Monday, October 26, 2009

The only minority that matters

A fantastic article on how rulers manipulate the politics of identity, from Dawn's India correspondent, Jawed Naqvi.

. . . a highly popular, secular and now part-time social activist who would hardly pass muster as a Muslim was protesting how he had faced difficulty in renting a house in a ‘proper’ locality of Delhi. ‘They want me to live in a ghetto, and I refuse to do that,’ he told the audience tearfully, which incidentally included a handful of the ghettoised victims of Gujarat violence.

Of course there are people, mostly prejudiced Hindus, who want to ghettoise the Muslims in India, as there are Muslim zealots who have ghettoised the Christians and Hindus in Pakistan, not to speak of the Sinhalese doing it to the Tamils in Colombo. There can be no dispute about that. The question is: have the Indian Muslims ever asked why should anyone at all live in a ghetto, including the Dalits and others who do?

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Blog Referrral

A friend of mine has started a new blog to chronicle his 2-week trip to Yellowknife, and asked me to post a link here.

While I think it's ridiculous to start a whole blog just to tell the world about what you found during a 2-week trip to a town that's inside your own country, it's his time he's using.

Here you go:

Yellowknife Journal

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Thursday, October 15, 2009

Notice to impatient drivers, or "How to Drive Islamically"

To all my fanatic followers out there I must apologize for the length of the hiatus between this and the previous post. Things have been busy. Today, however, I will not be delivering any words of wisdom on geopolitics, social justice, the English language, or examples of wingnut depravity. No, today I have something a little more personal to get off my chest.

I'm a big fan of trains. They're efficient, they're quick, they're usually on time (at least the ones I take), they don't often crash, they can move in bad weather, and you can do lots of stuff while riding one. This can't be said about aeroplanes, which guzzle a tremendous amount of fuel, and are often grounded due to weather. It also can't be said of cars, which are still comparatively inefficient, more crash-prone than any other mode of transport, and don't allow the driver to read or work while travelling. In Canada, VIA Rail is a public holding, so you're buying the seat from yourself (unfortunately, the track has been privatized, so your regular fare is a tad inflated).

Anyhow, despite my love of trains, circumstances have recently dictated that I do a lot of domestic travel by car. This month I'll do over 2000km on the highway, with thousands more to come.

On every drive, a certain city has always wound up delaying me, with its 10-lane traffic jams, wherein frustrated drivers crawl along the freeway at 20kph, only to discover after half an hour that the traffic is slowly accelerating to the usual 120kph (because we're all in too much of a rush for the 100kph speed-limit), and with the cause of the blockage remaining a mystery. I have rarely seen any tow-trucks, police cars, or ambulances at the end of one of these slow-downs, so they can't all be for accidents.

But I wander from the point. During one of these little queue-ups, the tendency of most of the drivers is to accelerate to their usual travelling speed, and then hit the brakes when the car in front of them begins looming a tad too large. Even if the space that opens up is less than 50 meters, almost everyone behaves this way.

My philosophy, on the other hand, is to coast. I don't touch the accellerator if I don't think I'm going to go anywhere. So if the car ahead of me lurches forward to 70kph and then screeches to a halt 300m ahead of me, I will take my time to close the gap.

Collectively, we are not going anywhere. At 10kph, I will catch up with that car long before he is ready to embark upon another 200m journey. In fact, I will come to a stop long before I've even closed the gap, because while I am coasting along, fiddling with the radio, or opening a snack, or finding the page where I left off in [i]War and Peace[/i], a whole bunch of type-A personalities from the surrounding lanes will say to themselves "Aha! A gap! Why, that must mean that this lane is somehow travelling faster than the 3 other lanes on this highway!" and fill it in.

While this is happening, some vehicle behind me - it could be a 1979 Camaro or a Volvo 18-wheel tractor-trailer - will see what is going on, thanks to my failure to take advantage of the opportunity to move myself 200m closer to my destination at top speed, and will begin flashing his lights at me. When this, curiously, doesn't work, he begins blasting his horns, in progressively less courteous sequences.

If any of the people to whom I refer above is reading this post, please allow me to explain my behaviour:

When you accelerate, your car gains kinetic energy. This energy comes from the fuel in your tank. When you hit the brakes, you are deliberately dissipating that kinetic energy by converting it into heat. In the process, you are decreasing the life of your engine, transmission, calipers, drums, and discs, not to mention the planet Earth. Your brand new Prius isn't saving the planet if you are slamming on the brakes every 2 minutes.

