Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Paranoia in the Muslim world; Christian minorities "spying for the crusaders"

Christians in Islamic countries often find themselves between a rock and a hard place. They are regarded as accomplices of the West but the West itself tends to ignore them. Western politicians and activists argue about whether there should be another special attention paid to persecuted Christians.
Egyptian woman Maria (surname withheld, since she has already been subjected to threats) fled from Egypt years ago. She says the situation in Egypt is becoming increasingly dangerous for Christians:
"Some people say 'if you're not a Muslim you should go and live in America or Canada or Europe'. But Egypt is the homeland of the Copts. They have no other country, they have been born and raised there since ancient times."

Western crusade
Dutch political scientist Hala Naoum Nehme, who is of Syrian extraction, is not surprised that seven Islamic nations appear in the top ten of countries which persecute Christians. She accuses Dutch politicians and media of systematically looking the other way whenever the topic of Christians in Islamic countries is raised. She believes the situation has deteriorated significantly during the past decade:
"The most recent historic low point was after the 9/11 attacks when US President George W. Bush announced his 'war on terror' on television. A Western crusade against the Muslim world. That's when Christians were once again seen as offspring of the Christian West, as stooges of the West. They were told quite clearly: you are not longer welcome."
In 2001 the Middle East Quarterly predicted that the number of Christians in the Middle East would decrease from 12 million to 5 million by 2025. This was partly to do with low birth rates but mostly the result of emigration. The exodus is likely to be stimulated by the popular uprisings of the Arab Spring which seem to be marginalizing Christians even further.

Double standards

But should we put so much emphasis on the fate of Christian minority? During a debate in Parliament about human rights, Labour Party MP Frans Timmermans had this to say:
"There are other religious minorities too, and I can assure you that concentrating on Christians too much will not improve the situation of those Christians. They will become the target of people who claims that we operate a double standard when it comes to human rights policy. You will have heard Christians themselves saying: be careful you don't put us in the forefront all the time, that just makes us more vulnerable in some situations."

Hala Naoum Nehme says the fear of accusations of double standards is pointless. Christians are already subject to close scrutiny and that's never going to change. And because "the West is the only civilisation in living memory that has stood up for human rights and human rights are a Western invention" it seems to her only reasonable that the West should accept its responsibilities and defend the Christians in the Middle East. "Just as it defends non-Christian minorities like the Kurds and the Palestinians."

Day Opening - June 21

sunset at a small city in Portugal

Monday, June 20, 2011

Friday, June 17, 2011

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The virginity test dispelled

Female virginity and the ability to prove an unmarried woman is a virgin are still vital to a family’s  ‘honour’ in many countries, but the members of the Myth Dispelled campaign group in the Netherlands say it’s actually impossible to prove by medical means whether a woman is still a virgin. They also say that virginity testing - highlighted by recent controversial cases in Egypt and India - is a powerful tool when it comes to oppressing women and actually violates their human rights. 
The whole issue of virginity made headlines recently with the humiliating testing of a number of alleged rape victims in India and 17 Egyptian women who took part in the Tahrir Square protests in Cairo. In the latter case, the aim of the tests appears to have been to ‘protect’ members of the Egyptian army against possible rape accusations.

Writing in a Dutch newspaper, Ineke van Seumeren – a gynaecologist at the UMC teaching hospital in Utrecht - and fellow Myth Dispelled (Mythe Ontkracht) member and chairperson Ines Balkema argue that virginity testing is pointless:  
“In many countries it’s still not known that female virginity cannot be medically proven. Even in the modern Netherlands many people are convinced that you can see or feel whether or not a woman is a virgin. The medical facts are different.”
The way such tests are carried out is often extremely primitive – one of the most common being the method of inserting two fingers into the vagina. Two fingers are said to be equal to the width of a penis. If the fingers enter ‘easily’, then the woman in question is assumed to have had sex before.
The Myth Dispelled foundation explains that the flexibility or tightness of a vagina and the condition of the hymen – the membrane that ‘closes’ the entrance to the cervix – say and prove nothing about the sexual activity, or lack thereof, of a woman.
In the opinion piece, the two women write: “The hymen is not a sealed membrane. In most cases it is a small, flexible lip; sometimes it’s hard and inflexible […].  It varies from woman to woman […]. A vagina is made to allow a baby to pass through; it’s an illusion to think that a vagina will expand because of something small like a penis.”
They argue that virginity testing is, in fact, a powerful tool when it comes to the continued oppression of women and they cite what happened in Cairo: “When the female protestors in Egypt underwent the virginity test, completely undressed, military personnel were there taking photographs. The result of practices like this is that women will think twice about demonstrating or filing a rape charge. This is a serious violation of women’s human rights…”
On a more positive note, the authors write that the recent cases have sparked debate about abolishing these mediaeval tests in both India and Egypt, adding that it’s now important to keep an eye on whether this actually happens and to keep on stressing that virginity isn’t something that can be proven or disproven by medical means.

