Al-Quds Day: Rallying for the liberation of Palestine

Syed Zafar Mehdi

“And for those who after having been treated badly bring about justice themselves, against them no action can be taken. Action will only be taken against those who are unjust to people and who without reason become violent on earth. These are the ones who will receive painful punishment.” (Surah Ash Shura: 41-42)

For the campaigners of truth and justice, International Al-Quds Day (Yaumul Quds Al-Alami) has an extraordinary historical significance. Al-Quds is Arabic for Jerusalem. It is an affirmation of our solidarity with the oppressed and subjugated people of Palestine in their struggle for the liberation of Jerusalem, the third holiest sanctuary for Muslims. It is an expression of unwavering commitment to end the Tel Aviv regime’s horrendous atrocities in the occupied territories of Palestine.

Al-Quds Day was first observed in 1979 in Iran by Ayatollah Rohullah Khomeini, soon after the Islamic Revolution. Since then, the day is observed across the world every year on the last Friday (Jumatul Wida) of Ramadan to express solidarity with Palestinians and to protest the Zionist entity’s illegal occupation of Jerusalem. It also calls for the political unification of Muslims, cutting across the ideological divide, for the cause of justice and righteousness. Last year, Al-Quds Day demonstrations were held in 770 major cities in more than 80 countries across the world.

The holy month of Ramadan granted Muslims a historic victory in the Battle of Badr. It is the month in which the holy city of Mecca was conquered and cleared of idol worshippers (mushrikeen). It is the month in which all the Abrahamic scriptures, including the Holy Quran, were revealed. It is the spirit of this month that inspired our brave forefathers to struggle in the way of Allah and overcome insurmountable odds. So it is highly appropriate that the last Friday of this blessed month is dedicated to the struggle of Palestinians and all other oppressed people of the world.

The idea of Al-Quds Day solidarity rallies was conceived by Ayatollah Khomeini, who appealed to Muslims across the world to extend moral support to their brethren in Palestine. In August 1979, Khomeini declared the liberation of Jerusalem ‘a religious duty of all Muslims’. “I invite Muslims all over the globe to observe the last Friday of Ramadan as Al-Quds Day, and to pledge support and solidarity to the people of Palestine and their legitimate rights. I ask all the Muslims of the world and the Muslim governments to join hands and sever the hand of this usurper and its supporters,” he said.

It is highly appropriate that the last Friday of this blessed month is dedicated to the struggle of Palestinians and all other oppressed people of the world.

It is also a day to remember people in other occupied lands, who are abused and crushed by strong military powers. “The Al-Quds Day is a universal day. It is not an exclusive day for Quds (Jerusalem). It is a day for the oppressed and the supporters of oppressed to rise and stand up against the arrogant oppressors,” Khomeini said.

During the first Palestinian Intifada in January 1988, the Jerusalem Committee of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) declared that Al-Quds Day be observed publicly throughout the Arab world. Their official endorsement of Al-Quds Day was significant as some Arab countries who had strategic ties with Israel found themselves isolated.

Every year, on the Al-Quds Day, hundreds of people pour into the narrow streets of Gaza to protest the Israeli occupation of Palestine. The officials of Hamas, Islamic Jehad Movement (IJM), Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) and other resistance groups also take part in these public gatherings. Massive rallies are also taken out in Britain, Canada, Sweden, Russia, India, Pakistan, Kashmir, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, United States etc. Protestors wave Palestinian flag and raise slogans like ‘Death to Israel and America’, ‘Israel Your Days Are Numbered’, ‘Zionism Must Go’ and ‘From River to Sea Palestine Will Be Free’.

Every year, on the Al-Quds Day, hundreds of people pour into the narrow streets of Gaza to protest the Israeli occupation of Palestine

In Britain and US, many anti-Zionist Jews and Christians also attend these rallies and join the chorus for the liberation of Palestine. Rabbi Joseph Kohn, speaking at the Al-Quds Day rally in Houston last year, said the city of Quds was forcibly occupied by the Zionist state of Israel. “When the state of Israel was formed, Palestinians were totally ignored, as the Zionist slogan went ‘a land without a people for a people without a land’. They were displaced, oppressed, killed and robbed – unjustly and illegally – in order to make room for the creation of the modern state of Israel,” he said.

According to Ramazan Sharif, the head of the Quds Center at Iran’s Islamic Propagation Coordination Council, Al-Quds Day has a major influence on the issue of Palestine and prevents it from sliding into oblivion. Al-Quds rallies seek to raise awareness about the plight of Palestinians and the atrocities unleashed on them by the Zionist state.

Al-Quds Day will continue to be observed every year until there is a complete and unconditional withdrawal of Israelis from the occupied territories, including Jerusalem. The return of Palestinians who were forced to leave their land after the 1948 Nakba should be facilitated, and they must be compensated for the damage of land and property. There should be a complete ban on the construction of new settlements and immediate evacuation of all existing settlements. More than half a million Israelis occupy over 120 illegal settlements built since 1967. These settlements blatantly violate the Hague and Geneva Conventions, threaten Al-Aqsa Mosque and violate the sanctity of the sacred Islamic sites.

Hence, it is a sacred duty of all Muslims, and people of conscience, to raise their voice, individually and collectively, against the naked aggression, in Palestine and all other occupied lands across the globe, on Al-Quds Day.

(First published in Press TV website)

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Brief history of American terrorism

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Syed Zafar Mehdi

“There are two ways to approach the study of terrorism,” notes Noam Chomsky in widely-acclaimed book Western State Terrorism. “One may adopt a literal approach, taking the topic seriously, or a propagandistic approach, construing the concept of terrorism as a weapon to be exploited in the service of some system of power. It comes as no surprise that the propagandistic approach is adopted by governments generally, and by their instruments in totalitarian states.”

Chomsky maintains that there are many terrorist states in the world, but the United States puts its rivals to shame when it comes to perpetuating ‘international terrorism’. A 2010 research undertaken by Professor Mark Sageman of University of Pennsylvania lends credence to what Chomsky says. The research findings establish the fact that terrorism is a product of the West.

Let’s make no bones about it, the menacing threat of ‘nuclear terrorism’ does not come from some ruthless jihadist cluster, but from the hard-nosed western nuclear powers who form the core of the NATO alliance, and keeping intimidating and threatening the non nuclear weapon states.

The history of US imperialism is replete with stories of unilateral belligerent military strikes, gory massacres and socio-cultural aggression. In this no-holds-barred brinkmanship, the US and its allies have sought to impose their writ on other nations, more so on those who have refused to swear allegiance to Uncle Sam’s hegemony. The blatant war-mongering and sinister desire to inflict suffering on others is best explained by these words of American writer Andre Vltchek.

