February 06, 2010

2012 End of The World – Islamic View

Question: “I know about a new movie called ‘2012′ which portray 2012 as the end of the world. Can you tell me Islamic point of view on this topic?  

Answer: ”Surely, knowledge of the Hour is with Allah alone. ” (Holy Qur’an 31:34)

The knowledge of time of Qiyamah (End of the world) has not been given to any angel, man or being. The exact time of the Doomsday is given neither in Qur’an nor in Hadith.  It is something that only Allah knows - as mentioned in the above Quranic verse.

Much like Y2K, 2012 has been analyzed and the science of the end of the Earth thoroughly studied. Contrary to some of the common beliefs out there, the science behind the end of the world quickly unravels when pinned down to the 2012 timeline. Below, NASA Scientists answer several questions that we’re frequently asked regarding 2012.

Question (Q):Are there any threats to the Earth in 2012? Many Internet websites say the world will end in December 2012.

Answer (A):Nothing bad will happen to the Earth in 2012. Our planet has been getting along just fine for more than 4 billion years, and credible scientists worldwide know of no threat associated with 2012.

Q:What is the origin of the prediction that the world will end in 2012?

A:The story started with claims that Nibiru, a supposed planet discovered by the Sumerians, is headed toward Earth. This catastrophe was initially predicted for May 2003, but when nothing happened the doomsday date was moved forward to December 2012. Then these two fables were linked to the end of one of the cycles in the ancient Mayan calendar at the winter solstice in 2012 — hence the predicted doomsday date of December 21, 2012.

Q:Does the Mayan calendar end in December 2012?

A:Just as the calendar you have on your kitchen wall does not cease to exist after December 31, the Mayan calendar does not cease to exist on December 21, 2012. This date is the end of the Mayan long-count period but then — just as your calendar begins again on January 1 — another long-count period begins for the Mayan calendar.

Q:Could a phenomena occur where planets align in a way that impacts Earth?

A:There are no planetary alignments in the next few decades, Earth will not cross the galactic plane in 2012, and even if these alignments were to occur, their effects on the Earth would be negligible. Each December the Earth and sun align with the approximate center of the Milky Way Galaxy but that is an annual event of no consequence.

Q:Is there a planet or brown dwarf called Nibiru or Planet X or Eris that is approaching the Earth and threatening our planet with widespread destruction?

A:Nibiru and other stories about wayward planets are an Internet hoax. There is no factual basis for these claims. If Nibiru or Planet X were real and headed for an encounter with the Earth in 2012, astronomers would have been tracking it for at least the past decade, and it would be visible by now to the naked eye. Obviously, it does not exist. Eris is real, but it is a dwarf planet similar to Pluto that will remain in the outer solar system; the closest it can come to Earth is about 4 billion miles.

Q:What is the polar shift theory? Is it true that the earth’s crust does a 180-degree rotation around the core in a matter of days if not hours?

A:A reversal in the rotation of Earth is impossible. There are slow movements of the continents (for example Antarctica was near the equator hundreds of millions of years ago), but that is irrelevant to claims of reversal of the rotational poles. However, many of the disaster websites pull a bait-and-shift to fool people. They claim a relationship between the rotation and the magnetic polarity of Earth, which does change irregularly, with a magnetic reversal taking place every 400,000 years on average. As far as we know, such a magnetic reversal doesn’t cause any harm to life on Earth. A magnetic reversal is very unlikely to happen in the next few millennia, anyway.

Q:Is the Earth in danger of being hit by a meteor in 2012?

A:The Earth has always been subject to impacts by comets and asteroids, although big hits are very rare. The last big impact was 65 million years ago, and that led to the extinction of the dinosaurs. Today NASA astronomers are carrying out a survey called the Space guard Survey to find any large near-Earth asteroids long before they hit. We have already determined that there are no threatening asteroids as large as the one that killed the dinosaurs. All this work is done openly with the discoveries posted every day on the NASA NEO Program Office website, so you can see for yourself that nothing is predicted to hit in 2012.

Q:How do NASA scientists feel about claims of pending doomsday?

A: For any claims of disaster or dramatic changes in 2012, where is the science? Where is the evidence? There is none, and for all the fictional assertions, whether they are made in books, movies, documentaries or over the Internet, we cannot change that simple fact. There is no credible evidence for any of the assertions made in support of unusual events taking place in December 2012.

Q:Is there a danger from giant solar storms predicted for 2012?

A:Solar activity has a regular cycle, with peaks approximately every 11 years. Near these activity peaks, solar flares can cause some interruption of satellite communications, although engineers are learning how to build electronics that are protected against most solar storms. But there is no special risk associated with 2012. The next solar maximum will occur in the 2012-2014 time frame and is predicted to be an average solar cycle, no different than previous cycles throughout history.

Islam and Doomsday

Islam believes in Doomsday - a day when the entire world will be destroyed. This day is called “Day of judgement.”

Holy Quran has explicitly stated thisVerily, Allah! With Him (Alone) is the knowledge of the Hour(Surah Luqman 31/34).

So there is no indication in Quran or the saying of the prophet Muhammad (SAW) that 2012 is the end of the world - according to what projected by the mayan calender, and as potrayed by the movie.

Signs Before the End of The World

The exact time of the Doomsday is given neither in Qur’an nor in Hadith. But Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) have pointed out the distinctive signs in Hadiths and in Qur’anic verses, which will happen near to the last hour constantly warned the believers for the appointed day.

There are major and minor signs that point to the Doomsday event. Here are 68 minor signs and 12 major signs before the Doomsday.

The Major Signs:

Although they appear here in no particular order, it is important to point out that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said that these last, major signs will follow each other like pearls falling off of a necklace…

  1. Coming of Masih ad-Dajjal (The AntiChrist)
  2. Arrival of The Mahdi
  3. The appearance of Masih al-Isa (Jesus Christ), the son of Mary (peace be upon him)
  4. Yajuj and Majuj (Gog and Magog)
  5. The destruction of the Kabah and the recovery of its treasure
  6. Emergence of the Beast
  7. The smoke
  8. Three major landslides (one in the East, one in the West, and one on the Arabian peninsula)
  9. The wind will take the souls of the believers
  10. The rising of the sun from the west
  11. The fire will drive the people to their final gathering place
  12. Three blasts of the trumpet (fear & terror, death, resurrection)

The Minor Signs:

  1. The disappearance of knowledge and the appearance of ignorance (Bukhari, Muslim, Ibn Majah, & Ahmad)
  2. Books/writing will be widespread and (religious) knowledge will be low (Ahmad)
  3. Adultery and fornication will be prevalent (The Prophet, peace be upon him, said that this has never happened without new diseases befalling the people, which their ancestors had not known.) (Bukhari, Muslim, Ibn Majah, & Al-Haythami)
  4. When fornication becomes widespread among your leaders (The Prophet, peace be upon him, said that this will happen when the people stop forbidding evil) (Ibn Majah)
  5. Adultery and fornication will be performed in the open
  6. The consumption of intoxicants will be widespread (Bukhari & Muslim)
  7. Women will outnumber men……eventually 50:1 (Bukhari, Muslim, & Ahmad)
  8. Killing, killing, killing (Bukhari, Muslim, Ibn Majah, & Ahmad)
  9. The nations of the earth will gather against the Muslims like hungry people going to sit down to a table full of food. This will occur when the Muslims are large in number, but “like the foam of the sea”.
  10. People will beat others with whips like the tails of oxen (Muslim) ?The Slave Trade
  11. The children will be filled with rage (at-Tabarani, al-Hakim)
  12. Children will be foul (at-Tabarani, al-Hakim)
  13. Women will conspire (at-Tabarani, al-Hakim)
  14. Rain will be acidic or burning (at-Tabarani, al-Hakim)
  15. Children of fornication will become widespread or prevalent (at-Tabarani, al-Hakim)
  16. When a trust becomes a means of making a profit (at-Tirmidhi, Al-Haythami)
  17. Gains will be shared out only among the rich, with no benefit to the poor (at-Tirmidhi)
  18. Paying zakat becomes a burden and miserliness becomes widespread; charity is given reluctantly (at-Tirmidhi & Al-Haythami)
  19. Miserliness will be thrown into the hearts of people (Bukhari)
  20. Episodes of sudden death will become widespread (Ahmad)
  21. There will be people who will be brethren in public but enemies in secret (He was asked how that would come about and replied, “Because they will have ulterior motives in their mutual dealings and at the same time will fear one another.”) (at-Tirmidhi)
  22. When a man obeys his wife and disobeys his mother; and treats his friend kindly while shunning his father (at-Tirmidhi)
  23. When voices are raised in the mosques (at-Tirmidhi)
  24. People will walk in the marketplace with their thighs exposed
  25. Great distances will be traversed in short spans of time
  26. The people of Iraq will recieve no food and no money due to oppression by the Romans (Europeans) (Muslim)
  27. People will hop between the clouds and the earth
  28. A tribulation will enter everyones home (Ahmad)
  29. The leader of a people will be the worst of them (at-Tirmidhi)
  30. Leaders of people will be oppressors (Al-Haythami)
  31. People will treat a man with respect out of fear for some evil he might do (at-Tirmidhi)
  32. Men will begin to wear silk (at-Tirmidhi)
  33. Female singers and musical instruments will become popular (at-Tirmidhi)
  34. When singers become common (Al-Haythami)
  35. People will dance late into the night
  36. When the last ones of the Ummah begin to curse the first ones (at-Tirmidhi)
  37. People will claim to follow the Qur’an but will reject hadith & sunnah (Abu Dawood)
  38. People will believe in the stars (Al-Haythami)
  39. People will reject al-Qadr (the Divine Decree of Destiny) (Al-Haythami)
  40. Time will pass rapidly (Bukhari, Muslim, & Ahmad)
  41. Good deeds will decrease (Bukhari)
  42. Smog will appear over cities because of the evil that they are doing
  43. People will be carrying on with their trade, but their will only be a few trustworthy persons
  44. Wealth will increase so much so that if a man were given 10,000, he would not be content with it (Ahmad & Bukhari)
  45. A man will pass by a grave and wish that he was in their place (Bukhari)
  46. Earthquakes will increase (Bukhari & Muslim)
  47. There will be attempts to make the deserts green
  48. The appearance of false messengers (30 dajjals) (Bukhari)
  49. Women will be naked in spite of being dressed, these women will be led astray & will lead others astray (Muslim)
  50. The conquest of Constantinople by the Muslims (Ahmad)
  51. The conquest of India by the Muslims, just prior to the return of Jesus, son of Mary (peace be upon both of them)(Ahmad, an-Nisa’i, at-Tabarani, al-Hakim)
  52. When people begin to compete with others in the construction of taller buildings (Bukhari)
  53. There will be a special greeting for the people of distinction (Ahmad)
  54. The Euphrates will disclose a treasure (The Prophet, peace be upon him, said that whoever is present should not take anything from it) (Bukhari & Muslim)
  55. Two large groups, adhering to the same religious teaching will fight each other with large numbers of casualties (Bukhari & Muslim)
  56. Wild animals will be able to talk to humans (Ahmad)
  57. A man will leave his home and his thigh or hip will tell him what is happening back at his home (Ahmad)
  58. Years of deceit in which the truthful person will not be believed and the liar will be believed (Ahmad)
  59. Bearing false witness will become widespread (Al-Haythami & Ahmad)
  60. When men lie with men and women lie with women (Al-Haythami)
  61. Trade will become so widespread that a woman will be forced to help her husband in business (Ahmad)
  62. A woman will enter the workforce out of love for this world (Ahmad)
  63. Arrogance will increase in the earth (at-Tabarani, al-Hakim)
  64. Family ties will be cut (Ahmad)
  65. There will be many women of child-bearing age who will no longer give birth.
  66. There will be an abundance of food, much of which has no blessing in it.
  67. People will refuse when offered food.
  68. Men will begin to look like women and women will begin to look like men

February 05, 2010

Islam and the Western Media

Islam and the Western Media
Stereotypes and misconceptions about Islam in the media are rooted in prejudice, and ignorance.

