Rest In Peace Professor Varis Alvi (Varis Uncle)

11 01 2014

AlaviVaris2 AlaviVaris3

Renowned Urdu critic Waris Alvi passes away after prolonged illness

Ahmedabad : World renowned Urdu critic and academic Waris Alvi passed away here on Thursday morning after a prolonged illness at the age of 86. He is survived by wife and three daughters.Alvi had authored 24 books,  the last being ‘Ghazal Ka Mahboob aur Doosre Mazameen’. He was among the top three living Urdu literary critics in the country, the other two being Dr Shamsur Rahman Faruqi and Dr Gopichand Narang.Alvi was known for his unique style of criticism, laced with humour and witty presentation of dry, complex literary subjects. He would often term his style as ‘creative criticism’ (takhliqi tanqeed). He had also written several plays in Gujarati language, many of which were staged in cultural events at St Xavier’s College here, where he taught English literature. His Gujarati play “Ekda Vina Na. Minda” had received wide acclaim.He had received several awards including Gaurav Puraskar from Gujarat government and Ghalib Award from Ghalib Academy, Delhi and Bahadur Shah Zafar Award from Delhi Urdu Academy. He was also conferred with an award by Maharashtra State Urdu Academy.Alvi also headed Gujarat Urdu Sahitya Academy for several years since its inception.





The Merger of Jihad Franchises in Syria: A War of Islamisms

22 11 2013

Syrian Rebels

syria_heavy_weapons_rebels.si

The Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (ISIS) accidentally beheaded one of their own commanders recently. Meanwhile, jihadist rebel groups have been fighting against the secular or more moderate Free Syrian Army forces, as well as against Syrian Kurds. Now, a group of Islamic rebel forces has announced a merger: “A statement posted online said Ahrar al-Sham, Jaysh al-Islam, Suqour al-Sham, Liwa al-Tawhid, Liwa al-Haqq, Ansar al-Sham and the Kurdish Islamic Front had agreed to a ‘gradual merger’. It said the new Islamic Front will be an ‘independent political, military and social formation’ to topple the Assad regime and build an Islamic state” (BBC News, Nov. 22, 2013).

Throw into that mix Shia fighters in Assad’s camp, including Hezbollah, Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), and other pro-Shia Islamist militias, and now we have a full-fledged complex multidimensional sectarian war vying for a dominant Islamism to take hold of Syria.

The announcement of the new Islamic Front “may also challenge the growing influence of the two al-Qaeda-affiliated jihadist rebel groups, the al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), although they have co-operated with some of its component groups in the past.”

In sum, Syria embodies multi-layered “spiders web-like “ networks of Sunni and Shia militias and paramilitary forces, and this can only continue to plunge Syria into violence and chaos not unlike the Lebanese Civil War (1975-1990), although Syria’s war is at least a hundred times worse and intense and potentially will last a lot longer.

The supporters of these proxy rebel groups, like Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and other GCC states on the Sunni jihadists’ side, and Iran on the Shia side, have no regard for the innocent civilians suffering horrifically in Syria and also as refugees in neighboring countries. These proxy supporters are as guilty of atrocities as Bashar al-Assad. All sides are guilty of war crimes.

More crucially, this merger of jihad franchises in Syria encompasses a “war of Islamisms,” wherein even after Assad’s downfall, these religious rebel groups will continue – and possibly intensify – the war in power struggles, in order for their own Islamist ideology to win. We have seen this pattern of the war of Islamism in Afghanistan and Pakistan. In particular, once the Soviets pulled out of Afghanistan (1989), the multitude of Islamic fundamentalist/militant warlords and militias proliferating throughout the Af-Pak region turned their guns against each other. Within that scenario the Taliban arose and engaged these warlords in the Afghan civil war. We know the rest of the story, once the Taliban succeeded in taking Kabul and creating the “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.”

