Sunday, July 16, 2017

Making America great again


Nasir Khan, July 16, 2017

A lot of stories about Donald Trump's lascivious ventures, adventures and fantasies are still being tossed around. It seems he had little control over his sexual thoughts and inclinations!

In my respectful opinion of the man and his great potential as a political game changer, he should even at this late stage in his life be handed over to a voodoo expert to castrate him with some magic spell without causing him any physical or mental harm. The world may recover from any physical disorientation of the big hope, but the incurring of any mental damage to the man is unthinkable for all of us. I would like to emphasise that this is a serious suggestion from a friend, not something damaging from any sordid enemy of the president. In fact, that may save him from any further lurid stories in the media and the embarrassment they cause him and his near ones. 

Oh, for God's sake, don't blame him for everything! That's how the good Lord made him, and that should end the story if you are believers in the meticulous work of the Lord!
In any case, if he opts to go through this ritual and lets the voodoo expert expunge him of his unsavoury peccadilloes, then he will have the time and plenty of resources at hand to make America great again, as his avowed objective. Yes, America first, and making America great again! 

After having accomplished his historic tasks, who knows, he may, God willing, turn his attention to Mexico, and say: Now is the time to make Mexico great again! When he does that, and if I am still around, I will muster the support of as many Mexicans and gringoes I can to show my solidarity with him and his noble mission.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

How fanatics distort the essence of religion


Nasir Khan, July 13, 2017

Religion is one thing, the followers of a religion is another thing. The difference between the two is important, and they should not be equated as one and the same in this age when much harm is still being done in the name and under the cover of religions.

What some (not all) followers of a religion do or may do in the name of their religion can be much different from the teachings of that religion. They are the people who transform their religions. Sensible people make something good and noble out of the basic teachings of their religions, but brainwashed and indoctrinated fanatics concentrate only on the negative and destructive sides they create in disfiguring their religions. For their nefarious activities, both religions and their good followers also get a bad name.

However, I am not discussing how religions arise or what roles they play in class societies. What I say has more to do with some practical aspects of religions that we face in different parts of the world. Whether religions have/had an independent base in society or not is a theoretical and academic issue, which is not the theme of this short article.

There are billions of people who believe in and practise organised religions, such as Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, Jainism, Shintoism, Zoroastrianism, Sikhism, etc. etc. without harming each other or causing harm to others. They follow the rites and rituals of their respective religions and follow the age-old traditions attached to their religions. 

In a multi-religious and multi-ethnic world we live in, we have to accept other people's right to their faith, religion and world outlook, including the views of the non-religious people. We cannot force others to believe what we believe as being the only Truth. In reality, to persist in doing so as some do is a crime against human beings, a violation of the rule of law and all norms of civilised behaviour. We have to stand against all barbarian fanatics and reject what they do or stand for. 

At the same time we should bear in mind that only a small number of people from some religions, and I emphasise their small numbers, who resort to violence in the name of religions and thus misuse their religions. For instance, in a country like Pakistan that has a population of about 190 million people, of whom 97% are Muslims, how many Muslims resort to religious violence and kill people in the name of Islam? Their numbers are small but they are able to terrorise the whole country and its peaceful people. 

So is the case with some militant Burmese Buddhists who have targeted Muslims, especially the Rohingya, and also in Sri Lanka where some Buddhists have used violence against Muslims. As a humanist and a student of the history of religions, I find the malpractices of religious violence also as a grave infringement of basic religious consciousness, which largely seeks the welfare and improvement of human beings, not their destruction.


Saturday, June 10, 2017

The electoral success of the Labour Party in the United Kingdom


Nasir Khan, June 10, 2017

All credit for the recent electoral gains in the United Kingdom goes to the election campaigners, party activists, left-wing writers and bloggers, ordinary members, including the students and old-age pensioners, and the leaders of the Labour Party for their hard work to achieve such surprising results.

