Elixir of Lies – Hindutva groups turn to cow urine for protection from COVID-19 – AHAN PENKAR

Shortly after noon on 14 March, in a makeshift tent next to a temple on Delhi’s Mandir Marg, a bizarre religious ritual was underway. A man in Hindu religious garb faced a flex banner that carried the image of a demon with the word “Corona” stamped across its chest, as well as photos, taken from tourism websites, of Chinese people eating bees, an octopus, a frog and a lobster, with speech bubbles saying, “Save us Corona!” As he sprinkled generous quantities of gaumutra—cow urine—on the image of the demon, the man chanted, “Corona shant ho jao, shant ho jao corona”—Calm down, corona. One of the assembled priests started distributing earthen cups of gaumutra as prasad, while another showered gulal mixed with gaumutra as “a blessing from god.”

Two days before, the World Health Organisation had formally declared the outbreak of the coronavirus COVID-19 a pandemic. The WHO provided all countries a four-pronged strategy: preparing health facilities, detecting and treating new cases, reducing transmission of the virus and innovating ways to tackle the pandemic. This “gaumutra party,” organised by a group known as the Akhil Bharat Hindu Mahasabha—its members claim that it is a faction of the Hindu Mahasabha of VD Savarkar—was unusual, but not particularly innovative. Over the last few years, gaumutra has been heralded as a panacea for so many diseases that it was inevitable that someone would include COVID-19 in that list. Continue reading

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From Jan 1996 – Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan – interview with Pakistani Qawwali singer – Interview by Jeff Buckley

Pakistani Qawwali singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan drives people wild with his music, which is an unbelievable combination of rich, soaring, complex sounds including something that is hard to describe but reminds us of yodeling. His music has been featured on movie soundtracks and in concert halls around the world, and his ecstatic voice haunts all who hear it. Here, the sensational singer Jeff Buckley talks with the man who has, for so long, inspired him

Born in a region where music is as much of a birthright as breathing, singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan is held to be the brightest star in Qawwali, a form of Islamic devotional music, in all of Pakistan – “bright,” that is, as in blinding. A vocal art over seven centuries old, Qawwali is passed down orally from father to son (in rare cases to daughters) by Sufi masters. Sufism is a Muslim philosophical and literary movement dating back to the tenth century. Borrowing tenets from other world religions, including Buddhism and Christianity, this mystical order stresses the personal union of the soul with God through poetry and symbolism. Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan has single-handedly transformed this art from a static antique into a brilliant explosion of light. Through his ecstatic performances, Khan’s Qawwali acts as a living testament to music’s power to link all humans, unashamed of emotion, to the divine. At once soaring and penetrating, these sounds seem to rip open the sky, slowly revealing the radiant face of the beloved. Qawwals don’t sing, they are born to sing, and the men who accompany Khan in his ensemble do not just play music, they become music itself. Every Qawwali performer is excellent, mind you, for they all, by definition, must sing from a heart burning with a passionate love for Allah (God), the Prophet Muhammad, and the saints, and must be totally open to the divine. For them, there is nothing else. Six years after first discovering his music, I was able to meet the man whose voice has healed the fuck out of me. We talked in a vast hotel room in New York City, through his interpreter, Rashid Ahmed Din, who knows Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan’s story better than anyone. I wouldn’t lie to you, this is the man.

JEFF BUCKLEY: The first real Qawwali I ever heard was called “Yeh Jo Halka Halka,” from the album The Day, the Night, the Dawn, the Dusk on Shanachie Records.

NUSRAT FATEH ALl KHAN: You liked it?

JB: It saved my life. I was in a very bad place.

NFAK: Where were you?

JB: Just depressed. Continue reading

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Islamophobia taints India’s response to the coronavirus – Rana Ayub

It didn’t take long before India’s response to the coronavirus was tainted by the kind of discrimination and Islamophobia that has characterized the nationalist administration of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The hashtags #CoronaJihad and #BioJihad have inundated Twitter recently. It all stems from cases of covid-19 reported at a Muslim event.

