In This Edition:
The Worst Drought In The History Of California Is Happening Right Now
The Many Ways That You’re Being Tracked, Catalogued and Controlled
Palestinian Foreign Minister: We Will ‘Never’ Accept Israel as the Jewish State
Pro-Life Banners in San Francisco Stir Controversy, Dubbed ‘Hate Speech’
Pakistan and the Arab-Muslim Culture of Denial
The Worst Drought In The History Of California Is Happening Right
21 January 2014
By Michael Snyder
Reprinted from The American Dream
Did you know that 2013 was the driest year ever recorded in the state of California? And did you know that so far this is the driest January that the state of California has ever experienced? The worst drought in the history of California is happening right now. Just check out the current conditions on the U.S. Drought Monitor. About two-thirds of the state is experiencing “extreme drought” at the moment, and Governor Jerry Brown says that it is “not likely to rain for several weeks“. Unfortunately for California, the truth is that the weather in the western half of the country is simply returning to historical norms. Scientists tell us that the 20th century was the wettest century in the western half of the United States in 1000 years, and that extremely dry conditions are normally what we should expect for most areas from the Pacific Ocean to the Mississippi River. If long-term conditions truly are “returning to normal”, then the state of California could be heading for a water crisis of unprecedented magnitude.
But it is not just the state of California that should be concerned. The reality of the matter is that the produce grown in California feeds the rest of the nation. Just check out these statistics…
The state produces 99 percent of the artichokes grown in the US, 44 percent of asparagus, a fifth of cabbage, two-thirds of carrots, half of bell peppers, 89 percent of cauliflower, 94 percent of broccoli, and 95 percent of celery. Leafy greens? California’s got the market cornered: 90 percent of the leaf lettuce we consume, along with and 83 percent of Romaine lettuce and 83 percent of fresh spinach, come from the big state on the left side of the map. Cali also cranks a third of total fresh tomatoes consumed in the U.S.—and 95 percent of ones destined for cans and other processing purposes.
As for fruit, I get that 86 percent of lemons and a quarter of oranges come from there; its sunny climate makes it perfect for citrus, and lemons store relatively well. Ninety percent of avocados? Fine. But 84 percent of peaches, 88 percent of fresh strawberries, and 97 percent of fresh plums?
Come on. Surely the other 49 states can do better.
In other words, the rest of us are extremely dependent on the fruits and vegetables that the state of California grows for us.
So don’t take too much joy in what California is going through. It is going to affect you too.
Things have gotten so bad that Governor Brown has declared a water emergency…
‘I’ve declared this emergency and I’m calling all Californians to conserve water in every way possible,’ he said, in a move that will allow him to call for conservation measures and provide flexibility in deciding state water priorities.
All over the state, reservoirs are approaching dangerously low levels. In fact, at one reservoir near Sacramento water levels have dropped so low that old buildings from a Gold Rush ghost town have appeared…
In a sign of the severity of the drought, some of the state’s reservoirs are at their lowest levels in years. The Folsom Reservoir near Sacramento is so low that the remains of a Gold Rush-era ghost town – flooded to create the lake in the 1950s – are visible for the first time in years.
The state’s mountain ranges, where runoff from melting snow provides much of the water for California’s thirsty cities and farms, have just 20 percent of the snow they normally have at this time of year, officials noted.
Pine Flat Reservoir is a ghost of a lake in the Fresno County foothills — a puddle in a 326 billion-gallon gorge.
Holding only 16% of its capacity, Pine Flat is the best example of why there is high anxiety over the approaching wet season.
Gone is the healthy water storage that floated California through two dry years. Major reservoirs around the state need gully-washing storms this winter.
Unfortunately, there is not much hope on the horizon, and most of the state has been experiencing these drought conditions since last May…
The U.S. Drought Monitor reported that 94.25% of the state is enduring some level of drought conditions and that most of the prime agriculture area of the Central Valley is in extreme drought, the second-worst category.
At least 90% of the state has been in a drought since early May.
During the 20th century, we were extremely blessed. An abnormally high level of rainfall in most parts of the western half of the country allowed us to build teeming cities in the middle of the desert. But that may turn out to have been a tragic mistake. A recent National Geographic article contained the following chilling statement…
The wet 20th century, the wettest of the past millennium, the century when Americans built an incredible civilization in the desert, is over.
So what are we going to do with these massive cities out west when there is no longer enough water to support them?
It has been estimated that the state of California only has a 20 year supply of fresh water left. And that projection was made before this current drought began. The truth is that if current conditions persist, California might run out long before that.
And many Americans living in the eastern half of the country do not realize this, but Dust Bowl conditions are literally returning to many parts of the western half of the country. In fact, dust storms producing “near-apocalyptic” conditions have been reported in parts of Nevada.
Today, about 38 million people live in the state of California.
There isn’t going to be enough water for all of them in the years ahead.
And there certainly isn’t going to be enough water in the years ahead to produce the massive amount of food that California is currently producing.
So how will life change as a result?
