Saturday, March 25, 2006

NY Event: The Global Rise of Suicide Terrorism - Friday, March 31st

The Global Rise of Suicide Terrorism:
A Sociological Analysis

A talk by:
Prof. Riaz Hassan

Friday, March 31, 2006,
3:30 –5:30 p.m.

Sociology Lounge (Room 6112)
6th floor
The Graduate Center, CUNY
(365 Fifth Avenue, between 34th-35th St.)

View event flyer for more details:

Suicide terrorism is increasing to become a global phenomenon. Since terrorists
professing religious motives carried out the 9/11 attacks, most of the
commentators in the United States and other Western countries have attributed
this phenomenon to Islamic fundamentalism. Other causes used to explain
suicide terrorism include poverty, lack of education and psychopathology. Prof.
Hassan will examine these assertions and show that the main cause of suicide
terrorism is political, not religious. The talk will explore social, personal and
strategic aspects of suicide terrorism and analyze the role of the war in Iraq in its
most recent escalation.
Riaz Hassan is Australian Research Council Professorial Fellow at the Flinders
University, Adelaide, Australia and currently Visiting Professor in the
Department of Sociology, Yale University. He has recently completed a study of
religiosity in Muslim countries and is now researching suicide terrorism. His
recent books include: Faithlines: Muslim Conceptions of Islam and Society
(Oxford University Press 2003), Local and Global: Social Transformation in
Southeast Asia (Brill 2005). He is co-editor of The Cambridge Handbook of
Social Sciences in Australia (Cambridge University Press 2003). His latest book
Inside Muslim Minds: Understanding Contemporary Islamic Consciousness
will be published later this year by Brill. He is a fellow of the Academy of the
Social Sciences in Australia.

Reception to follow!
NOTE : This event, unlike most MEMEAC events, is an afternoon event. Event begins at 3:30pm.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

The UN Secretary General elections: the race is on!

Yet another blog posting where I start by apologizing. But let me give some advance notice to those who are expecting me to blog regularly the next few weeks. Sorry, but you're in for some disappointment. I have midterms coming up, and unless Iran is nuked, you'll just have to put up with some more event postings. Don't tell me they're not useful!

Anyway, i'm copying below some highlights from an article I recently wrote for my column in the Pakistani newspaper, The Post. Hopefully, it will be informative. As always, comments highly appreciated!

The time has come when people at the United Nations (UN) look at the Secretary General (SG) with pity, lamenting over the few months he has been left with in office. Many UN insiders have been wondering whether the SG could now be described as a lame duck. When the 60th General Assembly session concluded and Annan knew it was his next to last session, he ventured to promote the vision of a reformed UN and thus is leaving behind a strong legacy and a more functional UN. With his reform agenda still unfinished, and the world being in worse turmoil than before, the big question today is: who is behind him, ready to grasp the baton firmly and make a run for the finish line?

Many names have been heard in diplomatic circles here in New York, and while it is an acknowledged fact that it is Asia’s turn to hold the top slot of international diplomacy, there are many international leaders vying for the UN’s top spot. The SG’s role is technically supposed to be “Chief Administrative Officer”, while the actual role is far more decisive than that. The people highly recommended and touted for the job all come from diverse backgrounds and regions, including a Jordanian prince, a Nobel laureate from East Timor, two Eastern European presidents, Sweden’s most accomplished diplomat (the current President of the UN General Assembly), a former Sri Lankan Ambassador to Washington, a Harvard-trained Thai lawyer, a Canadian judge, South Korea’s foreign minister, a Turkish economist and the latest arrival in the field — an Afghan Minister.

China’s Ambassador, Wang Guangya, has made it explicitly clear that China will only be supporting Asian candidates, an implicit way of reminding the Security Council that it will use its veto power if it needs to have an Asian in the SG’s office. The Security Council will present its recommendations regarding candidates to the General Assembly where member countries will then proceed to make the final decision. US Ambassador to the UN, John Bolton, will have meetings with other Ambassadors regarding who will be the suitable candidate for the job later this month.

The election process for the SG is an interesting event. It is quite the opposite of the elections we witness for the President of the United States where candidacy, as well as platform, are announced early on. For the SG, it is all about secrecy and nothing is divulged to the public, including the candidates’ stance on issues of particular importance to the international community. Take, for example, Dag Hammarskjold, the second SG of the UN. He found out on April 1, 1953 that he had been selected. He was so surprised, he thought it was an April fool’s joke!

While many Asian candidates are front-runners in this race, Pakistanis should be proud they weren’t excluded when it came time to narrow the choices. The name that is being floated around is none other than Dr. Nafis Sadik, former Executive Director of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA). Dr. Sadik has had a distinguished career serving the UN in various capacities and is among the handful that has made it literally almost to the top. Being female and Pakistani are perhaps the attributes holding her back, as no woman’s name has really come up in terms of SG candidacy and Pakistan lacks the leverage in monetary terms to dictate its candidature, like Japan does.

Speaking of women and the UN, I had the good fortune of attending a panel discussion on Women and Development at the Institute of International Education. The panellists included the Executive Director of the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) as well as an Indian development economist, Devaki Jain. Jain was in the city for events related to International Women’s Day, and has just recently published a book on women and their role in the UN, which is written from the perspective of a woman who has worked in the global south and wants the global north to take note of it.

Jain made some interesting points during the panel, which included her vision of the creation of a Women’s Commission for UN Reform. Since the rest of the world was not taking note of a lack of women’s voices, a separate commission would be the only way this voice could be heard. Her concluding remarks proved to be even more interesting. She opined that the UN headquarters should be relocated somewhere else because the US was holding it hostage. Everything that was happening at the UN was in some way being dictated or sabotaged by the US and its allies in Europe. She stressed that this had to stop, otherwise the future of the UN was at stake.

While the audience took this lightly and may have shrugged the thought away later, it does merit some consideration. I spoke to her after the discussion to get her viewpoint on what others may have thought about it and she mentioned that higher-ups in the UN bureaucracy told her that moving the UN elsewhere was not possible because of the amount of property foreign governments had invested in. These entities have shelled out millions of dollars so that they can maintain permanent office space, not to mention the residences the employees are residing in. New York City property is not cheap.

In any case, these diplomats, NGOs and UN employees have their work cut out for them. At least for the next several months. Let’s see what the Next SG throws our way.