French riot, opening wounds

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has vowed to bring to justice rioters who shot at police in Paris in urban unrest that followed the death of two youths.

The current unrest in France is another test for Sarkozy as president on how he can deal with it. Some French employers need to shake off their prejudices. Sometimes the name stands in the way of employment. Qualified people aren’t employed simply because they carry a Muslim name. France needs to eradicate the roots of unrest that causes great damages for people and property.

The Causes of unrest among the immigrants is largely due to the fact that they feel marginalized because of lack of good education and opportunities. Resorting to violence on their part and to repression on the part of the French authorities isn’t the best way to solve this problem. The immigrants are mainly trying to flee the miseries of their home countries. But in France there are areas that a replica of third world countries in terms of poverty and social decay. The French government should learn its lessons from 2005 riots. Tough measures didn’t work. It calmed the situation momentarily but the seeds of trouble are still there. Taking hard measures to limit immigration through DNA tests and the requirement of high skills won’t solve the problem.

France should take care of unskilled immigrants by providing them with professional training and encourage them to set up their businesses. Employers should be more considerate. They shouldn’t look at the origins of job applicants but at their qualifications. When discrimination is eradicated, rioters will have only themselves to blame. “segregating” them in immigrant districts where they have their own world amounts to creating societies within France which will find it difficult to integrate in a country that still look at them as citizens of immigrant origins and not simply as French citizens regardless of name, race or religion.

Listen to BBC WHYS Show on this topic.

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Should racists have a platform?

Protests are expected later outside the Oxford Union when two controversial figures arrive for a free speech event. Nick Griffin, leader of the British National Party, and David Irving – jailed for denying the Holocaust – are to take part in an Oxford Union debate.

Words are the motors for action. Speeches can be the biggest movers. Hitler didn’t at first rule Germany by forming an army. He used his fiery speeches to gather support. Through his speeches he got the allegiance of the army and the Nazi sympathisers. Words can become deadly weapons as they translate thoughts which affect actions. Many thinkers change the world through their writings and speeches. Words have magic on the mind if they are eloquently expressed. The best forms of speech are slogans which can result in automaton thinking and actions. Labelling a group of people or a race with well memorised phrases can turn into die-hard attitudes. It should take generations to change them.

Racism and anti-Semitism are some of the contentious issues that despite campaigns and educational programmes are still entrenched in the mind of many. In many countries where Jews have left in masses and no longer exist there, anti-Semitism still exists. This is handed down from parents to children. Old stories and religious scripts are used for that effect. In orthodox interpretation of religions Jews are still seen as infidel. The religions that came after Judaism are meant to correct their irreligiousness. The revival of the Latin Mass created great controversy among Jews.

In the Muslim world, the speeches of Al Qaeda broadcast on the internet or on Al Jazeera TV channel had immediate effect on many young Muslims. This in turn has become a security scare for the authorities who have to discover and dismantle Al Qaeda cells now operating in tens of countries.

People, especially thinkers, should be free to express their views. But speech should be limited to what can unite people of different races and creeds. The danger is in manipulating facts and manipulating people’s mind to the point of their seeing facts distortedly.

There are different ways to start revolutionary thinking, but not on the basis of inferiority and superiority pattern, especially when it comes from influential thinkers whose words can be taken as gospel-truth by the multitude. At best people should keep their racial and fanatic attitude to themselves. Sometimes social hypocrisy works to maintain peace. Being straight on controversial attitudes in public will result just in extreme reaction on all sides.

Faith and politics

Tony Blair avoided talking about his religious views while in office for fear of being labelled “a nutter”, the former prime minister has revealed.

Religion still has importance for many people. Through it they find inspiration and feel secure as there is an almighty that can look after them when their fellow human beings can let them down. Without belief in an ocean of grief or solitude, one can gather one’s strength to face life with all its oddities.

In Morocco, people aren’t asked to identify their religion in their identity documents as they are all considered Muslims. Political parties based on religion alone or ethnicities are banned. Many Moroccan communist or secular politicians are known not to practise religion by for example praying five times a day. When they take official responsibilities, they have to perform prayers at least on religious days like Eid Al Fiter after Ramadan when all important personalities in the country perform this religious rite.

