Cerebral sparks

sparks in my mind unleashed online

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Lover after me.

Here I go again I promised myself I wouldnt think of you today
Its been seven months and counting
Youve moved on
I still feel exactly the same
Its just the that everywhere I go all the buildings know your name
Like photographs and memories of love
Steel and granite reminders
The city calls your name and I cant move on

Ever since youve been gone
The lights go out the same
The only difference is
You call another name
To your love
To your lover now
To your love
The lover after me

Am I all alone in the universe?
Theres no love on these streets
I have given mine away to a world that didnt want it anyway
So this is my new freedom
Its funny
I dont remember being chained
But nothing seems to make sense anymore

Without you Im always twenty minutes late

Ever since youve been gone
The lights go out the same
The only difference is
You call another name
To your love
To your lover now
To your love
The lover after me

And time goes by so slowly
The nights are cold and lonely
I shouldnt be holding on
But Im still holding on for you

Here I go again
I promised myself I wouldnt think of you today
But Im standing at your doorway
Im calling out your name because I cant move on

Ever since youve been gone
The lights go out the same
The only difference is
You call another name
To your love
To your lover now
To your love
The lover after me

Savage Garden - "The Lover after me"

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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Islamophobia and the oppression of Muslims in the West.

Islamophobia refers to an irrational fear of Islam. Negative perceptions of Islam can be traced back to the Crusades and through colonialism, but it has gained new ground post 9/11 all over the world. Most islamophobists stereotype Islam as more or less a terrorist religion with various factions all across the world involved in just a single motive, the Jihad. The Jihad itself has been grossly misrepresented in the West; and this has led to increasing marginalization of Muslim communities all across the world.

The Congressional Research Service came out with a report on the difficulties faced by European countries in particular, in integrating Islamic communities and in creating a sense of nationalism amongst them. The report goes on to say how the British, French and Spanish governments have failed miserably in addressing this aspect of immigrant integration. This, along with the lower socio-economic status of many muslims in Europe, has led to an increased exploitation of these masses by fundamentalist islamic terrorists. From the time of 9/11 various Western countries have formed new policies to contain these "homegrown" terrorists and have intensified their dialogue with the moderate elements living in the West. Newly formed laws in legalization of citizenship status, immigration as well as anti-discrimination legislation have led to further marginalization of the muslim factions.

In fact the term Islamophobia becomes irrelevant at this point, for this discrimination is not purely based on religion; but also on race, ethnicity and class. It is also now a state-formed real threat; similar to the massive anti-semitism that was created by Nazi leaders all over Europe during the second world war.

  1. The religious diversity of Islam and the ethnic populations that practise it are subsumed by the policies of the West and is compounded by the lower socio-economic status of muslim immigrants in Europe.

When we look at the various islamic communities across the world, we see a very diverse set of societies in many countries. They differ ethnically and in their religious perception of Islam. All this is usually subsumed when the western governments make policies entirely based on religion. All over Europe the islamic communities usually form the underclass. There is rampant unemployment among these communities; and most of them live in extremely poor conditions usually set apart from the mainstream population.

2. Terrorism is viewed as something that has infiltrated in along with the immigrants. Many Western countries do not accept this as a problem that has been caused by their own failure to reach out to the ethnic muslims in their countries.

With increasing terrorism; many European countries have created stricter immigration laws. What they fail to see is that terrorism is neither foreign nor domestic ; it is as if the internal and external security policies have been conflated with one another. Part of the 9/11 attacks were planned in Europe; in Hamburg. At least twenty people that have been arrested in Guantanamo Bay are Europeans. In France for example, the police was given extra power to stop and search vehicles at will, to search houses without prior notification and also extensive monitoring of electronic equipment. In Germany, religious groups could be legally banned in the interest of maintaining democracy. In England, suspects could be detained indefinitely if they were perceived as "unsuitable" for living in the country. One in eight people arrested as a terrorist suspect was a muslim. Increasing number of muslims were arrested for other kinds of crimes due to the now -increased power enjoyed by the police. These are just a few representative examples of the many European countries that have strengthened anti-immigration laws, making expulsion of foreigners easier.
The worst policies were however exercized by the US government. The PATRIOT Act lessened the restrictions on surveillance, allowed various personal records to be obtained by authorities, reduced the privacy of attorney-client conversation, and broadened the definition of terrorism to include ‘material support,’ a concept which has not been fully defined. Along with these changes in the law, American citizens have been imprisoned without judicial review, mosques have been searched for radiation without warrants, phone calls and phone records have been obtained without court approval, and individuals have been abducted and sent to secret prisons, as well as foreign prisons where they could be interrogated with more violent methods.

