Thursday, January 15, 2015

Music Video - Ariana Grande - Santa Tell Me

China - Be wary of HK self-determination advocacy

When delivering his third policy address on Wednesday, Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying slammed the advocacy of Hong Kong self-determination for the first time, which indicates that mainstream society in Hong Kong has grown vigilant to the ludicrous calls for independence.

Leung also singled out Undergrad, an official publication of Hong Kong University Students' Union. The journal published a cover story in February last year calling for Hong Kong's self-determination. In September it issued a special edition on Hong Kong democracy and independence, in which an article compares Hong Kong to Singapore and even estimates the number of conscripts and arms it can gather.

The article imagines that strife will break out and lead to independence for Hong Kong. This is the type of nonsense published in the journal.    

Chin Wan-kan, an assistant professor with Lingnan University, has been advocating independence and was ordered to report to the police on January 19 for investigation.

Both mainstream Hong Kong society and China as a whole were hesitant at first as to how to deal with these independence forces. Their pseudo-propositions initially looked like a joke and were often taken as an exaggeration of discontent that was not necessarily related to politics. Then the joke gradually gained momentum and some extremist and marginalized forces appeared to use it as a political tool.

Mainstream society has ignored these independence activists, but they still did not perish. It's not impossible that they will become one of the major problems facing Hong Kong and become a tool subject to external forces.

Independence forces are in contradiction to Hong Kong's Basic Law and are unacceptable. Both the central government and Hong Kong should figure out how to punish those who propagate talk of independence, such as barring Chin from the Chinese mainland.

Separatism usually starts with promoting nativism, then constructs political organizations to turn a few people's ideas into a trend and finally into political confrontation. The Hong Kong independence movement is in the first phase and seemed to accelerate its transition to the second phase by exploiting the divisions the independence forces caused.

There are two extreme ways of thinking. The first is to step back, which may result in opposition forces being given more rights than they should have under the Basic Law. The other is to take tough measures to combat these forces. Neither is workable.

China is powerful and the majority in Hong Kong opposes extremists. But the question lies in how to turn the majority's advantages into a realistic instrument that can suppress independence forces and meanwhile heighten the solidarity within Hong Kong and between it and the mainland. This is not a test of strength, but of political determination and wisdom.

Will terror attack close gulf between China and Europe?

The past week has seen the world's headlines dominated by the terrorist attack on theFrench satirical magazine Charlie Hebdothe rally in Paris to protest against terrorismand the cover of the first issue published after the attackwhich depicts the prophetMuhammad shedding a tear while holding a "Je Suis Charliesign.
Sensible people are outraged by the cruel terrorists which has brought European people'ssense of insecurity to the spotlightThe rally showed France's yearning for solidarity atthis critical momentThe pictures of millions of people marching together has solicited thesympathy of the world.
China condemned this act of terrorism immediatelyand the Chinese media have pointedtheir fingers at the terroristsas China itself is a victim of terrorism.
In Marcha terrorist attack killed 31 civilians and injured 141 others at a railway station inKunmingcapital of Southwest China's Yunnan ProvinceTerrorist activities have alsobeen on the rise in recent years in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Regionposing mountingpressure on the country's border security.
Terrorism consumes people's emotions ruthlesslyThe American people suffered from itwith the September 11 attacksthe Chinese people feel threatened by it in recent yearsandnow what has happened to Charlie Hebdo has shocked all of Europe.
HoweverEurope may have disappointed the Chinese public in offering support to China'santi-terrorism efforts in the past.
After a terror incident took place in Xinjiang's Bachu county in April 2013, some Westernmedia expressed skepticism over the nature of the incidentreflecting their biasedreporting of ChinaThe BBC's Chinese service even interviewed Rebiya Kadeerpresidentof the World Uyghur Congressthe exiled Uyghur activist groupwho unsurprisinglyblamed the Chinese government's policy on Xinjiang and highlighted the country's ethnicconflictsThe Chinese public's complex feelings toward Europe are reflected in netizens'comments that questioned the ethics of Western media which put ideology ahead of thereal threat.
Similarlywhen reporting a terrorist attack in Xinjiang in Novemberthe French elitenewspaper Le Monde practically asserted that it is only China portraying these attacks asterrorismThe media coverage not only neglects the Chinese people's need for worldsupportbut also distances Europe from the Chinese peopleDespite Chinese people'sfavorable impression of Europe as the cradle of modern civilization and as a traveldestinationthe favor has been soured by Europe's disrespect toward Chinese people.
It is hoped that Europe can hold an objective view toward China and take the Chinesepublic's feelings into accountIt should also look beyond the fact that ideology in China isdifferent from the path the West wants it to take during the global fight against terrorism.

