From Iraq to Iraq: Political violence, recently

Protestors in Malaysia: The ‘969’ anti-Muslim movement in Burma has been identified as the main instigator of violence against Muslims in that country. Photo courtesy of ForeignPolicy.com

Some links related to and around news about political violence over the past few weeks:

AMERICA’S FALLUJAH LEGACY: WHITE PHOSPHOROUS, DEPLETED URANIUM: THE FATE OF IRAQ’S CHILDREN

FALLUJAH, Iraq, Apr 13, 2012 (IPS) – At Fallujah hospital they cannot offer any statistics on children born with birth defects – there are just too many. Parents don’t want to talk. “Families bury their newborn babies after they die without telling anyone,” says hospital spokesman Nadim al-Hadidi. “It’s all too shameful for them.”

“We recorded 672 cases in January but we know there were many more,” says Hadidi. He projects pictures on to a wall at his office: children born with no brain, no eyes, or with the intestines out of their body.


Contextualizing Media Claims in Boston – Registan.net

In attempting to place Tamerlan and Dzhohar Tsarnaev into the mould of the stereotypical “Islamic fundamentalist bomber,” the media used several facts and claims about the brothers that, in my opinion, don’t ring true or were taken out of the Chechen and post-Soviet context and, thus, were misunderstood. I would like to draw attention to several such facts (certainly not all) and clarify them. While these details may seem small, they helped to form an image of the Tsarnaev brothers in the public’s mind, simplifying complex motivations that may exist behind this attack. Words have connotations beyond their direct meanings, and so the choice of something as small as the wrong word can change how we perceive the facts: …


The wrong kind of Caucasian – Opinion – Al Jazeera English

Ethnicity is often used to justify violent behaviour. But no ethnicity is inherently violent. Even if the Tsarnaevs aligned themselves with violent Chechen movements – and as of now, there is no evidence they did – treating Chechen ethnicity as the cause of the Boston violence is irresponsible.

One hundred years ago, the violent act of one Polish-American caused a country to treat all Polish-Americans with suspicion. Now, the Poles have become “white” – which is to say they are largely safe from the accusations of treason and murderous intent that ethnic groups deemed non-white routinely face. When a Polish-American commits a crime, his ethnicity does not go on trial with him.

But this change is not a triumph for America. It is a tragedy that it happened to Poles then, and a greater tragedy that we have not learned our lesson and it happens still – to Hispanics, to Arabs, to Chechens, to any immigrant who comes here seeking refuge and finds prejudice instead.

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Sovereignty Without Territoriality?

A reference to James C. Scott’s The Art of Not Being Governed and Thongchai Winichakul’s Siam Mapped: A History of the Geo-Body of a Nation here.

Dart-Throwing Chimp

The concentration of manpower was the key to political power in premodern Southeast Asia… This overwhelming concern for obtaining and holding population at the core is shot through every aspect of precolonial statecraft. What Geertz says about Balinese political rivalries—that they were “a struggle more for men than for land”—could apply equally to all of mainland Southeast Asia. This principle animated the conduct of warfare, which was less a grab for distant territory than a quest for captives who could be resettled at the core… Early European officials were frequently astounded by the extremely vague demarcation of territories and provinces in their new colonies and puzzled by an administration of manpower that had little or nothing to do with territorial jurisdiction… As Thongchai Winichakul’s insightful book shows, the Siamese paid more attention to the manpower they could summon than to sovereignty over land that had no value in the absence…

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Oppression and threats will not destroy our spirit

Jentrified Citizen

If you find it suffocating lately, it may not be the haze but quite likely it is due to the oppressive tactics by our government to suppress views that are critical of them and their policies. oppression-11

I had been hopeful that the PAP-led government would change for the better when I first started my blog post GE 2011. Unfortunately, those upbeat sentiments went downhill fast after watching the words and actions by the ministers over the past 2 years. To be fair, there were some positive changes, such as the review of ministerial salaries (lower but still the world’s highest) and various attempts made by the government to engage the citizens more such as through the National Conversation (which has been subjected to both praise and scorn).

However, such improvements get overshadowed whenever the Government issues threatening lawyers letters , exercises heavy use of the law and carries out other…

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The Politics of Being Dominant and Dominating

Fikir

I write this note not merely to explain the circumstances behind my departure from the Board of Directors of the Association of Muslim Professionals (AMP) and stepping down as Chairman of the Board of Centre for Research on Malay and Islamic Affairs (RIMA).

More importantly, I am compelled to set out the approach taken by the State to suppress critical views.

This is troubling and goes entirely against the grain of reported statements by Deputy PM Tharman Shanmugratnam that the Ruling Party will be an open political party that “is dominant but not dominating”, but one that seeks to galvanize a diversity of views and ideas, including critical opinions.

The gist of the following account is set out in an Email that I had written to both AMP and RIMA Boards on 22 Apr 2013. The contents of this Email remain unchallenged.