In many countries, political leaders have to show their faith when faith is of paramount importance to the population. In Nigeria for example, leaders are identified as whether Muslims or Christians. In the USA, late president Kennedy was the first president of Catholic confession. US presidents’ speeches end with “God bless America”. In the dollar bill there is the prominent expression, “In God we trust.” So faith is of paramount importance in poor and rich countries alike. The fact that there are strong religious groups in the USA shows that no president can have massive votes if he or she proves atheist. In the run up to the presidential preliminaries, the BBC presented a documentary Panorama on Obama under the title, “Is America ready for a black president”. A section of the show was devoted to Obama’s faith and its influence on his chances to succeed in his presidential campaign. He is facing rumours by his opponents who say that he has Muslim blood in his veins, for the simple reason that his step father is a Muslim. Others were spreading false information about him like he studied in a Madrassa in Indonesia when he was a boy. Others nicknamed his Obama Osama. So in the USA, to take it just as an example, the question is not to have faith or not but which faith.

In multicultural and multi-faith societies, faith should be set apart. Secular approach is the best as politicians are seen for how they perform and not what they believe. Politicians who go too much public about their faith can just offend people of other faiths in such societies. It’s better to point out to a leader as socialist or liberal and to attribute their failure or success to their religious affiliation.

Blair was right in keeping his faith secret at least to avoid the embarrassment of being seen as taking decisions based on his faith. In the UK, the Queen is the Commander of the Faithful. It’s better to leave this official responsibility in her hands. There are other religious leaders who can guide the faithful. A Prime Minister or whoever other politicians seeking guidance from the religious leaders will put in jeopardy the separation of state and church. As such, politicians can talk about their faith in their memoirs after leaving office and not to contain it in their public statements or to make it the basis of their decision making to the dismay of people of other faiths, the atheists, the seculars and the agnostics.

Freddom of expression, religion and freedom

Controversial Bangladeshi feminist writer Taslima Nasreen has been moved out of the western Indian city of Jaipur to an undisclosed destination.

Taslima Nasreen is one of the few authors who have to pay for their voice. She isn’t the first one to be threatened with death. Sulmane Rushdie is a striking example of the authors who has to go in hiding for about twenty years because of the Iranian Ayatollah Khomeini’s fatwa to have him killed. Although it is revoked later by the Iranian religious authority, there is still a bounty on his head by Muslim extremists.

Taslima Nasreen can be right or wrong in her attitude towards some Muslim practices, which can be just the invention of some Muslim scholars. But there are cases in which women are treated unfairly. In Saudi Arabia women can’t drive or set up their own businesses without the supervision of a male. The latest outcry was case of a gang-rape woman victim who was sentenced to 200 lashes and six-months in jail. Her crime was to accompany males with whom she had no family relations.

But Taslima Nasreen isn’t the only author to be silenced. In the West, there are many authors, especially males ones, who have to flee their countries of origin to express themselves freely without the risk of being prosecuted.

Free speech is a fundamental right. Authors should be protected as long as their ideas are for enlightenment and not about the spread of hatred. It’s wrong that the interpretation of Islam should remain in the hands just of male dominance, belittling female capacity to come up with the right notions on how society should deal with all individuals regardless of gender or race.

Taslima Nasreen remains for many reformists a daring voice. She needs the support of those who see female liberation through vocal and political action. Perhaps the best way for her is to be granted asylum in a Western country where she can enjoy her full freedom as a woman and as an author. Using death threat is not the perfect way to silence calls for fundamental rights. An author can be killed but his/her ideas can’t as long as they are embraced by the multitude. Killing is barbaric. Dialogue is an aspect of civilised behaviour.

Which is better, living under independence or colonialism?

Things were better in Africa if compared to the current disappointment in the running governments. Many Africans are still subject to poverty despite the huge resources in their country. Others don’t feel secure as in DR Congo where there is a raging civil war. Many Africans feel that the wealth of their country is primarily plundered by their countrymen who make a small minority usurping the bulk of their country-s wealth.

Many feel that they’re living under neo-colonialism as their economy is run by foreign companies which make the greatest profits while profits go to the country’s elite. For some there is no difference between colonialism and independence as they aren’t tasting the fruits of their country. At worst colonialism is better than independence.

In North Africa, the fight against colonialism was in the hope of getting things better for all. Only a minority benefited from different services under colonialism. In the majority of cases, families with big names had their children have the best of education which allowed them to have key posts in the government. Through time they became an oligarchy that has the best of the country’s wealth.

