Friday, December 08, 2006

Intrigue grows in case of ex-spy's poisoning

This story has fascinated me since the day Litvinenko passed away.

I look at many countries and mentally compare them to the way many Muslim countries function and work, and Russia seems to be one of the most oppressive countries that, in many ways, rivals the conditions in many totalitarian and/or authoritarian states the world over. I wonder why this aspect of Russia never gets the media coverage that could outrage average Americans. Ah! But then all that negative media coverage is reserved for the Muslim world :)

That aside, i'm struggling to take a bird's eye view of this whole matter, because the media frames the story so that it seems like a mystery where everything revovles around the protagnist and main characters, whereas the story really is all about the folks working behind the scenes. In my view, this death has been entirely orchestrated by the governments of Russia and the UK.

What surprises me more is that the public isnt asking the questions it should. How can such a highly radioactive substance even make its way into the centre of the city? How can people not sue their governments for exposing the public to this sort of harm? Is this situation not similar to nerve gas being spread through a train system? No one knows who did it, but people were still put in harm's way...

I am probably not making sense but I feel strongly about the fact that the public's voice is not being projected and that questions that merit answers are not being asked.

Moreover, the people who have been victims thus far were those who happened to be dissidents. They were rebels and had viewpoints that the Russian government despised. Litvinenko must have been a special target, being a supporter of the Chechen people. Many still do not know that he converted to Islam shortly before his death.

This article from the LA Times is comprehensive, but one portion stands out for me:

"He wanted to be buried in Chechnya when the war was over," said Vladimir Bukovsky, a well-known Soviet-era dissident who was exiled to Britain three decades ago.

"But he wasn't a religious man. It's ridiculous to talk about conversion. His last message from his deathbed was he asked God to forgive his enemies. That's not a Muslim sentiment. That's a Christian sentiment."

WHAT? This is ridiculous! Muslims are taught that forgiveness and mercy are superior to holding hatred in one's heart. Muslims are told not to hold grudges with others. As soon as I read that his last message was that he asked God to forgive his enemies, I thought "how noble. how honorable. That man probably went straight to heaven and died with peace of mind, if not physical peace".

Anyway, i'd like to see how this case progresses. May God bless Litvinenko's heart. The truth is out there...

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Dutch soldiers and Arab women

Dutch soldiers are being awarded medals for the heroism they displayed during the Sebrenica massacre in Bosnia in the mid 1990's. Now, I would understand if they were being awarded if they protected the civilians, but most of them died. How can the government recognize such failure with awards? This article from The Economist sheds some light.

TIME Magazine recently published a very useful write-up on the plight of Arab women in the fourth installment of the Arab Human Development Report. Some eye-opening information that can potentially depress and frustrate, but also coupled with some very good news.

Some excerpts below:

The report traces the predicament of Arab women to the region's longstanding patriarchal traditions of protection and "honor" wrapped into tribal identity. The authoritarian regimes that emerged with Arab independence a half century ago have undermined liberal institutions and values that might have better encouraged women's rights and protected them under a rule of law.

Women's prospects are further weakened by regressive Islamic jurisprudence that effectively codifies discrimination against women. So entrenched has this discrimination become, the report notes, that hundreds of popular Arab proverbs scorn women for having "half a mind, half a creed, half an inheritance."

Despite its gloomy picture of the current state of affairs, the report does highlight the heroic efforts of many Arab women and their male supporters to remedy the situation, and the gains they have made. In particular, it credits Arab novelists and filmmakers for publicizing women's suffering and offering models of hope. But in its conclusion, "Towards the Rise" recognizes the huge obstacles that remain. Unwilling to leave reform to government or Islamic leaders, the report calls for a "widespread and effective movement of struggle in Arab civil society" — a social revolution, really — to advance women's rights.

Such ideas that challenge the Arab world's patriarchal order will naturally meet fierce resistance. At the same time, they are sure to provoke debate throughout the Arab world. For the authors of "Towards the Rise" and the Arab women who take heart from their report, that will be a good first step but hopefully not the last.