Adonis Diaries

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Kids Handle Pressure. And Others Fall Apart? Why

PO BRONSON and ASHLEY MERRYMAN, authors of ‘‘Top Dog: The Science of Winning and Losing’’ Published on February 6, 2013 in the NYT:

“Why Can Some Kids Handle Pressure While Others Fall Apart?”

Noah Muthler took his first state standardized test in third grade at the Spring Cove Elementary School in Roaring Spring, Pa. It was a miserable experience, said his mother, Kathleen Muthler. He was a good student in a program for gifted children.

But, Muthler said, “he was crying in my arms the night before the test, saying: ‘I’m not ready, Mom. They didn’t teach us everything that will be on the test.’ ”

In fourth grade, Noah was upset the whole week before the exam.

“He manifests it physically,” his mother said. “He got headaches and stomachaches. He would ask not to go to school.” Not a good sleeper anyway, Noah would slip downstairs after an hour tossing in bed and ask his mom to lie down with him until he fell asleep. In fifth grade, the anxiety lasted a solid month before the test.

“Even after the test, he couldn’t let it go. He would wonder about questions he feared he misunderstood,” Muthler said.

Students at Shaker Heights High School in Shaker Heights, Ohio, on Jan. 25, the day before they took the SAT or SAT math subject test.
Clockwise from top left: Elana Ross, Linda Fan, Aryanna Jones,  Sasha Rae-Grant, Patrick Reed, Jeremy McMillan. Platon for The New York Times More Photos »

So this year, Muthler is opting Noah out of the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment, using a broad religious and ethical exemption.
Just knowing he won’t be taking the tests in March has put Noah in a better frame of mind about school. “The pressure is off his shoulders now,” his mother said. When he doesn’t grasp a concept immediately, he can talk it through without any panic.
“He looks forward to science class and math class again,” Muthler said. “He wants to be a chemical or nuclear engineer.”

Muthler understands Noah’s distress; more mysterious is why her son Jacob, who is in eighth grade, isn’t the least bit unnerved by the same tests. He, too, is in the gifted program, but that seems to give him breezy confidence, not fear.

“You would think he doesn’t even care,” Muthler marveled. “Noah has the panic and anxiety for both of them.” Nevertheless, she will opt out Jacob from the tests, too, to be consistent.

Never before has the pressure to perform on high-stakes tests been so intense or meant so much for a child’s academic future. As more school districts strive for accountability, standardized tests have proliferated. The pressure to do well on achievement tests for college is filtering its way down to lower grades, so that even third graders feel as if they are on trial.

Students get the message that class work isn’t what counts, and that the standardized exam is the truer measure. Sure, you did your homework and wrote a great history report — but this test is going to find out how smart you really are. Critics argue that all this test-taking is churning out sleep-deprived, overworked, miserable children.

But some children actually do better under competitive, stressful circumstances. Why can Jacob thrive under pressure, while it undoes Noah? And how should that difference inform the way we think about high-stakes testing? An emerging field of research — and a pioneering study from Taiwan — has begun to offer some clues. Like any kind of human behavior, our response to competitive pressure is derived from a complex set of factors — how we were raised, our skills and experience, the hormones that we marinated in as fetuses.

There is also a genetic component: One particular gene, referred to as the COMT gene, could to a large degree explain why one child is more prone to be a worrier, while another may be unflappable, or in the memorable phrasing of David Goldman, a geneticist at the National Institutes of Health, more of a warrior.

Understanding their propensity to become stressed and how to deal with it can help children compete. Stress turns out to be far more complicated than we’ve assumed, and far more under our control than we imagine. Unlike long-term stress, short-term stress can actually help people perform, and viewing it that way changes its effect. Even for those genetically predisposed to anxiety, the antidote isn’t necessarily less competition — it’s more competition. It just needs to be the right kind.

Every May in Taiwan, more than 200,000 ninth-grade children take the Basic Competency Test for Junior High School Students. This is not just any test. The scores will determine which high school the students are admitted to — or if they get into one at all. Only 39 percent of Taiwanese children make the cut, with the rest diverted to vocational schools or backup private schools. The test, in essence, determines the future for Taiwanese children.

