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December 19, 2014
by mara.ahmed
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off to paris and nice

going on vacation tonight to re-discover paris and nice in the winter time. happy holidays to all my family and friends. i wish u peace, connectedness and beauty.

paris in winter

paris in winter

December 19, 2014
by mara.ahmed
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The Day Dostoyevsky Discovered the Meaning of Life in a Dream

Dostoyevsky concludes [in “The Dream of a Ridiculous Man”] with his protagonist’s reflection on the shared essence of life, our common conquest of happiness and kindness:

All are tending to one and the same goal, at least all aspire to the same goal, from the wise man to the lowest murderer, but only by different ways. It is an old truth, but there is this new in it: I cannot go far astray. I saw the truth. I saw and know that men could be beautiful and happy, without losing the capacity to live upon the earth. I will not, I cannot believe that evil is the normal condition of men… I saw the truth, I did not invent it with my mind. I saw, saw, and her living image filled my soul for ever. I saw her in such consummate perfection that I cannot possibly believe that she was not among men. How can I then go astray? … The living image of what I saw will be with me always, and will correct and guide me always. Oh, I am strong and fresh, I can go on, go on, even for a thousand years. […] And it is so simple… The one thing is — love thy neighbor as thyself — that is the one thing. That is all, nothing else is needed. You will instantly find how to live. More here.

December 19, 2014
by mara.ahmed
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Iran unveils a memorial honoring Jewish heroes

Ishaan Tharoor: Earlier this week, authorities in Tehran unveiled a monument to slain Iranian Jewish soldiers who died during the country’s long and bitter war with Iraq between 1980 and 1988. Death tolls for the hideous conflict differ, but casualty counts usually reach more than 1 million for both countries. A public ceremony marked the memorial’s opening on Monday, with speeches that took place at a dais flanked by the Iranian flag and a menorah. Banners showed the images of fallen soldiers, hailed as “martyrs” in Farsi and Hebrew inscriptions. More here.

December 18, 2014
by mara.ahmed
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Why the Death Penalty Won’t Work

and so it starts…

Madiha Tahir: Army Chief General Raheel Sharif signed the death warrants of 6 men accused of being “hardcore terrorists.” The men are expected to be executed within 48 hours. The move comes a day after the government lifted the moratorium on the death penalty in the wake of the Peshawar attack. Meanwhile, the anti-terrorism court has approved the release of the head of Lashkar-e-Tayyaba, on bail because the courts are worried about security should the trial go forward. The group is widely thought to be responsible for the Mumbai attacks. A report released this month by the Justice Project Pakistan, a legal advocacy organization in collaboration with Reprieve, a UK-based humanitarian organization, finds that many of those now facing execution are “simply not terrorists.” The report, Terror on Death Row, exposes the rampant violations of human rights, torture and terror that that death row inmates face. As is evident from the case studies in the report, the poor and marginalized are more likely to be ensnared by the legislation that results in the death penalty. The report shows how the Pakistani state uses the death penalty for things that have nothing to do with terrorism. More here.

December 18, 2014
by mara.ahmed
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Forgotten Aboriginal Musicians Survived Residential Schools, Police Brutality To Make These Songs

Gregory Adams: Throughout [Buffy Sainte-Marie’s] vast and varied career, she’s addressed genocide and racism with “My Country ‘Tis of Thy People You’re Dying,” delivered anthemic pow wow rock hit “Skywalker,” and remains politically active offstage in movements like Idle No More, making her an inspirational figure to generations of musicians.

“I think my success with such a wide variety of music has tended to broaden our scene beyond just one genre and, I’m told, to inspire First Nations people I’ve never even met to do their own thing, both within and beyond their own communities. It’s an incredible thrill to be told by another artist that my contribution has somehow impacted their own lives.”

The impact of “Native North America,” meanwhile, is already being felt. Since its release, the album has received international acclaim, including in onetime ’60s rock bible Rolling Stone. A second volume of the series exploring indigenous artists further south in the U.S. is already in the works and Howes has plans to deliver a grander exploration of Dunn’s back catalogue.

“They’re as relevant today as when they were recorded,” Howes says. “Songs that sing about the destruction of our environment, the corporate bottom line dominance, political conservative landscapes, greed…these are some of the things, amongst a lot of others, that are being discussed in these songs. We need these songs as much today.” More here.

December 18, 2014
by mara.ahmed
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Imperialist feminism redux by Saadia Toor

Saadia Toor: The fact that the meme of the Muslim woman who must be saved from Islam and Muslim men – through the intervention of a benevolent western state – 11 years after the very real plight of Afghan women was cynically deployed to legitimise a global war, and long after the opportunism of this imperialist feminism was decisively exposed, points to a serious and deep investment in the assumptions that animate these claims. These assumptions come out of a palpable dis-ease with Islam within the liberal mainstream and portions of the Left, a result of the long exposure to Orientalist and Islamophobic discourses.

