Wednesday 27 February 2013

No entry for “Japanese, Filipinos, and Vietnamese, and dogs”

Who said racism existed only in the West or casteism existed only in India? It’s time to look beyond these countries and we Indian have to just look at our neighbouring countries to see what’s happening there. No, I’m not talking about Pakistan which is witnessing the massacre of Hazara community – Sunni extremists have been methodically attacking Hazaras, a Persian speaking Shia minority which emigrated from Afghanistan more than a century ago; or of Myanmar which witnessed the massacre of Rohingya Muslims by Buddhists; or of Bangladesh which is going through violence due to war trials; or of Sri Lanka which witnessed ethnic violence which affected thousands of Muslims, Hindus and Christians; but I’m talking about China.

Yes, China, our yet another neighbour. Though it’s well known that there’s no racism in the country, how can we even forget that a 20-year-old girl, daughter of a Chinese mother and an absent African-American father was named one of Shanghai’s five finalists for “Let’s Go! Oriental Angel”, an American Idol-style show. The news was not that she got selected, but the news was when the whole country debated if she fitted to be on Chinese television because of her skin colour! Her story exposed deep racism in the country, where the ethnic Han are in a vast majority.    

And to add salt to the injury or to the image of China, here comes another racial attack. This time, it goes more public, hitting even the general public. A Beijing restaurant has refused to serve customers from certain countries that have locked in maritime territorial disputes with China. The restaurant and the action has drawn the ire of a particular country, if not the world anger – yes, from Vietnam!

The restaurant has put a racially charged poster in Chinese and English on the window which say: “This shop does not welcome Japanese, Filipinos, and Vietnamese, and dogs”. This has been doing rounds on Facebook since last week. The owner of the restaurant in Beijing’s Houhai neighbourhood, surnamed Wang, told BBC News this week that he didn’t care what others felt about the sign and that he had put it up out of “patriotism”! “Chinese customers support me,” he said.
A sign at a restaurant in Beijing refusing service to Japanese, Vietnamese, and Filipinos shown in a photo taken by Facebook user Rose Tang on February 22, 2013 [Photo courtesy: Rose Tang, Facebook] 
China is currently caught in territorial disputes with Japan over Senkaku or Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea, and with the Philippines and Vietnam over islands in the South China Sea. The disputes have seen several protests in all the related countries, especially in Japan. The restaurant’s action has drawn strong criticism in Vietnam, where tensions over the Spratly and Paracel Islands had already sparked a series of anti-China protests for the past two years.

Authorities in Vietnam are wondering as to why is China not taking any action against the restaurant owner. “They should have told the restaurant to take that note off and disciplined them because that insults other people in the world. It is racism. The Beijing government should have strong measures against that,” Dissident lawyer Le Hieu Dang reportedly told RFA’s Vietnamese Service. “The government of Vietnam should see their true colours through this fact that they let their own people do such things.”

This action is seen similar to how China “bullies” its smaller neighbours in its foreign policy. “I think people around the world will have strong reactions against this extreme nationalism, which shows the hatred between nations and how big country bullies small countries,” Le Hieu Dang said.

However, the photo, posted last week by a Chinese-American user from New York, drew a mixed response from netizens in China. While some blasted the restaurant’s sign as nationalist racism, others supported the owner’s action.

Meanwhile, some felt the Beijing restaurant owner’s actions reflected a Sinocentric attitude that they thought was common in China. “This mentality dates back so many years,” an academician said.

He said the sign was reminiscent of China’s colonial era, when British-owned establishments barred Chinese from entering. “I think they are following what the English did before. The English said, ‘No Chinese and no dogs’,” he said.

While, George P Jan, a US-based former professor of Chinese politics, said that the views of one restaurant owner should not be taken to represent all of China. “This sign does not represent the attitude of most Chinese people. I think it is unwise and emotional. Chinese people are not opposed to all Japanese, Filipinos, or Vietnamese indiscriminately,” he said.

He said nationalism could cause people to get carried away with their views. “Patriotism is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it can unite people. But on the other, it will bring disasters to a country,” he added.
Xie Xuanjun, another US-based scholar, said he thought the restaurant owner had succeeded more in embarrassing Chinese people than in denigrating those of other races. “The sign itself is a symbol of racism, and ironically the restaurant owner has drawn ridicule on the Chinese ourselves,” he said.