I have called the Syrian civil war the “Afghanistan of the Middle East.” I would love to be proven wrong about that, but this merger of Islamic rebel groups and the power struggles between the Islamic Front and the Al Qaeda-affiliated jihadist groups portend a similar outcome to Afghanistan after the Soviets withdrew. The war of Islamisms is nothing new, especially in terms of the sectarian rivalry between Sunnis and Shias. That’s as old as Islam itself. Now, we see the power struggles in the post-Arab Awakening Middle East and North Africa consist of all shades of Islamists trying to climb over each other for the seats of power. This is all at the expense of civilians, both Sunnis, Shias, Christians, and secularists.

To quote U.S. President John F. Kennedy, “Mankind must put an end to war before war puts an end to mankind.”

Those waging the war of Islamisms seem to fail miserably in grasping that concept.

Hayat Alvi, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor at the US Naval War College.
The views expressed are personal.





Congratulations to Motley Monks Theatre Group, Pune, India

28 10 2013

Congratulations to Motley Monks Theatre Group, Pune, India for their outstanding performance of “Shakespeare Meets Bollywood” on October 26, 2013

http://motleymonks.com/

 

Motley Monks Pic Oct 13 2013

The Flirt





My Blog Article in Today’s Zaman

28 10 2013

What’s Wrong With This Picture?  Saudi Arabia

http://www.todayszaman.com/blog/hayat-alvi-329853-whats-wrong-with-this-picture.html

 

Saudi Activist





President Obama’s Speech about U.S. Policy towards Syria

10 09 2013

obama

assad-syria

What did President Obama’s speech of Tuesday night tell us?  That’s not hard to discern.  In his own words, President Obama said, connoted, and conveyed the following:

  • The whole Syria policy and campaign is intrinsically linked to Iran.  President Obama said, “A failure to stand against the use of chemical weapons would weaken prohibitions against other weapons of mass destruction and embolden Assad’s ally, Iran, which must decide whether to ignore international law by building a nuclear weapon or to take a more peaceful path.”
  • The purpose of a military airstrike against Syria is to “deter Assad from using chemical weapons, to degrade his regime’s ability to use them, and to make clear to the world that we will not tolerate their use.”  So the goalpost has moved, from what was once the “Responsibility to Protect” civilians from mass atrocities – known as the R2P principle – which was implemented in the Libya 2011 NATO campaign, to now the use of chemical weapons.  Down the road, will the goalpost shift yet again?
  • President Obama possesses “the authority to order military strikes,” yet he felt the need to respect U.S. democracy and take the debate to Congress.  That means that he is making gestures toward Congress for political legitimacy at the domestic level for military strikes against Syria, but leaves open a huge window to employ his executive authority to order the airstrikes, with or without that political endorsement.  This raises the question of whether or not the airstrikes, if and when they are carried out, will be defined as “war.”  The War Powers Resolution imposes certain parameters on the President, once he engages in military actions in the context of (conventional) war, understood as deploying troops on the ground.  Given that President Obama has promised not to put troops on the ground in Syria, that might allow the military airstrikes to sidestep the definition of war, as was the case the President made with the Libya campaign.  NATO led that campaign against Qaddafi, which allowed the President to say that the U.S. is not engaging in a war; it is carrying out cooperative engagement within the framework of NATO, without troops on the ground, and without the intent of regime change.  We know how it ended for Qaddafi, nonetheless.
  • President Obama asked every member of Congress and viewers at home to watch the videos of the August 21st chemical attack.  He uses the word “children” seven times, and “infant” and “our kids” also added in his speech.  Clearly, he is appealing to the audience’s compassion and humanitarian sensitivities and ideals.  It’s an emotional appeal for reserving the U.S. right to carry out airstrikes against specific targets inside Syria, which may in turn lead inadvertently to more chaos and civilian deaths.
  • Diplomacy engines are working hard, and the ball was lobbed into Russia’s court.  Russia responded by saying they would be glad to oversee the removal of chemical weapons from Syria.  The ball is now back in the U.S. court.  President Obama is giving diplomacy a chance.  But, at the same time, the President unequivocally maintains that the U.S. has the military standing by to continue to apply pressure on Assad, and act in the event that diplomacy fails.

