on ethics

a discussion on a matter of ethics came along in photography class a while back; and this is one more essay that’s just been lying about in the drafts section of the page (another 10 or so to clear atm

Media_httparrakisword_ltijj

)…the following essay does contain some graphic references; and some of the description is certainly offensive to sensitivities (mine included), so read it only if you feel prepared to face the issue–it is about abortion.–––––images were presented of the “preparation” of a human foetus in some parts of Taiwan, where it was apparently considered a delicacy. now; i figured that logically, the discussion would head two-ways–to the ethics of photo-journalism–in displaying images THAT graphic and in THAT quantity; and secondly, on the issue of human ethics.the argument that came along happened along the lines of my second expectation; but not quite the way i expected it. the argument that was posited, was that how can we scorn people who eat human foetuses as delicacies; and the allow the destruction of them; when we are pro-choice / pro-abortion. the argument then hit further depths of inanity when it was suggested that mens shouldn’t take a stand that is pro-choice since they couldn’t know what it feels like (it was a man who said that btw)now;(1) most “normal” pro-choice supporters are not pro-choice because they’re born to sin or to offend anyone’s morality (i personally found the reasoning that could lead to ^ that posit offensive). the idea is that since it is women who give birth; it should be their right–and completely theirs to choose whether they want to have a child or not. to do less is to denigrate their rightful place in society as equal decision makers.i am deftly against greater interference in the personal state the “res-privata” if you will (in opposition to the res-publica — republica — public state) by governments or moral authoritarians.(2) the government and judiciary can play a role–but that role must be in the counseling of women who are considering abortion; and in ensuring that there are government systems in place that allow for healthcare and aid to those who choose otherwise; not to choose for them.i perhaps need to research the history of abortion and state control on the matter; but of the two cases in history i have read–Roe v. Wade and Buck v. Bell; I think that my stand on the issue is the closest to a balance between ethics and morality; and certainly something you want to consider when taking a stand on the issue.just as a further clarification; let me point out that I am myself pro-Life in orientation; but I choose not to make that decision for others.

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it was Wigan; but we hadn’t won anything in a while, and then we got a Cup the team weren’t ever really interested in winning in the past (well, not unless the Youth Team could do it)

but a win’s a win; so here’s to United, Carling Cup Champions 2005-2006

Glory, glory, Man United,
Glory, glory, Man United,
Glory, glory, Man United,
And the reds go marching on, on, on.

Just like the Busby Babes in Days gone by
We’ll keep the Red Flags flying high
You’ve got to see yourself from far and wide
You’ve got to hear the masses sing with pride

United! Man United!
We’re the boys in Red and we’re on our way to Wem-ber-ly
Wem-ber-ly! Wem-ber-ly!
We’re the famous Man United and we’re going to Wem-ber-ly
Wem-ber-ly! Wem-ber-ly!
We’re the famous Man United and we’re going to Wem-ber-ly

In Seventy-Seven it was Docherty
Atkinson will make it Eighty-Three
And everyone will know just who we are
They’ll be singing ‘Que Sera Sera’

United! Man United!
We’re the boys in Red and we’re on our way to Wem-ber-ly
Wem-ber-ly! Wem-ber-ly!
We’re the famous Man United and we’re going to Wem-ber-ly
Wem-ber-ly! Wem-ber-ly!
We’re the famous Man United and we’re going to Wem-ber-ly

Glory Glory Man United
Glory Glory Man United
Glory Glory Man United
As the Reds Go Marching On! On! On!

so it was the Carling Cup and at Cardiff rather than Wembley… “oops”

:)

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there are three other essays in the pipeline before i move on though; and i’ll probably put them up tomorrow or after wednesday–well; thursday probably

OB film’s due Wed and then i want to attend a linguistics seminar :-/

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one essay that i would need to put up is what i wrote for media studies; involving Innis’ concept of time and space binding media (which i “freeplay” to mean a whole lot more)

and that is where the real ideas start to flow; where the theoretical space intersects the plane of the practical

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another article from previous semesters; this one is about Wahhabism; and was written for the paper on Culture Studies, because (a) I find Theology most interesting (right after post-structuralist thought) and (b) because the culmination of these essays is where post-structuralist thought comes in…

“A New World,
A Better World, than has ever been seen
There you are not what you are born with,
but what you have in yourself to be
A
Kingdom of Conscience;
A
Kingdom of Heaven.

That is what lies at the end of Crusade”


The World in Context

September 11, 2001. It started off as an ordinary enough day—people across the world headed to work (the Japanese were about tucking into bed) but it soon turned into a nightmare. Terrorists of the Al Quaeda network hijacked four commercial airliners, with the intention of crashing them into four high profile targets across the United States of America. Three of the aircraft found their targets—the main towers of the World Trade Center in New York; and the Pentagon. Of course, we are all familiar with the aftermath.

America—the only superpower in the modern World—brought to its knees by a handful of terrorists with box-cutters.

What started off afterwards of course; was “The War against Terror”—which US President Bush described as (among his many other faux pas) a “Crusade”—certainly a word not tuned in to the sensitivities of Muslims across the world.

There have been many conflicts in the World with more militant strains of Islam now—be it in Chechnya and Dagestan for Russia; the disputed territories of Palestine with Israel; the inter-Islamic clashes of Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Iran and Iraq (and the non-existent Kurdistan), the Australian intervention in East Timor, the Chinese police action on Islamic groups and communities on their Western fringes, India’s role in disputed Kashmir, and of course, the American Invasion of Iraq.

The focus of this essay is however, purely on the Middle East; and the issues associated with the region.

