Political, Religious, Literary, Economic, Bangladesh, International, Life as it is, Cultural

Cultural and National Identity

Most of us have differed often enough with one another on what precisely constitutes culture. That is hardly surprising in view of the fact that it is common for even erudite philosophers to disagree and debate with each other on the raw definition and nuances of culture. The way we perceive culture is very much a mirror of our philosophy in life and of our view of the society we live in. It is but natural that we differ. But does it really make any material difference to a society on what exactly a culture is or on what a particular cultural guru enforces the cultural attributes of a society at a particular point in time and space?

Culture is more like the free-flowing water in a river. It takes on the colour of the alluvium soil it flows over at any particular moment. Culture of a people is anything but static; it changes, it merges, it meanders, it evolves like the life on earth.

The so-called Calcutta Book Fair fiasco had prompted certain coteries of vested interest to make mountain out of a mole hill. At the forefront was the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) which had donned the mantle of the keeper of Muslim Bengali culture. It had self-proclaimed the distinctiveness of Muslims to create a separate identity for Bangladeshi culture.

The party was founded by a freedom fighter who fought for the liberation of Bangladesh or Bangla nation. But the Kakul trained former Pakistani army officer who spoke Bangla with a distinct Urdu accent, due to his long stay in the western wing of Pakistan, ultimately took on the role of a Trojan Horse. When he assumed the charge of independent Bangladesh in the aftermath of a series of coup d’etats and assassinations (which many people claim may have been through his acquiescence), he took upon himself the task of rebuilding the nation in the model of “Pakistan.” Thereby, he failed to live up to his glorious deeds during the days of blood and thunder. The unholy coalition that he forged with the religious right had made him to rehabilitate those hated anti-Bangladeshi forces in the independent Bangladesh. It brought back the ghost of Pakistani oppression in Bangladesh.

The Bengalis in Pakistan had made sacrifices to found a modern state based on secular ideology. The Sufi tradition had deeply influenced the Islam in Bengal. Its tolerant ethos was a far cry from the religious intolerance of West Pakistan that would later spawn into Taliban movement.

The Bangladesh Liberation War was a struggle against the hard-line exclusivist tradition of West Pakistan that was trying to supplant the liberal tradition of the eastern wing and turn it effectively into a colony. Under the guidance of the Pakistani junta from the west, the Islamist parties made it their goal to eliminate religious minorities and to discard the secularist strands from the composite culture of Bangladesh. They cried “Islam is in danger.” to garner supporters for their invidious goals.

It was a national goal in certain quarters during the Pakistani era to erect a psychological barrier between West Bengal and East Bengal in the guise of championing the cause of Islam. There was a crack in that barrier for a brief period during 1971-75. But, after 1975, for the next two decades, that barrier was restructured and reinforced to mirror the prejudices and predilections of the past. The master architects of that barrier were the Pakistan trained officers of the Bangladesh army who continued to look back to the pre-liberation days towards Islamabad for political inspiration.

The balance of power in Bengal in the era of Permanent Settlement had indeed tilted disproportionately in favour of the Hindus. The 1947 partition did serve to restore the balance. But it can just as easily be argued that East Bengal got rid of the over-lordship of the local Hindu zamindars only to embrace the colonial shackles of West Pakistan. Furthermore, it was demanded by its new masters to sever all ties with “Hindu” West Bengal with which it shared many common cultural heritage and where at least a quarter of the population was Muslim.

The Bangabhumi of yore was today’s East Bengal. It had always been the core of Bengali language and culture. West Bengal was the Rarhbhumi which was part of Greater Bengal and had, till the coming of the British, looked up to East Bengal for cultural inspiration and sustenance. So, in a sense, Bengal’s cultural heritage had its root in East Bengal. The proponents of Bangladeshi nationalism had their own agenda. It was to erase West Bengal from the canvas of Greater Bengal with a view to turning Bangladesh into a puppet in the hands of Islamabad’s rulers, who would only be too happy to use Bangladesh as the cat’s paw to further their own interests.

Then there were those who had vested interests in declaring, “Hindus of West Bengal and Muslims of Bangladesh are two distinct peoples; they have absolutely nothing in common” Inevitably, proponents of this delinquent ideology ignore the cultural affinities of West and East Bengal to emphasise only on religious differences. That was the only way they could erect a barrier between the two Bengals. But even that was not easy because a quarter of West Bengal’s population was Muslim. Would the religious fanatics disown Poet Nazrul Islam because he was from West Bengal?

