Friday, June 29, 2007

Mika Brzezinski vs Paris Hilton or seriousness vs trivia

Celebrities are always in the spotlight. Every action, major or minor is of concern to some media, which tries to impose their trivial news on the public. There is little to learn from Paris Hilton’s experience in prison as she was in a special one. In the USA, there are about two million prisoners. There are executions that go unnoticed despite calls for the abolition of death penalties in states practising them.

Hilton’s imprisonment reflected somehow the flaws that can be in the justice system. First, she was put in prison to spend 45 days, then released to be put on house arrest, then brought back to prison, then released before finishing her sentence. Her imprisonment was like a serial in different instalments, making people follow her step by step as if she had been the only person imprisoned in the world. Her imprisonments can infuriate just ordinary prisoners who live in overcrowded jails with no preferential treatment.

The fact that Mika Brzezinski refused to read Paris Hilton's release from prison it paradoxically put her in the news much further as it was shown on Youtube Famous people from MSNBC talking about famous Paris Hilton made a trivial incident more important. It isn’t common to see a news staff wrangling about a news item in public or to make it public. But the heavy weight of slim Paris made that possible. Paradoxically, Hilton becomes top news because Mika Brzezinski wanted her to be ignored in favour of other news items.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Can the USA improve its image in the Muslim World?

US President George W Bush has said he will name an envoy to the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OCI) , to a coalition of Muslim countries. The would-be envoy will have a hard task to bring the American views and those of the Muslim public any closer. The USA popularity has a very low rate among the Muslims. They still feel unwelcome in the USA because of the heavy restrictions and conditions to get a visa. A Muslim name on a passport still raises suspicion at the US airports.

As long as its foreign policy in the Middle East, especially regarding Iraq and Israel doesn’t change, there is little it can do to change the views of Muslims, especially those imbued with anti-American propaganda. Many Muslims take delight in the rising power of countries like China and India to offset its global influence. Many see its threat towards Iran as a form of crusade aimed at weakening the Muslims at all levels.

For the US to improve its image among the Muslims, it should redress its foreign policies by winning the friendship of hardliner regimes like that of Iran. Friendly Muslim governments should work to spread moderate Islam and to implement democratic rules. Many moderate governments in the Muslim worlds are seen by their opponents as puppets of the USA. The USA remains a synonym of corrupt values threatening their traditions.

On a different note, Bush seems to be ignorant about Muslim countries, at least in the first years of his presidency. After 9/11 attacks he had a Muslim adviser to “teach” him about Islamic values following the misinterpretation or the exploitation of the term “crusade” he used. On Larry King, Bill Maher invoked an incident; I don’t if it was a joke or a reality. Bush was told by one of his advisers, “ In Iraq there are Sunnis and Shiaas.” To which bush responded, “ I thought there were only Muslims in Iraq.”

Perhaps both the Americans and the Muslims should know more about each other. They should know the good sides of each other. Focussing just on the negative sides or choosing to ignore basic facts about each other’s civilisation will just deepen the divide that can’t go any deeper.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Oil rationing and riot in Iran

Several petrol stations have been torched in the Iranian capital Tehran, after the government announced the rationing of fuel for private vehicles.

It’s quite ironic that Iran with abundant oil can’t have free use of it. There are countries with no oil at all that manage to refine the crude oil they buy from countries like Iran.

Metaphorically, the Iranians look like sailors surrounded with a big ocean but with little fresh water. Too much crude oil underground but little refined oil above the ground. The Iranian regime seems to have got its energy priority wrong. While it should focus at building refinery stations, it focuses on developing its controversial and suspected nuclear program. This will just give an opportunity for the USA and its allies to reinforce sanctions on it as refined oil will be on the sanctions list. USA, in particular will have a wide margin for its stick-and-carrot policy towards Iran. For Iran to be able to have the technology to refine its crude oil, it must shut its nuclear plantation, the US would say.

The Iranian president can fuel his policy with fiery speeches against the USA, promising glory for the Iranians. But the Iranians want to be on the move and not at a standstill. They seem to be filled with rhetoric. Now they want just oil to fill their vehicles. The oil rationing can just trigger protests without limits as the economy seems to be going badly along with the ethic restrictions imposed on them Perhaps, too radical measures are an invitation to a widespread revolt against a government establishing itself as revolutionary.

