Blog Archives

On Radical Islamic Terrorism

I have typically refrained from writing on religious matters of the terrorism kind. But I write this a day after the Orlando shootings – and I am doing this because I am truly shaken. The tragedy has made me question my own values and the way I see this world and the specific groups of people in it. I have had conflicting ideas and opinions surface in my mind ever since I woke up to the headline yesterday morning. And this post is my effort to sort through it, try to make some sense out of it, and to arrive at an acceptable understanding of the world around me that will not be in conflict with my core values.

Terrorism inspired by religion has become the most visible and tangible threat to the safety of people all over the world. The validation that is provided by religion to carry out the most heinous of attacks cannot be obtained anywhere else. That being said, there is pretty much just one religion that seems to inspire and validate these terrorist acts – Islam. Islamic terrorism has cut through all geographies and boundaries imaginable. There are no safe havens or out of reach places any more. And yes, please, let us just call it for what it is – Radical Islamic terrorism. There is no shame in saying that, and it is completely politically correct. (Disclaimer: I am not a Trump supporter and I will be completely OK if he suffers a stroke and becomes paralyzed tomorrow).

When most, if not all, of the terrorist acts on this planet are inspired by one religion, not acknowledging it and calling it out by name is like saying America does not have a gun problem. Saying that all Muslims in America are peace loving people who are true patriots of the USA and do not have any inclinations towards radicalism is like saying all gun owners are responsible and law abiding citizens who only use their guns for self-defense and hunting. Yes it is true that most Muslims living in America are peace loving people who embrace American values of tolerance and hard work, just like most of the gun owners in America are law abiding citizens who take pride in their guns for the right reasons and emphasize safety and responsibility while using them. But there is always going to be a small percentage of Muslims who get exposed to/seek out and practice extremist points of view, just like there are plenty of nut jobs with huge arsenals of guns because they believe the government is coming to kill them and take away their guns. Just like these paranoid nut jobs who listen to more popular idiots like Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck for their daily dose of paranoia, there are Muslims who seek out extremist preaching – either online or through specific mosques – to feed their radical purpose in life. And just like we have the NRA who ensure that sufficient money and influence is maintained in the Congress to prevent any meaningful gun control – thereby implicitly increasing the number of lunatics with guns, there are terrorist organizations all over the world – and radical mosques within the US – who wield enough power, money, freedom and influence to continue spreading fear all over the world.

You don’t have to be a conservative or a liberal to see the above situation for what it is. It is just common sense and is based on simple facts. It is also very unfortunate and a lose/lose situation for all concerned. The inevitable presence of a small percentage of extremists in either camp can and will have everyone who are not part of the group to become apprehensive – or downright fearful – of everyone in it.

It is a loss for the innocent, peace-loving and responsible people in the group because they are prone to be looked upon as ‘one of them’ and are likely to face all the associated ridicule and social stigma that comes with it. It is a loss for an extremist because that is still a life that could have led to something constructive and beautiful. And finally, it is a loss for the general public not just whenever there is a tragedy, but to also have to live a daily lifestyle with fear and conflicting points of view on their own values of tolerance and security.

So calling it ‘Radical Islamic Terrorism’ is both politically correct, and still secular. It is also common sense. In fact, calling it as such explicitly points out that it is the people who subscribe to the radical portion of Islam – and not all of them – that are the harbingers of such tragedy.

The Orlando shootings have, to no one’s surprise, drawn strong messages from both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. And what should still be of no surprise is that while Trump used it as an opportunity to call for tougher immigration measures, Clinton used it to further her message on gun control. Both points of view are necessary, and are actually not at all in conflict with each other. To say that the problem and associated solution relates to just one of them is not only obviously incomplete, but also dangerously wrong.

We live in a world where fear is the most precious asset for someone looking to gain power. One more such a tragedy before the elections, and I will be willing to bet on a Trump presidency. The rhetoric is easy and fear feeds fear. But that is not the solution. On the other hand, advocating caution, inaction and to say that we need to treat every Muslim, including those who are radicalized, with love and respect and tolerance – regardless of their explicit intent to kill innocent people – is not only naïve, but also just plain dumb and idiotic. There is a part of the solution that involves force, and it has to be used, and I definitely hope it is indeed used. There is also a part of the solution that involves peace. But the peaceful part of the solution has to come from within the Muslim community by making their collective voices of peace heard all around the world – not just when tragedy strikes, but as an every day message that reminds all fellow Muslims of the dangers of going on the wayward path. If the Muslim friends I have known throughout my life are any indication, there is no shortage of messages of love and peace to spread throughout the world of Islam by those who practice it sincerely.

