Liberalism in Retreat

Source: VOA News

Source: VOA News

Liberal ideas seem to be in retreat around the world, but this effect is not perceived stronger anywhere more than in the United States.

What went wrong? The United States is supposed to be the leader and preacher of liberal ideas around the world. How could it expect to inspire change in the more regressive parts of the world with this sort of display?

Since the 1980s, people such as Donald Trump were celebrated by TV and American pop culture in general. They were supposed to be a product of American capitalist prosperity in the 1980s. How can such a figure become such an anti-liberal, populist force?

Of course, Trump sees it differently. He merely sees his steps of trade protectionism as necessary amends to terribly negotiated trade deals. He is merely helping local businesses survive. While that sounds all good in the context of the trade balance, which I am not sure you can force into the positive zone, but not when you are preventing corporations from conducting their business freely. Threatening businesses to not flee is probably the last thing they are going to convince them to stay for too long.

Trump’s idea of negotiating from a position of strength seems to be coercing trade partners and companies into caving into his administration’s demands. He threatens companies with tariffs for moving their construction plants to other countries. And he’s a Republican President.

Now it may sound fair to him and his supporters. But what does it tell the world about the new United States? What does it tell the world about the new Republican Party? Clearly not the bastion of freedom anymore.

The Republican Party leads the free world in terms of its support for economic liberalism. I wonder where the ideology of the party has vanished, as they watch Trump signing away one reckless executive order after another.

How can the United States pull out of TPP and NAFTA on Speaker Ryan’s watch? Something I don’t expect to happen but it is becoming a great possibility. And where is the fiscal conservatism in a trade tariff paying for a border fence wall? Oh wait, Trump is not a fiscal conservative.

Furthermore, Donald Trump’s executive order banning Muslim refugees and immigrants from seven Muslim majority countries including Iran and Syria is also a cause for great concern. If you were a liberal leader fighting regimes such as Iran and Syria, then you kill the cause by blocking refuge to freedom-loving individuals in those countries.

And what is with all the executive orders? Where are all the Republicans screaming about Obama’s imperial Presidency?

Let it be refugees, immigrants, jobs, or political and economic unions. The world seems to be going downhill and fast.

The exit of Britain from the European Union and right wing nationalist pro-exit movements all around the Europe are the signs of the rising unpopularity of liberal ideas around the world. The United Nations seem to be under fire in democracies like Israel which are increasingly falling into regressive hands.

But enough of the Republican version of liberalism. But due to the rise of conservative powers around the world, socially regressive policies are also dominating from Turkey to India. But the reason for the election of the rivals of center left parties is perceived to be economic. See the likes of Prime Minister Modi and you would keep on wondering why. But primarily because liberal leaders have failed to convince the voters why their ideas could lead to a prosperous world.

Liberals need to resist terrible ideas from both progressive leftists and right wing populists in order to move toward an actually open and free market economy on a global scale. However, they must first exhibit confidence in them. They must first believe these notions and put them into practice.

People who put the problem of the loss of manufacturing jobs, which may eventually become redundant, ahead of a more progressive, freer trade environment would not grow to be as competent. An idea which threatens a lot of people. Even more than losing access to the best quality of goods the market could offer them.

But good ideas should not need coercion. The vast advantages of globalized, free trade have been overlooked by too many when governments themselves contribute to the conditions leading to businesses fleeing. But what is far worse is that people do not believe that free trade is eventually going to be of benefit to them. While not every business in every market is able to compete with the global competition, free trade eventually favors the consumer.

But such liberal ideas such as reaching markets beyond borders and uniting politically are in retreat. Despite the world’s economic and scientific prosperity being a direct result of them.

But they won’t be for long.

Because it’s often liberalism that cleans up the mess made by nationalism, fascism, populism, and trade protectionism. It would again.

The post was originally published in The Nation blogs.
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Why the Idea of Olympics Is So Important

Source: MSNBC

Source: MSNBC

Without condoning corporate or other slavery that may or may not be involved in related construction jobs, I find it important to support the idea of Olympics. Especially the idea of participation in it and oppose preventing any people from doing so. Further more than that, I would consider the idea of rising developing countries such as Brazil, Russia, Qatar, India, and China to organize these events as well in addition to the West.

More often than not, the criticism from international media and activists point out valid concerns such as security, labor rights, and poor administration. Sometimes, these critiques could come across as if developing countries should stay away from the privilege. They should by all means, if it is going to heavily burden them. It does not mean they should stop aiming for it.

To improve life for all the stakeholders, positive criticism on Olympics is very important. But it is best done without condemning the developing countries participating in the process or the idea of Olympics itself.

