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My Ten Favorite Postcolonial Novels

As a professor of literature I am always looking for good novels for my own personal reading but also, more importantly, novels that I can include in my courses. I teach Postcolonial literature. Postcolonial literature, to put simply, includes works by authors who either reside in any of the former European colonies or are originally from the former colonies but now live in the West as part of the diaspora. Furthermore, in a Postcolonial studies course the practice is not only to read or discuss the novels but to use the novels as springboards in learning the cultures and countries that they represent. Thus, for me a useful novel is always the one that attempts to represent some aspect of its primary culture while also dwelling on the global and local issues that impact the lives of characters in the story.

Over my career, I have read hundreds of novels, so to  distill it to ten out of so many is sort of an impossible task. The list below is not ordered but contains ten of my favorite novels.

Efuru by Flora Nwapa

Set in Nigeria

Devil on the Cross by Nugu wa Thiong ‘o

Set in Kenya

Time and the River by Zee Edgell

Set in Belize

The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

Set in Indian state of Kerala

Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys

Set in Jamaica and England, this novel tells the story of Bertha Mason from Jane Eyre.

A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry

Set in India.

Hayati: My Life by Miriam Cooke

Story of Palestinian women’s lives.

The Shadow Lines by Amitav Ghosh

Set in India and Bangladesh

River of Fire by Qurratulain Hyder

Set in India

Abeng by Michelle Cliff
Set in Jamaica

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Editorials

A Great Milestone for Pakistan: Second Successive Elected Government Ends its Term

June first was a historic day for Pakistan: as the caretaker prime minister took his oath of office, Pakistan, for the first time in its history, completed the full term of its second elected government. The skeptics would have us believe that it is no big deal, and that democracy has not solved many of our problems. All of these objections are valid but also rely on a faulty narrative, a narrative that democracy by itself can, somehow, immediately transform a nation. Democracy, however, is a messy and a long-term process and it takes years, decades sometimes, for things to change, but electing our representatives every five years through a fair election is the absolute first step toward greater change.

Yes, this government probably made a lot of mistakes, but they have had quite a few accomplishments as well and we, regardless of our party affiliations, should bear that in mind. As the system develops and becomes more transparent and responsive to people’s needs, it would continue to prefect itself.

Democracy, however, needs a responsible, aware, and critically conscious citizenry. I am not one of those who believe that only a college degree can make us into critically aware citizens; I think people can always be aware of their material conditions and then ask the government to remedy the ills around them. But I do believe that critically aware education can play an active role in enabling us to become more informed, tolerant,and responsible citizens of a democracy.

Democracy by itself is not a panacea for expedited development; it does not solve all our problems simply by being there. Democracy is first and foremost a process and it also creates, over the long-term, a system of government that MUST respond to the will of its constituents. It is this accountability in front of the people that makes democracy the best possible human-made system. Yes, sometimes the will of the majority can take us to places we do not want to go, but if the minority voices are heard and if the press does its job, or is allowed to do its job, of always informing the public and holding the powerful accountable, then a democratic system has a higher chance of perfecting itself in serving the people.

There are those in our society who believe that they are the only one’s who know the best interests of the people and the nation. Most of the times these privileged and powerful people have lived far removed from the every day exigencies of life; their needs are fulfilled, often at the cost of the future of our children. But from their safe, cozy and privileged existence, they deem that their opinions, somehow, should have more weight. Maybe, some of their claims are true, but to think that a few privileged individuals who have neither seen any want int their lives nor have had to struggle for existence can somehow KNOW the dreams and aspirations of the people is a dangerous kind of hubris.

There are also politicians who see being elected as an end in itself. For them, taking a public office means that they get the right and power to plunder the nation, build private wealth, and use their power to oppress people. This is the most dangerous group, for their actions are often invoked to “prove” that democracy and electoral politics is inherently corrupt and hence not suitable for Pakistan.

