From Germany to South Africa: The journey begins

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Do you speak African? Well, neither do the more than one billion people living in Africa, where about 2,000 different languages are spoken, none of which is called “African.” Too often, people think of Africa as if it was a single country, defined by disease, poverty, hopelessness, and corruption. This tiring image is at best misleading, and has little to do with reality. In fact, Africa is all but monolithic, and arguably the most diverse continent of all. Africa is home to 15 percent of the world’s population and an incredibly large number of ethnicities and cultures, the second largest continent in terms of both area and population, and consists of at least 54 countries. Three of the ten economies forecasted to be the fastest-growing in 2016 by the Economist Intelligence Unit are located in Africa, and 25 Nobel Laureates were born there.

Continue reading “From Germany to South Africa: The journey begins”

My Germany to South Africa Motorcycle Expedition 2011

motorcycle-kenyaIn 2011, I rode my motorcycle, a BMW R 1150 GS, from my hometown of Adelmannsfelden in Southwest Germany to Cape Town in South Africa. I was accompanied by my friends Marc (on a BMW R 1100 GS) and Cathleen (on a BMW F 650 GS), and my wife Khukie, with whom I shared my motorcycle. We left Adelmannsfelden on the 10th of May, and we reached Cape Town on the 7th of August. We covered a total of approximately 13,000 km, crossing through twelve countries: Germany, Austria, Italy, Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Botswana, and South Africa. This is a photo/video report of our adventures along the way.

Continue reading “My Germany to South Africa Motorcycle Expedition 2011”

Animal Rights: Objections, Myths, and Misconceptions

animal-rights-objections

Each one of us encounters animals every day, if only as a piece of meat on a plate, and yet most of us hardly spare a thought for them. Shafayat Nazam Rasul must hence be commended for his Tuesday op-ed, in which he drew our attention to the complicated relationship between humans and other animals, and started a conversation that I think is very important. In the course of doing so, he mentioned a number of common objections to the idea that non-human animals are our moral equals and have rights. It is unfortunate, however, that these objections remained unanswered, as readers might have gotten the impression that animal rights advocates “spew an extreme,” as the author rather uncharitably stated, and do not have good arguments. By responding to some of the objections, I want to show that the philosophy of animal rights is in fact a well-thought-out moral theory worthy of our serious attention. Continue reading “Animal Rights: Objections, Myths, and Misconceptions”

Commemorating Avijit Roy on his 44th birthday

AvijitRoy

Today is the first birthday of Avijit Roy that we commemorate without him. His life was taken by Islamic terrorists earlier this year, when he was in Bangladesh to attend the Ekushey Book Fair. Avijit was a prolific and accomplished author, a fierce defender of human rights, and dedicated much of his life to the promotion of freethinking, humanism, and rationalism. Continue reading “Commemorating Avijit Roy on his 44th birthday”

Atheists ain’t bad people; neither are theists

atheism

Last year, a Pew Research Center survey found that Americans have a significantly less favorable view of atheists than of Jews, Christians, Buddhists, and Hindus. Only Muslims were rated more negatively than atheists. That is consistent with another survey conducted by the same institute in the same year, which found that about every second American would not be happy with a family member marrying an atheist. In a 2012 Gallup poll among Americans, 43 percent of respondents said that they would not vote for a presidential candidate who is an atheist. Simply put, Americans do not like atheists. As everybody knows who knows anything about Bangladesh, neither do Bangladeshis. Continue reading “Atheists ain’t bad people; neither are theists”

Marriage equality in Bangladesh

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Last month, the United States Supreme Court made same-sex marriage legal in all fifty states of the Union, and the District of Columbia, adding the United States to the list of nearly two dozen countries, mostly in Europe and the Americas, that recognize marriage between a man and a man, and between a woman and a woman. The decision, which is nothing short of historic, made waves around the globe, including in Bangladesh, and is a cause for celebration for everybody who believes in equal human dignity. Continue reading “Marriage equality in Bangladesh”

The archaeological site of Plato’s Academy in Athens

Detail from The School of Athens by Raphael, with Plato & Aristotle at the center
Detail from The School of Athens by Raphael, with Plato & Aristotle at the center

Founded around 387 BCE, Plato’s Academy continued throughout the Hellenistic period until the death of its last head, Philo of Larissa, in 84/83 BCE. The most famous student during that time was Aristotle, who after studying at the Academy for almost twenty years went on to tutor Alexander the Great in 343 BCE, and then started to teach at the Lyceum in 335/334 BCE. A group of Neoplatonist philosophers revived the Academy at the beginning of the fifth century CE, and it again flourished until 529 CE, when an edict of the Emperor Justinian I. brought about the closing of all institutes of higher learning in Athens. The Academy was one of the earliest such institutes in the Western world. Besides what we now call philosophy, the subjects taught likely included physics, mathematics, and astronomy. Today, the archaeological site of Plato’s Academy is in a sad state of neglect: trash, eroding walls, rusty fences or no protection at all, and only very few informational sign boards. Given the current financial crisis in Greece, this is unlikely to change anytime soon. Continue reading “The archaeological site of Plato’s Academy in Athens”

