“This is the heartland of Boko Haram”

Wise men tell us that we have to understand the enemy in order to defeat him. The only question is, do we have the fortitude to do what it takes, to take the fight to the bitter end?  So that schools are not bombed and ruined? So that girls can go to school in Chibok and elsewhere without fearing that they may be kidnapped and sold off as slaves?

We are fighting against a deadly ideology, but do we have any ideology to counter it (and vaccinate against it), or are we only offering shallow multi-culturalism to people not attuned to western sensibilities and encouraging third-world ghettos in the first-world?

“He told us we should never drive close to the cows,” Wadai
explained. “He said that the spirit of Boko Haram can enter the cows. So
we should always wait for the cow to cross the road.” He laughed. I was
puzzled. Wadai continued. “It’s a common belief here. They believe that
Boko Haram sends its spirit inside the cows.”


If this war has to be won we have to first face up to both liberal and conservative bigotry in the West. The liberals would prefer to let the tribals stay true to their tribal ways (and there is no one to fight when girls are stoned to death by their own family bang in front of a court-room in broad daylight), while the conservatives will be content with breaking a country with bombs but not putting in the effort to build it up again.

The lib-con consensus right now is that it is best if the nut-jobs are whacked off at a certain (less than ideal) rate using drones based on humint (spies on the ground).  And if somehow refugees escaping death and devastation manage to cross the many miles of sea to reach the safe havens (Italy, Australia, ….) they will be  thrown into open air prisons indefinitely. This lib-con consensus needs to be changed. It will be quite an impossible task since the voters are demanding to know: what is in it for us?

The best solution seems to be to empower local communities and give them the tools to fight back- create as many Kurdistan like safe havens as we can. We must not retreat and we must not abandon people to the forces of darkness.
On Monday morning, May 12, I sat in the backseat of a Toyota Corolla,
headed to Chibok. With a satin abaya draping my body in a sheath of
black, and my hair curled underneath a black chiffon hijab, my careful
effort to blend into northeastern Nigeria’s conservative, predominately
Muslim society appeared to be working. The soldiers who peered into the
backseat gave me casual glances, waving us past checkpoint after

“This is the heartland of Boko Haram,” said the governor of Borno
State when I visited him in the state capital of Maiduguri along the
way. A month earlier, militants from the radical Islamist group had
seized a secondary school in Chibok and kidnapped almost 300 female
students. The town had quickly become an emblem of a region in crisis,
where insurgents attack churches and mosques and kill children in their
sleep while shouting “Allahu akbar.”

When I set out for Chibok—a three-day journey from the Nigerian
capital of Abuja—I’d encountered children selling peanuts and sachets of
water along the road. Those who had nothing to sell simply held out
their palms. “Allah ya kiyaye, Allah ya kiyaye,” they’d said,
muttering prayers in the Hausa language for Allah to grant us a safe
journey. I’d been warned about the dangers of the trip: Boko Haram hide
in the bushes along the road to Chibok, waiting for lonely cars to pass
They cross the street to get from one end of the surrounding fields
to the other, and they shoot at cars as they go, before disappearing
into the Sambisa Forest. 

“From this point of the journey, everything from here is Sambisa,”
explained one of my companions, Daniel Wadai, a lawyer and Chibok native
I’d met in Abuja at one of the daily #BringBackOurGirls rallies. From
the passenger’s seat, he gestured to the left, just above our driver’s
head. I turned to look and saw small bushes stuck in the sand and a few
scattered trees. I had expected to see a dense grove of trees.

“This is not a forest,” I said. “No. It’s not the forest that the media is painting it to be,” Wadai replied.

Dogonyaro, acacia, and baobab trees flashed by in a blur, as the
Sahelian landscape grew drier and flatter. Yellow flowers broke the
monotony of the green and brown landscape. And then, suddenly, we were
surrounded by cows making their way across the road. One of them stopped
by my window. I looked into its big, moist eyes, admiring its shiny,
reddish brown coat. Our driver continued on undaunted, carefully weaving
the car through the horde. A battered blue station wagon drove up
alongside us, and its driver said something to us in Hausa before
speeding away.

“He told us we should never drive close to the cows,” Wadai
explained. “He said that the spirit of Boko Haram can enter the cows. So
we should always wait for the cow to cross the road.” He laughed. I was
puzzled. Wadai continued. “It’s a common belief here. They believe that
Boko Haram sends its spirit inside the cows.”

For people here grappling with a palpable fear of fighters with no
clear agenda and no set targets on their path of destruction, Boko Haram
had taken on supernatural qualities. The group had completely wiped out
villages like Bulabulin.
There, weeds grew freely in farm plots.
Cooking pots lay overturned in the dirt. On our way to Chibok, I counted
three telecom masts, but I couldn’t pick up a network signal on my
phone. Boko Haram had destroyed the area’s infrastructure, too.

We soon reached the town of Damboa, where a battalion headquarters
stood next to the abandoned construction site of a housing development.

Damboa had once been a hotspot for Boko Haram recruitment, explained a
stringer for an international news agency who was traveling with us,
and whom I’ll call “Dayo.” Now, many of the boys there, having renounced
their membership in the militant group, were trying to rid the town of
Boko Haram.

Monday is market day in Damboa, and the town was bustling. Vegetable
sellers congregated along the roadside. A butcher sliced meat on a
wooden plank as women waited for his cuts. Lean dogs scurried about. Men
stood languidly in line in the heat, as civilian fighters inspected the
men’s fingers for trigger marks—signs of heavy gun usage that could out
them as Boko Haram members.

We left Damboa, turning onto a pothole-ridden dirt path known as
Chibok road. Here, I came closer to Sambisa than I had ever been before.
Now there were no checkpoints in sight. We had clearly embarked on the
most dangerous leg of the journey. And then our car came to a halt.

We arrived in Chibok covered head to toe in sand from one of the
village’s fierce sandstorms. Amid the dust, a sign for the
government-run secondary school marked the site of Boko Haram mass
kidnapping. A guard let us through the school’s gate without much fuss,
and we made our way across the rubble through a series of burned-out

Nearby, three people were sitting under a mango tree
surrounded by charred debris: the school’s principal, Asabe Kwambura,
and two administrators, who were waiting for a government delegation to
arrive and investigate the incident.