On Sunday, the Indian government linked more than a thousand cases to the Tablighi Jamaat, a Muslim missionary group that held its annual meeting in a community center in Nizamuddin from March 8-10, days before India declared a health emergency and called for a national lockdown. While most people, including Muslims, agree that holding the annual meeting was irresponsible and endangered many lives, the event has faced a disproportional amount of criticism while generating a cascade of vitriol.

Virtually overnight, Muslims became the sole culprits responsible for the spread of the coronavirus in India.

Never mind that various religious groups held temple gatherings across India during the same period of time, putting many lives at risk. In the northern state of Madhya Pradesh, more than 25,000 people have been placed in quarantine after a man who traveled from Dubai performed Hindu rituals with 1,200 people on March 20.

Continue reading

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As coronavirus cases explode in Iran, U.S. sanctions hinder its access to drugs and medical equipment

ISTANBUL – Sweeping U.S. sanctions are hampering Iranian efforts to import medicine and other medical supplies to confront one of the largest coronavirus outbreaks in the world, health workers and sanctions experts say.

The broad U.S. restrictions on Iran’s banking system and the embargo on its oil exports have limited Tehran’s ability to finance and purchase essential items from abroad, including drugs as well as the raw materials and equipment needed to manufacture medicines domestically.

The Trump administration has also reduced the number of licenses it grants to companies for certain medical exports to Iran, according to quarterly reports from the Office of Foreign Assets Control, or OFAC, the enforcement agency of the U.S. Treasury Department. The list of items requiring special authorization includes oxygen generators, full-face mask respirators and thermal imaging equipment, all of which are needed to treat patients and keep medical workers safe, doctors say. Continue reading

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BJP and Israel: Hindu Nationalism is Ravaging India’s Democracy by RAMZY BAROUD

It was only a matter of time before the anti-Muslim sentiment in India turned violent.

A country that has historically prided itself on its diversity and tolerance, and for being ‘the largest democracy in the world’ has, in recent years, exhibited the exact opposite qualities – chauvinism, racism, religious intolerance, and, at times, extreme violence.

The latest round of violence ensued on February 23, one day before US President Donald Trump arrived in Delhi on his first official visit to India. Continue reading

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What Trump is Doing in the Middle East While You are Distracted by COVID-19 by ROBERT FISK

And still the virus shrouds Donald Trump’s mischief in the Middle East.

First it was his sly retreat from Iraq; now it’s his cosy military exercises with the United Arab Emirates – famous in song and legend as a former Saudi ally in the bloody Yemen war – and his cut of $1bn in aid to Afghanistan because its presidential feuding may hamper another deal with his newly established chums in the Taliban. And then there’s Iran

So let’s look for a moment at the extraordinary mock city built in the Emirates – complete with multi-storey buildings, hotels, apartment complexes, an airport control tower, oil refineries and a central mosque – which Emirati troops and US Marines have been assaulting with much clamour in a joint military exercise. According to the Associated Press reporter who watched this Hollywood-style epic, Emirati soldiers rappelled from helicopters while Marines “searched narrow streets on the Persian Gulf for mock-enemy forces”.

But who were these “forces”? Iranian, perhaps? In which case, the mock-mosque was presumably Shia, the oil refineries presumably in southern Iran, and the old streets in one of Iran’s ancient cities. Surely not Shiraz. Surely not Isfahan. Continue reading

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India’s Failed Democracy by MEL GURTOV

India is often billed as the world’s biggest democracy. But that title has worn thin: Under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, India is becoming a nationalist state home to Hindus and closed to Muslims. A new citizenship law is exclusionist: It provides a path to citizenship for every religion save Islam, which is practiced by roughly 16 percent of India’s population, or nearly 200 million people. Modi proclaims the law part of the “New India.”

