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World Press on Rape, Israel-UAE Deal and Holocaust Denial: New Age Islam's Selection, 15 October 2020

By New Age Islam Edit Bureau

15 October 2020

• Protests Against Rape Give Us Hope But Is That Enough?

By Tasmiah T Rahman

• Israel's Pact With The UAE Is Not About Peace. It is A Business Deal

By Sami Abu Shehadeh

• Mark Zuckerberg’s ‘Evolving’ Position on Holocaust Denial

By Kara Swisher

• No One Left Behind: Handwashing Saves Lives

By Silvia A. Landa


Protests Against Rape Give Us Hope But Is That Enough?

By Tasmiah T Rahman

October 15, 2020


Demonstrators stage a rally in front of the National Museum in Dhaka protesting the growing incidents of rape, sexual harassment and violence against women in the country, on October 9, 20


After the video of the Noakhali gang rape went viral, people from all walks of life were rightly outraged and joined online and offline protests demanding reforms in the relevant law against women and children repression as well as the highest punishment for rapists. Not just the rise in incidents of rape but the sheer brutality of these crimes also sent shockwaves through the society. In the Noakhali case, the victim is a wife and a mother. She was stripped, gang-raped and beaten while it was videotaped by the perpetrators. What makes a rapist or rapists feel so empowered so as to videotape their own crimes and even release the clip to further dehumanise her? What makes them think they can get away with such heinous crimes (for, clearly, they wouldn't have released the video unless they thought so)?

I felt utterly helpless as I struggled to process the absurdity of the Noakhali case. So I started reading up on the root causes of rape and what makes a criminal go to such lengths. It is generally understood that rape can be addressed through strict laws, provided they are implemented properly—a vital requirement that, unfortunately, remains elusive in Bangladesh. But understanding this crime, and the criminals behind it, is also important in the fight to end the rape culture.

Before we dig into that, it's worthwhile to recall that at least 975 women were raped in the last 9 months, with 208 of them being gang-raped, according to Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK). Clearly, violence against women and rape has increased during the Covid-19 lockdown. As a society, we should be able to find a solution collectively, and detecting the rapist amongst us is the first step.

Rapists Start Early

A New York Times article, published in 2017 at the height of the #MeToo movement, talked about an interesting approach adopted by Dr Samuel D. Smithyman, a clinical psychologist in South Carolina. For his PhD thesis in 1976, he put up an advert on a newspaper asking rapists to call him, in order to understand "Why men rape". In the end, he conducted 50 interviews of "undetected" rapists. The idea was, unless we understand a criminal's behaviour, it will not be possible to understand the kind of crimes they commit. However, according to the article, rapists start non-consensual sex much early in life. They are also associated with others who share similar opinion regarding violence against women. Rapists who do not feel guilty also tend to be repeat offenders.

While I was reading this article, I was reminded of a Netflix series titled 13 Reasons Why, which deals with a teenage girl who was raped and eventually killed herself. The perpetrator in question was a rapist who repeatedly committed the crime in school, while his friends remained quiet. Many such boys roam around our girls, and yet we are unaware. It is important to teach our girls how to detect the undetected rapist, through active communication and dialogue. Girls should be able to speak up when they feel uncomfortable, instead of being shamed or silenced.

Rapists Feel Entitled To Harass/Abuse Women

According to Antonia Abbey, a social psychologist at the Wayne State University in the US city of Detroit, many rapists think that women and girls often play hard to get. They are seen as sex objects and thus dehumanised. They are also thought of as inferior beings, and men who are rejected by them cannot handle that. As a result, men feel entitled to throw acid in their faces, harass or abuse them as they come from school or other places, sometimes in broad daylight, and even feel entitled to walk into their houses to rape them, etc. Through our tolerance or rather acceptance as a society, we have allowed rape and other forms of abuse and violence against women to be normalised.

Rapists Are Being Enabled

We have had sexual harassment and rape normalised to a point where such incidents no longer produce shock, unless something jaw-droppingly awful happens, like the Noakhali incident. On any given day, rape for us is just another news item on the back or inside pages of a newspaper. This lack of sensitivity and awareness, among other reasons, is what enables a rapist in the first place. This is what made Delwar Hossain and his Bahini feel they could commit the gruesome crimes with impunity. To be honest, thugs like them have been historically utilised for various crimes, to instil fear into their communities, and they are never arrested or tried until it gets too "embarrassing" for the powers that be.

Many societies and cultures, including ours, have this distorted notion about consent when it comes to love and sex—that women often say no but secretly have no objection. This notion is often promoted in mainstream movies and pornography. Numerous movies, both home-grown and imported from Bollywood, show variations of a love story where the hero would "harass" the heroine in broad daylight, accompanied by his dancing troops, and in the end the heroine would fall into his arms. These movies had set in motion a gradual process of acceptance of such behaviours as "harmless".

