Delhi appeared almost unrecognisable during the days of the odd-even rule, when evenings appeared livable, devoid of traffic snarls and as if, in the midst of a holiday season or a citywide gener…
Delhi appeared almost unrecognisable during the days of the odd-even rule, when evenings appeared livable, devoid of traffic snarls and as if, in the midst of a holiday season or a citywide gener…
Delhi appeared almost unrecognisable during the days of the odd-even rule, when evenings appeared livable, devoid of traffic snarls and as if, in the midst of a holiday season or a citywide general strike. Delhi is the world’s second largest densely populated city after Tokyo. The populations of some of the European towns do not even add up to a couple of lakhs, though Delhi boasts more than 2.5 crore residents. No wonder, the first fortnight of the New Year transformed Delhi into a dream city.
I often cover my routine evening drives through Delhi in an hour-and-half, though now I did it in barely 20 minutes, which is why I find the odd-even scheme almost magical. This was tried and tested in Beijing a few years ago with overwhelming success, and appeared to work in Delhi on Day 1, though, to start with, so many of us remained sceptical. I remember crossing path with a journalist friend at the state-run Doordarshan Kendra, who informed me that he’d taken the metro to reach office, a first in years. It is good to see that a constructive move has been made to make Delhi pollution free and most Delhiites endorse the plan.
Global studies earlier showed Beijing and now Delhi as the world’s most polluted city. It’s high time that city government draws up a sustained and viable campaign to clean up the mess, for which, several foolproof measures can be initiated. For starters, it should ban old diesel cars, as these are among the biggest sources of pollution. Cigarettes are no longer the prime cause of lung cancer; carcinogens concentrated in the atmosphere are far more lethal. I don’t remember a day when I walked Delhi’s forever busy streets breathing freely, or without coughing. A large number of citizens have taken to wearing masks sold at neighbourhood chemists, even as the city stays shrouded by permanently looming smog. Haunted by the poisonous air, we no longer get to enjoy the city’s fabulous winter.
Let there be longer queues at the metro. Let there be more public buses. Let the upper class and upper middle class keep aside their vanity and take to public transport. Let separate cycle tracks run parallel to the main carriageways and the citizens pedal to office. Delhi’s face will change for the better.
Citizens across Europe are looked up to for cycling to work. Berlin’s streets have been redesigned with cycling tracks that are not encroached upon by rush hour cars. Even ministers in Stockholm ride to work. Public representatives have the moral conviction to lead by way of example. Delhi needs to catch up with the world’s foremost modern civilisations. And the government’s top echelons must set the example to make this happen, instead of spending billions to treat bronchial ailments, as catastrophic death stares citizens in their faces.
Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, who masterminded the move, set a precedent, driving on alternate cars to work, as his own car sported an odd number; the tourism minister bicycled to office. Kejriwal was strict about not extending privileges based on citizens’ social standing, considering that Delhi is home to thousands of VIPs. I too chose to stay indoors every alternate day of the odd-even fortnight, as my car sports an even number plate. Though I have a security detail to escort me all over the city, I never felt it necessary to drag my VIP mooring by driving out on days when my car was meant to idle. I live in this city under a constant threat from fundamentalists without whom I would love to bicycle around the city’s lovely roads every day, irrespective of whether the odd-even rule was in force or not.
Yet, Delhi being Delhi, I was overwhelmed to note the scale of corruption in Delhi to help citizens bend the rules, despite the Herculean effort to clean up the city. In this country, the corrupt always have the last word. Fuel stations were busy selling illegal CNG stickers for cars that don’t run on natural gas. And desperate citizens, who don’t think twice about burning up lakhs on the latest fuel guzzlers, got busy buying those stickers. I also noticed certain citizens driving around with the wrong number plate, despite the concession made only to self-driving women, CNG cars and for medical emergency. Who knows if these citizens were content at breaking the rule by paying a hefty Rs 2,000 fine? It’s sad that such scoundrels don’t understand how big the problem of pollution is.
