Tuesday, 24 January 2017


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Attack on teen consumes Pakistan

Have you ever been attacked for standing up for your right to go to school? In the U.S. – at least after the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s – this idea has become virtually extinct. But there are other parts of the world which are going through a similar struggle right now. One such place is a region of Pakistan called the Swat Valley. Five years ago, Malala Yousufzai, a then 14-year-old girl from Pakistan, was shot twice on her way home from school by the Taliban -- a militant movement that is widely classified as a terrorist group. She survived, and was subsequently awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her struggle against the suppression of young people and for the right of all children to be educated. In fact, well before the attack took place, she was writing for news organizations about her life under the Taliban regime and their attempts to take over in Pakistan. Her rise to prominence eventually led to her becoming a target -- even though she was just a teenager. After the attack, a Taliban spokesperson claimed, "This [her outspokenness] was a new chapter of obscenity, and we have to finish this chapter." Here is how we will begin to discuss this particular topic: The willingness to take the life of someone who has convictions that differ from your own is to abandon faith in the communication process. No doubt the attack was particularly despicable given the target was a 14-year-old child. But we shouldn't let this cloud our ability to understand the attacker's perspective. It is only when the motivation behind an act is properly understood that it can be condemned. So what were the Taliban's motivations? The Taliban believe that children should only receive an “Islamic education,” rather than instruction in math, science and other subjects. They believe girls should only be educated up to the age of 8, in order to "secure environments where the chasteness and dignity of women may once again be sacrosanct". However, another spokesperson for the Taliban stated that, "If anyone believes we had chosen Malala as a topic of education as a goal, they are mistaken. She was chosen because she plays a pioneering role in the spread of secularism, and the so-called enlightened moderation.” In spite of the Taliban's intention, it appears Malala and her supporters have successfully used this attack to draw international attention to the struggle for equal rights in Pakistan. The attack, and its justifications, have been universally condemned by world leaders. Consider the media perspectives from all over the world by clicking on the topic's image. Now put yourself in the shoes of an international group which would fight the Taliban. What do you think would be your strongest argument for condemnation, one which would mobilize your group to action?

Bradley Manning: Hero or Criminal?

Imagine you saw something that troubled you deeply, but few others were aware of it. You have a unique ability to expose this wrongdoing to the public. But what if that meant releasing closely-guarded secrets, and you could be seen as betraying your country? What would you do? In 2010, US Army Private Bradley Manning released around 700,000 government documents to the website WikiLeaks. Manning pled guilty to charges that could bring up to 20 years in prison, but on June 3rd trial began on further charges. The military continued with court martial charges, some with a possible life sentence. Manning, a military analyst in Iraq, was troubled by what he witnessed and how he perceived the military to value human life. He downloaded the documents onto CDs, then tried to contact established news organizations, but got no response, so he went to WikiLeaks. The military says Manning dropped sensitive information “into the hands of the enemy,” and that Osama bin Laden even obtained some of it. His lawyers counter that he was “naive but good intentioned,” and that he was selective in choosing documents to reveal. Manning was recently found not guilty on the most serious charge of aiding the enemy, but his trial and treatment by the US military persist as a global subject of debate. Manning is a controversial figure worldwide. Some see him as a courageous whistleblower, while others maintain that exposing state secrets is a grave security threat. As you read through the perspectives, consider this: Was Bradley Manning right or wrong to expose US military documents?

Veil ban in France continually causing tension

Can you imagine being told that something you do or wear that was of great importance to you was illegal in your country? Whether it be for religious or personal reasons, just about everyone understands considering something to be sacred. Imagine that sacred part of you being banned where you live. In France, as of April 2011, full-face veils are banned. The veils are part of traditional Muslim culture for women, but Muslim women in France are forbidden from wearing them. The ban is viewed by supporters as a necessary step to preserve French culture and to fight what they see as separatist tendencies among Muslims. The ban's purpose was said to be “to eradicate this minority of (Muslim) fundamentalists,” including men who force their wives to wear the veils. As recently as September, women have been arrested for violating this law. Critics have also said that the law, in addition to depriving French Muslim women of their rights, might further aggravate tensions, create riots and fears of terrorism and accusations of racism. Do you think the reasons for this ban are valid, that France needs to preserve its culture and stop Muslims from separating themselves from non-Muslim citizens? Or should Muslim women be able to make a choice about whether they will wear veils? Discuss.

Anti-Islam film incites anger, protest

At one time or another, everyone has had someone ridiculing or making fun of something/someone you cherish. How does this make you feel? There is currently conflict between some members of the Islamic faith and a group of filmmakers who created a film, called "The Innocence of Muslims," that depicts the Prophet Muhammad as a fraud and a womanizer among other overtly insulting claims. Muhammad is, in the Islamic faith, believed to be a messenger and prophet of God, and the founder of the Islamic faith. The low-budget film made in America basically mocks the Prophet and and the religion of Islam. Protests in countries like Libya and Pakistan are waging and turning violent and even deadly following the film's release. Although the video remains accessible for the rest of the world on YouTube, users in Egypt and Libya are not able to access it. Do you think violence is the answer in a situation like this? If someone attacked something you hold sacred could you justify acting in a violent way? Is there an alternative way of responding? On another note, should offensive content such as this video be available online or should it be banned if it is offending people or groups of people? Time to discuss.

Drone strikes called into question as war crimes

While the brutality and tragedy of war never changes, the weapons and technologies that are involved in combat are ever changing. Far from the days of bows and arrows, today’s militaries employ thermal imaging, rocket propelled grenades, and much more. Some technologies are deemed to be too evil and have required treaties to ban them such as biological weapons. When do weapons become more than just a means of war? When does their usage become a war crime? A human rights investigation has recently been launched by the United Nations to examine drone strikes after a recent attack by the United States utilizing these drones resulted in civilian casualties. The inquiry is not being aimed at any one state, but it is reviewing the consequences and potential loss of life cause by this form of technology. Ben Emmerson, a UN special reporter who formally launched the inquiry for this investigation, believes that more states will soon have access to this technology and that the potential for escalation and retaliation involving drone strikes could dangerously increase. At the moment, the investigation will study 25 drone strikes that were reported to have had civilian casualties. The danger that this technology could soon be used by governments around the world does raise concern. There have been casualties reported for these attacks, but they are still believed by many to be a way to accurately target enemies while avoiding direct danger for ground troops. With the potential for casualties and future retaliation in mind, should the use of drone strikes be labeled as war crimes or not?