Day Opening - June 17

bad, bad boy..))

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Turkey PM and Turkish minister of EU affairs make weird accusations

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has told Dutch media that he is opposed to radical politics. Without mentioning anti-Islam MP Geert Wilders, Mr Erdogan said, "Radicalism brings misery over the people and the country."
The Turkish Prime Minister, who usually shuns foreign media, was interviewed by Holland's public broadcaster NOS and daily NRC Handelsblad on the eve of Sunday's general elections in Turkey. Campaigning on a ultra nationalistic militaristic national pride theme, which Mr Erdogan's AK party won with 48.8% of the votes.
European Union
Geert Wilders' Freedom Party is opposed to Turkey's entry into the European Union. With 15 percent of the popular vote, the nationalist Freedom Party is a key supporter of the Netherlands' minority government. Brussels has been considering Ankara's membership application since 1987.
Explaining Turkey's position, Europe Minister Egemen Bagis later told the Dutch press that his government is dealing with the Netherlands' government, not with Geert Wilders' Freedom Party. "We're assuming that the Dutch population is not interested in the anti-Islam position of Mr Wilders," the Turkish minister said, thinking that those 15% of simple 1.5 million can be ignored like he ignored the rights of Kurds. Anyway, Bağis never made a clever statement, always controversial.

Dangerous man
Geert Wilders reacted in characteristic fashion, not mincing his words: "Mr Erdogan is a dangerous Islamist of the worst kind. If he wins the elections, Turkey will definitively turn its back on Europe. As far as we're concerned they will never get into the EU anyway, but in any case normal relations will become complicated when he is involved. A dangerous man, himself an Islamic radical."
A member of the Dutch opposition Socialist Party, Sadet Karabulut, a Turk, said on Twitter, "Turkish premier Erdogan may be concerned about a radicalisation in Dutch politics. I'm concerned about Mr Erdogan's radical politics."
Erdogan and its team face huge economical problems. But their bragging starts to irritate.

Day Opening - June 14

waiting for my beer

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Hesperado: The Mediterranean Boat People: Black refugees from Arabic racism?

The Hesperado: The Mediterranean Boat People: Black refugees from Arabic racism?

Holland guarantee open and free access to internet: net neutrality

The Netherlands is to be the first European country to guarantee open and free access to the internet. Dutch Economic Affairs Minister Maxime Verhagen has embraced an opposition bill about ‘net neutrality’. In future, telecom operators will no longer be allowed to charge extra for internet services like Skype and YouTube. The bill has the support of a parliamentary majority.

If the bill is adopted on Tuesday, it would mean telecom providers can't go ahead with their plans to charge users extra for services like Skype and Youtube. Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services and streaming video on mobile phones would also no longer fall under existing subscription packages. Telecom providers would really prefer to go back to the old system under which their clients paid per MB.
The telecommunications industry says it really has no choice because the widespread use of free services is costing them too much. Data traffic has grown exponentially in the past few years. At the same time, telecom providers have seen revenue from telephony (both via landlines and via mobile phones) and text messaging take a nose-dive. The telecommunications industry says that unless new sources of revenue are found they will have no money to pay for the new hyper-fast 4G mobile network.
Open internet
However, a majority in parliament, which has now been joined by the minister, will not stand for any infringement of net neutrality. Minister Verhagen:
“By enshrining a guaranteed open internet in law, the Netherlands shows how important we feel it is for citizens to have free access to the internet. Without interference, and primarily by deciding for oneself what information one wants to use.”
Minister Verhagen does not have the support of the coalition parties CDA (Christian democrats) and VVD (conservatives). The two parties want to postpone a decision on net neutrality, because other European countries are not yet ready to take a decision.
European Digital Agenda Commissioner Neelie Kroes has said she believes European rules to guarantee free access to the internet are not necessary. However, Minister Verhagen believes that introducing net neutrality legislation now will send a clear signal to other countries to follow suit.
The Dutch consumers’ interests watchdog De Consumentenbond is pleased with the preservation of an open internet. The organisation fears that additional charges for certain web services would hamper internet innovation. Skype and YouTube are examples of user-developed services.
According to a spokesperson, “Creativity would be seriously hampered if they were to be included in paid subscriptions.” And users would reportedly face a veritable jungle of subscriptions.
The telecom providers have not yet reacted to Minister Verhagen’s statements on a guaranteed open internet, but they will be sure to be following next week’s parliamentary debate intently from the public

