Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Common Enemy Or Equally The Enemy?

by Cisca Zarmansyah on Wednesday, June 29, 2011 at 3:33pm

"History is a race between education and catastrophe." (HG Wells)

It is important to explain again to everyone about the central role of education on the future of a nation. Actual progress of a nation's history is often at stake for anyone who feels that investing in education is not important. It's not uncommon the effect of education can also make a country feel truest and most civilized, so all kinds of science and knowledge are deployed to dominate others in order to maintain its reputation as a developed country. Part of the role that's being done by Americans in Afghanistan and Pakistan by the CIA.

The CIA often do surveillance to identify various threats, both directly and indirectly against the United States. Before a decision is taken, both related to problems of individuals, institutions or other countries, the CIA typically provide a kind of resume of what steps should be taken by its administration, including for attacking a country. That's what happens when America made the decision to invade Iraq and Afghanistan. What is the result of a policy? A war with the victims of thousands to millions of people, either directly or indirectly. Even the living continues to suffer, especially children who should be sitting in school.

We believe that not all behavior of Americans is identical with the CIA's policy. At least one picture was given by Greg Mortenson, a mountaineer who failed to conquer the Himalayas, which was extremely quiet because he did not have good communication skills, and at first also did not have a clear vision of life. In a perverted from his failure to climb the Himalayas, Greg found his spiritual teacher in the village of Korphe, on the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan, Haji Ali. In his interactions with Haji Ali, he discovered his life purpose, which was dramatically depicted in the book "Three Cups of Tea".

The warmth of sipping tea brought Greg convinced that he must return back from Korphe with one goal: building the schools. After 17 years of work in half the provinces in Afghanistan and in Pakistan, Greg with his agency that called Central Asia Institute (CAI) managed to build as many as 131 schools with approximately 58 thousand elementary and secondary level students, mostly women. A Greg with his CAI as if he was racing with the CIA, to prove which one was more effective and faster in handling the conflict with the Taliban. Unlike the CIA's use of brute force approach through war, CAI deal with the violence by giving children as many books, teachers, and schools. Greg conviction based on his exhaustive research on education, especially education for girls was much needed by the people of Afghanistan, which was always regarded as a fundamentalist, and therefore must be fought.

Greg found the evidence that an educated woman was capable to hold the most suffer children from war, because the social and psychological consequences of conflict and more coming to them. The experience of his childhood in Tanzania also added to the belief that education for girls was much more important, because to educate the girls was equal to educate a community. An African Proverb that he often used was, '"If you teach a boy, you educate an individual. But if you teach a girl, you educate a community."

The CAI concentration now is to build as many opportunities as possible for girls to have access to education. Competition between the CIA and the CAI is ongoing fierce in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The effects of Three Cups of Tea that was originally only conceived by Greg, is now mandatory to understand and be understood by every Pentagon's employee and the CIA who want to charge into Afghanistan. The awareness to help children who are less fortunate and do not attend school are also growing rapidly in America because the book "Three Cups of Tea". It can be seen from the rapid number of donors coming into his CAI.

Education, in a very broad diasfora, does give a lot of opportunities and chances for the future of a nation. Greg is just trying to prove that there are other ways to build relationships towards a better than war. If we reflect on what is done by Greg, a key element in building a new awareness for education is a mutual trust and sincerity. I'm sure there will be plenty of people like Greg Mortenson who understand that education for children who are less fortunate is very important in order to build their future.

( CLA - 62911/Ed/Op)

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Jan Pepijn Servaas : He is on 60 Minutes:​ eo/watch/?id=7363068n

Jan Pepijn Servaas : The Greg Mortenson Scandal: One University's Bitter Cup of Tea By Cary Stemle Wednesday, Apr. 20, 2011.

Every year, the University of Louisville gives out five $100,000 Grawemeyer Awards. Most of the recipients aren't celebrities — mainly academics outstanding in their fields of expertise. Mikhail Gorbachev, who won one in 1994, was a rare awardee who was also a global star. This time around, however, a faculty member nominated a famous name and, after the candidacy was very well received in the selection process, the university announced on April 14 that Greg Mortenson, author of Three Cups of Tea, was a winner of the 2011 Grawemeyer education prize.

Two days later, however, the school, like the rest of the country, learned of an exposé by CBS's 60 Minutes that alleged that some of the most dramatic episodes in the best-selling book and its popular sequel were inaccurate, if not largely fabricated. Moreover, serious questions have been raised over the way Mortenson has run his nonprofit Central Asian Institute (CAI) and the way it pursues its objective of building schools and educating girls in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The university has not yet decided whether to rescind the award, says Allan Dittmer, executive director of the awards, which are named for an alumnus, H. Charles Grawemeyer, who endowed the honors. Mortenson, a Nobel Peace Prize nominee for the past couple of years, remains a very popular figure among the thousands who have contributed to the CAI and to his Pennies for Peace campaign, which encouraged American schoolchildren to contribute loose change toward the author's Afghan and Pakistani goals. President Obama gave $100,000 from his own 2008 Nobel Peace Prize award to the CAI. "A bazillion questions are surfacing, and I'm guessing those will be looked into very carefully," Dittmer told TIME. "We'll wait to see if he's vindicated, and if not we may have to make a tough decision."

There are numerous allegations against Mortenson. Beyond the 60 Minutes investigation that aired on April 17, they are detailed and documented by another best-selling author, Jon Krakauer (Into Thin Air), in an e-book published on April 18 by Byliner Originals (a company owned by John Tayman, the editor of's Techland). Among several claims: that Mortenson conflated two towns in the Pakistani-ruled sector of Kashmir and reneged on a promise to the initial town he visited to confer on it the first school he built; that Mortenson transformed what was a warm, leisurely visit with frontier tribesmen in Pakistan into his kidnapping by Taliban, even though there were no Taliban in the area at the time; and being such an accountant's nightmare that internal auditors were afraid he would be liable for up to $23 million in back taxes for "excessive benefits" taken out of CAI funds.

On April 18, Mortenson responded to most of the charges in an interview that ran on the website of Outside magazine. He admitted to "omissions and compressions" in his first book but denied Krakauer and CBS's claim that he did not get to the town at the center of the narrative until a year after the events he described. He said there were villagers who could corroborate his account but argued that the residents of the region find "Westerners' emphasis on time confusing." Mortenson also insisted that he was kidnapped, though he allowed that his abductors did not call themselves Taliban. As for the allegations of using the CAI as a virtual ATM, he says that consultants have told him "basically we've done nothing wrong" and that "as much as it would be great to separate everything, we're all intricately woven ... I'm really the only reason CAI can exist right now."

(Additional points of contention: one of Krakauer's sources is a self-confessed [though penitent] embezzler who ran Mortenson's operations in Pakistan; a minor source, as Krakauer makes clear in a note, is a con man and fugitive from the law who passed a false rumor that he had kidnapped Mortenson in order to extort money from his tribal kin who were the American's hosts.)

As it was, the CBS and Krakauer investigations were reaching a crux just as the University of Louisville was about to announce that Mortenson had won the $100,000 prize. 60 Minutes first reached Mortenson's wife on March 30 and the next day got in touch with his staff. But Mortenson claims he never directly received the e-mail queries the show's Steve Kroft told him he had sent. (Kroft would also attempt to ambush interview Mortenson on April 14 at an Atlanta event, to no avail.) As for Krakauer, he first requested an interview with Mortenson on April 13 and both sides agreed to an April 16 meeting. But Mortenson begged off for health reasons and also refused to be audiotaped. He told Outside, "Once I realized how deep and dirty this whole thing was, I realized I couldn't trust him enough to meet him in the middle of a field without any clothes on."