Kwambura greeted me, lifting her purple veil and wiping tears from her
eyes. She projected confidence, though I sensed it was withering. “They
are our girls,” she told me. I asked if the Nigerian military had been
protecting the school on the night of the attack. Kwambura said no—the
school had its own watchmen, and one had been guarding the main gate
while the other was posted at the girls’ residence. I was stunned. A
government school in a state under emergency rule had been left with no
government-authorized security.
Young girls had been sleeping in their
rooms without any solid assurance of safety.

Two matrons led us to the girls’ residence, where I saw bare bed
frames and shards of glass on the floor. Standing in the bedrooms, I
imagined the girls’ screams as they were snatched away. I pictured them
disappearing with their kidnappers into the night.

In Chibok, I found a close-knit community in mourning—families
gathering together at dawn and then heading to a dozen or so churches
and a handful of mosques scattered around the village to pray for the
girls to return. 

At night, Esther Yakubu—a mother of five, including
15-year-old Dorcas Yakubu, who was among the kidnapped students—crouches
on her knees and clutches her Bible. 

“God is not dead. He is alive,”
she told me, and then prayed: “God bring her back.”

Esther misses her daughter’s presence. “I like her by my side
always,” she said. “Anytime I think about her, I bust out crying. That’s
all I do everyday.” Sitting with her husband in the family’s cozy
living room, as daylight beamed through two narrow windows, Esther told
me that she and Dorcas spoke either in person or on the phone every day,
and that Dorcas had been planning to take a course on how to sew

Ten-year-old Marvelous was sitting on the floor as we spoke. I
asked him about Dorcas, and he mumbled, “I am still crying and

Outside, on the patio, I met Dorcas’s younger sister, Happy, who was
carrying pails of fresh rainwater. Happy was angry. “I want to leave
[Nigeria] because they are not taking care of us,” she told me.
Residents here cannot feel the impact of the federal government’s
estimated $5 billion defense budget.

On my way to the home of Lawan Zanna—whose daughter, 18-year-old Aisha,
had been kidnapped by Boko Haram—I met a gang of giggling girls jumping
in shapes they had drawn in the sand. It looked like a game of
hopscotch. Wadai told me it was called elgalagala. The girls jumped and twirled and laughed with glee. I stopped to take pictures and they posed like fashion models.

At Zanna’s home, I sat cross-legged on a red straw mat on the patio
as he told me how he and the other parents had marched through Sambisa
in a fruitless search for their daughters. Hawa, 19, showed me the
bedroom she shared with Aisha. A large bed took up more than half of the
room; plastic suitcases and laundry baskets were piled along the walls.

In a low voice, Hawa described Aisha. “My junior sister has respect,” she said. “She is a very quiet girl.”

Back on the patio, Zanna, was on his knees, praying to Allah. I said my goodbyes, and left the family to mourn.

My last stop that day was at Lydia Pogu’s family compound. Lydia had
managed to run away from her abductors after the attack in April.
Sitting with Dayo and me on a wooden bench, she described how Boko Haram
fighters had stormed the school asking for food and dragging the girls
onto trucks. With a friend, Lydia had jumped out of her truck and landed
on her stomach, before fleeing the scene.
She told me she never wants
to go to school again. She wants to farm the land instead.

By this point, our driver had
returned from the mechanic’s shop in Damboa, and he drove us to Wadai’s
family home in Chibok, where we’d be spending the night. I sunk onto a
couch, weighed down by sadness. I thought about the principal and her
gutted school; about Lydia and her harrowing escape; about Happy’s
bitterness, Marvelous’s hope, and Esther’s continuous tears.

The next morning, we left Chibok, but not before stopping at the home
of the oldest man in the village, Bitrus Dawa Kulaha Abugar Woshanta
Umar Ibn Elkanemi, or Bitrus Dawa for short. He tells everyone he was
born in 1910. 

We spoke about the first time he saw white
people—Christian missionaries—in Chibok, in 1923; about the 1967-1970
Nigerian civil war, when he was working as a teacher; about how corrupt,
unethical Nigerian leaders had degraded the country. Raindrops
interrupted our conversation.

A soldier asked us where we were going, and where we were coming from.

“Maiduguri, Chibok.”

“Chibok! You people passed the night in Chibok?” He shook his head,
incredulous. “Someone like you is not supposed to pass there.”

“Why not?” said Wadai. “It’s my village. ……
Link: http://www.theatlantic.com/features/archive/2014/05/in-the-land-of-nigeria-s-kidnapped-girls/371357/



Europe faces a political crisis

Why are the “citizens” of Europe so unhappy and what can be done about that? It turns out that the problem is that the politicians do not trust the voters to vote for right-minded people (those same self-serving pols). Now the voters are in turn sick of unrepresentative politics.  

In other words this is a crisis of democracy whereby all political institutions will slowly (but surely) lose their legitimacy. If democracy is no longer seen to be working in prosperous Europe then the only system that will thrive globally is the authoritarian-capitalist one propounded by the Chicoms (and in certain places populated by devout people, the Islamist-Sharia model). That is a truly scary scenario.

We are not sure that the economic crisis has been avoided as is generally the claim, what did happen was  that the Central Bank said that it would go to any length to preserve the Euro (which stopped the speculators from..speculating about the currency), and oh yes, Greece and some other countries must have a perpetual austerity program in place (whereby jobs for young people have essentially vanished).

The political crisis simply is that the elections are attracting voters (and electing parliamentarians) who despise the EUSSR and have the deepest disdain possible for  the denizens of Brussels. Further, as the author (Peter Mair: Ruling the Void: The Hollowing of Western Democracy) argues, Western European politicians are ruling by proxy, and hiding behind the bureaucrats of Brussels. 

The above system thus represents another version of the Sonia Gandhi – Manmohan Singh combo model that was so revolting to Indian voters – we need to know who makes  the rules and the rulers should be fully accountable to the ruled. This is how democracy must work.

