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The Vagina Diatribes, Part II: Radical Islamism and Enlightened Demeaning Sexism

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Enlightened Demeaning Sexism (EDS) is an unfortunate amalgamation of the two forms of sexism that come from Ambivalent Sexism Theory – hostile sexism and benevolent sexism. In the briefest of lay terms, hostile sexism reflects deeply adversarial attitudes toward women who are believed to demand special favors because of their gender and vie for power over men while benevolent sexism is a supposedly supportive and kindly view toward women that proclaims their moral superiority over men and thus the need requiring male protection.

Key for the present study is the admission within Ambivalent Sexism Theory that both forms of sexism are rooted in the same gender ideology with ultimately negative consequences. It is this ideological foundation, rooted in a negative judgmental perspective toward women and their place in society, which seems to apply in the worst examples fueling radical Islamic gender ideology.

The supposedly nurturing or protective stereotyping of women in benevolent sexism still ultimately results in the constraining of women’s freedom and the placement of barriers against female power and influence. It is interesting that this has as yet never been applied explicitly to the world of radical Islam. This is perhaps because there is a tendency in the West to assume gender bias in Islam across the board: no one felt the need to assess if there was variation in the way that bias was expressed. Most presume that groups like DAESH, Al-Qaeda, or the Taliban would be some of the most severe examples of hostile sexism. And while it is true that these groups most certainly do provide evidence of HS, what seems to be missing is how their HS is more often than not produced from an ideology rooted firmly within benevolent sexism.

Since women are portrayed by radical Islamists as the more righteous and morally superior gender (regardless of whether women wish to have that designation), any deviation from that elevated status results in severe condemnation. Challenges to these self-imposed gender norms are never met with protection but punishment. Ironically, studies of the negative repercussions of benevolent sexism in the West have up to now been rather under-documented, since the belief is that those effects are more obscure and have only indirect influence. This is not the case within radical Islamic groups, which tie their gender edicts into religiosity with incredibly explicit empirical evidence. The Taliban of Afghanistan in the early 2000s are one of the most vivid examples. A short list of their gender policies included the forbidding of women to work outside the home; the requirement that women be covered head-to-toe anytime they ventured outside in public; the prevention of girls from attending any public schooling; the necessity of male escorts accompanying women at all times when they did need to venture outside of the home; the elimination of certain types of feminine clothing or jewelry; and the application of extremely harsh punishments for fornication and adultery.

Taliban leaders were always quick to say that all such policies were rooted in Islamic law, but the evidentiary foundation of such claims is thin at best. What explains Taliban leadership motivation more powerfully are all of the studies within Ambivalent Sexism Theory. What begins as benevolent sexism to protect the ‘managed superiority’ of women in a dirty world of men turns into an aggressively codified system of violence where gender hierarchy is rigidly enforced. In other words, these policies are better understood through the prejudice, fear, and innate insecurity of modern male leaders issuing bureaucratic decrees. The subjugation of women under Taliban rule was a heinous fusion of benevolent sexist ideology framing and rationalizing a punitive system of hostile sexism. This fusion is ‘enlightened demeaning sexism’ and it seems to be a powerful causal root when analyzing the more egregious examples of radical Islamist gender policies.

This hypothesis is affirmed by previous studies that show both hostile and benevolent sexism at work in potentially radicalizing Islamic males when trying to justify their behavior toward women in society. Studies of Turkish males in 2010 showed that as men’s religious beliefs and practices increased, they were more likely to evaluate ‘traditional’ women positively and view ‘non-conformist’ women as a regression hurting societal values. These views were then subsequently used to justify why men should be dominant over women. This study shows the value in promoting cross-disciplinary investigation: when Turkish society and domestic politics are considered, lensed through the historical legacy of governmental secularism, it becomes important to consider that ‘intensive religious instruction’ in Turkey amongst males will tend to be more conservative and traditionalist, as it exists as a perceived counterbalance to the government’s supposedly hyper-anti-religious stance. As a result, the ‘religious ideology’ being pushed is not so much a generic version of Islam but one that is highly radicalized and gendered in favor of male hierarchy and the subordination of women. Once again, this time in Turkey, EDS is presented as being rooted in religious doctrine but is better understood through contemporary male leadership voicing discomfort about the ‘modern woman.’