There is a larger reason to why more nations should be encouraged to participate in the Olympic process.

Olympics is a liberal, globalist, intellectual cultural idea. There is a reason why its creators came up with it and why the leaders of the world, as well as most people of the world, so religiously follow it.

Olympics is truly the only global festival that allows people from all nationalities come together, keeping aside all political differences, in a deeply divided world.

It is one of the few platforms where Iran and Israel and North Korea and the United States gladly send in their citizens to participate without a second thought.

Struggling with countless political ideologies, even more religious beliefs and cults, and other dividers such as race and language, it’s one of the few last remaining unifying factors for apparently the most intelligent species on the planet. Even if in name only.

Source: BBC

Source: BBC

The international assortment of athletes also presents the perfect opportunity for exposure and education. Most of the times, it brings forth athletes from all corners of the world embracing each other. Especially bringing together people from countries at odds with each other.

At others, it brings prejudice and bigotry to the surface, only to be rebuked due to the universal symbol of peace and unity that Olympics is. Leading to opportunities for shaking prejudiced beliefs.

Time and again, athletes from Muslim majority nations have refused to share space with Israeli athletes. This is particularly insensitive when the brutal cold-blooded murder of 11 Israeli Athletes in the 1972 Munich Olympics are kept in mind. Lately, Lebanese athletes refused to share a bus with Israeli athletes, with the manager blocking the way.

While the story is being used by both sides for their respective partisan agenda, most people are missing a very important point. The exposure and interaction provided by the Olympics are the perfect, very first blow to the prejudiced indoctrination of these kids.

These young athletes and their officials may embarrass themselves with such behavior, but it’s about time that some of them would realize how wrong their behavior is.

While there is always a chance that they would lack such a consideration, you can never expect someone brought up with prejudiced indoctrination to offer the right response at first. But, as humans, they are likely to feel some empathy for the persons of their enemy at some point. Even if they don’t admit it.

This would help a good number of people have the first shock to the wall of prejudice that they have built around themselves. Such experiences would only prove educational, and help them develop empathy for the people on the “other side.” Actually, even an opportunity to cheer for them.

What a distraught Pakistani fan is to do but to cheer for the likes of Deepa Karmakar, Saina Nehwal, and the Indian women’s archery team? Only wondering where ours is.

Furthermore, watching Olympics sports after a break of four long years is a welcome relief from the excruciatingly monotonous cricket, soccer, tennis, and golf running all year long.

The post was originally published in The Nation blogs.

Let’s Accept Porn

Source: lifeandtrendz.com

Source: lifeandtrendz.com

What is the best response to a government that proactively blocks porn websites and going out of its way to do so?

The answer is to openly and unashamedly embrace porn, regardless of the attacks from religious conservative and liberal moralists.

In the latest episode, the Pakistan government has moved to block 400,000 porn websites. You can either mourn the indirect ill effects of this monstrous but “necessary” step of internet censorship, or simply call a spade a spade.

Blocking porn is plain and simply wrong. Porn is not. Neither is it immoral. Only the people who act like moral police are.

There is no surprise that the government’s campaign has brought out their usual idiocy and inefficiency of blocking completely unrelated content. What else are you going to expect from a government that is so obsessed with taking public morality measures?

Thanks to our authoritarian government, accessing pornography and erotica could become a human rights issue, if it is not already. Blocking pornography is often justified by religious and moral decency. However, any religious freedom that curtails any other freedoms should be abolished, particularly in this case the access to pornography.

There has been no shortage of criticism, but pretty much all of them have always sounded more like indirect apologies for the supposedly inevitable action. As if it is alright to block porn. They would rightfully mourn the loss of platforms such as tumblr, for not being pornographic, with some accounts possibly containing links to some pornographic material. However, they would completely ignore the loss of access to thousands of porn websites important to millions of others.

For various understandable personal and professional reasons, activists and journalists avoid being vocal against blocking porn. Doing so could be deemed as its endorsement, no wonder a discussion about porn jumps immediately to child pornography (talk about red herring), even if some of them may not have substantial objections to the access of pornography privately.

This is why it is not only necessary for citizens and internet watchdogs to respond to the legal aspects of such internet censorship, but also address the terrible morality of it. And it is important to point out that blocking an adult’s access to pornography is morally objectionable, instead of the pornography content itself.

When the internet started, it became the paradise for libertarians and anarchists. But soon, the ill effects of the freedoms of anonymity began to show as the deep web became the comfortable hideout for data hackers, financial criminals, identity thieves, digital blackmailers, and harassers.

