The Solution to Social Problems: The Hindu “Red Dot”

bindiMy uncle just blew my mind with Hindu doctrine. Specifically we talked about the “bindi” or the red (or other colored) dots that Hindu women generally wear on their foreheads.  Believe it or not, but this seemingly innocuous “red dot” adornment may hold the key that will allow humanity to shift paradigms towards complete inclusion, across all cultures and societies.  Continue reading The Solution to Social Problems: The Hindu “Red Dot”

On Freedom of Speech, Shaming, and Suicide

I know I haven’t published a post in a few weeks. Some “real life” contingencies clouded my overall worldview, and have made it difficult for me to piece together cohesive lines of thought on pretty much anything. Yet, here I am, writing about a particular experience with Freedom of Speech, because the implications of this situation warrant careful consideration and debate. The tone of this post is drastically different from my usual academic perspective, but I think this conversation is necessary in this very personal way.

Today, I lost a friend, not to death, dismemberment, incarceration or any forces of nature that are outside of our “control”. I lost a friend to privilege, hypocrisy and the abuse of Freedom of Speech and Expression .  For the sake of confidentiality and privacy, I will call this friend “Amanda”. This is what happened: Continue reading On Freedom of Speech, Shaming, and Suicide

CNN Anchors Vs. Reza Aslan: The Missed Point

A very good friend of mine sent me a video clip yesterday because she knew I would enjoy it. I just got a chance to watch it. The video below is the entire segment:

I did enjoy it. A lot!!

I was especially entertained, yet not wholly surprised by the CNN anchors, Victor Blackwell and Alisyn Camerota’s questions. By the end, I almost pitied them. Almost. At the end of the day, they are just anchors trying to make news.

Bill Maher got, and continues to get, an almost obscene amount of exposure for his anti-Islamic comments. Good publicity stunt! And, way to show your ignorance! But, that is the end of that.

Then there is Dr. Reza Aslan, Religious Scholar, and, Professor at University of California – Riverside. First of all, I think we should take a moment to acknowledge something: his last name. How fittingly ironic is it that Aslan is the one to shed some light on our ignorance of the complexities in other peoples’ cultures? Hey! Are we in Narnia?

But, that’s irrelevant too.

Did Blackwell, and (mostly) Camerota deserve to be called “stupid” during a course of a regular segment? Maybe. Although technically, Aslan did not call them stupid; he called that particular line of thought “stupid”. Then, I got to this particular pearl of “wisdom” from her:

 “You don’t think the justice system is somehow more primitive… or subjugates women more than in other countries?”

Camerota said this with a TREMENDOUS roll of her eyes, as she uttered the words “Justice System”. Don’t believe me? Watch it again. It happens between 5:24 and 5:30. That eye-roll tells us more about her personal feelings on the topic, than anything else uttered by her in the entire segment. An eye roll is the universal sign of contempt. In this case her contempt could either have been towards Aslan, towards the fact that she had to work that day, towards her employers, and/or it could have been about what she thinks of “their” idea of a justice system. I am not judging her about the eye-roll. I am saying it was there.

Then she says that she feels the need for clarification because she feels that Bill Maher and Aslan are saying the same thing. Let us recap : Aslan is a religious scholar, brought in by CNN, to comment on Bill Maher’s anti-Islamic statements. Said scholar refutes Bill Maher by stating that Islam promotes neither violence nor peace, like any other religion (the “truth” of this loaded statement, while utterly tempting, is not the focus of this musing). LESS THAN 30 seconds later, a reporter (from the same company as the one who invited the scholar) says she needs clarification because she is apparently… confused and hearing things (at least, that is my guess). Then, she continues:

“…There is nothing particular… there’s no common thread… in Moslem [sic] countries, you can’t paint with a broad brush that somehow, their justice system…their Sharia Law, or what they’re doing in terms of stoning and genital mutilation is different than in other countries…like Western countries?”

