30 August 2015

Remembering 9/11

Fourteen years ago, on the 11th September 2001, nearly 3,000 people were killed in a terrorist attack in the USA. 

Extremists hijacked four passenger jets.

They used two of them to destroy the Twin Towers skyscrapers of the World Trade Center, in Manhattan, downtown New York.

A third plane crashed into the Pentagon, America's military headquarters in Washington D.C.

A fourth plane went down in fields near Pittsburgh.

As thousands of workers scrambled to escape the burning buildings, hundreds of rescue workers rushed to get in.

The south tower collapsed first and then the north tower.

Around 300 firefighters were among those killed.

The group behind the attack was Al Qaeda, an islamic terrorist organization.

America, backed by the UK and other countries, promised to strike back.

They launched the Afghan conflict (in October 2001); in Afghanistan the ruling Taliban supported the organisation.

They also launched the second Iraq War (in 2003); it has since been determined that Iraq was not linked to Al Qaeda and many think the invasion of Iraq made things worse there, not better.

In May 2011, American troops tracked down and killed Osama bin Laden, the leader of Al Qaeda.

Terror suspects remain locked up without trial in Guantanamo, a controversial US detention centre in Cuba.

The 9/11 Memorial to the victims was opened in 2011.

A replacement skyscraper to the Twin Towers, the Freedom Tower (officially known as One World Trade Center) was completed in 2014.

Click HERE to watch a video commemorating 9/11.

6 March 2015

Oslo Peace Ring: answering hatred with love...

Ronald S. Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress, stated: “There are not enough people who are willing to act against hate and terror.” But, on Saturday 21st February, more than 1,000 Muslims gathered in Oslo (Norway) and formed a symbolic protective ring around the Norwegian capital’s single functioning synagogue to show their support to the Jewish community just four days after the deadly attacks in Copenhagen (Denmark) that killed Danish filmmaker Finn Nørgaard, who was attending a free speech debate, and Dan Uzan, a guard at a Copenhagen synagogue.

In contrast, only 70 people showed up to demonstrate in Oslo at the march organized by the Norwegian Pegida (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West) a day earlier.

Seven young Norwegian Muslims planned the “Fredens Ring” or Peace Ring in response to the never-ending violence. Zeeshan Abdullah, one of the organizers, said that "there’s still hope for humanity, for peace and love, across religious differences and backgrounds.”

The Muslim community everywhere in the world has been sharing its feeling of both disappointment and frustration at the hideous crimes and terrorist attacks that have happened recently in the name of Islam. Another of the Peace Ring organisers said she felt “a bit of shame that these people say that they’re Muslims and they go and kill innocent people.” Muslims are also tired of being verbally abused and blamed for terrorism as well as seeing mosques being burnt down.

In a population of 5 million inhabitants, Norway has about 1,000 Jews and about 150,000 Muslims. According to a 2014 poll, both Jewish and Muslim communities are considered to make an important contribution to Norwegian society.

Following the massacre committed by far-right extremist Anders Breivik who killed 77 people in July 2011, the then Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg said: “Our response is more democracy, more openness, and more humanity…”

19 February 2015

20 February is World Day of Social Justice

Young person in Mexico living and working in terrible conditions

Examples of social injustice:
  • The gap between rich and poor within and among nations continues to grow and promote conflict.
  • 1.5 million children under the age of 5 die each year from vaccine-preventable diseases.
  • 1 billion people do not have access to safe drinking water.
  • Over 50 countries currently recruit children under the age of 18 into their armed forces.
  • 82 million girls now aged 10 to 17 will be married before their 18th birthday.
  • One hundred million more women would be alive today had they had equal access to nutrition and health care.
  • Of the 2.3 million refugees forced to flee Syria, 1.1 million are children.
  • 168 million children are forced to work (85 million in hazardous work).
  • 21 million people are victims of forced labour.

Social justice will be achieved when:
  • poverty is eradicated;
  • there is full employment;
  • there is gender equity;
  • age, race, ethnicity, religion, culture, disability or gender are not a barrier to social well-being;
  • there is justice for all.

Peaceful and prosperous coexistence within and among nations cannot be achieved without social justice.

If the needs of all the people are not met, is our common future not compromised?

14 January 2015

No laughing matter...

It is difficult to be clear-headed and express one's opinion about what happened in Paris last week... This is because so many complex, overlapping and emotive issues are involved, such as (in no particular order):
  • freedom 
  • freedom of expression
  • press freedom
  • the role and responsabilities of journalists
  • political satire
  • humour
  • political cartoons and their impact
  • anarchy and left-wing politics
  • terrorism
  • islamism
  • totalitarian regimes and theocracies
  • religious/social/ethnic intolerance
  • the marginalization of Muslim communities in France
  • secularism and French "laïcité" laws
  • anti-defamation laws
  • the rise of the extreme-right
  • multiculturalism
  • racism and poverty
  • social and spatial divide in urban areas
  • anti-semitism
  • blasphemy
  • iconoclasm
  • protest and solidarity marches
  • groupthink
  • etc.

Here are a few links to help you try and understand more clearly the issues involved:

Wikipedia entries:

> Charlie Hebdo shooting
> Islam
> Islamism
> Islam in France
> Depictions of Muhammad
> List of freedom indices
> Iconoclasm
> Groupthink
> Toleration
> Laïcité (in English)


> Islam and free speech: What's so funny? Aljazeera article
> International: des voix discordantes sur les caricatures de Charlie Hebdo. Contrepoints
> Caricatures de Charlie Hebdo : Peut-on rire de tout? Contrepoints
> Je ne suis pas Charlie... The Guardian
> Charlie Hebdo tributes. THE DAY
> Protests and demonstrations. THE DAY
> A The Guardian journalist's opinion on French laïcité
> The Pope's view. AP
> "France must reach out to disillusioned young Muslims...". The Guardian
> Video from The Guardian: interviews of members of the British Muslim community.
> What are the issues around the Charlie Hebdo shootings? THE DAY

Other sources:

> Statement by the High Commissioner (UN) for human rights
> World Press Freedom Index 2014

Please send as "comment" suggestions for other sources!