Monthly Archives: December 2010

India’s 150 million Muslims away from extremism: US cable

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India’s 150 million Muslims away from extremism: US cable

By TCN News,

New Delhi: Strongly endorsing the secular and nationalistic nature of
Muslims in India, the United States has acknowledged that India’s over
150 million Muslim population is largely unattracted to extremism.
Separatism and religious extremism have little appeal to Indian Muslims,
and the overwhelming majority espouse moderate doctrines.

In a recorded commentary (released by WikiLeaks) about India’s 150
million plus Muslims (the second largest in the world after Indonesia),
former US envoy to New Delhi David Mulford in 2005 said that Indian
Muslim youth are comfortable in the mainstream and Muslim families and
communities provide little sanction or support to extremist appeals.

Muslims at Jamiat Ulema conference held in April 2010 in Patna

“India’s vibrant democracy, inclusive culture and growing economy
have made it easier for Muslim youth to find a place in the mainstream,
reduced the pool of potential recruits, and the space in which Islamic
extremist organizations can operate,” Mulford commented about Indian
Muslims.

He also highlighted the problems and backwardness of the Muslim
community in the country. India’s Muslim population suffers from higher
rates of poverty than most other groups in India, and can be the victims
of discrimination and prejudice. Despite this, the vast majority
remains committed to the Indian state and seek to participate in
mainstream political and economic life.

Endorsing secular credential of young Muslim generation he said: Most
Muslims approaching graduation at universities will be prepared to
enter the job market and are not interested in extremism.

Mr Mulford blasted the media propaganda that madrasas and Islamic seminaries in the country are teaching extremism.

The Indian media has published colorful stories implying that
Madrassas are recruiting centers for Islamic terrorism and that many are
funded by Pakistan’s ISI. The accounts are mostly anecdotal, however,
and there has been little or no hard evidence linking Indian Madrassas
to terrorist recruitment, he said.

Islamic extremism is not popular in India and most adults are not
interested. This forces extremists to pitch to young and naive audiences
who may be more amenable.

The US envoy said that at ground level both Muslim and non-Muslims are
facing similar problems as far as social mobility is concerned.

Muslims are facing the same pressures for social mobility as
non-Muslims. Most Indian children are under pressure to get into school,
stay in school, and perform well there, in order to obtain higher
education and access to well-paid jobs. Attempts by extremist groups to
recruit children from Muslim homes are likely to run into a wall of
opposition from parents who would see involvement in extremism as
counterproductive and a threat to future success of their children. This
means that extremism is most attractive to children from families that
are so poor that opportunities for education and advancement are all but
non-existent. As the Indian economy continues to boom, the percentage
of Muslim families who feel there is no hope for their children’s’
future is growing smaller, as is the pool of potential recruits.

The December 2005 commentary on Indian Muslims by Mulford was written at the request of Washington DC.

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A Christmas Card From a Muslim Daughter

Amazing

behind the Christmas traditions my family celebrated every year of my
childhood. My mother was able to transform our Southern California home
into a Winter Wonderland as soon as we walked in the door; it may have
been 75 degrees and sunny outside, but inside we felt we were in a
Currier and Ives world of red velvet beribboned pine boughs, twinkling
lights and beautiful music. I loved it. The Christmas season and our
small traditions remained the same no matter how many years passed. My
mother worked extremely hard to build warm, and loving holiday memories,
and I sincerely cherish them.

Like many American homes, there wasn’t much Christ in my family’s

Christmas. There would always be some discussion surrounding the reason
for our celebration, but we didn’t attend church services or talk too
much about what my parents believed. The beautiful nativity on the
mantle, hand-painted by my grandmother, was flanked by tasteful, secular
decorations. This led to a kind of vague confusion between the
miraculous birth of Jesus, and the magical feat of Santa Claus zipping
around the world in one night.

Nostalgia not withstanding, thinking about Christmas is now far more

meaningful to me on a spiritual level than it was when I was young. The
fact that Muslims accept and believe in the virgin birth of Jesus has
been a golden thread that links my childhood Christmas memories to my
very fulfilling adult life as a Muslim.

