Archive for March, 2011

Lost in Translation: Appreciating Bilingualism

(c) Jim HuberKnowing another language opens the doors to other cultures and allows us to expand our understanding of each other.

All of a sudden the works of Ghalib, Rumi and Hafez come to life. Pretty soon we realize that the English translation of chapters in the Holy Qur’an do them no justice.

It seems that the value of knowing another language has gone down in the world today. Those of us who are lucky enough to speak another language, rarely take advantage of that strength. We don’t speak our native languages with our children, and we never speak it in public, lest others get offended or we get embarrassed.

We don’t take it as something to be proud of. And we really should.

A language allows us to appreciate the beauty of our culture. It makes friends out of strangers and offers some a feeling that they are not alone.

I remember being on a flight to New York from Houston, when one of the flight attendants asked if any of the passengers knew Spanish. Surprisingly no one raised their hand. I only have working knowledge of the language and meekly offered my assistance. There was a young girl traveling alone and she only spoke Spanish. She looked worried and scared. With what little I knew I was able to translate for the flight attendant and make what seemed like a scary situation one of ease for a little girl.

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30

03 2011

The Sad State of US Foreign Policy

The year 2006 marked a stunning wake up call for the Israeli and US intelligence worlds. Why? It was the year that the so called Lebanon War, dubbed the ‘July War’ by the Lebanese people, the invasion of sovereign Lebanon by neighboring Israel, took place.

This same war shocked both Israeli friend and foe alike. Although Lebanon sustained heavy infrastructural damage, Israel was unable to accomplish its objective of eradicating Hezbollah. In fact the campaign backfired, with Hezbollah running an effective defense holding its own against one of the world’s top military powers, exchanging casualty for casualty, displaying more advanced and a higher reserve of weapons capabilities than previously thought, and withstanding the Israeli onslaught.

Hezbollah came out of the 34 day conflict more confident and their successful resistance and reconstruction efforts in the aftermath boosted their popularity amongst not only the Lebanese people but amongst all Arabs. Israel on the other hand, looked weak, heavy handed, and defeated, which lead to ensuing criticism and a scandal surrounding then Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert who eventually resigned.

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23

03 2011

The Human Microbiome: The Bacteria That Make Us

[src] bacteriality.comUsually, when we think of bacteria, we occasionally have a negative perception of such small microorganisms. We are all raised to avoid and hate everything about them. How can these small one-celled organisms that have a spherical or rod-like shape really influence us in a good way? However, in reality with the current research this perception is rapidly transforming, as we are starting to understand how bacterial dynamics are affecting our health. There is now clear evidence that there consists of good and bad bacteria within us and are necessary for our survival.[1]

A microbiome is the totality of microbes, their genetic elements, and environmental interactions in a defined region. For example, the human microbiome is the human body. The human microbiome contains over 10 times more microbial cells than human body. It has been suggested that the human gut alone, where most of these microbes live, contain more than 900 species. We can confidently say that the majority of our body is compromised of bacterial cells.

These small microscopic bacterial cells dynamically interact within us to help sustain us. In essence, our bodies absorb and utilize these small cells in order to help us in our day-to-day life. They act as an interface to our immune system, and constantly interact and function simultaneously with our bodily functions.[1,2]

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15

03 2011

The Divisive Nature of the Concept “Religious Violence”

[src]politicalsoldier.netfirms.com“The struggle of powers constituted for the management of  the same socio-economic system is disseminated as the official contradiction but is in fact part of the real unity—on a world scale as well as within every nation.”[1] In Society of the Spectacle Guy Debord discusses the spectacular nature of modern life; he posits that life is no longer directly lived but is, instead, lived through representations and images. The Western philosophical project of empiricism has led to living life based on observation instead of experience. The quote used above is related to the spectacle of the constructed concept of “religious violence”. Religious violence has been researched, discussed, analyzed, written about, spoken about and pondered upon in great detail, especially since the multiple airplane attacks that occurred on September 11th. However, religious violence is nothing more than an ill-defined concept that is used to create a “different” type of violence in contradistinction to so-called secular or state violence. I contend that the notion of religious violence is essentially divisive and spectacular; the violent acts that some try to relegate to the religious realm are really just part and parcel of the earthly struggle for power and agency.

Religious violence has been heavily studied in universities in the past two decades. This study and analysis has largely focused upon and revolved around violence related to Muslims for various reasons and through various lenses, ranging from political considerations (see Samuel Huntington’s Clash of Civilizations) to cosmological notions (see Alastair Crooke’s Resistance). Juergensmeyer states that “jihad is fundamentally a concept of struggle, an image that abounds in the rhetoric of violent religious activists in both Abrahamic and non-Abrahamic faiths.”[2] This example of the connection of religion and violence as a particularly strange phenomenon is rather unconvincing because struggle is part and parcel of daily life and part and parcel of war in any circumstance, between religious people or not. Juergensmeyer also poses questions that inextricably connect violence with religion at an essential level (deeper than the attributive level related to jihad): “Why does religion seem to need violence, and violence religion and why is a divine mandate for destruction accepted with such certainty by some believers?”[3]

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06

03 2011

Yes, Character Matters

“Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you
really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.” – John Wooden

Your character says a lot about you. Are we sending the wrong message? Are we putting those years of education to waste? How about the countless years of selfless educating by our parents?

The Holy Prophet, peace be upon him, has said that the best of men are those with good manners. He himself was known as as-sadiq, the truthful, and al-amin, the trustworthy. People of every religion were witness to Prophet Mohammad’s good manners. It was known that many travelers would leave things in the Prophet’s trust without an ounce of hesitation.

These days character doesn’t seem to count for a lot. Elected politicians are in the spotlight for cheating on their spouses or fathering unknown children. Highly-paid CEOs are being caught stealing and lying. And in more recent news, leaders of countries seem to hoard billions unnoticed, while their citizens are living in poverty. And these leaders are being aided by governments who show themselves to be supporters of human rights and democracy. The true picture of hypocrisy.

Even some religious leaders don’t seem to care about how they act or talk in public. They are arrogant and rude in front of the masses, and are proud to be vain.

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03

03 2011