About OUFI

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London, United Kingdom
Welcome to my Blog. This Blog provides a platform for free expressions on issues of importance that appeal to the independent mind. Matters of political, moral and social concern, that may agree with or contravenes our free and well-intentioned thinking, have free reign on this blog. Friends and colleagues can express and respect different opinions on current or historical issues that at times may run counter to established worldview. “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it.” - Voltaire

Sunday, 30 July 2017

The Agony of Iraq

Iraq, its death seems an easier option; 
substituting the pain of life to the peaceful stillness of sleep.


Hammurabi (1792-1750 BCE) was the most famous king of Babylon.  Under his reign, the city became one of the most powerful and influential in all of Mesopotamia, a centre of one of the most culturally and intellectually vibrant civilisations of the ancient world.  Hammurabi’s law codes are well known, he implemented policies that encouraged peace and prosperity. Engaged in great public works which included opulent temples and canals, and made diplomacy an integral part of his administration.  By 1755BCE, he had united all of Mesopotamia under the rule of Babylon which, at this time, was the largest city in the world.  Its power and glory made it the nucleus of Ancient Middle East attracted constant invasions by the Kings of Persia, survived the Persian wars and became the glittering Eastern capital of the largest empire the world had ever known - The Land of Two Rivers. It was Alexander the Great ultimate prize, called it Mesopotamia having secured its most magnificent treasury in the world. He saw to it that his marriage celebration to a local girl, Roxana, held on this paradise on earth.  Today Babylon along with his tomb lie in ruins 59 miles south-west of Baghdad.

Baghdad was no less influential during Islam Golden Age.  Under the rule of Abbasid Caliphate, last half of 8th century it became the seat of learning and culture and where Islam together with the Arabic language matured and came of age.  Following the rule of Harun Al-Rashid who died around 800, Baghdad underwent a series of civil wars and resumption of wars with the Byzantines. No sooner than it was under Seljuq military control (945 -1118) the 1250's saw Baghdad subjected to yet another invasion this time by the Mongols that ransacked the great city in a rampage of torture, and mass slaughter ending Baghdad Abbassid influences and with it the Islamic golden age.   Mamluk and Ottoman invasion soon followed until of course the break up of the Ottoman Empire by then Baghdad was reduced to mere vilayet status mandated and colonised, to Britain in 1922 under the Anglo-Iraqi treaty.     

This spiral of invasion and violence does not end there Baghdad's appetite for pain not yet satisfied. For over a century Iraq, a crumbling mess within, has imprisoned itself by that insatiable and instinctive desire for bloodshed and violence. Countries build walls to keep their enemies out, Iraq placed barbed wire walls to maintain the pain of vengeance, animosities and hostilities on the inside in the shape of civil wars, revolutions, and invasions.

British mandate was not an insurance policy for peace or modernity inside this troubled country.  The military discipline that spurred this incursion was short lived and proved expensive for the British Government.  Britain lacked the resources to redefine the country and its inhabitants after centuries of oppressive rule.  Sectarianism between the Shia and the Sunni population was granted its temporary respite to live in the shadows. Defeating this Imperialist Christian foreign influence was the primary objectives.  When the light finally about to shine it was too late, the 1958 revolution ensured Iraq was back in the long dark tunnel but this time completely blinded by the revolutionary zeal that finally ended British influence. The revolution was to mark a backlash to anything resembling modernity - it was a people's tragedy.  Coupe de'tat followed in succession and series of assassinations and purging that followed or preceded these incendiary devices was the natural order of things.   The Gulf war of 1990 capped an old type of turmoil but started a new more vicious terrorising war beginning with the American invasion of 2003.  Perhaps that was the last foreign damaging call, from then on was left for Iraqis to carry on with the dirty work of self-destruction, using religion as a weapon. Sectarianism came back with a vengeance.

Where to now, with Mosul in its last stages towards its final liberation after three years of ISIS rule, perhaps seeing the end of beheading, rape and pillage that marked their years in power over that historic world renowned city.  The shape of things to come is not that pretty because there is yet worse to come.  Since Mosul and neighbouring areas sit on an ocean of oil, the end of one type of violence very likely means the beginning of another, made more palpable since all participants and the regional powers are plagued with corruption and distrust.  Also in that arena of war, a lust for hegemony and influence use of treachery and backstabbing serve a greater purpose than alliances adding a local resonance that  'rival allies' is not an oxymoron. 

Finally, in July of this year, Iraq Prime Minister, Haider al-Abadi standing among the ruins of Mosul proclaimed the inevitable conclusion; Mosul is now free while issuing restraining orders to keep the militias at bay, fear from vengeance and sectarianism.  In words of one soldier, "we killed them all [...] Daesh, men, women and children.  We killed everyone.  Strewn across the rubble hundreds of corpses lie half-buried in the collapsed brickwork the remainder of once historic buildings.  The stench of their decay in the 50c summer heat is more than one can stand.  Hideous sites of putrefying body parts sticking out from the rubble.  In the words of one Army major "we killed anything that moved [...] it was not the right thing to do at all. Most of the Daesh fighters surrendered.  They gave themselves up, and we just killed them." " The soldiers become inured to the landscape of death over which they now move around.  The brutality of protracted conflict and the barbarity of their enemy has taken its toll on the Iraqi armed forces.  There is little humanity left. That's how wars affect the lives of ‘ordinary’ people, both combatants and noncombatants. In addition to such fear-inducing new ISIS tactics of urban warfare, wherever they were, most soldiers had to contend with dirt, vermin, hunger, exhaustion and deadly diseases. The end of a war and its aftermath produce hardened soldiers used to killing and shedding blood, they become hard to control, and some would regret the end of the fighting and soldiers would continue to die from their injuries.   

As for the civilian population, liberation has come at significant cost.  What is left of their shattered lives, having experienced rape, pillage and destruction by ISIS members they now have to face a new ordeal.  The psychological trauma, seeing their houses destroyed their lives turned upside down will haunt them for the rest of their lives.  Fear and apprehension mark only their existence, life having escaped them long ago.  Roughly 20,000 homes have been destroyed including the old University Library, schools and hospitals.  A tortured city not unlike Dresden, Germany when the allied army carpet bombed that city in 1945.  Thousands killed, almost a million inhabitants have been displaced. People of all walks of life now imprisoned in a refugee camp without life savings, possession or anything they call their own. People, many of whom educated and affluent now forming part of a moribund society.   Human relief efforts can't come fast enough, witnesses speak of "here, no hope, no water, no food" in a city experiencing its apocalypse.   

The human catastrophe goes on as the political map is being re drawn.  Conflicts of civilisation, nationalism, culturalism, irredentism and secessionists, as well as tribalists, would be ingredients for the upcoming regional wars.  Iraq, Turkey, Iran, the Kurds, USA, Russia and last but not least ISIL in the shape of Jihadist resurgence and their backers, are core agents then there are the smaller factions followed by their affiliates, elbowing each other for a territorial slice or at least a share of the black gold. The tension caused among their objectives is alarming since Iraq continuous to be torn apart prolonging its agony; an ensuing sectarianism and religious strife.  The State rules without rules and the people are ignored when they should be placed in front and centre when the nation is crying out for peace. Fanning the flames of this tortured land are its guardians, feigning authority, pursuing their personal interests on standby at the edges ready to flesh out the titbits like vultures stripping the skeleton bare.

It was not supposed to be this way.

Nietzsche's first work was 'The Birth of Tragedy' there he argued that the Greeks were “keenly aware of the terrors and horrors of existence”.  In reply to what is the most desirable of all, “What is best of all is utterly beyond your reach: not to be born, not to be, to be nothing. But the second best for you is – to die soon”. Here lies Iraq was once known as Babylon, the greatest city on earth, its first mistake was to be born.   

