Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Why is a Hindu a Jew in the US?

The "Axis of Good" (India-Israel-USA), as our former NSA Brajesh Mishra once infamously put it, seems to be taking shape. NYT reports how many Indian-Americans are now modelling themselves on Jews when it comes to establishing community centres, advocating on civil rights matters and lobbying the US Congress. Does this trend of ganging up with the Jews (socially and politically) veil anti-Muslim sentiments? Maybe not, but I have some inherent repulsion for anything that's organised around religion. Or even, for that matter, organised religion.

The battle for "free speech"

After Ahmadinejad's controversial appearance at Columbia, George Bush has now been invited to speak at Mashhad-based Ferdowsi University. The White House has dismissed the offer, saying it would have considered it if Iran allowed freedom of expression, did not have nuclear ambitions and did not threaten Israel. Such a spoilsport! Too bad we are missing out on what would have otherwise been a lip-smacking encounter between Iranian students and "war criminal" Bush. I doubt if he even has, to use Lee Bollinger's phrase, the "intellectual courage" to take questions from a free gathering of students in countries that are run by American proteges such as Egypt and Pakistan. Only if Lee Bollinger now coaxes his president to defend the ideals of free speech that his country stands for!

Taking about American leaders speaking at universities abroad, Condoleezza Rice in February 2005 lectured on American foreign policy and trans-Atlantic ties at Sciences Po in Paris (where I studied). Not only were a handful of students allowed in the auditorium, even the questions were vetted by the State Department. Benjamin Barnier, a student at the school, had one of his questions struck off the list. It asked what the US administration could do to improve Bush's image in the world, particularly in West Asia. Instead, he got to ask something about the possibility of a Shiite theocracy in Iraq. If only the American administration practised what Bollinger so fanatically preaches...

Monday, October 01, 2007

Feasting in Ramadan?

A boy was once hacked to death in Pakistan by a bystander. His fault - he was eating a banana openly when others, including the bystander, were fasting. BBC's Masud Alam takes a tongue-in-cheek look at how grave feasting in Ramadan can get.