Posts Tagged ‘pakistan’

India, A History

July 20, 2014

It must be a daunting project for a historian to attempt to write a history of India on one volume. The grand sweep of India’s history, stretching back five thousand years with a bewildering diversity of cultures, languages, religions, and ethnic groups provides so much material that it must be very difficult to decide what to write about and what to exclude. This diversity must also make finding a common theme throughout the history of the subject difficult. If a historian wishes to write a history of France, he has only one nationality to examine. Most French speak the same language, follow the same religion and culture, and have a shared identity. China is somewhat more diverse, but a historian still has the cycle of dynasties to use as a framework. India is more difficult. The subcontinent has only been completely unified as one state under the British and as soon as the British left, the former colony was split between India and Pakistan, and later Bangladesh.

Making matters more difficult the indigenous Indians, the Hindus were less interested in dating and precise dating than some other civilizations, such as the Chinese, and more inclined to mythologize their history. Thus, instead of annals of history with more or less precise dating, we have the great Sanskrit epics, which quite possible contain much true historical information. Many of the persons and events in the epics may be historical, but historians face considerable difficulty in determining just when these events occurred and how they are related chronologically, without the help of archeology. It was only when the Muslims invaded Indian that we begin to get reasonably precise dating.

 

India

Despite these difficulties, John Keay does an admirable job of telling the epic story of India in one volume, India, A History.  As someone who did not know very much about this fascinating, and increasingly important country, I was glad to read a history book that lays out the whole story, from its beginnings to the present day, in a way that holds my interest. The maps and charts are adequate, though my Kindle Paperwhite still does not handle graphics very well. I did get somewhat lost in all the exotic and unfamiliar names of princes and dynasties, and occasionally the history of a certain region of India at a particular time, or some of the less prominent kings of a dynasty was somewhat rushed through, but I think that India, A History is an excellent resource for the casual reader to learn about the history of India. Those who wish to study the subject further can use the bibliography John Keay provides. Either way, I think they will find this book useful and interesting.

 

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Polio’s Comeback

December 2, 2013

It wasn’t that long ago that the disease poliomyelitis, or polio, was feared all over the world, even in the most advanced countries. Polio is a contagious disease caused by the polio virus. While most people who are exposed to the virus do not show any symptoms, if the virus gets into the bloodstream or into the central nervous system, the results can be dire. In the worst cases, the virus may cause permanent paralysis. Polio became epidemic in the twentieth century and the worst outbreak in the United States was during the 1950’s. Every year, people dreaded the summer and the polio outbreak that would come. It must have seemed a near miracle when Jonas Salk developed the polio vaccine and ended the threat of polio. Polio rapidly became unknown in the West and it seemed that the disease would soon be eradicated worldwide.

Polio is making a comeback in the developing world, however. Is this because the vaccine has become ineffective? Have international health agencies lost interest in distributing the vaccine? No. What has happened is that Muslim authorities in several countries have become convinced that polio vaccination is a conspiracy against the Islamic world and have declared jihad against it. Here is the story in USAToday, which I found through Jihad Watch.

Once close to eradication worldwide, the dreaded disease polio is resurfacing in Muslim-majority countries where vaccinations are hard to come by due to war, religious edicts and ignorance, experts say.

The latest example comes this week in Syria, where a strain of polio originating in Pakistan has crippled more than a dozen children, according to doctors for the Kurdish Red Crescent. Cases have also been showing up in Somalia, Afghanistan and Nigeria.

The problem is prompting some polio-free countries to demand that visitors from high-risk countries take oral vaccines at the airport upon arrival if they cannot prove they’ve gotten the vaccine.

“The Saudi government has introduced restrictions for all those traveling to the Holy Land from polio-affected countries,” said Mazhar Nisar of Pakistan’s Ministry of National Health Regulations and Services.

“Every pilgrim is to take polio vaccine before traveling to Saudi Arabia and also upon arrival at any of the international airports in the Kingdom,” Nisar said.

It says something when the Saudi government, where they still execute people for witchcraft, is the voice of reason. Other people are far less sane about this matter.

In Pakistan’s Northwest territories, where Taliban clerics have significant influence, polio vaccination teams are maligned as un-Islamic or Western purveyors of poison meant to sterilize Muslim women.

A cleric in Pakistan’s Punjab province warned that a jihad would be launched against polio vaccination teams, whose mission he labeled a Western conspiracy, frightening away a team that arrived in Muzaffargarh, according to The Express Tribune.

This week, militants in northwestern Pakistan kidnapped 11 teachers involved in a polio vaccination campaign. Local official Khyali Gul said the teachers were taken from a school in the Bara area, close to Pakistan’s northwestern border with Afghanistan.