Besides being inhumane, the new law is clearly unconstitutional. According to India’s constitution, any “person who has his domicile in the territory of India and—(a) who was born in the territory of India; or (b) either of whose parents was born in the territory of India; or (c) who has been ordinarily resident in the territory of India for not less than five years immediately preceding such commencement, shall be a citizen of India.” Among the “fundamental rights” granted under the constitution are: (1) “The State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India.” (2) “The State shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them. No citizen shall, on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them, be subject to any disability, liability, restriction or condition . . . ” Continue reading

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The Assassination of Gen. Qasem Soleimani by GARY LEUPP

In 2003 the U.S. committed the crime of the century, invading, destroying and occupying the modern state of Iraq, ushering in an era of misery, terror and chaos in the region. Or one could say that the invasion continued an era launched by the ill-fated invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001, justified by the 9/11 attacks, which—have you noticed?—is ending in abject failure and humiliating retreat.

Within a year after the invasion of Iraq, a branch of al-Qaeda appeared in the wrecked country, where (despite the lies of George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Colin Powell and others) it had never, ever existed before. It quickly found recruits among the Sunnis, whose basic institutions (the Baath Party and the national army) had been dissolved by the clueless occupiers. Largely suppressed during the U.S. “surge” in 2007, al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia morphed into ISIL, establishing a base in Raqqa, Syria by 2013. Therefrom it fanned back across Iraq, taking the cities of Mosul, Ramadi, Tikrit and Fallujah as the demoralized, incompetent U.S.-trained Iraqi forces bolted in 2015.

For a decade, the U.S. had inflicted misery upon misery on the Iraqi people. Now the worst type of fiends imaginable—men who enslaved Yezidis, raped non-Muslim women, crucified and beheaded children, pulverized monuments, buried people alive, burned a captured pilot alive in a cage—were taking over Iraq. The situation was so dire that the Iraqi government requested a return of the (hated) U.S. troops to aid in the war against the even worse threat of ISIL.

But it also called on Iran. It was the most natural thing to do. Iran was the friendly neighboring country. It is predominantly Shiite, like Iraq. Iraq is, aside from tiny Bahrain, the only majority-Shiite Arab nation. Iranians and Iraqis share a dread of Sunni intolerance (such as prevails in Saudi Arabia and among the Taliban in Afghanistan).

Of course Baghdad would want to draw upon the talents of General Qasem Soleimani. He had been a hero of the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s (in which the U.S. had backed Saddam Hussein in invading Iran). He was a decisive link among Shiite forces in the region, including Lebanon’s Hizbollah that had driven out the Israelis in 2006, and the Syrian regime struggling to suppress ISIL, al-Nusra, and U.S.-backed forces hell-bent on regime change. Iran had opposed the U.S. invasion of Iraq but was pleased that it had led to the formation of a Shiite-led government. Tehran has sought cordial relations with a series of U.S.-back administrations, who have themselves struggled to maintain neutrality in the U.S.-Iran confrontation.

But the U.S. having conquered Iraq has sought to deny it an independent relationship with Iran. It has sought to integrate Iraq into a pro-Saudi, pro-Israel, anti-Iran, anti-Syria, anti-Hizbollah alliance. But it has failed. (The architects of the criminal war had no idea about the differences between Sunnis and Shiites, no realization that their moves would strengthen Iran.) In the decisive battles against ISIL in 2015 Soleimani and the “Iran-backed” Shiite militia played a key role. They are appreciated, while the U.S. is despised, for obvious reasons.

And now Donald Trump has murdered him, and multiple others who have fought ISIL, including nine Iraqis in the Popular Mobilization Forces. It is a crime comparable to the murder of Jamal Khashoggi ordered by the Saudi crown prince, a Trump family pal. Mainstream media commentators who deadpan “He was a bad actor” (hence, it was not thaT bad to kill him) are simply following script and confirming that under capitalism you must at the end of the day kiss the ass of the ruling class.