The Many Ways That You’re Being Tracked, Catalogued and
By John Whitehead
“[A security camera] doesn’t respond to complaint, threats, or insults. Instead, it just watches you in a forbidding manner. Today, the surveillance state is so deeply enmeshed in our data devices that we don’t even scream back because technology companies have convinced us that we need to be connected to them to be happy.”—Pratap Chatterjee, journalist
What is most striking about the American police state is not the mega-corporations running amok in the halls of Congress, the militarized police crashing through doors and shooting unarmed citizens, or the invasive surveillance regime which has come to dominate every aspect of our lives. No, what has been most disconcerting about the emergence of the American police state is the extent to which the citizenry appears content to passively wait for someone else to solve our nation’s many problems. Unless Americans are prepared to engage in militant nonviolent resistance in the spirit of Martin Luther King Jr. and Gandhi, true reform, if any, will be a long time coming.
Yet as I detail in my book A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State, if we don’t act soon, all that is in need of fixing will soon be unfixable, especially as it relates to the police state that becomes more entrenched with each passing day. By “police state,” I am referring to more than a society overrun by the long arm of the police. I am referring to a society in which all aspects of a person’s life are policed by government agents, one in which all citizens are suspects, their activities monitored and regulated, their movements tracked, their communications spied upon, and their lives, liberties and pursuit of happiness dependent on the government’s say-so.
That said, how can anyone be expected to “fix” what is broken unless they first understand the lengths to which the government with its arsenal of technology is going in order to accustom the American people to life in a police state and why being spied on by government agents, both state and federal, as well as their partners in the corporate world, is a problem, even if you’ve done nothing wrong.
Indeed, as the trend towards overcriminalization makes clear, it won’t be long before the average law-abiding American is breaking laws she didn’t even know existed during the course of a routine day. The point, of course, is that while you may be oblivious to your so-called law-breaking—whether it was collecting rainwater to water your lawn, lighting a cigarette in the privacy of your home, or gathering with friends in your backyard for a Sunday evening Bible study—the government will know each and every transgression and use them against you.
As noted by the Brookings Institution, “For the first time ever, it will become technologically and financially feasible for authoritarian governments to record nearly everything that is said or done within their borders — every phone conversation, electronic message, social media interaction, the movements of nearly every person and vehicle, and video from every street corner.”
As the following will show, the electronic concentration camp, as I have dubbed the surveillance state, is perhaps the most insidious of the police state’s many tentacles, impacting almost every aspect of our lives and making it that much easier for the government to encroach on our most vital freedoms, ranging from free speech, assembly and the press to due process, privacy, and property, by eavesdropping on our communications, tracking our movements and spying on our activities.
Tracking you based on your consumer activities: Fusion centers, federal-state law enforcement partnerships which attempt to aggregate a variety of data on so-called “suspicious persons,” have actually collected reports on people buying pallets of bottled water, photographing government buildings, and applying for a pilot’s license as “suspicious activity.” Retailers are getting in on the surveillance game as well. Large corporations such as Target have been tracking and assessing the behavior of their customers, particularly their purchasing patterns, for years. In 2015, mega-food corporations will be rolling out high-tech shelving outfitted with cameras in order to track the shopping behavior of customers, as well as information like the age and sex of shoppers.
Tracking you based on your public activities: Sensing a booming industry, private corporations are jumping on the surveillance state bandwagon, negotiating lucrative contracts with police agencies throughout the country in order to create a web of surveillance that encompasses all major urban centers. Companies such as NICE and Bright Planet are selling equipment and services to police departments with the promise of monitoring large groups of people seamlessly, as in the case of protests and rallies. They are also engaging in extensive online surveillance, looking for any hints of “large public events, social unrest, gang communications, and criminally predicated individuals.” Defense contractors are attempting to take a bite out of this lucrative market as well. Raytheon has recently developed a software package known as Riot, which promises to predict the future behavior of an individual based upon his social media posts.
Tracking you based on your phone activities: The CIA has been paying AT&T over $10 million per year in order to gain access to data on Americans’ phone calls abroad. This is in addition to telecommunications employees being embedded in government facilities to assist with quick analysis of call records and respond to government requests for customer location data. They receive hundreds of thousands of such requests per year.
Tracking you based on your computer activities: Federal agents now employ a number of hacking methods in order to gain access to your computer activities and “see” whatever you’re seeing on your monitor. Malicious hacking software can be installed via a number of inconspicuous methods, including USB, or via an email attachment or software update. It can then be used to search through files stored on a hard drive, log keystrokes, or take real time screenshots of whatever a person is looking at on their computer, whether personal files, web pages, or email messages. It can also be used to remotely activate cameras and microphones, offering another means of glimpsing into the personal business of a target.
Tracking you based on your behavior: Thanks to a torrent of federal grants, police departments across the country are able to fund outrageous new surveillance systems that turn the most basic human behaviors into suspicious situations to be studied and analyzed. Police in California, Massachusetts, and New York have all received federal funds to create systems like that operated by the New York Police Department, which “links 3,000 surveillance cameras with license plate readers, radiation sensors, criminal databases and terror suspect lists.” Police all across the country are also now engaging in big data mining operations, often with the help of private companies, in order to develop city-wide nets of surveillance. For example, police in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, now work with IBM in order to “integrate new data and analytics tools into everyday crime fighting.”