  1. Islam is seen as a threat and there is increasing anti-muslim sentiment among the western populations
    .Islam is now seen as a threat to the integrity of European countries. There is increasing anti-immigration sentiment among the people. This anti-Muslim sentiment is widely seen not just as an increased physical abuse of muslims, but also abuse through political, media and intellecutal discourse. This discrimination stems from the policies towards ethnic minorities, anti-terrorism policies, and legal changes expressed in immigration and naturalization processes. In Europe rejection of cultural differences has thus become more common and more public.
    Islamists are also seen as terrorists in Europe. There is an increasing suspicion of Muslims to be rooted in radical islam; but out of the 358 terrorists arrested in France, only 94 are muslim; the rest are Basque separatists. In the UK, all search laws as well as anti-terrorism laws were disproportionately used against people from South Asian decent.
    In the immigration policies, many European countries have a naturalization test that immigrants must take. This has increasingly become anti-Islamic. Islamic women living in France are banned from wearing the burqa in public and they must accept treatment from male doctors too. Netherlands and Germany show increasingly sexual pictures of nudists and expect the immigrants to be completely OK with sexuality, and other kinds of sexual orientations. It is increasingly clear that most of these tests create a bridge between the immigrant and the mainstream by showing extreme differences in their respective cultures. Muslim immigrants also face increasing difficulties in obtaining residence permits, visas and nationalization.

  1. There’s been an increase in the physical and verbal abuse of ethnic Arabs, South Asians and other marginalized communities stemming from anti-muslim sentiments.

Increasing hate crimes against muslims are also a characteristic of islamophobia. Right after 9/11 eighty separate physical abuse incidents against muslims were carried out in Netherlands, a bomb was placed in a muslim primary school; and a right-wing youth set fire to a mosque.
In England, mosques were defaced, women and taxi drivers were increasingly abused physically and anti-muslim epithets were shouted across to them. France and Spain are also guilty of vandalization and increased violence against Muslims, which includes murder of muslim citizens.

  1. There’s been an increase in the number of political parties that openly condemn Islam and gain popular vote hence.

The dynamics of islamophobia also stem from the translational formation of European Union and erosion of boundaries. This along with pressures from increasing immigrant populations has led to a redefinition of nationalism. This is seen as the Forza Nutva, a political party in Italy wanted it to be recognized as essentially a catholic state, which naturally means that muslims cannot be good citizens. In Spain, while the socialist party contends to integrate marginalized communities, the centre right popular party condemned this problem as a problem of immigrants and not that of the state. The anti-immigrant tendencies that have been present in these states as shifted more to islamophobia as masses are exposed to images of the stereotypical radical Islamic terrorist. For example, the Bradford riots in England could have been classified as racist, but the British National party instead classified it as a natural reaction to international terrorism. Le Pen and the National Front in France have played up on the already present fears of anti-muslim sentiments and have gained power. Italian and German political parties have used similar propaganda to gain popular vote. So much so that former prime minister Margaret Thatcher quoted that all muslims were responsible for terrorism. Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi has made many claims that the Western Civilization was far superior to Islam. In Spain former president of the Catalan Autonomous Government was quoted saying, that it was easier to integrate the Polish, Italian and French populations but not the Arab populations, even the moderate ones. Netherlands however brought about the most drastic political changes, by incorporating extreme ideas such as forbidding of Islam, deportation of second generation Moroccans, and the ban of gender segregated mosques.

Increasingly some politicians such as Nicholas Sarkozy have started using terms such as “good” and “bad” islam. The fact the muslims have to prove that they are good law abiding citizens shows the underlying assumption that they are viewed as troublemakers.