In doing so, you move yourself less than a few seconds closer to your destination. Yes, you might wind up a few cars ahead of where you might have been, but when we all get back up to 120kph, that difference will wash out. Trust me - I've gently passed lots of people who revved their engines in order to cut me off during the slowdown.

So instead of exhibiting all this excess aggression on the road, to the benefit of no one but car manufacturers and oil companies, take a bit of advice from The Proud Islamist, and exercise a little patience.

Or otherwise, take the train.

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Saturday, October 3, 2009

The Truth About Rifqa Bary

In August, I wrote here about a troubling case involving 17-year-old Rifqa Bary, an Ohio girl from a Sri Lankan Muslim family who converted to Christianity and fled to Florida, claiming refuge with a Christian pastor against what she claimed was her impending "honour killing."

As I said then, though the truth was far from clear, all of the luminaries of anti-Islam - Robert Spencer, Pamela Gellar, Frank Gaffney, Wafa Sultan, and the like - were flogging the story hard, claiming that Rifqa was in danger, and that her fanatical father was after his daughter's blood, inspired by Islam.

Outside the courthouse

Since then, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) was asked by the state's governor to investigate the girl's claims against her parents in Ohio.

A little excerpt from the FDLE's investigation summary:

. . .

Ms. Bary discussed her upbringing and stated that she had been a cheerleader at New Albany High School. When asked if her father approved of her cheerleading she stated that her father had no real idea what the concept or activities involved in cheerleading were, and allowed it. She stated that she always wore sweatpants or other coverings to hide the short skirt of the cheerleading outfit from him. She stated her father had never been to an event in which she performed as a cheerleader. Furthermore, she stated the family had no photos of her cheering or team photos as would appear in a yearbook.

On August 27, 2009, Mr. Bary stated to FDLE that he knew about his daughter’s cheerleading activities. He said that she had asked her mother for permission to cheer and was denied. Ms. Bary then asked Mr. Bary for his approval and he subsequently allowed her participation.. Mr. Bary stated that he drove her to cheerleading practice occasionally during the week He said he had never seen her perform due to his work commitments.

On August 27, 2009, Rilvan Bary told FDLE that his parents seemed to be supportive of his sister’s cheerleading activities.

When FDLE and other investigators visited the Bary household on August 27, 2009, several photos of Ms. Bary dressed in her cheerleading uniform were prominently displayed in the family living room.

. . .

FDLE’s investigation has not developed any information which supports an allegation of criminal activity in the state of Florida. Furthermore, our investigation has provided no clear evidence of criminal activity in other states which may be supportive of the above allegations. FDLE is prepared to assist the state of Ohio or any other entity in furtherance of investigative matters which may pertain to their areas of jurisdiction.

In other words, the cops in Florida saw no evidence that Miss Bary had never been the victim of a threat or criminal act by her family.

This, of course, puts the Anti-Islam brigades in a tough position - either they got all hot and bothered over a truckload of teenage acting-out, or the FDLE is willfully blind to the "jihadist agenda" as it pertains to Rifqa Bary. Guess which one they picked?

Kyle over at RightWingWatch puts it beautifully:
So, in short: the FDLE report concluded that Bary was in no danger and that pretty much everything her right-wing supporters had been claiming was false, which, according to those right-wing supporters, only proves that the FDLE and others are engaged in a conspiracy to kill Bary and "replace our Constitution and the liberties it enshrines with the brutal and repressive program known as Shariah."

If this were just another story of paranoid delusions and wingnut tomfoolery, I would be happy to leave the story there, and walk away gloating over another embarrassment for the anti-Islam brigades.

This, however, is a story about a real girl and a real family. As I wrote in my first piece on this, half of me wanted Rifqa's claims to be true, because if they were, then she had a good reason to tear her family apart, because her father would have been, as she claimed, a monster.

It is impossible to say for certain whether he was a model father, but we do know for certain now that there are an awful lot of things that Miss Bary both embellished and lied about in order to make her story more dramatic. That by itself is a terrible thing, because it means that she has torn her family apart for the sake of people who are interested primarily in using her to grind an axe against the Muslims of the world. In so doing, she has shamed and dishonoured her parents.

It is not the Christian thing to do.

May she and her family find a way to reconcile. Ameen.

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