Tracking you based on your face: Facial recognition software promises to create a society in which every individual who steps out into public is tracked and recorded as they go about their daily business. The goal is for government agents to be able to scan a crowd of people and instantaneously identify all of the individuals present. Facial recognition programs are being rolled out in states all across the country (only twelve states do not use facial recognition software). For example, in Ohio, 30,000 police officers and court employees are able to access the driver’s license images of people in the state, without any form of oversight to track their views or why they’re accessing them. The FBI is developing a $1 billion program, Next Generation Identification, which involves creating a massive database of mugshots for police all across the country.
Tracking you based on your car: License plate readers, which can identify the owner of any car that comes within its sights, are growing in popularity among police agencies. Affixed to overpasses or cop cars, these devices give police a clear idea of where your car was at a specific date and time, whether the doctor’s office, the bar, the mosque, or at a political rally. State police in Virginia used license plate readers to record every single vehicle that arrived to President Barack Obama’s inauguration in 2009 from Virginia. They also recorded the license plates of attendees at rallies prior to the election, including for then-candidate Obama and Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin. This data collection came at the request of the U.S. Secret Service. Incredibly, Virginia police stored data on some 8 million license plates, some for up to three years.
Tracking you based on your social media activities: The obsession with social media as a form of surveillance will have some frightening consequences in coming years. As Helen A.S. Popkin, writing for NBC News, has astutely observed, “We may very well face a future where algorithms bust people en masse for referencing illegal ‘Game of Thrones’ downloads, or run sweeps for insurance companies seeking non-smokers confessing to lapsing back into the habit. Instead of that one guy getting busted for a lame joke misinterpreted as a real threat, the new software has the potential to roll, Terminator-style, targeting every social media user with a shameful confession or questionable sense of humor.”
Tracking you based on your metadata: Metadata is an incredibly invasive set of data to have on a person. Indeed, with access to one’s metadata, one can “identify people’s friends and associates, detect where they were at a certain time, acquire clues to religious or political affiliations, and pick up sensitive information like regular calls to a psychiatrist’s office, late-night messages to an extramarital partner or exchanges with a fellow plotter.” The National Security Agency (NSA) has been particularly interested in metadata, compiling information on Americans’ social connections “that can identify their associates, their locations at certain times, their traveling companions and other personal information.” Mainway, the main NSA tool used to connect the dots on American social connections, collected 700 million phone records per day in 2011. That number increased by 1.1 billion in August 2011. The NSA is now working on creating “a metadata repository capable of taking in 20 billion ‘record events’ daily and making them available to N.S.A. analysts within 60 minutes.”
Tracking you from the skies: Nothing, and I mean nothing, will escape government eyes, especially when drones take to the skies in 2015. These gadgets, ranging from the colossal to the miniature, will have the capability of seeing through the walls of your home and tracking your every movement.
To put it bluntly, we are living in an electronic concentration camp. Through a series of imperceptible steps, we have willingly allowed ourselves to become enmeshed in a system that knows the most intimate details of our lives, analyzes them, and treats us accordingly. Whether via fear of terrorism, narcissistic pleasure, or lazy materialism, we have slowly handed over our information to all sorts of entities, corporate and governmental, public and private, who are now using that information to cow and control us for their profit. As George Orwell warned, “You had to live—did live, from habit that became instinct—in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinized.”
Thus, we have arrived in Orwell’s world. The question now is: will we take a stand and fight to remain free or will we go gently into the concentration camp?
Palestinian Foreign Minister: We Will ‘Never’ Accept Israel as the
Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riad Malki (File Photo: United Nations)
The foreign minister for the Palestinian Authority says Palestinians will “never accept under any circumstances” the idea that Israel is a Jewish state, negating the 3,000 year Jewish connection with the Holy Land.
Foreign Minister Riad Malki, in an interview with the London-based Arabic newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat characterized the Israeli government demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state as the most intractable issue facing the current round of peace talks sponsored by Secretary of State John Kerry.
“This is a sharply contentious issue. It would be dangerous to recognize this because this would mean our acceptance of the dissolution of our own history and ties and our historic right to Palestine,” Malki said.
“This is something that we will never accept under any circumstances. Acceptance of this would also raise fears about the fate of the 1.8 million Palestinians living in Israel. They are already second-class citizens, so how will they be affected by the Judaization of the state? This also raises questions about the [Palestinian] refugees and the right of return. So this is something that we absolutely cannot accept,” he added.
A key cornerstone of the Palestinian narrative, one accepted at face value in most diplomatic circles, is that they were present in the Holy Land before the Jews, and therefore have a greater moral right to the territory as part of a future independent state. Supporters of the Palestinian position often compare the Palestinians to “indigenous” peoples like Native Americans and call Israel a “colonizer.”
The pro-Israel blogger Elder of Ziyon (EOZ) wrote of Malki’s interview, “Isn’t that interesting? The Palestinian position is that if there is any Jewish history in Israel, then Palestinian Arab history goes *poof*. So they must deny history in order to maintain their bogus claims!”