It’s also unfortunate that well-known global brands selling diesel cars have been nagging about the Supreme Court-imposed ban on sale of higher capacity diesel vehicles in the national capital, when everybody knows that such cars are a menace. It’s time that the carmakers adopt social and ecological consciousness instead of racing to capture market and chase profit.
All this when, a majority of Delhi’s residents actually found it wise to wholeheartedly stick with the odd-even plan making the experiment a grand success.
The health minister of Saudi Arabia Khalid Al-Falih has purportedly said that deaths due to the deadly stampede at Mina have happened because of ‘Allah’s will’. Such events cannot be avoided, he has opined. Al-Falih blames the Hajj pilgrims for the deaths. Apparently, the victims have paid the price for failing to follow instructions.
Information about the real incident, however, is quite shocking. The stampede, which resulted in loss of numerous lives, occurred because two roads, used by lakhs of pilgrims, were closed so that a Saudi prince’s route to the palace could be made more comfortable. If the roads weren’t closed, this incident would not have occurred. Many have suggested that the stampede was triggered when two large groups of pilgrims intersected from different directions onto the same street.
Some have even gone on record by saying that the main reason behind this tragic incident was the King, his high ranking officials and Gulf Cooperation Council members welcoming certain distinguished personalities, which necessitated the blocking of the two roads in question that usually lead the pilgrims to an area where they symbolically stone the devil. Confusion and commotion resulted from the closure of the roads, which, in turn, resulted in the devastating stampede. Such news reports lead me to believe that the Hajj pilgrims lost their lives because of the whims and fancies of the Saudi royal family, their lackadaisical attitude towards Hajj and their indifference to the lives of ordinary pilgrims.
Saudi Arabia earns $8.5 billion every year from Hajj alone. However, they seem least bothered about the safety and security of the pilgrims who are reduced to being mere customers of the religion that the Saudis have turned into a business. Their oil business, on the other hand, is a bigger money-spinner and that explains why the safety and security of oil customers is top priority for the Saudis.
That brings me to my countryman and Facebook friend Mohan Kumar Mandal. He was recently arrested because the Bangladesh government did not like the comments he posted on the social networking website. After Saudi Arabia closed the roads that killed thousands of muslims, even non-muslims like Mandal were shocked into expressing their anguish against the horrific mass slaughter. It is well known that symbolic stoning of the devil is done to vanquish evil. This can be done in any country and should not require anybody to travel to Saudi Arabia, which is thousands of miles away. This is what Mohan Kumar reasoned. But his comments apparently hurt the religious sentiment of somebody from Awami League. Religious sentiment has become a dangerous tool in the hands of certain people. Good people are not being allowed to express their views, let alone live.
Unfortunately, even governments appear to be joining the ranks of those who are a bad influence on the society, as with the Saudi royals. The entire world has been criticising Saudi Arabia for the Hajj deaths, but not Bangladesh. The dead bodies of hundreds of pilgrims were picked by bulldozers and dumped in a garbage heap. Such images rattle everybody. Can a civilised country show such utter disregard to the departed?
Saudi Arabia is not a civilised country. Neither is Bangladesh, or else, why would it not criticise Saudi Arabia? If muslims were killed by jews in Gaza and their dead bodies dumped by bulldozers, such an act would have evoked the strongest of reactions in Bangladesh. But when ISIS, Boko Haram and their likes slaughter muslims, muslims do not feel any pain. Saudi Arabia’s mismanagement of the Hajj lead to the deaths of countless muslims. But those muslims haven’t even raised a murmur of protest.
The stampede killed 1,300 pilgrims and many in Bangladesh protest in anger and protest. Why then did the Bangladeshi government choose to punish Mohan Kumar Mandal alone? Was he punished because he is hindu? Was he punished because a crime against a hindu does not strike a chord with muslims? Soon, Saudi Arabia is going to head the UN human rights panel. How is it possible for a country where women, non-muslims, homosexuals and transsexuals have no human rights to head the UN human rights panel?
