Cartoonists of Charlie Hebdo and me

A few years ago , I was invited to visit Charlie Hebdo’s office in Paris. I was bowled over by the work of their brilliant and talented cartoonists. Their struggle for freedom of expression at the risk of their lives is akin to my own struggles. There were fatwas, and there were death threats galore, but they were not deterred. There was pressure and intimidation over the lampooning of Mohammad, but they still carried on. If they were to draw cartoons, they knew they might be murdered, and yet they still drew their cartoons. There was a firebombing at their office, their names appeared on Al Qaeda’s most wanted list, and they still didn’t close their doors. Naturally, I’ve felt at one with their plight. Fatwas, ordinances, exile — nothing could ever silence my voice. Those cartoonists were all such wonderful human beings. They were adept at the art of satire, and they dearly loved a a good laugh. Their philosophy was similar to mine — they absolutely rejected religious fundamentalism, violence and terror. They were, on their part, worried about my safety and security. Since they were inhabiting one of the safest democratic spaces in the world, they didn’t seem very worried about themselves. I hardly could have known then that terrorists would barge into that very office and kill all of them, that there is no country left in the world that is actually safe and secure.

Charlie Hebdo will continue to be published. if it were to shut down or if the artists were intimidated into self-censorship, that would mean victory for the terrorists. I am happy to hear that the next issue, in protest of the massacre, will have a print of one million copies. The continued publication of Charlie Hebdo is a triumph for freedom of expression. It does not require a lot of talent to become a terrorist, to use an automatic weapon and kill innocents. But one can neither become a journalist nor a cartoonist without any talent. The murder of so many talented people by a few insane and barbaric men to please their God and their prophet, in order to get into paradise, is an offense to human decency. This is the way gullible young men and women around the globe are indoctrinated to be pious Muslims!

I have been stunned ever since I heard the cartoonists and journalists at Charlie Hnedo have been killed. I have a feeling that one day, I’ll meet the same fate at the hands of Islamic fanatics. Perhaps I’d be in the middle of finishing a novel or a book of poetry, and they will sneak into my study suddenly to butcher me, or maybe pump a few bullets into my head while screaming ‘Allahu Akbar’. If they could get away with this in a city like Paris, despite the presence of armed security guards, there is no reason for such an incident to not happen where I am staying . Come what may, I shall never be silenced, the way Charlie Hebdo shall never be silenced.

The intellectuals of the Occident have always spoken in favour of Muslims, no matter how much terror Muslims might perpetrate. Perhaps they wish to maintain the western liberal tradition, or maybe their sympathies are drawn to the Muslims who were once colonized by European nations and now form a minority in Europe, or perhaps they are moved by the fate of Muslims persecuted in Afghanistan, Iraq or Palestine. But the intellectuals working at Charlie Hebdo spared no one. No politician, no religious leader of any denomination, escaped their humour. They made fun of Christianity, Judaism and Islam alike. They would also sometimes lampoon the Prophet Mohammad. Those were intelligent works of art. Some people complain they were provocative. But they have all the right to be provocative, and no one should have the right to kill them for being provocative.

Most people today would stand by Charlie Hebdo. They would criticize the terrorists and claim that their version of Islam is not in the true spirit of the religion, that real Islam does not provide any justification for killing unbelievers. This is, however, completely untrue. Numerous verses in suras like al-bakara, al-Nisa, al-Anfal and al-Tauba of the Quran speak of killing people who have no faith in Islam. There are express commandments to Muslims to kill non-Muslims. Many hadith passages have enumerated instances where Muslims were ordered to murder infidels. The prophet himself had waged many wars. The men from various Arabic tribes were coerced into converting to Islam. He with his soldiers killed 800 Jewish men of the Banu Qurayza tribe, and looted their land and property. He distributed the tribeswomen as spoils of war among the victorious Muslim men to enjoy either as sex objects or slaves. Islam was born of such unspeakable acts of terror. If it weren’t for terror tactics, Islam would have never crossed over the boundaries of Medina. It has been propagated throughout the world through fear, terror, force, tyranny, brutality, murder, torture and bloodshed. It is no wonder that the followers of Mohammad are today following in his footsteps and spreading terror in the whole world. Unlike all other religious orders, Islam is completely impervious to reforms. Islam has been largely exempt from any critical scrutiny that other religions have undergone to modernize them. It has almost remained as primitive as it was 1,400 years ago. The devout followers of Mohammad believe in true Islam, and therefore want to have a quintessential Islamic caliphate established to rule the entire world, which would only be inhabited by true Muslims and no one else. Whoever it is who happens to disbelieve or mock Islam, they reserve the right to do away with that person, exactly like disciples of the prophet did in the seventh century. Islamic terrorist groups like al Qaeda, ISIS, Boko Haram, Al Shabaab intend to wage this holy war of terror throughout the entire world. All of them have the same ideology. Allah is the one and only true god. Mohammad’s way is the true path of Islam. They do not believe in plurality of thoughts or in democratic principles, relying instead on a theocratic, monolithic version of their medieval belief system.