 Think of the 1990 movie Dil, where Aamir Khan harasses Madhuri Dixit at night but she eventually falls in love with him! Or think of the 2019 movie Kabir Singh, where a hostile medical student literally makes a girl fall in love with him, who remains in love despite being slapped on the face in broad daylight. How can these movies be allowed to be released? And how do they become so popular if we are not endorsing them or the behaviour promoted in them?

Rapists Have Mental Disorder

In 2017, Dr Shuvendu Sen, Associate Program Director, Internal Medicine Residency, Raritan Bay Medical Centre, explained the characteristics of a rapist in the Times of India. One of them is mental disorder, which can happen during childhood and in adolescent years. Detecting such behaviour early on is vital, as is treating it through behavioural counselling, psychosocial support and allied therapies.

We need to cure these minds before they get damaged beyond repair. This would mean undertaking a concerted effort including forming a better education system (teaching students the harmful effects of patriarchy), having healthier communities as well as empathy from religious leaders, corporate offices and community organisations that will work together with the law enforcers so that potential rapists are identified, before they commit such crimes.

To conclude, these are but some of the many causes and characteristics responsible for our enduring rape culture. There are legal, procedural, political and even societal reasons for why such incidents are on the rise. We need to identify them and prepare accordingly. For a wider impact, we need to instigate systematic changes through the involvement of our homes, communities, educational institutions, faith leaders, NGOs, and above all, the administration. Today, the problem is so profound and widespread that ordinary people sometimes feel helpless and don't know where to begin. As I write this, people are demonstrating and protesting across the country against the rise in sexual crimes. People are now more aware than before, more vocal and united in their demand to end the rape culture. This gives me hope, but is hope enough?


Tasmiah T. Rahman is In-charge, Skills Development Programme at BRAC, and an advocate of women's rights. Views expressed in the article are her own.


Israel's Pact With The UAE Is Not About Peace. It is A Business Deal

By Sami Abu Shehadeh

14 Oct 2020


 A view of Jerusalem: the Israel/UAE agreement ‘threatens the status of Jerusalem’s holy sites’. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images


Tomorrow, the Israeli parliament will be voting on the agreement to normalise relations with the United Arab Emirates. A large majority will approve a hugely favourable step towards the Israeli government’s goals: perpetuating its systematic violations of international law and of the Palestinian people’s inalienable rights. Those parliamentarians who believe in justice and equality are going to vote against this agreement. I’m afraid, though, that we are a tiny minority.

This week, we were given copies of the agreement, which I read in the three languages (Arabic, Hebrew and English) and figured out a few things. First of all, those who wrote it in different languages tailored it to their audiences. While in English and Hebrew, they repeated the word “normalisation” several times, it is not even mentioned in Arabic. This is a business deal that merely establishes diplomatic relations, and not a peace agreement. The word “annexation” (of occupied Palestinian territory) is not even mentioned.

This deal cannot be taken out of the context of the US presidential campaign and President Trump’s need for a success story after many failures. The recognition of illegal settlements as part of Israel will not change international law. Similarly, cutting aid to Palestinian hospitals will not force Palestinians to accept Israeli domination. As mentioned in its preamble, this agreement is based on the Trump plan that normalises colonialism, fully endorses the right-wing Zionist narrative, and kills the prospects of an independent state of Palestine. It also threatens the status of Jerusalem’s holy sites and treats Palestinians as strangers in their homeland. The UAE, an Arab country that claims to care about Palestine, should reject this framework, as most of the international community has done.

The agreements talk about “coexistence”. Why does Israel talk about “coexistence” with a country thousands of kilometres away? At the same time, within its borders, 100,000 Arab citizens live in villages older than the state of Israel itself, yet are unrecognised and lack access to essential services such as water and electricity?

Discrimination and racism against Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel, an indigenous population that makes up over 20% of the country’s population, is present in every aspect of life. More than 50 laws discriminate against non-Jewish citizens. Israel’s trains do not stop in a single Arab city. Defense minister Benny Gantz could have become Israel’s prime minister if he had agreed a partnership with Arab parties. Instead, he preferred to become the junior partner in the current Israeli coalition.

Just look at the large Israeli delegation that went to the UAE in August: not a single non-Jewish official was included. Yes, Benjamin Netanyahu and his government are now tweeting in Arabic, but part of their legacy is the racist Jewish-nation state law that downgrades Israel’s Arabic language status.

For the UAE, the agreement is in effect a generous donation to Trump’s election campaign, while at the same time giving Abu Dhabi more access to weapons and intelligence. A simple review of Israeli media will show how security-related companies are the most excited about this deal.