What President Obama omitted, did not address, or left in a grey area included the following:

  • He said that, “We cannot resolve someone else’s civil war through force, particularly after a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan.”  The U.S. responsibility for actually triggering civil war, arguably in Iraq following the troops pull-out, and potentially after the 2014 pull-out from Afghanistan, is not mentioned or addressed.  Anyone who has watched the film or read the book, Charlie Wilson’s War, learns that after the Soviets withdrew from Afghanistan, the U.S. packed its bags and left the Af-Pak region, despite Representative Wilson’s pleas for U.S. investments in Afghanistan’s postwar education sector.  The moment that happened, Afghanistan descended into civil war.  This also conveys the lesson that once a country enters a war, the chaos and instability does not end after the ceasefire or peace takes hold, or the core objectives of that country are achieved.
  • Chemical weapons use is not tolerated.  But, killing civilians by conventional means since 2011, with a death count beyond the 100,000 mark, is unchallenged.
  • The poison gas sarin is mentioned a few times.  While some analysts have said that rebels could not have deployed chemical weapons because it requires sophisticated technology, no one has mentioned the Aum Shinrikyo sarin gas attack in Japan’s Tokyo subway in 1995.  The cult, Aum Shinrikyo, coordinated five attacks on the Tokyo subway, killing 13 and injuring fifty severely.

According to the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), this is how the Aum Shinrikyo operatives carried out the sarin gas attack (see http://www.cfr.org/japan/aum-shinrikyo/p9238):

“During the morning rush hour on one of the world’s busiest commuter systems, Aum members put a liquid form of sarin, tightly contained in packages made to look like lunch boxes or bottled drinks, onto five cars on three separate subway lines that converged at the Kasumigaseki station, where several government ministries are located. The perpetrators punctured the packages with umbrellas and left them in subway cars and stations, where they began to leak a thick liquid. Witnesses said that subway entrances resembled battlefields as injured commuters lay gasping on the ground with blood gushing from their noses or mouths. Twelve members of Aum, including Aum founder Shoko Asahara, were sentenced to death for the subway attack.”

  • President Obama said, “Al Qaeda (AQ) will only draw strength in a more chaotic Syria if people there see the world doing nothing to prevent innocent civilians from being gassed to death.”  Who’s to say that AQ can’t still get its hands on some chemical weapons?  By the way, many argue that U.S. airstrikes will actually intensify the chaos in Syria, not alleviate it.

One of the take-aways from the President’s speech tonight is that this issue or crisis will drag on for much longer.  Diplomacy is a slow process; civilians will continue to die; waves of refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) will continue to flow within and outside Syria; and all the while the clock is ticking for Russia, Syria, and Iran to finalize the proposed deal with the U.S. with some U.N. involvement.  That will take a long time, and all the efforts might still come to naught.

Will the U.S. military remain mobilized while the clock ticks?  President Obama says yes.  Will important, pressing American domestic issues be addressed and resolved, like the debt ceiling, the budget, Sequestration, Obamacare, and the health of the economy in general?  If the Syria crisis remains in crisis status in the eyes of the U.S. President and Congress, then we can be assured that those pressing domestic issues will be placed on the backburner, and kicked down the road.

The most important component of the Obama plan and strategy is the word “deterrence.”  If chemical weapons are dismantled and removed out of Syria, then what?  Will that deter Assad from killing his own people?  Not likely.

If the U.S. carries out the airstrikes against Syria, will this action deter Assad from killing his own people?  Not likely.  The targeted strikes might degrade Assad’s capability to use WMDs, but certainly he will not wave a white flag and declare a ceasefire.  He might even try to crush the resistance even harder.

A big picture, long-term vision in the plan and strategy for Syria must be considered, for not just deterring Assad from using WMDs, but for comprehensive, sustainable conflict resolution.

The U.S. must illustrate that the goalpost remains at R2P, and not a new yardstick, or “red line,” of civilian suffering only by use of chemical weapons unleashed against them.

War is counterproductive for all parties involved, including the U.S., Iran, Russia, and Syria.  Sun Tzu said, “All war is deception.”