Mair’s conclusion
is that the EU is a house that party politicians built which has no room
for politics, while national governments are ever more likely to
pretend they are merely the branch office of Brussels. (After all, if
Brussels has already decided, you don’t take the blame; never mind that
you were there at the negotiating table.) In this situation, what Mair
calls the Tocqueville syndrome becomes acute: if political elites are
either inaccessible or impotent, why put up with them? Tocqueville was
writing about the fall of the aristocrats in the Ancien Régime, who
could no longer justify their privileges once they had lost power to a
centralised monarchy. The worst of the economic crisis might be over,
but the political crisis in Europe is only just beginning.

 The polls are saying we would love it for you to keep weight measures in pounds, but poor us, Brussels is demanding that we move to kilograms. And yes, you can extradite Abu Qatada only with the greatest difficulty (10 years and a few million pounds wasted in appeals), even though he came to Britain under false premises, and managed to live off the social state, AND brainwashed loyal citizens of the state who would then suddenly turn up in Afghanistan to fight against British troops. Another profound absurdity is the experience of British citizens with foreign (non-EU) spouses who now effectively live in exile because of tough conditions laid down by the Home Office (to reduce non-EU migrants).

A sample of the complaints:

(1) The government has squeezed non-EU immigration down in a pretty
brutal way – you can’t, for example, bring a spouse in unless you’re
earning around £18,000 a year
or have something like £64,000 in the bank
(in an instant-access account). You need more if you bring children in
as well. 

This means that a large number of British people with foreign
spouses are now in what amounts to exile abroad, or forcibly separated.

an EU citizen from outside the UK can bring a non-EU spouse in freely –
you don’t need a visa, you don’t need savings, you don’t need a salary;
you don’t even need to bring your suitcase…. That’s clearly unfair,

and, from a legal point of view, utterly illogical.

And yet the
government will press on regardless, trying to keep net immigration
down, but at the same time abiding by an open borders policy. The
government’s desperation has actually led to it forcing British people
out of the country; they know that if they refuse a visa to the spouse
of a British person, the British partner in that marriage and their
British children will have to go abroad, which will contribute to
lowering net migration figures.
This defies all logic.

I have to
admit that it annoys me greatly that it is easier for a European Union
resident with no ties to Britain to enter the country than it is my
Japanese husband,
who has a British wife, son and mother-in-law.

also happens that if a British person marries an Australian or a
Canadian whose grandparents were British citizens, they will find it
harder to get that spouse into the country than somebody from the EU
whose family has never had any links to Britain whatsoever.

(2) I’m in a similar situation – my partner is non-EEA, and as a
British citizen, I must earn £18,600 + £3,800 (1st child) + £2,400 (2nd
child) per year. As a family, we have zero recourse to public funds –
no child allowance, no housing benefits, no free use of NHS, no tax
credits etc. 

We pay taxes, NI contributions and council tax. Even worse,
we had settlement visa extensions refused earlier this year through a
gross error made by the Home Office. We had to appeal the error, which
cost us £4000 in legal fees. Result? The Home Office withdrew their
erroneous refusal decision the day before the tribunal and now we’re
back in limbo as the Home Office are still considering their decision on
visa extensions. The HO knew a tribunal judge would not only have
over-ruled their decision, but they would have been sternly rebuked for
creating such a needlessly stressful situation
for a law-abiding,
tax-paying, contributing-to-the-country family.

Worse still, the
Immigration Act of 2014 is removing the right to appeal! So if the Home
Office make a mistake (as was the case in our situation), you have no
right to appeal.
Your family are given 28 days notice to leave the
country, and you have to apply again from abroad (applications for
settlement visas and Indefinite Leave to Remain can take up to 6

The only mitigation here is if your family’s life is literally
in danger if you move to another country (and that is adjudicated by
the Home Office whether that’s the case or not),
then your human rights
are considered and you can appeal incountry. This Act just needs
commencement orders and it will be enforced.

On the day the Bastille was stormed in 1789, King Louis XVI wrote in his diary, “rien” (French for nothing, the King was referring to the fact that his hunting trip was not a success). Few European leaders will have typed “nothing” into their iPads today,
but there is a real danger that, in response to the revolutionary cry
across the continent, they will in effect do nothing. Today’s rien has a face and a name. The name’s Juncker. Jean-Claude Juncker.

disastrous “the same only more so” response from Europe’s leaders would
be signaled by taking Juncker – Spitzenkandidat of the largest party
grouping in the new European parliament,
the centre-right European
People’s party – and making him president of the European commission.
The canny Luxembourgeois was the longest-serving head of an EU national
government, and the chair of the Eurogroup through the worst of the
eurozone crisis. Although he has considerable skills as a politician and
deal-maker, he personifies everything protest voters from left to right
distrust about remote European elites. He is, so to speak, the Louis
XVI of the EU.


There is a compelling
case for thinking that something has gone badly wrong when we see
ourselves as being ruled by unaccountable, supposedly apolitical
experts, but the only prospect of rescue is afforded by populists who
promise to hand power back to the people. The former give us identical
policies everywhere and no politics; the latter, you might say, give us
politics and no policies.

Nowhere is this more obvious than in the
European Union. As Mair makes clear, the purpose of European
integration was from the start to create a ‘protected sphere’ –
protected, that is, from the vagaries of representative democracy. After
the political catastrophes of the mid-20th century, Western European
elites (except in Britain) concluded that popular sovereignty should be
treated with deep distrust.

After all, how could one have any faith in
the people when the people had brought fascists to power or collaborated
with fascist occupiers? There were profound reservations even about the
idea of parliamentary sovereignty.
Hadn’t legitimate representative
assemblies handed power over to Hitler in 1933 and to Marshal Pétain in
1940? As a result, parliaments in postwar Europe were systematically
weakened, while non-elected institutions – constitutional courts are the
prime example – were given more power.