Further reading:

Warning: Shocking report from the last days of the war.   
http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/mosuls-final-bloodbath-we-killed-everyone-men-women-children-1721780413

Report of war crimes:
https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/07/27/iraq-us-trained-forces-linked-mosul-war-crimes

For further reading:
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/12/opinion/mosul-iraq-syria-isis.html?ref=opinion







Sunday, 23 July 2017

Information Revolution




There is no doubt we are going through a phase of post privacy culture.  Whether you like it or not, in George Orwell words "big brother" is watching you.  This investigation will try to examine the internet platform, ways and means the new technology that is controlling our lives and causing public outrage. People are being monitored and regulated by just sending an email or ordering a burger on their smart phone. Each one of us is part of the larger community continually being watched, guided and controlled by one or more agents in cyber space.  In short, all of us reduced to data for profit making by the likes of search engines and social media organisations.  Cyberspace capitalism; by the use of an algorithm, primarily a tool coding our opinions, programmed to predict what you eat, drink, mathematically energised to think for you, anticipating your likes and dislikes. Technology now and increasingly in the future, means we can look forward to being fine tuned to products we most likely to buy. That goes for anything from chocolate Sundays to Porn, from sex slaves to religious extremism and how to make bombs to kill off a crowd you don't like the look off. In fact, in an open cyberspace, anything goes on the internet and when least expected.

Many freely give information about themselves, data that can later be used to measure their psychology, in this case, up to 6 million people volunteered information to build the richest database of psychological profiles in the world.  Advanced technology takes us to the point where we will be controlled by robots since robots are taking over they are programmed to the next step: make their own programming, working out endless mathematical formulas for a more complicated algorithm for an efficient human siege.  Their only possible flaw would be, lacking corrections of embodied human bias but left free to formulate their own prejudices.  Science fiction this ain't so!

Ideas one has of The Industrial revolution arguably the start of our modern age one thinks of oily machinery powered by steam power billowing their hydrocarbons; killing the atmosphere with their pungent smells polluting the air people breathe. Such was the technology that served us in wars and built our infrastructure. In the last twenty years, we had embarked on clean digital technology that moves faster, more efficient and requires fewer people to operate fuelled by data piped into thousands of computers housed in unassuming buildings called data centres.  The value they produce is global wealth to power our economy for our modern age - replacing oil for data.  A new infrastructure that takes in new business, economics and politics all of which make up the invisible hands that orchestrate our actions.  The future infrastructures may not be the Centralities of Nation States but if not broken up, will be the giant digital companies storing databases of personal information such as age, sex, income, photos, video and emails to analyse, predict and anticipate our intentions and formulating our opinions.  Data will reform the basis of the conscious mind to swing what we favour in directions of their own making.  It is frightening when we realise carrying our smart phone, we are accompanying our shadow for company, outlining our digital trail everywhere freely, in cost and liberty, capitalising the social media giants yes, for free.

A search, now more commonly known by the verb 'Google', clicking on news articles, though maybe fake news, could still register to reveal about you a political profile silhouetting a probable political inclination which can be valuable during referendums or elections.   Some fake news operators are so powerful they can disrupt politics and distort real intentions without much care to the downsides of things but since Google is knowledge fake news is most likely believed.  Manipulation of news is in full swing when searching for some facts we are presented by extremism and hate readily accepted by the intellectually deprived, distorting the mainstream of ideas acquired by other but authoritative sites. However, political use of the internet is not exclusive to the media giants, but governments are in on it too.  For examples, the time of the Arab Spring Democratic sympathies swang either side, China's capitalism while prolonging communist ideals working in back ground controlling their societies, while Russia uses it for control and social order.  Twitter par excellence, as we all know, is Trump who justifies his Twitter feed as "modern day Presidential". When he goes quite, there must be something wrong.

Ideology is being utilised to disrupt the internet, thousands of signals are sent out creating right-wing views and propaganda, acting in the face of mainstream media.

"A spatial map of the right-wing fake news ecosystem. Jonathan  Albright, assistant professor of communications at Elon University,    North Carolina, “scraped” 300 fake news sites (the dark shapes on this map) to reveal the 1.3m hyperlinks that connect them together and link them into the mainstream news ecosystem.    Here, Albright shows it is a “vast satellite system of right wing news and propaganda that has completely surrounded the mainstream media system”. Photograph: Jonathan Albright" Source: theguardian.com


Algorithm and the data they consume, besides their ability to psychologically group us, seem to have a life of their own and develop as they work to be first in the queue gushing out filtered information for the unsceptical vulnerable mind to lap up.  If the news is to be believed, there is a company called Cambridge Analytica using methods developed at Cambridge University in England, by weaving a tapestry of sites, is said to have manipulated data by targeting millions of voters psychological traits swinging their vote in favour of Trump in America and Brexit here in the UK.  A manipulation of stories that can make us acquire a partisan approach make us fragmented and more divided.  A story is later taken up by the mainstream media such as the Observer and The Times.  To learn more on this coordination effect read this brilliant piece; a second to non-analysis of this subject. A panoramic view giving some insights why our electoral system needs a complete overhaul.

How about some regulation because this is all getting out of hand, the real world is getting lost and privacy along with it.  We have become borderless.  If we want privacy, and I agree some don't, we need laws to control the controllers because it is becoming apparent that the media giants are either incapable or unwilling to police themselves.  Tech giants such as Amazon, Alphabet (Google parent), Apple, Facebook and Microsoft wield enormous power collectively made profits of $25billion in the first quarter of 2017.  All private information seems to be up for grabs. Advertisers are buying email addresses and mobile numbers hijacking our privacy inundating the unsuspecting public with unsolicited products.  Cookies left on our computers are also data for sale, a virus of freedom we voluntarily click, giving passive consent to gatecrash our privacy and analysing our digital footprints.

The easy access to Dating, Escorts, Prostitution and Porn sites means high traffic and lucrative profits.   Porn is a $12 billion dollar industry in the US with global turnover estimates around $97billion.  Thanks to the dark side of the internet, the adult entertainment industry never had it so good.  There is also the trafficking of children and slave labour, trolling and exploiting school children who mistakenly give out personal information makes the internet unsafe.  Software allowing girls as young as nine to be groomed for sexual abuse. Those on the chase develop ideas and techniques to engage and interact with youngsters directly from bona fide internet sites offering to sell their software directing their audience to tools and methods as resources available.  The algorithm can minutely target people, also tell whether one is extroverts or introverts, whether one is a family person or not even to some extent that car insurance can be based on Facebook activities.   Having learnt information about the likes, dislikes and so on, the information by the algorithm is always in favour of these supplied traits one favour.  The algorithm will then fire back information based on these acceptable characteristics irrespective whether the information it gives out is correct or not.

All kinds of software available, some free of charge, instructional materials on methods to target their audience to build individual and demographic profiles for best results.  Many of these approaches challenge our moral principles and bands of liberty and confronting the internet with a new moral philosophy.  It is vital to keep a lid on this technological age increasingly seeing morality running in the wild. Additionally, stopping the trend for Terrorism, Radicalism, Jihadism, religious, hateful ideology and extremism should not be looked at as moral cowardice.  An algorithm based on our patterns can seem racist and prejudiced so cashing in on it is highly irresponsible.  By itself has no sense of moral balance to take up an ethical responsibility to stem this tide.  The consolidation for these media giants taking united steps to police themselves is vital. The expression of free will of people must not be abused or seen as an invitation by the back door to be dominated by the power of these giants' billions of dollars but remain to behold to a civil society.  Additionally, responsibility lies on producers of these contents and the media need to regulate it, censorship if necessary, particularly when their freedom of expression so audaciously out of context.