This phenomenon of ‘masking modern masculine discomfort behind a veil of rationalizing religiosity’ can be traced, quite honestly, all the way back to the Prophet Muhammad himself. While it has long been established the many ways in which Muhammad was sympathetic to and supportive of women, there were societal constraints on that support during his lifetime: very few women were given leading roles or heavy decision-making power in the conveyance of new traditions. Few women could be openly active in public affairs, resulting in a de facto exclusion/seclusion of women that would ultimately become deeply consequential after the Prophet’s death. While many will point to the fact that Muhammad relegated his wives to a space separate from normal societal interaction with men, allowing them to converse directly only when a curtain separated them (purdah), the reality is that the institutionalization of the principle of seclusion only blossomed after Muhammad’s death. His successors brought about the codification of such laws and declared them as divine revelation. While the actual divinity of such edicts can be hopelessly debated, what is almost irrefutable is the notion that such edicts clearly reflected the dominant attitude of contemporary male leadership after Muhammad’s death. Thus, the tradition of justifying what is largely a societal male conceit with decorative religious argumentation goes all the way back to the founding of Islam (and can indeed be found in nearly every religion on earth). Over time this has been manipulated by those looking to establish their own gendered dominance in the face of advancing feminist progress.

Arguably the most virulent expression of EDS within radical Islam comes from the various interpretations and debates that have existed about the concept of jihad and the role women should or should not have in it. Most standard interpretations have jihad as a classically male pursuit when expressed as the need to fight and sacrifice for Allah. The female version is more often traditionally expressed as a righteous pilgrimage to Mecca. Shi’ite tradition is also hesitant to grant women an explicit physical role in jihad: while man’s duty is to sacrifice his wealth and blood until he is killed in the path of Allah, a woman’s jihad is to endure suffering at the hands of her husband and his jealousy of her. Thus whether Sunni or Shia it makes no difference: jihad is a clearly gendered, two-tiered system that establishes male dominance and increased value while putting women on a lower path.

Even more interesting (and another example of EDS) are the early books on jihad, which basically have jihad fighters the equivalent of the living dead: they should not be married or have families and are meant to see women as a sinful attraction tying them improperly to the temporal world when their focus should only be on Allah and heavenly reward. In other words, all of the fundamental comforts of home – marriage, sex, living with a woman – were supposed to be rejected by the fighter. Texts can be found on ‘marriage ceremonies’ taking place on the battlefield between Muslim soldiers and the women of paradise (houris). The most defiant and incredulous text codifying this tradition comes from the 15th century Ibn al-Nahhas al-Dumyati:

If you say [wanting to avoid jihad]: my heart is not comfortable parting from my wife and her beauty, the companionship I have close to her and my happiness in touching her – even if your wife is the most beautiful of women and the loveliest of the people of her time, her beginning is a small drop [of sperm] and her end is a filthy corpse. Between those two times, she carries excrement, her menstruation denies her to you for part of her life, and her disobedience to you is usually more than her obedience. If she does not apply kohl to her eyes, they become bleary, if she does not adorn herself she becomes ugly, if she does not comb her hair it is disheveled, if she does not anoint herself her light will be extinguished, if she does not put on perfume she will smell bad and if she does not clean her pubes she will stink. Her defects will multiply, she will become weary, when she grows old she will become depressed, when she is old she will be incapacitated – even if you treat her well, she will be contemptuous towards you.

The shocking violence of the above passage is not an implication that all Muslim men feel this way or that modern thinkers on jihad return to this admittedly popular classical text. What matters is how enlightened demeaning sexism dominates and how it seems to form a foundation for extreme male thinking within radical Islam. More importantly, it must be recognized that it is the gender of the thinkers and not their religious identity that is powering their thinking. Whether it is hostile, benevolent, or an amalgamation of the two, the sexism found dominating the perceptions and attitudes of men following radical Islam are always decorated with religious ideas but not truly informed by them. This trend only increases when the legacy of ‘male misinterpretation’ is examined across other aspects of radicalized Islamic tradition. Thus, in the end, the efforts to combat violent gender extremism must not focus on factors like culture, geography, and religion to the detriment of the overarching primary causal factor of gender, of maleness mutated by a supposed benevolence that is used to justify oppression.

Dr. Matthew Crosston is Executive Vice Chairman of ModernDiplomacy.eu and chief analytical strategist of I3, a strategic intelligence consulting company. All inquiries regarding speaking engagements and consulting needs can be referred to his website: https://profmatthewcrosston.academia.edu/

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Biological warfare: A global security threat

