For the love of postcards

Before Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, and Twitter, there was the postcard. Many young people have never sent one to anyone. Communication today is mostly instant, and mail is derogatorily called “snail mail” by the digital crowd. Since the world’s first picture postcard was sent to London-based writer Theodore Hook in 1840, the postcard has enjoyed much popularity as a means to share images and thoughts across regions and cultures. In recent times, that popularity has rapidly declined, mostly due to the rise of mobile phones and social media. Sending a postcard takes more time and effort than sending an email, or a message on social media, which makes postcards even more meaningful now than they were when there was no instant alternative. Continue reading “For the love of postcards”

Let Paul Makonda come to America

Should active enemies of freedom be allowed into free countries? In 2007, speaking at Columbia University in New York City, then-President of Iran Mahmoud Ahmadinejad memorably declared that there are no homosexuals in Iran, drawing derisive laughter from the audience. He also made similarly outrageous remarks about the Holocaust and women’s rights in Iran. Thousands protested, and the world saw him for what he is – an ignorant bigot who as president exhibited “all the signs of a petty and cruel dictator,” as the university’s president put it in his introduction. Untrue and immoral speech tends to discredit itself, especially under scrutiny, and that is precisely why it should not only be permitted but welcomed.

Secretary Mike Pompeo last week declared Paul Makonda and his wife, Mary Massenge, ineligible for entry into the United States. In a statement released by the U.S. State Department, Pompeo said he was banning Makonda “due to his involvement in gross violations of human rights, which include the flagrant denial of the right to life, liberty, or the security of persons.” He did not state which right violations specifically led to the decision. I say, let him come, and treat him to some good old American free speech. Continue reading “Let Paul Makonda come to America”

Mapenzi ya kadi za posta

Kabla ya Facebook na Instagram, kulikuwa na kadi ya posta. Vijana miongoni mwetu huenda hawajawahi kutuma hata moja kwa mtu yeyote yule. Mawasiliano leo hii ni ya haraka, na barua huitwa kwa dharau “barua ya konokono” na umati wa kidijiti. Tokea kadi posta ya kwanza ya picha itumwe kwa mwandishi wa London-Theodore Hook mnamo mwaka 1840, barua ya posta imepata umaarufu kama njia ya kutumiana picha na kushirikiana kimawazo katika maeneo na tamaduni mbalimbali. Katika siku za hivi karibuni, umaarufu huo umepungua sana, kwa sababu ya simu za rununu na mitandao ya kijamii. Kutuma kadi za posta huchukua mda mwingi na nguvu kuliko kutuma barua pepe, au ujumbe kwenye mitandao ya kijamii, ambayo inafanya kadi za posta ziwe na maana zaidi kuliko ilivyokuwa wakati hakukuwa na njia mbadala ya papo kwa hapo. Continue reading “Mapenzi ya kadi za posta”

Kile Unapaswa Kujua Kuhusu Mapenzi ya Jinsia Moja

Mwelekeo wa kimapenzi ni nini?

Mwelekeo wa kimapenzi humaanisha muundo wa kudumu wa kimhemko, kimahaba, na/au mivuto ya kimapenzi kwa wanaume, wanawake, au jinsia zote. Mwelekeo wa kimapenzi unaweza kuwa wa toka kuvutiwa na jinsia tofauti tu hadi kuvutiwa na jinsia moja tu. Japokuwa, mwelekeo wa kimapenzi kwa kawaida hujadiliwa katika makundi matatu: mpenda jinsia tofauti (kuwa na mvuto kwa wahusika wa jinsia nyingine), shoga/msagaji (mwanaume anayevutiwa na wanaume/mwanamke anayevutiwa na wanawake), na mpenda jinsia mbili (mwanaume au mwanamke anayevutiwa na jinsia zote mbili; “bisexual”). Continue reading “Kile Unapaswa Kujua Kuhusu Mapenzi ya Jinsia Moja”

Kill Uganda’s “Kill the Gays” bill: Love is not a crime

Last Thursday, Uganda announced plans to resurrect the infamous “Kill the Gays” bill, possibly within weeks. A version of the bill was first signed into law by President Yoweri Museveni, and then ruled invalid on a technicality by the courts, in 2014. If passed by the parliament, the new bill would impose the death penalty not only for gay sex, but also for “promotion and recruitment,” effectively criminalizing vital rights and health advocacy work. This will only serve to increase anti-gay hate and violence in a country where acceptance of homosexuality is already much lower than in most parts of the world, and cause suffering for thousands of innocent Ugandans. Continue reading “Kill Uganda’s “Kill the Gays” bill: Love is not a crime”