The world’s more than 1.5 billion Muslims would like their Christian

neighbors to know that we believe in the Annunciation; in the Quran we
read that God sent the angels to Mary:

“When the angels said: O Mary, surely God gives you good news

with a Word from Him of one whose name is the Messiah, Jesus, son of
Mary, worthy of regard in this world and the hereafter and of those who
are made near to God. And he shall speak to the people when in the
cradle and when of old age, and he shall be one of the good ones.”
Quran 3:45-46

The Quran has only one chapter named after a woman; Chapter 19 is titled “Mary”, or as it is translated in Arabic — Maryam. The Quran tells us that the infant Jesus, (or Isa as it is translated in Arabic), spoke from Mary’s arms: “…He said: Surely I am a servant of God; He has given me the

Book and made me a prophet; And He has made me blessed wherever I may
be, and He has enjoined on me prayer and charity so long as I live; And
dutiful to my mother, and He has not made me insolent, unblessed; And
peace on me on the day I was born, and on the day I die, and on the day I
am raised to life.'”
Quran 19:30-33*

While Muslims don’t celebrate Christmas, we believe in the awesome

and miraculous birth of Jesus, in the miracles he performed by God’s
Grace, and in the message of love and peace Jesus brought to the world.

I hope my family knows that I am more attached to the account of

Jesus and Mary than I ever was as a child, now that I am a practicing
Muslim. It is a vital part of my faith; a faith that I share with over a
billion and a half people around the world.

This is my Christmas card to my family, and all my Christian friends and neighbors: Peace on earth and goodwill toward men.*Muslims understand this verse in reference to the to death of

Jesus after the second coming and resurrection on the Day of Judgment.
See Quran, 4:157

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6 Ways to Boost Brain Power

Scientific American Mind 6 Ways to Boost Brain Power
By Emily Anthes

Adapted from the book The Instant Egghead Guide to the Mind, by Emily

Anthes and Scientific American. © 2008 by Scientific American. Published by

arrangement with St. Martin’s Press.

About The Author: Emily Anthes is a freelance science and health writer living

in Brooklyn. Her work has appeared in Seed, Discover, Slate, New York and the

Boston Globe, among other publications.

Amputees sometimes experience phantom limb sensations, feeling pain, itching or other impulses coming from limbs that no longer exist. Neuroscientist Vilayanur S. Ramachandran worked with patients who had so-called phantom limbs, including Tom, a man who had lost one of his arms. Ramachandran discovered that if he stroked Tom’s face, Tom felt like his missing fingers were also being
touched. Each part of the body is represented by a different region of the somatosensory cortex, and, as it happens, the region for the hand is adjacent to the region for the face. The neuroscientist deduced that a remarkable change had taken place in Tom’s somatosensory cortex. Ramachandran concluded that because Tom’s cortex was no longer getting input from his missing hand, the region processing sensation from his face had slowly taken over the hand’s territory. So touching Tom’s face produced sensation in his nonexistent fingers. This kind of rewiring is an example of neuroplasticity, the adult brain’s ability to change and remold itself. Scientists are finding that the adult brain is far more malleable than they once thought. Our behavior and environment can cause substantial rewiring of the brain or a reorganization of its functions and where they are located. Some believe that even our patterns of thinking alone are enough to reshape the brain. Researchers now know that neurogenesis (the birth of new neurons) is a normal
feature of the adult brain. Studies have shown that one of the most active regions for neurogenesis is the hippocampus, a structure that is vitally important for learning and long-term memory. Neurogenesis also takes place in the olfactory bulb, which is involved in processing smells. But not all the neurons that are born survive; in fact, most of them die. To survive, the new cells need nutrients
and connections with other neurons that are already thriving. Scientists are currently identifying the factors that affect the rate of neurogenesis and the survival of new cells. Mental and physical exercise, for instance, both boost neuron survival.
The adult human brain is surprisingly malleable: it can rewire itself and even grow new cells. Here are some habits that can fine-tune your mind.





