Posts Tagged ‘ New Zealand ’

Rick Santorum, Meet Hamza Kashgari

By George Packer for The New Yorker

President Kennedy’s 1960 speech on religious freedom makes Rick Santorum “throw up.” “What kind of country do we live in that says only people of nonfaith can come into the public square and make their case?” Santorum says. It’s a central part of his campaign strategy to distort such things as a Kennedy speech, or an Obama speech, to whip up outrage at the supposed war on religious people in America. Here’s what Kennedy said:

I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute; where no Catholic prelate would tell the President—should he be Catholic—how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote; where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference, and where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the President who might appoint him, or the people who might elect him… I believe in a President whose religious views are his own private affair.

Kennedy said much more, but this is the strongest passage of that famous campaign speech to a group of ministers in Houston, in which he argued that the election of a Catholic President who believed in the Constitution shouldn’t concern any American who believed in the Constitution—and, Santorum says, “That makes me throw up.” Santorum’s rhetorical eloquence is about equal to his analytical skill. Kennedy had nothing to say against believers entering public life, or believers bringing their religious conscience to bear on public policy. He spoke against any move to make religion official. The Constitution speaks against this, too—Article VI establishes an oath to the Constitution as the basis for public office, and explicitly prohibits a religious test, while the First Amendment forbids the official establishment of religion and protects its free practice. Santorum claims to be a constitutionalist, but that’s just rhetoric and opportunism. Santorum believes in a religious test—that may be all he believes in. (Mitt Romney believes in a religious test of a slimy, halfway, Romneyesque variety: in 2007, he reportedly dismissed the idea of appointing a Muslim to his Cabinet, saying, “Based on the numbers of American Muslims [as a percentage] in our population, I cannot see that a Cabinet position would be justified.” So does Newt Gingrich, who has made atheist-baiting a central part of his political business.)

Kennedy seemed to have someone like Santorum in mind when he warned, “For while this year it may be a Catholic against whom the finger of suspicion is pointed, in other years it has been—and may someday be again—a Jew, or a Quaker, or a Unitarian, or a Baptist. It was Virginia’s harassment of Baptist preachers, for example, that led to Jefferson’s statute of religious freedom. Today, I may be the victim, but tomorrow it may be you—until the whole fabric of our harmonious society is ripped apart at a time of great national peril.” In 1960, it would have been hard to imagine how thoroughly religious sectarianism and intolerance would infect American politics, and especially one major party. The outcry over Obama’s policy on health insurance and contraception has almost nothing to do with that part of the First Amendment about the right to free religious practice, which is under no threat in this country. It is all about a modern conservative Kulturkampf that will not accept the other part of the religion clause, which prohibits any official religion.

Santorum, like most conservatives these days, says he is a constitutionalist. Jefferson wrote, and Madison worked to pass, the Commonwealth of Virginia’s Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom, which held that “all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities.” Jefferson included an even stronger phrase that was eventually struck out by amendment: “the opinions of men are not the object of civil government, nor under its jurisdiction.” Presumably, all of this originalist nonsense makes Rick Santorum heave, gag, vomit, and puke.

What makes me throw up is the story of Hamza Kashgari. It’s a shame that every American doesn’t know his name. He’s a young, slender, philosophical-minded columnist and blogger from Saudi Arabia who, earlier this month, dared to tweet phrases of an imagined conversation with the Prophet Mohammad: “I have loved things about you and I have hated things about you and there is a lot I don’t understand about you…I loved the rebel in you…I will not pray for you.” Within twenty-four hours, more than thirty thousand furious replies had been posted on Twitter. Within a few days, more than twenty thousand people had signed on to a Facebook page called “Saudi People Want Punishment for Hamza Kashgari.” (So much for Arab liberation by social media.) One commenter wrote, “The only choice is for Kashgari to be killed and crucified in order to be a lesson to other secularists.”