Will nobody protest against this travesty? Those of us who protest are punished. As long as we keep our mouths shut, things would be fine. The moment we open our mouths, all hell breaks loose. Even when Saudi Arabia commits a crime, we cannot blame the country or its government. We can’t say that the country has violated human rights even when there is strong evidence of that. When China violates human rights, processions are taken out on the streets. But since Saudi Arabia is the birthplace of Prophet Muhammad, even the most heinous crimes by the present custodian of the faith in that country are overlooked by other nations. Even when 1,300 innocent pilgrims lose their lives because of the reckless attitude of a few Saudis, we are supposed to keep mum and believe that those lives were taken because Allah willed so, and those who died could not have found a holier place to depart.
Saudi Arabia will never be ashamed of its transgressions. This is because their rulers are a shameless bunch. I humbly pray that Saudi Arabia should not be allowed to head the UN human rights panel. When a nation does not care about human rights, what is the point in giving it a leadership role. Saudi Arabia will destroy whatever semblance there is left of human rights in this world.
An intriguing news item was published in the Arab world a few days ago — a sex shop is coming up in Saudi Arabia’s holiest city, Mecca. Not just any sex shop but a halal sex shop. I have no clue whatsoever about terms and conditions upon which a sex shop is deemed halal or haraam. I also want to know, whether in this sex shop, a woman would be able to shop alone for her personal needs. In a country where women don’t have minimum personal liberty, and have no other identity beyond being sex slaves to men, there cannot be any doubt that the sex shop being opened there will be exclusively for the sexual pleasure of men.
Men from Saudi Arabia spend a lot of their ample wealth on sex. They go to various countries on sex tours to enjoy the company of expensive call-girls, and they roam around freely in the sex shops of foreign countries. From now on, however, they will no longer have to undertake the trouble of a foreign tour for sex-shopping, at least. For, EL Asira, the Sharia-compliant sex brand originating in Amsterdam and backed by Germany’s Beate Uhse, will soon branch out to the holy city.
Till now, the sex shops of Europe and America have not yet arrived in the progressive countries of Asia, but they have managed to reach Saudi Arabia, the most conservative and orthodox society in the world, where women are perceived only as moving genitalia.
The Saudi king, Abdullah, had 30 wives. Out of those, one was Alanoud al Fayez, who had been divorced by the king in 1985. But her four daughters are prisoners in the Saudi royal palace. Jawaher, Maha, Sahar and Hala are incarcerated in every sense of the word. They are not free to set foot outside the palace walls. They are hardly provided food twice a day, and their half-brothers beat them mercilessly. Some of the sisters are nearabouts or over forty years of age but have not been allowed to marry.
Alanoud, who is in self-imposed exile in London for the past few years, has broken her silence and spoken about the abuses inflicted on her daughters to the international media. To no avail, of course. If the most powerful nation on the planet, the United States, bows its head and pays obeisance to the mighty House of Saud, who else dare protest?
Barack Obama paid a high profile visit to Saudi Arabia a few months ago, accompanied by his wife. One does not recall any request from him to alleviate the situation of the sisters trapped in the royal palace, or even the general condition of women in the country.
This is the thing with Saudi Arabia. It’s kind of like a bratty child — whatever strikes its fancy, it shall go ahead and do. Saudi women cannot step out in the open without being covered from head to foot. They have no right to free speech. They can’t talk to strangers of the opposite sex because it’s considered haraam. They can’t take a car ride with someone without the fear of execution. They are punished cruelly if they happen to be victims of rape or torture.
The primitive laws of a seventh century society still prevail over a 21st century Saudi Arabia. Freedom of speech is unheard of. Writer-activist Raif Badawi, creator of the website, Free Saudi Liberals, is still being lashed liberally every other week for daring to have freethinking aspirations. Saudi Arabia doesn’t give two hoots about tenets of modernisation and civilisation. It is making first world nations dance to its tunes on the one hand, and exporting islamic terrorism to other muslim states, on the other. This state, without a shred of ethics and character, is going unpunished since there are no countries that can be brave enough to face the ire of a wealthy, oil-rich nation.