There are also those who consider  themselves the custodians of faith: they want us to believe that only their version of truth is worthy of our reverence and all others are either suspect or fit for elimination. sadly, these traders of faith also pit us against each other to a point that we come to hate others even when we do not have any personal interaction with them or even know them. This is another form of politics of hate and exclusivism.

And of course, there are also those who are actively engaged in destroying our national infrastructure and take pride in killing civilians and solders, all in the name of God.

These are some of the internal dangers that we face as a nation and as a result fascist thought and practices offer themselves as the ultimate solution to our problems. Against the material and ideological challenges to Pakistan, democracy, sometimes, comes across as a s slow, corrupt, and ineffective system. But we must never acceded to any other alternatives, especially the ones that silence the people, rely on hate, or ascribe our destinies to a coterie of unelected “leaders” who do  not have the power of popular vote behind them. We must continue to struggle for the creation of an open, fair, and transparent system of democratic government with the hope that an open system is more likely to become humane, representative, and accountable to the people. We all also must live responsible, compassionate, and informed lives. And, despite the myriad of our problems, we must remember that in the end we are all Pakistanis and, regardless of our differences, our destinies are intertwined with each other and with the future of Pakistan.

This government has concluded its term. Yes, there was corruption and a lot of those associated with power have done questionable things, but, to be fair, the government also tried to address people’s problems and did formulate policies to make people’s lives better. And all of this was done in the public eye with open debate in the national assembly: that is democracy! When our elected leaders make their decisions under the scrutiny of the press and with the full knowledge of their people, there are no secret deals possible.

So, while one government, imperfect as it may have been, has successfully concluded its term, let us prepare ourselves for the next one, and the one after that, all elected by the popular vote and held accountable by the people!

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Editorials

US-Pakistan Knowledge Program: How to Negotiate with US Universities

Introduction:
These observations are based in my personal experience at three US research universities and including also the experience of negotiating such a deal, at smaller level, with the University of North Texas. I offer these insights to the HEC initiative as described on Pages 37-39 of the HEC Vision 2025 Document.

Who to Contact:
In all cases, instead of initiating contact at the Chancellor level, it is more prudent to talk directly with the university administration, as the university Presidents are pretty autonomous in such cases.

Selecting the Universities:
We should target all major Research 1 universities, but especially those which are located in places with low cost of living. We could also research and target various universities based on their most highly ranked programs.
How to Contact:
A brief note should be developed that explains the Pakistani initiative to send 10000 PhD scholars to various US universities.
A designated person should first reach out to the office of the provost or the office of the president of the University and send a query email about whether or not they will be interested in discussing the project.
If they show interest, then HEC should send a team of experts to start the negotiating process. The team should have all the information and a really good presentation. Please make sure to invite the people from the department that you are interested in.
If possible, involve a diasporic Pakistani academic in the process.
What to Negotiate:
That the partnership will offer a certain specific number of seats, for certain specific number of years to qualified Pakistani candidates.
Ask them to charge you only the In-state tuition. You have the numbers on your side, so they should be willing to work with you. Various states have different laws for offering in-state tuition. Note that International tuition rate is almost always double that of the in-state tuition.
If your candidates have teaching experience, the host university can very easily adjust them at in-state rate by employing them as Teaching Assistants/ Research Assistants.
In the state of Texas, if Pakistan contributes $1000.00 to a general fund at the host university, the host university can issue that to the students as “scholarship” thus legally qualifying them to pay in-state tuition.
Where possible, negotiate that the host university should provide the health insurance.
Conclusion:
All major US universities love diversity and are desperate for International graduate students. In any such negotiation, Pakistanis, therefore, have an edge over their US counterparts, as the latter are never using their resources at an optimal level and bringing in more graduate students looks good in their annual reporting.

