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Grexit. The word that was just a whisper has now been spoken out loud. Will Greece, with a debt burden equal to 180% of its GDP, quit the Eurozone and default on its interest repayments now that voters have voted for Alexis Tsipras and his anti-austerity Syriza party last month?
  In France, 3.7 million people marched in solidarity — in the largest public rally since the Second World War — with the victims of Charlie Hebdo to show that western civilisation cannot be defeated by Islamic fanatics.
By S M Naseem      Muslim extremists are not  doing much justice to their own religion by giving undue and exaggerated emphasis to the question of blasphemy and by allowing themselves to become victims of deliberate provocations. It is easy to inflame the emotions of the uneducated public by drawing attention to some obscure piece in the media, a clip or tweet on the internet and brand it blasphemous. Unfortunately, the decision on what can be legitimately called blasphemous is not based on a scholarly interpretation of the Quran or hadith but how the mullahs interpret and beguile the gullible Muslim masses, especially in poor Muslim majority countries. Even more controversial is the award of capital punishment for the offence, which has not been specified in the Quran or supported by hadith.   The elephant in the room in the debate on blasphemy, which few dare to mention, is the disingenuous and hypocritical role of Saudi Arabia. Its rulers are engaged, on the one hand, in discouraging the traditional veneration of the Prophet (PBUH) and his tomb in Medina and is involved in the “systematic destruction of the tombs of the major figures of early Islam, including the Prophet’s (PBUH) closest relatives in Mecca” and, on the other hand, promoting extremist tendencies in the Muslim world by channelling billions of dollars of oil revenues, instead of using them to promote economic development. It is encouraging to note that, for the first time, a federal minister of Pakistan has voiced concern about the distribution of Saudi money for promotion of its ideology and has said, “The time has come to stop the influx of Saudi money into Pakistan.” It is to be hoped that the new king of Saudi Arabia, with a more liberal reputation than his recently deceased predecessor, will be persuaded to adopt more enlightened policies for deploying its enormous oil wealth for the betterment of the Muslim ummah, in the name of which he rules.   In fact, the matter is much deeper and more complex than that; underlying the current furore over the Charlie Hebdo tragedy in Paris is the discomfort that the majority of the population in European and other western countries feels “homesick at home” with the increasing influx of migrants from developing countries, especially Muslim, who insist on displaying their distinct cultural and religious identity.   The ghettoisation of these immigrants, especially in Europe, and denial of economic opportunities and social amenities have marginalised them and led to their radicalisation and the emergence of extremist tendencies. France’s ban on wearing burqas in public may account for a high percentage of women (around 20 percent) joining terrorist groups. Hayat Boumeddiene, the 26-year old female accomplice of the Charlie Hebdo attackers, reportedly lost her job as a cashier for wearing the niqab. These ill-advised measures serve only to alienate Muslims and increase the hold of terrorist groups on them.   In such an atmosphere of victimhood, it is ironic to expect them to appreciate the sophisticated sense of humour of Charlie Hebdo cartoons, even though it is paraded as an assertion of freedom of expression (although its application is highly asymmetric and biased in favour of the west, which dominates the media). As Mahmood Mamdani of Columbia University puts it succinctly: “Learn(ing) to laugh at themselves is not quite the same as being laughed at, especially as a group.” By adding religious and cultural insults to their economic and social injuries, such affronts (however light-hearted) help bring out their worst possible response, which is articulated diabolically through the support of powerful Muslim elites from countries such as Saudi Arabia, who capitalise on and finance these activities along with promises of rewards in the Hereafter to those who have despaired of life in the ghettos. While the French magazine caters primarily to the tastes and preferences of its readers, it does have the responsibility of portraying those it chooses to lampoon in a fair manner.   The tragedy of Charlie Hebdo also reflects the tragedy of millions of Africans, predominantly Muslims, who have migrated to Europe in search of jobs as the economies of their home countries are in tatters after having been pillaged under colonial rule and looted by crony capitalism and multinational corporations in the postwar decades. Having lost their seminal moorings, they have become even more reliant on religion for providing them with a culture that Europe in general and France in particular have failed to do. These immigrants are eager to become French but want to be treated as ‘us’ rather than ‘them’. For some, their alienation has replaced their zest for life by a desire for death: not only of themselves — as paradise-bound martyrs — but of others (infidels) as well. That makes them easy prey for the recruiters of al Qaeda and its successor, the Islamic State (IS).   The French government has failed to give serious and sustained attention to the situation in its overcrowded suburbs, a breeding ground for disgruntled youth. Such neglect sowed the seeds for Islamist extremism whose fruits the French are now reaping. Immigrants and their children are being unjustly blamed for distorting France’s national persona, fostering resentment among them as their “Frenchness” is always questioned, and never taken for granted. Harking back to the past or being seduced by terrorist groups is often the only alternative.   As many astute historians of Paris since the Revolution have noted, extreme violence often inspires further violence. The bloody cycle continues just as it has always done. However, attributing its causes to millions of law-abiding French Muslims is as cynical as trying to blame it on a small group of artists and writers asserting their right of free expression, albeit disregarding the hurt to others. What the attacks on Charlie Hebdo and the massacre of Peshawar schoolchildren also show is that their global echoes now reverberate in a seamlessly connected world where people of all hues and tongues can ill-afford to be impervious to the concerns of each other in order to avoid a global confrontation that may spell the planet’s end. They have to, out of necessity, engage in constant and ceaseless dialogue across national frontiers and not merely within them. The revenge of the victim is to force the perpetrator to engage in a truly equal conversation. The world does not yet seem to be ready for such a dispensation.     (Concluded)   (The writer is a freelance columnist. He can be reached at smnaseem@gmail.com?)   The Daily Times, January 31, 2015  
US President Barack Obama, in his penultimate State of the Union speech, promised to “stand united with people around the world who have been targeted by terrorists, from a school in Pakistan to the streets of Paris”.      