The United Nations in Pakistan pulled its staff involved in immunization from Pakistan after three eradication workers were shot in Peshawar and two of them were killed, in 2012. Since then, more vaccine teams have been targeted.

Without vaccination, the cases of polio are rising in Pakistan, as is the appearance of the Pakistani strain of polio in other countries where infected Pakistanis travel.

The Pakistani polio virus was found in sewage samples in Israel in June this year (the virus can be found in fecal matter of an infected person) and in Cairo in January.

It would be bad enough if the effects of this sort of idiocy were simply the spread of polio in places like Pakistan. In this age of rapid and easy travel, no disease can be stopped by national borders for very long. Despite any precautions by other countries, polio is likely to spread among the unvaccinated, even in Europe and America.

The World Health Organization says the once-rare disease could be resurrected and has declared a polio emergency across the Middle East. Allias Durray, a doctor who is the chief of polio eradication for Pakistan, warned that Europe may be next.

“After the Syrian polio outbreak and the flight of refugees in proximity to Turkey and European Union, it is evident that the polio virus is at the doorstep of Europe,” he said.

Not all countries check for polio vaccinations among foreign visitors from countries where polio is considered endemic. The United States requires immigrants be vaccinated, but not visitors.

“We collaborate closely with international organizations and other countries to make sure that international and U.S. guidance on vaccination for immigrants is implemented, said Donda Hansen, media spokesperson for the Center for Global Health at the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta.

“The U.S. maintains ‘elimination status’ in the U.S. by aggressively investigating every suspected case to determine whether an importation has occurred, taking steps to prevent transmission, and safeguarding Americans,” Hansen said.

It’s too bad a general quarantine cannot be imposed against the parts of the world controlled by these fanatics until they see reason.

It is not clear why Islamic authorities would oppose vaccination. Inoculation or vaccination seems to have been invented in either China or India. It was widely practiced against smallpox  in the Ottoman Empire in the sixteenth century and European travelers from that country brought the knowledge of the procedure to Europe and America. There is no prohibition of the practice in any Islamic scripture or law that I know of. Medical products made from unclean animals like pigs have been ruled acceptable for use by both Jewish and Islamic authorities. It seems clear that saving lives is of greater importance than dietary purity. Perhaps the concern is not really religious at all, but stems from a general paranoia and hatred of the West. Whatever the cause, the fools making the fatwas will not be hurt as much as the innocents who will have their lives blighted by their ignorance.

Abdus Salam

July 10, 2012
Abdus Salam.

Abdus Salam. Infidel!!

Abdus Salam was the only Pakistani to have won a Nobel Prize for his work in Physics. He worked with Steven Weinberg to create what is now called the Standard Model of particle physics and so he helped pave the way for the recent discovery of the Higgs Boson. He and Weinberg shared the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1979 for their work.

Now, you would think that Abdus Salam would be a national hero in Pakistan. You might imagine that the country’s only Nobel Prize laureate would be honored all over the country, with statues put up in town squares, streets and even towns named after him, his grave a place of pilgrimage, and school children learning about his work. You would be wrong. You see, Abdus Salam was the wrong kind of Pakistani. He was a member of the Ahmadi sect, which more orthodox Muslims consider to be heretics. In Pakistan, they may not identify themselves as Muslims and so are no better than infidel dogs. Here are a few details from the Fox News article I read.

 The pioneering work of Abdus Salam, Pakistan’s only Nobel laureate, helped lead to the apparent discovery of the subatomic “God particle” last week. But the late physicist is no hero at home, where his name has been stricken from school textbooks.

Praise within Pakistan for Salam, who also guided the early stages of the country’s nuclear program, faded decades ago as Muslim fundamentalists gained power. He belonged to the Ahmadi sect, which has been persecuted by the government and targeted by Taliban militants who view its members as heretics.

Their plight — along with that of Pakistan’s other religious minorities, such as Shiite Muslims, Christians and Hindus — has deepened in recent years as hardline interpretations of Islam have gained ground and militants have stepped up attacks against groups they oppose. Most Pakistanis are Sunni Muslims.

 

Salam’s life, along with the fate of the 3 million other Ahmadis in Pakistan, drastically changed in 1974 when parliament amended the constitution to declare that members of the sect were not considered Muslims under Pakistani law.

Ahmadis believe their spiritual leader, Hadrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, who died in 1908, was a prophet of God — a position rejected by the government in response to a mass movement led by Pakistan’s major Islamic parties. Islam considers Muhammad the last prophet and those who subsequently declared themselves prophets as heretics.