There are some differences between the inhabitants of the two Bengals. But it is not simple to cut off West Bengal from our cultural canvas on the basis of these differences. Religion, ethnicity, dialect, and regional characteristics, all play an important role in defining our cultural ethos. It is as disingenuous as it is dishonest to try to define it in terms of religion alone.

Consider the regional component, for example. The immigrants in Calcutta from East Bengal, from long before the 1947 partition, had indulged in their regional pride by cheering for the East Bengal team on Calcutta’s football fields. And to this day they continue to do so. It pleases them no end when East Bengal defeats Mohan Bagan. The Islamists in Bangladesh
will be hard put to explain this exultation in the football fields of Calcutta in terms of their mindset of seeing everything with religious lens.

Region-based differences indeed seems far more significant than religion-based ones. A Muslim Bengali from West Bengal is likely to feel more at home with a Hindu Bengali from West Bengal than with a Muslim Bengali from Bangladesh. The age old Ghati-Bangal issue has always transcended religion to give primacy to geography instead.The cultural tradition of the subcontinent kept apart the Hindu migrants from East Bengal to India from the Hindu natives of West Bengal. Even some half a century after the partition of India, Calcutta newspapers continue to conspicuously mention the ancestral roots of prospective brides and grooms in matrimonial columns. One may attribute that to the discriminatory practices of the natives or to the exclusivist practices of the immigrants. But the fact remains that ancestral district can come in the way of tying matrimonial bonds between the Hindu natives and the Hindu immigrants in West Bengal. In fact, even among the Hindu immigrants themselves, a Baidya from Jessore or Bikrampur might find it beneath his dignity to have matrimonial ties with a Baidya from Sylhet or Comilla!

Many a nation state in the world exhibits regional variations in dialect and culture. The regional dialect and the local customs give the nation a “salad bowl” cultural milieu. Thus, Bavarians in Germany have the image of hillbillies. After the reunification of Germany, the people from the former East Germany were often perceived by their newfound compatriots as third worlders! Belgium and Switzerland have people speaking different dialects and even entirely different languages.

In USA, the Mecca of multi-culturalism, people speak of the East Coast, the Mid West or of the deep South with very specific cultural connotations. Let me narrate a personal anecdote. I took a speech course in an American college. During a discussion session, one student was frank enough to admit to her cultural bias based on regional accent. She told the class that Jamal has a non-American accent which is okay with her. But if she hears somebody with a southern accent, she seems to struggle with the thought that the person is of inferior intellect!Most religionists in Bangladesh take a victimological stance to justify their prejudices. They blame the arrogance of the Hindus from West Bengal or of the Hindu zamindar of yore from his own East Bengal for their antagonism toward all Hindus. But if they were honest enough, they would have readily admitted that there could be just as much a tradition of arrogance among the Muslims of Bangladesh. For many years, educated Bengali Muslims inhabiting the central part to the north western part of Bangladesh were extremely reluctant to enter into matrimonial ties with people from Noakhali, Chittagong and Sylhet. Similarly, many
Chittagongians and Sylhetees never could harbour the thought of marrying “foreigners.” I know of people from Noakhali who feel ashamed to disclose their roots. Many of them feigned to be from Comilla or Chittagong to get accepted by the Dhaka-centric “Bhadrolok” culture.

I was still a school kid when my father got transferred to Chittagong. It was a big cultural shock for me. I was afraid that I would never master the Chittagonian dialect, which is significantly different from the standard Bengali language. To my relief, I finally learnt to not only understand the local dialect but even speak in it after a fashion. A few years later, my father was transferred to Sylhet where I stoically withstood the scorn of my classmates who called me a “Bangal.” Needless to say, it was a pejorative. It was then that I learnt that the Sylhetees considered themselves to be from Assam. They were telling me that they did not think I was worthy of being a friend because I was nothing better than a “Bangal.”

I am sure I will have far less of a cultural shock if I visit Nadia in West Bengal. If I visit the Calcutta metropolis, I may cross path with some Bengalis (Hindus and Muslims alike) who may turn out to be somewhat different. But I doubt they will find me as different as I was found by my Chittagongian and Sylheti classmates. But then I have to bear in mind an
important aspect of social anthropology – many a person I will befriend in this old city have had the advantage of a college education and of urban living for many more than a generation or two. So, there is bound to be some difference between them and those I had encountered in Chittagong and Sylhet who were of rural background and may have belonged to the first generation in the quest of college education.


