MY THOUGHTS AND EXPERIENCES

aziz anom

MEMONS MUHAMMAD'S SEX LIFE JINNAH MUSLIM WOMEN'S VEILS IS WIFE BEATING PERMITTED IN ISLAM? GOD AND RELIGION PRISONS
I DO NOT GIVE A DAMN UNITED NATIONS WHAT IS WRONG WITH THE ISRAELIS? HAPPINESS TERRORISM OF THE MIGHTY AND THE WEAK INCREDIBLE INDIA
EDUCATION GHOSTS ENCOUNTERS WITH CRIMINALS SOME INTERESTING PEOPLE I HAVE MET A TALE OF TWO NATIONS HEALTH MATTERS
WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING

THOUGHTS

MEMONS

Who are the Memons? I am sure most of you haven't a clue. But I am a Memon and I want to think a little here about my community.

Until recently I had no idea about my origins, not until I made a trip to the Cutch province of Gujarat state in India. In its capital, Bhuj (later to be destroyed by an earthquake), I found that the people there all spoke my mother tongue, Memni (also called Cutchi) even though not all of them were Memons. I was received with open arms, being invited into their homes for meals and shown around town. They were amused that I spoke the language in a slightly different sort of way. Either my forebears, when they migrated, adopted a different talking style or the people who didn't migrate had done so. I am not sure which.

I am the sort of person who loves libraries and so I visited the only one in Bhuj. There the librarian found for me a book which had a passage about the Memons. It seemed that about 4-500 years ago some 6000 Hindus from the Lohana community (whatever that meant), who resided in the Sindh province of what is now Pakistan, were visited upon by a Muslim preacher and converted to Islam, and were given the name Memon by this preacher, Memon meaning faithful. These Memons later moved down south to Cutch, apparently because the other Hindus living in the surrounding villages, who had chosen to remain Hindus, had started persecuting the Memons for abandoning their traditional faith.

Now what interests me is why these Memons (or more likely in the beginning their headman) embraced Islam? History doesn't say anything, as far as I am aware. Whatever people might say about the truthfulness of their religion, it is never, never easy to get converts to any religion, for religion is based not on reason or logic or rational thought but on conditioning, on rewards and punishments. A child can get conditioned to it by its parents and so can an adult by a preacher offering inducements or threatening dire consequences of some kind or other.

What was offered to the Memons?

Money, land, tax benefits? Or was it simply inter-marriages between the muslim rulers of that area and the local women? No one seems to know or care.

MUHAMMAD'S SEX LIFE

I once mentioned to a Muslim that Muhammad, their "prophet" had sex with a nine year old girl and he became angry, asking me for proof. So for his benefit and for the benefit of all other Muslims out there I offer the following website, found at:

http://www.thereligionofpeace.com/Quran/025-Muhammads-sex-life.htm

Muhammad, it seems, had many more sexual adventures than just violating an innocent child. Some quotes from the site:

"Muhammad had sex with just about anyone he pleased, thanks to Allah's extraordinary interest in his personal sex life, as immortalized in the Qur'an.

Although the Qur'an didn't appear to have enough space for topics like universal love and brotherhood (which Muslims sometimes insist are there, but aren't), the list of sexual partners that Muhammad was entitled to is detailed more than once, sometimes in categories and sometimes in reference to specific persons (Zaynab & Mary).

Muhammad was married to thirteen women, including eleven at one time. He relegated them to either consecutive days or (according to some accounts) all in one night. He married a 9-year-old girl and even his adopted son's wife. On top of that, Muhammad had a multitude of slave girls and concubines with whom he had sex - sometimes on the very days in which they had watched their husbands and fathers die at the hands of his army.

So, by any realistic measure, the creator of the world's most sexually restrictive religion was also one of the most sexually indulgent characters in history.

Allah managed to hand down quite a few "revelations" that sanctioned Muhammad's personal pursuit of sex to the doubters around him. Interestingly they have become part of the the eternal, infallible word of the Qur'an, to be memorized by generations of Muslims for whom they have no possible relevance.

Qur'an (33:37) - "But when Zaid had accomplished his want of her, We gave her to you as a wife, so that there should be no difficulty for the believers in respect of the wives of their adopted sons, when they have accomplished their want of them; and Allah's command shall be performed." No doubt millions of young Muslims, trying to outdo one another at memorizing the Qur'an, have wondered about what this verse means and why it is there. In fact, this is a "revelation" of convenience that Allah just happened to hand down at a time when Muhammad lusted after his daughter-in-law, Zaynab, - a state of affairs that disturbed local customs. The verse "commands" Muhammad to marry the woman (following her husband's gracious divorce). As for why this should be part of the eternal word of God...?

Qur'an (33:50) - "O Prophet! surely We have made lawful to you your wives whom you have given their dowries, and those whom your right hand possesses out of those whom Allah has given to you as prisoners of war, and the daughters of your paternal uncles and the daughters of your paternal aunts, and the daughters of your maternal uncles and the daughters of your maternal aunts who fled with you; and a believing woman if she gave herself to the Prophet, if the Prophet desired to marry her-- specially for you, not for the (rest of) believers; We know what We have ordained for them concerning their wives and those whom their right hands possess in order that no blame may attach to you; " This is another special command that Muhammad handed down to himself that allows virtually unlimited sex, divinely sanctioned by Allah. One assumes that this "revelation" was meant to assuage some sort of disgruntlement in the community over Muhammad's hedonism.

Qur'an (33:51) - "You may put off whom you please of them, and you may take to you whom you please, and whom you desire of those whom you had separated provisionally; no blame attaches to you; this is most proper, so that their eyes may be cool and they may not grieve, and that they should be pleased" This is in reference to a situation in which Muhammad's wives were grumbling about his preference for sleeping with a slave girl (Mary the Copt) instead of them. Accordingly, Muhammad may sleep with whichever wife (or slave) he wishes without having to hear the others complain... as revealed in Allah's literal and perfect words to more than a billion Muslims.

Qur'an (66:1-5) - "O Prophet! Why ban thou that which Allah hath made lawful for thee, seeking to please thy wives?..." Another remarkable verse of sexual convenience concerns an episode in which Muhammad's wives were jealous of the attention that he was giving to a Christian slave girl. But, as he pointed out to them, to neglect the sexual availability of his slaves was against Allah's will for him!

Qur'an (4:24) - "And all married women (are forbidden unto you) save those (captives) whom your right hands possess." Allah even permitted Muhammad and his men to have sex with married slaves, such as those captured in battle.

FROM THE HADITH:

Muslim (8:3309) - Muhammad consummated his marriage to Aisha when she was only nine. (See also Bukhari 58:234)

Bukhari (62:18) - Aisha's father, Abu Bakr, wasn't on board at first, but Muhammad explained how the rules of their religion made it possible. This is similar to the way that present-day cult leaders manipulate their followers into similar concessions.

Muslim (8:3311) - The girl took her dolls with her to Muhammad's house (something to play with when the "prophet" was not having sex with her).

Bukhari (6:298) - Muhammad would take a bath with the little girl and fondle her.

Muslim (8:3460) - "Why didn't you marry a young girl so that you could sport with her and she could sport with you, or you could amuse with her and she could amuse with you?" Muhammad posed this question to one of his followers who had married an "older woman" instead.

Bukhari (4:232) - Muhammad's wives would wash semen stains out of his clothes, which were still wet from the spot-cleaning even when he went to the mosque for prayers. Between copulation and prayer, it's a wonder he found the time to slay pagans.

Bukhari (6:300) - Muhammad's wives had to be available for the prophet's fondling even when they were having their menstrual period.

