Thursday, December 29, 2005

Political: Constructing “Moderate Muslims” - Let Muslims be Muslims

During my student politics days, when the students got a little tired of rhetoric from different camps, one student came up with an interesting message for all – “No Slogans… Wisdom please”. As I indefinitely hear labels and new labels for Muslims, I wish I can say that to them. The latest slogan or label that is being promoted and championed by politicians, journalists, orientalists, apologists and secularcrats has been “Moderate Muslim”. In fact they seem to have launched their campaign to create “Moderate Muslims”.

In the post-Sepoy mutiny era in the 19th century, the British colonialists embarked on a campaign to construct the “obedient” Muslims. At the end of the World War I, the Allies tried to construct the “Caliphateless” Muslims. At the end of World War II, the colonialists tried to construct the “Independent” Muslims. During the Soviet-Afghan war, US and UK tried to construct the “Jihadist” or “Anti-Russian” Muslims. With the discovery of oil in middle east, the western powers tried to create the “friendly” Muslims. In the post September 11 era, in order to counter militant wahabbis, salafis and jihadists, there is a campaign to construct “Moderate Muslims”.

It really intrigues me as to how there is always some campaign to construct some kind of Muslims. It is not some kind of an evolutionary process like how music genres evolves through time. Nor is it similar to how there is a never ending effort to create the fastest formula 1 car or the most chic designed car. Indeed there are very few such campaigns in other areas like how there is always a campaign to create some kind of Muslims. This peculiar enterprise can only be metaphorically illustrated to an example of someone ever building an island in the ocean only to be washed away each time by the tide, currents, waves, tsunamis, earthquakes or winds.

The current campaign to construct “Moderate Muslims” is no different from the predecessor campaigns. The architects will define their objects and anti-objects. They will describe the characteristics of both. They will then promote the merits and virtues of their objects and the need to construct it and criticize the demerits and ills/threats of their anti-objects and the need to deconstruct it. The only thing is that the architects of this campaign will be more like movie directors, writing their own stories, peaking their own climaxes, adding their own clichés and ending it with always a happy ending. They will be guided purely by their sense of cynicism and naivety throughout their whole jihad in which they will self-proclaim martyrdom in destroying the anti-objects and replacing it with objects of their creations.

Unfortunately, just like their predecessors, they will find that their objects today will become their anti-objects tomorrow. Their successors hence will have to just like them embark on a new campaign to create a new strain of Muslims. As this new strain mutate into a harmful or undesirable mutant, another campaign will be launched. This perpetual vicious cycle will never end till they actually stop their futile construction process and let Muslims be Muslims.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Social: Evaluating the Value of Something

Evaluating the Value of Something

Value of something can be generally defined as its worth. In our daily lives value is one of the recurring phenomenons. Everything, be it tangible or intangible, has a value. Value itself can be monetary or in kind, explicit or implicit, quantitative or qualitative. Value can be constant throughout time or be changing even at one point in time. Value is more than often subjective than objective, hence value may not always be precise or concise or consistent. Instead it can wrong yet appear correct. It can also be correct yet appear wrong. Many a times, especially in terms of monetary value, many things have a value. Even then we evaluate and put our value to it.

We indeed live our lives by putting a value to everything. What we feel to be of high value, we pursue it. Conversely what we feel to be low value, we do not seek it or we avoid it. Unfortunately the outcome of everything that we pursue, not pursue or even avoid depends not on the value we attach to it. We may place a high value on something and pursue it, but not reap any good out of it. We may place a low value on something and avoid it, but reap much good out of it. Indeed the outcome of anything is independent of the value that we place upon it, but instead is contingent upon the actual value of that thing. When the real value of something is positive, the outcome/s for us will only be positive if we pursue it. Otherwise the outcome/s will be nil or negative if we don’t pursue it. Likewise when the real value of something is negative, the outcome/s for us will only be negative if we pursue it. Otherwise the outcome/s will be nil or positive if we don’t pursue it.

Indeed we all try to estimate the real value of everything and not the nominal value. We use our intellectual ability through our mind and emotions through our heart to evaluate the value of something. In turn, our mind and heart employ the abilities of our five senses – sight, smell, touch, hearing and taste. Unfortunately our five senses can easily be deceived. What we see, smell, touch, hear or taste may not exactly be able to pick out the full information about that thing. Our eyes for instance can take notice of a beautifully designed shirt but fail to detect that the quality is low. Our nose for instance can pick up a nice smelling perfume but will not be able to detect the presence of chemicals in the perfume, should they exist, that can cause allergic skin reactions or the fact that the sweet smell itself can only sustain for a very short time. Hence with incomplete information, our faculties of mind and heart, will be unable to gauge the correct value of anything.

Therefore in our daily lives more than often we are either overestimating or underestimating the value of things. This in turn makes us pursue things at the speed faster or slower than we optimally should. Environmental damage is something our eyes are unable to fully see. Hence our mind is unable to fully comprehend it and puts a nominal value that is lower than the real value. Hereby we are not triggered to act with restraints towards environment. Instead we continue to exploit the environment. This dilemma is faced by us in every other aspects of our lives.

We can call this a form of asymmetric information i.e. the information that we get about the value of something which makes us put that value on it is different from its actual/real value. How then do we rectify this problem? We definitely need to be in a constant state of awareness for us to receive full information using and beyond our five senses. This state of awareness indeed is only partly achieved through the utilization of the five senses, mind and heart. Instead it can be fully achieved when a person employs the ability of his/her soul together with his five senses, mind and heart. In fact the soul plays a greater part than the latter. Unfortunately in today’s world when the common man, especially when he lives in a fast paced cosmopolitan urbanized city, is oblivious to the fact he has a soul. Even if he is not oblivious to it, he hardly makes an attempt to promote the development of the soul through spiritual development. Naturally when he hits the rock bottom of life, he goes on a soul searching mission. Sadly the natural environment he lives has every form of influence through mass media, corporate power, politicians etc that makes the soul distant from mind, heart and five senses. In fact the growth of the strength of the above three forces is dependent upon the growth of distance of the soul from the heart, mind and five senses. The three forces also do their best to replace the natural heart with a mechanized one where instead of the natural emotions, the individual’s heart is only capable of romanticized/impulsive emotions. The three forces may be acting conscientiously or their actions may be contributing to the above phenomenon. Nevertheless the ability to evaluate the value of something by each person is impaired. This is increasing true for the modern, urbanized man than for the rural, traditional one. However in this globalized world, the difference in the dilemmas of both is not significant. That is why we see media, corporations and politicians grow in strength whereas families, marriages, societies, communities, environment etc crumble and even disintegrate. This situation can only be reversed when we revive our soul, protect our hearts and re-attain our state of consciousness. Then only can we be able to put the appropriate value to everything and see the outcomes that we wish to see. Till then we can with our cynicism, make as much futile attempts as possible to rectify the situation using all other remedies that we can naively praise and hail.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005


While doing some literature research within British Medical Journal I came across this interesting endpiece for one of the research articles. In BMJ, some of the research articles end with an endpiece which is often a quote or something that is submitted to them by someone usually in the medical profession.

BMJ 1999;318:1349
NOBLE ART – submitted by Aziz Sheikh, clinical research fellow, London

While on my student elective in Pakistan I was surprised to find a passage from the Koran artistically inscribed on to the wall of my allocated ward. This passage, I have subsequently learnt, has been a major motivating force for a career in the health professions. In translation it reads: “And whosoever saves a life, it is as if they have saved the whole of mankind”