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Sunday, April 20, 2008

Baithak World Apr 19: Defusing Human Bombs, Carter, Pope, Dietrich Reetz, David Edgar, Wajda, Def. of Dualism, Noah Feldman, Muslims in Germany, RealN

SAUDI ARABIA IS one of the last places on earth one would expect to find an art therapy course for convicted terrorists. The kingdom, after all, is known for an unforgiving approach to criminal justice: thieves risk having their hands amputated, "sexual deviance" is punishable by flogging, and drug dealers are beheaded. And yet, over the past few years, jailed Saudi jihadis, led by therapists and motivated by the possibility of a shortened sentence, have been putting paint to paper to work their way through - and hopefully leave behind - the thoughts and feelings that drove them to support violent strains of Islam. Extremist art therapy, it turns out, is only part of a new global movement to "deradicalize" terrorists. The Saudi program, a multipronged effort, is among the biggest and best-funded, but in recent years a growing number of Muslim countries and countries with large Muslim minorities have started similar ones: Indonesia, Malaysia, Yemen, Jordan, Egypt, Singapore, Great Britain, and the Netherlands among them. Last September, the US-led military coalition in Iraq created an ambitious program of its own to handle its more than 24,000 detainees. And psychologists and political scientists are starting to take an interest in the topic. How to defuse a human bomb

CAIRO (Reuters) - Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter called the blockade of Gaza a crime and an atrocity on Thursday and said U.S. attempts to undermine the Islamist movement Hamas had been counterproductive. Speaking at the American University in Cairo after talks with Hamas leaders from Gaza, Carter said Palestinians in Gaza were being "starved to death", receiving fewer calories a day than people in the poorest parts of Africa. "It's an atrocity what is being perpetrated as punishment on the people in Gaza. it's a crime... I think it is an abomination that this continues to go on," Carter said. Israel has been blockading Gaza most of the time since Hamas took control of the impoverished coastal strip in June last year, allowing only basic supplies to enter. Israel has not accepted Hamas proposals for a truce including an end to Hamas rocket attacks on Israel and to Israeli attacks on Hamas personnel in Gaza and the West Bank. Israeli officials say a truce would enable Hamas to rearm. Carter said Israel and its ally the United States were trying to make the quality of life in Gaza markedly worse than in the West Bank, where the rival Fatah group is in control. Carter calls Gaza blockade a crime and atrocity

UNITED NATIONS – Pope Benedict told diplomats at the United Nations on Friday that respect for human rights was the key to solving many of the world's problems, while cautioning that international co-operation was threatened by "the decisions of a small number." Addressing the General Assembly on his first papal trip to the United States, the pontiff described the work of the UN as vital, but raised concern that power is concentrated in the hands of just a few countries. "Multilateral consensus continues to be in crisis because it is still subordinated to the decisions of a small number," said Benedict, speaking in French. UN power too concentrated, Pope says

SPIEGEL: Mr. Reetz, recently the debate about the propensity to violence, among young Muslim men in particular, has heated up in Germany. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung co-editor Frank Schirrmacher wrote that, “the mixture of youth criminality and Muslim fundamentalism” is “the closest thing today to the deadly ideologies of the 20th century.” He is drawing an analogy to fascism and Stalinism. Is that excessive dramatization or is there a real threat?

Dietrich Reetz: The incidents have been exaggerated. The negative images that are projected on Islam have little to do with religion, but instead are largely a result of the political problems and social situation of the people in question. Before immigrants’ beliefs came to the forefront, the same problems were treated mainly under terms such as immigration, integration, and multicultural society. 'Muslims Have a Right to Be Different' - INTERVIEW WITH ISLAM EXPERT DIETRICH REETZ

