Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Turkey under Erdogan


Nasir Khan, August 24, 2016

Dr Richard Falk looks at the present situation in Turkey under Erdogan from different angles, and he weighs in both positive and negative sides of the likely scenarios after the July 15 coup. Shifting political partners and allies is a common addiction of all power-hungry leaders. We who have the welfare of people of Turkey in our hearts would be glad that Erdogan does not fall in the trap of those  myopic considerations and interests.

How will Erdogan fare in the near future is difficult to predict. However, demagogues may be clever in mobilising support of ordinary people around themselves but not so clever when it comes to using that popular support for the common good that in case of Turkey still is to maintain a secularist democracy as Ataturk had envisioned and introduced. Any sneaking religious compromises go against the Kemalist legacy that had made a break with the medieval mindset of the Ottoman times.

Despite all the overtures from the PKK leadership to find an acceptable solution to the demands of the Kurds, Erdogan did not do much. He continued dragging his feet and that has led to the renewed military confrontations with the Kurds. This is true that Erdogan can cause much damage to the Kurds militarily, but he will not be able to control the fallout of such ‘military solution’ to the problem. The Kurds are not going to disappear. That will create more violence and instability. The whole situation is fraught with great dangers for both sides.

If he opens up too many fronts, how will he fight? He may wield only two swords in his two hands but he will need may hands to hold many swords to fight on many fronts! As a result only the ordinary people of this country will suffer.


Dr Richard Falk
 
[Prefatory Note: An earlier version was published by Middle East Eye on August 10, 2016. It seems so important at this time for the sake of the future of Turkey that the West look at the country …

 https://richardfalk.wordpress.com/2016/08/23/the-sky-above-turkey/

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Review of the paper on the Dome of the Rock and its Arabic text from the Omayyad period

Nasir Khan, August 21, 2016

This is a scholarly paper, originally in Swedish, authored by Lars Djerf in which he has concentrated mainly on the Arabic inscriptions on the Dome of the Rock (DR), their meaning and purpose in a wider political and religious context at a time when Islam had emerged as a dominant political power and religion in the Middle East by replacing the Byzantines in the region.

His presentation of the material is systematic and well-grounded in historical researches and important sources throughout the paper. The interpretation of the Qur’anic texts on DR takes into account the cultural context as Ludwig Wittgenstein had advanced in his views on ‘language games’. Philosophers belonging to different trends in the Continental and Anglo-American analytic philosophy have generally accepted the insights Wittgenstein provided about the working of languages in varying social contexts. The author emphasises ‘understanding intentions and actions’ while interpreting the Arabic texts. In a historical narrative, a text needs to be understood in its social and cultural context to see and analyse the intentions of the original writer.

The author has given a good summary of the condition of DR before Caliph Abd al-Malik (reigned 685-705 AD) started the construction of DR. He discards the view that the Caliph wanted to replace the Meccan shrine with a new structure at DR, as some people have suggested. In fact, much false propaganda is still found about this great caliph. Some have even argued that Abd al-Malik was the real founder of Islam and not the Prophet Muhammad! However, there is little support for such views in serious scholarship on the early history of Islam.

Islam arose in Christian and pagan environments. During the early centuries of the Church numerous Christological controversies arose. During the life of the prophet Muhammad, the controversies about the nature of Jesus (whether he was a man, a divine god or both) were widespread throughout the length and breadth of the Byzantine Empire. Christology had become extremely polemical and led to unending conflicts between different Christian sects.

However, the Qur’an offered a different view of Jesus from the ones professed by Christians. The author has discussed this point adequately and shown why the Qur’anic verses or paraphrases of the Qur’anic texts were meant to offer a theology that emphasised the humanity of Jesus and his prophthood. After the peaceful ‘conquest’ of Jerusalem by Caliph Omar in 638 AD, Islamic political power was established there. At that time, Jerusalem was mainly a Christian city.

By the time of Caliph Abd al-Malik Islamic power was stabilised and the Islamic empire had expanded vastly. Now the task for the new rulers was to assert the uniqueness of Islam as the true religion that was open to all others. The selective Arabic texts from the Qur’an were meant to show what Islam taught about Jesus. In a way, the message of Islam for Christians and Jews was there on DR for all to see. The pure form of monotheism (belief in only one god) that Islam represented was not reconcilable with the Trinitarian godhead of the Church.

