Connect with us

New Social Compact

Unsolicited advice to Muslims World Over

Published

on

Before we begin this dialogue, it essential to clarify my intent. I am neither a theologian nor a History scholar. So what follows is a friendly initiative to dialogue with like minded individuals, without “holier than though” attitude or any pretense of high moral ground. To begin with I wish to quote the following three news items which offend sensibilities of any modern liberal minded person be of any religious pursuit.

2016: Pakistan’s all powerful Council of Islamic Ideology opposed a legislation passed by Punjab state assembly, said it was “un-islamic” for women to leave abusive relationships as husbands should be allowed to “lightly beat” their wives if she defies his commands.

2014: Issam Abuanza, British citizen of Palestinian heritage and endocrinologist working with NHS left Britain to join ISIS. In February 2015, he wrote about the Jordanian pilot who was burnt alive and released a video of his painful death. Abuanza said he would have tried to keep the pilot alive longer to prolong his torture.

2011: Indonesian city of Jember introduced compulsory virginity test for female high school students so that they can be barred from receiving diplomas. If found to have had sex outside of wedlock. Apparently the decision was proposed by municipal government of the town whose lawyers felt that the girls have sex several times and with different partners. After much uproar the verdict was overturned.

This is not a selective collection by an islamophobic with devilish design. In fact, every religion has streams of pluralism and its share of absolutism at fringes.

Christens conducted crusades under papal authority to kill any non christen or non believer in the holy land and a share of loot in mortal life and passport to heaven as incentive. If this is ancient history, then as recent as in 1996 , in an interview , the then secretary of state Madeleine Albright claimed that death of over half million children in Iraq invasion was worth it.

Hindus have their oppressive and inhuman Caste system to answer for. And if that be the history, which it is not, there has been instances of wife beating/burning, honour killing and the recent instance where in UP, Hindu mob dragged a Muslim person out of his house and stabbed him to death under suspicion that he was relishing meet of holy cow.

But in my opinion, while every religion has some heavy lifting to be done and a continuous struggle is always between its various interpretations in every religion, Islam has lot of catching up to do. Given the fact that it is the second largest religion and which happens to be the fastest growing one spread almost all over the word, the problem of its predicament with modernity concerns entire humanity.

According to Jurgen Habermas culture of modernity is based on norms, values and a rational secular world view. This critical thinking and primacy of reason are the basis of modernity. All societies would have converged on such common platform had they not been subjugated by gun powder, in Egypt by Napoleon and in India by British. In that sense the appropriation of modernity as European project has been product of mythical claim to superiority of white world which suits certain obscurantist elements in Islamic society. Because once stamped as western concept, modernity can easily be associated all evils that one sees in so called God less societies in the white world. Then, Veil, Hijab and banning Valentine day seems logical and desirable.

To begin with the right thinking Muslims may have to accept that the religious literature needs to be read in its socio temporal context when it was first written. The rapid developments in science have proved that our planet is a living system and nothing here is permanent or immutable. Not even the rocks as commonsense may make us believe. Kenneth Lacovara on of his TED Talk stated that “the Earth is alive, pulsating and creative and destructive forces that power its geological metabolism. Lunar rocks brought back by the Apollo astronauts date back to about the age of the solar system. Moon rocks are forever. Earth rocks on the other hand face perils of a living lithosphere.”

This principle of change is not new to Islam. As Mohammed Al Jabri, the Moroccan Islamic scholar pointed out that, this principle of non-immutability has already been accepted and expanded upon by the 13th century Muslim scholar Averroes (Ibn Rushd). Further endorsed in the Qua’ranic edict, “Allah does not change people unless they change themselves”. This only shows that change or adaptation is not un-Islamic and Muslims can and should change themselves without guilt, in fact as sign of modernity.It is true that such change should be borne out of critical thinking which is also provided for by the idea of “Ijtihad” pointed out by the famous Canadian Muslim activist Irshad Manji in her book “The Trouble With Islam Today” in which she has extensively dealt with Islam’s own tradition of independent & critical thinking. Be it in Islamic country or on global level, reformation can begin as stated by extremist turned progressive British Muslim Scholar Maajid Nawaz;

“what can unite us is a set of religion – neutral values. By focusing on the universality of human, democratic and secular values we can arrive at some common ground.”

