Sunday, October 31, 2010

A good Turk in Europe is an unintegrated one!

This an excellent article by a friend of my, Orhan Kemal Cengız. Europeans don't understand that Turkey is a country which nationalism is so dominating and demanding. At least, he shed some light on the problematic.

A good Turk in Europe is an unintegrated one!


There were two incidents that helped me to gain an insight into the problem of the integration of Turks in European countries. The first one was a decade ago. I was walking in the street with my nephew; we were stopped by a Turkish guy who heard us speaking Turkish to each other.
He wanted us to help him communicate with a television repairman to fix his television’s antenna. We acted as his translator in the store and when we went out I asked him how long he had been living in London. He had been living in London more than seven years and could not speak a word of English. Apparently, he had never left the Turkish ghetto there until he could not find what he had needed, a television repairman.

My second experience with Turkish “existence” in Europe was just a couple of years ago when I visited Amsterdam for a weekend. I have a Turkish friend there and he introduced me to Turkish youngsters from different walks of life. They were all so friendly, such nice people, and they were all second or third-generation residents of Holland. We started hanging out in Amsterdam.
Normally, when I am abroad I prefer not to go to Turkish restaurants. However, I did not want to reject my young friends there when they invited me to eat at a kebap house. But after the second and third invitation to different Turkish restaurants, I wanted to invite them to a Dutch restaurant that I had chosen. When we were sitting in the restaurant, I was shocked by what I heard from one of the youngsters. He looked around, paused and said, “I have never been to a restaurant like this before.” The restaurant we went to was not the most luxurious restaurant in Amsterdam; it was just a decent Dutch restaurant and I am not an Amsterdam expert -- it was my first time there actually.
Continue reading herrreeeee

Suicide attack in Istanbul

A suicide bomber blew himself up in the centre of Istanbul on Sunday, wounding 32 people.

He blew himself up beside a police vehicle in a major İstanbul square (Takzim) near tourist hotels and a bus terminal, wounding 32 people, including 15 policemen.
The attack in Taksim Square, which was followed by police gunfire and sent hundreds of panicked people racing for cover, coincided with the possible end of a unilateral cease-fire by outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) terrorists, but there was no immediate claim of responsibility. Turkey, a NATO ally that has deployed troops in a non-combat role in Afghanistan, is also home to cells of radical leftists and Islamic militants.
The attack occurred as İstanbul was preparing to hold Republic Day parades to mark the 1923 founding of Turkey. The celebrations were originally planned for Friday, but were delayed due to heavy rain. Taksim Square, a transport hub that is a major stop on the city's underground train network and close to the Hyatt, Ritz-Carlton and other major hotels, was festooned with red and white Turkish flags. It was early, normally there are tons of people there...

Day Opening - October 31

City Hall, Maarssen, the Netherlands (my place of birth) Old architecture - Above: Cube housing, Blaak, Rotterdam

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Gearing up for Diwali

Work in progess

Diwali is a five-day long festival of different auspicious dates, each with its own significance. It is one of our biggest festivals and falls on November 5 this year. For Gujaratis, the day after Diwali proper marks the New Year and we greet each other saying "Sal Mubarak".

People start a massive clean-up drive, repaint homes, dust, scrub and cook a variety of snacks in the days leading to this festival of lights. In keeping with the tradition, our gardener repainted all pots with "geru" a rust-coloured natural colour normally used on pots and to decorate homes. This photo was taken today.

Day Opening - October 30

Temple, India

Friday, October 29, 2010

Turkey's government; a rare example of a bunch of hypocrites

Turkey's government accuses Prime Minister Mark Rutte of discriminating Turks in the Netherlands for opposing cabinet ministers with a dual Dutch-Turkish nationality.
The Turkish minister Faruk Çelik (responsible for 'Turks abroad'...) criticises Prime Minister Rutte for remarks he made during the parliamentary debate on the government policy statement earlier this week. During the debate, the conservative liberal leader said he was not concerned by the Dutch-Swedish nationality of Deputy Health Minister Marlies Veldhuijzen van Santen-Hyllner but did have a problem with the Turkish-Dutch and Moroccan-Dutch nationalities of two deputy ministers in the previous government.
The prime minister argued they are different cases. He claimed Turkey and Morocco "influence their citizens", which could lead to conflicting loyalties, whereas Sweden, a member of the European Union, does not. In this he's absolutely right; the former State Secretary for Justice in the Netherlands,

the Turkish-Dutch politician Nebahat Albayrak, was besides part of the Dutch government, special counselor to the Turkish president. Turkish Dutch citizens (up to the 3th generation) have to fullfil their militairy service in Turkey even if they want to join as volunteer the Dutch army, police force etc. But I remember very well that in 2007 the new Turkish minister of Economy had a British pasport. Turkey as a whole spoke of 'shame' of him and he had to deneutralize himself as a British citizen...

But of course, the whole controversy has erupted due to objections to the deputy minister's dual nationality by PVV leader Geert Wilders. Three years ago, the anti-Islam MP called for a no-confidence motion against two Labour deputies holding a Moroccan and a Turkish passport as well as a Dutch one. On that occasion, though the VVD parliamentary party did not back the no-confidence vote, Mr Rutte, then an MP, supported Mr Wilders' concerns. The current minority coalition, comprising the liberal VVD and the Christian Democrats, has a parliamentary majority thanks to a support agreement with the PVV.
Mr Çelik, who is responsible for Turks abroad (sic, this already says enough), told he did "not see how such a discriminatory remark fostered the integration of foreigners in the Netherlands". "The right to vote and be chosen", the Turkish minister emphasises, "are fundamental human rights". But not for foreigners and minorities in Turkey...the hypocrites!

