Religion and preferential treatment

Religion still has great importance in almost every society as it is the means to bind them. There are zealous religious people who consider their religion as the right one while the other religions are pure heresy. The atheists caught in such a situation are the most to suffer discrimination as their beliefs is seen as a threat to established religions.

This can be true just in societies where religion is of paramount importance. But in secular countries like France, religion isn’t mandatory. On the contrary, an atheist can have more chance to have a job than a Muslim. However atheists, now still a very small minority even in secular countries, shouldn’t be discriminated against or persecuted. At the same time, they shouldn’t mount a fight against the existing religions. Many people, especially the poor, have no solace but in religion. Atheists have no right to impose their views on them.

Let’s be fair. There are atheist as well as agnostic politicians Isn’t UK foreign secretary David Milliband an atheist? He holds one of the most important jobs in the government.

Concerning whether science will obliterate religion, this remains debatable as there scientists who are devoutly religious and their scientific knowledge just enhances their belief in God.

Concerning Muslim countries, the Islamists are still feared by the current regimes governing them. In Morocco, all the Moroccan citizens of Arab and Berber origins, who make 98% of its population, are considered as Muslims. And yet, the Islamists don’t get any preferential treatment. On the contrary, many of them are suspected of being just terrorists preparing to establish an Islamic state. In Morocco, the official argument is that religion should not be the monopoly of any political party.
What matters in any society is that people can live in peace and not use their beliefs as a justification to fight each other because of differences about why they are in this world and how they should live in it and leave it.

In general, religion should be a personal matter and not a vehicle to get favour or power. Favouring one category of people because of their religion is a call for the rest to join it, not out of conviction but for self-interest.

Does polygamy still have a place in the modern world?

Polygamy is just another aspect of male domination, in which women are used to satisfy man’s ego. It is also a disguised form of ménage à trois.

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Even the Muslim Holy Book the Quran warns that it will be difficult for a man married to more than one wife to be fair to them. It says, “And if you fear that you will not be able to deal justly with the oppressed women then marry from among them two or three or four, but if you fear you won’t be just, then marry only one.”

Even some Muslim countries have taken measures against polygamy. Morocco is one of the Muslim countries where polygamy has been drastically restricted.

In Polygamy, it can be OK for the husband to be in the “possession” of at least two wives. But is it OK for at least two women to be sharing the same man? Some can argue in free societies, people are free to have more than one partner without being subjected to law suit; so why can it be the same for polygamy?

One of the arguments for polygamy is to save women who can’t get married because they outnumber men. The other is that they can’t support themselves. Marriage is the only means for them to feel safe and respected. These arguments seem obsolete. It is contradictory to the call for equal status between men and women an at the same time it allows men to have more than one wife in the name of preserving traditions which fundamentally can be scrapped and replaced with modern thinking.

In polygamy, marriage is a constant battle for the husband to satisfy both or all his wives as it is a battle for the wives to individually win the heart of their husband.

Governments should outlaw polygamy as it infringes the equal rights between men and women. It doesn’t make sense that a man has the right to have more than one wife; and a woman has the right just to one husband at the same time. As it is inconceivable for a man to share a wife with another man, so the same should apply for a woman forced to share her husband with another woman or other women.

Can one really abstain from sex?

Abstinence is akin to virginity. But in view of the fact that teenagers are exposed to sex through different outlets, it will be difficult to dissuade them from having sex. It can be easy for young people to abstain from sex if they can have the chance to marry. However, it has become the norm in the majority of societies to delay marriage because of economic constraints. So casual and free sex has become the means to make do while waiting for the opportunity to settle down.

Those who can abstain from sex are those who have had enough of it or those who can’t find the right partner as sex of them isn’t just a physical but a “spiritual” matter.
There are also those who abstain from sex because of draconian laws that prohibit “illicit” sex.

Sex is a part of our instinct. As it is difficult for an alcoholic to resist a glass of alcohol, it can also be difficult for a sex-driven person to resist seizing the chance to have sex. What matters is to have it safely and not to have a short time pleasure for a lifelong misery coming mainly from STDs.

Israeli elections and Middle East peace

The Israelis have gone to the polls to elect their new government. The main issue appears to be security. But there are other issues like the economy and education. For the outside world, what matters is how Israel can be a genuine peace partner in the volatile region of the Middle East that has been regularly going from one crisis to another.

Israel can pride itself on being the most democratic country in the Middle East, but so far it has failed to grant the Palestinians an independent state and to reach a settlement with Syria over the Golan Heights. These are some of the reasons why it has many enemies in the Muslim and the Arab worlds.
There are many questions that should be answered:

1- Can Israel survive without its close alliance with the United States from which it gets the most militarily and financial support?
2- How serious is Israel about an independent Palestinian State?
3- Does it envisage sharing Jerusalem with an independent Palestinian State?
4- Concerning water, how can it be a source of tension between Israel and Jordan?
5- How deeply is Israel affected by the current financial crisis?
6- How important is Judaism in Israeli society? Is it more drifting to secularism?

There are some who argue that Israel is the 51st state of the USA in view of the huge military, diplomatic and economic support it gets from it. The Israelis may be complacent about the living and democratic standards they’re living. They may view their political leaders as the same despite the political parties they stand for.

Perhaps, the Israeli leaders are good at making wars against their enemies inside and outside Israel as their war machine is the most powerful in the region. But they are also shrewd politicians when it comes to negotiations with the Palestinians. As long as the Israeli politicians become united when it comes to wars, the daily running of the country is left to take care of itself regardless of which party is in power.