In my opinion, the best chance for such reform process to sprout and grow is among the Muslim diaspora living all over the world in the democratic societies. Once such changes become visible to the global society world over, then extremists will really be isolated and start appearing as the fringe elements. No longer then the present ritualistic sounding denial after any terrorist attack, that “this does not represent Islam” will be required or to those still doubting Harries it will sound more responsive and responsible.

Continue Reading
Comments

New Social Compact

Gold-digging & Gender Biases in Pakistani Dramas

Published

on

The phenomenon of gender-bias can be found in history as old as ever recorded in the form of written text or visual entertainment. Biases are found in multitude of matters. In this article, however, focus and stress is set upon the term “gold-digging” as found in male and female genders. A very clear distinction is generally observed on social and electronic media where whether it be jokes, memes, short videos or dramas when depicting the money-lust present in the two genders, women are shown to be far more materialistic and gold-chasing-maniacs compared to men. In simple words, women are generalized and stereotyped across the globe for having money-oriented mindsets. Despite vast majority of women being goal-diggers, they’re still perceived and stigmatized across the globe to be inherently having traits of gold-digging. Pakistan’s both broadcast and print are flourishing – yet, there exists several disparities in terms of gender inequality, gender roles and gender biases. Gender issues in Pakistani media are often portrayed in a biased manner. In order to specify the radius for this observation, a keen and close study of the most recent Pakistani dramas aired in present dates is done so that the aimed propagation of this column doesn’t become obsolete or unfounded.

Meray Pas tum ho” and “Rishtay biktay hain” are two of the most recent dramas. Between both of these visual pieces in terms of TRP’s and YouTube views, “Meray pas tum ho” by far has taken the lead with viewers belonging to both genders. The drama has been witnessed breaking records by achieving highest ever single day gross rating points (GRPs). On YouTube, each episode of “Meray Pas tum ho” gains over 10 million views within a span of few days. Talking about “Meray Pas tum ho” fever – its fame spread like fire among not just women but men aswell, who are usually less-interested in watching T.V dramas. The female lead chooses money over love and deceives the protagonist who in turn speaks some dialogues that have become eternal. The reference here is made to “Dou takkay ki larki”–a dialogue that remained talk of the town throughout the proceeding week after airing of this particular episode.

The female roles are mostly shown to be more bent towards committing or persuading to commit crimes like taking bribe as is the case in this drama. In other words,  they are depicted as two extremes i.e. “all-out bad” or impossibly overbearing and unnaturally “noble” who bears husband’s atrocities silently and waits for good days to come. There is no in-between.

In “Rishtebiktayhain”–the second selected drama highlighting the same theme of gold-run, the story focuses on amaterialistic brother-trio chasing wealth. Two women who happen to be wives to the elder brothers are absolutely loyal and committed despite being married to unappreciative husbands. This drama is aired thrice a week but the views are drastically lesser than “Meray Pas tum ho”. The YouTube views of the episodes of “Rishte bikhte hain” are less than 1 million throughout a week, the viewers primarily being women. In this particular drama, social issues in the name of  custom and traditions are highlighted like dowry, never ending demands from girl’s parents, holding them responsible for shopping for the unborn kids and setting up the son-in-law’s business. Still, huge disparity of views exists amongst the two drama serials.

Drawing comparison between the two visual pieces, it can be noticed that “Meray Pas tum ho” has a diverse audience, majority being the men as mentioned by Pakistani veteran actor, playing key role in the drama; Adnan Siddiqui in his statement that mainstream viewership of the serial comes from the men. Whereas, “Rishte bikhte hain” audience is primarily formulated by women viewership. An amusing fact over here however is that in this particular drama where men are shown materialistic – the grooming is nevertheless done by their materialistic mother – blinded by the love for wealth. Thus, portraying indirectly that underlying reasons for the development of these gold-digging traits in the brothers also lies in the hands of their mother – once again, a female figure. However, since the surface story focuses on the brothers, it hasn’t stirred as much fame and name. Another catch here is that the drama “Rishte bikhte hain” addresses diverse social issues – still the viewership is significantly lower than “Meray Pas tum ho”. This trend automatically depicts the interest of the audience in particular kind of content.  If someone argues – “Meray Pas tum ho”- like content is what audience wants to see then it can only said that what someone wants to see isn’t what they should be seeing or what’s good for them. Social issues are clearly highlighted and criticized in “Rishte bikhte hain”, but the potential reasons for less viewership can be nil interest of the male audience. Nonetheless, in “Meray Pas tum ho”, if the show was sufficiently reality based, then maybe and hardly one in a billion women would’ve taken such selfish-step despite of having such a loving husband. To simplify it, if we have more people like the character “Danish” then we will have less of the character “Mehwish” in this society.