Russia Will Stick With Putin Till the Bitter End

Shamil Zhumatov / Reuters
Russia's actions in 2014 were shocking both for their scale and abruptness. Tossing aside all concern for world rankings, economic considerations and the standards of international cooperation — all of that boring baggage of today's global system — the Kremlin set sail for unchartered waters. According to philosopher Mikhail Yampolsky, "Russia moved from the post-modern world to the modern" — that is, back to the first half of the 20th century.
In 2015, Russia is facing consequences that nobody in the Kremlin could have imagined in their worst nightmares just two years ago. Russia was evicted from the G8, its relations with Germany are mired in deep crisis, the United States and the European Union have imposed hard-hitting sanctions and many European firms have stopped supplying Russia with much-needed high-tech equipment.
Russia is losing its place as the world's eighth-largest economy, its credit rating will likely get downgraded to junk status in 2015 and in place of the attractive investment climate that Russia has offered for over a decade, it has become an extremely vulnerable economy. The fall of oil prices and the plummeting value of the ruble have forced real monthly incomes down from an average of $1,000 in June 2014 to $600 or lower today — levels not seen for several years.
Putin's actions in 2014 have focused the world's attention on Russia. Now all things Russia — from its cash reserves, penetration into European economies and foreign policy activity — have shifted from the periphery to center stage. Now every armchair analyst is counting Russia's remaining cash reserves and predicting the date they will run out.
Even now, those reserves are dissipating faster than the Russian economy can diversify them. A hopeless situation is forming in which the Russian people are forced to bear the burden of recession.
Political historians in the future will be extremely interested to learn how Russia's leaders made the decision to annex Crimea. Apparently, they wagered on the breakdown of the Ukrainian state and the strategic opportunity to create the major new state of Novorossia. However, this plan failed, and now the Kremlin finds itself in a very difficult position. It is clearly enlisting all of its resources in diplomacy, foreign propaganda and pro-Russian business circles in Europe to create a movement for the official recognition of Crimea.
The Kremlin is prepared to pay the price for that. In fact, European politicians and businesspeople initially made many statements calling on the West to view Russia's actions as a manifestation of justified anxiety, fear, or even as the result of misguided Western policy during the post-Soviet period. However, Putin could have capitalized on that support if he had not annexed Crimea in February and had only destabilized the situation in Ukraine without violating that country's borders.
As a result, 2015 begins in an atmosphere of absolute deadlock and with no strategies for curbing the confrontational rhetoric. The consensus in Europe is that the Kremlin's escapade in Crimea has stripped Russia not only of its earlier recognized status of a regional power, but has made a moot point of Kremlin ambitions to become a leader in restructuring the political architecture of Europe and even the world.
However, foreign policy and economic losses are only half the picture. The most important event of the year has been the regressive transformation of Russian society. The Crimean adventure has driven Russians into a narrow corridor of "renewed loyalty" to the authorities — effectively forcing the Kremlin to renew its social contract with the Russian people.
The overriding focus on Ukraine in Russia's domestic policy has led to a rapid reconfiguration of the social order. Tens of millions of officials, state employees and businesspeople whose enterprises are tied to the state budget — and that previously held varying views concerning Russia's future — now find themselves inextricably bound to Crimea.
The same applies to historians, journalists, college professors and high school teachers. Fully 20,000 journalists employed by the state are now compelled to help the Kremlin fight its propaganda war with the outside world. The education system must not only assimilate the explanation for the conflict with Ukraine, but also the mythology surrounding Russia's confrontation with the West.
Every Russian family has felt the effects of the Ukrainian crisis. Those who doubt the correctness of the Kremlin's actions must hold their tongues to avoid conflict with family, friends and colleagues.
But what exactly is that contract between the Kremlin and the people? In short, it contains three main points:
• Without Putin, there can be no Russia.
• Isolationism — the course that Putin will pursue until the end of his life or rule, one that places Russia among the enemies of the West.
• The country will not undertake any fundamental reforms on its own initiative.
The last point — the complete rejection of any progressive development — is the end result of Russia's 25 years of post-Soviet transition. It is obvious that the post-Crimea social contract will shift Russia from the status of a weak democracy to that of a regime controlled by a single man. Now, Russia's future depends on Putin alone — his moods, his personal health and his eventual departure or death.
Comments on social networks indicate that many thousands of people clearly understand that this new social contract contains a ticking time bomb. They know that Russia can end its current isolation and embark on the path of reform only as the result of a large-scale civil conflict, a major military defeat of Russia's armed forces or else a fundamental economic collapse. The "Ukrainization" of Russian politics has devoured this country's future.
Even if the warring parties reach a truce in eastern Ukraine, that will not change the state of Russian society. According to Russia's current rhetoric, the West is incapable of offering any response that would warrant restoring a dialogue with it. That leaves no option but for the West to go away, to disappear.
But before that, Moscow demands that the West repent for its centuries of anti-Russian policy — starting with the fall of Byzantium and ending with its alleged role in organizing the coup d'etat in Kiev. The Kremlin and Russia's new post-Crimean society will accept nothing less.
What's more, the new social contract contains no provision for ending the conflict with Kiev. That means Ukraine should simply disappear along with the West. In fact, Putin's rhetoric over the last six months clearly lacks even a single reasonable stance that the Kremlin could take with regard to the West.
The social contract is based on a dense layer of mythology that society is expected to not only perpetuate, but also believe. The very sweep of that mythology precludes any possibility of backtracking.
The extremity of the Kremlin's position shows that Russian leaders have literally "blown a fuse." Their ability to reflect upon their own words and deeds has given way to knee-jerk reactions that, in contrast to Putin's rule from 2003 to 2011, provide for no rational end to the current escalation of tensions.
Now it is unclear what set of conditions would help Kremlin leaders restore their powers of rational thinking. More than any other, this is the worst result of 2014.