Kashgari backed down, apologized profusely, and continued to be attacked. He went into hiding. Clerics and government officials threatened him with execution for blasphemy. He fled to Malaysia, hoping to continue to fly to New Zealand, where he would ask for asylum. But Malaysian officials, behaving against law and decency, had him detained at the airport and sent back to Saudi Arabia, where he was promptly arrested. Since mid-February there’s been no word of Kashgari. The Saudis have said they will put him on trial. What a pity there’s no First Amendment to protect him.
If only he had more powerful friends—if only Christopher Hitchens were still alive—Hamza Kashgari would be called the Saudi Rushdie. There would be a worldwide campaign to pressure the Saudis into releasing him. The United States would offer him asylum and quietly push our friends the Saudis into letting him go. But we’ve come to expect these things from our friends the Saudis.

We’ve come to expect these things from the Muslim world. We expect Afghans to riot for days and kill Americans and each other because a few NATO soldiers were stupid enough to burn copies of the Koran along with other objects discarded from a prison outside Kabul. Yes, those soldiers were colossally, destructively insensitive. Yes, we should know by now. Yes, the reaction has a lot to do with ten years of war and occupation and civilian deaths and marines urinating on Taliban corpses. Still, can we have a little outrage at the outrage? Can we reaffirm that human lives are more sacred than books? Can we point out that every time something like this happens, there’s a manufactured and whipped-up quality to much of the hysteria, which has its own cold political calculation (not unlike the jihad against secularists by Sean Hannity and other Salafist mouthpieces)?

Saudi Arabia needs an absolute separation of religion and state so that Hamza Kashgari can say things that other people don’t like without having to flee for his life. Afghanistan needs it, too, and so does Pakistan, so that mob violence and political assassination can’t enjoy the encouragement of religious authorities and the tolerance or acquiescence of government officials. And America needs it so that our Presidents’ religious views remain their own private affairs, and Rick Santorum and his party can’t impose dominion of one narrow, sectarian, Bible-based idea of the public good over a vast, pluralist, heterodox, freedom-loving democracy.

Afridi Tells Pakistan to Learn New Zealand Lessons

As Reported by Agence France-Presse

Pakistan captain Shahid Afridi on Wednesday urged his team to learn the lessons of the 110-run defeat against New Zealand.

The Black Caps rode on a brilliant unbeaten 131 by Ross Taylor to post a challenging 302-7 before Tim Southee removed the top order with a burst of three early wickets to bowl Pakistan out for 192.

“There were quite a few lessons to be learned from the defeat, especially those chances we gave to Taylor and when you give such chances to a player like him he makes you pay,” said Afridi.

Wicketkeeper Kamran Akmal let Taylor off twice in the same Shoaib Akhtar over – once when the batsman was on nought and then on eight – allowing two straightforward chances to slip past him.

Afridi said his bowlers were poor in the death overs when New Zealand plundered 139 runs off the last 10 overs.

“I think the way we started with the ball was good, but then the missed chances maybe demoralised the bowlers and they were very poor in the end,” said Afridi.

Afridi hoped his top order batsmen will show improvement in the next game, against Zimbabwe on Monday.

“Our top order did not work well although we have given them the time to settle down and this was the first time we were chasing. We need to learn how to bat while chasing,” said Afridi.

“Taylor took the game away from us although the bowlers had reverse swing. But the way he played was brilliant and he took the game away from us,” said the Pakistan captain.

Pakistan now have six points from four matches, second in Group A behind New Zealand who also have six points but a better net run-rate.

Co-hosts Sri Lanka (five points from four) and Australia (five from three) are third and fourth respectively.

Pakistan must put their act together before it’s too late

Phew! What a close shave that was for Pakistan. The batsmen were self destructing at will and had done enough to lose the game and open a fresh can of worms. An unexpected loss against the minnows and against heavy odds could have been interpreted as intentional by the rumour mongers and portrayed Pakistan in bad light.

And it wouldn’t have been difficult to convince the cricket world to believe it as true gospel, as unfortunately it has developed a jaundiced view to everything regarding Pakistan cricket.

Canada, who were not only raw with their skills but in an unfamiliar territory to create history, got tensed up and could not close out the game.

