The United Nations Office on Genocide Prevention warns of certain indicators that “provide an environment conducive to the commission of atrocity crimes,” including “increased politicization of identity” and discriminatory “measures or legislation” targeting protected groups. In addition to certain prohibited acts, such as killing members of a group, genocidal States often use legal and administrative tools to facilitate the destruction of a targeted group “in whole or in part.”
In Myanmar, successive governments have implemented measures and legislation to erase Rohingya Muslims’ identity and rights, creating an enabling environment for genocide.
UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi today expressed his concern over the publication of a National Register of Citizens (NRC) that may put large numbers of people in India’s north-eastern state of Assam at risk of becoming stateless.
It is too early to say what the nationality status of those left off the National Register, some 1.9 million according to the authorities, may ultimately be. UNHCR is concerned, however, that many are at risk of statelessness if they do not possess another nationality.
That’s a DoubleQuote — but it’s also pattern recognition, and the start of a possible concatenation of such quotes — a mala of urgencies.
BTW, it’s more than possible, as Myanmar >> Bangladesh migration illustrates, that mass migration across national borders may be a pragmatic alternative to genocide — but that threatens national sovereignty, doesn’t it?
I saw Omar Ali yesterday — terrific conversation — and when I asked what topics I should discuss here, he suggested I post whatever interests me — so here’s the anointing of Brazilian strong-man Bolsonaro, and hymn singing in Hong Kong.
Religious behavior in general fascinates me — but when it affects politics, people often don’t realize what powerful motivation it can provide.
Religion can be coercive, as in the anointing of Bolsonaro —
For the past week, the hymn has been heard almost non-stop at the main protest site, in front of the city’s Legislative Council, and at marches and even at tense stand-offs with the police.
It started with a group of Christian students who sang several religious songs at the main protest site, with “Sing Hallelujah to the Lord” catching on among the crowd, even though only about 10 percent of Hong Kong people are Christian.
“This was the one people picked up, as it is easy for people to follow, with a simple message and easy melody,” said Edwin Chow, 19, acting president of the Hong Kong Federation of Catholic Students.
The hymn is simple, optimistic yet adds a touch of solemnity and calm to the proceedings, and also affords some legal protection to the protesters —
The students sang the songs in the hope of providing a cover of legitimacy for the protest. Religious gatherings can be held without a permit in the financial hub.
“As religious assemblies were exempt, it could protect the protesters. It also shows that it is a peaceful protest,” Chow said.
The hymn was composed in 1974 by Linda Stassen-Benjamin in the United States for Easter. Its five words are repeated over four stanzas in a minor key, which gives it an air of meditative solemnity.
Between the anointing of a dictator and the hymn singing of a crowd of protesters demanding democratic freedoms from the Chinese state, we have quite an instructive confluence of ways in which religion can enter the public square.
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:
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.
That’s the science — and while Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salmantold 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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 ]
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.
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.
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.
One of the things that I admitted when reflecting on where I’ve been wrong, is that my default stance is to be somewhat isolationist because international entanglements are so complex. Some critics always wonder why I use such a simple heuristic, why not evaluate on a case by case basis?
At the extreme, this is obviously what would happen. But most cases are not at the extreme. The reality is I know more about history and geography than the vast majority of people, and I just don’t feel comfortable offering definitive judgment on many issues.
In the USA today the Right is pro-Israel to a default, to such an extent that it strikes me that they are as pro-Israel as they are pro-American. At least their in their rhetorical posture. Similarly, the Left is now pro-Palestine to a very great extent.
We could conclude that both the Right and Left have thought through their positions deeply and come to a reasoned position, but the reality is that these are just tribal politics. A subset of the Right adheres to a philo-Israeli theological position that has emerged in the last few decades, and these dictate the terms for the broader Right. Similarly, a small group of activists have kept and amplified the fire of 1970s Left nationalism which aligned with Palestine, and merged with more mainstream “social justice” views so that the pro-Palestinian position is now the Left position.
This is the case with many issues. Tribal politics and coalitional affinities drive solidarity and opinions. When your enemy was the Nazis, things get much easier. But these are very rare cases. Reality is more complex.
Which gets to why I used Ilhan Omar and Sarah Palin to illustrate this post. Both are very sincere and very stupid. So they have strong unnuanced opinions on foreign affairs, even if they could barely navigate a map. They are the best models for “hash tag activists.”