The bottom line from this speech, in very simple terms, is that it’s all about the geopolitical chess game with Iran.  Who will shout “checkmate” first is anyone’s guess.

Hayat Alvi, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor in the National Security Affairs Department at the U.S. Naval War College.  The views expressed are personal.





You Be the Judge: Does Morsi = Mandela/Gandhi?

10 08 2013

MOHAMED_MORSI-2 Mahatma-Gandhi Mandela

This is an analysis (done from a Political Science perspective) of Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi, & Mohamed Morsi.  The views are all personal.

An important aspect of each individuals’ vision, policies, and personal philosophies is INCLUSIVENESS, as opposed to exclusiveness, as well as the unwavering commitment to the holistic components of pluralist [secular] democracy (meaning, not just elections).

You be the judge …

Mandela & Gandhi – compared to Mohamed Morsi

Copyright Hayat Alvi 2013

 

Education

Environment of Activism

Jail Time & Symbolism

Political Leadership

Religious Leadership

Nelson Mandela Earned B.A.; aspired for law degree, tried three times, but failed due to intense political activism throughout his youth (to fight against Apartheid) Lived in Apartheid-era South Africa; joined political activists groups since his youth to fight against Apartheid;Apartheid-era South Africa (SA) was not a democracy: it was a brutally segregated rule of white minorities over an oppressed black majority, & a 3rd category of “coloreds” (mainly Indians);Mandela was a principal actor in facilitating SA’s post-Apartheid democratization

 

Brutally oppressive Apartheid regime imprisoned Mandela for 27 years; he became icon for the anti-Apartheid movement, central figure of the African National Congress (ANC), even while in prison Mandela was elected South Africa’s first ever black President AFTER he was released from prison in the early 1990s; he served one term then retired into private life;Mandela has always promoted ethnic/racial unity, coexistence, & cooperation in post-Apartheid SAThis could not have happened without the Truth & Reconciliation Commission (forgiving the brutal crimes of the Apartheid police state)

 

Mandela has universal appeal and respect, regardless of religious and ethnic/racial identity; his activism has not involved religion, & only focused on ending the Apartheid regime & structure in SA; he has fought for unity & harmonious coexistence of all religions and ethnic/racial groups in post-Apartheid SA;ANC activism has involved people of all colors, genders, ethnicities, occupations, & religions, including Jews, Christians, Muslims, Hindus; in general, it’s a very inclusive framework 

 

Education

Environment of Activism

Jail Time & Symbolism

Political Leadership

Religious Leadership

Mahatma Gandhi UK educated lawyer, practicing attorney British colonial India:  Gandhi was educated in the UK, lived in India, & his first major assignment as an attorney was in South Africa; he began nonviolent activism against Apartheid (late 1800s) in South Africa; then he returned to India & fought against British colonial rule in India; Gandhi & Congress Party leaders aspired to create a pluralist secular democracy in post-British India;Gandhi was a principal actor in facilitating India’s post-colonial democratization  British colonial power imprisoned Gandhi numerous times; he was always in & out of jail in India; his wife & personal secretary died while in “house arrest” (Pune); Gandhi spent several years in Yerwada Central Jail (Pune); Gandhi even taught inmates the art of nonviolent civil disobedience & noncooperation;*Watch the Ben Kingsley film “Gandhi”  Gandhi was a spiritual leader of India’s Congress Party, which led the fight against British colonial rule in India, but he never accepted or desired a higher political leadership role;He was a very shrewd strategist in politics, esp. against the British in India; but, he never held political office Gandhi called himself every religious identity in India, & promoted human rights for Dalits (“Untouchables”), women, and minorities; he was a universalist, a peace activist, & embraced all religions; he studied all major Indian religions; & he promoted religious unity & harmony; his vision & policies were always inclusive;he was assassinated by a Hindu extremist after the Partition of Pakistan 

 