The question if Morocco better under independence than under colonialism. On the face of it, Morocco has been transformed since its independence. There are more educated people than under colonial era. But there is also disillusionment with independence as the slogans of equality and prosperity are matched by the actual huge disparities between the rich and the poor.

Morocco still has very close ties with its former colonial power. 60% of its foreign exchanges are with it. The largest Moroccan immigrant community is in France, more than one million.
Many Moroccans still look to the European or French system of government as the model. They want real democracy. Currently there is an apparent rupture between the government and people. In the last general elections only 37% of the voters took part.

This doesn’t mean that the Moroccans want to be ruled again by France although they take it as reference in good management. Simply they want their leaders to be up to the challenge and make them feel that they have a country called in Morocco. Currently, patriotism is put into question by many as they see their country in the hands of the very few in terms of wealth and political influence.

Morocco is better than what it was under colonialism. But as an independent country it still needs to make things far better by restoring common people’s confidence in their government who should work jointly under democracy for the good of all. It’s sad that hopeless Moroccans still look to Europe as the saviour by trying to illegally migrate to it. They feel an independent Morocco makes no difference for them. They want a country where they can feel better and have a real home. Some laughs at independence by saying that French colonialism was replaced just by anew one through the grip on power and wealth of the country by the very few at the expense of the big majority.

Listen to part of the show.

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Can we go vegan?

There are increasing calls by vegetarians to change our established diet based on meat and to go vegans. They’re citing the different benefits for human beings as well as for the environment.

Meat consumption is only a problem in rich countries whose members have the highest rate of consumption per person. Consuming meat is considered as a sign of well being as in the past its consumption was associated with a sign of wealth. The poor had no choice but to go vegetarian.

Still being vegetarian can be more costly than eating meat. Many fruits and vegetables are beyond the means of those with a medium or poor income. So they fall on cheap meals based on meat.

The blame also shouldn’t be on those who use meat in their diet. There are countries where livestock is a part of their culture. In India cows are sacred. So it will be hard to ask the Hindus in India to cut the number of cows in their country or to ask them to donate some of them to poor countries which consume meat. In parts Africa an Asia, livestock is a sign of social prestige. The more livestock one has the more respect one gets. In Muslim countries, sheep are used as a religious rite for Eid al-Udha. For the hajj in Mecca, each person should sacrifice a sheep. Around the Muslim world each family or adult Muslim should sacrifice a sheep on this day.

There is also the economic factor. Many farmers as well as industries depend on meat-based food processing. As there is an increase in population, it will be hard to see that vegetables and fruits alone will suffice. There will be a need for more land to grow more vegetables and fruits and an increase in the use of chemical fertilizers, with the dire consequences on the environment.

In terms of health and nutrition, there will be still disparities. Poor people will still find it difficult to buy fruits and vegetables rich in calories and vitamins. There should be a balance in how food of all sorts is distributed fairly across the world within each country. People should make a balance of what they eat. Discarding meat altogether of one’s diet will remain unconvincing for many. It amounts to a total reshuffle of collective and personal traditions and customs.

Does this also mean that people should be raised vegetarian from infancy? Babies should rely just on breastfeeding without compensating for that with baby milk in case the mother doesn’t produce milk It seems livestock is there to stay in society unless a convincing substitution is found.

Discarding meat altogether of one’s diet will remain unconvincing for many. It amounts to a total reshuffle of collective and personal traditions and customs.

To compensate for abstaining from meat, should we go fish eating? Even going vegan can be a stretch on earth resources if we don’t eat moderately. Moderation is the key to health eating.

Crime and punishment

In Saudi Arabia there was a strange incident in which woman who was a gang-rape victim who was sentenced to 200 lashes and six-months in jail. Seven men from the majority Sunni community were found guilty of the rape and sentenced to prison terms ranging from just under a year to five years. While a rapist is prosecuted and the victim is compensated, here we have the case of both parties subjected to punishment. This is worse than punishing a person simply on intent. At least the would-be victim will be spared being hurt by the aggressor and “disciplined” by the law.

To make a comparison, former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson was sentenced to six year imprisonment, of which he served three years for rape, although the victim was with him in his hotel room at 02:00 a.m. So in Saudi Arabia, instead of the young women being fairly treated and receiving counselling, she is thrown in prison as a criminal.