Next to that Turkey has reiterated that Turkish immigrants should not be required to integrate in the Netherlands. Ankara argues it supports their integration but questions whether they should assimilate completely. Several lawsuits have been brought to court regarding this matter and both countries are engaged in a fundamental diplomatic discussion on the issue. The 16th economy of the world (the Netherlands) against the 17th (Turkey).

Day Opening - October 28

Landscape of Umbria, Italy by Krzysztof Browko

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Dating covered by your health insurance company....yes!!

Dutch health insurer VGZ has announced it will pay for the first date arranged through a dating site for singles.
Research has shown that people who are in a long-term relationship are happier - and therefore healthier - than singles. The action is also aimed at promoting its new supplementary policy for singles.
A spokesman says that for seven days those interested in the supplementary health insurance can contact the dating site via the VGZ website. There is no obligation to sign up for a policy. It's not clear for me what will be covered...the date including diner, a bottle of wine, a bottle of cognac?.)!

Dual citizen ship in the Netherlands

The two governing political parties in the Netherlands new coalition government have shrugged off objections raised by Freedom Party leader Geert Wilders to the dual nationality of Deputy Health Minister Marlies Veldhuijzen van Zanten.

The anti-Islamic Freedom Party has agreed to support the new government in parliament. Three years ago, Mr Wilders demanded the resignation of both a Dutch-Moroccan minister and a Dutch-Turkish deputy minister. The motion was rejected and they stayed in office.
At the time, Mr Wilders said about one of them, "Even if [Social Affairs Deputy Minister] Mr Aboutaleb had had a blond mop and a Swedish passport, I would still want him to step down." Ms Veldhuijzen van Zanten, née Hyllner, has dual Swedish and Dutch nationality.
Ms Veldhuijzen van Zanten's Christian Democrat party - one of the governing parties - sees no objections to her holding two passports. The free-market liberal VVD party of Prime Minister Mark Rutte said last Monday that for it, too, this is not an issue.
The Freedom Party's point of view is that the loyalty of ministers and deputies to the Netherlands should not be undermined by dual nationality. Most opposition parties  voted with the government - against Mr Wilders' no-confidence motion.

Day Opening - October 28

Istanbul by Brian Underdown

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Cyber crime and the Netherlands

A criminal computer network in the Netherlands was dismantled on Monday, and the main suspect arrested in Armenia less than a day later. A Dutch expert has hailed the operation as unique, but the Netherlands still ranks seventh on the global list of countries most plagued by cybercrime.
The dismantlement of the Bredolab network has been made much of, mainly in the Netherlands but elsewhere too. The arrested Armenian appears to have used 143 servers in the Netherlands to infect three million computers worldwide, disseminate spam and steal passwords to hack into bank accounts.
The police operation that broke up this 'botnet' is another success for the high profile National High Tech Crime Team of the Dutch national police. However, the authoritative computer magazine PC World wondered whether the Netherlands has itself broken the law by uploading software on the 143 servers in question to warn users that their computers have infected with Bredolab, a password-stealing malicious software program.

Why is the Netherlands one of the main exporters of criminal computer software? The country hosts 2.2 percent of all infected networks, called botnets, earning the Netherlands a seventh place on the global list of countries most plagued by cybercrime.
The country with its fast, multi-branched network is located on one of the main hubs of the digital highway. And some of the biggest hosting providers have their head offices here. The providers host the servers used by criminals to spread their malicious software.
Joran Polak, editor-in-chief at says it’s the top providers who are the weakest link in the chain.
“Because of their size it is very difficult for them to check a whole network, which makes it just a little bit easier for a cyber criminal to avoid being detected compared to smaller hosting providers who know all their customers and know who they are dealing with."
Fox.IT is a company which alerts banks and hosting providers when criminals have infected their networks with malicious software. The company also assisted forensic investigators in their operation against the Bredolab network.

Marketing manager Joost Bijl says the Netherlands is in the vanguard of the fight against cybercrime, but it could do more. For instance, Dutch police lack the authority to strike back via the internet and crack down on foreign cyber criminals. Simply put: using their own weapons to take the fight to foreign criminals.
“Cybercrime Public Prosecutor Lodewijk van Swieten would love to have the authority to do just that, and
enable him to hack the hackers. However there are legal hurdles to be cleared. Taking the fight to the cybercriminals means attacking a network in another country, and to the best of my knowledge there are as yet no laws that make that possible.”

Privacy issues

Cracking down on foreign cybercriminals and their computers easily leads to conflicts with all kinds of legislation, including privacy laws. Wim de Bruyn, spokesperson for the Public Prosecutors’ Office, says this is one of the reasons the Dutch police do take action unilaterally, even though they do have the means.
“At present, this would mean breaking the law. And even though it’s technically feasible, legislation must be
enacted before we can use these methods.”
So while cybercriminals can strike across the globe with just a few mouse clicks, forensic investigators still have to travel far and wide to catch the perpetrators. It is up to the minister to amend existing legislation without sparking a row with his foreign colleagues.