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Biological warfare is not a new concept in arena of international politics as it has been used as a tool to sabotage enemy in previous centuries. Biological weapons are a sub-category of Weapons of Mass destruction (WMDs) in which there is a deliberate use of micro-organisms like pathogens and toxins to cause disease or death in humans, livestock and yields.Form its usage in 14th century by Mongols to its usage by imperial Japan during 1930s-40s against Chinese, it has always been a threat to global security. The evolution of bio-weapons can be broadly categorized into four phases; first phase includes the post WWII developments with the evident use of chlorine and phosgene in Ypres.The second phase was marked by the use of nerve agents like tabun, cholinesterase inhibitor and anthrax and plague bombs. The initiation of third phase was marked by the use of biological weapons in Vietnam war during 1970s where deadly agents like Agent orange were used. 4th and last phase include the time of biological and technological revolution where genetic engineering techniques were at their peak. Traditionally they have been used in wartime in order to defeat enemy but with the emergence of violent non-state actors, bioterrorism is another potential threat to the security of states. There are certain goals that are associated with the use of biological weapons. Firstly, it is purposed to hit to economy of the targeted country, breaking down government authority and have a psychological effect on masses of the targeted population. It is also a kind of psychological warfare as it may hit a smaller number of people but leaves impact on wider audience through intimidation and spreading fear. It also creates natural circumstances under which a population is induced with disease without revealing the actual perpetrator.

With the advancement in genetic engineering techniques more lethal biological weapons are being produced everyday around the world. Countries which are economically deprived are more likely to pursue such goals as it is difficult for them to go for heavy military sophistication keeping into consideration their poor economic conditions. Biological weapons serve as inexpensive tool for developing countries to address their issues in prevailing international security environment. During the initial decades of cold war, united states of America (USA) and Soviet Union went for acquiring tons of biological weapons alongside nuclear proliferation.

 The quest for these weapons reduced during 1970s with the formation of Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BWC). This convention was presented in 1972 before countries and finally came into force in 1975 with 150 countries who signed this convention and 140 countries who fully joined this treaty. This convention prohibits any biological weaponization in order to promote peace and stability around the world. But this convention has obvious defects as it is unable to address many issues like it doesn’t prevents itself the use of biological weapons but just reinforces 1925 Geneva Protocol which forbids the use of bio-weapons. Convention allows ‘defensive research’ to which there are many objections that what is incorporated into this defensive research. It is non-binding to the signatory states and in case if countries are proliferating it lacks the effective oversight techniques to look after them either they are pursuing these biological weapons capabilities or not. Since the inception of this convention till now it has clearly failed in stopping the countries from acquisition as well as usage of these weapons. This is evident as there were many cases after 1975 where these weapons were used as in 1980s when Iraq used mustard gas, sarin and tabun against Iran and many other ethnic groups inside Iran. Another incident which was highlighted was Sarine nerve gas attack in Tokyo subway system leaving thousands injured and many got killed. In post-cold war era, however, the number of these attacks reduced as much attention was shifted to terrorism after 9/11 attacks with the change in global security architecture.

“Anthrax letters” in post 9/11 attacks revealed yet another dimension of bio-weapons which was the threat of bioterrorism from non-state actors. US became a victim of bio-terrorism when in 2001 a powder was transported through letters containing bacterium called anthrax infecting many people. One purpose which terrorists have is to make general masses feel as if they are unsafe in the hands of their government which can be best achieved through the use of these weapons. The fact that biological weapons are cheaper and more devastating than conventional weapons make it more likely for biological weapons to be used by terrorists. Also, the fact that they are easy to hide and transport and a smaller quantity can leave long-lasting impacts on larger population makes these weapons more appealing.  Now that we are facing a global pandemic in the form of COVID-19 which according to some conspiracy theories is a biological weapon pose even more serious challenge to the international security in coming decades. There is no such scientific research which proves Corona Virus as a biological weapon but the realization here is that whether or not it is a biological weapon but world was least prepared for it. Not only the developing countries but also developed states suffered more despite having enormous medical infrastructure. The fact that there has been decline in the incidents related to bioterrorism should never let us think that there is no possibility of such attacks. The fact that world failed to handle Covid-19 puts a question mark on the credibility of measures if we are faced with bio-terrorism. The medical community as well as general population needs to develop an understanding of how to respond if there is such attack. At the international level there is a dire need to develop some strong norms which discourage the development and use of such weapons in any capacity.    

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The ‘Post-Covid-19 World’ Will Never Come

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On May 3rd, the New York Times bannered “Reaching ‘Herd Immunity’ Is Unlikely in the U.S., Experts Now Believe” and reported that “there is widespread consensus among scientists and public health experts that the herd immunity threshold is not attainable — at least not in the foreseeable future, and perhaps not ever.”

In other words: the ‘news’-sources that were opposing the governments’ taking action against Covid-19 — libertarian ’news’-sites that oppose governmental laws and regulations, regardless of the predominant view by the vast majority of the scientists who specialize in studying the given subject — are looking wronger all the time, as this “novel coronavirus” (which is what it was originally called) becomes less and less “novel,” and more and more understood scientifically.

