accepts the second- and third-rate?

Hoodbhoy: I call this "paper pollution." The rapid increase in substandard publications and plagiarism is the consequence of giving large incentives for publishing research papers. Some contain worthwhile research but most do not. I consider certain ambitious individuals in government to be at fault for allowing, and even deliberately encouraging, poor quality theses and books fit for nothing but the waste basket. This problem can be handled using the current administrative machinery; just remove these incentives and punish plagiarism with sufficient severity.

Open War between Muslims

MEQ: You have said, "Here [at Quaid-i-Azam University], as in other Pakistani public universities, films, drama, and music are frowned on." This is also seen in numerous Muslim schools in the United Kingdom, where even chess was banned and compared to "dipping one's hand in the blood of swine." These attitudes prevent talented young Muslims from achieving success as actors, directors, dancers, musicians, composers, artists, and writers. Your thoughts on changing this situation?

Hoodbhoy: There is open war between those Muslims who stand for a liberal, moderate version of the faith and those who insist on literalism. The unresolved tension between traditional and modern modes of thought and social behavior is now playing itself out in ever more violent ways. Most Pakistanis, while Muslims, want their daughters to be properly educated; Islamic extremists, however, are determined to stop them. On most campuses, religious vigilantes enforce their version of Islam on the university community by forcing girls into the veil, destroying musical instruments, forbidding men and women from being together, and putting a damper on cultural expression.

MEQ: Do the Taliban play a role in this arena?

Hoodbhoy: Yes, as of early 2009, they had already blown up 354 schools and they issued a decree that no girls in Pakistan may be educated after February 15, 2009. In their view, all females must stay at home. In October, educational institutions across Pakistan shut down after a suicide bomber blew himself up after walking into the girls' cafeteria of the International Islamic University [in Islamabad] while, simultaneously, another bomber targeted male students.

MEQ: Islamists bombed an Islamic university?

Hoodbhoy: Indeed, this episode sent shock waves across the country because the International Islamic University is a conservative institution where most women dress in burqas and very few wear normal clothes. But even this does not placate the extremists.

Muslims are at war with other Muslims. If the radicals win, or can at least terrify the moderates into following their restrictions, then there will be no personal and intellectual freedom and hence no thinking, ideas, innovations, discoveries, or progress. Our real challenge is not better equipment or faster Internet connectivity but our need to break with mental enslavement, to change attitudes, and to win our precious freedom.

What's Wrong with Suicide Bombing?


This was an interesting read from an old post that appeared in The Wisdom Fund

What's wrong with "suicide" bombing? Like tanks, gunships, bunker-busting bombs, F-16s, and cruise missiles, it kills people. That's what's wrong.

The reported fatalities between December 1987–the first Palestinian intifada–and January 2002 were 2,166 Palestinians, and 454 Israelis. During this same period, the number of Palestinians seriously injured by live ammunition, rubber bullets, shrapnel, etc. were 18,761; the number of Israelis seriously injured 427. This from statistics reportedly endorsed by the Israeli human rights group, B'Tselem.

According to University of California professor Huston Smith, author of The World's Religions:

"The Koran's definition of a Holy War is virtually identical with that of a Just War in the Canon Law of Catholicism. It must either be defensive or to right an horrendous wrong."

Islam forbids killing except in certain circumstances such as in self defense, or in response to another killing. Even then Islam counsels forgiveness, or compensation for the victim's family. What else is wrong with "suicide" bombing? Legally, less than what one might believe. While it may or may not be good strategy, it appears to be permissable under international law. Most Israelis over the age of 18, aren't exactly civilians. All eligible men and women are drafted into the Israel Defense Force at age 18. Men serve for three years, women for 21 months. Upon completion of compulsory service each soldier is assigned to a reserve unit. We Hold These Truths, a Christian organization, reports:

– All Israeli busses are owned and operated by the state, and each one serves as a military transport vehicle. Civilian passengers often find themselves riding next to an on-duty, rifle-carrying soldier being ferried to a duty station.

– Israeli pizzerias and McDonalds fast-food restaurants are teeming with off-duty and on-duty Israeli military men and women, many of both sexes carrying rifles.

Palestine is occupied land, and under international law, the Palestinians have the legal right to resist this occupation by any and all means. This may make busses, restaurants, discos–where Israeli military congregate, lawful targets. But there's no excuse for killing children. And there's no excuse for either Israelis or Palestinians knowingly putting children in harm's way. And what fuels the intifada, and the Palestinian "suicide" bombings, is Israeli destruction of Palestinian homes and orchards, Israeli settlements–a violation of international law, and President Sharon's desire to scuttle the peace process, and drive Arabs out of Palestine, permanently.

Suicide–the deliberate termination of one's life–for a greater cause is not an Arab monopoly. The Japanese used kamikaze or "suicide" attacks in World War II; a woman belonging to the Tamil Tigers blew up herself, several others, and India's prime minister Rajiv Gandhi; and those who protect the U.S. president are taught to sacrifice their lives if necessary. And what Western media call "suicide" bombings are generally viewed as martyrdom by Arabs. Islamic scholars say Islam forbids suicide, but accepts martyrdom–suicide being a selfish act contrary to God's will, martyrdom being an act of courage, sacrifice, and faith.

