Tag: middle east

International Standards on Freedom of the Press

Freedom of the Press is an essential aspect of functioning democracies.  Be it an institution or an individual, the liberty to express openly is the most important of attributes.  The press, in particular, being the Fourth Estate of a democratic society, is expected to be bold and articulate.  But ground realities differ from ideal conceptions of the function of the press.  In the real world, an array of external factors coaxes or coerces the press into acting against democratic principles. These include advertisers, political parties, businesses and even special interest citizen groups.  In this backdrop, it is interesting to analyze the state of freedom of press in the world today. It is an interesting exercise to find out which countries are exemplary and which are at a nadir. After all, freedom of press has an immediate bearing on the lives and prospects of citizens. It is not an abstract idea whose relevance is confined merely to the academia.

The Freedom House . . . Read More

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Africa: A Voyage of Discovery with Basil Davidson

Episode 1: Different But Equal

n the first episode of the documentary series titled ‘Africa: A Voyage of Discovery with Basil Davidson’, a historical-colonial perspective of Africa and its people is given.  The title ‘Different But Equal’ hints at how African people were treated to the contrary by Westerner colonialists. Although early travelers to ancient African kingdoms thought highly of the region’s culture and natural riches, more recent accounts see them as inferior.  The exoticism of Africa and its culture is used as rationale to justify its inferiority and hence its rule. In this context, it is fair to claim that the history of Africa of recent centuries is representative of the history of European colonialism.

Dr. Basil Davidson informs the viewer how the African continent is one of the most geographically diverse in the world. Ranging from tundra to tropical rainforests, from savannahs to arid deserts, from fertile plains to . . . Read More

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In what ways can/do your understandings of human oppression shape or may shape your personal and professional relationships and practices.

From what I’ve understood of women’s oppression across ages, I would support a new feminist humanism in which would be based on ‘democratic reconstruction’. This way, we can avert ethnocentric mistakes about what it means to be human. In order to mitigate women’s oppression, one has to recognize how it is tied to other forms of oppression. For all women gender is at all times interlocked with other systems of oppression “depending on their race, class, sexuality, physical and mental abilities, religion, nationality, age, relation to children and so on.” (Grant, 1995, p. 56) It is futile to solve women’s subordination at the exclusion of various other forms of oppression. Hence a sound motto for social change would be ‘liberation of the self’ – a liberation that applies across various axis of oppression.

In my professional practice I would take a sceptical approach to dominant ideologies of culture in order to prevent oppression. Take say the ideology of . . . Read More

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How to understand the notion of “Muslim Politics”?

In the brilliantly articulate essay titled ‘Muslim Politics’ by Dale Eickelman and James Piscatori, we understand that the term ‘Muslim Politics’ is a broad and sweeping conceptualization.  By virtue of it being so broad in its scope, it has ended up losing a compact and technical usage.  To this extent it is not to be treated as a term in sociological or political science discourse.  Nevertheless, by stating its various manifestations in diverse contexts, the authors do make clear the centrality of ‘Muslim politics’ to the followers of the religion.  One of the prominent expressions of Muslim politics in recent decades is the permissibility of ‘hijab’ and ‘niqab’ (a set of conservative dress codes for Muslim women) in public spaces.  While this dress code is mandated in some of the orthodox Islamic nations in the Middle East and elsewhere, it is a point of debate in the context of secular and democratic settings.  The recent flare up of the issue in France . . . Read More

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What are the main arguments for and against the horizontal proliferation of nuclear weapons?

Warfare is one of the most tragic institutions devised by humans.  Many philosophers and intellectuals of by-gone eras have pondered over the destruction left by war.  They have questioned the merits behind purported motives for war.  The scale of human and material loss incurred in wars is hard to justify through reasoning.  If conventional warfare is bad enough then nuclear confrontation is even more catastrophic.  The only known instances of the deployment of nuclear bombs happened toward the closing days of World War II, when Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were atom bombed.  It led to the loss of nearly a million civilian lives and total destruction of the city.  Even those who survived this event, continued to suffer under effects of radioactive radiation for many subsequent years. A generation of Japanese children was born with congenital defects as a result of mothers’ exposure to radiation. Political leaders of today will have to consider their nuclear . . . Read More

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Satisfying all stakeholders when the business is competing in mature product markets is difficult