Islam is the fastest growing religion in the West. Nevertheless, the West has many stereotypes and misconceptions about Islam that are due to the media, prejudice, and ignorance. Islam is often looked upon as a "extremist", "terrorist", or "fundamental" religion. Many people hate Islam and do not want to acknowledge its true teachings. In many cases, the media’s reports about Islam are incorrect due to ignorance. This is one of the reasons why the West often hates Islam. In contrast to what many Westerners think of Islam, Islam is a peaceful religion, which does not promote any forms of uncalled for fighting or "terrorist" actions.

Stereotypes about Islam are not new to Western culture. Problems can be traced back 1400 years. At that time, Islam and Christianity were involved in the Crusades in the 1100’s and in the Ottoman and Moorish control in Europe. Islam spread quickly to the West, and started to threaten the position of the Christian Church and the ruling class. The Western elites, mainly the governments and the churches, then became highly involved in seeing that negative images were presented about Islam. As a result, not only were battles fought against Islam, but also a war of words was initiated to make sure that Islam would not have any converts or sympathizers in the West. These kinds of actions and feelings that the West had long ago still seem to be the case in the West today (Hassan 1).

Today, the West, with little or no understanding of Islamic history, has identified a new enemy, "a new demon that has replaced the Red menace of the Cold war, i.e., radical Islam" (Agha 6). This "radical Islam", a stereotype common to Western thought, portrays Muslims as fundamentalists or potential terrorists. Some of these ideas that the Western people have about Islam are due to the mass media of the West. Reporters who cover the Muslim world often know very little details about it. The media then develops a distorted image of Islam that Western culture adopts (Agha 2).

A major factor which contributes to Islamic stereotyping in the West is due to the media’s ignorance of selecting their words that describe Muslims. Some common names heard or seen in the news about Muslims are "extremist" or "terrorist". These words are misleading and are mainly anti-Islamic. The media rarely uses more neutral terms such as "revivalist" or "progressives" (Hassan 2).

The Western media also creates the idea that Muslims are "returning" to Islam. This is not true in most cases, because most Muslims have never left Islam in the first place. Islam has always been a big part of their lives. A more accurate and just way to describe this idea is to say that there is a revival of Islam and it is becoming more and more influential to everyone (Hassan 2).

Adding to the fact that the media creates inaccurate ideas about Islam, the Western media is also very influential to its audiences in making negative Islamic stereotypes, such as the assertion that all Muslims are fundamentalists. The term "fundamentalist" is actually a term that is interpreted by the media. A fundamentalist, in fact, only represents a normal Muslim who follows his or her religion. Fundamentalism means an attitude, an effort, or a movement that an ideology, group, or religion tries to promote in its fundamental beliefs. The "fundamental" beliefs of a Muslim is to believe in only one God (Allah) and the Prophet Mohammed is His messenger (PBUH), pray five times a day, fast the month of Ramadan, give alms to the poor, and make a pilgrimage to Mecca. This means that all Muslims are fundamentalists if they believe in their own religion’s fundamentals. Although the media is uncomfortable with religious groups, it focuses heavily on "Islamic fundamentalism". A majority of the media’s reports that talk about Islamic fundamentalism usually describes most Muslims as extremists. This shows how the media is ignorant, because Islam specifically prohibits any forms of extremism. The Prophet Mohammed said, "Those persons who go to extremes (in practicing their religion) were cursed (by God)". The media most often portrays Muslim "fundamentalists" prostrating themselves before God in prayer. For example, in the October 4 issue of Time, Muslims soldiers were shown performing prayers with guns. The caption on the bottom of the picture said, "Guns and prayer go together in the fundamentalist battle". The part that the reporters omitted or failed to state was that the Muslim soldiers were praying on a battlefield in Afghanistan. Common sense of the situation meant that the soldiers had to remain armed at all times in case of an ambush at any time. This is a clear example of the media’s biased and inaccurate reporting (Martinez 1, Ba-Yunus 1).

With regard to the soldiers, another great misconception that exists is the truth about Jihad or "holy war" in Islam. The ideas of war and violence have become related to the Islamic religion from the media. Jihad is so often apparent in the news because the media thinks it is Islam’s justification for war and violence. The Quran (Muslim Holy Book) says "Fight for the sake of Allah those that fight against you, but do not attack them first. Allah (God) does not love aggression". A Muslim is permitted to take up arms only as an act of self-defense. A Muslim has the right to defend his life, and his property (Martinez 1, Hassan 4).

Jihad literally means "The struggle in the path of God", or "holy war". However, the Western media often abuses the meaning of jihad by referring to it as a holy war where Muslims unreasonably kill non-believers. But the fact is, is that jihad can mean a numbers of things that a Muslim does for the sake of God. Rarely has the Western media used this kind of a definition in their reports. The way the media represents jihad is wrong. The media often takes the word "jihad" out of context to propagate negative views on Islam. A student striving for top grades, individuals pursuing for equality and justice for all people, honoring your parents, a mother giving birth to a child, eating, and even simply sleeping can all be considered jihad (Martinez 1, Hassan 4).

The association of Islam and violence is a common misconception that the general Western public has developed about Islam. An example of this kind of misconception is that the Western media and some historians often say that Islam was a religion spread by the sword, meaning that Muslims went from one end of the world to the other forcing people to either convert or die. Islam spread by people learning about it and some by holy wars, but they did not force people to convert or die. Since a majority of the American public only get their information about Islam through the media, they believe this wrong idea. The media’s reports about Arab or "Islamic" events, such as the Gulf War, are often misunderstood. The media usually fails to give background information about these Islamic events that it reports on. The media infrequently distinguishes between the religion Islam and the political affairs that occur in most Islamic countries. For instance, what Saddam Hussein, the president of Iraq, did in the Gulf War was not Islamic and totally wrong (to attack other people for no reason, especially Muslims). But the media still makes reports about Islam and how Islam is made of war-crazed people. For example, to help put things into perspective, Hitler was a person of the Christian faith. This does not mean that all of his actions were consistent with the Christian beliefs. Likewise, Saddam Hussein is of the Islamic faith, but all of his actions do not necessarily represent Islam. So you can see that the media’s reports about "war-crazed Muslims" are incorrect. The notion of associating of Islam and Muslims with the terms Arabs and Middle East are in fact misleading. Arabs only account for 18% of the Muslim population across the world (Hassan 1-2, Washington 1).

Aside from the fact that the media misrepresents Islam because of ignorance, the media is also a profit-seeking organization which often seeks to create a false image of reality. Islam is often news of an unpleasant sort for the general public of the United States. Islam has often been presented as a menace or a threat to the West. These negative images do not correspond to Islam, but are the belief of certain sectors of a particular society. These prominent sectors can propagate negative images of Islam, which sometimes influences people’s views on Islam (Agha 3). The Western media actually poorly represents Islam. Most of these problems of poor representations come from poor language translations, the absence of developed news agencies with international networks and native reporters, and biased reporting by many Western reporters (Agha 3).

Some biased reports come from negative images that have happened in the Muslim world in the past like the hijacking of airplanes by Palestinians, the occupation of the United States Embassy by students in Tehran, the fact that there are no democratic governments in most Islamic countries, and the Gulf War. For most of these events, the media has misinterpreted and misrepresented them. The media sometimes unintentionally blows things out of proportion, sometimes because of biased feelings toward Muslims. However, many positive developments in the Muslims world rarely go noticed (Agha 3). Some inaccurate representations of Islam are often due to the media’s incorrect representations of Islamic countries, such as jihad, or Islam women’s rights. Waseem Sajjad, former Chairman of the Senate of Pakistan explains the situation of Islam and the media:

The Islamic world is poorly represented in the West in terms of press and media coverage. Not only are there just handfuls of news agencies in Muslim countries; there is the concern over the number of inexperienced reporters. Many reporters don’t understand the local cultures nor speak the language, leaving them with access to only those English or French speaking Westernized elites. Thus their representation is often a biased account of the political and social events from the point of view of the ruling minority in Muslim countries (Hassan 2).

A negative image of Islam is becoming more inherent in the Western culture from inaccurate media coverage. The media helps to make an image of Islam to unsuspecting audiences. The Western public often is misinformed about Muslims through the images on television, motion picture screens, magazines, radios, and comic strips in newspapers, which promote strong messages among their audiences. Western reporters often say that Muslims are terrorists. This becomes a common image to the general person that all Muslims are terrorists. Edward Said’s book, Covering Islam, talks about how the media and experts determine how we see the rest of the world. He says that:

The term Islam as it is used today seems to mean one simple thing, but in fact is part fiction, part ideological label, part minimal designation of a religion called Islam . Today Islam is peculiarly traumatic news in the West. During the past few years, especially since events in Iran caught European and American attention so strongly, the media have therefore covered Islam: they have portrayed it, characterized it, analyzed it, given instant courses on it, and consequently they have made it known . But this coverage is misleadingly full, and a great deal in this energetic coverage is based on far from objective material. In many instances Islam has licensed not only patent inaccuracy, but also expressions of unrestrained ethnocentrism, cultural, and even racial hatred, deep yet paradoxically free-floating hostility (Agha 2) .

As well as creating inaccurate images about Islam, the Western media usually identifies Islam in Muslim conflicts. The media hardly points other religions out in their conflicts. For example, the news would say, "five Israelis may have been shot, but they were shot by five Muslims", instead of saying "Five Israelis were shot by five Palestinians". The media often reverses this action when a conflict is against Muslims, for example the news would usually say "Bosnians are being killed by Serbians", but instead rarely says, "Muslims are being killed by Christians"(Hassan 3). In addition to the media’s inaccurate representations about Islamic conflicts, human rights of women in Islam, such as women veiling and women authority, are big topics that Western media often confuses and misinterprets. The media often represents Islam as a male dominant religion where Muslim men have complete authority over all groups of people. The media often says that Islam discriminates against women, and that women have no power or authority. However, it is ironic of what the media represents, that the Prophet Mohammed was one the greatest reformers for women. In fact, Islam probably is the only religion that formally teaches women’s rights and finds ways to protect them. When Islam is practiced correctly, it becomes the best example of an equal gender society (Hassan 3).

As Islam came around, traditional pre-Islamic roles of women were replaced by new Islamic roles that women followed. Islam allowed women to have the right to be educated and the right to participate in political, economical, and social activities in their community. This created upward mobility in their communities. Women were also given the right to vote, something the U.S. did not allow until 1919. Women were given the right to inherit property and take charge of their possessions. While most of these rights are denied to Muslim women today as a result of cultural tradition, one should not associate this with Islam, because they do not correlate with it (Hassan 4). Islamic women wearing veils is a another commonly misunderstood concept in the West. Westerners often think that this is a harsh custom that Islam requires of women. Westerners often say these women have no freedom or dignity for wearing these veils. But in fact, these veils actuality help protect women and help them remain in chastity. In Islamic societies there are very few rape cases and AIDS victims as opposed to the Western societies, were there are thousands of rape cases and AIDS infected victims a year. But in some countries, like Saudi Arabia, women are forced to wear abbayyas (floor length veils). Such excessive forms of these kinds of dress are not mentioned in Islam. Islam requires women to wear a veil for their own safety, but if a woman chooses not to wear it, it is her choice and it is between her and her God. God will do anything He wants to her in this world and the after (Hassan 5).

Islamic women are indeed supposed to be granted these rights, but the media often fails to inform its audiences about this fact. The media also fails to report that most of the Islamic countries have a high illiteracy rate. This means that it is "virtually impossible for many Muslim women to challenge cultural male authority when the women themselves do not know the difference between village customs and actual Islamic law". The Western media would be able to better represent women’s issues in Islamic countries if they identified how and why governments have limited women’s rights that are guaranteed to them by the Quran (Muslim Holy Book). Most so-called Islamic countries such as Syria are corrupt (according to Islam) in their religion and should be addressed in the media’s reports. But instead "the media falsely portrays Muslim women as victims of a harsh and suppressive religion". While the media is so concerned about negative and discriminatory images about Islamic women, it fails to remind their audiences that there are three Islamic countries (Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Turkey) that have had female heads of states. In contrast, most Westerns nations such as the United States, "who condemn Islamic countries for their oppression of women, have yet to see a non-white, male president, let alone a female" (Hassan 5-6).

With regard to Islamic women’s rights, Islam is also a hot topic of Western governments. Western powers do not usually easily tolerate Islamic movements or governments. One main reason is that in an Islamic government, in contrast to Western governments, there is no separation of church and state. Judith Miller states in her book Challenge of Radical Islam, "that anyone who believes in universal human rights, democratic governments, political tolerance, and peace between the Arabs and the Israelis cannot be complacent about the growing strength of Islamic militant movements in most Middle Eastern countries". Miller says that the Western governments should oppose these kind of Islamic movements. This statement shows one Western’s views about how the West opposes Islamic movements (Agha 6, Emerson 2).