But I am still waiting for it to happen. And for all our sakes, I hope it does.

Advertisements

A Perfect Example Demonstrating the Inherent Bias in a Sports Fan

Yesterday I watched with great satisfaction Chelsea getting the better of Arsenal (well, duh!) early in the morning. That pretty much made my day and my weekend. The match was not without incident. Arsene Wenger openly pushed Mourinho in the latter’s technical area following a Gary Cahill tackle on Alexis Sanchez. I am not as interested in why Wenger pushed Mourinho or what exactly transpired there. What drew my attention earlier today is how fans from the two teams reacted to the news that Arsene Wenger wouldn’t be charged by the FA. For this, I looked at the SB Nation blogs for both the teams. (Yes, I follow the Arsenal and Man Utd SB Nation blogs in addition to Chelsea’s).

Wenger pushing Mourinho. But of course, Mourinho is at fault!

If you are not aware, SB Nation is a very well organized website with separate blogs for each sports team across different sports and geographies. The content is generally admirable and there are usually few posts every day on each blog, so this way you will always have something to read about your team. As a fan, this is invaluable as it gives a sense of being part of a fan community from all over the world. You should definitely check it out. But I digress.

So following the FA’s announcement today, We Ain’t Got No History, SB Nation’s Chelsea Blog ran a post that pretty much summed up my feelings. Just the hypocrisy of the FA when it comes to punishing Mourinho (or Pardew for that matter) over other managers is something that never seems to go away. I can possibly write an entire post on that but I won’t. For the most part, WAGNH’s post covers it – with a generous dose of sarcasm and an underlying frustration. Here is a quote from there:

“Point B” was of course on the pitch, where managers aren’t allowed, technically, but let’s not worry too much about technicalities.  It’s not like they matter anyway.

Here’s a thought exercise.  Say we reverse the roles, and it’s Jose Mourinho (or, say, Alan Pardew) who puts both hands on Wenger’s chest and shoves him (however meekly), just how many games do you think he would’ve gotten here?  Three?  Four?  Ten?  Perhaps with a public flogging or two?

Mind you, the Arsenal manager received a fine and a one-match ban for a “sarcastic pat on the back” of the fourth official in 2010.  It’s good to know that the FA considers a light tap on the back a far harsher offense than physically confronting the opposing manager in his own technical area.

The tone and the text is self explanatory. Chelsea fans have seen Mourinho being fined and/or banned for far less by the FA. And watching Wenger go without as much as a warning obviously bothers us. But, whatever. Chelsea still won and Arsene Wenger still hasn’t won the only contest against Mourinho that actually matters – the one on the pitch. I was ready to cease my interest in this incident and get on with my work. But then…..

In comes The Short Fuse! SB Nation’s Arsenal blog. Ah! The Arsenal fans must be extremely relieved that their manager didn’t get any further punishment, right? Perhaps they realized that a manager just going out of his technical area itself constitutes a violation of the game’s rules? Nevermind actually pushing the other manager in the latter’s technical area! Surely they know that a manager is not allowed on the pitch itself? Obviously only the medical team is allowed on the pitch in case of injury, right?

Well, Fuck all that! Here is what The Short Fuse had to say (Bold emphasis added by me):

Both managers have admitted, in their own words, that it was a heated match.  Mourinho stated, accurately, that he’s been guilty of doing “many wrong things in football”, with Wenger confirming in his post-match press conference that Mourinho was guilty yet again in the sport by preventing him from attending to his fallen player, in this case Alexis Sanchez, after being viciously assaulted by Gary Cahill.

After agreeing with Mourinho in that he was wrong, while concluding that Wenger – who’s only got the best interests and concern for his player – was acting in good faith and acted only after being unjustly provoked, the FA made the correct and honest decision today.

I don’t even know where to start. Read the text slowly paying attention to each and every word or phrase. Look at the choice of words used here: ‘fallen player’, ‘viciously assaulted’, ‘Wenger confirming’ that ‘Mourinho was guilty yet again’, ‘being unjustly provoked’?????? Really??

