‘To describe the Rubaiyat’s quatrains as the epigrams of an epicurean is to misunderstand Khayyam’ explains Dr Reeza Hameed.
As rendered by Fitzgerald, the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam has remained an enduring favourite among poetry lovers all over the world. Khayyam is a poet for all seasons. Khayyam was undoubtedly one of the greatest mathematicians and astronomers to come out of the Islamic world of the middle ages. He was a contemporary of Ali ibn Sina, known to the West as Avicenna. Khayyam was a polymath in an era which produced polymaths by the dozens, many of whom are known to the West only by their Latinised names, but Khayyam’s name survives in the Arabic original. Khayyam had mastered many disciplines. In addition to mathematics and astronomy, he was fluent in philosophy, medicine, geography, physics, and music. Ibn Sina taught him philosophy for many years. He also learnt medicine and physics from that great man. Another contemporary was Al-Zamakshari, well-known for his commentary of the Quran. Since Khayyam was one of the greatest astronomers of the Middle Ages, in recognition of his contributions a crater on the Moon was named after him.
In mathematics, he virtually invented the field of geometric algebra. His treatise on Algebra was used in Europe as a standard text even as late as the nineteenth century. He was not known for his poetry, until he was reborn as a poet in the second half of the nineteenth century in Edward Fitzgerald’s translation of his Rubaiyat, which catapulted him to poetic stardom. Had it not been for Fitzgerald, Khayyam’s fame might have rested on his contributions to astronomy, mathematics or the development of the Jalali calendar to replace the Julian calendar. He alludes to his involvement in the calendar in one of his verses.
Ah, by my Computations, People say,
Reduce the Year to better reckoning?
Pakistan’s political system is finally beginning to show that it has the capacity to uphold democratic ideals.
The robustness of the credentials underpinning democratic political systems has been the subject of great examination for decades. Democracy has, since its introduction, been labelled a mechanism of the bourgeoisie — one that retains all political and economic control in the hands of the owners of capital but creates the perception that power lies with the masses. Indeed, many democratic systems have provided proof of the inherently flawed concept of democracy but in that sense, no political system in the contemporary world has been exemplary of the principles that it champions. It is, however, important to acknowledge that in the last two years, political events across the globe have shown that democracy may not be that bad after all. In August 2016, Dilma Rousseff— the then president of Brazil was impeached because she allegedly manipulated the federal budget, increasing the political backlash the government was receiving because of its various corruption scandals.
Such probes and allegations have now become a regular occurrence in Brazil with Michel Temer — the current president of Brazil, recently becoming the country’s first president to be formally charged with a crime while in office. In similar fashion, South Korea’s apex court recently upheld the impeachment of Park Geun-hye who became the country’s first democratically elected leader to be forced from office by its parliament over a wide range of corruption scandals. These events are visibly proving that separation of powers between the government and the judiciary and ensuring that the judiciary is genuinely autonomous will bear fruit in the form of accountability; even in states that have grueling histories of rampant corruption. Continue reading
No crisis today remains regional. There is no such thing as isolated or insulated regions … watch video
The fragmentation of the Middle East into a collection of interest groups has become a defining feature of the region’s political economy. “Palestine is essentially an Arab country, and must remain so,” was the uncompromising response given by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru in 1947 to requests made by Albert Einstein, at the behest of Zionist leaders, to support the creation of the state of Israel. Seven decades later the atmosphere is rather different and Modi has comprehensively cemented ties with Israel by becoming the first Indian prime minister to make an official visit to Israel, a premier supplier of arms and military technology to New Delhi. The passage of seventy years has resulted in the rise of new power brokers such as the Saudis who are accused of being the primary supporters of state sponsored terrorism in an official report, the publication of which is deliberately being withheld by the British government as it does not want to damage booming arms sales to Riyadh: bombs used to kill innocent civilians in Yemen. All this squares up poorly with Trump’s claim that Iran is the foremost pariah state.
The ongoing ostracism of Qatar shows that the Saudis want to call the shots on everything on their terms. In a session chaired by Dr Masuma Hasan, Javed Jabbar gave an insightful talk on the mechanics underpinning Iran, Qatar, Saudi Arabia’s relations with the US. The event was widely reported in the media and extracts of the reportage are available below. Jabbar bemoaned Saudi hegemony and recalled that the 13 sweeping demands that Saudi Arabia had made of Qatar sounded frightfully similar to a power point presentation conjured up by global management consulting firm McKinsey & Company – a favourite of King Salman bin Abdulaziz. According to Jabbar, one cannot ignore the fact that only six years ago, Saudi Arabia and Qatar jointly invested in an Israeli company called IDA Holdings. Continue reading
Filed under Discussion, Events, Human Rights, India, Iran, Israel, Pakistan, Palestine, The Middle East, Trump, UK, United States
Obama was a man of consensus … Trump is Obama’s antithesis and is like a bull in a China shop – watch video
His blackness and Muhammad Ali antics and punchy talk endeared him to poor non-white folks everywhere. Many whites loved him equally. But the black president who set out to do so much achieved alarmingly little. His administration conducted more drone attacks than his predecessor George Bush and he deported more immigrants than any other president. He was spineless on Syria and failed to close down Guantánamo Bay. A very ugly aspect of Obama’s legacy is that his failing administration ultimately came to be replaced by Trump’s extremists who are determined to erase all signs of his blackness from the White House. But at least he did not make personal attacks on journalists. For historian Simon Schama, Trump’s America points to Kennedy’s nation of migrants being afflicted by a “split personality”. Yet Schama also stresses “the moral stench of xenophobia is nothing new in US history.” Novelist Viet Thanh Nguyen, author of The Refugees and the Pulitzer Prize winning book The Sympathizer, says “the refugee embodies fear, failure and flight”. Despite opposing Trump, he argues with some vehemence “it is un-American to be a refugee”.