The business dynamics at play in a mature product market is quite different from that of newly introduced products.  Companies dealing with mature products will have to employ different manufacturing and marketing tactics than those adopted for trendy products in order to succeed.  One of the concerns facing the management is satisfying all involved stakeholders, including shareholders, customers, vendors, and to a lesser extend the society-at-large. Satisfying this diverse group is arduous at the best of times, but it gets close to impossible during an economic downturn or an industry-wide recession.  Another handicap facing mature products is that the markets they operate in are likely to be mature as well, making growth prospects for the product as well as industry very tough. The rest of this essay will present various factors that have a bearing on stakeholders when a business is competing in mature product markets.

Shareholders are one of the main (if not the most . . . Read More

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History of Belly Dance

Belly Dance originated from the Middle East, where it is referred to as Raqs Sharqi.  Other alternative names for it are Middle Eastern dance and Arabic dance.  Belly dance originated in the royal courtyards of Ottoman Empire and beyond.  In the glory days of the empire, it used to be performed by members of a harem, thus having association with eroticism.  But in contemporary times, it is more widely performed and has evolved into new innovative styles.

The popularization of Belly dance in the West began in the Victorian era and the Romantic Movement in art that flourished at the time.  During this time, artists from the Orient brought to Europe idealized and romanticized images of harem life in Arabic Kingdoms.  Simultaneously, performing dancers from North Africa and Middle East began to tour across the world and attracted huge fanfare.  Popular French authors such as Colette also learnt belly dance and added her own stylistic elements to the dance.  From then on, . . . Read More

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Did God Have a Wife?: Archaeology and Folk Religion in Ancient Israel By William G. Dever

The book ‘Did God Have a Wife?’ was written by Syro-Palestinian archaeologist William G. Dever and published in the year 2005.  This is a fascinating piece of scholarship that delves into the evolution of early religious ideas and practices in Ancient Israel.  Given the importance of Israel (and the greater Middle East) to the understanding of Judeo-Christian religious traditions, a foray into its primitive forms and foundations is of value.  The core theme of the book is to illustrate the common substrate upon which Judaism, Christianity and Islam later evolved, as well as exhibiting the polytheism of the ancient Israelite religion.  The God of this ancient Israelite religion, namely Yahweh, was said to have a consort by name Asherah.  The author also proves how she was an integral part of the Canaanite pantheon of Gods.  Hence, the intriguing and slightly provocative title of ‘Did God Have a Wife?’ chosen for the book.

The book assembles relevant evidence from . . . Read More

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Politics of Tolerance vis-a-vis Islamic Republic of Iran

The term ‘Politics of tolerance’ is usually not associated with the ‘Islamic Republic of Iran’.  Currently, the country is in the stronghold of radical Islamic forces and no tolerance is shown for dissidents, secularists and pluralists. While Iran has historically been a conservative society, the America backed coup-de-tat of 1953 proved to be a turning point. This coup inserted Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi in place of its incumbent leader Mohammed Mossadegh. The irony lies in the fact that Mossadegh was a legitimate and democratically elected leader with significant popular support.  Yet he was seen as an enemy by the intelligentsia of the leading democracy in the world.  The Shah was loyal to Western interests and it was institutions such as the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) which masterminded his ascendency.  Under the Shah, Iran witnessed a transformation toward modern values and a tolerant socio-political culture.  But this was ended with the Islamic wave of the . . . Read More

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On Orientalism featuring Edward Said

Orientalism, a concept coined by the renowned American intellectual Edward Said has attracted praise and controversy in equal measure. While remaining Said’s definitive scholarly work, its thesis is a condensation of themes found in his other works such as The Question of Palestine and Covering Islam. To be concise, Orientalism can be defined as the synthetic study and analysis of Oriental philology, linguistics, ethnography, etc. It also encompasses the interpretation of Eastern culture through the discovery, recovery, classification and translation of the canon of Oriental texts. (Windschuttle, 1999, p.32) While this is the idealized definition of Orientalism, Said redefined the term to mean a distorted and prejudiced account fo Eastern culture and tradition as projected by imperialistic Western scholars.

Said’s scholarship and his personal life are always intertwined because of his background. He was born into a Palestinian Christian family that moved to the USA. This . . . Read More

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