Such are the circumstances under which Saudi Arabia has opened its gates to a sex shop. What can this novelty do for Saudi men? Well, they can now be provided with leather belts, shackles, masks and an assortment of other weapons which they would now be able to use liberally to further treat women as sex slaves. To force them into dominant-submissive sexual role play. To bring into actual force the brutal primitivism of their patriarchal attitude against women by inflicting a new kind of sexual torture on them. And as usual, this too, shall remain unpunished.
If there is indeed any pleasure to be gained out of those shops, they would be exclusively for the men. The women are not to partake in any such thing. Those who do not have basic human rights must never aspire to sexual rights either. And those that do not have sexual freedom or rights, have no sexual pleasure. Sex slaves take no pleasure in sex — they need to be freed of their slavery first.
The world stands wondering when, if at all, the new generation of politically and socially aware Saudi youth shall spell the death knell of this dystopic dynastic rule. Time waits for them.
Niloy Neel, the secular humanist blogger who was brutally killed in Bangladesh was the member of Taslima Nasreen supporters group.
Niloy Neel was speaking at the rally to express his solidarity towards me.
Niloy Neel got a master’s degree in philosophy from Dhaka university. He was 27-years-old. He was brutally killed by Bangladeshi Islamists only because he was enlightened critic of Islam. Niloy Neel criticized all religions, Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, Judaism, Islam etc. But he was killed only for criticizing Islam.
Bangladesh government does not take any action against the killers.
Religious fanaticism has a new name. It’s called the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, or as we know it, ISIS. Just the other day, ISIS imposed a ban on namaz during eid in Mosul. In their words, “Namaz during eid has got nothing to do with islam. True muslims never offered namaz during eid”. Therefore, they decreed that no muslim inhabitant of Mosul had any right to namaz on eid. Anyone choosing to do otherwise was threatened with summary execution.
Iraq is held captive by armed fanatics professing to be the pillars of islam, a religion that is no longer preached through love, but imposed through naked aggression and violence.
Over the time that it has held the people of Iraq hostage in the name of faith, ISIS has destroyed relics, masjids and museums showcasing islam’s rich heritage. In deploying terror in the cause of islam, it has gone against the very tenets of a once-tolerant faith.
This is why, we need to ask if, one day, ISIS will eradicate the practise of namaz altogether, citing that infidels and not the religiously inclined offer prayers to god? Will it insist that the jews and christians worship the divine by bowing down in reverence, and therefore, such an act is unislamic in nature?
In insisting that all places of worship must be demolished, they have said masjids are a replication of idolatry in the garb of islam and have no religious sanction. There are hundreds of advocates of such a cause, arguing that ISIS alone can return islam to its pristine state, as it existed a thousand and four hundred years ago,
If ISIS succeeds in eradicating many of the islamic traditions and customs that are practised worldwide today, citing that these are corruptions brought in by the infidels, and therefore, unsuitable for a true believer of the faith, I wonder if there would anything left in islam to practice. From food habits to prayers, everything can be cited as a corruption introduced by another religion and banned. After all, the story of Adam and Eve too was introduced by heretics and must, therefore, be silenced. This, when the fact is that islam has not only picked up several practices from the other faiths, but is itself derived from another religion. If we were to return everything that we have acquired over the years, the religion itself would have to be abolished.
In the modern age, no voice of reason will ever insist on reverting to the practices of a bygone era. Society is meant to progress and not revert to the regressive ways of the past. It is the civilisational need of our times to insist on educating women, placing our faith of science and discoveries and technologically leapfrogging into the future, rather than get stuck with religious obscurantism. There can never be a positive outcome of harking back to the past.
Humans have a right to their faith; each one of us is entitled to our native beliefs. Despite being an atheist, I support the right of everyone to choose his or her faith. If there are downsides to religious beliefs, that must be debated, not condemned.
