Tag Archives: The Middle East

The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam

‘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?

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Filed under Discussion, Dr Reeza Hameed, Iran, Islam, The Middle East

A Talk on National Security in Pakistan by NSA General Nasser Khan Janjua

Pakistan is misunderstood and underestimated. Pakistan and India cannot remain enemies forever. Ruling hearts and minds is the key to unlocking Balochistan’s problems. The world must take India to task over Kashmir. 

National security is more important than ever in an overheated global political environment and NSA Janjua addressed the members of The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA) on 14 April 2017. Trump’s strikes on Syria, his use of the dreaded MOAB against ISIS/ISIL in Afghanistan, his deteriorating ties with the Kremlin and his standoff with North Korea are examples of global events that demonstrate spiralling volatility in international relations. Closer to home, the destruction of traditional secular power structures in the Arab world has resulted in extreme turmoil, innumerable civilian deaths and untold human misery. Stratospheric levels of terrorism have resulted in new military partnerships. The Saudi conceived Islamic Military Alliance – the “Muslim NATO” – is headed by Pakistan’s former army chief General Raheel Sharif. To see Saudi Arabia’s special forces marching alongside Pakistan’s military during last month’s Independence Day parade was one thing.

But to have also witnessed the attendance of China’s presidential guard of honour in Islamabad as a symbolic show of solidarity must have irked India where the present treatment of minorities must be making its secular founders turn in their graves. Regarding the ongoing bloodshed in Kashmir, it is hard to surpass Arundhati Roy’s sublime conclusion that “India has no option but to colonise itself”. China is keen to show India that Pakistan has friends and that the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is an important project for Beijing. Mian Nawaz Sharif seems quite secure against his rivals because of the Supreme Court of Pakistan’s decision that, despite clearly unflattering parallels to The Godfather, he is not obliged to resign because of revelations about his wealth in the Panama Papers. Continue reading

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Filed under Afghanistan, BJP, China, Courts, CPEC, Discussion, Events, India, ISIS, Pakistan Horizon, PIIA, Russia, Syria, Trump, United States

Pakistan’s Seventieth Anniversary and International Relations in 2017

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

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Filed under Brexit, Courts, Discussion, Europe, Human Rights, Immigration, Iran, Islamophobia, Karachi, Pakistan Horizon, PIIA, Russia, Trump, United States

Dr Gunter Mulack: Crisis in the Middle East: A German Perspective

‘The Arab elite responsible is for Middle East crises’ – Watch Video.

As seen on this blog, the German chancellor Angela Merkel has become rather controversial because of her “open door” or Willkommenskultur policy in relation to refugees from the Middle East and elsewhere in Asia. Last year, Merkel was involved in a tug of war involved in a tug of war with her uneasy ally Horst Seehofer (premier of Bavaria) and even members of her trusted cabinet openly challenged her over her refugee policy. The chancellery ultimately bowed down to pressure from finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble and interior minister Thomas de Maizière – Schäuble accused her of being a “careless” skier who has caused an “avalanche” which needs to be contained. Equally, Mrs Merkel has been under pressure from the extremist right-wing populist eurosceptic Alternative für Deutschland (Alternative for Germany) party and its charismatic co-leader Frauke Petry; a 40-year old chemist/businesswoman with four children turned politician who very radically argues that the German authorities must “use firearms if necessary” to “prevent illegal border crossings”.

Given that a million people have penetrated Europe’s border in just a year, Petry argues that the “police must stop refugees entering German soil.” Against that background, German diplomat and scholar Dr Gunter Mulack spoke at The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA) and shared his views on the crisis in the Middle East from a German Perspective. Continue reading

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The Middle East in Turmoil: A Talk by Ambassador Karamatullah Ghori

The region is an ‘enigma wrapped in a riddle’ … the Saudi Arabia-Iran spat is ‘a hot potato’ … Pakistan should not lean to one side and should play the role of a conciliator, peacemaker.