Pakistan batting was technically poor. Most of the batsmen were caught on the crease, playing across the line and falling prey to their own mistakes rather than opponents’ craft. In fact the team technicians read the pitch poorly and blindly made the decision to bat first on a moist track. Good teams are not only about bat and ball but about good support staff who can prepare a brief for the captain consisting of healthy options and intelligent analysis. Remember, big thinkers of the game and not big names make for a winning formula in the dressing room.

In seaming conditions, the openers were quickly thrown out of rhythm. Ahmed Shehzad’s brazen aggression at times borders on cockiness.

His pattern of attack on the day was ill suited for the conditions. He takes uncalculated risks and gives the impression of a spoilt millionaire at a roulette table! Nobody wants him to sacrifice his aggression but lot of people want him to curb his urge to be a kamikaze pilot on a suicide mission.

Hafeez is a utility article. Bit like a sofa cum bed he adjusts and adapts to the demands of the game. He has not yet set the world on fire in this World Cup but Pakistan must not panic and think to uncouple the two openers. In the 1992 Cup, in our losses to India, South Africa and West Indies, we made the mistake of trying three different opening combinations which unsettled the entire team.

Afridi as a leader had a mixed outing. While his sleight of hand once again amazed the batsmen, his captaincy spell was rather flat. In a low scoring game with choices curtailed, a constant dose of pressure and aggression could have earned Pakistan an early win. But Afridi, in the middle overs, unwisely chose to sit in and attacked with just four fielders in the circle.

Most captains in ODIs seem to operate with a rigid mind and a set routine to clog up runs and through it suffocate batsmen. They don’t seem to have a plan for unconventional situations that demand for out of box thinking.

Andrew Strauss, the other day against Ireland was caught out because of lack of intent to pick wickets. Afridi needs to be more innovative as a leader, bit like his batting and bowling, and open up to all kinds of plans rather than following a basic dated one. Trying to super impose a particular game plan on all situations cannot work.

Good thing about the win was how Pakistan fought tooth and nail till the end. They were feisty on the field and did not surrender to the pressure of the situation. Umar Gul looked to be at home with the new ball and Saeed Ajmal did not look rusty in his first outing.

Daryl Harper, the umpire, though was completely out of tune and had four reviews turned against him. His time is up as it’s not a one off instance of poor umpiring but a trial of shocking 18 months out in the center.

Umpires are like players and can have good and bad days on the field, but when a lean patch in the late years of a career start to stretch to longer cycles, then it is time to hang up the boots and exit gracefully.

—The writer is a former Pakistan captain.

New Zealand Thrash Pakistan in Cricket ODI

As Reported by The Associated Press

A five-wicket haul for Tim Southee and a blistering 55 by Jesse Ryder saw New Zealand shatter an 11-match losing streak in style with a nine-wicket win over Pakistan in their one-day match Saturday.

New Zealand were so dominant in the opening ODI of the six-match series that they took just 17.2 overs with the bat to wrap up the match after whipping Pakistan out for 124 at the Westpac Stadium in Wellington.

Under pressure to perform after being whitewashed in successive series against Bangladesh and India, New Zealand rejigged their batting order with swashbuckling opener Brendon McCullum dropped down to number six.

The aim was to give New Zealand strength at the top and tail but McCullum never reached the wicket as his regular opening partner Jesse Ryder carved up the Pakistan attack in a whirlwind reply to an ineffective performance.

The only success for Pakistan was when captain Shahid Afridi won the toss and opted to bat, their day going downhill from there.
The Pakistan innings lasted just 37.3 overs and the outcome was almost inevitable once Ryder opened up in the fifth over of New Zealand’s innings, taking 17 off Shoaib Akhtar including two fours and a six.

He made his 55 in only 34 balls in a batting display which complemented the bowling of 22-year-old Southee, who assumed the role of New Zealand’s senior quick for the first time and claimed his first ODI five-wicket bag.

New Zealand skipper Daniel Vettori said it was good to snap the losing streak and full credit had to go to man-of-the-match Southee.
“It was a good win for us after a long time. Tim Southee set it up for us with his swing,” he said, leaving Afridi to rue an ineffective batting performance by his side.
“I think the pitch was very good. I don’t think that was a bad decision batting first. We were missing partnerships.”
Southee destroyed Pakistan in three spells in which he ripped out the top order, came back to break up the middle and returned again to wrap up the innings.