Day Opening - October 27

Nightscape Aurora, Norway

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The power of the Tweet

Last weekend a famous Dutch comedian, Youp van 't Hek, launched a campaign against a large phone service provider. He was angry with the way he was treated by the Service Desk, after his son had trouble with his mobile phone, which had to be repaired. He had called hours with different department, visited the phone shop to get the problem solved, but ended up with empty hands in the end.

Out of frustration he posted a simple Twitter message to share his frustration with his 45,000 followers, and within the hours he was called by one of the chief officers of the phone company who apologized sincerely for the way Youp was treated...

This is a simple example of the power a fairly simple medium called Twitter. What's next?

Day Opening - October 26

Celebrities in trouble...

Monday, October 25, 2010

Muslim Networks and Movements in Western Europe - Gulen Movement

An interesting article:

Gülen Movement

The Gülen movement refers to a cluster of religious, educational and social organizations founded and inspired by Fethullah Gülen, a Turkish Islamic scholar, author and speaker now in his late 60s. The movement strives to give faithful Muslims the secular education they need to thrive in the modern world. At the same time, it also emphasizes the importance of traditional religious teachings. To this end, the movement has inspired the creation of a worldwide network of schools and other centers of learning that focus on secular subjects in the classroom but also offer extracurricular programs that emphasize religious themes.

By some estimates, there are now more than 1,000 Gülen-inspired schools and centers in more than 100 countries around the world.11 In Germany, the European country with the strongest Gülen presence, there are at least a dozen of these schools and more than 150 smaller educational and cultural centers. While open to students of all backgrounds, Gülen-inspired schools in Europe typically cater to Turkish immigrants and their offspring. Many of the schools charge tuition, but it is generally low because the schools are subsidized by wealthy supporters of Fethullah Gülen.
continue reading herrrreeeeee

Essays on the Arab Israeli Conflict: A Super Short History of Israel

Essays on the Arab Israeli Conflict: A Super Short History of Israel

Day Opening - October 25

Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, by Imran Hashid

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Arash's World: The Difficulties of Being Nonjudgmental and Open-minded in a Judgmental and Opinionated World

Arash's World: The Difficulties of Being Nonjudgmental and Open-minded in a Judgmental and Opinionated World

The Future of Internet in Turkey

Turkish Minister of State Bülent Arınç has announced that the Internet — “that boundaryless and irresponsible area” — will be brought under control by Turkish law. Not only does the Internet expose young people to “pornography, violence and bad examples”, but it undermines the Turkish language by using bad grammar, thereby “making a laughing stock of the words and sentences we have spoken for hundreds of years.” Arınç vowed that the state would step in to end this “degeneration”. (click here, in Turkish)

Via Jenny White (Kamil Pasha)

Day Opening - October 24

OAKA, Olympic Stadium Athens, Greece (both pictures)

Saturday, October 23, 2010

We are like that only...

On October 14, many Indians heaved a sigh of relief... Somehow, the assumed catastrophe of unprecedented embarrassment was avoided, somehow we turned an event that was professed to be doomed from the start into a spectacular show of creative genius (and shrewd politics...)

Commonwealth Games 2010, you will live in our memories for years to come.

I will tell my grandchildren fables of a giant called Kalmadi who was purported to have a legendary appetite for crores and crores of Indian rupees. He reportedly had cash for breakfast and cash for lunch, he reportedly munched on fake contracts and nibbled on dubious deals... So bloated with cash was he thought to be by the time the Commonwealth games kick-started, no word of ridicule as much as pricked his thick skin.

My grandchildren will frantically try to retrieve decades old archives on the internet (or some sci-fi-turned-reality technology) and will be even more confused than they were before hearing my story. "Grandma, you skipped telling us about Mrs. Dixit! And you never told us stories about Madhu Koda, BS Yediyurappa, the Reddy brothers, Laloo and this fodder scam..." Sigh...

If the kids must know about the stink of corruption, they must also know about youths from poor families in far-flung villages of India who persevered with their chosen sport in spite of minimum facilities. Who helped India snatch the 2nd position in the medal tally...

Of people like Narayanan Krishnan who left a plush career as a chef with a 5-star chain to feed the hungry and homeless in his city.
Of those thousands of unsung heroes that often escape a mention in newspapers, but whose principles and efforts are what I believe keep alive the sanity and exuberance of my country alive.

One of my persistent fears is that I may allow cynicism for the juggernaut of politics and bureaucracy to outweigh or even overshadow the celebration of an enigma that is India, of rejoicing in the remarkable achievements of my countrymen.

Will the stories I tell my grandchildren be only burlesque tales of political perverts, scams and scandals? Will I have the good sense to let the magic of India and its indomitable citizens etch happy, proud memories to share with a generation to come? I think I will...

"With all the talks of corruption and broken bridges, if we could put up this show at the nth second, what would we have achieved if... Only if..."

I end with a much-used Hindi one-liner: "Hum to aise hi hain" We are like that only... :)

Day Opening - October 23

Istanbul 2010, by Brian Underdown, Istanbulblogger

Friday, October 22, 2010

The most important Dutch custom

Director Ineke Strouken of the Dutch Centre for Folk Culture (Nederlands Centrum voor Volkskunde) says Dutch people regard the celebration of Sinterklaas (St Nicholas) as the most important Dutch tradition. Ms Strouken comes to this conclusion in her book Dit zijn wij (This is who we are) which will be officially presented in Utrecht on Friday.