Video - Raw: Obama Hosts UK's Cameron at White House

Video - President Obama Speaks on Working Families in a 21st Century Economy

Video - Kerry to share 'big hug' with Paris after attacks.

Video Report - Belgian police killed two gunmen in anti-terror raid -official

President Obama stops by Baltimore cafe

President Barack Obama treated patrons at a Baltimore cafe to a big surprise when he stopped by the Remington establishment for lunch during a visit to Charm City to discuss medical leave policies.
Christina Saul, one of the owners of the coffee shop Charmington's, says the leader of the free world ordered a roast beef sandwich and an avocado wrap with a side salad on Thursday, and stayed for nearly an hour. Obama was joined by Democratic U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski of Maryland and three other women for lunch.
Saul says Obama "was awesome," adding that Obama shook everyone's hand before leaving. She says "everyone was really, really excited."

After lunch, Obama crossed the street to meet bystanders, but not before telling the owners, "the food was great."

Video - Arabic Song

Bahraini forces attack anti-regime protesters

Bahrainis have held yet another protest in the capital, Manama, against the Al Khalifa crackdown on anti-regime demonstrations.
Security forces on Thursday opened fire on the demonstrators demanding the release of detained opposition leader Sheikh Ali Salman.
The forces also stormed into a mosque in Manama and arrested a number of protesters.
Similar protests were also held in other parts of the country in solidarity with political prisoners.
Anti-regime protests have escalated after Salman’s arrest in December 2014. Salman, the secretary general of the al-Wefaq National Islamic Society, faces several charges, including seeking regime change.
The demonstrators want authorities to release him and end years of repression in the country.
Bahrain has been the scene of an ongoing suppression of protesters who demand the release of opposition figures.
The arrests are part of Manama’s brutal suppression of anti-regime protesters since 2011. Scores of people have been killed and thousands more wounded during the crackdown.