And what about Palestinian rights? They are not even mentioned. What about stopping Israeli annexation? This week, Israel is set to approve almost 5,000 more units to expand its illegal colonial settlements further.

Perhaps most strikingly, the agreement refers to international law and UN resolutions on “international agreements”. What about resolution 2334 on the illegality of Israeli settlements? Or resolution 478 calling on all countries to move their diplomatic representatives outside Jerusalem? What about the UN charter urging countries “to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace”? Trump and Netanyahu are undermining the whole idea of a rules-based world order.

Annexation on the ground continues. Israel continues to demolish Palestinian homes to expand its settlements. However, Israel’s foreign minister, Gabi Ashkenazi, has been telling his European counterparts that annexation has “stopped”.

It’s for all these reasons that I’m saying no to this agreement, as should anyone who cares about justice. Regional peace, security, equality and fulfilment of the Palestinian people’s long-overdue rights: this deal represents the exact opposite.


Sami Abu Shehadeh is a Palestinian MP in the Knesset


Mark Zuckerberg’s ‘Evolving’ Position on Holocaust Denial

By Kara Swisher

Oct. 14, 2020

When Facebook’s founder and chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, told me two years ago in a podcast interview that Holocaust deniers might not mean to lie, my first instinct was to reply, “That’s completely idiotic.” I managed to stifle myself.

In our interview, I let him explain how he wanted to govern the giant social media platform he alone controlled.

As he talked, his view of the proliferation of underbaked conspiracy theories, hoaxes and misinformation on his site became troubling.

“Look, as abhorrent as some of this content can be, I do think that it gets down to this principle of giving people a voice,” he said, while at the very same time noting that speech that created an unsafe environment might indeed be blocked by Facebook.

Mr. Zuckerberg defended the decision to allow the views of the persistently vile Alex Jones, whose lies and conspiracy-mongering about the mass murder of children in the Sandy Hook school shooting had proliferated all over Facebook at the time and who seemed to delight in breaking all the rules that the company had laid down. When I asked why Mr. Jones had not been booted off Facebook — which Facebook insisted it would not do and then did not long after — Mr. Zuckerberg wanted to change the frame of reference.

To the Holocaust. Uh-oh, I thought. Still, he persisted.

“I’m Jewish, and there’s a set of people who deny that the Holocaust happened,” he said.

“Yes, there’s a lot,” I said.

“I find that deeply offensive. But at the end of the day, I don’t believe that our platform should take that down because I think there are things that different people get wrong. I don’t think that they’re intentionally getting it wrong, but I think — —”

I had to interject one bit of sanity to try to stop this runaway train of thought. “In the case of the Holocaust deniers, they might be,” I said, before deciding to just let that whopper chug on by. “But go ahead.”

And go ahead he went, driving himself right into a wall, with me watching the accident unfold in quiet horror.

“It’s hard to impugn intent and to understand the intent,” he said. It is not, I thought.

While he later tried to clarify his remarks, sending me an email that said, “I personally find Holocaust denial deeply offensive, and I absolutely didn’t intend to defend the intent of people who deny that,” it was exactly what he had done.

And which he continued to do, until Monday, that is, when it finally occurred to Mr. Zuckerberg that perhaps he had not thought it through and decided Facebook would now “prohibit any content that denies or distorts the Holocaust.”

“I’ve struggled with the tension between standing for free expression and the harm caused by minimizing or denying the Holocaust,” he wrote in a Facebook post. “My own thinking has evolved as I’ve seen data showing an increase in anti-Semitic violence, as have our wider policies on hate speech.”

The move comes just after Facebook announced last week that it is purging content from QAnon, the bizarre and growing conspiracy theory movement.

Is this woke Mark a good thing? I am not sure. This evolving Zuckerberg feels more random than rigorous, based less on a consistent theory of how to police the platform than playing an endless and exhausting game; and, more to the point, motivated to look busy because of a possible change in political power that could spell trouble for the Trump-friendly Facebook. Is this new tune simply being sung for a coming Biden presidency?

I have no idea. But what is clear is that Mr. Zuckerberg’s realization of all the ways that social media can hurt us continues to be painfully slow. The enormous costs of this process, which have never actually accrued to him, will still be borne by the rest of us. The world has to repair the damage from the hate that he has allowed to thrive under the false banner of free speech on the network he built.

Until Mr. Zuckerberg decides to really run the place, Facebook will remain a perfect platform for anything, because it stands for nothing.

Since that interview with me two years ago, Mr. Zuckerberg has talked to a lot of reporters, but has declined to do another interview with me, although I have asked time and again. That’s a shame, because I have a lot more questions for him. Such as:

Why tell everyone that you do not want to be an arbiter of truth after you purposefully built a platform that absolutely required an arbiter of truth to function properly?

