Analysis / 17.10.2009

By Anjum Altaf I started reading Amartya Sen’s latest book The Idea of Justice in which he suggests we reduce injustice in the world we live in rather than attempt to create an ideally just world – he characterizes the contrasting perspectives as ‘realization-focused’ versus ‘arrangement-focused’ approaches to justice. For South Asians, the parallels are two different concepts of justice from early Indian jurisprudence – niti and nyaya. The former relates to ‘organizational propriety as well as behavioral correctness’ whereas the latter is concerned with ‘what emerges and how, and in particular the lives that people are actually able to lead.’ The distinctions, and Professor Sen’s preference, are quite clear and one can agree or disagree with his choice. Here I am concerned with the example that Sen uses to motivate his argument and to explain why I find it puzzling. I would like readers to reflect...

Analysis / 24.09.2009

Some recent comments have made me reflect on this question. I am intrigued by the notion that someone can think of India as belonging to its religious majority. I am going to argue that such thinking is arbitrary, inconsistent, anachronistic, and schizophrenic. It is also a vocabulary that is entirely unhelpful in advancing us to a better and more secure future. It is arbitrary because there is no logical reason for using religion as the characteristic by which a majority is determined. Why couldn’t one say that India belongs to men because there are more men than women in India? Or that India belongs to Hindi speakers, or to peasants, or to the lower castes? No case can be made that accords primacy to religion over all these other dimensions that can also separate a population into a majority and a minority. It is inconsistent because if...

Analysis / 13.08.2009

By Anjum Altaf What is the difference between the yarmulke and the burqa besides the fact that one is minimally small and the other is maximally large? By now the controversy over the burqa is well known. In France, President Sarkozy has said: “The burqa is not a religious sign. It is a sign of subservience, a sign of debasement...

Analysis / 10.07.2009

As a follow up to our brief debate on the Kashmir issue, I wish to propose an exercise that evaluates the Kashmir policies of the governments of India and Pakistan and also puts our own objectivity to the test. Such an exercise could yield an awareness that might enable us to move the discussion forward. What I propose is the following: For the first part of the exercise stop thinking of yourself as a citizen of your country. Consider yourself an external examiner (ideally from Mars) who has been invited to evaluate the Kashmir policies of the governments of India and Pakistan, respectively.
Analysis / 03.07.2009

We have gone back and forth on the issue of American intervention in developing countries and I wish to return to the topic to broaden the terms of the discussion. Reader Tahir had raised the issue in defense of Imran Khan’s position that was the subject of three earlier posts (here, here, and here). Let us see if a wider perspective improves our understanding and helps us think of better responses, both intellectual and practical. The evidence of American interventions is not in dispute. In his Cairo address, President Obama conceded American involvement in the 1953 coup in Iran that toppled a democratic government. And this is only one of many, many instances well known to all except, perhaps, a majority of American voters. Imran Khan is part of the multitude that sees through the American rhetoric of high morality.
Analysis / 29.06.2009

This post continues the series initiated by Imran Khan’s observations on the differences between West and East (Why the West Craves Materialism and Why the East Sticks to Religion) but it is more about the issues and less about Imran Khan. In particular it addresses the points raised by Tahir in his four comments on the earlier post. These points cover so many areas that it is best to deal with them in a separate post. To start with, it is useful to separate the various strands in the comments and respond to them one at a time. For example, it would help to separate the political and the religious dimensions. There is little doubt that the US has exploited many countries including Pakistan. But this has very little to do with religion.