Persecution of Muslims in China and India Reveals Important Facts About Religion and Geopolitics

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India, China and Myanmar are three Asian countries currently engrossed in carrying out physical and cultural genocides on their Muslim populations. While the plight of Rohingya Muslims and Uighur Muslims is well known, the recent introduction of a new law expressly aimed at dispossessing Muslims of Indian citizenship has alerted many to the reality that India’s ruling BJP government sees itself as Hindu first and foremost.

Questions such as “Why aren’t the rich Arab countries saying anything?” have come up, with the implicit inference that Muslim-dominated countries are supposed to stick up for Muslims everywhere in the world. Others have pointed out that despite suffering oppression in some parts of the world, Muslims are also responsible for brutal acts of oppression against other minority groups elsewhere, which allegedly negates the sufferings of the prior group.

In this article, I will pick through these questions and viewpoints with a goal of isolating some useful truths about how religion, geopolitics and human nature constantly interplay and produce much of the world around us.

Oppression is a Matter of Perspective

Which religion is the most oppressed? I like to troll my Christian friends with the image below whenever the topic comes up about some religion or the other allegedly imposing its will at their expense.

The truth is however, that this image could apply to just about every religion on earth. As a general rule of thumb, the only limiting factor on whether or not a religion functions as an oppressive tyranny in a particular jurisdiction is the proportion of the population that practises it there. Similarly, the only thing stopping any religion from being an oppressed and downtrodden identity is whether it is a small enough minority for that to be possible.

While Muslims in India, Myanmar and China are going through untold degrees of horror because of their religious identities, Muslims in places like Bangladesh, Indonesia, Afghanistan, Malaysia and Northern Nigeria are simultaneously visiting very similar horrors on Bah’ai, Shia Muslims, Christians, Budhists and other minorities in those areas. It turns out that the mere fact of belonging to a religious identity does not in fact, confer unrestricted global victimhood.

This point is important because it disproves the notion held by every major religion that its adherents follow a single set of standards and do things in the manner of a global “brotherhood.” In reality, Islam according to a Rohingya Muslim hiding from the Burmese military, and the same religion according to an itinerant herder in Kogi State bear almost no similarity to each other save for the most basic tenets. Environmental factors in fact have a bigger influence on how religions are practised than their own holy books. 

The current antics of India’s ruling BJP and its Hindu fundamentalist support base provide an important case in point as to how this works. Looking at the evolution of Hinduism from a passive philosophy into an openly militant ideology gives an important insight into how religion is in fact, a thoroughly contrived and amorphous set of ideas that can be changed, adjusted, aligned and revised at a moment’s notice in justification of anything at all. 

Hinduism traditionally sees itself as a religion of thoughtful, considered spirituality as against the angry dogmas of its Abrahamic neighbours, but something interesting is happening. Some argue that it started in the days of Gandhi, and some ascribe it to current Prime Minister Nanendra Modi, but whoever started it is a side note. The key point to note is that based on political factors, i.e anticolonial senitment against the British and anti-Muslim sentiment fueled by India’s national rivalry with Pakistan, Hinduism has somehow been coopted into the narrative of a jingoistic, monotheistic, mono-ethnic state which is  historical nonsense.

India has always been a pointedly pluralistic society, and in fact the geographical area now known as “India” does not even cover the geographical area of the India of antiquity. That India was a place of Hindus, Budhists, Muslims, Zoroastrians and everything in between. Hinduism never saw a problem with pluralism because Hinduism itself is a very plural religion – it has at least 13 major deities. The conversion of the Hindu identity into a political identity movement is a recent and contrived phenomenon first exploited by Gandhi as a means of opposing British colonialism, and now by Modi to oppose the Pakistanis/Muslims – it is a historical falsity.

The creation of Hindu fundamentalist movements like the RSS (which PM Modi belongs to) is something done in response to environmental factors. Spectacles like the RSS march below are evidence of yet another religion undergoing constant and ongoing evolution into whatever suits its purposes.

Something similar happened when medieval Europe turned into colonial Europe and European Christianity transitioned into a peaceful and pacifist ideology after centuries of being a bloodthirsty doctrine. The environmental factors that created the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, book burnings and witch hunts went away with the introduction of an industrial society, and thus the religion too transitioned.