Bukhari (93:639) - The Prophet of Islam would recite the 'Holy Qur'an' with his head in Aisha's lap, when she was menstruating.

Bukhari (62:6) - "The Prophet used to go round (have sexual relations with) all his wives in one night, and he had nine wives." Muhammad also said that it was impossible to treat all wives equally - and it isn't hard to guess why.

Bukhari (5:268) - "The Prophet used to visit all his wives in a round, during the day and night and they were eleven in number." I asked Anas, 'Had the Prophet the strength for it?' Anas replied, 'We used to say that the Prophet was given the strength of thirty men.' "

Bukhari (60:311) - "I feel that your Lord hastens in fulfilling your wishes and desires." These words were spoken by Aisha within the context of her husband having been given 'Allah's permission' to fulfill his sexual desires with a large number of women in whatever order he chooses. (It has been suggested that Aisha may have been speaking somewhat wryly).

Tabari IX:137 - "Allah granted Rayhana of the Qurayza to Muhammad as booty." Muhammad considered the women that he captured and enslaved to be God's gift to him.

Tabari VIII:117 - "Dihyah had asked the Messenger for Safiyah when the Prophet chose her for himself... the Apostle traded for Safiyah by giving Dihyah her two cousins. The women of Khaybar were distributed among the Muslims." He sometimes pulled rank to reserve the most beautiful captured women for himself.

Tubari IX:139 - "You are a self-respecting girl, but the prophet is a womanizer." Words spoken by the disappointed parents of a girl who had 'offered' herself to Muhammad.

Additional Notes:

Muhammad's sexual antics are an embarrassment to those Muslims who are aware of them. This is particularly so for their prophet's marriage to Aisha when she was 9-years-old. The thought of a 52-year-old man sleeping and bathing with a young girl is intensely unpleasant and it reflects the disgusting character of a sexual glutton rather than a holy man. Critics even allege that Muhammad was a pedophile.

Some Muslims respond by denying the hadith itself, which is a mistake. The accounts of Muhammad sleeping with a 9-year-old are no less reliable than those on which the five pillars of Islam are based. They have been an accepted part of tradition and did not become controversial until social mores began to change with the modern age.

The charge of pedophilia may or may not be true, depending on how it is defined. Technically, Muhammad did have a sexual relationship with a child, but Aisha was also the youngest of his twelve wives. Zaynab was in her 30's when she attracted the unquenchable lust of the prophet. We don't know the age of Muhammad's sex slaves. They may or may not have been as young as Aisha, but there is no point in speculating.

Prior to the medical advances of the last century, marriage occurred at a much younger age across all societies. When life expectancy was in the mid 20's (or lower), it made no sense to wait until 19 before having children. Otherwise, one ran the risk of not being around to raise them. In short, childhood as we know it was abbreviated by the reality of the times.

Another strong piece of evidence against Muhammad being a pedophile is that, according to the same Hadith, he waited from the time Aisha was six (when the marriage ceremony took place) until she turned nine to consummate the relationship. Although the text doesn't say why, in all probability it was because he was waiting for her to begin menstrual cycles - thus entering into "womanhood." It is unlikely that a pedophile would be concerned about this.

On the other hand, Muhammad passed down revelations from Allah that clearly condoned sleeping with underage girls, even by the standard of puberty. Qur'an (65:4) lays down rules for divorce, one of them being that a waiting period of three months is established to determine that the woman is not pregnant. But the same rule applies to "those too who have not had their courses," meaning girls who have not begun to menstruate. (In our opinion, this would have been a great time for Allah to have said something else instead like, "a real man is one who marries a real woman"... but that's just us).

Thanks to Muhammad's extremely poor judgment (at best) and explicit approval of pedophilia, sex with children became deeply ingrained in the Islamic tradition. For many centuries, Muslim armies would purge Christian and Hindu peasant villages of their menfolk and send the women and children to harems and the thriving child sex slave markets deep in the Islamic world. The Ayatollah Khomeini, who married a 12-year-old girl, even gave his consent to using infants for sexual pleasure (although warning against full penetration until the baby is a few years older). In April, 2010, a 13-year-old Yemeni girl died from injuries suffered to her womb during intercourse.

Muhammad's penchant for girls so much younger than him was such that at least two of his father-in-laws (Abu Bakr and Omar, the first two Caliphs) were actually younger than him as well. This disappointing pattern is very much at odds with the sort of sexual discipline that one might expect of a true "prophet of God."

Muhammad's pursuit of Zaynab, the wife of his adopted son is almost as tough for Muslims to explain. This is because it not only raises a similar question of moral character, but also casts suspicion on whether his so-called prophecies were really divine revelation or dictates of personal convenience. According to one biographer, even Aisha appears to be somewhat doubtful of Muhammad's claim that Allah commanded him to marry Zaynab, wryly remarking, "Truly Allah seems to be very quick in fulfilling your prayers."

So controversial was Muhammad's desire to marry his adopted son's wife that he had to justify it with a stern pronouncement from Allah on the very institution of adoption, which has had tragic consequences to this day. Verses 33:4-5 are widely interpreted to imply that Islam is against adoption, meaning that an untold number of children in the Islamic world have been needlessly orphaned - all because Muhammad's lustful desires for a married woman went beyond even what the other six wives that he possessed at the time and a multitude of slaves could satisfy.

Some Muslims deny that Muhammad was married to more than four women at a time, merely on the basis that the Qur'an only gives permission for marrying four. Unfortunately, Muslims historians disagree. Only one of Muhammad's last eleven wives died before him (Zaynab bint Khuzayma). The rest outlived him by many years.

Muhammad forbade his ten widows from remarrying, even making sure that this "divine" order was forever preserved in the eternal word of Allah - Qur'an (33:53). To add insult to injury, they were all summarily disinherited from Muhammad's estate by his successor (courtesy of another divine order "given" to Abu Bakr from Allah).

In summary, Islam's holiest texts portray Muhammad not as a perfect man, but as a sexual hedonist. Not only did he become fat from indulging in food, but his pursuit of sex was no less gluttonous. On top of it all, he used personal "revelations" from Allah to justify his debauchery to the gullible masses which, to this day, continue to be venerated and memorized as if they are the holiest of utterances."

JINNAH

There has been published a new biography of Mohamed Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan. The author is an Indian. I was impressed by it because I think it is factual. Jinnah was arrogant and self-seeking, with absolutely no religious inclinations. If the Indian Congress party had offered him the first premiership of a united India, this pork-eating, whiskey drinking skeleton of a man would have grabbed it and Pakistan would have been forgotten; millions of innocent people would then have been spared the killings and mayhem that followed along the borders of the two states. Indeed after he was holed up in the then backwater town of Karachi, he regretted Pakistan and longed for his life in Bombay and his large house there. The people of Pakistan are not told this and as a result the man is regarded there as some kind of god.

MUSLIM WOMEN'S VEILS

Why don't muslim men also wear veils to counter the lustful gazes of women?

IS WIFE BEATING PERMITTED IN ISLAM?

A common thread running through most Muslims is their ignorance of their own religion. This is perhaps not surprising given the widespread lack of education amongst them and the fact that Arabic is a foreign language to most of them. Barring the scholars, even the educated Arabs are unaware of the contents of the Quran. Their beliefs about Islam reflect not the true precepts of Islam but the norms of the society in which they live. They would for example vehemently assert that there is equality of sexes in Islam. But is there such equality?