Louisville knew early on that Mortenson could not make the official April 13 awards dinner but had a terrible time trying to get him to commit to an alternate date. "It was like trying to get in touch with a CEO," Bill Bush, who oversees the Grawemeyer Award in Education, told TIME. "He has layers of people. I never had the opportunity to talk to him — I was only talking to his staff." Only about a week before the dinner did Mortenson's office return a signed agreement that committed him to a requisite appearance in Louisville to accept the award — in September. (The school could only announce the award on the 14th after the university trustees signed off on the deal.) Dittmer told TIME that Mortenson's staff "gave no indication at all of any problems" when they returned the contract. "The first anyone here was aware of an issue was on Saturday when they ran a 60 Minutes preview. It's alarming to those of us who have worked on this for years." The Grawemeyer staff has tried to contact Mortenson since the story broke. "When you do, you don't get very far," Bush says.

John Ferré, a Louisville professor of communications who has helped judge previous Grawemeyer Awards, says the university is a victim of unfortunate timing. "You do everything you can to ensure you have a powerful idea that we want to champion, which is what the awards are for," he says. "By the time it gets to the award, you assume the facts have been checked. The university, in my mind, is behaving honorably. We give a tremendous series of prizes, and it's possible this one was mistaken. It's also possible this one is not mistaken. I don't think the jury is in yet."

But one person can claim that she spoke forcefully against Mortenson's selection as the winner. "Greg's story took the vast majority of favorable opinions," Tori Murden McClure, a member of the Grawemeyer education committee, told TIME. "I spoke in favor of Linda Darling-Hammond, a professor of education at Stanford, whose research I found to be far more extensive and compelling. A faculty member swung a little in my direction, but both of us conceded to a clear majority." The current president of Spalding University in downtown Louisville, McClure says, "I had no basis in fact for having the heebie-jeebies about him. Greg's done lot of good. He doesn't have to embellish with stories of derring-do that didn't happen. Meanwhile, there was a fabulous book about education in America, and the committee wouldn't look at it because you have this alleged superhero."
— With reporting by Howard Chua-Eoan / New York City

Source:​ ation/article/0,8599,20662​39,00.html

Jan Pepijn Servaas : Why Three Cups of Tea are Not Enough — by Aryn Baker Monday, April 18, 2011

I will be the first to admit that I was an early adopter of Greg Mortenson's Three Cups of Tea. When it first came out I reviewed it for TIME, and named it one of the 10 best books of 2006. I gave it out as Christmas presents, and encouraged my mother to read it in her book club. By no stretch of the imagination was it a work of great literary import, but I loved it because it revealed a different Pakistan than the one dominating headlines at the time. It proposed an alternative to the American anti-terrorist predator drone program that had started up that year in the mountainous tribal areas between Pakistan and Afghanistan. It demonstrated why spending on schools was just as important, if not more so, than defense spending.

I won't claim the same level of suspicion evinced by Jon Krakauer in last night's 60 Minutes piece. No, I bought Mortenson's tale of rescue and promises kept wholesale. But there was always something that bothered me about the book, something that left me, well, a little thirsty. It wasn't until a few years later that I figured it out. On a hike in northeast Afghanistan, not far from the Pakistani border, I came across one of Mortenson's school buildings, complete with the trademark white star. Eagerly I asked my guide about it, hoping to hear a heartwarming tale of girls in school. Nope. My guide dismissed it as a well-appointed sheep corral. Why? There were no teachers.

True or not, Greg Mortenson's books have done more to promote the cause of education in developing countries than any other organization I have come across. That said, his books, his speaking tours and his NGO, the Central Asia Institute, have overlooked the most essential part of education anywhere: good teachers. Be it a charter school in Queens or an elementary school in Sarhad Broghil (where I first saw a Mortenson school), a school is just a building if it doesn't have teachers.

Sure, it tugs at the heartstrings to see girls studying in tents, or sitting under trees. And eventually, it does keep older girls from attending but at least they are learning. The problem is, there are not enough well educated teachers to fill all the schools that Mortenson, and international donors, have built in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The problems are obvious: lack of salary, lack of higher education, an unwillingness to send older female students to male teachers and the resulting lack of educated female teachers to instruct the next generation.

So now that Mortenson's book has been thrown open to investigation, let's not forget to tackle the central premise: that building schools is enough to make a change.
Source: http://globalspin.blogs.ti​​e-cups-of-tea-are-not-enou​gh/ 

Jan Pepijn Servaas : Afghanistan's Girl Gap - By Aryn Baker / Karokh District, Herat Thursday, Jan. 17, 2008

(1/2) : Nothing gives principal Suraya Sarwary more pleasure than the sound of her second-grade girls reciting a new lesson out loud. Six years ago, that sound could have gotten her executed. The Taliban had outlawed education for girls, but a few brave teachers taught them in secret. Sarwary, now the principal of Karokh District Girls High School in Afghanistan's Herat province, recalls gathering students furtively in her home and imparting lessons in whispers for fear that her neighbors might report her to the Taliban.

These days the biggest risk posed by the girls' enthusiastic recitation is that it may drown out the math lesson next door. Basira, a thin 8-year-old whose obligatory white head scarf is actually a cotton dish towel printed with Korean characters, stands before the class. She is learning to read today's lesson, which the teacher has written out on a makeshift blackboard propped up on a wobbly easel. "A vegetable should be washed before it is eaten," she reads aloud as she slowly traces each word with her fingertip. Her teacher beams, and her classmates applaud.

Karokh District Girls High School is one of the most successful in Herat. And in terms of girls' education, Herat is the most successful province in Afghanistan. Even so, conditions are far from ideal. Sarwary's tiny school doesn't have enough classrooms: second-graders huddle in a ragged tent in the courtyard, where a torn strip of khaki canvas hangs between rusting metal struts, blocking many of the girls' view of the blackboard. The fierce desert wind howls through the holes and threatens to tear the class's one textbook from the students' hands as they pass it around for reading lessons. There is no playground or running water. The toilet, a pit latrine located at the far corner of the school compound, serves 1,500 students. Only two of the 23 female teachers have graduated from high school. Half the second-grade students, ranging in age from 7 to 12, can read; the rest just recite from memory. The freedom to study is a blessing, but Sarwary knows it is not nearly enough. "Our students have talent and a passion for learning I've never seen before," says the slim, stylish 33-year-old. "But we still have problems."

The parlous status of girls' education belies one of the greatest hopes raised when the Taliban was toppled by U.S.-led forces in 2001: the liberation of Afghanistan's women. Yes, they can now vote, they have a quarter of the seats in parliament, and they are legally allowed to find jobs outside the home. Foreign donors and nongovernmental organizations have expended a great deal of energy and capital on building women's centers and conducting gender-awareness workshops. But more than six years since the fall of the Taliban, fewer than 30% of eligible girls are enrolled in schools, and the infrastructure is so poor that only a tiny fraction are likely to get the education they need to enjoy the fruits of emancipation.