Observers often say that the goal of Islamic fundamentalism is to wage a holy war against the West. These observers believe the idea that Islamic leaders only wanting the redress legitimate political grievances is totally nonsense. They think that even if Israel or any other opposing regime in the Middle East would disappear, "the appetite of the Islamic fundamentalists would only have been whetted". These ideas are false and also misleading. (Agha 7).

The Western media often portrays Islam as a "militant Islam" or a "fundamental Islam" threat to the West. Edward Said states that:

For the general public in America and Europe today, Islam is "news" of a particularly unpleasant sort. The media, the government, the geopolitical strategists, and although they are marginal to the culture at large - the academic experts on Islam are all in concert: Islam is a threat to Western civilization. Now this is by no means the same as saying that only derogatory or racist caricatures of Islam are to be found in the West...What I am saying is that negative images of Islam are very much more prevalent than any others, and that such images correspond, not to what Islam "is"...but to what prominent sectors of a particular society take it to be: Those sectors have the power and the will to propagate that particular image of Islam, and this image therefore becomes more prevalent, more present, than all others (Muzaffer 1).

John L. Esposito’s book, The Islamic Threat: Myth or Reality, states the question, is Islam a threat to the West? He tells us that the answer lies in the West’s views. He says that if the Western powers continue to defend the unjust status of the Middle East in the name of an illusory or fleeting stability, Islam will be a threat. "But if the Western powers begin to appreciate the legitimacy of grievances in the Middle East, the West and Islamic movements will get along peacefully" (Agha 7).

With the Western media’s spotlight and some Western governmental attitudes, the West is a place where Islam is a name of negativity. The Western media has contributed a great deal to this negative image of Islam. The media often misrepresents and inaccurately explains Islam and its manifestations. Sometimes the media seems to be biased against Islam. When the media distorts the image of Islam, the general public tend to believe it, because the media is a major source of information that the public gets about Islam. This ignorance that the West accumulates from the media leads them into making stereotypes about Islam and associating all Muslims and Arabs together. The West often times views Islam as "fundamental" "extremist" or "discriminatory", but all of these terms have be manipulated, purposely because of biased feelings and accidentally because of ignorance, by the media to present a negative image about Islam. Islam is actually a peaceful and fair religion that most often does not correspond to the media’s reports. As Islam grows more and more in the West, Westerners will eventually learn the truth about Islam and find out that these negative stereotypes are incorrect. It is possible that Islam will become one of the biggest religions in the United States. As more people follow Islam, the media will start to learn about it, understand it, and report about it in positive ways. As long as the Westerners are educated about Islam, they will probably learn to accept it as well.

Bibliography

Agha, Dr. Olfat Hassan. http://bertie.la.utexas.edu/research/mena/acpss/english/ekuras/ ek25.html#Heading5. Islamic Fundamentalism and Its Image in the Western Media.

Ba-Yunus, Ilyas. http://www.geocities.com/CollegePark/6453/myth.html. The Myth of Islamic Fundamentalism.

Emerson, Steven. The Other Fundamentalist. New Republic. June 12, 1995.

Hassan, Anser. http://psirus.sfsu.edu/IntRel/IRJournal/sp95/hassan.html . Invitation to Islam: Islamic Stereotypes in Western Mass Media.

Martinez, Pricilia. http://chuma.cas.usf.edu/~rfayiz/media.htm. Muslim Culture, Religion Misrepresented by Media.

Muzaffer, Dr. Chandra. http://www.peg.apc.org/~newdawn/misc2.htm#top. Dominant Western Perception of Islam and The Muslims.

Washington, DC. http://www.twf.org/Releases/Fears.html. Why The West Fears Islam: The Enemy Within.


February 04, 2010

Dr. Norman Finkelstein at the University of Waterloo

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cNQSV3BBtZ4


Pakistan Collapse Could Trigger Global Great Depression and World War III

During 2009 the 2600 terrorist attacks resulted in the number of deaths soaring to more than 12,000 casualties in Pakistan, compared to the number killed in Iraq falling to 2,800 from the 2008 total of 5,900. The U.S. War in Afghanistan pushed the Taliban and Al-Qeeda over the border into Pakistan that has sparked an escalating insurgency and Pakistan's own U.S. backed un-popular "War on Terror" which is going just as badly as that in Afghanistan, only without the deep financial pockets to embark up on an never ending war that is increasingly sapping what little strength the Pakistan Economy had out of it and now seriously risks the collapse of the state due to the stress of the conflict on the economy and society.

The world appears to be sleep walking towards a mega-crisis during 2010 and beyond resulting from that of continuing and escalating terrorist insurgency fed by U.S. policy, that is spreading like a cancer across Pakistan resulting in the disintegration of the Pakistani economy and by consequence the disintegration of many areas of the state into lawless areas despite the size of the Pakistani Army, this would result in fallout across the whole region and the wider world on a scale of several magnitudes greater than that which followed the collapse of Iraq following the 2003 invasion.

Pakistan populated by more than 170 million people could turn into a black hole that could swallow many more trillions of dollars in an escalating but ultimately unwinnable war on terror that would disrupt not only the economies of the west with hundreds of thousands more boots on the ground, but also the economies of the neighbouring states, especially India, Iran and China much as the war in Afghanistan had increasingly impacted on the Pakistani state and economy over the past few years.

Not only is Pakistan's vast military industrial complex and arms stock piles at risk, but far more deadly than the IED's or klashnikovs are Pakistan's nuclear and chemical weapons that could greatly increase the risks of a series of dirty bombs emerging from within a failed state even if the nuclear weapons themselves remained secure.

Therefore the Pakistan crisis has the potential for becoming a very significant factor when determining the direction of the global economy over the coming years due to both a mega refugee crisis that would emerge from a failed state and the conflagration of conflict across the region, unless action is taken to stabilise the situation in Pakistan towards which the following could form part of:

1. First world military technology such as drone air-craft and satellite surveillance made available to the Pakistan army to enable it to fight a more precise war against the Taliban Leadership without unpopular blanket warfare across regions of the country that only results in the conflict spreading and new recruits for the insurgency.

Therefore Pakistan's War Against Terror needs to be greatly de-escalated rather than escalated, basically a strategy of containment of the Taliban in the Pushtoon areas rather invite more Pushtoon's to join the Taliban as a consequence of Pakistani Army actions. This would allow the rest of a more ethnically and culturally diverse Pakistan to stabilise rather than become sucked into an ever widening conflict.

2. To financially support and reform the Pakistan Government and economy into a self sustaining secular growth machine and as a far less corrupt entity than at present, much as the United States succeeded in turning the collapsed economies of Germany and Japan around following the second world war that would seek to pull Pakistan's people out of poverty and illiteracy, especially aimed at the impoverished youth that are increasingly falling pray to the Taliban ideology of holy war.

The alternative of remaining on the present path risks the already debt saddled western worlds economies sowing the seeds of a Pakistan Collapse triggered Great Depression, much as many aspects of today's economic and financial crisis have their roots in both Afghanistan and Iraq and with even far worse consequences for the neighbouring states of Iran, India, China and perhaps Russia as the conflict falls out of Pakistan's borders.

However at present U.S. and Western focus is primarily focused on bombing the Taliban and Al-Qeeda from the air and enticing the Pakistani army to embark on huge military expeditions against large regions of Pakistan, therefore not learning a single lesson from either Iraq or Afghanistan that the real solution is to win hearts and minds which cannot be done through carpet bombing of towns and cities but rather through building civil society and infrastructure.

Unless action is taken now to change course then we may look back at the present in a few years time and say why did we not do something when we had the chance to prevent the Great Hyper-Inflationary Depression and resulting Global War much as the 1930's Great Deflationary Depression ultimately resulted in the Second World War.


Beijing broods over its arc of anxiety

Beijing will find little cause for joy in United States President Barack Obama's decision to dispatch 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan, as outlined in a major policy speech on Tuesday.

Geopolitical logic (and China's interests) would dictate that the West disengage from Afghanistan and the Pashtun brief be placed in the eager if not particularly capable hands of Pakistan.

Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) would see to it that more tractable assets, such as the Haqqanis and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, would battle the unruly Taliban to a bloody stalemate in Afghanistan's Pashtun regions, decouple the Pakistan Taliban from their Afghan patrons, and restore a semblance of stability to Pakistan's west

Meanwhile, as they have always done, the Afghan Tajiks, Hazaris and Uzbeks would turn to outside aid from some combination of Russia, China, Iran and the United States to contain the Pashtuns and forestall the spread of fundamentalist and al-Qaeda extremist contagion.

China has tried to shape the US debate over Afghanistan, repeatedly making the case for letting nature and anti-Western Pashtun militancy take their course and moving beyond counter-insurgency to reconciliation. As M K Bhadrakumar commented on a think piece by a Chinese defense policy authority, Li Qinggong:

The China Daily article makes several important points. First, it bluntly calls on Washington to forthwith bring the US military operations in Afghanistan to an end. There are no caveats here while making this demand, no alibis. (China maps an end to the Afghan war Asia Times Online, October 2, 2009.)

Clearly, China has lost the debate, perhaps not on the merits of its arguments and despite the heaven-sent justification for the Obama administration to depart Afghanistan: President Hamid Karzai's rigging of the presidential election and the subsequent absence of a legitimate, capable and honest government supposedly essential to successful counter-insurgency.

In addition to qualms over abandoning Afghanistan's people to the savage mercies of Taliban theocrats and creating a haven for anti-US extremists, the Obama administration probably calculates that adding a messy collapse in Afghanistan on top of 10%-plus unemployment in the US and the hangover of a brutal recession would spell disaster for the Democrats in the 2010 US congressional elections.

Instead, the United States is hunkering down in Afghanistan and relying on China's rival, India - the only nation, it can be safely said, that views continuation of the Afghan adventure with any enthusiasm - to help keep the lid on things in Afghanistan.

The Times of India reported with evident satisfaction on Obama's explanatory phone call to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh prior to the Afghanistan "surge" speech at West Point:

During his recent visit to Washington DC, Singh had made a strong case for the US to remain in Afghanistan for the time being. He insisted that the "forces of extremism" had to be defeated in Afghanistan, and the US-India joint statement reflected the concerns about the sanctuaries and havens of terrorists that had to be destroyed.

In fact, before setting out to Washington, Singh had told Newsweek, "I sincerely hope the US and the global community will stay involved in Afghanistan ..."

The Obama-Singh conversation had another important component for India: India's own presence and activity in Afghanistan. The Indian takeaway here is that the Pakistan "line" which, in some ways was reflected in the report prepared by the top US commander in Afghanistan General Stanley McChrystal, that Indian activities in Afghanistan could be counter-productive, was comprehensively discarded. Obama reportedly told the PM that Indian activities were not only appreciated but they should continue.

The United States foreign policy commentariat is eager to see India step into the vacuum left by Western abhorrence of Afghanistan's desolate economic and security landscape.

In a November 23, 2009 Forbes Magazine op-ed revealingly entitled "We Need India's Help in Afghanistan", Marshall Bouton and Alyssa Ayres touted India's enthusiasm for doing the low-bid dirty work, if not actually sending troops.

India has demonstrated unique and effective capabilities that will make a big difference in Afghanistan. With its historic ties and cultural affinity to the country, India has already provided impressive civilian assistance. It is the fifth-largest bilateral donor to Afghanistan. India's US$1.2 billion contribution to date has supported projects in power, medicine, agriculture and education. Afghanistan's new parliament meets in a building constructed by India. Indian engineers built a port-access road in violent southern Afghanistan, and India has trained Afghan civil servants, demonstrating an Indian comparative advantage on the ground.



The reek of desperation permeates this op-ed as it acknowledges the unwillingness of Western governments, cost-ineffective "Beltway contractors", and international non-governmental agencies to handle the economic development projects on the "build" side of the counter-insurgency equation.

However, India is not quite ready to act as America's proxy nation-builder in Afghanistan.

As an illustration, a sentence in Bouton and Ayres' encomium - "Afghanistan's new parliament meets in a building constructed by India" - rewards a careful parsing.

