July 29, 2007


A few months back, one of my readers, Baangal, introduced me to Chaser's War on Everything, an Australian TV-show in the mould of political satire shows like the Daily Show and Colbert Report. Unfortunately the link died out, so I wasn't sure which one s/he wanted me to watch. Searching for it on YouTube produced the following video as a first hit. I found it fascinating and funny at the same time (thanks Baangal!):

I am loathe to argue that racism is the prime motivation behind American/Western foreign policy, although it does play some small role no doubt in threat-perception. And though Australia might not be the best example to draw from (Australian readers, please correct me if I'm wrong), I'd venture to say that domestic security policies tend to be motivated by considerations of race to a large extent, as displayed in that video. I can't even begin to get into what African-Americans and other minorities in America go through at the hands of the police even after the Civil Rights Movement, with great variations from place to place of course. So, I'll just stick to American responses during two security threats to the "Homeland" (note the capital "H", omitting which gets you lynched in Mississippi.)

Islamists such as AQ try to portray American actions in light of a Crusaders' (and Zionists too, oh my! Let us not forget the utterly incongruous juxtaposition of two movements 900 years apart!) anti-Muslim spirit/Islamophobia. This is obviously to miss the point - something that Islamists are very good at - that Islamophobia ties in with more general American attitudes towards the "Other". Neither is this to say that America has NEVER done anything good for people it has perceived as the Other, as the American FAR-left tend to think.

Consider the domestic response to Pearl Harbour. After which the American government responded with the internment of all ethnic Japanese, an astonishing 62% of whom were American citizens (for Trekkies out there, a young George Takei aka Sulu was one of them)!

Following 9/11, one may say that the reaction was almost restrained compared to the above, although accusations of racial profiling in airports were made. (Though not a frequent traveller, as a Muslim living in the West I can say that I've personally never felt it.)

It didn't take Americans themselves long to make the connection between the two. The increasingly-odious, intellectually dishonest and Islamophobic Michelle Malkin wrote a book defending the Japanese internment, with an obvious eye on Arab/Muslim Americans. Please don't read the book, it's not worth your time and effort. As two people far better informed about the dynamics behind the Japanese internment can tell you, it is utterly worthless and they can also recommend some alternative readings if you're suitably interested. And as they can also tell you, that Italian-Americans and German-Americans were not similarly incarcerated despite the Nazi-Fascist threat on the East Coast.

To put all the blame on the U.S. government is over-simplistic if fashionable. The rise of Islamophobia has been facilitated by a lot of things, not least the Western media depiction of Islam/Muslims. And here I fully recognise that the media's role might be a consequence rather than a first cause, but the fact remains that it can do something to make a difference. Acknowledgement of the problem might be a first step; some people are still not quite sure as to what "Islamophobia" really is or if it exists at all. (Whether the label is applicable to Rushdie or not, like the author I'm not quite sure. That man has every reason to be afraid of (some) Muslims and their leaders' irrational fatwas.)

Acknowledgement might lead to the unemployment from respectable media outlets of people who write near hate-speech such as this:

"But our media regularly make the assumption that the book burners and fanatics really do represent the majority, and that assumption has by no means been tested. (If it is ever tested, and it turns out to be true, then can we hear a bit less about how one of the world's largest religions mustn't be confused with its lunatic fringe?)"

For someone as Islamophobic as Hitchens lets himself be known in the above paragraph, denial of the very existence of Islamophobia is what keeps him alive. Given the assumption he's talking about has not been tested empirically, why would the media assume the worst about Muslims, as he does, if it were not Islamophobic? Hitchens instead of condemning this prejudice, simply assumes that empirical evidence might prove them right some day and instead rails against the critics of such media attitudes!

When the Danish cartoons (note the "the") were (self) censored in some states (both Muslim-majority and non-Muslim-majority alike), we all remembered the reaction. The defenders of free speech were crying ever louder about how Muslims were against free speech. Even criticising the cartoons' racist angle became an attack on free speech to some people! Here is Mr. Hitchens' himself at that time.

I was with the free speech advocates. I don't believe in censorship of any kind (Hello Larry Flynt!). I believe in using the voice/art/music of reason in countering hateful propaganda that shows people with turbans and beards sneaking bombs.

Now that the (not "some" - don't buy into the Western media's bullshit) Spanish cartoons have been censored too, what now folks? Where are my free speech brethren of the European/American variety? Come on folks, we have a fight on our hands.

What's worse, these cartoonists were lampooning TWO individuals, not over a MILLION of them in a few simple drawings! The hypocrisy would be tolerable if the magnitude
of it was just a tad bit saner.

While it can be argued that the idiotic response of SOME Muslims definitely deserved greater coverage of the Danish event rather the Spanish one, that still does not excuse the lack of a high-profile free speech campaign or publishers overseas publishing these cartoons simply to make the point about free speech.

Then there was the unequal coverage of two conferences on the Holocaust. This is the Wiki article for the Bali conference, in which sane Muslims and non-Muslims acknowledged the pain and suffering of Jews during the Holocaust. Note the news sources. This is the Wiki article on the Iranian one, in which the STUPIDEST Muslims and non-Muslims I can imagine got together and questioned the veracity of a historical fact. Once again, note the news sources. (My frequent reader from Tel Aviv, I don't know your religion, ethnicity or nationality, but I hope this shows you that there are Muslims who don't think that "all Jews are evil" or some such bullshit, just in case you didn't know it already.)

All this ties in with who is considered a "true" Muslim and who is not, who gets to decide and who does not, and who gets to articulate themselves as the "median" Muslim and who does not, all of which I will hopefully deal with in detail on another post. I leave you with Ayaan Hirsi Ali's astounding article in which she tries to peddle off her own experience in Saudi Arabia (of all places!) and Kenya as the quintessential Muslim experience; and a stand-up routine by the Iranian Omid Djalili that says a bit about how the Western news media gets the most fanatical Muslims to become the "median" Muslim. After all, if you're not "fanatic", you're not Muslim! Just ask Hirsi.

(skip to 6'30" if that's all you want to see, the rest is good too)

July 25, 2007

India Seems to Hurt Only Our Elites

Consider. Yesterday, when the EC decided to ban the export of old ships to Bangladesh for ship-breaking, the SBA spokesman said that this move will benefit India.

Last year, when garment workers rioted, we heard that all this rioting would benefit Indian garments industry. (Whether this has happened or not, that I don't know.)