Education

Environment of Activism

Jail Time & Symbolism

Political Leadership

Religious Leadership

MohamedMorsi B.A. & Masters in Engineering from Cairo University;Ph.D. in Materials Science from University of Southern California  Morsi has been an active Muslim Brotherhood (MB) member in Egypt during Hosni Mubarak’s presidency; Egypt has never seen true democracy, but the 2011 revolution changed this trend;Morsi served as member of Egypt’s parliament (2000-2005) as an independent candidate (since MB was banned); he became president of the Freedom & Justice Party (MB-affiliated political party) in 2011;MB openly challenged Hosni Mubarak’s autocratic rule when the group joined secular protestors in Tahrir Square in Jan.-Feb. 2011;

Mubarak was overthrown, SCAF held power until elections in June 2012

 

Mubarak regime jailed Morsi & other MB members on 28 January 2011, & then released 2 days later (30 Jan.), w/ varying accounts of a jailbreak from the Wadi el-Natroun Prison; after run-off election in June 2012, Morsi won presidency in Egypt’s first democratic elections;On June 30, 2013, a counter-Morsi gov’t protest movement took to Tahrir Square (after grievances against Morsi’s leadership);July 3, 2013 Gen. Abdel Fatah el-Sisi announced that Morsi has been removed as President (& detained in an undisclosed location), & installed an interim president;

Egypt is divided into a “pro-Morsi” (mainly MB) camp & pro-Sisi camp;

The pro-Morsi protestors remain steadfast in opposing his ouster & detention & demand his return as President; violence has been reported in clashes between the pro- & anti-Morsi camps

 

Morsi served as Egypt’s first post-2011 revolution President; Morsi’s domestic policies & political leadership have been characterized by: A revised constitution that promotes Islamic law & penalizes “insults” (i.e., stifles expression); Morsi sought to free 1990s WTC bombing mastermind blind Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman; Morsi filled bureaucracies & the legislature w/ Islamists & purged secularists; he promised to appoint a woman & Christian as Vice Presidents, but never did; he annulled amendments that would’ve restricted presidential powers; he didn’t attend the new Coptic Pope’s enthronement;His policies increasingly resembled the Mubarak regime; his policies derailed democracy in Egypt; he marginalized many groups, & under his watch Shias were killed in Giza, & numerous violent attacks against Copts took place;Morsi’s policies have been politically exclusive President of Freedom & Justice Party (MB-affiliated); Sunni Islamist;Morsi allegedly made comments that were anti-Jewish, anti-Israeli;  attended rally where Salafi clerics called Asad supporters “infidels” & Morsi endorsed the sentiments; Morsi is drowning in scandals including the “Descendants of Apes & Pigs” controversy, allegedly calling Israelis “apes & pigs” – online video of this is available (later he qualified the statement by saying he was criticizing Israeli policy, not Jewish people);

He tried to reach out to Iran, but Salafist constituents in Egypt pressured against it, & fierce anti-Shia sentiments surfaced, w/ Giza massacre;

Morsi has been exclusive in terms of gender, religious & sectarian identities in Egyptian politics & religious discourse

 

Final Note: 

The Sisi regime is a dangerous direction (in my view) for Egypt’s future.  If a pluralist (INCLUSIVE) secular democracy is not reinstated in Egypt ASAP, the Egyptian protestors who ushered in the unprecedented changes in 2011 will be back to square one.  The struggle will have to start all over again.

Copyright Hayat Alvi 2013





Many Pakistanis Side with the Taliban against Malala

21 07 2013

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Pakistani Taliban Swat

Malala Yousefzai wrote and delivered an outstanding speech at the United Nations last week.  Yet, many in the cyber world of comments, tweeting, and hot air dispensing were not only dissatisfied, but missed the heart of her message completely.  Instead, many nitpicked about how she should have done X, Y, or Z, and not A, B, or C, including, among many other criticisms, supposedly her failure to sufficiently glorify Islam and/or the Prophet Muhammad.  This is very typical of myopic Muslims who time and again fail to receive important messages as the one Malala is conveying, and instead focus on – no, obsess about – the trivial and peripheral nonsense that they can pick on endlessly like mindless vultures.  Why do we bother pondering the reasons why the Muslim world is not progressing?  If only they would actually take her advice about getting a decent education and using their intellect for the greater good!  But that might be asking too much.  It’s much more convenient to blame others for all your problems.

