Secularism in a Philosopher’s View

A Review of a new book by Akeel Bilgrami Secularism, Identity, and Enchantment, The Hindu, April 13, 2015

In a recent conference on minorities in India in Punjab University, I tried hard to highlight the need to correct our collective intellectual failure to put forward the obvious connection between secularism and democracy in India’s public discourse. A connection that should be apparent to everyone has become almost non-existent in India’s public debate; consequently creating enough space for the Hindu right in India and religious right elsewhere to argue that secularism is trivial and as an ideology is electorally motivated. During the 2014 elections, Narendra Modi literally left no stone unturned to convince voters that secularism is all about vote bank politics, and has harmed Indian Muslims. For decades, the Hindu right has been quite aggressive in contending that secularism is a Muslim agenda, and has been quite successful in creating a distorted image of India’s Muslim community as a pampered one. Philosopher Bilgrami’s book is a valuable resource to further our understanding about this all-important theme of secularism, together with many other ideas about law, multi-culturalism, identity, Gandhi, Marx — and most importantly — Edward Said.

Jokowi Calls for Reform of UN at Asian-African Conference

By Jakarta Globe and Reuters, April 22, 2015

Jakarta. President Joko Widodo has criticized the United Nations and the world’s financial institutions for leading an imbalance of economic and political power.

Joko’s speech in Jakarta opened a meeting of Asian and African nations to mark the 60th anniversary of a conference that was seen as a united stand by the developing world against colonialism and led to the Cold War era’s non-aligned movement.

The Indonesian president said that 60 years on, many countries in the two continents have gotten rid of their colonial masters and become independent nations.

“However our fight is far from over. A new world order based on justice, equality and prosperity is still out of reach,” the president said, referring to the aims of the inaugural 1955 Bali Conference.

We’re Teaching our Kids Wrong: Steve Jobs and Bill Gates Do not Have the Answers

Our kids worship wealth and celebrities. We’ve lost track of school’s real purpose - exciting the mind

By Susan Engel, Salon, April 18, 2015

Between 1848, when Andrew Carnegie arrived in Pennsylvania, and 1983, when “A Nation at Risk” was published, schools had made a 180-degree turn. No longer a privilege and a respite from work, formal education had become a necessity, considered essential to individual success. What had once been a luxury for those who could afford enlightenment was, by the second half of the twentieth century, a requirement for anyone who hoped to get a job and earn a decent wage. Schools were no longer a path to cultivation and a life of the mind; they were a path to a job. And that was just in terms of the individual. Along the way, as schools became a training ground for corps of workers, they also became a means of furthering national interests. The debate about schools had become part of the debate about national power. Which brings us to the twenty-first century.

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Statement by H.E. Mr. G. Khoshroo, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Iran before the UN Security Council on the Role of the Youth in Combating Violent Extremism

23 April 2015

In the Name of God, the Compassionate the Merciful

Mr. President,

I would like to begin by thanking you for convening this meeting on this very critical issue facing the world and our youth.

Today, the young people are in a paradoxical situation in relation to Islam and the West. This critical situation is rooted in two realities that are seemingly contradictory but inherently complementary. On the one hand, we witness the expansion of extremism and terrorism which could be observed as much in some western capitals as in villages in some Islamic countries. On the other hand, Islamophobia is spreading across the West and implanting hatred and fear in the fabric of the Western society.

Where are the youth in the midst of this conflicting and contradictory situation? Have they given rise to this situation or are they simply its victims. Who are those who have created this situation and what interest is it to serve? What is the role of the young people in this equation?

