Kashmir : The Forgotten Conflict – Aljazeera Timeline of the Kashmir Conflict

All that has been published in Aljazeera on the Kashmir Conflict.


Wanted Women: Warriors on 2 Sides of Militant Islam – Dwight Garner – New York Times Book Review

If you were the Franklin Mint and wanted to issue a set of four collectible dinner plates devoted to “The Women of the War on Terror,” whose faces would appear on them?

Condoleezza Rice, George W. Bush’s national security adviser during 9/11, would surely smile up from one. As would Lynndie England, “the lady with the leash,” as Mick Jagger sang on the 2005 Rolling Stones song “Dangerous Beauty.”

Plates 3 and 4? They would almost certainly depict Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Aafia Siddiqui, the subjects of Deborah Scroggins’s sober and provocative new book, “Wanted Women.” Ms. Scroggins has composed a dual biography of these dissimilar Muslim women, intricately braiding their stories. They are such opposites that, as the author memorably observes, “Like the bikini and the burka or the virgin and the whore, you couldn’t quite understand one without understanding the other.”

If you are wondering who is the bikini (and thus the whore) in that formulation, Ms. Scroggins leaves little doubt that it is Ms. Hirsi Ali, whom her book relentlessly attacks, sometimes persuasively but often tendentiously. But we are getting ahead of ourselves.

Ms. Hirsi Ali is, you will recall, a Somalian-born former member of the Dutch Parliament. She wrote the best-selling memoir “Infidel” (2007) and, once seen, is hard to forget. In the words of the British journalist Andrew Anthony, she “looks like a fashion model and talks like a public intellectual.” Brought up as a Muslim fundamentalist in Kenya, where she was subjected to genital cutting, she escaped to the West and has emerged as an incendiary critic of Islam, especially on issues regarding women. She is married to the British historian Niall Ferguson.

Ms. Siddiqui’s story is just as unlikely, and seemingly made for a tense Kathryn Bigelow film. Born in Pakistan, she left for America to study neuroscience and earned degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Brandeis University. She married a Pakistani doctor who was accepted to study for a master’s degree at Harvard, with whom she had three children. She also became a nearly psychotic anti-Semite, and began dabbling in pro-jihad organizations in America. In 2003 the F.B.I. named her the only known female operative of Al Qaeda.

Ms. Scroggins is a veteran reporter whose very good first book, “Emma’s War” (2002), was about a young British aid worker and tarnished idealism in the Sudan. In “Wanted Women” she seeks — and abundantly finds — what she calls the “weird symmetry” between her subjects.

“They were both in their early 30s,” she writes. “They were both fiercely intelligent. They both came from politically ambitious families. They had both been tossed about among Africa, Asia, Europe and the United States ever since childhood.” She adds: “They shared a kind of warrior mentality. Both prized fearlessness. They were both rebels.”

Just as interestingly, she alights upon “hints in their complicated backgrounds that each woman might have gone in a very different direction, perhaps even to the extent of Aafia Siddiqui becoming a Westernizing feminist and Ayaan Hirsi Ali becoming a militant Islamist.”

The bulk of “Wanted Women” is sturdy, well-reported, boots-on-the-ground biography. Ms. Scroggins moves through these women’s lives, seizing on piquant details. Thus we find Ms. Hirsi Ali as a young woman in Nairobi, where her family had moved, devouring Western writers from Dostoyevsky to Jacqueline Susann and thinking: “White people were always having these wonderful adventures that we couldn’t have, either because we weren’t allowed or because we couldn’t afford to.”

We witness Ms. Siddiqui throwing herself into volunteer work at M.I.T.’s Public Service Center, where she twice won its award for her efforts. “They couldn’t award me any more,” she said, “because two times was the limit for one person.”

As “Wanted Women” progresses, following these women is like watching two deciduous trees in an arboretum: while one soars and bends toward the light, the other shrivels and grows stunted. Ms. Hirsi Ali makes her way to the Netherlands and revels in that country’s freedoms. Ms. Siddiqui becomes more and more devout, rejecting drink and dance and music and movies, and pinning her black veil so that only her eyes are visible.

A gifted speaker, Ms. Siddiqui becomes an important fund-raiser for Islamic groups with links to Al Qaeda. She ultimately marries into the family of Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the principal architect of the 9/11 attacks. In 2010 she was sentenced to 86 years in prison for, while in captivity, the attempted murder and assault of United States personnel.

