Saturday, March 31, 2007

Missing bits of information

An interesting post by Antony Loewenstein provides some useful yet glaringly ommitted information on the British sailor crisis with Iran:

The British Government has published a map showing the coordinates of the incident, well within an Iran/Iraq maritime border. The mainstream media and even the blogosphere has bought this hook, line and sinker.

But there are two colossal problems.

A) The Iran/Iraq maritime boundary shown on the British government map does not exist. It has been drawn up by the British Government. Only Iraq and Iran can agree their bilateral boundary, and they never have done this in the Gulf, only inside the Shatt because there it is the land border too. This published boundary is a fake with no legal force.

B) Accepting the British coordinates for the position of both HMS Cornwall and the incident, both were closer to Iranian land than Iraqi land. Go on, print out the map and measure it. Which underlines the point that the British produced border is not a reliable one.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Mastermind or major hoax?

Is Khalid Sheikh Mohammed the terrorist mastermind the US claims he is? Is the man who confessed to being the mastermind behind 9/11 really Khalid Sheikh Mohammed? Mustafa Qadri investigates.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

More on 'The Trap' new documentary series on BBC

Official website for the documentary available here. And an interesting set of crtiques here.

Monday, March 19, 2007

The Trap by Adam Curtis

What happened to our dreams of freedom?

Saturday, March 17, 2007

The man's too strong - Dire Straits

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The fallout continues

While the Pakistan Government claims that it was business as usual in the country's Supreme Court, and Information Minister Ali Durrani urged opposition political parties not to 'politicise' the issue, two non-State owned television stations have been taken off air for showing images of police clashing with lawyers protesting the removal of Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry by President Musharraf.

The United States and other key Western allies have remained silent. This is not an insignificant matter. Pakistan is heavily reliant on economic and political support from the West, particularly from the US.* The current lack of criticism of Musharaf by other Western states, notably Britain and Australia, also plays an important role because it legitimates his dictatorship and gives him a green light to continue his undemocratic practices.

It would be unsurprising if, in the event a regime unfriendly to Western interests came to power in Pakistan, there was a sudden well spring of concern and condemnation of Pakistan's poor human rights record and support for militant orthodox Muslims of which the Taliban is but one.

While current events were unfolding in Pakistan, the Australian Foreign Minister found time to condemn the Mugabe regime in Zimbabwe:

The brutal suppression of a rally in Zimbabwe over the weekend by the Mugabe Government, including killing an opposition activist, is further evidence of the regime’s utter disregard for basic democratic principles and the human rights of the people of Zimbabwe.**

The sad irony is that Australia can play a bigger role in fomenting democracy in Pakistan than Zimbabwe because Australia has stronger and much more cordial military, economic and political ties with Pakistan. A bureaucrat from the Department of Foreign Affairs might claim that Australia is doing 'all it can' behind the scenes to protest the removal of the Pakistani Chief Justice, but a public condemnation would give important moral and political support to Pakistan's legal community and would give the public at large in Pakistan and throughout the region a strong signal that the Australian Government is genuinely committed to democracy. Much the same could be said of the United States and British governments.

Meanwhile, the man caught in the malaise, Chief Justice Chaudhry has his day in court.

* According to the US State Department:

Sanctions put in place in 1990 denied Pakistan further military assistance due to the discovery of its program to develop nuclear weapons. Sanctions were tightened following Pakistan's nuclear tests in response to India's May 1998 tests and the military coup of 1999. Pakistan has remained a non-signatory of the Nuclear non-Proliferation Treaty. The events of September 11, 2001, and Pakistan's agreement to support the United States led to a waiving of the sanctions, and military assistance resumed to provide spare parts and equipment to enhance Pakistan's capacity to police its western border and address its legitimate security concerns. In 2003, President Bush announced that the United States would provide Pakistan with $3 billion in economic and military aid over 5 years. This assistance package commenced during FY 2005.

That economic support is expected to increase over the next few years.

