Tuesday, December 16, 2014

A Uighur Woman of Kashgar...

A Uighur woman wearing a gown for the Eid holiday walks from her house, 
July 30, 2014. Kevin Frayer / Getty Images

Thursday, December 4, 2014

A Dravidian Woman...

Blue Black - like Krishna. The blackest blue in India and she is subject to extensive prejuidice due to the colour of her skin. The ancient 'blue race' of india still exists within Indian blood lines. Dravidian indeed. Kushite Indian Beggar in Mumbai, South India.In Irish-Scottish Gaeilge (or Gaelic), people of African descent were historically referred to as the fir gorum, or blue men. People of this race were described as "blue" rather than as "black."
In a 2007 interview with Time magazine, Cameron was asked about the meaning of the term Avatar, to which he replied, "It's an incarnation of one of the Hindu gods taking a flesh form. In this film what that means is that the human technology in the future is capable of injecting a human's intelligence into a remotely located body, a biological body."
Jake's avatar and Neytiri. One of the inspirations for the look of the Na'vi came from a dream that Cameron's mother had told him about. The look of the Na'vi – the humanoids indigenous to Pandora – was inspired by a dream that Cameron's mother had, long before he started work on Avatar. In her dream, she saw a blue-skinned woman 12 feet (4 m) tall, which he thought was "kind of a cool image". Also he said, "I just like blue. It's a good color … plus, there's a connection to the Hindu deities, which I like conceptually.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Rula Jebreal: Why America is losing the war on terror — and the Islam debate is so flawed...