More than 10,000 people submitted their top ten favourite traditions to Ms Strouken. The undisputed number one is followed by decorating the Christmas tree. Queens Day came third, deep-fried doughnut balls (oliebollen) and other New Year’s customs fourth, and Easter came fifth.
Ineke Strouken says the top 100 favourite customs in her book represent a transitional period. “You can see some traditions are dying out, while others are being created. Going to church is at number 29. People apparently still believe they should attend church, but I think it will no longer be on the list in 25 years. A new tradition is the Sugar Feast at the end of the Ramadan, in 14th position."
Ms Strouken said it wouldn’t hurt if the Dutch took a little more pride in their traditions. “Other countries actively promote their traditions. Just look at how many traditional cookbooks you find in Brittany. Many Dutch people only know about windmills, tulips and wooden shoes, but we have a wealth of traditions. We have an innate fear of pride turning into nationalism, but you can feel proud without feeling superior to others.”
Sinterklaas will be present in Utrecht to accept the first copy of Ms Strouken’s book, in a clear deviation from the time-honoured tradition to arrive in the Netherlands only after Martinmas (11 November).
And I never missed Sinterklaas since I left the Netherlands a long time ago...

Day Opening - October 22

Having a headache

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Discrimination starts already in asylum centres (WTF)

Christian asylum seekers living temporarily in Dutch refugee centres are often threatened or physically abused by fellow refugees who are Muslims, according to a support group. The Christian group, the Gift Foundation (Stichting Gave) presented its findings on Dutch public TV on Tuesday.

Christian Union MP Joël Voordewind said he was "shocked" by the reported incidents, particularly given the vulnerability of Muslim converts to Christianity who left Islamic countries for religious reasons. "They fled to the Netherlands because of their beliefs and should be safe here. It's terrible that they are being oppressed," Mr Voordewind said.
Immigration Minister Gerd Leers, reacting to the TV report and to questions in the Lower House, said the findings are a serious warning signal and he will investigate whether measures need to be taken.

Next to that, a Dutch group is pushing for measures to protect homosexual asylum seekers from intimidation and violence while they are awaiting decisions on their residence requests. Amsterdam’s Secret Garden Foundation, which champions the interests of Muslim gays, says many face problems from other inmates in refugee centres. It also believes the asylum procedure for gays should be eased.
Most homosexuals who flee their home countries have been seriously traumatised, says Secret Garden. This means it is difficult for them to explain their plight openly when they arrive in the Netherlands. It also makes it hard to decide whether they are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. Families and authorities in their home countries, some of which deny that homosexuality exists, often refuse to provide evidence of their sexuality.
Secret Garden says interpreters should not come from the asylum seekers' home country or region. It also advises that gay asylum claimants should be given the benefit of the doubt until the question of their sexuality can be reliably sorted out by, for example, a psychologist experienced in the field.
Welcome to the Netherlands!

Day Opening - October 21

On my day off...

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Is it Tuesday after lunch yet?

The last thing I remember, Obama was the first black president of the Untied States of Hysteria and I was undergoing regression testing at a secret laboratory in the state of West Vagina, which is a little south and west of Delaware, which is what Della Street became after getting a little worse of it.

Someone had cut off my fingers and toes, so I had to learn how to type with my penis, which is no small feat, no pun intended.

So, where were we? I seem to remember that the world was poised to move forward with a joyous and impetuous push for hope and change, and then America remembered it hated niggers and spics and ragheads and gays and anyone who could read or right...

Don't you love this planet? I'm so glad I got stationed here!

Day Opening - October 20

Autumn at the Kola Peninsula, Russia

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Why Merkel's tough stance...

“The multicultural approach has failed. Totally failed!” German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s words attracted global attention. It was a surprising statement from a chancellor who only recently warned against a Dutch government being reliant on parliamentary support from Geert Wilders’ anti-Islam Freedom Party.

It would be a mistake, however, to think Chancellor Merkel has been won over by Mr Wilders’ arguments. The same speech that denounced the softly-softly integration approach, described Islam as “part of Germany”. But one thing is perfectly clear: the naïve idea that ‘we all live together and we’re all fine with it’ just doesn’t tally with the reality in Germany.
“We brought foreign workers to our country in the 1960s. They live here now and we've been fooling ourselves. We thought they would go away again, but that didn’t happen. Of course the multicultural approach 'we live next to each other and we like it' has failed. Totally failed.”
The figures demonstrate that Germany is a multicultural society. Out of a population of about 82 million, 6.6 million people hold foreign passports. Germany’s largest non-Western minority is its 1.6 million-strong Turkish community. The German capital Berlin has the biggest Turkish population of any city outside Turkey itself. The number of Muslims living in Germany is estimated to be something in excess of three million.

Ms Merkel’s pronouncement on the failure of multiculturalism has everything to do with the fear of electoral upheaval. While the integration debate in Germany’s neighbouring countries (Netherlands, Denmark, Belgium, France) has been raging for some time, Germany itself has been noticeably silent on the issue. Criticism of any one ethnic group within society is an extremely sensitive issue, given the country’s Nazi past.
But a few months ago the situation changed dramatically. A book claiming that German society is fundamentally threatened by Islam caused a furore. And René Stadtkewitz, a former party colleague of Chancellor Merkel, set up his own political party, making grateful use of Geert Wilders anti-Islam rhetoric.
Ms Merkel didn’t like this at all. As her party colleague Volker Buffier says:
“Look at what’s happened in Germany’s neighbours, in the Netherlands, in Sweden, in Denmark, in all these countries, right-wing protest parties have sprung up, making it really difficult to form a stable government. That’s exactly what we want to prevent.”
Ms Merkel wants her party to take the lead in the integration debate and to tackle the problems in immigrant neighbourhoods. The government is working on tougher measures requiring immigrants to do more to integrate. Turkish President Abdullah Gül was the first to support Ms Merkel’s tough new stance. He said Turkish people living in Germany should do their best to integrate and learn to speak perfect German.