Pakistan has (once again, for the nth time) arrested Hafiz Saeed . This time the charge is “terror financing”. It should be clear to anyone who bothers to read a few newspapers that he was not hiding anywhere and did not need to be “found”. He has always lived and worked openly in Pakistan and this is not the first time he has been arrested (and may not be the first time he is let go after the dust settles and the IMF funds arrive). It is also worth noting that the charges have nothing to do with the Mumbai attacks and that the current military regime in Pakistan will not even admit that those attacks came from Pakistan. In fact their vast PR apparatus has successfully convinced many educated Pakistanis that the whole thing was an Indian (or Israeli) false flag operation and the attackers did not even come from Pakistan. While this is not the official stance of the government of Pakistan (which actually investigated the attackers to some extent under international pressure, and produced detailed evidence linking the attackers to Pakistan, including details such as where the boat was purchased and such like, and several people have been in jail at some point for their involvement in this attack), the domestic propaganda and management of witnesses etc has been so effective that I regularly get whatsapp messages from friends “accusing” some Pakistani journalist or TV station of being Indian agents because they have said at some point that the sole surviving terrorist (Ajmal Kasab) was a Pakistani. As an aside, it would be interesting if someone can ask a senior member of the current military regime to publicly state on record that Ajmal Kasab was Pakistani. I doubt that anyone (except maybe Trump) can actually do this (i.e. I doubt that any senior official can come on TV and admit this.. it would be too far at variance with the domestic propaganda that ISPR has put out).
In 2014 Hafiz Saeed actually held a conference of his (renamed) Jihadi organization at the “minar e Pakistan” (Pakistan memorial) in Lahore and rode around on a horse to feel close to the spirit of the original Arab conquerors he idealizes.
So anyway, everyone knew where Hafiz Saeed was, and even this latest arrest does not mention the Mumbai attacks, so either Trump is remarkably ignorant (possible) or he is just playing to his base, who love the whole “Western” movie ethos of wanted posters, dead or alive, manhunt, etc and finally, Sheriff Trump riding to capture the “bad guys”. I find it hard to believe that even Trump can be ignorant enough to not know all this, so I vote for “bullshitting his base” as the most likely explanation for this tweet.
But while all this may be just show to get Pakistan off the FATF hook and to get some much needed cash (and maybe even weapons) from Trump, it is still hard to say who is conning who here. At one level Pakistan has “successfully” conned the US for 17 years and received billions in aid while supporting the Taliban and hosting multiple other Jihadi organizations. But it is hard to see this as a “win” for Pakistan. While Pakistan’s military regime (and this issue has ALWAYS been handled by the army, no civilian was allowed to butt in.. Mian Nawaz Sharif lost power for trying to minimally rein in this policy) has played these games and thinks it is winning, it has actually presided over Pakistan falling steadily behind India and even Bangladesh in every economic and social indicator. It would have been much better to swallow the bitter pill in 2001 and actually switch sides and give up on Jihad. By now Pakistan would be outperforming rickety India and even “rising star” Bangladesh in many areas. Instead, we have wasted a generation trying to play these games and may not have anything to show for it if this round of show arrests does not even get us off the FATF grey list (or worse, gets us on the blacklist). Indians are (unsurprisingly) not delighted with this latest show of successful Pakistani conmanship (or even genuine change of heart), but in the proverbial long run, who gets the last laugh? India, a rising economic power in the world, or Pakistan, playing strategic games with multiple sponsors and just staying half a shaky step ahead of its multiple creditors?
I made the above chart for a presentation I’m working on. You notice that in 1913 Europe is 28% of the world’s population. In 2000 it is 13% of the world’s population. In 2019 Europe is almost certainly closer to ~10% of the world’s population (the above estimates for Europe include Russia).
To the right, I’ve posted the screenshot of an Ngrams search of books with the term “Eurocentric.” Notice that that term shoots up just as European hegemony went into freefall.
Today there is a lot of talk about postcolonialism, “colonizers,” “white supremacy,” and whatnot. And yet what else is this but a shadow of ages gone by?
We as humans are always fighting the last war. European societies are geriatric. They are wealthy, healthy, and have great aesthetic qualities. Many people would love to live in Europe. But unless you are an acolyte of Madison Grant, who believes in the peculiar and unparalleled genius of European peoples, the numbers are telling a story you can’t avoid.
