Archive | November, 2008

Excellent background to Muslims in India

28 Nov

I was considering writing a piece about the history of religion and power in India, but TIME Magazine has finally published an article about India with some actual historical depth.  The poor relations between Hindus and Muslims are an interestingly recent (by Indian standards) development that dates to the Sepoy Mutiny in 1857 against the East India Tea Company which essentially ruled North India in the name of the Persian-descended Muslim sultan in Delhi.

The British entered India as supplicants and traders to Indian kingdoms in the 1700s.  Playing the regional kings and princes against one another, they slowly grew in power becoming the tax-collector and coin engraver to the Emperor in the Red Ford in Delhi.  De facto control of the Emperor (king of kings) receded until the point that all he effectively controlled was his palace, harem, and late-night poetry jam sessions by 1857.  Urdu and Persian were the languages of the educated, and Urdu ghazals reached their peak under the last Emperor who was a notable Sufi poet himself.  With the effective British takeover of India, fundamentalist Protestant missionaries moved in, swearing to save the heathen Muslims and Hindus from damnation.  A spark (involving beef and pig tallow in rifle cartridges) lit the gunpowder of a civilization under threat.  A rebellion and jihad swept the nation, but it was inevitabally crushed due to the Indian habit of disorganization and in-fighting.

British writer William Dalrymple beautifully writes of the downfall of Emperor Zafar along with his era of Hindu-Muslim co-existence in the Last Emperor bringing together for the first time English and Urdu accounts of the mutiny in one book.  The last Mughal died along with the syncretic Indo-Islamic culture he nourished.  The British, not trusting Muslim minority after the Muslim sultan rose against them, ravaged the Red Fort, looted all of Delhi, and banished the enfeebled old king to Burma.  Hindus were promoted into civil service but not Muslims.  Muslim learning and culture were wiped out.

Colonial subjects pick up the habits and vices of their masters, and British mistrust of Muslims spread to their Hindu subjects.  And Muslims themselves split between Deobandi fundamentalism and secular modernists, as TIME so insightfully points out.

And South Asia still grapples with that legacy of 1857.  One bombing and riot at a time.

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Bombay burns

26 Nov

As I write this, 7 major tourist destinations have been attacked and bombed in Mumbai, India by the “Deccan Mujahadeen.”  The historic Taj Hotel (the first 5 star hotel in all of India) is burning, and the beachfront Marriott and Ramada hotels across the street from my grandparents’ flat were attacked as well.  Hostages, especially Britons and Americans and Indian executives, have been taken by twenty-somethings with AK-47s and machine guns.  80 are dead and 900 injured.  Follow the updates at the Times of India.

India has been experiencing a major bombing almost every month in almost every major city.  Islamic fundamentalism, aided and abetted during the Cold War by the West, has come back to bite South Asia back.  The slowly imploding and insolvent unaccountable state of Pakistan has become the entire world’s problem in the era of globalization.

Will we ever put out the fire?

Election news you may not have caught

9 Nov

Because the Onion says it best:

“Today Americans have grudgingly taken a giant leap forward,” Williams continued. “And all it took was severe economic downturn, a bloody and unjust war, terrorist attacks on lower Manhattan, nearly 2,000 deaths in New Orleans, and more than three centuries of frequently violent racial turmoil.”

Said Williams, “The American people should be commended for their long-overdue courage.”….

“Obama had the foresight to run for president at a time when being an African-American was not as important to Americans as, say, the ability to clothe and feed their children,” Pung continued. “An election like this only comes once, maybe twice, in a lifetime.”

National

  • Sarah Palin is not only an idiot, she is a diva. Over 60% of Republican voters want her to run in 2012. God save us all.
  • To prove that Sarah Palin is not the only dim bulb in the 49th state, Alaskans have apparently re-elected Sen. Ted Stevens despite his seven felony convictions for bribery and corruption. A final verdict has not been made, but I won’t bet against “Uncle Ted” again.
  • Virgil Goode, a know-nothing Congressman most famous for complaining that a Muslim congressman would swear in on the Koran, has lost his seat in a gigantic upset in Virginia. His opponent? A modest Christian human rights lawyer who campaigned against the genocide in Darfur. Satisfying indeed.
  • Comedian Al Franken is on his way to a recount for the Minnesota Senate race. He’s down by less than 500 votes.
  • The congresswoman who wrote the gay marriage ban, Marilyn Musgrave, lost her seat in Colorado.
  • The Georgia Senate race is going into a runoff next month. We won’t know the breakdown of the Senate for a long time.
  • California banned gay marriage with a constitutional amendment after the state supreme court legalized it.
  • South Dakota voters rejected a referendum that would almost completely ban abortion.
  • Joe Lieberman may switch parties from “Independent Democrat” to join the Republican caucus.
  • The last Republican in New England, Christopher Shays, has lost. There are no Republican congressmen in all of New England.
  • New York now has a Democratic state senate, and gay marriage should be legalized in the future.
  • By my calculations, the House of Representatives is 58.6% Democratic, and the Senate is 57% Democratic at this point. Democratic politicians from now on can never complain that the Republicans are holding them back.