The test is incredibly difficult; answering the multiple-choice questions requires knowledge of chemistry, physics, advanced algebra and geometry, and testing lasts for two days. “Many students go to cram school almost every night to study all the subjects on the test,” says Chun-Yen Chang, director of the Science Education Center at National Taiwan Normal University. “Just one or two percentage points difference will drag you from the No. 1 high school in the local region down to No. 3 or 4.”

In other words, the exam was a perfect, real world experiment for studying the effects of genetics on high-stakes competition. Chang and his research team took blood samples from 779 students who had recently taken the Basic Competency Test in three regions of Taiwan. They matched each student’s genotype to his or her test score.

The researchers were interested in a single gene, the COMT gene. This gene carries the assembly code for an enzyme that clears dopamine from the prefrontal cortex. That part of the brain is where we plan, make decisions, anticipate future consequences and resolve conflicts.

Dopamine changes the firing rate of neurons, speeding up the brain like a turbocharger,” says Silvia Bunge, associate professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of California, Berkeley. Our brains work best when dopamine is maintained at an optimal level. You don’t want too much, or too little. By removing dopamine, the COMT enzyme helps regulate neural activity and maintain mental function.

Here’s the thing: There are two variants of the gene. One variant builds enzymes that slowly remove dopamine. The other variant builds enzymes that rapidly clear dopamine. We all carry the genes for one or the other, or a combination of the two.

In lab experiments, people have been given a variety of cognitive tasks — computerized puzzles and games, portions of I.Q. tests — and researchers have consistently found that, under normal conditions, those with slow-acting enzymes have a cognitive advantage. They have superior executive function and all it entails: they can reason, solve problems, orchestrate complex thought and better foresee consequences. They can concentrate better. This advantage appears to increase with the number of years of education.

The brains of the people with the other variant, meanwhile, are comparatively lackadaisical. The fast-acting enzymes remove too much dopamine, so the overall level is too low. The prefrontal cortex simply doesn’t work as well.

On that score alone, having slow-acting enzymes sounds better. There seems to be a trade-off, however, to these slow enzymes, one triggered by stress. In the absence of stress, there is a cognitive advantage. But when under stress, the advantage goes away and in fact reverses itself.

“Stress floods the prefrontal cortex with dopamine,” says Adele Diamond, professor of developmental cognitive neuroscience at the University of British Columbia. A little booster hit of dopamine is normally a good thing, but the big surge brought on by stress is too much for people with the slow-acting enzyme, which can’t remove the dopamine fast enough. “Much like flooding a car engine with too much gasoline, prefrontal-cortex function melts down,” Diamond says.

Other research has found that those with the slow-acting enzymes have higher I.Q.’ s, on average. One study of Beijing schoolchildren calculated the advantage to be 10 I.Q. points. But it was unclear if the cognitive advantages they had would stay with them when they were under stress outside the security of the lab environment.

The Taiwan study was the first to look at the COMT gene in a high-stakes, real-life setting. Would the I.Q. advantage hold up, or would the stress undermine performance?

It was the latter. The Taiwanese students with the slow-acting enzymes sank on the national exam. On average, they scored 8 percent lower than those with the fast-acting enzymes. It was as if some of the A students and B students traded places at test time.

“I am not against pressure. Actually, pressure is good [for] someone,” Chang commented. “But those who are more vulnerable to stress will be more disadvantaged.”

As of 2014, Taiwan will no longer require all students to take the Basic Competency Test, as the country moves to 12-year compulsory education. The system will no longer be built to weed out children, but to keep them all in school. But academically advanced students will still take some kind of entrance exam. And those elite students will still feel the pressure, which, it bears repeating, will hurt some but help others.

“The people who perform best in normal conditions may not be the same people who perform best under stress,” Diamond says. People born with the fast-acting enzymes “actually need the stress to perform their best.” To them, the everyday is underwhelming; it doesn’t excite them enough to stimulate the sharpness of mind of which they are capable. They benefit from that surge in dopamine — it raises the level up to optimal. They are like Superman emerging from the phone booth in times of crisis; their abilities to concentrate and solve problems go up.

Some scholars have suggested that we are all Warriors or Worriers. Those with fast-acting dopamine clearers are the Warriors, ready for threatening environments where maximum performance is required. Those with slow-acting dopamine clearers are the Worriers, capable of more complex planning. Over the course of evolution, both Warriors and Worriers were necessary for human tribes to survive.

