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Month: November 2015

Paris attacks: how effective has the military response been?

Written by Scott Lucas.

Even as Parisians were trying to assess the scale of the attacks by Islamic State (IS) which killed 132 people on November 13, politicians were promising a decisive and effective military response.

French President Francois Hollande assured, “We will be merciless toward the barbarians of Islamic State group. Faced with war, the country must take appropriate action.”

British Prime Minister David Cameron responded, “Your values are our values, your pain is our pain, your fight is our fight and together we will defeat these terrorists.”

US President Barack Obama – who had said only on November 12 that “we have contained” IS in Iraq and Syria – asserted that “those who think that they can terrorise the people of France or the values that they stand for are wrong”.

Britain has the chance to turn young people into voters – here’s how

Written by Anja Neundorf and Kaat Smets.

Support to lower the voting age to 16 is growing across Europe, and the UK is no exception. It’s looking more and more likely that young people will be allowed to vote, in time for the upcoming EU referendum. Better still, a bill in parliament proposes to overhaul of the way we teach young people about politics. By giving them the vote – and explaining how and why they should exercise it – we have a unique opportunity to re-engage young people with our political system.

A solution like this one is desperately needed: young people are notorious non-voters. While turnout levels are going down among all age groups, young adult turnout is undergoing an even more rapid decline. In fact, the gap in turnout between young and old in the UK is by far the largest of any European democracy.

To make things worse, recent changes in registration rules mean that young people can no longer be automatically registered to vote by their parents, universities or colleges. If they fail to register before November 20, as many as a million young voters could be left off the electoral register. This would be another massive blow to youth participation in politics.

Religious Orthodoxy v. Secularism: Bangladesh’s Tug of War

Written by Bahzad H. Joarder.

Bangladesh’s development trajectory since 1990, especially after democratic practices were reinstated has been a unique success story. It is widely regarded as a model country for development on social indicators. It remains one of the few developing countries that is on track to achieve the Millennium Development Goals and is already well ahead of many countries including economic behemoths like India. With China ceding its market leader position in the RMG sector, Bangladesh, already a big player, is increasingly viewed as a potential leader in the sector. For a country once referred to as ‘bottomless basket’ by Henry Kissinger, one which has seen years of suffering, famine, poverty and political strife, the 21st century heralded new promises. Yet, those promises may remain unfulfilled potential, if Bangladesh fails in tackling a new adversary, one which threatens the very fabric of the post independent society- the rise of militant Islam.

Writing from the margins in Bangladesh

Written by Ikhtisad Ahmed.

The freedoms of speech and expression are the easiest to deride and subvert. Should a view deviate from the perceived wisdom of the masses – dictated by those in power – it is quickly marginalised, especially if it speaks uncomfortable truths. Hence common sense, empathy, rationalism and advocating equality are often labelled radical thinking derogatorily, and “liberal” is a term that has been irreversibly poisoned. There remain places in this world where the price for having the audacity to write is much higher than being painted a fool or made an object of ridicule.

How Attacks on Bangladeshi Bloggers is Erasing a Liberal Tradition

Written by Ibtisam Ahmed.

Bangladesh has seen a series of violent attacks against secular bloggers in 2015, culminating in multiple coordinated attacks on the same day in October. Although these are not the first attacks of their kind, the sheer volume (at least eight separate incidents), the common modus operandi (all attacks carried out using machetes), and the increasing boldness (going from attacks in accessible public spaces to breaking and entering individual homes) of the violence this year has been particularly damaging.

While the attacks have inevitably raised questions of free speech, internet security and local terrorism, one relatively uncommented aspect has arguably affected the national psyche in a much deeper and, worryingly, irreversible way. In a country with an overwhelming Muslim majority (89.5% according to the national bureau of statistics, 89.1% according to the CIA Factbook), the targeting of self-professed secularists has contribute to the steady erosion of the country’s liberal heritage.

The NLD wins the Myanmar elections

Written by Marie Lall.