The role Jeremy Corby played in the election and his focus on issues that matter most to the electorate as the leader of the Labour Party is a lesson in modern politics how a dedicated leader can inspire confidence and point to a better future for all. Despite being maligned from the Tories and also from many labour leaders, he refused to be sidetracked and continued to highlight the political and social issues in a magnanimous way. The traditional right-wingers in the party, Blair and Blairites, attacked him for not being ‘charismatic’ and ‘strong’. 

But what such people ignored was the simple fact that politics is not merely an arena where only the people with rhetorical methods can mesmerise people and then leave them at the mercy of the anti-working class elite, but rather to speak the language of the people and then stand for their interests in a dedicated way. In many ways, Jeremy Corbyn has surprised his foes and detractors. He showed that in politics, adherence to the principles of honesty and truth are not demerits, but noble avenues that can lead to desired results in a meaningful way. However, this does go against the normal understanding of politics as a game of false promises and stage-managed show for playing with a gullible majority of the ordinary people and then forgetting them when the phoney leaders have achieved their political leverage.

On this occasion, I extend my congratulations to Jeremy Corbyn and his colleagues for their political work and the results they have produced. The foundation of the Labour Party was to protect the interests of the working class people in a society where political power and influence were reserved only for the elitists, not the ordinary people. Therein lie the roots of the Labour Party, not a party to tow the line of ruling-class establishment, but rather a party of the working class people. The present successes have revived the faith of many socialists and working class people that a just and fair political course is possible in the United Kingdom.

Friday, June 09, 2017

Modern democratic states have no business with religion



Nasir Khan

“If I were a dictator, religion and state would be separate. I swear by my religion. I will die for it. But it is my personal affair. The state has nothing to do with it. The state would look after your secular welfare, health, communications, foreign relations, currency and so on, but not your or my religion. That is everybody's personal concern!”

― Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948)

These are the words of a wise leader of Indian freedom movement, who was an inspiration to millions of people in the world for his message of non-violence and love for truth.
It is important for us to remember that Gandhi was not an atheist or agnostic. He was a devoted Hindu and a believer in God like Muslim, Christian, Zoroastrian, Baha’i, Sikh and Jewish believers. However, for him the religion of an individual was a personal matter. No one should impose a religion or a belief on others. It was not for the State to tell people which religion to follow or which god to believe in (there are different views about god in many religions and his attributes, etc.). In the middle ages, State and Church in European countries were united. But that changed. The secularisation process became the norm and new ways of looking at the roles of state and religions became widely accepted.

Secularism is rooted in the political idea that state and religion have two different spheres and roles. They should remain separate and we should not allow anyone to mix them. People should follow whatever religions they want to follow without the interference of the state. As a result, there is no more religious coercion from the state or public bodies/institutions of the people. People have freedom of religion, freedom to practise any religion, freedom to convert to any other religion if any choose to do so, freedom to leave or reject religion and accept agnosticism, atheism, humanism or any other viewpoint. In democratic countries and their civil societies, these freedoms are essential ingredients of a civilised existence.

Unluckily, such views have had much opposition in traditional, conservative societies. For example, in my country of origin, Pakistan ('Land of the Pure'!), Muslim clerics and political manipulators have distorted the meaning of secularism. According to their version, which most Pakistanis accept, it means rejection of Islam and Allah! It is anti-Islam and a threat to Islam and Pakistan!

Briefly, to attribute such things to secularism is totally wrong and pernicious. But the vested interests that played with the religious susceptibilities of the people for so long, and so successfully, will continue their exploitation. As I see it, our hope is that only progressive and democratic people can combat the reactionary forces and their toxic indoctrination. No doubt, the task is difficult. But our friends and comrades are doing what they can, both within and outside Pakistan.

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Glad tidings to all believers

Nasir Khan, June 7, 2017

“Sacrificing the earth for paradise is giving up the substance for the shadow.”