Now, it seems according to Dr. Jafar Iqbal (Bangla article in PDF), the closing of the jute mills will REALLY benefit India, especially after India's 2005 Jute Policy (apparently backed by the WB and IMF).

Strangely, no one seems to be talking about that! We don't have any Jamaati types, any BNP-ites or any army-types campaigning for a jute policy to make sure that we don't lose out to India. What's wrong guys/gals? Patriotism got your tongue?


I've said it before and I'll say it again, if you want an EFFECTIVE India-policy from the Bangladeshi state, don't look to these factions to come up with it. They wouldn't know state interest if it hit them on the head.

Final equation: when workers demand fair wages and human rights activists demand safe working conditions, these benefit India. But when governments and industrialists make STUPID decisions..... well, these are hard decisions taken for the interest of the state. Got it?

July 24, 2007

European Commission Decides to Stop Exporting Ships for Breaking in Bangladesh

Saw this report earlier today in the Financial Express, but I'm reproducing the link here because I'm not sure how dependable the Express's links system is. (It's archiving system is NOT user-friendly!).

"Such a ban will not be an welcome news for the growing local ship-breaking industry in Chittagong as around 40 per cent of old ships are imported from the European Union (EU) member countries" it quotes an official as saying.

I don't know much about this issue and would love it if some of my readers took the time to educate me. What caught my eye were these two particular line:

"Ship-breaking industry leaders presume that international propaganda about the safety issue of labourers in the yards may have influenced the EC to impose such ban"


"SBA (Ship Breaking Association) chairman Jafar Alam said India will be benefited most from such a EC move as the local steel industry will have to rely on the neighbour for the import of billet and iron ores" (Italics mine)

I did find this pictorial in Foreign Policy, and have heard about bad working conditions there before. I also found this Drishtipat initiative from last year. I hope no one thinks that banning ship export is a viable policy in helping these workers. It's clear from the DP blog post that they don't advocate for that (correct me if I'm wrong). I also found Greenpeace pinpointing India as one of the offenders as well.

So question #1 is, how come the EC did not take a similar measure vis a vis India?

Question #2, given that Pakistan and China are also competitors, why is the SBA so eager to pin-point India? Another counterproductive attempt at shifting the focus away from workers' conditions?

Question #3, ship-building comes to us not because we are cost-effective, but because our laws are less stringent than those of the "first world". In that case, why not invest in worker's safety and health and thus take away the EC's or the Indian lobby's (take your pick) ammunition?

Once again, I'd highly appreciate my reader's educating me on this. All I know is that the EC decision is going to affect 25,000 workers who are already risking their health and safety everyday.

July 23, 2007

Biman - Dead Duck or Phoenix?

Yes, I return once again to writing about our white elephant par excellence. A lot has happened since the last time I wrote about it, and my fears that the media would remain quiet were somewhat mitigated, but not altogether. The media probably did the best scrutinising it could under the circumstances, but still left a lot to be desired.

I've complained before about the enormous amount of money needed for the VRS scheme. No details of the structure of the VRS has come to light in the media. Thus we do not know how much blue-collar workers are getting as opposed to pilots as opposed to cabin crew as opposed to management. Neither do we know how much seniority is accounting for. If someone knows where this information is available online, please post the link here. As it is, it did not make it to the mainstream media as far as I know.

The initial response was slow, leading me to think that maybe I had worried for nothing, that maybe the VRS really was ungenerous. By the second week, 900 workers had resigned/retired voluntarily. Who these workers were, what they did, went unreported. On 29th June, after the VRS was over, I came across this article in the Chinese People's Daily talking about pilots leaving Biman in all the uncertainty over turning it into a PLC. How many we lost during the VRS, whether it was offered to them at all, I still don't know and would be happy if someone told me.

Finally, at the end of it all, 2140 workers retired under the VRS. Given that the initial target was to reduce it from 4800 to 3400 - a deduction of 1400 workers - the VRS scheme overshot by 740. Which is what one should expect from a too-generous VRS scheme (but hey, it's not like some people were complaining about that before it even started), coupled with bad management styles, lack of managerial accountability and general lack of oversight over Biman.

Result? Biman rejected some of the VRS applications so that only 1840 workers retired. It also hired back some of its workers to work on a daily basis in order to keep it running. I can't find it now, but the Daily Star article on this hiring back its "voluntarily retired" workers quoted an employee as saying that s/he was working on a day-to-day basis only out of fear that otherwise they would not pay up the VRS money. (Once again, links would earn my undying gratitude.) An aviation industry consultant rightly questions the whole VRS system much more comprehensively than I do. Do note, he mentions that some people were coerced into filing for the VRS while others were considered "indispensable", which is neither here nor there. Hardly the way to treat people. Hardly the way to treat workers. Hardly the way to run a company.

Meanwhile, roundtable conferences discuss some nebulous, ideal future when making it a PLC is enough for efficiency and showing Biman sales agents the door will stop "corruption". The lack of accountability and oversight right under their noses in the current moment is conveniently forgotten.

Meanwhile reports are being filed that Biman needs a new fleet. Granted it does, but with this sort of treatment of its workers, this sort of idiotic schemes and this sort of unaccountable management, how will it not fall behind its competitors within the next 10, if not 5, years?

It would also help business if some of these sorts of stunts are avoided. But then, that needs a motivated workforce doesn't it?

The only sliver of light at the end of the tunnel as far as I'm concerned? This. As I said, it's only a sliver.

An anonymous commenter has some interesting details about the consequences of BPC's monopoly on jet-fuel in Bangladesh. I welcome further details on this.

July 22, 2007

Slow Day on the Bangladeshi Blogosphere (BB)

Some interesting numbers:

%age of Mrs. Hasina's arrest-related searches among all searches that led to my blog: 43.33

Bangladesh's budget expenditure: $8.7 billion
India's budget expenditure: $143.8 billion

%age of India's budget that goes to the Indian military: 18.6
%age of Bangladesh's budget that goes to the Bangladeshi military: 13.6

Number of podcasts available that call the DGFI "one of the most fearsome intelligence agency in South Asia" and obviously haven't seen the figures above: 1

Number of times I've heard that Bangladesh is really under RAW control: directly proportional on a 1:1 ratio with the number of brainwashed BNP-Jamaati people I've interacted with.

Number of people who suspect me of being under RAW control on Rumi bhai's blog: 2 at least.