In truth, because we all get one COMT gene from our father and one from our mother, about half of all people inherit one of each gene variation, so they have a mix of the enzymes and are somewhere in between the Warriors and the Worriers. About a quarter of people carry Warrior-only genes, and a quarter of people Worrier-only.

A number of research studies are looking at COMT, including several involving the American military. Researchers at Brown University have been studying COMT’s connection to post-traumatic stress disorder in veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Quinn Kennedy, a research psychologist at the Naval Postgraduate School, is studying how the gene correlates with pilot performance. Douglas C. Johnson, a professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego, is part of a consortium of researchers called the OptiBrain Center, where he is interested in COMT’s role in combat performance and well-being.

While the studies are ongoing, the early results show those with Worrier-genes can still handle incredible stress — as long as they are well trained. Even some Navy SEALs have the Worrier genes, so you can literally be a Worrier-gene Warrior. In Kennedy’s sample, almost a third of the expert pilots were Worriers — a larger proportion than in the general population.

Kennedy’s work is particularly revealing. She puts pilots through a series of six flight-simulator tests, where pilots endure turbulence, oil-pressure problems, iced carburetors and crosswinds while landing. They are kept furiously busy, dialing to new frequencies, flying to new altitudes and headings and punching in transponder codes.

Among recreational pilots with the lowest rating level — trained to fly only in daylight — those with Warrior genes performed best. But that changed with more experience. Among recreational pilots who had the next level of qualification — trained to fly at night using cockpit instruments — the Worriers far outperformed the Warriors. Their genetically blessed working memory and attention advantage kicked in. And their experience meant they didn’t melt under the pressure of their genetic curse.

What this suggests, Kennedy says, is that, for Worriers, “through training, they can learn to manage the particular stress in the specific pilot training, even if it is not necessarily transferred over to other parts of their lives.”

So while the single-shot stakes of a standardized exam is particularly ill suited for Worrier genotypes, this doesn’t mean that they should be shielded from all challenge. In fact, shielding them could be the worst response, depriving them of the chance to acclimate to recurring stressors. Johnson explains this as a form of stress inoculation: You tax them without overwhelming them. “And then allow for sufficient recovery,” he continued. Training, preparation and repetition defuse the Worrier’s curse.

There are many psychological and physiological reasons that long-term stress is harmful, but the science of elite performance has drawn a different conclusion about short-term stress. Studies that compare professionals with amateur competitors — whether concert pianists, male rugby or female volleyball players — show that professionals feel just as much anxiety as amateurs. The difference is in how they interpret their anxiety. The amateurs view it as detrimental, while the professionals tend to view stress as energizing. It gets them to focus.

A similar mental shift can also help students in test-taking situations. Jeremy Jamieson, assistant professor of social psychology at the University of Rochester, has done a series of experiments that reveal how the labeling of stress affects performance on academic testing.

The first experiment was at Harvard University with undergraduates who were studying for the Graduate Record Examination. Before taking a practice test, the students read a short note explaining that the study’s purpose was to examine the effects of stress on cognition. Half of the students, however, were also given a statement declaring that recent research suggests “people who feel anxious during a test might actually do better.” Therefore, if the students felt anxious during the practice test, it said, “you shouldn’t feel concerned. . . simply remind yourself that your arousal could be helping you do well.”

Just reading this statement significantly improved students’ performance. They scored 50 points higher in the quantitative section (out of a possible 800) than the control group on the practice test. Remarkable as that seemed, it is relatively easy to get a result in a lab. Would it affect their actual G.R.E. results? A couple of months later, the students turned in their real G.R.E. scores. Jamieson calculated that the group taught to see anxiety as beneficial in the lab experiment scored 65 points higher than the controls. In ongoing work, Jamieson is replicating the experiment with remedial math students at a Midwestern community college: after they were told to think of stress as beneficial, their grades improved.