Just to clarify, here is Mourinho’s full quote (You should really read all the quotes here):

But to be fair, I do so many wrong things in football, sometimes you lose emotions but not this time. This time I was just in my technical area and it was not my problem. Story over.

Ah! Nothing makes a quote fit your own narrative more than just picking pieces of it that you like! In addition to the quote manipulation, the choice of words used in the post reeks of complete and unapologetic bias. Apparently Mourinho was at fault because Wenger just confirmed it. Yes, that is all you need. Wenger confirmed that Mourinho was at fault. Case closed. Let’s all go home, eh? And while we are on the way, let’s also give Mourinho a 3 match ban OK?

(On a side note, this is exactly the kind of quotes I expect to hear on Fox News. Complete and unapologetic bias).

Now I can definitely understand the agitated state of mind of the Arsenal fan following yet another loss to Chelsea (and Mourinho). I can also understand the frustration and helplessness of supporting a constantly under achieving team. I can almost feel the outrage in the mind of the guy who wrote that Arsenal post. And it is something I have felt myself many many times over in the past decade or so that I have supported Chelsea. (God knows what all I wanted to do to referee Tom Overbo after the Chelsea – Barcelona semi-final from 2009). So yes I understand the outrage. But to blatantly portray a situation in a favorable light to your fellow fans while painting the other team as evil by twisting quotes and facts (especially like the above) shows something far more fundamental in a sports fan’s psyche. It shows the basic human condition of the need to rationalize by choosing to believe biased points of view.

Sports gives rise to many such situations at an extraordinary frequency – irrespective of whom you support. Add to this all the passion and rivalries that are part of any sport and you have a recipe for extreme mood swings on a weekly basis at the very least! And when the human mind has to cope with these mood swings, it just turns to the ever present tools of rationalization, confirmation bias and subjective validation to make itself feel better. These tools manifest themselves in things such as online arguments, finding fault with the referee, conspiracy theories, declaring that the other team ‘just didn’t deserve to win’, finding a scapegoat, calling for someone’s head, manipulating and presenting quotes and facts that fit our narrative, collective commiseration, etc. The list really is pretty long.

So when we have situations where we are extremely frustrated – like your sports team losing to a hated rival – our minds automatically look for how we can rationalize and justify the loss. Because if we can indeed justify it, then we get a sense of satisfaction from ‘knowing’ that there was something out of our team’s control that cost the result. This does not make us feel happy but it definitely helps in dealing with the pain. (Trust me I have been there many times).

And this is what The Short Fuse has done. The writer has clearly succumbed to the mind’s need to rationalize. His mind is essentially telling him: “Fuck objectivity! I just need to feel good right now!” And THAT, is a celebration of the human condition. The resulting piece only shows to what extent he must have been feeling that outrage and frustration.

The interesting thing about this is that it is not restricted to just sports. The same feelings of outrage, frustration and ultimately rationalization/justification also prevail strongly in all things that we hold sacred. These include topics such as religion, gun control, politics etc. The more passionate you get about something and hold it sacred, the less objective you tend to get in that topic. It is just the way the mind works.

Isn’t it indeed a fascinating world we live in – where we can put sports, religion and gun control in the same box?

Terrorist Organizations Express Unanimous Disappointment over Failed Gun Control Bill

Terrorist organizations all around the world joined hands for the first time to condemn and express disappointment over the failure of gun control legislation in the United State Senate. Media outlets all around the world, but predominantly in the middle east and Africa, have been receiving a barrage of video tapes and CDs showing terrorists from different terrorist groups expressing shock, disbelief and ultimately disappointment over the apparent hypocrisy of the US.

The Other Al-Qaeda dude

Al-Jazeera beamed an image of that Al-Qaeda guy, whom the US have not yet caught, in a prerecorded tape trying to imitate the late Osama Bin Laden.

We the surviving members of Al-Qaeda condemn the United States (well, Duh!) for their failure to pass any gun control measures even after the shooting of many school going kids. This inaction is goes beyond all morally accepted double standards and hypocrisy all around the world!

In what appeared to be a prepared statement, the man went on to explain why this was totally unacceptable and unfair – to the terrorists.

Guns have been killing people in America at a rate of more than 10,000 a year. But the Government doesn’t find the need to do anything about it – not even pass a stupid expanded background check bill. We terrorists have not done ANYTHING for more than a decade and we are still being hunted down! How is this fair?