The stakes for Afghan society are high. Every social and economic index shows that countries with a higher percentage of women with a high school education also have better overall health, a more functional democracy and increased economic performance. There's another payoff that is especially important to Afghanistan: educated women are a strong bulwark against the extremism that still plagues Afghanistan, underscored by the Jan. 14 bombing of a luxury hotel in Kabul, which killed eight. "Education is the factory that turns animals into human beings," says Ghulam Hazrat Tanha, Herat's director of education. "If women are educated, that means their children will be too. If the people of the world want to solve the hard problems in Afghanistan--kidnapping, beheadings, crime and even al-Qaeda--they should invest in [our] education."

For girls in much of the country, education remains a dream no more attainable now than it was under the Taliban. In the past six years, 3,500 new schools have been built across the country, but fewer than half of them have buildings. Most are in tents, in the shade of trees or wherever open space can be made available. This has a direct bearing on the number of girls enrolled: most Afghan families won't allow their daughters to be where they may be seen by men. "Girls in this society have certain needs," says Education Minister Hanif Atmar. "They cannot be in a tented school or in an open space with no sanitation facilities, so they simply do not go." Competing demands for government money and more obvious problems such as a raging insurgency, poppy cultivation and widespread corruption leave education to nibble from the crumbs. Atmar figures he needs $2.5 billion for the next five years just to cover basic improvements such as training teachers, printing textbooks and building 73,000 classrooms--even tented ones--that might just accommodate all Afghan schoolkids if they study in shifts.

But a five-year plan is a luxury. Atmar can't find enough money for his most pressing needs. He got only $282 million this year, $216 million short of his bare-bones operating budget. Of the 40,000 teachers the Education Ministry said were necessary to meet the demand for schooling this year, the central government has been able to budget for only 10,000.

The shortage of university-educated instructors means that the higher grades suffer the most. Najeeba Behbood, 26, an 11th-grader at Karokh High School, was lucky to land in a chemistry class taught by a former college professor. Even then, the course was pure theory: with no laboratory, the teacher had to make rough drawings on the blackboard to demonstrate the use of cathodes and anodes in producing electricity. But Behbood is happy to be in the class at all--it was a struggle persuading her parents to permit her to attend, because the professor was male.

The Taliban policy of keeping girls out of school was based on a very strong cultural prohibition against having women mix with unrelated men. Those traditions still define large swaths of Afghan society--even in urban areas like Kabul. "My family says that they would rather I be illiterate than be taught by a man," says Yasamin Rezzaie, 18, who is learning dressmaking at a women's center in Kabul. Her parents refused to let her go to her neighborhood school because some of the teachers are male. Both her parents are illiterate, and they don't see the need for her to learn to read when the risk of meeting unrelated men is so high.

"In Afghan culture, women are seen as the repository of family honor, and the education of girls--whether in terms of the design of school buildings or in the way in which classes are conducted--needs to reflect that reality," says Matt Waldman, the Afghan policy adviser for Oxfam, which released a damning report in 2006 on the state of education in Afghanistan. It shows that the ratio of boys to girls in primary school is roughly 2 to 1, but by the time girls enter secondary school (and puberty), the ratio drops to four boys for every girl. In more than 80% of rural districts, there are no girls in secondary school at all. Overall, only 10% of girls in school actually obtain a diploma.

The Oxfam report identifies another critical factor holding back girls' education: only 28% of the country's accredited teachers are women. "It is absolutely crucial to increase the number of female teachers if you want to see more girls in school," says Waldman.

But if there are so few girls completing their education, how do you grow the next generation of female teachers? The first answer, says Atmar, is to remove all other impediments to girls' going to school. That means constructing new buildings so classes aren't held in the open. In the meantime, unconventional inducements can help. In a successful program in some rural areas, girls are given a free ration of oil and flour at the end of every month. This encourages their poor families to keep sending them to school. Increasing teachers' salaries would convince more parents that their daughters should take up the profession. Teachers with high school diplomas earn $50 to $75 a month, a tiny return on investment for families whose daughters could be spending those 12 years at home weaving carpets, tending the fields or taking care of the household.

While struggling to build the new infrastructure, educators must also contend with Afghanistan's old demons: the Taliban is making a comeback in several provinces and reimposing its rules. In little over a year, 130 schools have been burned, 105 students and teachers killed and 307 schools closed down because of security concerns. Many of those schools were for girls, and most of them were in the southern provinces, where a Taliban-driven insurgency has made it nearly impossible to secure the schools. But the violence is creeping closer to the capital. In June 2007, two gunmen on a motorcycle shot dead three female students coming out of high school in the central province of Logar, a 1 1⁄2-hour drive from Kabul.

But if Afghanistan has any reason for hope, it is the sheer determination of the girls who do have a chance to go to school. Lida Ahmadyar, 12, whose sister was one of the girls killed in the Logar shooting, has started going back to school. Every day she walks past the spot where her sister died, but she clings to her dream of becoming a doctor. "I am afraid," she says. "But I like school because I am learning something, and that will make me important. With education, I can save my country." If enough of Afghanistan's girls get the chance, they may do just that.
Source:​ agazine/article/0,9171,170​4654,00.html

Jan Pepijn Servaas : Perilous Studies: Americans in Pakistan's Islamic Schools - By Rania Abouzeid / Karachi Friday, June 18, 2010

(1/2) Mohammad Abdullah, a shy, skinny American in his early 20s with a wispy black beard and knitted white skullcap, is just a month from finishing an eight-year course in religious studies at a Karachi Islamic school, or madrasah. He plans another year of study before returning home to New York to teach Islam at a university or mosque, and the Pakistani American knows that he'll probably be taken for a terror threat. In fact, most of the 60 Americans studying at Karachi's Jamia Binoria (which historically has a higher enrollment of foreign students than other madrasahs in the city) declined to be interviewed, citing fears of being pegged by Homeland Security upon their return to the States. But Abdullah quietly insists he and his schoolmates shouldn't be stigmatized. "Not every university is considered the same. Just because of a few people you can't just say everyone is the same. Just because some students are radical doesn't mean we are."

In theory, however, the overseas students shouldn't really even be in Pakistan. In 2005, then President Pervez Musharraf ordered all foreigners studying at madrasahs, including dual citizens, to leave the country, and banned new students from arriving after claims that several of the London suicide bombers had spent short stints in the Islamic schools. However, the enrollment of foreign students was "insufficiently regulated," enabling many to remain, the Brussels-based International Crisis Group said in its most recent report on the schools. The civilian government that succeeded Musharraf in 2008 apparently tried to maintain the restrictions by drowning applicants in paperwork. Students must obtain valid visas and security clearances as well as a no-objection certificate (NOC) from their home countries, the Crisis Group says.

NOCs do seem to be harder to get. A spate of homegrown U.S. terror threats like Faisal Shahzad's failed New York City bombing highlight what can happen when fanatical Westerners apparently team up with overseas militants or teachers who can help them carry out terrorist attacks. Anwar al-Awlaki, an American-born cleric now hiding in Yemen, is accused of recruiting and radicalizing American Muslims, including the Fort Hood shooter, Major Nidal Malik Hasan, and is said to have had contact with Shahzad. Homegrown plotters have become bigger threats. But none of them were actually madrasah-trained. Even high-profile terrorists like Osama bin Laden and his deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri are not madrasah alumni.

Some Pakistani madrasahs have been accused of indoctrinating and funneling jihadi fighters across the border to Afghanistan, just as they did during the 1980s with U.S. help and blessings to repel the invading Soviet Union. It's a charge loudly protested by many institutions. "This is total propaganda," says Mufti Mohammad Naeem, who heads Jamia Binoria. "If any madrasah teaches extremism it's the responsibility of the government to shut that madrasah." That was the case with Islamabad's Red Mosque. In 2007, the mosque and its adjoining madrasah, the Jamia Hafsa, were besieged by the Pakistani military after their radical students and clerics called for an overthrow of the government. More than 150 people were killed in the standoff, which made madrasah a byword for terrorist incubator in the minds of many.