The “herd immunity” advocates for anti-Covid-19 policies have been saying that governments should just let the virus spread until nature takes its course and such a large proportion of the population have survived the infection as to then greatly reduce the likelihood that an uninfected person will become infected. An uninfected person will increasingly be surrounded by people who have developed a natural immunity to the disease, and by people who don’t and never did become infected by it. The vulnerable people will have become eliminated (died) or else cured, and so they won’t be spreading the disease to others. That’s the libertarian ’solution’, the final solution to the Covid-19 problem, according to libertarians.

For example, on 9 April 2020, Forbes magazine headlined “After Rejecting A Coronavirus Lockdown, Sweden Sees Rise In Deaths” and reported that, “Sweden’s chief epidemiologist Anders Tegnell has continuously advocated for laid back measures, saying on Swedish TV Sunday that the pandemic could be defeated by herd immunity, or the indirect protection from a large portion of a population being immune to an infection, or a combination of immunity and vaccination. However, critics have argued that with a coronavirus vaccine could be more than a year away, and insufficient evidence that coronavirus patients that recover are immune from becoming infected again, the strategy of relying on herd immunity and vaccinations [is] ineffective.”

The libertarian proposal of relying upon “herd immunity” for producing policies against this disease has continued, nonetheless.

CNN headlined on 28 April 2020, “Sweden says its coronavirus approach has worked. The numbers suggest a different story”, and reported that 

On March 28, a petition signed by 2,000 Swedish researchers, including Carl-Henrik Heldin, chairman of the Nobel Foundation, called for the nation’s government to “immediately take steps to comply with the World Health Organization’s (WHO) recommendations.”

The scientists added: “The measures should aim to severely limit contact between people in society and to greatly increase the capacity to test people for Covid-19 infection.”

“These measures must be in place as soon as possible, as is currently the case in our European neighboring countries,” they wrote. “Our country should not be an exception to the work to curb the pandemic.”

The petition said that trying to “create a herd immunity, in the same way that occurs during an influenza epidemic, has low scientific support.”

Swedish authorities have denied having a strategy to create herd immunity, one the UK government was rumored to be working towards earlier on in the pandemic — leading to widespread criticism — before it enforced a strict lockdown.

FORTUNE magazine headlined on 30 July 2020, “How parts of India inadvertently achieved herd immunity”, and reported that, “Around 57% of people across parts of India’s financial hub of Mumbai have coronavirus antibodies, a July study found, indicating that the population may have inadvertently achieved the controversial ‘herd immunity’ protection from the coronavirus.” Furthermore:

Herd immunity is an approach to the coronavirus pandemic where, instead of instituting lockdowns and other restrictions to slow infections, authorities allow daily life to go on as normal, letting the disease spread. In theory, enough people will become infected, recover, and gain immunity that the spread will slow on its own and people who are not immune will be protected by the immunity of those who are. University of Chicago researchers estimated in a paper published in May that achieving herd immunity from COVID-19 would require 67% of people to be immune to the disease. Mayo Clinic estimates 70% of the U.S. population will need to be immune for the U.S. to achieve herd immunity, which can also be achieved by vaccinating that proportion of a population.

On 27 September 2020, Reuters bannered “In Brazil’s Amazon a COVID-19 resurgence dashes herd immunity hopes”, and reported that, “The largest city in Brazil’s Amazon has closed bars and river beaches to contain a fresh surge of coronavirus cases, a trend that may dash theories that Manaus was one of the world’s first places to reach collective, or herd, immunity.”

Right now, the global average of Covid-19 intensity (total cases of the disease thus far) is 19,693 persons per million population. For examples: Botswana is barely below that intensity, at 19,629, and Norway is barely above that intensity, at 20,795. Sweden is at 95,905, which is nearly five times the global average. Brazil is 69,006, which is around 3.5 times worse than average. India is 14,321, which is slightly better than average. USA is 99,754.  

However, the day prior, on May 2nd, America had 30,701 new cases. Brazil had 28,935. Norway had 210. India had 370,059. Sweden’s latest daily count (as-of May 3rd) was 5,937 on April 29th, 15 times Norway’s 385 on that date. Sweden’s population is 1.9 times that of Norway. India’s daily count is soaring. Their population is four times America’s, but the number of new daily cases in India is twelve times America’s. Whereas India has had only one-seventh as much Covid-19 intensity till now, India is soaring upwards to become ultimately, perhaps, even worse than America is on Covid-19 performance. And Brazil is already almost as bad as America, on Covid-19 performance, and will soon surpass America in Covid-19 failure.