Day Opening - October 19


Monday, October 18, 2010

Day Opening - October 18

Semur-en-Auxois (I spent my childhood holidays here..)

Sunday, October 17, 2010


Hello World!

Yes, for the kind of geographically and culturally diverse readership this blog commands, perhaps this salutation isn’t hyperbolic. It feels great being able to write here…

My blog Life Rules has been a loyal witness of my academic, professional and personal graph from 2006 till now. Now, writing at Internation Musings seems a good way to journey ahead in my virtual and real worlds.

You, dear readers, have an important role to play to make this journey fruitful. Writing isn’t a solitary activity and thrives on feedback. So I look forward to hearing your opinions about topics discussed.

That brings me to what I intend to write about. I am from India and I believe articles about my country, people, culture and society would be a good start. However, my aim is neither to glorify our heritage, nor to disparage our shortcomings even though my articles are likely to be of either nature based on my personal experience and response to current happenings.

To begin with, some articles may be repeated from my other blogs. In the time to come, however, I intend to write articles specific for Internation Musings, assuming that a readership outside India may need a lot more background than that provided in articles on Life Rules and Short and Sweet.

Views expressed here are my own. Similarly, I may not agree with all the views expressed by fellow bloggers here on Internation Musings. Most importantly, I maintain my right to modify my takes in the time to come. For he is stubborn who resists acknowledging different viewpoints, no? :)

Looking forward to fruitful interactions on this forum,


Gauri Gharpure

PS: Today we are celebrating an important Hindu festival called Dasara / Dussera / Vijaya Dashami in India... So, it seems my first post on this blog lands on an auspicious day! :)

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Muslims, take a good look at yourselves too! - by Mohammed Abdulrahman

It’s only natural that Dutch citizens with Islamic roots should be concerned about Geert Wilders. But they should also take a critical look at what is going on in the countries where their Islamic roots lie. That’s the opinion of Mohammed Abdulrahman of Radio Netherlands Worldwide’s Arabic service. He writes...

''It used to be common knowledge among immigrants from the Islamic world: the Netherlands was the most tolerant country in Europe. But in the post 9/11 era, the mood has changed considerably. The populist anti-Islam Freedom Party led by Geert Wilders became the third largest part in the Netherlands at the last election and is now in the key position of providing official parliamentary support for a new minority right-wing government coalition.
Geert Wilders never tires of warning that Islam is a dangerous ideology that is out to dominate Europe. He has dismissed the Prophet Mohammed as a paedophile and the Qur’an as a fascist book that should be banned. He wants to limit the influx of immigrants from Muslim countries.

Open to discrimination

As Dutch citizens with Islamic roots, we observe these developments with a mixture of shock and indignation. We feel less welcome in the Netherlands and rebuke the Dutch for not giving us a fair chance. But before we start preaching to the Netherlands, one important question needs to be asked: how are foreigners and minority groups treated in the countries where our roots lie?
The facts speak for themselves: in the Islamic world, foreigners and religious and ethnic minorities hardly have any rights at all. In almost all Islamic countries they are open to discrimination that is accepted without criticism by almost everyone, as if it is the most natural thing in the world.
Take, for example, the situation of guest workers in the Gulf States: they are treated little better than slaves. They have practically no legal status and they have absolutely no entitlements in terms of cultural and religious rights. In the entire Arab peninsula, there is only one church: in the mini-state of Qatar whose national identity largely consists of irritating its far larger neighbour Saudi Arabia.

Ordinary citizens

The fact that governments in the Islamic world do not respect the rights of their own ordinary citizens either does not provide a valid argument with which to ease our conscience. For ordinary citizens are only denied political rights, while foreigners and minorities cannot claim any rights whatsoever and have to contend with discrimination by both the government and the population at large.
So when we here in Europe seek to defend our civil rights, we should remember one thing: that we are part of a society based on the idea that everyone, regardless of their background or beliefs, is equal and enjoys the same rights to practice their religion and express their culture. That is an ideal that is worthy of imitation, especially in the countries where our roots lie.

Common insults

Geert Wilders is currently standing trial for a number of statements he has made about Islam. The mere fact that a handful of immigrants and ordinary Dutch citizens can take an influential politician to court speaks volumes in itself. It illustrates that in this society, the law stands above all else.
For people with an Islamic background it is hard to listen to Geert Wilders' provocative statements about Islam. But ultimately they are common insults, nothing more and nothing less. The worst thing that Geert Wilders can do to us is to make us as radical as he is; to drive us to the point where we seek to defend our identity and culture in a forced and aggressive way. And, in doing so, that we forget to be critical of ourselves. In other words, that we start behaving in exactly the way he claims that we behave. Surely the last thing we should do is give him that satisfaction?

Day Opening - October 16

autumn landscape, somewhere in Europe

Friday, October 15, 2010

Anarchy on the Internet

“The Internet is the first thing that humanity has built that humanity doesn't understand, the largest experiment in anarchy that we have ever had.”