When the regime is surrounded with further international sanctions and wide protests at home, it can be faced with a blaze of difficulties, started by the rationing of oil that, in the first place, should be as easily available as drinking water. How the regime can put off the blaze it started remains to see. The climate seems too hot now. The regime needs to find ways to cool it through its international and domestic approaches.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Can a pan-African state be a reality?

Libyan President Muammar Gaddafi has described the African Union as a failure and vowed to press ahead with plans for a single African government .

It’s hard to imagine the African continent turning into a pan-African state. There are many difficulties in the way for this. Many veteran African leaders will find it difficult to step down like Omar Bongo of Gabon and Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe. African states have different agendas as they have different alliances outside the African continent. Up to now they failed to unite regionally, let alone continentally. African unity has been a dream for decades and it is likely to remain so. African union needs democratic basis, which is lacking in many African countries. Sooner or later, differences will emerge on how to conduct internal and external policies. Small states like Benin will be just swallowed or marginalised by big states like Nigeria. Countries doing well won’t seek to be embroiled with the difficulties of other countries.

African countries can’t now become federal states. They still have a long way to go before we see them with a common policy that can enable them to have a common government.

It’s rather ironic to see the African Union cherishing the idea of a pan-African state while they have among them the Algeria-backed Polisario front ( in conflict with Morocco since 1975) years seeking to form a state in the Western Sahara. They should first convince it to accept the autonomy plan proposed by Morocco for this territory to ease an effective Arab Maghreb Union.

The EU wasn’t made of its current members from the start. At first there were just three countries which formed the Benelux. That expands through 50 years to be made of 27 states. Perhaps African countries should be successful at regional integration with realistic aims before they dream of becoming one super state. Without peace in the whole of Africa and without putting an end to the current conflicts, especially in Sudan, Chad and DR Congo, the idea of a pan-African state will remain a joke among the African ordinary people, let alone political experts who can draw tens of examples of why the idea for pan-African state should be shelved before the majority of African countries should clean their houses before inviting their neighbours in and or getting into theirs.

Listen to part of the conversation on Africa have Your Say

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Can Tony Blair make a good peace envoy in the Middle East?

Tony Blair will be in the spotlight after his resignation. Through his experience in politics for a decade, he must be a good asset for many circles. As for a possible job as a peace envoy in the Middle East, he can be fit at least for pathfinding missions. He must know the ins-and outs of the situation there.

Historically, Britain is one of the rare countries that have more knowledge about the Middle East than any other does. He’s been just fresh from his office as PM, he can have good contacts with the movers and shakers in Middle East policies. This can be of good help to the UK Foreign Office, as it will have another foreign secretary in disguise, focussing on a very turbulent region, which in fact must take a large proportion of the Foreign Office agenda.

However, success isn't guaranteed. Different politicians who made the Middle East their priorities failed, including Bill Clinton during his presidency. It's common that in the Middle-East you can get just signed agreements. On the ground, reality changes everything. So his slogan must be, "Never get tired of going to square one." He must draw on British cold blood to continue his job without quickly getting in the bloody moods that are prevalent in the Middle East.

Another point is that the ground on which Tony Blair is going to work isn't laid with roses. The situation in the Middle East is very intricate. If it was impossible for him to broker a solution when he was in power, how can he succeed when he's simply an envoy. He can succeed in coordinating views if the conflicting parties first agree on a peaceful solution.

On my part, to commemorate, Tony Blair’s ten years in office, I will re-watch the “Queen”. It starts in when he took office and it ends with the stroll he took with the Queen. Tomorrow he will have a stroll with her wile the corgis are leaping around. One thing the Queen will be pleased about is that Gordon Brown’s wife, Sarah Macaulay– pigeon-natured, isn’t suspected of being republican, unlike the cat-looking Cherrie Booth , Blair’s wife!

Listen to part of the conversation on BBC WHYS broadcast on June 26th, 2007

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Monday, June 25, 2007

Protests over Cologne biggest mosque

A right-wing citizens' initiative is protesting against Germany's largest mosque, which is being built in Cologne. They have enlisted the efforts of the far-right from Austria and Belgium in their fight against the "Islamization of Europe."