This Information revolution, for example, Facebook serving a daily audience of around 2 billion people, is presenting a new reality that we need to understand.  It means we need to redefine this biggest source of information by new concepts and guidelines to interact with this arguably valuable phenomena.  Harnessing the internet values of this virtual world is to ensure the information we receive is ethical and unobtrusive, but responsibly, to fit with the changing values of society ebbing the tide of functional anarchy.  Seeing our life translated into data snooping it to sell say insurance is an infringement on many of our rights.  Companies such as Facebook, Google and other social media giants, need to wake up and ensure the codes they feed into their highly valuable algorithm, not only translates into the excellent service they provide but is accompanied by good ethics - code should be law. We know that our every search or 'like', 'anger, 'amazement' or other reactions, free as they seem to be, provides them with the capital they later sell.  Not only do we tell friends what we like but we are telling them the internet giants too. News feed and spying on our friends and peoples whereabouts, what they are up to and working out probabilities based on our past activities are clear infringements on our rights of privacy.   What society needs and I see coming in the next few years is an algorithm watch, like Ofcom, a utility regulator, hopefully, introduced voluntarily but if not then by the dead hand of state censorship.





















Sunday, 16 July 2017

Overdose and Opioid misuse.



The paradoxical nature of eating is rather similar to that of taking drugs.  Taking drugs, like eating works as a balancing agent in relieving some disruptive effects we all experience, hence we eat, or some of us take drugs, as reward and aversion. In academic terms, it is like activation of learned behaviours in the presence of stimuli previously associated with the incentive event; to reinstate an appetitive state. With that over, this piece will try to highlight such aversive effects of drugs, e.g., marijuana, cocaine, morphine, synthetic cannabinoids.  Under supervision such effects as, essentially, protective but can lead on to drug tolerance that often can start with recreational drugs such as any number from a group of Amphetamines. Such factors, of course, can also lead to habit forming, substance abuse, overdose and premature drug-related deaths. Just as in the deleterious effect of eating, the phenomena of drug use and abuse is that drug taking requires an understanding of drug toxicity and aversiveness. I also go on to focus on the destructive effects the easing use of such recreational drugs on teenagers a catalyst to harder drugs. A rather friendly description is given to Ecstasy, a recreational drug, when in fact it a psychedelic drug that produces euphoria often the first link in a chain of dependency and consequent misuse and overdose.  Such are the horrifying scenes by 'downers', after a cocktail of drugs and alcohol in the UK and the destructive aftermath manifested in decriminalising drug use in many cities across The United States of America.

Ecstasy is the current drug in vogue making the rounds of the club scene as the new dance drug on a new generation of clubbers.  It is back in fashion after more than a decade in the shadows but has re-emerged in a more potent, powder form, than in the 1990's heydey of house, rave and techno scenes. Nine out of 12 countries report higher estimates of the drug’s use in the last year. The UK reported the second highest level of use, with 3.5% of young adults saying they had taken it in the previous 12 months. There are, however, safety measures for harm prevention being put in place to avoid poor quality and adulteration, organised by the police, social and drug agencies.  Concert and festival organisers are stationing uniformed police at entrances of their venues and at mainstream social settings requesting youngsters to hand over all substances for testing.  Reading in Berkshire and Leeds in Yorkshire, England, festivals there are among a number of other live music events where with the support of local police forces prioritising safety over criminal motives and arrests for drug offences.  Pleasure and risk is an integral part of the club scene. Smack (heroin), pawing (touching), spliff (marijuana cigarette), toke (puff on a cigarette), trollied (drunk) is the language of the initiated. Smoking tobacco and alcohol at the end of an evening is for chilling out and 'come down' is part of a fun hedonistic culture.


The above report also points to disturbing rising trends in the number of deaths from overdose.   The UK accounted for 2,332 of the 6,800 drug-related deaths notified to the authorities in 2014. Heroin and other opiates such as methadone accounted for 1,786 of these UK deaths. 

Putting moral concerns over the criminal intent is difficult, but a red line needs to be drawn between freedom and harm where government should intervene to uphold the law to protect all society from harm.  That balance, however, for drug liberalisation is now underway in at least seven states across America including Washington and California.  In all these States decriminalising drug use is proving to be counterproductive regarding habit forming, lower criminal activities or reduction in police hours taking drug crime off the streets.   The sordid details contained in many of the emerging reports that outline the monitoring figures prove an increasing dependence on opioids, family breakups and drug related deaths from overdosing.  News reports out of America claim more people are dying of opioids addiction than guns, cars or AIDS have ever claimed in a single year even at their peak.  In 2015 it killed over 33,000 peopleMoreover, drug decriminalising has meant an over the counter culture where drugs can now be smoked, needled, eaten, snorted and by introducing them as sweets are proving tempting for children to innocently indulge and more often go on locked in wasting downhill spiral of addiction. The devastating impact on individuals, communities and families losing their sons and daughters to heroin is causing enough pressure for the national media to upgrade their concern to this social dislocation, for the federal government to take action. 

Medics, through their virtuous moral actions, giving out drugs prescription defeat their good intentions; putting patients back to 'feeling normal'.  In their effort to alleviate the pain of withdrawals they are making legal what is illegal, in the UK, prescriptions for opioids increased 400%.  A recent report published in the United States on drug use found that opioid crisis is now ravaging America and is claiming record numbers of lives with many having their first 'fix' by a Doctor.  As in the UK, drug 'damage' does not only feed on the poor but middle-class professional and takes in all social layers of society.  When prescriptions ran out, the ease of access meant buying from the mushrooming outlets were available to fill the gap until the next fix. Where it is still illegal, people buy it off the streets, unknowingly in lethal doses sometimes acquiring products made as tranquillizers for elephants.  To get a buzz one user says “Every couple of hours you need a hit”, no ifs ands or buts, you’re going to find it and you’re going to get money to get it, no matter what”.  It is less expensive than a six-pack - of beer.  

Despite all this sad evidence cultured and so called experts still support the ideas for the legalisation of drugs by centring their arguments, not on the drugs but of their prohibition.   Just as with Tobacco and Alcohol legalisation they want it allied with adequate control taking it out from the hands of criminals, to teach our children on their 'proper' use, while passing taxation on the products to the government and legitimate traders to make a profit.  So far so good you might think, then arguments take peculiar contours suggesting the billions of pounds collected will then be syphoned to the appropriate channels for drug treatment and addicts.  Here is what Dr Susan Blackmore, (a psychologist), Patron of Transform, the campaign for the legalisation of narcotics: "In my dream, I can walk down any street in Bristol, Boston, Bogotá or Bombay and no one will steal my phone to get their next fix. No heroin–dazed beggar will plead for my change. No crack-crazed youth will kill me for my credit card. And why? Because in my dream they, like me, can walk down that street and buy any drug they like.  Obviously, in her case freedom doesn't come cheap where such drug use become epidemic and the spread of infection but might cost lives.  Here is a window on the consequences.(two parts).

As an activity, taking ecstasy or heroin, harming oneself, such as taking up boxing, bull riding or base jumping or those of us who refuse to exercise, for instance, is not wrong even when done voluntarily. Other arguments, however, stress that voluntary use of drugs for mental stimulation or artificially induce changes in mental states should not be permissible while others say this is a slippery slope argument.  That said, would these activities be any different to say listening to music or reading a book, since both latter activities do the same. So far as I could, see, there is a contradiction in such analogues arguments in that something in drugs brings about an unnatural state of mind leading to action that contradicts normal behaviour.   A matter of losing total control of oneself - autonomy and at what point does the user as an agent no longer can act rationally beside the fact they can become victims to unscrupulous drug dealers.  Users of these drugs can in principle act to end their use and their intoxicating effects – at least up to the point of the incapacity of rational thought.  But such effects are known to take hold, so much so, the agent no longer can act rationally to end their damaging effects, they can no longer serve as an independent agent. Allied to this there is also the addiction factor since there is a strong case to be made that a recreational drug user can quickly become addicted and once the habit established, is difficult to quit.  Additionally, as has been pointed out, from an empirical point of view against legalising drugs, one can see the damaging effects drugs use can have from the examples given above that speak for themselves; ill effects of alcohol and tobacco, by comparison, pale into insignificance; evidence in preference to authoritative directions. 