More than a decade ago, we killed some 2000 Americans. OK I get it. That was a big deal. But now it has been so long since our last attack that I don’t even remember why we want to kill Americans anymore! In spite of this we are being hunted down. But then during all this time, there have been so many mass shootings killing so many people in the process and nobody wants to do anything to stop it.

If we terrorists had carried out those mass shootings, we would have been wiped off this planet. The USA would have gone to war against all of us and finished us off once and for all! But when it comes to guns, they don’t want to do anything about it!

This is disgraceful! This hypocrisy is worse than what I am used to.

The Perfect Argument, Right?

A spokesman for another terrorist group founded on religious extremism also condemned the US Senators for yielding to the NRA.

I can’t believe all the ridiculous reasons and ‘logic’ that all these pro-gun activists and the people from the NRA have been screaming about – tyrannical government? good guy with a gun shooting bad guy with a gun? second amendment violations?? Really??

And all this time I thought MY arguments were bad!

Yet another terrorist organization, which has pledged to end “American dominance” pointed out to the overwhelming opinion in the US for expanded background checks.

90% of Americans want expanded background checks for gun sales. 90% of Americans also want people like us killed. So why is it that background checks do not get expanded but we are getting killed? This is just not fair to the terrorists around the world. This hypocrisy will not stand man!

When asked about the terrorists’ demands, President Obama started on a long and inspiring speech that made sure everybody forgot what they had initially asked and instead started crying and yelling and clapping and generally behaving like 6 year old kids who have just been promised candy.

Oh well, that’s how it works I suppose….

 

One Line That Still Haunts Me

There are few things that can get me riled up like watching a news item that tells me that 20 young kids were murdered by a gunman who used legally obtained guns to carry out the attack. We are all familiar with the story now and I have no intention to recap it here. But back then, when the reports were still emanating and the media did not have all the information, ALL news articles ran one line midst their coverage. Upon initial reading, it appeared innocuous. Looking back, however, it could not have been phrased better to truly show the situation for what it was. Quoting it verbatim, it simply said:

An entire class was unaccounted for.

That line sent shivers down my spine. I had to reread that line over and over again, trying to comprehend its complete implications. It was as if the “class” had somehow become a commodity – like a production batch that had gone missing, or like a monthly payment that was never recorded. But these were small kindergarten kids that were ‘unaccounted’ for. If the only available context for the above line was ‘a classroom of kindergarten children’, it would likely be viewed as a bullet point in some school audit report  indicating wrongly maintained student roll. It would also be made to seem like an inventory of lost homework that was destroyed in a small fire.

But without the full context available, NOBODY – and I really do mean NOBODY – would even be capable of thinking along the lines of what actually happened. 20 school children were brutally murdered by a gunman who fired 3-11 bullets into each of these kids. Most of them were in a single class. And all of their lives will remain ‘unaccounted for’.

Suddenly the homework-destroying school fire and the incompetent school accountant sound so much more desirable.

***********************************************************************************************

I intended to write a long piece voicing my opinion against gun possession and all that it entails. While doing my research on it, I came across two articles. One of them, in the NYT, was by Jeff McMahan, and it articulates every single thought and opinion I have about gun possession and gun laws. Jeff McMahan has said everything I ever wanted to say. A small excerpt from his article:

The logic of private gun possession is thus similar to that of the nuclear arms race.  When only one state gets nuclear weapons, it enhances its own security but reduces that of others, which have become more vulnerable.  The other states then have an incentive to get nuclear weapons to try to restore their security.  As more states get them, the incentives for others increase.  If eventually all get them, the potential for catastrophe — whether through irrationality, misperception, or accident — is great.  Each state’s security is then much lower than it would be if none had nuclear weapons.

I wish I could copy-paste the entire article as there are really so many points made there. But the internet is a wonderful thing. It allows me to simply link to the entire post. Here is the link again. 

The other link is to an article in Jim Emerson’s Blog. This is NOT an opinion piece. It is comprised solely of facts about guns, gun laws and other statistics about homicides. It is a necessary read for anyone who wishes to debate or voice an opinion on gun control. Here is ‘a modest proposal’ that he does suggest though:

If you believe that the government is plotting to take away your guns, then you are paranoid and crazy and should have your guns taken away.

These two articles cover everything that I ever wanted to SAY or KNOW about gun control in America. Needless to say, I favor a world where nobody has guns except the police. Far from a reality I know. But as John Lennon said, “You may say I am a dreamer; But I am not the only one.”