The menacing threat of ‘nuclear terrorism’ does not come from some ruthless jihadist cluster, but from the hard-nosed western nuclear powers who form the core of the NATO alliance

“West has always behaved as if it had an inherited, but undefined, right to profit from the misery of the rest of the world. In many cases, the conquered nations had to give up their own culture, their religions, even their languages, and convert to our set of beliefs and values that we define as ‘civilized’.

Guatemala Civil War that continued from 1960 to 1996 was bitterly fought between the government of Guatemala and ethnic Mayans, in which the government of Guatemala committed worst human rights abuses and engineered genocide of Mayan population of Guatemala. Historical Clarification Commission set up under the Oslo Accords of 1994 concluded that the Guatemala military committed murder, torture and rape with the tacit support of CIA. The commission stated the “government of the United States, through various agencies including the CIA, provided direct and indirect support for some state operations.”

Noam Chomsky in his book What Uncle Sam Really Wants writes, “Under Reagan, support for near-genocide in Guatemala became positively ecstatic. The most extreme of the Guatemalan Hitlers we’ve backed there, Rios Montt, was lauded by Reagan as a man totally dedicated to democracy. In the early 1980s, Washington’s friends slaughtered tens of thousands of Guatemalans, mostly Indians in the highlands, with countless others tortured and raped. Large regions were decimated.”

Direct or indirect support for death squads has been an integral part of CIA operations. CIA’s death squad operations in Vietnam led to killing of over 35,000 people. The Vietnam War dominated 30 long years of Vietnam’s history from 1940s to 1970s. President Ford, reacting to Senate and House committee reports, conceded that the CIA had become a ‘rogue elephant’ crushing foreign citizens under foot in its bid to win the Cold War. More than 20,000 Vietnamese were killed during the CIA-guided Operation Phoenix intended to weed out communist ‘agents’ from South Vietnam.

American role in the violent overthrow of the democratically-elected Popular Unity government of Salvador in 1980s was a watershed moment for the country. Bush family loyalists maintain that President Bush senior’s policies paved the way for peace, turning Salvador into a democratic success story. However, it took more than 70,000 deaths and grave human rights violations, before peace was brokered. To crush the rebels, the US trained an army that kidnapped and killed more than 30,000 people, and presided over large-scale massacre of old, women and children.

Direct or indirect support for death squads has been an integral part of CIA operations. CIA’s death squad operations in Vietnam led to killing of 35,000 people

In the mid-1970s, a major scandal broke out after revelations that President Richard Nixon had ordered the CIA to ‘make the economy scream’ in Chile and to prevent Allende from coming to power. Years later, CIA acknowledged its deep involvement in Chile where it dealt with coup-plotters, false propagandists and assassins.

In a review of Lubna Qureishi’s book Nixon, Kissinger, and Allende: US Involvement in the 1973 coup in Chile, Howard Doughty writes, “The United States and its allies have an unseemly history of hostility to democracy abroad that seems to conflict with their expressed political principles and their stated purpose in engaging in military and diplomatic action abroad. Not only in Latin America, but in Africa, Asia and occasionally in Europe, it has openly and clandestinely supported dictatorships.”

The US government’s cozy relationship with its illegitimate offspring Israel is no secret. It has paid Israel almost one hundred billion dollars over the years, major part of which is used for occupying Palestinian territories, in blatant breach of international laws and umpteen UN resolutions. Veteran Middle East reporter Robert Fisk draws parallels between Israel and apartheid regime of South Africa. “No matter how many youths are shot dead by the Israelis, no matter how many murders and no matter how bloody the reputation of the Israeli Prime Minister, we are reporting this terrible conflict as if we supported the South African whites against the blacks.”

US has paid Israel almost one hundred billion dollars over the years, major part of which is used for occupying Palestinian territories, in blatant breach of international laws and UN resolutions

Likewise, Columbia, arguably one of the most violent countries in the world, is the beneficiary of massive U.S. aid. Some political observers like Professor John Barry are of the opinion that US influence has only managed to catalyze internal conflicts and substantially expand the scope and nature of human rights abuses in Colombia. And ironically, most American people remain naïve about the shady role of their country in Colombia’s historical development and the unremitting violence.

In Cuba, America’s record is again appalling. It has been involved in attempted assassinations of state heads, bombings, military invasions, crippling sanctions et al. And, recent reports suggest that the U.S. government’s covert attack on Cuba’s sovereignty continues unabated. Even after half a century, economic blockade remains in force. The country has been designated a ‘terrorist state’, figuring prominently on the State Department’s list of ‘State Sponsors of Terrorism’. The five Cuban political prisoners are still behind bars. Now a report from the U.S. General Accounting Office reveals that money is being pumped into projects directed at changing Cuba’s government.

Washington’s support for the Contra terrorists in Nicaragua between 1981 and 1990 is one of the most shocking and shameful secrets. The heinous terrorist activities contras engaged in had full backing of their masters in Washington. “The decision of the International Court of Justice in June 1986 condemning the United States for the ‘unlawful use of force’ and illegal economic warfare was dismissed as an irrelevant pronouncement by a ‘hostile forum’,” notes Noam Chomsky in Western State Terrorism. “The guiding principle, it appears, is that the US is a lawless terrorist state and this is right and just, whatever the world may think, whatever international institutions may declare.”

On March 8, 1985, in an assassination bid on Sheikh Mohammed Fazlullah by CIA, a powerful car bomb exploded outside a Beirut mosque in Lebanon, leaving 81 civilians dead. Celebrated investigative reporter Bob Woodward says that CIA director William Casey had admitted personal culpability in the attack while he lay on his deathbed, which he said was carried out with funding from Saudi Arabia. In December 1989, almost 27,000 US soldiers invaded a small Central American country of Panama to arrest General Manuel Noriega, a CIA asset-turned-rebel. In the ‘Operation Just Cause’, bombs rained down on three neighborhoods – Colon, San Miguelito and El Chorillo. El Chorillo was burnt to the ground and got a new nickname – ‘Little Hiroshima’. As per conservative estimates, between 2,000 and 6,000 people were killed in the events that unfolded. Many of them were dumped into mass graves.

Back in 1953, a joint British-American operation toppled the democratic government chosen by the Iranian parliament, and installed their loyal dictator

Congo has been through violent times since its independence. Many observers trace it to the murder of Patrice Lumumba, the first prime minister of independent Congo, which was apparently done at the behest by the then U.S. President Eisenhower. In Haiti, the U.S. backed the Duvalier family dictatorship for 30 years, during which the CIA worked closely with death squads, executioners, and drug traffickers. The father-son duo’s three decades at helm was marked by brutally crushing dissent with the assistance of secret police and the Haitian army. Thousands were killed and tortured – many of them dumped in mass graves. Hundreds of thousands fled the country to escape from mindless violence.