But Mufti Naeem says it's unfair to tar the majority of schools. "Western countries think that people who are coming to study in madrasahs are here to learn about terrorism and weapons, but you can see what the students are doing. They're just studying their books."

Still, the issue for some is what's in those books. Madrasahs are Islamic seminaries that provide a modicum of education for Pakistan's poorest children free of charge, as well as free accommodation and meals. The syllabus doesn't extend far beyond religious studies, including memorizing the Koran in Arabic, although some madrasahs like Jamia Binoria also offer subjects like Web programming, English and mathematics. Still, the overwhelming focus is on Islam.

Critics claim that intolerance of non-Muslims is part of the madrasah syllabus, making the institutions "factories of hate" as columnist Shafqat Mahmood wrote in the relatively liberal daily the News last week. "They don't have to give terrorist training," he wrote. "They create the enabling environment for terrorism to sprout."

Jamia Binoria is considered a moderate Deobandi institution, often mistaken for the more radical Binori Town madrasah also in Karachi. Students who engage in political activities are expelled, the mufti says. The madrasah, a sprawling 12-acre site deep in an industrial zone along Karachi's backstreets, has a strictly segregated section for female students. The male students, unlike some ultra-strict Muslims, aren't perturbed by the presence of a female reporter. On a recent Friday, thousands of local men joined the students for afternoon prayers in the compound's mosque. Worshippers spilled out into a vast open-air courtyard. Young primary-age boys in white caps prayed in their sparsely furnished classrooms, in front of low, well-worn sloping wooden desks adorned with several Korans. There appeared to be few other books apart from religious tomes, save for some exercise books. Mufti Naeem is keen for visitors to look around, to prove that his madrasah isn't a jihadi training center. "Did you see any weapons?" he asks. Nothing is off-limits.

In 2002, the Musharraf government formulated a $100 million "madrasah reform agenda" that included mandatory registration of the institutions and modernization of their curriculums by including courses like English, social science and math. Madrasahs that complied were financially rewarded. Few chose to take the government subsidies — even those that already teach nonreligious subjects or had changed their curriculum. There are some 20,000 madrasahs in the country, according to the government. Mufti Naeem says that up to 8,000 are in the bustling, religiously conservative port city of Karachi alone.

They remain self-funded, largely through local donations and, some critics claim, international friends like Saudi Arabia and individual Gulf sheiks. Jamia Binoria, for example, runs a restaurant on-site and also has several other commercial interests in Karachi to help pay its bills. "We don't want [government] money because we don't want them to interfere in our affairs," Mufti Naeem says. He and other madrasah leaders fear that modernization means Westernization, something they reject. But that does not mean that they don't want Westerners. On the contrary, the mufti wants students who can eventually return to their home countries and teach others "the same values" that they have learned in Pakistan.

More than 500 of Jamia Binoria's 5,000 students are foreigners from 29 countries including the U.S., the U.K., Canada, Indonesia and even Fiji, as well as other states in the Middle East and European Union. Mufti Naeem says that if visas were easier to get "two- to three-thousand foreign students will come," based on the level of interest he's received from abroad.

U.S. officials acknowledge that anyone who has visited Pakistan or a madrasah will be subjected to additional scrutiny upon entering the U.S., but they decline to go into specifics, citing security concerns. "Upon arrival at a U.S. port of entry, applicants undergo an inspection that includes a case-by-case assessment of a variety of factors, including screening against law-enforcement databases," says Matt Chandler, a spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees both U.S. customs and immigration agencies. Such checks, he says, "identify travelers that may pose a greater risk of terrorist or criminal activity and therefore should be subject to further scrutiny or examination."

Most of the 60 Americans currently enrolled at Jamia Binoria are Pakistani Americans, like Abdullah. The 22-year-old went to Jamia Binoria, he says, to memorize the Koran. He wants to teach it in New York, to change American perceptions of Islam. "Everybody thinks we're terrorists but we're going to give them our point of view that we're actually not," he says. "They think that Islam is a radical religion and there's nothing in it, it's just radicalism and terrorism and killing people. But actually Islam is not about that. That's our point — to explain that when we come back." He knows going home won't be easy. Former American madrasah students who have returned to the U.S. "usually get hassled by customs," Abdullah says, "but I have nothing to hide." — With reporting by Mark Thompson / Washington


Jan Pepijn Servaas : Storming the Red Mosque - By ARYN BAKER Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The consequences were immediate and deadly when last-minute negotiations at Islamabad's besieged Red Mosque failed Monday night. A group of religious and political leaders, including former Prime Minister Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, had offered militant mosque leader Abdul Rashid Ghazi one last chance to surrender. "I am returning very disappointed," said Hussain. "We offered him a lot, but he wasn't ready to agree to our terms." A day later, Ghazi was killed at the Red Mosque, not far from the very place where his father, the mosque's founder, was slain by unknown assailants in 1998. Minutes after the pre-dawn announcement that the talks had failed, explosions and gunfire thundered through the capital as Pakistani special forces launched Operation Silence, intended to be the military's final charge in the eight-day standoff between the government and radical students and clergy holed up inside the mosque complex. For more than 13 hours, the sound of fierce fighting has rattled the leafy neighborhood in the center of the capital. Security forces report that the militants are responding with RPGs, machine gun fire and petrol bombs. The seminary complex, which includes a women's religious school, has been booby-trapped with landmines, and militants were shooting from the minarets. An estimated 50 militants have been killed so far in this latest operation, and an additional 80 have surrendered or attempted to escape, according to the security forces spokesman. Eight soldiers have died as well.

Interior minister Aftab Sherpao says that some 80% of the complex has been cleared out. Officers say Ghazi was holed up in one of the mosque's basements, reportedly surrounded by women and children from the women's school. Many of the female students have been just as active, if not more so, as their male counterparts in the madrassah's six-month-long anti-government campaign. However, the presence of perceived innocents serves as a protective shield for the mosque leader — and could serve him as a last-ditch propaganda campaign.

Ghazi had told reporters that he was prepared to be a martyr, though only few may perceive him as such. For the moment, the public has been behind government forces, but large numbers of dead civilians, particularly women and children, could yet turn public opinion against them. That may have been part of Ghazi's plan.

So far, the government's cautious handling of the siege has worked in President Pervez Musharraf's favor. Security forces have clearly done their utmost over the past week to protect the lives of civilians, offering negotiations, amnesties, cash and even alternative schooling to students who surrender. However, the drawn-out face-off has allowed anti-government sentiment to fester in militant communities throughout the country. Three incidents in the tribal areas over the weekend, in addition to a possible machine-gun attack on Musharraf's plane as he prepared to fly to the flood-ravaged province of Baluchistan on Friday, cost the lives of four police. Armed tribesmen chanting anti-government slogans blocked the Karakoram highway near the northern border with China, and in the central city of Multan, hundreds of religious students blocked roads with burning tires and chanted "Down With Musharraf." Clerics at several radical mosques are denouncing what they see as law enforcement agencies attacking fellow Muslims. The banned militant group Tehrik Nifaz-Shariat-e-Mohammadi has used FM radio stations in a district north of Peshawar to instruct its followers to carry out jihad against the government, as has a radical cleric in the northern district of Swat.