Number of times I've heard that Bangladesh is really under ISI control: directly proportional on a 1:1 ratio with the number of brain-washed AL-Leftist people I've interacted with.

Number of Awami-League supporters who have stopped reading my blog: 2 I suspect (I'd love to be informed more accurately!)

Number of times the Chief of Army Staff has been featured in the Daily Star this past two weeks: 3.
Number of times I heard about the CAS in the last 15 years other than at their appointment times: 1.

%age of foreign funds that NGOs have to spend on "tangible" development work according to a recent government circular: 50

Number of AL-leaning blogs I've seen express the "down with NGOs" syndrome: Increasing since 1/11.

Number of AL-leaning blogs that will support above circular given their former stance: 0. ("Screw principles, opposing the CTG is all that matters!")

Number of times I've smiled while writing this: 0.

July 19, 2007

Mrs. Zia Wakes Up and Smells the History

It's official, but Mrs. Khaleda Zia has recognised Sheikh Mujibur Rahman as a "national leader". It's a start, one might say. After a 21-step program, we might even get her to say "Bongo" without biting her tongue. "Bondhu" after that is too much for my cynical imagination.

Three blogger reactions: ShadaKalo has pretty much summarised my own reaction to this piece of news. What neither s/he nor I can capture in mere words is the tremendous amount of disgust that decent people - AL-ers and BNP-ers alike - feel when we hear her talk about a "national leader" on whose death anniversary she contrived to celebrate her imaginary birthday.

Less emotional reactions focus more on the rest of the statement. Rumi Ahmed ponders what the nuanced, politically correct yet straightforward tone of the statement signals about Mrs. Zia's situation. And here you will find the legal and cynical brooding of Saif of Addafication.

July 18, 2007

Syed Badrul Ahsan Loses It In the Wake of Mrs. Hasina's Arrest

This is getting embarrassingly easy. In his latest pronouncements from the Heights of Editorial Eloquence, Mr. Ahsan has sacrificed truth, perspective and unbiased judgement on the Altar of Hyperobolic Partisanship.

Of the many people he compares Sheikh Hasina to, let me pick out three:

1) Aug San Suu Kyi, two simple points:

Non-violence. Compared with this, this and this.

Real fearlessness. After all, it was Suu Kyi who said:

"It is not power that corrupts but fear. Fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it and fear of the scourge of power corrupts those who are subject to it."

Hasina participated in elections under Ershad. Does that show fearlessness, if a Moudud or a Mushahid's collusion with autocratic regimes show cowardice? But Mr. Ahsan no doubt suffers from selective amnesia. I urge you all not to show him this particular blog that is so critical of him since that might result in the worst form of cognitive dissonance possible.

2) Nelson Mandela. Excuse me while I take a laughing fit break.

3) Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.


On what grounds?

Because she had ALL her people's welfare at heart? (Whatever his mistakes with the CHT, Sheikh Shaheb never made minority religious groups uncomfortable.)

Because she was such a democrat whose credentials never shone brighter than when he said: "Jodi keu najjyo kotha boley, amra shonkhaye beshi thaakleo, shei najjyo kotha meney nebo?"

Because she never came to understandings with people who had opposed Bangladesh's independence?

Give me ONE meaningful criteria, Mr. Ahsan, by which Sheikh Hasina's career is fit to be compared to that of Sheikh Mujib's. Just ONE meaningful criteria.

From the moment I heard about the crying lawyer, I knew that a large emotional shock had befallen Awami League supporters everywhere. This is entirely understandable and my sympathies are with them. Over the last 20 or so years, these political parties have increasingly come to resemble personality cults, with rituals that are better suited for American Guru Culture than the political culture of Mujib and Tajuddin. Hasina = Awami League is embedded within their psychology, so needless to say this has come as a shock to many. The same happened for BNP supporters when Tareq Zia was taken in, and might become even more acute if Mrs. Zia is arrested.

So out of sympathy let me advise Mr. Ahsan to stop making a fool of himself. If he does want to see Mrs. Hasina out, he should support the legal battle instead of making ludicrous comparisons between the Awami League "Guru" and other more notable figures that do not stand up to the cold light of logic, but make sense only in the minds of the "shishyas".

(Readers may notice that I've put in a new label, "Badruliana" to collect all my "Syed Badrul Ahsan" stories. To prevent any confusion, let me say that I have nothing against the man personally, but love using him as an example of "blind followers"/"partisan"/"biased" types. Why him in particular? Maybe because I admire his writing skills, which are immaculate, and wish that his pen could be put to the service of the nation rather than to a political party. Alas, the pen is only as strong as the brain behind it, and the brain is devoted only for one party. Other than that I really have no reason to use him as an example. "Badruliana" may as well be called "AL fallacy", but it just sounds funnier. No personal insult is intended.)

July 17, 2007

As the Dust Settles.....

(A little later than promised. The "real" world is not punctual and neither am I. My apologies)

The day after the arrest the entire Bangladeshi community in the 'desh and spread across the world seems to be holding its collective breath. "What will happen from here?" is the million dollar question. A clue to the answer lies in the reactions.

First, the reaction of the "masses". Apart from sporadic crashes between AL workers and police in Dhaka, Khulna and Mymensingh there really is nothing much to report. As a friend commented, six months ago, they shut down the entire country and now there is no sign of the concerted, organized movement that we know the AL is capable of. This either means that the CTG really has things under control by judicious use of the security forces (improbable), and/or the army spectre is weighing heavily on the AL grassroots' minds (bit more probable) and/or the reformists have managed to successfully get some grassroots support and control them (most likely). I think it is safe to say that the Awami League is split and the reformists have the upper hand for now.

I say for now because Bangladesh Chattra League, the AL-affiliated students' union, has called for a day-wide strike at all educational centres and the Jubo League will protest the arrest. These constituencies might win out just yet. As a rule students don't like being dictated to, but student politics nowadays is hardly the same as those of the 70s. Instead of peaceful, principled dissidents we have violent, unprincipled crooks running around. And AL has had quite a hand (though not the entire hand) in that transformation. Read about it here and do scroll down to the end for a good laugh. Someone is quoted as saying that the arrest might put "secular politics" at risk. Just provides me with more ammo to show people that "secular politics" means jackshit to Awami Leaguers. I await news of the strike with much interest and apprehension.

One last point about the protests. Property damage. Two years ago, during the grenade attack I could understand how people faced with that level of terrorism can respond violently. So I excused, in my head, AL activists setting fire to a train carriage. Today, their leader was arrested allegedly under the law of the land. What is their excuse today to resort to violence?