At first blush, you might assume that the statement about anxiety being beneficial simply calmed the students, reducing their stress and allowing them to focus. But that was not the case. Jamieson’s team took saliva samples of the students, both the day before the practice test to set a base line, and right after reading the lines about the new science — just moments before they started the first question. Jamieson had the saliva tested for biomarkers that show the level of activation of the body’s sympathetic nervous system — our “fight or flight” response. The experimental group’s stress levels were decidedly higher. The biological stress was real, but it had different physiological manifestations and had somehow been transformed into a positive force that drove performance.

If you went to an SAT testing site and could run physiological and neurological scans on the teenagers milling outside the door right before the exam, you would observe very different bio-markers from student to student. Those standing with shoulders hunched, or perhaps rubbing their hands, stamping their feet to get warm, might be approaching what Wendy Berry Mendes and colleagues call a “threat state.” According to Mendes, an associate professor of psychology at the University of California, San Francisco, the hallmark of a threat state is vasoconstriction — a tightening of the smooth muscles that line every blood vessel in the body.

Blood pressure rises; breathing gets shallow. Oxygenated blood levels drop, and energy supplies are reduced. Meanwhile, a rush of hormones amplifies activity in the brain’s amygdala, making you more aware of risks and fearful of mistakes.

At that same test center, you might see students shoulders back, chest open, putting weight on their toes. They may be in a “challenge state.” Hormones activate the brain’s reward centers and suppress the fear networks, so the person is excited to start in on the test. In this state, decision making becomes automatic. The blood vessels and lungs dilate. In a different study of stress, Jamieson found that the people told to feel positive about being anxious had their blood flow increase by an average of more than half a liter per minute, with more oxygen and energy coursing throughout the body and brain. Some had up to two liters per minute extra.

Jamieson is frustrated that our culture has such a negative view of stress: “When people say, ‘I’m stressed out,’ it means, ‘I’m not doing well.’ It doesn’t mean, ‘I’m excited — I have increased oxygenated blood going to my brain. ”

As the doors to the test center open, the line between challenge and threat is thin. Probably nothing induces a threat state more than feeling you can’t make any mistakes. Threat physiology can be activated with the sense of being judged, or anything that triggers the fear of disappointing others. As a student opens his test booklet, threat can flare when he sees a subject he has recently learned but hasn’t mastered. Or when he sees a problem he has no idea how to solve.

Armando Rodriguez graduated last spring from Bright Star Secondary Charter Academy in Los Angeles, but he is waiting until next fall to start college. He is not taking a gap year to figure out what he wants to do with his life. He’s recuperating from knee surgery for a bone condition, spending his days in physical therapy. And what does he miss about being out of school? Competing.

“It’s an adrenaline rush — like no other thing.” He misses being happy when he wins. He even misses losing. “At least it was a feeling you got,” he said. “It made you want to be better, the next time.” Without a competitive goal, he feels a little adrift. He finds himself mentally competing with other physical-therapy patients.

Rodriguez recorded a 3.86 G.P.A. his senior year of high school and was a defender for the school soccer team. The knee injury happened during a stint on the school’s football team: his doctor had warned that it was too risky to play, but “I just had to try,” he said. He used to constantly challenge his friends on quiz grades; it’s how they made schoolwork fun.

But when he took the SAT last year, he experienced a different sensation. “My heart was racing,” he said. “I had butterflies.” Occasionally, he’d look up from his exam to see everyone else working on their own tests: they seemed to be concentrating so hard and answering questions faster than he was. “What if they’re doing way better than me?” immediately led to the thought, “These people are smarter than me. All the good schools are going to want them, and not me.” Within seconds, he arrived at the worst possible outcome: his hopes of a good college would be gone.

It might seem surprising that the same student can experience competition in such different ways. But this points to what researchers think is the difference between competition that challenges and competition that threatens.

Taking a standardized test is a competition in which the only thing anyone cares about is the final score. No one says, “I didn’t do that well, but it was still worth doing, because I learned so much math from all the months of studying.” Nobody has ever come out of an SAT test saying, “Well, I won’t get into the college I wanted, but that’s O.K. because I made a lot of new friends at the Kaplan center.” Standardized tests lack the side benefits of competing that normally buffer children’s anxiety. When you sign your child up for the swim team, he may really want to finish first, but there are many other reasons to be in the pool, even if he finishes last.

High-stakes academic testing isn’t going away. Nor should competition among students. In fact several scholars have concluded that what students need is more academic competition, but modeled on the kinds children enjoy.