The 1983 invasion of Grenada was the first major American military assault since Vietnam War. The news was blocked as the U.S. government didn’t want the world to witness the great superpower bashing up a small island nation. Why did the United States invade Grenada? “Many believe that Grenada was seen as a bad example for other poor Caribbean states,” opines Stephen Zunes, author of Tinderbox: U.S. Middle East Policy and the Roots of Terrorism. “Its foreign policy was not subservient to the American government and it was not open to having its economy dominated by U.S. corporate interests.”

In Greece, America supported a coup against an elected leader George Papandreou, which followed the years of murder, torture, and fear in the late 1960s. In Cambodia, the US resorted to carpet bombing to overthrow President Prince Sihanauk, who was replaced by Pol Pot and Khmer Rouge and that led to millions of civilian casualties between mid 1950s and 1970s. In 1965, which New York Times called ‘one of the most savage mass slayings of modern political history’, U.S. embassy had compiled lists of ‘Communist’ operatives in Indonesia, from top echelons down to village cadres, as many as 5,000 names, and handed them over to the army, which then hunted them down and killed.

Between 1946 and 1958, the U.S. used the Marshall Islands to conduct nuclear tests. All the inhabitants had to flee their homes. It is still not safe to consume food grown there. In the words of Robert Alvarez, “the people of the Marshall Islands had their homeland and health sacrificed for the national security interests of the United States”. The nuclear attack on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945 remain the darkest chapter of history. Almost 150,000 people paid for their lives instantly, while millions more died of radiation poisoning later. Truman ordered the atom bomb dropped on Hiroshima on August 6, followed by a plutonium bomb on Nagasaki on August 9. The same day, the Soviet Union attacked the Japanese and, in the following two weeks 84,000 Japanese were killed.

The myth of the “outside enemy” and the threat of “Islamic terrorists” was the cornerstone of the Bush administration’s military doctrine

Back in 1953, a joint British-American operation toppled the democratic government chosen by the Iranian parliament, and installed their loyal dictator. The coup restored the Shah to absolute power, initiating a period of 25 years of repression and torture, while the oil industry was restored to foreign ownership, with the US and Britain each getting 40 percent. That was before Ayatullah Khomeini mobilized masses and threw out the Western puppet.

Marjorie Cohn, a professor of international law, in an article written in November 2001 maintained that the bombings of Afghanistan by the United States were illegal. His argument was based on the premise that, according to UN Charter, disputes have to be brought to the UN Security Council, which alone may authorize the use of force. Also, if your nation has been subjected to an armed attack by another nation, you may respond militarily in self-defense. Afghanistan did not attack the United States. Indeed, the 19 men charged with the crime were not Afghans. Twelve years down the line, the foreign military troops are still stationed in Afghanistan, hundreds of billion dollars have been spent, and at least 31,000 people in Afghanistan (civilians, insurgents, Afghan military forces, and others) have been killed in the war.

The myth of the “outside enemy” and the threat of “Islamic terrorists” was the cornerstone of the Bush administration’s military doctrine, used as a pretext to invade Afghanistan and Iraq, writes Michel Chossudovsky, author of The Globalisation of Poverty. More than a decade after U.S. invaded Iraq, it’s still not clear why they did it. But it’s a fact, even acknowledged by the western media, that the war for Iraq was a war for oil. “Before the 2003 invasion, Iraq’s domestic oil industry was fully nationalized and closed to Western oil companies. A decade of war later, it is largely privatized and utterly dominated by foreign firms,” reads a CNN report

There is this concept of ‘good terrorism’ and ‘bad terrorism’. For the US and its closest ally Israel, the Tunis bombing was not an act of terror but justifiable retaliation for the murder of three Israelis in Cyprus. The 1985 Iron Fist operation of the Israeli army in southern Lebanon was also guided by the same logic. “From 1945 to the end of the 20th century, the USA attempted to overthrow more than 40 foreign governments, and to crush more than 30 populist-nationalist movements struggling against intolerable regimes. In the process, the USA caused the end of life for several million people, and condemned many millions more to a life of agony and despair,” writes William Blum in his book Rogue State. It will not qualify as ‘terrorism’ because the perpetrator is the world’s only super-power. In a 1986 interview, Noam Chomsky argued that the word “terrorism” had been redefined in political and popular discourse to only refer to the violent acts of small or marginal groups – what he refers to as “retail terrorism”. This is in contrast with violent acts performed by the State in its own interest which orthodox terrorism studies often exclude from consideration.

The political leaders and scholars in Muslim countries have to muster courage to condemn the so-called ‘good’ terrorism spearheaded by US and its allies like Britain, Israel, France. A few years ago, Iran’s parliament speaker Ali Larijani took the lead, blaming the West for spreading terrorism across Asia, and warning that the policy will ultimately backfire. “This evil phenomenon is the gift of the West to the region, but nurturing terrorist and extremist groups is bad and worrying even for the future of Western countries, notably the United States,” said Larijani.

Tailpiece: The breeding ground of terrorism is not any Muslim country, but the United States.

(First published on Press TV website)

Setting the ground for Imam’s reappearance

Syed Zafar Mehdi

Imam Asr

The idea of a messiah or savior or redeemer is common to all religious schools of thought, including Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism and Christianity. In the Islamic context, the concept of messianism, which is the belief in a messiah, revolves around an eschatological figure who is expected to rise and fill the earth will peace, justice and social order.

Holy Quran and Prophetic traditions have in unequivocal terms predicted the glorious triumph of the forces of right and the establishment of an Islamic society built on the foundations of justice and righteousness. The wait and anticipation for that bright tomorrow continues. As Imam Sajjad (as) says, “The greatest success is to wait for the reappearance (of Imam)”. (Al Ihtejaj vol.2 Pg.154. Kamaaluddin vol.1 Pg.320)

Awaiting is primarily the result of two main conditions: not satisfied with the status quo and expecting things to change for good. But, merely being disgruntled with the status quo is not sufficient. A person has to step out of his comfort zone and prepare the ground for visible and productive change to happen. In more precise terms, he has to participate in the process of change.

In the words of British historian Eric Hosbawm, the concept of messianism, which we call Mahdism, can be broadly divided into two categories: passive and active. In the passive Mahdism, people immerse themselves in prayers and hope for the savior’s early reappearance. In the active or revolutionary Mahdism, people run the gauntlet and participate in the process of change.

In today’s era – with the moral bankruptcy, endemic corruption, grinding poverty, and scourge of illiteracy, ignorance, misrule and barbarism reaching the climax – what should a waiter wait for? What are the responsibilities of a person waiting for the change to happen?