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Editorials

Pakistan Needs an End to Dynastic Politics

http://studiesnote.blogspot.com/2013/06/the-marketing-analysis-of-pakistan.html

A few weeks ago the Pakistani Twittersphere went ballistic when Maryam Nawaz, daughter of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, declared herself a part of “Ruling Family,” thus suggesting as if she and her family, somehow, should enjoy some special privileges and rights within Pakistan. In a democracy, of course, such ideas are absurd, but sadly some major political parties in Pakistan are built as dynasties and while the average workers may get a chance to advance to a certain level, the top echelons of these political parties still consist of either the children of their founders or close relatives. At this point, the Muslim League (N), Pakistan Peoples Party, and Awwami National Party are all governed by either the founders or the progeny of the founders; same rules always apply to quite a few regional political parties.

If Pakistan hopes to develop a viable democratic system, and if the civic structures and practices are to be reshaped within this democratic norm, then the political parties need to be openly democratic, which means that the party leadership should not be passed from one generation of a family to another. The parties should hold open elections to elect their leadership and the top leadership positions should be open to all members of a political party. Otherwise the entire nation ends up becoming the private property of one large extended political family. Look at the recent Nawaz Sharif cabinet, for example. Almost all the major cabinet positions were either held by Mr. Sharif’s immediate family members or the members of his extended family. 1

Of course, when such is the case with the most powerful political positions in the government, then the children of these leaders feel aptly justified in thinking of themselves as a “natural” ruling class. Our so-called leaders forget that any powerful regime depends for its survival on the “willing” consent of the people. 2 For a group of politicians to consider themselves as part of a “natural” ruling class the recognition of this claim must come from the people, for if no one accepts you as ruling class then, your claims notwithstanding, you cannot become this so-called ruling class. The people, on the other hand, should see the kind of hubris that encourages our cultural and political elite to think of themselves as a “ruling class.”

The two major dynasties in our politics, the Sharifs and the Bhuttos, if we look at their histories, were both propped up by military dictators and served the interest of the dictators in the early years of their political rise. Of course, both these families eventually broke away from their masters and charted a political path of their own, but it is our job as the people of Pakistan to keep reminding them that they gained their ludicrous “ruling family” status by either selling their loyalties to the military dictators, or, if we want to go further in the past, by selling their allegiances to tour erstwhile colonizers. This critique of the “naturalized” claim to being the rulers must be posed consistently through the media and social media. The idea is to let no one get away with the claim that they, somehow, own our destiny as their birth right!

There is a lot at stake in the process of eliminating dynastic politics; the case is intimately connected with politics of personality. Any politics that relies on a narrative of liberation at the hands of one man, one leader, is bound to unleash the macro and micro fascist tendencies in our culture. In simple terms, fascism is nothing more than the deeply internalized belief that one single leader can, somehow, solve all our problems. Thus, any time we look around for one strong leader to liberate us, we are expressing our latent fascism. By eliminating dynastic politics, we might also be able to dislodge this deep seeded fascism in our souls and might then, ultimately, look for collective solutions to our manifold problems.

So, we all must look at our political parties to see how democratic they are in their structures before we give them the power to lead our democracy. Yes, there are some religious parties that do tend to be more democratic, but since they consider one single interpretation of religion as the solution to all our problems, their worldview becomes more exclusivist and less democratic. So, despite their democratic practices in selecting their leadership, their vision of the future will always be restrictive and reliant on one way of looking at the world, which can never be a recipe for success in a country as diverse as Pakistan.

So, over all, besides challenging all assertions of “natural” legitimacy by our political elite, we must also be watchful against all those who claim to know the future and have simple solutions for our problems!

Notes:

  1. In fact, according to some reports at one point at least 17 members of Nawaz family held political positions and over all, it is said by some, 84 members of this family were in powerful top positions at one time. “Family politics of Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif
  2. I am relying on Antonio Gramsci’s explanation of “hegemony” as means of obtaining the willing consent of the people.
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Editorials

The US and the Myth of “Pakistan Should Do More”

Once again a US politician, this time the new US president, has offered the same hackneyed wisdom about the US war in Afghanistan, and besides other mundane things offered as new and innovative, yet another refrain was also included in the non-substantive Afghanistan policy speech delivered by President Donald Trump. Trump, like so many other US politicians before him, bellowed:

Pakistan has much to gain from partnering with our effort in Afghanistan. It has much to lose by continuing to harbor criminals and terrorists. In the past, Pakistan has been a valued partner. Our militaries have worked together against common enemies. The Pakistani people have suffered greatly from terrorism and extremism. We recognize those contributions and those sacrifices.