Fears of just such a backlash may have been what kept the government from acting sooner against the Red Mosque clerics and students, whose anti-government campaign began in January when they occupied a children's library. Emboldened by the government's inaction, students set out on a vigilante rampage in the capital, harassing video and music shops for promoting un-Islamic behavior and kidnapping alleged prostitutes. Each new episode was met with feeble government response or half-hearted negotiations.

Indeed, some critics suggest that the antics of the Red Mosque students served as a convenient distraction from the President's plummeting popularity. "My impression is that if it was not in collusion, the government was at least encouraging this," says Brig. (ret) Shaukat Qadir. "The judicial crisis had grown to enormous proportions, and Musharraf wanted to reestablish that fact that he was essential to country. But somewhere along the way things got out of hand."

Measured yet forceful action is helping Musharraf regain some public trust, but it may not be enough to counteract popular disillusionment with his increasingly desperate attempts to cling to power. This weekend in London the Pakistan All Parties Conference — made up of leading opposition members, including exiled former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, whom Musharraf overthrew in a bloodless coup in 1999 — agreed to resign in protest should Musharraf go ahead with his plan to be re-elected by the current, hand-picked assembly. The only party that demurred is former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party. Rumors are rife that Musharraf may be considering a power-sharing deal with Bhutto in which in exchange for her party's support, he would ensure that all charges of corruption against her are lifted.

Were Musharraf to call for parliamentary elections early, as some analysts suggest he might, the president-general could hope that his party, the Pakistan Muslim League, would be able to capitalize on a popularity spike caused by his successful resolution of the Red Mosque crisis. A PML majority would ensure Musharraf another term with a clear mandate, though it wouldn't dispel the constitutional questions over him being both Chief of Army Staff and President. It's a risky strategy, and so is the ongoing siege at the Red Mosque. Dividends will depend on how many, and what kind, of bodies are carried out of the compound when it's all over.

Jan Pepijn Servaas : Believers Under Siege in Pakistan - By Aryn Baker / Islamabad Tuesday, July 03, 2007

When I first met Umma Aman this morning, she told me she was prepared to die for her god. This is the kind of rhetoric I've come to expect from students at Jamia Hafsa, the women's seminary attached to Islamabad's radical Lal Masjid, or Red Mosque. I wasn't expecting an immediate demonstration of her faith. But over the course of a six-hour battle between students and Pakistani paramilitary forces that ended with several students dead and at least two police and one journalist caught in the crossfire, I learned that these seminarians do not take their religion lightly.

I came to Jamia Hafsa to interview its headmistress, Umma Hassan, for a story about Islam in Pakistan. Aman, a pretty 22-year-old student in her final year, was her translator. Before the interview started Aman and I chatted about her desire to live according to the teachings of Islam, and how angry she was that her government did not support her. For the past six months the clerics of the Red Mosque madrassah complex, which houses about 7,000 students, have openly defied the government, calling for the establishment of Islamic law throughout the country. Students and teachers from both the men's and women's schools have embarked on a vigilante anti-vice campaign in the capital, shutting down video and music shops for being un-Islamic. Twice now, the female students have abducted alleged prostitutes, saying that if the government doesn't cleanse the capital of sin, they will. "A man goes to medical school and becomes a doctor," says Aman. "We go to a madrassah, so we must practice Islam. But the government is not letting us. How can we just sit down and allow this to happen? We must act on God's will, not our own desires."

The interview started, and I asked Hassan about her goals for her students. "We all teach by example," she answered. "When we live according to God's law, we are successful, and others will emulate us." I asked how far she would go to defend this principle. I never got an answer. I didn't need one. Hassan looked out the window. Government Rangers, a kind of paramilitary force, were trying to cordon off the madrassah complex with razor wire. The male students were fighting them off. "Emergency!" she declared, and leapt to her feet. The teacher's lounge, a room of brightly dressed women, was doused in black as students and teachers donned dark floor length robes and headscarves that showed only their eyes. Stout bamboo staves appeared out of nowhere. A Sten gun flashed from beneath Hassan's robe.

"Come on, we are going out to protest," said Aman. I only recognized her by the glasses perched on the outside of her mask. I follow her outside the madrassah gate where a hundred or so black robed women chant in unison against Pakistan's President Gen. Pervez Musharraf and against George W. Bush. A crack, a small explosion, and a cloud of acrid tear gas drifts our way, fronted by a pack of stampeding men. Apparently they had tried to occupy the neighboring Environment Ministry. I run back to the gate, having lost Aman in the sea of panicking black robes. More explosions, more tear gas. And the gunshots begin. First from the mosque, then in retaliation from the rangers. We are caught in a narrow corridor, bullets slicing through the thick smoke on either side of us. Another canister of tear gas rolls past my feet, spewing cottony clouds that claw at my eyes and tear at my lungs. Sweat, picking up gas particles clinging to my clothes, burns my skin. Someone from the second floor above the gate pours a bucket of water on us. Blissful reprieve, even if it lasts only a few seconds. I fight for breath, and I fight my instinct to breathe deeply. Eyes streaming, coughing, choking, spitting, we scrabble at the front door, battling to get through the narrow passageway, eight at a time, back into the madrassah, into safety.

Once inside the metal gate we suck lungfuls of air through wetted rags. Young girls pass bowls of salt. Eating salt lessens the effects of the tear gas, they say, with an air of practiced impatience. This is the second time the madrassah students have been tear-gassed; they know what to do. The afternoon call to prayer echoes through the halls, barely audible above the wails of wounded women. Still, there is comfort to be found in its bland predictability. Dozens of hands push cups of water on me, conscientious, even in the middle of mayhem, of the foreigner in their midst. Not a good time to ask if it has been purified, I decide.

The firing slows, and Hassan strides into the courtyard triumphant. "Good news," she announces. "Our boys stole four guns from the rangers." The vibe is electric. Aman finds me eventually. Her headscarf and robe are dripping with water. She is preparing to go back out to help her comrades. I realize that the head-to-toe shrouds have another purpose: sopping wet, they provide excellent protection against tear gas. Her eyes, though bloodshot, are exultant. "We are students, not fighters, but if the government pushes us to fight, so be it," she says. "God will give us the power to win." I ask if she is afraid. "We are not frightened," she says. "We are never afraid. One day all lives will end, and if this is the case, then why not give it to Islam? If we give this life for our religion, we will have more blessings from our god." Amma Adeem, a 20-year-old student in the same class, says she is willing to sell her life for paradise. "This is the house of Allah," she says, meaning the madrassah, Islamabad, Pakistan and the world. "We must live by his laws. We don't do this for ourselves, we do it for Islam."

The steady rattle of gunfire shakes the metal gate of the madrassah. Snipers are perched on the roof of buildings surrounding the complex. Outside the male students are fighting with the Rangers. Inside, women fill buckets of water at the tap and pass them, fireman style, out the gate to the men. They hurl bamboo staves, broom handles and water bottles over the complex wall. The bottles return, empty, and the women fill them up again and toss them back. Aman disappears again, out the gate. "I will do everything in my power to protect my madrassah, I am ready to die for it," she says. An hour later I find her again, pressing a wet rag to her streaming eyes. "I wanted to die, but my elders stopped me." Friends, crowding around, cluck in sympathy.