In the end, whether it's "suicide" bombers, or tanks, gunships, bunker-busting bombs, F-16s, and cruise missiles, the end result is the same: people die. And Palestinians are the overwhelming victims. So why does the media focus on "suicide" bombing?

Because it sets up Palestinian Arabs, Christian and Muslim, as the "other," therefore, a more legitimate target in the eyes of the American public, and it helps legitimize Israel's criminal conduct against the Palestinians, which, according to Francis A. Boyle, professor of international law, "has been financed, armed, equipped, supplied, and politically supported by the United States."

What's Common Between Taliban and US Forces?



Guess what is common between US forces and Taliban?

Yes, its God. If Muslims’ God shows face of apocalyptic violence, the Christians’’ God surely says: “And when the LORD thy God shall deliver them before thee; thou shalt smite them, and utterly destroy them; thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor show mercy unto them” (7:2)

Isn’t it a pity that the tools introduced by the religion for the collective good of humankind, have been used for the collective annihilation. If Taliban are trying to establish the rule of God through human bombs, the US forces are also trying nip the Taliban evil through God!

Interestingly, a news item that appeared in MSNBC’s US Military News Section described the US Defense Firms as seeing through God. According to the news story, the combat rifle sights used by U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan carry references to Bible verses, stoking concerns about whether the inscriptions break a government rule that bars proselytizing by American troops.

The story cites the military officials as saying that the citations did not violate the ban and that they would not stop using the telescoping sights, which allow troops to pinpoint the enemy day or night. The contractor that makes the equipment, Trijicon of Wixom, Mich., said the U.S. military has been a customer since 1995 and the company has never received any complaints about the Scripture citations. Tom Munson, Trijicon’s director of sales and marketing said in an interview that the company was not interested to publicize it as it was not something they made a big deal out of. But when asked, he said, then “we say yes, it’s there.”

In a statement Tuesday, the company defended the practice as part of their faith and belief in service to their country. “Our effort is simple and straightforward: to help our servicemen and women win the war on terror and come home safe to their families,” the statement said, according to the Detroit Free Press. “As long as we have men and women in danger, we will continue to do everything we can to provide them with both state-of-the-art technology and the never-ending support and prayers of a grateful nation.” Well that raises question in my mind, how then are Taliban so different? They are also presumably fighting for their religion, their faith and their people! No?

O yes, I should recognize a fundamental difference here, the US forces don’t kill their own people, while Taliban and all the forces supporting them in Pakistan, are so comfortable in doing and/or justifying suicide attacks on Pakistanis! Back in America, the inscriptions on the arms are subtle and appear in raised lettering at the end of the stock number. Trijicon’s rifle sights use tritium, a radioactive form of hydrogen, to create light and help shooters hit what they’re aiming for. Markings on the Advanced Combat Optical Gunsight, one of the company’s most advanced models, include “JN8:12,” a reference to John 8:12 which says:

“When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life”

The Trijicon Reflex sight is stamped with 2COR4:6, a reference to part of the second letter of Paul to the Corinthians:

“For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.”

Is it being used as a propaganda tool? Photos posted on a Defense Department Web site show Iraqi forces training with rifles equipped with the inscribed sights. The Defense Department is a major customer of Trijicon’s. In 2009 alone, the Marine Corps signed deals worth $66 million for the company’s products. Trijicon’s scopes and optical devices for guns range in cost from a few hundred dollars to $13,000, according to the company’s Web site.

Mikey Weinstein, President of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, says the Biblically inscribed sights could give the Taliban and other enemy forces a propaganda tool: that American troops are Christian crusaders invading Muslim countries. “I don’t have to wonder for a nanosecond how the American public would react if citations from the Koran were being inscribed onto these U.S. armed forces gun sights instead of New Testament citations,” Weinstein said. The foundation is a nonprofit watchdog group opposed to religious favoritism within the military. Weinstein said he has received complaints about the Scripture citations from active-duty and retired members of the military. He said he couldn’t identify them because they fear retaliation.

Here comes a longstanding issues of the inscription, ‘In God We Trust’ on US Military’s arms and other items of routine usage. The issue has been one of the grave concern to the progressive and secular intelligentsia of USA as well as for the US Atheist Association, for quite some time now. While the “godless” see it as propagation of religion-induced violence, the progressives maintain that the inscription gives US Military actions the cover of religion. A spokesman for U.S. Central Command, which manages military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, said the inscribed sights don’t violate the ban on proselytizing because there’s no effort to distribute the equipment beyond the U.S. troops who use them.

“This situation is not unlike the situation with U.S. currency,” said the spokesman, Air Force Maj. John Redfield. “Are we going to stop using money because the bills have ‘In God We Trust’ on them? As long as the sights meet the combat needs of troops, they’ll continue to be used.” The Marine Corps and the Army did not respond to e-mails from The Associated Press requesting comment on the Trijicon sights. Munson, Trijicon’s sales director, said the practice of putting Bible references on the sites began nearly 30 years ago by Trijicon’s founder, Glyn Bindon, who was killed in a plane crash in 2003. His son Stephen, Trijicon’s president, has continued the practice.

Whatever the logic behind these inscriptions might be, but it sounds so like, killing god through god! Monotheists are strange creature!