Some time back there was the case of an imam or cleric in France who was expelled from that country for saying that muslim men were allowed to beat their wives. The BBC took this up in its programme NEWSHOUR by interviewing two Ďeducatedí Muslims who both strongly denied that the Quran sanctioned this, calling the imam ignorant. The BBC man, having obviously done his own research and not wanting to be impolite, quietly commented: "This man you call ignorant might in fact be very enlightened". The 'educated' Muslims failed to get the drift of this.

So what does the Quran say about wife beating? Here is the passage 4:34 for you to make up your own mind:

"Men have authority over women because God has made the one superior to the other, and because they spend their wealth to maintain them. Good women are obedient. They guard their unseen parts because God has guarded them. As for those from whom you fear disobedience, admonish them and send them to beds apart and beat them. Then if they obey you, take no further action against them. Surely God is high, supreme."

(For a better understanding of Islam, Muslims should read "Muhammad, a biography of the prophet of Islam" by Maxime Rodinson.)

GOD AND RELIGION

Put yourself in the position of God. If you had a message for humans on earth, would you be stupid enough to choose one man in one particular part of earth to be the carrier of that message? If you did that, your message certainly wouldn't reach all humanity, would it?

No, the most efficient way to get your message across would be to transmit it directly to all, by whatever means at your disposal. You are after all God and you can do anything, right?

PRISONS

To me, putting criminals behind bars is meaningless. It is simply society seeking revenge and it does little to reform the convicts. A large number of them keep coming back after being released, and the rest are scarred for life, unable to fit into normal life again. Wouldn't it be better if prisons were abolished and the criminals, on conviction, given 10 lashes on the back side and then put to slave labour in the service of society, such as in a factory or on a farm, plus being given daily educational courses in appropriate behaviour?

I DO NOT GIVE A DAMN

Have you sometimes looked at a conflict among two countries or groups and said to yourself: "I do not give a damn who wins".

Well, that is what I feel about America and the Taliban.

I am no friend of Bush, the Christian fanatic and his thugs, and hate the protection racket they are running around the world (if you do not give us what we want we will make trouble for you) and their unflinching support for the Zionist criminals who occupy Palestine. Nor am I a supporter of the Taliban, that benighted bunch of religious loonies who want to take their people back to the stone age.

So I say let the Christian fundamentalists in America and the Muslim fundamentalists in Afghanistan and elsewhere in the Islamic world fight until they are both dead. The sooner they have disappeared from the face of the earth the better.

UNITED NATIONS

It is amazing that those members of the United Nations who do not belong to the privileged class of the veto wielding five have continued for so long without stopping to think a little.

Who are these five and who has given them the power to decide over the fate of the rest of humanity? Are they in any way superior to the others? Are they perhaps super human? Are they not flouting the very principle of democracy by frequently over-riding the views of the majority of the members?

I say it's time to call a halt to this dictatorship of the five.

Obviously these self-appointed judges are not going to give up their power willingly, which is why it is necessary for the rest of the UN to stage a mass walk-out of this illegitimate body and start a new organization which would in effect be a world parliament where decisions are made on the basis of a simple majority vote.

Justice would then have been introduced in the world for the first time and there would be fewer conflicts and more peace, don't you think?

WHAT IS WRONG WITH THE ISRAELIS?

Those of you who have travelled around a lot and stayed in guest houses and hotels would undoubtedly have come across the phenomenon of the unpopularity of Israeli tourists amongst the owners of such establishments. Israelis are simply unwelcome because of their aggressive, rude and quarrelsome behaviour and because of their stinginess.

What causes this behaviour? Well, one could put forward a hypothesis here and see how it goes.

Once upon a time, early in the last century, a group of European Jews calling themselves Zionists hit upon the idea of creating a Jewish homeland in Palestine on the grounds that there was a state of Israel there some two thousand years ago (it was conveniently overlooked that the Jews were originally immigrants to Palestine, their race having begun with a chap called Abraham who resided in what is now Iraq).

We can divide the European Jews of the time into good guys and bad guys. The good guys (along with all the civilized world) were horrified at the thought of establishing a state in a region where the Arabs already lived, forming more than 90% of the population. It would be highly immoral, they said. The bad guys didn't give a damn for this opinion and began to move to Palestine with the blessing of the wily British who even issued a document called the Balfour Declaration which went something like this: "His Majesty's government views with favour the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine..." The other European nations also were in favour of Israel in Palestine; primarily because there was no love lost between them (Christians) and the Muslims; and also because they wanted to see the back of the Jews (a case of killing two birds with one stone).

And so it was that the good guys stayed where they were or went to other places -- mostly to America, especially to the big apple (New York) -- while the bad guys poured into Palestine, driving away the Arabs from their homes and lands and turning them into refugees in miserable camps. Today the bad guys continue to terrorize the Palestinians, killing them off whenever it suits them, torturing them, demolishing their homes, laying waste their agricultural lands and building walls between them. It's called crimes against humanity but the world, under the leadership of religious people like Bush and Blair, looks the other way, preferring instead to wage wars against those who would put an end to Zionism.

The bad guys therefore have free reign to continue to commit their atrocities and have lots of time left over to travel the world as tourists where they just can't help revealing themselves for what they are -- bad guys.

HAPPINESS

Something for you to chew on:

The biggest lie that is almost universally believed is that if you can only get this or that (a winning lottery, a beautiful woman, a fancy house), you will have achieved happiness.

TERRORISM OF THE MIGHTY AND THE WEAK

That of the mighty :

Terrorism is when you assassinate or overthrow a leader of another country because he does not serve the interests of your own country.

Terrorism is when you commit unprovoked aggression against another country and in the process inflict death and suffering on the citizens of that country.

Terrorism is when you barge into another country, kill their citizens or uproot them from their homes and set up your own state on their soil.

Terrorism is when you force another country to sell its products cheaply to you, thereby keeping that country in poverty.

That of the weak :

Terrorism is when you sneak into another country and blow up its trains and buses or hijack its planes and ram them into tall buildings, killing and maiming many of its citizens.

Terrorism is when you use bombs and bullets indiscriminately to try to overthrow your leaders or to expel their foreign backers.

The question we must ask is:

Who first began to use terrorism?

And who is doing a tit for tat?

The mighty or the weak?

INCREDIBLE INDIA

Do you remember the book V.S.Naipaul wrote some years back about India which he called "An area of darkness"? Well, in my opinion, his views are still valid today despite all the hullabaloo about India soon becoming, along with China, a modern developed country.

What impresses me about any country is not how industrialized it has become or how much financial clout it wields but how intelligently it is being run. I look at such things as corruption, bureaucracy, cleanliness, discrimination and so on. In all such things India fails miserably. The country is truly incredible and not in the sense that the Indian Tourist Board means it with the slogan "Incredible India".

The country wants tourists but the visas cannot be issued on arrival. If you are outside your own country and if you apply for an Indian visa in a third country, a fax will be sent to your country to check on you and to add insult to injury you have to pay for the fax (there are millions of criminals in India and the authorities are worried about one or two foreign criminals creeping into the country!). People of Indian origin are entitled to a five year visa but try applying for one and see if you can get it without a lot of fuss.

Once you are in the country after having paid through your nose for a visa you are likely to be bombarded with meaningless forms to fill out wherever you go. I once took a bus from Madras to Kodaikanal and the driver gave me one because I was a foreigner (I doodled on it and gave it back. The fellow looked at it and took it away. Not even a professor of English would have understood it but he did.) I once heard of a western couple who had wanted to enter India from Pakistan and were given a form to fill out in triplicate but without any carbon paper. When eventually they did, the Indian immigration simply handed them back and waved them on.

Incredible indeed!

