Repeating the same mistakes? The Libyan revolution, tribes and the risk of Afghanistization

A tiger cannot change its stripes, nor a leopard its spots, so too have the US, UK, France and Italy appeared to have not learnt very much from previous disastrous interventions within Muslim societies and nations. The revolution in Libya is more complex than a majority of mass media reports, both in the US and Europe, suggest. After an attentive survey of newspaper articles and online news, I can affirm that the public may not be fully informed of the reality in Libya and the dark side of one of the most complex ‘Arab Spring’ revolts.  Continue reading

What was Osama bin-Laden for Muslims?

bin-Laden is dead. A decadent symbol has been assassinated. For some time before his demise, his influence on contemporary terrorism had been on the wane. Most likely Osama had little choice but to agree to retire to his Pakistani prison under the ‘supervision’ of the Pakistani secret services and Taliban tribes.  I did not write any blog post at the time of bin-Laden’s execution. There was nothing to say. His story has had the feel of a work of fiction from beginning to end, complete with impressive pyrotechnics, blood and splatter, where the director, producer and star of the drama was none other than bin-Laden himself. He died as he wished: one bullet in the chest, a few stumbling steps, and a final gore splattering bullet in the head. Continue reading

Suicide bombing: the martyr machine

girl watches her mother dying

Imagine that your country suffered an average of 71 suicide attacks per-year. Imagine that these suicide actions killed an average of 1,140 civilians per year, all among the most poor and in need. If you cannot imagine such an Armageddon then you can have it for real: it is called Pakistan. Today, as many other days, a suicide bomber (this time a woman, but children have also been employed previously) killed more than 40 people at a food distribution centre. It is the most poor who have paid the highest price – often simply because they are easy targets: queuing for food, shopping at the market or praying to a saint for hope that ended up drowned in their own blood. It is becoming easier to die in Pakistan, particularly in the North-West frontier, than to live. About three people die daily, yet there are no candlelight vigils, no minutes of silence and no ceremonies. The dead are mere numbers in your morning newspaper, seemingly unworthy of the fanfare that often accompanies European deaths.

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Geert Wilders and the freedom of hypocrisy

"For national pride"

Dutch anti-Islam MP Geert Wilders, set to become a shadow partner of the next coalition government, goes on trial in Amsterdam on Monday for inciting hatred against Muslims. Wilders’ Freedom Party together with other parties forming the next coalition have agreed to ban the burqa. Yet this is surely the least controversial move since it has already been implemented by other European states, such as France. The peroxide blonde Wilders sees his own trial as an attack on freedom of speech in the Netherlands. His lawyer reported that Wilders thinks that “in the Netherlands, one must be able to say whatever one wants, barring incitement to violence.” Continue reading

British Prisons and terrorism: the foretold failure

A few days ago, the head of MI5 Jonathan Evans has undertaken the unusual step of revealing, among other aspects linked to the security of the UK, his own concerns that a number of soon-to-be-freed inmates are still ‘committed extremists and likely to return to terrorist activities.’ As an anthropologist who has conducted one of the most in-depth research projects on Muslims in prison in the UK, his quite alarmist announcement did not take me by surprise. I am pretty sure that Mr Evans has every right to be concerned. Yet the British public needs to also know why today we find ourselves in such situation and where the political responsibility lies. Continue reading

Afghanistan and the war of pictures: the case of ‘ethical’ suffering?

When I checked the news today, the horrific picture– selected by Time as a front-cover–of Aisha’s face, an 18-year-old Afghan woman whom was sentenced by the Taliban to have her nose and ears cut off for fleeing her abusive in-laws greeted me. International newspapers reported the news and the picture is now one of those icons of Afghanistan, which, interestingly enough, are often released in an apparent attempt to provide an ethical dimension to a war (particularly after Wikileaks leaked the massive documentation on the Afghan war) which is increasingly difficult to justify. Indeed, I am sure that many will remember the National Geographic split cover image that contained two photos of Sharbat Gula, the first having been taken at the time of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan and the second at the end of the Taliban regime. While in the first picture she is a beautiful young girl with intense green eyes and her hair gently covered by a burgundy scarf, in the second she lifts the oppressive burqa to reveal a hardship-worn face that has been marked, as the article explains, by life under the Taliban. Continue reading

Muslims in Singapore, Multiculturalism and clapping hands

On the 14-16 July 2010, MUIS (Islamic Religious Council of Singapore), in collaboration with Oxford University, University of Melbourne and the Department of Malay Studies at National University of Singapore, has organized the International Conference on Muslims in Multicultural Societies. According to the main organizer, the conference was aimed to

profile Singapore’s best practices in general and more specifically the Singapore Muslim community’s contribution to the state and in promoting Islamic values that embraces diversity. Additionally, this conference serves as a platform for other Muslim communities to share their experiences – models, systems and processes, and exchange ideas for further development of Muslims in multicultural societies. Continue reading