In the end, it boils down to protecting ourselves and all drug users from harm a reality that is part of our culture and part of our society.  Though acknowledged that Opioids are essential medicine but misuse according to British Medical Journal is now questioning whether prescription opioid is becoming an epidemic.   Without data to support it, punitive approach necessary because drugs do harm and life destroying.  Human reason, moral or otherwise, is not enough, but government action to protect a free society control is essential, keeping safe the society that is in its care.  To normalise risky behaviour makes it more attractive encouraging more people to take it up often not knowing the strength of these substances. Without legal guidance and responsible medical supervision, all these drugs are proving dangerous, and drug addiction is realised when it is too late.  




Sunday, 25 June 2017

Despotism and Happiness: Two Sides of a Coin.



I like to make it clear this piece is non-political and non-religious and harbours no critical intentions of any religion.  Its only message is that of the Arab world and its people, Both, Muslim and Christian, not ready for Democracy or universal Freedom but in fact, the majority of its inhabitants are adverse to the idea of Parliamentary Democracy.  Their interpretation of liberty is freedom FROM and not freedom TO - by and large a negative freedom.  They prefer to be free from political entanglement preferring not taking part in the system of government.  Their profound and obscure belief is sustained by ideas to better leave politics to those who rule.  This leaves them to indulge in a daily diet of Cafe politics, trade and money-making.

This essay comes from a westernised, regenerated and redefined fellow Arab I will attempt to show the peculiarities often seem to an untrained eye a dichotomy that can exist in Arab window framing when grappling to understand or to join with Liberalism.  Arab leaders and people have on the whole over the centuries ruled so keeping hold of an archaic system where they feel happiest is more favoured than stepping into the unknown.  Despotism in the Arab world is inherited from Ottoman Despotism, brushing aside any other form of rule is natural.  Cosying up to some of the worst violators of human rights in the region, such as President Sisi of Egypt is one example.  The idea of sharing with a government is an anathema to their way of thinking. Jean Jacques Rousseau would be spinning in his grave while Voltaire would have despaired.  As for what Montesquieu would have made of this, I shudder to think.

Anyway, it all comes down I suppose to universalities.  Western universalism Islamic universalism Asian universalism all are vying for universal value.  Falling into line is a preferred option but looking at a social contract with disdain has thus weakened any ideas to emerge from the darkness of that authoritarian cave.  Remaining subjects in preference to seeing the light to be individual citizens. They find it more convenient to entrench in the old world order than to navigate the conduits of enfranchisement of liberality.  The upending cultural frame of mind that had taken centuries to embed is a struggle and remains outside the framework of resistance that has in any case, over this period become rusty.  Or it is simply happiness in a different universal sphere where tough talk, a Clint Eastwood approach in preference to Reason that "make my day" for them.

The French Revolution inspired by the notions of the Enlightenment that came to the fore grabbed Europe's attention in 1760's was by western standards an intellectual revolution that is still in progress.  Driven by Reason and rational enquiry its ultimate goal was to the happiness of the individual. Invariably, finding in its mission towards values, attitudes and beliefs inducing a culture of empiricism; to question and to reason. Challenging the status quo, why and what became one of the modernities of the age.  France in July 1789 began a process of emancipation from a society of orders to one that belonged to the people that went on to define a Nation.  A citizen's Rights was born from the seeds of absolutism- grabbing a mistake in the genealogy of evolutionary government heavily centred at the time on the nobility and patriarchy.

The recent struggles on the road to Democracy belie the nature of Islamic universalism.  In this vein, 'The Arab Spring' was an attempt to see the light in the emancipation of the individual for it to cultivate the seeds of Democracy and Liberalism.  The movements faltered and went horribly wrong as we saw in Egypt, Libya, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Tunis among other Arab countries.

As I see it, in theory, Arab people are some of the most politicised people, but in practice, most are inclined to accept the inevitable. There is often a misconception of ideas between Rule and Govern.   The difference, of course, Rule commands obedience by a show of strength,  and power. Whereas to Govern strength is entrusted to personality, consultation and acceptance since by western standard justification for a majority to sanction any Rule of Law.  Without consultation, laws remain arbitrary; there can never be synergies between the two.  Moreover, in western thinking societies, Public opinion is an important pointer to people's metrics of satisfaction.  Somehow Arabia has its politics in reverse it is where the people are answerable to the government and not the other way round and where one is assumed guilty before innocent. Laws bind the people; religion controls them, while a government is lacking in virtue, govern by propaganda, yet they acquiesce to all three and luxuriate in the delusion they are Free.

However, to stay on this point a little, the logic of Freedom is to know what it is one is free from and free to do what.  The ruling groups fail to provide a compelling indication or direction to those ends. Monarchs, Emirs and Princes stay in power on the strength of so-called utilitarian principles that they install mainly materialist, leisure and shopping malls with instructions how to enjoy.  Whatever rights given under the Constitution bear little relevance since they are limited by Laws that are subjected to religious ethics dating back to medieval time.   An enlightened view, like that in West, the treatment of International citizens, is that the European welcome is unconditional. You are welcome to join us and be like us, and you are welcome to join us and not be like us.  If one looks at the constitutions of most Arab countries as I have done, I found their laws enshrined in Sharia principles, and the welcome is conditional and only seemingly tolerant but overlapped and consistently remaining subject and unequivocally subservient to such legislation that embodies it.  Such has become the culture and Arab diaspora to the West proved no guarantee against such thinking since culture has naturally followed.

At a stroke, the UAE government, in a recent example, disbanded what took it years to build: limiting freedom of speech.  Despite the fact, all Emirates are the signatory to the International Laws of Human rights, nevertheless these signatures overridden by the law of the land.    By making it against the law to show or express sympathy towards Qatar or Qatari is wiping away the freedom of conscious as well as free speech.  Breaking these rules or questioning their values, intentionally or innocently, one could face a stiff jail sentence.  This is clear evidence of an ostensible show of democracy tolerated not the freedom of Democracy.  Themes of Critical thinking is not only about commas and semicolons but about phraseology and the linking of words to obliterate or emancipate meanings.   Ambiguity and equivocality can never lend much to modernising idioms for further understanding, moderation or toleration.  Sharia laws may allow you to have fun but by its terms and parameters are set for that end. These are a spiritually inspired monolithic statement, not for Man to moderate, reform or change.


Subject to the rule of law that originates from a bicameral system of government and laws synthesised from a system of checks and balances is a rare commodity and are viewed by many as slow, tedious and boring.  Arabs prefer their rulers like a new CEO walking for the first time into a hostile boardroom; he set the tone: a one man Government is laying out the rules of the game and won’t tolerate disobedience.  They issue warning they would not tolerate a  "hostile media" — a likely reference to programming on the Qatar-owned Al Jazeera network. 'No one allowed to doubt my word or my way of thinking, I have no deficiencies, and I know the best' - is a syndrome ever present.  In typical Arab fashion and hot-headedness, they looked at criticism, not as challenges but defiance and where objections by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International ignored. The thought there could be another way - a third way is often an admission of failure and hurt pride.  As for Freedom to chose a government, well, that remains taboo and is strictly forbidden.