Well, let’s talk about “the Western countries”, specifically America, since we are all American. Let’s talk about how women in America have historically been subjugated (in America) by primitive social systems that don’t protect our very basic and fundamental rights. About Indiana, where minority women are being imprisoned for their entire lives because of planned or spontaneous miscarriages. They don’t have the fundamental right to make decisions about their own bodies either. Or about the millions of Americans who cannot get married because some people get “squirmy” thinking about things like this. Oh, what about the millions of veterans who are not getting adequate medical help to successfully recuperate from traumas they experienced IN THE LINE OF DUTY? We could also talk about how our justice system is serving all of our rape and domestic violence victims.  Let’s remember to touch on how the gaping holes in our legal system and our prison system, in some senses, give us glimpses into a real-life version of Dante’s Inferno. Let’s talk about how our society doesn’t need Sharia Law to shame someone, because we have social media. And, finally, with ado, let’s talk about the Super-Sized problem we created, of ignorant, irresponsible uses of Freedoms that make Americans sometimes look like … idiots to the rest of the world.

In international circles, America is stereotypically considered to be the “bully” of the group. This is well-known.  So, does anyone think the European Union or other non-Union countries actually “like” to be lumped with us? What about our friendly neighborhood Canadians?  Do they like being painted with the same broad strokes that puts them in our camp? As of right now: I don’t think so.

But, ultimately, thats not the point that they missed.

The main point that no one seemed to make explicitly, at least in this clip, is that the causes of human injustices around the world are being attributed to “religion”, when they should be pinned on the leaders of groups, communities and nations. That is where these many human travesties originate — in the minds of individual megalomaniacs who have incredible charisma, above-average intelligence, and, an insatiable hunger for power and control. I was holding my breath for Aslan to “hit the ball out of the park” with this truth, and he got so close! But he didn’t give it the perfect ending I expected. He didn’t  follow through. He didn’t do justice to the issue. Is that too broad a stroke with my narrow brush? At the end of the day, Bill Maher, Victor Blackwell, Alisyn Camerota and Professor Aslan (who by this point has a lion’s mane in my very vivid imagination) all got close to 8, 910,000 minutes of exposure because of this one clip.

In the wrong hands, religion can merely be the weapon used to either tame the general populace, or, to work it up into a frenzy and unleash when the time is right. Religious followers perpetrate evil based on their leaders’ interpretation of ancient moral codes, and based on these interpretations, violence is tolerated or even encouraged. For example,  Jihad was used as a form of protection against the Christian Crusades; Hindus at one time encouraged child marriage to protect their young daughters from becoming concubines or rape victims; and, the marauding Buddhist Monks that Aslan talks about are very real, and very violent.

The point that was missed is this: Religion, as a social structure, should be completely removed from conversations on equality, equal human rights, and social injustices. Bringing God into these conversations is like involving adults in a teenage fight over a stash of porn – simply ridiculous, and utterly embarrassing for all parties involved. When we take religion out of the equation, conversations have the chance to be different without God “facades” for people to hide behind. We need to do this because the way I see it, human violence is not God’s problem. It is ours, and so far at least, we are caught in a self-made cycle of insanity.


P.S. Prof. Reza Aslan did lose points in my book, when he claimed that men and women in Indonesia are 100% equal. This is false. Muslim Indonesians are still governed by aspects of Sharia law which restrict the rights and privileges of females.

Inclusionism: The Only Viable Diversity Initiative!

Inclusionism [not to be confused with the Christian concept of “universal reconciliation”], is a paradigm of thought, which recognizes that major societal conflicts, imbalances and injustices are not situations that can be resolved by catering just to the “majority”; all ethnic perspectives have to be considered to solve societal problems. Inclusionism, as an academic, sociological theory focuses only on ethnic diversity. In this article however, the scope is broadened beyond ethnic groups to include all “socially labeled” groups and communities in modern society. In this context,  inclusionism acknowledges that societal injustices may affect different people unequally, based on race, age, culture, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, education level, and other factors. However, even though the effects of social injustice are unequally dealt out to different segments of society, they are nonetheless felt by all segments of society. Continue reading Inclusionism: The Only Viable Diversity Initiative!

