On behalf of the 1%
— Nita Chicooree
A brief glance at memorable past political events summons the vision of how burgeoning democratic transition may be assassinated young. Let us define democracy by its basic tenet: multipartism permitting people to choose the leaders that will take the helm of the country for a few years and the freedom of speech which allows dissent and public gathering.
Three assassinations: the democratic government of Mohammed Mossadegh in Iran in 1953, that of President Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala in 1954, and President Salvador Allende in Chile on September11, 1973. All three were CIA-backed military coups.
Causes: the fear of losing economic bargains, US pressure groups, oil, mining, armament industries hovering around presidential power, feared that educated and assertive middle-classes bred by a democratic environment might stand in the way of US interests. Add to the assassination list, bright politician Patrice Lumumba in the Republic of Congo in 1960, whose body has never been found.
NATO allies, mainly France and the UK, were given the green light by the US to protect civilians from Colonel Gaddafi’s crackdown in Libya but their real agenda was soon clear to any observer. By letting the Colonel meet a horrible death in a most uncivilized manner in the hands of his enraged captors, who will be the new rulers of Libya, the West was sending a grim warning to others of Gaddafi’s ilk who stood in the way of western interests.
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A new approach to politics and religion
A daring documentary film produced in Tunisia by Nadia El Fani, a Tunisian woman living in France, who is convinced that social pressure coerces people into observing religion ostentatiously, and hopes that Tunisia, as a laboratory for the experimentation of a new approach to politics and religion, will be in the vanguard of progress in being the first Arab country to adopt a secular constitution.
The documentary aroused the anger of religious extremists. In fact, the call to separate politics and religion was first voiced out clearly by Arab scholars in the 12th century, long before such ideas germinated in Europe. The learned men were considered as heretics, and received death threats. Nothing new under the Arabian sun.
Currently, the Tunisian Constitution stipulates that Islam is the official religion of Tunisia, but polygamy is forbidden as well as the repudiation of women, abortion is free, and the law allows divorce.
Ennahda, the Islamist party which is set to reap a sweeping victory not only in Tunisia but among Tunisians living in France, vows to safeguard women’s rights and those of religious minorities. The leaders are inviting the other parties to join hands to reconstruct the country and promote equality and justice. The onus will be on the new leaders to steer economic and political progress in the right direction.
What Taliban rule looks like needs no introduction. No wonder people like Nadia el Fani are wary of the least association between politics and religion. Her dream to see a separation of the two may have to await a few decades to materialize.
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Exit Mubarak, enters Muslim Brotherhood with a moderate face, hand in hand with the Egyptian army which continues to benefit from lavish US funds. For how long? The honeymoon between the army and protesters at Tahir Square was short-lived. Protesters are arrested and thrown in jail, free speech muzzled in the post-Mubarak sequence. The Brotherhood was hounded and persecuted under Mubarak’s secular rule, and yet, women’s rights were trampled, and homosexuals arrested in nightclubs and thrown in jail. Salafist influence over the Saudi family is no secret.
It remains to be seen how the military and the religious extremists will delineate the political landscape of the country and respond to the aspirations of thousands of people, young and old, workers, educated citizens, teachers, businessmen, doctors, technicians and engineers who brought down the iron-fisted but secular Mubarak régime. It needs be recalled in this context that the working classes in the French Revolution were made to wait for decades before they could obtain a slice of the pie.
Hopefully, Mubarak’s flight will not have been in vain, and the Egyptian people will have their say in the political future of their country. Tourism is slowly picking up, and visitors can admire the wonders of the pyramids built by the great stone-worshipper Pharaohs in their veneration of Isis, Osiris and a myriad of gods and goddesses. UNESCO may keep its fingers crossed and hope that the pyramids do not encounter the same fate as the gigantic statues of Buddha of Bamiyan in Afghanistan. This appears to be most unlikely in Egypt as the polytheism of the past is not seen as bad for business.
The Egyptian military is a far cry from the Turkish army. It is doubtful whether they may rise to the standard of their non-Arab counterpart and carry the hopes of the street protesters in flying colours. Take the best out of Turkey, ensure the protection of the public from religious abuses or, alternatively, fail the public and go berserk especially if the US puts an end to the flow of cash, and bring down the people in its fall as Turkish planes used to do years ago when they were reputed the worst airlines in the world, and Turks nicknamed the national company ‘Insh’allah Airlines’ on the walls at Istanbul airport.
We can only hope that the Brotherhood does not culminate as ‘All are Equal but Some are more Equal than Others’ as in the ‘Animal Farm’ of George Orwell.
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Look out! Big Brother is watching you. The ongoing installation of surveillance cameras in residential areas, in tourist resorts and in different hot spots in the name of greater security is nothing to be proud of. Mauritius is looking increasingly like parts of South Africa where ghettoized communities build high walls and set up a whole surveillance system with armed guards. This is not the type of society Mauritians have been aspiring to.
Imagine having cameras recording all your movements across the island in a few years’ time. It means that the police will have access to all information concerning your whereabouts. In a free society, citizens should be able to move around without cameras filming them in every nook and cranny of the island.
The rate of criminality is reported to be going down. Forthcoming socioeconomic measures in lifting up the underprivileged sections of the population are likely to maintain this trend. If such is indeed the case without the surveillance cameras, can we please get the cameras down?