— French writer Victor Hugo (1802-1885)

Many people are more concerned with the afterlife than this life. Who can blame them? In any case, when we see how the vast majority of human beings exists and suffers an existence on the earth, we can understand why they desire to have the comfort and grand living in the paradise or the kingdom of heaven, as some call it. Not only for some dismal few years or decades as we have in our worldly existence, but also visualising the rosy prospects of an eternal life somewhere up there where we will have everything we can think of in abundance and without any price-tags!


Those interested in carnal and sensual pleasures will be given to their hearts' content, possibly much more then they need. There is no shortage of anything up there. All one will have to do is to say: I desire this delightful object or that pure creature! Soon the desired object or the lovely creature will appear in the blink of an eye.

It is all ready and waiting for us. The only thing we have to do is to wait a bit longer, be patient, and all will be ours. But we should also keep in mind that to get there we may have to do some hard work first that would appease the heavenly powers. This may include obligatory self-mortification and rigorous rituals to cleans our physical body wih a view to purify our souls, thus making us worthy of the upward journey and the heavenly rewards.

Thanks to our great visionary sages, teachers and preachers for having provided us detailed information about all this. I envy their wisdom and their concern for human beings.

Sunday, June 04, 2017

Terrorist attack on London Bridge on June 3, 2017



– Nasir Khan, June 4, 2017

Whatever reasons and political grievances any followers of Islamist ideology may have, their latest attack on innocent people on London Bridge was an act of indiscriminate killing of innocent people. If the facts are as reported in the media, and no false flags are involved, then I condemn this barbarous act of terrorism as a private citizen living in Norway, a peaceful, democratic and secular country. 

The role played by western imperialists, especially the US, Britain, and their allies, in starting destructive wars of aggression in Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, etc. etc. in which millions of people, mostly Muslims, were killed and maimed, their cities and homes destroyed, were enormous crimes against humanity in recent history, for which there was no justification under international law.

Meanwhile, it is important to keep in mind that such crimes of genocide were committed by the governments of these countries, and not by ordinary citizens of any of these countries. There lies an essential difference between what the governments do and what private individuals do. 

For instance, what George W. Bush and Tony Blair did that led to the genocidal wars and large-scale destructions of the targeted countries had nothing to do with the ordinary citizens of the United States or Britain. Ordinary pedestrians walking on London Bridge were not and are not responsible for the actions of people like former prime minister Tony Blair, or former president G.W. Bush.

In the hands of religious zealots and fanatics a religion and its teachings can easily be transformed into an instrument of terror and oppression. This happened in the last two thousand years, but historical evidence points to much earlier times also. Let’s take only the Middle East region. Here some major world religions arose and some of them are still with us. The histories of all monotheistic religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam are replete with examples of heinous crimes against innocent people under the guise of religion. 

That happened during the wars of religions and inter-religious conflicts; such things are still happening in many parts of the world. It is true that such conflicts may also have deep socioeconomic and political causes. But the killing of ordinary people under one pretext or another does not mitigate the gravity of terrorist crimes and madness.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Instability and chaos in the Middle East are the axis of US-Israeli power politics


Nasir Khan, May 23, 2017

All those who are interested in understanding the quagmire of war, violence, the victimisation of Palestinians by Israel, rampant abuse of human rights, etc., in which the whole region of the Middle East is enmeshed will readily appreciate the soundness of the views of President Rouhani. What he says is reasonable and factual.

However, political observers know fully well that the main catalysts of instability, war, violence and terror in the region have been the U.S. imperialists and the Zionist rulers of Israel. If there was stability in the region, then the foundation stones of their militaristic domination and their power politics in the region will come under threat. In such a scenario, Arab reactionary regimes, such as the House of Saud, will no longer be able to serve the US-Israeli power games. That also means the two allies are duty-bound to negate or neutralise any attempts or prospects for any positive change in the region because that will be detrimental to their long-term strategies and political manipulation.

As a consequence, they will keep the status quo at any cost, and not let any developments they perceive as challenging their imperial interests in any way. To accuse Iran of ambitions to dominate the Middle East politically is merely a ruse to keep their imperial diktat.