The forces of imperialism have become menacingly stronger than ever. Human rights abuses have become frighteningly rampant. Weak and voiceless continue to be oppressed and subjugated by mighty and powerful

There is a clear instruction in Holy Quran for believers waiting for the change. “And say to those who do not believe that you act as much as you can. We are also trying. You all wait and surely we all are waiting.” (Quran 11:121-122).

But, what does this wait entail and what are the believers waiting for. The narration attributed to the Holy Prophet (pbuh) makes it amply clear. “The world will not perish until a man among the Arabs appears whose name matches my name.”  (Sahih al-Tirmidhi, V9, P74)

We are witnessing social, political and cultural upheaval across the world today. Morals and ethics have degraded alarmingly. Grinding poverty has resulted in the poor quality of life. Illiteracy and educational backwardness has sent us back to dark ages. The forces of imperialism have become menacingly stronger than ever. Human rights abuses have become frighteningly rampant. Weak and voiceless continue to be oppressed and subjugated by mighty and powerful.

In such a scenario, when the darkness of despair prevails everywhere, there is an elixir of hope. The hope lies in the divine intervention. The hope is the divinely guided leader, the Mehdi (ajtf), who is expected to come out of the occultation and establish a system based on the divinely ordained laws. It will be an ultimate victory of truth, justice and righteousness. “Mehdi (ajtf) is no longer an idea waiting to be materialized nor a prophecy that needs to be substantiated,” Shaheed Baqir as Sadr writes in An Inquiry Concerning Al Mahdi, “he is a living reality, a particular person, living among us in flesh and blood, who shares our hopes, suffering and sorrows is waiting for the appropriate moment to stretch his hand to every oppressed and needy person and eliminate the tyrants.”

Allah (swt) says in Holy Quran, “O’ Muhammad (pbuh), you are but a warner, and for every community, there exists a guide.” (Quran 13:7). There will always be a divinely gifted guide for people in every age and every time. For us, the people of this age, it is the Mehdi (ajtf).

Looking at the state of affairs today, the discourse around the reappearance of Imam Mehdi (as) and the responsibility of setting the ground for his reappearance has assumed huge significance. With the world sinking into the abyss of darkness and people across the world grappling with myriad self-inflicted woes, the responsibility on our shoulders has increased. Imam’s occultation, however, does not mean he has abandoned us or that we must despair about the present state of affairs. Imam Ali (as) said: “Await for the reappearance (of Imam) and do not despair of the divine mercy. Because the best deed in the eyes of Allah, the great and the mighty, is to wait for the reappearance (of Imam). It is the duty of those who are believers.” (Al Khisaal, vol2, Pg616).

The hope is the divinely guided leader, the Mehdi (ajtf), who is expected to come out of the occultation and establish a system based on the divinely ordained laws. It will be an ultimate victory of truth, justice and righteousness

What are our responsibilities as believers to prepare the ground for Imam’s reappearance? A tradition attributed to Imam Hasan Askari (as) exhorts people to remain vigilant and participate in the process of educational change. “Be aware, if somebody teaches ignorant, guides a misguided, instills the teachings of Ahlulbayt (as), then on the day of Qiyamat (judgment day), he will be with us. We will give him a seat next to us wherever we may be.” Hence, it is amply clear that during this period of Imam’s occultation, among the biggest responsibilities on our shoulders is to bring about educational reformation in our society.

Such educational reformers enjoy supreme position in the eyes of Allah (swt). Imam Ali Naqi (as) extols the virtues of these reformers. “Had there not been such scholars in the period of occultation who call people towards the Ahlulbayt (as), guide towards them, defend their religion with the proofs of Allah, protect weak Muslims from the devilish designs, deception of the tyrants and tentacles of the enemies of Islam, then surely all would have deviated from the religion of Allah.” (Mahajjatul-Baizaa, Vol. 1, Pg. 32)

It’s important to enjoin others to pursue good deeds (amr bil maaruf) and advocate against sinful practices (nahi anil munkar). Spreading awareness about the sinister plots and conspiracies being hatched by the enemies of Islam is another big responsibility. We must promote and propagate the divine message of Islam and develop scientific temper in our youth through education and reformation.

The practice of writing ariza must be encouraged so that the youngsters become more aware of their duties and responsibilities. We must strive to expose the corrupt rulers and extend helping hand towards poor and needy in our society. We must constantly try to polish our morals and ethics to be able to join Imam’s army.  Above all, we must raise our voice – individually and collectively – against corruption, injustice, terrorism, crime, immorality and other such menaces.

What is important is the right strategy and approach to pave the ground for educational awakening and social reformation. Grooming children from the elementary level, making them understand the purpose of existence and their responsibilities, explaining how Islam is not just a religion but a complete way of life, stressing on the need to analyze with a free mind, the need to inquire and argue fearlessly, the need to debate and discuss passionately, and the need to exchange ideas generously. The approach has to be thoughtful, progressive and result-oriented. It must ensure the gains of education are properly utilized to bring up children who are educated, informed, aware and enlightened.

Considering that we are impatiently waiting for someone who is a righteous and virtuous messiah, it’s important that we familiarize ourselves with the ideals of deliverance and act on them in letter and spirit. To prepare the ground for his reappearance, we have to develop a reformist spirit in ourselves and others so that the society undergoes change. To protect society from social infirmities, ethical degeneration, cultural disorder, misrule and anarchy, it’s important to educate ourselves and others around us. If we remain trapped in the vortex of ignorance; social anomalies, cultural dilemmas, and orthodox beliefs will continue to hinder our personal growth and that of the society.

As Allah (swt) says in Holy Quran, You are the best nation brought forth for mankind. You enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong and believe in Allah” (Quran 3:110). The seeds of the promised rule of Mehdi (as) shall soon sprout and our agonizing wait shall end.

How social media has changed the way businesses are conducted

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Syed Zafar Mehdi

Earlier, companies used to advertise jobs in the newspapers, magazines, job boards or through word of mouth.

Those traditional methods continue to exist, however with the advent of powerful social media tools, companies are increasingly adopting innovative social media strategies to survive in this highly competitive business environment.

When Ford ran its 2011 Explorer launch on Facebook, it created flutter in the business circles, as it was the first time a major car company was opting for web unveiling.

The gamble turned out to be extremely effective, prompting business leaders around the globe to stand up and take notice of the power and reach of social media.

Howard Schlutz, CEO – Starbucks made pertinent remarks about the role of social media in an interview with Harvard Business Review.

“Whether you are creating a brand, building one, or running a big one, you’d better understand social media, because there is a seismic shift in how people are gaining access to information and, as a result, how they are behaving,” he said.

In this globalized world, with great inter-connectivity, it has become critical to incorporate social media elements into business for myriad reasons.