  1. Skewed representation by the media and anti-islam literature have compounded the racist problems faced by muslims.

The media has been sending out subtle images of that are clearly islamophobic. Sensationalist news are now seen in all channels about international terrorism, and in covering such events, the media groups together all kinds of Islamic forces together, and subsumes them under one major radical Islam population. The media increasingly mixes the “Islamic religion” and the “muslim world” portraying muslims as largely homogeneous and monolithic, and inherently bad because of being a muslim; often raising questions of the largely negative ideas that stereotype islam such as status of women’s rights, rising fundamentalism and some cultural practices that the West finds offensive.

The media thus portrays a pretty skewed picture of muslim life in all the different countries. Usually sensational stories cover honourable sacrifices, forced marriages of women, etc and never anything in positive light. The media thus adopts public attitudes and prejudices instead of being informative portraying Islam and muslims as potential threats to the society.

Many intellectuals have also contributed to this growing oppression of muslim populations all over the world. Oriana Follaci’s “The Rage and the Pride” attacks muslims as being part of a terror-religion bent on destroying the Catholicism in Italy. The book sold 1.5 million copies. Many professors share the opinion that Islam is a terror religion and some of them oppose muslim immigration as it would bring in these terrorist fractions into the West. In Netherlands, the prominent philosophy professor Herman Philipse has openly claimed that Islam is a violent tribal culture that is incompatible with modern day life.

  1. There is increased oppression of muslims when it comes to openly practicing their religion in public.

Many western countries have claimed to have adjusted to allow muslims to practise their religion. But this has been done mainly within the legal and social frameworks of Chrisitianity. Attempts to build mosques always have local resistance. The practice of religious instruction in public schools has presented problems to muslims, especially in the context of the blame Islam faces for international terrorism. In 1998, in Sttutgart, Baden- Wuettermburg, Germany, a school refused to hire a public school teacher because she wore a veil. In 2003, seven German states followed suit to ban the wearing of head scarf in schools. With respect to ongoing religious education in school, muslims have always been at a loss. Accustomed to the organization of the European Christian churches, their voices are not heard for lack of an official hierarchal clergy.

Thus in this increasingly islamophobic scenario, many institutions try to fight against discrimination of muslims. Muslims have tried to strengthen their own organizations to keep account of separate events and discriminatory policies. In Germany there has been no dialogue whatsoever for the protection of Muslims. The Deutsches Islamforum is a Muslim organization that battles anti-muslim tendencies in the society. Spain and Netherlands have various organizations trying to fight the dual evils of xenophobia and racism. There has been some community efforts in the UK to battle islamophobia. For example the campaign of the Southwark police and the muslim community with slogans such as “Islamophobia – Don’t suffer in silence” gives hope to some Muslims living in the country. There still is however a huge ocean to cross, to reach out to suffering Muslims in various marginalized communities across the world.


Muslims In Western Europe After 9/11: Why the term Islamophobia is more a predicament than an explanation by Jocelyne Cesari, GSRL-Paris and Harvard University Submission to the Changing Landscape of Citizenship and Security 6th PCRD of European Commission

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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Nested within love

They say love makes the world go around. And they say love can move mountains. Love, the energy of which is supposed to have caused miracles, is the garden where my heart nests.

This garden, with all its fruit and poison, was definitely not created overnight. It was a garden that I was born out of, and into - as my parents' love guided the path to my conception. They planted me; supported me and nourished me; as I grew like a sapling sucking up all the love that surrounded me abundantly.

Drawing out of love, growing in love; I was but made of love. When I grew into an adolescent tree, I searched around with all my naivete, to share this love. I wanted to feel my heart and embrace my existence. Through the school years, I fondly gave plenty of it to my best friend who grew closer to me day by day. It seemed to me, that life could have been complicated; that it does bring with it its roller coasters, but with my heart so securely buckled to the love of my friend; there's no gale or thunderstorm that could as much as hurt a branch. I yearned for acceptance when I tried to kiss and embrace my fellow-tree. It seemed odd to me at that point in life that anyone could be resistant to the warmth of love or the denseness of it. Experience speaks otherwise as we grow. I'm not saying my love was not accepted. It was accepted as long as it lasted. But it never asked for more, nor gave me more. The transaction felt incomplete.