Eric Schmidt (CEO of Google)

Day Opening - October 15

Chicago in the fog

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Why do men prefer paprika flouvered crisps(chips)?

Apparently men like paprika-flavoured crisps and women prefer plain crisps (maybe you call them chips). But why?

Market research by crisp manufacturers says there is no difference between the sexes, but paprika crisps are more popular generally because they are "family crisps". According to culinary trendwatcher Anneke Ammerlaan, men prefer the short sharp sensation they get from the capsicum as it gives an 'orgasmic experience'. Women on the other hand have "a finer sense of taste, which is why they are better at wine tasting". So the next question is, why are men always asked to taste the wine in restaurants?

Day Opening - October 13

After the rain, by John Aavitsland

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Monday, October 11, 2010

Turkish national soccer coach not impressed by the Dutch team

Dutch coach Hiddink of the Turkish national team (behind him the Bosphorus)
Veteran Dutch coach Guus Hiddink has added his voice to the barrage of criticism that has engulfed the Holland team for its aggressive play at this year’s World Cup in South Africa. That was not “the Dutch way” he told the domestic press.
“The type of football Holland played at the World Cup will soon be forgotten. The only thing people will remember of the final is Nigel de Jong’s kung-fu foul - that's a crying shame.”
''In 1974 and 1998, Holland inspired the world. As regards the latter period, I may not be completely impartial, but both teams stood for something”, adds Hiddink, who managed the Dutch team from 1995 until 1998. In that year, he led Holland to the World Cup semi-final, where it was defeated at the hands of Brazil on penalties. Throughout the tournament, Holland played some of the more entertaining football. But that playing style has now been replaced by a more result-driven, business-like approach, Hiddink says.
“A business-like performance should be left to the business world. I love beautiful football; the type of football that made the orange squad great and brought it fame across the world.”
63-year-old Hiddink is currently manager of the Turkish national football team, which will be playing Holland in a friendly next month. I cannot wait for that match!!!.)

Day Opening - October 11

Patagonian 'gaucho', Argentina

Friday, October 8, 2010

Building an Opera House in Izmir

The competition for the design of the Izmir Opera House in Turkey has brought out some creative architectural designs. This design in particularl comes from Nuvist Architecture and Design.

This firm’s proposal for the Izmir Opera House is a reflection of the history, culture and the modern life in Izmir, and should become an identity for the city, according to the designers from Nuvist. Art centers have many roles aside from their fundamental functions that should be shared with society. Thus, Nuvist’s proposal aims to create a modern connection between the citizens and the architecture.
Art has a great role in showing what happens in human beings' lives. Soul, intelligence and the emotions are the reflections of the community, and art forms the social identities of communities...

Day Opening - October 8

Valtelline valley, Italy

Thursday, October 7, 2010

For 'Real Italians' only...

The mayor of the northern Italian town of Tradate is angry, very angry. He is convinced the court ban on his "baby bonus" is a political decision, because he belongs to an opposition party, the Lega Nord. He may have a point, but the baby bonus was itself a political move.

Tradate is situated around 50 kilometres northwest of Milan in the heartland of what the Lega Nord refers to as "Padania". In 2007 Mayor Stefano Candiani came up with a plan to welcome brand new additions to the town's population with a 500-euro bonus, as a form of encouragement for young parents in these financially troubled times.

However there are conditions attached. The parents must have been registered in Tradate for at least five years and they must both be Italian nationals. So if you're Dutch, say, and living there with your Italian husband or wife, you can forget it. Strange, when you consider that all citizens of EU countries have the same rights.
Preventing EU citizens from claiming the baby bonus is not the main thrust of Mayor Candiani's plan. He is primarily concerned with excluding the extracommunitari, the immigrants from outside the European Union who populate the factories in the prosperous north of Italy, doing the jobs Italians no longer want.
The mayor defends the scheme on the grounds that Italian nationality is something everyone can obtain. "We have an African family here. Both parents have Italian nationality and they got the 500 euros too."

The courts, however, have ruled that the baby bonus is discriminatory. Tradate says the money is an encouragement to have more children in order to "protect European culture, which belongs to the people of Europe". In other words to ensure enough European, or rather Padanian, babies are born. Eighty years ago Mussolini encouraged Italians to have more children and create a large and powerful nation.
Mayor Candiani wants to counteract the high immigrant birth rate. A policy supported by many people on the streets of Tradate. "They have so many children, it's good we can get this bonus" says an elderly woman pushing her granddaughter in a baby carriage.

The policy is not unique in northern Italy. Other Lega Nord mayors want similar baby bonuses or are agitating against the presence of foreigners in their towns in other ways. Keeping pigs on a piece of land intended for a new mosque, for example. Some towns impose income thresholds on immigrants.
These are only incidents but they are becoming more common as the Lega Nord gains ground. It now controls two of the four northern provinces, Piedmont and Veneto. Silvio Berlusconi's party rules the other two, Lombardy and Friuli, but he is dependent on the support of the Lega Nord.

You may wonder why immigrants would want to live in Padania, but what many Lega Nord officials know and don't mention is that northern Italy desperately needs them. Without the extracommuntari its economy would be seriously shorthanded - beyond the help of any baby bonuses.