EOZ frequently posts documents, newspaper clippings, stamps and coins to provide historical testimony about the continuous Jewish presence in the Holy Land over millennia.
“Now, it is true – there is no particularly Palestinian Arab history to speak of before the 20th century. No one identified themselves as Palestinian, there was no particularly Palestinian cuisine or dress or culture (although some towns did have their own specific costumes and crafts.) But this answer betrays how flimsy Palestinian Arab ties to the land are (as a people),” EOZ wrote.
“Imagine if a US official said that he or she could not recognize Native Americans as being their own peoples – because to do that would be to deny American history,” EOZ added in response to the Palestinian foreign minister’s comments.
Palestinian Media Watch (PMW), which monitors the official Palestinian media, also addressed the zero sum game over land ownership.
PMW wrote in a fact sheet, “Rewriting the history of the Land of Israel in order to deny Israel’s right to exist is central to Palestinian Authority (PA) policy. Long before it started the PA terror campaign (the “Intifada,” 2000-2005), the PA was fighting a history war – erasing Jewish history and replacing it with a fabricated Palestinian history.”
“This rewriting has two central goals: 1- Erase the Jewish nation’s 3,000 year history in the Land of Israel; 2- Invent ancient Palestinian, Muslim and Arab histories in the land,” PMW added.
Another revelation in Foreign Minister Malki’s interview hints that Kerry may also accept the narrative that the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) belongs to the Palestinians.
“What we have explicitly and clearly heard from the Americans is that the territory of the West Bank will be returned to the Palestinians, as it was before, and the Palestinians will not receive less than this,” Malki said. “We will have the entire territory of the West Bank: that is the principle. As for how it will be implemented, we have yet to study this.”
Despite the alleged American guarantee regarding the land handover, Malki remains deeply pessimistic about the outcome of the negotiations.
“I cannot say that we have achieved any progress whatsoever,” he said.
Pro-Life Banners in San Francisco Stir Controversy, Dubbed ‘Hate
A pro-life group is stirring controversy in San Francisco after putting up anti-abortion banners on the city’s main thoroughfare in preparation for the annual Walk for Life West Coast event on Jan. 25. Although the banners carry the simple message of “abortion hurts women,” one pro-abortion group is demanding they be taken down, saying they are a form of hate speech against women.
The 50 banners, installed on San Francisco’s bustling Market Street recently by Walk for Life West Coast organizers, include the message “abortion hurts women” along with an advertisement for the upcoming Walk for Life event that reads: “Walk for Life West Coast. A New Tradition. A New Voice.”
The banners are promoting San Francisco’s tenth annual Walk for Life event on Jan. 25, where over 50,000 people have gathered in years past to march in opposition to abortion through the city’s streets. The 50 banners lining Market Street will be seen by the thousands of walkers, as Market Street is the new route of the annual pro-life walk.
David Campos of the city’s Board of Supervisors has sponsored a resolution asking the city to review its current process of approving public advertisements. Campos argues that the “Abortion Hurts Women” advertisements violate city policy because they are spreading misinformation about abortions.
“I think that we in government have a responsibility to be on record saying that, you know, in San Francisco we do trust women, we respect their right to decide for themselves and we’re going to protect that right,” Campos said.
“Not only is abortion one of the safest medical procedures in the United States, but denied abortion care is what hurts women,” Campos added.
Ellen Shaffer, co-director of the Trust Women Silver Ribbon Campaign, a pro-abortion group, has also protested the banners. Shaffer previously wrote a letter to Mayor Ed Lee asking that the banners be removed because they contain “a false and hateful statement” regarding women’s reproductive health. The mayor denied the group’s request for banner removal, saying that the banners do not violate city code and removing them would be a violation of the First Amendment.
Walk for Life West Coast co-founder Eva Muntean argues that the banners are in complete accordance with the law and communicate the importance of the pro-life message. “We did everything legally, we did everything by the book,” Muntean told ABC 7 News. “We met every criteria. There is no reason at all for this to be an issue right now.”
Muntean went on to say that the sometimes hostile landscape of a city like San Francisco can prove difficult for groups toting messages that differ from what some residents believe. “One of the things that the city is always talking about is how tolerant they are and how they’re open to all views,” Muntean said. “And here we are with a view that’s different than what some San Franciscans believe and they are trying to shut us down.”
Addressing the controversy on their website, Walk for Life West Coast said it is “delighted with the publicity our banners have already generated. We urge all people of good will to join us on January 25 as we march in defense of the littlest among us. Our opponents seek to censor our message ‘Abortion Hurts Women,’ not because it is false but because it is true. We invite San Franciscans to attend the rally and Walk, and especially to attend the Silent No More Awareness campaign for post-abortive women at 10:45 AM in Civic Center Plaza, so that they may judge for themselves.”
This is not the first time Walk for Life West Coast has encountered controversy over its advertising in the Bay Area. Back in 2009, the group put up a large billboard on US 80 that was viewed by hundreds of thousands of commuters. The billboard was soon vandalized by assailants with paintball guns, but the damage was not very noticeable from the highway.
