Posts tagged ‘fundamentalism’

Ben Ali’s Rhetorical Alchemy, or How the West Was Duped

By , 15 January, 2011, No Comment

An opinionated post today at Foreign Exchange on the coup in Tunisia:

Like many journalists reporting on Tunisia this weekend, I’ve been dismayed by the response coming from France. To recap, the French government backed and defended Ben Ali’s regime throughout its tenure, including in the final weeks when his forces were clashing with protesters in the streets, and when other countries–notably the U.S.–were cutting their ties. Now the dam has burst, their statement to the press translates roughly to, ‘We’ll wait and see.’ Charmant.

So I am dismayed, yes, but not entirely surprised. It is not the first time that a major Western democracy has backed a dictator in the Muslim world and found their support meaningless in the face of popular revolt: the U.S. experience with the Shah in Iran and Musharraf in Pakistan are two important precedents.

In this case, as in those, two explanations are emerging for this behavior.

Don’t you desperately want to know what they are? Find out here.

ICapp Exclusive: Sherry Rehman Slams Punjab’s “Total Insanity”

By , 19 June, 2010, 4 Comments

In the wee hours of the morning, I got word that Pakistani politician Sherry Rehman was circulating an op-ed statement against the Government of Punjab, Pakistan’s largest and wealthiest province. Think of it as the Midwest (farms, mills, and traditional values) meets New England (history and culture and more tradition). It’s where the army recruits from, where the most federal funds go, and where the tourists want to visit. In other words, it’s the establishment.

Rehman was outraged because Punjab has just decided to give some of those federal budgetary funds to Jamaat-ud-Dawa, an Islamic charity considered to be the political arm of Lashkar-e-Taiba, a militant organization focused primarily on the ‘liberation’ of Kashmir and its establishment as an Islamic state. Unlike the militant groups in the Western part of Pakistan (who focus on destabilizing Pakistan itself) or those militants exiled in Pakistan due to the US/NATO operations in Afghanistan (who focus on fighting Western forces), L-e-T targets Pakistan’s major rival, and as such, has historically received support from Pakistan’s military elite, and a blind eye from its government.But, says Rehman, direct financial support from civilian leaders is a new step, and a bridge too far. “It’s total insanity,” she shouts, when she speaks to me from her home in Karachi.
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His Name is Khan

By , 7 March, 2010, No Comment

This week, I saw My Name is Khan. Generally, I do not like Bollywood cinema. And Shahrukh Khan, Bollywood’s Alpha Male du jour, specializes in my least favorite Bollywood genre: the “masala,” a saccharine mix of romantic comedy, melodrama and musical. Yet there I was, in line to see his latest venture, my curiosity piqued by the political maelstrom the film has unleashed.

First, the plot: Rizvan Khan, an Indian Muslim with Asperger’s Syndrome, immigrates to America, becomes a beauty products salesman, marries a divorced Indian Hindu beautician, and adopts her son Samir. Then 9/11 happens. Locals boycott the Khans’ beauty salon. A neighbor dies in Afghanistan and his son blames Samir. Samir is killed in a fight between the boys at school, Rizvan’s wife throws him out in a fit of rage, and tells him not to come back till he has convinced America not to hate on Muslims. She says, “Tell the President of the United States, ‘My name is Khan, and I am not a terrorist.’” Autistic Rizvan takes her literally and runs off on a road trip across the country trying to convey his message to George W. Bush. At a presidential rally on a Los Angeles university campus, a social security operative overhears Rizvan shouting “terrorist” in the crowd, and has him arrested. A student journalist catches the incident on film and begins investigating, discovering just how harmless Rizvan is. When the story airs, disability rights groups begin phoning government offices, and Khan is released. Instead of going home to his wife, he continues his quest, but is derailed by a major hurricane that Washington is ignoring. [Sound familiar?] Khan takes charge of the relief effort in a small Georgia town, and becomes a national hero, again. By this time, Bush has been replaced by President Obama, who comes to Georgia to meet Khan on his release from the hospital, and the film (finally) ends.

There are no song and dance numbers and there are no long-lost cousins back from the dead. For Bollywood, that’s realistic, but to audiences unused to Indian cinema, the above should sound absurdly far-fetched. Many Indians had hoped that after Hollywood came to them via Slumdog Millionaire, their own work would have crossover appeal. But a plot like this is not going to appeal to American audiences.

Rather, I think MNIK’s merits lie in the conversations it can start inside India. It is these nerves touched that have invited all the outrage

Video: The Phantom Dog

By , 19 January, 2010, No Comment

I’m back on BloggingHeads today, this time talking up my work in Pakistan with Zeke Webster (alias: Don Zeko) of the blog Discord. We cover counterterrorism and counterinsurgency in general, US counterterrorism/counterinsurgency in South Asia, what Pakistan is really thinking, and the rights of South Asian women. Though they just posted this to BHTV, we filmed in mid-December, when I was in Karachi, and before the last wave of attacks in Pakistan and in the U.S. Some of this is outdated, but hopefully it still informs and entertains.

Comment here.

*Title Character is revealed at 10:28, 24:05 and most hilariously, at 42:00.

Why Af-Pak is really just Pak

By , 6 December, 2009, 1 Comment

The latest, cross-posted from my Pulitzer Center blog:

It’s been a big week here in Islamabad. First off, there have two more bomb attacks, one at the naval compound down the street from where I am staying and one out in Pindi, the next town over. Secondly, Barack Obama finally announced his plans for the war in Afghanistan: 30,000 more troops now; phased withdrawal started in 18 months. Thirdly, Prime Minister Yousuf Reza Gilani completed a tour of Germany and Britain.

The three incidents shared space on the front pages of the Islamabad dailies and in the national mind. After all, while Americans heard the speech live on Tuesday night (7 am here), most Pakistanis watched it on replay later on Wednesday, and many Pakistanis did not begin responding to the policy until Thursday. Conventional wisdom did not form till the weekend, by which time the capital was also dealing with the bomb blasts and with the developing story in London, where, in a Thursday morning press conference, the PM pushed back against British intelligence reports that some 60% of global terrorist plots emerge from Pakistan.

To most people here, the West is a fair weather friend. While waging a war in Afghanistan that sends militants over the border into the Pakistani frontier, the West complains that Pakistan harbors too many terrorists. While insisting that Pakistan both aid that war effort and crackdown on its consequences, America announces that when Afghanistan—and just Afghanistan—is secure, it will pack up its bags and leave. This imbalance certainly anger those who have a knee jerk opposition to the United States or paranoia about American-Indian conspiracies. But the most passionate criticism of this policy has come from elite liberals who have supported and defended the Afghan war and feel, to put it simply, betrayed.

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