Another guy who showed his desire to have sex with children, the risk can be in luring them via the chat-room. Today sending an email expressing intent or having a website for such intent is like sending letters to homes as it was the case in old days. People should be careful about what thy say and do on the internet as this new monster has become uncontrollable despite the huge efforts for censorship.

But intent should be an excuse for prosecution as it is the leading way to commit any act. In this case, the person caught is guilty as it is proven. Thoughts are what behind many actions. One can spread them without committing any act, but still that person is guilty. A gang leader can give just instructions without firing a bullet or robbing a bank but as a mastermind he/she should get the same punishment as the perpetrator. Saddam was executed, not because of direct killing of thousands of people but they were carried out under his orders.

In dictatorships, thoughts are policed. In the former soviet block, people couldn’t voice any criticism of the regime even to their friends. In former East Germany, husbands and wives were spying on each other. Of course we shouldn’t come to the point where the state implant spies in our bedrooms. A large margin of freedom should be left for a normal life. We needn’t live in a Big Brother society where we are watched 24/7.

As the way we think is essentially the way we behave and as we are members of a society that should stick together, people should learn to have normal and creative thoughts, not to inflict harm but to help for the good of all. Only schizophrenic, lunatic and desperate people who come out with deranged ideas. They should be monitored. Their best place is an asylum or tight security prison.

Children and drinking age

Morocco is one of the big producers of red wine. But by law Moroccans aren’t allowed to drink it. Anyone caught drunk in the street will be prosecuted. Strangely enough, there are pubs in all cities, groceries and supermarkets where all sorts of alcoholic drinks, from beers to whiskies are sold. Still there is another kinds of drink (eau de vie) brewed privately and sold to those who can’t afford the price of whisky. This kind of privately brewed drink can be a health risk as it is made clandestinely in unhygienic places.

There are few Moroccan families that have alcohol available at home where children can see adults drink like drinking a glass of water. Up to now, there aren’t yet widespread risks of children tasting alcohols. But in disadvantaged areas, there are very young children (mainly) who are addicted to glue sniffing.

Coming to children experiencing alcohol with or without their tutors’ consent, tutors, especially parents should set the example to them by not bringing alcohol in large quantity and displaying it all the time in the kitchen or the living room. Adults shouldn’t drink in front of the children. When the atmosphere gets “merry”, the children become curious to taste that drink.

Parents should learn to be closer to their children. It’s not enough to provide them with the daily necessities, education and a governess that can make sure all is well. Parents should learn to have moral authority over their children through persuasion and by setting them a good example.

Another point, today’s children are exposed to many facets of life through the media and the outside now growing more and more complex. Such an exposure is good for them as it will help them to cope with life later. However they need guidance from their parents and teachers on how to avoid falling in great risks with dire consequences. As for drinks, they should know that their body isn’t fully developed to absorb alcohols without effects on their organs. A drunken child becomes irresponsible, careless about his/her studies. They can indulge in behaviours that can get them in trouble with the law. There are cases of children who killed their peers under the influence of drink or drugs. Parents should introduce children to the literature dealing with the negative aspects of drinking at all ages. If possible, they should take them to centres where alcoholics are receiving treatments and the patients should be willing to share their experiences with them as a way to deter them from attempting to touch any sort of drinks. Children should be trained on what is the best for them to eat and drink to keep healthy. They should have activities through which they can spend their energy. It’s actually boredom, curiosity and the desire for adventure that make them fall in this temptation that can end into pathological addiction.

As the law prohibits selling alcohol to minors, this means children get hold of it through adults who buy it. They get hold of it at home or from an adult. As it is dangerous, it should be kept under lock and key. Putting bottles in the fridge from which children lay hand on food will be a temptation to open a bottle and taste it. There is also the desire of children to imitate adults and to brag among themselves about being defiant and risk taker.

And finally, there is still the issue of children experiencing drugs or teenage pregnancies. That’s another subject.

Listen to BBC WHYS show on this subject.

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Should Hamas be ousted?

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has called for Gaza’s Hamas rulers to be “brought down“, his strongest call yet for their removal.