An explosion shakes the windows of one of the classrooms. A rumor that one of the male students has detonated a suicide bomb whips through the corridors. Last week, after the students abducted five Chinese masseuses for being prostitutes, President Musharraf announced that he was ready to storm the mosque. But then he said that suicide terrorists affiliated with al-Qaeda had infiltrated the men's madrassah, and that going in would provoke a bloodbath, and that the media would blame him. One of the female students laughs at the idea of an al- Qaeda link. "We ourselves are willing to die for our school, we don't need any outsiders to do it for us," she says. (I later learn that the explosion came from the environmental ministry, which had been torched to the ground while I was inside the madrassah). The woman offers me lunch. When I point out that perhaps this isn't the best time, considering the ongoing fighting, she just shrugs. "No," she agrees. "It is not a good time. But you are our guest, and we have to look after your well being."

Eventually I take advantage of a lull in the fighting to slip out the back of the complex to the street. Adeem leaves me at the gate. Eyes still blazing, she bids me farewell. "Tell them how angry we are," she says. "Write in your story how willing we are to die for our cause." It doesn't sound like rhetoric any more. It sounds like a promise.

Jan Pepijn Servaas : Book scandal must not reflect on Afghan girls schools = April 21, 2011 - By Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, Special to CNN

We live in the Charlie Sheen era of wall-to-wall, "shock and awe" scandal coverage. And at the moment, Greg Mortenson is in the crosshairs. The man from Montana who toured America promoting the potential of girls in Afghanistan and Pakistan is now experiencing the painful flip side of the media adulation that catapulted him to fame.

Mortenson has built schools in Afghanistan, focusing on the most remote parts of the country. A recent investigation from the U.S. news magazine "60 Minutes" has raised questions about his foundation's finances and the veracity of his book, "Three Cups of Tea."
Source :​ 11-04-21/opinion/​ghan.girls.mortenson_1_you​ ng-women-girls-scandal-cov​erage?_s=PM%3AOPINION

Jan Pepijn Servaas : Best Asian Books of 2006 (1- 5/10)

1. Oracle Bones - Peter Hessler
Archaeologists call them "oracle bones," the turtle shells and cattle shoulder blades dating from the 13th and 14th centuries B.C. that bear China's first known writing—mostly prophecies. Hessler, who writes about China for the New Yorker, has fashioned his own oracle bone: a lyrical, sharply observed meditation on the country's rich past, frantic present and uncertain future. We meet obtuse bureaucrats, idealistic scholars and young people on the make. Mostly, Hessler focuses on four people: Emily, who gives up her well-paid factory job to train as a teacher of disabled children; Willy, a gifted young English instructor who blows the whistle on his superiors over leaked exam questions; Polat, a shady money changer from China's Uighur minority who eventually finagles his way into the U.S.; and Chen Mengjia, an oracle-bones scholar whose mysterious death during the Cultural Revolution bedevils Hessler.

The scholar's tale is the only one without a satisfying ending, but Hessler finds inspiration in the dogged optimism of Chen and his fellow intellectuals. "They had tried to reconcile Western ideas with Chinese traditions," he writes. "Most of them had failed, but ... somehow a spark of their idealism had survived. I recognized it in young people like Emily and Willy, who, despite living in a world without familiar bearings, still cared about right and wrong." In such hands, concludes Hessler, his beloved, polluted, conflicted China should do just fine.
— By Don Morrison

2. Happiness - Matthieu Ricard
Lottery winners, researchers have found, are no happier a year after their windfall than they were before it (they've bought a house too big for them, they don't know who their friends are anymore, they spend all their time with lawyers). Those who are suddenly rendered paraplegic, studies have also discovered, end up, after a year or so of adjustment, feeling no unhappier than before. Happiness, in short, is something intrinsic to us, like our muscles—and yet it's also, like muscle, something we can train and learn, quantifiably, to build up.
In Happiness, Matthieu Ricard takes us through all the recent empirical science that shows how contentment can be both deepened and assessed (those who test high for hopefulness can endure the pain of freezing water twice as easily as those who don't). But, more valuably—in part by drawing on friends and philosophers from Europe and Asia—he shows us, in practical ways, how we can make our lives more fulfilling.

Ricard started out as a French intellectual who received a doctorate in molecular biology and counted Luis Bu uel, Igor Stravinsky and Henri Cartier-Bresson among his friends. But 35 years ago he went to Nepal to become a Buddhist monk. When a European scientist from the Himalayas takes us into the meaning of well-being, the result is something that does not belong to East or West, to Buddhism or to neuroscience. It tells, instead, a simple truth: we can change the world by changing the way we look at it.
— By Pico Iyer

3. Made for Maharajas: A Design Diary of Princely India - Amin Jaffer
The love affair between Indian royals and European artisans began in 1573 when the great Mughal ruler Akbar met his first gift-bearing European, and demanded from then on that his courtiers bring him more "wonderful things" from the West. The relationship reached its climax at the height of the British Raj (1857-1947) when India's princes, increasingly marginalized from political life, indulged instead in lavish escapism—building and furnishing opulent palaces influenced by the fashions of European lites. There is no richer testament to the period than Made for Maharajas by Amin Jaffer, who works as a curator at London's Victoria and Albert Museum. Chronicling more than three centuries of made-to-order luxury, Jaffer draws from the archives of Baccarat, Cartier, Chanel, Louis Vuitton and other design houses that crafted some of their most splendid pieces for the maharajas. In turn, the houses were influenced by the Indian love of color and embellishment.

It was, of course, a love affair fated to end. Britain lost India, and Indian royals lost their lands, titles and allowances to a newly independent, democratic state. Jewel-encrusted lipstick cases and cigarette lighters were sold off to pay debts, while stunning palaces crumbled for lack of upkeep. But Jaffer's sumptuously illustrated love letter to the era remains, a jewel fit for the coffee table of any modern-day maharaja.
— By Aryn Baker

4. Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman - Haruki Murakami
Tokyo can feel painfully lonely. Maybe it's the capsule hotels. Maybe it's the silent trains—packed with commuters, each isolated in private thoughts. Or maybe it's the presence of Haruki Murakami, whose writing illuminates isolation both cosmic and urban. In this collection of previously published work, he revels in his favorite theme. Witness "The Year of Spaghetti," in which the narrator spends every day cooking pasta in a pot "big enough to bathe a German shepherd in," though there's no one else to cook for. A woman phones, but he dodges this potential entanglement, dooming himself to yet another solitary meal. "Can you imagine how astonished the Italians would be," he muses, "if they knew that what they were exporting in 1971 was really loneliness?"

Blind Willow is less a greatest-hits collection than a compilation of quirky B-sides. But it includes some of Murakami's best work, such as the haunting "Tony Takitani," about a lonely illustrator who finds love with a young woman, then loses his wife in a car accident a page later. He is left to mourn in the empty room that once housed his wife's vast wardrobe—alone but not untouched in a classic Murakami ending.
— By Bryan Walsh

5. Will the Boat Sink the Water? - Chen Guidi and Wu Chuntao
The title of this searing account of corruption in China's countryside comes from a saying of Emperor Taizong's: "Water holds up the boat; water may also sink the boat." It is often quoted by Chinese officials to describe the nervous symbiosis between China's government and its peasantry. But as Chen Guidi and Wu Chuntao make clear, the economic reforms that have buoyed China's urban centers have done little for its 900 million peasants.