Texas

  • The Texas House of Representatives currently stands at 76 Republicans and 74 Democrats, with one race in the Metroplex going to a recount after a 25 vote win by the Republican. The state Senate gained a Democrat in Fort Worth while Chris Bell’s Senate race in Southeast Texas/Galveston/Houston is going to a runoff next month after he won the first round.
  • Republicans have clearly peaked in power and are beginning to decline, but it still may take years for the Democrats to win a statewide race. I mean, a Democrat named Sam Houston still lost for Supreme Court. You can’t beat a name like that…. unless you are a Democrat.
  • Harris County (Houston) narrowly voted for Barack Obama, the first win for a Democratic presidential candidate since 1964. Houston Democrats won many county races for the first time since 1994, building a power base to one day (they dream) of restoring a Democrat to the Governor’s Mansion. Fort Bend County (home of Tom DeLay), interestingly enough, barely went for McCain.
  • Dallas County which John Kerry almost won in 2004 became strikingly blue this year (54% for Obama). Harris County Democrats modeling their takeover of Houston after Dallas have a bright future ahead of them if this is precedent.
  • U.S. Rep Nick Lampson lost his seat (Tom DeLay’s) in Sugar Land to a Republican while Noriega got crushed by Cornyn for U.S. Senate.
  • Despite all the talk about the anti-black sentiments among Hispanic voters, the Mexican border still went strongly for Obama despite their first love for Hillary back in March.

It’s a new day, America. Ain’t it great to be cool again?

Good Morning America

3 Nov

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It’s election time America.

It’s been a dark 8 years. Lies, illegal wars, torture, military tribunals, wiretapping, extremist judges, neocon yahoos in suits, and the war on intelligence, science, and the Constitution don’t exactly make for happy days for the American Republic. The long winter of reactionary politics, birthed in 1970s anti-civil rights backlash, carried to term with double digit inflation, and delivered by Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, is breaking to a new spring of progressive change.

It is the end of the conservative era. And now is our moment.

History turns its pages slowly and turns only after the mass struggle of ordinary people compel our “leaders” to ratify the changes that we, the people, have already made up our mind about. True leaders are led by the people.

The Bhatany Report endorses Hope, Change, and the Constitution. I know, that’s like saying I love my mother and apple pie.

For you see, what we’ve forgotten is that nations have souls, just like people. And after hacking away and pissing away at the few fundamental things that make us all American (practicality, common sense, the Constitution), 89% of us think that things are heading the wrong way. And we ARE going the wrong way, and perhaps terminally so.

After 8 years of watching a blue blood-Connecticut Yankee play cowboy president like he was Theodore Roosevelt (without none of that fancy book learnin’), can we really afford to give the keys to White House to a pair that thinks that Iraq borders Pakistan? Can we risk even a 2% chance that hockey mom/moron Sarah Palin will become president? Do we need another Reaganite who wants us to party like its 1986 in the Oval Office? And, finally, should we let those who subscribe to the deregulatory free market fantasies that brought us on the cusp of a new Great Depression into the people’s White House?

No. We will not.

The up-and-comer, Barack Obama, is not my ideal candidate. He’s a little too cautious, a smidge too cool, and a bit too comfortable with the Establishment than I care for. But he has fundamentally changed America and American politics for good and for the better.

Obama’s stint in community organizing has become a nationwide campaign-as-community-organizing experience, re-connecting millions with the community they live in at a grassroots level. My work in the Texas campaign will be will remembered fondly in my mind for the rest of my life. The seeds of organizing that Obama spread must lead to a mass movement if the urgent reforms we need in health care, banking, conservation, and foreign policy America needs are to get through Washington.

The worst that can happen to America is that we get what we want (fame, fortune, and the blissful ignorance of an easy life) at the expense of what we need (family, community, justice, tolerance and unity).

Obama gave us what we needed, not what we wanted. And we need him…. in the White House.

C’mon y’all, let’s turn those pages. Let’s make history.

E pluribus unum.