The Middle East, then; is the birthplace of the three Great Religions of the World—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, each formulated in fact, as a reaction to the previous; in that order.

The crisis of note for the past many years in this region has been the Israel-Palestine issue. Not for the intensity of the conflict, you understand—but because of all the problems of the Middle East, it is the most clearly defined (in terms of the good guy – bad guy equations) for Muslims in the region; and of course, because Israel is supported by the United States.

The simple fact that Israel is a democratic society is what has led to condemnation of Israel via the Islamic Nations of the World. Any unlawful military action is more clearly reported; and that is what makes Israel (already being in a static war zone) a scapegoat. It also makes the news more often; as the economics and histories of the world place greater emphasis of news relating to Jews. (Bernard Lewis)

Let us understand the situation for what it is… the main issues that the Middle East faces are:
(a) Good Governance
(b) High Population Growth Rate
(c) Uneven distribution of Wealth
(d) Lack of new jobs and opportunities
(e) Closed societies
(f) Influx of Western “Pop Culture”, and to an extent,
(g) Western-friendly leadership

Islamic Fundamentalism has increased rapidly over the past many years, due to the large (and growing) sections of unemployed and poor. Terrorist recruiters offer such people an easy way out—a ticket to Heaven; and an opportunity to die for a “just cause”.

The War against Terror is much more than just that. It is a war against Poverty and Injustice, and against radicalized views of what “God’s Will” is. The dangers inherent in such a war are obvious… how do you defeat an enemy convinced of God’s mandate?

Defining Islam

What is Islam? It is difficult to generalize about it. Islam is a religion and a system of belief, with over 1400 years of history and about 1.5 billion followers.

Islam is the principal religion of much of Asia, including Indonesia (which has the world’s largest Muslim population), Malaysia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Jordan, the Arabian Peninsula states, and Turkey. India also has one of the world’s largest Muslim populations, although Islam is not the principal religion there. In Africa, Islam is the principal religion in Egypt, Algeria, Tunisia, Djibouti, Gambia, Guinea, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Senegal, Somalia, and Sudan, with sizable populations also in Chad, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Ghana, Tanzania (where the island of Zanzibar is predominantly Muslim), and Nigeria.

In Europe, Albania is predominantly Muslim, and, historically, Bulgaria, Bosnia, Macedonia, and Georgia have had Muslim populations. Elsewhere in Europe, immigrant communities of Muslims from N Africa, Turkey, and Asia exist in France, Germany, and Great Britain. In the Americas the Islamic population has substantially increased in recent years, both from conversions and the immigration of adherents from other parts of the world. In the United States, the number of Muslims has been variably estimated at 2–6 million.

At the core of Islam is the Qur’an, believed to be the final revelation by a transcendent Allah to Muhammad, the Prophet of Islam; since the Divine Word was revealed in Arabic, this language is used in Islamic religious practice worldwide. Muslims believe in final reward and punishment, and the unity of the nation of Islam. They submit to Allah through arkan ad-din, the five basic requirements or pillars: “Shahadah“: The Testimony that there is none worthy of worship except God and that Muhammad is his messenger, “Salah“: Establishing of the five daily Prayers, “Zakat“: The Giving of Zakaah (charity), which is one fortieth (2.5%) of the net worth of savings kept for more than a year, with few exemptions, for every Muslim whose wealth exceeds the nisab, and 10% or 20% of the produce from agriculture. This money or produce is distributed among the poor, “Ramadan“: Fasting from dawn to dusk in the month of Ramadan, and “Hajj“: It is the Pilgrimage to Mecca during the month of Dhul Hijjah, and is compulsory once in a lifetime for one who has the ability to do it. The importance of the hajj can hardly be overestimated: this great annual pilgrimage unites Islam and its believers from around the world.

The ethos of Islam is in its attitude toward Allah: to His will Muslims submit; Him they praise and glorify; and in Him alone they hope. However, in popular or folk forms of Islam, Muslims ask intercession of the saints, prophets, and angels, while preserving the distinction between Creator and creature. Islam views the Message of Muhammad as the continuation and the fulfillment of a lineage of Prophecy that includes figures from the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament, notably Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, and Jesus. Islamic law reserves a communal entity status for the ahl al-kitab (People of the Book) i.e., those with revealed religions, including Jews and Christians. Islam also recognizes a number of extra-biblical prophets, such as Hud, Salih, Shuayb, and others of more obscure origin. The chief angels are Gabriel and Michael; devils are the evil jinn.

Other Islamic obligations include the duty to “commend good and reprimand evil,” injunctions against usury and gambling, and prohibitions of alcohol and pork. Jihad, the exertion of efforts for the cause of God, is a duty satisfied at the communal and the individual level. At the individual level, it denotes the personal struggle to be righteous and follow the path ordained by God.

In Islam, religion and social membership are inseparable: the ruler of the community (caliph) has both a religious and a political status. The unitary nature of Islam, as a system governing relations between a person and God, and a person and society, helped the spread of Islam so that, within a century of the Prophet’s death, Islam extended from Spain to India.

The evolution of Islamic mysticism into organizational structures in the form of Sufi orders was also, from the 13th century onwards, one of the driving forces in the spread of Islam. Sufi orders were instrumental in expanding the realm of Islam to trans-Saharan Africa, stabilizing its commercial and cultural links with the Mediterranean and the Middle East, and to South-East Asia.