Agony of wife of Saudi Arabian blogger who is being flogged 50 times every Friday

The wife of a Saudi blogger sentenced to 1,000 lashes ‘for insulting Islam’ today accused the government of killing her husband week by week - and spoke of her agony at ‘watching him die one lash at a time’.
Raif Badawi, who wrote a blog on human rights and social change, is being flogged 50 times every Friday for supposedly insulting religious figures and undermining the regime - a charge he and his wife Ensaf Haidar strenuously deny.
The first 50 of the lashes were inflicted in front of hundreds in the main square in Jeddah last week - and the same is due to happen again today, and for the next 18 weeks, until all 1,000 have been completed.
It is believed Raif, a 31-year-old father of three, will need hospital attention after each flogging; it has been suggested his body will not be able to sustain the assault over the coming weeks.
For Ensaf, almost 6,000 miles away in Quebec, it is too much to bear.

Speaking to the MailOnline, she said: ‘Saudi Arabia is endangering his health and life – if they go through with the whole 1,000 lashes, they are killing him more every week. 
'It is a criminal act.’
Ensaf and the couple's three children, Najwa, 11, Terad, 10, and Miriam, seven, have been living in a small town in Canada since November 2011.

They fled Saudi Arabia when Raif was arrested, spending two years living in Lebanon before being granted refugee status.
It means - although they are safe - none of them have seen Raif for more than four years and, since he was moved to a new prison two-and-a-half weeks ago, no one has spoken to him either.
However, Ensaf, 35, did have friends in the square last Friday - including Raif's sister.
'She unfortunately witnessed the flogging,' Ensaf said. 'She was there to try and support her brother.
'He was very strong - he was silent during the flogging.' 
But the advent of technology means Ensaf has also been able to see what happened to her husband.

Shocking footage of Raif being whipped in the square is available online, filmed secretly.
Just as those present reported, Raif stands strong, and quietly, while two guards dole out the punishment, and the crowds jeer.
Ensaf is still shocked it has come to this: she knew her husband wrote a blog called Free Saudi Liberals, but never thought it would draw the attentions of the authorities like it did. 
He was arrested in June 2012 - although it had been expected for a while, as the government had blocked his bank accounts and banned him from leaving the country in 2009.
At first, he was accused of apostasy - or renouncing Islam, a charge which, if found guilty, would have meant beheading.
But it was thrown out by Sadi Arabia's high court, and Raif was sentenced to seven years in prison and 600 lashes after being found guilty by an anti-terrorism court of 'undermining the regime and officials,' ''inciting public opinion' and 'insulting the judiciary'.

It was upped to 10 years and 1,000 lashes after he appealed the sentence.
‘I was surprised, because I never thought it would go this far,' Ensaf said. 
'What he is has been accused of is not true. He did not insult the religion and Islam or any member of the government. 
'The blog was only about social change and human rights.
‘He did not do anything wrong - he is a prisoner of conscience.’
Yet on Thursday the Saudi government confirmed this week's flogging would go ahead in the Jeddah square, which has earned the grisly nickname 'Chop Chop Square' as the site of executions.
In all the time of Raif's imprisonment, Ensaf worked to shield her children from the reality of her husband's situation. But when they knew the floggings were due to go ahead, she realised she would have to tell them.
'They only knew their daddy was in prison, they didn't know he was sentenced to flogging,' she said. 
'The school and I decided that we had to tell the kids - without going into detail. 
‘I wish I didn’t have to tell them. They cried and don’t understand. 
'They are not normal kids anymore.’ 
But Ensaf, who married Raif in 2002, still hopes international pressure will make the Saudi government stop the punishment.
Raif has many supporters in the international community, including the backing of Amnesty International - one of the first groups Ensaf contacted when she arrived in Canada.
'This case has so many violations of human rights,' said Amnesty's Mireille Elchacar, who has become a close friend of Ensaf over the past two years.
'He is a prisoner of conscience. It is a question of freedom of speech.' 
Amnesty around the world is calling on governments to intervene on behalf of Raif, and the other victims of torture in Saudi Arabia.
'Saudi Arabia is a country which uses torture in a systematic way. It is unfortunately a champion of the death penalty,' said Mireille, who also noted the irony of Saudi sending a representative to the Charlie Hebdo march in support of freedom of speech. 
Ensaf is now learning French and settling into her new country. It is, she says, 'impossible' to ever return to Saudi Arabia. 
‘They are acting in a criminal way, and I cannot have respect for a country which does not respect freedom of speech.’
And she is clinging onto the belief her husband will one day join her in Canada. 
‘I will see him again, for sure, for sure, for sure. I will never give up hope and I am sure Saudi Arabia will stop what they are doing and release him,’ she said.
Find out what you can do to help Raif and his family by visiting Amnesty UK's website