Far from rallying behind the U.S. following the assassination of Soleimani, the elected representatives of the Iraqi people in Baghdad are now—as the State Department warns all U.S. citizens to flee Iraq immediately—demanding the immediate withdrawal of U.S. forces. That will be a major step towards the restoration of national dignity. Iran will as usual show restraint; it has not attacked another country in 300 years. Soleimani will be glorified as a martyr throughout the Shiite world, and even by some Sunnis (Hamas has issued a statement mourning the murder of the general); Iraq will bond more tightly with Iran and if ISIL resurfaces Iran will again help combat it.

As we speak the world condemns the U.S. action. The UK, France, and Germany all criticize it. Pompeo looks angry and perplexed; he’s indignant that the Europeans aren’t on board the program. Russia is outraged, China indignant at the murders. Only Netanyahu’s Israel stands with the assassin-president.

Trump warns Iran to not retaliate for Soleimani’s murder, lest the U.S. destroy 52 sites in Iran, including cultural ones. A vicious sadist, Trump demands Iran to accept U.S. impunity. It must obey. That’s all the Iranians can do—call Trump, praise him, negotiate a deal with him that prohibits their ties to mass-based organizations around their region. Pompeo’s list of 12 demands to Iran, presented in May 2018, as the price of a U.S. return to the nuclear deal offend the whole world in their sadistic, idiotic arrogance.

Now the U.S. has committed a high-level, acknowledged crime virtually announcing to the Iraqi and Iranian peoples that it craves their hatred. Bring it on! thinks the bone-spur president, champion of war criminals, hero of the attack on Syria following the (fake) Douma chemical attack in April 2018, and the deployment of MOAB (the biggest non-nuclear bomb) in Afghanistan, to make some point in April 2017. The president who’s boasted as being “the most militarist person there is” (Aug. 17, 2015) has sealed himself off from the civilized world by a remarkably stupid decision.

This could be the end of the post-9/11 world of U.S. hegemony, the birth of a multilateral world in which the actions of the moron-ruled country necessarily focus the efforts of the anxious others on containment of U.S. madness.


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America Escalates Its “Democratic” Oil War in the Near East – Michael Hudson Jan 6.2020

The mainstream media are carefully sidestepping the method behind America’s seeming madness in assassinating Islamic Revolutionary Guard general Qassim Suleimani to start the New Year. The logic behind the assassination was a long-standing application of U.S. global policy, not just a personality quirk of Donald Trump’s impulsive action. His assassination of Iranian military leader Suleimani was indeed a unilateral act of war in violation of international law, but it was a logical step in a long-standing U.S. strategy. It was explicitly authorized by the Senate in the funding bill for the Pentagon that it passed last year.

The assassination was intended to escalate America’s presence in Iraq to keep control of the region’s oil reserves, and to back Saudi Arabia’s Wahabi troops (Isis, Al Quaeda in Iraq, Al Nusra and other divisions of what are actually America’s foreign legion) to support U.S. control of Near Eastern oil as a buttress of the U.S. dollar. That remains the key to understanding this policy, and why it is in the process of escalating, not dying down. Continue reading

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After Mossad Targeted Soleimani, Trump Pulled the Trigger by JEFFERSON MORLEY

Last October Yossi Cohen, head of Israel’s Mossad, spoke openly about assassinating Iranian general Qassem Soleimani, the head of the elite Quds Force in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

“He knows very well that his assassination is not impossible,” Cohen said in an interview. Soleimani had boasted that the Israel’s tried to assassinate him in 2006 and failed.

“With all due respect to his bluster,” Cohen said, “he hasn’t necessarily committed the mistake yet that would place him on the prestigious list of Mossad’s assassination targets.”

“Is Israel Targeting Iran’s Top General for Assassination?” I asked on October 24. On Thursday, Soleimani was killed in an air strike ordered by President Trump.

Soleimani’s convoy was struck by U.S. missiles as he left a meeting at Baghdad’s airport amid anti-Iranian and anti-American demonstrations in Iraq. Supporters of an Iranian-backed militia had agreed to withdraw from the U.S. diplomatic compound in return for a promise that the government would allow a parliamentary vote on expelling 5,000 U.S. troops from the country.

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