But Pakistan has also sheltered the same organizations that try every single day to kill our people. We have been paying Pakistan billions and billions of dollars at the same time they are housing the very terrorists that we are fighting.

But that will have to change. And that will change immediately. No partnership can survive a country’s harboring of militants and terrorists who target U.S. service members and officials. It is time for Pakistan to demonstrate its commitment to civilization, order and to peace.

Beyond the usual bluster, if looked at textually only the rhetorical energy spent on Pakistan in the speech also declares, beyond the words themselves, the extreme importance of Pakistan in the US mission in Afghanistan, whatever that mission ought to be, for Mr. Trump failed to define what exactly would be the US “Victory” in Afghanistan. The Pakistani government and military should not take this as more of the same or as an empty threat. Furthermore, declaring that we as a nation are better off with China (as the argument is being made in Pakistan by some leading politicians and journalist) is also not in Pakistan’s best interest. Staying engaged with the United States can in no way be against the Pakistani national interest. But keeping the US public informed about the sacrifices made by Pakistan is also exceptionally important.

Just the last month as I sat with one of my former army seniors, he informed me that my old battalion was slated to be deployed in an operation in the Pakistani tribal areas that very night. As we talked, we both hoped and prayed that everyone in our battalion came out of the operation unscathed and unharmed, but, deep down, we both knew that in operations such as these there are always casualties. Pakistan has suffered tremendously over the last decade or so both in terms of military and civilian casualties. We need to remember that this war against the Taliban and ISIS and other extremist groups is not necessarily a war conducted at the behest of the United States, but crucial to our own national future. We should fight this war on all fronts, military, civic, and economic, with or without US help, but we should also do a better job of challenging absurd claims by the US politicians about “reluctant” Pakistan “not doing enough.” Our men and women, civilians and soldiers are dying every day in this complex and expansive war: WE ARE DOING A LOT!!! We need to do a better job of foregrounding our sacrifices and our efforts nationally and globally. Our politicians, generals, journalists, and academics need to help develop a counter narrative to the Taliban and others but also a strategic counter narrative to any scapegoating of Pakistan proffered by the US politicians.

We should also pose some hard questions to the US policymakers: What, to them, is victory in Afghanistan? Obviously it cannot be the conquest of Afghanistan! If the victory to the US is a stable democratic Afghanistan with a democratically elected government, then it cannot be accomplished through military means and even if Mr. Trump does not like it, he will have to invest in building the civic and political institutions in Afghanistan. Building a stable and autonomous Afghanistan should also be a top Pakistani priority. We as a nation need to rid ourselves of the misconception that Afghani people owe us for anything. Yes, we hosted millions of their refugees during the Soviet-Afghan war, but that alone does not give us the right to dictate Afghan politics or their foreign policy. If we need to win Afghanistan over as a regional ally and friend, then we should accomplish that with deep cultural and economic investments in Afghanistan and not through proxy groups or through politics of intimidation and isolation.

If there is some truth to Trump’s claims about Pakistan serving as a safe haven for Taliban groups, then we as a nation should openly declare that no place in Pakistan shall be or could be used as a safe haven for any Taliban group. If we have used any of these groups as our proxies in the region, we should know by now that the same groups can turn on us any time and conduct horrible terroristic attacks on our people. At this point there seems to be no advantage to us in harboring any terroristic groups both  officially or unofficially. Pakistan should, therefore, declare openly that Pakistani territory will not be a safe place for any terroristic proxy group, may they be targeting Afghanistan or any other adjacent regions.

Only when we have a clear and open policy against terror groups can we challenge the sad and shallow stereotyping used by US politicians against Pakistan. Furthermore, our relationship with the US should not be transactional but rather deeper and long-term. Th US on her part can continue to invest in Pakistani education, infrastructure, and other civic and cultural fields. If the US decides to isolate Pakistan and defunds US cultural and military support to Pakistan, the long-term implications  of such steps might be hard for Pakistan but would certainly be damaging to the US interests in the region.