In plain English, what all this means is that nobody actually practises a religion in the pure sense they imagine they do. Everyone who subscribes to a religion merely practises a version of it that is subject to the culture and circumstances of their environment and era. This is directly connected to the next major insight raised by these events.

Geopolitics is all About Self-Interest…Everyone Gets it Except Africa

While anti-Muslim violence has continued apace for years in China, Mynammar and India, the question has often been asked: “Why are the wealthy Arab nations not saying anything?” There is a perception that since the Arabian peninsula is the birthplace of Islam and Arabs – particularly Saudis – are viewed as the global gatekeepers of the faith, they must be at the forefront of promoting the interests of Muslims worldwide.

To many, the fabulous wealth and international influence that Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and the UAE enjoy, in addition to the presence of two of Islam’s holiest cities – Mecca and Meddinah – in Saudi Arabia, means that they have a responsibility to speak for the global Muslim Ummah and stand up for them when they are unfairly targeted and mistreated. Unfortunately for such people, the wealthy nations of the Arab Gulf region tend to respond to such questions with little more than an irritated silence – and with good reason.

To begin with, these countries are not democracies led by the wishes of their almost uniformly Muslim populations. They are autocracies led by royal families who came to power in the colonially-influenced 20th century scramble for power and influence. Saudi Arabia, which houses Islam’s holiest sites, is named after the House of Saud, its royal family which came into power in its current form at the turn of the 19th century. The priority of the regimes in these countries first and foremost is self-preservation.

Self-preservation means that before throwing their significant diplomatic and economic weight behind any attempt to help out fellow Muslims, the first consideration is how doing so will benefit them. India for example, is a country that has close diplomatic ties with the UAE, and supplies most of their cheap labour for construction and low-skilled functions. India has even coordinated with UAE special forces to repatriate the dissident Princess Latika when she made an audacious escape attempt in 2018.

What does the UAE stand to gain if it napalms its diplomatic relationship with India by criticising Modi’s blatantly anti-Muslim policy direction? It might win a few brownie points with Islamic hardliners and possibly buy some goodwill among poor Muslims in South Asia, but how much is that worth? The regime and nation’s self-interest is best served by looking the other way, so that is exactly what they will do.

The Saudis make a similar calculation. At a time when they are investing heavily in military hardware to keep up with their eternal rivals Turkey and Iran, and simultaneously preparing for the end of oil by liberalising their society and economy, does it pay them to jump into an issue in India that does not particularly affect them? As the status of their diplomatic relationship with the U.S. remains unclear following the Jamal Khasshoggi incident, are they going to risk pissing off the Chinese because of Uighur Muslims?

In fact self-interest like that mentioned here is the basis of the considerations that underpin all international relations. Well I say “all,” but what I really meant to say was “all except African countries.” It is only African countries that take diplomatic decisions based on little more than flimsy emotions and feelings of religious affinity. Gambia for example, has dragged Myanmar before the UN and filed a genocide case against it on behalf of the Rohingya Muslims.

This would be commendable and great were it not that Gambia itself is hardly a human rights luminary, and generally has little business fighting an Asian battle when its own worse African battles lie unfought. The only thing Gambia stands to gain from fighting a diplomatic war that the rest of the world seems unwilling to touch is the temporary goodwill of a few Muslims in Asia and around the world – goodwill that cannot translate into something tangible for it.

To coin an aphorism from social media lingo, you could call it ”diplomatic clout chasing.’

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Obeya ‘s Death Worries AFN; Gorge Regrets Loss of Talented Coach

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Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) acting president, Honourable Olamide George says the death of another veteran athletics coach, John Obeya has devastated the athletics community in Nigeria.

Coach Obeya died Tuesday in Jos, Plateau state after complaining of stomach ache. He was aged 65.

“This is a very sad day for track and field in Nigeria. When we are still mourning the untimely passing of coach Tobias Igwe, another blow has been dealt our dear sport with the report of coach Obeya’s death in Jos,” said George in a statement.

“Coach Obeya complained of a stomach problem on Monday and was taken to an undisclosed hospital in Jos where he was operated upon, but sadly he didn’t survive,” said George who lamented Nigeria has lost one of her most talented track and field coaches.