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?:
I wrote the following article for one of the English daily newspapers in Bangladesh. The main idea is directly borrowed from a very good post in Brown Pundits (2016) by always superb contributor Omar Ali bhai. “Is Islam the rock on which the liberal order broke?” https://www.brownpundits.com/2016/12/05/islam-is-rock-on-which-liberal-order/
Link to my article here. Text follows. Just as a reminder, newspapers op-eds are not suitable place for good elaboration and defense of ideas. This is not an analysis or theorizing, just a reaction.
I was watching live streaming of the India Election 2019 results on the NDTV website. Panelist after panelist was commenting on how significant were Balakot strikes in boosting BJP’s re-election prospects, and how ignorant are the liberal elites of India about the appeal of national identity among the masses.
This was NDTV, as a reminder, one of the citadels of India’s liberal elites. BJP’s triumphant re-election under Narandra Modi underscores the wave of right-wing populist nationalism sweeping across democracies of the world — Europe, Australia, Latin America, the US, Asia, maybe soon in Canada also.
With every election, every referendum taking place in established democracies, it is becoming apparent that this wave may not be just yet another right turn in the cycle of politics soon to be corrected by pivot to the left, but a fundamental shift in the people themselves.
A couple of years ago, in a South Asia focused blog I frequent, a much-admired Pakistani-American writer wrote a post posing a great question: “If and when modern humanism and liberalism crashes and burns, will future historians look back and say that Islam was the rock on which it first and decisively broke?”
His point was not that Islam single-handedly threw a powerful challenge to the liberal order, or “end of history” would have been achieved if Islam didn’t throw a wrench into the gears of civilization.
He argued that by obdurate refusal to accept the fundamental assumptions of post-enlightenment worldview, by obstinate resistance to assimilate with the mainstream when in the minority and by dogged persistence in recreating antediluvian theocracies when in majority, Muslims not only undermined the universal validity of the whole liberal project, but also sowed deep doubts about the liberal project among its previously most faithful adherents.
Muslim recalcitrance has hastened delivery of the contradictions that the liberal project was pregnant with from the beginning.
And the contradictions are huge indeed. The liberal order is prone to breakdown because it doesn’t sufficiently account for the fact that human nature itself is broken. People are not just utility or satisfaction maximizing beings. Enjoyment and suffering are intimately co-mingled.
People do not just want to reach heaven together; they want some, preferably who are somewhat different, to be confined to hell as well. Apart from the contradictions, surely undercurrents of technological and economic change, the shift in global power balance, the inevitable decay of political order, played a far more important role in undermining the liberal dominance than obstinate resistance of the followers of Islam?
However, it’s hard to deny any causative role of Islam. The emergence of right-wing, national identity politics was perhaps inevitable in India, but BJP’s astonishing dominance must be partially attributable to Pakistan’s persistent spoiling and nightmare-neighbour role? Right-wing majoritarians everywhere are scapegoating Muslims as the principal other; morality of their methods can be questioned, but the success cannot.
Moreover, I would argue that Islam has not undermined the liberal order by sowing doubts within liberal ranks or exposing its contradiction, it has weakened liberalism by emboldening and consolidating the enemies of liberalism in established democracies which were scattered and disheartened after the bloodbath of WWII and subsequent emergence of liberal world order.
Stubborn defense of group identity by Muslims of the world has made upholding group identity respectable for all groups, majority or minority, powerful or weak. In the age of mass politics, group identities like religion or nation have more elements in common than in difference. If Muslims can be unabashedly assertive about the sanctity of their religious identity and traditions, other groups can be unapologetic about their respective identities too.
Muslims may be a small minority in most of established democracies, but they comprise nearly one-fourth of humanity, and they have a very emphatic presence in Asia, Africa, and parts of Europe. To people of different faiths, Muslims, regardless of their actual numbers as minority, represent the much talked-about demographic threat from the south.
Muslims, whether in majority or minority, are on the other hand deathly afraid of the political, cultural, and economic threats emanating from the leading political and ethnic groups of the world. It’s a mutual cycle of fear spiraling downwards. Muslims cheering the probable demise of a liberal world order is the height of folly.
As the world’s most powerless and disunited major group, they will continue to pay the major price of breakdown in blood and misery. Uighurs of China portend that bleak future.