Today's chess board dominated by the country with the biggest oil reserves, and the new man in line to rule the Saudi kingdom will have Iraq in his sights having nominated for the alienation of both Shiaism and Shia Iran is a priority.  Emboldened by the United States, Saudi hegemony, with Sunnism and Arabism as the carapace, is unleashing its petro-muscle for mastery on all it surveys forcing its will on the minnows.  The likely outcome is a war of Kings jostling for the highest stakes.  The ultimate prize is the dominance of the Middle East without a say of its people since as always they are the pawns, obedient servants submissively accept whatever consequences thrown at them. Sunni Arab Nationalism is on the Warpath where Shia Iran and its sympathisers have no say, and any dissent might just as well bury their heads in the sand dunes.

Jailing Democrats is one of the favourite pastimes especially when it come to members of The Muslim Brotherhood. A liberal mind that can underscore the power of the individual could be a serious misdemeanour; instead, conformity is the order, and that is an order.  An independent mind comes with a heavy baggage as an enemy of the state and frowned upon as an undesirable attribute.  Independent thinking especially in political arenas or as cultural dissonance is taken as subversive and quite likely to meet by a stint in jail ripe for remodelling. Foreigners face stiffer sentences at the end of which they are deported as unwanted goods.  Religious Dissenters, in the land of Emirs, or heaven forbid Atheists, on the other hand, could face lashes or execution.  One can rightly ask has Universalism gone bonkers? When society is looked at through the prism of logic to understand that democracy is based on Reason while despotism relies on fear, the answer is who cares. As long as people are happy Reason fears to tread.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

A Tale of Two Cities



Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell said a million people should “take to the streets to force Theresa May from power”. “The Tories have blood on their hands” and “Kick Theresa May out of Downing Street”.   Grayson in the 1930's; " We must break the rule of the rich and take our destinies into our own hands."  Such incendiary language goes to the heart of the Socialist movement in Britain in the 1930's.  Then as now, such poisonous language was the catalyst in efforts to bring down the government of the day to fall in line with its hard communist ideology that was fermenting in response to The Communist International, abbreviated as Comintern generated by the Bolshevik Pary in Soviet Russia.

Today Theresa May will present a Queen’s Speech aside from the Brexit legislative details it will be low key, and will be kept short.  Defeat will spell fall of the conservative government.  Today has also been assigned as The Day of Rage by leftist demonstrators and is quite likely will be noisy and may even turn violent.  It is understandable residents of Grenfell Tower has commanded attention since last week's devastating fire but politicising the tragedy does take away the focus from social housing and the system that failed using the inferno as a source of an attack on government.

Notting Hill where Grenfell Tower is situated sits among properties worth between three to four million pound houses and apartments and is indeed a tale of two cities.  On the back of this dichotomy, there is Jeremy Corbyn leader of the British Labour party is trying to score political points.  I know rapid increases in prices -Brexit pressures and falling pound exacerbated existing tensions, but these do not qualify a Democratic party to turn discontent into agitation seeing that such agitations easily fuelled by radicalism that is planting the seeds of anarchy.   Easy to accomplish since most of the new generation are a breed of extremists and highly politicised.

Moreover, what may appear as an unwillingness to sequestrate or appropriate empty multi-million-pound property, is what Corbyn has advocated could easily incite violence.  The government is not in support of the system that failed but announcing a public enquiry shows it is just as much on the side of the victims.

Discrediting the government at every stage and every tragedy adds to the possibility of creating upheavals which are what the irresponsible Labour leadership is evidently trying to do is not exactly conducive to reconciliation and unity.  He recently talked about unity but supporting 'The Day of Rage' is highly irresponsible.

Threatening a fragile government is straight of the history books, it never works, and if anything it plays in the hands of the Brussels negotiators.  The hard left in Britain is far harder to stomach than the hard right, and Brussels will treat it no less like a pariah state.

What we see today is not much different to the social agitation some members of the Labour party rhetoric of the 1930's when Victor Grayson advocated revolution.  Although The Independent Labour Party (ILP) a socialist political party was committed to the parliamentary road to socialism, during the election, Grayson supported a revolution. In his election address, Grayson wrote: I am appealing to you as one of your own class. I want emancipation from the wage-slavery of Capitalism. I do not believe that we are divinely destined to be drudges. Through the centuries we have been the serfs of an arrogant aristocracy. We have toiled in the factories and workshops to grind profits with which to glut the greedy maw of the Capitalist class.  That support was for a failing ideology but what is worse today is that comrade Corbyn et al. are promoting an already proven failed ideology; an anachronism to the modernity of today and at best an obsolescent thinking.  

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Grenfell Tower, a tragedy waiting to happen?

Grenfell Tower, in Kensington, west London in the early hours of June 14th, 2017. An inferno sweeping through a London Tower block trapping many residents where dozens are feared dead.  
It is a sorry state to see Britain so badly divided.  No, so much Labour and Conservatives thing any longer but have transgressed beyond socially or morally acceptable to Them and Us, a polarised society.   Fuelled more so by the press hungry for headlines going out of their way to politicise defects, mistakes and shortcomings.  Playing on the those who are vulnerable for a rating score. Matters days earlier were of no concern to them, but as a tragedy unfolded, they take the moral ground to show purported gaping holes the government played with people's safety.  Rightly or wrongly the social media, an echo chamber, goes on to amplify this reporting causing more anger and frustration to an already tearfully sad situation.

Notting Hill district, in Kensington area of West London, where Grenfell Tower is situated couldn't be more representative of this social divide, neatly separating the vulnerable from the affluent. Including, of course, those immigrants coming to this country seeking a better life.  Witnesses statements added to reports of casualties while the death toll is still rising, latest estimates speak of well over 50 people.  A very high number in a country where we thought had the highest safety standards in the world.  But for a contemporary culture of  "I followed the rules" caused catastrophic mistakes are now to blame.  Causes of fire are yet to be determined, and the Metropolitan Police have instigated a criminal investigation.

I shudder to contemplate how this government or any government can quell this anger, with more to come I am sure.  Austerity, since the financial crisis of 2003 has taken its toll as social deprivation is on the increase.  Standard of living is falling for many; job insecurity is deterring salary increases.  Adequate housing and social welfare need to focus on those in need to fuse the divide and subdue the anger where regeneration of this deprived area is often perceived as attempts on social hygiene by the wealthy.  Income distribution is therefore in desperate need for reform. UK riots of 2011; Brexit and the swing to the left in the recent general election are real markers for dissatisfaction.

Unfortunately, I see this government has temporarily lost its grip on reality one needs to ask how many wake-up calls does it need to stir it into action.  There is anger on our streets, and anarchy is spreading by those ready to exploit it and weaponising it for their own political ends.  Besides the persistent inequalities, issues such as adequate social housing need government's urgent attention.  It is also high time for the media to act responsibly in uniting British society towards a common cause; Britain, as one caring nation.   

Sunday, 30 April 2017

Islam; Religion of Peace

The Massacre at Chios (1824) by Eugène Delacroix
Turkish fleet under the Kapudan Pasha Nasuhzade Ali Pasha arrived on the island of Chios, Greece on 22 March 1822. They quickly pillaged and looted the town. On 31 March, orders were given to burn down the city, and over the next four months, an estimated 40,000 Turkish troops arrived. In addition to setting fires, the troops were ordered to kill all infants under three years old, all males 12 years of age and older, and all females 40 and older, except those willing to convert to Islam.  Approximately three-quarters of the population of 120,000 were killed, enslaved or died of disease. It is estimated that 2,000 people remained on the island after 21,000 managed to flee, 52,000 were enslaved and 52,000 massacred.Tens of thousands of survivors dispersed throughout Europe and became part of the Chian Diaspora. Another source says that approximately 20,000 Chians were killed or starved to death.