In Iconoclastic controversy that lasted 120 years within the Byzantine Empire, St John of Damascus (c. 675-749 AD) defied Emperor Leo III and came firmly in support of icons. The work of St John of Damascus as the defender of orthodox Christianity was to combat Islam, which he termed as the ‘heresy of the Ishmaelites’. He did not see Islam as a new and independent religion. In fact, for him Islam was one more heresy within Christianity.

The author in his conclusion shows that the motives behind the inscriptions on the DR were purely missionary. Having shown what the Qur’an says about Jesus, a great and venerable prophet, the message to all was to come to Islam.

The author has written a commendable paper that contributes to our understanding of the interaction between Muslims and Christians. The attitude of the Omayyad caliphs of Damascus towards Christians was one of toleration and respect. They held high official positions in finance and public administration.


Photo: The Dome on the Rock, Jerusalem





No automatic alt text available.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Religious beliefs versus rational thinking

Nasir Khan, July 31, 2016

From a Humanistic point of view, followers of all religions should be respected and their concrete good work for other people should be admired and acknowledged. In this connection, it is important to underline that such respect and admiration is not due to their inherent or internalised beliefs and dogmas, but because of our common humanity that binds all of us together.

There is no doubt that vast numbers of honest and sincere believers will never question the contents of their religion. That is a sacrosanct terrain where no intrusion is possible. For them, to question their religious beliefs is simply out of the question.

Consequently, the worst possible sin they can commit is to question what to them is Holy and the Truth. This attitude is the corner-stone of the belief system of the followers of all religions. The only exceptions here may be some non-dogmatic mystics and the followers of the universal love for all humanity, such as the Bahá’ís.

However, despite all the claims believers may make in support of the truth and the uniqueness of their religion, the fact remains that their strong convictions and their strongly-held religious beliefs do not bring them one inch closer to the fundamentals of rational thinking. The instructions issued by the Supernatural Being through his chosen ones and the views on which rational thinking rests have hardly any mutually acceptable meeting point.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Kashmir, Palestine and My Facebook Friends

 Nasir Khan, July 24, 2016

At present, I have about three thousand Facebok friends who come from different parts of the world. This list also includes a few hundred friends from Pakistan or who are of Pakistani origin. Over the last few weeks, when Indian army unleashed its brutal crackdown in Kashmir, killing, blinding and maiming the Kashmiri people, most of my Pakistani Facebook friends have shown no interest in the plight of the Kashmiri people. The number of such friends who have actively published and posted on their Facebook walls remains very small.

However, many people around the world have shown their solidarity with Kashmiris, including many people from India and Pakistan who have held public demonstrations in many cities and places against the frightening atrocities of the Indian army in Kashmir. But our Pakistani Facebook friends have remained largely indifferent to the ongoing brutal killings and the blinding of the youth in Kashmir. In fact, their indifference is not limited to Kashmir but also extends to the people of Palestine who, like the Kashmiris, have been under Zionist colonial oppression and subject to systematic ethnic cleansing since 1948.

Some Pakistanis even say that the Kashmir conflict is only for the Kashmiris to resolve themselves. Pakistan and Pakistanis should not bother about Kashmir and its people. In the same way, when it comes to the question of occupied Palestinians, they remain indifferent. Some even support what the Zionists stand for and argue that Israel is defending itself against the Palestinian terrorists!

According to such a perverted logic, it is the Palestinians who are the cause of trouble, not Israel. It is not any secret that some Pakistani leaders and politicians have supported the idea of normalising relations with Israel by recognising it. But what about the Palestinians whose lands has been taken from them by a colonial power? That problem can be ignored. In fact, some Pakistani politicians had other considerations to gain the favours of the Zionists than to take time to think about the captive population of the apartheid state of Israel. But what are the great motives of my Pakistani Facebook friends in their indifference to or even hostility towards the national struggle of the Palestinians? I have no clue.