It is to Ms. Scroggins’s credit that this book is vastly more multidimensional than it at might first seem to be. She works hard to make both women come alive, and to both she is to some degree sympathetic. This book’s interwoven narratives allow her to strike chords that might otherwise have gone unstruck.

Yet by its second half “Wanted Women” becomes a rowdy assault on Ms. Hirsi Ali, whom Ms. Scroggins accuses of being imperious, deceitful, egomaniacal and divisive, of whipping up racial hatred through her unsubtle criticism of Islam. She swings lower, pointing out that Ms. Hirsi Ali used a ghostwriter and visited an “expensive hairdresser” to straighten her hair. She notes that Ms. Hirsi Ali supported the American-led invasion of Iraq, and that she has fallen in with the American Enterprise Institute, a right-wing research center.

She comes close to laying the slaughter last year, by a lone gunman, of those 77 young Labor Party campers and others in Norway, at Ms. Hirsi Ali’s feet. She notes that the killer’s manifesto proposed Ms. Hirsi Ali for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Ms. Scroggins’s portrait of Ms. Hirsi Ali is eye-opening, and important. Her punches mostly land. She is especially good on how Ms. Hirsi Ali made it “possible to appeal to the Dutch xenophobic vote in a socially acceptable way.” She is persuasive on how East and West will need voices of reconciliation, not merely stern condemnation.

But the portrait of Ms. Hirsi Ali is frequently so one-sided that the author seems nearly as needlessly combative and complexity-free as she claims Ms. Hirsi Ali has been. This sense is underscored in a narrative that compares Ms. Hirsi Ali’s life to that of a woman who, Ms. Scroggins writes, “was almost certainly plotting murder” and “perhaps prepared to further a biological or chemical attack on the United States on a scale to rival that of 9/11.”

Ms. Hirsi Ali is a complicated and imperfect person. But her fights have employed words and an attempt at reasoned debate, while Ms. Siddiqui left those things, and civilization, behind. It is possible to appreciate both burkas and bikinis and still wonder why this book’s sympathies seem to be with the woman who hoped to speak through the most destructive weaponry available.


Israelis Facing a Seismic Rift Over Role of Ultra Orthodox Women – New York Times

Veiled Ultra Orthodox Haredi Women

JERUSALEM — In the three months since the Israeli Health Ministry awarded a prize to a pediatrics professor for her book on hereditary diseases common to Jews, her experience at the awards ceremony has become a rallying cry.

The professor, Channa Maayan, knew that the acting health minister, who is ultra-Orthodox, and other religious people would be in attendance.  So she wore a long-sleeve top and a long skirt. But that was hardly enough.

Not only did Dr. Maayan and her husband have to sit separately, as men and women were segregated at the event, but she was instructed that a male colleague would have to accept the award for her because women were not permitted on stage.

Though shocked that this was happening at a government ceremony, Dr. Maayan bit her tongue. But others have not, and her story is entering the pantheon of secular anger building as a battle rages in Israel for control of the public space between the strictly religious and everyone else.

At a time when there is no progress on the Palestinian dispute, Israelis are turning inward and discovering that an issue they had neglected — the place of the ultra-Orthodox Jews — has erupted into a crisis.

And it is centered on women.

“Just as secular nationalism and socialism posed challenges to the religious establishment a century ago, today the issue is feminism,” said Moshe Halbertal, a professor of Jewish philosophy at Hebrew University. “This is an immense ideological and moral challenge that touches at the core of life, and just as it is affecting the Islamic world, it is the main issue that the rabbis are losing sleep over.”


Kashmiris’ Pain Over Unmarked Graves – BBC

Thousands of unmarked graves have been discovered in remote areas of Indian-administered Kashmir, a legacy of decades of conflict in the region. Now a government human rights body is calling on the Indian authorities to investigate the graves – to identify the dead and find out who killed them.

Khurram Parvez works for the Coalition of Civil Society, a human rights organisation which first drew attention to the unmarked graves and is demanding a full, impartial investigation.


Sonia Gandhi Admitted to Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center at New York for Urgent Surgery – Tehelka

The 64-year old Congress president Sonia Gandhi has been rushed to New York for an urgent surgery for an undisclosed medical condition. She has been admitted to the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center there.