On Wednesday 27th of March, 2017, the Westminster terror saw the murder of 5 innocent people including PC Keith Palmer, also a father and a husband, guarding the oldest parliament in the world.  An attack on democracy met with British Prime Minister, Theresa May's defiant reply "We are not afraid, and our resolve will not waver in the face of Terrorism." On the 8th of April, we saw similar terror repeating itself on the streets of Stockholm, Sweden. The attacker this time hijacked a lorry belonging to the Swedish brewery Speedups and used it to ram pedestrians. On Sunday, Palm Sunday 9th of April we saw at least 36 people killed after blasts targeted Coptic Christians in a Church in Egypt. Not long afterwards saw the killing of a French police officer in a shooting incident on Champs-Élysées.  All events were attributed to directly to IS or Muslim terrorist splinter group sympathisers.  

Islam was never like this.  Despite the belief by some, then and now, the conquest of Jerusalem in 638, after a two-year siege, established a fact for Islam that both Christianity and Islam originate from the same tree, now there was no denying of Islam's status.  Over the following centuries up to the pre-Mongol period, Islam was well articulated, and its relaxed attitude gave room to both the rational, philosophical interpretation and spiritual understanding to both the Quran and the Hadith.  Baghdad, at the heart of the Abbassid Caliphate, and Cairo after it under the Mamluks were centres of learning and groundswell of knowledge.  Baghdad, in particular, was a multi-cultural city of Christians, Jews and Muslims lived and worked together.  Many of the greatest philosophers of the age of different faiths applied Aristotelian logic to Islam enriching the Arabic language in the process.  The teaching of a united faith accompanied the spread of the Muslim Empire, and that applied knowledge stretched more than any empire before it, from the far corners of the East to the Atlantic in the West.

THE AGREEMENT OF SURRENDER 
Guarantees extended by Umar ibn-Al-Khattab of civil and religious liberty to Christians in exchange for 'jizya' largely turning Jerusalem into a vassal state.

With the onset of the Ottoman Empire, Islam I believe took on more of a political tool rather than had hitherto been both political and societal.  Misusing Islam for power and glory, and for domination of Christianity.  The Caliphate assumed by the Ottomans was a usurpation since none of those chosen was either from the Quraish clan nor a distant relative of the prophet or indeed from Mecca or Medina.  For manipulation and control of the Ottoman and the Millet societies, Islam became a tool under their auspices.  Strictly applying rules that more or less established the mythical beliefs and customs many Muslim believers today acknowledge as the word of God.  Ironically, these distortions diluted the practical meaning of religion instead gave rise to a more radical approach that has over the years culminated in further distancing from a real essence of the Faith.

That radicalism has in recent history taken a more malignant transformation; from Al Qaida, the world's foremost terrorist organisation to ISIS; a transnational terrorist group formed in Iraq post the 2003 American invasion.   Its proclamation of the Khalifa has enabled it to gather around its organisation Sunni followers from both Syria and Iraq who are disenchanted, disillusioned and disenfranchised but radicalised and violently militant.  Both organisations have also managed to attract young volunteers from around the world to strengthen their infrastructure while internationalising its reach in the process.  Isis, in particular, having assumed the Khalif in Mosul, though its authority remained unrecognised by most Muslim countries around the world, has nevertheless, became a fighting force spreading its ideology in Europe and elsewhere by terrorism.

Take Al Qaeda for instance once the driving force of Global Jihad has built a network of multinational operations across the Arab world and Northern and Central Africa. The message that comes across from this militant and violent organisation is one of terror, killing, slavery and beheading.  These brutal warnings are often accompanying Muslim slogans with excerpts taken out of the Koran justifying its actions.  Nothing there that suggests Islam's peace messages or its true essence on the contrary we see frightening figures that in Charlie Hebdo terrorist case in France 27% of British Muslims sympathise with Paris gunmen.  One wonders whether their principle message is to spread fear or their faith or both.  More often the message that is increasingly coming across is both; hence we see Islamophobia as well as sympathies on the increase.  In the absence of contrary peaceful messages from its legitimate individual leadership across the Muslim world, their discourse of Islam a "religion of peace" sounding more and more hollow.

Neither Isis nor al Qaeda will be going away anytime soon despite IS's loss of territory in Mosul, Iraq and Raqa, Syria.  The cutting of beards and tearing off face veils are only a temporary respite in false dawn of final liberation from the Islamic State menace.   A retreat is happening, but as a terrorist organisation, they are far from finished.   They are definitely on the back foot, coming on the back of a military onslaught started in October 2016 with the main thrust coming from air power of coalition forces, supported by the Iraqi Government army (Iraqi Special Forces) charged in penetrating deeper into the IS-held territory.  A generally held belief that by the end of 2017 IS would renounce their Khalifa and retreat into the desert, but that does not spell the end of the movement by any means. Though many of its fighters return to Britain, France, Holland, Belgium, etc.  it is estimated at that stage, they would still have 10,000 or so loyal hardcore fighters and mainly Sunni Muslims who believe enough in the Salafi ideology prepared to cross the bridge into Europe and cause further mayhem.  Just as the  Iraqi Army has regrouped to fight another day so will IS, supported by its sympathisers in Europe and elsewhere who will do their bidding.  It will be a beginning of a new story as an organisation moving from soldiers to insurgents.  The more they shrink militarily, the more attacks, suicide or otherwise, they will commit to civilian targets especially in countries currently engaged in offensives against it.

Since the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire and with it the last Khalifa in the shape of Abdulmecid II, described in 1922 as "a historic relic", Islam has lacked a universally accepted leadership and has ever since remained rudderless.  Influences of Islamic State and Al-Qaeda is spreading, and their militancy, intolerance and ideology can inspire people all over the world to carry attacks in their name.  The Social Media, a cost-effective tool serves an excellent conduit to recruit new volunteers to their cause who find comfort in its propaganda.  They may have lost territory and operatives and currently are on the run but are they likely to run out of steam? Not yet!  The third stage will be a change of tactics using a different strategy which means entry into the social fabric, a twenty-first-century strategy of networking within the Islamic societies around the world.

The brand will change, but the ideology of Salafi Jihadism remains the same hellbent to establish the Islamic States, and ultimately impose their own Khalifa and encouraging global jihadism and the Sharia Laws.  Once the enemy, the common cause infesting Mosul is eliminated the geopolitical terrain will need new cartography to define the new Mosul propagated from the new conflict that will attempt to devour it. That will leave IS, to put together new low maintenance ideological hubs, infiltrating Europe and elsewhere since ideological warfare is not a zero sum game of winning or losing. Unless there is one universally recognised Khalif, a legitimate central authority to defeat this spread, Salafi radicalism, intolerance is bound to grow. High time for a central authority to emulate Khalifa Umar humility who showed the meaning of tolerance and generosity in victory and strength. It is a challenge to the Muslim world that currently faced with a vacuum of ideas to contradict the spread of toxic fundamentalism that is doing untold damage to the Islamic character.



Sunday, 9 April 2017

The Arab Peoples



WHAT or WHO is an Arab? It must be one of the most difficult Ethnic terms to define.  There are as many definitions as there are dictionaries.  When “Arabic” people are asked this question one hears of definitions and opinions that etymologically brackets the terms within Christian, Muslim as well as Jewish context.  The Oxford English Dictionary has the following defining terms: Araby: a native of Arabia, and Arab: one of a Semitic race inhabiting Saudi Arabia and neighbouring countries.  Both definitions leave the questioner none the wiser.  Are Palestinian Christians Arabs? Are Jewish Iraqi Arabs?  Although Arabs collectively maybe a nation but there is no Arabic nationality in the legal sense.  A man who calls himself an Arab could hold Syrian, Egyptian, Saudi or any number of the “Arabic” countries passport but none of them identifies him as an Arab national.  