What surprises is that muslims are not vocal in protesting the atrocities committed by ISIS. Why do they not take it upon themselves to wage a war against the ISIS, as it threatens their religious integrity? Why do they join a cause that by its own logic must annihilate the religion they profess? Do muslims, the world over, believe the cause of ISIS, as their cause of conviction? Do they see in it the true act of fana, that Sufis otherwise see as an act of annihilation of the self? Or are they drawn to ISIS by the unbridled power that comes from dehumanising society?
No individual or organization or state follow Islam as accurately as IS or Islamic State. Muhammad Killed non-Muslim men and used their girls and women as sex slaves. IS guys did the same. They killed Yazidi men and held Yazidi girls and women as sex slaves.
Islam always advise Muslims to do everything what Muhammad the prophet did. Eventhough Muslim men love their prophet, it is extremely rare that they marry 13 times or marry a 6-year-old girl or their daughter in law. It is IS that shows the courage to behave like true Muslims and adapt the character of the prophet. The prophet loved swords or knives to kill people, IS does the same. The prophet treated women as sex slaves, IS does the same. The prophet occupied land by arms and violence, IS does the same. The prophet destroyed non-Muslims’ temples and sculptures, IS does the same.
Sentiments will always get hurt, especially religious ones. There is no other way. Society cannot just stand in one place. Nothing will progress in this way. People averse to the idea of progress will not accept it, and will raise questions.
People don’t act out in such barbaric ways when other sentiments are hurt, as they do when religious ones are hurt. Why are religious sentiments so important?
Some say this is because a large portion of the world is religious. I often hear that it is not right to hurt the sentiments of 1.5 billion people.
People are giving too much importance to the number of people here. It seems like you can offend people in small numbers, but offending large numbers of people is a problem. Would it be okay if it was 150 or 1500 instead of 1.5 billion?
People who support the bloggers are saying that the bloggers did not hurt religious sentiments. So, do they also think that it is wrong to hurt religious sentiments? This is where the problem is. I have noticed that even the liberals seem to find it hard to accept that hurting religious sentiments is not a crime.
It is completely wrong to want to spend your entire life without an instance where your feelings might be hurt. It is normal to be offended by different things. There is not a single person in this world who has never been offended by something or other. People are bound to be offended multiple times every day when they socialise with different kinds of people. That is just life.
Imagine A says that he believes in socialism and B says that some socialist leader has character problems, and that socialism has no ideological value.
Then is it okay for A to say that B has offended his political sentiments? And this gives A the right to sue B and maybe also slaughter him in public? B has, in fact, hurt A’s political sentiments. The question is, so what?
These incidents don’t happen when other sentiments are hurt. They only happen when religious ones are hurt. Why do we have to be so respectful of religious sentiments? Because religion is true, or because many people love the religion?
People who think religion is true should learn to react to it in the same way they react when their other feelings are hurt. The politics of sentiments is not new.
It has been raging against democracy, knowledge, science, women’s rights, human rights, and equal rights for all. Now we must choose which side we want to save — religious sentiments or democracy, knowledge, and equal rights.
The politics of religious sentiments has taken a violent turn. The solution for this is not to protect religious sentiments. Rather, the opposite. It must be attacked constantly. Even more so than before. This is how people will eventually learn how to deal with it. Otherwise, the people in the business of religion will destroy what is left of society.
No one has been able to achieve women’s rights without offending misogynists, and no one has been able to establish human rights without offending people against equal rights for all. From establishing democracy to science — some people have always been offended. If the business of religion is to be stopped and stale social norms are to be broken, religious sentiments must be regularly attacked.
If you want to side with the bloggers or the atheists, it is not appropriate to say that they did not hurt anybody’s religious sentiments. Rather, you should say that they attacked people’s religious sentiments because it was necessary to do so. The fundamentalists want the word “atheist” to be a curse word. If “atheist” is a curse word, then “believer” is the same.
You may curse as you please, but violence is not acceptable. Ideology must be fought with ideology. The battle between science and religion is perennial. Scientists don’t hack people who refuse to believe their theories, but fundamentalists do. This will not stop unless the entire country protests together.