Which brings me to the "elite" reaction. Two of them stand out. Mrs. Hasina's son Sajeeb Wazed has given his reaction on television channels, as the DS reports. He has also given an exclusive interview to e-bangladesh, an online forum managed by fellow blogger Sushanta Das Gupta. What comes out in both is his attempt at trying to put this latest event into an easy mould for everyone: namely, his attempts at comparing this to 1971. It's a viable strategy only for the AL base, an attempt I feel at luring AL activists away from the reformists. What this sort of rhetoric will do with the rest of the nation is best left unanswered. People might buy it, they might be revulsed by it. Just one thought: if Mrs. Hasina comes back to power, or one day even Mr. Wazed comes to power, will they be able to get along with the same group of people they've compared to the heinous Hanadars of 1971? Just a simple thought that shows the futility, the parochialism and the short-term thinking behind adopting these simple slogans to sell people stuff we know is not true.

Mr. Wazed's laughable attempt at stepping into his grandfather's shoes is another thing altogether. Addafication reports on it thus:

"Of course, the coat tails of history weren’t far and Joy tugged on them best he could.

Ebarer shongram desher bhobishoter shongram

Ebarer shongram gonotontrer shongram "

Ahhh the coat-tails of history. I couldn't have put it better myself. One famous slogan did not make Mujib who he was in 1971. He was reduced to a simple slogan after 1975. Something to think about. By the way, if Zillur Rahman is the president and Mr. Wazed is not formally part of the Awami League and is thus a simple activist, do we know for sure who is taking orders from whom at this point? AL critics of the Zia dynasty, let us hear from you on this.

The second "elite" reaction was the more exciting. As I said earlier today, Mr. Mahfuz ("Ma Man") Anam doing what I've known him to do all my teenage life: telling Truth to Power. It's a risky job, cause Power can come back to bite. But if no one does it, Power runs rampant and destroys itself along with Truth. So please, agree with him or disagree with him, love him or loathe him, a round of applause for the man.

He takes the CTG to task for its arbitrariness, for its own opacity, for its own flouting of the very rules it says it wants to see, and lastly, almost subtly, for press censorship. I'm not going to quote anything from it because I want everyone to read it fully. My respect for him has never been higher.

This is real civil society, our much maligned "shushil shomaj", the way I personally would like to see it: a check against the arbitrariness of power instead of being in bed with it. Those who denounce the entire concept of "Shushil Shomaj" and favour a sort of fake populism instead (I say "fake", because most anti-"shushils" themselves live in Dhanmondi, Gulshan, if not the US and the UK itself), please explain yourself today. When this man criticised the BNP, BNP-ites said he was "just another big talking Shushil". When this man aligned himself temporarily with the CTG, "Down with Shushil Shomaj" became the cri de jour among AL-ers. What now folks? Seems like Anam's still gunning for Power, but when he comes gunning for your favourite political party you don't say "Aim somewhere else fool!" or give him any reason to. You simply seem to say "What right do you have to shoot?" If you contest his right to speak to a political party, what are you doing to your own right to do so? *shakes head* End of this mini-rant.

What does this mean for the coalition of "bhodrolokes" who brought about 1/11? Given the opacity of the situation, hard to tell. Anam and Debapriya seem to have split off, given what the former sees as "command politics" and the latter as "kowtowing to the IMF". But it's shown them to be less the intiators of 1/11 and more "intellectual footsoldiers" (h/t J.R). They are increasingly not getting along with dissimilar ideological elements who are increasingly calling most of the shots. My personal worry is that the CTG has indeed crossed the Rubicon. I.e. no turning back. If there's no turning back, most people do not like the arrest (but are staying mum) and the press are critical, what's the solution? Gagging the press of course. So I'm expecting some censorship attempts, some media harrassment and hoping against it.

A trivial observation to sign off: I do not know if this is irony or poetic justice, but Mrs. Hasina, who once refused of her own free will to sit in our National Assembly as Leader of the Opposition, is now forced to remain inside Louis Kahn's ode to Democracy as prisoner of state. If there is poetry there, be sure it's tragic.

Mahfuz Anam is a Goddam Bangladeshi Hero

Update (yes, even "real world commitments" took a backseat to trying to be a Sibyl): A few days back, I had this to say on Shadakalo's blog. I am now saying the same thing about Mr. Anam, and I hope he proves himself "untouchable" in this case and that I don't prove myself to be a Sybil.

I said a few days (feels like a year) ago that I will hold Mahfuz Anam to his word. And the man has stuck to his word, which is more than I can say for 90% of public figures in Bangladesh. His piece on Mrs. Hasina's arrest, a must reading for everyone regardless of political hue or belief.

Three cheers, Sir. Three cheers. I don't care if you're wrong or right. I'm just glad you have the integrity to stick to your views for everyone, even people you dislike.

Just because you're CONSIDERED "Shushil" does not make you non-neutral, an "elite" out of touch with the masses or any oher demonised figure. CTG-AL-BNP partisans, stop your NGO-bashing in the name of empowering the "masses". NGOs have done more for the masses than all your politicians, bureaucrats and "powers that be" combined. Over and out.

(With an unprecedented number of visits to this blog today, I feel like I owe readers this explanation: due to "real" world commitments, I will not be able to write anything huge until later tonight, say in about 5-6 hours from this post. Then I'll round up the reaction to Mrs. Hasina's arrest and my own views. Stay tuned;))

July 16, 2007

Sheikh Hasina Arrested

(Updating as long as I'm awake)

Other blogs covering this story:




Update 9 (or the "DS, don't be a rag" rant): While Star's breaking news link says that AL activists have gone on a "rampage", reports from Dhaka indicate sporadic incidents as reported below. Reports from the rest of the country talk about small-scale protests. Nothing that can qualify as a "rampage". I would also like to note that for the first hour, the report about Hasina referred to AL "henchmen". It has since been corrected changed to "supporters". Daily Star, stick to the neutral line. Misinformation and exaggeration has never done any paper any good.

Update 8: The reuters story that BBC is quoting from. Interesting details including reactions from lawyers and Sajeeb Wazed, who calls it a "deep-rooted conspiracy" remaining true to post-Mujib Awami League rhetoric. Given his mother is in jail, this blog will not hold this against him.

Update 7: A twist in the tale. Addafication writes and some sources back home confirm that Mrs. Zia has been asked to appear before court (the exact date is uncertain). Till date, she hasn't. Rumours are flying around that "they" are going to arrest her tonight.