Despite the apparent apathy on the part of the Israeli voters, Israel can survive only through democracy. Without it, the differences between politicians can generate into violent political and social instability, a situation Israel can’t afford if it wants to survive in a volatile regions where the “paws” of many countries and political movements are directed against it.

However, Israel should be democratic towards the Palestinians living within Israel or in the Palestinian territories, many of whom pay dearly because of its differences with their political leaders. The recent events in Gaza – military assaults and blockades by Israel- are a case in point.

The Palestinian issue is a strong card in the hands of Israeli politicians with which they can sway the voters and appeal to their nationalism. No Israeli politician seems ready to risk his/her political future by going beyond asserting the need for peace with the Palestinians and the Arab countries. As for territorial matters, there can be signing of agreements, like the 1994 Oslo accord, which fall short of being implemented because of lack of mutual trust.

Perhaps for the Israelis, delaying any compromise is an opportunity to give nothing and to maintain negotiations at the staring point despite the apparent rounds of talks that have been going for years.

It’s no wonder that the public inside and outside Israel have grown sceptical of any settlement between the Israelis and their opponents in the Arab world as each side portrays the other as uncompromising and offering very little to get too much. Maintaining one’s ground is the best mean for attack and offence. For how long will this continue? Only the politicians- from all sides – who hide their cards can decide.

Not reaching a compromise about standing issues concerning the Golan Heights, Jerusalem and an independent Palestinian state will maintain Israel in a perpetual state of war. Its very existence will depend not just on having a strong economy but also the strongest army in the region.

In the Arab world, Israel has so far direct diplomatic relations just with Egypt and Jordan which are subjects to ups and downs because of the fluctuations in the Palestinian territories. It will be better for all parties to reach a lasting compromise by establishing bridges of trust and by each getting one’s due rights without infringing the rights of the others.

Here is an audio extract of Israelis discussing the issue of Iran and Judaism in Israeli society

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Ros Atkins announcing the presentation of BBC WHYS show from Tel Aviv

Ros Atkins from of BBC WHYS introducing the show

War and peace for Iran and the USA

In his first interview with a foreign media outlet – Al-Arabiya television – President Barack Obama promised to extend the hand of American diplomacy to Tehran if the regime froze its nuclear programme.

Despite welcoming the change of tone in US foreign policy towards his country, Iran’s president demanded an apology for past US “crimes” committed against Iran.

Iran should equally apologize to the United States for the 52 American hostages it took after the Islamic Revolution in 1979, before it asks the US to apologize for the economic sanctions it has successively imposed on it.

If Iran seeks good relations with the US both should work to build trust between them. Continuing diplomatic conflict will delay the resolutions of many problems affecting the region, especially the conflicts between Israel and Hamas on one hand and Israel and Hezbollah on the other.

The differences between Iran and the US are so deep extending from Iran nuclear program to the attitudes towards the conflicts in the Middle East, involving Israel with Hamas, Hezbullah and Syria. Iran has strong relations with these. It can exert strong influence on Hamas and Hezbullah either way as long as it gets or doesn’t get what it wants. It’s using them as a tool to indirectly wage wars against Israel.

In view of this complex differences regulating Iran’s relations with the US and Israel , there is so much hard work to do on all sides to heal the rifts that has been taking place since 1979.

For the US and Iran, they can be friends if they leave the past behind them and turn a new page. However the harsh tone of Iranian president in his last speech in which he demanded an apology from the US for its “crimes” against his country and the extended hand of friendship from Obama to the Iranian leaders shows that there is “love” just from one side. The rift whose causes are much more complex can’t be healed easily.

Compensations for human rights abuses

Many countries around the worlds have tried to turn a new page concerning human right abuses in the past as a means to foster national reconciliation and to compensate the victims or their relatives.

Morocco is the first Arab country to compensate for the victims of human rights abuses between independence in 1956 and the end of King Hassan’s reign in 1999, during which 592 people were killed, the Equity and Reconciliation Committee. Some received more than USD 300,000 in compensation.

Money is just a means to compensate the victims, but there is no money to compensate for the lost years in imprisonment under torture. Many leave the prison in critical health conditions and die just after receiving their compensation.

For Morocco, the compensation of former victims of human rights abuses has been a success. Outstanding political prisoners have become involved in politics, by joining existing or newly formed political parties. Many exiled politicians returned. At least the compensations have secured political stability in Morocco – although the Islamists, hundreds of whom are now in prison, still constitute a dangerous factor for the regime in Morocco.

Are octuplets a blessing or a burden?

A US woman has given birth to eight babies , becoming just the second person recorded in the US to have delivered a set of living octuplets.

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There was the case of a Russian mother who gave birth to 69 children in the span of 40 years from 1725 to 1765.

Having so many babies at the same time can be a blessing if the parents have the means and the time to support them. It can be fantastic to have a big family all of a sudden. But the effort and the cost of raising a child in today’s world isn’t so easy.

For many parents, the beauty of having many children is that they come one by one. At least parents enjoy having babies over a period of time.

For woman who is past 40 and has never had children before, it must be a good thing for her to have a triplet or a quadruplet as she will have secured having more than one child before the menopause. For a young mother, it must be difficult as she will have to care for more than one baby at a time, which can be burden on her physical health, mainly when it comes to sleep deprivation during the first years of the new born babies.