America is losing the longest war in its history. An enemy that had comprised a couple of hundred desperate men hiding in caves in eastern Afghanistan when the “war on terror” got underway following the 9/11 attacks is incarnated today as 20,000 fighting men in the Islamic State movement. And far from hiding in caves, ISIS has brazenly raised its black flag over vast swaths of territory in Syria and Iraq – countries that, in 2001, had been two of the most secular societies in the Middle East.
Thus the fruits of the trillions of dollars and thousands of American lives – and hundreds of thousands of unnamed innocent civilians in the Middle East and Asia – devoured by the war on terror, which the Obama administration now says could rage for another 30 years.
Given its costs, consequences and failures, the war on terror has provoked remarkably little sensible public debate in the U.S. The country that congratulated itself for having killed Osama bin Laden has not asked itself why that fact seems to have mattered so little to the trajectory of the conflict. And politicians and pundits have been largely indifferent to the devastating consequences of U.S. intervention  in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya.
Only when jihadists began disseminating macabre, but well-produced videos of the brutal decapitation of American captives did U.S. attention turn, once again, to Iraq and Syria. Desultory military strikes followed, but little explanation to the American people about what has gone wrong — except, perhaps, among TV info-tainers such as Bill Maher, who insist that the problem lies within Islam itself. It may be comforting to see the ISIS phenomenon as determined by theology rather than the result of mass regional and American incompetence.
It’s conventional wisdom among the Arab world’s secular democrats to view ISIS as a byproduct of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. We wrecked a country,  destroying its institutions and security forces, creating a vacuum that drew in jihadists from across the globe. Al-Qaida had not operated in Iraq before the invasion; it moved in after the invasion, setting up shop in the Sunni communities antagonized by the U.S.-led occupation. Similarly, ISIS has exploited the alienation of the Sunni population from the sectarian Shiite-led government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to gain control of much of northern and western Iraq.
After U.S. combat forces withdrew, Maliki rounded up the very same Sunnis who had helped the U.S. rout al-Qaida in 2008, treating them as a threat to his own power rather than as partner in a new post-Saddam political order. Maliki’s attacks on Sunnis created a permissive environment for ISIS, with the Sunni forces that had expelled al-Qaida now seeing little incentive to fight its progeny.
In Syria, ISIS has profited from the failures of others, presenting itself as the most dedicated and implacable foes of the Assad regime as its superior weaponry and funding allowed it to rapidly eclipse the poorly armed, perennially divided secular rebels. The protracted stalemate in Syria’s civil war has empowered the extremists in the rebel camp – a trend that has been exacerbated by the U.S. bombing ISIS while leaving Assad’s forces free to rain down terror on Syrian civilians.
Ordinary Muslims throughout the Middle East are paying a horrific price for the rise of ISIS, yet some American commentators would have them find the source of their suffering in their own religion.
“How many mass rallies have been held against ISIS in the Arab world today,” asked Fareed Zakaria in the Washington Post in October. A fair question, but the answer is an indictment of Arab rulers: There are precious few countries in the Arab world where citizens are currently free to hold a mass rally about anything. And the reason for that, of course, is that if citizens were at liberty to express themselves, they’d likely focus on mass unemployment, corruption and the authoritarianism of their rulers before they turn to the problem of ISIS.
The secret police of those same Arab countries have often been a central ally in the war on terror, enabling U.S. security services to outsource some of the abuse of suspects. But even U.S. institutions have engaged in interrogation techniques that would horrify many Americans — indeed, the Obama administration has worked hard to stop the release of a Senate investigation into torture by the CIA.
Detainee abuse is not a peripheral issue when discussing ISIS. The prison cells and torture chambers of the Arab world have long served as incubators of implacable jihadism, whether the jailers worked for Mubarak, the Saudi royal family, Saddam, Gadhafi or even the U.S. Modern jihadism, in the person of Sayyed al-Qutb, was born in Egypt’s prisons, which also produced al-Qaida’s current leader, Ayman Al-Zawahiri. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was said to have lost his toenails under torture in a Jordanian prison long before he became the leader of al-Qaida in Iraq, while ISIS leader Abu-Bakr al-Baghdadi spent four years in U.S. custody at Camp Bucca in Iraq.
As former Camp Bucca compound commander James Gerrond noted, “Many of us at Camp Bucca were concerned that instead of just holding detainees, we had created a pressure cooker for extremism.” So, too, the violence America’s allies direct at their own citizens, both in prison and on the streets.
The suppression of nonviolent opposition by Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi makes a self-fulfilling prophecy of the “terrorist” threat he invokes to justify killing hundreds of unarmed protesters, and jailing more than 20,000 supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, whose Freedom and Justice Party won Egypt’s first two democratic elections. Thus the cautionary tale in the story of Omar Mustafa, erstwhile member of the April 6 movement who had worked in the presidential campaign of the secularist Mohammed ElBaradei, and who died fighting in an Islamist militia in Libya. The idea that a popular political party can simply be violently stamped out is not only hopelessly misguided, it is extremely dangerous.
Absent any legitimate channels for expressing their views, many young Egyptians will conclude – as they have done in the past – that violence is the only effective option. The next generation of Zawahiris, Zarqawis and Baghdadis are right now honing their hatred in Egypt’s prisons. And while many Americans prefer to turn a blind eye or blame Islam, in the eyes of the victims we are deeply complicit.
America’s own treatment of detainees is a central theme in extremist propaganda. Internet jihadists are constantly disseminating accounts of detainees’ experiences,  mindful of their power as a recruiting tool. One of ISIS’ most symbolic strikes in Iraq was an assault on Abu Ghraib that freed all detainees. Nor is it a coincidence that in their beheading videos, ISIS dresses its American captives in Guantanamo-style orange jumpsuits.
President Obama’s air campaign against ISIS won’t be effective unless it addresses the conditions on the ground that favor the extremists. But the U.S. finds itself balancing the competing demands of the Gulf states, Israel, secular dictators and U.S. business, leaving it more ensconced than ever with Arab regimes whose own policies fuel the jihadist surge. More than a new defense secretary, America is in need of new policies.
It is a self-serving evasion to blame ISIS on Islam per se, which is also the belief system of most of its victims. But there certainly are competing currents within Islam. In that respect, though, it’s important to remember that ISIS, and al-Qaida before it, have drawn theological sustenance from traditions that predated them, particularly the Wahhabism that is effectively the theology of the Saudi state.
Washington hails Saudi Arabia as a key “moderate” Arab ally despite the fact that the kingdom exports an extreme, puritanical, sectarian interpretation of Islam that established the theological parameters taken to extremes by groups like ISIS. Saudis have funded jihadist enterprises in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria, Iraq and Yemen; beheadings are a routine part of the Kingdom’s jurisprudence.
Arab Muslims who embrace the American ideal of secular liberal democracy have long been confused and frustrated by U.S. support for regimes that are the antithesis of that ideal. Hopes that the fall of Mubarak would end U.S. backing for dictatorships faded quickly as the Obama administration threw in its lot with the counterrevolution, leaving America back in the company of despots committed to policies that U.S. officials had long warned would nurture terrorism.
The Arab Spring had initially sidelined the extremists, by opening a democratic space for a politics of dignity and inclusion. Political Islam proved to be a popular player in that democratic space, and while it made some catastrophic political mistakes in Egypt, it maintains far deeper roots in the citizenry than do most of the liberal parties. That’s why integrating the Islamists into a political system in which the security forces enforce the rules but don’t dictate the outcome still holds the best hope of moderating those parties. Attempting to violently suppress not just the Muslim Brotherhood itself but also the democratic space in which it flourished is a recipe certain to reproduce extremism.
The ISIS ideology can only be negated by an alternative vision that offers dignity, security and participation to all. Tunisia, where Ennadha looks set to lose legislative elections – and accept the result –  is a working example of an alternative political Islam to that of ISIS, and an alternative approach to power to that of Egypt’s generals.
America’s intellectuals bear an urgent responsibility to question failed policies and move beyond a self-satisfied monologue about the problems of Islam — and to open a productive dialogue that includes Muslim voices speaking uncomfortable truths. Our common security depends on it.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Amazonas, Guardians Of Life...


Saturday, November 8, 2014

What It Feels Like For a Girl in Iraq...