The explosion of social media has been incredible. A paper Social Networks and their Impact on Records and Information Management by Arma International Educational Foundation states that social networks started as a means for people to have a social connection with other people with similar interests.

“They were once considered a tool for youthful revolution, but over the course of the last seven years, social networks have been used both for social purposes as well as for conducting business by a variety of organizations and industries. Examples of industry sectors using social networks include private companies, non-profits, political organizations, government and education,” reads the report.

In this globalized world, with great inter-connectivity, it has become critical to incorporate social media elements into business for myriad reasons.

The interactive nature of social media allows businesses to reach out to prospective candidates and tap information about their background, experience and expectations.

It helps in marketing and brand management and increases the opportunities for enterprises to understand the consumers and build instant connection with them.

Two-thirds of the 21,000 companies who participated in a survey by Harvard Business Review Analytical Services said they are either currently using social media channels or have social media plans in the future.

Generally, business professionals are known to be late-adopters, but the world of possibilities thrown up by social media has led many of them to it.

But many still say that it is an experiment, as they try to understand how to best use the different channels, gauge their effectiveness and integrate social media into their strategy.

“While still searching for best practices and measurements, two-thirds of the companies surveyed are convinced their use of social media will grow, and many anticipate investing more in it next year, even as spending in traditional media declines,” says the report The New Conversation: Taking Social Media from Talk to Action.

Generally, business professionals are known to be late-adopters, but the world of possibilities thrown up by social media has led many of them to it.

Social media experts believe that it is high time for businesses to accept and recognize that social media is a positive tool they can use to their advantage, irrespective of whether or not the job deals with social media or the internet.

According to a research report Social media and HR: how to stay ahead of curve by Sage (UK) Limited, human resources is lagging slightly behind other business functions such as sales and marketing in using social media to their advantage, however its value has started to be recognized.

“It has a potentially game-changing role to play in recruitment and a significant role in creating a positive employer brand. It can also drive greater collaboration within organizations, and can help HR professionals to share best practices and learn from the experiences of their counterparts in other organizations,” reveals the report.

In big companies, social media plays important part in centralizing the data sharing, by enabling employees at various locations to share information instantly.

As the practice of social media picks up, there is still a disparity in different countries, as found out in a report Social Media and Resourcing: the impact of Social Media on Recruitment and HR in Asia Pacific by Australia-based Alexander Mann Solution and The Chapman Consulting Group.

None of the Australian respondents say they used social media to vet or reject job applicants, while in Singapore, 17 per cent confess to have rejected a candidate based on information available on social media site and 29 per cent of recruiters in Hong Kong reveal they actively vet candidates online.

In big companies, social media plays important part in centralizing the data sharing, by enabling employees at various locations to share information instantly.

It also plays a crucial role in supporting and cultivating the corporate culture within an organization by creatively engaging the employees to ensure higher productivity at work.

Incorporating the engagement aspect in social media strategy is important to create a corporate culture. In future, as the role and importance of social media becomes more defined in the business world, it is likely to extend to other aspects of business.

According to Wikipedia, there are more than 200 active social networking sites, most prominent being LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Skype, and MySpace, besides Yahoo Groups, Google groups etc.

In future, as the role and importance of social media becomes more defined in the business world, it is likely to extend to other aspects of business

Social media has emerged as a powerful way to expand the reach of business, generate publicity, keep the workforce in good humor, and to ensure greater productivity and growth.

However, it is important for business professionals to understand which social media strategies or tools will work to their advantage.

Ray Ponter in his book The Handbook of Online Social Media Research: Tools and Techniques enlists some important social media tools for the public sector, which includes online communities, online research communities, twitter, social networks like Facebook, blogs and public discussion forums, virtual worlds etc.

The tools are aplenty. Business professionals may use Twitter to stay updated with industry events and happenings. They may do blogging to spell out their business methodologies and practices.

More popular platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn can help them engage with employees, both new and old. Staying in touch with the alumni network – an art perfected by many prominent consulting firms – can pay back when they recommend new hires.

The effective use of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn in recruiting people can eliminate the cost involved in hiring head-hunters, or paying consultancies or job sites.

The role of CEOs and top leadership is also critical. There is a growing trend of young CEOs upstaging older ones in many companies, and that means the disparity in terms of social media is also diminishing.

The effective use of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn in recruiting people can eliminate the cost involved in hiring head-hunters, paying consultancies or job sites

Business leaders in the present scenario need to have firm grip over the intricacies of social media and its application to various aspects of business, be it recruiting, scouting, engaging or brand building.

A study by Wipro revealed that 63% of the CEOs’ use social media in their respective industries, though this is not indicative of the extent of usage and effectiveness.

“Majority of the CEOs’ are in agreement with the fact that social media is relevant and the usage should be emphasized upon to gain maximum of it,” says the report.

As Arthur L Jue, Jackie Alcalde Marr, and Mary Ellen Kassotakis write in their book Social Media at Work: Networking Tools Propel Organisational Performance, “the social media wildfire rages on, fed by high winds of at least three converging forces: the nature of the business environment, changing workforce demographics, and rapid advancements in software technology that enable social connection.”

Saudi-Iran Hajj standoff a sign of growing discord

Saudi Iran standoff IV.jpg

Syed Zafar Mehdi

As fallout of the growing discord between Tehran and Riyadh, Iranian government refused to take part in the annual Hajj pilgrimage this year

The relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran, two formidable regional rivals, have soured greatly following last year’s Hajj stampede which left 2426 pilgrims dead, including 464 Iranians. The colossal tragedy shocked the world and raised many eyebrows over the management of the annual pilgrimage. Tehran came down heavily on Riyadh, resulting in war of words between the two great geopolitical adversaries vying for regional supremacy.

Thousands of people marched through the streets of Tehran to register their protest against what they termed the ‘mismanagement’ of Hajj pilgrimage by the house of Al-Saud. As fallout of the growing discord, Iranian government refused to take part in the pilgrimage this year. This is the first time Iranians have boycotted Hajj. In 1988-89, at the height of Iran-Iraq war, Iran had boycotted the five-day pilgrimage after at least 400 Iranian pilgrims were killed in fierce clashes with Saudi riot police.

Iran has demanded an independent body to manage and administer the pilgrimage to the Islam’s holiest shrine, but Riyadh has refused to entertain the demand. In his Hajj address this year, Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Syed Ali Khamenie lambasted the Saudi government for not taking adequate measures to ensure safety and security of Hajj pilgrims. In a brutally blunt way, he said the September 24 stampede was the result of Saudi government’s complicity or incompetence. As expected, Saudi government’s hyper-jingoistic Muftis launched a nasty tirade against the Iranian leaders.