Islam and the Evil Empire

For most of the fourteen centuries of recorded Muslim history, jihad has been most commonly interpreted to mean armed struggle for the defense or advancement of Muslim power. In Muslim tradition, the world is divided into two houses: the House of Islam (Dãr al Islãm), in which Muslim governments rule and Muslim law prevails, and the House of War (Dãr al-Hãrb), the rest of the world still inhabited and more importantly, ruled by infidels. The presumption is that the duty of the jihad will continue, interrupted only by truces until all the world either adopts the Muslim faith or submits to Muslim rule. Those who fight in the jihad qualify for rewards in both worlds—booty in this one, paradise in the next. The conduct of the jihad is established with adherence to shari’a (Islamic Law)

The task set by the Prophet was in consolidating the word of Islam and taking it to the ends of the Earth. Within a remarkably short time, the Muslim armies overthrew the ancient Persian Empire (opening the way to invade Central Asia and India); and then annexed the Christian provinces of (modern-day) Syria, Palestine, Egypt, and North Africa. With this first phase, the path had been laid for the further conquest of Europe—of Spain and Portugal, and of Italy and France. The army of the Arab Jihad was finally repelled by the Byzantines at Constantinople—which marked the beginning of the Reconquista—the re-conquest of Europe by the Christian Empires—this war was the first in a series of wars, called the Crusades.

The capture of Jerusalem in 1099 was a triumph for Christendom over Islam; but wasn’t frowned upon at that point. It was only a century later that the Jihad began in response to the Crusades. The cause was the Templar leader—Reynald of Châtillon, who held the fort of Kerak and attacked pilgrims bound for Mecca. The Muslim reaction was in the form of Saladin—one of Islam’s great heroes; known for his benevolence and chivalry. (This History Channel piece I saw said otherwise, but I’d like to believe the honorable version was closer to the real)
By the 1400s, the Turks (in the form of the Ottoman Empire) took Constantinople and the Balkans. The Ottoman Turks challenged the might of the Byzantines and even the Holy Roman Emperor, when they besieged Vienna. The re-conquest that followed however, was the one that changed the future of the world—it was the start of Imperialism and (as many Muslims saw it) an invasion of the Holy Land (of Arabia) by infidel armies.

It started off, in fact; with the French Revolution—General Napoleon Bonaparte landed in Egypt with a small expeditionary force; but soon conquered the country. Bonaparte himself was defeated and removed not by the Turks or Arabs; but by a British Admiral—Horatio Nelson.

These were the first steps of the British Empire—and a bitter lesson for the Arabs and Turks to learn—their Empire was to decline continuously from then on.

Some important landmarks of the Anglo-French imperial rule began with the French in Algeria (1830), British in Aden (1839); the extension of French control to Tunisia (1881) and Morocco (1911) and of the growing British influence in the Persian Gulf and Arabia (and India from the East)

Great Wars and Great Powers,
and demonization of the West

One thing that should be noted here, is that it is only the Islamic nations that form their own Power Bloc in the world (in the UN) via the OIC—“Organization for Islamic Conference”—primarily because Islam talks of the Muslim Nation as a construct that transcends borders (and clearly also, because the modern borders are legacies of colonial masters rather than an accurate representation of history)

Unlike the West that has largely moved past the influence of figureheads such as the Pope; religious edicts, declarations and fatwa’s in Islam still transcend all borders. The concept of the Muslim Nation, is very real, and considered a matter of fact by the citizens of most people across the Middle East.

In the early 20th century, the Arab opinion of the West was hostile, at a minimum by the time of the World Wars. On both occasions, the Arab nations chose to side with Germany—though they did not agree with the principles of Racial Superiority; many sections of the populace found the Jews a convenient scapegoat and considered the Third Reich the lesser of the two evils.

After the defeat of Nazi Germany; the Arabs looked for a new ally—which they took as the Soviet Union. During the time of Hitler, many propagandists drew out the US and Western Europe to be places with lower morality and ethical and religious standards and degeneracy (indeed claims which have been made against the US by terrorists and Islamic fundamentalists even today).

Thus began the process of demonization of the West. Radicals began to place parallels between the modern Western and earlier, Christian Europe, and ascribed total responsibility of the Crusades and other wars between Islam and the West to the modern “West”—comprising of Europe and the United States.

Being the leader of the new powerful Western Bloc, the United States was viewed as the leader of—and therefore primarily responsible for past acts of aggression by Christian Europe. The process of demonization was helped along by the ideas of German thinkers such as Heidegger, Rilke Spengler, and Jünger, who criticized the US for being a materialistic society devoid of morality and decency and ethics; with degeneracy and debauchery in every walk of life—“the ultimate example of a civilization without culture; rich and comfortable, materially advanced, but soulless and artificial; assembled or at best constructed, not grown; mechanical not organic; technologically complex but without the spirituality and vitality of the rooted, human, national cultures of the Germans and other “authentic” peoples.”—ideas adopted by the Muslim countries at the time of the Great War—ideas what would make their Holy War against America just.

As per the idea that the US was not involved in the process of Crusade, Islamic scholars and fundamentalists alike argue that the American Settlers invaded and destroyed the lives of the native people of the continent—and that they were therefore complicit in the sort of crimes against humanity that they accuse others of.

“The Great Satan”, bin Laden called America—as much for its “immorality” as for the comforts of life and liberty that the nation offered that he perceived as a threat to Islam in the autocratic form and closed societies—“Satan is the seducer, the insidious tempter who whispers in the heart of me” (Qur’an CXIV, 4, 5)

In many ways, then; rejection of the United States and the West; and of Western thought is a rejection of modernity as we know and understand it; and has led to movements of “going back to the roots”—of turning conservative, radical or fundamentalist. One such movement is called Wahhabism.