EDUCATION

What is the definition of Education? Who is an educated person? Is he an engineer, doctor, lawyer or any other person who has completed a long course of study at some school or university?

I say not.

I say that a person cannot be called educated unless he has learnt to think for himself and is able to question the accepted norms of his society.

EXPERIENCES

GHOSTS

Have you ever experienced any super-natural events? Well, I have.

The first time was when I was about 6 or 7 years old. This was way back in the early forties, well before hovering machines such as helicopters were invented, which would have explained what I saw floating above the roof of our house in Ranavav, India. I felt as though someone inside that object was watching me. I donít know why but I remember wanting to throw a stone at the thing (yes, it was so close above me). I donít think I threw anything and my memory at that point goes blank.

The second time was years later in the nineties in northern Thailand in a town called Tat Panom. I had arrived as a tourist and went to a guest house recommended in the guide book. The lady owner of the house informed me that the house was full but that she had another place, and cheaper too, where she could give me a room. She took me there and I found that there was no one else staying there. All went well in the beginning with me alone in the house until I began to hear noises coming from a locked room next to the sitting room where I spent time reading and listening to music on my tape-recorder. I ascribed the noise to some rats that were running around in there. A couple of days later a man and a woman from Europe arrived to stay in the house and they were given the room from which the noises were coming. I saw that it was a normal bedroom like the one I had been given down the corridor and there certainly were no rats. This couple had apparently stayed in the house before during their frequent trips to the town from the house they had built for themselves in the district. They knew the landlady very well and they told me a chilling story. They said that that house was haunted and the landlady knew about it. An American who had also stayed alone in the house some months before my arrival was so baffled by the noises that he had gone around the neighbourhood asking people if there had taken place in the house a murder or a suicide or something. I donít know what he found out but that very night the couple had arrived I heard, in the middle of the night, a knocking on my door. I didnít open the door. Who would want to talk to me at that hour? The couple said they certainly hadnít disturbed me, adding that they too had been woken up -- by the rattling of the chain on the front door which was near their room. They moved out a few days later. And so did I.

ENCOUNTERS WITH CRIMINALS

I have travelled a good deal in the world: Ireland, England, Scotland, most of Continental Europe, Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Cyprus (both north and south), Malta, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and the Philippines. As you can imagine, not all my travels have been trouble-free. Here I want to tell you about my encounters with criminals.

I had made a trip to the north east of India (visiting places like Sikkim and Nagaland) and I was on my way back to Calcutta via Gauhati, the capital of Assam state. At the bus station there, while I waited for the bus, I felt a sudden itching on my neck. I tried to pour water on the neck from the bottle of drinking water I carried with me but it did little to help. The itching persisted. As I discovered later a fellow specializing in snatching bags from travellers, especially foreigners, had surreptitiously put some powder on me so that he could get at my bags between my feet while my attention was distracted. He succeeded only in untying my shoe laces (so that I should find it difficult to run after him). The bus finally came. And because of the stench of human excrement around the booty of the bus I took my two bags up on the crowded bus, only to find that I could squeeze in only one of them there; the other simply had to be put in the booty. By the time I got back up on the bus again, the bag I had deposited there had gone. The unseen, fast moving thief had obviously been observing me all the time.

In Poland I made the mistake of changing my Danish money into Polish Zlotys on a railway platform, and ended up getting false notes.

In Karachi, Pakistan, a porter carrying my bag managed somehow to get to its contents. I thought I had watched him carefully but apparently he was too quick. I lost an expensive bottle of shampoo.

Again in India, when the train I was travelling in pulled up at a station, I made the mistake of asking a fellow who had just got onto it to look after my luggage while I went down to buy something to eat. He turned out to be a thief himself. I actually saw him walking hastily away with my walkman.

In Indonesia, in the town of Padang, while walking in broad daylight on one of the main streets, I suddenly felt my left leg being rubbed. I turned and saw no one. Unknown to me my wallet in the pocket on the right side got picked. I lost 13 Dollars (US) and a few documents. What the thief didn't know was that I had kept my big money in the left pocket. He had gone for the right pocket because it bulged. I was lucky there. That incident convinced me that I had to carry my money and passport and ticket on my chest, under the shirt. I have done that ever since.

In Colombo, Sri Lanka, I forgot to lock my room in a guest house while I went to take a shower and the manager, yes the manager himself, took the opportunity to go into my room and help himself to 2000 rupees. I had actually 5000 rupees in the wallet but the manager considered himself smart and took only 2000, thinking I wouldn't notice the missing notes. But I did because it was my habit to check my wallet regularly. When I confronted him, I saw the guilt written all over his face. Apart from the Tamil boy who worked there there was no one else in the house at the time, and the boy, I could see, had nothing to do with it. I went straight to the police who sent a police car to fetch the two for questioning. The fellows showed up not in their usual sarongs but in trousers, which in Sri Lanka are considered more dignified. It was as if they wanted to say to the police, "Look, we are wearing trousers; we can't be crooks." After a good deal of talking back and forth, it all ended with the trousers letting the manager down: the police inspector ordered him to give the 2000 back, telling him: "If you don't, we'll put you in prison." I got back my money.

In Colombo also I had the most chilling encounter with a criminal and it had nothing to do with any crime committed against me. It was in a hotel lobby where a man sitting beside me revealed that he was tailing someone who had come into the hotel. While his eyes flitted about, he told me that he was a professional hit man, being able to satisfy the demands of his clients in every way. "I can bring a head, arms, legs...anything," he added. Before going away to continue with his 'tailing' he wished me a pleasant holiday in Sri Lanka. This from a man who even looked ferocious, moustache and all. Regardless of the nice things people say about Sri Lanka, in my opinion Sri Lankans can be very brutal indeed when involved in a conflict. They even have one of the highest suicide rates in the world. And I don't think it has anything to do with any inherent nature. I think their path to non-Buddhist ways must have begun -- and here I am sticking my neck out -- with the arrival of the tea plantations and the ensuing drinking of tea in copious amounts. Tea, I firmly believe, can, under certain circumstances, really screw up your brain, giving you a foul temper and making you aggressive.

In Singapore I was cheated by two landlords (one was actually a lady) when they refused to hand back deposits I had given them. Both were Chinese. People who have had dealings with Chinese or been to China tell me that they are not a pleasant lot, particularly the older generation. Tea drinkers again, mainland China being one of the heaviest consumers. They even consider red to be their lucky colour. Haven't you heard the expression "to see red?" Dogs get worked up by that colour and so do bulls, hence the use of red cloth in bull-fighting. Their diet too is devoid of much fat which helps to keep hunger at bay longer. You must surely have heard the expression: "A hungry man is an angry man."

In Bangkok, Thailand, in the back-packer district of Khao Sarn, a turbaned Indian running a travel agency kept delaying paying back a refund on a ticket I had bought from him. I finally lost my temper and went to the police who, because the man spoke fluent Thai (he was born in Thailand) were nicer to him than to me. When I accused him of wanting to keep my refund in his own pocket, his wife, who had come with us to the police, burst out angrily that her husband would never do such a thing. Emboldened by this the man let out a few obscenities. Neither the wife nor the police knew what I knew about him, that he was a hardened gambler, even going as far as Sri Lanka just to place bets in the casinos of the big hotels there. This he had told me himself. So, what else does one expect from a man who gambles his money away. Anyway, I got my refund and forgot about him. Only to find, about a year later, his picture in the Bangkok Post. He had thrown away his turban, his long hair flowing down like a woman's and he was surrounded by the police. The caption above the photo read, "SWINDLER ARRESTED". Apparently a large group of tourists had paid him some 2 million Bath for air tickets and the man had absconded with the money without producing the tickets. He is probably still rotting away in jail. I wonder if his wife sometimes thinks of the incident with me.