In established democracies, Muslims are generally politically allied with liberal progressives, and this alliance has opened liberals up to accusation of double standards in protecting a very illiberal minority identity. Abandoning universalism and embracing identitarianism is hollowing out liberalism from within. Either the principles of liberalism apply for all groups or none at all.
Is Sri Lanka (and similar small states) going to be the frontline between Islamic Caliphate versus Human Rights/Evangelical Christian Empire. Like Vietnam was a proxy War/battlefield between the goal of a Communist vs Capitalist World Empire.
Post WW2, Evangelical Christianity (thru the US) and “Human Rights” (thru US and Europe) have been terrorizing the Mid East for over half a decade.
What is the difference between
a) Bombing multiple countries to install “Human Rights” compliant with the Empire of the West.
b) or Bombs with the goal of establishing Sharia Law compliant Caliphate Empire.
Pre WW2 Europe (2) was the foremost in promoting “Christian Values” while obviously exploiting and looting the resources of brown and yellow heathen savages. Post WW2, Europe and the US has redefined itself as advocates of Human Rights illegally supporting war either (see the box below for examples)
by acting unilaterally
using false evidence for UN resolution
acting beyond UN resolutions
In order to invade Iraq, Colin Powell stood on the UN floor and assured that Iraq had WMD. Colin Powell later regretted his speech. A spokesperson for the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO) falsely defended the bombing of Libya as within UN resolution. The UN resolution was only to establish a no fly zone. The Norwegian aircraft dropped 588 bombs
To Europe, US markets the wars as protecting Human Rights or the (in)famous Right to Protect (R2P) of Samantha Power and Hillary Clinton. At home in the US sells Human Rights as Gods Wish/A Just War to the very important Evangelical home base to garner support for Iraq War and bombing of Libya.
No MSM writeup says, Christian Presidents George Bush and Barack Obama instigated a Just War. However, George W. Bush is a member of the United Methodist Church. Barack Obama is and has been a member of Evangelical Churches. Evangelical leaders post 9/11 signed an open letter to Bush approving war on Iraq satisfied the criteria of Christian “Just-war” theory. ( see here and here)
“Iraq represents that existential threat we have from global Islamic Jihadists. “We must defeat it in Iraq, Afghanistan and then act preemptively to destroy it wherever it emerges.”.
“Throughout Scripture, there is evidence that God favors war for divine reasons and sometimes uses it to accomplish his will. He has also given governments and their citizens very specific responsibilities in regards to this matter,” Charles Stanley, Televangelist, pastor First Baptist Church of Atlanta and In Touch Ministries said in a sermon broadcast internationally on his television program.,
As one can see, there is not much difference between Christian and Islamic priests advising people and countries to wage war.
Two examples of US and European Post World War 2 atrocities 1953 Iran: CIA coup overthrows the democratically elected MP Mosaddegh .
USS Vincennes shoots down Iran Air Flight 655 on 3 July 1988, killing all 290
Chemical weapons supplied to Iraq by US, UK, Netherlands and German companies
It is pretty clear, the US and Europe with the blessings of the Evangelicals/Human Rights Religion has been the first instigators in the Mid-East. The Muslim response has been slow and generally localized to places of regime change and invasions. With the creation of Al-Qaeda and ISIS the war has been fought on a larger geographical terrain.
Now the war between Evangelicals/Human Rights Religion and Islamic Jihad has been taken worldwide. Suicide bomber cells now include family groups including children. Suicide bombers attack churches, tourist hotels and beaches where westerners congregate. T
Unhappily, Islamic extremism is also an opportunity for Western powers to establish a foothold. In Sri Lanka. The US wants to sign a secretive Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with clauses to exclude the American soldiers from the local jurisdiction. Liberal Human Rights types and Westernized Sri Lankans (many are Christians, like current PM Ranil Wickremasinghe) would welcome the West with open arms. This would result in Sri Lanka being a proxy battle field for Western powers and the Islamic Caliphate. Sri Lanka should find its own solution to keep Christian/Islamic wars out of its shores.
(1)Disclosure. Author is a Tamil by Heritage, Atheist, though born to an Evangelical Christian family, post graduate education and work in the US. (2) The Catholic Church has much blood in the past. Post WW2 as far as I know, no war has been justified by the Vatican.
Islam, Extremism & Hypocrisy, Nur Yalman (2017) Short history of Wahabism to ISIS