Islamic fundamentalism is not a negligible problem. If one wants to address this problem, one has to go to the very roots. Preaching principles of freedom of expression won’t do any good. One has to know what mantra makes terrorists tick and influences them to take up arms. Their holy book reeks of violence. This Quran should rather be treated as a historical document than a complete code of life or the basis of laws. It is important to stop indoctrination of children with irrational religious faith at home or institutions like madrasas or mosques. Children should be raised to have logical and rational minds and to adopt a scientific outlook that will enable them to distinguish between right and wrong, fact and fantasy.

I strongly believe that as long as Islam remains unchanged and unreformed, there can be no end to terror.

Get body shop out of business

In the earliest days of slavery, while slaves would be toiling away in cotton fields, their owners would come and bodily pick away the females for sexual gratification. In the west, mulattos with lighter skins were preferred. In India, many an adivasi or impoverished woman has fallen prey to the lusts of their masters. They still do, mostly rented for sex in the slave market or sold into prostitution.

This history repeats in cycles. Those who support prostitution have never been prostitutes or remotely involved in that trade; so they are seldom exposed to the atrocities inflicted on the women in brothels. And prostituted women who do speak in favour of prostitution argue that it is a profession like any other, and that, it sometimes helps empower women.

But the fact is that a sex war continues to be waged against women around the world since time immemorial. To try and pass this off as the world’s so called oldest profession is to deceive people; it is no different from the most ancient form of torture; not just against an adult woman but also the girl child. The statistics are staggering.

In 2013-2014, half of India’s missing children were sold into prostitution. Forty-five per cent of the 67,000 abducted children were trafficked and sold to brothels, using every possible kind of force, ranging from violence to severe mutilation, rape and threat of execution.

To satisfy the lust of men for a few moments with their tiny bodies, these minors and young women are forced to sacrifice any hope of happiness they might ever have had. They are being stripped of dignity and denied their rights as humans.

Red light areas, as prostitute quarters are euphemistically known, continue to abound in this democracy. The most ugly, heinous, malicious, villainous, obnoxious and lowest forms of behaviour possible by men are meted out to women, making criminals out of these men. So, whoever argues for legalising prostitution is actually arguing for a legal protection for perpetuating the inhuman behaviour on sex workers.

India has about 1.5 crore sex workers – a demography which is higher than the combined population of many small nations. In several cases parents sell their daughter to escape poverty. Some others were hustled by lovers and husbands into brothels for a livelihood.

Prostitution is inextricably linked to human trafficking. They complement one another. Those who claim that all women in sex quarters are adults, and have duly come into the trade with express consent, after having considered carefully deliberated decisions, are lying through their teeth. In any such quarter, most are minors, and have been sold either by deception or by force.

Prostitution has also never emancipated women from impoverishment. No traumatised prostituted women ever earned millions from sex rackets; it’s the brothel owners who do. Every day, young women fall prey to the incessant terror of traffickers and pimps. Even those who seek to opt out are never allowed to quit.

Few women desire a life of ignominy. Men force them into the trade. Being forced into something is miles away from choosing it. Until recently, patriarchy forced women to burn on the funeral pyres of their deceased husbands as sati.