Stereotypes, Prejudice and Discrimination: A Primer

In the past decade, conversations and conflicts based on race, religion, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and socio-economic status, have once again risen to the forefront around the world. American and international communities have had to contend with terrorist attacks, nuclear conflicts, civil wars and uprisings, governmental collapses and social movements and campaigns on the issues of diversity, inclusion and equality. No conversation on inter-group relationships is complete without a discussion on stereotypes, prejudice and discrimination. Today, we look at what these concepts are and how they affect the diversity of our experiences, the inclusiveness of our thoughts, and the equality of our actions. Continue reading Stereotypes, Prejudice and Discrimination: A Primer

Of Love and Marriage (But no Horse Carriage)

In 1955, Frank Sinatra taught the American people and a broader international audience the idea that love and marriage cannot be thought of separately.  Through his charmingly raw lyrics and melody, we learned that:

… you can’t have one without the other.
…It’s an institute you can’t disparage.
…Ask the local gentry and they will say it’s elementary.

In America today, love is the most important and valid reason to get married, with 88% of American saying that love is very important for marriage. Here’s the problem. Ol’ Blue Eyes is wrong.  The concepts of love and marriage, have only really been entwined together in the last few hundred years; and, not just in America, but around the world.  Scientific and historical analyses show that love and marriage are actually quite disparate concepts throughout human history until relatively recent times. Continue reading Of Love and Marriage (But no Horse Carriage)

What is Love? Really, What Is It?

Welcome to the week of Love! This week, people will be hard pressed to find content on the blogosphere that is not related to some aspect of love – its creation, its maintenance, the problems it creates, and what happens after it ends. We will also see a whole spectrum of articles on tips and tricks for single people on finding that “perfect someone”, not to mention an explosion of commercials and advertisements on match-making sites.  Yet, in all these centuries, through all the advancements of humans, we would be hard pressed to find a single cohesive definition that is universally applicable and satisfying.  Continue reading What is Love? Really, What Is It?

Forced Marriage: An Anti-Hindu, Anti-Choice Travesty

Valentine’s Day is in 9 days. Granted that the history of this day might have very little to do with love, people all over the world still take some time to celebrate love on this day. So, the idea of anyone being forced to get married on such a positive day is probably extremely upsetting, and rightfully so. Forced marriage is exactly what lies in store this year for many young couples in the state of Uttar Pradesh in India. This idea of forced marriage is bolstered by distorted, perverted sentiments of “religious truths” that are quite untrue and quite Anti-Hindu. The  surreal horror of this situation actually reflects the meticulously planned, systematic elimination of personal choice in people’s lives, using religious power and fear as effective weapons. In the end, this could happen anywhere, within any religion and any community, given the right conditions. That is exactly why it is imperative to know about and learn from this situation. Here is the back story: Continue reading Forced Marriage: An Anti-Hindu, Anti-Choice Travesty

Pro-Choice: What does it really mean?

There is a common misconception in the public that pro-choice arguments are only, or mostly about repealing anti-abortion laws. The philosophy of what being “pro-choice” even means is rarely brought up. Most people think they know exactly what “pro-choice” means. But, do they? Even those of us who are “pro-choice” think that we are meeting like-minded people when we meet other advocates and activists. But,  are we? Continue reading Pro-Choice: What does it really mean?

Five Criteria for ALL Healthy Relationships

This coming Friday will be two years since I married the man who is perfect for me. So, quite predictably, I have been taking several trips down memory lane to see where I used to be, and where I am today, relative to my increased understanding of healthy relationships. Recently, I came across an old diary entry that I wrote about the kind of guy I want to marry. I won’t go into the details of the FOUR page long list! Suffice to say, I would still be unhappily unmarried, frustrated and depressed that I am not in a happy, healthy relationship with the man of my dreams!

I wrote that list in 2004. Through education, graduate life, research and experience, I thankfully learned about real healthy relationships. Life in a way helped me shed a rather naive, certainly ignorant view of life. I only wish I had learned the truths about healthy relationships long before 2004! Continue reading Five Criteria for ALL Healthy Relationships