Arash's World: On Being a Father: Two Years Later

Arash's World: On Being a Father: Two Years Later

Day Opening - October 7

In fact a very sad picture.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Animal police in the Netherlands

Proposals for 500 animal cops under the proposed new government in the Netherlands have received a lukewarm response from the animal protection agency, inspectors and the regular police. The police said that they are perfectly able to deal with the current number of reports animal cruelty.
The police fear that the new brigade to enforce stricter animal protection laws will mean cuts elsewhere in the force. The “animal cops” will be given vehicles, pepper spray, and search warrants. A special telephone line will be opened to take reports of animal abuse. The Animal Protection Agency says it would prefer to see the extra money being spent on prevention and after care.
Every year, 40,000 people report animal abuse, but only a quarter of the reports are considered serious enough to take action. The worst cases eventually land on the desk of the Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority. Only half of the 2000 cases they deal with every year are actually investigated.
An inspector said, who investigates cases of animal cruelty, “You can go to prison for two years or receive a fine of 150,000 euros.” But usually abusers get off with a couple of hundred euros. She would like to see judges pass harsher sentences. Apparently it is just a question of priorities.

Day Opening - October 5

Sugana Valley, Alps, Italy

Monday, October 4, 2010

Black Tea Party Amsterdam

Amsterdam used to call itself the gay capital of the world. But a 13-percent increase in violence against homosexuals has led to 50 percent not daring to be open about their sexual orientation in public.

Visitors came  in fancy dresses to a masked ball in the capital organised to address the problem, the Black Tea Party. Among the guests was Labour Party leader Job Cohen, who as minister introduced legislation allowing single sex marriage and as mayor held the first gay wedding ceremony in the Netherlands. One couple came in top hats and black masks, another as two cuddly bears. One party-goer is wearing a veil from ear to ear to cover his face...and that's a sad situation.

Day Opening - October 4


Sunday, October 3, 2010

About Wilders

Geert Wilders stands in the ornate Noen room in the Dutch Senate, the centre of political power, as he announces his support for the next government. Tomorrow, Monday October 4, he will stand before a judge in a courtroom in Amsterdam, defending himself as the hate speech trial against him resumes.

In power and on trial. A unique situation in recent Dutch political history. What consequences will his trial have on public debate? Will Geert Wilders tone down his rhetoric?
Wilders feels he is on a mission. His closest advisor and party colleague, Martin Bosma, has even called it a crusade. Wilders himself put it this way at the end of the first day of his trial in January, "It is not only the right, but the duty of every free person to speak out against every ideology that imperils freedom."
The move from the opposition benches to a supporting role in government will not change this sense of purpose. During the presentation of the new governing agreement, he said "We live in historic times, and we've come to a historic agreement... this accord will have far-reaching effects on the Netherlands."

Milder phase

Presenting the agreement and in a speech he gave in New York on September 11, Wilders failed to reiterate some of his more controversial remarks about Islam. Some observers say a milder Geert Wilders may be emerging as he gets closer to power.
But that is unlikely to last, in part because of the trial.
Wilders says the case against him is politically motivated, that it is an attempt to silence him. While he admits to being concerned about the prospects of going to jail (he faces a maximum sentence of two years in prison), he is characteristically defiant. And he passionately defends his right to say what he wants. Hence, toning down his message would damage his very credibility.

Three charges

Wilders is facing three charges: incitement to hatred, discrimination against Muslims, and insulting Moroccan immigrants. The charges are based on statements he made in public, articles he wrote and the film he produced: Fitna.
Wilders has described Islam as "evil", a "violent religion" and an "intolerant and fascist ideology". He has called for an outright ban on the Islamic holy book, the Qur'an, calling it the "Islamic Mein Kampf". He called the prophet Muhammad a "sick paedophile" who behaved "like a pig", and he called for a "headrag tax" on women who wear a Muslim headscarf.

Public debate

He referred to Muslims in the Netherlands "colonisers", who they are attempting to "transform the Netherlands into a province of the Islamic superstate, Eurabia."
Wilders may be controversial, but so is the fact that charges have been brought against him. The public prosecutor's office in Amsterdam only filed against Wilders after a judge so ordered. Before that, the public prosecutor had repeatedly refused to bring charges, on the grounds that, as a public figure, Wilders should be allowed a great deal of leeway in expressing his views. His views make up part of the public debate.

Fundamental conflict

The decision not to charge Wilders was criticised by some, and the judge's order to bring charges has been criticised by others. The trial itself splits Dutch society down the middle. Which is more important - freedom of speech or freedom of religion?
Wilders and his lawyer, Bram Moszkowicz, make two arguments: Wilders has not broken the law and, even if he had, the law is contrary to international norms of free speech.
A number of legal experts agree. Geert Jan Knoops is professor of international criminal law at the University of Utrecht. He says "You have to oppose Wilders in a public debate, not silence him in a courtroom. Whatever you think about his ideas."

No clear precedent

The outcome of the trial is difficult to predict. The precedent in Dutch law for incitement to hatred and discrimination are not clear. The one prominent case involved the far-right politician Hans Janmaat. In the 1990s he was convicted three times, in three different jurisdictions, for discrimination. But his most famous statement, that this country couldn't handle any more immigrants because "full is full", seemed relatively mild just a few years later.
Wilders cannot look to international law for solace, either. While, in the past, the trend was to grant politicians plenty of room for expression, the European Court of Human Rights recently upheld restrictions on politicians' freedom of speech in cases involving incitement to hatred. (Jean-Marie Le Pen in France, Daniel Feret in Belgium and Mark Norwood in the UK.)

