Would Artificial intelligence become strong enough to be a concern? An Anthropologist’s view

Recently there has been some robust progress in AI (Artificial Intelligence), with some scientists even successfully uploading the mind of a roundworm into a Lego robot. Although this seems to be a rather small step,  it is significant since the software was in place without any prior programming and the robot started to behave like a worm, including in its response to food. “I think big leaps have been made in the last few years,” said Geoffrey Hinton, a distinguished researcher at Google and a professor at the University of Toronto. “A.I. is undergoing a growth spurt. We’re beginning to solve problems that a few years ago we couldn’t solve, like recognising images.” Continue reading

Anti-liberal attempts: between burqa and criticism demonization

Yesterday, the British Parliament debated the ban of a garment, something that the British Parliament had not discussed since Victorian times. This time it was not the length of skirts or sleeves that the honorable parliamentarians addressed, but rather the well known (but rarely seen in western cities) burqa; banned in France, threatened in the rest of Europe, and now also under threat in the UK.

As other attempts, however, yesterday’s debate failed in imposing a burqa ban in the UK, and as the minister confirmed, Great Britain will not follow France.

The burqa is not an Islamic fashion per-se, but rather a tradition not opposed by Islamic teaching, which is probably the best way to present it. Covering the face, and in particular the mouth, has a geographical and environmental genealogy (such as the protection of skin and eyes from the dust and sand of, for instance, the Afghan desert). If such a garment is anything in Islam, it is a scholarly theological diatribe, with some sheikhs ready to wrap a baby in it, and others stating that it is not Islamic dress per-seContinue reading

The English riots: multiculturalism, ‘the roba‘ and the crowd

Many questions remain unanswered in the violent riots which have shaken England recently. As could be expected, some have blamed the “failed” experience of multiculturalism. In reality these riots are very different from previous ones that have thrown neighborhoods into chaos (see the 2001 English riots, the Leeds 2001 Harehills riot, the 2005 Birmingham race riots, or even the most recent 2010 UK student protests). While the context in which the above riots developed are clear (community frustration, neighborhood-specific inter community tensions, and traditional student protests gone wrong), the recent riots are unusual in many aspects, such as the heterogeneity of those involved, the dynamic of how they started, a lack of apparent common strategy and a lack of shared reasons for rioting. Continue reading

The racist fascist in the Queen’s Garden, the fundamentalist preacher on the plane

Recently two events made me question how the UK, and Europe in general, understand the concept of ‘freedom of speech’ – the invitation to attend the annual Buckingham Palace garden party extended to white supremacist BNP’s Nick Griffin and the Home Secretary’s decision to ban the popular Muslim tele-preacher Dr Zakir Naik from entering the UK.

There is no one single definition of ‘freedom of speech’ and an attempt to formulate one can only result in empty theorizing and utopian visions. Freedom of speech is linked to local, regional and international contexts, social realities, cultural differences and an understanding of what freedom means. What for one person is ‘freedom of speech’, for another is just ‘freedom of insult’ or ‘unacceptable behavior’. Continue reading

The shameful silence: abuse and repression between tradition and lack of education

 

Muslims in the UK, as in another countries both in the geographical west or east, have to reflect carefully on the issue of child abuse within their heterogeneous communities as well as religious organisations, instead of wrapping themselves in a cloak of embarrassment, silence, and unacceptable complicity reinforced by the shared idea that, as in an interview one person told me, ‘these things do not happen in our community and do not happen among Muslims’. In reality they happen as often as in other communities, regardless of ethnic and religious background.   Continue reading

Sarah Maple loves jihad: it makes money

 

Sarah Maple defines herself as an artist To use my definition of identity she feels to be an artist. Some would recognize her as such and invite her to expose her works  Other, as often is the case for contemporary at, would consider her ‘art’ as another pice of junk. Sarah Maple was born in 1985 and grew up in Sussex. The daughter of a mixed religious and cultural couple, she was brought up as Muslim by her mother.Let me say that I do not find Sarah Maple’s work interesting or original at all. For somebody born in Florence, tolerance for contemporary art tends to end with Kandinsky.

I tend to find Miss Maple’s artistic expression too childish and simplistic, when not overtly vulgar or distasteful without being even too original. Her work it seems often more the production of a school girl with too many hormones in her blood. Indeed it does not reach the artistic power of an unique scandalous artist affected by genitalphilia  such as Francis Bacon.  I have also the impression that as other artists and writers today, she is trying to find an easy route to fast success by playing with controversy surrounding Islam and Muslims. Continue reading

Reporting terrorism: a reflection

It has been reported that a thirty-one-year old British Muslim stashed four home-made explosive devices, as well as bullets, swords, axes and knives in his flat. The police had found potentially lethal bladed weapons, 34 bullets for a .22 calibre firearm, and printouts from the internet about committing acts of terrorism. He had planned to bomb churches and plotted killing Christians in the name of jihad. Of course, national and international newspapers, Internet news, and TV have reported and spent litres of ink to provide details about the successful operations to arrest the terrorist; the Prime Minister has thanked our police forces for their work, reminded us of the terrorist threat, the need for forty-two days of detention, and how the terrorists are trying to subvert our British values. A script that we have seen acted out many times. Continue reading