Until his death, Obeya was a sprints coach with the Bahrain Athletics Association and was instrumental to the recruitment of reigning world 400m champion, Salwa Eid Naser (formerly Ebelechukwu Agbapuonwu) by Bahrain in 2014.

He trained Eid Naser to win the 400m gold at the 2015 World Youth Championships in Athletics in Cali, Colombia and silver at the 2017 IAAF World Championships in London.

Although Eid Naser struck gold at the 2019 IAAF World Championships in Doha,Qatar under another coach, Dominican Jose Ludwig Rubio, it was Obeya that laid the foundation for her incredible feats in the women’s quartermile where she ran 48.14 seconds, the third fastest time of all time behind (East) Germany’s Marita Koch (47.60 seconds in 1985) and Czech’s Jarmila Kratochvilova (47.99 in 1983).

“Like coach Tobias Igwe, coach Obeya was also in the Nigeria team to the first IAAF World Junior Championships in Athens, Greece in 1986 where he took charge of especially the two jumpers in the team, Beatrice Utondu and Caroline Nwajei and has produced so many top stars for Nigeria. It is on record that he trained Tina Ozoro to the first national triple jump record and top jumper, Chinedu Odozor and Samuel Onikeku,” George further stated.

The AFN acting president says the federation will send a condolence message to the family of coach Obeya and prays that God grants the family the fortitude to bear this great and monumental loss.

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Canada outplayed and outfought the US. There is no progress under Berhalter

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Patience is in short supply among the USMNT fanbase, who have had enough of being told the team is in learning mode and that setbacks are growing pains

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Strange job, this, to have doubts about your ability raised only four days after steering your nation to a 7-0 win. But that was a cruise past Cuba, and this was the USs first loss to Canada in 34 years. And not a hard luck, miss five easy chances and give up a 93rd-minute own-goal sort of loss. This was an outplayed and outfought by a side whose near-term ambition is to be better than El Salvador kind of night.

Tuesdays 2-0 reverse at BMO Field was Gregg Berhalters 16th match as US head coach. On the surface a record of nine wins, two draws and five losses appears acceptable for a program rebuilding its roster and its self-respect after the shock of missing out on the 2018 World Cup. But the real test of Berhalters worth is not in how the US fillet the minnows. It doesnt really matter that they filled their boots against the likes of Cuba, Panama, Trinidad & Tobago and Guyana.

What counts is that the US have lost twice on home soil to their biggest rivals, Mexico (1-0 in the Concacaf Gold Cup final and 3-0 in a friendly); were especially brittle in defeats to Venezuela and now Canada; and drew 1-1 with both Chile and an under-strength Uruguay, two of their strongest opponents this year.

Put another way, since Berhalters appointment was announced last December there have been no results that exceeded expectations against good teams; there is currently no reason to believe that the US would be anything but makeweights at Qatar 2022, should they qualify. And there is a lack of clear evidence that the team is trending in the right direction, despite individual positives such as the continued improvement of the midfielder Weston McKennie.

Given the road trip tribulations endured during the last World Cup qualifying cycle and the inexperience of many of the current crop it is ludicrous (ticket income aside) that this was Berhalters first away game. If the Americans could not handle a half-empty MLS stadium in Toronto, how badly might they fare in Mexico City, against Honduras in San Pedro Sula, or in the Costa Rican capital, San Jos?

The US have not won on the road since they beat Cuba 2-0 in Havana in October 2016. Tuesdays outcome extends that streak to 10 matches without a victory. The defining image of the evening for the Americans? Christian Pulisic being substituted after 60 fruitless minutes and then howling and gesturing in existential agony, Americas brightest star devolved into Munchs The Scream in shorts and shinpads.

Berhalter told reporters afterwards that the 21-year-old has been battling flu-like symptoms. Perhaps he also feels sore from carrying the team on his back for three years. A below-par Pulisic, whether through illness, injury or rust from his lack of minutes at Chelsea, would present a grave problem for an American side that has few good attacking ideas without him.