All this proved acceptable
so long as the elites were trusted – and so long as the decisions taken
in the ‘protected sphere’ didn’t have dramatic effects on people’s
everyday lives. Neither condition holds true any longer. As Mair points
out, it isn’t just individual politicians but the political class as a
whole that become a matter of contention in many parts of Europe. 

years of Eurocrisis have left us with technocracy on the one hand and
populism on the other.
The two positions seem completely opposed, but in
fact they have one attitude in common: the technocrats think there’s
only one rational solution to every policy issue, hence there’s no need
for debate; the populists believe there is an authentic popular will and
that they are the only ones who can discern it, hence there’s no need
for debate. Both sides are opposed to the pluralism that comes with
party democracy.
Occasionally, populism and ‘expertocracy’ unite in a
single person: Silvio Berlusconi and Austria’s Jörg Haider promised to
run their respective countries like a company.

A peculiar mismatch
has come about between the scope of elections and what is really at
stake in them. 

There are legitimate disagreements over the architecture
of the EU, and over the sorts of policy that should and should not be
devised in Brussels, but voters, according to Mair, choose the wrong
elections to make themselves heard on these issues. They voice their
dissatisfaction with the EU in European elections, although the European
Parliament plays no part at all in negotiating EU treaties, which
determine the shape of the Union as a whole. 

The 751 MEPs do have a say
in particular policies (some believe that the European Parliament, often
held up for ridicule, has a much stronger record of amending
legislation than national parliaments, which simply rubber-stamp
government policy), yet voters express preferences about policy in
national elections, even though national governments have steadily been
losing power to the EU – according to some estimates, far more than half
the legislation in EU member states now comes from Brussels.

has dropped at each successive European election since the first one in
1979. But there is a feeling that the upcoming election may buck the
trend. Few EU citizens would deny, in 2014, that Europe matters. 

And if
they are willing to come out of what Mair calls comprehensive
withdrawal, politicians seem ready to meet them halfway. The European
Parliament has felt it necessary to spend money on a lavish ad campaign
with the slogan ‘This time it’s different’ in an attempt to get people
to the polling booths. And the supranational ‘party families’ in the
Parliament have nominated ‘leading candidates’ for the presidency of the
European Commission, promising that the job will go to the person who
gathers most votes. 

The hope behind this proposal is that
politicisation, even at the cost of polarisation, will prove the royal
road to legitimacy.
As the Finnish EU Commissioner for Economic and
Monetary Affairs and the Euro, Olli Rehn (not a man known for mixing
passions and politics), said recently, European elections should be
Citizens might feel less resentful if they can put a
face to Brussels bureaucracy. 

But that isn’t the lesson from recent
history in the US, where elite-led polarisation and personalisation are
seen to have damaged the legitimacy of the political system as a whole,
leaving the impression that politics is about huge egos bickering.
it is far from clear that a choice of personnel really amounts to a
choice of policy, when the substance of EU policy is largely determined
by treaties which aren’t agreed by the European Commission or the
European Parliament, but by member states. 

Even putting aside the
question of treaties, the Eurozone is steadily narrowing the scope for
autonomous political choice. Take Germany’s insistence that all Euro
countries put ‘debt brakes’ into their constitutions, making deficit
spending virtually impossible.
The European Commission cannot alter any
of this; in fact, its task now is essentially to check that the rules
are being observed and where necessary to interfere with national
budgets. In these circumstances, getting to choose a president of the
Commission might seem merely a cosmetic change.


Link(1): http://www.lrb.co.uk/v36/n10/jan-werner-muller/the-partys-over

Link(2): http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/may/26/europe-unhappy-european-union



The truth will always out

…and even the worm will finally turn (no, we are not fond of  the emperor/clothes stuff).

TH Mustafa, a veteran Congressman from Kerala, is like a refreshing breath of air. There is definitely a tinge of sadness (for Congress supporters) about what could have been if only Mr Joker had the humility to remove himself as not fit for purpose.

This much is true. Priyanka can still save Congress by invoking her grand-mother’s spirit, but then she has to get her first love out of the way..the corrupt and arrogant first damad. She should talk to another princess on her way up- Maryam Nawaz Sharif. When dear Dad (PM Sharif) punished dear Hubby with an iron rod, MNS acknowledged that people must act in the best interests of the party and the nation or pay a heavy price.
Rahul Gandhi for the party’s electoral reverses in the Lok Sabha
election, a senior leader in Kerala on Wednesday termed the Congress
vice-president a “joker” and demanded he be removed from his posts if he
does not step down voluntarily.


T H Mustafa, a former minister, also demanded Gandhi’s sister Priyanka Gandhi be made the new party chief.

Addressing reporters here, Mustafa said that Gandhi should quit from his post and if he does not, he should be removed.
 “Rahul behaved like a joker and that’s the reason why the Congress
suffered a major reversal in the Lok Sabha polls. The role of a prime
minister is not child’s play and the people knew it and handed out the
worst defeat to the Congress party.

 “He should take responsibility
and quit and if not he should be removed and Priyanka Gandhi should be
made the new president of the party,” he said.

 “His (Rahul’s) mad
style of working using computer and internet and in the company of a
group of CWC members who only praise whatever he does has caused this
defeat. It’s unfortunate that even A K Antony belongs to this group,”
said Mustafa, a former minister in the K Karunakaran cabinet (1991-95)
and five-time legislator, known for openly attacking top leaders of his

Link: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Congress-leader-in-Kerala-calls-Rahul-joker/articleshow/35679312.cms



The Christian Brotherhood

While the spotlight is more intense on the activities of the Muslim Brotherhood (Middle East and North and Central Africa) and to a slight less intense level on the activities of the Hindu Brotherhood (India) and the Buddhist Brotherhood (Sri Lanka, Burma, and Thailand), the rise of the Christian Brotherhood is not much commented upon.

“Do you want more or less Moroccans in this city and this country?” [chants of “Less! Less!”] “We’ll arrange for that.”–Geert Wilders
Why is that? Christianity has an image of being de-fanged, but in reality it causes lot of harm such as the fight against the right for a woman to choose (especially in South and Central America). Savita Halappanavar had to die a needless death in first-world Ireland because the Church forbids granting any mercy to the mother of the child. In Uganda and many other places, the right to lead a gay life may now invite a death sentence.

Vladimir Putin can be termed as the foremost “muscular Christian” leader right now and he has pointedly indicated his disapproval of the liberal ways of the West with respect to gay rights and other freedoms. His campaigns to flatten Chechnya and other break-away islamic territories have been enthusiastically backed by Russian nationalists (no surprise) but also the Orthodox Church. 