I learned slowly that love abides by its own rules. When we try to understand lovers, we must understand these rules. Often I think of love as the energy that helps one swim across the lake of relationships. When love is left incomplete, when this energy runs out in between, one has no choice but to sink. And my heart did sink.

As my heart sank more and more, I lost more of my innocence; and I stopped believing in love. For three years I tried to resurrect my heart. It remembered the love, and the addiction kept it propelled. And one day; sure enough; it swam itself into another pond of love - the growing tree that I was, had found another lover- tree.

This new found fellow mate captured me. It undid the walls of thorn that surrounded my heart slowly. I was falling in love and the thorns were being picked away. It felt fresh and new; wholesome and nourishing; as waves of love gushed into my heart. My lover ensured that my heart grew out of the love and healed its wounds. My poor little heart was becoming addicted to this newly discovered elixir that it was so eagerly drinking out of. And the more it grew, the more it radiated its love. It gave back willingly and heavily, in complete belief that this was the undying source of love. It found its new nest and settled in as a little fledgling would - naked, revealed and powerless. Little did it know of what was to come.

Soon enough my lover decided to share the elixir with another heart that might have wandered in - only this time the surrounding garden openly encouraged and nourished this new relationship. My little heart was so tucked away under blankets of secrecy and stigma. It was refused any other source of nourishment; except this one pond of love. It grew stifled, full, heavy and desperate. It wanted to re-build the walls of protection; but too late - the love had done its damage. It grew heavier and heavier till the whole system was close to collapsing. My lover was confused. My mate tree had assumed it was whole enough to cover two fledgling hearts, that there was enough place for two; but in the process one of the hearts had to pay heavily and unfortunately it was mine.

My heart finally fled the pond of love, I grew outwards leaving the familiar patches and into newer sunshine. I shunned the addiction and the pain. I tried to heal.

But like all tragic love transactions, this one was left incomplete too; only my heart had fallen deeper and the wounds are fresher. It lost a lot in this feud as it tried its best not to sink; as soon as the love-energy propeller decided to rust. It fled and it swam; and paid heavily. The addiction was too strong, and my heart still yearns for the pond of love and my lover.

Strangely enough; the pond of love seemed to miss this tiny fledgling heart too. My lover-tree had often embraced the love of this poor heart. It is hard for me to judge the feelings of my lover-tree; but sure enough part of it wilted in the feud.

Love, my heart learned, is experience. It is holy and divine; but its power is beyond moving mountains or making the world go around. I now grow in a not-so loving environment as I once did; away from the familiar patches. But I grow slowly and heal my heart steadily. There are times I wonder if I was really meant to be with the pond of love I wandered into; and to date I've never found an answer. Both me and my lover wilted through the years; growing out of other pieces of nourishment, but to me it is clear that as long as this transaction remains incomplete, I must but fight to stay afloat.

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Sunday, May 18, 2008

"When you encounter another person, when you have dealings with anyone at all, it is as if a question is being put to you. So you must think, What is the Lord asking of me in this moment, in this situation? If you confront insult or antagonism, your first response will be to respond in kind. But if you think, as it were, This is an emissary sent from Lord, and some benefit is intended for me, first of all to demonstrate my faithfulness, the chance to show that I do in some small degree participate in the grace that saved me, you are free to act otherwise than as circumstances would seem to dictate. You are free to act by your own lights. You are freed at the same time of the impulse to hate or resent that person. He would probably laugh at the thought that the Lord sent him to you for your benefit (and his), but that is the perfection of disguise, his own ignorance of it."

"It seems almost a cruelty for one generation to beget another when parents can secure so little for their children, so little safety, even in the best circumstances. Great faith is required to give the child up, trusting God to honor the parents' love for him by assuring that there will indeed be angels in that wilderness"

Marilynne Robinson in Gilead

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Saturday, May 10, 2008

Feeling the life inside.