Within this liberal discourse, secularism is posited as the necessary prerequisite for achieving equal rights for women. Crucially, democracy is often seen as a problem for securing such liberal rights within the Arab/Muslim world. The less-than-enthusiastic support for the Arab Spring by liberals on the basis of a fear that the Muslim Brotherhood would come to power (thereby implying that the human rights/women’s rights record of the regimes they were replacing was somehow better) illustrates the liberal anxiety regarding democracy when it comes to the Arab/Muslim ‘world’ and hints at the historical relationship between women’s movements and authoritarian regimes in the postcolonial period.

Despite the existence of a very real gendered racial project at the heart of the war on terror, and the mainstream acceptance of the violence that it enables on Muslim men in particular and Muslim families/communities in general (since Muslim men do not exist in a vacuum), a new front of international feminists and human rights advocates has emerged to challenge what they see as the international human rights community’s inordinate focus on Muslim men as victims. This focus, they argue, constitutes a betrayal of Muslim women – and of human rights advocates in Muslim communities and countries fighting against Islamic fundamentalism – because it occludes the role of Muslim men (all Muslim men, not specific ones) as perpetrators of violence against (all) Muslim women. And so, in the case of Anwar al-Awlaki, the efforts of the Centre for Constitutional Rights to uphold the constitutional rights of American citizens (leave alone lesser humans) to a fair trial were actually reviled.

Even as the United States officially begins to wind down its war in Afghanistan, the GWoT – recently rebranded as the Overseas Contingency Operation by President Obama – is spreading and intensifying across the ‘Muslim world’, and we can expect to hear further calls for the United States and its allies to save Muslim women. At the same time, we are seeing the mainstreaming and institutionalisation of a gendered anti-Muslim racism within the west, which means that we can also expect to see more of the discourse which pits the rights of Muslim men against those of Muslim women.

All this is not to deny the very real violence and oppression faced by Muslim women, or to deny the Taliban’s violent gender politics. However, it is to caution against seeing Muslim women as exceptional victims (of their culture/religion/men), and to point out both that there are family resemblances between the violence suffered by women across the world and that there is no singular ‘Muslim woman’s experience’. It is to note, as Malalai Joya keeps reminding us, that violence against women in Afghanistan is not the purview of religious forces such as the Taliban; the warlords of the Northern Alliance and the American occupation are also perpetrators. And then there is the structural violence of poverty, which is exacerbated by the long years of war and occupation. More here.

December 18, 2014
by mara.ahmed
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Zarb-e-Azb and the Left: On Imperialism’s Materiality

Syed Azeem and Noaman G. Ali: Accordingly, the responsibility of anti-imperialist struggle falls on the shoulders of the working classes of Pakistan. There should be no doubt about this point. Finding any solution to problems like militancy or economic development as suggested by the petty bourgeois “civil society,” reliant as they are upon imperialism, will lead Pakistan towards a situation like that of Libya, Syria and Iraq. That is where half of the population is fighting against the other half. Let us stop right here. There should be no more wars on the people of Pakistan, not least of all because that is what imperialism wants. Being anti-imperialist is being in favor of those vast masses who find themselves squeezed by the daily grind of an underdeveloped economy and a repressive politics and especially those who find themselves the victims of the violence that has exploded as a result of imperialist misadventures. In terms of practice, the first step in this regard is to embrace the people of Pakistan – that is, the working classes, the poorer peasants, the unemployed and underemployed, the oppressed women, the minorities – whether they are of North Waziristan or Balochistan, regardless of whether these people are “conservative” or “progressive.” They are suffering, and no one can tell us better than them why they are suffering and what problems require what kinds of solutions. If they say imperialism is the enemy, we should not try to convince them that it is necessary to first evacuate oneself of Islamic sentiment and fight “religious extremism” in the abstract in order to be progressive. We should critically examine the history of leftist struggle in Pakistan and advance our own understanding in a way that provides lessons for our current practice. How did the left degenerate so much that it started standing with imperialism and the ruling classes against the people of Pakistan? A comprehensive and self-critical assessment will be a sign of the ideological strength of the left, not its weakness. More here.

December 17, 2014
by mara.ahmed
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Dawn Paley: Drug War a Pretense to Expand Transnational Capitalism Southward

Dawn Paley: Once we can start to make the connections between US-backed war agendas in the form of Plan Colombia or the Merida Initiative and the expansion of capitalism in Mexico and Colombia, a lot of things begin to make sense. In the immediate term, the militarization and the paramilitarization stemming from these plans to sow terror and strengthen the state repressive apparatus, which, as we are well aware, works to protect transnational capital, like mining companies or oil companies. Over the longer term, the structural reforms that go hand in hand with Plan Colombia and the Merida Initiative deepen neoliberalism. With the privatization of Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex), Mexico’s state oil company, for example, 70 percent of Mexico’s federal budget is at stake, something I argue could lead to a previously unknown level of austerity in Mexico. Already financially starved sectors like health and public education could be impacted, as could existing subsidies for transportation, basic goods and otherwise. As the privatization of Pemex kicks in and the effects begin to be felt over the next decade, should people rise up in protest, the fact that police and military forces as well as nominally non-state armed actors were strengthened through the Merida Initiative will certainly come in handy in order to control dissent. More here.