When asked whether he agreed with Donald Trump that president Putin ate “Obama’s lunch” over Syria, former Pakistani ambassador Karamatullah Ghori replied “yes”. Ghori, who is retired and presently lives in Canada, served as Pakistan’s envoy in numerous Middle Eastern countries, including Iraq and Algeria. His talk was chaired by the chairman of The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA), Dr Masuma Hasan, who served as Pakistan’s ambassador in Vienna and also as cabinet secretary. Ghori began his hour-long lecture, which packed the PIIA’s historic library, by emphasising that the Middle East is the most sensitive part of the world. The recent mass beheadings in Saudi Arabia, which demonstrate the sheer brutality of the regime in that country, remained his alternative point of departure. Alive to the “new” Middle East crafted by the western powers – which is based on a dictatorial model of capitalism – he noted that our relationship with the oil rich kingdom is important because of the remittances sent by 1.5 million Pakistanis employed there.

However, he did not think that it was enough to make Pakistan lean in Saudi Arabia’s favour. In a two-day visit, Saudi foreign minister, Adel al-Jubeir arrived in Islamabad arrived on 7 January to discuss Pak-Saudi relations with Pakistan’s leadership. The visit, the second by the Saudi minister in the past 12 months, also explored Pakistan’s potential role in Saudi led alliance against ISIS and terrorism. It is an oddity that Continue reading

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Afghanistan: A Second Iraq?

As the Obama administration decides whether or not to withdraw its remaining 9,800 troops in Afghanistan, ominous signs are hovering over the country because of the Taliban’s recent offensive in Kunduz and the reckless American airstrikes on 3 October – killing 12 innocent medical workers and 20 patients and injuring 37 others – for which the White House has finally apologised and which the charity Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has quite rightly called a “war crime”. The capital of an Afghan province bearing the same name, the ethnically diverse city of Kunduz is a strategic transport hub for northern Afghanistan. In an extraordinary show of strength after 14 years of insurgency and insurrection, in late September a resurgent Taliban unexpectedly overran Afghanistan’s fifth largest city. By the hundreds, battle-hardended Taliban fighters stormed the city in the early hours of the morning of 28 September 2015 and quickly seized key buildings and advanced on the airport.

They took control of most areas and freed hundreds of prisoners from the local jail. Ensuing attempts to retake the city resulted in humanitarian disaster. Notably, in 2009 a US airstrike in the area killed over 90 civilians but it appears no lessons were learned from that tragedy. President Obama ultimately called MSF’s international president Joanne Liu to tender his apology for the deadly attack on the field hospital in Kunduz but it was too little too late and involved at least four shifts, in as many days, in the US narrative. From initially blaming their Afghan colleagues on the ground for calling in the airstrike and denying knowledge Continue reading

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Filed under Afghanistan, Al Qaeda, Discussion, IHFFC, ISIS, Pakistan Horizon, Politics, Russia, Taliban

Shaker Aamer’s Homecoming: Leaving Legal Limbo at Long Last?

The last British resident is being released from Guantánamo Bay after being detained there illegally for almost 14 years. American authorities reportedly informed the Foreign and Commonwealth Office that US defence secretary Ashton Carter had authorised Aamer’s release on 25 September 2015. Shaker Aamer was never charged but was accused of terrorism. His lawyers maintain that he was never involved in any terrorism and was cleared of all wrongdoing eight years ago. Aamer is a 46-year-old Saudi Arabian national. He has indefinite leave to remain in the UK and is also married to a British citizen. Owing to his harsh predicament, he may be able to claim at least £1 million in compensation from the British authorities if he is able to prove that the UK was complicit with the US in his detention, rendition and mistreatment by US personnel.

Nevertheless, Carter reportedly sought assurances over security measures in relation to Aamer on his return to the UK despite Downing Street and the White House seeing eye-to-eye on the decision to release the Saudi. In 2001, Aamer and his wife Zin Siddique had moved from London to live in Taliban controlled Afghanistan. The couple have four children and Aamer has never met the youngest child. He claims that he was doing charity work and helping run a school but the Americans contend that he was a central figure in Tora Bora and that when Afghan militias captured him in Jalalabad in 2001 Continue reading

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