So, as two nations focused on solving an intractable problem in the region, the US and Pakistan should treat each other with the kind of respect and dignity as two sovereign nations ought to!

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The Muslim Registry: There is More to it Than Just the Registry!

A lot is being said about the impending Muslim  Registry that Trump’s would-be Attorney General help establish after nine Donald_Trump-150x150eleven and that, it seems, is likely to be reinstated. Some people have also suggested that it will go through the legislative process and also the judicial oversight and that in the end, it would not be the kind of “crude” policy that Trump suggested during his campaign speeches and interviews.

I was a graduate student at Florida State when the Bush administration enacted the registration requirements for male non-immigrants from certain countries. I had to report to Jacksonville INS office for an interview. The interview was intrusive and I had to provide my credit card information as well as my bank information. The interview followed with a detailed biometric recording (fingerprints, picture etc.).

This process continued even after the initial interview, as those of us coming back to the US after visits to our families had to go through “special processing’ at the port of entry. Usually, the immigration officials would direct you to a separate area where you will encounter men of different hues and origins, all waiting to be interviewed. Other than causing unnecessary delays, I don’t recall it being in any way effective in safeguarding US security. In my case, being a Pakistani while I was being “special-processed” my country and its soldiers and civilians were dying fighting the terrorists as US allies. Of course people like me went through these indignities because we were all in precarious life situations and we also understood the “need’ for such gestures after a huge US national tragedy.

The reinstating of this policy is totally different: Mr. Trump and his ilk are reinstating it not because of an imminent threat, but because he singled out Muslims during his campaign. His anti-Muslim rhetoric, therefore, was a part of his political campaign. He is, therefore, fulfilling a campaign promise: to “extremely vet” Muslims! This is the important thing to note: in the twenty-first century America a candidate for the US presidency ran on creating exceptional policing and security regulations for a whole religion, and his constituents and supporters VOTED for it!!

The registry, if it happens, is not just a necessary administrative step: it is now a part of the mainstream American politics and it was one of the very few concrete things the president elect promised to his audiences. This public aspect of this policy and its acceptance by a large segment of American voters needs to be highlighted and remembered, for this means that a large segment of American people are fine with stigmatizing and policing a whole group of people as part of the state policy. And this acceptance, in my opinion, is more dangerous to the future of American democracy than many so-called global threats!

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A Message to Trump the Cowardly Racist

So, Mr. Trump you think you have won. You probably are secure in your smug racist certitude that by winning an election, your vision of the world has also been sanctified, approved, valorized. Think again Mr. Trump. You might have won a small skirmish, a small battle, but you neither have the wisdom, nor the compassion and courage to be a real leader: moral cowards do not make great leaders, and you are the poster boy for moral and ethical cowardice. All your life you have avoided public responsibility and used an army of lawyers to get away with things. This lifetime of exploiting others with this current win, must make you feel superhuman, invulnerable, sure of your own importance to the world. That is the problem with you filthy rich of the world: you think the world cannot exist without you; you think we, the billions who toil everyday, owe you something. No, Mr. Trump we the people of the world do not owe anything to the morally bankrupt cowards like you.

We the people of the world produce value! People like you use the law, the corrupt governments, and the corporations to exploit our labor, to rob our tomorrows, for your todays. But in the end, it’s people like you who are a drain on the resources of the world. We can exist without you, for we have experience of living on the edge, surviving with the bare essentials, of sharing the little we have with others. It is you, the bloated mega rich of the world, who will die of starvation if we walked out of your lives.

