Climate change: impact on the Hajj


The Hajj, Mecca

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Since I posted my poem Mourning the lost Kaaba in late November 2017 — though not, I imagine, because of my poem — a report on the likely impact of climate change on the annual Hajj pilgrimage has come out from scientists at MIT and Loyola Marymount:

Kang, Pal, & Eltahir, Future Heat Stress During Muslim Pilgrimage (Hajj) Projected to Exceed “Extreme Danger” Levels

Here’s the abstract:

The Muslim pilgrimage or Hajj, which is one of the five pillars of Muslim faith, takes place outdoors in and surrounding Mecca in the Saudi Arabian desert. The U.S. National Weather Service defines an extreme danger heat stress threshold which is approximately equivalent to a wet?bulb temperature of about 29.1 °C—a combined measure of temperature and humidity. Here, based on results of simulations using an ensemble of coupled atmosphere/ocean global climate models, we project that future climate change with and without mitigation will elevate heat stress to levels that exceed this extreme danger threshold through 2020 and during the periods of 2047 to 2052 and 2079 to 2086, with increasing frequency and intensity as the century progresses. If climate change proceeds on the current trajectory or even on a trajectory with considerable mitigation, aggressive adaptation measures will be required during years of high heat stress risk.

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That’s the science — and while Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told the G20 in June that the Saudis are committed to “reducing greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to the negative effects of climate change,” beliefs concerning the Prophet’s institution of the Hajj in 632 CE following on earlier Abrahamic practice may well clash with scientific claims that the Hajj may become impossible for future devout Muslims to observe.

What happens, then, when this divine command intersects with increasing temperatures that eventually render Mecca uninhabitable? How do the climate change scientists fare when they sit across the table from the ulema, the scholar-clergy of Islam?

From a Muslim point of view, we’d better climate-correct, and do so fast:

Shahin Ashraf, We must stop climate change before it makes Hajj impossible

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The issue I’ve raised above is tightly focused on one sanctuary, one religion, one pilgrimage. Below are some other major pilgrimage sites to consider in light of climate change:

I would be interested in the cross-disciplinary exploration of the impact of climate change as understood by the scientific consensus, global migration patterns now and as expected in the coming years, and the devotional rituals and ceremonials of the various religions involved.

Large pilgrimages and religious ceremonials

This list draws text from Wikipedia and other online information sites.

Kumbh Mela:

Allahabad, India, 120 million devotees, every 12 years. The Prayag Kumbh Mela is a mela held every 12 years at Allahabad, India. The fair involves ritual bathing at Triveni Sangam, the meeting points of three rivers: the Ganga, the Yamuna and the mythical Sarasvati. The Kumbh Mela in 2013 became the largest religious gathering in the world with almost 120 million visitors.

Arba’een:

Karbala, Iraq, 30 million pilgrims annually. The Arba’een Pilgrimage is the world’s largest annual public gathering, held every year in Karbala, Iraq at the end of the 40-day mourning period following Ashura, the religious ritual for the commemoration of martyrdom of the grandson of Prophet Mohammad and the third Shia Imam, Husayn ibn Ali’s in 680. Anticipating Arba’een, or the fortieth day of the martyrdom, the pilgrims make their journey to Karbala on foot,where Husayn and his companions were martyred and beheaded by the army of Yazid I in the Battle of Karbala. The number of participants in the annual pilgrimage reached 30 million or more by 2016.

Papal Mass

Philippines, 7 million adherents, occasional. Pope Francis’ apostolic and state visit to the Philippines garnered a record breaking crowd of 7 million people. The mass conducted by the pope was the largest gathering in papal history.

Makara Jyothi

India, 5 million pilgrims annually. This pilgrim center and temple is located amidst a dense forest in the southern region of India. It was visited by over 5 million pilgrims in 2007 for a festival known as ‘Makara Jyothi,’ occurring annually on the 14 of January. Although the Sabarimala Temple, site of the Makara Jyothi celebration) draws a crowd of 50 million visitors annually, the specific day of the miraculous celestial lighting observation gathered 5 million pilgrims in 2007.

