Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar, the sovereign of the Malaysian state of Johor, does not mince his words. His repeated verbal assaults on Sunni Muslim ultra-conservatism that traces its roots to Saudi-inspired puritan interpretations of the faith constitute an anti-dote to supremacist attitudes in parts of the Islamic world that rival rising Islamophobia in the West.

Published in Southeast Asia

Kumari, literally translating to a ‘pre-pubescent virgin’, is also the name of the living goddess in Nepal chosen at a very young age. They belong to the Shakya caste of the Newars, the same caste Buddha was believed to have hailed from.

Published in South Asia

My recent reading of an article detailing the amount of money squandered on the cleanup of the Ganges River prompted me to look into the conundrum. The Ganges is one of the most critical rivers in India – economically and culturally. It begins its journey in the Himalayas and ends up in the Bay of Bengal.

Published in South Asia

The UN Security Council held its first meeting on Rohingya in nine years last Thursday (September 28, 2017).  The language was harshly critical of Myanmar.  Secretary General Antonio Guterres described the situation as a "human rights nightmare" and "urged Myanmar to end its military operations".  The number of Rohingya refugees has meanwhile mushroomed to more than 500,000. 

Published in Southeast Asia

Saudi Arabia’s lifting of a ban on women’s driving raises a host of questions that transcend the issue of women’s rights and go to the core of the standing of the kingdom’s religious scholars and its impact on conservative opposition to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s economic and social reforms.

Published in Middle East

Saudi Arabia’s long-awaited lifting of a ban on women’s driving, widely viewed as a symbol of Saudi misogyny, will likely serve as a litmus test for Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s ability to introduce economic and social reforms despite conservative opposition.

Published in Middle East

The United Nations has drawn up a contingency plan to feed up to 700,000 Rohingya Muslim refugees from Myanmar after some 480,000 fled to Bangladesh over the past month and arrivals continue.

Published in South Asia

Uproar about a launderette owner’s decision to bar non-Muslims from using his service has focused a spotlight on broader discriminatory attitudes in Malaysian society as well as elsewhere in Asia that are reinforced by Saudi-inspired ultra-conservative interpretations of Islam.

Published in Southeast Asia
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