His figures of five for 33 from 9.3 overs were backed up by three for 26 for Hamish Bennett, playing in only his third ODI and first at home, and two for 33 by the veteran Jacob Oram. Only Misbah-ul-Haq produced an innings of substance for Pakistan, reaching 50 before he was bowled by Southee to end the innings.

But the New Zealand openers Ryder and Martin Guptill showed there were no demons in the wicket as they put on 84 in 10 overs before Ryder’s departure. Ryder brought up his 50 edging Abdul Razzaq for a single and in the following over took a single off Sohail Tanvir before attempting to pick up the pace again.

He smacked another four and then went for back-to-back boundaries only to pull the ball straight to Asad Shafiq on the mid-wicket boundary.
Guptill, averaging almost a run a ball, made an unbeaten 40 but it was Ross Taylor, promoted to number three in the new-look New Zealand batting line up, who stroked the winning single, finishing on 23.

Pakistan’s innings was shaky from the start with Mohammad Hafeez dropped by McCullum in the first over, but falling soon after when he edged an outswinger from Southee.

It was the start of a penetrating period for Southee in which he took the wickets of Kamran Akmal (eight) and Asad Shafiq (four) to take three for 16 from his first spell of six overs, leaving Pakistan 32-3.

Younis Khan and Misbah-ul-Haq, who provided the backbone of each Pakistan innings in the Tests, set about repairing the situation but had added only 28 for the fourth wicket when Bennett struck.

He had Younis caught behind for 24 and then dismissed Umar Akmal with his next delivery, caught at second slip by Taylor. Shahid Afridi avoided the hat-trick but was dismissed by Southee in his second spell to have Pakistan 88-6 before the quick ended the Pakistan innings in his third turn with the ball by bowling Misbah. The second match in the series is in Queenstown on Wednesday.

Pakistan Consider Pitching up in China

As Reported by Reuters

The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) is considering using China as a neutral venue for its international cricket events, Chinese state media said today. The official Xinhua news agency cited sources as saying that the board’s director Javed Miandad had submitted a report to the PCB suggesting its management “take special steps to finalise China as a neutral venue.”

“We should take immediate and solid steps to decide this issue soon before the time passes away,” Miandad was quoted as saying.

Pakistan became a no-go area for cricket’s leading nations after an armed attack on the Sri Lanka team bus in Lahore in March last year killed eight people, and injured seven Sri Lankan players and their assistant coach.

Pakistan was due to host matches in next year’s World Cup. But the attack on the Sri Lanka bus saw the tournament restricted to the three remaining Asian Test nations of India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.

Even before the Lahore incident, countries such as Australia had refused to tour Pakistan, where thousands have died in a decade of conflict.

The security situation led Pakistan to play its “home” series against Australia in England this year. In the last two years, the nation’s “home” games have also been staged in the United Arab Emirates and New Zealand.

According to Xinhua, Pakistan will support China in its bid to host the 2012 Asia Cup in the southern city of Guangzhou, where the Asian Games recently concluded successfully with their first-ever cricket tournament.

Pakistani authorities say China’s hosting of its first major international cricket event would pave the way for making it a neutral venue.

U.S. Walks Out as Iran Leader Speaks

By Neil MacFarquhar for The New York Times

UNITED NATIONS — President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran made a series of incendiary remarks in his speech to the United Nations General Assembly on Thursday, notably the claim that the United States orchestrated the Sept. 11 attacks to rescue its declining economy, to reassert its weakening grip on the Middle East and to save Israel.

Those comments prompted at least 33 delegations to walk out, including the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Costa Rica, all 27 members of the European Union and the union’s representative, diplomats said.

The annual General Assembly started formally on Thursday, with scores of presidents, kings and ministers expected to address the gathering over the coming week. The speeches often fail to break new ground or lack electricity, so the occasional theatrics inevitably attract considerable attention.

