The CSS Blog Network

The Well of The Past: The Power of Religion in Bangladesh

Demonstration in Bangladesh

Demonstration in Bangladesh. Photo: Rajiv Ashrafi/flickr.

Modernity’s jihad against religion seems to be in retreat. The incarceration of religion within the private sphere of human affairs under the assumption that with the spread of modernity, religion would cease to exist, has not worked out as was envisaged. America and Europe, the epitome of the West, have not been able to achieve this even on their home soils. Religion seems to have become more pervasive than ever in both North America and Europe.

The eminent sociologist Robert Bellah in his book Religion in Human Evolution: from Paleolithic to Axial Age cautions us that “nothing is ever lost” and reminds us, in the words of Thomas Mann, that “very deep is the well of past.” Another American sociologist, Peter Berger, known for his seminal work on sociology of knowledge and religion, also warns us that “those who neglect religion in their analyses of contemporary affairs do so at great peril.” The West at least appears to be groping towards a revised version of secularism as part of an attempt to address the issue of the rising religiosity in their own territory. However, this leaves post-colonial countries newly emerging into modernity with a terrible dilemma. Their desire to be ‘modern’ according to the most common interpretation of Enlightenment discourse continues to rule religion entirely out of the public sphere. » More

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Local Aid Works Better in Somalia

World Food Programme trucks in Somalia

World Food Programme trucks in Somalia. Photo: UN World Food Programme/Peter Casier/flickr.

Somalia could fall into the same trap as Afghanistan and Iraq where massive influxes of aid create a short-term boom in the economy but don’t necessarily lay the groundwork for sustainable growth, said Aisha Ahmad, assistant professor of political science at the University of Toronto and chief operation officer of the Dr. Hawa Abdi Foundation, an internationally renowned organization in Somalia that has provided emergency relief to people throughout the civil war.

Ms. Ahmad said Mogadishu’s current stability is mostly due to the “green zone” established by the international community, and because aid sometimes doesn’t reach rural areas, desperate people are now drawn to the capital, “creating a number of new humanitarian and security concerns that we haven’t seen thus far.”

“Once you leave the green zone, the situation changes dramatically, and you’ll see a lot of the old militia coming out of the bush the minute you leave the capital city going into Afgooye corridor,” she said. » More

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Should Western Nations Arm Syrian Rebels?

A Free Syrian Army member prepares to fight with a tank

A Free Syrian Army member prepares to fight. Photo: Freedom House/flickr.

As the ‘Friends of Syria’ met in Istanbul in late April 2013, one of the questions dominating the meeting was whether Western nations should arm Syria’s rebels. Thus far, such a strategy has been resisted by the United States, while countries such as France and Britain have advocated a relaxing of arms embargoes so that arms could begin to flow to Syria’s rebels. For its part, the external Syrian opposition has been advocating for arming rebels for some time now, along with calls for a no-fly zone or some other form of military intervention that have been ignored by Western powers. Meanwhile, countries such as Qatar and Saudi Arabia have begun to funnel light weapons and other resources to Syria’s rebels. Some evidence even suggests that weapons from Libya are finding their way into Syria. At the same time, Syria’s regional allies, mainly Hizballah and Iran, continue to supply it with weapons, and, in the case of the former at least, actively participate in the fighting. » More

South Africa and the UN Intervention Brigade in the DRC

IDPs leaving Rutshuru

IDPs leaving Rutshuru, DRC. Photo: Al Jazeera English/flickr.

The attention of the world has recently been focused on the humanitarian tragedy of the violent conflict being pursued by various armed groups in the eastern region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), specifically since the rapid advance during November 2012 of the rebel group known as the March 23 Movement (M23) that operates mainly in the Congolese province of North Kivu.

M23 managed to capture the regional Congolese capital of Goma on 20 November 2012 after the withdrawal of about 2 000 soldiers from the Congolese National Army (FARDC) and 700 Congolese policemen. Goma fell to the rebel group despite the presence of nearly 6 000 armed peacekeepers in the North Kivu province, over 1 500 in the Goma area alone, under the United Nations Organisation Stabilisation Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO). This included a battalion of 850 South African National Defence Force (SANDF) soldiers, all deployed under a United Nations (UN) Security Council mandate written in terms of Chapter Seven of the UN Charter, which allows the use of ‘coercive measures’ (force) in support of mission objectives. With nearly 2 000 000 internally displaced people (IDPs) in the Eastern DRC and the UN reporting that it had lost access to 30 of 31 IDP camps, international intervention was clearly needed. » More

Coercive Sanctions and Military Threats Push Iran Closer to the Nuclear Threshold

The former US embassy in Tehran

The former US embassy in Tehran. Photo: Örlygur Hnefill/flickr.

Iran’s nuclear activities are being portrayed in an alarmist and irrational way in the United States, and political rhetoric only pushes Iran closer to creating a nuclear weapon, said David Cortright, Director of Policy Studies at the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies and an expert on nuclear dangers and sanctions.

The international community needs to do everything possible to prevent Iran from gaining nuclear weapons capability, said Mr. Cortright in a phone interview with the Global Observatory, cautioning that “…it’s a very dangerous game, because the very act of threatening military action against Iran is likely to eventually motivate them to go ahead and build the bomb.” » More

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