Jamal Hasan writes from Washington DC. The original article was published on March 19, 1999 in NEWS FROM BANGLADESH in its Commentary Section.

Economic, International, Political, Religious

Brexit and ISIS – two sides of the same coin

The 23rd of June, 2019 is likely to be a black letter day in the British calendar. Exactly three years ago, on this very day, the fateful In/Out referendum on the continued membership of the EU was conducted under the direction of the then prime minister, David Cameron. He thought he would sail through the EU referendum and then rule the country for four more years in peace. Little did he know that he had fallen victim to the treachery of the hard-core Brexiteer gang and within 24 hours he would no longer be the prime minister of the country and the country would descend into utter chaos and possible dismemberment.

Now, what is this Brexit (British exit) ideology and how can this ideology be compared to the ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) doctrine? Superficially, it may look totally disparate, far-fetched and ludicrous. But when one digs deeply at the root causes or mind-sets of these two dogmas, one finds uncanny resemblance and convergences of ideological objectives.

Brexit bus with the egregious claim

So, what is this Brexit ideology? In the British society, particularly among the elites and upper echelons of the English society, there are unconscious or subconscious desires to gain back the good old imperialism. They hanker after the days when Britainnia ruled the waves, sun never set in the British Empire. They were distraught at the loss of coveted colonies like India and adjoining countries; Malaysia, Burma, most of Africa and so forth since the WWII (World War II). Surely, they can regain all these colonies only if they can break away the shackles of the EU and become great again!

Compare this mind set with the ISIS fundamentalists. In the golden age of Islam, Islamic art and culture, scientific and technical achievements as well as military power were so dominant that no other country could come close to it. They were the supreme rulers of the world! Although those glory days were many centuries back, it is irrelevant to them. Couldn’t they pull back those golden days now and become great again?

The uncanny similarities between these two groups are astounding. Both of them are hankering after golden days – in ISIS case about seven to ten centuries back and in Brexit case about three centuries back – and harbouring the delusion that things would be rosy again. They simply disregard the intervening centuries, changed world circumstances with entirely different geo-political, economic, scientific, industrial and military positions. They just dream of the past rainbow images and desperately hope that they will come true if they want them earnestly enough! They are just delusional.

For the Brexiteers to have the present predicament of towing the EU rules and regulations over and above the national regulations is very demeaning and hurtful. How could they submit themselves to the regulations enacted by ‘unelected politicians’ (which Brexiteers mendaciously claim to be so) of states which had been liberated by Britain in the second world war? Surely Britain should have the most dominant role in the EU; not the state who had been beaten fairly and squarely in the last world war. For them, the present world order is too bitter a pill to swallow.

ISIS Jihadists

The ISIS is in the same dilemma. They claim to have given the world scientific disciplines like Algebra, Geometry, Astronomy, Optics, Medicine etc and now Muslims are told to follow the advancement in these disciplines carried out by the infidels! Quran is the book given only to Muslims directly by God (Allah) and that holy book contains all the knowledge there is in the world! The ISIS now, proclaiming the Caliphate of the Muslim world, is the rightful owner of all the superior knowledge given by God to human beings. And why should ISIS with glorious background follow the laws and regulations enacted by the infidels? They should follow Sharia Laws and become great again!

All of this parallelism between Brexit and ISIS would have been ignored or gone unnoticed, but for the ‘populist’ politicians and ‘fundamentalist’ Mullahs stoking up their respective sectarian narratives. These two strands of people are not confined to the UK only, they are everywhere; it is a world-wide phenomenon.

Populism from Trump in America, Johnson in Britain, Orbán in Hungary, Erdoğan in Turkey and many more round the world are creating a poisonous political atmosphere and vitiating democratic processes to suit their own purposes. The claims such as £350 million per week extra to the cash-starved NHS (from the saving of British subscription to the EU), stopping of millions of Turks (to the tune of 80 million!) coming to the UK under the EU, unacceptability of Brussels rule (by unelected representatives) over the British parliament, loss of millions of jobs due to European immigrants coming to Britain etc. were the ‘ignominious populist’ British propaganda underpinning the Brexit ideology. Once these blatantly false and egregious dogma were thrown out in to the public domain, they are very difficult to put back and Brexit has become a firmly held ‘religious dogma’. A recent survey of opinion poll had shown that among the Tory party members, Brexit has become such a sacrosanct issue that over 64% of them are prepared to sacrifice the Union of this country, accept significant decline in national economy, accept drastic drop in standards of living of the public in order to achieve Brexit! What Brexit will achieve is not important to them; but Brexit must be upheld. This view is no less fundamentalist in severity than the religious fundamentalism.