Even if we accept the argument that prostituted women want prostitution to be legalised, should civil society really let that to happen? If someone willingly wants to sell himself to slavery, should we simply sit and watch? If slavery has been abolished throughout the world, why does prostitution, the modern day slavery continue to flourish? Women do not perpetuate prostitution; evil, corrupt and powerful men do.

Buying of bodies must be banned. If there’s no one to buy a body, the ‘body shop’ will go out of business. The first step is to recognise prostitution as sexual slavery, as abuse, and infliction of bodily and mental harm and torture.

In India, men are almost never named and shamed in sex scandals. The woman is almost always harassed in public. A democracy ensures equality of rights and recognises men and women as equal citizens. Any democracy that covers up human rights violations by spouting excuses is not a civil society. Where it does, there’s a different name for it. It’s called patriarchy. And that is the true nature of a savage state.

Horrible mass slaughter!

Every five year a slaughter festival takes place in Nepal. Hindus offer animals to Gadhimai goddess for luck and prosperity.

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The ritual sacrifice of goats, buffaloes and roosters in Gadhimai temples and at home is widespread in Nepal.
10,000 buffalo calves and 150,000 goats are going to be offered to Gadhimai — the goddess of power — during the ritual.

In the last time nearly 20,000 buffalo calves were killed, and more than 200,000 goats were slaughtered. This year less animals are sacrificed because of animal activists are trying to prevent people from slaughtering animals. Hundreds of people thousands of animals for 2 days, many animals were not slaughtered completely. Buffaloes walk with their head hanging in the killing fields.

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Do people get prosperity after making Gadhimai happy by killing hundreds of thousands of animals? For human’s superstition, so many animals are getting brutally murdered. This barbarism must be stopped.

Muslims are burning ISIS flag

Some Lebanese Muslims started burning ISIS flag publicly. They put the burning pictures on social networking sites and asked people all over the world to burn the flag of the killer monsters. We must not forget that burning ISIS flag means burning the Arabic sentence that says, ‘There is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is His messenger.’

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Intolerant Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia says non-Muslims will be deported if they eat, drink, smoke in public during ramadan days.

Saudi Arabia has threatened to deport any non-Muslim foreigners who don’t respect the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan by eating, drinking or smoking in public.

An interior ministry statement on the official SPA state news agency urges non-Muslim expatriates in the kingdom to “respect the sentiments of Muslims by not eating, drinking or smoking during Ramadan’s daylight hours in public places, including roads and workplaces.”

Those who violate the regulations will be deported or sacked, according to the statement.

“They are not excused for being non-Muslim,” it said, adding that “anyone living in this country should follow the laws of the Kingdom, including respecting religious sentiments”.

The statement also asked companies to transmit the instructions to their employees.

Millions of Muslims from around the globe are preparing to observe Ramadan, the religious month of fasting.

For 30 days, they will not eat or drink from sunrise and sundown and refrain from sexual intercourse, smoking or profanity in a bid to become closer to Allah.

They are also encouraged to give back to the community and take part in charitable deeds.

Saudi Arabia applies a strict version of sharia law and it hosts more than nine million foreigners.

Last march, the Kingdom started a crackdown on illegal workers. The government issued an amnesty period in April 2013 giving illegal migrants seven months to gain legal status. Since then, one million Bangladeshis, Indians, Filipinos, Nepalis, Pakistanis and Yemenis have left.

The government created a task force of 1,200 labour ministry officials who raided shops, construction sites, restaurants and businesses in a hunt for foreign workers employed without permits.

What an unbelievably uncouth, uncultured, uncivilized country this Saudi Arabia is!

What if Saudis face the same kind of intolerance as foreigners? What if they get deported from the West for not respecting Western religion, culture and custom? The West won’t deport them, because it respects everyone’s freedom to not respect religion. Saudis learn from no one. They only learn from their ancient scriptures, the scriptures full of immorality, inequality, injustice.

Swimming against the tides

André Cohen is a guest blogger today. He wrote about the universal citizenship celebration in Paris on May 23 this year. I attended the celebration and felt how important utopia and other similar movements were.