There is no “herd immunity” against Covid-19, yet, anywhere. It’s just another libertarian myth. But libertarians still continue to believe it — they refuse to accept the data.

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Application of Cyber Security: A Comparative Analysis of Pakistan and India

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In today’s world, communication is controlled by the internet. The Internet is what links the communication protocol of a state to its cyber domain. Cyber security encompasses techniques, technologies, methods and blueprints made to secure networking systems from potential cyber-attacks. Efficient systems of cyber security therefore mitigate and reduce the danger of network systems being attacked or accessed by unauthorized systems.

Despite the existence of such robust networks and security protocols, the exploit of such systems is always a click away, due to the integration of the internet as a worldwide network, and in times of global outbreaks and crisis, internet activity also inevitably increases. This was particularly observable with the spread of the Covid-19 as a global pandemic, which also saw an increase in over-the-web activity, and gave a new breathing space for cyber-criminals. According to estimates, Covid-19, as a pandemic, can already be classified as the largest ever existing threat to cyber-security across the globe, since the induction of the world wide web as a global chain of networks. Thus, it would be fair to say that the effects of the covid-19 were not selectively felt by developing states only, but also encapsulated great powers of the contemporary era.

While contextualizing Pakistan and India in the cyber-security debate following the events of the covid-19 scenario, the trend in increased virtual cyber-attacks and espionage was no different to the rest of the world. The real question mark lies in the ability of both countries to effectively deal with the overwhelming cyber-activity in the post-pandemic era. The government of Pakistan established the National Center for Cyber Security (NCCS) in June 2018, and continues to strengthen its cyber-security domain, with a dynamic change in policy making, centric to cybersecurity and threats to cybersecurity from its immediate adversary, India. The current Prime Minister of Pakistan, Mr. Imran Khan, also launched ‘Digital Pakistan Vision’, with the primary   objectives of  increasing connectivity, rectifying digital infrastructure, and investing in the awareness of digital skills and promotion of entrepreneurship. Pakistan also approved the first ‘Digital Pakistan Policy’, aiming to focus on investment opportunities by IT companies and building the framework necessary for a digital ecosystem. Although a sustained effort has been made to strengthen the cyber-domain of Pakistan, there are many technicalities and loopholes that must be addressed with high priority. One, the lack of an effective communication method, that is free from external intrusion, and allows for the restriction of unwanted network traffic on its master server. In more recent times, an intrusion occurred during the webinar of Institute of   Strategic Studies (ISSI) due to non-encrypted internet connection, which allowed unspecified individuals access to the digital webinar. Two, the lack of stable internet connectivity, which prevents effective implementation of security protocols and acts as a hindrance to critical data packets, that must be sent between cyber-security officials in an event of a cyber-attack or espionage of any degree. Three, the existence of exploitable source code in key governmental websites and pages that are always prone to cyber-attacks, and must be revisited in the near future.

On the other hand, India saw a 37% in cyber-activity in the wake of the covid-19 pandemic; an eye-opener for state officials, who have prioritized cybersecurity as the next immediate threat to Indian National Security. In recent developments, India has also launched several directives to its cyber-security strategy in the post-pandemic era, including the initiative launched by The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MEITY), namely ‘Cyber Surakshit Bharat’ with the coordination and support of the  National E-Governance Division. According to MIETY, 44 training and mock drills are being given to 265 organizations from different states of the world, a landmark achievement in Indian cyber-security history. However, just like its South Asian neighbor Pakistan, India is also equally overwhelmed by the threat and emergence of hostile cyber-activity. With a 45% ratio of internal cyber attacks, and a 38% ratio of external intrusions from proposed adversaries, China and North Korea, India has strengthened its ties with Israel to revamp its cyber-security strategy,  in order to mitigate the immediate threat to its cyber-domain, both internally and externally.

Conclusion and Recommendations

There is an immediate need to extend and further research the cyber capabilities of both Pakistan and India, which would primarily define the different types of technologies and how they are being actively made a part of the National security policy of both Pakistan and India. These efforts must be the immediate need of the hour, with the uncertainty of the Covid-19 and its irregular patterns becoming an inevitable fate of regional and global politics, in the times to come. While India seems to have its primary bases covered, there is no denying that the Covid-19 pandemic did not have a sparing effect on its cyber-domain, either, leaving the door open for Pakistan to make significant improvements to its cyber domain and cyber-security strategy, in order to effectively deter the threat faced from its adversary. Moreover, Pakistan can also seek inspiration from a potential integrated tri-service defense cyber strategy, that is being highly considered by Indian cyber-security and state officials, which would aid in keeping any form of cyber-hostility at bay in upcoming times.

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