Bishwa Ijtema:

Near Dhaka, Bangladesh, 5 million pilgrims annually. The Bishwa Ijtema, meaning Global Congregation, is an annual gathering of Muslims in Tongi, by the banks of the River Turag, in the outskirts of Dhaka, Bangladesh. It is one of the largest peaceful gatherings in the world. The Ijtema is a prayer meeting spread over three days, during which attending devotees perform daily prayers while listening to scholars reciting and explaining verses from the Quran. It culminates in the Akheri Munajat, or the Final Prayer, in which millions of devotees raise their hands in front of Allah (God) and pray for world peace.The Ijtema is non-political and therefore it draws people of all persuasion. It is attended by devotees from 150 countries. Bishwa Ijtema is now the second largest Islamic gatherings with 5 million adherents

[ this is where the Hajj, with 2.3 million pilgrims annually, fits in ]

Umrah:

Mecca, size unknown, year round. The ?Umrah is an Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca, Hijaz, Saudi Arabia, performed by Muslims that can be undertaken at any time of the year, in contrast to the ?ajj which has specific dates according to the Islamic lunar calendar. It is sometimes called the ‘minor pilgrimage’ or ‘lesser pilgrimage’, the Hajj being the ‘major’ pilgrimage which is compulsory for every Muslim who can afford it. The Umrah is not compulsory but highly recommended.

Kalachakra,:

Various locations, 500,000 participants, variously. The Kalachakra is a term used in Vajrayana Buddhism that means “wheel(s) of time”. “K?lacakra” is one of many tantric teachings and esoteric practices in Tibetan Buddhism. It is an active Vajrayana tradition, and has been offered to large public audiences. The tradition combines myth and history, whereby actual historical events become an allegory for the spiritual drama within a person, drawing symbolic or allegorical lessons for inner transformation towards realizing buddha-nature. The Dalai Lama’s 33rd Kalachakra ceremony was held in Leh, Jammu and Kashmir, India from July 3 to July 12, 2014. About 150,000 devotees and 350,000 tourists were expected to participate in the festival. The Kalachakra has also been performed, eg, by Grand Master Lu Sheng-yen of the True Buddhs School, a Chinese Vajrayana group.

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The impacts of climate change will need to be studied as they apply not only to these sites of pilgrimage, but also to holy sites in general, notably including Jerusalem, Rome, Varanasi, and Kyoto.

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Is it time for Asian Americans and Latino Americans to ask to be considered “white”? (c)

This is the next article in the series “Is it time for Asian Americans and Latino Americans to ask to be considered “white”, “Is it time for Asian Americans and Latino Americans to ask to be considered “white” (a)”,  Razib’s  “Hasan Minhaj’s Patriot Act on Affirmative Action“, and “Is it time for Asian Americans and Latino Americans to ask to be considered “white” (b)”.

A growing part of the global caucasian intelligentsia are attacking Hong Kong protesters as far right fascists. This is part of a growing trend among xenophobic caucasians attacking Asians for “white supremacy”, “nazism”, “racism”, “oppression”, “patriarchy”, “imperialism”, “colonialism”, “hegemony”, “exploitation.”

Why is this happening? Is it just jealousy? Is it that many caucasians fear that “darkies” own a growing percentage of global wealth, earn a growing percentage of global income? Is it fear that “darkies” have growing competence, capacity, merit, mental health, intelligence? Is it fear about improving “darkie” academic outcomes?

I am not sure. Can everyone share their thoughts?

How should us “darkies” react?

I believe in loving and respecting our enemy with all our hearts, all our souls, all our minds and all our might. This includes everyone who is disrespectful, not loving, racist, bigoted, prejudiced, white supremacist, Nazi, facist, oppressive, hegemonic, exploitative, patriarchal towards us. And everyone who accuses us of being disrespectful, not loving, racist, bigoted, prejudiced, white supremicist, Nazi, facist, oppressive, hegemonic, exploitative, patriarchal. And everyone who labels and mislabels us. And everyone who falsely accuses us.