Day Opening - June 13

having fun my way

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Friday, June 10, 2011

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Don't tell us how to dress, tell men not to rape!

An exuberant group of people paraded through the streets of Amsterdam this weekend to promote freedom of expression. The first Dutch Slutwalk made a fun statement on why people shouldn’t be judged by their outfit. Later this month it’s India’s turn to show how tolerant they are when Delhi hosts its first Slutwalk.
The Canadian policeman who told college girls to avoid dressing ‘like a slut’ could have never foreseen the effect his words would have. His speech was meant to educate girls on how to protect themselves from rape attacks. Instead women all over the world are now educating men about how they want to be treated in public.
It started in Toronto; women outraged by the remarks took to the streets to show their “slutty” side.  The Slutwalks are now held all over the globe to demonstrate that a skin-revealing dress doesn’t mean ‘yes’.   After Toronto, Melbourne and Amsterdam, Delhi is next on the calendar.
With the phenomenon spreading worldwide each city has adapted the concept to its own social concerns.  In Amsterdam this weekend, for example, the rally was much more about gender equality.
Organiser Mirjam van Heugten: “Amsterdam is known for its tolerant spirit, but in some ways it’s a false idea of tolerance. When two women holding hands walk down the street it is okay. But when they’re clearly a gay couple, because one dresses more feminine and the other dresses more masculine, they get stared at.”
As a lesbian herself, Ms Van Heugten knows what she is talking about. She has experienced it firsthand, even during the media campaign for the Amsterdam Slutwalk.
“This morning I was interviewed on national radio about the event. This very macho male presenter called me a frustrated dyke for organising it! To me it shows that even in the Netherlands a Slutwalk is still necessary.”
Unlike Amsterdam, India is infamously known for not being so tolerant to women. In many assault and harassment cases the motives of the girls are questioned rather than the perpetrators’ actions. Why was she out at night? Why was she wearing a western-style party dress? These are all questions that shouldn’t matter. But they are being asked over and over again, by the media, the public and government officials.
Nisha Susan is the woman behind the very popular Facebook group for ‘Pub-going, loose and forward women’. This initiative, which was set up last year, has a similar angle on the issue of harassment as the Slutwalks have.
“We wanted to reclaim the words that are used to address women in a derogatory way” says Nisha Susan.
Nisha’s group is responsible for the Pink Chaddi campaign. Hundreds of pink panties from women all over India were sent to the headquarters of a Hindu nationalist party, in reaction to an incident in Mangalore. A group of girls were attacked there in a bar by men from the Sri Ram Sena party. The Pink Chaddi campaign was a fun and harmless way to address the issue. It turned out to be an incredible effective tool, because it succeeded in getting a lot of media attention.
This now talk on the popular social network site of organising India’s first Slutwalk in Delhi on the 25th of June.
Nisha Susan: “Women in Delhi are very politically active but I’m not sure how big a success a Slutwalk would be. No matter how many people show up, we have to keep doing this. Because you never know how many women are being influenced.”
The reactions in India to the Slutwalks taking place all over the world have been divided. Some say that the walks are too typically western and that Indian women wouldn’t be able to relate to the word ‘slut’. The Hindi language doesn’t seem to have a good translation for subtle promiscuity. Others feel that India needs a SlutWalk even more than western countries do.
Whether there is such a thing as western or eastern feminism, women coming together to fight for a common cause can never be a bad thing.