Yes, your prophetess (Ayan Rand) had it wrong: The rich will never be able to starve out the multitude, for the multitude has the capacity, if pushed that far, to tear the global economic elite into pieces. If you had cared to look around, just to the South of your own continent, you would have known this truth: In the small valleys of South America, in the barrios, mountains, and small collectives, even in Mexico, a country you despise, people are creating new and humane ways of living, of sharing this planet. Your message, your vision, your words, Mr. Trump, do not announce the dawn of a new era, but rather are the last sighs of a dead and diseased philosophy. You, Mr. Trump, are no prophet, no leader: You are just an empty shell that may bring us the sound of the ocean when close to our ears, but cannot contain the ocean. We are the ocean, and you will hear us roar!

So, yes we lost a few days ago, but you cannot disappear us, you cannot write us out of history: we have been here, we are here, and we will be here tomorrow: We will be here to challenge your every racist insinuation, your every stupidity. And if you and your followers think that you will make us cower in fear in our private homes, then you know nothing of our passion and our courage!

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What the Trump Victory Means to Me

I stayed up last night checking various election result sites hoping against hope that, somehow, Trump will not win the presidency. For me,Donald_Trump-150x150 a lapsed Muslim from Pakistan, a professor of literature, and as a brown man married to a white woman there was more than the presidency at stake. I was hoping that the more hopeful version of America will sustain this reactionary onslaught, for that is the America that keeps me going, that gives me some hope for the world. I am not naive enough to believe that Clinton inhabited all these good values: But her public vision was connected to the kind of America that is noble, open, and lovable.

In opposition to her, Donald Trump, in so may ways, talked of an America of the past and his personal behavior and the collective behavior of his followers portrayed an America terrified of its neighbors, afraid of differences, and comfortable in publicly shaming anyone who looked or acted different.

So, when Trump won last night, his version of America won. In other words a majority of Americans elected the “Ugly American”as their president. In doing so they also, by the power of their vote, sanctified his positions and his views of the world and his views about people like me. I know they have a right to their political and cultural opinions, but that does not necessarily mean that their opinions are right and good for America. So, I will say these few words and then stop thinking about this and about the future of America.

So, go ahead America: build your walls, turn back the clock and call us what you want to call people like us, tell women to stay at home, tell the minorities to know their place, tell the gay people to go back into their closets. Become a racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, monocultural space; your enemies already impugn all these qualities to you. Their arguments now will be more convincing, more forceful, but maybe you will be fine behind the walls–literal and metaphorical–that you will build. But even a cursory history of the world and walls built by other great powers teaches us that walls cannot save them and  that all empires, including America, implode because of the cultural rot within. This siege mentality, this insistence on a purist past, this normalization of bigotry is not your strength but the symptoms of that rot.

Yes, I am deeply aware of my insignificance in the great hierarchy of things. I am a humanist in this highly technologized and corporotized world; all I have is words and a few impractical ideas about making this world better. Trump’s America does not need people like me . For the past fifteen years, however, I (and many others like me) have been fighting your ideological battles in far-flung parts of the world. No one asked us to do this, but people like me, with lived experiences in America, felt impelled to always tell our Muslim, Pakistani audiences that America is not just a super power; that America is not just Hollywood or the American government. We said to our skeptical constituencies that there was a lot of good in America and that most Americans were decent, caring, and compassionate people. This line of argument allowed us to create a space in our own polarized native countries, a space for the more hopeful and caring America: it humanized America to our native audiences. I know, I know, what people like me do is not really significant; it does not even registers on anyone’s radar here. But I have been doing this work of culture incrementally for more that fifteen years now. I have talked to hundreds of audiences and stood unapologetically and called them on their “generalizations,” on their misperceptions of “true” America. It took a lot of courage to do so, for it is easier to bash America to please a crowd.

But today, I have lost my faith in this so-called goodness of America. I know, to the followers of Trump losing someone like me is not such a big loss. I am, after all, just another brown person from somewhere out there, from one of those unpronounceable places. You have lost me America. Go redeem yourself. Send out YOUR best to the world to do YOUR work of culture. I am done with being an “apologist” for the kind, progressive, and tolerant America, the America that died last night!