Prime Minister Dr Singh laid the foundation for the Afghan parliament building in 2005. However, to date the Indian government has been unable to find a contractor willing to brave the dangers of operating in Kabul to build it. In 2007, the Indian government sought to entice the interest of Indian business by increasing the budget from the original $25 million to $46 million. As of May, 10 contractors had purchased bid documents but nobody had actually tendered for the job. If and when the contract is let, the construction timeline calls for 30 months.

If Bouton and Ayres are referring to this potentially noble edifice (whose initial design caused an outcry inside Afghanistan because it referenced proto-Indian motifs of the ancient Ghandara period while ignoring Afghanistan's dominant Muslim traditions), it will be many years before the Afghan parliament can enjoy this symbol of Indian generosity and geopolitical determination.

According to James Risen of the New York Times, the Afghan parliament currently meets in a building owned by the Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce ... which is run by Hamid Karzai's brother. It is not clear that India erected this relatively modest structure.

India's caginess about its commitment to Afghanistan undoubtedly reflects concern that the Western adventure might come to an abrupt end. It also reflects the fact that India's key foreign policy objectives vis-a-vis Pakistan and China do not require success in Afghanistan - they merely demand that the current dismal status quo be perpetuated for as long as possible.

Pakistan is paranoid about India's reach into the Karzai regime (Karzai himself studied in India), the opening of Indian consulates in remote Afghan cities, India's financing of roadbuilding projects meant to reduce Afghan reliance on the Pakistan-controlled Khyber Pass route for trade and military resupply, and alleged black ops shenanigans by India's Research and Analysis Wing spooks.

However, active mischief by India inside Afghanistan is not needed to destabilize Pakistan. Merely prolonging the Western military effort in Afghanistan sustains the disastrously unfavorable configuration of forces destabilizing Pakistan, and is a geopolitical victory for India.

As the United States persists in its efforts to forestall a Taliban triumph in Afghanistan, Pakistan is forced into Washington's orbit as an indispensable asset in the West's Afghan strategy, charged with depriving militants of their havens in Pakistan's western borderlands.

Despite the determined efforts of Pakistan's military to work the military, political and economic levers to keep a lid on things on the Afghan border, bending to Washington's will in opposing the Pashtun insurgency in Afghanistan is preventing Pakistan's security establishment from meeting with the Pashtuns on a matter of deep, shared interest - the desperate desire to expel the Karzai regime from Kabul - while exploiting the potential for splits between the Pashtun factions to its advantage.

Some of these factions, such as the Hekmatyar and Haqqani organizations, have close ties with Pakistani army and intelligence that go back to the anti-Soviet jihad in the 1980s and predate the very existence of the Taliban. In fact, the established jihadi factions actually fought the Taliban in the 1990s before Pakistan, in a monumental miscalculation, decided to back the Taliban in the contest to control Kabul.

Pashtun factions that would otherwise engage in lethal intramural bickering and turn to Pakistan for support against the Taliban and each other are ignoring the needs and importunities of their patrons in Islamabad in order to join the Taliban's effort to terminate an unwelcome pro-US, pro-Indian non-Pashtun regime.

Pakistan's military is expected to confront these groups wholesale in the name of the US anti-terrorism crusade, instead of engaging them piecemeal.

United Pashtun militancy is too much for Pakistan to handle, even in the west of the country. Worryingly, the Pashtun militants have the resources, doctrine and increased determination to spread religious, ethnic and class strife far beyond the Pashtun areas of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and North-West Frontier Province to the southern port city of Karachi and Pakistan's heartland provinces of Sindh and Punjab.

It is possible that an Afghan surge will succeed.

However, whether it does or not, disastrous blowback in Pakistan is likely, both from Pashtun militancy and the increasing alienation of Pakistan's security establishment from a civilian government beholden to Washington for its political and economic survival and compelled to pursue a ruinous security policy at America's behest.

If Pakistan sinks into political and ethnic/religious chaos, China will lose the services of a capable, loyal and effective proxy - and India will benefit.

India's mischief-making along its borders has received little attention, perhaps because of the contrast between India's thriving democracy (especially when personified by the cuddly and blandly accommodating Manmohan Singh and not represented by the relentlessly Hindu-chauvinist and confrontational Bharatiya Janata Party) and China's one-party communist rule and harsh repression of Tibetan and Uighur aspirations.

In this context, it is ironic that, while the post-Mao Zedong Chinese communist regime has largely kept to its economic and internal security program, with the exception of the Sino-Vietnamese War of 1979, India, the world's largest democracy, has, like the world's greatest democracy, the United States, shown an embarrassing tendency to involve itself in great-power scrapes in recent years.

Beyond fighting three wars with Pakistan, abetting the secession of East Pakistan and the creation of Bangladesh in 1971, stage-managing the annexation of Sikkim in 1975, engaging in non-stop interference in Nepalese affairs, rigging elections in 1987 and bloodily suppressing massive 2008 anti-Indian demonstrations in Kashmir, and inciting Tamil separatism in a conflict that contributed to 80,000 deaths in Sri Lanka, India has now entered into an alliance with the US that includes a deep involvement in Afghanistan. This is Pakistan's backyard, a border nation of China and a Muslim Central Asia that is way out of India's plausible cultural, economic and geostrategic bailiwick.

On the ethnically, politically and militarily complex border between China and India, the balance of forces and expectations is easily disturbed.

China - bedeviled by unhappy ethnic groups in the vast western and southern reaches of its country - prefers the status quo. India - emboldened by its economic rise, Pakistan and China's vulnerabilities, and a de facto alliance with the United States - finds instability to its advantage.

In addition to the destabilizing influence of the US effort in Afghanistan on Pakistan, China is also dealing with the reality of a more assertive and capable Indian presence on its Tibetan border in the contested areas of Arunachal Pradesh, facing off against New Delhi in a risky tussle for power in Nepal, and confronting the nagging issue of Aksai Chin, in the northwestern region of the Tibetan Plateau, and Kashmir.

In this context, Beijing is tempted to view New Delhi's continued restraint in not playing the "Tibet card" - declining to tolerate anti-Chinese agitation by militant groups in the Tibetan diaspora inside India - increasingly as a matter of tactics rather than conviction.

As a result, both sides are strengthening their geopolitical and military assets along their long border.

In the eastern area of Arunachal Pradesh (claimed by China, occupied by India), both sides are pouring money into infrastructure construction along the border and ramping up their military presence.

The border nation of Nepal, traditionally an economic and political satellite of India, is currently in play as Nepalese Maoists (eager to limit Indian influence and willing to call on Chinese support) are making a determined push for power.

The Chinese are perhaps looking longingly at India's persistent and extensive Naxalite Maoist insurgency slicing through India's eastern heartland up to the Nepalese border (the tantalizing "Red Corridor") as a suitable pressure point against India. However, even if the Nepalese Maoists gain power in Kathmandu, they are unlikely to make the suicidal move of supporting their Indian brethren in an overt and effective way.

If New Delhi has an Achilles' heel, it is Jammu and Kashmir, an overwhelmingly Muslim and unhappy state largely controlled by India, partially administered by Pakistan, and with a contested border with China to the north.

It was probably no coincidence that at the same time the Dalai Lama paid a high-profile visit to Tawang, one of the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader's favorite monasteries in Arunachal Pradesh, China found it convenient to invite influential Kashmir separatist Mirwaiz Umar Farooq - also a religious leader affiliated with the largest mosque in Kashmir - to visit Beijing on a trip.

The development was significant in that troublemaking in Kashmir is traditionally the job of Pakistan, allegedly carried out by the ferocious mujahideen such as the Lashkar-e-Taiba (implicated in the Mumbai terror attacks of last November) who honed their bloody skills in Afghanistan under ISI sponsorship.

However, Pakistan's civilian government under President Asif Ali Zardari is currently smothered in the embrace of the United States and has shifted its Kashmir rhetoric from support of religious identity politics and Muslim aspirations to condemnation of terrorism.

As Kashmir journalist Fayaz Awani wrote:

The political observers in Kashmir attach significance to China's renewed interest in Kashmir. "Since the eruption of turmoil in Kashmir in 1989, China has been silent and never gave any space to the separatist voices. One of the senior separatist leaders in 1990s had sought appointment with Chinese envoy in Indian capital to discuss the Kashmir issue but was politely refused permission by the embassy officials," said a political science teacher of University of Kashmir, highest seat of learning in Kashmir.

Beijing's new willingness to meddle directly in Kashmir issues was a message to India - which has adamantly opposed internationalization of the issue by the United Nations for decades and mounted a concerted and successful campaign to remove Kashmir from the brief of Richard Holbrooke, the Obama administration's designated AfPak fixer - that, despite the unwelcome fact that its Pakistan proxy is on the ropes, Beijing would not abandon its "Kashmir card".

The Kashmir issue will remain active as long as China worries about its southern borders. Given the structural dilemma of China's governance problems in Xinjiang and Tibet, a true equilibrium may never be reached.

However, odds are the Western position in Afghanistan is not sustainable. Through some combination of Pashtun insurgency and rebellion by Pakistan's military against the destructive US strategy, the pro-Washington government in Kabul will probably be replaced and some rather ferocious anti-Indian rollback - eagerly abetted by the ISI - will occur.

This will be a welcome development for Pakistan and its ally China, and an eminently survivable setback for India. With Afghanistan and the stability of Pakistan off the geopolitical table, the other border security disputes between India and China - Arunachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, the composition of the government in Nepal - will survive as festering but manageable - if not curable - wounds.


Pakistan and Israel

Since Israel's establishment in May 1948, Pakistan, being a Muslim country, has refused to establish diplomatic relations with it. The agreements that Israel signed with Egypt in 1978, the PLO in 1993, and Jordan in 1994 brought no change in Pakistan's policy. However, Israeli and Pakistani officials maintained clandestine contacts over the years. 

The main reasons for Pakistan's policy toward Israel are: (1) religious solidarity with the Arab-Muslim countries; (2) fear of an adverse response by radical Islamist groups throughout the Muslim world; and (3) concern that establishing diplomatic relations with Israel may cause instability within Pakistan. Pakistan's political and military leaders have always striven to get along with its radical clergy and likely will remain committed to the country's Muslim identity. Only significant progress in relations between Israel and the Arab states could lead to a change in Pakistan's position.

 

The Muslim countries in Asia constitute a significant component of the continent's population. These include Indonesia, the largest Muslim state in the world with 210 million people at the end of the twentieth century, more than all Arab countries combined; Pakistan and Bangladesh, each with a population of about 130 million; Malaysia, with 18 million inhabitants; and other, smaller countries such as Brunei and Maldives. Some Muslim countries in Asia are particularly hostile to Israel. In addition, India, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, and Thailand have Muslim minorities that exert a certain amount of influence over their country's foreign policy, especially regarding diplomatic relations with Israel and sentiments toward the Arabs. Other Asian countries have Muslim minorities as well, but these lack significant influence over relations with Israel.

Hatred of Israel, and the refusal to recognize or establish diplomatic relations with it, are evident to some extent in all Muslim countries in Asia. This phenomenon is based on feelings of Islamic solidarity with Arab countries and a sense of religious belonging to the global Islamic community, the umma. In recent decades, the atmosphere in most Muslim countries has become increasingly radical. Contributing to this trend is the belief that Jews, Zionism, and Israel are anti-Islam, anti-Arab, and pro-American. Radical Islamic circles exert pressure on governments to become involved in worldwide Islamic issues, above all the Palestinian problem and support for Arab countries' struggle against Israel.

Israel has signed peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan, has normalized its relations beginning in early 1992 with China, India, and South Korea, and has significantly improved its relations with Japan. Nevertheless, Muslim countries in Asia-Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Maldives, and Brunei-still refuse to establish diplomatic relations with Israel. In 1992, after the aforementioned developments, there were hopes that those Muslim countries would be influenced. Indonesia and Pakistan gave hints in that direction. Representatives of Jewish organizations from the United States and Australia, as well as diplomats from countries friendly to Israel, were also involved in attempts to clarify the Muslim countries' stance. However, internal developments in these countries and changes in government led to a cessation of contact.