However, the most surprising and dramatic rise of the Christian Brotherhood has been in the liberal west, where bigotry was stamped out (supposedly) by the excesses of the World Wars (so many flavors of “never again” campaigns). And if Giriraj Singh (people who dont agree with BJP can go to Pakistan) and his makes us nervous, then the pronouncements broadcast by continent-wide Christian Khaaps who won massive victories in the Euro elections over the week end should also cause us to reflect on the choices (preferences) of Europe and Europeans.

At the least they should stop with the morality discourse (for auslanders) and start with restoring order the flow of brotherly love for all brothers, not just Christians, and especially for the Romas (the European Dalits)

–“Monseigneur Ebola could sort that out in three months,” Jean Marie Le Pen, founder of the French far-right National Front party, suggesting
this month that the deadly Ebola virus could deal with a growing global
population —
and, therefore, Europe’s supposed immigration problem.
His daughter and current National Front leader, Marine Le Pen, has tried
to move away from her father’s overt extremism and had to scramble
awkwardly to dampen reaction to his latest comments.

–“Do you want more or less Moroccans in this city and this country?” [chants of “Less! Less!”] “We’ll arrange for that.”–Geert Wilders, well-coiffed leader
of the Netherlands’ Freedom Party, a far-right Islamophobic group,
addressing a group of supporters at a rally in March. Revulsion at these
menacing remarks hurt Wilders, whose party appears to have performed worse than expected in the polls.

–“And how we can possibly be giving a billion pounds a month, when
we are in this sort of debt, to Bongo Bongo Land is completely beyond
me,” Godfrey Bloom, a member of the European Parliament (MEP) from the U.K. Independence Party, complaining
about Britain’s foreign aid commitments last year. The backlash against
his comments eventually led to his resignation from UKIP.

–“The scriptures make it abundantly clear that a Christian nation
that abandons its faith and acts contrary to the Gospel (and in naked
breach of a coronation oath) will be beset by natural disasters such as
storms, disease, pestilence and war,” David Silvester, UKIP councilor, writing
in a letter to his town’s newspaper that floods that ravaged parts of
the U.K. in early January were the consequence of the country’s
acceptance of gay marriage.

–“This is the government of Bonga Bonga,” Mario Borghezio, Italian MEP from the Lega Nord, a right-wing, anti-immigrant party, decrying the appointment of a minister
of Congolese descent to the Italian Cabinet last year. “Africa hasn’t
produced great geniuses as anyone can see from a Mickey Mouse
encyclopaedia,” he added. Criticism of these remarks forced Borghezio
out of his particular far-right bloc in the European Parliament.

–“What will happen to Europe, a conglomerate of negroes, total chaos,” Andreas Molzer, a prominent MEP from Austria’s far-right Freedom Party, warning against immigration
in an interview with a German newspaper in March. Outrage over the
statement compelled Molzer to pull out of his electoral race. His party
leader, Hans-Christian Strache, says he himself is not a racist because he “eats kebabs.”

–“At least hands that greet like this did not steal,” Nikolaos Michaloliakos, leader of Greece’s far-right Golden Dawn, defending the penchant
of some of his xenophobic party members to make Nazi salutes.
Michaloliakos happens to be in jail right now on charges of being
involved in a criminal organization, but his party may win seats in

–“[It is] timely to tally up people of Jewish ancestry who live
here, especially in the Hungarian Parliament and the Hungarian
government, who, indeed, pose a national security risk to Hungary,” Marton Gyongyosi, a senior leader of Jobbik, a far-right Hungarian party with fascist origins, calling for a tally of Jews in the country in 2012. Jobbik, whose members have also violently targeted Hungary’s Roma minority, is currently the country’s third most powerful political party.

Link: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2014/05/24/8-ridiculous-racist-things-actually-said-by-far-right-eu-politicians/



I am Jamal Osman (and I am not a terrorist)

If that mad genius Osama had only one objective in mind – how to drive a wedge between Muslims and the rest of the world – he has been successful way beyond his imaginations. As we have noted before: ideology has a bigger impact than events. There are a lot of damaged (poor) people in the world today  and they need to vent out their frustrations in the least harmful manner (this includes self-harm). It is beyond sad that the petro-dollars of the rich are used to rope these folks in as canon fodder in the service of ideology. The victims are (as always) the innocents who are caught in the cross-fire.

With the canons firing across so many (imaginary) Lines of Control around the globe, the angry, needy, young men (majority) are viewed as a product of their genes and/or defective culture, who should be wished away or excused (liberal bigotry), or crushed and destroyed by any means fair or foul (conservative bigotry).
there is one thing I’ve learned from such encounters, it is that
carrying a British passport doesn’t necessarily make you feel British. I
came to this country to seek sanctuary. I am a multi-award winning
journalist. I am an immigrant and a refugee – but I am still made to
feel like an asylum seeker.
I am a Muslim, an African and a
Somali. And should the security services be reading this: I am a British
citizen. Please treat me like one.


If you are British and think that every British citizen enjoys
the same rights, my story and those of thousands of others should
convince you otherwise.

I arrived in Britain in 1999 having fled
the civil war in my home country, Somalia. My asylum application was
approved a year later. During that time I was given accommodation and a
weekly food voucher worth £35. For this I will always be grateful.

soon as I was permitted to seek employment I started looking for a job.
I worked in a laundry, a warehouse and as a taxi driver – simply to
survive. Later I trained to become a journalist.

I joined Channel 4
News as a reporter, largely covering Africa – a role that required
frequent travelling. And that is when my nightmare at the hands of
Britain’s security services began. I have been detained, questioned and
harassed almost every time I have passed through Heathrow airport. In 10
years, only one of my colleagues has been stopped.

During the
past five years I have also been repeatedly approached by security
services trying to “recruit” me. The incentives they offer range from a
“handsome salary” or a “nice car” to a “big house”. I have even been
told that they “could help me marry four wives”. I have declined all
their offers. Their psychological tactics include telling me how easy it
is for them to take away my British passport and destroy my career –
and even my life.