Is she an Arab, confident, liberated and revealing? A Lebanese maybe.  
Any more or less than her? A true Arab?
This guy is most probably an Arab nomad according to this article a true Arab.
… while this once famous Egyptian singer was a townie which makes him an Arab by association

Since there is no legal status for an Arab citizen, we are confronted by a quandary.  Nevertheless, it is assumed an Arab has many bonds that bind him towards other Arabs living or dead.  We can start whether the Arabic language is a binding factor. There is Arab speaking Jew of Iraq or Egypt or the Arabic speaking Christian of Lebanon. Are they Arabs?  I am sure there will be as many different answers as there are questions from these people and more from their Muslim neighbours.  I can even ask whether the Arabic-speaking Muslim of Egypt and Algeria an Arab?  Many of those questioned do consider themselves Arab but not all, especially some Lebanese who think they are Phoenicians.  Is a Christian Lebanese of equal Arab status as the Muslim Shi’a Hezbollah fighter from Southern Lebanon both could be holding Lebanese passports? If looks can tell us anything, looking at the above photos can it solve our conundrum?  These questions are not meant to be rhetorical only but also to encourage any brave souls to volunteer a reply.  

If we turn to culture for help, we find there is hardly a pan-Arabian culture we can identify. Digging deep in the sands looking for what the BBC calls high-brow, middle or even low-brow culture I find the desert is almost barren.  Except for minor literary culture in Egypt and Lebanon, the binding Arab culture is Islam, but that had inadvertently imprisoned and stifled individual excellence in Art, Science and Humanities.  The effect of which caused by anarchic and subjective morality coupled with a shift from reason to sentiments and passion.  

Further complications arise when, in Iraq for instance; colloquially, people distinguish the Bedouin from indigenous peasantry by name “Arab”; classifying and separating their ethnicity from the rest of Iraqi people. Perhaps then this suggests that speaking Arabic is not the criteria.  Since speaker of Arabic or Semitic or a native of the Arabia (Where ever that is defined) is not enough a criteria.

Yet we see The Arab League has under its wings the following countries: Algeria, Bahrain, Comoros, Djibouti, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, the Palestine Liberation Organization, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. They can not be serious so no wonder as an organisation hardly anyone takes it seriously more of a dysfunctional unrepresentative organisation that cracks under the mildest strain.  More than likely Arabism is what divides all these countries.

Some Arab leaders defined an Arab in these words: "Whoever lives in our country, speaks our language, is brought up in our culture and takes pride in our glory is one of us." We may compare with this a definition from a well-qualified Western source, Professor Gibb of Oxford: "All those are Arabs for whom the central fact of history is the mission of Muhammad and the memory of the Arab Empire and who also cherish the Arabic tongue and its cultural heritage as their joint possession." Both definitions give the meaning both cultural and religious significance without getting into the “heart” of the word.  Our search must now be both historical and linguistic so we can we arrive at the meaning of this elusive definition.  We need to go back to biblical time and come forward. 

During the course of these centuries, the significance and meaning of the word have steadily changed with a standard usage completely lost.  Some people think the etymology of the word has Semitic roots meaning “West” for individuals who come from west of the Euphrates River but I consider this to be highly improbable. By connecting it with the Hebrew word for dark or Steppe-land “Arabha” or “Erebh” meaning disorganised seems a more plausible proposition.  “The association with nomadism is borne out by the fact that the Arabs themselves seem to have used the word at an early date to distinguish the Bedouin from the Arabic-speaking town and village dwellers and indeed continue to do so to some extent at the present day” The Arabs in History, by Bernard Lewis,  In fact, the first account of Arabia and Arabs found in the tenth chapter of Genesis calling many tribes of the area as "Arab" Also “Arab” makes its appearance in an Assyrian inscription in 850 BC. From then on there is frequent reference to Aribi, Arabu and Urbi indicative of a nomadic and desert origin when giving Camels or tributes to their Assyrian lords.  From the Syrian historical records, we deduct that these areas do not include the flourishing sedentary civilisation of south-western Arabia. The inhabitants in later books of the Old Testament would, however, identify them around 530 BC when the terms Arabaya begin to appear and later as commanders in Xerxes’ Persian army.

From now this argument will become messy - very messy and I blame the ancient Greek for this! 

We learn from early Greek writings, around 400 BC when the word Arabia was first used combining all the Semitic people of the peninsula, analogues to Italia and Germania and later Britannia.  Under the same heading, they included the people from the eastern desert of Egypt between the Nile and the Red Sea. Contact between Romans and Arabs was so close, Philip of Arabia “the Arab” (Syrian) became Caesar who even presided in Rome over the capital’s millennial celebrations. We had to wait for the rise of Islam to learn more about the use of the word from information gathered mainly from central and northern Arabia.  We can also detect that the concentration of Islamic activities was in the Northern half of the peninsula in the Syrian/Iraq borders. As a historical source, The Qur’an also confirms that the exclusive use of the term Arab was the Nomads and never the townsfolk of Mecca and Medina.  Yet the language of Mecca and Medina and other towns, as well as the Qur'an itself, is described as Arabic. 

It was the Arab-speaking Muslim world which conquered the lands of the Parthian kingdom and was to dominate right across Northern Africa reaching the edges of Europe and the Iberian Peninsula.  With this hegemony came Muslim religious influences as well as Arabic ethnical Culture.  The Jews and the Christians accompanying this warring army were to have an acculturative effect in the Arabic way of life without proselytising into the Muslim religion. The confluence of a vast number of varieties of people with different race and languages the Muslims exercised their influence as rulers and masters.  The distinction between Nomads and townsfolk became blurred and Arab gradually came to identify all those who spoke the Arabic language. With the increasing number of people converting to Islam, Arabism gradually transgressed to more of a universal Islamic ideology identified by faith.    Culture and administration were to later effect a change to a heterogeneous race with the wars of conquest coming to an end.

Contribution to "Arab medicine", "Arab philosophy", etc. of those who were of Arab descent, however, was relatively small. The architects of these particular cultures were the Christians and Jews while gradually becoming “Islamic” associated more with culture as much as with religion. The variegated culture of that Empire produced by men of many races and religions, but in the Arabic language and conditioned by Arab taste and tradition. The spread of Islam, however, also meant the spread of Arabic whether colloquial or classical as in the writing of the Qur’an. This was to take further hold with the arrival of the Turks when all marginal languages, such as Aramaic, west of Persia ceased their significance.  This would effectively blend further the different backgrounds and religious affiliations effectively harmonising the heterogeneousness of the communities.  This meant that definition of Arabic identity split into two.  One bearing the Nomadic origin of the Bedouins as the true Arabs and the other was becoming a social rather than an ethnic term.

As one can imagine, however, that with such an austere and dominating majority as the Ottomans, the minority faiths were organised along religiopolitical lines with their own leadership and laws - the Millet system.  The majority belonged to the Ummat al-Islām, a primarily Muslim Turkish community.  Sometimes these were subdivided into Egyptian, Syrian, Iraqi or even townsman and peasants.  The Arab was also applied to non-Arab nomads (of Kurdish or Turkoman extraction were ethnically termed Arab.  Abnā al-'Arab or Awlād al-'Arab applied to the Arabic-speaking townspeople and peasantry to distinguish them from the Turkish ruling class on the one hand and the nomads or Arabs proper on the other.  Since the start of the Ottoman rule of the Arabs in 1517 this ethnic division, especially in colloquial Arabic, has remained unchanged although its singnificancy has diminished.