Building the biggest mosque in Germany shouldn’t be the cause of such protests as it was reported. It should be the symbol of the big religious tolerance in Germany. Germany isn’t the only European country where Muslims face bureaucratic difficulties to build a mosque. Some local authorities in France refuse construction permission for election results.

Germans should have no fear of a mosque. There are bigger mosques in France, the USA and Gibraltar. A mosque with a capacity for 2,000 believers doesn’t look that big even if it is considered as the biggest in Germany.

The Germans should take the example of UK regarding its Muslim communities. The Muslim community centre is one of the largest of its kind in western Europe. It can hold 10,000 worshippers.

A mosque isn’t the source of terror. You can close mosques. But you can’t close all internet sites that spread terror. Such acts will fuel just hatred between Muslims and non-Muslims in Germany. Muslims citizens or legal residents should feel at home. Denying them a mosque when it is possible for them to build one amounts to open hostility. The best thing to do is to live and let live. It isn’t fit for Germany to be a land of religious persecution.

Unesco and World Heritage

UNESCO is meeting in New Zealand to decide which sites to add to its World Heritage list -and also to its "endangered" list. Sites vying for endangered status include the Tower of London, the Galapagos Islands and Machu Picchu in Peru. The committee must decide if they are at risk from war, tourism, overdevelopment or neglect.

Campaigners say the UN must take urgent action to protect six World Heritage sites, including Mount Everest, from the impact of climate change.

Putting endangered sites on UNESCO list doesn't guarantee they can be out of risk even if they are recognized to be so. In Morocco, Fes city has been on the list of world heritage for more than 20 years. Yet many old houses are still crumbling because there aren't enough funds to restore them. Marrakesh, being on the list, is a success story thanks to the restoration of the old city houses by the Europeans who bought them. The local authorities mainly work to restore its ancient ramparts.

But there are other places around the world that don’t catch the eye as a heritage because of their notoriety and they’d better be forgotten. Yet , they must be a part of collective memories for generations to remember. From the Second World War rose the holocaust memorial and the Berlin Wall. Today, Notorious prisons like Guantanamo and Abu Gharib should be on the list to remind people of what man has made of man and to serve as an example of what extreme measures by detainers and detainees can lead to.

For the preservation of sites, natural or monumental, We shouldn't focus just on sites that can be of tourist values as they have all the chances to be restored. There are other sites that will remain neglected because they need huge funds or they exist in unknown zones. Big Ben is world famous. How many know about Bab Mansour in Meknes?

Above all, there are ways of life that are threatened because of globalisation. Some of these ways have become just tourist curiosity. People keep to them just for tourist attraction. They in a sort become just actors, acting their own reality for gain and not out of conviction. We can preserve sites. They are static. But sometimes, it becomes difficult to preserve a culture because the people who should make it a part of their lives don’t want to look archaic. They want to move with time. So it is no wonder if we have museums with effigies and pictures of people whose lifestyle has become extinct.

Preserving local cultures should go in parallel with preserving sites and monuments. Monuments are after all the result of a culture. Both should be preserved for the enrichment of human knowledge and to make the world more diverse.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Oil find, Ghana's hope and Morocco's disappointment

Oil alone isn’t the key to development and prosperity. There are many countries that don’t have oil at all and yet they are ranked among the richest. Japan and Germany are just examples. What makes a country rich is the way it is run in the spirit of democracy and hard work. Oil is just a part of the riches that one can have. Without economic activities, it becomes worthless. You can have oil, but if you don’t have, for example, a car to use it, it will just lay to waste. Oil is just a means to make machines work. The machines should be efficient and productive.

There are many oil producing countries that can’t manufacture their oil sufficiently at least for home consumption. Iran and Nigeria are an example. Iran has to import manufactured oil when it has crude oil in abundance. It has introduced a quota for drivers who can’t exceed 4 litres a day or they should pay more for an extra quantity.

Ghana was once called the Gold Coast. But after independence it missed many golden opportunities for a good start due to coups and dictatorship. Now it has another gold opportunity for an economic surge thanks to the discovered oil. Oil will be a test of its current democracy. If it isn’t used beneficially for all the Ghanaians, it can threaten the current stability as it can be the source of corruption and deep economic inequalities between classes and regions.