I have received regular phone calls from people I
believe to be Special Branch, who invite me for a “chat over coffee”.
“No thanks, I don’t drink coffee,” I reply.

As someone who appears
on television regularly it is not unusual for strangers to greet you in
the street or even ask questions about a particular story you’ve done.
But the people who follow me on the street – the spies (I call them “the
Vauxhall guys”) – have a different approach. After introducing
themselves by their first names they declare their interest. Would I
like a chat and a coffee. It won’t take long. Their hunting ground is
London’s Victoria station, which I use regularly.

I go to the EU
and British passport holders’ queue when returning through Heathrow
airport; I observe with interest as fellow travellers file smoothly past
border control. Yet when I approach, trouble always follows. “Where are
you from?”, “How did you obtain a British passport?”, “Have you ever
been in trouble with immigration?” I answer all their questions
courteously and respectfully until the inevitable happens and the
official says: “Take a seat, I will be back.”

Returning from my
most recent trip, I took my regular seat near the control desk. Half an
hour later a grey-suited man sat next to me.”Hello, how are you?” he
asked. “Are you from Somalia? I hear from other Somalis that things are
improving now. That is what I would like to talk to you about.”

told him that I didn’t particularly want to talk about Somalia and that I
just wanted to go home. “Don’t try and be difficult,” he snapped at me.
“I’ll detain you if you don’t answer my questions.” And so it continued
for another 15 minutes, during which he continued with his threats and
with calling me an “idiot” and a “bad person”, claiming “you will die
angry and the world would be a better place without people like you”.
Finally he compared me to “the racist thugs we are fighting”.

there is one thing I’ve learned from such encounters, it is that
carrying a British passport doesn’t necessarily make you feel British. I
came to this country to seek sanctuary. I am a multi-award winning
journalist. I am an immigrant and a refugee – but I am still made to
feel like an asylum seeker.

I am a Muslim, an African and a
Somali. And should the security services be reading this: I am a British
citizen. Please treat me like one.

Link: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/may/26/british-citizen-passport-control



“A historic opportunity”

While this is an excellent first move from both sides (PM Sharif also visited with the President and ex-PM Vajpayee), we have to be wary of the troublemakers and their power to do immense harm.  

Yesterday (Afghan President) Karzai made the claim that the Taliban who attacked the Indian embassy at Herat (near Iran border) had planned for an extended hostage scenario in order to disrupt the inauguration ceremony ongoing in Delhi. We must remain vigilant for the cause of peace, there are too many people (on both sides) who are interested in making sure that the poison keeps flowing.
I am pleased to be in New Delhi at the invitation of Prime Minister Modi. Yesterday, I attended his oath-taking ceremony.

Today, I had a good and constructive meeting with Prime Minister Modi
this afternoon. It was held in a warm and cordial atmosphere. We
agreed that our meeting in New Delhi, should be a historic
opportunity for both our countries.

I pointed out that we were at the beginning of our respective tenures,
with a clear mandate. This provides us the opportunity of meeting the
hopes and aspirations of our peoples that we will succeed in turning
a new page in our relations. The one and a half billion people of
the two countries want us to focus on their well-being and welfare.

I recalled my invitation to Prime Minister Vajpayee to Lahore in
February 1999 and told him that I intended to pick up the threads of
the Lahore Declaration, from where it had to be left off in October

I stressed to Prime Minister Modi that we have a common agenda of
development and economic revival, which is not possible to achieve
without peace and stability in the region. I urged that together, we
should rid the region of instability and insecurity, that has plagued
us for decades.

Consequently, it was important for us to work together for peace,
progress and prosperity. Finally, I urged that we had to strive to
change confrontation into cooperation. Engaging in accusations and
counter-accusations would be counter-productive, I emphasized. My
government, therefore, stands ready to discuss all issues between our
two countries, in a spirit of cooperation and sincerity.

After all, we owe it to our people to overcome the legacy of mistrust
and misgivings. We agreed that this common objective could be
facilitated by greater people-to-people exchanges, at all levels.

Prime Minister Modi warmly reciprocated my sentiments and remarked that
my visit to New Delhi was seen as a special gesture by the people of
India. He stated that it was incumbent on both of us to work
together, to achieve our common objectives for peace and development.

We also agreed that the two Foreign Secretaries would be meeting soon,
to review and carry forward our bilateral agenda, in the spirit of
our meeting today.

It also gave me great pleasure to call on President Pranab Mukherjee
this afternoon and have the warm and friendly exchanges with him.

I take leave of this historic city. I do so with a strong sense that the
leaderships and the peoples of our two countries share desire and
mutual commitment to carry forward our relationship, for the larger
good of our peoples.


Link: http://www.outlookindia.com/article.aspx?290849



Next Noble for the noblest Gujarati

Right now there is a bit of tension between Gujjus and non-Gujjus. Gujjus have expressed (justified) pride in the fact that the “chai-boy” from Vadnagar, Mehsana will be the master of the castle (Red Fort, built by certain foreign invaders), while non-Gujjus are (justifiably) apprehensive that the “chote Sardar” (imagine Sardar Patel minus the counter-weight of Nehru) will harm the cause of secularism-liberalism and disrupt community relations.

Amongst all this pulling and pushing are there any golden-hearted Gujaratis who can be promoted to lead the cause of vishwa-vyapi sad-bhavana
(global friendship)? Azim Premji comes to mind. Then there is the “living saint” that we can all be proud of !!!

As Dr Edhi correctly points out, we have yet to learn how to deal with the human race as comprising of our brothers and sisters. And it is credit to people like him that the struggle will go on. Here is our earnest wish that Dr Edhi secures a Nobel Prize for his efforts at the earliest.
…Few know that Edhi, known for his
compassionate work providing medical services, medicines and even food
to the poorest of the poor in Pakistan, was born to an indigent grocer

in Junagadh’s Bantwa village in 1928.

“During Partition, a
majority of Memon Muslims from this village migrated to Pakistan.
Currently, there are only 15 Memon families left in Bantwa.
relations between India and Pakistan are always welcome as many people
who left their native villages for Pakistan do wish to keep in touch
with their roots,” said Abdul Karim Gondil, former secretary of Dhoraji
Memon Samaj.