The Wahhabi Reaction

So what has the point of the past 10 pages of back-story and history been?

It has been to set up for the final chapters of this essay—of the rise of Wahhabism and of tackling Terrorism.

The rejection of modernity in favor of a return to the sacred past has a varied and ramified history in the region that has given rise to a number of movements. The most important of these is known (after its founder) as Wahhabism.

Wahhabi theology advocates a fundamentalist, puritanical and legalistic stance in matters of faith and religious practice.

Wahhabis see their role as a movement to restore Islam from what they perceive to be innovations, superstitions, deviances, heresies and idolatries. Some of the ideas they scorn are:

1) That invoking any prophet, saint or angel in prayer, other than God alone, is polytheism
2) Grave worship, whether to saints’ graves, or the prophet’s grave
3) Celebrating annual feasts for dead saints
4) Wearing of charms, and believing in their healing power
5) Practicing magic, or going to sorcerers or witches seeking healing
6) Innovation in matters of religion (e.g. new methods of worship)
7) Erecting elaborate monuments over any grave

Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab (1703-1792) was a theologian from the Najd area of Arabia, ruled by local sheikhs of the House of Saud. In 1744, he launched a campaign of purification and renewal. His declared aim was to return to the pure and authentic Islam of the Founder, removing and where necessary destroying all the later accretions and distortions.

The Wahhabi cause was embraced by the Saudi rulers of Najd who promoted it successfully by force of arms. In a series of campaigns, they carried their rule and their faith to much of central and eastern Asia and even the lands within the Fertile Crescent then under direct Ottoman administration.

By 1804-1806, they had taken over and “cleansed” the cities of Mecca and Medina. The Ottoman Empire reacted and crushed the movement; but the doctrine survived. Wahhabism began as a reaction to its times—of the advance of Christendom (via Imperialism) and the consolidation and decline of Islam (Ottoman Empire).

The ire of the Wahhabis was directed not primarily against outsiders, but against those whom they saw as betraying and degrading Islam from within; on the one hand those who attempted any kind of modernizing reform; on the other—and this was the more immediate target—those whom the Wahhabis saw as corrupting and debasing the true Islamic heritage of the Prophet and his Companions.

Wherever they could, they enforced their beliefs with the utmost severity and ferocity, demolishing tombs, desecrating what they called false and idolatrous holy places, and slaughtering large numbers of men, women and children who failed to meet their standards of Islamic purity and authenticity. Another practice introduced by Ibn ‘abd al-Wahhab was the condemnation and burning of books deemed contrary to the Wahhabi ideology.

The second alliance of the Wahhabi doctrine and Saudi force began in the last years of the Ottoman Empire and continues today. Sheikh ‘Abd al-‘Aziz Ibn Saud (born 1880, ruled 1902-1953) skillfully played the political game, signing treatises with Britain, and invaded Mecca and Medina on 1925; and took on the title of King in 1926; taking over from the Hashimite dynasty, that had descended from the line of the Prophet.

A formal treaty was signed between Ibn Saud and Britain, recognizing his Kingdom as an Independent State. Further treaties with Russia saw him recognized as the protector of the Holy Places of Islam (Mecca and Medina) in 1927.

Six yeas later, though; came the House of Saud’s greatest political move. On May 19, 1993; the Saudi Minister for Finance made agreement with a representation of the Standard Oil of California Company. American involvement in the Middle East had now begun. To show the rapid rise of American involvement, one needs only to look at the figures… in millions of barrels, 1945, 21.3 million; 1955, 356.6 million; 1965, 804.8 million; 1975, 2582.5 million.

Though the influx of money due to oil helped modernize Saudi Arabia; it was viewed with skepticism or downright hatred by the Wahhabis of Saudi Arabia. As the leadership looked to improve favorable relations with the West to maintain the flow of money; the greater Wahhabi population considered this new relationship an affront to Islam—the idea of infidels in the Holy Land, making financial profits from it, to pursue their “immoral” lives was something that rankled the vast majority.

As seen by the people of the Middle East; both democracy and socialism failed when implemented in their countries (with the exception of Turkey)—indeed, both models produced even more poverty and tyranny, and as a consequence, much of the anger in the Islamic world was directed against the Westerner (seen as the ancient and immemorial enemy of Islam since the first clashes between Muslim Caliphs and Christian emperors, and against the Westernizer, seen as the tool or accomplice of the West and as a traitor to his own faith and people.

By the end of the World War, America had taken on the leadership of the Western World, and was therefore seen as the greatest Challenger to the spread of Islam, and as an invader in the Holy places of Islam; between the oil business and the protection of Israel.

Indeed, Osama bin Laden—who belongs to the Wahhabi faith (Wahhabism is the brand of Islam employed by Al Qaeda) referred to President Bush as the Pharaoh—not as the Egyptian line of Kings, but as the Pharaoh of the Exodus—i.e. a man of evil.

The interesting thing here is that Wahhabism does not despise the State of Israel—indeed it does not recognize the modern-State of Israel as the Children of Israel that Moses led across the sea to the Promised Land… Israel is hated (as revealed by Egyptian President Sadat’s assassins) that Israel was a relatively minor phenomenon—being a state worthy of derision merely because it aped the West and the ways of the infidel.

Tackling Terrorism

There are several forms of Islamic extremism current at the present time. The best known are the subversive radicalism of Al Qaeda and other groups that resemble it all over the Muslim world; the preemptive fundamentalism of the Saudi establishment; and the institutionalized revolution of the ruling Iranian hierarchy. All of these are, in a sense, Islamic in origins, but some of them have deviated very far from their origins.

