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Archive for the ‘Europe’ Category

The Moral Imperative to Destroy ISIS

Posted by Anthony on July 20, 2015

This is an article which I had been planning, and wanting, to write for some time. The issue isn’t what to write about or how to present the facts; rather, my concern here was that I would not be able to restrain myself from lashing out in an overly emotional morality infused rage before I even got to the mid-point of the writing. Surely, if anyone can bring that out in abundance it is ISIS.

Comparing ISIS to other historical organizations is not entirely fair. For example, to bring up the Nazi regime is to insult the memory of the tens-of-millions of deaths that abomination was responsible for both directly (through their racial policies and the Holocaust) and, well, directly by starting the Second World War. In this regard, ISIS is, as President Obama referred to them, “the JV team”. Their death toll pales in comparison to regimes such as that which existed under Stalin in the Soviet Union, Mao in China (who may well hold the record for deaths), the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia under Pol Pot which, although much lower on the scale for total deaths must be recognized for the absolute barbarity of the regime, or even any of the more localized genocides such as the Hutu extermination of Tutsis in Rwanda. Read the rest of this entry »

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A Turkish Non-Delight: Facebook and Freedom of Speech

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 »

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How Much Wealth is Enough?

Posted by Anthony on January 19, 2015

Anti-Poverty charity Oxfam released a report the other day wherein their studies show that by 2016 the wealthiest 1% of the global population will own more than 50% of the wealth. By 2020, that percentage is due to rise to 54%. Whereas the elites have been getting wealthier, the poor of the world have seen a marked drop in the amount of wealth they posses: the same report explains that the bottom 50% has seen their wealth drop by $750 billion in the last four years. This bring us to some interesting observations… Read the rest of this entry »

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A Few Thoughts on Freedom of Speech

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.

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Banning the Burqa

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: , , , | 2 Comments »

Religious Intolerance and the Law

Posted by Anthony on March 3, 2009

By Anthony J. Aschettino

While in many states religion has been demoted to the field of personal belief, in others it has been elevated to the law of the land and the disrespect (perceived or otherwise) or criticism of the dominant creed is often met with harsh consequences. This is particularly true in the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia, but aspects of the intolerance have crept slowly yet surely into Europe and the Americas over the past few decades where the law has been manipulated in far more subtle ways and with help from other religious institutions who see a common interest in suppressing free speech and thought. Read the rest of this entry »

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Rethinking National Sovereignty

Posted by Anthony on February 24, 2009

By Anthony J. Aschettino

The modern world is the world of the nation-state, a world in which every ethnic group lays claim to their own special plot of land under the guise of nationalism and their “historic” rights to that place. Gone are the days of the empires, those polyglot entities encompassing the ethnicities of a dozen or more groups and spreading across the globe with seeming impunity. The trend had begun long before then, but by the end of the Second World War empires were crumbling wherever they were found. It was a long process, tied to the end of colonialism, and as such is generally viewed as a good thing in most circles. Was it really? Read the rest of this entry »

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Upholding Universal Human Rights

Posted by Anthony on October 29, 2008

By Anthony J. Aschettino

As the world continues to shrink due to advances in communication and travel, disparate cultures who may have had limited contact with one another suddenly find themselves intermingling on a daily basis. Whereas less than a century ago the average American or European might have little to no understanding of Arab or Chinese culture, today, thanks in a large part to the internet, one can not only read up on culture from these areas but also watch indigenous programming and listen to ethnic music on a daily basis. The same can be said for the average person in those regions, and the result of this exchange is that now more than ever the world has truly become one large global community. The problem with this is that, as the world grows smaller, different cultures can and do come into conflict with one another and this has led to no end of debate about whether certain aspects of different cultures are legitimate in modernity. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Africa, Americas, Culture, Europe, Middle East, Politics, South Asia | 2 Comments »

Eating Your Enemy?

Posted by Anthony on October 13, 2008

By Anthony J. Aschettino

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner was at pains last week to correct a comment that was misattributed to him by the Israeli Daily Haaretz. It seems that during a conversation with the paper the minister, speaking in English, said “I honestly don’t believe (a nuclear weapon) will give any immunity to Iran. First, because you will eat them before. And this is the danger.” One can see how, speaking in English with a French accent, one could mistake “eat” and “hit” although the reporter should have asked the minister to clarify his comments when presented with such a seemingly odd statement. Still, whatever word you choose to insert, the comment deserves some analysis. Read the rest of this entry »

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