In 2010, the group took out bus ads on the city’s Golden Gate Transit buses to tote their pro-life message. In 2011, the group did a “Walk for Life Navy” advertisement by putting a giant pro-life banner on a yacht alongside the pro-life march’s parade route.
A Human Being In The Womb. Alive, Living, Created By The Will of God
Pakistan and the Arab-Muslim Culture of Denial
by Salim Mansur
January 28, 2014
Reprinted from The Gatestone Institute
Since 9/11, Islamist culture is seen to be synonymous with violence, misogyny and a pathological hatred for others; and, ironically, it has made Muslims themselves its most numerous victims. “Impure,” or non-authentic Muslims, meant those whose Islam had been weakened by un-Islamic or non-Islamic values imported from the West, or contaminated by the Hindu culture of India.
Eventually political differences came to be viewed, by the measure of Islam, in terms of the “purity” and “impurity” of people. In the “Land of the Pure” [Urdu for Pakistan], those suspected of impurity must be cleansed, purged or driven out.
For Osama bin Laden there was a clear and unmistakable cultural divide separating the Arab-Muslim world from the West. The idea that there is a difference, perhaps even qualitative, in terms of culture between the West and the East is considered a scandal by those who are convinced that our highly interdependent world is headed in a direction where, at some point, cultures will converge, or their significance be so diminished that cultural differences will be merely a matter of curiosity.
In our contemporary world, however, Bin Laden was right, as was Samuel Huntington, warning almost a decade before 9/11 that cultural differences matter in world politics. When political leaders and intellectual pundits in the West minimize the role and influence of cultural differences in world politics, they seem to be insensible to historical record.
The cultural trait most significant in explaining the difference between the West and the East is to be found in how people assess their place and role in history. There are those who willingly discern and identify, in history, their own responsibility for what affects them and others; and then there are those who on the contrary view history, even of their own making, fatalistically to avoid taking any responsibility for its outcome. These two opposing characteristics in general might be defined respectively as the Culture of Responsibility distinguishing the West, and the Culture of Denial, which distinguishes the East, in particular the Arab-Muslim world.
The Culture of Responsibility is partly guilt-driven; guilt born out of anxiety, in both the individual and collective mind of people, that the choices they make can be wrong and, consequently, they cannot ethically shirk the role they have played in events in which they are actors. A sense of guilt is the spur that drives people individually and collectively to set right what is, or is seen to be, wrong; in an open, democratic society, this trait becomes an important self-corrective mechanism by which society reforms itself.
The Culture of Denial is one of shame, honor and face-saving against the forces of history that push for change. In such circumstances taking responsibility for one’s role in events is an admission of supporting change, for better or worse – and change, in this culture, goes against collective interests as reflected in the consensus behind age-old customs and traditions. In refusing to take responsibility, or being accountable, people in shame cultures are adept in blaming others while viewing themselves as victims of history.
The contrast between these two cultures was evident in the manner in which the events of 9/11 were understood, explained, and interpreted by people in the West, in contrast to Muslims in the East. Once the shock and the grief lessened in time, analysts in the West sought explanations for 9/11 both in the thinking of those who carried out the terrorist attacks and also by looking inwardly toward what may have been the contributing factors, if any, of the West for provoking such attacks. Among Muslims, even those who denounced the perpetrators of 9/11, there was very little effort expended to understanding how their culture might have nurtured the thinking of Muslims that led to the terrorist attacks on the U.S. followed by similar attacks in Madrid, Spain, and London, England. Instead there was the reflexive response of blaming others, Jews or Israeli intelligence, and of brandishing the sociology of victimhood to exculpate the terrorists as victims long-suffering from the West’s colonialist-imperialist policies and the alleged Israeli-Zionist occupation of Arab-Muslim lands in Palestine.
Despite 9/11, many in the West have gone the extra distance to placate Muslim opinion in respect to the situation in the Middle East. There seems to be the sense of guilt, nestled inside the culture of responsibility, about the colonial-imperial history of the West in the region after World War I; that guilt raises its head when contending with, for instance, the history and politics of Arab-Muslim denial of any right of Jews to a secure homeland in Palestine. This feeling of guilt among western intellectuals has been effectively exploited by Arab and Muslim intellectuals, religious leaders, and politicians to explain away the failings of Muslim culture as the effects of the humiliations inflicted by the West. This misguided view has, unfortunately, resulted in the wrong-headed effort on the part of the West, led by Europe, the U.K., and the U.S., to appease the culture of Muslims that languishes in shame and denial.
The world of Islam is much larger than the Middle East, and Muslim culture is not confined to the Arab world. The politics and history of Muslims from outside the Middle East, however, are less distorted by the lingering guilt of Western intellectuals, or by anti-Semites masking the oldest bigotry behind their excessive zeal in support for Palestinians in the Arab-Israeli conflict. This dismissal of culpability means that the Muslim culture is rendered more transparent in revealing what Kanan Makiya described as the “cruelty and silence” which surrounded the tyrannical rule of Saddam Hussein over Iraq.