In Pakistan, Edhi initially sold cloth for a
commission but he gave up this job later for social service. Edhi is a
recipient of 200-odd national and international awards, including the
Ramon Magsaysay Award for Public Service, the Lenin Peace Award, the
Balzan Prize and Nishan-i-Imtiaz given by the Pakistan government.
was also nominated for Nobel Peace Prize by Pakistan in 2011.

His organization, Abdul Sattar Edhi Foundation, runs an ambulance
service with a fleet of 1800 vehicles, an air ambulance and a marine
ambulance as well. He runs 335 welfare centers that offer the poor free
medicines, food and relief in war-ravaged regions and is committed to
the cause of alleviating human suffering.

Currently living in
Karachi, Edhi is married to Bilquis, also a native of Bantwa. Harun
Sorathiya, Bilquis’s paternal cousin, says Edhi is revered as a living
saint in Pakistan for his compassionate work. “Edhi never came to India
after Partition. It would be a privilege if he visits his native village
where children are told stories of his work for the poor in Pakistan.”

Bilal Umar Memon, son of Edhi’s friend, Umar Abdul Rehman Khanani, used
to stay in Bantwa but he now lives in Karachi, 12 km away from Edhi’s
residence. He told TOI over phone that many of the Memon families in
Pakistan hail from Gujarat and are involved in the cloth and grains

“My father has visited Bantwa and I visit Ahmedabad and
Surat for my chemical and dyes business. I have often heard my father
and Edhi uncle discuss their roots in Gujarat,” said Bilal.


Link: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/ahmedabad/Pakistans-living-saint-has-his-roots-in-Junagadh-village/articleshow/35647244.cms



“In this statistical sense, races are real”

Lots of interesting stuff re-told in “A Troublesome Inheritance” by Nicholas Wade and reviewed by H Allen Orr in the NY Review of Books. 

Response to Malik: Thanks for the comments. We are not experts but there are many big-shots around who do have lot to say on this matter. Again it is a pity that the old BP box is lying at the bottom of the sea where no one can find it.

The important question (for us)- is there any new knowledge? A large part of the “analysis” seems to us to be self-serving back-calculation, look at why Middle East or South Asia is struggling and put up a theory to fit the evidence. And often the evidence cited is not that clear-cut at all.

The other side (the establishment) is also of not much help, the only message we hear is that race related issues must be handled with care. We agree, but this will not stop people from speculating about the truth…so it is perhaps better that we thrash out the ideas in the open market-place (any firm judgement is unlikely to come though).

did these genomic differences among peoples appear?
There are two main
possibilities. The first is that the differences are meaningless. The
frequencies of genetic variants can start out the same across several
populations and then slowly diverge from one another even when the
variants have no effect on Darwinian fitness
—defined, roughly, by how
many surviving offspring individuals produce. Geneticists call this
“neutral evolution.”

The second possibility is that the changes in
our genomes were driven by natural selection. According to this
hypothesis, the frequencies of genetic variants can diverge among
populations because some variants increased the fitness of their
carriers, perhaps by increasing their chances of survival in a harsh
environment encountered on the particular continent on which they lived. 

The study of
genomes provides new ways to find evidence of natural selection.

also thinks that “evolutionary differences between societies on the
various continents may underlie major and otherwise imperfectly
explained turning points in history such as the rise of the West and the
decline of the Islamic world and China.”

Here, and especially in his
treatment of why the industrial revolution flourished in England, his
book leans heavily on
Gregory Clark’s A Farewell to Alms (2007).
Across these historical turning points, the details differ but the story
remains the same: certain peoples were predisposed genetically to
behaviors and thus institutions that paved the way for their success,
whether, say, economic (the West) or intellectual (the Jews).
peoples, alas, had other genes.

Wade, now a freelance writer and reporter, is best known for his work as a journalist at The New York Times. He has also written several popular books on biology. The most recent—Before the Dawn (2006) and The Faith Instinct (2009)—focused on evolution in human beings, including the evolution of religion. In A Troublesome Inheritance,
Wade maintains this focus on human evolution, though he turns to a far
more controversial topic, human races. 

His goal, he says, is “to
demystify the genetic basis of race and to ask what recent human
evolution reveals about history and the nature of human societies.” He
concludes not only that human races are real but that they probably
differ genetically in surprising ways.

Wade’s main claim is that
human races likely differ in social behavior for genetic reasons as a
result of recent evolution.
These slight differences in behavior may, in
turn, explain why different sorts of social institutions appear among
different peoples:

Institutions are not just sets of
arbitrary rules. Rather, they grow out of instinctual social behaviors,
such as the propensity to trust others, to follow rules and punish those
who don’t, to engage in reciprocity and trade, or to take up arms
against neighboring groups. Because these behaviors vary slightly from
one society to the next as the result of evolutionary pressures, so too
may the institutions that depend on them.

Evolutionary biology might therefore have something to say about why
some peoples live in modern states and others in tribal societies, and
why some nations are wealthy while others remain mired in poverty.

A Troublesome Inheritance
cleaves neatly into two parts. The first is a review of what recent
studies of the genome reveal about our evolution, including the
emergence of racial differences. The second part considers the part that
genetic differences among races may play in behavior and in the social
institutions embraced by various races. These two parts fare very

As people dispersed about the planet, they
ultimately settled into the five great “continental races”: Africans
(sub-Sahara), East Asians, Caucasians (Europe, the Indian subcontinent,
and the Middle East), Australians, and Native Americans.
Some of these
groups are younger than others (America was peopled only in the last
15,000 years), but this division provides, Wade says, a reasonably
realistic portrait of how human genetic diversity is partitioned
geographically. Because of their geographic isolation from one another,
these groups of human beings necessarily evolved mostly independently
over the last tens of thousands of years. During this period of
independent evolution, much of what we think of as characteristically
human arose, including agriculture and settlement in permanent villages.

what has study of the human genome over the last decade revealed?
Wade’s chief conclusion here is that human evolution has been “recent,
copious and regional.”
The facts are fairly straightforward. The
continental races of human beings differ somewhat from one other at the
level of DNA sequence. As Wade emphasizes, these
differences are “slight and subtle” but they can nonetheless be detected
by geneticists who now have access to many genome sequences from around
the planet.