Mr. Ahmadinejad rarely disappoints on that scale, although he seemed to go out of his way to sabotage any comments he made previously this week about Iran’s readiness for dialogue with the United States. The theme of his often flowery speech was that the capitalist world order was collapsing and he cited three examples: the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands, and the pressure on Iran over its nuclear program.

He said there were three theories about the origins of the Sept. 11 attacks, including “that some segments within the U.S. government orchestrated the attack to reverse the declining American economy and its grips on the Middle East in order also to save the Zionist regime.”

The United States Mission to the United Nations swiftly issued a terse response. “Rather than representing the aspirations and goodwill of the Iranian people, Mr. Ahmadinejad has yet again chosen to spout vile conspiracy theories and anti-Semitic slurs that are as abhorrent and delusional as they are predictable,” it said in a statement.

It was not the first time Mr. Ahmadinejad espoused the theory, but never before so publicly. “The majority of the American people as well as other nations and politicians agree with this view,” he said.

Mr. Ahmadinejad obviously delights in being provocative during his annual visit to the United Nations. He framed his comments about Sept. 11 as an examination of opinions, an approach he has used repeatedly in questioning the Holocaust.

But his assertion that the majority of Americans agree with him surely lacked any factual basis. As did his claim that reviving the American economy was the motive behind the devastating attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon; the United States economy declined significantly after the attacks. In his interviews with journalists, much like during his debates with opponents in the disputed Iranian presidential election last year, Mr. Ahmadinejad has often been accused of making up statements wholesale.

But analysts noted that his remarks should be viewed through the prism of domestic politics in Iran, where conservatives try to outflank him. They said that during a recent Friday prayer sermon, Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati said that 84 percent of Americans believed their own government was behind the attacks.

Iran also cultivates an image as the voice of all Muslims in confronting the United States, and the idea that Americans rather than Islamic extremists carried out the 2001 attacks has long resonated among Arabs. “This is very helpful to Ahmadinejad’s desire for greatness in the Arab world,” said Ali Mirsepassi, a professor of Middle Eastern studies and sociology at New York University.

The other two theories on the attacks presented by Mr. Ahmadinejad were that terrorists who penetrated American security were responsible, and that terrorists carried out the attacks but then the American government took advantage of the situation. He even suggested that the United Nations create a fact-finding panel to study the theories.

Farideh Farhi, an Iran expert at the University of Hawaii, said, “Apparently now he has decided that by going to the core of American sensitivities — in the same way he did with Israel by questioning the legitimacy of that country’s existence — he can continue to keep himself at the center of global attention while deflecting attention away from his dismal domestic record.”

Mr. Ahmadinejad also lambasted those Americans who had threatened to burn the Koran. “The truth could not be burned,” he said, hefting a green Koran aloft with his one hand and a black Bible with another, saying he respected both of them. “We should wisely avoid playing into the hands of Satan.”

The other speeches Thursday followed more traditional lines, although not without moments of passion.

Prime Minister Wen Jiabao of China focused his speech exclusively on China’s domestic accomplishments, with a brief global reference at the end when he suggested a vital, peaceful China was good for the world’s peace and prosperity.

The speech, entitled “Getting to Know the Real China,” lauded the country’s economic progress while recognizing that it had a way to go with 150 million people still living in poverty. Mr. Wen said China was determined to forge even greater progress through education, science and technology.

The Turkish president, Abdullah Gul, endorsed American efforts to negotiate peace in the Middle East, but criticized Israel both for its presumed nuclear arsenal and for attacking a Turkish-organized humanitarian convoy at sea in May during which nine people were killed.

“We hope that this new engagement can take us closer to a viable and fair settlement,” Mr. Gul said. “On the other hand, it would be very difficult to make progress toward permanent peace unless we put an end to the humanitarian tragedy in Gaza.”

Mr. Gul called the attack a violation of international law, and he welcomed a report released Wednesday by United Nations Human Rights Council, which endorsed that viewpoint.President Bingu wa Mutharika of Malawi, speaking on behalf of the African Union, urged the General Assembly to defer for one year the war crimes charges brought by the International Criminal Court against President Omar Hassan al-Bashir of Sudan. He said that would avoid jeopardizing the outcome of a referendum scheduled for January on independence for southern Sudan.

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