He asked why the restaurant owner had not refused to serve patrons from Russia, which was embroiled in a long-running dispute over islands near China’s northeast until 2008. “If he refuses to serve people from Japan, the Philippines, and Vietnam because of their territorial disputes with China, why doesn’t he refuse to serve Russians? Russia has grabbed more lands from China than the other three countries.” “Is it because Russians are Caucasians?” he said.

Rose Tang, who originally posted the photo, has asked netizens to share the photo widely in the hopes it will spark more discussion about racism. “Please share it with as many people as possible. I'm hoping pressure from the public and media will teach these guys a lesson,” she said in a comment on Facebook.

Saturday 9 February 2013

42 KSA cars rack up more than 5,000 traffic violations in Qatar

Qatar’s Traffic Department has asked border officials to keep an eye out for some 42 vehicles registered in Saudi Arabia that have accumulated $742,000 (QR2.7 million) in traffic fines here, the
 Peninsula reports.

The vehicles’ drivers, who collectively racked up some 5,337 traffic violations in an unknown amount of time, are guilty of running red lights and other violations detected by cameras, a department circular issued to Abu Samra customs officials states.

One vehicle has 643 violations association with it; two more have more than 400, the report states. The least offending vehicle has accumulated 11 fines.

“These vehicles must be seized whenever they are sighted crossing the border either coming in or going out,” the notice states.


UPDATE: Saudi media is now reporting that 20 KSA-registered vehicles have been impounded at the Qatar-Saudi border. 

According to Gulf News, Qatar authorities halved the fines that drivers needed to pay to get their vehicles back, but Saudis still expressed shock at the steep traffic fees.

UPDATE 2: The MOI tweeted that the Traffic Department has denied halving the traffic fines “for some GCC cars.”

Quoting one driver:

“I have never noticed that I had broken the traffic law,” he said. “However, when last week I wanted to drive into the country, I was told to pay 189,000 Qatari riyals in unpaid fines. I tried to explain that I was not aware of the violations and that I never received anything to inform me about them. They impounded my car and said that I would get it back only after paying the fines,” he said. 

The situation has prompted several Saudi citizens to call for better coordination between the traffic authorities in Qatar and Saudi Arabia to ensure that drivers become instantly aware of their violations and pay their fines on time.

(Source: Doha News)

Females banned from working in some Qatar boys’ schools

Administrators at several boys’ schools across Qatar are struggling with a sudden directive to remove female personnel from these institutions, Al Watan reports.

Under the order, which comes in the middle of the school year, any female Qatari teachers, as well as those working in administration, accounting, social services and public relations at independent boys’ schools must be transferred to girls’ schools.

Female expat staff will have their contracts terminated, though they are to be given no-objection certificates so they can find work elsewhere in Qatar, it adds.

Before the directive, boys’ schools allowed female teachers to work with students until the sixth grade, Gulf News reports.

The local community has long debated whether young boys should be taught by female teachers, for fear that they may start imitating their behavior or mannerisms. 

On Twitter, the debate continued today under the hashtag منع_النساء_بمدارس_البنين (the prohibition of women in boys’ schools).

Many appeared to support the decision, saying it was an “excellent step,” while others called it “shameful.”

Also on Twitter, the Supreme Education Council defended the move, saying it was “for the benefit of all” and telling one protesting male student that “Tomorrow, when you become a successful man, God willing, you will realize the extent of this decision’s importance, rest assured, dear student.”

(Source: Doha News)

25 everyday things you never knew had names

There are so many things out there that we deal with or see everyday, but have no idea what they are called. This is a list of 25 ridiculous real names for 25 everyday items.

1. Tittle

The dot over an 'i' or 'j.'

2. Lunule

The white, crescent shaped part at the top of a nail.

3. Crepuscular Rays

Rays of sunlight coming from a certain point in the sky. Also known as “God's rays.”

4. Ferrule

The metal part on a pencil.

5. Gynecomastia


6. Muntin

The strip separating window panes.

7. Morton's Toe

When your second toe is bigger than your big toe.

8. Arms Akimbo

Exactly what it looks like. Hands on your hips.

9. Desire Path

A path created by natural means, simply because it is the “shortest or most easily navigated” way.

10. Semantic Satiation
What happens when you say a word for so long that it loses its meaning. Limit limit limit limit limit limit limit limit limit.

11. Skeuomorph

“A design feature copied from a similar artifact in another material, even when not functionally necessary.” For example, rivets on jeans, copper color on pennies, the shutter sound on a digital camera, and the pointless handle above.

12. Brannock Device

What is used to measure your feet at the shoe store.

13. Paresthesia

The pins and needles feeling you get when part of your body falls asleep. Bonus! This is known as obdormition.