Everyone has the right to freedom of art and thought. If we truly love and respect others, then how can we not respect their right to disrespect and not love us?

The sweetness of love will gradually melt their hearts.

Some might say that this works for most people who are mean to others, but is insufficient for dangerous people. For particularly dangerous people, we can combine the deepest of love and respect with dialogue. And for the most dangerous people, we can combine love, respect, and dialogue with other things.

Can there be any other way?

This topic is one of the reasons The Brown Pundits Podcast would like to interview Irshad Manji:

Irshad Manji has touched the sweetness of the heart, the silence that is always with us. And while I agree with her that we should respect and love others, and not label others. I don’t think we have the right to limit the freedom of art and thought of others by asking them not to label and mislabel us.

One example that inspires me is how Krishna dealt with harsh bigotry, criticism, false allegations, others mislabeling him, disrespect, bigotry, prejudice, white supremacy, Nazism, fascism, oppression, hegemony, exploitation, patriarchy. Krishna insisted that others be allowed to criticize Krishna.

I would be curious to listen to Irshad Manji’s thoughts about this.

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America does a good job assimilating immigrants


If you are lucky, you are not aware that Priyanka Chopra got “called out” by a young Pakistani woman for “encouraging nuclear war against Pakistan.”

On the face of it seems very unlikely that Chopra was doing anything more than making a vanilla patriotic statement during a very tense time (I assume literally no one except for insane people would have wanted nuclear war in any case or even a conventional war!).

Though the initial stories referred to a “Pakistani woman”, you can tell by the accent that she was raised in the USA. In fact, she was naturalized as an American citizen at a very young age (she posted the certificate on her Facebook page). To be honest, even when I heard her referred to as Pakistani (she refers to herself as such), I was a bit skeptical and suspected perhaps she was actually American because this sort of self-righteous grandstanding is what America teaches the current generation.

Ayesha Malik is self-centered, ignorant, and milking an issue of genuine geopolitical concern to elevate her own individual profile as a beauty vlogger. Very American.

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Little Qatar playing the Soviet Union in our time

There is a little Twitter tiff going on because of what seems like a misunderstanding (misrepresentation?) of what Jake Tapper said on his CNN show on Sunday. The source of the misunderstanding (or, as Tapper stated, the lie) is a journalist at AJ+.

AJ+, of course, is the English-language social media-oriented arm of Al Jazeera. Al Jazeera is controlled by the government of Qatar, an authoritarian monarchy. Not only is Qatar authoritarian, but it is a very explicit caste society.

As a person of South Asian descent, I am quite aware that the United States gives me a far better “fair-go” than an of the Gulf monarchies would, including Qatar. Money is fungible, but the reality is that the funds in Sana Saeed’s bank account almost certainly derive in some way from the exploitation of South Asian laborers in Qatar.

To get a sense of Qatar, you can read this article, Lamborghinis, Burkas, Sex Party Invites And ‘Chop Chop Square’: A New York Lawyer’s 15 Years In The Middle East. It’s basically a hit piece. There’s nothing surprising or novel about the facts reported. It was probably written to satisfy our Gulf allies in the UAE and Saudi Arabia. Both of these states run on exploited labor and operate as caste societies (well, Saudi Arabia less so since it has indigenized more).

Qatar’s game kind of reminds me of the Soviet Union during the Cold War. The Soviets, correctly, pointed out America racism. But, they did not shine much of a light on their own prejudices and brutality toward ethnic minorities (they literally engaged in ethnic cleansing several times for reasons of geopolitics). And, Communist anti-racism was fundamentally shallow, as evidenced by the well-known racism among the populace of the post-Communist states.

As with my post on Mehdi Hasan, my point is not to say that people getting their paychecks indirectly from the exploitation of South Asian laborers shouldn’t be able to express opinions. But, considering that they are employed by a media outfit controlled by a mildly racist and very authoritarian regime, perhaps one should be a bit more skeptical of their good faith.

