May 2010


By Madhur Singh, from the Times:

For three weeks now, a morbid murder story has been playing out in the Indian media. Nirupama Pathak, 22, a New Delhi–based journalist, was allegedly murdered by her own mother. Her crime? She had wanted to marry a fellow journalist who belongs to a lower caste — and she was pregnant. On a trip home to make a final effort to convince her family, Nirupama texted her boyfriend that she was being held captive, locked up in a bathroom. On April 29, she was found dead. The family claimed Nirupama had killed herself, and lodged a case against her boyfriend for rape and abetting suicide. But when the postmortem results revealed Nirupama had been asphyxiated, the police arrested her mother, Sudha Pathak.

The case is now headed to court, which will disentangle the web of allegations and counterallegations. Meanwhile, it has thrust the issue of honor killings to the center of public debate. Though Western readers associate the term more with Taliban-ruled Afghanistan than with 21st century India, honor killings are shockingly frequent in villages in the northern and northwestern parts of the country, where those daring to cross the barriers of caste are made to pay with their lives. Mostly, these cases are confined to the inside pages of newspapers, but the Nirupama case — in urban, educated, middle-class India — has hit the front pages. (See the tempestuous Nehru dynasty of India.)

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Book review by David Rieff, from the World Affairs Journal:

For Christopher Caldwell, an American columnist for the Financial Times and contributor to the New York Times Magazine and the Weekly Standard, the end of Europe as we have known it and as it has known itself is not just possible but inevitable. His new book is a grim explication of this thesis and an investigation—part reportage, part history, part analysis, part social theory—both of the deep roots within European culture and politics for this looming catastrophe, and of its proximate cause, which, for Caldwell, is obvious and undeniable: the mass migration of Muslim immigrants to Europe and the sinister prospect of their dominance. His book, he writes, asks “whether you can have the same Europe with different people. The answer is no.”

Caldwell is so utterly persuaded that post-1945 Europe is “a civilization in decline” that he barely sees the need to confront the argument of those who take a more optimistic view. In his telling, Europe’s prosperity, technological sophistication, and success in assuring the material well-being of more of its population than any society (including that of the United States) has ever been able to assure in human history, is largely irrelevant, at least when compared with Europe’s spiritual loss of faith in itself. For Caldwell, as for Schopenhauer, Dostoyevsky, Shestov, Spengler, and Cioran, whose worldview his book largely shares, Napoleon’s maxim, that in war “the moral is to the material as three to one,” would seem to apply to society as a whole.

What does puzzle Caldwell is why this decline has been so precipitous. And while he discusses a number of the elements at some length, including the decline of Christianity, above all in the sense that religion provided an anchor to European identity—a perspective that in his view has made Europeans particularly susceptible to a debilitating form of universalism—he seems to realize that, taken together, all of this explains very little. He is reduced to saying the continent is “missing some hard-to-define factor” that would allow its elites to stop conniving in their own disappearance. If he can’t say what exactly that factor is, Caldwell is persuaded that Europe can’t either. And that is his essential point: this incapacity to know and define European values explains why Muslim immigrants will transform Europe culturally and politically instead of the other way around, which would seem more likely, given the economic, educational, and political imbalance in Europe’s favor.

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From the Economist:

HOW likely are French parliamentarians to approve the proposed “burqa ban”? Deputies get their first chance to debate the idea in parliament on Tuesday May 11th. As a first step, the National Assembly will examine a resolution, which carries symbolic value, but not legal force. Yet it will be a good test of the political mood. It is likely to be approved with thunderous cross-party support.

French backing for a burqa ban across the political spectrum is sometimes hard to understand. In many multicultural quarters of Europe, the idea is linked to the extreme or nationalist right. In Britain, for instance, the only party proposing a total burqa ban during the recent general-election campaign was the United Kingdom Independence Party, which also wants to pull the country out of the European Union. The far-right British National Party also called for a burqa ban in schools. One Labour minister replied that it was “not British” to tell people what to wear in the street. In a speech in Cairo last year, President Barack Obama argued that Western countries should not be “dictating what clothes a Muslim woman should wear”.

In France, however, the proposal draws backing from the mainstream left and right. President Nicolas Sarkozy, from the political right, said last year that the burqa, as the French call it (in reality, they mean the niqab, or all-over face-covering veil), was “not welcome” on French soil. Jean-François Copé, the leader of the ruling UMP party in parliament, has been the most active in pushing for a total ban (The Economist interviewed Mr Copé last week). Yet the idea is also backed by politicians of all stripes, including the Communist head of a parliamentary inquiry into a ban, and various leading Socialists.

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From the BBC:

A mosque near the Palestinian West Bank city of Nablus has been damaged by fire, officials say.

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas says the fire was caused by Jewish settlers, and that it could jeopardise Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

Israeli media reports reports said an electrical short circuit may have started the blaze.

But Israeli security officers investigating the fire have not yet determined its cause, police say.

The mosque was gutted by the fire, which also destroyed holy books.

Lubban al-Sharqiya, the village where the mosque lies, is close to three Jewish settlements, AFP reports.

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From Al-Jazeera English:

Muslims, academics and human rights groups have hit out at a looming public ban in Belgium on the full face veil, following a decision in the country’s parliament to make the wearing of the article of clothing illegal.

The vote on Thursday was almost unanimous with 134 MPs in support of the law and just two abstentions.

“I think they’re trying to wind us up,” Souad Barlabi, a young woman wearing a simple veil, said outside the Grand Mosque in Brussels, the Belgian capital, around the time of Friday prayers.

“We feel under attack,” she said, a day after the politicians voted for the ban on clothes or veils that do not allow the wearer to be fully identified.

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