14. Phosphenes

The lights you see when you close your eyes and press your hands to them.

15. Armscye

The armhole in most clothing.

16. Wamble

Stomach rumble.

17. Feat

A dangling piece of curly hair.

18. Peen

The side opposite the hammer's striking side.


19. Rectal Tenesmus

The feeling of incomplete defecation. We've all been there.


20. Dysania

The state of finding it hard to get out of the bed in the morning.


21. Mondegreen

Misheard lyrics.


22. Petrichor

The way it smells outside after rain.


23. Philtrum

The groove located just below the nose and above the middle of the lips.


24. Purlicue

The space between the thumb and the forefingers.


25. Aglet

The plastic coating on a shoelace.

(Source: Buzzfeed)

Friday 8 February 2013

India's growing 'rent-a-womb' industry

Lower costs have made the country a top destination for childless couples looking for surrogate mothers.

Margaret, a social worker from South Australia, discovered in her late 20s that she could not give birth to a child. Given the long waiting list for adoption, she decided at age 39 to use a surrogate mother instead.

Like many Australians, she decided to hire an Indian surrogate mother. Now a mother of twins, Margaret said it was "just miraculous that this was a possibility for us".

Bobby and Nikki Bains, from Essex in the United Kingdom, had lost all hopes of having a child after five in-vitro fertilisation attempts and spent two years trying to find a suitable surrogate in the UK. Given that advertising for a surrogate is illegal there, they turned towards India and have now had two children with the help of surrogate mothers.

Margaret and the Bains are just some of the many foreign nationals who are increasingly visiting India in search of surrogate wombs. It has become a sunrise industry in India: the country is now home to approximately 1,000 surrogacy centres.

According to a recent article in Mother Jones, surrogacy is now an estimated $2.3bn business. Each year, it is estimated that 25,000 couples visit India for surrogacy services, resulting in more than 2,000 births.

"And the real figures can be much higher," Eric Blyth, Professor of Social Work, University of Huddersfield, Queensgate, told Al Jazeera, as there can be the bypassing of "official scrutiny… making monitoring and other follow up more difficult". 

Read more here...

'Honour killings' bring dishonour to India

The public beheading of a woman by her brother in Kolkata highlights a surge in so-called 'honour killings'.

The policeman jumped to his feet as the man walked into the station and placed the head of his sister, along with the butcher knife that decapitated her, on the table in front of him. 

The incident in Kolkata on December 7 was another killing in the name of "honour" and there has been a surge in such attacks over the past several months.     

Nilofar Bibi, 22, was only 14 years old when she left home in an arranged marriage. Alleging torture carried out by her in-laws, Bibi returned to her parents on November 28, but vanished days later.  

Her brother, Mehtab Alam, 29, had discovered his sister was living with an old boyfriend, Firoz, an auto-rickshaw driver. Alam stormed into the home and dragged Bibi onto the street in broad daylight. 

Passers-by looked on in horror as he cut off Bibi's head while saying "she had sinned and had to be punished". 
Alam left his sister's body in a pool of blood on the road, and calmly walked to the police station, her head in hand, to surrender himself. The siblings' family expressed support for Alam, saying they were proud he upheld their honour.

In a country currently caught up in collective outrage over a gang rape of a medical student in New Delhi, Bibi's killing registered only a passing reference in the national media.

But the coverage - or the lack of it - failed to hide the true extent of a scourge that bedevils many Indian women.
In a similar incident, a 17-year-old girl, a resident of Khoraon village, Kaushambi in Uttar Pradesh, was hacked to death by her father for having an affair with a 20-year-old from another religion from the same village, on December 24. 

In the south, a 19-year-old woman in Sangameshwar village in Dharwad, Karnataka, was allegedly killed and burnt by her parents on December 23.   

Read more here...

King of Victimhood: Shah Rukh Khan bites the hand that fed him

Millions of Indian have showered fame, fortune and fan-love on Shah Rukh Khan, but all he can do in the autumn of his career is to play the Muslim victimhood card, writes Venky Vembu. 

Of Punjabi bhangra-pop artist Daler Mehendi, it was famously said that he built an entire entertainment career on the strength of just five nifty dance moves.

Much the same can be said of actor Shah Rukh Khan. A man of at best middling histrionic capabilities, he has fashioned a far more phenomenally successful career on the strength of far less discernible talent. More importantly, he was embraced by a generation of Indians who were evidently so swayed by his looks (or whatever else they saw in him) that they readily overlooked his vacuous performances, blessed him with fame and fortune - and even went on to crown him 'King Khan'.