Margaret Thatcher’s biographer Charles Moore, a leading proponent of Brexit and an influential right-wing pundit, called Trump a “cruel jester” not long ago. More recently he wrote: “Trump’s style makes other politicians feel that he is almost as dangerous a friend as an enemy”. Moore said May was “embarrassed in Ankara” while meeting Erdoğan as she knew nothing of the Muslim ban affecting dual British nationals but weirdly claimed a “special relationship” with America. But now John Bercow, the speaker of the House of Commons, has embarrassed her by stating that Trump is “unfit” to address MPs. Continue reading
Filed under Brexit, Discussion, Drones, Europe, Human Rights, Iran, Islamophobia, PIIA, Politics, Russia, Syria, The Middle East, UK, United States
Pakistan must not pay the price for the adventurism of other countries
Immigration crackdowns are a commonly used political ploy in western countries but president Trump has infamously institutionalised Islamophobia by banning Muslims from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen from entering the US. Sir Mo Farah, the Somali born British super-athlete denounced the American president by saying that the “Queen made me a knight, Donald Trump made me an alien”. Kim Kardashian highlighted that more Americans die falling out of bed annually (737) rather than those killed by jihadists (2). Theresa May “does not agree” with the Muslim ban. The vicar’s daughter also claims that the UK will not sleepwalk into America’s dirty wars. But the tough talking prime minister, decked out in her trendy clothes and bright red nail polish, could not resist his charms and held hands with him as they walked down a tricky slope in the White House to show off their “special relationship”. But since he wants to make a fantastic success of Brexit – which he calls a “wonderful thing” – how could she resist?
The recent UK Supreme Court decision that she cannot unilaterally trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty and bypass Parliament has not gotten her off to a flying start. Her new best friend’s Muslim ban has also suffered a blow at the hands of a federal judge in New York. British foreign secretary Boris Johnson branded the ban “divisive and wrong” and there is public pressure to cancel Trump’s state visit to the UK later this year. According to the New York Times, “it would take massive effort to create a trade deal if even minimal effect” and of course no deal is legal until the UK remains in the EU. Continue reading
Filed under Brexit, Courts, Discussion, Europe, Human Rights, Immigration, Iran, Islamophobia, Karachi, Pakistan Horizon, PIIA, Russia, Trump, United States
‘Power depends on economics and not on military forces’ – Watch Video
Professor Conrad Schetter, Associated Member of the Center for Development Research (ZEF), Directorate of the University of Bonn, Federal Republic of Germany recently addressed the members of The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA) on A German Perspective on Pakistan and Its Big Neighbours. He is a notable scholar and some of his coauthored publications include Local Security-Making in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan (2016), Security: What Is It? What Does It Do? (2016) and Protected Rather Than Protracted: Strengthening Displaced Persons in Peace Processes (2015). His key expertise concerns the civil-military nexus, the politics of interventions and local politics. Professor Schetter is also involved in numerous ongoing projects including On the phenomenon of so-called Islamic State (IS) in Afghanistan and Protected rather than protracted – Strengthening refugees and peace.
In his talk on 13 December 2016 chaired by Dr Masuma Hasan, he emphasised Germany’s strong relationship with Pakistan pointing out in that regard that the name of Allama Muhammad Iqbal, Pakistan’s national poet, is very significant because he studied in Germany and was awarded his PhD from Munich University. He also highlighted that it is high time for Pakistan to realign its tactics in its own neighbourhood because in today’s global politics, economic power is more important than military or strategic power. Continue reading
Filed under Afghanistan, Al Qaeda, China, CPEC, Discussion, Events, India, Iran, Pakistan, Peace building, Politics, United States
‘Hillary’s rise to fame as a presidential candidate was paved by the struggle of many women before her’ argues Dr Masuma Hasan.
Hillary Clinton lost the US presidential election on 8 November against the prediction of so many experienced political pundits. She said all the right things and raised all the right issues during her campaign: unity in diversity, inclusiveness for all races and communities, building bridges instead of walls, health care and social security, equal opportunities for women, tolerance for all faiths, especially for the endangered Muslim community, reaching out for the marginalized and the poor, protection for women’s reproductive rights and the rights of gay and lesbian groups. Donald Trump, her adversary, scandalized with his crude references to women, his attacks on Muslims whom he promised to debar from entering the United States, on Mexicans to prevent whose entry he would build a wall along the Mexico-US border, calling them rapists, his determination to dismantle Barack Obama’s health care scheme, cut taxes for the rich, which would lead to more investment and jobs, protect ownership of weapons, and thereby make America great again.
Trump became the subject of disgust as one woman after another came forward to accuse him of sexual assault. He had no experience whatever of public office or governance, he had never been a member of either house of Congress. He surprised his fellow Americans by lack of knowledge of world affairs, and by praising Vladimir Putin. On the campaign trail his vocabulary was so limited that he could not string three consecutive sentences coherently. Continue reading