Archive for the Society Category

I can’t breathe

Posted in Society with tags , , , on December 14, 2014 by shirhashirim

There’s been quite some upheaval in the US recently as a result of the killing of black people by white policemen, who subsequently do not get punished. I am not familiar enough with the cases themselves to have an opinion, but I did see the video that featured Eric Garners last minutes in this life. Something struck me that seems to have gotten less attention than it deserves.

The point that Eric Garner was the victim of racist violence may or may not be warranted, I simply do not know. But from watching the video it struck me that he is in any case the victim of unnecessary violence. It seems to me be another structural problem for the police in the US.

I’ll try to disregard the way US police is depicted in film and on TV, that may be an exaggeration of real life. But judging from what Americans have told me about attitudes of their police, and the attitudes of US civilians towards their police, it seems to me these attitudes are prone to cause violence of an unnecessary nature.

US policemen – I am generalising now for the sake of clarity – seem to expect that civilians obediently follow their instructions, without questioning. If that doesn’t happen, discussion is not what follows, but coercion. I’m not going to claim that my country does not know police violence, it does, but whenever I’ve seen our police handle ‘situations’, I’ve always been impressed by their tenacity in trying to solve the problem by discussion. I’ve never seen that happen in the US, nor heard about it.

I’ve seen the same tenacity depicted in US films, in hostage-situations or other occurences where the suspect had a position of power over the police. Where the police – in other words – had no other choice but to negociate. Again, I’m not sure whether these films reflect real life, but the fact that it’s depicted means that the concept of negociating between police and civilians is known.

Yet from what I know first-hand about US culture that concept is not applied with the same diligence as over here. I think this is a second, nay first, problem that needs to be solved.


Nobel prize 2013

Posted in Religion, Society, World politics with tags , on July 17, 2013 by shirhashirim

It’s a run race if you ask me…

But apart from that I want to draw attention to the speech itself, it is smart, very smart indeed, well written (text here) and very well delivered.

Malala starts her speech with the bismillah – which is a normal thing to do for Muslims – but she does it with ever so slight emphasis. She carefully and slowly recites the Arabic formula and then translates it into English. By doing so she not only presents herself as a believing Muslim, she also emphasises the prime qualities of the God she believes in: the most benificent, the most merciful.

Malala emphasises that Islam is a religion of peace and brotherhood, that it requires its adherents to get education for their children. Conversely she accuses those opposing education for all to misuse Islam for their own personal benefit. This way she claims Islam for herself: it’s hers, not the Talibans, it backs her up and what she does is Islamic to the core.

Just before that, she poses four important concepts that guide her: compassion, change, non-voilence and forgiveness. With all she mentions her inspirators. Mohammed, Jesus and Buddha stand for compassion, change she was taught by Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and Muhammad Ali Jinnah, and for non-violence she looks towards Gandhiji, Bacha Khan and Mother Teresa. These nine inspirators – not counting her parents, whom she mentions with ‘forgiveness’ – come from various walks of life,  different nations and diverse religions.

This way she positions herself very much as a global citizen, as an heir to various religious and social traditions. On a smaller scale, by mentioning Jinnah and Bacha Khan, she also does not neglect the fact that she is a daughter of Pakistan and the links she has to Pashtun culture.

Her hopes and aspirations – in other words – are the hopes and aspirations of all: not just people of all religions and nations, but even God.

Dear Mr. Erdogan

Posted in Society with tags , , on June 26, 2013 by shirhashirim


May I be so bold to suggest an answer in response to your rhetorical question whether you should kneel to the protesters in Taksim Square (and other places)?

Without wanting to belittle your own personal achievements in politics, I would point out that greater politicians than you have done it, so why not you?

It would not end the protests. It would not solve any of Turkey’s problems. It would not even solve any problem any Turk might have. It would change nothing in Turkish politics of society. It would not even change or solve anything at all.

But it would do you a world of good. You personally. Seriously.


Posted in Religion, Society with tags on November 4, 2012 by shirhashirim

There is this theory that all violence is ultimately fear. Apart from recreational violence, usually perpetrated by young men in groups and often under the influence of alcohol or drugs, I have yet to find a form of violence that isn’t.

Still, reality keeps being more fantastic that fiction because who would imagine being afraid of a fifteen year old girl?

Yes, they are there: adult men afraid of a fifteen year old, afraid enough to shoot her twice at close range…

…and fail to kill her. You have to be very, very wrong -and know it!- to feel that afraid of a fifteen year old.

As I write this, the news has it that Malala Yousafzai is doing very well, considering her circumstances.

Next years nobel peace prize candidate?


Posted in Society with tags on July 5, 2011 by shirhashirim

Given YouTube, I can post quite a lot of my favorite music. This one is by Estonian composer Arvo Pärt. It’s the Magnificat, a song attributed to Mary the mother of Jesus in Lk 1: 46-55 and a popular text for quite some composers.

It’s actually a psalm, an a bit of a revolutionary one at that:

My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior;
For he has regarded the lowliness of his handmaiden.

For behold, from this day all generations will call me blessed;
For the mighty one has done great things to me, and holy is his name.
And his mercy is on those who fear him from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts;
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones and has exalted the holy;
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent empty away.
He has helped his servant Israel,

in remembrance of his mercy,
as he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his seed forever.


Posted in Religion, Society on July 2, 2011 by shirhashirim

I recently came across this and recognised a phrase that is attributed to the christian theologist Dorothee Sölle:

We come closest to the love of God when we forgive the unforgivable

Malice or madness

Posted in Religion, Society with tags , , , on June 6, 2011 by shirhashirim

Never assume a conspiracy where mere stupidity suffices, it is said, but what if there’s method in our madness?

A pretty nineteen year old Ukrainian girl is found dead in the woods near her home town, her head smashed with a stone. She came seventh in a recent local beauty pageant. So what gets into the newspaper?

This: three Muslim men stoned the Muslim girl under sharia law for not abiding Islamic rules, complete with quotes from one of the alleged perpetrators. What turns out to be true?

This: the girl is Russian (i.e. of Orthodox descent) and only one man, of mixed Russian/Tatar descent (i.e. half Orthodox, half Muslim) is a suspect of the murder. The guy is a teenager who’d apparently been infatuated with the poor girl and reportedly has a psychiatric history. The main European newspaper that first published the story has retracted it, sort of.

How the sharia-angle got in there, nobody knows. And just maybe there actually is a sharia-angle (after all: after one screwup, why not another one?). But that’s not the point. The point is that when a sharia-angle seems remotely possible, that is the story that’s being published.

And that is the story that we will keep reading everywhere long after the myth-busters have done their good but ultimately fruitless work. Western media are neither mad nor malicious I believe, but it does look frighteningly like something in between.