Realm Of Randomness

February 8, 2008

Right answer, wrong argument

Filed under: Controversial,Current events,Opinion,Religion — Randomizer @ 1:51 am

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(source)

By now, I’m sure most of you have caught up on the latest ‘sensational news headline’ from the UK, that of the Arch Bishop saying that Sharia law in Britain is unavoidable. For those who are not familiar with it, here’s the gist of it: He claimed in a BBC interview that Sharia law, or Islamic law, is inevitable in the UK. He went on to say that it will help muslims feel more at home, and help them integrate better. Obviously, if you know some of the unpopular aspects of this law, you will know why the entire nation is now up in arms, and I seriously wonder how many days this bishop has left as bishop.

Having lived in Saudi Arabia for four years, I have seen this law in place first hand, though it never really affected me much, as I was too young then. But yes, I have seen the power of the religious priests, the enforcers of this law, and have very often heard of very strict punishment for crimes that in modern day, would not even be defined crimes – like a woman being in the presence of a man who is not her husband or relative.

Should Sharia law be applicable in the UK for muslims if they want it? Read this article that appeared in the times online, a UK paper’s website, and it is important because that is the premise for this post. The same writer had earlier written this article when talking about why mosques should not use loudspeakers to call for prayer in Britain.

The writer for the most part has the right idea, and the answer I would go with – No, there shouldn’t be Sharia law in place. But the argument that he uses is something like this, ( which I have summed up from both his articles ):

Our history is and has been that of a Christian nation, and our laws have been influenced by Christianity. There are other places in the world where Islam is the rule of the land, where you can your way. But this place is Christian, so respect the majority and live by our rules.

While the above does make sense, his argument is far from ideal, and does not accomplish much, save for pandering to public sentiment. The reason I believe that Sharia law should not be put in place is NOT because the UK is/has been a Christian nation, but because religion should have no place in government at all. The minute you say that followers of religion A will be guided by so-and-so laws, and religion B by others, you are setting yourself up for very blurry legislation. These religious laws, whether derived from the Bible or the Quran, were written 2000 or more years ago under drastically different circumstances, and should have no place in modern day society, least of all, the government. Now that is the argument that should be used, not ‘We derived our rules from the bible, and we form 90% of this nation, so tough luck, but you need to suck it up, wiseguys!’.

One only has to look at the dozens of new religions popping up in the US and around the world every year to see where this could be going. Followers of organizations like Scientology that parade as religions, which we discussed before cannot be given one set of rules because their founder Ron Hubbard wrote a book with some set of rules that he thought apt at the time. How can we be governed by laws that are written by these people, merely because they have a huge following?

I do know that the UK is not explicitly a secular country, and hence these arguments like the writer I linked to, can fly where he comes from. It only brings me to admire the creators of the Indian and American constitutions a whole lot more, who explicitly call for separation of church and state. Though both these countries are far from ideal in their implementation, and politics is very badly skewed towards religions, at least we have our goals right.

To sum up this post, no, no religion should ever guide the law of the land, whether Christian, or Sharia, or Hindu. And no, nothing good can ever come out of a ” don’t-like it? then-get-out ” attitude either. The muslims are there to stay, so impress upon them the need for one rule for everyone, if you ever want to make any progress with the communal tensions.

January 9, 2008

Of monkeys and cricket

Filed under: Controversial,Current events,Opinion — Randomizer @ 3:20 am

While Indians are fuming at what’s happening in Australia, here’s a real funny article in the Australian news, loaded with sarcasm and humor, about what sledges are acceptable against the Aussies :) . At international controversies like these, I absolutely cannot resist visiting the web-sites of the countries involved to see what the local ‘feel’ is about the issue. At most times, you end up surprised, and I encourage all of you to do the same.

I expected that the Aussies would be rallying behind their team, but it seems like a good number of journalists, editorials and surveys show that they want Ricky Ponting out, as he’s an embarrassment to the national side, and have perverted the good spirit of the game. I find such articles reassuring, and it is a great way to avoid painting the whole nation with a broad brush as ‘arrogant’ or ‘supremacist’ or whatever.

As pointed out sarcastically by the article I linked to, this double standard about insults on the field is ridiculous. Who is to decide which insult is worse than the other ? Do they have a scorecard weighing each type of insult against each other ?

About the juicy question of whether the word was uttered or not – I will have to go with the Affirmative ….. now before questioning my patriotism, hear me out ! :)

(1) After being continually sledged by the Aussies, I think it is easy to get a response like ‘monkey’ from an Indian player under pressure and under a barrage of insults. If anything, it’s a mellow response – since most often, ‘monkey’ has no racial connotations in Indian speech, and is equivalent to saying ‘you donkey’ …

(2) Frankly, I really don’t think Symonds and the others would just make something like that up. True, the Aussies are bad sportsmen, but going that far as to lying to a tribunal about a word that was never uttered ? That’s too much, even for as unsportsmanlike a team as the Aussies. One may argue that this is equivalent to a false appeal to an umpire, but count the number of false appeals in a game vs. the official complaints made to a match referee, and you’ll see the odds stacked against Harbhajan.