David and Christi Bergin, professors of educational and developmental psychology at the University of Missouri, have begun a pilot study of junior high school students participating in math competitions. They have observed that, within a few weeks, students were tackling more complex problems than they would even at the end of a yearlong class. Some were even doing college-level math. That was true even for students who didn’t like math before joining the team and were forced into it by their parents. Knowing they were going up against other teams in front of an audience, the children took ownership over the material. They became excited about discovering ever more advanced concepts, having realized each new fact was another weapon in their intellectual arsenal.

In-class spelling bees. Science fairs. Chess teams. “The performance is highly motivating,” David Bergin says. Even if a child knows her science project won’t win the science fair, she still gets that moment to perform. That moment can be stressful and invigorating and scary, but if the child handles it well, it feels like a victory.

“Children benefit from competition they have prepared for intensely, especially when viewed as an opportunity to gain recognition for their efforts and improve for the next time,” says Rena Subotnik, a psychologist at the American Psychological Association. Subotnik notes that scholastic competitions can raise the social status of academic work as well as that of the contestants. Competitions like these are certainly not without stress, but the pressure comes in predictable ebbs and flows, broken up by moments of fun and excitement.

Maybe the best thing about academic competitions is that they benefit both Warriors and Worriers equally. The Warriors get the thrilling intensity their minds are suited for, where they can shine. The Worriers get the gradual stress inoculation they need, so that one day they can do more than just tolerate stress — they can embrace it. And through the cycle of preparation, performance and recovery, what they learn becomes ingrained.

It may be difficult to believe, as Jamieson advises, that stress can benefit your performance. We can read it, and we can talk about it, but it’s the sort of thing that needs to be practiced, perhaps for years, before it can become a deeply held conviction.

It turns out that Armando Rodriguez was accepted at five colleges. He rallied that day on the SAT. It wasn’t his best score — he did better the second time around — but it was not as bad as he feared. Rodriguez had never heard of Jeremy Jamieson. He had never read, or ever been told, that intense stress could be harnessed to perform his best. But he understood it and drew strength from it. In the middle of his downward spiral of panic, he realized something: “I’m in a competition. This is a competition. I’ve got to beat them.”

Editor: Vera Titunik

Globally ranks 3rd in debt, plummets in health and education: Lebanon

By October 1, 2016

Tonnie Ch and Ziad Abi Chaker shared Newsroom Nomad link. 

Lebanon continues to struggle with seemingly endless crises, presidential and waste management included, leading to a significant drop in health and education.

This as the country’s debt continues to rise, ranking 3rd globally after Japan and Greece.

As for the most problematic factors causing the decline? Corruption comes at number one, followed by government instability, inadequate supply of infrastructure, inefficient government bureaucracy, and policy instability among other things.

How will this reflect on the newly implemented health scheme? Is the status quo sustainable? More details inside.
#NewsroomNomad #Lebanon #Health #Education #Corruption #Debt

newsroomnomad.com|By Newsroom Nomad

Out of 138 countries included in the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitive Report, released this week, the country came out at the 101st spot, ahead of only three Arab countries, Egypt (115), Mauritania (137) and Yemen (138).

The Bader Young Entrepreneurs Program, the group in charge of listing Lebanon in the WEF’s report, lamented the results, asking: “Isn’t it catastrophic to see the ranking of Lebanon in health and primary education going from 30 in 2014 to 52 in 2015?”

“Lebanon [which] has always been considered a reference in higher education and training in the region is down to position 66 this year. It is now clear that our political and economic deadlocks are starting to structurally impact our society and the health of our new generations.”

Source: Trading Economics
Source: Trading Economics

Our debt is also a matter of great concern with the debt-to-GDP ratio –an indication of the ability of a country to pay back its debts without incurring further liabilities– rising.

According to the Global Competitive Survey Lebanon came out third after Japan and Greece with a 139.1% debt-to-GDP ratio.

Source: Trading Economics
Source: Trading Economics

 

In July, Moody’s rating agency warned of the growing public debt in Lebanon as a major source of credit risk for Lebanese banks.

In fact almost all international rating agencies have repeatedly warned that Lebanese banks are becoming more vulnerable to unfavorable conditions.

