Posted by Anthony on February 4, 2015
As we have just turned over a new year (well, for those following the Gregorian calendar in any case), it is always a good idea to take stock of where we are, how the past year has been, and where we’re going from here. I had a discussion the other day with a friend who asked about how much longer I thought the human race would manage to keep itself on the universal stage. An interesting question, to be sure, since it requires one to contemplate any number of the myriad situations that might bring about the extinction of humanity (even if not rendering the Earth a lifeless globe). Some are, of course, beyond anything we can stop: a rogue black hole finding its way into the Solar System, or a Gamma Ray Burst that happens to annihilate the atmosphere. Some, however, are preventable even if to certain degrees: we could, for example, take measures to stop an asteroid from obliterating our planet though it would require a tremendous effort and cost, just as we could make the inevitably required move off of our planet and either onto Mars, the most likely candidate as a planet, or to a ring-world of sorts, which is not nearly as fantastical as it might seem. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in Culture, Education, Religion, Science | Tagged: Children, Ebola, Freedom, Freedom of Speech, Human Rights, Measles, Middle East, MMR, Mumphs, Parental Rights, Polio, Religion, Rubella, Society, United States, USA, vaccinations, Vaccines | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Anthony on January 26, 2015
First, allow me to start off this entry with a blanket statement: I love Turkey. I visited Turkey in 2012, and can honestly tell you that there are very few places in the world I have been that were as enjoyable. For me, it contained the perfect mix of ancient, medieval, and modern along with the fine balance so difficult to find these days of European and Middle-Eastern mixed into one fantastic city: Istanbul. The people are about the best you will find anywhere, the food is excellent, and history is everywhere you step which, to me as an historian, was quite thrilling. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in Culture, Europe, Middle East, Politics, Religion | Tagged: alcohol, Ataturk, cosmopolitan, culture, Europe, Freedom, Freedom of Speech, Human Rights, Islam, Istanbul, Koran, Middle East, Muhamamd, Muslims, Mustafa Kemal, politics, Religion, Turkey, Turkish Airlines, Twitter | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Anthony on January 13, 2015
At the time of this writing, the streets of France are once again quiet (or at least quieter), and the world leaders who had gathered there to express solidarity with the Republic have gone home. Except, of course, for the one glaring omission: who exactly did the United States send again? One cannot seriously make the argument that there was no way to send a high profile individual to represent the States. While it is true that the President most likely could not have gone (President’s don’t usually go on spur of the minute trips because of the immense background work that has to go in to him going pretty much anywhere), but one could have at least expected the Vice-President to go, or perhaps even better to have a former President who is well known for his ability to show compassion for the cameras (yes, it’s Bill Clinton) march arm in arm with those heads of state. A no-show, or rather, a minor-league show just seems in bad taste for the the United States at this critical time.
Discussing this issue with others, I am amused to think back on the Satanic Verses travesty and how that matches up to this current issue. Back then, the majority of the “free world” hammered Mr. Rushdie and even the liberal left came out against him. How dare he create an allegorical story that had a section eerily similar to the foundation tale of Islam! How few were they who stood up for his freedom of speech, for his right to write what he wanted regardless of whom he might offend. Today, thankfully, we do not see the same attitude being shown in the western world: almost to a one, the leadership of Europe has come out in steadfast defense of the right to offend and for freedom of expression. One wonders here if the last thirty years have taken their toll on the desire of those in Europe to stay silent, or at least to beg not to offend. One is perhaps not so afraid of Iran exporting her (now completely discredited) revolution to Shia Muslims worldwide, nor is one apt to back down as much now that the threat of violence has been realized rather than imagined. Whatever the reason, it is refreshing to see from a dozen states and then some the impassioned voices of millions rising up as one in claiming the (yes, I’ll use the term) sacred right to offend, or at the very least to feel one can write/ draw/ say something and not have to worry about being murdered for it. Finally, we may stop blaming the victim here and turn our collective finger in an accusatory fashion at the real villains of this travesty: those who murdered individuals because they wished to silence them.
Finally, a comment on Charlie Hebdo itself: good on them for going ahead and printing a cover with a picture of Muhammad on it. This was really the only feasible reaction: answer back the sword with the pen, a long arm from the grave, and show that although you might be able to kill some people, you will never be able to kill off all voices who cry out for justice against such a heinous act. When Creedy had finished pumping bullets into V, only to have the latter stumble forward and grab him by the neck, he asked him in an almost pleading manner “Why won’t you die!?” V‘s answer, of course, was brief yet eloquent: “Beneath this mask there is more than flesh. Beneath this mask there is an idea, Mr. Creedy, and ideas are bulletproof.”
Indeed they are, and so long as that remains the case we have nothing to fear from these ruffians.