Pakistan is already overflowing with conspiracy theories pertaining to Malala’s UN sponsorship for the speech.  Some ridiculous conjectures include CIA support for her activism, and even farfetched suggestions that the CIA is the one that actually shot her in the head in order to “make Pakistan look bad.”  Let’s be frank here, does Pakistan really need outside help to look any worse?  It’s not exactly the best example for “good governance” for the past decades, and some would even say since the country’s birth.  Besides, blaming outside forces for all their woes is really getting old.  And, let’s stoop to yet a deeper low and chastise a young girl for what – getting shot in the head?  For taking a refreshingly nonviolent stand against extremism and ignorance?  For initiating activism for girls’ education in Pakistan?  Yes, she deserves to be shot for all that, some actually would say!

Then came the letter to Malala from a high-ranking Taliban commander, which could not possibly be out of embarrassment.  The Taliban are not known for being embarrassed about anything they do.  Clearly, he saw a PR disaster as a result of Malala’s global stature.  According to the New York Times, the 4-page letter – “was signed by the militant Adnan Rashid, a former Pakistani Air Force officer who took part in an attempt to assassinate General Pervez Musharraf a decade ago and escaped from prison last year, in the biggest jailbreak in Pakistani history.”  Yes, he is an esteemed character indeed, and he represents a segment of Pakistan’s armed forces no less.  What exactly does he want to convey to Malala?

Adnan Rashid explains in the letter that the Taliban shot Malala, not because of her activism and advocacy for girls’ education, but rather her “smear campaign” against the Taliban.  He admonishes “English” education and then he says:

“I advise you to come back home, adopt the Islamic and Pushtoon culture, join any female Islamic madrassa near your home town, study and learn the book of Allah, use your pen for Islam and plight of Muslim ummah and reveal the conspiracy of tiny elite who want to enslave the whole humanity for their evil agendas in the name of new world order.”

The Taliban enslaved the Swat Valley, using brutality and force against locals to comply with their distorted policies.  The Taliban never hesitate to kill, maim, and brutalize civilians, and in his own words, they can’t even take criticism (i.e., “Malala’s smear campaign”) from a teenager!  By his own admission, the Taliban shot her in the head because she criticized them.  And, he claims the assassination attempt had nothing to do with her education advocacy, but yet he emphasizes that she must attend only a female madrassa that teaches nothing useful for individual and social progress and development.

Exactly which ‘ummah’ is he talking about?  Is it the one in which Shias, Ahmadis, and other sectarian and religious minorities are not only excluded, but even violently persecuted?  Is it the one in which schoolgirls get acid thrown in their faces for daring to get an education?   Is it the puritanical ummah that hates and fears females and anyone and any ideology that does not conform to its own brand?  Is it the ummah that is being forced on civilians at gunpoint and with threats of beheadings and amputations?  Is it that great ummah in which the Taliban carry out suicide bombings killing scores of civilians, in order to impose their own “new world order”?  Hypocrisy thy name is the Taliban!

The greater travesty is that many in Pakistan are embracing the Taliban’s messages and reactions.  The fact that the Taliban’s asinine victimization claims are touching a chord in Pakistani society, to the extent that many are reviling Malala, is a deeply troubling commentary about the state of affairs in Pakistan.

Pakistan is afflicted with much more than just geopolitical complexities; it is clearly in deep psychological crisis and confusion about its national identity, internal contradictions, violent dissent, and the rise and empowerment of militancy, extremism, and militarism in nearly all aspects of society.  Many Pakistanis obsess with blaming outside forces for all their troubles, yet they ignore their self-inflicted social ills, including violent misogyny, debilitating poverty, and gross corruption and incompetence of political leaders.  The greatest casualty in all this social/psychological turmoil is something so basic and essential to survival and progress:  common sense.

Hayat Alvi, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor in the National Security Affairs Department at the US Naval War College.  The views expressed are personal.








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