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi proclaiming ISIS a few years ago had the ultimate objective of establishing a pure form of Islam upholding the fundamentalist ideology. This ideology, called Wahhabism, emanating from the Sunni sect is the only version of Islam worth keeping and all other sects of Islam as well as all other religions may be sacrificed. The internecine conflict between Sunni and Shia arises from this basic premise. The fundamentalist Wahhabi ideology has become supreme and everything else is dispensable.

Anti-Brexit march in London in 2019

Doesn’t it ring a bell of uncanny similarities between the Brexiteers and ISIS Jihadists? Both are myopic pursuant of their own tunnel visions disregarding surroundings and all other factors. This mind set arises from extreme form mental disease due to egoistic, xenophobic, supremacist attitudes. These two attitudes are the two sides of the same worn-out coin.

  • Dr A Rahman is an author and a columnist

Environmental, Life as it is, Religious

Where land and sea mingle

We are used to visualising sea at the end of a land or a land at the end of a sea, but this stereotypical image gets knocked on its head when we go to the western outskirts of Scotland called Hebrides. Hebrides – both Inner and Outer – on the western edges of Scotland offer the spectacle of land, lochs, sea and islands embracing each other in a spectacularly serene landscape.

The start of a sea in Hebrides does not preclude any further land, as just a few miles of sea will usher in an island and then a few miles of land of the island will lead to another stretch of sea or a loch or a lochan (a small loch) and the pattern repeats few more times. Land and sea truly intertwine there. It is estimated that there are over 31,000 lochs and lochans in Scotland alone. Loch is a Gaelic word for lake.

We started our journey by road from a bus station just outside Queen Street Railway Station in Glasgow heading towards Oban on the west coast of Scotland. We skirted along Loch Lomond and evaded few other lochs on our journey and, needless to say, the landscape was spectacular. On the way we stopped at Inveraray (the ancestral home of Duke of Argyll) for lunch and then proceeded towards Oban. Oban is the major ferry port connecting almost all the outlying islands in Hebrides.  

From Oban we took a ferry to go to Craignure, a ferry port, on the Isle of Mull. Mull is the second largest island (area=875 sq.km and about 45km long) in the Inner Hebrides with a population of just over 2,500 people. The island had seen better days a couple of centuries ago when the population was over 7,000 and there were trade links with Ireland and other Outer Hebrides islands. The Vikings were regular visitors to these shores plundering the island. The Norse influence in local language, culture etc is clearly evident here. Our hotel was situated at the edge overlooking the wider stretch of the sea. Just a short distance away from our hotel is the water stretch that is called the Sound of Mull. The name ‘Sound of Mull’ comes from the fact that in the olden days people from Mull used to shout out a message or call for a ferry across the narrow stretch of water from the mainland and the mainland people used to say they received the Sound of Mull.

The following day we travelled by coach through the spectacularly scenic road (mostly single tracks with ‘passing places’) in Ross of Mull to Fionnphort to take a ferry to Iona. The name Iona in Gaelic means ‘sacred isle’. It is truly a place where serenity merged with numinosity overwhelmed people. The most famous landmark in the island is the Iona Abbey, which was established by St. Columba in 537AD (even before Islam was proclaimed in the deserts!). John Smith, the Labour politician and the leader of the party who could have been the British prime minister if he would have lived a few more years, when he died in a heart attack in 1994, is buried just outside the Abbey. When I asked, why his grave is out in the open, whereas quite a few graves are sheltered inside the Abbey, I was told that only ‘noble people’ are buried inside the Abbey. Scottish feudal system is very much alive and kicking out there. We were also told that special permission was required for John Smith to be buried in the island. Next to the Abbey is the Nunnery where more than 100 nuns used to live at any time (until 19th century) and devoted their entire lives in the service of God!