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Prisoner of conscience in Saudi Arabia: spare a thought for Raif Badawi

Despite strong protests from around the world, Saudi regime shows no intention of paying the slightest attention

 Spare a thought this morning for Raif Badawi. Unless a doctor orders a delay, the liberal Saudi blogger will be brought down to the square outside al-Jafali mosque in his home city of Jeddah, and after Friday prayers face his second round of 50 lashes from a long cane. And the same every Friday for the next 18 weeks .
Badawi was sentenced last May to 10 years’ imprisonment and 1,000 lashes, and fined 1 million Saudi riyals (€230,000) for “insulting Islam”, largely a democratic critique of the regime and its extremist Wahabbist religious rulers . He has been held since mid-2012, and his Free Saudi Liberals website, established to encourage debate on religious and political matters in Saudi Arabia, is closed.
On Wednesday his lawyer, Walid Abu al-Khair, a prominent human rights activist, also received an additional five years in jail on top of a ten-year sentence after he refused to show remorse or recognise the court. His offences included breaking his allegiance to King Abdullah, showing disrespect for the authorities, and creating an unauthorised association.
Badawi’s wife, Ensaf Haidar, has told Amnesty International, which has adopted the two men as prisoners of conscience, that she fears her husband may not be able to physically withstand a second round of lashes. “Raif told me he is in a lot of pain after his flogging, his health is poor and I’m certain he will not be able to cope with another round of lashes,” she warned.
Despite strong protests from around the world, the Saudi regime shows no intention of paying the slightest attention. It has long form. An absolute monarchy with both an appalling human rights record and a longstanding record as a funder of Islamist extremism and terrorism, it also retains a special status as a protected ally of the West. Its oil, massive budget for Western-produced arms, and its conservative politics shield it from any serious talk of sanctions. While last weekend its ministers, in an act of breathtaking hypocrisy, marched with 1.5 million heartbroken Parisians in support of freedom of expression.
Spare a thought for Raif Badawi.

A look at the writings of Saudi blogger Raif Badawi – sentenced to 1,000 lashes

By Ian Black

Raif Badawi was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes for setting up a website that championed free speech in the autocratic kingdom. His blog, the Saudi Free Liberals Forum, was shut down after his arrest in 2012.
Ian Black analyses extracts from his key published Arabic writings that show a man who risked his freedom to question some of the basic tenets of life in Saudi Arabia - especially the central role of religion.