Have you ever travelled by Kuwait airways? Well, don't ever do it. It is about the worst airline I have come across.

The food is lousy and not only do they not serve alcohol, they even prevent you from bringing your own. And the service -- well, it's just awful.

But that's not all.

I travelled from Copenhagen to Cochin with a stop-over in Kuwait where you and your luggage are transferred to another of their planes. On arrival in Cochin a lot of us passengers discovered that our bags and suitcases had been broken into and some expensive items stolen. It had obviously happened at Kuwait airport.

The airport staff at Cochin were very helpful. They helped us write complaints and compensation claims which they said they would forward to Kuwait airways.

But in the coming days and weeks nothing happened. Kuwait Airways it seemed had no intention of either apologising or reimbursing. So I sent them e-mails, to their office in Cochin and to their head office in Kuwait -- not once but several times. There was not one answer from them.

Then in Colombo, Sri Lanka, I happened to pass their office and had a chat with a Singhalese lady. She was very keen to help me; gave me a cup of tea and asked me to fill out a form and then she picked up the phone to ask her superior where she should send the form to. When she put the phone down, her attitude changed. "No need to fill the form," she said."We have to decide what to do and then we will let you know." She took my address and I went away.

Never to hear from her again.

SOME INTERESTING PEOPLE I HAVE MET

(1)

There was this American in Chiang Mai, Thailand, whom I had come to call 'yoghurt man' because he loved eating yoghurt. A Vietnam War veteran, he was stuck in Thailand because he couldn't go to India, the country he liked the most because of its delicious vegetarian dishes (he was a vegetarian).

The Indians had made him persona non grata after they had thrown him in jail for two months. All that the poor man had done was to over-stay his visa for three days. He had suddenly discovered this while he was in the South of India and he went immediately to the immigration office there who promptly told him to go all the way up to Delhi to have it fixed (such is the bureaucracy in India). The boys in Delhi, however, wouldn't listen to him when he told them that it was an oversight and that he had himself come to them. Jail it had to be for him.

It never occurred to him to offer them a bribe. If he had I am sure he would have got away with it.

(2)

Another American (also in Chiang Mai) revealed to me that he had spent several years in jail in his country for armed robbery. He said he had been a good snooker player and was making good money playing the game in a saloon bar until he met these two guys there who persuaded him to join them in holding up petrol stations. "It's easy money," they told him.

The police eventually caught the gang and he found himself in the cooler where sexual assaults on young fellow inmates was common. A black man he had talked to one day in the court yard of the prison gave him some advice: "Pick any man here and give him a punch from behind and continue beating him with everything you have. Every one would see what a tough guy you are and then nobody would bother you."

He did just that and got an extra year in jail for violent behaviour. But the black man was right: nobody dared to mess with him any more.

(3)

A guest house in Baybay on the island of Leyte in the Philippines where I stayed had a Dutch owner married to a filipina. This guy was a bit of a weirdo; his behaviour was just not normal and I am not sure if it was because he liked to drink a lot. Anyway he confided in me that some years before he had been a drug smuggler, transporting hashish from Morocco to Holland, getting caught in the end and spending a few years in prison.

In prison he had begun to correspond with this filipina, telling her everything about himself. She did not care that he was a jail-bird and told him to come over when he was released.

The guest house I was staying in was built with the money from his smuggling days, he informed me.

(4)

This man was an Italian and when I saw him in a guest house in Khota Bharu, Malaysia, I was sure I had seen him before but couldn't remember where. A remarkable man in that he travelled the world with not a penny in his pocket: he simply asked people for a few coins. And people just gave it to him when he said he was hungry and wanted to eat. To this guest house he had offered help with the daily chores in exchange for a bed and a meal a day. "If I can eat just once a day, that's enough," he told me.

He said he felt no shame asking people for money. "In fact I am proud of myself for being able to do so," he added.

Amazingly he had managed to spend five years in Goa, India, without even an Indian visa. Apparently there was a foreign lady who had copied the rubber stamps of Indian Immigration and was dispensing visas for ten dollars.

(5)

He was an Egyptian who lived in a room opposite mine in the lodgings of the University of Edinburgh. He was doing some research and I was just touring the Scottish capital and had got a room on the campus because the students were away for the summer. This man told me of his very unusual, some would call it disgusting, sexual experience.

Let us first point out that deviant sexual behaviour is not uncommon among the Muslims because of the religious barriers placed between their males and females. Go for example to Turkey, or to an Arab country or to Pakistan or cross into Malaysia from Thailand and you will see sexually frustrated males making approaches to other males; the females are very likely resorting to other females and I can vouch for that for I have actually witnessed an all-female orgy: it was in Ranavav, my birth place in India; the muslim memon girls had one day decided to have it off in the office of my grandfather's house and I had happened to chance upon it. If I had been older (I was only about 8 or 9 at the time) I would probably have joined them and I am sure they would have welcomed a male participant with open legs. But what I did was to rush, like a reporter with a scoop, to my grandmother who promptly came and broke up the fun.

But this Egyptian had simply got hold of a donkey. "I achieved full penetration," he grinned, as we sipped beers in the university bar.

(6)

How many Indian women, I wonder, are happy with their husbands. Marriages in India are mostly arranged and the bride usually sees her man for the first time on the night of the wedding itself. Not only could her man have turned out to be ugly as hell, he could have been a bastard or an utter idiot: it's a chance she has to take. And the guy, starved of sex, very likely wants to sleep with her right away before getting to know her. She has no choice but to put up with, what is in effect, rape.

We usually don't hear about the suffering of the Indian woman, for she has been trained to keep quiet.

However I have met two Indian women who were open with me.

The first one was sitting next to me on a flight from Madras to Singapore back in 1988. I had a good chat with her and I was flattered when she said that before the flight she had hoped that someone like me would be sitting beside her. She said her husband was forcing her to have sex with him and she hated it. She hinted that she was quite prepared to have an affair with me. Now I have no qualms about having it off with a married woman but I am a choosy guy and she just wasn't my type. In the arrival lounge at Singapore airport I could see disappointment on her face as I made no attempt to meet her again.

The second woman was part of a group of honeymooners in Oct 2005 in the hill station of Kodaikanal, South India. I had booked a conducted tour of the resort and had been lumped together with them. I felt out of place. The Indians, like the Europeans, don't talk to you unless you talk to them first, but as we walked through a beautiful wooded area one newly wedded woman came up to me and said, "Are you a foreigner?" and we began to talk. It turned out that she was an advocate who wanted to be a magistrate but couldn't because she was a woman. She revealed that she was deeply disappointed with the man she had just got married to. "My parents said he was an educated man but he knows practically nothing except how to run his jewellery shop; he can't even do simple arithmetic and doesn't speak English. I want to divorce him as soon as we get back home." I told her that in that case she should make sure she doesn't get pregnant. "Nothing has happened so far," she said, pointing to her tummy. I could sense that she was attracted to me and before we parted she insisted on having her picture taken with me. While we posed for the shot, she put her arm around my waist. So I put my arm around her waist as well. By now I knew that there was no danger of the husband charging at me for he looked and acted exactly like she had described him, a moron.

(7)

This old man was from Australia and he lived alone in the same guest house as I did. Old or not he was obsessed with having very young girls in his bed.

One day while he was having breakfast downstairs in the lobby, I sat down at his table and he told me his story.