Check out Addafication for more news, plus Sajeeb Wazed's reaction.

At this point, Dhaka is more a city of rumours than anything else. My friends describe the mood as "grim", "thom thom ey" but "no genjaam". Let's hope it stays that way.

Dhaka Shohor's biggest existential question: Will we be talking about 7/16 the way we talk about 1/11?

Update 6: Scuffles between AL workers and police. Two people in hospital according to TV channels. Police have fired rubber bullets and tear gas on demonstrators in front of the courts. Dozens injured according to DS.

Update 5: BBC has it up as the lead to their South Asia News page. Apparently she's been produced in front of the CMM and they are not sure about the specific charges. bdnews24 however is reporting that she's being charged with extortion under the case filed against her by the East Trading Co. Chairman. Conflicting reports to say the least.

BBC also says:

"She was later brought to the court, but officials are preventing any reporters from entering the courtroom, our correspondent says."

Conflicting reports are also coming in about the supposed rampage. The DS is reporting on it, but my "sources" are saying that nothing like this is happening and that security is very tight.

Finally, Mrs. Hasina has been sent to the deputy speaker's house which is serving as a temporary "jail".

Update 4: Daily Star reporting that AL activists have gone on a "rampage across the country" to protest the arrests. Small processions were also brought out inside Dhaka University and near the CMM. My "sources" tell me that SMSs were flying around Dhaka last night with rumours of police on the streets and possible "genjaam" ("trouble" for my Bangla-challenged readers.)

Update 3: Apparently the last person Mrs. Hasina was talking to before her arrest was the correspondent from bdnews24. They're reporting that she was on the phone with them, and knocking could be heard on the doors, voices saying "They've come and want to get in". In response, she said that she would go along them after her (dawn) prayers.

She was taken away in a Nissan Patrol with tinted glasses. She could be seen smiling and waving at people from inside.

At the courthouse a lawyer was apparently crying and after telling him/her not to cry, she simply said that "they" don't want her to take part in elections.

Law adviser Mainul Hosein's (DD) reaction:”I heard about her arrest. She has been facing a number of cases. Awami League leaders and activists also backed the cases against her.”

Motia Chowdhury's reaction: “Nobody will accept it. It’s political harassment.”

Update 2: The only other blog post I could find dealing with the news at this hour. (Since then, people have commented on it. They're not to my taste is all I'll say.)

The News

Sheikh Hasina arrested and taken to court.

I really don't know what to think, even less on how to feel. This is unprecedented territory for Bangladesh, and it sure is for mere mortals like me.

If anyone's interested (and most if not all of you probably know this already), this is her son's blog which will probably have more detailed news and his views on it soon. I know I'm checking it regularly.

CTG, this is an ex-Prime Minister. Respect and dignity are key words here.

July 15, 2007

With Friends Like These....

The CTG does not need Awami League ideologues to compare it to past dictatorships. Don't get me wrong. The BNP would compare it to a "dictatorship" if it could, except that Zia was an unelected ruler as well. Plus, their last five years wasn't anything to write home about when it came to democracy.

A former ambassador writing in the Daily Star today uses the Pakistani ruling of State vs. Dosso (1958) to argue - nay, more like nudge, nudge, wink, wink, hint, hint - that the current CTG is *gasp* legitimate. If the date hasn't given it away already, this was the same ruling that was used to legitimise Ayub Khan's long dictatorship. Detractors of the CTG are already comparing it to all sorts of Pakistani regimes. Now it seems, so are the supporters. I give up .... Deshi politics is simply absurd.

Don't get me wrong: I'm still pro-CTG, I think this government is legitimate under our CURRENT exceptional circumstances without any need for historical analogies. I'm willing to give it till the end of 2008 which is when they promised fresh, free and fair elections. It's just that such justifications of the CTG are not going to make me a fan. Neither will comparing domestic law and international law, which coming from a former ambassador smacks of bad faith. But the abuse of international analogies to justify domestic political tactics is best left for another day when I'm less worked up.

Words I Will Hold Mahfuz Anam To

Mahfuz Anam writes about why Jamiruddin Sircar's financial conduct was improper. The third paragraph is worth quoting in the circumstances:

"In trying to prove our mal-intention he questioned how we could give his news more prominence than that of the army chief. His comment implies that the army chief is a far more important person than the Speaker of the Jatiya Sangsad. Leaving aside the official protocol where Speaker is only second to the President in order of precedence, how can a Speaker of a sovereign parliament even think that his position is below that of the army chief? Such mentality is insulting to the high office of the Speaker and the institution and values he represents. By stating that army chief should get more prominence than the Speaker, he has undermined the importance of the office. As to the news value of our story, an injudicious action of the guardian of the parliament, verging on using official position for personal gain, is definitely worthy of national attention."


Given the recent championing of the National Security Council, this paragraph assumes paramount importance. In the future, if we find the NSC going against the directives of parliament, or find that the parliament has little to no oversight over the NSC, I hope Mr. Anam will have the good sense to stick to his principles and publish commentaries on the first page about it. Parliament is the highest body in the land because "we, the people of Bangladesh" have had a hand in electing it. The same cannot be said of the proposed NSC.

July 14, 2007

Race In America

The first comedian's Bangladeshi-American. And true to his hyphenated identity, he comes to terms with Kissinger's "bottomless basket" comment on his own terms. Power to you brother! (h/t A.G.)

July 13, 2007

Do the Right Thing!

Indigenous feminism. Not "white men trying to save brown women from brown men". (Thank you Gayatri Spivak!) Don't expect extensive BBC coverage on this.

July 11, 2007

The Sound of Me Pulling Out My Hair One at a Time Because People Partisan Hacks Live Down to My Expectations


As requested by my loyal(?), patient readers, a critique/list in no order whatsoever. (For the handful of readers who have visited since this post was up, there's an update on #7):

1. From his writings, it seems to me that SBA is an intelligent man and therefore it pains me to see him involved in what is essentially the politics of whose-picture-is-on-the-wall, which I thought would be beneath him. What's worse, he's simply indulging in politics by crying out "history": a false position. If he seriously thinks that "history" is dictated from the top by governments, debates about history are settled by picture-hanging or that hanging a picture is NOT about today's politics but rather about consensus on past history, he is seriously mistaken. Since I don't believe him to be a fool, I must believe him to be a partisan.