** US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has made similar statements, as has British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Further erosion of justice in Pakistan

Sometimes, just doing your job can get you into a lot of strife. The Musharraf regime in Pakistan has just sacked the nation's chief judge, Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry. The reason? His alleged misuse of the office. However many in the legal community believe Chaudhry has been removed for his strong criticism of the Musharraf regime, including on abductions by Pakistan intelligence services and human rights abuses. He also recently over turned an attempt by the Government to sell the state-owned steel mills. According to at least one source, another key reason for his removal was Musharraf's fear that Chaudhry would not endorse the President's re-election which is expected to occur later this year.

What is the response of Pakistan's chief international ally, the US? The affair is an internal matter of the Pakistan Government. Very telling.


Monday, March 12, 2007

Cricket World Cup 2007

16 nations, 51 games, hours of cricket. Here we go!

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Interview with a human shield

Thursday, March 08, 2007

To beat or not to beat?

An interesting project is under way over at The aim of the project is to distribute copies of the Quran with less atavistic interpretations of the verses, such as verses which instruct when it is appropriate to beat one's wife if she has extramarital relations. I suspect this verse only applies to husbands as there is no mention of same sex relationships, although arguably a wife could beat herself.

Depressingly, Ali notes that even in the wife-friendlier version of the Quran, the prescription for adultery is a beating. Still, the commentary in this version of the Quran invalidates such beatings. This may not sound like much of a difference, but it is, in a manner of speaking. The interpretations of respected scholars plays a pivotal role in a Muslim's understanding of the Quran. The best parallel I can think of is to the way a barrister might use Halisbury's Laws of England to understand the Criminal Code. The naked text alone cannot quench our thirst for answers. It is for this reason I endorse the project and strongly suggest those who also agree to consider giving a donation. Details are in the link above.

On a personal note, such things dredge up deep feelings inside me. Like the cool, low flames of an old but still-existent love relationship, my Muslim heritage is still very dear to me. Yet as an atheist who categorically rejects Islamic theology, if only because I'm not convinced by its factual or spiritual accuracy, I can't help but feel that yet again Muslims are avoiding some simple truths. These would include:
  • maybe the Quran was sung and later written by inspired human beings subject to the norms and aspirations of the eras in which they lived? If so, perhaps it does not provide the answer to most of our 21st century questions?
  • perhaps this means that we can't just rely on the Quran for moral guidance? Afterall, there's nothing in the Quran on sustainable development or stem cell research.
  • do I need to be believe in the authenticity of the Quran, by which I really just refer to its primacy as the word of god as anunciated to Prophet Muhammed, to be a Muslim?
Actually those are more like questions. But you get the idea. I should point out that I'm not against being Muslim theologically. Such things are intensely personal, and it is beyond my rights to tell people what to believe. I only wish to point out that I cannot in good conscience pretend that I think such theology, like any theology, has a licence to avoid simple common sense logic. Nor am I convinced that such theology necessary 'has all the answers'. And if it doesn't have all the answers, why not look for answers outside what we've been taught to believe. Or, to put it another way, why not be moral without the theology?

This is a topic I've been meaning to write more on but I'm not sure if now is the right time (mainly because I'm busy with other commitments). What I will say for now though, and this is probably a good place to stop, is that I don't feel like my concern stems from some kind of identity crisis. I long ago reached a peace with myself and the 'apparent' contradictions in being an atheist Muslim. In fact, the irony is that while I continue to live my life the way I see fit, I see many of my Muslim friends struggling, either with a double life of Western 'hedonism' and Muslim sobriety, or a singularly rigid life of unnecessary abstinence from everything worth indulging in. This latter category is particularly true for Muslim women.

Perhaps a most stark example of the type of double life some Muslims lead occurred on the night I was at a rave and someone asked me if I'd like to buy some pills. I declined the generous offer, but in so doing, I realised the guy asking me was the son of a family friend who could not be much older than 15. We shared a short but pregnant pause before both realising we knew each other. But, before I could introduce myself , he turned around and left.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Guy Smallman

I recently met Guy while catching up with David Rovics in London. "Now here's a man with passion, a good eye for great photos, and not a little courage," I thought to myself. Thankfully, he's got a great website too. Check it out -

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Losing my madness

O incomparable giver of life, cut reason loose at last!

Let it wander grey-eyed from vanity to vanity.