May 23rd, the Universal Citizenship Organization (UCO), a Paris-based coalition of NGO’s, celebrated its first birthday with a bittersweet taste. The Danielle Mitterrand Foundation, Emmaüs international and the Utopia Movement, the three founding organizations, decided to work together after the Dakar World social forum, as they realized that the project of a Universal citizenship passport, symbolizing the right for every human being to travel and settle all over the world, gathered an overwhelming support from the civil society, especially that of the global South. The goal of the Organization is to promote this freedom of travel and settlement as a Human right – which it technically is, being the object of the Universal Human Rights Declaration’s thirteenth article.

This year’s event, hosted by Paris’ City Hall, saw the return of our partners from ATTAC (a French NGO which advocates the taxation of financial transactions to fund social and humanitarian projects) and a wide range of organizations that defend the rights of migrants. The symbolic Universal citizenship passport was handed to the European deputy, historical militant and internationalist Daniel Cohn-Bendit, to Argentinian anti-dictatorship militant and world-renowned pianist Miguel Angél Estrella, to Franco-camerunese athlete and reporter Maryse Ewanjé-Epée as well as to two militants who have gone through the hardships of life as an undocumented migrant in France. Edgard Morin, one of the most important philosophers of the late twetieth century, also accepted to support the project and receive the passport, but couln’t make it to the press conference for medical reasons. Sakharov- and Simone de Beauvoir prize-winning author Taslima Nasreen was also here to support us in our struggle.

Given such prestigious sponsors, what could possibly cast a shadow over this celebration?
Well, actually, almost all the rest. After the recent Indian general elections gave the Hindu-nationalist BJP a clear and massive victory, after the secession of Crimea from pro-European Ukraine and into Russia, this weekend clearly illustrated that reactionary and nationalist opposition to globalization, and to the fears – fantasized or justified – that it engenders, is a global trend. In Belgium, the Flemmish nationalist movement gained momentum. In Columbia, the staunchest right-wing candidate, who refused to negociate peace with the country’s marxist guerilla, came in first.
In Europe, most of the headlines after the elections of the European Parliament mentioned the surge of anti-european, anti-globalization nationalist parties. The Greek neo-nazi party Golden Dawn made a smashing come-back after its recent electoral and legal defeats. The UK independance party, a populist movement driven by a strong rejection of the European Union in Great Britain, has, as expected, achieved a great success, despite England’s traditionally bi-partisan model. The Danish People’s Party lead a xenophobic populist list to victory in this traditionally tolerant northern-european kingdom.

But the most shocking victory was that of the French National Front, which came in ahead in this election gathering around a third of all votes. In this country, famous for its promotion of Human Rights and Universalism, for its strictly color-blind and secular administration, the steady rise in influence of this anti-immigrant, nationalist, anti-women’s rights, xenophobic and anti-European party, with a rich history of racist slurs and sporadic acts of violence, is the unmistakable proof that all over the world, people are voting for groups that promise them a more homogenous country and sell them the nostalgic memories of a fantasized past of national unity and ethnic coherence.

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This is clearly the context in which we are struggling. This is why this year, the Universal Citizenship Organization chose to invest its energy into showing that, despite these trends, despite the entrenchment of racist and xenophobic political forces, and despite the general disaenchantment with globalization as it exists so far, there are people, in larger numbers than one might think, who still support freedom of movement and settlement for all.

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So, from the 21st to the 23rd of May, hundreds of people who walked past the Paris City Hall, and dozens more through internet’s hashtag #CitoyenUni, were able to take pictures of themselves in a replica of Universal citizenship passport, to show their support for this ideal. We then printed the pictures and glued them on to a seven meter wide banner, showing a small visible part of today’s universal citizens, fighting against the mainstream anti-immigration ideas being diffused through the media, swimming against the tides. The rainbow of faces on the banner finally made it obvious that in 2014, hundreds of individuals of all origins, genders and ages, are still ready to show support for migrant’s rights and for the principles of Article Thirteen of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:
” (1) Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state.
(2) Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.”
A fundamental right which, like so many others and despite its clear wording, has never really been upheld or enforced by the international community, but that every individual aspires to.