Why did you never build firebreaks that could have dampened the dangerous fires of disinformation that you have let burn out of control?

Were you motivated by a need to expand the business without limit or by a real belief that human beings would behave if you let them do anything they wanted?

And most important, now that we agree that Holocaust deniers mean to lie, can we also agree that we need to remake the nation and also Facebook so that we can have a real dialogue built on community? You always said that was your goal, right?

Or, after all this time and pain, is that completely idiotic?


No One Left Behind: Handwashing Saves Lives

By Silvia A. Landa

October 14, 2020  

Can you imagine losing a war while holding a powerful weapon? This could be a reality for people who simply do not practice correct handwashing behavior during this COVID-19 pandemic. Handwashing with soap is one of the most important things we can do to prevent against getting infected with the coronavirus. However, not everyone is religiously practicing this important habit at critical times. For some, it is simply because the correct information is not reaching them.

For others, it might be because the behaviour is not so easy to adopt, so they need a little help through behavior change intervention. During our initial COVID-19 response through the Water for Women project, we found there were vulnerable groups that faced barriers to getting correct information about how to prevent COVID-19. An elderly woman in Sumbawa regency said that, without the health worker who came to her house to explain about COVID-19 and teach her how to wash her hands correctly during critical times, she would not know that this behavior was important for her survival. In rural areas of Manggarai regency, people prefer our COVID-19 information to be translated into the local language.

Another case of misinformation concerned some our disabled beneficiaries, who initially assumed that to prevent COVID-19, they needed to wash their hands with disinfectant only. Learning from and working with our beneficiaries, we designed our COVID-19 information to reach everyone by eliminating the language barriers, fulfilling the specific needs of people with disabilities by using different types of media communications preferred by locals, and ensuring everyone is reached through house-to-house direct health promotion. Is giving information enough to make sure people are practicing correct handwashing behaviour? Absolutely not! Even during this pandemic. Have you ever seen people wearing a mask on their chin in a crowd in the urban red zones? Then it is possible the same people do not wash their hands correctly at critical times. Those city people must have received COVID-19 information. However, they still don’t practice it. This is in line with what researchers say, that increasing knowledge is not enough to trigger people to practice correct handwashing behaviour. A study in Ghana, Tanzania, Uganda, Madagascar, Senegal, Kenya, India, China, Vietnam, Kyrgyzstan and Peru found that fear of disease was only a motivator when there was a clear and present danger such as an outbreak.

 The main motivators for handwashing behavior were disgust, affiliation, nurture, comfort, including social status and prestige. As overwhelming and confusing information could reduce the adoption of desired behavior. Our health promotion keeps the critical times for handwashing to after defecation/toilet use, after handling child feces, after touching animals, before preparing food, before feeding a child, before eating and before touching faces. That is why, through our Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) program, as part of our COVID-19 response, our intervention is focusing on behaviour change with an emphasis on the motivators explained above.

 With support from the Australian government, in the Water for Women project, we have reached 198,663 people including women, children, the elderly and people with disabilities in 105 villages. About 92 percent of the households we monitored have to practice correct handwashing behaviour based on the Health Ministry standard in the Community-Based Total Sanitation (STBM) program. The minimum criteria are

1) Having handwashing stations with soap in the vicinity — near the toilet, kitchen and at the front of the house, especially with relation to COVID-19 prevention,

2) Knowing at least three critical times for washing hands, and 3) Practicing correct handwashing technique. However, consistent monitoring is really important to ensure the behaviour is consistent, as slippage is very likely to happen especially during this long pandemic. After a long fight people will usually feel worn out. This is the phenomenon we are seeing now that even in red zones there are still crowds and there are people who do not wear a mask in public. This situation calls for a strong emphasis on behaviour change intervention with continuous monitoring effort.

 The Health Ministry already has existing resources for this, which is STBM with an emphasis on handwashing in its second pillar. The ministry has sanitarians in every health centre responsible for ensuring household hygiene behaviour. However, their current data ( show that only 22 provinces in Indonesia show progress in handwashing, with Yogyakarta at the top with less than 15 percent access. If handwashing is so important during this pandemic, then STBM should be one of our powerful weapons to be utilized and the data should look more promising. Before the health system collapse by people flooding the hospital with COVID-19, how about keeping them safe starting from their house by simply implementing handwashing behaviour change intervention.

 People can stay safe not only by getting the correct information and having a handwashing station with soap and hand sanitizer, but also by religiously washing their hands with soap. As we commemorate Global Handwashing Day tomorrow, let’s start using the cheap weapon, handwashing behavior change intervention, to save millions of lives. And because it is cheap, there is no reason to leave anyone behind, especially the vulnerable ones.


Water for Women project manager, Plan International Indonesia



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