The bottom line is that materialism and gold digging doesn’t pertain to a specific gender , anyone can have these traits. Greed is found usually in human nature but severity of it varies from person to person – not from gender to gender. Stigmatizing female for being greedy is harmful towards the psyche of the general masses. The Pakistani entertainment industry should also focus on stories of women who have fought through and stood by strongly in adverse circumstances –like husband’s sickness, poverty  or inability to fulfill the needs of the family. The producers of the drama industry should not merely focus on what sells but also what makes a positive difference in a society.

Continue Reading

New Social Compact

Catalysing change for gender equality

Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana

Published

on

Great strides have been taken to empower women and girls in the Asia-Pacific region since the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing adopted an ambitious global agenda to achieve gender equality twenty-five years ago. Gender parity has been achieved in primary education. Maternal mortality has been halved. Today, the region’s governments are committed to overcoming the persistent challenges of discrimination, gender-based violence and women’s unequal access to resources and decision-making.

The Asia-Pacific Ministerial Conference for the Beijing+25 Review will meet in Bangkok this week to explore how more Beijing Declaration commitments can be met to improve the lives of women and girls in the region. Asia-Pacific governments have reviewed their progress and identified three priority areas, areas where action is imperative to accelerate progress in the coming five years.

First, we must end violence against women, such a severe human rights violation which continues to hinder women’s empowerment. As many as one in two women in the region have experienced physical or sexual violence from an intimate partner in the last 12 months. Countries in the region have adopted laws and policies to prevent and respond to violence against women. This is progress on which we must build. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in 2015 adopted the Convention against Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, and a Regional Plan of Action on the Elimination of Violence Against Women in 2018. Free legal services, hotlines and digital applications to report violence, and emergency shelters and safe spaces for survivors are increasingly common. New partnerships are underway challenging stigma and stereotypes, working directly with boys and men. However, more investment is needed to prevent violence, and to ensure all women and girls who experienced violence will have access to justice and essential services.

Second, women’s political representation must be increased in Asia and the Pacific. Our region’s representation rates are behind the global average. Only one in five parliamentarians are women in Asia-Pacific. Despite governments committing to gender parity in decision making 25 years ago in Beijing, the region has seen the share of women in parliament grow at just 2.2 percentage points annually over the past two decades. We must therefore look to where faster progress has been made. In several countries, quotas have helped increase the number of women in parliament. These need to be further expanded and complemented with targeted, quality training and mentoring for women leaders and removing the barriers of negative norms, stigma and stereotypes of women in politics and as leaders.

Third, economic empowerment remains key. Only half the women in our region are in paid work, compared with 80 percent of men. Ours is the only region in the world where women’s labour-force participation is decreasing in the past 10 years. Two out of three working women are in the informal sector, often with no social protection and in hazardous conditions. Legislative measures to deliver equal pay and policies to ensure the recruitment, retention and promotion of women must be part of the solution, as must supporting the transition of women from informal to formal work sectors. Digital and financial inclusion measures can empower women to unleash their entrepreneurial potential and support economic growth, jobs and poverty reduction. Action has been taken in all these areas by individual countries. They can be given scale by countries working at the regional level.

Next year will mark the convergence of the 25 years of implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action and the five-year milestone of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Investments and financing for gender equality need to be fully committed and resourced to realize these ambitious targets and commitments. Our hope is that the Asia-Pacific Ministerial Conference for the Beijing+25 Review will help provide the necessary momentum. Now is time to craft priority actions for change and accelerate the realization of human rights and opportunities for all women and men, girls and boys. Let us remain ambitious in our vision, and steadfast in our determination to achieve gender equality and women empowerment in Asia and the Pacific.