After spending the whole day mulling over the relics left behind by those who served God to the best of their abilities, we left the isle of Iona by crossing the ‘Sound of Iona’ to come back to Mull and then to our hotel. Whereas Isle of Mull was one of the major trade posts for the Vikings, isle of Iona was distinctly a devotional place.

The following day, we set off in the northerly direction through single track roads to come to Tobermory, the ‘capital’ of the island. This capital is not a hustling and bustling city, but a sleepy little village of about 700 people. There is one main road by the sea having about 10 or 12 shops and, of course, a distillery producing Scottish whiskey. They are extremely proud that their whiskey is exported to as far a place as Japan.

Mackinnon’s Cave and Fingal’s Cave in Staffa

At about 10:30 we took a ferry to go to a small island called Staffa. After about one hour of boat trip we reached the point where a ferry could dock. Staffa is a volcanic island with basalt columns and natural caves. The famous caves are ‘Mackinnon’s Cave’ and the ‘Fingal’s Cave’. Staffa is also a National Nature Reserve where birds have sanctuary to breed in peace. Round the edges of the columns, there are perilous wooden steps to go up to top to see birds in natural habitat. But this climb is not for faint-hearted.

After spending a couple of hours there, we set off for another, even smaller, island called Lunga, which is in the range of Treshnish isles. This island, as well as Staffa, are uninhabited and hence it is an ideal place for bird sanctuary. Puffins are there in large numbers at the top of the island hatching their eggs. Our guide told us that in about two months’ time, parent puffins will fly off to warmer islands in the south, leaving the chicks to fend for themselves and then fly off to the south.

Puffins in Lunga

On the last day of our trip, we left our hotel early in the morning to visit the Duart Castle, the 13th century home of the Chief of MacLean Clan. In the Scottish feudal system, MacLean Clan as well as McDonald Clan were at the top hobnobbing with British and foreign Royalties. But as usual, they were also bitter enemies and rivals for centuries. If one Clan became Royalist, the other would be anti-Royalist and vice-versa.

On our journey back, we crossed the Fishnish to Lochaline ferry and then drove through the magnificent Morvern mountains to come to another ferry crossing. After that we went through Glen Coe and Loch Lomond. Glen Coe is the most famous glen in Scotland with deep glacial valleys and towering mountains. Scotland has some of the skiing slopes in these mountains. After that we followed the road along Loch Lomond to come back to Glasgow Railway Station. 

Altogether it was a magnificent tour not only because it took us through magnificent landscape but also it allowed a glimpse to the Scottish heritage and hierarchy.

  • Dr A Rahman is a writer and a columnist.      

Advanced science, Astrophysics, Cultural, International, Life as it is, Religious, Technical

Isn’t black hole a black mystery?

A black hole – hitherto an invisible celestial body – was in cosmological vocabulary even before Einstein’s theory of relativity in 1915. But when the relativity theory predicted with full scientific rigour that a massive stellar body can have such a strong gravitational pull that nothing, no object, not even electromagnetic radiation such as light, can escape from it, the concept of a black hole became firmly established in scientific parlance. But it remained at that time only a mathematical curiosity, as no scientific evidence or mechanism of formation of a black hole was put forward. However, it became a realistic possibility after the detection of pulsars some decades later.   

The detection of pulsars (rotating neutron stars) by Jocelyn Bell Burnell, a research student at the University of Cambridge in 1967, gave renewed spurt to the concept of gravitational collapse and the formation of black holes. A normal star, when it comes to the end of its life due to lack of fusion fuel, collapses under its own gravity and becomes a neutron star. It may be mentioned that an atom consists of neutrons (neutral in charge) and positively charged protons and negatively charged electrons. If gravity becomes too strong, protons and electrons are pulled together to merge with each other, neutralise their charges and become neutrons and the whole star becomes a neutron star. (For the detection of neutron star, which was considered as “one of the most significant scientific achievements of the 20th century” by the Nobel Committee, her supervisor and another astronomer were awarded Nobel prize in Physics in 1974, but Jocelyn Bell was not even mentioned in the citation. However, years later, in 2018, she was awarded the Special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics. She donated the whole of the £2.3 million prize money to the Institute of Physics in the UK to help female, minority, and refugee students become physics researchers.