Still, key man off the field and 1-0 down with half an hour to play? That is a situation where a team might look to its coach to conjure an inspired substitution or a tactical masterstroke. But the response to Alphonso Davies 63rd minute goal was a string of sideways passes, possession without purpose, as the US chased the game with as much cutting edge as a preschoolers pair of plastic safety scissors. Canada continued to look quicker, more coherent and more dangerous and added a second on the break through Lucas Cavallini in stoppage time.

As well as seeking to end a 17-match winless streak against their neighbours, Canada were on the hunt for Fifa ranking points in order to rise above El Salvador, the worlds 72nd best team. The top six Concacaf nations in Fifas rankings next June will go into the Hexagonal World Cup qualifying round, which delivers three automatic berths for a trip to Qatar.

The Americans, meanwhile, looked like they felt it would be uncool to get too worked up about a Concacaf Nations League group fixture. I wasnt happy with the desire that we displayed tonight, Berhalter told reporters. That is a jarring admission. Spirit used to be a given whenever a US side took the field at least until the dog days of the Jrgen Klinsmann regime.

Did the team think they could glide past an improving Canada on skill alone? A misguided belief, if so. Berhalter does not have a vintage crop of players at his disposal. And the US Soccer Federation poured pressure on itself, and the 46-year-old, by taking a year to appoint a permanent coach following the World Cup qualifying debacle, then choosing a low-profile figure who made his name as a tactician at a blue-collar MLS club.

Expectations remain high, even as the talent pool has grown more shallow. All the more important, then, that Berhalter lives up to his reputation as the method man – the clear-headed coach who devised a system that squeezed the best out of his players at the Columbus Crew.

Grant Wahl (@GrantWahl)

The man who will make the decision on Gregg Berhalters future as USMNT coach (Earnie Stewart) is very likely to soon report to … Jay Berhalter, Greggs brother. US Soccer, everybody.

October 16, 2019

The start of World Cup qualifying is still 11 months away, but another poor performance and result when Canada face the US in Orlando next month would see concern escalate into alarm. Ten months is not a long tenure and is less time than it took to complete the hiring process but patience is rightly in short supply among the fanbase, who have had enough of being told that the team is in learning mode and that setbacks are growing pains.

Suppressing doubts about Klinsmann and hanging on until after the start of the qualifying cycle before replacing him failed to work out last time. How long are Berhalters bosses prepared to wait for him to mould a team that is assertive, rather than aspirational? They are unlikely to be in a hurry.

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/us

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A year later, what Khashoggi’s murder says about Trump’s close ally

(CNN)A year ago, Jamal Khashoggi, a prominent Saudi writer, entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to obtain paperwork so he could marry his Turkish fiance, who was waiting for him outside the building. He was never seen again.

A contributor to the Washington Post, Khashoggi, aged 59, was a critic of the Saudi regime and was living in self-imposed exile in the United States. He was murdered inside the Istanbul consulate on October 2, 2018, by a team that was dispatched from Saudi Arabia, among them associates of the Saudi Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman — known as MBS — the then-32-year-old de facto ruler of the country.
The Saudis (and MBS himself) have consistently denied that bin Salman had any direct role in Khashoggi’s murder and instead have ascribed it to a rogue operation by overzealous subordinates. They charged 11 of them, five of whom face a possible death penalty, although given the opaque nature of the Saudi legal system little is clear about the yet unresolved case.
    In November 2018, the CIA concluded — with “high confidence” according to the Washington Post — that bin Salman had ordered the murder of Khashoggi.
    Khashoggi’s murder brought into sharp focus concerns about the judgment of the young prince that had percolated for years. MBS had variously entered an ongoing war in Yemen that, according to the UN, had precipitated the worst humanitarian crisis on the planet; he had blockaded the gas-rich state of Qatar, a close American ally and the site of the most important US military base in the Middle East. Domestically, MBS had also imprisoned a host of clerics, dissidents and businessmen.