Secular Nationalism Has Not Delivered Results

Home / Headlines / “Islam is the Solution” – Media Monitors Network (MMN)

“Islam is the Solution”
by Uri Avnery
(Saturday, December 4, 2010)

“In Turkey, the Ataturk revolution is now threatened by the upsurge of a rejuvenated Islam. In Israel, the new Hebrew nation is under siege by a fundamentalist, aggressive Judaism. All over the Arab world, the situation is worse….To put it bluntly: secular nationalism has not delivered. It has brought no real independence, no freedom, no economic and technological breakthrough.”

First, an apology: I am not going to write about the Wikileaks.

I like gossip as much as the next (wo)man. The leaks provide a lot of it, interspersed with some real information.

But there is nothing really new there. The information only confirms what any intelligent person could have worked out already. If there is anything new, it’s exactly this confirmation: the world is really managed the way we thought it was. How depressing.

Four hundred years ago, Sir Henry Wotton, a British diplomat, observed that “An ambassador is an honest man sent to lie abroad for the good of his country.” Since then, nothing has changed except that the ambassador has been joined by the ambassadress. So it is quite refreshing to listen to what they say in secret messages home, when they don’t have to lie.

That said, let’s move on to more important things.

THIS WEEK’S ELECTIONS in Egypt, for example.

Years ago, the story goes that a Soviet citizen went to the polling station on election-day and was handed a sealed envelope to put into the ballot box.

“Aren’t I allowed to see who I am voting for?” he asked.

“Of course not!” the stern-faced official retorted indignantly, “In our Soviet Union, the elections are secret!”

This could not happen in Egypt. First of all, because Egyptians are a very humorous people. If told that their elections were secret, they would burst out laughing.

Second, because they so obviously are not.

On one of my visits to Anwar Sadat’s Cairo, I had the chance to witness an election day. It was a jolly occasion, more a medieval carnival than a solemn fulfillment of democratic duty. Everybody was happy.

Visiting a polling station in a village near the Giza pyramids, I was struck by this atmosphere of jolly cynicism. No one even pretended that it was serious. Good-humored soldiers guarding the locale volunteered to help old women in choosing the right ballot and putting it in the envelope.

I am not sure whether this good humor has been retained under the Mubarak regime, but the results are the same. Media editors, all appointed by the government, prevent any criticism of the government. Opposition activists are arrested well before election day (if they are not in prison already). The government party is a sorry joke. No one seriously pretends that the country is anything but a dictatorship. The upper classes like it that way, not only out of fondness for their privileges but also out of a genuine fear that under democracy, their country would elect a fundamentalist religious regime, with burqas and all.

ALL OVER the Arab world, this is a real dilemma. Free elections would bring fundamentalists to power.

During the last century, secular nationalism was in vogue. In many Arab countries, nationalist movements sprang up. Their model was the great Ataturk – a revolutionary renovator as no other. He suppressed Islam, forbade the fez for men and the hijab for women, replaced the Arabic with the Latin script, fostered Turkish nationalism instead of the Ottoman Islamism.

This, by the way, was a model for many of us, who aspired to replace the Jewish religion and Zionist pseudo-nationalism with a healthy Hebrew territorial secular nationalism. The son of Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, the renovator of the modern Hebrew language, also proposed replacing the Hebrew script with a Latin one.

In Turkey, the Ataturk revolution is now threatened by the upsurge of a rejuvenated Islam. In Israel, the new Hebrew nation is under siege by a fundamentalist, aggressive Judaism. All over the Arab world, the situation is worse.

To put it bluntly: secular nationalism has not delivered. It has brought no real independence, no freedom, no economic and technological breakthrough.

In the economic sphere, no Arab country has succeeded in doing what has been done by Japan, South Korea and even Malaysia, and what is being done now by China and India. The successful Israeli example is near at hand and increases the frustration.