In 2000, there was an official announcement that a big oil reserve was found in the east of Morocco in Talsint. That was widely reported on the media including the BBC. That raised a lot of hope. One year later, it was announced the find was a hoax or rather a banana oil. The expected amount of oil wasn't in the discovered fields. The hopes evaporated in smoke, the way the would-be discovered oil should have done. Instead of getting cheap oil, Morocco had to pay more for it due to the unprecedented soaring prices.

For Ghana, let’s hope it will see the flame of it oil burning to enlighten its path for progress. Good paths should be laid for it not to go just in fumes without moving the country anywhere.

Monday, June 18, 2007

EU resuming aid to fatah, will it help?

Resuming aid by the EU to Fatah alone is likely to deepen the tensions between Fatah and Hamas. Fatah will be viewed just as a puppet of Israel and the USA by its opponents. However aid to Fatah should be seen as an encouragement for moderation. It's better to have at least a section of the Palestinians benefiting from such aid than to have all them deprived of it because of Hamas positions.

Due to the support Fatah has from the USA and Israel, Hamas will have no choice but to stick to its armed resistance as a way to keep its present felt. Hamas has opted for isolation as it refuses to recognize the legitimacy of Israel. If Gaza remains under its control amid international isolation, we may witness a human catastrophe in this region. While the West Bank is going to benefit from US aid, Gaza will be deprived from it under intransigent Hamas. The Palestinian problem will persist. . Aid alone will do little to resolve the Palestinian problem as compromise is needed from all parties.

Marrakesh is the most expensive city in Morocco, but not in the world

The survey by Mercer Human Resources Consulting measured the cost of 200 items such as housing, clothing and food in 143 cities on six continents. Russia's capital, Moscow, has been named as the world's most expensive city for expatriate staff to live, for the second year in a row.

The soaring prices in big cities are mainly linked to their reputation and the opportunities they can offer. A city can still look cheap by European standards but it’s very expensive for the locals and the nationals. In Morocco, Marrakesh has become the most expensive city. People with middle or low income can’t afford to get a house but simply a small flat whose mortgage can extend for 25 years. For a European, it still cheap as a high standing eighty square metre apartment in city centre can be acquired at $120,000. This is too much for the locals whose annual income in most cases doesn’t exceed $6,000

In the old city, houses are much more expensive as they are favoured by foreign buyers who prefer to live in the exotic atmosphere of the East. Now most of the locals can’t afford them as their price jumped a lot in the past years. One of the advantages of selling these houses to Europeans is that they restore them beyond recognition. Many of these houses were in a state of ruin. Because of their size, their poor owners couldn’t repair them. The old city retrieved its boom thanks to investment by the Europeans, mainly French. The houses have become guest houses.

The economic advantages are that the guest houses created employment on many levels. Local artefacts got revived in terms of building and furniture after the domination of industrialised items. Artisans have a source of living.

So Marrakesh remains expensive for its population while it is reasonably cheap for the Europeans, including those with a low income.

On my part, I wish to have the chance to live just in a small town or a village. Marrakesh has become congested, relatively polluted. What makes it charming for many is that in it, you can live in two separate worlds. There is the old city; called the medina, which extends over six square kilometres and the new city which doesn’t stop sprawling in all directions.

Maybe as the city is getting more and more international reputation and the increasing prestigious tourist projects, it may rank as one of the most expensive city, at least in Southern Europe, North Africa and the Middle East.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Hamas and Fatah, a lull before a new storm

The Palestinian factions did it again in the last days. The political factions were short of money because of the boycott of Hamas government by the West. But they weren’t short of ammunition. They had no money to spend on economic projects for the hard-hit Palestinian population. They seem to have just a surplus of ammunition, which they couldn’t use, in any manners but as a pastime to show strength. They were good at destruction when the Palestinian territories are in great need of more constructions.

The death toll in the past days will enter Palestinian history. The 40th anniversary of the Six Day War was celebrated with killings. If only there had been just forty deaths to make it symbolic. That exceeded 100. This must be considered as the Palestinian version of the Battle of Jenin . In this battle, Israel killed many Palestinians. In the latest round of fights between Hamas and Fatah, at least 100 Palestinians were killed. So Palestinian factions have now their big share in the deaths of the Palestinians, not Israel alone.