Reflecting on the role of the Muslim religious establishment on 12 August 2010, Badawi warned about the stifling of creativity:
As soon as a thinker starts to reveal his ideas, you will find hundreds of fatwas that accused him of being an infidel just because he had the courage to discuss some sacred topics. I’m really worried that Arab thinkers will migrate in search of fresh air and to escape the sword of the religious authorities.
Badawi argued on 28 September 2010 in favour of “secularism [as] the most important refuge for citizens of a country.” Urged by clerics not to attend “heretical” celebrations marking Saudi national day, he underlined the importance of separating religion from the state. Strikingly he does not attack the Saudi monarchy and even praises the liberal governor of Mecca, the intellectual and poet Khaled al-Faisal Al Saud.
Secularism respects everyone and does not offend anyone ... Secularism ... is the practical solution to lift countries (including ours) out of the third world and into the first world.
Badawi linked Palestine, one of the touchstones of Arab solidarity, to the question of political Islam, attacking Hamas.
I’m not in support of the Israeli occupation of any Arab country, but at the same time I do not want to replace Israel by a religious state ... whose main concern would be spreading the culture of death and ignorance among its people when we need modernisation and hope. States based on religious ideology ... have nothing except the fear of God and an inability to face up to life. Look at what had happened after the European peoples succeeded in removing the clergy from public life and restricting them to their churches. They built up human beings and (promoted) enlightenment, creativity and rebellion. States which are based on religion confine their people in the circle of faith and fear.
The only article of Badawi’s hitherto translated from Arabic into Englishdenounces the demand of Muslims in New York that a mosque and community centre be built on the site of the World Trade Centre, where 3,000 people were killed in the 9/11 attacks by al-Qaida. It goes against the official Saudi position by linking the terrorist group to the kingdom - and accuses Muslims of intolerance.
What hurts me most as a citizen of the area which exported those terrorists ... is the audacity of Muslims in New York that reaches the limits of insolence, not taking any regard of the thousands of victims who perished on that fateful day or their families. What increases my pain is this [Islamist] chauvinist arrogance which claims that innocent blood, shed by barbarian, brutal minds under the slogan “Allahu Akbar”, means nothing compared to the act of building an Islamic mosque whose mission will be to ... spawn new terrorists ... Suppose we put ourselves in the place of American citizens. Would we accept that a Christian or Jew assaults us in our own house and then build a church or synagogue in the same area of the attack? I doubt it. We reject the building of churches in Saudi Arabia, not having been assaulted by anyone. Then what would you think if those who wanted to build a church are the same people who stormed the sanctity of our land? Finally, we should not hide that fact that Muslims in Saudi Arabia not only disrespect the beliefs of others, but also charge them with infidelity to the extent that they consider anyone who is not Muslim an infidel, and, within their own narrow definitions, they consider non-Hanbali [the Saudi school of Islam] Muslims as apostates. How can we be such people and build ... normal relations with six billion humans, four and a half billion of whom do not believe in Islam.
In the first weeks of the Egyptian revolution in February 2011, Badawi hailed the drama in Cairo’s Tahrir Square as an example to the whole Arab world. The Saudi government, by contrast, was horrified by the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak and delighted when Mohamed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood veteran elected to succeed him, was ousted.
It is a revolution, led by students and the marginalised, a revolution in every sense of the word ... that is ... a decisive turning point ... not only in the history and geography of Egypt but everywhere that is governed by the Arab mentality of dictatorship and security. It is not yet clear whether is Egypt is about to change, but it is our hope that a new Egypt will emerge from the painful birth pangs its people are experiencing ... after years of subservience and oppression.
In Sepember 2011 Badawi launched a witheringly sarcastic attack on Saudi clericsafter a TV preacher called for astronomers to be punished on the grounds that they encouraged scepticism about sharia law.
Actually, this venerable preacher has drawn my attention to a truth that had been hidden from me and my dear readers – namely, the existence of the so-called “Sharia astronomer”. What a wonderful appellation! In my humble experience and in the course of my not inconsiderable research into the universe, its origins and the stars, I have never once come across this term. I advise NASA to abandon its telescopes and, instead, turn to our Sharia astronomers, whose keen vision and insight surpass the agency’s obsolete telescopes. Indeed, I advise all other scholars the world over, of whatever discipline, to abandon their studies, laboratories, research centres, places of experimentation, universities, institutes etc. and head at once to the study groups of our magnificent preachers to learn from them all about modern medicine, engineering, chemistry, microbiology, geology, nuclear physics, the science of the atom, marine sciences, the science of explosives, pharmacology, anthropology etc. – alongside astronomy, of course. God bless them! They have shown themselves to be the final authority with the decisive word in everything, which all mankind must accept, submit to and obey without hesitation or discussion.
In May 2012, shortly before his arrest, Badawi addressed the nature of liberalism.
For me, liberalism simply means, live and let live. This is a splendid slogan. However, the nature of liberalism – particularly the Saudi version – needs to be clarified. It is even more important to sketch the features and parameters of liberalism, to which the other faction, controlling and claiming exclusive monopoly of the truth, is so hostile that they are driven to discredit it without discussion or fully understanding what the word actually means. They have succeeded in planting hostility to liberalism in the minds of the public and turning people against it, lest the carpet be pulled out from under their feet. But their hold over people’s minds and society shall vanish like dust carried off in the wind.
His final thought quoted Albert Camus“The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.”
In another piece that month, Badawi invoked the Quran to support the importance of liberalism, the need to separate religion and state and implied that Islam itself has been distorted by the Saudi political establishment to promote illiberal and authoritarian ideals.
No religion at all has any connection to mankind’s civic progress. This is not a failing on the part of religion but rather that all religions represent a particular, precise spiritual relationship between the individual and the Creator. ..However, positive law is an unavoidable human and social need because traffic regulations, employment law and the codes governing the administration of State can hardly be derived from religion.