The dream of a secular pan-Arab union, as envisioned by Gamal Abd-al-Nasser and the original Ba’athists, is in tatters. So is the dream of Arab independence. Almost all Arab countries are backward American clients and dance to the American tune. A whole generation of Arab leaders has spectacularly failed.

The most recent example was Yasser Arafat. He created a Palestinian national movement that was proud of its non-sectarianism. Christian Arabs played a significant role in the Palestine Liberation Organization. George Habash was a Christian physician from Ramallah, the Christian Hanan Ashrawi is one of the most articulate Palestinian spokespersons.

Arafat himself was a practicing Muslim. Often, even in private conversations, he would excuse himself, disappear for a few minutes and return unobtrusively, while his assistants would whisper to us that the Ra’is was praying. Yet he never tired of assuring everyone that the future State of Palestine would be free of any religious domination.

As long as he was alive, political Islam remained a minor influence, and not because of any repressive measures.

ALL THIS is history. The Sunni Hamas (“Islamic Resistance Movement”) and the Shiite Hezbollah (“Party of God”) are becoming the models for masses of young people all over the Arab world.

One of the major reasons for this is Palestine.

If Arafat had succeeded in founding the free and sovereign State of Palestine, the texture of Arab politics would have changed, not only in Palestine itself but in all Arab countries.

The rise of Hamas in Palestine is a direct result of this failure. Secular Palestinian nationalism has been given a try, and has failed. The Islamic revolutionaries are appealing to a people deprived of all national and human rights, with no alternative in sight.

As the Wikileaks show (here I go, mentioning them after all) not one single Arab regime gives a damn about the Palestinians. That is nothing new – indeed, Arafat created his movement, Fatah (‘Palestinian Liberation Movement”), in order to liberate the Palestinians, first of all, from the cynical Arab regimes, all of which exploited the “Palestinian Cause” for their own ends.

But the depth of cynicism revealed in these conversations between Arab potentates and their American masters borders on outright betrayal. This will increase the already massive frustration not only in Palestine, but in all Arab countries. Any young Egyptian, Jordanian, Saudi or Bahraini (to mention only a few) must be acutely aware that his country is led by a small group for whom the preservation of their personal power and privileges is vastly more important than the holy cause of Palestine.

This is a deeply humiliating insight. It may not produce immediate results, but when hundreds of millions of people feel humiliated, the effects are foreseeable. The older generation may be used to this situation. But for young people, especially proud Arabs, it is intolerable.

I am very sensitive to this kind of feeling, because at the age of 15 I felt the same and joined the “terrorist” Irgun (“National Military Organization”). I just could not stand the sight of my leaders kowtowing before the British rulers of my country. Putting myself in the shoes of a young Arab of similar age now in Jeddah, Alexandria or Aleppo, I can just imagine what he feels. Even Ehud Barak, that veteran Arab-fighter, once said that if he were a young Palestinian, he would join a terrorist organization.

Sooner or later, the situation will explode – first in one country, then in many. The fate of the Shah of Iran should be remembered by those who speak – in secret documents – about the “Iranian Hitler” who is on the verge of obtaining a nuclear bomb.

THE FRUSTRATION about Palestine is the immediate cause of this humiliation, being manifest for all to see, but the feeling itself goes beyond one single cause.

Secular nationalism has signally failed the Arabs. Communism has never taken root in the Islamic world, being by its very nature inimical to the basic tenets of Islam. Capitalism, while attractive to some, has also failed to solve any of the basic problems of the Arab world.

The Islamic revolutionary movement in its many forms promises a viable alternative. It is no fluke that the Egyptian dictatorship forbids the use of the slogan “Islam is the Solution” – the simple and effective slogan that unites the Islamic opposition in all the countries. There is a gaping vacuum in the Arab world, with no one there to fill it – except Islamism.

FOR THE US, this is a huge challenge. Obama seemed to have perceived it, before he was swallowed – head and body – by the American political routine.

Everybody seems to be talking about the Decline of the American Empire. It’s all the rage. What’s happening in the Arab world may accelerate or slow this process. The creation of a sovereign, free and viable State of Palestine – with the electrifying effect this would have throughout the Arab region, indeed the entire Islamic world – would slow it considerably.