I received a surprise phone call from Mr…

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The new secessionist wave – Reflections on the crisis of the neo-liberal state

SEN Journal: Online Exclusives

As part of our current series on Scotland and secessionist movements, SEN Journal: Online Exclusives is excited to present this original piece by Professor Daniele Conversi, Research Professor at the University of the Basque Country and the Ikerbasque Foundation for Science, who has written about the wider issue of secessionist politics and the state.

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One can study the new secessionist wave in the West and elsewhere from a number of perspectives: by looking at how nationalist leaders mobilize their constituencies, at the form of the state, at the international dimension, and so on. However, I believe what is paramount is that we are witnessing a rather precipitous fall of political legitimacy of the neoliberal state. Beyond nationalism, this can be seen in the rapid rise of anti-system movements, like the M-15 or indignados (aka “outraged”) in Spain, Beppe Grillo’s direct democracy movement in Italy, the Occupy movement in the USA…

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“White Indians”

This is good.

n+1: White Indians. Excerpts:

Behind the scenes, the Indian American Center for Political Awareness (IACPA) recruited these deracinated Indians who were “discovering their roots” and sent them to work for American congressmen, quietly pushing Indian issues into the light of the new world order. In 1993, two years after the first neoliberal Indian economic reforms, Congress formed an India caucus. It began with eight members and now has 180. A founding project of the Indian lobby was to push the US away from its cold war alliance with Pakistan and toward an India that was becoming astoundingly “business-friendly” in the ’90s and, after September 11, could be counted on to contribute to the United States’ campaign against Islamic peoples. India’s 1998 nuclear tests briefly alarmed the US (while earning a congratulatory note from Israel), but two years later President Clinton signaled a shift in American policy with a much-feted visit to India. One of the India lobby’s greatest victories came in 2005, when the US finally signed the nuclear energy deal India had been pushing for since the ’90s. Another great success has been to squelch any discussion among American elites of the occupation of Kashmir — which India regards as a “bilateral” issue (i.e., between India and Pakistan) rather than an ongoing international crime. India, land of Gandhi, is now the world’s largest arms importer, with Russia and Israel as top partners. 

The cultural effects could be felt across the world. Bollywood, formerly the leading edge of third-world cinema, the one currency to survive the Sino-Soviet split, became, with the support of the Indian elite, a newly slick Hollywood craze. Indianness itself, for years a source of shame in the diaspora, became puffed with pride. Lahiri’s protagonist in her bestseller The Namesake, Nikhil “Gogol” Ganguly, takes a roots trip east and briefly swaps his white girlfriend for a mother-approved Indian. Less familiar to other kinds of white people, diaspora children in recent years have been subject to low-budget films like American Desi and ABCD (American-Born Confused Desi), coming-of-age stories in which deracinated teenage South Asians — never Muslim, usually male — learned to cast off their self-loathing and embrace Hinduism, arranged marriages, and bhangra dancing.

Kal Penn (right), with John Cho in the film ‘Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle’ (2004). The character of Kumar here and in the sequel is portrayed as the antithesis of the ‘white desi’ in America. Photo courtesy of n+1.

 

A happier image for the future is the desi stoner Kumar of the Harold and Kumar films, who may be the single best role model for generations of brown people otherwise condemned to going pre-med. Kumar, who uses his textbooks to roll joints, suggests the dual character of desi immigration.

An interesting book to read that’s related would be Hamid Dabashi’s Brown Skin, White Masks (Pluto Press, 2011).

The contemporary National Service conundrum (Part one of…infinity)

Two recent articles in Singapore’s TODAYonline caught my attention.

In the first, a commentary piece, Yolanda Chin discusses how and why National Service (NS, i.e. conscription) policies pertaining to male Permanent Residents (PRs) of the country should be changed, suggesting that such policies should adjust to the reality of “today’s new migrant” and complex, evolving social and global phenomena.

This, incidentally, comes on the backs of other ongoing issues regarding NS.

Now: Most male Singaporeans (especially) will notice the snazzy new digitalised camo uniforms, SAR-21 carbines, and the, uhh, fingerless gloves. Photo courtesy of TODAYonline.

Unlike today, the conscription of PRs was non-controversial when it was first introduced in the Enlistment Act of 1970.

There was no question then that citizens were better off than PRs; PRs were required to serve NS alongside citizens, even though state-sponsored benefits remained the exclusive preserve of citizens.

The readiness of these PRs to die for the defence of Singapore was due to the fact that they were stateless individuals displaced by Singapore’s separation from Malaysia, and they aspired for citizenship which few qualified for.


Statelessness was a condition
that allegedly led many (men) to consider – and fulfill – the obligations of citizenship then. Never mind that citizenship in a state should have been first and foremost seen and implemented as a human right, as per Article 15 of the UDHR – and not merely a framework for invoking a set of privileges and responsibilities in policymaking. (For further reading, case studies such as this on ‘Statelessness and the Benefits of Citizenship’ is useful to both get a broader picture as well as an idea of specific country situations.)

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