Iran has demanded an independent body to manage and administer the pilgrimage to the Islam’s holiest shrine, but Riyadh has refused to entertain the demand

Ayatollah Khamenie, in his characteristic tone and tenor, denounced the Saudi rulers for “blocking the proud and faithful Iranian pilgrims” from going to the Beloved’s House. He said they are “disgraced and misguided people who think their survival on the throne of oppression is dependent on defending the arrogant powers of West, on alliances with Zionism and the US.” The supreme leader urged Muslims to “familiarise themselves with Saudi rulers and correctly understand their blasphemous, faithless, dependent and materialistic nature.”

Ayatollah Khamenie echoed the sentiments of the majority of Muslims that the House of Al-Saud are unfit to be the custodians of Islam’s holiest shrines, describing them as “small and puny devils in the service of the ‘Great Satan’ (US). “Those who have reduced Hajj to a religious-tourist trip and have hidden their enmity and malevolence towards the faithful and revolutionary people of Iran under the name of ‘politicising hajj’, are themselves small and puny satans who tremble for fear of jeopardising the interests of the Great Satan, he said. “Because of these rulers’ oppressive behaviour towards God’s guests, the world of Islam must fundamentally re-consider the management of the two holy places and the issue of Hajj,” he said.

In reply, a top Saudi cleric Grand Mufti Abdulaziz Al Sheikh dismissed Ayatollah Khamenie’s criticism and spoke of pre-Islamic history of Iran where majority were Zoroastrians. “We must understand they are not Muslims, for they are the descendants of Majuwa – a term for Zoroastrians – and their enmity towards Muslims, especially Sunnis, is very old,” he said.

Tehran has accused Saudi of supporting groups that seek to overthrow or destabilise the democratically elected government in Tehran

Iran’s outspoken Foreign Minister Jawad Zarif took to Twitter to respond to the diatribe of Saudi cleric. “Indeed, no resemblance between Islam of Iranians and most Muslims and bigoted extremism that Wahabi top cleric and Saudi terror masters preach.”

The Hajj controversy is a sign of growing discord between the two regional powers. Tensions escalated in January this year after Saudi executed a prominent cleric Sheikh Baqir Nimr after a flawed trail. The ‘extra-judicial murder’ drew sharp reactions from human rights activists across the world. In Iran, irate protestors attacked Saudi diplomatic mission offices, following which the two countries snapped diplomatic ties.

Today, Iran is a growing power in the region with considerable political clout and military muscle and plays a key role in the conflicts in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Palestine and Lebanon. It also has clout in Bahrain and eastern Saudi. That is what has made the ‘small and puny devils’ jittery and forced it to contain Iranian influence through knee-jerk foreign policy, which means destabilising Iran from inside by promoting terror groups.

As author Ralph Schoenman wrote recently, ISIS is useful for US agenda against Iran because its Wahabi extremism is directed at fomenting sectarian divisions

Tehran has accused Saudi of supporting groups that seek to overthrow or destabilise the democratically elected government in Tehran. According to Iranian observers, Saudi has backed separatist groups in Iran, especially ethnic Arab Ahwaris in Khuzestan province and Kurdish separatists. Iranian officials have suspected foreign hand in these attacks, supported by the ‘reactionary state’, a term used to describe Saudi.

Mohsen Rezaei, a member of Iran’s Expediency Council, recently denounced Saudi for backing “terror cells” among Kurds. He claimed to have foolproof evidence to prove the dalliance between Kurdish rebels and Saudi agencies. Bahram Qassemi, Foreign Ministry spokesman, also denounced Saudi government’s sponsorship of international terrorism. “Given the situation Saudi has gotten itself into, and in the light of international circles acquaintance with the country’s activities, its measures to advance its agenda would be of no avail and the country would have to answer for its support for international terrorism.”

As American author Ralph Schoenman wrote recently, ISIS is useful for US agenda against Iran because its Wahabi extremism is directed at fomenting sectarian divisions. Saudi and Israel, he writes, has direct interest in assisting their US masters in orchestrating surrogates due to their hatred for Iran.

As the situation prevails, the two regional adversaries are unlikely to bury the hatchet. But moving from proxy war to direct military confrontation also seems unlikely. While Iran has superior naval forces, Saudi is dominant in the air. Any clash between the two regional power could have long-term ramifications for peace in the region.

(First published in The Witness magazine)

The Deadly Momentum Of Afghanistan-Pakistan Border Clashes

AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES
Pakistani soldiers patrol at the Torkham crossing between Pakistan and Afghanistan in Pakistan’s Khyber Agency on June 14, 2016. Afghan and Pakistani forces clashed in an escalation of tensions between the neighbouring countries, killing at least three people and forcing the closure of the main border crossing, officials said. / AFP / SAJJAD MIAN (Photo credit should read SAJJAD MIAN/AFP/Getty Images)

 

Syed Zafar Mehdi

What starts as intermittent exchange of fire can sometimes escalate to a full-blown war with far-reaching consequences. Over the past one week, these fears were ignited when estranged neighbours Pakistan and Afghanistan resorted to brinkmanship, flexed their military muscle and fired artillery at the Torkham border, leading to many casualties.

After four days of hectic negotiations, the two sides finally blinked and agreed to de-escalate the blazing military and political tensions, thus averting the inevitable. Ataullah Khogyani, a spokesman for the governor of Nangarhar, said there were “central and regional level negotiations” to break the deadlock.

It’s not the first time, and probably not the last time, that Pakistan has tried to stoke the flames of war in the troubled country.

It all started after Pakistani border rangers started constructing a gate too close to the disputed border, beyond the Zero Line, which Afghan troops saw as a blatant violation of the bilateral agreement and international law. In the ensuing clashes, both sides suffered casualties.

As the news broke out, doves in Kabul extended an olive branch to hawks in Islamabad, calling for a truce. Omar Zakhilwal, the newly appointed Afghan envoy to Islamabad and the former finance minister, held a series of closed-door meetings with the top political and military officials of Pakistan in a bid to prevent the escalation of violence.

While Pakistan insisted on building a barrier at the border crossing “to prevent terrorists’ entry into Pakistan”, Afghanistan took umbrage because it does not recognize the colonial-era Durand Line drawn up in 1893. Torkham connects eastern Nangarhar province of Afghanistan with Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

For almost a week, both sides refused to back down from their respective positions. Zakhilwal even threatened to resign and reveal the details of his closed-door meetings with Pakistani officials. He dismissed reports that he had earlier agreed to the construction of the gate at Torkham.

On Saturday, the border was reopened after six days, much to the relief of stranded truck drivers and traders. On Monday, an Afghan delegation led by deputy foreign minister Hekmat Khalil Karzai visited Islamabad to discuss the Torkham border issue.