The central fact is that genetic differences among
human beings who derive from different continents are statistical.
Geneticists might find that a variant of a given gene is found in 79
percent of Europeans but in only, say, 58 percent of East Asians. Only
rarely do all Europeans carry a genetic variant that does not appear in
all East Asians. But across our vast genomes, these statistical
differences add up, and geneticists have little difficulty concluding
that one person’s genome looks European and another person’s looks East

To put the conclusion more technically, the genomes of various
human beings fall into several reasonably well-defined clusters when
analyzed statistically, and these clusters generally correspond to
continent of origin. In this statistical sense, races are real.

Natural selection can take a
genetic variant that is beneficial but initially rare and drive it to
much higher frequency in a population.
This process leaves a signal in
the genome. Because a whole stretch of DNA that
surrounds the beneficial variant will rise to high frequency along with
the variant, nearly everyone in the population might end up carrying the
same DNA sequence in this part of the genome.
Geneticists will thus see a stretch of the genome that shows unusually
little genetic variation in a population.

Using this or, more
often, related approaches, geneticists have obtained fairly good
evidence of natural selection acting on our genomes. Indeed Wade reports
that 14 percent of the human genome has experienced recent natural
These genomic approaches can’t tell us why natural
selection acted in a particular case (was it, say, adaptation to a new
parasite?), but they can tell us that these bouts of natural selection
were sometimes recent and restricted to particular continents.

survey of human population genomics is lively and generally
serviceable. It is not, however, without error. He exaggerates, for
example, the percentage of the human genome that shows evidence of
recent natural selection. The correct figure from the study he cites is 8
percent, not 14, and even this lower figure is soft and open to some
alternative explanation.
And Wade generally assumes that evidence of selection reflects
adaptation to the ecological environment, whereas some events might
reflect the action of other evolutionary forces like sexual selection,
in which individuals compete for mates, not for survival.

In the latter half of A Troublesome Inheritance, Wade ventures into far more controversial territory. His claims are, in outline, simple enough.

human beings evolved over the last tens of thousands of years, the
genetic basis of people’s behavior may have changed, just as the basis
of their skin color did. Some of these changes may have resulted from
Darwinian adaptation to new forms of social life. 

For example, the
“Great Transition” from nomadic life to permanent settlement that began
some 15,000 years ago likely produced a profoundly altered social
environment: populations grew larger, people interacted with more
non-kin, and society became more hierarchical.

In response to this
new environment, social behaviors may have changed by natural
selection. In some societies, people who were less aggressive or more
trusting, for instance, might have prospered under these conditions.
Indeed Wade argues that, because the rich could produce more surviving
children than the poor once permanent settlements appeared, genes for
whatever behaviors underlay their success could spread.
“The social
behaviors of the elites could thus trickle down into the rest of
society” by natural selection.

Crucially, Wade says that
“evolution in social behavior has necessarily proceeded independently in
the five major races,” reflecting their geographic and thus genetic
The net result of all of this, during settlement as well as
other events in recent evolutionary history, is that the continental
races might well come to differ genetically in social behavior.

Why, for instance,
do Chinese immigrants to Malaysia and Thailand succeed so often
compared to the Malays and Thais themselves? After all,

are highly imitative, and if Chinese business success were purely
cultural, everyone would find it easy to adopt the same methods. This is
not the case because social behavior, of Chinese and others, is
genetically shaped.

also thinks that “evolutionary differences between societies on the
various continents may underlie major and otherwise imperfectly
explained turning points in history such as the rise of the West and the
decline of the Islamic world and China.” 

Here, and especially in his
treatment of why the industrial revolution flourished in England, his
book leans heavily on Gregory Clark’s A Farewell to Alms (2007).
Across these historical turning points, the details differ but the story
remains the same: certain peoples were predisposed genetically to
behaviors and thus institutions that paved the way for their success,
whether, say, economic (the West) or intellectual (the Jews). Other
peoples, alas, had other genes.

These are big
claims and you’d surely expect Wade to provide some pretty impressive,
if recondite, evidence for them from the new science of genomics. And
here’s where things get odd. Hard evidence for Wade’s thesis is nearly
Odder still, Wade concedes as much at the start of A Troublesome Inheritance:

should be fully aware that in chapters 6 through 10 they are leaving
the world of hard science and entering into a much more speculative
arena at the interface of history, economics and human evolution.

It perhaps would have been best if this sentence had been reprinted at the top of each page in chapters 6 through 10.

Link: http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2014/jun/05/stretch-genes/



CAPA pays tribute to Dr Mehdi Ali Qamar

From the comments section in the Dawn, Mian Waheed, President, Community Association of Pakistani Americans (CAPA), pays a moving tribute to the memory of Dr Mehdi Ali Qamar.

Incidentally, we visited the CAPA (Central Ohio) web-page and there seems to be a very healthy Pak-Am community (with nice pictures celebrating the 66th birthday of Pakistan).

A community which will be forever scarred by the memories of a good life which came to an end too quickly and brutally (we did not know that he died in front of his family…truly shocking, the killers should have just had mercy and killed all of them).


I am making this announcement with a very heavy and
grieving heart that one of our Pakistani community member, a friend of
mine, an intelligent person, a friendly guy and a poet with a very soft
and romantic heart, Dr. Mehdi Ali Qamar has been assassinated in
Pakistan a couple of days ago. 

Dr. Mehdi was on a visit to Pakistan
with his wife and kids and had gone to graveyard of his ancestors to say
prayers for them when two persons on a motorcycle opened fire on him.
Dr. Mehdi died in front of his family.

This will be a very shocking news to the Pakistani community of Ohio,
he was well known to a lot of us. Our prayers are with the family and
hope the assassins of Dr. Mehdi will be captured and brought to justice

President CAPA
Link (1): http://www.dawn.com/news/1108902/murder-in-rabwah

Link(2): http://capaohio.wordpress.com/2013/08/18/capa-ohio-arranged-a-community-picnic-to-celebrate-pakistans-66th-birthday/