Taking action against them became necessary and the government had to establish its presence online to counter the unrelenting wave of cybercrime which became hard to ignore. With such measures, the governments of the world also took it upon themselves to filter and censor access to information on the internet as it suited their respective ideologies. And why the hell not? In a way, the internet came from the government anyway.

Just like various made up crimes in the penal code of Pakistan, such as blasphemy, attempt to commit suicide and gambling, possessing or displaying pornography or “obscene objects” is yet another crime. We need to convince our lawmakers that it is not, and being guilty about it is not going to help.

There is no need to feel discouraged by reports from journalistic sources crooked with respective ideological agenda such as Fox News and Huffington Post shaming Pakistan for accessing pornography. If indeed these reports are true, let us be proud of them. There is also no need to be ashamed by people discounting the right of accessing pornography of a Muslim majority population, only reflective of common people’s pursuit of freedom.

There is only one way to make voices matter in an environment of suppression. That is to be clear about your rights of freedom of access and freedom of expression.

So let’s not beat about the bush and be vocal about the morality of censorship.

Let’s allow access.

Let’s accept porn.

The post was originally published in The Nation blogs.

The Potential Menace of Islamist Politics

Source: Arif Ali/AFP/Dawn

Source: Arif Ali/AFP/Dawn

For a long time, I have held this rather well meaning but terrible belief that Islamist or religious parties should participate in democracy. Now I must say that I realize the gravity of such disastrous ideas.

Probably the most underestimated factor in democracy is that church and state should be separate. Not only is that fact being undermined in countries with Muslim majority population, but also in some Western and perceivably more democratic nations.

In Pakistan, however, the problem is particularly disturbing. Even though the Jamaat-e-Islami gets very little love at the polling booth, a large number of people agree with their populist Islamist rhetoric. This is a problem when anyone who wants to see democratic value flourishing in a country with such a poor track record in the subject.

Belief in Islamism and the tenets of Islam in general encourage a draconian system of governance and a violent medieval system of justice, contrary to freedom and democracy. If this statement sounds like an Islamophobic sweeping rant, then consider the following statement by former Jamaat-e-Islami Emir Syed Munnawar Hassan.

Syed Munnawar Hassan just called for Qital Fisabeelilah or murder in the name of God in order to fight oppression. While this sounds just like a noble call for the righteous kill from the Bolshevik revolutionary in your high school mate, it is a far more dangerous than militant socialism, or even authoritative conservatism for that matter.

When an Islamist leader calls for something, he or she, pardon me it’s always going to be a he, is always going to invoke the name of God for any action. Since religious people in general and Muslims in particular are conditioned not to question religious authority, they are bound by whatever sort of decree comes down upon them. Their potential for menace is far greater than what most people imagine.

It’s not that Jamaat-e-Islami, or other Islamist and other religious parties for that matter, should be banned for statements such as these. Instances like these only show how dangerous they are. They should be banned anyway because they endorse and promise to enforce undemocratic or religious principles.

I understand the dilemma of our secular politicians allowing the religious parties to live with them. They are afraid of their violent backlash if they are not allowed to maneuver politically.

However, if the Communist Party of Pakistan can be banned for all its undemocratic values, by ironically a military dictator without any violent resistance from them, why should we treat the Jamaat-e-Islami any differently? I would always endorse serious violent crackdown on Islamist parties in case they try rioting or disturbing the peace and quiet of our cities.

Apparently, there is a lot of hope in the Pakistani society as you see great resistance to the political ambitions of Jamaat-e-Islami, a party that is linked to Muslim Brotherhood and has sympathies  for, if not possible connections to, Al Qaeda. You would see the most conservative quarters rejecting JI candidates. A JI candidate has not won a major seat in Punjab or interior Sindh in my living memory.

However, there is no shortage of well meaning and religiously bound idiots who would still endorse Islamic system of governance and Shariah. As if giving up their freedoms would redeem them. A more dangerous breed among them recognizes that only religious parties can truly enforce this system of governance and support Jamaat-e-Islami without holding back.

Just imagine the horror of an Islamist group gaining access to power through a democratic process, when they should actually not even be participating in it. The irony.

So it is a disappointment when I see Information Minister Pervez Rasheed speaking at an anti-Israeli rally held by Jamaat-e-Islami. Or Governor Punjab validating their political forum by offering them a speaking appointment.

We must come to our senses before we end up destroying whatever democracy we have left. We must also understand that democracy must have no room for religious political parties. All the more reason for a secular constitution.

In other words, Jamaat-e-Islami should be banned.

Note: As published in The Nation blog.