All these extremist groups sanctify their action through pious references to Islamic texts, notably the Qur’an and the traditions of the Prophet, and all three claim to represent a truer, purer, and more authentic Islam than that currently practiced by the vast majority of Muslims and endorsed by most though not all of the religious leadership. They are, however, highly selective in their choice and interpretation of sacred texts. In considering the sayings of the Prophet, for example, they discard the time-honored methods developed by the jurists and theologians for testing the accuracy and authenticity of orally transmitted traditions and instead accept or reject even sacred texts according to whether they support or contradict their own dogmatic and militant positions. Some even go as far as to dismiss some Qur’anic verses as “Revoked” or “abrogated”

One such example is the fatwa issued by Ayatollah Khomeini on February 14, 1989 against Salman Rushdie because of his novel—the Satanic Verses. The fatwa is indeed responsibility for the negative connotation that the word is viewed with today. Offering monetary compensation to the person who killed Rushdie was similar to the idea of a mob boss taking out a “contract for a hit job”. The fatwa is a tool much like the Roman responsa prudentium (a legal summons to stand judgment before a court)—to treat a fatwa as an assassination offer—well; many Islamic scholars have expressed their concern over this issue.

The practice and theory of assassination in the Islamic World arose at a very early date, with disputes over the political headship of the Muslim community. Of the first four caliphs of Islam, three were assassinated—the second by a disgruntled Christian slave, the third and fourth by pious Muslim revels who saw themselves as executioners carrying out God’s will. Members of the Muslim sect known as Assassins (Arabic Hashishiyya: taker of Hashish) were active in Iran and Syria from the 11th to the 13th Century. The name assassin (from hassassin) was given to them by their enemies—the name they took upon themselves was fidayeen (one ready to sacrifice himself for a cause)

The fidayeen were destroyed by the Turks in the 13th century; but were resurrected by the PLO in the 1960s and so on. Assassins however—though occasionally cited are NOT the source of the ideas of suicide killings—suicide being looked down by Islam at every stage of its existence.

The suicide terrorism of Wahhabi groups such as Al Qaeda then, is a new phenomenon—and they are perhaps the hardest to explain. Is it propaganda or belief that makes people suicide terrorists? How great must the task of convincing a Muslim of becoming a suicide terrorist be, if it is looked down on as a crime worthy of eternal damnation? And why then do people choose to become suicide terrorists?

The rise of asymmetric warfare in the Middle East is easy enough to explain—after the six-day War of the 1960s, it became clear that the Arab world could win no more wars fought directly, and this saw the creation of the PLO, Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, the Muslim Brotherhood, and so on…

What is inexplicable though is the carrying out of suicide terrorism… excerpts from the Qur’an say:

The Prophet said: Whoever kills himself with a blade
will be tormented with that blade in the fires of Hell.
The Prophet also said: He who strangles himself
will strangle himself in Hell, and he who stabs him-
self will stab himself in Hell… He who throws him-
self off a mountain and kills himself will thrown
himself downward into the fires of Hell for ever and
ever. He who drinks poison and kills himself will
carry his poison in his hand and drink it in Hell for
ever and ever… Whoever kills himself in any way
will be tormented in that way in Hell… Whoever
kills himself in any way in this world will be tor-
mented with it on the day of resurrection.

Two features that mark the attacks of 9/11 are: the willingness of the perpetrators to commit suicide and the ruthlessness of those who sent them—concerning both their own emissaries and their numerous victims… does Islam provide any justification whatsoever for such actions? The answer is a categorical no.

From the Muslim perspective, 9/11 then was an act of blasphemy on the part of the hijackers.

Many Muslims across the World have begun to take a stand against the elements within Islam that they consider are too radical, or that have polarized the World, and are pushing us into the situation of us vs. them. The Wahhabi strain of Islam, however, returns to the roots, returns to the basics and only time shall reveal whether the Wahhabis can co-exist with the West.

Afterword

And the rejoicing in Arab streets at the sites of the burning towers?—blame that on past Western actions against the Middle East, Western intervention to maintain their supply of oil no matter how tyrannical the ruler was with his own populace (never mind the Western ideals of human rights and ethical governance) and the process of demonization of America as a soulless money-grabbing materialistic and immoral society, that is controlled by the Jews.

That may not be the truth, not quite—but that is the perception—and perception defines reality. Perception defines culture. And the Middle-Eastern perception of the West does not paint a rosy picture.

Will a day of Peace ever come?—when men and women of all Religions may live together in harmony? Perhaps it will, perhaps it won’t.

The fate of Peace lies in the battle that rages today—of Multi-Culturalism and Global Expansion versus the return to roots; and the shunning of modern ideals.

Either way, there’s a long way to go yet, before the Mid-Eastern situation is resolved.

Bibliography

1) Bernard Lewis. The Crisis of Islam. New York. Random House. 2003

2) The Economist. “After Fahd, Abdullah. But then?” The Economist. 2005

3) Fareed Zakaria. The Saudi Trap. Newsweek. 2005

4) Fareed Zakaria. The Radicals are desperate. Newsweek. 2005

5) Fareed Zakaria. How to escape the oil trap. Newsweek. 2005

6) Robert Bear. The devil you think you know. Newsweek. 2005

7) Newsweek. Terror 101. Newsweek. 2004

8) Anuj Desai. Less than meets the eye. Newsweek. 2005

9) Answers.com GuruNet Corp

10) “Wahhabi.” The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004.

11) “Wahhabi.” The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. Columbia University Press., 2003.