Life is a funny thing. It's funny because it is in a way simple to understand but complex to define. I've never been able to answer what life is, from a biological viewpoint, and yet we all know it when we talk about it; as if it does not need definition, as if defining it is plain unnecessary.

I sometimes dream of how my life came into being. How did it feel being my father's sperm and my mother's oocyte? Did I know it was me when that fateful fertilization event took place or did I wander in giving life to the zygote that grew in my mother's womb?

I remember random events through my childhood. I remember feeling life when I was happy, when I was loved, when I felt close to my parents, when I felt sad, and when I was in pain.
It's so ironic that looking back, it was pain that brought life closest to me. And I don't regret it, for it's beautiful in its own unique way; as if following a special code of the universe.

Around 3 years back, began what I now perceive as an ordeal for me in order to feel life. It was a period where intense emotions were swallowing me, and I almost felt as if I were in a whirlpool of thoughts and feelings. It felt hard, it felt hopeless; and I felt lifeless. I felt as if I'd lost to some super power taking over me. I perceived my heart to be shut down, but that did not make sense; for I still felt things; and these very feelings were driving me mad.

I'd feel love and anger; sadness and jealousy all at the same time. My body rattled through all these different moods, trying its best to process them one by one. And I wonder now, if these different emotions were my own creation or was it something that I was wandering into; the fateful whirlpool that was waiting; ready to swallow me?

It's hard for me now to remember how I reacted at the physiological level; for that was unfortunately what was least important to me then. I'm sure my heart fluttered multiple times, it constantly reminded me of its presence by pumping blood in a strained manner, as if it was pushing out against a strong up-current. I remember blood - the dull red flavor of which gave me unique satisfaction, but most of all I remember my breathing.

Breathing then was so hard . It was painful, obviously; and unfair that it was expected of me to breathe; when I was drowning - in the fateful whirlpool which was sucking out life-giving air, and which was filled with emotions, thoughts and nightmares. And as I tried to breathe through it all, my mind would loose itself in anger; my heart in sadness and my body would simply shun love and all things good. It turned into an obsession - a painful addiction; and at some point I just decided that all this was so beautiful that I must not start breathing. I think I was scared to loose it all - and I'm still unsure what "all" stands for -maybe the emotions? maybe the intensity? or maybe I simply decided that I wasn't living enough if this weren't part of me and part of my life.

And now when I look back; on my re-birth after this experience, I feel life. I feel life seeping into me - or maybe I'm wrong. I think what is seeping in is not life; but this new sense organ - that feels life for me. In either case, I'm unravelling my life from within. It definitely is a calm after the storm; and it feels good. But what is most satisfying and peaceful, is the life from within. I am growing closer to myself, I am able to feel myself; I am letting out my life, and I feel it more and more each day; each minute. The state of lifelessness had created such a powerful vacuum, that as the life is sucked in I am able to sense it.

Indeed, I am lucky to have gone through all the pain; just to feel my life; as it blooms and takes over me again.

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Sunday, April 13, 2008

Dominant Mistresses.
My deepest sexual fantasy has always been with people who break gender rules. No, I'm not talking about bisexuality, but more subtle than that - the "trans" factor. Bisexuality counts too, I guess. I deeply fantasize top women, and dominant mistresses. I think if I was ever to try S&M, it would be with a top woman, maybe FTM?.

I believe that the one who hurts you most, can give you most pleasure. And I'm not into porn at all. Pornography disgusts me. It's so bi-gendered - even if it was gay porn. People don't break gender rules. There's always a "top" - a penetrator and a "bottom" - a receiver. I want more than that - porn does not offer that, it doesn't turn me on.
People who transgress turn me on. Men who dress like women, women who dress like men. Women with strap ons, women who penetrate, men who receive.
They turn me on.
in fact, what is man and woman? I dream beyond men and women.
I dream of androgeneity.
I dream of the middlesex.
I dream of transgender.