It’s ironic that these factions express outcry when one Palestinian is killed by the Israelis and Hamas expresses victory because it outdid Fatah in the number of Palestinians it killed and imprisoned. There may be a lull after heavy fighting. But there is no assurance that the hatchets are buried. It has become common that Fatah and Hamas are sworn enemies. The good news for Israel must be that Hamas is now busy trying to destroy Fatah. Destroying the state of Israel is not its priority. It can depend on Iran to do the job for it. May be this is a tactic by Hamas and Iran as in political gamble or game. A faction must destroy a faction. A state must destroy a state. It’s possible that Fatah can be weakened by Hamas because it is just an organisation. It’s virtually impossible for Iran to wipe out Israel off the face of the Earth for the reasons everybody knows.

I have a crush on Obama

Sex appeal has always been one of the key factors for popularity. Obama may not look sexy for many voters but he has a childlike and nice look. He may inspire peace in some contrary to the hawkish looks of the Republicans past and present, mainly George Bush, Rumsfeld and Condoleezza Rice.

The song and the singer are sexy by all standards. The more people view the video, now it has become popular, the more the popularity of Obama will grow. People will tune more and more to see the sexy singer, who in the most part appears in the video with the photos of Obama. This will stick in the mind of many as well as the provocative words of the song.

Maybe the video will be more appealing to the female voters. Let’s remember that Bill Clinton, thanks to his handsome look, was a popular favourite by the female voters. He was the dream of many. The video will have a crush when Obama is elected in the primary as the presidential candidate. Currently it may rival with the song proposed by Hilary Clinton on Youtube.

On a final note, politics and entertainment have never been so intertwined in the USA. Many celebrities are known for their political views who side with one candidate or another. There are shows used as a platform for candidates to transmit their views, the most famous are The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and Late Night with Conan O'Brien. Now Youtube has become a new platform. It’s immediate and cheap, not necessitating the colossal sums to buy time on famous channels like NBC or CNN.

The risk is when voters become more influenced by the entertaining aspects of campaigns than by the substance of the political programmes. In this case, the best looking candidate who secures the best song will have more chance to get to the heart of people. He or she won’t have to task their minds with long speeches, which the voters are unlikely to listen to in their entirety or listen to again or download on an MP3 the way they do for an exciting song.

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Thursday, June 14, 2007

Can an international force end the infights in Palestinian territories?

Hamas militants have hailed a series of military victories victories over rivals Fatah in the Gaza Strip as a new "liberation" of the territory.

Hamas being internationally isolated has no choice but to impose itself internally. First, it is working to weaken Fatah through armed battle. Hamas is relatively in a strong position compared to Fatah which appears to have lost political and security control of the situation. Hamas is unlikely to accept any international force (IF) as it feels let down by the international community that deprived it from the financial aids Fatah used to get generously. An IF will be advantageous just to Fatah, which appears unable to winningly confront Hamas in the raging battles.

Ironically, when Gaza and the West Bank were under direct Israeli occupation Hamas and Fatah never came to such armed conflicts. Now they are left alone, they have only themselves as first enemies. An international force will do little to stop them fighting. Hamas is likely to consider it as a new form of occupation. It will turn its guns at it. As Gaza is an unruly land accustomed to armed fighting, international force will have the highest casualties in a lawless land rife with suicide bombers. Hamas will have little to lose in an unchained situation.

It seems the Palestinians haven’t qualified yet for a state as it doesn’t have leaders qualified to run it through the usual institutions like parliament and cabinet. A Palestinian state will look just like Lebanon during its years of the civil wars. The Palestinians through Hamas and Fatah have more to disunite than unite them. With the death of Yasser Arafat who was somehow a unifying force, the dream of a Palestinian state is dying.

What doesn’t make sense is that the Palestinian factions talked of brotherhood when they were under the direct occupation of Israel in Gaza and the West Bank to show unity. Now Israel having left them alone, they are changing brotherhood with fratricide.

Each time, they turn the clock back when they must move on to consolidate their dream of an independent state. With their broken agreement and promises, things just go to square one. Maybe their struggle will be a forgotten one as their cause is no longer the focus of international attention as it used to be due to the new situation in the Middle East like that of Iraq and Iran. As things stand, the Palestinians are to blame. Nobody is currently killing them in massive numbers. It’s they who are killing each other under the smiling eyes of Israel, which is benefiting most from their deadly behaviour.