Posted in Culture, Europe, Politics, Religion | Tagged: Bill Clinton, Charlie Hebdo, Europe, France, Freedom of Expression, Freedom of Speech, Human Rights, Islam, Religion, Republic, United States | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Anthony on January 11, 2015
When I had initially begun this blog, it was to be as a repository for my published articles while I was in graduate school and wrote for the Rutgers (Newark) Observer. The idea was that I would put the articles out for consumption in case anything ever happened to the website for the paper, a wise decision in hind-site. I did write a few articles after the fact, but as life often can do to one I found myself flooded with all sorts of distractions and so felt that the time had come to cease my publications here. This would simply be a testimony to my past for anyone who cared to read the articles.
The recent events in France involving the massacre of cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo has galvanized me and reminded me of why I began writing in the first place: the need to wield the pen as a weapon against ignorance and violence is as real today as it was when I first started writing this blog almost eight years ago. The assault on freedom of speech and expression has now entered (in fact, it has been going in this direction for a while now) a new phase where the theocratic encroachments on us threaten to render us all mute. This is something up with which I will not put.
So, for those of you who have read this page in the past, I welcome you back. For those of you who will find this page in the future, I welcome you in general. And for those of you who truly and earnestly believe that you can silence a civilization through blood and terror, you have another thing coming…
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: Charlie Hebdo, Rutgers | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Anthony on September 1, 2010
By Anthony J. Aschettino
There is not much time left; nobody really knows how much, but we feel that a number less than ten years is probably a good ballpark to go by. Ten years. That’s how long Americans have to decide the future of Islam in America. Ten years to decide what kind of a future society Americans want to build, and what sort of social atmosphere they want to exist for their children in the coming decades.
Of course we are not speaking to all Americans here; rather, we are speaking to “Americans™”. We are speaking to the conservative, right wing denizens of this country who are doing their best, and sadly succeeding in many respects, to drive a definitive wedge between America and Islam. Their constant demonizing of the religion is sowing the seeds of a future harvest that will see the crippling of the America that most ordinary people know and desire, and that grim visage will be an unalterable fact after a certain point. The event horizon is looming in the near distance, and the right wing in this country is hell-bent on diving head-first into it. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in Americas, Culture, Politics, Religion | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Anthony on May 8, 2010
By Anthony J. Aschettino
The practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), sometimes referred to euphemistically as “female circumcision”, is a cultural practice in which young girls have parts of their genitalia removed in order to “tame” their sexuality. The practice ranges in its severity from a simple “trimming” of the genitalia (hence the reference to “circumcision” allusion) to a wholesale cutting and shaving of both the labia and clitoris. Often performed by unlicensed individuals in unsanitary conditions, and without any form of anesthesia, it is horribly painful both physically and emotionally. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in Culture | Tagged: Female Circumcision, Female Cutting, Female Genital Mutilation, FGM, Women's Issues, Women's Rights | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Anthony on January 31, 2010
By Anthony J. Aschettino
In the post 9/11 world it has become increasingly common to link any and all visible manifestations of Islam to that of at least a passive support of terrorism or, at the very least, Islamism. Gone are the days in which a woman who chose to wear a covering across her face was viewed as a novelty in the West; today she is seen as being part of the vanguard for Osama bin Laden and his horde of mujahideen seeking to overrun the free world.
In France, a bastion of secular liberalism in the west, there is currently debate on whether or not to ban the wearing of a full face veil (the niqab), as it has been deemed a “challenge to the Republic”. Truly the burqa, often described as a tent-like garment draped over a woman, can be seen as alien to western, liberal cultures especially when coupled with the face-covering aspect of the niqab; to many women in the west, it represents repression, misogyny, and a backwards way of living for those women who don it. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in Americas, Culture, Europe, Politics, Religion | Tagged: Burqa, Fashion, Islam, Women | 2 Comments »
Posted by Anthony on July 11, 2009
By Anthony J. Aschettino
Looking at the Iranian post-election uprisings of 2009 from several weeks’ perspective, it becomes much clearer as to what the results of the protests have accomplished: they have affected the regime as much as the voting electorate and they represent a new chapter in potential discourse with the Islamic Republic.
The first, and most important, result of the protests is that Iran no longer can maintain even an air of legitimacy about the “democratic” process within the state. In the past there was a general consensus that, if not entirely democratic (the oligarchy of mullahs still runs the show), there was the potential chance for change on more practical levels such as the economy and collective security. This illusion has been smashed beyond repair: Iran will, as long as it retains the current regime, never again have a legitimate election.
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in Middle East, Politics, Religion | Tagged: Iran, Islam | 2 Comments »
Posted by Anthony on May 20, 2009
By Anthony J. Aschettino
Most Americans like it when the media can reduce any complex idea to a catchy phrase or word, since it relieves them of having to confront the intricacies of navigating policy. Take, for example, the idea that better teachers should earn more money than their counterparts. The media and policy makers have happily reduced that concept to the term “merit pay”, which sounds nice and logical; after all, shouldn’t teachers who are more proficient at their trade end up with a larger check to thank them for their role in helping improve education in America? Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in Education | Tagged: Teachers, Teaching | Leave a Comment »