Stay alert

The trial is set to continue all month, with a verdict currently scheduled for 4 November. In the meantime, Geert Wilders will see many of his ideas implemented, as the government he has made possible takes office. Continuing in his previous strident tone could well upset his new political friends and the trial may make Wilders think again, temporarily - but in the long run it is hard to see him changing the style that brought him success.
The debate in the Netherlands looks likely to remain as heated as ever in the coming months and years.

Day Opening - October 3

Autumn scenery, USA

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Friday, October 1, 2010

Political Scientist Hamed Abdel-Samad of The Downfall of the Islamic World

In a SPIEGEL interview, Egyptian-German political scientist Hamed Abdel-Samad talks about his childhood as the son of an imam in Egypt, why he thinks Islam is a danger to society and his theories about the inevitable decline of the Muslim world.

''SPIEGEL: You predict the "downfall of the Islamic world," to quote the title of your new book. But Islam is the fastest growing of all religions, and Europe, in particular, is worried about being overwhelmed by Muslims.

Abdel-Samad: The numbers don't tell us very much. There are 1.4 billion Muslims. So what? The important thing is that in almost all countries with a Muslim majority, we see the decline of civilization and a stagnation of all forms of life. Islam has no convincing answers to the challenges of the 21st century. It is in intellectual, moral and cultural decline -- a doomed religion, without self-awareness and without any options to act.

SPIEGEL: Aren't you making the mistake of many radical critics of Islam, by lumping together the entire religion, in all of its many forms?
Abdel-Samad: Of course our religion has many directions. The differences may be of interest to theologians and anthropologists, but they are quite irrelevant from a political standpoint. The decisive element is the general lack of direction and backwardness, which often lead to an aggressive fundamentalism. That sets the general tone.

SPIEGEL: But Dubai is worlds away from Somalia, and the relatively liberal Indonesia is very different from Iran's rigorous theocracy. Turkey is a democracy and currently has higher economic growth than any other European country. Are these all exceptions to the rule?
Abdel-Samad: There are differences, of course. But whenever Muslims seek to introduce Islamic studies into European schools or try to obtain nonprofit status for an Islamic organization, there is always talk of one Islam. The minute someone attacks the faith, they resort to a trick to stifle the criticism and disingenuously ask: Which Islam are you talking about?

SPIEGEL: Perhaps you could help us understand.
Abdel-Samad: In a sense, Islam is like a drug, like alcohol. A small amount can have a healing and inspiring effect, but when the believer reaches for the bottle of dogmatic faith in every situation, it gets dangerous. This high-proof form of Islam is what I'm talking about. It harms the individual and damages society. It inhibits integration, because this Islam divides the world into friends and enemies, into the faithful and the infidels.

SPIEGEL: It sounds as if you're not all that far away from Sarrazin in your views.
Abdel-Samad: The only thing Mr. Sarrazin and I have in common is that we both come from an immigrant background. He is afraid of the Islamic world, and I'm afraid for it. Germany offers both of us a forum, and for that reason alone the country cannot be done away with.

SPIEGEL: You advocate a milder form of Islam. What remains of the core of the religion?
Abdel-Samad: My dream, in fact, is an enlightened Islam, without Sharia law and without jihad, without gender apartheid, proselytizing and the mentality of entitlement. A religion that is open to criticism and questions. As far as I'm concerned, I converted from faith to knowledge some time ago.

This is part of the interview. More herrreeee

Gulf Money, Media Bias and Conspiracy Theories

By Claire Berlinski.

A few weeks ago, I noted with disgust the cover of Time magazine, headlined Why Israel Doesn't Care About Peace. I suggested that their editorial line had of late become so frankly hostile to Israel that it would be worthwhile to ask who their advertisers were. An old friend of mine, with whom I've been arguing about politics literally since I was fifteen years old, wrote to me to object. I'll call him "Red Sean." Red Sean felt my suggestion was analogous to precisely the kind of ugly conspiracy theory I would usually deplore:

--My dear friend, I don't think it's wise to question the motives of every news organization that disagrees with you. Take it at face value and dispute it on its merit. Otherwise it gets ugly. It is usually my Jewish friends who get uncomfortable at the mention of the close connection of various individuals in government and media with Israel. Those who point out the close ties are deemed anti-Semitic conspiracy theorists. We can't have it both ways.

A fair point. I generally agree that we'd all be well-advised to begin by arguing with an article's facts, not with the ethnicity or nationality of the newspaper's advertisers. In the case of the article in question, there are more than enough facts with which to argue.
That said, media consumers have every reason to ask who's funding the newspaper they're reading or the television show they're watching. News magazines run on advertising, and of course publishers gear content toward the advertisers' preferences, both consciously and unconsciously. This is why you'll never see a fashion magazine running an article titled, "Actually, all that makeup just makes you look shallow, garish and phony."

Is it anti-Semitic to intimate that Jews control the American media? Yes, because they don't. Jews are statistically over-represented in journalism, as they are in all the professions. They're still very much the minority. Most of the major media (what's left of it) is now owned by publicly traded international corporations, who answer to institutional investors and advertisers. They follow the money, not the dictates of the International Zionist Conspiracy, because they have no choice.
More herrrreeeee

Day Opening - October 1

Autumn, Wiltshire, England