UN ESCAP

Continue Reading

New Social Compact

Ethics, Truth and Post-Truth: Political and social implications

Dr. Mayelinne De Lara

Published

on

I want to reflect on ethics, truth and post-truth in the context of accelerated changes in the economy, politics, society, culture and digital knowledge, information and communication media, which give rise to cyberspace and the internet.

The power of a journalist, reaching millions of people from behind his computer, is controlled by national and international laws; professional norms backed by numerous journalist associations, instructions from his media and the everyday larger and commented code of ethics. And we all know about the duty-based ethics focussed on the importance of truth; the progressive ethics based of investigative journalism, and consequentialist ethics focused on society; does the article offend someone?. Can the publication of a certain issue do more harm than good, even if the facts used were correct?.

What about losing my job, or been attacked verbally and physically? but ethics light, pass by a coloured crystal  of personal values, personal circumstances and his own loyalties wherever they are: to the general public, to the customers, the supporters and the subscribers, to the employer, the corporation, the colleagues and the professional community and to himself.

In the real world of reporting, ethics seen by the public or seen by the journalist, are different.

There is a different perception of ethics between the public and the journalist, and we must establish the differences between the media and the journalist’s work. The public believes, that it is the journalists who is dedicated to manipulate the information, and most of the time, it is the means of the media that censures or favors the publication for financial or political reasons.

Yesterday I received a complaint from a journalist who after doing an extensive interview with the Russian ambassador representative to the OPCW about the role of his country in Syria and the use of chemical weapons in Duma, no newspaper wanted to publish.

Quality, Economy and Ethics

On the side of the journalist, it is important that they be paid well and that the expenses incurred to do their work be covered; the lack of resources makes use of second-hand information, copied from social media.

For example, last week the official visit of a president in the Netherlands was covered by the medias. To report on the official visit, a journalist I know, had to go to a city that is three hours away and the media did not paid the trip; since the journalist resolved to copying and translating the news that he found in other media and social media, which maybe they were copied in turn, the original source, the authenticity, the veracity of the interviews and the context of reality were lost, causing the journalist to fall into a lack of ethics and lack of quality of the news.

Scope of information and ethics

The limitation of resources in the media due to the economic crisis, has brought a fragmentation of the media that multiply and become smaller and sectorial, specializing in niches but with less scope; since the reader cannot read 80 newspapers per day, they better select their reading by topics. For example, we are dedicated to the diplomatic world and international organizations, with a first-class content but a limited public.

The fact that journalism no longer provides a living for people who work in the industry or invest in it, has reinforced the corruption that has always overshadowed journalism and has spawned more owners who buy up media to promote their wider political and business interests.

Working conditions in newsrooms – online and offline – are equally poor. A generation of young people in the journalism schools around the world have few quality jobs to look forward to. Some will survive as freelancers, but many, are destined for advertising, corporate communications or public and political information jobs. Now more than ever before, journalism income is not determined by attachment to a single income ow, but it is based upon creative solutions to the funding crisis and may include non-traditional funding, or a mix of civic, market and public resources.

As commercial organisations, NGO’s and governments seek to manipulate news, profit-hungry social media platforms undermine quality journalism, and political propaganda masquerade as truth, journalists’ unions are campaigning for a media environment which embraces the core values of journalism.

Postmodernity has many ways from its definition to its interpretation or understanding.

What has become called post-truth, seems the resurrection of the imaginary of Jorge Luis Borges, called magical realism and that Borges published in 1935. The writer admits that it is a set of stories written, in baroque language, by an irresponsible, that gets to falsify and misrepresent other people’s stories, although the stories are based on real crimes.

The writer also states that “the volume of stories is nothing more than appearance, than a surface of images; for that reason it can please the readers”. That is, to seduce them, attract them, deceive them.

For example, the text entitled “The Atrocious Redeemer Lazarus Morell,” was written between 1933 and 1934, and it reinterprets and adapts to fiction the historical, economic, political, racial and cultural consequences derived from the claim of Father Bartolomé de las Casas to Emperor Carlos V, by means of which he asks to replace the indigenous labor, already in the process of extinction, by black slaves brought from Africa.

Could something be more like post-truth, than this eagerness to misrepresent the facts in order to present them to the readers, to the audience, to society as if they were true?