On Sunday 8th November 2015 Myanmar went to the polls. More than 90 parties contested seats for the two houses of parliament as well as the 14 state and regional assemblies.  Despite the large number of parties, all eyes were on the opposition NLD and the regime USDP. The official declaration is still outstanding, however the Union Election Commission has to date awarded the NLD 348 seats in the bicameral parliament, giving the party an outright majority. In order to control the government the NLD needed 67% of the seats (or 329 seats), as 25% are held by appointed military MPs. Crossing this threshold means that Myanmar can become a very different country. The losing USDP has been bitterly disappointed with the result. Nevertheless the outgoing MPs have congratulated the NLD and the regime party has shown great dignity.

Cow Protection, Hindu Revivalism, and Constitutional Politics in India and Nepal

Written by Mara Malagodi.

India and Nepal are the only two countries in the world where the overwhelming majority of the population are followers of Hinduism. In India, according to the 2011 Census, 79.8 per cent of the total population is Hindu, while in Nepal the 2011 Census records 81.3 per cent. Both countries, however, present also a startling level of socio-cultural diversity in terms of religion, caste, ethnicity, language, region, etc. As a result, the position of Hinduism as the majority religion in the constitutional frameworks of India and Nepal and its relation to competing visions of the nation have been the object of intense political and legal struggle for decades in both countries. However, the electoral success of the Hindu Right at the centre in India in the 2014 general elections together with a disquieting rise in communal violence, and the promulgation of Nepal’s long-awaited but extremely embattled new Constitution in September 2015 have reignited debates about the place of Hinduism in their constitutional systems. The recent waves of Hindu revivalism in India and Nepal call for profound reflections on the intimate relationship between the role of religion in constitutional documents and the treatment of minorities in both jurisdictions. In this respect, the thorny issue of cow protection is a useful prism to analyse legal responses to the surge in ethno-cultural majoritarian demands in both jurisdictions and increasingly violent attempts to erase difference.

Paris: the war with ISIS enters a new stage

Written by Simon Reich.

When in Paris after the Charlie Hebdo attacks last January, I wrote a column suggesting that we all had to demonstrate a new toughness.

At that time, I thought the scale of ISIS’ attacks on Western targets was contained by its avowed doctrine of territorial legitimacy. I assumed any attacks in the West would be carried out by lone wolves or with one or two partners.

I was wrong.

Ever since it first declared a caliphate, ISIS’ leadership consistently expressed the intent of fighting a more or less conventional war in a well-defined piece of territory spreading across Iraq and Syria.

Who watches the Watchmen?: The Democratic Debates, CNN and The Fifth Estate

Written by David Porter.

In the aftermath of the First Democratic Debate, CNN gave a resounding endorsement of Hilary Clinton – despite their own evidence to the contrary. And the Berners didn’t let them forget. What does this mean for the future of news?


The Roman poet Juvenal, when he penned his Satires, probably didn’t expect it to still be referenced over 18 centuries later. But oneline in particular has permeated western thought upon the nature of political authority ever since: “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?” Literally translated, it reads ‘Who guards the guardians themselves?’ More popularly, it is reduced to one simple phrase – 

Hindu nationalism is rising under the BJP and Modi

Written by Sajeda Momin.

When I returned to India at the beginning of October after my last visit to London, two very dear friends asked me why I had come back when I had the option to live abroad. “If I could live anywhere but here, like you, I would leave right away,” said one friend who was totally disgusted with the way the Narendra Modi-led, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government was trying to change the India she so clearly loved. The other was just as disappointed and said “we had expected in May 2014 when Modi won that the Hindu-right will try to implement its Hindu Nationalist or Hindutva agenda, but we didn’t expect it to happen so quickly and so nastily”. Neither want me to identify them because of the barrage of abuse from BJP trolls or as writer Salman Rushdie calls them “Modi’s toadies” , that they will receive, describing the sense of fear and oppression they feel.