Successive governments continue to tap into the local market and Lebanese banks to finance the public debt, which is now estimated at over $71 billion.

As for the most problematic factors causing the decline? Well, corruption comes at number one, followed by government instability, inadequate supply of infrastructure, inefficient government bureaucracy, and policy instability among other things.

Source: World Economic Forum
Source: World Economic Forum

These reports come at a time when Lebanon’s Health Ministry announced that starting October 1st, every Lebanese citizen above 64 years of age will be entitled to 100% medical coverage, designating $11.3 million from the annual budget for said plan.

But no details have yet emerged on how the new health scheme will survive throughout the years in light of the rising debt and the country’s ailing public hospitals that struggle to pay their staff, and of course the rise in pollution.

1,816 deaths related to air pollution were registered in Lebanon in 2013 alone according to The World Bank, prior to the garbage crisis of 2015-2016, which saw a spike in open waste incineration.

New studies by the American University of Beirut predict a much worse outcome as indicated in the below report, which unfortunately includes a widely shared yet false Numbeo “study”. (Where are the news editors?)

Whether the health scheme is viable or not is a matter that remains to be seen, as are the plans announced by the Ministry of Education that aim to incorporate more Syrian children into the school system as well as open 60 schools for children with special needs.

Are these schemes sustainable in light of rampant corruption?

Is it a matter pertaining to country’s growing reliance on international donors? Only time will tell.

Note: There are many resources that the government refuse to tap into, and related to the elite class who ravaged public property and transform it as a private belonging, especially along all the sea shore.

Is The Pen Mightier Than The Sword?

The Lebanese spend more on education than anything but food, more per capita than any other country. It’s a down-payment of hope in Lebanon’s future.

In schools as on the borders and checkpoints, the UK stands beside Lebanon with actions not words.
The UK is now Lebanon’s main education partner, through four game-changing programmes.

For the second year, we are getting school textbooks to every pupil aged 6-15, over 300,000 kids.

We are working with the Education Ministry to get every child into school. At over 50m USD, this is the largest ever UK project with the Lebanese state.

With the Ministry and Adyan, we are getting citizenship and coexistence into the curriculum. Leaders from all religious groups have agreed how to teach all 6-17 year old pupils about a united Lebanon rather than a divided one.

This is the first academic year when English will be the most studied language. The British Council are giving Lebanese kids the key that unlocks the global market. At thirty graduation ceremonies in two years, I have seen how empowering this is.

No child should miss out on their education. Yet a growing number risk becoming a lost generation, vulnerable to radicalisation and manipulation. We want to make it a fairer fight: we are arming Lebanon’s youth with knowledge.

People talk about countering ISIL extremism with boots on the ground. We’re doing it with books in the hand.

How university Board of Directors oversee university Administrations?

It is very refreshing that many of my acquaintances have opened blogs. Running a blog acquires a life of its own:

First, you need to post a first “piece of your mind”, followed by a few other pieces, on the ground of circumventing traditional media who want to control your opinions…

Second, you start publishing excerpts of your diary, beginning with the inconsequential secrets and a few little psychological aches

Third, if you have written short stories, this is the time to get them out to the public…

Fourth, sureptitiously venting out a few deeper psychological pains find their way out…

Fifth, you post chapters of a novel…

Six, in developed countries, you have the opportunity to publish your novel or collections of your essays and “pieces of mind” that you have posted, and you are officially recognized an “author”

The big jump comes when you realized that many of others’ pieces of mind are worth disseminating and commenting upon…You are connecting and feeling that sharing is not a one-way endeavor, and you post other people’s blog pieces…Now you are a professional blogger…

A cousin of mine visited Lebanon lately, and I asked me to send me a link of one of his posts. He replied: “Search Googles”  Great idea! I barely search Google because I don’t surf the net, not yet.

Yesterday, I DECIDED to have a peek.

Professor Nassif Ghoussoub posted on Nov. 18, 2010 under “Do you want to be a governor?

“I am completing a 3-year term as a faculty representative on UBC’s Board of Governors. Here are a few selected personal notes from my experience on that Board. My 33 years of academic service at UBC were surely helpful in dealing with the steep learning slope, but nothing could have prepared me for the challenges of this experience.