Judging from these leaks, this seems very far from the minds of American statesmen and stateswomen, such as they are.

For Israel, the outlook is even grimmer. The prospect of a fundamentalist Arab world, with a completely new and popular set of leaders, surrounding us on all sides, with the power of America (and its Jewish lobby) declining ever more, is a frightening prospect indeed.

If I were responsible for Israel at this moment, I would worry about this much more than about the Iranian bomb.

Fortunately, this is not an inescapable danger. Israeli policy can do a lot to avert it. Unfortunately, we are doing the exact opposite.

To those who chant “Islam is the Solution”, our answer should be: “A just Peace is the Solution”.

Source:

by courtesy & © 2010 Uri Avnery

U.S. Pressured Saudis to Accept Climate Change Agreement

Leaked Cables Show U.S. Pressured Saudis to Accept Copenhagen Accord

The handful of climate-related cables–among the

hundreds of thousands of secret and unclassified messages released by
the whistle-blower organization Wikileaks–show the United States put
climate change at the center of its foreign policy relationship with the
oil-producing giant

By Lisa Friedman and Climatewire

CLIMATE DIPLOMACY: The
Obama administration leaned heavily on Saudi Arabia to associate itself
with the Copenhagen Accord climate change agreement, confidential State
Department memos show.

Image: Pete Souza, courtesy whitehouse.gov

The Obama administration leaned heavily on Saudi Arabia to
associate itself with the Copenhagen Accord climate change agreement,
confidential State Department memos show.

The handful of climate-related cables — among the hundreds of thousands
of secret and unclassified messages released by the whistle-blower
organization Wikileaks — show the United States put climate change at
the center of its foreign policy relationship with the oil-producing
giant in the months after last year’s blowout U.N. climate summit in
Denmark.

“You have the opportunity to head off a serious clash over climate
change,” James Smith, the U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia, wrote to
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton as she prepared for a February
visit to the kingdom.

“Saudi officials are very concerned that a climate change treaty would
significantly reduce their income just as they face significant costs to
diversify their economy,” Smith wrote. “The King is particularly
sensitive to avoid Saudi Arabia being singled out as the bad actor,
particularly on environmental issues.”

And in a memo summarizing the trip of Assistant Secretary of State for
Near Eastern Affairs Jeffrey Feltman to Saudi Arabia in January, Smith
wrote that Feltman urged the country to send a formal notice to the
United Nations indicating its acceptance of the climate pact.

“A/S Feltman noted the importance that the President places on climate
change, and the Copenhagen Accord,” Smith wrote. “Given that Minister of
Petroleum Al-Naimi was involved in crafting the final agreement, A/S
Feltman noted the United States is counting on Saudi Arabia to associate
itself with the accord by January 31.”

Saudi leaders were noncommittal, according to the cable, noting that the
country’s ministries would need to consult on the topic.

A push for information on key negotiators

The memos come as international climate talks kick off in Cancun,
Mexico. This year, the focus of the United States is to nail down the
agreements that President Obama and other world leaders made in
Copenhagen and to devise a set of formal decisions setting in motion
emission cuts and the mobilization of funding for poor countries that so
far has been agreed to in principle.

The vast majority of the leaked cables deal with Iran’s nuclear program
and other diplomatic issues. But the handful of times that climate
change is raised, it appears as a front-burner Obama administration
issue, a ClimateWire review of the cables found. They provide new
insight into the behind-the-scenes discussions leading up to Copenhagen
and the focus of the administration after the meeting.

In the months before Copenhagen, the summit was listed as a “substantive
issue” about which diplomats were directed to gather information. One
memo getting a lot of attention asks U.S. envoys at the United Nations
and elsewhere to procure credit card and frequent flier numbers as well
as other biographical data. In that same document, diplomats are
instructed to relate “perceptions of key negotiators on U.S. positions
in environmental negotiations” and indications about how cooperative
countries may be.