At the peak of his career, Shah Rukh was spoken of in the same breath as the Shahenshah of Bollywood, Amitabh Bachchan. That comparison may have been valid in terms of the box-office appeal that both held, but a certain indefinable element of classy refinement that Bachchan exuded even when the cameras were not whirring remained forever out of reach of SRK.

In his eternal quest to be the ageless Peter Pan of Bollywood, Shah Rukh appears not to have come to terms with the fact that while once he may have commanded a forgiving fan following, he is well past his prime. Like the Norma Desmond character that Gloria Swanson essayed in Billy Wilder's Sunset Boulevard, he is only clinging on to the memories of a happier day when the arclights were turned on him and the adulation of fans enveloped him in a warm, glowing embrace.

So, by every verifiable metric, it's fair to say that Shah Rukh Khan has enjoyed more success - and earned more fame and fortune and fan-love - than he arguably deserves. Which is why it's difficult to account for the victimhood chip - rooted in his identity as a Muslim - that he bears on his shoulders.

In an interview that he gave to an overseas publication, Shah Rukh Khan is quoted as saying that he "sometimes become(s) the indvertent object of political leaders who choose to make me a symbol of all that they think is wrong and unpatriotic about Muslims in India."

There have been occasions, he said, when he had been accused of "bearing allegiance to our neighbouring nation rather than my own country - even though I am an Indian, whose father fought for India's freedom."

Oh, cry me a river, Shah Rukh. Millions upon millions of fans in India made you who you are - without pausing even to reflect once on your religious identity. In an earlier time, a Muhammad Yousuf Khan may have felt the need to rechristen himself Dilip Kumar to give himself a better shot at survival in Bollywood, but cinema fans in India today are truly blind to the religious identity of their stars; if anything, today, going by the number of Khans in Bollywood's top-bracket, the Khan surname has something of a premium appeal, even though many of them, with some rare exceptions like Aamir Khan, bring at best mediocre acting talent to the screen.

It's true, of course, that your films have had their problems with Shiv Sena leader Bal Thackeray, who kicked up a shindig by protesting against your film My Name Is Khanon specious grounds. But then you aren't the only person - or even the only person in Bollywood - to have faced the Shiv Sena's politically motivated ire. And while it's of course true that every such instance of intimidation of the entertainment industry deserves to be condemned, you - of all privileged people - shouldn't be seeking refuge in Muslim victimhood. More than most others, you always had access to sympathetic media treatment - and the unstinted support of everyone who spoke up in your defence (and even provided security cover for screenings of your film). And, by the way, have you given voice to a word of solidarity for Kamal Haasan, whose film Vishwaroopam too currently faces criminal intimidation from others like you who are feeding off Muslim victimhood?

Heck, even when you made a colossal ass of yourself by getting into inebriated fights with fellow-stars in Bollywood - or even just a lowly security guard at Wankhede Stadium who was merely doing his job - you've had media divas offering you therapy sessions on their studio couches to present your side of the matter, such as it is. Not many others get the chance to redeem themselves after such exceptionally boorish conduct.

In any case, My Name Is Khanwas itself premised on a sense of victimhood - and we haven't exactly forgotten how you milked your brief but propitiously timed detention at a US airport about that time to market your film. And to think that unlike what happens to countless other plebeians in similar situations, the Indian government scrambled to get US immigration authorities to let you off because, of course, you are a superstar. And you complain today - to an overseas publication - that you're being targeted for being a Muslim?

It was your Bollywood fame (and fortune) that gave you another foothold - in the IPL Cricket League - and, of course, with it came yet more fame, but also the critical attention of countless fans. Cricket and Bollywood are two of the biggest 'religions' in India, about which virtually everyone has an opinion, and you've got a giant footprint in both the spheres. So, get used to the fact that you will get a lot of criticism, just as you've got a lot of undeserved fan-love, particularly when you go against the grain of the prevalent national mood and argue for having Pakistani cricketers play in the IPL League.

So, grow up, Shah Rukh, and learn to take it on the chin like a man. Don't bite the hand that fed you - and made you who you are - by running off to an overseas publication and crying your heart out, thereby providing the space for low-life terrorists like Hafiz Saeed to take potshots at India.

India may not be a paradise - not by a long shot - but, as writer Patrick French observed at the Jaipur Literature Festival, you only have to look around India's neighbourhood - including the "neighbouring country" you couldn't even name in your interview - and ask yourself where else you would rather live...

(Source: Firstpost)