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Sunday, March 30, 2008


The concept of racism is nothing new to this world. It's been a part of human civilization ever since the evolution of culture. It has, however, never become more relevant to our daily lives than in the present. With strides in technology, people find themselves living with other people from different ethnic and racial backgrounds, they find themselves interacting with other cultures, and forming judgments based on skin color, behavior, speech and habit. People living in minority groups are increasingly finding it stressful to deal with mainstream authority and oppression, more so with races that have classically held power and privilege.

The USA is an interesting country in that it is a country essentially based on an amalgam of different immigrants. This immigration process started right from the time when Columbus landed. The white Europeans evicted the native Americans from there lands and subjugated them to torture and slavery. The native Americans themselves were a diverse group of peoples scattered across the land. This set the dice rolling with more European colonists coming in to fight for their piece of pie. In the ages of imperialism, Africans were brought in numerous hordes into the continent. Africans from different cultures, from an entire continent, each African representing a different tribe. After this slavery-tide, came waves of immigration during the world wars; with large numbers of Europeans fleeing the war in Europe. And finally, post-second world war saw the rise in immigration of Asians - Chinese, Indians, Koreans, Japanese into the mainland.

So the question of race becomes very important to the people of United States. In spite of this amalgam of peoples living in this country, all the positions of privilege were classically held by the whites - seen by the absence of a single president who was also a person of color, until maybe probably now; among other things.

The US however has shrugged off a lot of its duties in dealing with racism - both systemic and personal. This came to light in the recent UN conference on racism in Geneva. The international community has recognized racism as a necessary evil and has very strict laws in dealing with it. For example, in Germany, there are laws that ban the existence of the extreme-pro-Aryan neo-Nazi party. This should however not be interpreted as absence of racism in these countries.
In spite of international pressure , the US has grappled with policies on racism and sadly, many racists in this country are in fact supported by law. The first crucial amendment to the US constitution which guarantees freedom of speech and expression has often been misused, abused and taken advantage of, in the States, when people propagate hate crimes, hate speeches, and set-up websites of white supremacy. It is sad, that the US government does not see that freedom always comes with duties - duties to human values. In fact philosophers have time and again pointed out that there is no such thing as absolute freedom. While hate speeches are widely illegal across the world, it's so common in the States, that if one searches for white supremacy on google, a number of websites show up - websites filled with racist hate speeches, anti-semitist feelings and homophobia.
One such website is www.stormfront.org, bringing me to the topic of cyber-racism.
It is the first of the 2000 and odd websites that are now available and propagate white supremacy, anti-semitism, and neo-nazism. In many countries these sites would have been censored and the creator of such websites would have been persecuted - more evidence of the ambiguous stand of the US government on race. In fact the US is now a safe haven for the new generation of cyber-racists.
It comes as a shock to many people across the world - almost like a loophole in spite of all the international laws against racism. Five years ago there was just one such website propagating white supremacy. Now there are over a thousand sites, easily accessible by public. Even more shocking is that some of these websites target kids. The members of these websites recruit new members from chat-rooms, which are now increasingly filled with naive and vulnerable youth. It is indeed a pity that creators of these websites can walk free without facing any legal consequences.
The world and the international community are now alarmed at the rise of such websites. For not only is the world wide web internationally accessible, the white supremists now have a way of propagating hate across the world. As feared, this is exactly what is happening. Blocking is of course an option, but a lot of good websites end up getting blocked too. Not only this, cyber-racists can easily set up their own servers or move on to other servers.
The internationaly community, after experiencing US reluctance in dealing with racism, has come up with certain measures that might be passed into practice very soon.
1. If internet companies publish racist material, their directors should be liable for criminal charges on trips abroad, where they could even be arrested.
2. If racism cannot be legally proved, it maybe easier to get a conviction on grounds of discrimination
3. Another legal route to cracking down on internet racism may be to confiscate the copyright of a racist work put onto a US server from abroad. Armed with the copyright, that government could then force any US provider to remove the offensive material from the site.

Hopefully, if US citizens do elect a black president, there would probably be better handling of policies concerning racism. For not only is this a country's problem , but a problem of the world - spread through cyberspace, and targeting the most vulnerable population - the youth.These measures therefore have to be implemented soon, to prevent racists from winning this war through cyberspace.

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