(3) Tendulkar’s evidence, or lack of it – Logically speaking, Tendulkar *not* hearing Harbhajan say it is not AS compelling a form of evidence as witnesses who *have* heard it. It could simply mean Sachin was out of ear-shot – that is very probable, isn’t it?

I must re-iterate here, that even if he did say it, I do believe the suspension was harsh, and that this was probably the most hypocritical calling out of a player by a team in cricketing history! All things said, I do believe the ‘monkey’ word was uttered – in what way he meant it, or what the Aussies did before that to bring him to say it, are according to me, the only things in question.

I will of course, be glad if I’m wrong about this – and ‘Bhajji‘ turns out to be 100% innocent.

July 18, 2007

Lending a SIM card while brown[ updated ]

Filed under: Controversial,Current events,Opinion,Racism,Rant — Randomizer @ 2:32 pm

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Mohammed Haneef, an Indian doctor from Australia, is in his 2nd week of interrogation. Today he moves into solitary confinement for 23 hours a day . The highlights of the case so far:

  • He once lived with the people involved in the UK Terrorist attacks
  • One of the attackers, Kafeel Ahmed, is related to him.
  • Haneef had credit on his SIM card in the UK, so he gave it to his cousin Kafeel
  • Haneef is accused of ‘Reckless support of a terrorist group’, for the SIM card
  • He is accused of witholding information about the attack, though he claims he knew nothing about it
  • The courts cleared him and gave him bail, but the governement cancelled his visa anyway

Here is an opinion article by a right-winger in the Australian news who claims everything was done by the law. I was happy to read the comments though, there seemed to an even number of left and right wingers in the discussion. Here is his wife’s side of the story. And (don’t you love the internet?) , here is a pdf file on the grounds for canceling Haneef’s visa.

If in 20 odd days of interrogation, they have been unable to connect him to the crime in any way, chances are that he’s just an unlucky relative of a radicalized islamist. Canceling his visa before his guilt was substantiated is to succumb to Xenophobia and the Austrailian right-wingers ought to be ashamed of themselves.

See also:

Flying while brown
Photographing while brown
Filming while brown
Shopkeeping while brown

[Update: Its over ! The charges have finally been dropped. He was in custody for 23 days ]

July 12, 2007

Racial Profiling: Statistics vs Prejudice [Updated]

Filed under: Controversial,Opinion,Racism,Rant — Randomizer @ 2:44 pm

I had a post on stereotyping last year, which I subsequently withdrew since I wasn’t so sure anymore of how I felt towards it. I have lately been at a loss explaining exactly what my stand is, on Racial profiling, and I thought I’d give the discussion a fresh start. A CNN article today ran a familiar story, one that we have all heard before, of a plane that was diverted due to a ‘suspicious’ passenger. I didn’t have to search much to get exactly what I was looking for:

Shortly after landing, Loynes said, security officials boarded the plane and left with a man of “Middle Eastern descent.”

Apparently, he had crossed the security check on an employee bus, and authorities were not so sure if he was an employee or not. Now, I have every reason to suspect that this wasn’t the only reason the plane was diverted. Flying while brown is no cake walk these days, thanks to events that happened 6 years ago.

Now, there are two sides to this coin. One argument is based on the relevance of statistics, if any, and one based on pure xenophobia. My question is, over the last 5 years, if 95% of ‘terrorists’ have been of Middle-Eastern descent, i.e. Brown men aged 18-28, is it wrong to use this knowledge as one of your ‘attributes’, or must one ignore this fact every time ? Obviously, it is wrong if it is your only attribute for suspicion, but what if it is just one of your attributes ?

American suspicion of the brown man has definitely reached xenophobic levels, and it is terrible, personally speaking. But what if we were working for a security agency – Is it completely outrageous to suspect a chinese lady less than a brown man ?

Another interesting question, about our most recent ‘Indian terrorist’ – Kafeel Ahmed – who unsuccessfully tried to blow up his vehicle in the Glasgow airport. I am obviously enraged that this guy has bismirched the name of Bangalore, and our peaceful country of India. But if it wasn’t for stereotyping, I wouldn’t have to be ! So this leads to another question – should I be angrier about him bludgeoning the name of our country, or the people who will eventually associate me with him ?

And if not for using this fact about a Bangalorean terrorist for racial profiling, how exactly are security agencies supposed to handle this fact ? Surely it must count for something …or shouldn’t it ? At what point should it count, and who decides that ? If there are a hundred more Bangalorean terrorists, of course it’s a massive issue .. twenty more .. yes .. two more .. hmmm maybe…. if none more, i don’t think it should count at all. So is there some magic number here ? Some invisible threshold that I’m missing ?

At what point do statistics of racial/national involvement count ? Is it really that immoral ?

The line seems to be extremely thin…. and my opinion is unclear. Help me out here !

[ Update : Sharath has added on to this discussion as well ]

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