It is also a group that suffered, particularly during Cohen, Aaronovitch and Anthony's formative years. Throughout the 70s and 80s, Paki-bashing created an image of Britain's south Asian communities as a traditionally submissive group, victimised by unwarranted aggression. For some, this image was complemented by admiration for groups such as the Bradford 12, who sought to defend their communities against fascist attack, and won the right to do so in court. When, in 1989, Bradford's Pakistanis found a sense of self-confidence and identity through burning books rather than banks, it's no surprise that liberal progressives who had supported, maybe even pitied, that community felt a sense of betrayal. In their books, Cohen and Anthony frequently point out how people on the left grow bitter when the poor fail to live up to the romance of unbridled heroism or untainted victimhood. They don't fully take into account the effect of that delusion on themselves. Many of the usual pathologies of defection can be detected in the current crop. The attack on multiculturalism - so often sold as a reassertion of Enlightenment principles - often masks a distinctly unenlightened reassertion of hierarchic and traditionalist thinking. Despite his defence of women's and gay rights against Qur'anic scholars, a distinct strain of hostility to the sexual gains of the 60s runs through Cohen's What's Left?: he blames the anti-racists and sexual reformers of the 60s for dissolving "the bonds of mutual support", dips more than a toe into the Daily Mail's critique of the welfare state (breaking up families, privileging immigrants), and blames the Respect party for Pakistani and Bangladeshi unemployment. With friends like these - David Edgar

Katyn is the most personal film Wajda has made: he lost his father in the Katyn massacre. He also was a witness to his mother's desperate and hopeless efforts searching for his father and her ultimate discovery of his tragic fate. In 1940 22,000 Polish citizens were executed under the orders of Josef Stalin in the Katyn forest in the western part of the Soviet Union. The tragedy was not revealed until the spring of 1943 when the Nazis invaded the Soviet Union and discovered the mass graves. The Nazis used the news of their discovery to deflect attention from their mass murders of Jews, Slavs, gypsies and other opponents. However the Soviet propaganda machine blamed Adolf Hitler for the deaths. Any Soviet citizens who spoke out to tell the truth were punished with harsh prison terms. In Poland under the country's post-war communist regime, talk of the massacre was taboo. Consequently the film's premier last September in Poland was a major national event; around three million spectators viewed the film. Poland's Painful Past -By Vera von Kreutzbruck

Broadly speaking, dualism is the proposition that the universe is composed of both material and immaterial stuff. Traditionally, the immaterial stuff makes up the mind or soul – in contrast to the material brain or body. We all (so far as I know) possess an unshakable feeling of having a mind, and many of us sense a soul within the skin. On the material side, however, I don’t know about you, but I’m generally unaware of having anything inside my head – except perhaps on a morning after I’ve drunk too much. That’s when I know I have a brain, and it’s the size of a walnut. If physical stuff is the only kind of stuff that’s real, what’s left for religion? Apart from a relatively few people who worship nature itself, no religion I am aware of could be content with this worldview. After all, nobody believes that God is made of molecules, right? That would make God subject to the laws of physics. However, just to stipulate that God is transcendent doesn’t resolve matters. The very arguments against mind/brain dualism form potent objections to any claim that God acts in the world. Take the First Law of Thermodynamics, better known as conservation of energy. Monists (those who argue that physical stuff is the only stuff there is) point to this law to argue that if there were an nonphysical mind it would be unable to influence the brain without injecting some energy into the world. (Brains, being made of matter, can only react to energy.) A Fabulous Evolutionary Defense of Dualism - by Clay Farris Naff

[MICHAEL GAZZANIGA:] I always smile when I hear Garrison Keillor say, "Be well, do good work, and keep in touch." It is such a simple sentiment yet so full of human complexity. Other apes don't have that sentiment. Think about it. Our species does like to wish people well, not harm. No one ever says, "have a bad day" or "do bad work" and keeping in touch is what the cell phone industry has discovered all of us do, even when there is nothing going on. There in one sentence Keillor captures humanness. The familiar cartoon that makes its way around evolutionary biologists circles shows an ape at one end of a line and then several intermediate early humans culminating in a standing tall, erect human. We now know the line isn't so direct but the metaphor still works. We did evolve and we are what we are through the forces of natural selection. And yet I would like to amend that cartoon. I see the human turning around with a knife in his hand and cutting his imaginary cord off, in being liberated to do things no other animal comes close to realizing. We humans are special. All of us solve problems effortlessly and routinely. When we approach a screen door with our hands full of bags of groceries we instantly know how to stick out our pinky and hook it around the door handle to open it up. The human mind is so generative and given to animation that we do things such as map agency on to almost anything, our pets, our old shoes, our cars, our world. It is as if we don't want to be alone up here at the top of the cognitive chain, the smartest things on earth. We want to see our dogs charm us, appeal to our emotions, imagine they too can suffer and have pity, love and hate and all the rest. We are a big deal and we are a little scared about it. ARE HUMAN BRAINS UNIQUE?