Perhaps, Israel should do the Palestinians a favour. It should reoccupy Gaza and the West Bank. This will be a chance for Hamas and Fatah to turn their struggle against Israel as in the “old good days”. At least there will be more Palestinian casualties from Israel rather than from Palestinian factions. Does it make sense? It may make some sense in a land where common sense is a rare commodity, a land becoming a laughing stock and a source of pity for anyone trying to understand why factions struggling to free their land from Israel can't free themselves from ruthless rage against one another.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Saving endangered species

In some countries, there are no endangered species to protect because those worthy of protection are already extinct. Endangered species have to make way for the species consumed daily like cows. Forests are cleaned to make them grazing lands. The power of the market will make Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) powerless as governments consider the economic benefits for the population and not the welfare of endangered species like tigers and birds whose habitat can be the home and the workplace of thousands of people.

Saving endangered species needs funds, especially in areas that aren't tourist attraction. Many of the areas are in poor countries. There is the dilemma, which to save first, poor people in danger of poverty and disease living near the endangered species or these species?
Saving endangered species is a matter of political will. There are economic and cultural pressure against enforcing their protection. Japan is a good example because of its whaling policies despite conservationists outcry.

Trade ban can be effective for species that are traded abroad as pets. There is the cultural issue that makes trade ban ineffective. It can’t work for species that are killed for local use as medicine like tigers in China despite the risk of heavy punishment. Whales caught by Japan are essentially consumed in Japan. Some species like gorillas are endangered because of wars as in DR Congo. Saving endangered species is, first of all, a local and national responsibility.

Hamas and Fatah, fighting just to lose

Militants from the Palestinian faction Hamas are pushing back rivals Fatah in the Gaza Strip after several days of heavy fighting in which 60 people died.

The Palestinians leaders are just mocking themselves by calling themselves brothers and Israel their common enemy. Israel has existed for about sixty years. There has been no record of Israeli politicians mounting killing against one another despite their deep divergence in running the country. Ironically, the Palestinians are catching up with Israel in the number of killed Palestinians. Since the start of the internal armed clashes between Fatah and Hamas, there have been tens of dead if not hundreds. This can turn into thousands if both lose all restraints.

The Palestinians through their self-inflicted wounds can’t be taken seriously, especially by Israel from which they want an independent state. They failed to honour their agreement in Saudi Arabia to never return to “fratricide”. So how can they be trusted by international diplomats that they can be reasonable people and resolve their problems through dialogue?

The Palestinian leadership on both sides seems to be losing control over its armed members. A state with an independent army is very dangerous. So to convince the world that they are worthy of independence, the Palestinian should show their competence in running the territories they are “governing” before they ask for more.

The Palestinian leaders are just rubbing more salts in the wounds of the ordinary Palestinians whose dream must be to leave the land they were brought up to fight for.

There is no power in the world to bring the Palestinian leadership to its senses. There were calls for it from different parts of the world like the Arab governments. All calls falls on deaf ears in an area used just to the sounds of bullets and artillery and all other sorts of gunfire.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The death of Bob Woolmer, natural or mysterious?

Police in Jamaica have confirmed that they are no longer treating the death of the Pakistan cricket coach, Bob Woolmer, as murder.

Declaring that the death Bob Woolmer was of natural causes is an attempt to close the case once for all. Due to progress in medicine and forensic evidence, it's possible to establish the nature of any death in a relatively short time, especially his body wasn’t in a state of decomposition. It’s possible to know if a person was subjected to torture, poison, asphyxia, strangling etc.

At first, his death was treated as a criminal case. Now surprisingly, it is revealed that he died of natural causes. This also needs further international police investigations into the methods used by Jamaican police in their “investigations” to establish the whole truth. Otherwise, his death will remain a mystery or simply a cover-up to avoid shocking revelations reaching high circles.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Harry Potter and the right to religious freedom

A Pentecostal teaching assistant who quit her job at a foundation primary school after she was disciplined for refusing to hear a child read a Harry Potter book is seeking compensation for religious discrimination. She claimed that the book glorified witchcraft. But was she right in refusing to hear the child read?