Ubaguzi mubashara: kadhia ya maadili dhidi ya uwepo wa mipaka

Jaalia katika fikra zako kwamba: leo ni siku muruwa ya mwezi wa Septemba. Hakuna joto wala baridi, upepo mwanana unapepea na mawingu yanang’ara angani. Unachukua blanketi lako na kuelekea katika moja ya fukwe huru za jiji la Dar es salaam. Unajiandaa kwenda kujipumzisha ufukweni hapo na kufurahia machweo jua. Bali unapofika ufukweni mipango yako inatibuliwa bila ya kutegemea. Unaelezwa na afisa ulinzi kuwa serikali imeweka sheria mpya za matumizi ya fukwe. Unaambiwa kwamba huwezi kutumia ufukwe huo kwa vile wewe ni mtu mweusi. Watu wengine wowote wanaruhusiwa kutumia fukwe hizo isipokuwa watu weusi tu, na iwapo mtu mweusi yeyote angekaidi amri hiyo basi nguvu ingeweza kutumika. Continue reading “Ubaguzi mubashara: kadhia ya maadili dhidi ya uwepo wa mipaka”

Philosophy means business

If you study engineering, medicine, law, or almost any of the other subjects taught at university, you learn this, and you learn that, and in the end you know some things that others do not. Philosophy is different, and rather unique in that regard. After studying it for many years, I feel like I know not more but less than when I started, and I suspect the feeling is common among philosophers. That is because philosophy is not so much about providing answers as it is about asking questions. A consequence, unfortunately, is that the value of studying philosophy is easily underestimated. After all, what use is an academic discipline that cannot provide definite answers? With so many mundane yet significant day-to-day problems, why waste time and resources on splitting hairs and pondering in abstract thought? The concern behind these questions might seem particularly relevant in Tanzania, where a large portion of the population still lives in poverty and there is an understandable longing for immediate practical results, and it might be part of the reason why the Department of Philosophy at Tanzania’s oldest public university, the University of Dar es Salaam, was finally established only five years ago, in 2013. Continue reading “Philosophy means business”

Discrimination in plain sight: The moral case against borders

Consider the following thought experiment: It is a pleasant day in September. It is not too hot, not too cold, and not too windy, and the sky is clear. You grab a blanket and head to one of Dar es Salaam’s public beaches, intent to make yourself comfortable by the seaside and enjoy the sunset. Once at the beach, however, your plans are rudely thwarted. You are informed by a law enforcement officer that the government has put a new policy in place. You are told that you may not access the beach – because you are black. Black people and only black people are no longer allowed on the beach. If necessary, that policy will be enforced by the use of physical force. Continue reading “Discrimination in plain sight: The moral case against borders”

Africa and her animals (Pretoria: Unisa Press, 2018)

Africa and her animals
Philosophical and Practical Perspectives 

Edited by Rainer Ebert & Anteneh Roba, and published by the University of South Africa (UNISA) Press

With a foreword by J. M. Coetzee,
the 2003 Nobel Laureate in Literature

ISBN 978-1-86888-900-6
xxi + 358 pages

Continue reading “Africa and her animals (Pretoria: Unisa Press, 2018)”

Populismus bekämpft man nicht mit mehr Populismus

burka

Unter heftigem Beifall hat Angela Merkel letzte Woche beim CDU-Parteitag in Essen ein Verbot der Vollverschleierung gefordert, “wo immer das rechtlich möglich ist.” Diese Forderung wurde dann auch so von der CDU beschlossen.

Abgesehen davon, dass es in Deutschland praktisch keine vollverschleierten Frauen gibt und es sich deshalb um eine reine Symboldebatte handelt, ist die Forderung nach einem Verbot von Burka und Niqab strategisch falsch. Rechtspopulisten wie die AfD bekämpft man mit einem überzeugenden Eintreten für freiheitliche Werte, nicht mit mehr Populismus und dadurch, dass man deren Positionen legitimiert. Sie ist darüber hinaus sachlich unbegründet. Continue reading “Populismus bekämpft man nicht mit mehr Populismus”

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

16621812491_4a7b1669d4_o

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”

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”