Hamas has turned into a repressive movement. For Gazans, they are now deprived of free land as they are locked by Israel preventing them from free movement. From Hamas they are subjected to dictatorship as none can voice opposition without reprisal. As such Hamas shouldn’t stay in power till it ends its term. It was elected by the Palestinians when Fatah grew unpopular because of corruption. Hamas promised to clean the mess. To its surprise it found itself forming a government while Fatah humiliatingly lost power. The euphoria of Hamas success was thwarted by international response that required it to recognise Israel. But Hamas kept to its “three nos” to Israel: no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with it.

The differences between Hamas and Fatah leading to total rupture between them is a signal that national unity is far from being reality in a very small land with very huge problems. Fatah has scored many points on Hamas by keeping having international support while Hamas international status is declining, among other things through isolation. While Fatah’s president Abbas is seen holding talks and carrying normal political activities, Hamas leader is seen foaming with anger, holding rallies and giving speeches that now sound empty to the hard hit Gazans.

Hamas is still holding the old principle of the “three nos” to Israel. This has put it even more isolated as the international community is giving its backing to the relatively moderate Fatah movement. Hamas has the drawback of having purely an Islamist agenda regarded by many as an encouragement to Islamic extremism calling for the destruction of the state of Israel. As such Hamas looks a threat to Israel as well as to liberal Palestinians who seek to deal with the Palestinian issue in light of international development playing on flexibility rather than on rigid dogma.

Today Hamas is also faced with other nos from the Gazans who’ve seen their living standards getting far worse than when they were under the direct rule of Israel before the establishment of the Palestinian authorities that recognised Israel and than when they were under the corrupt rule of Fatah. It should be both democratic and pragmatic by allowing the Gazans to choose who should rule them, Hamas or Fatah through fair elections.

Fatah looks more practical as it has managed to get international support sparing Palestinians in the West Bank the suffering currently undergone by their countrymen in Gaza. The reports show that Gaza is currently in dire crises at all levels. Palestinians there are relatively living in a collective prison. They aren’t allowed to get out Gaza because of Israel blockade. They can’t get access to basic commodities at fair prices and quantity. Politicians can have long-term projects and can wait for their policies to deliver. They equate them with the future of the state. Ordinary people seek the immediacy of the action. Gazans are now one of the poorest in the Middle East, if not in the world. Slogans are no longer an impetus to continue their struggle against Israeli occupation and totally acquiescing to whatever measure undertaken by Hamas at the expense of their welfare.

But as Hamas still have its supporters, it should be dealt with through negotiation. It isn’t just a political party as traditionally known in democratic countries. It is a movement with heavily armed militias. It won’t be easy to solve it just by a decree. Hamas should be democratic. So far if failed to deliver on its promises because of international isolation, Israel blockade, deep differences with Fatah amounting to exchanges of fire and deaths on both sides. It should agree to the holding of elections that diffuse tensions in this volatile region. As it maintains its legitimacy because it won the elections, Gaza and the West Bank will remain apart delaying the setup of a future Palestinian state. The suffering of the Gazans will continue in the face of intransigence on all sides. As many Gazans are ready to leave Gaza, this shows many Gazans want Hamas to go. Hamas surely won’t go as it can be under pressure from other sides like Iran that want it to remain a thorn in the side of Israel. Israel’s nightmare is Iran having nuclear weapons. Iran’s nightmare is Israel dealing a heavy blow to Hamas that can put an end to its influence in this region through Hamas.

As Hamas is growing unpopular, it shouldn’t prolong the suffering of the Gazans. It should agree to early elections although it knows it can lose them. This can diffuse the tensions in the region. Hamas staying in power in Gaza will simply create two sections of Palestinians, those under the rule of Fatah relatively enjoying normal living standards while those under the rule of Hamas are daily struggling to make ends meet. The situation in Gaza will just create more rift among the Palestinians who because of the history of their struggle and suffering need a united political front that take into accounts the current international reality and not keep living on dogmas that can never materialise. Hamas’s three nos to Israel and its intransigence internally especially with its opponent Fatah will just lead to its humiliating downfall in future elections. Hamas need to be wise before, not after, the event. It should at least hold a referendum to ask the Gazans if they still want it to be in charge of their day-to day destiny.

Can Hamas go? Hamas can go as long as it is let to go by outside players. As a thick-skinned political movement, it won’t look to the suffering of the Gazans, it will continue to put the blame just on Israel the occupier and Fatah “the traitor”.

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