There are no barriers between reality and fiction, between truth and lies, between subjectivity and objectivity.

The Oxford Dictionary declared the post-truth “word of the year” in 2016. This famous word, would not have been possible without economic conditions, such as neoliberalism, the market empire and the unethical neoprotectionism; of a political nature, such as populism and radical nationalism; social and moral, such as xenophobia, the rejection of the poor for being poor and racism; of a cultural nature, such as multiculturalism; demographic order, such as mass migration flows through poverty, wars or religion and above all, technoscientific order, especially with the technological revolution and what they call “the digital world” the “network society” that chooses to use terms like cyberspace , cyberworld, cyberculture, cyberpolitics.

The liberal production and consumption system, as well as its legal-political structures, experienced in 2008 a deep fissure of an ethical nature, generated by the black September of the United States Stock Exchange. The serious economic consequences, spread like wildfire across Europe and Asia. These conditions gave rise to forms of degradation of power and the exercise of knowledge and politics, which are resolved, in a certain way, in what we now call post-truth.

From the value of the presumably false, to the presumably true; on the basis that giving up false judgments would be giving up life. Admit that non-truth is a condition of life: this means, confronting ethics in a dangerous way beyond good and evil.

The act of thinking, of asking suspicious questions and of challenging established knowledge as absolute truths, translates into the transmutation of all values characterized by the lack of ethical commitment and by the predominance of individualism and particular interests, over those of common value.

The history of truth, seen socially, has developed in close relation to reason and non-truth, has gone hand in hand with the history of the State, as a regulator of the order and guarantee of the rulers over the governed.

Under the pretext of owning the truth, chiefs of tribes, empires, caliphates, despotic, tyrannical, liberal and totalitarian regimes have been erected. However, its most accepted form has been attached to democracy as a political system. Today, and as a result of the validity of the post-political as a degradation of democracy and the ethical misery of the parties, this place has been occupied by post-truth. This phenomenon, as we stated at the beginning, would not have been possible without the technological revolution, the digitalization of information systems, production, consumption, communication and the creation of cybersociety and technocracy as an alternative to the welfare state.

Post-truth, gives rise to manipulation and discursive and political deception, based on a demagogic process of impersonation of objectivity. The post-truth has created the smokescreen in which the post-democracy is agitated, with a serious deficit of meaning in concepts, now inflated and distorted, such as the homeland, the people, the citizen, law, identity or freedom. To this is added, the indifference of politics to the facts themselves, however inhuman they may be. In addition, it gives rise to the divorce between power and politics, since the former is exercised in a global scope, while the latter is limited to national states.

It is paradoxical that, in the framework of the digital era, in political terms, the post-tactical is worshiped, and the distance to the post-right (tyranny or totalitarianism) is shortened. Hence the non-truth, that is, the false and imposter of objectivity is an unpredictable danger.

The postfactual threat promotes false arguments, involving them in moving and amplified stories in the resonance chambers of the network and digital communication, until changing behaviors and influencing the decision of the masses. These resonance chambers are, in the postfactual, controlled and activated by machines or robots and are capable of generating a huge amount of information and news through the “private superpowers” such as Facebook, Google, Twitter, Instagram and others.

In the field of media communication, the worst threat to quality journalism, to honest, rigorous and respectful journalism, is the false news. The proliferation of false news that has brought “the chaos to the world of news”, at the same time, have revalued the role of the press as a reliable reference for information and to “control the abuses of power”

And we give way to securitization, as a trick of the politician. The trick, is the displacement that the governments of these times of late modernity, globalization and interdependence make of the genuine concern of the citizens, changing them for other problems. For example, given the inability to solve issues such as citizen insecurity, unemployment or growing poverty, this kind of politicians of securitization present other problems such as specular terrorism; or to confuse the problem of immigration with that of national and personal security; or an alleged international campaign to discredit the State.

Securitizing is, then, maintaining the state of affairs by using the public attention diversion resource.

Post-truth is an emotional root argument, which causes what appears to be true, to be more important than the true itself. It creates the illusion that there may be an alternative objectivity to ostensible objectivity. As its field of cultivation is public opinion, there, the post-truth makes concrete and objective facts less relevant than simply appealing to emotions or personal convictions.