He had been living happily in a house with a divorced Thai woman and her two teenage daughters. There was an argument with the woman and he had become so angry that he had packed up and left her. "Don't leave, Alan," she had beseeched him. "I'll even give you my daughters if you stay."

Now he regretted it all and wished he had stayed. His misery was compounded by the fact that he had contracted aids through his association with so many different prostitutes.

A few months later when I came back to town I heard that he had died.

(8)

Can you imagine a man offering his own wife for sex? That's what happened to a Canadian in Thailand as well as to yours truly.

The Canadian related the following to me:

"This Thai Man was more interested in drinking whiskey than sleeping with his wife. Perhaps he couldn't get it up any more; I suppose that's why, after he had taken me to his house and tapped me for a hundred Bath to buy some more liqueur, he asked me to go to her. I was afraid the man might have been joking and I hesitated, but he kept insisting and finally I plucked up the courage to enter the wife's room. She was smiling and I did what was required of me ... I have their address. I'll go there again."

The husband I met was working in a library I frequented. We used to joke around a lot and he repeatedly mentioned his wife, hinting now and then that I could have her. She had apparently told him that she was tired of his small cock and wanted a foreigner with a big one.

"Did she really say that?" I asked.

"Yes, yes."

"Well, then," I said. "Show her to me and if I like her, I'll take her."

She turned out to be an ugly old hag with short hair and hardly any boobs, looking more like a man than a woman. "No thanks," I said.

(9)

In Denmark I once met a well-built woman in her late thirties (some would even call her fat) with large breasts and a protruding behind but with a wrinkly face and very thin lips. Not the sort of woman you would want to kiss on the mouth. Her curvy body however excited me and I invited her over to my place.

I made some food. But she was late in coming and as the food got colder and colder, I began to lose interest and no longer cared whether she came or not. But she did and after some uncomfortable moments while we ate I simply got up from my seat, went behind her and without much ado pulled off her sweater. Then began to unfasten her bra without much success. "Shall I help you?" she said and went on to finish the job herself.

I was still in a bad mood so I continued standing behind her, squeezing the boobs. After a while she sprang up from the chair, picked up one of my magazines and descended on my bed. And the unimaginable happened. The bed broke! Taking her down with it to the floor. The child in me probably wanted to laugh but I said: "Sorry, the bed is not very good; it breaks down frequently."

That put her in a foul mood too but somehow we managed to stretch out on the hard floor and engaged in a very unsatisfactory act of sex.

(10)

During my trip to the Philippines, back in the early nineties, I took a bus on one of its many islands with no destination in mind, wanting just to take in the scenery. My plan was to take the same bus back when it got to its end station; but when we had arrived there it had gotten late and there were no more buses going back that day. And to make matters worse the tiny town I had been deposited in had no hotel I could put up in.

Walking aimlessly down its single street I passed a church. A priest was standing outside it and I exchanged a few words with him. I asked him if I could spend the night on the floor of his church. He smiled and called one of the boys inside, telling him something I couldn't quite catch. The boy, instead of showing me the floor, took me to a beautifully furnished room. Wow! I said to myself as I set about freshening myself up. A little later as I was about to get to bed there was a knock on the door and the boy appeared again, asking me to come with him. Another Wow! erupted inside me as I saw a dinner table laden with food. The priest was there sitting at the head of the table and he motioned me to sit beside him. It was a feast. The Roman Catholic clergy certainly knew how to eat. Perhaps it was their way of making up for their womanless existence, though not sexless I am sure.

The priest asked me if I wanted to come to a party the next day which a lot of clergy from around that island were holding on the occasion of something or other. I of course said yes. I mean who would miss a chance like that.

If I had thought that the dinner the night before had been a feast then this party was a super feast. There was food of every kind imaginable. Every one ate like a pig and so did I, in between chatting with this or that 'father'. I don't remember seeing a nun.

Later my host dropped me off at a jetty where I could take a boat to another island.

A TALE OF TWO NATIONS

The two countries I am most familiar with are Denmark and Thailand. The contrast between them is sharp.

Denmark is developed and rich. A welfare state, it has free health and education and unemployment benefits, all financed by high taxes. The shops and supermarkets are full of goods of all kinds and you can buy almost anything. It is efficiently run and it gives generous aid to poor countries.

You would think the Danes were a happy lot but I think otherwise. I think they, like most northern Europeans, are too self absorbed, have little social contact with one another, consume junk foods and drinks, and are completely unwilling to put in more work than is required of them. They find it impossible to deviate from their rigid norms, nor can they tolerate deviations from others.

There are a lot of dogs in Denmark. Hardly surprising, for if you are too shy to make contact with other humans you would turn to a dog, wouldn't you? And the dogs make quite a mess on the otherwise well maintained grass planes. So much for the country's much-touted cleanliness.

The young Danes are good looking but because of their bad eating and drinking and smoking habits they become old and ugly very quickly. Their health in the end deteriorates so much that many of them kill themselves. Denmark has a high suicide rate.

Thailand on the other hand is poor but its people seem always to be smiling and are eager to talk to strangers. In fact you can never be lonely or without friends in Thailand.

Their food is very healthy and they do physical exercise such as aerobics after work. They do not have any sexual hang-ups such as in India, except perhaps their government; they are not averse to cracking jokes about sex and, if they want to, they indulge in it and will let you know they did. They like to smoke and drink like the Danes but not so their women unless they are prostitutes.

Because of this life style they appear younger than they really are. You would be tempted to hitch up with a 40-year-old Thai person than with a 40-year-old Westerner.

Like any other third world country, Thailand is bureaucratic and corrupt. But it is a good place just to live in as a retiree, if you can learn to speak their language. The drawback is that you have to be on your guard all the time if you don't want to be cheated in one way or another, for honesty is not one of Thai people's virtues. Many a foreigner has regretted going into business there.

HEALTH MATTERS

DOCTORS

I have long considered medical practice to be a disaster. Apart from giving antibiotics and patching up accident victims and congenital defects and such-like, is there anything else doctors are really capable of?

When it comes to degenerative diseases, doctors, despite their years of training, are probably engaged in quackery when they try to banish from view the ugly symptoms of their patient's mysterious diseases with chemicals, operations and shocks. Do they really think that the diseases would simply go away by such means?

A true scientist and a healer would try to search for the cause of a disorder and remove that cause. And the cause -- in the vast majority of bodily mal-function, both physical and mental -- is food or the wrong kind of it that is being consumed. Indeed Hippocrates, whose oath our white-coated friends are required to take, himself proclaimed: THY FOOD SHALL BE THY REMEDY. But do we, the patients, ever get asked about our dietary habits when we go to see a doctor?

An interesting news item came to my attention the other day: Some years ago doctors in Bogota, Columbia, had gone on strike for 52 days and in that period the death rate there fell by 35 %. Also in Los Angeles, during a slow-down by doctors, the death rate dropped by 18 %. Makes you think, doesn't it? And if it doesn't, then read below what some eminent people are thinking:

Professor Alonzo Clark: IN THEIR ZEAL TO DO GOOD, PHYSICIANS HAVE DONE MUCH HARM. THEY HAVE HURRIED THOUSANDS TO THE GRAVE WHO WOULD HAVE RECOVERED IF LEFT TO NATURE.

Sir John Forbes: SOME PATIENTS GET WELL WITH THE AID OF MEDICINES, SOME WITHOUT, AND STILL MORE IN SPITE OF IT.