Language is about more than communication. Its history weaves into itself the stories of empire and politics, culture, economics, fashion, horticulture and even cooking. Mutating along with our evolving lifestyles, it vibrates with the echoes of all our society has ever been. As Henry Hitchings powerfully demonstrates in his astonishing new survey, it "enables an archaeology of human experience". The British have always been magpies. Invaded and as invaders, we have "borrowed" copiously from old and new languages - more than 350 of them, according to Hitchings. So English is the great whore of all languages, a hybrid hotchpotch of words accumulated like treasures each time a new thing, concept or technology cries out for a word to give it definition. How English became English

Feldman's new book, The Fall and Rise of the Islamic State, is a thoughtful meditation on the history, ideals, and revival of sharia – the divine law governing Muslim society. "This movement toward the Islamic state," Feldman writes, "is riding a wave of nostalgia, but it is also looking forward. The designers and advocates of the new Islamic state want to recapture the core of what made the traditional Islamic state great. They declare their allegiance to the sharia, while simultaneously announcing an affinity for democracy. This means that the new Islamic state will be different from the old one. There is no turning back the clock of history, no matter what anyone says." Feldman begins by taking a look at the past. The first Islamic state was founded 14 centuries ago by the prophet Muhammad in Madinah, Saudi Arabia. Out of this modest archetypal community grew vast empires, ruled by ambitious men on spiritual and temporal missions. In search of a new Islamic state By Joseph Richard Preville

Feldman's interview in the Harper's Magazine

Pinn illustration

Terrorists are not all the same. A gripping account of the talks that brought peace to Northern Ireland, published on the 10th anniversary of the Belfast agreement, begins with a useful caution: the experience gained in persuading the Irish Republican Army to swap the Armalite for the ballot box should not be applied indiscriminately to other conflicts.* The book’s author is Jonathan Powell, until last year the long-serving chief of staff to Tony Blair, Britain’s former prime minister. Mr Powell was a pivotal figure behind the scenes in the decade-long process that saw republicans and unionists finally reach a political settlement. The fight that calls for something other than a war By Philip Stephens

The Neukölln district is home to 300,000 people, and half of them live in the northern part that Sonnenallee runs through. One-third of Neukölln's population are immigrants -- including about 60,000 Muslims, who are concentrated almost exclusively in the northern section. There are 20 mosques in Neukölln alone, out of about 80 in all of Berlin. Few of these houses of worship are recognizable as such from the outside. Most are reached through gates or rear courtyards, where former workshops and factory buildings have been converted to prayer rooms with colorful patterned carpets laid out on the floor. Sweets, tea and soft drinks are sold in adjacent shops.


Click on a picture to launch the image gallery (12 Photos)

Neukölln, like a specimen under a microscope, is proof positive of something that is slowly dawning on the rest of the country: Islam, this mysterious religion, both fascinating and alarming, has gained a foothold in Germany, which is now home to more than 3 million Muslims. But the close proximity between long-established Germans and outlandish Muslims is also a potential source of conflict, triggering resentment and fear on both sides.

Since the religiously motivated terrorist attacks on New York and Washington on Sept. 11, 2001, many Germans perceive the faith in Allah principally as a threat. There are growing fears that jihadists will begin launching attacks and suicide bombings in Germany, fears fueled in part by repeated warnings coming from German security agencies (more...). Amid such fears, suspicion is easily extended to include the entirety of the Muslim faithful, despite the fact that there are likely no more than a few hundred Muslims promoting terror in Germany. These suspicions, in turn, prompt many Muslims to feel excluded and rejected by the German majority. Federal Interior Minister Wolfgang Schäuble sees this as one of the central challenges of integration policy. "Muslims are part of society and our common future," Schäuble, a member of the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU), stressed at a February conference on the image of Islam in Germany. The difficulty, Schäuble pointed out, lies in the public's growing tendency to equate Islam with fundamentalism and fanaticism. Life in a Parallel Society By Norbert F. Pötzl

Paul Jay presents RealNews

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Global food prices crisis
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Israeli forces strike inside Gaza
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Ex-CIA analyst on Petraeus and Cheney
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US airstrikes pound Sadr City
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