Schools should be a place where pupils or students learn to develop their personality by learning how to learn and to translate it in their lives. Among the other things, they should learn is how to express themselves and to develop or satisfy their curiosity. Teachers should be good guides. They shouldn’t come to class to stifle the learners’ desire for free expressions.

In a class, students understandably belong to different families with different social and political, religious or secular backgrounds. Teachers shouldn’t be dogmatic by seeking to impose their views on students. In society, there are forums where they can freely acquire views as long as they don’t clash with the norms. Teachers as it is the case of the teaching assistant, Sariya Allen, should keep her faith to herself, especially, her job isn’t to teach religion nor does she have the right to impose her religious views on her students. It is up to parents to choose what religious beliefs they want for them.

In some countries like France, religious signs like the cross or the hijab are banned. Students and staff keep their religions outside school. Ms Sariya Allen should know that she has a curriculum to implement as agreed upon by the school board and not in her own way as far as faith is concerned.

Stopping a child from reading from Harry Potter is in itself a campaign against a popular book, whose aim is to expand children’s imagination and to allow them to live in an imaginary world. Harry Potter isn’t the first children book to deal with witchcraft. There are good and bad witches. Following the logic of Sariya Allen, all such books should be withdrawn because of a particular view.

All in all, schools in free societies are no longer religious institutions. Teachers should move with the held principles of their societies. Schools have in majority to do with the mainstream views for the integration of all in society through training, concepts and opportunities. They aren’t meant to produce minorities whose views can lead them to open clashes or to marginalisation.

Is G8 still relevant?

G8 has become a forum for the rich nations to lay the basis for what can keep them together economically and politically. This year it has the peculiarity of being slightly different from the previous summits. Sarkozy is attending the meeting for the first time as president of France. Tony Blair is attending for the last time as Prime Minister.

During each summit, at least in the past few years, there are the same scenarios. The largest gathering of the media from all over the world, the heavy security measures and the nice greetings of the head of delegates. As G8 seeks each year a theme or themes for discussion, anti-globalisation protesters find new ways to show their protests. The security forces in full readiness barring them access to the headquarters of the summit.

G8 is an occasion for the leaders to have face-to-face meetings. Many of their commitments to poor countries weren’t implemented like providing them with economic assistance. G8 2007 has one of its themes «the struggle against poverty across the globe will be a priority."

"The struggle against poverty across the globe” is a laudable objective. But the effort must be taken from the donors and the recipients alike. G8 can’t alone solve the problems of poor counties. It is they who should set the basis for that. They should have good government at the local and the central level. They should deal with deep problems like corruption and embezzlements. It’s better for them to develop themselves to become good partners instead of remaining the object of talks among the rich nations whose leaders are sometimes unable to attend to them. They leave it to charity organisations or NGOs to take care of some countries that are presumably sovereign and independent.

Poor countries, especially in Africa, shouldn't put all the blame on G8 for failing to provide them with the all the help they need. It's them who should clean their house to make better use of the help they already receive. It's shameful that as independent countries, they still need supervision from donor countries and organisations to know where their money go. Good governance and international cooperation is the key to eradicating poverty. G8 isn't essentially an emergency fund for the poor.

Watch the video broadcast on BBC Haveyoursay

Listen to part of the conversation on BBC Haveyoursay broadcast on June 10th, 2007

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Tuesday, June 05, 2007

London 2012 Olympic Games Logo

The logo has shapes looking like "Z". There are also the five circles. Using my "skills" in interpreting plastic art, I think the "Z" shapes and the circles stand for zero !. This means there will be zero tolerance during the next Olympic Games.

The proposed colours are slightly like those of traffic lights: green, orange and red. This means when the games are held everybody should know when to stop or go!

The symbol is repeated three times in different shapes from the biggest to the smallest. This means there are giant participants as well as dwarf ones.

The shapes if animated can present a good cartoon.

For these reasons, I stand perplexed. Being utterly ignorant in art, I can interpret the logo just from what it looks on the surface as I don't have the skill to get into the mind of the artist(s) who made it.

The Consequences of the Six Day War

The Six Day War was a war between words and deeds. Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser was an enthusiastic Arab leader who had only projects for his ideology without the effective means to implement them. He tried to bite more than he could chew. Either out of military ignorance, excessive zeal or dependence on good luck, he tried to confront Israel, which was a superpower in the region considering its air superiority.