Ehe für alle

„Alle Menschen sind vor dem Gesetz gleich.“ So steht es im Grundgesetz. Das heißt auch, dass niemand wegen seiner sexuellen Orientierung benachteiligt werden darf. Die sucht man sich nämlich genauso wenig aus wie sein Geschlecht oder seine Hautfarbe. Es ist also eigentlich ganz einfach: Die Ehe für alle muss kommen (nicht die „Homo-Ehe“, die es genauso wenig gibt wie die „Homo-Geburt“ und den „Homo-Mietvertrag“). Continue reading “Ehe für alle”

নিরামিষ খাবার নিয়ে দু’টি কথা

আপনি কয়জন বাঙালীকে চেনেন যে শর্ষে ইলিশ ভালবাসে না? কাচ্চি বিরিয়ানি অথবা গরুর রেজালা ছাড়া কোন বাংলাদেশী বিয়ে কল্পনা করতে পারেন? অনুমান করতে পারি আপনার উত্তর হবে খুব বেশি না অথবা একেবারেই না। যদিও বাংলাদেশ সম্পর্কে আমার জ্ঞান সীমিত, আমি এটুকু জানি, বাঙালী মাংস ভালবাসে, মুসলমানেরা হিন্দুদের থেকে বেশি, আর সব বাঙালী মাছ ভালবাসে। সেজন্য মনে হতে পারে বাংলাদেশে প্রাণীদের অধিকার নিয়ে কথা বলা বাতুলতা। কিন্তু আমার অভিজ্ঞতা সম্পূর্ণ বিপরীত। Continue reading “নিরামিষ খাবার নিয়ে দু’টি কথা”

Eating animals

How many Bengalis do you know who do not like shorshe ilish? Can you imagine a Bengali wedding without kacchi biryani, or beef rezala? If I had to guess, I would say that your answers are “not many,” and “hardly.” Even though my knowledge of Bengal is rather limited, I think this I know: Bengalis love meat, Muslims probably a bit more so than Hindus, and virtually every Bengali loves fish. One might think that makes lecturing about animal rights in Bangladesh a quixotic exercise. I found that the opposite is the case. Continue reading “Eating animals”

Hass gegen Flüchtlinge in Ellwangen

refugees welcome

Mit dem Einzug der ersten 48 Flüchtlinge hat die Landeserstaufnahmestelle (LEA) in Ellwangen letzte Woche ihren Betrieb aufgenommen. Mittelfristig sollen in der ehemaligen Reinhardt-Kaserne tausend Menschen untergebracht werden, unter anderem aus Syrien, anderen Nahost-Staaten, Afrika und dem Balkan. Lokalpolitiker und Vertreter der Stadt Ellwangen heißen die Flüchtlinge herzlich willkommen und auch in der Bevölkerung hat die LEA eine breite Unterstützung. Rund tausend Menschen nahmen im Januar in Ellwangen an einer Solidaritätskundgebung teil. Zahlreiche Bürger spenden Kleidung und Möbel oder engagieren sich anderweitig für die Flüchtlinge.

Doch die oftmals traumatisierten Flüchtlinge treffen nicht nur auf Hilfsbereitschaft und Gastfreundlichkeit, sondern auch auf Hass, der auf einem diffusen Gemisch von Vorturteilen, Fremden- und Islamfeindlichkeit, Rassismus, Fehlinformation, Neid und Neophobie gründet. Continue reading “Hass gegen Flüchtlinge in Ellwangen”

Kindle the common light

I am a Christian. I judge but I try not to be judgmental (Matthew 7:1-6). I am a Muslim. I try to keep my promises, and be fair towards others (Qur’an 17:34-35). I am a Hindu. I try to speak and act truthfully (Mahabharata, Book 12, Section CCLIX). I am a Buddhist. I try to nurture compassion for all living things (Sutta Nipata 143-152). I am also an atheist. But that I think is at most of secondary importance.
Continue reading “Kindle the common light”

Statement on the Murder of Dr. Avijit Roy

945695_563211230401818_254148288_nI am deeply saddened by and strongly condemn the heinous and cowardly murder of Dr. Avijit Roy. Avijit was a prolific author, a loyal supporter of Bangladesh’s LGBT rights movement, a fearless defender of free speech, and the founder of Mukto-Mona, a secular online platform dedicated to freethinking, humanism and rationalism. In the few interactions I had with him as a contributor to Mukto-Mona, he was always very kind and encouraging. Continue reading “Statement on the Murder of Dr. Avijit Roy”

First issue of Falsafa published

The Department of Philosophy at Hindu College in New Delhi just published the first issue of the first edition of its new magazine, Falsafa. Congratulations to the students who worked hard to put it together, and to their dedicated teachers, particularly my friend Dr. Krishna M. Pathak! I wish the magazine and its team of editors all success, and I hope it will continue to contribute to the free exchange of ideas at Hindu College for a very long time. Continue reading “First issue of Falsafa published”