For decades, I have been a supporter of the right of the people of Palestine and have opposed the policies of Israel towards a captive people. This I have done purely as a Humanist and a Socialist peace activist. I respect the religious or ethnic identities of all people but find no justification for the ideas that any person becomes better than others merely because of his/her religion or ethnicity. I have also some friends who are famous Jewish academics and political activists; they oppose Zionism, Israeli policies towards the occupied or besieged people of Palestine and are firm supporters of the national rights of the Palestinians. Luckily, there are many people in the world who support the cause of the people of Palestine. In this, I also acknowledge the positive role of some Pakistani Facebook friends play in the difficult struggles of national emancipation both in Kashmir and Palestine.

Among all my friends, no matter where they are from or what their ethnic identities may be, if they support the Indian military occupation of Kashmir and the Israeli occupation of Palestine can unfriend me on Facebook.

That also means many Pakistanis may have to unfriend me. I thank all such people for bearing with me but now we should part company.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Kashmiris Right to Determine Their Future Is the Only Solution to the Kashmir Conflict

Nasir Khan, July 16, 2016

Today Professor Raj Bhat, himself a Kashmiri, raised a few questions and asked for my response. I am repoducing his comment followed by my reply. Our readers will see that we two have different views on the Kashmir issue:

Raj Bhat: Nasir Khan Sahab: I have raised human issues which deserve your attention. Otherwise, it becomes supportive of frenzy and genocide. As a kid in Poonch, do you remember the condition of people who were displaced/ uprooted from Bhimbar and Muzzafarabad? The survivors of the ethnic cleansing from these regions are stateless in 2016 too! The frightened, terrorized. traumatized non-muslims of the Indian Kashmir valley are called ‘migrants’! This ethnic cleansing took place in 1990. Please relate the issues and go ahead.
—-

Nasir Khan: Raj Bhat Sahib, here I am not going to enter into any lengthy discussion about the issues you have mentioned as questions of human rights. Yes, in 1947/8 I had seen how the Hindus in our areas in Poonch were treated, some cruelly killed, their houses burnt. But as a young boy, I had no means of seeing things in Muzaffarabad and Bhimbar because they were far away from our district. Much atrocities were committed against the Hindus and their properties burnt or plundered. But I also saw the destitute refugees in our village and adjoining areas who had come from the Indian administered Kashmir to our areas in Poonch and their stories of deaths at the hands of non-Muslims. I can never forget the conditions I saw them in and their miserable existence as refugees.

As I understand you are only concerned about Hindus, not Muslims of Kashmir. About 100, 000 Kashmiris have died as a result of Indian military violence and the lives of millions of innocent people destroyed. Kashmiri Pandits have also suffered much. Yet, despite all the bloodshed, the Kashmir conflict has not gone away and it will never go away as long as Indian government does not find a political solution. The only way forward is to let the people of Kashmir decide their future by plebiscite.

The tragedy of Kashmir has seen much blood shedding and destruction. Without any political solution to this conflict, the future generations of Kashmiris will continue to resist the Indian occupation and India will continue to kill those who do not submit to the Indian rule. We should keep in mind that these conditions will not bring peace and joy to any.

You may be speaking as a Hindu and you have every right to do so but I do not speak as a Muslim but only as a Humanist and a Socialist who is well-wisher of all – Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhists and freethinking people, etc. etc. – in Jammu and Kashmir and other places.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Brtual Indian oppression continues in Kashmir

Nasir Khan, July 15, 2016

The partition of India in 1947 was because of a number of factors. As a child living in Poonch (Kashmir) I had seen the destructive blood-letting and communal frenzy. The so-called ‘Two-Nation Theory’ was a misleading and absurd idea to start with. But there was not only one party to advance this perspective, as many people think.


Many communalists, both Hindus and Muslims, contributed to it. Perry Anderson in his book on the role of Gandhi, Nehru and Jinnah has put the material before us, which none from the subcontinent did, or, I might even say, was capable of doing.

The tragedy of Kashmir belongs to the unfinished task of the Partition. This is despite all the claims that India has made to justify its hold on Kashmir against the wishes of the majority of Kashmiris. It is a political issue and will remain a political issue.