I mean, if Israel is an apartheid state, what would they call Qatar?

Addendum: Also, AJ+ journalists should chill on the guilt-by-association. Their Arabia language channel platforms some really nasty people.

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Memory outlives flesh

In the comments below a reader asks a legitimate question: why the focus on Indo-Aryans when the most probably model suggests that even among the most “Aryan” of South Asian groups the ancestry attributable to the Andronovo-Sintashta people are only on the order of 30%? In most of northern South Asia, the fraction is probably closer to 10%, and it is far lower in the south (there is a concomitant varna gradient as well).

The exact point estimate will change, but it is almost assured that most of the ancestry of Indo-Aryan speaking South Asians is going to derive from the people who were resident within the Indian subcontinent when the Indo-Aryans arrived. So why the arguments and debates about Indo-Arans?

To understand this I will move the discussion out of a South Asian context first:

O most valiant and blessed martyrs! O truly called and elected unto the glory of Our Lord Jesus Christ! Which glory he that magnifies, honors and adores, ought to read these witnesses likewise, as being no less than the old, unto the Church’s edification; that these new wonders also may testify that one and the same Holy Spirit works ever until now, and with Him God the Father Almighty, and His Son Jesus Christ Our Lord, to Whom is glory and power unending for ever and ever. Amen.

– Perpetua

The above is the conclusion of the witness and statement of St. Perpetua, a young Christian woman martyred by the Roman authorities on account of her faith. For over 1,000 years Christians have identified with and drawn strength from Perpetua. Young Catholic women in Poland cry to this day when they read her story. The story of Perpetua is their story in some deep way.

When Perpetua was being sent to her death, the ancestors of the Polish women who identify so great with her were pagans, practicing slash and burn agriculture south of the Baltic shore. They were worshipping and venerating gods which in fact held a distant relationship to those of the Rig Veda!

Many of us may laugh at the fact that Pakistanis venerate Muhammad bin Qasim , when if he were alive today he likely have contempt for the “black crows” which bow down before the Arab god (Qasim lived before a more universalistic Islam emerged, and when the sect was very much a cult of the Arabs of the Arabs). Similarly, the origin priests of the Indo-Aryans would probably look with confusion and bewilderment at the “black” people speaking with their voice.

But speak they do! The power of the Indo-Aryans is the power of memory over flesh. In the Bible, Ruth states that “thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried…”

What language did the mleccha speak? I am convinced that some of them surely spoke dialects related to those of southern India, though the existence of Burushashki points to greater complexities than we may imagine. What gods did they worship? There are suppositions one can make about the non-Aryan elements of Indian culture. They are likely numerous, constitutive to an understanding of Indian culture, but they are the background. The frame.

In the foreground is the name and the speech of the Aryans. The very words which roll off our tongues, and the memories of the heroes of yore. The Aryans obtained their cultural immortality by implanting in the other peoples of the Indian subcontinent their speech, their mythos, and their very identity.

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A darker shade of brown

Sharon Muthu

On the individual level who you find attractive and what you find attractive is your own deal. I’m not one to go exhorting anyone to anything. To be frank I find “campaigns” to make x more attractive a bit cringe. It’s like the joke about having to explain to someone that actually you are very attractive!

That being said, it’s interesting to observe cultural patterns, differences, and trends. I do not, for example, perceive women with natural epicanthic folds to be less attractive in any deep sense. But the surgery to create folded over eyelids is a “coming of age” practice in much of Northeast Asia, especially South Korea because it is seen as more aesthetically pleasing. This is a new trend triggered by Western norms, as prior to the past century the more common Asian look with epicanthic folds was considered more beautiful.

This brings me to South Asians, and beliefs, attitudes, and opinions about skin color. Years ago I read that Indian (Tamil) American actress Sharon Muthu was lost a part where she would be playing an Indian character “because she didn’t look Indian.” The director, in this case, was a white American. He admitted she nailed the audition, but optically he didn’t think she’d be plausible as Indian to the audience.