Pashto Music - Irfan Khan - Pekhawar kho Pekhawar de kana

Sardar Ali Takkar - وا ګیله می ځـکه وکـړه وزمـا یـاره شـیـرنـه

Afghanistan, Birthdays and War


By Sunil Dasgupta

Al Qaeda has announced the formation of a new branch in the Indian Subcontinent, a part of the world where it already has well-established operations. Sunil Dasgupta worries that the move may be part of a new strategy to enlist India’s large and disaffected Muslim underclass in the service of global jihad.
In September 2014, al-Qaeda announced that it was launching a branch in the Indian subcontinent. The move was widely seen as an effort by al-Qaeda as an organization to remain relevant in a world where the Islamic State (IS) was taking over the mantle it had held for more than a decade. CNN’s terrorism expert, Peter Bergen, described the issue this way, “It’s al-Zawahiri’s obvious way of getting some of the limelight back.”
Despite the nonchalance and occasional derision that greeted Ayman al-Zawahiri’s ‘boring’ 55-minute video announcing the formation of Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (or AQIS, as it has become known in the terrorism literature), this is more than simply inside-the-jihad competition. Why should a terrorist group, which has long maintained a substantial presence in the region, feel the need to announce a formal structure dedicated to its activities there? The answer may be an alarming one. The move may be part of a broader strategy to enlist elements of India’s disenchanted Muslim underclass in the service of the group’s global agenda.

Pakistan: From home-grown to global terrorism

Pakistan has been described as part of the epicenter of terrorism in the world. It is where U.S. Navy Seals found and killed Osama bin Laden, and it is where al-Zawahiri is believed to be hiding. In recent years, the country has seen a significant increase in religious extremist violence from a mélange of terrorist groups. The Taliban movement it had supported in Afghanistan in the 1990s has now come home in the form of the Pakistani Taliban that is ravaging parts of the country.
What makes the emergence of AQIS significant, however, is that it is the first time aglobal jihadi organization has explicitly targeted the governments and the people in the region. The entire Indian subcontinent has seen an extraordinary amount of terrorism in the last 35 years, but most of it was home-grown.
Pakistan, for example, has had a history of hosting foreign fighters, but globally focused terrorist groups have not acted directly against the Pakistani state even after al-Qaeda and others condemned it for joining the American coalition in 2001. Pakistani militants and Pakistani groups have led and conducted the insurgency against Islamabad. The Pakistani government has itself distinguished between terrorist groups focused outward, such as the Haqqani Network fighting U.S. armed forces in Afghanistan, and the groups fighting the Pakistani state such as the Pakistani Taliban. Now, as the line between the two evaporates, the willingness and ability of the Pakistani state itself to abandon this distinction, which has been the source of much acrimony with Washington and New Delhi, may determine the future of the country.