The document also asks diplomats to be on the lookout for information
about whether countries adhere to their own environmental programs and
laws, and any “efforts by treaty secretariats to influence treaty
negotiations or compliance.”

China makes a brief appearance in the cables. After a meeting of G-5
ambassadors in Beijing in May, acting Deputy Chief of Mission William
Weinstein relayed to Washington that U.K. and Chinese officials
discussed the then-upcoming Copenhagen talks.

“In the lead up to Copenhagen, China would not agree to targets on
emissions, but was willing to be constructive and would come to
Copenhagen with a package of action items related to nuclear power,
renewable energy and reforestation,” Weinstein wrote, adding that the
U.K. diplomat added that “his impression was that China could be induced
to do more on climate change.”

Indeed, by the time nations met in Copenhagen, China had pledged to cut
its carbon intensity about 45 percent below 2005 levels in the next
decade.

Warning signals about skeptics in France
U.S. European envoys sent up warning flares early last year about both
the U.S. political landscape and prospects for Copenhagen. In a memo
called “Scenesetter,” as Secretary Clinton prepared for a trip to France
late last year, U.S. Ambassador to France Charles Rivkin included the
heading, “An urgent focus on climate change.”

In it, he wrote, “The French remain divided on how to respond to the Obama administration’s approaches to climate change.”

At the time, the U.S. House had passed legislation to cut carbon
emissions about 17 percent below 2005 levels in the next decade — a
target that much of Europe considered pitifully low. The Senate later
failed to pass any climate bill, and cap-and-trade legislation is these
days considered dead for the foreseeable future.

According to the November 2009 cable, though, French analysts were early
in recognizing a difficult U.S. political horizon, and American
officials worked hard to stamp out concerns about the strength of the
Obama administration’s commitment to climate action.

“Even sophisticated observers are skeptical that long-term reduction
goals legislated in the United States can be counted on as more than
aspirations, especially if radical cuts are not imposed up front,”
Rivkin wrote. “We have reiterated that U.S. laws are reliably enforced
by the federal government and by U.S. courts, using the Clean Air Act as
an example.”

Rivkin also said that officials in France’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs
took exception to a comment that Environment Minister Jean-Louis Borloo
made criticizing the U.S. House measure, and described the minister’s
comments as “distracting attention from the need for China and India to
reduce their rates of growth of GHG.”

Germans lowered expectations before Copenhagen
And as Clinton arrived in Germany to celebrate the 20th anniversary of
the fall of the Berlin Wall in early December, climate change was also
high on the agenda. According to the Nov. 5, 2009, cable, German
officials wanted “strong U.S. leadership” going into the Copenhagen
summit and advocated for a common position toward major emerging
economies, particularly China and India.

That missive also gave early glimpses of the early efforts to try to
dampen sky-high expectations for that meeting — because of the unlikely
possibility of U.S. action.

“German leaders recognize the challenge of passing climate change
legislation in the U.S. and have lowered their expectations for the
possibility of reaching a legally-binding agreement next month at
Copenhagen,” the cable notes. “They have begun to describe the summit as
one step in a larger process — a politically binding framework — and
may be preparing the German public for a less ambitious outcome.”

Analysts said the Saudi memos, in particular, show the lengths the Obama
administration went to in order to sway a fierce opponent of
international climate action. Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil
producer, has a long tradition of blocking movement in the U.N. climate
talks. It and other oil-producing nations have, among other things,
claimed a need for adaptation funding — normally reserved for the poor
nations that have done little to cause climate change but are bearing
the brunt of weather disasters and other problems — because of rising sea levels that threaten offshore oil rigs.

After the Copenhagen summit, Saudi officials expressed “satisfaction”
with the political agreement. But so far, the country has not formally
associated itself with the agreement.

Nevertheless, said World Resources Institute Climate Director Jennifer
Morgan, the cables are “a sign, to me, that the administration is
serious about climate change, and serious about it as a foreign policy
topic if it is raising it with one of its partners who takes a different
position with the U.S.”