The history of Pakistan, and the genocide in Bangladesh, also provides a disclosure of the failings of Muslim culture – a history largely ignored or forgotten by the West. As a result, the embrace of Pakistan by America has contributed to strengthening those benefitting from this culture of shame and denial. There is lesson here in understanding the culture of the Muslim world without any blinkers.
* * *
On 16 December 2013, Pakistan’s National Assembly in Islamabad adopted a resolution by a majority vote condemning the execution of Abdul Quader Molla four days earlier in Dhaka, Bangladesh. The motion stated, “This House expresses deep concern on hanging of a veteran politician of Jamaat-i-Islami [JI] Bangladesh for supporting Pakistan in 1971.” The motion was moved by a member of the Pakistani JI in the Assembly; and, speaking on a point of order, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, the Interior Minister, stated that Molla’s hanging was “a judicial murder for supporting a united Pakistan in 1971.”
|Ghulam Azam, who, along with Abdul Quader Molla, was convicted in 2013 for conspiring, planning, incitement to and complicity in committing genocide during the 1971 war in Bangladesh, is pictured in this 2009 photo. (Image source: Wikipedia)|
As pointed out in “Genocide and Justice in Bangladesh“, Molla was hanged for war crimes and crimes against humanity that he committed as a collaborator with the Pakistani army, which was responsible for perpetrating genocide in 1971 in what was then East Pakistan. Molla’s trial, as well as the trials of others similarly indicted for committing crimes and collaborating with the Pakistani army, were the prerogative of an independent sovereign people, and of a democratically elected government to arrange for such trials.
For Pakistanis, outrage over these trials in Bangladesh was itself an outrage; an inconceivable expression of denial as if, for instance, Germans had protested the trials of indicted German war criminals long after the Second World War had ended. What bothered the JI and others in Pakistan is, “How dare any Muslim, in this instance Bangladeshis, declare their soul-mates to be guilty and then hang one of them!”
But the Pakistan’s National Assembly in adopting a resolution condemning Bangladesh for hanging Molla – and on the forty-second anniversary of its army’s surrender in Dhaka, Bangladesh, to the commanders of the Indian army and representatives of Bangladeshi “Mukti Bahini” [freedom fighters] – was a remarkable display of the collective denial of its own sordid history. In the intervening years, most Pakistanis had turned their backs on the events of 1971, and refused to learn any lesson from a political-military disaster that broke their country apart. Instead they readily suppressed the memory of the events, and constructed a narrative of victimhood portraying Pakistan betrayed and destroyed by Bengalis (or Bangladeshis) with the assistance of its archenemy, India.
In Bangladesh (formerly East Pakistan) the JI is remembered as the party that openly collaborated with the Pakistani army in 1971. The JI had supported a united Pakistan, but against the wishes of the overwhelming majority of the people in East Pakistan that it become a free and independent country.
Ironically, former East Pakistan was the more populous half of Pakistan, yet it was pushed to secede by the oppressive dominance of the minority non-Bengali population overwhelmingly represented in the military, administrative and business elites of the country. By the time the Pakistani army started its campaign against the people of East Pakistan in March 1971, there remained very little in common between the two halves of the country, physically separated by India in the middle.
The banner of Islam unfurled by the JI on the plea of unity was a travesty. Islam was the sectarian argument marshaled in 1947 by a segment of Indian Muslims to partition India. In 1971 the JI and its allies, to legitimate Muslim-on-Muslim violence, raised the banner of Islam to maintain the status quo, which meant East Pakistan would remain a satellite of West Pakistan.
The events of 1971, with genocide in East Pakistan resulting in the breaking apart of Pakistan, demolished the country’s founding narrative or rationale for the partitioning of India in August 1947 on the basis of Islam, to separate all Muslims, in a unified way, from India’s Hindus. The wider significance of this history is what it reveals about the Islamist culture in general. Since 9/11, it is seen to be synonymous with violence, misogyny, and a pathological hatred for others, and, ironically, it has made Muslims themselves its most numerous victims.
The argument advanced by Mohammed Ali Jinnah (1876-1948) and the Muslim League in the 1940s for dividing British India, was that Indian Muslims, as a result of their religion and culture, constituted a nation deserving a separate state of its own. This was the “two-nations” theory that insisted India, as a subcontinent, was comprised of two distinct, even hostile, “nations” – the majority Hindus and the minority Muslims. Jinnah’s argument was a repudiation of the idea of “composite nationalism” – India as a land of diverse ethnicities, religions, and languages – favored by the Indian National Congress under Mahatma Gandhi’s leadership. An independent post-colonial India that was visualized by Gandhi and others – including a wide segment of Muslims, led by formidable individuals such as Maulana Abul Kalam Azad (1888-1958), as the president of the Congress during this period, and the Pathan or Pushtun leader Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan (1890-1988) with his legion of supporters known as Khudai-Khidmatgars [“Servants of God”] – was one of unity within diversity, and of a federation knit together by shared history governed democratically.