The twentieth century has ended and fifty-nine years have passed since Israel was established. But the Jewish state has never had diplomatic relations with the Asian Muslim countries, except tiny Maldives for a brief period. The agreements that were signed with Egypt in 1978, the PLO in 1993, and Jordan in 1994 brought no change in the Asian Muslim countries' policies. There were, however, limited improvements in some areas, particularly tourism and trade, but not regarding diplomatic relations. Governments of the Asian Muslim countries were less concerned about Arab countries than about the increasingly radical Islamic atmosphere in their own societies, among circles that were not influenced by the agreements in the Middle East. These governments were not willing to risk confronting these groups. Israeli diplomacy was not effective here at all.

Pakistan's Islamic Allegiance

Pakistan was established on 14 August 1947 as a result of the division of the Indian subcontinent. In 1940, Indian Muslims had already started demanding India's division, disengagement from Hindu nationalism, and the creation of an independent nationalist-Muslim country. Their leader, Muhammad Ali Jinnah (1876-1948), claimed that Indian Muslims possessed a unique and separate culture with their own language, religion, history, literature, art, architecture, laws, leaders, and traditions. Although leaders of the nationalist Hindu movement, the Congress Party, opposed the Muslims' demands, in the end the Indian Muslims prevailed and India was divided.

Since Pakistan's establishment, its foreign policy has been influenced by the fact that it is a Muslim country founded on an Islamic religious basis. Islamic solidarity has been a central component of Pakistan's foreign policy in general and toward the Middle East in particular. Pakistan has staunchly and persistently supported Arab positions in the United Nations and other arenas. In return, Pakistan expected the support of Arab and Muslim countries in its ongoing conflict with India over Kashmir and other issues.

In 1947 Pakistan's representative to the United Nations, Sir Zafrullah Khan, waged a struggle against the UN Partition Plan for Palestine (1947). Khan strove for the establishment of a federal state in Palestine. During Israel's War of Independence (1947-1949), Israel's diplomatic mission in Washington received information that Pakistan was trying to provide military assistance to the Arabs, including rumors that a Pakistani battalion would be sent to Palestine to fight alongside them. Pakistan bought 250,000 rifles in Czechoslovakia that apparently were meant for the Arabs. Also, it became known that Pakistan bought three planes in Italy for the Egyptians.

Early Attempts at Contacts

Nevertheless, when the battles had died down in 1949 and the ceasefire agreement had been signed, some in the Israeli Foreign Ministry believed it might be possible to open legations in Karachi, then the capital of Pakistan, or at least to conduct trade openly.[5] Initial contact between the ambassador (high commissioner) of Pakistan in London and representatives of Israel and Jewish organizations was made in early 1950. The Pakistani government was asked to issue passage permits to India for a few hundred Jews who had been forced to leave Afghanistan and wanted to emigrate to Israel. The Pakistani government refused to allow them to transit through Pakistan and the Jews left through Iran.

In Cairo in March 1952, Zafrullah Khan, who had meanwhile been appointed Pakistan's foreign minister, said he thought Israel and Arab countries ought to reach an agreement, though he emphasized that his country supported the Arabs' demands. For example, the Arabs wanted Israel to alter borders, provide monetary compensation, and make assurances that it had no aggressive intentions.

Consequently, a meeting was arranged in New York between Zafrullah Khan and Abba Eban, then Israel's ambassador to the United States, on 14 January 1953. Regarding Israeli-Pakistani relations, Zafrullah Khan told Eban that his government would not be able to withstand the extremists' opposition and that there was no chance for improved relations between the two countries in the near future "despite the fact that the Pakistani government does not bear any hatred toward Israel and understands that it is a factor in the Middle East that must be taken into consideration." For the time being, he expressed his approval of mutual visits of experts, students, and professors. He added that when the Arabs exhibited willingness to meet with Israel to solve problems, Pakistan would try to influence the Arabs toward reaching an agreement.

In March and April 1954, Zafrullah Khan stated on several occasions that his country did not recognize Israel and had no intention of doing so. Israel was a foreign wedge in the Middle East and posed a danger not only to surrounding Arab countries but to the entire Islamic world. Pakistan would aid the Arabs in protecting sites holy to Islam. The Pakistani prime minister, of Pakistan, told a visiting group of Palestinian Arab clergy that the issue of Palestine was not only an Arab one but also a Muslim one. He promised them his country's loyalty on issues pertaining to "Muslims in Palestine." He kept this promise at a conference of Asian heads of state, held in Colombo in 1954 in advance of the Bandung Conference, and during the Bandung Conference itself. For this he was praised by King Saud of Saudi Arabia

An Ongoing Hostility

Hostile Pakistani statements as well as the United States' intention to supply weapons to Pakistan were worrisome to Israel. These concerns were raised in the Knesset.[10] In November 1956, following Egypt's defeat in the Sinai Campaign, there were incidents of incitement and rioting against the approximately five hundred Jews remaining in Karachi. The Israeli Foreign Ministry suggested that the World Jewish Congress or other organizations should pressure Pakistan in Washington and in the UN General Assembly in New York to protect those Jews.

Pakistan did not miss any opportunity to display its characteristically pro-Arab and anti-Israeli policy, which stemmed from a sense of Muslim identification but also from practical political considerations, and which was constantly becoming more extreme. Arab countries considered pro-Western in the 1950s, such as Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Iraq, tended to side with Pakistan whereas those regarded as neutral, such as Egypt and Syria, showed a pro-Indian bent. Pakistan itself not only refrained from recognizing Israel or conducting any type of relations with it but also unconditionally supported the Arabs in the United Nations. Pakistan also refused to participate in sports events in which Israelis took part (except for the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles), or to permit Israelis to attend international conferences held in Pakistan. Sometimes, but not always, the venues of international conferences were changed for this reason.

Pakistan and Britain were the only countries that recognized the sovereignty of the Kingdom of Jordan over the territory of Judea and Samaria that remained in Jordanian hands after the fighting had ended in 1949. In 1962, Pakistan officially announced to all Arab countries that the commercial, economic, and cultural boycott it had imposed on Israel was total and that Pakistan viewed Israel as a "thieving country." It promised to act "alongside Arab countries for the purpose of returning the Holy Land to its lawful inhabitants." On 4 July 1967, after the Six Day War, the UN General Assembly accepted a Pakistani resolution regarding the situation in Jerusalem, which expressed concern over the steps taken by Israel to change its status.[12] In late 1979, a severe flood occurred in Eastern Pakistan (now Bangladesh) in which approximately half a million people perished. Israel offered to send Pakistan medicine, food, and mobile clinics via the International Red Cross; Pakistan refused.

An Islamic Intensification

In the first years of its existence, Pakistan's foreign policy focused on ties with the West, particularly the United States. In the early 1970s a change occurred; Pakistan's foreign policy remained primarily supportive of the moderate Arabs, but it acquired a more Islamic orientation. This was caused by Pakistan's disappointment with the West after being defeated in the 1971 war against India, and primarily by the mounting Islamic sentiments among the Pakistani public and the increase in Arab countries' power. The strengthening of ties with Muslim countries in general, and with Arab countries in particular, stemmed from the following factors:

1.  The need to garner support in the conflict with India

2.  The desire to promote economic interests, such as importing cheap oil, ensuring a flow of income from Pakistani workers employed in Arab countries (in 1983 this came to about $3 billion), developing markets for Pakistani products, and receiving loans and grants

3. The need to obtain international political support in the face of the Soviet threat during the war with Afghanistan

4. The desire to exhibit international Islamic solidarity to internal religious circles

5. The need to prevent Iranian subversion in Pakistan

From this period onward, military cooperation between Pakistan and several Arab countries also increased. Thousands of Pakistani military advisers served in the armies of Saudi Arabia and Gulf states, and also aided in the maintenance of weapons and equipment provided by the United States. A Pakistani researcher even claimed that in the 1967 and 1973 Arab-Israeli wars, Pakistani pilots flying Jordanian and Syrian planes downed some Israeli planes, whereas in the 1982 battle for Beirut between Israel and the PLO, fifty Pakistani volunteers serving in the PLO were taken prisoner by Israel. After the 1973 war, Pakistan and the PLO signed an agreement for training PLO officers in Pakistani military institutions.

Pakistan and the PLO developed close ties. The PLO was first recognized as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinians at an Islamic summit in Lahore in February 1974. This was approved six months later at an Arab summit in Rabat. PLO missions in Karachi and Islamabad (Pakistan's capital since 1960) received full diplomatic recognition in 1975. During the First Intifada that began in 1987, pro-PLO rallies were held in Pakistan and the government sent the organization food and medical supplies.

On the issue of Israel, Pakistan was careful not to take any stand that could jeopardize its relations with Arab countries or provoke Islamic elements within its borders. Pakistan's aggressive statements toward Israel sometimes caused it to have friction with the United States. For example, in March 1984, Pakistan warned the United States not to transfer its embassy to Jerusalem, and that year Pakistan severed relations with Costa Rica for moving its embassy to Jerusalem in April.

Pakistan's hostility did not prevent the Israeli government from expressing, in 1961 and 1963, its willingness to sell Uzi submachine guns to Pakistan through the Belgian company FN, which produced these weapons under Israeli license. However, during the 1965 Indian-Pakistani war over Kashmir, an American expert on Pakistan advised the Israeli ambassador to the United States, Abe Harman, that Israel should display "military goodwill" (probably meaning increased military contacts) toward Pakistan, but Harman replied negatively.

The Nuclear Issue

In 1974, India succeeded to produce nuclear weapons. Pakistan immediately followed suit, ignoring the weak U.S. pressure to dissuade it from doing so. Pakistan received hundreds of millions of dollars from Libya and Saudi Arabia to aid its efforts to produce nuclear weapons. Israel had grave concerns about Pakistan's "Islamic bomb" and monitored events closely. It was also believed that Iraq had acquired nuclear know-how from Pakistan, and Israel was worried that Iran and perhaps Saudi Arabia would acquire this know-how as well. There was no doubt in Israel that Iraq intended to use its nuclear plant for military purposes.

In 1980, in Washington and other world capitals, Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin, Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir, and others tried to work against this threat. In a speech to the Senate on 2 April 1981, Senator Allan Cranston warned of the danger that Arab countries might pressure nuclear-armed Pakistan to intervene in the Arab-Israeli conflict. Notwithstanding Israel's concerns, there was also information that Pakistan had asked for Israel's help in influencing Washington to bring about demilitarization of the Indian subcontinent and a halting of the Indian-Pakistani nuclear race. The Pakistanis made assurances that they had no reason to become involved in the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Israel did not wage a public relations war against the "Pakistani threat." Pakistan was considered in Israel as a responsible country and not one that sponsored terror, such as Iran or Iraq. However, suspicions abounded in Pakistan, particularly in 1988, about a joint Israeli-Indian attack on Pakistan's nuclear facilities in Kahuta not far from the border with Kashmir. Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif said in an interview to the Pakistani newspaper Dawn on 29 July 1991 that he feared Israel would attack Pakistani nuclear sites.

Various speculations on this matter were published in the London Observer on 28 March 1988 and were repeated in other media. Key Israeli officials denied that Israel had any intention of acting militarily against Pakistan. This was so despite the aid that Pakistan had provided to the Arabs in the Six Day War and the Yom Kippur War, and the promises it had made to Syria about greater Pakistani involvement in a possible future war.

Hopes for a Change

After establishing diplomatic relations with China and normalizing relations with India in January 1992, the Israeli Foreign Ministry started to closely monitor the large Muslim countries in Asia, including Pakistan. There were some indications that Pakistan's attitude toward Israel was changing for the better. The first, and most explicit, was an interview to the press granted by the Pakistani ambassador in Washington, Sayyidah Abidah Hussein, on 31 January 1992 following the normalization of Israeli-Indian relations some days earlier. She said that with the Palestinians holding talks with Israel, and India establishing full relations with it, there was no reason Pakistan should not also have diplomatic ties with Israel. The spokesperson for the Pakistani Foreign Ministry denied this.

A representative of the World Jewish Congress in Melbourne said he had found out from businesspeople in Pakistan that the Pakistani foreign minister, Shahariyar Khan, was willing to start clandestine talks with Israel because he believed Pakistan would benefit from them. In June of that year, Congressman Stephen Solarz met with Pakistan's foreign minister and its ambassador to the United States and was told that they did not rule out meeting with representatives of Jewish organizations in the United States.