First, the good news: I found the appointed governors, and most of the students representatives, to be bright and engaged. The President is truly exceptional, both in his personal approach to the job, and for his core values, academic priorities, and intellect. The Administration consists of hard working and reasonable people who are committed to the well-being of the university. But every Administration has its own set of values, skills, convictions, and methods, hence the need for independent oversight. This is in principle the role of the Board.

In practice, however, this oversight is not as obvious as it sounds, since essentially all the information that forms the basis of Board decisions is provided by the Administration. Compatibility and trust become the main currencies in this relationship. That’s why we often see two contrasting types of Boards: the hostile ones (a dozen Canadian university presidents were sacked by their Boards in the last couple of years), or the completely docile ones.

How does our Boards look lately? Well, the current assumption is that everything the Administration presents to the Board will, in fact, be approved, and that any serious probing by a governor of any submission is seen as an outlier. I often saw myself walking a very tight rope trying to support the Administration without conceding a “carte blanche”, to trust its competence without relinquishing oversight, to suggest ideas without micromanaging, and to question it without doubting it.

Back to good news: After an initial period of adjustment to my own -somewhat direct – style, I sensed a less defensive and more receptive Administration. The preservation of academic freedoms, privacy, and the formal implementation of ethical practices in the management of the UBC endowment were easy commitments to defend, considering that the current President himself is a champion of human rights, and international law.  With other keen governors, I advocated for, and contributed to, a more pro-active role for the Board through a series of working sessions in which Governors could provide substantial input towards long-term strategic planning. I have witnessed a serious evolution towards more accountability and transparency.

What were the main challenges? The approval process for capital projects funding has to be one of the most prominent.  It is the case that most projects come with various levels of funding from external sources (private, federal or provincial). But the funds are never sufficient, and decisions need to be made quickly, sometimes in a hastily arranged conference call, and often on the basis of optimistic assumptions and rosy scenarios. The decision process is incremental (Board 1 to 4) but it is a fact that once you have embarked on a project, it is difficult to turn back, even when financial commitments do not materialize, which happens more often than not.

The missing funds eventually have to come from the university’s general operating funds (GPOF), either directly or via the borrowing costs on external loans. Whether the university’s GPOF should be used as such is a subject of a continuing debate (and not just at UBC). The question of how far a particular Administration can borrow, commit, even mortgage the future of the university has no simple answer.

Recent developments have, however, taken these responsibilities and challenges to a whole new level. The passage of Bill 20 and its implications for the university’s land use practices, and the re-evaluation of UBC’s current status as a “Government Reporting Entity” (GRE) represent major milestones in our university’s history. I do support a plan to develop further the University’s community, and I have participated in the formulation of the basic principles on which the process is now based. But the devil is in the details, most of which I do not yet know. This Land Use Plan (LUP) is significant in scope, and is irreversible.

I am advocating for specific policies that will help keep it aligned with the academic mission long after this substantially expanded UBC town develops its own demographic identity.

Final thoughts: The Board needs to be more sensitized to the value and the contributions of faculty members to UBC the institution. On the books, our salaries appear as a major liability on the operating budget, but the faculty are what make and break the university’s reputation.

Faculties bring research funding, which is becoming a substantial portion of the University’s budget, and they are the most permanent of the university’s stakeholders. The presence of strong, credible, and knowledgeable faculty representatives on the BoG is extremely important.

The review of UBC’ status as a GRE opens the possibility for restructuring the BoG. I am therefore advocating for a larger number of faculty representatives on the Board, coupled with a staggering of their period of service.

This restructuring would ensure a more adequate representation, and will guarantee continuity, both in terms of experience and historical perspective. We also need faculty representation on the IMANT Board (the one that manages the endowment, and the faculty pension plan) and more importantly, on UBC Property Trust (which manages the development of UBC land).

Finally, I cannot stress enough the need to have faculty representatives on the BoG that are independent thinkers, and have the courage to speak up when they diverge from the Administration line.  This is good for the Board, good for the University and good for the Administration.” End of post

nghoussoub.com

Note: Part of Professor Ghoussoub CV dated 2005 read as follows:

Born in Western Africa (currently rep. of Mali), Nassif Ghoussoub obtained a License en Mathématiques at the Lebanese University of Beirut in 1973, a Doctorat 3ième cycle in 1975 and later a Doctorat d’état in 1979 from the Université Pierre et Marie Curie in Paris, France. He held a postdoctoral position at the Ohio State University in 1976-1977.