Jinnah’s argument, however, was turned into the battle cry – “We will fight to take Pakistan” [“lar ke leng e Pakistan“] – of the Muslim League, and it inflamed with bigotry the politics of partitioning India along a religious divide. The “two-nations” theory cemented the notion among Jinnah’s supporters that Muslims as a minority in an undivided India could not live securely amidst a Hindu majority. The result was a horrendously painful tearing apart of British India in 1947, and a massive transfer of population that further embittered the relationship between the two peoples of India and Pakistan. Yet there remained behind, in post-1947 India, a substantial Muslim population, at present about the same size as that of Pakistan’s – and a continuing reminder of why Jinnah’s “two-nations” theory that Muslims of India constitute a “nation” and deserves a separate state of their own was absurd.
It was the events of 1971 that drove the stake through the heart of Jinnah’s “two-nations” theory and the rationale behind the making of Pakistan – a name chosen for the independent Muslim state, meaning, in Urdu “the land [or home] of the pure.” The subliminal message was that for Muslims to maintain the purity of their faith, it was necessary for them to separate themselves from those who were “impure”: the infidels, or Hindus. It was a highly bigoted message, and a manifest lie given the complexity of shared history in India of Hindus, other non-Muslims (Buddhists, Jains, Parsis or Zoroastrians, Jews, Christians), and Muslims for over a millennium before the making of the British Raj. In that process a composite culture had emerged, in which the commonality of language, music, fine arts, poetry, cuisine, and dress had outweighed the differences in religions and religious customs. But Jinnah’s message was to turn its back on the concrete reality of this shared history, to deny that such inter-mixing had taken place or that more of it needed to be nurtured, to refute the past reality and the future potential of Muslim and non-Muslim peaceful co-existence, and to select, instead, a Utopia of “the land of the pure.”
The choice for Indian Muslims upon which Jinnah insisted had relevance far beyond the confines of the subcontinent. Marshall Hodgson (1922-68), the author of the magisterial 3-volume study, The Venture of Islam, observed, “in the world as a whole the Muslims are, as in the more local case of India, distributed among a non-Muslim majority. The problem of the Muslims of India was in the end the problem of the Muslims in the world.” In other words, in a world ever-shrinking through technological innovations, made increasingly inter-dependent in a globalized economy and drawn closer by the shared imperatives for peace, the test for Muslims is to show they can co-exist peacefully with the non-Muslim global majority.
Jinnah’s choice meant rejecting this test for Muslims, which was first and most urgently presented in India at the end of the Second World War. His choice was also a poisoned pill: once taken, there would be no avoiding its lethal consequences. These have come in spades. In “the land of the pure,” those suspected of impurity needed to be cleansed, purged, or driven out. At first, non-Muslims, feeling insecure, gradually departed from the western half of Pakistan, although in the eastern half a substantial number of Hindus remained.
Eventually political differences came to be viewed, by the measure of Islam, in terms of the “purity” and “impurity” of people. “Impure,” or non-authentic Muslims, meant those whose Islam had been weakened by un-Islamic or non-Islamic values imported from the West, or contaminated by the Hindu culture of India, or who were measurably distant in terms of language, custom or ethnicity, from those more proximate to the physical center of Islam in the Middle East. In this sliding scale of “pure-impure,” those Muslims farthest from the center, or too closely connected to a culture considered un-Islamic, were suspect in the eyes of other Muslims who considered themselves authentic or pure, as did the partisans of the JI.
By the time political tensions reached the breaking point in 1971, Muslims in West Pakistan increasingly viewed Muslims in East Pakistan as less pure, or inauthentic. Bengali Muslims were seen to be in language and culture more proximate to the Hindus of eastern India than to Muslims in West Pakistan, who were viewed as more refined or “pure,” as they were geographically closer to the Middle Eastern or the Arab center of Islam. The logic of Jinnah’s “two nations” theory reached its terminal point when it was felt by Pakistan’s ruling elite that, to keep secure “the land of the pure,” military action against those whose Islam was less “pure” was imperative. It was this mentality of the military-bureaucratic elite, and widely shared by people in what is contemporary Pakistan that precipitated the genocide in what is now Bangladesh.
The elimination of those who were regarded as “impure,” as if they were infidels, became a religious obligation as much as a national security responsibility. In the end, Pakistan was broken apart, the military humiliated in defeat, the officers and soldiers taken to India as prisoners of war – and yet there was no soul-searching among those responsible as to why their politics failed so catastrophically. There was instead a deliberate suppression of the records, as well as a collective evasion of responsibility and an unwillingness publicly to examine and critically account for a history that had gone terribly wrong. There was no remorse, no apology made to those who were grievously wronged and, instead of guilt, there was an overwhelming sense of collective shame due to the military debacle that demanded, instead, erasure.