To sum up then: As I see it the terms Arab was the cumulative terms used by the Greeks later Romans to combine the whole of the Semitic people under one label.  In Arabia itself, it seems to have been limited to the nomads although the common language of sedentary and nomad Arabians was called Arabic. In my opinion, despite the fact that the Nomadic Arabs spoke Arabic they were illiterate as it was an oral language only.  Although according to a later, but still controversial claim, Hira, on Jabal al-Nour, a tribal settlement, where Mohamed received his first revelations, was where the Arabs learnt to put their language in writing.  Staying on this theme, in the following six to seven centuries the Arabic language ‘matured’ along with the articulation of Islam using mainly Aristotelian logic and rationality.  By the time of Mongolian invasion of Baghdad and the consequent destruction of the Abbasid dynasty, the Arabic language was by then recognised by its rich poetic stanzas and highly stylised opulence entrenching further the Arab speaking population in Arabism since government and institutional language was Arabic. To fit in with the system, Arabism meant both acquiring Islamic culture as well as its language. 

 Therefore, many people who are true Arabic irrespective whether they are Muslim, Christian or Jewish are Arabic only through inherited social association with their old masters, as a result of their demarcated and social testimonials given to them by the Turks.  Although drawing this conclusion may cause many raised eyebrows, but with the current knowledge at my disposal, I firmly believe that to be the case.

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Life, Abortion and Human Right




Abortion or rights to abortion or the right to kill a human being can they ever entail justifiable moral right? Considering abortion from a moral perspective must be one of the most contentious issues society has ever come to deal with.  So I am not sure why I choose to write about this challenging subject, but still, I must be a glutton for punishment attempting to weave through this minefield. Some people hold the moral beliefs that their conscience tell them they are right. While others choose to believe that killing an embryo is morally wrong, but such opinions are not subject to proof.  I shall, therefore, approach this difficult topic from several directions, legal and biological, in determining whether it is morally or immorally right to abort a child and to terminate the right to life. Then on to consider the importance of any implications that these points may raise such as contraception and of course cutting short a ' future'.  The essential feature, however, is religion strictly to remain outside the domain of this article.  

To consider the moral case for Abortion, it is vital I would have thought to disengage emotionally from the subject but to start with the definition of 'Human' and to dismiss any possible confusion between the moral sense and the genetic sense.  Taking this into account it makes it easier to decide as and when a human is a being acquiring full and equal moral rights and whether a foetus is considered enough of being a person to be a member of the community, hence possessing moral obligations.  On the point of genetic formation, however, it is worthwhile to bear in mind that although a fertilised egg has all the genes code necessary to a human being but so do all cells of the body.  Moreover, the beginning of biological life does not necessarily mean the foetus has an ipso facto the right to life nor from a moral perspective to decide what stage does an embryo becomes a being enough to acquire the right to life remains unexplained.  Conversely, Pro-life supporters would argue that abortion is immoral and that the foetus is never anything other than human from conception.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary Human is  "designating a person who takes on the appearance or form, or who performs the function of a specified...thing; (also) designating an individual who assumes the appearance, role, or abilities of a specified creature." With that in place, the community also stipulates that it is wrong to kill innocent human beings, and fetuses are innocent human beings.  It begs the question whether judgment here is prescribed in the moral sense or the genetic sense.?  Since there is a difference or argument to differentiate between moral humanity and genetic humanity many would feel it is not essential to attach moral sense to an entity for merely possessing a human genetic code.  

It is generally accepted, a moral worth is attributed to people, so it is essential to determine when and if a fetus is a person. For this we use several criteria to decide:

A) Consciousness, in particular, the capacity to feel pain.
B) Reasoning, the ability to solve new and relatively complex problems.
C) Self-motivated activity. 
D) The capacity to communicate
E) The presence of self-concepts and self-awareness.

Even the anti-abortionist would agree that an entity which satisfies none of the above is not deemed to be a person.  To think otherwise they would be confusing between the genetic and moral sense of being 'human'.  To determine personhood, therefore, for this argument at least, it is essential to consider the above five points as central, because the concept of people to have full moral rights hinges on their determination.  In consequence, recognition of personhood is enough to recognise its moral right and indeed for the community to attach a moral right to it.  

Surprisingly, it would also be safe to say that genetic formation is not essential if the five primary criteria are present.  To demonstrate, I borrow from Mary Anne Warren Report On the Moral and Legal Status of Abortion,"Genetic humanity is not necessary or sufficient for establishing that an entity is a person.  Some human beings are not people, and there may well be people who are not human beings.Without significant mental capacity, as with some human being, kept alive but with consciousness permanently obliterated is no longer a person", a foetus may have human life form but not yet a person.  

So when do we consider a foetus developed enough to have acquired the necessary qualification for the community to attribute to it moral rights? Would it be when fully a person or being like a person and becomes sufficiently human to have the right to life?  Here we are in deep water since neither medicine, philosophy or indeed theology has come up with agreed summation when life begins.  In a landmark ruling by the United States Supreme Court on the issue of abortion, the court recognised for the first time that the US Constitution provides enough right to privacy.  That it is  "broad sufficiently to encompass a woman's decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy", (Roe v. Wade, 1973). Such recognition also stresses a time limit, for protecting the potentiality of human life by tying permissibility for abortion to not later than the start of the third semester of pregnancy (27-40 weeks), a stage of pregnancy after which date abortion is unlawful. To recognise, the potentiality argument that by this date, the foetus more than likely feels pain so presumes the right to Life.  However, even though abortion was governed by a time limit, the ruling has unfortunately also come to be known by many as the case that legalised abortion nationwide.  

On this subject, there are also other twists and turns in store, since the moral question on Abortion does not end with concern for the foetus but it also ought to consider a pregnant woman's right to protect her own life.  Some people would argue to abort a pregnancy to protect the life of the mother in the same way as in the circumstances for ridding the threat to human life.  This concern must also evaluate the dilemma from a pragmatic perspective perhaps a severely mentally handicapped foetus or pregnancy a result of a woman raped.

This challenging question, the right to abortion, must also take on board the pro-life argument, to boldly underscore why abortion is immoral. It would help to consider this side of the argument from a starting point of  'it is wrong to kill' (although this does not include the act of self-defence).  Killing is depriving life or future life of the victim.   To lose a life whether by an adult or a future life by a foetus must be one of the most heart rendering experience one can suffer.  Depriving an embryo of life is to rob it of all the future values of life that entity might later enjoy.  The embryo may be biologically or genetically not human enough but nevertheless, it is of human species with future moral worth, and some believe personhood.  The wrongness of killing a foetus stands identical with the killing of adults that also deprives them of a value of their futures.  By all assessment, this is a compelling argument, however, below in my conclusion, to some extent, I attempt to mitigate its force. 

Future value of life argument need not put a spotlight on family planning which for many can also seem to deny a future by contraception.  The short answer for this must be before conception, there are millions of sperms. Hence there is no identifiable subject of the loss. 

In conclusion, I must admit by the limited tenets presented here I am no nearer in resolving this issue. However, reluctantly I go on the side of the gradualist or moderates abortionists providing certain provisions are met  Considering, the difficulties as presented here deciding when the right to life starts one can assume that the progress to personhood and the right to life increases with the period of gestation.   Taking into account that although the foetus may be of a human life form, it is not yet a person, so the gradual argument therefore largely determines the justifiability or the none-justifiability of having an abortion.  The alternative view of pro-life proponents would be unwanted pregnancies, illegal abortions and the risk of death for mother and the unborn.  Therefore, the legislators in their effort to ward off any subjective principles they have shown they are morally bound to take a consequentialist approach to ethics.  Moreover, given that the risk of death increases with the length of pregnancy on health ground for both and hopefully keeping on the right side of the moral argument the judgment of Roe v Wade sums it about right.  Since part of the merit to this ruling must be the idea of the foetus has reached a particular stage of development when it is liable to be hurt, an unconsented hurt, they then must acquire moral right.  

Photo of pregnant woman by the sea shore: Dan Evans, https://pixabay.com/en/pregnant-beach-sunset-mother-422982/