India: From a cross-border to a domestic threat

The rise of AQIS takes on still greater significance in India, which has also suffered a great deal of terrorism in the last three decades. In India, Islamist violence has been mostly Pakistani in origin and generally focused on India itself rather than the world order. The Lashkar-e-Taiba, which conducted the Mumbai attack in 2008, emerged as an anti-India movement, and Pakistan has long supported an insurgency in Indian Kashmir. AQIS, however, represents an alliance between local and global terrorism. Wherever it has occurred, this combination has proven to be deadly: locally disaffected young men working together with global terrorist networks have carried out most of the terrorist attacks in Western nations since the September 11 attacks.
For India, this is a potent and perhaps its preeminent security threat. India has over 170 million Muslims and while Indian democracy brings many Muslim leaders, interests, and groups into the fold, a large number of Muslims continue to live as a veritable underclass—inside ghettos, without modern education, and unable to access the emerging ‘Indian Dream’. Worse, those Muslims who are able to overcome these circumstances are often faced with discrimination and experience feelings of guilt and helplessness. Now armed with modern technologies, they could become ripe for global jihad. This is why it is not surprising that one of the most popular pro-ISIS Twitter handles belonged to a young Muslim engineer, Mehdi Masroor Biswas, in the Indian city of Bengaluru, formerly Bangalore.
Indian security officials are wary of the terrorist threat emanating from Pakistan, perhaps too much so. After the Mumbai attacks in 2008, when the terrorists came into the city by sea, the Indian government redoubled and reorganized its intelligence apparatus, which has made the Indian security agencies more confident of anticipating threats coming from outside the country, especially if they are large enough to involve satellite or cellular communications. In the last few months, India has responded with significant force to any signs from Pakistan that it considers provocative.
This has resulted in increased shelling on the India-Pakistan border by the armed forces of both countries. On the last day of 2014, the explosion of a Pakistani fishing vessel in the Arabian Sea, off the Indian coast, was a further demonstration of India’s new resolve. Newspaper reports indicate that India’s National Technical Research Organization picked up satellite telephone communication between the 25-foot fishing boat and handlers in Karachi, leading the Indian Coast Guard to conduct aerial surveillance that resulted in a coast guard ship trying to intercept and board the vessel. According to the Indian version, the four-member crew perished after setting the boat on fire rather than allowing it to be boarded. Pakistani officials have said that the boat may have been involved in drug smuggling but reject any connection to terrorism.
However, the possibility of domestic terrorism has been growing in India at the same time that the Indian government seems to be hardening its resolve to deal forcefully with external threats. The roots of the domestic threat are deeply social, economic, and psychological. They are embedded in a Muslim underclass that presents complex problems for unity and progress in the country. But the driver of the growing domestic threat has been political. The rise of Narendra Modi, a Hindu chauvinist politician, to the office of Prime Minister in a landslide election victory has aggrieved and unsettled many Muslims. Despite acquittal by the courts and official investigators, many Indians still believe that Modi had a hand in the Gujarat riots that killed over 700 Muslims in 2002 when he was Chief Minister of the state. Meanwhile, Modi’s rise has been accompanied by a degree of Hindu triumphalism and a push toward majoritarian nationalism.

AQIS: Aligning domestic grievances with global aims?

In these conditions, AQIS offers a link between local disaffection and global terrorism that seeks to remake the world order itself. It gives educated young Muslims like Biswas a way to connect to a broader and a global community. In police interviews after his arrest, he called Indian Muslims “sarkari”—a term close to “Uncle Tom” for blacks in the United States—and incapable of fighting against the government. It also gives young uneducated Muslim men, who might otherwise have joined a criminal gang, a religious-political platform.
Since the release of al-Zawahiri’s video in September, AQIS has claimed responsibility for two major terrorist attacks, both of them inside Pakistan. The first incident was the assassination of a Pakistani army brigadier and the second was an attack on a Pakistani navy frigate docked in the Port of Karachi. AQIS has not yet claimed credit for an attack on India, but the political and social conditions are in place. The formation of AQIS may very well be intramural competition with IS, but it also seeks to gather local Muslim disaffection, especially in India, toward its larger project of changing the world order.