Banned shortly after its publication in 2004, this muckraking samizdat has sold more than 10 million black-market copies in China; a new English translation at last gives non-Chinese readers some sense of what the fuss is about. Based on three years of reporting in Anhui province, the book documents the myriad ways in which corrupt local cadres keep China's farmers in a state of virtual feudal peonage, enriching themselves while imposing oppressive taxes on the very people the communist revolution was meant to uplift. Some officials practice simple extortion; others resort to embezzlement schemes straight out of Gogol. In the poorest areas, peasants are literally bled dry, forced to sell plasma to pay their tax bills. In other cases, farmers who stand up to bullying local officials are murdered. Since Chen and Wu first reported on the problem, China's government has taken steps to reform rural taxation. But with violent protests now commonplace, the anger of the country's peasants may yet form a wave big enough to destabilize, if not upend, China's economic miracle.
— By Peter Ritter

6. Building Cambodia: "New Khmer Architecture" 1953-1970 - Helen Grant Ross and Darryl Leon Collins

Everyone has heard of Angkor Wat, but very few are aware of that other great flowering of Khmer architectural genius—namely, the New Khmer Architecture that emerged in Phnom Penh amid the heady national pride that followed Cambodia's independence from France in 1953. Building Cambodia documents the tragically short-lived style that resulted in a spate of striking buildings until its demise amid civil war and genocide not two decades later. Taking seven years of research to complete, and packed with rare photographs and illustrations, the 334-page hardback pays tribute to this remarkable cultural interlude when King Norodom Sihanouk abdicated the throne to personally oversee a 17-year construction boom.

Implausible as it may seem amid today's frenetic construction of soulless apartment blocks and shopping centers, Phnom Penh was dubbed the "belle of Southeast Asia" in the 1960s, its buildings blending Le Corbusier-style functionalism with Cambodian artistic traditions. No other country in the region could then claim architectural standards as high as those practiced in the Cambodian capital.

Times have certainly changed, and what remains of New Khmer Architecture is under threat. Its founding father, Vann Molyvann, is now 80 years old and one has to wonder if his buildings will last as long. While the great architect's views on the current development of Phnom Penh are still respectfully listened to, they are seldom acted upon. The hope is that this beautiful book will not simply be a record of his work and that of his peers, but an inspiration to future generations of Cambodians to preserve and evolve an architectural style that has no parallel.
— By Kevin Doyle

7. Sacred Games - Vikram Chandra

Sartaj Singh, the hero of Vikram Chandra's 900-page novel, is a different kind of Bombay policeman. Not so different that he won't take a bribe—an entirely honest cop in Chandra's Bombay would be a freak of nature—but different enough to feel uneasy when doing so. Good things happen in Bombay to those who are different, and one day Singh gets the break of a lifetime: a tip-off about the location of Ganesh Gaitonde, India's most-wanted gangster. By the time Singh gets to him, though, Gaitonde is dead, apparently by his own hand. Now Singh has to find out why—a quest that leads him into a murky labyrinth of pimps, Pakistani agents, Bollywood starlets, new-age gurus and would-be nuclear terrorists. Like the city it's set in, Chandra's epic is sometimes slow moving and occasionally overambitious; but like Bombay, its flaws are outweighed by its virtues. Chief among these is the way Chandra takes you inside the world of a Bombay cop. After reading the book, you'll swear you know precisely how to collect a bribe from a nightclub owner, how to count the money in a glance, and where to find the smart fellow who will shift the loot to a Swiss bank account. Rarely entirely honest or entirely rotten, Chandra's Bombay exists in a penumbra of moral ambiguity—which is why Sacred Games is one of the best novels about India in a long time.
— By Aravind Adiga

8. Chinese Lessons: Five Classmates and the Story of the New China - John Pomfret

When John Pomfret first arrived in China to learn Mandarin in 1981, local students still had to preface research papers with quotations from Mao Zedong. But the Chairman's influence was waning, and before long the social landscape began to change entirely. By drawing intimate portraits of the ensuing lives of five of his fellow alumni—all members of Nanjing University's class of 1982—Pomfret shows just how sweeping that transformation was.

One of his classmates, who tortured fellow villagers as an 11-year-old Red Guard in the 1960s, ends up as a biochemistry entrepreneur in the business of extracting enzymes from urine. Another rises through the communist ranks by spouting whatever Party line is correct at any given time, thus enjoying a life of chauffeured Audis and plentiful shark's fin soup. Their stories, rife with the contradictions that puzzle China scholars, encapsulate the country's history and pose questions about its present course: will China dominate the world or crash spectacularly? Pomfret doesn't dictate the answer. Instead, he gives us the material to argue for either conclusion—and many subtle gradations in between.
— By Hannah Beech

9. Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Fight Terrorism and Build Nations ... One School at a Time - Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin

Lost and delirious after a failed 1993 attempt on the world's second tallest peak, K2, the American mountaineer Greg Mortenson was rescued by residents of Korphe, a remote village high in the Pakistani Himalayas. Grateful for their assistance, Mortenson vowed to build the villagers a school. He returned home to San Francisco, sold everything he owned (including his precious climbing gear), and then embarked on the most arduous quest of his career.
Three Cups of Tea, co-written by journalist David Oliver Relin, is the account of Mortenson's extraordinary effort to give a school to Korphe and many other villages in the Taliban heartland. After 13 years in which he has brought 55 schools to Pakistan and Afghanistan, Mortenson remains convinced that terrorism should be fought with books, not bombs. "[Terrorism] happens because children aren't being offered a bright enough future," Mortenson told a gathering of U.S. Congress members not long after 9/11. Though awkwardly written in parts, Three Cups of Tea is an astonishing tale of compassion—and of a promise kept.
— By Aryn Baker

10. Cradle of Flavor: Home Cooking From The Spice Islands of Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore - James Oseland
In this mix-and-match age, epicures around the world know how to roll sushi and concoct Indian curries. But practical knowledge of the cuisines of Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore is relatively limited once you venture outside those countries. James Oseland, editor of the American foodie magazine Saveur, has dedicated himself to redressing this culinary oversight. In Cradle of Flavor—a delightful book that is part culinary anthropology, part travelogue—he draws on two decades of dining in Southeast Asian homes to serve up 100 recipes infused with the area's Arab, Chinese, Malay and European gastronomic influences. Central to them are the barks, seeds and roots now found in spice cabinets worldwide, as well as some that aren't (like candlenut or salam leaves). The result is a deliciously faithful sampling of cuisines that deserve a far greater international prominence.
— By Hannah Beech
Source :​ agazine/article/0,9171,157​0746,00.html#ixzz1JrhIekRi

Cisca Zarmansyah :
My doc announced yesterday, "You may have talent, though it's hidden. Your beak, however, is frost-bitten. so stick at home on a cold day".

The nose, eh?

As irretrievable as time, conforming to the laws of medicine. Your nose, like that of any person. keep growing steadily, with triumph!

The noses of celebrities, of guards and ministers of ours. Grow, snoring restlessly like owls at night, along with plants and trees.

They're cool and crooked, resembling bills. they're squeezed in doors,
get hurt by boxers. However, our neighbour's noses screw into keyholes, just like drills!

(Great Gogol felt by intuition
the role they play in man's ambition)

My friend Bukashkin who was boozy dreamed of a nose that grew like crazy: above him, coming like a bore, upsetting pans and chandeliers.
A nose was piercing the ceilings and threading floor upon the floor!

"What's that?" he thought, when out of bed.
"A sign of Judgement Day" I said, "And the inspection of the debtors!"

He was imprisoned on the 30th.