The West Gambles Peace in Europe Away

By Willy Wimmer, Current Concerns, №11, April 21, 2015

In the two years 2014 and 2015 the whole horror of the past century has been passing by before our eyes, once again. These are the years that tell of devastation: 1914 and 1919, 1939 and 1945. It is a terrible chain of events that might be perpetuated, because it determines our lives today and will go on to do so far into the future. In this particular calendar of misery there was one bright spot, that were the two years in 1989 and 1990. Both a good reason not only to commemorate solemnly but to increase talents then received in the biblical sense. A reason for us to celebrate, of course, simply because of the impact that they had on us, the Germans. Much more, however, for the battered continent, for the other promising picture of the “Common European House” it seemed to be more than just a vague utopia. Negotiate, rather than shoot and kill, suddenly seemed to be possible. Today, when we ought to celebrate, only one thing can be stated: from dull, brazen arrogance every effort has been made to make this memory of 1990 and 1989 fade away. Looking back at the policy that has been significantly shaped by us since that turning point in history, we have not done justice to the possibilities which had emerged from this radical world political change. Quite the contrary, we are about to betray them all together. As demonstrated by the war against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and the civil war in Ukraine – both violating international law – the shooting and dieing have again become the dominant perspective in Europe. When shall we put a halt to our sliding down this slippery slope, if not now?

International Mother Earth Day. 22 April

Earth Day 2015: It’s our turn to lead

2015 - Earth Day’s 45th anniversary - could be the most exciting year in environmental history.

The year in which economic growth and sustainability join hands. The year in which world leaders finally pass a binding climate change treaty. The year in which citizens and organizations divest from fossil fuels and put their money into renewable energy solutions. These are tough issues but we know what’s at stake is the future of our planet and the survival of life on earth.

On Earth Day we need you to take a stand so that together, we can show the world a new direction. It’s our turn to lead. So our world leaders can follow by example. For many, climate change seems like a remote problem, but the reality is that it’s already affecting people, animals and places around the world. A change needs to be made. On April 22 we are harnessing the power of Earth Day to show our communities and our leadership that we want action on climate. It’s our turn to lead.

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Financing for Development Conference 2015: Views from the Global South

A Paper by Manuel F. Montes, Senior Advisor on Finance and Development at the South Centre, Geneva, and a co-author of the “22 Ideas to Fix the World”, published at the Future United Nations Development System on April, 2015

Developing countries—emerging, middle-income, and least developed—will be going to the Third Financing for Development (FfD) Conference in Addis Ababa in July 2015 with a set of demands to reform and rebalance the international financial system in order to facilitate the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

On 19 July 2014 the Open Working Group of the United Nations agreed on a draft set of 17 SDGs, taking the first steps toward a renewed development agenda for after 2015. To mobilize the resources for a renewed development agenda beginning in January of next year, the General Assembly agreed to convene the FfD, which will take place 13-16 July 2015 in Addis Ababa. The conference will occur shortly before the September 2015 UN Summit that is expected to agree on the ambitious post-2015 SDGs. Developing countries lobbied intensely to have the FfD conference precede the summit because they have become increasingly skeptical about taking on new international obligations—implicit in the draft SDGs—without adequate resources and the enabling international economic environment to meet new obligations.

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War in Yemen: Blockade of Emergency Relief Supplies a War Crime

Message of the President of the “International Progress Organization” to the United Nations Security Council

Vienna/New York, 5 April 2015

In a message addressed to the UN Security Council Dr Hans Köchler, President of the Vienna-based International Progress Organization, urged the international community to take coercive action under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter [“Action With Respect To Threats To The Peace, Breaches Of The Peace, And Acts Of Aggression”] to enable the delivery of urgently needed medical and other relief supplies to Yemen.

Europe on New Pathways – Temporal or Eternal

By Jagdish Kapur (1920–2010), Co-Chairman and Co-Founder of the WPF “Dialogue of Civilizations”

The wealth from the colonies and the power of the gun gave Europe a flying start in catalysing what came to be regarded as Western Civilisation. Newtonian Science and the Cartesian separation of the physical from the metaphysical greatly accelerated this process. Consequently, vast differentials in power and wealth within European countries became the cause celébre for the First and Second World Wars. This brought about the weakening and later the break up of the colonial structure and the power shift towards the United States. Europe became the recipient of its largesse and chief supporter of its policies and goals.