A 17-year-old Iraqi girl writes that in her culture, women and girls face constant degradation and humiliations, large and small, even at the hands of their own families. She certainly has. And they don’t even know – yet – that she’s gay.
As a person in Iraq, you learn from an early age how to become “lifeless” – absolutely numb with no feelings whatsoever. Everyone here has seen a dead body. Not a normal dead body, but a dead body that is missing some limbs due to some explosion, or one with half a skull because of a shooting. Or just seeing missing limbs scattered on the street.
That’s not the worst of it. It’s what we think when we see these things that are disturbing because no one thinks, “Oh my God, poor soul!” No, we think, “Ugh, now who is gonna clean all the blood from the street!”
As a teenager, you are not only numb to what is going on around you, but you’re also numb to what is going on inside of you. No one cares about you and you don’t even care about yourself. You are made to feel worthless. You are afraid to voice your problems or your ideas. Everyone calls you stupid for having a problem, because for them, in such a state of numbness, what is a problem? I can tell you that most people here are messed up in the head. So, we are numb and worthless. It is even worse if you are a female. You are numb, worthless and nothing but a “piece of meat.”
When I was just a kid I spent most of my time with my brother and my grandmother, who was living with us because my parents spent their days working. All I can remember from that time is how my grandmother used to encourage my brother, who is six years older than me, to curse me and call me bad names because I was a girl. As you can imagine, I hated myself and I hated being a girl. I wanted to die and I did everything I could to be a boy. I dressed like a boy, and I acted like a boy. I was made to believe that being a girl was such a disgrace and I was something really awful. Although my parents weren’t approving of what was going on between the three of us, they couldn’t do anything. Years later, my brother still believes that being a girl is a disgrace, just like most of the local boys think nowadays. 
I don’t remember much from elementary school and middle school but I do remember the time I got out of a taxi scared out of my mind. I was sitting in the front seat. I was just a kid and I loved sitting there. My mother was sitting in the backseat but that did not stop the driver from trying to touch me. When we got off I told my mom, who laughed and asked, “Why would he want to do that? You are just an ugly kid!” See, she was surprised because he wanted to do it even though I’m a kid and an ugly one. I hated being a girl even more then, and I still don’t take a taxi home. If I do, I sit in the backseat and stay alert for whatever the driver does.
It didn’t stop there. The stares and sexual remarks begin the moment you start to look like a girl, sometimes as young as nine years old, and it never stops afterwards. I have a half shaved head, I wear boyish clothes and mostly act like a boy. Whenever I go out, there is always someone who shouts, “Are you a girl or a boy?” In a way, I’m glad. Hearing that is a lot easier than hearing something else, but it is not less, well, humiliating and scary, I guess. I get a lot of people telling me that I’m not girly enough, calling me names sometimes. I can’t imagine how much worse it is gonna be if one day I come out as gay to these people!
My brother might have stopped calling me names because of my gender, but it is not because he stopped believing that girls are a disgrace. It is because he doesn’t really see me as a girl. Sometimes, I feel like wearing a skirt, but I can’t because of him. He doesn't want me to look like a girl, because if I looked like a girl, then I will turn into a slut and go sleep with boys, right? That’s what he thinks. Somehow, everything in the world has to revolve around men here, men and their parts. It is a male-dominated community. 
What’s our role in this community? Oh, we are just here for sex and babies! The moment you try to do something other than that, bam! You are a “slut!” You can’t work, you can’t study and you can’t do anything. Well, you can, but then you will have to live your whole life with everyone around you thinking you are a “slut.”
When I was in U.S. recently [for four weeks on an exchange program], my brother used to call and say, “Don't talk to boys!” He thinks that if I talk to a boy then I'm going to sleep with him or something, because that's what he does with girls. He sweet talks them into doing what he wants, and if denied then he gets mad. For him it's like, how can you deny a man? He thinks that boys who don't do this are not men, just failures. That being a gentleman and respecting women is a sign of being a failure. Men are sex crazed in Iraq, for some unknown reason. Almost all Arab men are like that, except for the “failures,” as my brother would say.
Laws and rules? What laws and rules! Last time I heard they were trying to enforce a law that allows men to marry nine years old girls without her consent – just her father’s consent.
In high school, a guy as old as my dad tried to rape me. He used to drive me to school everyday and then he started to make me do stuff. When I would say no, he would be honestly surprised that I would say no! Because how can I say no? Isn’t this what all girls want and what they are here for? I quote him: “Why don’t you wanna see my dick? Other girls would be dying to see it!”
Some people would disagree with me, saying that I’m talking in a really negative way and that it is not that bad. But they would only think this because everyone has grown to accept it as the “normal” way of living. There are some people who actually believe that this is the right way to live, that men are everything and we are just sex objects! I don’t know why. Bad education? Bad parenting? I don’t know, but it is pretty disturbing.
Noor, 17, lives in Baghdad. 


Monday, November 3, 2014

Today is Ashura!

                                                                       Photo by AFP

May all these Yazids, literal and metaphorical, be upended on this and every Ashura, so that we can realize the daily relevance of the teachings of a beautiful and meaningful Islam.   May we do more than merely shed tears. May we rise, majestically, to embody the spirit of revolution, in countering tyranny and oppression. - Omid Safi