2013-01-31

The Confused Nomad

It seems that Beirut International Airport is my favourite place to spot controversial books. After The God Delusion, this time, I found in the duty free bookstore the book Nomad by controversial author/politician/activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

Cover of the book Nomad (ISBN: 978-1-84739-818-5)

Praised by prominent "New Atheists" like Richard Dawkins, the late Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris, the book invoked some interest in me and I decided to get it and read it.

Hirsi Ali starts her book by relating her tough early life (Hirsi Ali also has written a memoir titled Infidel) between Somalia, Ethiopia, Saudi Arabia and Kenya by depicting her relationship to various members of her troublesome family and compares the differences she faced after running away from an arranged marriage to seek refuge in the Netherlands, where she began her activism, became a member of the parliament and then had to move to the United States of America for a job in the American Enterprise Institute.
Then she goes on by describing her account of the Muslim societies in the USA, to sum up their behaviour by three main conflicting topics: sex, violence and money, to then try to offer, what she considers, remedies.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali's style is simple, pleasant and straight to the point. Her ideas on getting rid of outdated superstitions and complete helplessness, empowering women, protecting them and equating them with their men counterparts (through her foundation) are hailed although her approach is provocative to some extent (for instance the short film Submission, which caused the assassination of its director Theo Van Gogh).

Scene from the short film "Submission" by Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Theo Van Gogh.
The latter was assassinated shortly after the release of the film.

But, mevrouw Hirsi Ali, despite her much respected activism, seems to have a sort of confusion about this "new" world she is part of, in which she's a constant nomad and an eternal learner.
For an atheist who staunchly opposes religions (or is it Islam only, because of her sad past with it?), it is strikingly hypocritical to accept a job with the AEI, the think tank of the American Christian Neoconservatives, not to mention their deep attachment to the Zionist movement.

Moreover, miss Hirsi Ali, uses the ludicrous white man guilt theory to justify the support of some activists to the Palestinian cause (in the context of attacking feminists for not raising voice against issues outside their borders):
"Having sided with other movements of social revolution, such as the movement for national independence in Southeast Asia and minority groups and for the Palestinians, feminists began to define white men as the ultimate and only oppressors."

While looking up Hirsi Ali, I came along a YouTube video about a speech of Ayaan Hirsi Ali in the Global Atheist Convention 2012 discussing the Arab Spring from a secular v/s Islamic perspective.


The talk is very interesting except the bit where Hirsi Ali disregards all the crimes and apartheid of Israel and calls to tolerate its existence and claims that Israel is free because of the fact that newspapers can criticize politics and society.
This attitude is not restricted to this talk but, in fact, is highlighted in Nomad, in another attempt by Neoconservatives to shift the focal point of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to one between a Jewish and (allegedly more violent, hateful and decades backward) Islamic civilizations in order to demean it and legitimize the persistence of apatheid. Regardless of the attitude of any religion, this attitude is untrue, and the core of the conflict is the Israeli forced apartheid state which ripped the Palestinian land and is mistreating its people.

Also, mevrouw Hirsi Ali seems very confused about the new found freedoms in the western world. Undeniably, the society if the West, in the USA for instance, is more advanced than the ones in the third-world (and in this case, for Hirsi Ali is anti-Islamic, Islamic) societies. But these societies are also plagued with all sort of social problems of the modern type (psychopathy, rape, crime, homelessness, unemployment, dysfunctional families, etc...). Also, she seems to consider the illusion of choices in consumption an indication of happiness. There's more to life than this.

Of course no one's denying the bigger sense of freedom and cultural advancement in these societies (mainly because of the lesser influence of religions, among other reasons) but like in the "barbaric dictatorial regimes" Mrs. Hirsi Ali is allegedly fighting, regimes of corporations are ready to do more horrific actions, warmongering, and global crises, for the sake of the interest of the corporations.

The world needs people like Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who raise the voice against injustice and call for progress but, to overlook important causes and promote ideals of corporations is not a compromise to be made.

Joseph.

2013-01-22

Facing Apartheid

Note: This post was drafted back in September 2012, following a decision from Lebanese band Mashrou' Leila (Leila's Project) —after pressure from their fanbase— to decline the opportunity of opening for the Red Hot Chili Peppers who were heading to Tel-Aviv immediately after their Beirut gig, in favour of the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement.