After enormous losses suffered by Kashmiris, both Muslims and Hindus, over the decades-long conflict, India has shown no interest to listen to the demands of the people of the valley and continues to repeat the mantra of ‘Kashmir is an integral part of India’. That is a false claim. Kashmir is not an integral part of India.

Kashmir is a disputed area and its solution is not in using the military force of a great power over a helpless people but rather to change its rhetoric and let the people of Kashmir decide their future.
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http://www.greaterkashmir.com/news/front-page/tragic-pellets-blind-14-year-old-insha-forever/222869.html


Ninth class student Insha Malik has lost vision in her left eye that was pierced by pellets fired by forces, and doctors say there are “zero chances” of the teenager regaining vision in her right eye, also badly damaged by the pellets.
14-year old Insha, one of more than 100 pellet victims, is lying unconscious in the Surgical ICU of general specialty SMHS hospital here. Her face and neck resemble a wire-mesh with dozens of holes made by pellets therein.

“The pellets have ruptured her right eye and it has come out. The left eye is lacerated with zero chance of recovery,” said a doctor attending to her. Insha hails from Sedow village of south Kashmir’s Shopian.

The doctor added: “She does not even have perception of light in the eye that she is left with.”

According to her relatives, Insha was in the first floor of her house when forces fired pellets inside their house late on Tuesday evening. “She screamed and fell unconscious and within no time her face was swollen,” recalled one of her relatives, adding: “There were no protests going on in the area.”

Insha was rushed to the hospital late in the night where doctors took her straight to the ICU.

She is being continuously monitored since. “We haven’t admitted such a severe case in the hospital so far. The pellets have completely disfigured her face and resulted in multiple fractures and injuries in her face and skull,” said the doctor quoted above. “She is lucky that the pellets did not pierce her vessel on the neck or the airway.”

Apart from the loss of vision, pellets have resulted in fracture to her frontal bone (forehead) and nasal bone, apart from fracture to her maxillary bone.

“There are numerous pellets inside her skull and at the base of her brain. These fractures have caused pneumocephalus (a condition where air enters into the brain cavity),” said another doctor.

“We are ensuring that her condition remains stable. There is no treatment which can get her vision back in her eyes given the damage caused by the pellets. The pellets will remain inside her face and skull. Her fracture will heal up but the damage is done.”

Her mother sobs quietly by the side of her ICU bed as if not to wake her up. Her daughter wanted to become a doctor and was studying hard, she said.

“She used to say she will have no time to play next year when she would be in Class 10th,” a relative of her said.

Insha, her relatives said, was an inspiration for her two younger brothers. “She was a perfect sister, a perfect daughter,” her mother said, and broke down.

Sources at the hospital said there was ‘pressure from government’ to shift the injured teenager outside J&K for treatment but doctors have refused to do so.

While Principal GMC Srinagar refused to comment on this ‘pressure’, he said the hospital was doing what was best for the patient. “Even if there was an iota of hope that there was something out there that is not being done here, we would have shifted her,” he said while rushing into the ICU.

Doctors treating Insha said her condition was not stable and even the air-ambulance that was being offered for her could put her life at stake.

“Her life has been devastated. Nothing can make her see the world again,” they said.

Though the Government has described the pellets as “non-lethal”, Altaf Ahmed from Rajpora lost his life to pellets on July 10, 2016. His head had received a shower of pellets at Rajpora.

“Pellets had shattered his entire brain,” a doctor who had received him in SMHS Hospital casualty said.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Religions, Gods and People

Nasir Khan, July 12, 2016

Religions and gods exist because people believe in them. When people turn away from religions and gods, they cease to exist! It has happened in history before. Remember Ra, Aten, Horus, Zeus, Apollo, Poseidon, Mithra, Hubal, Tor, Odin, etc, are part of the old memories, nothing more! Many old religions and many old gods had died out. 

From my own experience I can say one thing. When I came to Norway about 40 years ago, about 90% Norwegians believed in god and were Christians. But in these 40 years I have seen great changes in this country. Now more than 80% people of this country don't believe in any god and they say they have no religion. This shows that changes are possible.