During the year, some governments friendly to Israel addressed the issue with Pakistan. Spontaneous meetings also took place between Israeli and Pakistani diplomatic representatives. There was also an improvement during this period in Pakistan's public position toward Israel and in Pakistani representatives' rhetoric in international forums. It was believed that Pakistan's difficult economic situation, shaky relations with the United States (primarily because of its nuclear program), and strong desire to improve its image were driving it toward improving its relations with Israel. Some Pakistani representatives clearly expressed these sentiments in meetings.

On 16 December 1992, this author, then head of the Asia-Africa Department of the Israeli Foreign Ministry, held a chance meeting with the respective entourages of Israeli foreign minister Shimon Peres and Pakistani prime minister Sharif. Both were visiting Japan and by coincidence were staying at the same hotel. Asked whether it would be possible to set up a meeting between Peres and Sharif, the director-general of the Pakistani Prime Minister's Office, Akram Zaki, said it could not be done clandestinely and suggested trying to arrange a meeting in Davos, Switzerland, in late January 1993 when both men would be there.

Zaki noted that over the past two years, meaning when Sharif had been prime minister, there had been less anti-Israeli rhetoric coming out of Pakistan. He explained that the Pakistanis thought any type of cooperation with Israel could be beneficial and would want Israel's help in improving their weak standing in Washington. He also said they were being pressured about their nuclear development and were willing to guarantee to Israel that they would not transfer sensitive technology to "countries west of us," meaning Iran and Arab countries. This assurance came despite the fact that "certain countries" had even offered Pakistan large sums of badly needed cash in exchange for this technology. Pakistan, Zaki wanted Israel to know, had made and kept such promises to the United States in the past.

His Israeli interlocutor responded that it would be difficult for Israel to act on Pakistan's behalf so long as there was no progress in establishing relations between them. Israel was conducting dialogue with certain Arab countries and there was no reason for Pakistan to continue its traditional extremism. Zaki responded that the main deterrent to relations with Israel was the fear of a negative reaction by extremist circles within Pakistan. He was aware of recent meetings between Pakistani and Israel representatives in various capitals throughout the world and also knew about Ambassador Abidah Hussein's positive statements about establishing ties with Israel. He added that the Pakistani government had had no choice but to reprimand her for them.

Contacts at the United Nations

In the early 1990s, Israel's ambassador to the United Nations, Gad Yaacobi, had frequent contacts with Pakistani representatives. In 1992, the Israeli delegation to the United Nations had to decide whether to support Pakistan's election to the Security Council. Yaacobi favored it, and after receiving permission from the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem, the Israeli delegation voted affirmatively. This paved the way to a series of contacts between Yaacobi and the Pakistani UN ambassador, Jamshi Merkar, who thanked the Israeli representative for his support.

On 17 March 1993, Yaacobi held a meeting between Merkar and Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. During it, Merkar said he thought progress toward Israeli-Pakistani diplomatic relations would only be possible when there was concrete progress toward Middle East peace.

Merkar once attended a reception held by Yaacobi. A Pakistani newspaper criticized him, saying that until a Palestinian state was established with Jerusalem as its capital, every Muslim or Pakistani patriot should regard contact with Israelis, developing diplomatic relations with them, or attending their receptions as conspiring against Pakistan and Muslims.

On 2 November 1995, Yaacobi also met with the new Pakistani UN ambassador, Ahmad Kamal. Yaacobi gave him an overview of the developments in Israel's relations with various Islamic countries and suggested that Pakistan follow suit. Kamal said a change in his government's position would depend on the situation in the Middle East and primarily on public opinion in Pakistan.

During 1993, Jewish organizations tried to bring about normalized Pakistani-Israeli relations. In the United States, representatives of the American Jewish Committee and the Anti-Defamation League met with the Pakistani ambassadors to Washington and the United Nations. The vice-president of the World Jewish Congress, Isi Leibler, visited Islamabad on 12-16 February. This trip was coordinated with the foreign ministries of Israel and Australia (Leibler being an Australian citizen) and with the State Department. Again it was Pakistani ambassador Sayyidah Abidah Hussein who arranged a meeting for Leibler with Shahabaz Sharif, the brother of Prime Minister Sharif, who was considered influential in the prime minister's close circles. Leibler told him that a change in approach toward Israel would help improve Pakistan's deteriorated image in the United States.

Shahabaz Sharif responded that Pakistan had always supported its Arab allies against Israel. Pakistan was worried about Israeli commandos training Indian forces in Kashmir, and by Israel's suspected intentions, in recent years, to bomb Pakistan's nuclear facilities. Leibler responded that he was authorized to say that both of those concerns were totally baseless. As for establishing relations with Israel, Sharif explained that any initiative to do so would incite riots. At the end of the meeting, the two agreed that further contacts between them would be arranged via Pakistan's ambassador (high commissioner) in London.

About two months later, on 19 April 1993, Leibler met with the Pakistani high commissioner in London, but it was ill-timed. One day earlier, political changes had taken place in Pakistan and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had been removed from office (see below).

Continuing Efforts

The problem, however, was more fundamental. Earlier, at a meeting in New Delhi between a Pakistani and an Israeli diplomat on 12 March 1993, the former had said the internal situation in Pakistan would under no circumstances allow normalization of relations with Israel. If the idea was raised, religious leaders could cause turmoil that no political party could withstand.

Meanwhile, contact was maintained with the abovementioned Akram Zaki, director-general of the Pakistani Prime Minister's Office. On 11 March, a few weeks before Nawaz Sharif's removal from office, Zaki met with Congressman Gary Ackerman in Washington. Ackerman brought up the issue of Pakistani-Israeli relations and said the United States would welcome normalization. Zaki responded that the time was not ripe.

A few days later, on 16 March, the two met again in New York, this time also with the Israeli vice-consul-general, Mark Sofer. Zaki told them about a meeting he had had a few months earlier in Tokyo with an Israeli diplomat, and about his desire to bring about normalization on the condition that all contacts would be kept secret. This was necessary because of the strong opposition in Pakistan by extremist Muslims. He repeated the promise that Pakistan would not pass along nuclear technology to other parties, particularly not Iran. He also explained that his plans to arrange a meeting in Davos between Nawaz Sharif and Foreign Minister Peres had fallen through because there were numerous Pakistani journalists in town at the time.

Peres met with Pakistani journalists in 1994 and through them conveyed the message that Pakistan should abandon its illogical policy and establish diplomatic relations with Israel. By then Israel had already established diplomatic ties with a dozen other Muslim countries. Now that the Palestinians had ended, on 13 September 1993, their protracted conflict with Israel, there was no reason for Pakistan not to follow suit. Peres confirmed that Israeli and Pakistani representatives had had contacts. Pakistan did support the Israeli-PLO agreement of 13 September, but the following day the then prime minister, Muin Kureishi, stated that Pakistan's position on recognizing Israel would not change until the question of Jerusalem was resolved.

Political Change in Pakistan

On 24 April 1993, the president of Pakistan, Ghulam Is'hak Khan, had ousted Prime Minister Sharif. Sayyidah Abidah Hussein, the ambassador to the United States, resigned in protest. Sharif's removal constituted a blow to Israel's efforts to reach an agreement with Pakistan. Israel and its friends had no acquaintance with the president of Pakistan or with the new officials who had risen to power. However, access to them was achieved.

On 30 April 1993, the Israeli daily Maariv published an article about an Israeli journalist who was permitted to visit Pakistan and meet with some officials. She learned that there were indeed people in the new government who believed Pakistan should establish ties with Israel, and that there were also fears that the general public would not approve and that the opposition would exploit the situation. A delegation of the American Jewish Committee heard similar sentiments expressed when it met with a diplomat in the Pakistani embassy in Washington on 13 May 1993.

Still, there was some positive movement. A Pakistani newspaper reported that postal connections between Pakistan and Israel had been established via a third country. Letters with Israeli stamps on them reached Karachi via Cairo. Arab residents of Pakistan received letters from their relatives in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza. Letters from Pakistan to Israel and the territories were sent via London in two envelopes; the address of the postal manager in London appeared on the outer one, the address of the letter's recipient on the inner one. On 27 August 1994, Pakistani newspapers reported that certain foreign policy experts were proposing an urgent reevaluation of Pakistan's policy toward Israel, and that Muslim countries in the Middle East were building ties with Israel without consulting Pakistan. Why could not Pakistan develop relations with Israel when Egypt, Jordan, and the PLO had already done so?

An incident then occurred that further exemplified Pakistan's longstanding animosity toward Israel. Yasser Arafat, chairman of the Palestinian Authority, invited Pakistan's new prime minister, Benazir Bhutto, to visit Gaza. The visit was set for 4 September 1994. Pakistan's ambassador to Egypt aimed to arrive in Gaza on 28 August to prepare for the visit. He came to the Rafah border crossing into Gaza, but was refused entry by Israel since this had not been prearranged. Pakistan refused to officially request permission for the ambassador to enter, stating that it did not recognize Israeli rule over Gaza and regarded the PLO as the legal authority there. Prime Minister Rabin ascribed "bad manners" to Bhutto for planning the visit without informing Israel.

Another incident occurred sometime earlier when Israeli president Ezer Weizman met with Prime Minister Bhutto during a visit he made to South Africa. Bhutto told Weizman that before there could be a breakthrough in Israeli-Pakistani relations, progress in the peace process was required. The Pakistani media published an official denial that such a meeting even took place. The Pakistani government spokesman termed the press report a "fabrication" and said it was part of an Israeli disinformation campaign against Pakistan. A few years later, on 29 October 1998, Weizman met with Pakistani president Muhammad Rafiq Tarrar at a reception in Ankara marking the seventy-fifth anniversary of modern Turkey. According to press reports, Tarrar approached Weizman, shook his hand, and expressed his hope that "one day we will meet again."

On other occasions during the 1990s, Prime Minister Bhutto and other officials explained Pakistan's stance on diplomatic relations with Israel. In an April 1995 visit to Washington, Bhutto was asked at the State Department about Pakistani-Israeli ties. She responded that she was interested in principle but would have to ensure that extremist groups would not use the issue against her. Earlier, on 17 November 1994, Pakistan's foreign minister explained that there had been no change in Pakistan's policy toward Israel, and Pakistan could not consider recognizing Israel before a lasting peace was achieved, including a solution to the question of Jerusalem. He added that the Palestinian issue not only affected the Arab countries but the entire Muslim world, and, moreover, that Israel's cooperation with India worried Pakistan.

Bhutto also said on various occasions that Pakistan would recognize Israel only if the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) were to make a decision on this matter, and only after peace was achieved between Israel and its neighbours. Despite these statements, a slight lessening of the Pakistani hostility was evident when, on 6 February 1996, eight Pakistani journalists arrived in Israel, the first such visit there by Pakistani media. Although the journalists did not come as an official delegation, behind the scenes there was a political actor that was very cautiously exhibiting interest in relations with Israel.

At the same time, information came to light that Israeli businessman Yaakov Nimrodi had visited Pakistan and met with the foreign minister who encouraged him to launch commercial endeavors between the two countries. He expressed an interest in telecommunications, establishing a medical center, various agricultural issues, and encouraging religious-based tourism. The Pakistani minister showed particular interest in upgrading airplanes and the supply of replacement parts. On 4 November 1995, Nimrodi reported on the visit to Rabin, who responded positively to this contact.

The lack of diplomatic progress between Pakistan and Israel spurred Jewish leaders from New York to protest to the Pakistani consul-general in that city in June 1998. During the meeting, at which a Pakistani banker was also present, the Jewish leaders told the consul-general that the American Jewish community could not understand Pakistan's refusal to establish ties, especially after Israel had signed peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan. The opposition of Pakistani extremist groups should not prevent gradual steps to build economic, cultural, and academic relations, as well as a change in Pakistan's voting pattern at the United Nations. Such steps would be welcomed by the American Jewish community, the general American public, and perhaps the business community as well.

The Jewish leaders also expressed concern that Pakistani nuclear technology could fall into the hands of Iran or Iraq. They assured the Pakistanis that there was no nuclear cooperation between Israel and India aimed against Pakistan. The consul-general promised that Pakistan would not pass along any military technology, conventional or nuclear, to enemies of Israel or the West. He did not say anything about relations with Israel.