 

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Donald Trump and Perception of America in the Islamic World

As a Muslim resident of the United States, I have keenly followed the Islamophobic tone and rhetoric of Mr. Trump. I have also noted that Donald_Trump-150x150most of the time the opposition to his claims is posited within the logic of the constitutionality of his proposed actions and policies toward American Muslims.

We also ought to look at Mr. Trump’s views and policy statements from the point of view of their reception in the general Islamic world, and especially the ultimate usage of his statements by the very forces that Mr. Trump hopes to defeat: ISIS and other terroristic groups.

Since this election season began, I receive quite a few queries from Pakistan—my native country—about the possibility of a Trump presidency. For people in Pakistan, a Trump victory would ultimately legitimize the kind of America that the Islamists and their more terroristic contemporaries mobilize to demonize America.

In the published and articulated literature of ISIS, Taliban, and the other Jihadist groups, America is posited as an inherently evil and anti-Islamic place. Within the Islamic interpretations of the sharia that these groups follow, a place cannot be declared darul harb [abode of war] unless it can be logically considered hostile to Muslims and Islam. Thus, the Taliban, the ISIS, and al-Qaida all attempt to prove beyond doubt that America is this hostile place for Muslims and worthy of being declared a war zone. Mr. Trump’s candidacy and his stated policies about Islam in general and the American Muslims in particular, thus, become an important recruitment and propaganda tool for the radical groups all over the Islamic world.

As someone who works on the borders of two cultures, I find myself in an interesting position while in Pakistan: Anytime someone asks me a question about America, its people, and its policies, I try to highlight the complexity of American nation and its diversity. In my public talks, I often counter the generalized negative views about America by pointing out that there are millions of Americans who are kind, accommodating, and generous and that the number of racist, xenophobic, and Islamophobic Americans are much smaller than the vast majority. Granted this argument became harder to sustain during the Bush presidency, for my audiences always asked me: if that is the case then why did they re-elect Bush? I had no simple answer to that.

Now, with the rise of Mr. Trump as the nominee of a major political party with millions of followers, my job of translating culture to my home country has become even harder.

On the other hand, it has become easier for the radical groups to convince, recruit, and enroll more young men to their side: they only have to point to some of the things that Mr. Trump has said or proposes to do when he becomes the president.

So why should we worry about what people think of America in the Islamic world? In my humble opinion, the fight for America’s security in the world cannot just be won through military force. America must shift its perception. America must represent its very best, its diversity, its tolerance, its regard of human life as its ultimate values. Unfortunately, Mr. Trump cannot do that. He, in fact, ends up representing the very worst that people can think of America: hubris, belligerence, and ignorance.

So, despite his claims to making America “great again,” Mr. Trump would actually weaken America within (by dividing Americans on racial, religious, ethnic and regional lines) and by destroying the positive image of America and replacing it with the one that the terroristic groups already rely on to recruit.

The way America is perceived in the Islamic world is absolutely crucial to America’s security: No conventional military force can take the US forces in a conventional war. I say this with certainty because of my years of experience as an infantry officer in the Pakistan army. The threat to America is of the unconventional kind: the bombers, the snipers, the lone shooters. While good intelligence and active fighting can reduce the chances of such terroristic acts, erasing the narratives that are used to recruit these men is extremely important. That  is why it is important for the Americans and the American policy makers to represent the kind of America that tolerates differences, that cherishes human life, and that encourages a better world. Thus, a continuous foregrounding of the “goodness” of America and Americans is absolutely necessary to shift the ideological landscape within the Islamic world.

 

If Mr. trump is elected as the president, then America might become stronger militarily but it would have lost the ideological war and become the very thing that its enemies claim it to be: a xenophobic, hostile, and arrogant super power led by an equally xenophobic, arrogant, and ignorant man.

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O’Reality Factor for Bill O’Reilly

It is a sort of poetic justice to see the very king of spin to finally come face-to-face with the prevarications of his own making: lies recorded and published under his own name and also available in the archival footage of his own show.