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The Muslim culture of denial and shame, when stripped of the rhetoric of Islamic piety, is the result of a tribal grounding. The Pakistani military, setting forth to eliminate, by murder and rape, Bengali Muslim opposition in 1971 was not new in Muslim history. The savage war against the people of Darfur waged by Omar al-Bashir’s regime in Sudan; the genocidal slaughter of Armenians by Turks in 1915; the Jews driven out forcefully from Arab states after the establishment of Israel; the cruel destruction of the Kurdish people by the Iraqis under the rule of Saddam Hussein; the sectarian conflicts in post-Saddam Iraq; in Syria ruled by the Assad family; in Lebanon; across North and West Africa; in the brutal occupation of East Timor by Indonesia; in the destruction of the Christian communities across the Middle East, and in the unending cycle of ethno-tribal violence in Afghanistan; these are just few of the randomly identified conflicts that have raged across the Muslim world in the period since World War I.
The great Arab historian from North Africa, Ibn Khaldun (1332-1406), understood the tribal characteristics of his people and culture. As a scholar of Islam, he was not deceived by the formal pieties of rulers he served. One of these was Timur or Tamerlane, the conqueror from Samarkand who relished the massacres of his fallen enemies, and from such experiences Ibn Khaldun derived his immensely insightful and seminal notion of “asabiyyah” or group solidarity that holds tribes together while warring with each other. It is “asabiyyah” that yet defines Muslim politics based on tribal or sectarian loyalties, and it is “asabiyyah” that precedes the faith of Muslims in the teachings of Islam.
Ibn Khaldun’s insight provides the most penetrating understanding of Muslim history and politics. Islam’s monotheism offered the tribes of Arabia the path to higher unity by renouncing tribalism, and through embracing a message of universal fraternity to set the example for others to follow.
The Qur’an states, in a verse frequently cited by Muslims, that God has “created you all out of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, so that you might come to know one another.” The Islamic teaching as illustrated in this verse is that everyone essentially belongs to one human family in which no one may claim racial, or tribal, or ethnic superiority over another. But this teaching – and the Prophet’s repeated admonition, as reported by his companions, that man is “a God-conscious believer or a miserable sinner” and, moreover, “all people are children of Adam, and Adam was created out of dust” – was subverted at the outset of the period in Muslim history that came just after the Prophet.
The great crime at the beginning of this history was the massacre of the Prophet’s immediate family with the killings of his grandson Husayn and the male members of the retinue accompanying him at Kerbala, Iraq, as a result of inter-tribal rivalry. A consequence of this tragedy – even as it was suppressed in the collective memory of Sunni Muslims or those who came to represent the majority sect in Islam – was that the pattern of tribal conduct from pre-Islamic days became the norm of Muslim culture. In other words, instead of Islam raising Arab tribes to a higher culture of universal ethics, the reverse occurred – Islam was subverted into a tribalism, which, in our time, makes its reappearance in the ideology of Islamism. Islamism is tribalism in the sense Islamists insist, as ideologues of tribes do, on the basis of their version of Islam in excluding or eliminating not only non-Muslims as enemies but also Muslims – especially Muslims, who do not agree with their version of Islam. This is what the JI did in Pakistan; what the Muslim Brotherhood and its offshoots practice across the Middle East, and Khomeinists or the followers of Ayatollah Khomeini do in Iran: in turning Islam into a tribal religion, they have waged their “tribal/Islamist” warfare against their opponents – who are just about everybody.
In the contemporary world, the Muslim culture of denial and shame, with its roots in tribal hubris and tribal solidarity, or “asabiyyah” in Ibn Khaldun’s formulation, stands exposed and at odds with the modern values of individual freedom and the ethics of individual responsibility and accountability. This tribal culture, as Ibn Khaldun observed, regenerates through pillage and plunder; each tribe sees itself as threatened unless it dominates the other, viewed as rival tribes. Tribalism invariably sets in motion a cycle of tribal conflict that brings ruin to all; and then the cycle is re-set to be repeated.
We are witnessing in the politics of the Muslim world what Ibn Khaldun recorded and explained in his own time. In an undivided India, Jinnah and his supporters drew upon the “asabiyyah” of Muslim culture to demand a separate state for Muslims. The politics of Muslim separation from Hindu majority in order to preserve the “purity” of Muslim religious-based tribal identity soon unfolded in demanding others within Pakistan to embrace this identity by renouncing their own, and with that requirement began the exodus of non-Muslims from the country, followed by the repression of those Muslims considered heretics, such as the Ahmediyya Muslims. There then followed the genocide in Bangladesh, and yet, in what remains of Pakistan, there is no sign of an end to tribal and sectarian conflicts. Further, the example of Pakistan is writ large across the contemporary Arab-Muslim world.
The non-Muslim world cannot by fiat, or intervention, bring an end to the conflicts raging within the Muslim world. It is only Muslims who can end this, at least temporarily, through exhaustion, as it happened after the decade-long Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s; or by the decisive defeat of Muslim tribalism as it happened with Pakistan in 1971 in Bangladesh. Eventually, however, the basis of these conflicts will only end when the Muslim culture of denial and shame is replaced by the ethics of individual responsibility and accountability. The requisite for such replacement is stated explicitly in the Qur’an: “God does not change the condition of a people unless they change what is in their hearts.” [Sura Ar-Ra’ad (Thunder), 13:11.] It could not be clearer or more simply stated.