Professor Francois Magendie: GENTLEMEN, MEDICINE IS A GREAT HUMBUG. I KNOW IT IS CALLED A SCIENCE. SCIENCE INDEED! IT IS NOTHING LIKE SCIENCE. DOCTORS ARE MERELY EMPIRICS WHEN THEY ARE NOT CHARLATANS. WE ARE AS IGNORANT AS MEN CAN BE. WHO KNOWS ANYTHING IN THE WORLD ABOUT MEDICINE?

Philosopher Alexis Carrel: UNLESS THE DOCTORS OF TODAY BECOME THE DIETICIANS OF TOMORROW THEN THE DIETICIANS OF TODAY WILL BECOME THE DOCTORS OF TOMORROW.

BACK PAIN

Back pain is usually associated with sitting for long periods with a curved back, like on a stool with no back rest. That was the case with me in my early years until I learned to straighten up.

Back pain, however, re-appeared in my later years with no apparent cause. This time the pain (which was much more severe than before) appeared when I forgot to sit straight for even a few minutes or when I lifted something heavy, behaviours I could easily have got away with before, provided I did not repeat them often.

Was this the work of old age creeping up on me?

I was informed that my body's need for calcium had increased with advancing age and that I had to take calcium supplements.

I remembered that the first time this severe form of back pain had occurred was after I had cooked something with whole wheat flour and then again after I had eaten every day the Indian food called chapati or roti which is made from unleavened brown wheat flour. As is well known, when you don't use yeast to make bread, the phytin in the unrefined floor will leach out the calcium from your body. Also eating other grains such as brown rice which also contain phytin, produced the same pain.

So it was probably the calcium or the lack of it.

Or was it? Recent writings on the net have pointed the finger at some health foods as the culprits, foods like salad, oats, egg white, tofu, raw vegetables, yoghurt, beans, fruit juices, sugar and peanuts. As well as too much roughage in the diet.

FREQUENT URINATION

For a long time now I have been troubled by frequent urination, especially during night time when I was obliged to get up from my sleep several times to go to the loo. What I observed was that the problem was particularly worse when I had consumed heaps of carbohydrates during the day.

On searching the literature on frequent urination one study caught my attention: it said that if you are on diuretics you can develop an intolerance for glucose (carbohydrate) leading to the body being unable to process the sugar and the sugar therefore building up in the blood stream -- a condition akin to diabetes. (Diabetics of course urinate often)

I had never been on diuretic drugs but I discovered that I had been eating a lot of foods, like certain spices, that were natural diuretics. The solution offered by that study was to discontinue the diuretics, cut down on salt and take potassium supplements. But how does one discontinue foods that one has been used to eating and loved doing so with a bit of salt? Not easy. I reasoned that potassium alone was unlikely to solve the problem and did not try it.

But over the course of time I found a simpler cure -- EXERCISE. Yes, whenever I had done a lot of physical activity during the day I slept mostly undisturbed during the night. This was in keeping too with what people have been saying about exercise, that it lowers the blood sugar level in the body (if not in the brain where it has the opposite effect). I went to Google to find out if anybody else had talked about the benefits of exercise in relation to frequent urination but there seemed to be no one.

Later on I discovered that the cause of the problem was very likely lack of fat in the diet, for whenever I had eaten butter or anything that had been fried, there was no rushing to the bathroom.

EXCEMA

Recently I had the condition they call excema (red, itchy rashes on the skin) so, as usual, I turned to the internet for help. Apparently there was no known cure for it. The Doctors resorted to steroid creams which do not work and are dangerous.

On the various discussion boards there seemed only one thing that people were sure actually worked against excema and that was sea salt. The recommendation was made that you should go to the beach and soak yourself in the sea. That made me wonder if one could simply use ordinary table salt from the kitchen. So I took a glass of tap water, dissolved a few spoonfuls of salt in it and rubbed this salt water on my affected skin. And voila! my excema began to disappear almost immediately.

But that didn't answer why the problem arose in the first place? Further research pointed the accusing finger at the following:

1) Food allergy, especially to milk and milk products.

2) Antibiotics

3) Excessive consumption of sugar/starch.

The last one seemed to be my problem. So I made some changes to my diet.

No more excema.

ITCHY CROTCH

Are you bothered by itchy crotch, also called 'jock itch'? Doctors seem to think it is a fungal infection. All I can say is that in my case it was a reaction to food, particularly to chilli.

THE ULTIMATE WEAPON AGAINST DISEASE

What do you do when you are racked by a chronic, possibly serious disease? The stupid doctors of course haven't been able to do anything and you are just lying there suffering and waiting for death. Is there no hope at all for you? Well, take heart, there is.

It's called fasting.

When you fast (for 10 days at least) you give your body a chance to rid itself of all the toxins that have accumulated over the years through your bad eating and drinking habits and perhaps your sedentary life-style.

And this is how you do it:

Take a spoonful of blackstrap molasses and put it in a large cup or mug; then squeeze half a lemon into the cup and add hot water. Stir the mixture and drink up. And keep drinking this concoction as many times as you wish during the day, keeping well away from all other foods and drinks except water.

You will be healthy and vigorous all over again.


WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING

THE WAR IN IRAQ -- an extract from an article by the journalist Gwynne Dyer:

The original decision to invade Iraq was the fatal mistake; the rest is just consequences. Iraq's government was crueller and less loved than most regimes in the Arab world, but the United States and Britain would be facing the same kind of resistance movement today if they had invaded Morocco, Egypt or Yemen in 2003.

There is no country of over two million people in the Arab world where an invading American army would not soon be confronted by the kind of resistance it is facing in Iraq.

History matters, and for Arabs all the history is bad.

Britain lured the Arabs into revolt against their Turkish overlords in the First World War with a promise of independence, then carved them up into the familiar Middle Eastern states of the present and bound them all in colonial servitude. It also promised Jews a national homeland in Palestine, the state of Israel _ which America has unstintingly supported, regardless of Israel's policies towards its Arab neighbours, for over 40 years. Why would any Arab country welcome an invasion by the United States and Britain?

This is a concept _ that we are unloved in the Arab world because of our past behaviour _ that is very hard to get across to the public in Yorkshire and Texas. But then, it's a notion that is also very hard to get across to the governments in Washington and London. They seem to feel that good intentions (as defined by themselves) should be enough to bridge the gap.

If some other country had invaded Iraq with the best of intentions _ Russia, say, or Japan _ it might have got away with it. But the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq was doomed from the first, and Mr Bush and Mr Blair had dozens of experts on call who could have told them why.

Either they didn't listen, or they chose not to ask.

Gwynne Dyer is a London-based independent journalist whose articles are published in 45 countries.

SEE IF YOU CAN STILL EAT MEAT AND ANIMAL PRODUCTS AFTER READING THIS ARTICLE BY PETER SINGER

Global meat consumption is predicted to double by 2020. Yet in Europe and North America, there is growing concern about the ethics of the way meat and eggs are produced. The consumption of veal has fallen sharply since it became widely known that to produce so-called white _ actually pale pink _ veal, newborn calves are separated from their mothers, deliberately made anemic, denied roughage and kept in stalls so narrow that they cannot walk or turn around.

In Europe, mad cow disease shocked many people, not only because it shattered beef's image as a safe food, but also because they learned that the disease was caused by feeding cattle the brains and nerve tissue of sheep. People who believed that cows ate grass discovered that beef cattle in feed lots may be fed anything from corn to fish meal, chicken litter and slaughterhouse waste.

Concern about how we treat farm animals is far from being limited to the small percentage of people who are vegetarians or even vegans _ eating no animal products at all. Despite strong ethical arguments for vegetarianism, it is not yet a mainstream position. More common is the view that we are justified in eating meat, as long as the animals have a decent life before they are killed.