      Trump: ‘I’m extremely angry’ about Khashoggi killing

    At first it looked like Trump might distance himself from MBS. Less than two weeks after Khashoggi’s murder on CBS’s “60 Minutes,” President Donald Trump promised “severe punishment” for the Saudis if it was proven that they had murdered Khashoggi. Khashoggi, after all, was both a legal resident of the United States and a journalist who was contributing regularly to a major American media institution.
    A month later, Trump backpedaled, citing putative massive American arms sales to the Saudis. Trump told reporters, “…it’s ‘America First’ for me. It’s all about ‘America First.’ We’re not going to give up hundreds of billions of dollars in orders, and let Russia, China, and everybody else have them … military equipment and other things from Russia and China. … I’m not going to destroy the economy for our country by being foolish with Saudi Arabia.”
    Until Khashoggi’s murder, it was possible to emphasize the positive case for bin Salman, to argue that he was genuinely reforming Saudi Arabia’s society and economy. He had clipped the wings of the feared religious police in the kingdom and had given women greater freedoms, such as the right to drive and a larger role in the workplace.
    Bin Salman encouraged concerts and movie theaters in a society that had long banned both and he also started to end the rigid gender separation in the kingdom by, for instance, allowing women to attend sports events.
    He also promised a magical moment in the Middle East when the Arab states could deliver a peace deal with the Palestinians, while he was liberating his people from the stultifying yoke of Sunni Wahhabism that had nurtured so many of the 9/11 plotters. For many years, Washington had puzzled over whether Saudi Arabia was more of an arsonist or a firefighter when it came to the propagation of militant Islam. Bin Salman appeared to be a firefighter.

      Wolf Blitzer presses senator over meeting with world leader

    MBS also has a somewhat plausible plan for diversifying the heavily oil-dependent Saudi economy known as Vision 2030, to be financed in part by the sale of parts of the oil giant Aramco, which may be the world’s most valuable corporation with a market value that the Saudis hope is two trillion dollars.
    In March 2018, MBS even visited Hollywood and Silicon Valley, where he ditched his Arab robes in favor of a suit and where he was feted as a reformer by film stars and tech industry heavyweights.
    But after Khashoggi’s murder, the positive case for Mohammed bin Salman was largely submerged in the West, where he was increasingly viewed as an impetuous autocrat. In 2015, he had authorized the disastrous and ongoing war in neighboring Yemen, in which tens of thousands of civilians have been killed. He had also effectively kidnapped the Lebanese Prime Minister, a dual Lebanese-Saudi citizen, when he was on a trip to Saudi Arabia. And MBS led the blockade of his country’s neighbor, gas-rich Qatar, which continues to this day.
    In addition to his arrests of prominent clerics and dissidents, Bin Salman, in a palace coup, supplanted his cousin Mohamed bin Nayef as crown prince in 2017. Famously, MBS also imprisoned 200 rich Saudis at the Ritz Carlton in Riyadh and had relieved them of more than $100 billion because of their purported corruption.
    Now Bin Salman faces what may be his most difficult foreign policy challenge yet: What to do about the drone and missile attacks earlier this month against the crown jewel of Saudi Arabia’s economy, the Aramco Abqaiq oil facility, an attack the crown prince and the Trump administration have plausibly blamed Iran for. The Iranians have denied involvement in the attacks
    This attack is particularly problematic for MBS, as he is also Saudi minister of defense and he has presided over a massive arms buildup, yet was not able to defend the kingdom against the missile and drone barrage that took down half of Saudi’s oil capacity, at least temporarily.

      Post-Khashoggi murder, why should U.S. believe anything Saudi Arabia has to say?

    The Iranian attack also poses a quandary for President Trump, who doesn’t want the United States to get embroiled in another war in the Middle East, even though he has embraced MBS as a close ally.
    On Sunday, CBS’s “60 Minutes” aired an interview with bin Salman in which he said that he hoped that Saudi Arabia could reach a “political and peaceful solution” with Iran.
      One can only hope that MBS and Trump don’t launch a war against Iran, which has a large army, significant proxy forces around the Middle East and sophisticated ballistic missile systems. However, it’s hard to imagine them not responding at all since the Iranians have shown they can now attack with impunity a key node of the world’s energy markets.
      Mohammed bin Salman may be able to preside over the murder of a dissident journalist in Turkey with relative ease, but there is little in his conduct of foreign policy hitherto to suggest that he will skillfully deal with the Iranians.

      Read more: http://edition.cnn.com/

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