Journalist Eric Alterman spoke of a post-true political environment when referring to the Bush administration’s misleading arguments about the tragic terrorist attacks of 9/11 and the consequent invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.

The political language that adheres to the exercise of postmodern power uses the arguments of securitization and post-truth. After historical processes such as Hiroshima and Nagasaky, the Cold War, and most especially, 9/11 in the United States, the securitization of international relations has become, in the political and business field, a kind of “discipline from fear”.

The risk of international terrorism and weapons of mass destruction have made internal security an unprecedented importance in the United States and private companies, especially in sectors such as transportation, information technology, finance, health, pharma, education and oil industry who are increasingly called and committed by the State to safeguard the internal security of the nation.

The corporate environment has substantially increased the recruitment of security personnel, communication experts and specialists in digital culture, because, in addition to having to deal with the direct and collateral effects of the fear discipline, they have to deal with strategies for managing the reputational risk, constantly threatened by rumors or discredit campaigns based on false news and the non-sanctioned objectives of post-truth.

The political problem of the journalist is to know if it is possible to constitute a new politics of truth ”by changing the political, economic, institutional regime of truth production”.  The truth is not something absolute or immovable. The truth is a dynamic, social, historical, scientific and political product, which is built and constitutes the heat of philosophical, ideological, economic and social disputes, which take place in a specific space and at a specific time.

The truth is power, and vice versa. Also the lie is a power.

The limits of truth and justice have been challenged, to promote an era of post-truth and post-justice, full of true lies and imagery, which seem to place us before the dilemma of having to choose between democracy or post-democracy, between elections and false referendums or Respect for laws established by consensus or social majority. Post-truth as a resource of legitimization of neopopulism has degenerated the exercise of politics and the performance of the function of the State and the rule of law, displacing rationality by emotion under a set of massive promises never fulfilled.

In today’s world we are suffering from a crisis of governance, due to the neutrality of the institutional framework and the rule of law. The world is heading towards a bankruptcy of authority and the system of representation, which exhibits a democracy that is increasingly lacking in content and malleable in its essence, which puts world peace at risk.

The post-truth, are nothing more than partial truths; the post-truth is neither a lie, nor innocent, but it is not the whole truth either, according to Jordi Gracia (“Post-truth is not a lie”,) the false arguments of the post-truth attempt to seduce the most economically and socially vulnerable sectors due to the effect of global toxicity virality generated by the informative and misinformation of social networks and digital platforms.

Post-truth is something that operates well beyond the reach of false news. In fact, in its twisted logic, it is much more important than something, whether true or false, it seems to be true, because this is going to be more important than the truth itself. Not only do the truths lie, but the lies lie in a sinuous, invisible and everyday dialectic that ends up being accepted as the appearance of truth.

In today’s business dynamics, the market economy is giving space to the reputation economy. What it is, fundamentally, is how the reputation of a company has as much value as that of its financial assets. What is the factor that gives this relief ?: the risk factor.

The company’s reputation translates into credibility and reliability of its investors, customers, employees, suppliers, public opinion and society. And in the same way that the image was preserved from the risks and dares of the advertising language, capable of making promises not completely enforceable, or, false, also the reputation must be safe from the claims subjective and axiologically neutral of post-truth and post-fact.

Building trust lies, is one of the great challenges of corporate communication. Hence the need to align, according to the approach of the consultant and communication strategist which is to safeguard the reputational capital of the company or institution.

The characteristic, par excellence, of that environment is given at the alternative media, capable of, through a tweet, a message via Whatsapp, an Instagram or Snapchat image, or, a statement on Facebook, a blog particular or an alert to the virtual communities of LinkedIn, create a parallel public opinion, more belligerent, more fierce and less respectful than public opinion, different from the published opinion, which is structured in conventional media.

The overwhelming force of autonomy that fuels the digital turn of communication has diminished the credibility of the media, which are a fundamental support of corporate communication. The dance between non-truth and post-truth generates a space that can only lead society, as a whole, to an inadmissible predominance of chaos.

We live in the era of digital information and knowledge. But do we control the digital information or does it control us, supported by the artificial and the posthuman? Will there be an algorithm that goes ahead with the answer? Perhaps.

From our partner International Affairs

Continue Reading

Latest

Trending