This goes to show that the Bollywood aesthetic has come to define what “Indian” looks like even in the West! Muthu is on the darker side, but not anymore atypical than may lighter-skinned Bollywood celebs.

Sendhil Ramamurthy

I am very jaundiced about many aspects of South Asian (which means mostly Indian American really) American culture, but one thing that is striking in contrast to the culture of their parents is that there is little attention to skin color. In fact, there are multiple instances where I’ve heard people say that the parents thought someone they were dating was too dark.  This is probably a function of the fact that in an environment where all brown people of various shades are bracketed together, it’s a little ridiculous to make the sort of distinctions that are common in the Indian subcontinent.

Speaking as an outsider to brown culture (my wife is white, most of my close friends are not brown, my children are mixed, etc.) and community, so often when I see an Indian or Pakistani actor or actress they look like older versions of Zayn Malik, the half-Pakistani and half-English teen idol, or an Italian actress with a bigger nose. In general, I laugh, and a lot of American-born/raised brown people I know laugh too.

On the other hand, American South Asians are among the most privileged in the world. The people consuming Bollywood, and Tollywood and all the other woods, are the broad middle and lower classes of India, and their choices do shape what gets put on the screen.

When I was visiting Bangladesh in 2004 many of the posters of actresses I saw were notable for two things:

  • They were fairer than the average young Bangladeshi woman
  • They were plumper than the average young Bangladeshi woman

My prediction is as Indian audiences get more affluent, and self-confident in themselves, the actors and actressse will start looking more and more like better look versions of the average Indian, rather than cut-rate Jaggus and Jagginas.

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India Still Rising (c)

One of the economists I follow is Rathin Roy [member of the Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council.] India has several major long term growth challenges. One is geographic inequality in growth. South and West India are growing much faster and have much lower population growth rates than the rest of India, causing them to pay far higher taxes than they recieve in government spending benefits. Some believe this could cause long term Indian instability. My view is that the poor parts of India are likely to grow rapidly in the future. When measured in terms of human population I think STs, SCs, OBCs and poor conservative Sunni (non Sufi) Indians are likely to experience rapid economic growth, causing this issue to take care of itself over time.

Rathin Roy is optimistic about short term Indian economic growth but worries about India’s long term economic growth.  He worries that India could enter the upper middle income country trap, similar to Brazil. Let us assume that income or Y depends on three inputs, K (Capital = tools or the sum total of all previous investments minus depreciation), L (Labor = total hours worked),  A (technology, product development and process innovation, total factor productivity):

Y = F(AL, K)

dY/dL = marginal product of Labor = long term real wages on average

dY/dK = marginal product of Capital = long term real rate of return on investment

India has a reasonable savings rate which finances investment.

India has a long term challenge with A or technology. What are these challenges?:

Continue reading “India Still Rising (c)”

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The Ideal and the Practical — the Practice

I’d written a response to @AnAn and included a quote from the Chuang Tzu’s chapter on Lord Wen-hui and what he learned from his Cook Ting, and wanted to throw in the following DoubleQuote — but graphics seem to be discouraged in the Comment sections here, so I’ve opened this post for the purpose:

The thing is, Lao Tzu offers us the ideal statement, formulated in terms of an impenetrable absence of space, and an absence of substance to the point of non-existence — while Chuang Tzu, peering over Lord Wen-hui’s shoulder right there in Cook Ting’s kitchen, offers us the same insight, couched in terms of there being “spaces between the joints” and his knife having “really no thickness” — Chuang Tzu’s measureless insight penetrates Lao Tzu’s impenetrable absolutes to show us there’s room for play there — “room — more than enough for the blade to play about in”.

If we bear these two versions of the same idea — formulated ideally and in practical terms by the two principle philosopher-poets of the Taoist school — in mind when our thoughts run up against the impracticality of an ideal, we may find, like Cook Ting, that we too have room enough room to play in.

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