It’s not the first time, and probably not the last time, that Pakistan has tried to stoke the flames of war in the troubled country. Border incursions and setting up of military bunkers by Pakistani troops along the border in eastern and southern provinces has always been a matter of consternation for the Afghan government.

Pakistan’s stirring up of trouble in Afghanistan is not limited to border incursions. For the past several years, Pakistan has frequently fired rockets into bordering provinces…

Earlier last year, Pakistani rangers had established check posts in Maroof district of southern Kandahar province before the Afghan border police forced them to retreat. Before that, some Pakistani rangers had secretly crossed into Goshta and Spinboldak districts of eastern Nangarhar province and built small military bases there. In July last year, Pakistani forces had tried to build illegal constructions in the border district of Barmal in southern Paktika province. In the ensuing firefight, one Afghan police commander was killed.

Pakistan’s stirring up of trouble in Afghanistan, though, is not limited to border incursions. For the past several years, Pakistan has frequently fired rockets into bordering Afghan provinces, killing civilians and security forces and rendering many others homeless. A large number of people in these border provinces — mainly Kunar, Nuristan, Paktika and Nangarhar — have been forced to evacuate their homes and move to safer locations.

Former Afghan army chief Shir Mohammad Karimi, who was summoned by Parliament last year, said these attacks are used as “pressure tactics” by Pakistan to force Afghanistan into recognizing the Durand Line as an international border.

Pakistan’s envoy to Kabul has been summoned by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs many times since last year to register protest against the continued border incursions and cross-border shelling by Pakistani troops. In July last year, deputy foreign minister Hekmat Khalil Karzai took reacted strongly to the mortar shelling in Speen Zhay, Dwa Khula, Chunchro Tangai and Kamary Lakar areas of Nazian district in eastern Nangarhar province. At least three civilians, including a woman, were killed in the shelling.

The political and diplomatic ties between the two South Asian neighbours, once described by the former Afghan president Hamid Karzai as “inseparable brothers”, have worsened in recent years.

In August last year, hundreds of people including tribal elders and local political leaders gathered in Khad Al Jadid area of Kandahar city to protest against the cross-border shelling by Pakistan. A few days later, a large number of people carried out a protest march in Asadabad city of eastern Kunar province against the border shelling by Pakistani troops. Similar protests have been held in many other parts of the country, denouncing Pakistan’s adventurism.

The political and diplomatic ties between the two South Asian neighbours, once described by the former Afghan president Hamid Karzai as “inseparable brothers”, have worsened in recent years. Karzai’s successor Ashraf Ghani had vowed to pursue the peace process with the support of Islamabad. At the London Conference in December 2014, President Ghani said his government seeks regional cooperation and has started an “active engagement” with all neighbours, including Pakistan.

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif reciprocated by saying that he would not allow Pakistani territory to be used for terrorist activities against Afghanistan. “If our soil is used for terrorism activities against Afghanistan, we will take serious action against the insurgents,” he said.

However, he seems either incompetent or unwilling to stop Pakistan-based militant groups from mounting attacks on Afghanistan. And more importantly, he has failed to rein in his soldiers manning the border.

The author is a Kashmiri journalist based in Kabul. He can be contacted at armaan.journo@gmail.com

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Syed Zafar Mehdi

What starts as intermittent exchange of fire can sometimes escalate to a full-blown war with far-reaching consequences. Over the past one week, these fears were ignited when estranged neighbours Pakistan and Afghanistan resorted to brinkmanship, flexed their military muscle and fired artillery at the Torkham border, leading to many casualties.

After four days of hectic negotiations, the two sides finally blinked and agreed to de-escalate the blazing military and political tensions, thus averting the inevitable. Ataullah Khogyani, a spokesman for the governor of Nangarhar, said there were “central and regional level negotiations” to break the deadlock.

It’s not the first time, and probably not the last time, that Pakistan has tried to stoke the flames of war in the troubled country.

It all started after Pakistani border rangers started constructing a gate too close to the disputed border, beyond the Zero Line, which Afghan troops saw as a blatant violation of the bilateral agreement and international law. In the ensuing clashes, both sides suffered casualties.

As the news broke out, doves in Kabul extended an olive branch to hawks in Islamabad, calling for a truce. Omar Zakhilwal, the newly appointed Afghan envoy to Islamabad and the former finance minister, held a series of closed-door meetings with the top political and military officials of Pakistan in a bid to prevent the escalation of violence.

While Pakistan insisted on building a barrier at the border crossing “to prevent terrorists’ entry into Pakistan”, Afghanistan took umbrage because it does not recognize the colonial-era Durand Line drawn up in 1893. Torkham connects eastern Nangarhar province of Afghanistan with Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

For almost a week, both sides refused to back down from their respective positions. Zakhilwal even threatened to resign and reveal the details of his closed-door meetings with Pakistani officials. He dismissed reports that he had earlier agreed to the construction of the gate at Torkham.

On Saturday, the border was reopened after six days, much to the relief of stranded truck drivers and traders. On Monday, an Afghan delegation led by deputy foreign minister Hekmat Khalil Karzai visited Islamabad to discuss the Torkham border issue.

It’s not the first time, and probably not the last time, that Pakistan has tried to stoke the flames of war in the troubled country. Border incursions and setting up of military bunkers by Pakistani troops along the border in eastern and southern provinces has always been a matter of consternation for the Afghan government.

Pakistan’s stirring up of trouble in Afghanistan is not limited to border incursions. For the past several years, Pakistan has frequently fired rockets into bordering provinces…

Earlier last year, Pakistani rangers had established check posts in Maroof district of southern Kandahar province before the Afghan border police forced them to retreat. Before that, some Pakistani rangers had secretly crossed into Goshta and Spinboldak districts of eastern Nangarhar province and built small military bases there. In July last year, Pakistani forces had tried to build illegal constructions in the border district of Barmal in southern Paktika province. In the ensuing firefight, one Afghan police commander was killed.

Pakistan’s stirring up of trouble in Afghanistan, though, is not limited to border incursions. For the past several years, Pakistan has frequently fired rockets into bordering Afghan provinces, killing civilians and security forces and rendering many others homeless. A large number of people in these border provinces — mainly Kunar, Nuristan, Paktika and Nangarhar — have been forced to evacuate their homes and move to safer locations.

Former Afghan army chief Shir Mohammad Karimi, who was summoned by Parliament last year, said these attacks are used as “pressure tactics” by Pakistan to force Afghanistan into recognizing the Durand Line as an international border.

Pakistan’s envoy to Kabul has been summoned by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs many times since last year to register protest against the continued border incursions and cross-border shelling by Pakistani troops. In July last year, deputy foreign minister Hekmat Khalil Karzai took reacted strongly to the mortar shelling in Speen Zhay, Dwa Khula, Chunchro Tangai and Kamary Lakar areas of Nazian district in eastern Nangarhar province. At least three civilians, including a woman, were killed in the shelling.