"Israel is guilty of apartheid and persecution of the Palestinian people, both inside Israel and also in the Occupied Territories."
BDS campaign poster "Made in Israel"

Undeniably, the apartheid state of Israel is one of the worst examples in racism and state-sponsored terrorism (cultural, economic, political, security, ...) in recent history, unfortunately backed by the lobbying power of major states in the world, who use double standards in judging the issues of the world, creating conflicts for trivial reasons, covering up major international laws infringement for political reasons.

Over the years, many aspects of resistance to this anomalous situation have appeared, ranging from acts of rebellion, hunger strikes, boycotting, information Intifada, military Intifidas, military Resistance.

The debate about the effectiveness of those methods, as opposed to negotiations has been going for a very long time. How far is too far when it comes to boycotting?

Should we boycott any person who visits Israel and hence acknowledge its existence, or should we only boycott people who bluntly declare their open support to the apartheid state?
Should we use a certain technology developed by Israelis ("peaceful" non-military technologies are in question here)? Should we boycott people who use it? Should we boycott companies who open branches in Israel?
Should we interact with Israeli people? Should we follow Israeli artists?

For me, the answer is simple: nothing is too far, nothing is too short, because every contribution helps build-up the strategic momentum the movement is seeking.

More specifically, I believe that any visitor to Israel, must hence be overlooking their racist behaviour, and thus must be boycotted (not to mention that the person will be subject to questioning by Lebanese law unless diplomatically immune).
For the technology part, I think it's very easy to find alternatives and avoid supporting Israeli products or technologies that rely on an Israeli effort (one could overlook open projects where a contributor or more can be Israelis, since we can't deny that these persons exist and have the access to such projects, and it doesn't provide much material support to the apartheid state), as for boycotting people who use such technology, well it could depend on the situation, but in general, making the point and stating alternatives is a good starter, which may reach higher levels depending on the complexity of the relationship.
As for interactions, especially with the open nature of the modern world, and the various communication platforms, one might be in situations facing an Israeli person. I think it's well worth it to indicate your position to the person bluntly, and keep the interaction to the minimum and forced by professional need one (interactions on digital platforms are a bit more complicated and should be approached within the boundaries of local laws in the intention to expose the criminal thought and/or behavior).

Because the cause is righteous, because we all can contribute in our own small way, face the apartheid, expose it.

Joseph.

2013-01-01

Are Fortune-tellers Dictating Our Behaviours?

The "sheikh" of fortune-tellers in the Middle-East, Michel Hayek, in his 2012 NYE show (credit - naklan3an)
In the recent years, the trend of fortune-telling and future predictions for the year have been on the rise on the various Lebanese TV channels (and some Arabic and Middle-Eastern channels, to some extent).
Of course, these predictions are controversial, and, well, hence are legitimate commercial TV material.

Over the years, this business has become very varied and creative. Fortune-tellers range from weird charlatans to regular astrologers, who, superficially, are hosted to increase the ratings of the channel and return larger incomes from commercial advertisements.
Also the evolution of these characters on TV, their wording, their body language and their ways of adding mystery to their predictions is quite interesting (although, I'm not quite an expert on this).
Yet, behind this mask of showbiz and marketing and profit, and by critically linking the dots between the types of predictions being made, the common points and the differences among the various charlatans, one would suspect a larger scheme.

I strongly feel that this is not an innocent TV programming. It's an effective method of inculcating some guidelines to the general public in an entertainment package.
It's not a coincidence that the political predictions of these fortune tellers are always biased to the favour of the vision of the political party supporting the TV station hosting them, nor is the fact that these change depending on switching from one sponsor to the other. This highly suggests a certain strategy to favour their (political parties) opinions and modulates a certain part of the public opinion to accept certain ideas. (I strongly believe that these predictions play an important part in the quasi-apathy of the Lebanese society towards violence acts, not alone, of course).
Other than political guidelines, one senses a sort of guidance and hints to a certain behaviour in the economic choices and market activity.
It's not innocent to direct negative predictions to a certain sector, or area, or country in the larger scale of the region/world, it's also quite suspicious talking about stability of certain currencies and financial policies, and failure of some others, giving hints in certain sectors to encourage investors, or on the other hand make them flee from other ones.

Away from being a mere conspiracy theory, this is a potential breach to people's personal freedoms. Whether it's based on very strong evidence or just a personal fear of such a plan, doesn't negate the need for the public to be more critical, and to denounce these kind of shows, by flipping the table on them, and stopping to watch them, by asking for real and fruitful entertainment, that doesn't invade its collective mind, inculcating its behaviour, in order to increase its consumption and make more profits.

Happy new year 2013.

Joseph.