The problem, as Jim Mason and I describe in our recent book, The Way We Eat, is that industrial agriculture denies animals even a minimally decent life. Tens of billions of chickens produced today never go outdoors. They are bred to have voracious appetites and gain weight as fast as possible, then reared in sheds that can hold more than 20,000 birds. The level of ammonia in the air from their accumulated droppings stings the eye and hurts the lungs. Slaughtered at only 45 days old, their immature bones can hardly bear the weight of their bodies.

Conditions are, if anything, even worse for laying hens crammed into wire cages so small that even if there were just one per cage, she would be unable to stretch her wings. But there are usually at least four hens per cage, and often more. Under such crowded conditions, the more dominant, aggressive birds are likely to peck to death the weaker hens in the cage. To prevent this, producers sear off all bird beaks with a hot blade. A hen's beak is full of nerve tissue _ it is, after all, her principal means of relating to her environment _ but no anaesthetic or analgesic is used to relieve the pain.

Pigs may be the most intelligent and sensitive of the animals that we commonly eat. When foraging in a rural village, they can exercise that intelligence and explore their varied environment. Before they give birth, sows use straw or twigs to build a comfortable and safe nest in which to nurse their litter.

But in today's factory farms, pregnant sows are kept in crates so narrow that they cannot turn around, or even walk more than a step forward or backward. They lie on bare concrete without straw or any other form of bedding. The piglets are taken from the sow as soon as possible, so that she can be made pregnant again, but they never leave the shed until they are taken to slaughter.

Defenders of these production methods argue that they are a regrettable but necessary response to a growing population's demand for food. On the contrary, when we confine animals in factory farms, we have to grow food for them. The animals burn up most of that food's energy just to breathe and keep their bodies warm, so we end up with a small fraction _ usually no more than one-third and sometimes as little as one-tenth _ of the food value that we feed them. By contrast, cows grazing on pasture eat food that we cannot digest, which means that they add to the amount of food available to us.

It is tragic that countries like China and India, as they become more prosperous, are copying Western methods and putting animals in huge industrial farms to supply more meat and eggs for their growing middle classes. If this continues, the result will be animal suffering on an even greater scale than now exists in the West, as well as more environmental damage and a rise in heart disease and cancers of the digestive system. It will also be grossly inefficient. As consumers, we have the power _ and the moral obligation _ to refuse to support farming methods that are cruel to animals and bad for us.

Peter Singer is a professor of bioethics at Princeton University and author, with Jim Mason, of The Way We Eat: Why Our Food Choices Matter.

CENTRAL TRUTHS

By John Pilger

If you got your news only from the television, you would have no idea of the roots of the Middle East conflict, or that the Palestinians are victims of an illegal military occupation.

In May, the Glasgow University Media Group, distinguished for its pioneering media analysis, published a study of the reporting of the Israeli/ Palestinian conflict. It ought to be required reading in newsrooms and media schools. The research showed that the public's lack of understanding of the conflict and its origins was compounded by news reporting, especially on television.

Viewers, says the study, are rarely told that the Palestinians are victims of an illegal military occupation. The term "occupied territories" is almost never explained. Indeed, only 9 per cent of young people interviewed knew that the Israelis were the occupiers and the "settlers" were Israeli. The selective use of language is important.

The study found that words such as "murder", "atrocity", "lynching" and "savage, cold-blooded killing" were used only to describe Israeli deaths. "The extent to which some journalism assumes the Israeli perspective," wrote Professor Greg Philo, "can be seen if the statements are 'reversed' and presented as Palestinian actions. [We] did not find any [news] reports stating that 'The Palestinian attacks were in retaliation for the murder of those resisting the illegal Israeli occupation'."

Given that the central truth of the conflict is routinely obscured, none of this is surprising. News and current affairs programmes seldom, if ever, remind viewers that Israel was established largely by force on 78 per cent of historic Palestine and, since 1967, has illegally occupied and imposed various forms of military rule on the remaining 22 per cent.

The media "coverage" has long reversed the roles of oppressor and victim. Israelis are never called terrorists. Correspondents who break this taboo are often intimidated with slurs of anti-Semitism - a bleak irony, as Palestinians are Semites, too.

Having long ago recognised Israel's "right" to more than two-thirds of their country, the Palestinian leadership has contorted itself in order to accommodate a maze of mostly American plans designed to deny true independence and ensure Israel's enduring power and control.

Until recently, this was reported uncritically as "the peace process". When ordinary Palestinians cried "enough!" and rose up in the second intifada, armed mostly with slingshots, they were put down by snipers with high-velocity weapons and with tanks and Apache gunships, supplied by the United States.

And now, in their despair, as some are turning to suicide attacks, the Palestinians appear on the news only as bombers and rioters, which, as the Glasgow study points out, "is, of course, the view of the Israeli government". The latest euphemism, "incursion", is from the vocabulary of lies coined in Vietnam. It means assaulting human beings with tanks and planes. "Cycle of violence" is similar. It suggests, at best, two equal sides, never that the Palestinians are resisting violent oppression with violence.

A Channel 4 Dispatches recently "balanced" the Israeli assault on the Jenin refugee camp with a Palestinian attack on a "settlement". There was no explanation that these are not settlements at all, but armed, illegal fortresses that are central to a policy of imposing strategic and military control.

On 9 June, the Correspondent series on BBC Television broadcast a report about the recent siege of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. This was an exemplar of the problems identified in the Glasgow research. It was, in effect, an Israeli occupation propaganda film put out by the BBC. It was made as a co-production with an American channel, and the credits listed the producer as Israel Goldvicht, who runs an Israeli production company.

That would have been fine had the film-makers made any attempt to challenge the Israeli military with whom they had ingratiated themselves. "The Israelis were determined not to damage the buildings," began the narrator. "The international press were cleared from Manger Square, but we were allowed to stay and observe the Israeli operation . . ."

With this "unique access" unexplained to the viewers, the film presented one Colonel Lior as the star good guy, guaranteeing "medical treatment to anyone wounded", saying a cheery hello on a mobile phone to a friend in Oxford Street and, like any colonial officer, speaking about and on behalf of the Palestinians.

"Killers" were described by the colonel without challenge by the BBC/Israel Goldvicht team. They were "terrorists" and "gunmen", not those resisting the invasion of their homeland. Israel's right to "arrest" foreign peace protesters drew no query from the BBC. Not a single Palestinian was interviewed. As the sun set on his fine profile, the last word went to the good colonel. The issues between the Israelis and Palestinians, he said, "were personal points of view".

Well, no. The brutal subjugation of the Palestinians is, under any interpretation of the law, an epic injustice, a crime in which the colonel plays a leading part. The BBC has always provided the best, most sophisticated propaganda service in the world, because matters of justice and injustice, right and wrong are simply usurped either by "balance" or by liberal sophistry; one is either "pro- Israeli" or "pro-Palestinian".

Fiona Murch, the executive producer of Correspondent, told me that Israel Goldvicht Productions would not have won the "trust" of the Israeli army had the producer asked real journalistic questions. That was the way of "fly on the wall": a candid admission.

"It was breaking a stereotype," she said. "It was about a good, decent man" (the colonel). She said I ought to have seen an earlier Correspondent series, which had Palestinians in it.

I think she was trying to offer that as "balance" for The Siege of Bethlehem - a film that might be dismissed as cheap PR, were it not for its complicity with a regime that uses ethnic difference to deny human rights, imprisons people without charge or trial, and murders and tortures "systematically", says Amnesty.

Goebbels would have approved.


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