All Pakistani passport applicants must sign a section saying the Ahmadi faith’s founder was an “impostor” and his followers are “non-Muslims.” Ahmadis are prevented by law in Pakistan from “posing as Muslims,” declaring their faith publicly, calling their places of worship mosques or performing the Muslim call to prayer. They can be punished with prison and even death.

 

Despite his achievements, Salam’s name appears in few textbooks and is rarely mentioned by Pakistani leaders or the media. By contrast, fellow Pakistani physicist A.Q. Khan, who played a key role in developing the country’s nuclear bomb and later confessed to spreading nuclear technology to Iran, North Korea and Libya, is considered a national hero. Khan is a Muslim.

Maybe Salam should have converted and written papers on how to harness the powers of genies. I don’t think Pakistan is likely to produce any more Nobel Prize winning physicists and this story may provide a clue why there has been so little scientific progress in the Muslim world in the last thousand years.

 

Ban the Bible

June 7, 2011

From Jihadwatch and Assyrian International News agency. In Pakistan the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam party is trying to get the Bible banned because of its blasphemous and pornographic content.

Adam and Eve sans fig leaves, Lot getting drunk, Jesus stopping a stoning . . . This is all too much for Muslims represented in Pakistan’s parliament by the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam party. They view Bible stories such as these to be “pornographic” slurs against the biblical figures whom they claim as their holy prophets. They are now demanding that the country ban the Bible because of such “blasphemy” and exact a “punishment.” There seems no limit to what could be considered an offense against Islam under Pakistan’s notorious blasphemy laws.

At a press conference on May 30 in Lahore, party leader Maulana Abdul Rauf Farooqi informally petitioned the Supreme Court, complaining that the Bible includes stories about some of the biblical prophets that include “a variety of moral crimes, which undermine the sanctity of the holy figures.” A newspaper reports: “Farooqi cited a number of [supposedly pornographic] scriptures from the Bible, saying such ‘insertions’ strongly offend the Muslims, who hold all prophets and holy books in high esteem, as part of religious belief and never even think of committing any blasphemy against them.”

The verses in question are:

Genesis 19:33–36, 29: 23, 32–35, 38:18

Exodus 32:2–6

1 Kings 13:2–29

2 Samuel 11:2–27, 13:1–22

Matthew 1:13, 16:23, 26:14–47

They have a point. Many times the prophets and  apostles in the Bible are not presented in a very good light. This is because the Bible presents these people the way they were, sins and warts and all. God makes use of some very imperfect people to accomplish His will.

In the Koran, by contrast, the various prophets, Abraham, Moses, Jesus are presented as ideal Moslems, reciting the same message as Mohammed. There is little sense of any individual personality for any of them. Some of the best parts of the Bible are when the prophet, etc must confront his own weaknesses and overcome them. David and Bathsheba, Jacob and his poor treatment of Esau, Peter’s denial of Jesus, etc. Religion and theology aside, this is one of the things that makes the Koran far inferior, in the literary sense, to the Bible.

More Thoughts on Osama’s Death

May 2, 2011

Some of the thoughts that occur to me:

It doesn’t seem at all likely that elements of the Pakistani military and intelligence services did not know where Osama has been. They actually seem to have been protecting him and warning him whenever US forces approached.

Former Pakistani Prime Minister Musharraf criticized this operation for violating Pakistani sovereignty.

Former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf on Monday accused the U.S. of violating his country’s sovereignty by sending in special forces to kill Osama bin Laden.

“American troops coming across the border and taking action in one of our towns, that is Abbottabad, is not acceptable to the people of Pakistan. It is a violation of our sovereignty,” Mr. Musharraf told CNN-IBN, an Indian news channel.

He added that it would have been “far better if Pakistani Special Services Group had operated and conducted the mission. To that extent, the modality of handling it and executing the operation is not correct.”

Well, if we had worked with the Pakistani Special services, than Osama  would have been long gone.

Mr. Musharraf said the “lack of trust is very bad.”

They’re not giving us much reason to trust them.

From Texas I read this:

DALLAS — Supporters left American flags and patriotic red, white and blue balloons outside the Dallas home of former President George W. Bush in the hours after President Barack Obama’s announced a U.S.-led mission had killed Osama bin Laden.

A sign on the gate outside the street leading to Bush’s residence Monday read in small letters, “President Obama forgot to say …” then continued in letters big enough to be read from the road, “Thank you President Bush.”

One would hope that the President would have enough class to acknowledge the efforts of his predecessor but with President Narcissus that’s not very likely.


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