The political and diplomatic ties between the two South Asian neighbours, once described by the former Afghan president Hamid Karzai as “inseparable brothers”, have worsened in recent years.

In August last year, hundreds of people including tribal elders and local political leaders gathered in Khad Al Jadid area of Kandahar city to protest against the cross-border shelling by Pakistan. A few days later, a large number of people carried out a protest march in Asadabad city of eastern Kunar province against the border shelling by Pakistani troops. Similar protests have been held in many other parts of the country, denouncing Pakistan’s adventurism.

The political and diplomatic ties between the two South Asian neighbours, once described by the former Afghan president Hamid Karzai as “inseparable brothers”, have worsened in recent years. Karzai’s successor Ashraf Ghani had vowed to pursue the peace process with the support of Islamabad. At the London Conference in December 2014, President Ghani said his government seeks regional cooperation and has started an “active engagement” with all neighbours, including Pakistan.

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif reciprocated by saying that he would not allow Pakistani territory to be used for terrorist activities against Afghanistan. “If our soil is used for terrorism activities against Afghanistan, we will take serious action against the insurgents,” he said.

However, he seems either incompetent or unwilling to stop Pakistan-based militant groups from mounting attacks on Afghanistan. And more importantly, he has failed to rein in his soldiers manning the border.

(First published in Huffington Post)

Shift to neo-liberal world order

Syed Zafar Mehdi

While neo-liberalism has been lucrative for rich, it has been a simple disaster for world’s poor and working classes

In conventional parlance, the current era in history is characterized by globalization, technological revolution, and democratization. In nearly all these areas, media plays a central and defining role, since economic and cultural globalization is impossible without global commercial media system to promote global markets and encourage consumer values. For capitalism’s cheerleaders like Thomas L Friedman of New York Times, these developments suggest that human race is making foray into a new global age. Socialists, on the hand view it with utmost cynicism, as something ideologically loaded and misleading. Superior term would be “neo-liberalism”, a set of national and international policies calling for business domination of all social affairs with least countervailing effect. The centerpiece of neo-liberal policies calls for deregulation of commercial media and communication markets.

Previously, media systems were primarily “national”, but over the years, global media market has emerged. This global oligopoly means that dominant firms are moving at break-neck speed, that convergence and consolidation have become order of day and are here to stay. Media industries are becoming increasingly concentrated, each dominant player being the subsidiary of huge global media conglomerates.

In short order, global media market is dominated by some half-a-dozen multi-national corporations (MNC’s), most notably: Disney, AOL Time Warner, Sony, News Corp, Viacom, Vivandi, Bertelsmann, et al. None of these companies existed in their present form as media companies some 15-20 years back, but today they rank among the largest non-financial firms in globe.  Between them, they own the major film studios, companies controlling nearly 75% of global music market, preponderance of satellite broadcasting worldwide, significant proportion of book publishing and commercial magazine publishing business, besides most of cable TV channels globally.

It begs a pertinent question: How did it come to pass? The plain answer is “technology”. The sweeping improvements in communication technology have made global media companies feasible and lucrative in a manner unimaginable in past. This is though only the partial explanation, at best. The real motor force has been incessant pursuit for profit that marks capitalism, which has put intense pressure for a shift to neo-liberal de-regulation.

Perhaps the best way to understand how closely the global media system is linked to neo-liberal global capitalist economy is to consider the pivotal role of “advertising”. Advertising here implies the business expense incurred by the largest firms in economy, and commercial media system is the transmission belt for them to market their wares across globe. Indeed, globalization, as we understand it today, could have been a mere pipe dream without it. It is startling to note that the whopping 3-quarter of global spending on advertisements ends up in pockets of just 20 media companies, who call the shots in industry today.

The global media system though is only partially competitive in true economic sense of word. Most of largest firms have roughly same major shareholders, own pieces of one another and have inter-locking board of directors. This conscious coordination makes media giants’ particularly effective political lobbyists at national, regional, and global levels.

The emerging global media system has significant cultural and political implications, specifically with regard to political democracy, imperialism and nature of socialistic resistance. In area of democracy, emergence of highly concentrated media systems in hands of huge private concerns rubbishes the notion of “free press” in real democratic theory. The scathing attack on professional autonomy of journalists that has occurred is just the broader part of the neo-liberal transformation of media.

Neo-liberalism, more than an economic theory, is a political theory. It posits that business domination of society proceeds more effectively when there is representative democracy. And it’s weak and ineffective polity typified by high degrees of de-politicization. It’s here that we realize the importance of existing commercial media systems to neo-liberal project, for its singularly brilliant at generating the precise sort of bogus political culture that permits business domination to proceed without using police, state or facing popular resistance.

Global media’s relationship with imperialism has been bit complex. In 70’s, much of Third world mobilized through UNESCO to battle cultural imperialism of west. They developed plans for New World Information and Communication Order (NWICO) to address their concerns. Similar fears about US media were echoed in Europe. Both of these movements were impaled on sword of neo-liberalism wielded by US and Britain.
Global journalism is dominated by western news agencies, which regard existing capitalism, US and its hard-nosed allies in most generous and charitable manner imaginable. As for culture, the “Hollywood juggernaut” and the specter of US cultural domination remains a central concern in most countries, for obvious reasons. But, with changing global political economy, there are certain problems in leaving the discussion at this point. Essentially, global media giants are quintessential multi-national firms, with shareholders, headquarters, and operations scattered all across globe.

Global media system is better understood as one that advances commercial and corporate interests and denigrates that which doesn’t fall in that line. There is hardly any difference in the firm’s content, whether owned by shareholders in Japan or France, or having corporate offices in New York, Frankfurt, or Sydney. The basic split is not between nation-states, but between rich and poor, across national borders, but it doesn’t make nation-state boundaries and geo-political empires irrelevant. Simply put, entire global regime is the result of neo-liberal political policies, urged on by the US govt. More importantly, not far below the surface is the role of US military as global “enforcer” of capitalism, with major US based corporations and investors in the driver’s seat. To cut the long story short, we need to develop an understanding of neo-liberal globalization that is joined at the hip to US imperialism – and all the dreadful implications that come with it.

The future prospects don’t look too great. It’s all too easy, given above conditions, to succumb to despair. It looks depressing from democratic standpoint, and it may be tough to see much hope for change. As lucrative a neo-liberalism has been for rich, it has been a simple disaster for world’s poor and working classes. While dominance of commercial media makes resistance more difficult, widespread opposition to these trends is gaining ground. It remains to be seem what future unfolds, but we should not expect anything great as long “Uncle Sam” calls shots in media world.