Not all stars eventually become neutron stars. If the mass of a star is less than 2.6 times the mass of the Sun, the gravity would not be strong enough to turn it into a neutron star. The gravitational pull in a neutron star ultimately becomes so strong that all its mass and its nearby matters are pulled to a small volume and the star becomes a black hole. A black hole can merge with another black hole to become a bigger and stronger black hole.

It is speculated that there are black holes of various sizes in most of the galaxies and in some galaxies, there are supermassive black holes at their centres. The nearest black hole from Earth is quite a few thousand light-years away; but they exert no influence on this planet. The supermassive black hole in our galaxy (the Milky Way) is about 26,000 light-years away.

Despite the name, a black hole is not all black. The gas and dust trapped around the edges of the black hole are compacted so densely and heated up so enormously that there are literally gigantic cauldrons of fire around the periphery of a black hole. The temperatures can be around billions of degrees!

The first direct visual evidence of a black hole had been produced on 10 April 2019 by a team of over 200 international experts working in a number of countries. The Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) was used to detect the existence of a colossal black hole in M87 galaxy, in the Virgo galaxy cluster. The computer simulation from data collected in the EHT is shown below. This black hole is located some 55 million light-years from the Earth and its estimated mass is 6.5 billion times that of the Sun! So, this black hole is truly a monster of a black hole.

Computer simulation of black hole from real data

Although it is a monstrous black hole, its size is quite small and it is enormously far away (520 million million million kilometres away) from Earth. To observe directly that elusive black body that far away, astronomers require a telescope with an angular resolution so sharp that it would be like spotting an apple on the surface of Moon from Earth and the aerial dish that would be required for such a detection would be around the size of Earth! Obviously, that is not possible.

Instead, the international team of experts devised a Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI) technique, which involves picking up radio signals (wavelength 1.3 mm) by a network of radio telescopes scattered around the globe. The locations of these eight radio-telescopes are shown below. When radio signals from these radio-telescopes are joined up, taking into account their geographical locations, lapsed times for signal detection etc, and processed in a supercomputer, an image can gradually be built up of the bright part of the periphery of the black hole.

Locations of Event Horizon Telescopes (EHT)

The key feature of a black hole is its event horizon – the boundary at which even light cannot escape its gravitational pull. The size of the event horizon depends on the mass of the black hole. Once an object crosses the boundary of the event horizon, there is absolutely no chance of coming back. A lead astronomer from MIT working on this EHT team said, “Black hole is a one-way door out of this universe.”

The general theory of relativity also predicted that a black hole will have a “shadow” around it, which may be around three times larger than the event horizon size. This shadow is caused by gravitational bending of light by the black hole. If something gets nearer the shadow, it can possibly escape the gravitational pull of the black hole, if its speed is sufficiently high (comparable to the speed of light).

It is postulated that the “shadow” comprises a number of rings around the event horizon. The nearer a ring is to the event horizon, the more rigorous and compact it is with extreme pressure-temperature conditions. 

If, hypothetically, an unfortunate human being falls even into the outer ring of a “shadow”, he will be pulled towards the black hole initially slowly and then progressively strongly – his leg will be pulled more vigorously than his upper part and consequently, his body will be deformed into a long thin strip like a spaghetti. And when that spaghetti shape crosses the event horizon, it will be stretched so much that it will become a very thin and very long string of atoms!

Is wormhole the link between a black hole and a white hole?

The general perception of a black hole is that it is a monster vacuum cleaner where everything, even light, is sucked into it through a funnel and nothing, absolutely nothing, can come out. It absorbs enormous amount of matter and squashes them into tiny volumes. What happens to this gigantic amount of matter is a mystery, a black mystery.

There are two parallel streams of pure speculative thoughts. One is that when a black hole becomes too big – either by incessantly swallowing up matters from its surroundings or by merger with other black holes – a super-giant explosion, more like a big bang, may take place. So, a black hole may be the mother of a new big bang, a new generation of universe.

The other thought is that the funnel of a black hole is connected through a neck, called the wormhole, to a different spacetime and hence a different universe at the other end. All the materials that a black hole sucks up at the front end in this universe go through the wormhole to another reverse funnel where all the materials are spewed out into a different spacetime. That funnel is called the white hole. Thus, a black hole and a white hole is a conjugate pair – a connection between two universes!  But the question is, since there are billions of black holes in our universe, then there could be billions of corresponding wormholes and white holes and universes.

One universe is big enough or bad enough for human minds to contemplate, billions of universes will make humans go crazy.