2. Let me first state that I agree with him wholeheartedly: there is no equal to Mujib in Bangladesh's history. The man is unique. I don't think I need to prove my genuine respect for Mujib after writing generally favourably about him on this blog for the past few months. But let me say this: as long as Mujib remains the most potent AL symbol rather than the most important historical figure AND as long as AL remains a viable party within the system, there is no separating him from current politics. We blame Khaleda Zia for desecrating his memory (someone from BNP should seriously have rebuked her for her birthday shenanigans), but we should also blame the AL (if not in equal measure) for trying to capitalise on it instead of leaving him for the historians.

3. Having said all that, let me begin dissecting. I am all for accurate history, but my historical understanding is more in terms of systemic movements rather than important individuals. Making over-reaching statements about Mujib's greatness does not exactly serve the goal of accuracy. Case in point:

When you think back on the long, concerted story of the growth of Bengali nationalism, you realise only too well that Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was the man behind it all.


To argue again and again that Mujib is the single most important individual in the growth and sustenance of the Bengali nationalist movement would be to state, repeatedly, the obvious. To suggest, however, that there are other men who must be permitted to share that glory with him runs counter to political morality.

Now what if I were to say that he rode the wave of that nationalism rather than instigate it and that is why we call him (rightly) Bongobondhu? If you were to tell me that a single man was behind the "growth and sustenance" of what was essentially a new mass consciousness for the Bangalis east of Benapole, I'd have to say that he must have been a mind-controlling wizard of some sort. Since he was clearly human and not a wizard, I'll have to say that he was simply a great leader when the time came, but giving him credit for the GROWTH of "Bengali nationalism" is too much.

4. "Bengali nationalism" - I had no idea that the "Bengalis" of West Bengal were also part of this new-found consciousess. Did Mujib want them to achieve independence/autonomy from Delhi too? As soon as you hear him say this, you know he's a partisan hack. And if you look through the archives (too lazy to link right now), you will find me using him as an example of why Bengali nationalism is simply a partisan term with no real-world meaning for anyone except hallucinating dinosaurs like him. (I also advocate that we save "Bangladeshi nationalism" from the partisan/chauvinistic/bigoted hands of the BNP).

5. He uses different measuring sticks to measure Suhrawardy and Bhashani. Suhrawary was not pro-Bangali and his loyalties were more to what SBA calls "Pakistan", but what I'd call the Punjabi-Urdu-speakers' alliance. Bhashani on the other hand, he concludes, was too pro-Bangali-autonomy:

A good deal has been made of Bhashani's role in the making of Bangladesh. There certainly were fireworks in his personality. When he told us, three days before the general elections of December 1970, that East Pakistan should declare itself an independent country, quite a few people felt exuberance re-igniting their spirits.

But sit back and reflect on whether or not Bhashani's precipitate move was a dangerous form of adventurism.

Basically, damn you if you do, damn you if you don't. The only way not to be damned is if you've declared your goal for autonomy on the 7th (or 25th night in written form: take your pick, I'm least interested). Surprise surprise, guess who's done that? Now I can say that Sheikh Shaheb made a mistake not announcing it sooner before the Pakistani military build-up. If he had, maybe we could have had less loss of life. But he did what he did, and I have no criticisms based on what didn't happen rather than what did. Unlike SBA who criticises Bhashani because he may have precipitated a crisis but didn't! Real historians deal with what happened, rather than judge people on counterfactuals.

6. Nothing is more ridiculous, more deceptive than his ramblings about Sher-e-Bangla A.K. Fazlul Huq:

Huq moved the Pakistan Resolution in 1940; and when he took charge as chief minister of East Bengal in 1954, at the head of a Jugto Front administration, he did so not as a Bengali nationalist but as part of a team engaged in the noble, necessary job of sending the communal Muslim League dispensation packing.

Huq later became Pakistan's interior minister, before taking charge as governor of East Pakistan. Nothing in his entire career suggests that he dreamed of a sovereign Bangladesh supplanting East Pakistan someday. Must it be our job to give him a place he did not work for, and would surely not have wanted? To convince ourselves that Huq was a forerunner of Bengali political freedom would be launching a grave assault on his political beliefs.

If guilt by association is a problem, then let it be remembered that Sheikh Shaheb was a Muslim Leaguer too at one point (check out Wiki or simply ask the next hardcore AL-er you meet). That does not "implicate" him, but shows that he had his hand on the people's pulse as he did almost to the end of his life. If it doesn't implicate him, it doesn't implicate Fazlul Huq. Moreover, the Lahore Resolution he moved called for two autonomous states on two sides of the subcontinent, not the state of Pakistan as it was born in 1947. For that little piece of deception - in which he tries to prove the greatness of Mujib by misleading his audience about the nature of the Resolution - SBA has pretty much earned my eternal disdain. Surely Mujib deserves more honest defenders than this!

And yeah, Sheikh Shaheb too once served as a minister in an East Pakistan government. Oh the horrors!

7. Take this particular gem about Bhashani:

Reflect, too, on the political position he began to adopt soon after liberation, when the leftist in him suddenly began to spot the beauty of rightwing politics.

His advocacy of a Muslim Bangla was a clear assault on the secular statehood of Bangladesh. His criticism of the Mujib government followed by his acceptance of Baksal, followed by his obvious relief at the assassination of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman are quirky as well as disturbing episodes in Bangladesh's history.

Ummm... was BAKSAL not a u-turn for Mujib? Rather than hold the creation of BAKSAL against Mujib, he holds Bhashani culpable for supporting it! SBA's categories of left and right are laughably based on the binary of religion/secularism (which I don't think he understands at all), rather than on the binaries of inclusive/exclusive or on private property/state-control. I'm yet to be convinced that the religion binary is the most important. Fact: no one on the political spectrum trumpeted about "democracy" at that point, simply misguided notions of "left-right-Islamic". *Shakes head at the Decade of Dinosaurs*

Update: Take a look at the circular logic he uses: it was Mujib/Tajuddin/AL's vision of a secular Bangladesh that Bhashani contested. In SBA's argument, this opposition to Mujib makes Bhashani less than Mujib. So we when we ask, "Why is Sheikh Shaheb the greatest?" SBA's answer is, "Because the ones who opposed him were not as great as he is". "How do we know that the others are lesser?" SBA's answer is, "Because they opposed him". "How does that make them lesser than he was?", SBA's implication, "Well, you have to be to oppose the greatest. After all, Sheikh Shaheb never opposed himself."