The question of stability will remain a distant dream. The overt and covert fanning of the Sunni-Shia conflict between Arab countries and Iran by the two powerful powers, the US and Israel, to further their hegemonic goals seems to have gained the upper hand. Where will that lead to is not difficult to foresee.

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http://www.reuters.com/article/us-iran-rouhani-idUSKBN18I1M9

Rouhani says regional stability impossible without Iran




Iranian president Hassan Rouhani gestures during a news conference in Tehran, Iran, May 22, 2017. TIMA via REUTERS


By Parisa Hafezi and Bozorgmehr Sharafedin | DUBAI/LONDON
 
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Monday stability could not be achieved in the Middle East without Tehran's help, responding to criticism of the Islamic Republic from U.S. President Donald Trump who is visiting the region.
Trump called for a U.S. alliance with Muslim countries on Sunday aimed at fighting terrorism, singling out Iran as a major source of funding and support for militants in the Arab world.


Rouhani, a pragmatist who won last week's presidential election, hit back hard by dismissing the summit as a "ceremonial (event) that had no political value and will bear no results".

"Who can say regional stability can be restored without Iran? Who can say the region will experience total stability without Iran?" he said at a news conference.

At a weekend summit in Riyadh, Trump accused Iran of funding and arming "terrorists, militias and other extremist groups" in Iraq, Yemen, Lebanon and backing President Bashar al-Assad in Syria's civil war.

Rouhani, who fronted Tehran's deal with six major powers in 2015 to curb Iran's nuclear program in return for the lifting of sanctions, said the U.S. administration lacked knowledge about the Middle East.

"Americans resorted to many different methods against Iran but failed in all ... We are waiting for the new U.S. administration to find stability and continuity in its policies,” Rouhani said.

"The problem is that the Americans do not know our region and those who advise U.S. officials are misleading them."

Rouhani said Iran was the vital force behind the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and repeated Iran's official stance that the United States and Saudi Arabia are funding "terrorism" in the Middle East.

"Who fought against the terrorists? It was Iran, Syria, Hezbollah and Russia. But who funded the terrorists? Those who fund terrorists cannot claim they are fighting against them,” he said.

Tehran and Riyadh are involved in proxy wars across the region, backing opposite sides in Syria, Yemen, Iraq and Lebanon.

FRAGILE DIPLOMACY

Already fragile diplomatic and trade ties between Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shi'ite-dominated Iran were severed last year, after Saudi Arabia executed a Shi'ite cleric and as a result protesters ransacked the Saudi embassy in Iran.


"Buying arms or building weapons won't make a country powerful. Military power is only a part of strength and we are fully aware of that. But the foundation of power is national strength and this only happens through elections," Rouhani said.

"Maybe it will help if Saudi leaders let their people to decide over their country's fate by casting their vote ... It will make them (rulers) stronger."

He said Iran welcomed better relations with its regional neighbors and pledged to fulfill his campaign promises of opening Iran to the world and delivering freedoms to the Iranian people.

"The Iranian people voted for moderation as they know a prosperous economy and jobs can only happen through investment, and investment through freedom and interaction with the world," he said.
Rouhani's efforts to open up Iran to less hostile relations with the West still have to be couched in the rhetoric of anti-Americanism that has been a pillar of Iranian rule since the Islamic Revolution of 1979. Iran's most powerful authority - Ayatollah Ali Khamenei - has ruled out normalization of ties with the United States.

Iran's economy has slowly recovered since the lifting of sanctions last year but deals with Western investors are few and far between as foreign investors are cautious about trading with or investing in Iran, fearing penalties from remaining unilateral U.S. sanctions.

Washington last week imposed new sanctions on Iran, over its ballistic missile program.
"The Iranian nation has decided to be powerful. Our missiles are for peace and for defense ... American officials should know that whenever we need to technically test a missile, we will do so and will not wait for their permission," Rouhani said, repeating Iran's commonly expressed stance on the program.

"America's dream on ending Iran's missile program will never come true."
(Writing by Parisa Hafezi; Editing by Louise Ireland)