This downward spiral and public unraveling of Bill O’Reilly started with a well researched article (called a leftist hit job by O’Reilly) by Mother Jones that suggested that like Brian Williams, Bill O’Reilly had also “bloviated” and obfuscated about his own credentials over the years. One could have easily brushed these allegations aside, had the subject of this incisive critique had not built a whole career on his holier-than-thou, in-your-face attitude as the sole holder and expresser of truth in the American news media.

Here are some of the things O’Reilly thinks are being impugned to him by the “guttersnipes” of the far left:

  • That he implied on numerous occasions in his published work that he had been in the war zone during the Falklands war.
  • That he had seen “nuns being shot.”

Note, that all of these are the claims that he himself made: there is a public record of all these things, IN HIS OWN words.

But now the master of straight and narrow journalism, wants US to read beyond the words and to see what he meant rather than what he said. But that habit, the habit of reading beyond the words, is the one that Mr. O’Reilly and his ilk has always derided, for it goes so much against their idea of straight talk. So, here is what he has suggested in his public defense of his own words.

Mr. O’Reilly claimed that he had never claimed to have been in the war zone but got caught up in a protest in Buenos Aires and that his cameraman was injured and that he saw soldiers shooting at the crowd. Now we are supposed to extrapolate from this from the following published stamens in his own book:

You know that I am not easily shocked. I’ve reported on the ground in active war zones from El Salvador to the Falklands. ( No Spin Zone: Confrontations With the Powerful and Famous in America)

So, let us look at it again. His claim is that he has “reported from war zones from El Salvador to the Falklands” in a book that names itself No Spin Zone! From this one gem of a sentence, we are now to construe, according to Mr. O’Reilly, that when he said “war zone,” he meant a protest 1200 miles away from the said war zone. His involvement in El Salvador also now has been reduced to the fact, through his own admission, that he had seen pictures of nuns being shot. But this still, somehow, gives Mr. O’Reilly the war credits enough to claim that he, somehow, understands the world better than other arm-chair reporters.

So, as a literary critic who is also a veteran of a war (not through pictures, mind you) the problem obviously seems to be O’Reilly himself and not the “guttersnipes” who are trying to do a”hit Job” on his so-called flawless record. He has made false claims about his past; these claims are now being challenged, and no amount of stomping his feet and bellowing on his own TV show can deny the fact that he was NOT in a war zone and that he DID NOT see nuns being shot, two claims that he has made in his own “straight Talking” style both on his show as well as in his own writing.

At the heart of this whole issue is something more important than Mr. O’Reilly and his critics: Integrity of US media. As someone who claims to have the most watched show in the cable news, Mr. O’Reilly cannot claim to be the boss and an underdog at the same time. And if he has built his whole brand on his practice of “straight talking” and “telling-it-as-it–is” then his own personal narrative should also be as it happened. So, when he claims that he saw nuns being shot, it should be what it means on the surface: He should not expect us to hear “I saw nuns being shot in the head” and then add, without a hint, “in pictures” to it! No, if he meant us to hear “I saw nuns being shot in the head in pictures” then that is what he should have said and written.

Maybe, his prevarications and lies are not so important in the larger scheme of things, but since O’Reilly’s entire public persona is built as that of a straight-shooting no-nonsense conservative truth-sayer, these little chinks in his armor are extremely significant. The reason he needed to represent himself as a battle hardened reporter was not just to build his own credentials but to also posit, frequently, that so-called leftist reporters are elitist “bloviators” with no real experience in the field. And, now when confronted with his own “bloviated” experience of atrocities and wars, Mr. O’Reilly has come face to face with the fictions of his own making, with reality!

Reality, however, does not exist in the “No Spin Zone,” for a subjectivity such as Mr. O’Reilly’s can only be sustained through gross exclusions of truth and its replacement with delusional self-serving narratives! In other words, as I see it and call it, O’Reilly is like a giant id-driven infant in throws of an uncontrollable death drive facing, probably for the first time, some shocking impediments of the reality principle. And you know what happens to kids when the reality principle impedes their id driven desires: they cry, stomp their feet, and throw a tantrum!