Her political secretary Ahmed Patel, who turns 62 on August 21, is “the boss” until Rahul Gandhi who flew out with her on Monday returns after the surgery. Sonia Gandhi’s daughter Priyanka Gandhi Vadra is also with her.

Rahul will take charge of the party as a part of a small caretaker group she set up to look after the party’s day-to-day affairs in her absence. The group is made up of Ahmed Patel, Defence Minister AK Antony and Patel-favourite Janardan Dwivedi, the general secretary-cum-chief spokesperson.

Renowned oncologist Dr Dattatreyudu Nori, Director of the Cancer Center at the New York Hospital of Queens, is attending on Sonia Gandhi. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh spoke to her and wished her a speedy recovery. Lok Sabha Opposition leader Sushma Swaraj of BJP and Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi were among the first to send their good wishes for her early recovery. Dwivedi put out a two-line announcement to shut speculation on Sonia Gandhi’s absence from the Parliament since the beginning of its monsoon session. It says: “Smt Sonia Gandhi has been recently diagnosed with a medical condition that requires surgery. On advice from her doctors, she has travelled abroad and is likely to be away for two to three weeks.”

Mrs. Sonia Gandhi has over the last decade emerged as a leader of global standing and had been named among the 68 most influential in the Forbes List of Powerful People in 2010.


Randi Zuckerberg Leaves Facebook to Start New Social Media Firm

Randi Zuckerberg, Director of Marketing at Facebook and sister of Co-founder Mark Zuckerberg

Randi Zuckerberg, who is director of marketing at Facebook and also the sister of CEO and co-founder Mark Zuckerberg — is leaving the company after six years to start a new media firm to help companies become more social.

In her resignation letter,  Zuckerberg said:

“I have spent my years at Facebook pouring my heart and soul into innovating and pushing the media industry forward by introducing new concepts around live, social, participatory viewing that the media industry has since adopted. We have made incredible progress, but there is still much to be done and other ways I can affect change. Now is the perfect time for me to move outside of Facebook to build a company focused on the exciting trends underway in the media industry.”


Seeking Arrangement: College Students Using ‘Sugar Daddies’ To Pay Off Loan Debt – Huffington Post

Saddled with piles of student debt and a job-scarce, lackluster economy, current college students and recent graduates in the United States are selling themselves to pursue a diploma or pay down their loans. An increasing number, according to the the owners of websites that broker such hook-ups, have taken to the web in search of online suitors or wealthy benefactors who, in exchange for sex, companionship, or both, might help with the bills.

The past few years have taken an especially brutal toll on the plans and expectations of 20-somethings. As unemployment rates tick steadily higher, starting salaries have plummeted. Meanwhile, according to Jeffrey Jensen Arnett, a professor of psychology at Clark University, about 85 percent of the class of 2011 will likely move back in with their parents during some period of their post-college years, compared with 40 percent a decade ago.

Besides moving back home, many 20-somethings are beginning their adult lives shouldering substantial amounts of student loan debt. According to Mark Kantrowitz, who publishes the financial aid websites Fastweb.com and Finaid.org, while the average 2011 graduate finished school with about $27,200 in debt, many are straining to pay off significantly greater loans.

Enter the sugar daddy, sugar baby phenomenon. This particular dynamic preceded the economic meltdown, of course. Rich guys well past their prime have been plunking down money for thousands of years in search of a tryst or something more with women half their age — and women, willingly or not, have made themselves available. With the whole process going digital, women passing through a system of higher education that fosters indebtedness are using the anonymity of the web to sell their wares and pay down their college loans.

“Over the past few years, the number of college students using our site has exploded,” says Brandon Wade, the 41-year-old founder of Seeking Arrangement. Of the site’s approximately 800,000 members, Wade estimates that 35 percent are students. “College students are one of the biggest segments of our sugar babies and the numbers are growing all the time.”

Wade identifies clients who might be students on his site by a .edu email address, which the site verifies before it will allow a profile to become active. Currently, 82,510 profiles on the site contain one or more of the following keywords: school, college, university, money for school, student debt, college debt, tuition or college expenses. Wade says 110,126 women and 25,363 men list “student” as their occupation.