Wonderful logic. Stephen Colbert's gut rests easy with SBA's balmy words. Remember, you've got more nerve endings in your gut than anywhere else!

8. I'm not even going to say anything about his complete lack of review of Zia's legacy (arguably more pervasive to post-Independence Bangladesh than Bhashani's or Huq's). It speaks volumes about the audience he is writing for, one that sees Bhashani/Huq as having more of an impact (positive/negative) than Zia. For all his flaws, Zia remains the Deng Xiaopeng to Mujib's Mao in our (Generation 71) consciousness *. Good luck fighting that battle Mr. Ahsan! And no I don't think that Zia's picture should be put up in any government building either, simply because it's another political symbol rather than a historical tribute.

9. The only place I agree with him comes too late and offers too little:

If you have no place for Tajuddin Ahmad, Syed Nazrul Islam, M. Mansur Ali and A.H.M. Quamruzzaman in your assessment of national history, everything else you do is rendered meaningless

The enormous gaps in his narrative are ok, but the enormous gaps in others' narratives are not. Even when I agree with him, I can't stand it.

Lastly, let me just say this. His is as biased a view of history as those of the new party or Qureshi. What's worse is that his is biased in favour of an existing political party. If there's one thing about him that does not indicate that he has been stuck in Awami League circles for too long, let me know. If he's a bit more honest and admits that he is simply pushing that version of history that aligns with a certain power centre, then I'll have a bit more respect for him. However, I find it hard to respect anyone whose views of history (an academic matter) is shaped by power. It's a hard struggle for many people to separate history from power. SBA isn't even trying.

July 09, 2007

Three Burqa Stories

On the 27th of June, BBC reported that a male Bollywood singer had apologised for wearing a burqa while visiting the famous Chishti shrine in Ajmer:

Reshammiya created a stir at the shrine on Tuesday night when some devotees spotted him in a burqa. They took it up with the prayer attendants.

I wonder what these very same devotees - oh so vigilant about other people's dresses rather then their own devotions - would have made of the Imam of the Islamabad Red Mosque donning a burqa to escape the "authorities" currently besieging the mosque. Hmmmm.... the burqa as a gender-denoting garment or as the last resort of the hopelessly outnumbered and surrounded? And here I was thinking that most people wear it for "modesty". Never before has so much confusion surrounded a piece of clothing. Bikinis included.

On the Third World View, a debate about the burqa is about to start. Third World View talks about the comments made by a radio talk show host comparing burqa-wearing women to Nazis. (Yes, Nazis. I'm waiting for Jewish groups to take this fool to task for trivialising the Holocaust.) I've made my stance clear there, and before further controversy erupts I'll explain it here just a bit further. I'm neither pro/anti-burqa. I'm pro a woman's freedom to choose what she wants to wear. If women CHOOSE to wear the burqa, then Savaga, Straw and Rushdie should just suck it up and remain mum (watch this space for more rants on Rushdie). If women do NOT choose to wear the burqa or even a hijab, then all our Islamists should just suck it up and remain mum (without exploding).

Those who want women's rights to be equal to that of men's should remember one thing: a burqa is rarely the cause and mostly the consequence of discrimination against women. Remove the causes and the consequence will follow. If then, the burqa or the hijab is retained by liberated women as a sign of their identities or idiosyncrasies, then who are we to protest? Until that day, anyone (like me) who argues for a woman's right to wear a burqa will be treated as though we are speaking for the patriarchal order in the idiom of women's rights.

July 07, 2007

Yet Another Tribute from the Daily Star

This time, former Ambassador Muhammad Zamir echoes yours truly. Strike Three, Daily Star. Time to start paying me some royalties!

July 06, 2007

More Pepsi Please.

The calls for Pepsi get louder.

July 05, 2007

Confessions of "a RAW Agent"

Recently on Rumi bhai's blog, I was accused of being an Indian agent who refused to recognise Indian hegemonic ambitions and Indian infiltrations. For those interested in how the politics of secular takfir (declaring people to be "non-believers") is played, read the exchange here.

Yes, a debate about political reform in Bangladesh soon became a debate about India's role in Bangladesh. Now I don't doubt Indian ambitions. However, I do seriously doubt their current "relative capabilities" to get at those ambitions, and the super-powers attributed to their spy agency Research and Analysis Wing, or RAW for short. Moreover, I really dislike people brushing off internal dissent - such as the garments' workers agitation last summer - as being the mere by-product of Indian influence. It smacks of the institutional inability to see other people's pains that I've complained about before, in a slightly different context. Lastly, and most importantly, I don't see the government of India as being a special breed of evil, just another devil out to get us in a devilish world. Call me a realist. Just don't mistake idiocy and paranoia for realism. It did no good for Bush and co.

My reward for voicing MY dissent was the same as these garments' workers (who were also dubbed RAW agents, or in their pay). Yes, my vocal opponent on the thread imputed the very same motives to me, namely that I was intentionally trying to "defect" attention away from Indian role (which he has proved conclusively in his own mind) while he was the underdog hero trying to highlight it. Despite complaining about their ambassador's recent comments, about their media coverage of Bangladesh, and even about Mandira Bedi's pandering to the "emasculated Indian postcolonial man" threatened by every loss to Bangladesh, I remain, my dear readers, "a RAW agent" trying to deceive the Bangladeshi public. Which is some of the worst abuse I can imagine being hurled at Bangladeshis.

And why? Because I called for a nuanced analysis of Indian actions and motives instead of subscribing to drivel that issues forth from some quarters. And by some quarters, I do mean the conservative side of the divide, whose fallacies I promised to highlight even as I highlighted the liberal fallacies that dog our every step at being the state we want to be. Consider this post partly to be the fruit of that promise, and consider my two antagonists as well as our recently departed PM, Mrs. Khaleda "captive market" Zia to be our guiding lights into the Bangladeshi conservative mindset.

Once my patriotism was called into question, I decided that that was an insult too far. I would not try to present my rationales and opinions anymore. What did it matter? No matter what I said, I can be dubbed an "Indian agent". Such is the slippery slope of paranoia that even my two antagonists just might be "Indian agents" too. I mean, if you wanted to discredit all the serious people who want a better, tougher India policy from the GoB, look no further than my dear brothers M. Amin and Ahmedur R.! The drivel these two have spewed out can be used by every Indian media outlet to talk about "Bangladeshi paranoia" and "the insecurities of a small, failing state". In this way, by ruining the credibility of the SERIOUS FOREIGN POLICY people who want a MORE ROBUST India policy, they too are serving Indian aims. Perhaps they are doing so precisely with this aim in mind. But of course I would not call them RAW agents withour proof. My reasons are simple: I am not paranoid, I do not believe in the politics of takfir, and I do not bite back biting dogs as the old rhyme says.