China’s economic success owes much to Deng Xiaoping who took over the country’s leadership after Mao Zedong’s death, and propagated the motto that to get rich is glorious. His successors have since built on it, following the same precept and broad policies.


Today there are armed police on the streets of Brussels, London and Paris, with orders to shoot to kill. This is not how Europe was meant to turn out. It’s not just the orthodox Jew in his long black coat walking the streets of Paris 16th who has to be saved.


Most Muslims believe those who attacked Charlie Hebdo were outraged by its abhorrent vilification of the Prophet (PBUH.) What the magazine claimed to be “irreverence”, “satire” and insouciant political “humour” was in fact premeditated blasphemy designed to existentially wound a whole people.

  US deputy national security Adviser Ben Rhodes said India’s involvement could focus on intelligence on the flow of money and militants to the radical Islamist group - Sanjeev Miglani 
The new Saudi king faces serious challenges on several fronts. To Abdul Aziz, who needed men to counter the Hashemite Sharif of Makkah, this was essentially a pragmatic bargain as, at their height, the Ikhwan provided as many as 60,000 fighters to the cause.
If someone like PK (from the Indian movie PK) was observing these spectacles from his spaceship, he would have concluded that there lived two different worlds on planet earth. With the passage of time these imaginary worlds also change as our physical world transforms but the rate of change is not uniform across the globe. 

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spotlight image India’s Vice President Mohammed Hamid Ansari visited Armenia recently to celebrate 25 years of diplomatic relations between the two countries.
Pakistan said on July 27 that India's stipulation for granting visa to Pakistani nationals were "highly regrettable" and was against diplomatic norms.
In dispatching its  PLA (Peoples Liberation Army)  marines to Djibuti in the Horn of Africa on Wednesday (July 12 ) by amphibious ships, from the southern port of Zhanjiang, China has taken a significant step in enhancing its  trans-border military footprint.
In the last few weeks , spokesman of Government of China have been issuing several statements and  making observations against India that sound like war cry. 1962 war between India and China was mentioned , as a reminder to India of the happenings then, which virtually amount to a warning that events of 1962  could be repeate
Images of Kashmiri separatists walking the corridors of the Prime Minister’s office during Atal Behari Vajpayee’s tenure have been replaced with visuals of Hurriyat Conference leaders being arrested and taken into custody by a central agency.
As Aadhaar becomes the norm in India, and gets skewered for the involuntary nature of its imposition, our northern neighbours, as is their wont, want to do a number that will make this appear benign.
On July 18, the global media carried stories of how Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Naif was ousted from his position and replaced by his cousin, deputy crown prince Mohammed bin Salman.
The alliance that defeated the militant Islamic State group in Mosul was unusual. Fighting alongside the Iraqi army were not only US forces but also Iran-backed militias.
S.T. Lee Distinguished Lecture of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, Singapore on "India, ASEAN and Changing Geopolitics”

Interview with Hudson Institute’s Aparna Pande, whose book From Chanakya to Modi: Evolution of India’s Foreign Policy, was released on June 17.


This is the continuing amazing spiritual journey of a Muslim man from Kerala who plunged into Vedic religion after a chance encounter with a Hindu mystic under a jackfruit tree in the backyard of his house when he was just nine. It is a story w...


History is told by the victors but in our modern age, even contemporary events get - or are given - a slant, where some contributors soon get eclipsed from the narrative or their images tarnished.


Humans have long had a fear of malignant supernatural beings but there may be times when even the latter cannot compare with the sheer evil and destructiveness mortals may be capable of. But then seeking to enable the end of the world due to it...


Title: Reporting Pakistan; Author: Meena Menon; Publisher: Viking/Penguin Random House; Pages: 340; Price: Rs 599

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