12) “Wahhabi.” Islamic Dictionary. yourDictionary.com, 2002

13) “Wahhabi.” Wikipedia. Wikipedia, 2005

14) “Islam.” The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004

15) “Islam.” The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. Columbia University Press., 2003

16) “Islam.” The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2002

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wrote this in term 1, actually; but something came up in a Cinema class that prompted me to revisit this essay — it perhaps reflects my lack of research or understanding at that point in time; or lack of thoroughness at that point in time; but i reckon i still subscribe to a large part of my analysis in this, and am so putting it up in its original form…

choice here has absolutely no relation to abortion or the pro-life or pro-choice debate; but was at that point in time used in place of, say, liberty or freedom across a broader canvas…

Women and the question of Choice

„Der Mensch erkennt sich nur im Menschen, nur
Das Leben lehret jedem was er sei“
– Goethe[1]

Through the past Ages, women have been the victims of many atrocities, and their subjugation but a part of life for them. There are Stereotypes and Archetypes—the ideal mother, the ideal sister, the ideal wife, the ideal friend; and the not so ideal forms. Indeed, the very ability to express themselves as individuals has been (and in many cases, to this day is) forfeit.

The question then, is; how much choice do women actually have, in accepting the roles placed upon them? What is the expectation of Society on them? (as parts of the Society; and in terms of individual expression.) What choice do they have; between doing what they want to do, and what they are expected to do.

We see this suppression in our day-to-day lives—on TV, on the Radio, in Newspapers, in our Country, and all around the world, in one form of the other.

Perhaps at the heart of this debate lies the very definition (and variants thereof) of “Gender Roles” in our society. Now, generally speaking; to have a “society”, there needs to be a structure—a hierarchy. From ancient times; the hierarchy would be loosely similar to modern-day society (largely), vis-à-vis, the male bread-winner, and the woman-mother/wife. (The operative terms here—“male” versus “woman- mother / wife / companion”—i.e. with the woman being given a definitive societal/familial role—which is again, partly obvious, as women are the child-bearers, and hence required to play this role.)

The matter of Choice

To go to a more global scope, we come to the idea of the “illusion of Choice”. Do we, as members of a free (or not, if you’re communist!) society have that many occasions to make a choice? A lot of what we think, feel, say, or do, is based on predispositions, predilections, and prejudices we hold towards society—with these gained through the looking glass that is our own society in our local context.

With women; this is a problem magnified. As mentioned earlier; the traditional (pre-historic—modern) representation would place the onus on (and so provide for in terms of power) a hierarchical arrangement tipped in favor of Men. Choice, then; is available/handed down to (used to be available/handed down to) women as a second-hand commodity.

The matter of Control

According to Sigmund Freud, society evolves, with the individual growing at conflict with society; with the overall dynamics of Society depending upon the result of the struggle between the individual’s sense of Identity, and the Society’s expectations off the Individual. In the case of women (already having more restrictions placed on them) this ability to oppose, to be in conflict is itself restricted. Perhaps society itself allows some groups lesser restrictions and some groups more, in order to maintain an overall Social Fabric. Women are one of these subjugated groups.

Historical/Religious Subordination of Women, examples…

“Today the heirs to the Bible in America—Jews and Christians—have formalized biblical biases in laws and ceremonies and thereby elevated folk-lore and religious truths. Among Orthodox Jews, for example, discrimination against women is so blatant that they are forced to sit segregated behind a curtain or in a balcony. The rationale is that women will distract men from their prayers. It is no wonder that men thank God every morning in their ritual prayer “that Thou has not made me a woman.”

The majority of Jews have modified most traditional formalities, but in­dependent female expression is still discouraged if outside the confines of the home or not channeled through husband and children.

A Jewish wife is less subservient to her husband than a gentile wife; so say comparative studies on the subject. That’s somewhat understandable since Christianity owes much to a prominent classical heritage that held the second sex in even lower esteem. Utopia for the male chauvinist is Demosthenes’ description of Hellenic male-female arrangements: “We have hetairae for the pleasure of the spirit, concubines for sensual pleasure, and wives to bear our sons.”

Aristotle’s definition of femininity was “a certain lack of qualities; we should regard the female nature as afflicted with a natural defectiveness.” And his disciple Saint Thomas Aquinas echoed him religiously: “. . . a female is something deficient and by chance.”

Contempt for women helps explain why they can’t become Catholic priests, and why theologians, religious education courses, and Catholic marriage manuals highlight the supposedly inferior and passive qualities of women, who “naturally” subordinate themselves to men.

Traditional Protestant marriage services also perpetuate the attitude that the female is a second-class human being. Like a piece of property, the bride is “given” by her father to the groom, whom she promises to “obey.” (Although formally removed from the liturgy, this vow still persists in the popular image of the wedding ceremony.) The clergyman reminds her of her proper place when he says, “I pronounce that they are man and wife.” Not husband and wife. Not man and woman. The man keeps his status, while she takes on a new one. Her identity vanishes when she sheds her maiden name for his identification. (Blackstone’s Commentaries on the law strips a married woman of her rights altogether as she legally dies on her wedding day and becomes “incorporated and consolidate with her husband.” Accordingly, “A man cannot grant anything to his wife for the grant would be to suppose her separate existence.”)”

This excerpt, taken from an essay by author Paula Stern (The Womanly Image—Character Assassination through the ages) provides a very good example, of this subjugation of women (by some notable thinkers, as well…)

It also demonstrates the near-misogynic discourses, which have been preached to a large part of the global population, over the last many centuries—indeed, throughout history itself; through the most powerful societal-binding factor—Religion.