While the war was a “Naksa” or setback for the Arab countries involved in that war, mainly Egypt, Jordan and Syria, it must be seen as an epic victory for Israel. In a short time, it fought three countries much bigger than it in population and surface. Israel got more than it hoped for as it acquired more land, creating international tension in the region. That made it in a stronger position. The dream of Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser just evaporated. His dream of Arab Unity was replaced by Arab frictions. “Wiping out” Israel changed into “Bigger Israel”. That gave just boost to Israel, which became seen as a victim of “Arab aggression”.

Forty years on, the landscape of the Middle East changed a lot. Egypt, which was Israel's enemy number one and an ally of the Soviet Union became one of the first allies of the USA in the Middle East. It “befriended” Israel after the signing of the Camp David Peace Agreement. Israel returned Sinai to Egypt but Sharam Sheikh is a favourite tourist destination of the Israelis. Moderate Arab states, especially in the Gulf changed from Bedouin societies to opulent modern ones by showing moderation and distancing themselves from open confrontation with Israel.

But the Palestinians were left to pay for the consequences of the Six Day War. Since 1948, many had to leave their homeland. They are still torn between the internal Palestinian political frictions and Israel refusal to grant them an independent state.

Israel got many military victories in its wars but at the same time, it made a lot of enemies. It is obliged to keep on a constant state of alert as it is threatened from inside and outside. Its forces are the most active ones as they are constantly embroiled in confrontation. The Six Day War is apparently over but its consequences are lingering.

Israel signed peace agreements with Jordan and Egypt. It signed the Oslo Accord with the PLO (Fattah). Despite all this, the Six Day War is still lingering in a different form. It was possible for Israel to create an unpredictable situation in six days. But it failed along with its Arab opponents to establish permanent peace throughout the forty years that followed one of the most famous wars in modern history.

On a final note:

The Arab Israeli conflict was advantageous to many Arab dictatorial regimes as it was exploited by them to hush any opposition. One interesting remark is that after the second major war with Israel in October 1973, there were no coups in the Arab countries, especially in Syria, Egypt whose regime came to power through coups.

It might be possible that Arab regimes in the Middle East benefited from this conflict as it was in the interest of the superpowers and Israel to deal with regimes whose leaders they know well and who could keep their countries stable. It could have been worse if Arab countries remains plunged in coups leading to civil wars.

In a way, Israel was a blessing in disguise for many regimes. The Israeli card became for them a joker they could play in different way

Friday, June 01, 2007

Are Russia and USA restating the Cold War?

Vladimir Putin attacked foreign intervention in Russia, the US missile defence plan and called for an increase in domestic oil processing in a defiant final annual address to parliament before he steps down as Russian president in 2008. The speech showed in a certain way the escalating tension on different levels between Russia and the other major powers, especially the EU and the USA.

Recently, Russia have announced they've tested new strategic and tactical missiles, in response to U.S. plans to install a missile defence shield in Europe.

Russia seems to be keen on returning to the world stage as a force to reckon with. After the fall of communism, it was busy laying the basis for its shift to liberalism. Like the polar bear, it was in a state of hibernation. Now it is getting more and more awake after being warmed up by what it sees the approaching erosion of its icy and firm land.

Russia, as it appears, doesn't want to be seen as a middle power with the rise of China and India as the potential superpowers in the future. Russia doesn't want to be cornered by the EU and the USA, the major economic and political blocs. Russia needs an aggressive policy by putting its house in order through democracy and ending corruption. The current powers should deal with it without hurting its pride. As a giant country, it has the power to be both a constructive or destructive force on the world stage. So it’s better to let the sleeping bear in it lying instead of stirring it to push against anything in its way.

But as the US is intent to pursue its military strategies, especially through its missile defence system is likely to urge Russia to be more suspicious. USA is worried about the secretive armament of China. Iran is intent on developing its nuclear program. So it seems the world is heading towards a new era of arms race. The end of the cold war after the fall of communism in Russia and Eastern Europe was just a lull. The new world reality and the resentment of many powers of the US hegemony on the world stage will make them think of developing their defence systems.

Believing in world peace is only an illusion. There is no end of the clashes of civilisations and ideologies. As such military power will remain the best resort for many to strike a balance at the expense of economic projects that can benefit many poor peoples throughout the globe.