Shatter open my skull, pour in it the wine of madness!

Let me be mad, as You; mad with You, with us.

Beyond the sanity of fools is a burning desert

Where Your sun is whirling in every atom:

Beloved, drag me there, let me roast in perfection!

Let me be mad - Jalal-e-din Rumi

The politics of naming

The similarities between Iraq and Darfur are remarkable. The estimate of the number of civilians killed over the past three years is roughly similar. The killers are mostly paramilitaries, closely linked to the official military, which is said to be their main source of arms. The victims too are by and large identified as members of groups, rather than targeted as individuals. But the violence in the two places is named differently. In Iraq, it is said to be a cycle of insurgency and counter-insurgency; in Darfur, it is called genocide. Why the difference? Who does the naming? Who is being named? What difference does it make?

Mahmud Mamdani writes about the similarities between the situations in Darfur, Sudan and Iraq. Frightening stuff, but something worth investigating. Actually, even more than that, it is a necessity. This is a brilliant piece of analysis which brings home the very fabricated notions of fairness and justice our (ie Western) international politics and law pretend to promote.

NEWS FLASH: Mamdani will be speaking at the London School of Economics this Thursday at 6:30pm. How exciting! Hmm perhaps I should take my photocopies of his articles for his autograph? Ahum... more seriously though, will let you know how it goes. But if you're in London why not come along?

Monday, March 05, 2007

'National security' vs personal security

A German citizen who says he was kidnapped and abused by the Central Intelligence Agency cannot seek redress in court because his lawsuit would expose state secrets, a United States Court of Appeals ruled yesterday in Richmond, Va.

Source: New York Times.

Such decisions raise important questions. To what extent must an individual's right to protection from mistreatment be abrogated by 'national security' considerations? It's a difficult question to answer, but I think there is a fundamental flaw in the debate. National security is about an individual's right to protection from mistreatment, and a State's obligation to prevent such mistreatment. It is a non sequitur to argue that the public must not be allowed to know about the activities of the security apparatus, because to do so would lead to public harm, when the activities themself are a source of harm.

In recent times, particularly in developed nations, the law of security has focused on military security - securing a nation's borders, for example, from foreign threats or investigating individuals inside one's territory who might be planning terrorist attacks. What has been lost is the substantial corpus of discussion surrounding the law of human security. That is, security from hunger, disease, poverty, and so on.* It is a sad irony that the vast majority of deaths on this planet are due to poor living standards, rather than military threats such as terrorism or 'rogue states'. There is an argument against this to the effect that the potential threat of terrorism or rogue states is so great that they warrant special attention, and lots of money, lest, say, a 'dirty bomb' is exploded in a population centre. I think there is some merit to this argument, but only some, and only if such statements are applied to the most powerful states - the US, Russia, China, etc - which routinely either use the most powerful of weaponry on civilians or sell such weaponry to people who do.

Of course, none of this is earth shattering news. So why does it persist? Well, that is a whole other, equally complex question. But here are some suggestions:

'The curse of axiomatic deduction' - this is the belief that all decisions and outcomes fundamentally rest on uncontestable, unchangeable properties in the human condition. Humans are selfish, or shortsighted, or are inherently of variable quality necessitating that a few govern the many.

"Learned helplessness" - is a psychology term used to describe the situation when a human or animal learns to think that it has no control over his or her situation and that whatever is done to mitigate the situation will be futile.

What do you think?

* For more information on this check out the Center for Economic and Social Rights.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Recent changes

Dear reader,

You may have noticed two new additions to this blog - a donation button and pernicious advertisements above this post. Yes I have started seeking revenue from this site. As I am currently a student living off savings I thought it helpful to add these features. Please do not feel obliged to donate. However, if you can spare a few bob it would be much appreciated.

Of course the quality of my postings, or lack thereof, shall not waver!



Saturday, March 03, 2007

New blog

Just a quick hello to my good friend Mustafa Qadri who's finally decided to enter the 21st century with his own blog. Mr Qadri likes to think he's a lawyer specialising in public and international criminal law. But in all seriousness, be sure to check out his website from time to time for some thought provoking posts.