The Balance of Power

It is perhaps this—the Balance of Power—that is the final piece to the puzzle. It is (or would seem obvious) that those in power rarely relinquish it. The social hierarchy prevalent today is essentially a great structure, stratified by way of the power allotted to the various members of our Society; in which Women have a lowly role. It is not they are given no respect/esteem. Those are perhaps provided for, in today’s open Societies—what is not always guaranteed though, is equality, equal treatment, and the treatment of women as equals. So while there can be times where Women are in positions of power, they are far and few in between; and are (as often) in the hope of Political Correctness, and/or plausibility and acceptability of certain ideas; as they are for Women who actually rise (or are allowed to) to the highest levels.

As an illustration of the level to which power is unbalanced, Paula Stern writes:

America’s twentieth-century gospel is the work of Freud. Although Freud supposedly bas altered the entire course of Western intellectual history, many of his ideas about women are simply male chauvinism. Letters he wrote his fiancée reveal that he, too, wanted his woman kept relatively docile and ignorant so she couldn’t compete with him.

The choices Women make

Women themselves propagate the myths of expectations, that so become reality by their very actions, for themselves, and for future generations. Older generations serve as role-models to younger ones, and any changes in the general power-base/ideology of the groups is dependent upon different/radical thought, that (toned down) gains credibility within that group, and later amongst external groups, and so allows for change.

Another interesting excerpt is that of the magazines targeted at girls of various age groups… (Within the American context)

The spuriously Freudian vision of a truly “feminine” female serves the purposes of admen who woo women to spend millions on c1othesand cosmetics in vain pursuit of their “real nature.” To sell a new product industry need only simultaneously make the product and manufacture anxiety in gals, pressing them to consume or be consumed in a female identity crisis. For example, fea­tured in every women’s magazine, including those for teenagers, are the latest advertising campaigns for vaginal deodorants, a “female necessity.” One called Cupid’s Quiver comes in four flavors—Orange Blossom, Raspberry, Champagne, or Jasmine. Madison Avenue courts the female, even seducing minors. Teenform, Inc., manufacturers of bras for teen-agers, estimates that Nine-year-olds spend $2 million on bras annually.

Ingenue magazine pushes teen-agers into adult posturing. The format is peppered with advertisements for engagement rings, pictures of desirable adolescent boys, and occasionally a plan of attack such as dinners for two. The ads for cosmetics and clothes arc practically identical to those in magazines designed for their mothers. Typical of women’s magazines, Ingenue includes at least one psychologically centered article. Recent1y it explained in “The Hardest Thing About Growing Up” that inevitably, relationships with boys affect relationships with girls.” It condoned the statement, “I don’t trust other girls in the same way anymore. They become rivals.” This is how girls learn the platitudes: women can’t work with other women when men are around, and never work for a woman.

If a girl manages to survive Ingenue without succumbing to marriage,

Glamour picks her up. (”How Five Groovy Men Would Make You Over Into Their Dream Girls”) Where the boys are is where it’s at for the reader who is shunted from high school to col1ege to career to marriage to mother­hood—“Find Your New Look. College Into Career Make-over. Job Into Mother Make-over.”

The lucky gal who’s made the grade by landing a man is promoted to Modern Bride, which induces her to buy “utterly feminine” wedding gowns, bride-and-groom matching wedding rings, silver, china, furniture, ad nauseam. The wedding itself is big business; Wediquette International, Inc., offers total planning—the place, time, invitations, gown, caterers, florist, photogra­pher . . . .

Ah, then conjugal bliss—and of course, a magazine for mothers. Redbook boasts its biggest year because it knows “Young Mamas Spend More Than Big Daddies” and so talks “to that 18-34 year old the way she wants to be talked to,” which means in baby talk or kitchen chatter.

McCall’s claims 16 million matrons who “buy more than the readers of any other woman’s service magazine” Its reader “buys more cosmetics and toiletries, more prepared foods, owns more life insurance, more automo­biles,…”

Although Cosmopolitan says its reader is the career woman who desires success in her own right, it is pitched to the gal who missed the marriage boat the first time around. Female passivity is still the accepted mode of be­havior. She can be assertive in the office but when man-hunting after five, she must be seductively submissive. Who knows? She might hook a divorced manor married man looking for an affair.

A Question of Choice

There are many questions of choice—questions of rights—facing women today—whether it is the level of Education they achieve; the level of Social Freedom they can get; a greater amount of dignity and respect; the right to be treated equally, and to be treated as equals.

Acceptance of a status quo helps, as does the education of women, and creating awareness of their rights as individuals—to be individuals.

The Role of Media

The media plays a very important role in the propagation of Gender-Roles, and the consequent power-relations between groups.

These concepts will be explained in further detail during the presentation themselves. They will deal with Television, the Print Media; and their portrayal of (and consequent effects on) Women, the roles expected off them within Society; and the effects of this on them.

Some are listed below:

For example, various TV shows (Indian) portray women as powerful and deft manipulators, and ones with the real power; while still (superficially) fulfilling the roles that society expects of them—(this is in stark contrast with reality, where it would not be possible to be deftly manipulating empires, while not going to work,)—but it is in general, the lifestyle (family life, etc) that would reach the audience better than the successes or failures of the characters on the TV shows; largely because they endorse that it is still possible to have both.

Also, we have TV ads, and matrimonial columns working hand-in-hand… (In India) the most common being the product: Fair and Lovely, guaranteeing greater (fairer) skin color; and so (in the advertisements) success and/or marriage. (Of course, the relation of the matrimonial columns is the demand for girls of fair skin—or those using Fair and Lovely—or both!)