The Musharraf Era

After General Pervez Musharraf took power in Pakistan in an October 1999 military coup, he hastened to calm Israel on the nuclear issue but also announced that there would be no progress toward relations. Pakistan was, however, worried about the security ties between India and Israel and, as reported in the press, even conveyed the message to Israel that it saw this as a threat to Pakistan. Israel replied that its ties with India were not aimed "against a third country." Israel refused Pakistan's request to reveal the components of the Israeli-Indian security ties and said that if Pakistan was worried, it could open diplomatic relations with Israel. Indeed, in June 2003, Musharraf said on several occasions before and after trips that month to the United States that Pakistan should seriously consider ties with Israel. This appeared, however, to be merely for public relations purposes. Musharraf continued to make such gestures, and this benefited him in the United States.

On 1 September 2005, a public meeting was held in Istanbul between the then Israeli foreign minister Silvan Shalom and his Pakistani counterpart Khurshid Kasuri. Shalom was euphoric and said the meeting was a "source of great encouragement and hope for the Israeli people and aids in strengthening the moderates on the Palestinian side." The Israeli journalists present were also swept up in the exaggerated excitement and called it a "historic meeting." They said it was a Pakistani "gift" to Israel for evacuating its settlements in Gaza, which was taking place at that time.

Soon after, during a visit to the United States, Musharraf agreed to be the guest of honor at an American Jewish Congress dinner held in New York on 17 September. Representatives of various Jewish organizations attended. Musharraf's speech dealt with Islamic-Jewish relations throughout history. As for Israel, he repeated the familiar refrain that progress in relations depended on "progress in the peace process and the establishment of a Palestinian state."




March 24, 2009

Elections in Pakistan: Real or a Hoax?

A few days before Pakistan's recent elections, the Jang newspaper quoted an Islamabad-based Western diplomat as saying: 'We'll see a hung parliament, and most likely the Prime Minister will be from one of the pro-government parties'. One can only speculate if this was a remarkable example of clairvoyance, or if this was more a reflection of how Washington and Islamabad had planned for the outcome to be.

Whereas domestic observers pointed to numerous irregularities in the electoral process, the US was quick to give the elections a clean chit. Writing for the Dawn newspaper, Masood Haider (Oct 12) reported: "The United States said on Friday it accepted the election results in Pakistan as being a credible representation of the full range of opinion in the country". That voter turnout was estimated to be as low as 12 to 15 per cent by Pakistan's Tehrik-i-Insaaf (or around 20% by the PML-N) obviously did not appear to concern US State Department spokesman Richard Boucher. Neither did it seem to worry him how a wide range of election participants and observers had criticized the conduct of the polls and the entire electoral process.

For instance, a Dawn story (Oct 12) spoke of how the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) "regretted that not content with its pre-poll manipulation of the electoral process, the administration seemed to have continued to tamper with it during the polling and afterwards".

The HRCP had fielded over 1,300 field observers, who attempted to monitor the polling in 116 National Assembly constituencies, and closely watched the proceedings at over 500 polling stations. In their reports, they noted that grave irregularities had marred the elections.

For instance, in some districts, (such as in Sanghar) police officers seized polling stations, threw out candidates' polling agents and stamped the ballots themselves. Complaints made to the Election Commission were ignored. At several polling stations in Sindh and Punjab supporters of the military-backed candidates took control of proceedings, threatened the HRCP's observers with violence and prevented their entry into polling booths, as they tampered with the ballots. Ballots were stolen, fake ID cards were in circulation, and many postal ballots were found in unauthorized hands

At some polling stations in Punjab, indelible ink was missing, allowing some voters to cast more than one vote. At other locations, polling stations were changed at the last minute, or valid electoral lists were missing thus preventing legitimate voters from casting their votes. Many voters complained that their names had been omitted from the electoral lists even though they had voted in the previous elections and had not changed residence. Others complained that when they arrived at polling stations they were told that their votes had already been cast. In Kasur district no responsible authority knew where a particular polling station was.

The HRCP also noted that in Sindh, non-Muslim voters were forcibly prevented from casting votes. At some polling stations in Punjab non-Muslim voters' names were missing from the lists. Ahmadis boycotted the polls because they had been unjustifiably put on a separate list. In the north-western tribal areas poll-watchers said not a single woman had cast ballots as of mid-morning, after vows from tribesmen and Islamic party candidates to prevent women from voting.

The HRCP also pointed to complaints concerning post-poll arrangements that reinforced suspicions of poll rigging. Results were inordinately delayed, even from major cities like Lahore and Karachi where there was no ostensible cause for delay. Several candidates complained that their result had been overturned through unfair tactics. There were allegations that some presiding officers were asked to fill new vote-count statements. In Sindh polling was stopped at some stations but results from these stations were included in the final count.

Pakistan's political parties opposed to the military regime (such as the PPP, PML-N, and the MQM) voiced similar complaints. A PML-N spokesperson noted how odd it was that even though the PML-N had swept the polls in Lahore, it had appeared to have done very poorly elsewhere. The PML-N argued that voters in Lahore were not that different in their sentiments from voters in other Punjab cities, and that in previous elections, the PML-N had done better in rural areas than in the cities. The PML-N spokesperson also noted that wherever the pro-Musharraf party had won a seat, voter turn out seemed to jump from an average of 20% to 40% suggesting that ballots had been stuffed, or that fraudulent voting had taken place.

Although the US refrained from acknowledging such serious problems, an EU observer team took a decidedly different position and acknowledged that there had been 'unjustified interference with electoral arrangements and the democratic process' (as reported by the Jang newspaper). In carefully crafted diplomatic language the EU team noted that Pakistan's general election was marked by 'serious flaws', and that it was caused in part by government attempts to stage-manage the vote by limiting the power of the new legislature, barring top opposition candidates, and using state resources to help friendly candidates.

After seizing power in a military coup in 1999, General Musharraf declared himself President, summarily dismissed the legislature and all non-pliant judges, and arbitrarily banned Nawaz Sharif (leader of the PML-N) and Benazir Bhutto (leader of the PPP) from running in the elections. Last month, he extended his term by five years, and also modified the constitution and constituted a new governing body - the "National Security Council" in which the military would hold the balance of power. He also arrogated to himself the right to dismiss any new Government at will.

Women's rights activists complained bitterly of how in a nation where less than half the population is literate, and where women are routinely prevented from going to school in some areas, the mandatory requirement that candidates have a university degree was an especially onerous requirement. This decree effectively barred 90 per cent of the country's largely illiterate population from running.

Critics also pointed to a lack of impartiality shown by the Election Commission and a failure to curb the widespread misuse of state funds by pro-military (and pro-US) parties. There was limited time allotted for electioneering, and election rallies by anti-Musharraf parties were frequently banned or disrupted. The state owned media blatantly promoted the views of the military government view, and some opposition party activists were even gunned down.

It is little wonder that poll participation was very low. Irshad Jabeen, presiding officer at a polling station on the main highway in Rawalpindi observed: "Usually this polling station is crowded but today people are only trickling in.... apparently people are losing interest.” Former PPP national assembly speaker Farooq Ali Khan said: "I have never witnessed such a disappointing show”. Ansar Lajpal, an independent candidate in Multan appeared to suggest that distrust in the military government and the honesty of the electoral machinery had kept voters away: “It seems it is a silent protest by voters against past election riggings”. (From an Oct 11 Times of India Report)

Clearly, the battle for democracy in Pakistan has not been won. It will take all the resourcefulness of the Pakistani people to overcome the crafty machinations of Pakistan's military and sections of the clerical elite who have thrown their weight behind US-backed Pervez Musharraf.

For real democracy to take hold in Pakistan, not only will the people of Pakistan have to fight the internal enemies of democracy, they will also have to overcome the crushing power of the US Pentagon and State Department officials, who even as they lecture other countries on the need for "greater democracy", cynically subvert or stymie moves towards genuine democracy in Pakistan (and other such client states).


February 18, 2009

Invest in every human and create real foundations for cooperation

With furious debate raging nationwide over the stimulus package crafted by the Obama administration, now might be a good time to address, once again, the dimensions of the philosophical and ideological divide in mainstream American politics and propose a rational alternative to the madness.

The conservative and libertarian camps are up in arms over the package, denouncing it as “socialism”. Obama’s supporters believe it is a necessary step in solving the economic crisis. Those further to the left, naturally, do not believe the plan goes far enough. For my part, I find the basic idea to be well justified, but I question how much good it can do since it does not address the foundational flaws in the American or the global economy.

History is posing a challenge to this generation. While I don’t reduce the nature of our economic problems to psychology, it is beyond doubt that the two wings of the American ideological and political establishment — welfare liberals and free market conservatives — are trapped in the paradigms of the 1960s and 1980s respectively, and are forcing the rest of us to suffer as they refuse to let go of their false idols. While I don’t think Obama is going to solve all or even most of our problems, I was relieved nonetheless to hear him say, and I paraphrase, “there will be no return to the failed ideologies of the past”. The question then remains: to which ideology will we go into the future with?

It must be said that the flaws in our economy run deeper than the chaotic financial markets and the haywire stock exchange. The first premise of modern capitalism as it really exists is not private production, finance or trade — these have existed throughout the history of civilization. The first premise is the total separation of the worker from the instruments of work on a mass scale, and thereby, the ability to directly appropriate the product of that work. Instead they depend upon a wage, set by the balance of supply and demand in the labor market. Hence the livelihood of the vast majority of individuals, not to mention the fate of entire towns and cities, is at the mercy of a wildly fluctuating, amoral market that has no conscience and no soul.

Neither the promotion of laissez-faire nor the building up of the liberal welfare state addresses this problem. Aside from what I consider to be deeply flawed ethical arguments for laissez-faire, the utilitarian argument most often invoked — at least to me — is a) free markets mean more competition, b) more competition drives down prices, therefore c) as consumers, we all benefit from free markets. There may be truth to this logic, but it tends to ignore what happens to us as workers, since a totally free market would have no minimum wages or labor unions. The trend for the last 30 years has been deregulation, tax cuts, and union busting, while real wages have declined, consumer debt has skyrocketed, and perhaps most seriously, the loss of secure jobs that pay well and their replacement with more “flexible” jobs thay pay less and offer fewer benefits. From where most people stand, the masses of ordinary citizens, they have lost more as workers than they have gained as consumers, rendering the only aspect of the utilitarian case for lassiez-faire that would mean anything to them quite meaningless.

On the other side, though no one should accept the crude caricatures of welfare policies and results made by the far right in its ideological crusades, there is truth beneath the muck; welfare does not solve problems and in many cases, it deepens them. It is a way of trying to solve a legitimate problem without really solving it. In the end the state and those who support it feel they have done their duty, while the poor and powerless remain exactly where they are (the same applies, by the way, to the modern notion of charity, which has little to do with its original meaning in Christianity).

There is a third and better way, and I doubt I am coining the term: the investment state. The concept has existed in many places in different forms, but the basic idea is that people should be viewed as worthy, in their inherent human dignity, of social investment that will enable them to become good citizens and productive, self-sufficient workers. The old saying goes, “give a man a fish and he will eat for a day; teach a man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime”.

It does no good, however, to teach a man to fish and then insist that he work for a wage so that he can buy his fish on the market, especially when the wages are low and the prices are high. But we want our man to eat for more than a day so we aren’t just going to give him a fish either. We’re going to give him a rod. That is what is always missing in the old saying.

How do we do so? In 1988 George Bush Sr. spoke of the “thousand points of light”, which was a quaint thought at the time, but today I think we need a thousand Mondragons. The Mondragon is a cluster of 150 workers cooperatives in Spain, complete with its own schools and university. The cooperatives are owned by the workers, and run by them democratically. The cooperatives compete on the open market, and hence they share the risks and the rewards, the losses and the gains. It is not a utopia where all is always well, but a community, where problems are faced and overcome in an atmosphere of cooperation as opposed to endless antagonism. The famous political philosopher John Locke wrote that “where there is no property, there is no injustice”; we might rephrase him slightly and say that in the case of the workers cooperative, where all have property, all have justice — even if they have nothing else.

A system of cooperatives may not be able to prevent economic crises — only a rational regulation of the financial system can do that. But what it can do for individual workers caught in the tempest is more than enough; it is the difference between clinging to a piece of driftwood for dear life, or being aboard a strong and sturdy ship whose problems can be addressed collectively. What person struggling to pay their bills and debts, or to find a new job or a home, wouldn’t benefit from that? It is all well and good to speak of communities, to speak of “coming together” and the like; but without solid links and real foundations it will only ever be talk.