Perpetual motion of the nose! It's long, while life is getting shorter.
At night on faces, pale as blotter, like a black hawk, or pumping hose.
The nose absorbs us, I suppose. They say, the Northern Eskimos kiss one another with the nose.

It hasn't caught on here, of course.

Valentino Vie :
Peuple né du vent et des nuages ayant comme monture les mirages. L’errance n’est pas synonyme de bêtise mais de liberté de l’âme et du corps. Vont-ils puiser dans les fonds du mirage ce que d’autres cherchent ou trouvent dans les écrits?

(Souéloum Diagho)

Cisca Zarmansyah : I like her Malalai Joya: The Bravest Woman in Afghanistan


afGhaN. sChooL. TaLibAn.

The Taliban's effort to combat the crimes is very effective because of Islamic law introduction, including public executions and cut hand law. Of course, in implementing this law is not arbitrary or perfunctory, because there are various of procedures outlined in Islam itself.

Unfortunately, again, in this case Western is highlighting and exaggerating some things disproportionately. It says that the girls are banned to go to school, when in fact, who the hell is opening the schools for girls in Pakistan and Afghanistan? Taliban itself!

Reading For Today:​/2011/01/militarys-presenc​e-afghanistan-extend-2014-​biden/​-news/story/taliban-to-all​ow-girls-schooling/1513512​/news/article-1347019/Tali​ban-ends-opposition-educat​ion-girls-claims-Afghanist​an-schools-minister.html

Lakshmi Lavanya, Almira Izzati, Fairuz Azalia and 4 others like this.

Valentino Vie : ready to play a role to negotiate with the Taliban organization and give them direction "in a dignified way" in order to receive some possibilities of political dialogue and create the stability in Afghanistan. Qui chante, ma chère? haha ...

Cisca Zarmansyah : ehehehh...ouais cher, il est Davutoglu

Valentino Vie : C'est une relation très étroite.

Fairuz Azalia : What they need is an international donations to support education in Afghanistan. International community can't abandon Afghanistan in their difficulties. Rather than trapped in a discussion about despair, the international community needs to draw a lessons from the past and focus to help Afghan people to build the institutions needed, and find their own solutions to problems faced.

Pranay Suresh : The girls return to school in Afghanistan, yeah... it's impossible until five years ago. Since the Taliban regime's fall in late 2001, the situation began to change. However, this process didn't always run smoothly. The Afghan education was familiar with many obstacles. At that time it was considered as improper for girls to go to school. In many areas, the Taliban influence was back again. As a result, the schools were closed. Meanwhile, in the rural areas experienced the teacher shortages. Many parents didn't allow their daughters to school if their teachers were male.

At the same time, in Kabul occurred a large unemployment among female teachers. We recommended a system created where the unemployed women could work in the countryside. But it also could be problematic because the women security couldn't be guaranteed. In Kabul the situation was far better to build a school for girls, but some schools condition were very alarming.

CieL- FreYa Ceastle : Thank you for info. I agree with you about the international donations. Education is a long-term medication. Afghan people's desire for education is very strong. The efforts of political, diplomatic, economic, and social should be improved ...and focused on the consolidation of national unity to bring a real improvement to people's lives. Here, the international community's role is to enable the Afghan government to work to meet their people's basic need. Health care and education should be a priority. Civil servants need a job. Justice and personnel should be strengthened. People must believe that change is happening will create a normal life for them.

Almira Izzati : There's one other area of the most difficult fighting, the fight against extremist ideology in the region!

Pranay Suresh : The fact is, so far the international community hasn't achieved the results in accordance with funds expended amount. Afghanistan and its surrounding region can't be a second source of concern. This area has become a full keg of gunpowder to the world. The stakes are very high.

CieL- FreYa Ceastle : Therefore, it's enough to raise my hope that President Barack Obama may understands the facts and reviewing the US policy in Afghanistan. In 2009 Afghanistan has held the presidential election. Last year they had held a parliamentary election. It's completing a transition to democracy. Afghan people now have a universal suffrage.

Pranay Suresh :Nonetheless, it's still much to be done. Actually the Afghan national army soldiers are strong enough, but they require training and better equipment. The equipment owned by ISAF troops are still far better than Afghan. An Afghan commander said it as, "If anyone should die for Afghanistan sake, it shouldn't the foreign people, but the Afghanistan's sons. And they're ready to do so, but they should be given a fair opportunity to be able to fight for their country. They must be armed and trained well."

CieL- FreYa Ceastle : You can say the troops and money will not be enough. The Afghan government requires the military forces to operate a strong position. But a real improvement will require the government to embrace all the Afghans to be ready work with peaceful means, for the good of their country. And a good education system can only be applied if the situation in Afghanistan is calm and peaceful.

Cisca Zarmansyah : Nay, for the slightest thing, I don't agree with the commander. For me, the most appropriate activities for children are not to be armed, but their life is to play and learn. In accordance with their physical and psychological development, there's the time for them to receive formal education. And they are entitled to it.

Fairuz Azalia : C, this is just for info. You know Shamshatu refugee camp, it's one of the oldest and largest for Afghan people who live in Pakistan, it's near Peshawar. Most of other camps are closed, the Afghans often complain of being persecuted by police. Despite life's difficulties experienced, many Afghan families don't want to leave Pakistan because they believe their children will get a better education there, includes learning English.

Cisca Zarmansyah : Thank you, Fai. This is not me, but the facts speak loudly. Afghanistan belongs to Afghan people and the country problems can't be solved only with military strategy. Foreign troops must not leave the devastated land of Afghanistan. ISAF and NATO didn't come there to change the identity, culture, values and traditions of Afghan society. If this reality is fully understood, will be much easier to isolate the threat of terror and get a victory in peace. The Afghan children need education, health care, and employment!

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"Thank you for your perception! I like your romantic side, even if I do not always comment and I'm glad that you're in my circle of friends."
(Courtesies by: Wolfgang A. Gerhardt)

Wolfgang A.Gerhardt : May be you like this Sunday collage

Cisca Zarmansyah : Before today, there never was a person doing this to me. You create a simple matter to look special. This is a special thing for me.

Cisca Zarmansyah : Thank you. I love it. I love you, my friend.

CieL- FreYa Ceastle : Hmm, he's so nice...

"I am me.
In all the world,
there is no one else exactly like me.
Everything that comes out of me
is authentically mine,
because I alone chose it --
I own everything about me:
my body,
my feelings,
my mouth,
my voice,
all my actions,
whether they be to others or myself.
I own my fantasies,
my dreams,
my hopes,
my fears.
I own my triumphs and successes,
all my failures and mistakes.
Because I own all of me,
I can become intimately acquainted with me.
By so doing,
I can love me
and be friendly with all my parts.
I know there are aspects about myself that puzzle me,
and other aspects that I do not know
-- but as long as I am friendly
and loving to myself,
I can courageously and hopefully
look for solutions
to the puzzles and ways
to find out more about me.
However I look and sound,
whatever I say and do,
and whatever I think and feel at a given moment in time
is authentically me.
If later some parts of how I looked,
and felt
turn out to be unfitting,
I can discard that which is unfitting,
keep the rest,
and invent something new
for that which I discarded.
I can see,
say, and do.
I have the tools to survive,
to be close to others,
to be productive,
and to make sense
and order out of the world of people
and things outside of me.
I own me,
and therefore,
I can engineer me.
I am me,
and I am okay."

(American Phychologist and Educator, 1916-1988)