And do note that I am simply a citizen. All the issues (and abuse) directed at me are better taken up with the GoB. It's the GoB that must negotiate about BSF-BDR disputes, not me. It's the GoB that must ensure that our polity is not filled with RAW agents and Indian bombs. It's the GoB that must respond to Indian media criticism (over which the Indian government has limited control).

But that really is out of the question isn't it? For these people, India is just a bogey and has to be kept perpetually alive if they're going to scare the rest into submission or takfir them out of the debate. That is why Khaleda Zia could state that India was trying to make Bangladesh into a "captive market", overlooking the fact that she was the PM of a sovereign country whose borders were under HER control in the final analysis. For people like me, India is a serious challenge not to be feared but met head on. We don't worry about "captive markets" but how to expand ours in the face of Indian competition and growth, and how to access their market too. We don't worry endlessly about India de-stabilising us, but instead work to ensure that that does not happen.

What are the really serious issues? Listing them as complaints to the government of India:

Complaint number 1, get your BSF under control! They're killing our people at random almost every month. To all those human rights activists sitting cozy in Dehli and Bombay (sorry, Mumbai), ever thought of protesting this instead of whatever the latest leftist fad issue is at the moment?

Complaint number 2, trade barriers. India has way too many non-tariff barriers against Bangladeshi goods and they have done nothing about it over the last 36 years. I'm not even going to mention the battery and the saree export. Domestic industry protection indeed, good neighbours defuse tensions by doing something about trade imbalances.

Complaint number 3, stop building dams without consulting us. It's called international blackmail and I was told that "secular democratic" nations do not indulge in that, only "rogue states" like Pakistan do.

Complaint number 4, stop building that fence without consulting us. No seriously, stop and talk.

I'll stop there for the time being. And yeah, this has nothing to do with Bangladesh, drop those silly charges against M.F. Husain.

Please note, that except the first one, none of these issues are touched upon by my antagonists. No, they simply cry, "they are out to create instability in Bangladesh", although how this would help India control its already turbulent North-East is best left to the paranoid imagination of our friends. And how the first one is relevant to Bangladeshi internal politics is still unknown to me. The GoB and the Dhaka chatterati really do not care about people on the periphery of Bangladesh (I don't approve of this), so really this does not constitute "bullying". Gunboat diplomacy is bullying.

So one last message to you BNP-propaganda fed dullards: DON'T FUCK AROUND WITH FOREIGN POLICY. We've achieved independence at too high a price to leave Bangladesh's sovereignty in the hands of paranoid, dumb, half-baked, indoctrinated, dogmatic, James Bond-reading, Bollywood-watching, Jamaat-believing freakshows like you, who think international relations is all cloaks and daggers, shadow and mirrors. Spies do not make history in utter secrecy without the world knowing. That is the fevered imagination of the paranoic mind. Leave the hawks and doves to argue it out without you flightless dodos getting in the way, huh?

(Special note to my two dear friends from Rumi bhai's blog: your commenting privileges on my blog have been removed. If you do comment, I warn you I will delete them as soon as I find them. Unless you fulfill one condition. No, not an apology, I'm not mortally wounded. I need your firm assurances that in the future, online or in real life, you will NOT stifle debate by "takfir"-ing people, by crying out "Indian agent", "un-Islamic" or "anti-Muslim" or any such abuse anytime you hear disagreement with your hard-earned views. Learn to listen to opposing, equally hard-earned views, and maybe you will learn even more and who knows, one day you too might make some positive contribution that makes Bangladesh stronger vis a vis India. Make comments prefaced without such an assurance, and you will still remain dodos in my books and have no place in this debate. The hawk has spoken!)

Suranjit Sengupta Prefers Pepsi Over Coke

Suranjit Sengupta sees a decay in the institution of the Prime Minister. He says, "The state should be run based on the principle that the prime minister is the first among equals, instead of a prime ministerial dictatorship." No disagreements there.

His solution? A Presidential form of government. Ummm...come again?

From the article it seems that he hasn't thought this through at all. He hasn't outlined the most important aspects of an accountable Presidential form of government, namely what relation will the President have with Parliament and the Judiciary? Instead he seems content to transfer us from a Prime Ministerial dictatorship into a Presidential one without a hint of "checks and balances".

I don't expect anything more from a politician who tried to convince us that the Awami League was better than BNP (or from anyone who tried it vice versa). Coke or Pepsi, Mr. Sengupta? Trust me, it's vitally important to the companies if not to you.

July 03, 2007

Take Two Minutes to Humour a Homesick Boy

Alright people, I know most of you are silent, no-footprint visitors to this blog but take two minutes out of your day to answer a very simple question. If you've ever been to Dhaka you're qualified to answer this question. I have nothing to offer in return except my prayers, good karma and perhaps some hilarity of your own creation. So don't be shy and leave me some (anonymous if needed) feedback. ALL RESPONSES WELCOME!

So here's the big question: If you were in Dhaka for just enough time to visit just one public place, what would it be? Feel free to leave a reason or not. And assume that you've had time enough to go home and eat some home-cooked food (trust me, your stomach will feel better).

My own top spot: New Market, where all people mingle regardless of class, gender and religion, where food and books are aplenty, and where the lassis are made fresh and the fuchkas always taste better..

July 02, 2007

Possible Oil Spill Near Sundarbans

Via Shadakalo, there seems to be an oil spill near the Sundarbans, which of course has gone beneath the media's radar thanks to issues of such paramount importance as B. Chowdhury starting reforms and our political parties unwillingness to sit with the EC. This is the power of citizen journalism.

(Unrelated rant:And of course had this been an Indian tanker, then no doubt we would have found the dirty hands of RAW behind it. But since it's just another one of our Muslim (albeit Shi'a) brothers polluting our backyards, we will no doubt overlook it in the name of Muslim solidarity. Please note, not Islamic, but Muslim solidarity.)

I'm on a mini-vacation right now and so will be off blogging for the next few days. Just wanted to wish all my British readers well and hope that they are all safe and ok at this very edgy time for them in the isles.