Dr A Rahman is an author and a columnist

Cultural, Human Rights, International, Life as it is, Political, Religious

Muslims who stand up to Mullahs are no ‘Islamophobes’

On Sunday March 17, Hassan Sajwani, an active Twitterati in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) quoted a warning his country’s foreign minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan had delivered to Europe at the “Tweeps Forum” in Saudi Arabia in 2017.

The UAE foreign minister had warned Europe about the rise of Islamic extremism within the continent: There will come a day when we will see far more radicals, extremists and terrorists coming from Europe because of lack of decision-making and European politicians trying to be politically correct.

Sajwani’s tweet recollecting the UAE minister’s 2017 warning turned out to be quite prophetic. The very next day, on Monday, Turkish-born gunman Gokmen Tanis brought the Dutch city of Utrecht to a halt when he fired on a tram (streetcar) killing three people and injuring three others. The Dutch prosecutors investigating the attack said, “So far a terrorist motive is being seriously taken into account. Among other things a letter found in the getaway car and the nature of the facts give rise to that,” a statement said (in Dutch), without detailing the contents of the letter.

The Utrecht killing of non-Muslims by a Turkish terror suspect cannot be seen outside the recent massacre of Muslims inside two New Zealand mosques by a white nationalist and earlier massacres carried out against Christians inside and outside churches in The Philippines and Nigeria as well as in Pakistan, Syria, Iraq and Egypt.

While the world gave 24/7 coverage to the Christchurch mosque massacre and white folks rightfully denounced one of their own sons, to embrace their Muslim citizens, there was almost no coverage of the Muslim massacre of Christians in Nigeria just a few days earlier on March 4.

Similarly, on Jan. 27, Muslim jihadis bombed a Catholic church in Jolo, Philippines, killing 20 Christians, yet this attack barely caused a ripple. No weeping politicians, no candlelit vigils and no public demonstration by Muslims in Canada denouncing the jihadi terrorists the way whites denounced a white nationalist.

In fact, Islamists in Europe and North America used the outpouring of goodwill towards Muslims to target Muslim critics of Islamism. Death threats called for eliminating me, my friend Maajid Nawaz in the U.K., Imam Muhammad Tawhidi in Australia and scores of secular Muslims were targeted.

These attacks angered Ensaf Haider, the Canadian wife of Saudi prisoner of conscience Raif Badawi. She tweeted: “Don’t be fooled by pro-Sharia Islamists in North America. They may want you to believe they are saddened by the #NewZealandMosqueAttacks, but fact is they can’t disguise the triumphant spring in their step. Now, they’ll milk sympathy and play victim while pushing their Islamist agenda.”

As the 2017 report tracking “violent Islamist extremism” found, jihadi terrorism has resulted in the deaths of 84,000 people last year. There was a total of 7,841 attacks – an average of 21 per day – in 48 countries.

These figures should alarm Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, opposition leader Andrew Scheer and the NDP’s Jagmeet Singh, but all three parroted the Islamist agenda of legitimizing the most regressive segment of Muslims in Canada while abandoning Muslims who have stood up against Sharia and the doctrine of armed Jihad.

Which begs the question: Why do Christians have the right to laugh at a Ricky Gervais take on God and Jesus, but we Muslims dare not criticize the 17-times-a-day(1) deriding of Christians and Jews that takes place in our mosques across the world?

Just as Martin Luther was no Christianophobe when he stood up to the Roman Catholic Church, Muslims who stand up to Mullahs are no “Islamophobes.”

  • The 17-times a day deriding of Christians and Jews derives from Sura Fatiha which is recited at every raqah of the prayer. Through Sura Fatiha, a Muslim asks Allah to ‘show the right path, not the path of those who earned your wrath or those who went astray’. The Quran does not say who those people are, who earned Allah’s wrath, but according to Tafseers of the Quran and Sharia Law as well as Hadith, the reference is to Jews and Christians. If the Mullahs (Imams) denounced this man-made Tafseer and Hadith as incorrect and rejected, the 17 references would turn into a positive form of prayer. But not a singe Mullah (Imam) is willing to denounce this man-made intrusion into the meaning of Surah Fatiha.

Tarek Fatah, a founder of the Muslim Canadian Congress and columnist at the Toronto Sun, is a Robert J. and Abby B. Levine Fellow at the Middle East Forum.