There is a hidden hunger, a desire in the masses of isolated and worn-out working people of America for organizations and communities such as these. I believe, or hope, at any rate, that my generation will finally cast off the alienating Protestant work ethic, unrestrained individualism, and imperial ambition. At the same time they should not be expecting the federal government to solve every problem and look to the problems of every individual, though its ability to mobilize and distribute massive resources will be needed at first. If Obama truly wants to heal this country, he could focus those resources on establishing cooperatives of every kind (industrial, consumer, financial, housing, etc.) within the heart of our major cities and large towns, and they in turn could help the smaller towns. Once established, both the insecurity experienced by the isolated individual in the market, as well as the dependency experienced by the perpetual recipient of welfare, would fade away. Community would provide what chaotic markets and intrusive states cannot or should not provide.

Obama often spoke and wrote about “bottom up” politics before and during the campaign, and the key to that is knowing just what the bottom is. The bottom is the economic. It is the material body of society, without which its spirit cannot flourish.


what is hell?

Is Hell exothermic (gives off heat) or Endothermic (absorbs heat)?

most of the people will either use boyle's law or argue about such a stupid question..

but the best answer is:


First of all, we need to know how the mass of Hell is changing with time. So we need to know the rate at which the souls are moving into Hell and the rate they are leaving. I think that we can safely assume that once a soul gets to Hell, it will not leave. Therefore, no souls are leaving. As for how many souls are entering Hell, let us look at the different religions that exist in the world today. Some of these religions state that if you are not a member of their religion, you will go to Hell. Since there are more than one of these religions and since people do not belong to more than one religion, we can project that all souls go to Hell. With birth and death rates as they are, we can expect the number of souls in Hell to increase exponentially.

Now, we look at the rate of change of the volume in Hell because Boyle's Law states that in order for the temperature and pressure in Hell to stay the same, the volume of Hell has to expand as souls are added. This gives two possibilities:

1. If Hell is expanding at a slower rate than the rate at which souls enter Hell, then the temperature and pressure in Hell will increase until all Hell breaks loose.

2. Of course, if Hell is expanding at a rate faster than the increase of souls in Hell, then the temperature and pressure will drop until Hell freezes over.

which one is correct?

If someone has promised to sleep with you when it will be a cold day in hell and taking into account the fact that you have not succeeded in having any kind of relationship with him/her,then,#2 cannot be true and thus I am sure that hell is exothermic and will not freeze..


Miracles of the Holy Quran

The Earth’s Atmosphere:

“By the sky which returns.” (Quran 86:11)

“[He] who made for you the earth a bed [spread out] and the sky a ceiling…” (Quran 2:22)

In the first verse God swears by the sky and its function of ‘returning’ without specifying what it ‘returns.’ In Islamic doctrine, a divine oath signifies the magnitude of importance of a special relation to the Creator, and manifests His majesty and the supreme Truth in a special way.

The second verse describes the Divine Act that made the sky a ‘ceiling’ for the dwellers of earth.

Let us see what modern atmospheric science has to say about the role and function of the sky.

The atmosphere is a word which denotes all the air surrounding the earth, from the ground all the way up to the edge from which space starts. The atmosphere is composed of several layers, each defined because of the various phenomena which occur within the layer.


Rain, for one, is ‘returned’ to Earth by the clouds in the atmosphere. Explaining the hydrologic cycle, Encyclopedia Britannica writes:

“Water evaporates from both the aquatic and terrestrial environments as it is heated by the Sun’s energy. The rates of evaporation and precipitation depend on solar energy, as do the patterns of circulation of moisture in the air and currents in the ocean. Evaporation exceeds precipitation over the oceans, and this water vapor is transported by the wind over land, where it returns to the land through precipitation.”

Not only does the atmosphere return what was on the surface back to the surface, but it reflects back into space that which might damage the flora and fauna the earth sustains, such as excessive radiant heat. In the 1990’s, collaborations between NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA), and the Institute of Space and Astronautical Science (ISAS) of Japan resulted in the International Solar-Terrestrial Physics (ISTP) Science Initiative. Polar, Wind and Geotail are a part of this initiative, combining resources and scientific communities to obtain coordinated, simultaneous investigations of the Sun-Earth space environment over an extended period of time. They have an excellent explanation of how the atmosphere returns solar heat to space.

Besides ‘returning’ rain, heat and radio waves, the atmosphere protects us like a ceiling above our heads by filtering out deadly cosmic rays, powerful ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the Sun, and even meteorites on collision course with Earth.

Pennsylvania State Public Broadcasting tells us:

“The sunlight that we can see represents one group of wavelengths, visible light. Other wavelengths emitted by the sun include x-rays and ultraviolet radiation. X-rays and some ultraviolet light waves are absorbed high in Earth’s atmosphere. They heat the thin layer of gas there to very high temperatures. Ultraviolet light waves are the rays that can cause sunburn. Most ultraviolet light waves are absorbed by a thicker layer of gas closer to Earth called the ozone layer. By soaking up the deadly ultraviolet and x-rays, the atmosphere acts as a protective shield around the planet. Like a giant thermal blanket, the atmosphere also keeps temperatures from getting too hot or too cold. In addition, the atmosphere also protects us from constant bombardment by meteoroids, bits of rock and dust that travel at high speeds throughout the solar system. The falling stars we see at night are not stars at all; they are actually meteoroids burning up in our atmosphere due to the extreme heating they undergo.”

Encyclopedia Britannica, describing the role of Stratosphere, tells us about its protective role in absorbing dangerous ultraviolet radiation:

“In the upper stratospheric regions, absorption of ultraviolet light from the Sun breaks down oxygen molecules; recombination of oxygen atoms with O2 molecules into ozone (O3) creates the ozone layer, which shields the lower ecosphere from harmful short-wavelength radiation…More disturbing, however, is the discovery of a growing depletion of ozone over temperate latitudes, where a large percentage of the world’s population resides, since the ozone layer serves as a shield against ultraviolet radiation, which has been found to cause skin cancer.”

The mesosphere is the layer in which many meteors burn up while entering the Earth’s atmosphere. Imagine a baseball zipping along at 30,000 miles per hour. That’s how big and fast many meteors are. When they plow through the atmosphere, meteors are heated to more than 3000 degrees Fahrenheit, and they glow. A meteor compresses air in front of it. The air heats up, in turn heating the meteor.

Earth is surrounded by a magnetic force field - a bubble in space called “the magnetosphere” tens of thousands of miles wide. The magnetosphere acts as a shield that protects us from solar storms. However, according to new observations from NASA’s IMAGE spacecraft and the joint NASA/European Space Agency Cluster satellites, immense cracks sometimes develop in Earth’s magnetosphere and remain open for hours. This allows the solar wind to gush through and power stormy space weather. Fortunately, these cracks do not expose Earth’s surface to the solar wind. Our atmosphere protects us, even when our magnetic field does not.


How would it be possible for a fourteenth century desert dweller to describe the sky in a manner so precise that only recent scientific discoveries have confirmed it? The only way is if he received revelation from the Creator of the sky.


The Holy Quran and the Big Bang Theory

Hubble’s Law
For thousands of years, astronomers wrestled with basic questions concerning the universe. Until the early 1920’s, it was believed that the universe had always been in existence; also, that the size of the universe was fixed and not changing. However, in 1912, the American astronomer, Vesto Slipher, made a discovery that would soon change astronomers’ beliefs about the universe. Slipher, noticed that the galaxies were moving away from earth at huge velocities. These observations provided the first evidence supporting the expanding-universe theory

In 1916, Albert Einstein formulated his General Theory of Relativity that indicated that the universe must be either expanding or contracting. Confirmation of the expanding-universe theory finally came in 1929 in the hands of the well known American astronomer Edwin Hubble.

By observing redshifts in the light wavelengths emitted by galaxies, Hubble found that galaxies were not fixed in their position; instead, they were actually moving away from us with speeds proportional to their distance from earth (Hubble's Law). The only explanation for this observation was that the universe had to be expanding. Hubble’s discovery is regarded as one of the greatest in the history of astronomy. In 1929, he published the velocity-time relation which is the basis of modern cosmology. In the years to come, with further observations, the expanding-universe theory was accepted by scientists and astronomers alike.

Yet, astonishingly well before telescopes were even invented and well before Hubble published his Law, Prophet Muhammad used to recite a verse of the Quran to his companions that ultimately stated that the universe is expanding.

“And the heaven We created with might, and indeed We are (its) expander.” (Quran 51:47)

At the time of the revelation of the Quran, the word “space” was not known, and people used the word “heaven” to refer to what lies above the Earth. In the above verse, the word “heaven” is referring to space and the known universe. The verse points out that space, and thus the universe, happens to be expanding, just as Hubble’s Law states.

That the Quran mentioned such a fact centuries before the invention of the first telescope, at a time when there was primitive knowledge in science, is considered remarkable. This is more so considering that, like many people in his time, Prophet Muhammad happened to be illiterate and simply could not have been aware of such facts by himself. Could it be that he had truly received divine revelation from the Creator and Originator of the universe?

The Big Bang Theory
Soon after Hubble published his theory, he went on to discover that not only were galaxies moving away from the Earth, but were also moving away from one another. This meant that the universe happened to be expanding in every direction, in the same way a balloon expands when filled with air. Hubble’s new findings placed the foundations for the Big Bang theory.

The Big Bang theory states that around 12-15 billion years ago the universe came into existence from one single extremely hot and dense point, and that something triggered the explosion of this point that brought about the beginning of the universe. The universe, since then, has been expanding from this single point.

Later, in 1965, radio astronomers Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson made a Noble Prize winning discovery that confirmed the Bing Bang theory. Prior to their discovery, the theory implied that if the single point from which the universe came into existence was initially extremely hot, then remnants of this heat should be found. This remnant heat is exactly what Penzias and Wilson found. In 1965, Penzias and Wilson discovered a 2.725 degree Kelvin Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation (CMB) that spreads through the universe. Thus, it was understood that the radiation found was a remnant of the initial stages of the Big Bang. Presently, the Big Bang theory is accepted by the vast majority of scientists and astronomers.

It is mentioned in the Quran:

“He (God) is the Originator of the heavens and the earth…” (Quran 6:101)

“Is not He who created the heavens and the earth Able to create the likes of them? Yes; and He is the Knowing Creator. His command is only when He intends a thing that He says to it, ‘Be,’ and it is.” (Quran 36:81-82)

The above verses prove that the universe had a beginning, that God was behind its creation, and all that God needs to do inorder to create is to say “Be,” and it is. Could this be an explanation as to what triggered off the explosion that brought about the beginning of the universe?

The Quran also mentions:

“Have those who disbelieved not considered that the heavens and the earth were a joined entity, then We separated them, and made from water every living thing? Then will they not believe?” (Quran 21:30)

Muslim scholars who have explained the previous verse mention that the heavens and earth were once one, and then God caused them to separate and form into the seven heavens and Earth. Yet, due to the limitations of science and technology at the time of the revelation of the Quran (and for centuries to follow), no scholar was able to give much detail about how exactly the heavens and earth were created. What the scholars could explain was the precise meaning of each word in Arabic in the verse, as well as the overall meaning of the verse.

In the previous verse, the Arabic words ratq and fataq are used. The word ratq can be translated into “entity” “sewn to” “joined together” or “closed up”. The meaning of these translations all circulate around something that is mixed and that has a separate and distinct existence. The verb fataq is translated into “We unstitched” “We clove them asunder” “We separated” or “We have opened them”. These meanings imply that something comes into being by an action of splitting or tearing apart. The sprouting of a seed from the soil is a good example of a similar illustration of the meaning of the verb fataq.

With the introduction of the Big Bang theory, it soon became clear to Muslim scholars that the details mentioned with regards to the theory go identically hand in hand with the description of the creation of the universe in verse 30 of chapter 21 of the Quran. The theory states that all the matter in the universe came into existence from one single extremely hot and dense point; that exploded and brought about the beginning of the universe, matches what is mentioned in the verse that the heaven and Earth (thus the universe) where once joined together, and then split apart. Once again, the only possible explanation is that Prophet Muhammad had truly received divine revelation from God, The Creator and Originator of the universe.


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