Bibliography

(1) Paula Stern, The Womanly Image: Character Assassination through the Ages

(2) CH Cooley (Looking Glass Self)

(3) References, concepts from Lectures

(4) TV Serials, Advertisements, and Newspapers.


[1] Man/mankind learns about himself through himself, and through the collective self (society).
It is life that teaches one what he is.

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we as individuals tend to carry the baggage of context–of our past with us wherever we go, whoever we meet. we often make summary judgments about people based on our impressions of them. i.e. our opinion of a person may be true for us at certain times in certain situations with certain contributing factors, for any “neutral” observer. but while the idea of a metanarrative is long dead in itself; existing only in religion (though there’s changes there as well) and in the base form of pop culture, there are certain universals that must exist for all.

the society exists implies that man chooses to live in the company of mankind–and at an existential level, implies that man is not just formed by the context of society he is in, and the choices he makes, but also remembered by the sum of those–the illusion of his reality–the external narrative of his life–which means that the only choices that really matter in the realm of time, are those that “affect” others.

which brings me to an interesting question of choice. the incredulity towards the concept of the meta-narrative in the post-War, post-Imperial era has brought up many important issues–one of which is, the extent to which we limit, can limit, should limit, can not limit, should not limit; the scope of the choices we make, and who they can / can not, should / should not effect.
as Sartre once said; to choose for oneself is to, in a way, choose for all of humanity. even in democracy; the choices we make individually–and therefore by extension collectively–choose certain values over others, certain trends over others, validating a tyrannical collective choice based upon the majority rather than a consensus.

a consensus is in itself like perfection or infinity–it rarely be quantified in the absolute–you can rarely carry everyone with a decision you make.

the question then becomes of choice–who do you choose to carry? what do you, as the God of your choice, choose to exalt above all else?

do you find the idea that an choice you make is an exaltation repulsive?–well, it should be, and obscenely so. to accept that your choice chooses for humanity carries with it certain weights of responsibility that you must accept.

we often talk about helping those less fortunate than us–in education, about appealing to the lowest common multiple to ensure no one is left behind. but then we talk about preserving their culture and traditions, and a respect for their values. this is where this argument moves from the theoretical rant to an applicable hypothesis.

if indeed we, in “education” aim to “uplift” or to “inform” or to “educate”; what is the purpose of that education? to lower the pace or lessen the scope of education implies a curbing of one’s own values, in order to cater to a lesser system (lesser, since educating should quite possibly imply a necessity of education among those being educated, who are therefore not “educated”)

is working to get everyone on  “the same page” the true idea of education,  or is it about working towards the impossible dream, the unreachable star–setting a Gold Standard for humanity to achieve?

a critic would argue that a teacher must merely inform, letting the student “choose” to draw his or her own extrapolations from the options given. the flaw in that idea, however, have been exposed over and over again. people often don’t make choices, because they don’t consider them relevant or important.

some reach for the sky and some walk that broad, well-traveled road. and maybe that’s OK; it is perhaps the balance of society, that even if all men were born equal, it is the choices they make that defines their lot in life, their place in history; and maybe not being a part of history doesn’t rankle those who choose otherwise–but i feel it is tragic.

you get one life to live, one work of art to paint; it feels terrible to think that you might not be thinking more about the choice you make; and about what you add or take from Society with those choices.

there is no God for those who forsake themselves by forsaking their responsibility to choose. it is an odd debacle–balancing tolerance and freedom with establishing archetypal values and standards; but one we have not yet solved; and maybe we aren’t meant to. but with the World changing rapidly, and societies drifting apart in the name of protectionism and nationalism, the time when one generation needs to draw the line, and make a choice comes ever closer. what will your choice be?

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the stuff i write on politics is going to end up having to be sporadic at best until the end of the present term; as there’s too much about (and too many books to be read and returned

Media_httparrakisword_gbtbg

) pushing this stuff to the backburner for a while longer, as it has already been doing for sometime

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i honestly can’t find the inclination to write something worthwhile at the moment; which implies i must digress and put out regular works of mass media as profound; and so start with a re-discovered old-ish favorite (old for a 21-year old :-s)

I’m the darkness in the light
I’m the leftness in the right
I’m the rightness in the wrong
I’m the shortness in the long
I’m the goodness in the bad
I’m the saneness in the mad
I’m the sadness in the joy
I’m the gin in the gin-soaked boy

I’m the ghost in the machine
I’m the genius in the gene
I’m the beauty in the beast
I’m the sunset in the east
I’m the ruby in the dust
I’m the trust in the mistrust
I’m the trojan horse in troy
I’m the gin in the gin-soaked boy

I’m the tiger’s empty cage
I’m the mystery’s final page
I’m the stranger’s lonely glance
I’m the hero’s only chance
I’m the undiscovered land
I’m the single grain of sand
I’m the christmas morning toy
I’m the gin in the gin-soaked boy

I’m the world you’ll never see
I’m the slave you’ll never free
I’m the truth you’ll never know
I’m the place you’ll never go
I’m the sound you’ll never hear
I’m the course you’ll never steer
I’m the will you’ll not destroy
I’m the gin in the gin-soaked boy

I’m the half-truth in the lie
I’m the why not in the why
I’m the last roll of the die
I’m the old school in the tie
I’m the spirit in the sky
I’m the catcher in the rye
I’m the twinkle in her eye
I’m the jeff goldblum in the fly

Who am i?

– “Gin Soaked Boy”, Divine Comedy