He has been at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, since 1978 and is currently a Professor of Mathematics and a Distinguished University Scholar. He has also held several long and short-term visiting positions at various universities in Austria, Canada, France, Italy, and the USA. 

His first research interests were in functional analysis and ergodic theory and supervised by the two advisors Gustave Choquet and Antoine Brunel. He focused in the 80’s on the geometry of infinite dimensional Banach spaces working with such distinguished mathematicians as W. J. Johnson (Texas), J. Lindenstrauss (Jerusalem), B. Maurey (Paris) and W. Schachermayer (Vienna).

In the 90’s, Ghoussoub switched his interests to non-linear analysis, and partial differential equations, under the influence of I. Ekeland (Paris) and L. Nirenberg (NY). Nirenberg, in particular has been a great inspiration to him, both on the personal and on the academic level.

He has published over 90 research papers, including two memoirs of the AMS, and one monograph entitled Duality and Perturbation Methods in Critical Point Theory.

He has, so far, supervised ten PhD and MSc students and about a dozen postdoctoral fellows. He served as co-editor-in-chief of the Canadian Journal of Mathematics from 1993 to 2002 and has been on the editorial board of a number of various Canadian and international journals. He has also given over 150 invited lectures all over the world. These talks included the following invited plenary addresses: Mons-Belgium 97, Strobl-Austria 99, AMS western regional meeting 93, Beijing Centennial Math. Conference 98, Santiago’s Pan-American Summer Institute 03, Paris A-HYKE2 04, Erice-Sicily 05.

He was the recipient of the Coxeter-James prize in 1990, of a Killam senior fellowship in 1992 and was elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 1993. In 2004, he was awarded a Doctorat Honoris Causa by the Université Paris-Dauphine. 

He was elected vice-president of the Canadian Mathematical Society for the period 1994-1996. He also served in 1995-1996 as chair of the Grant Selection Committee for Mathematics at the Natural Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC).

Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) on strike? Since 1987… 

Andrew Bossone wrote (on Facebook) via Kate Goodin:

“This will be the first time since 1987. The union normally has to get 75% approval from members in order to strike, they got 90%, including those who didn’t vote and were counted as “NO for striking”. That’s 23,780 out of 26,502 CTU teachers.

Teachers say they’re being asked to:

1. Work 20% more hours without salary raise,

2. that they’ve had to face major cuts to arts, music and sports as well as school closures,

3. they are rejecting the new teacher evaluations, which are to be based on standardized testing: we all know how well-designed, fair, representative and effective standardized tests are…

I don’t think that teacher’s demands and viewpoint have been represented adequately in a lot of coverage of this issue. NYT coverage for example was very vague on what the demands were and what was at stake in the contract, and essentially boiled down to ‘this is going to very inconvenient for students and parents.’

Lara Lindh, Preschool for All teacher in the Chicago Public Schools, explained on June 22 why she and thousands of her fellow teachers voted “yes” to authorizing a strike on AlterNet: “Why I Voted to Authorize the Chicago Teachers’ Strike
 
“Earlier this month, members of the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) voted and among CTU members who voted, 98 percent said “yes” to strike authorization. We considered those who refrained from voting as against the strike, which is still a nearly 90% majority to give the union authorization to call a strike.

Actually, around 8.5 percent of the union membership didn’t vote, so they were counted as “no” votes: That’s 23,780 yes to 482 no.

The overwhelming support for strike authorization seemed to confuse the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) CEO Jean-Claude Brizard, who likes to assure us that he loves and respects teachers as he destroys our schools and degrades our union. But the vote didn’t come as a surprise to me.

Here’s why I voted, along with the vast majority my brothers and sisters in the CTU, an enthusiastic “yes” to strike authorization.

Reason No. 1: As has happened to me every spring since 2008, I was warned by my boss in March that my preschool teaching position was threatened for the following school year due to budget cuts. As I have done every spring since 2008, I spent countless hours readying my resume and my teaching portfolio, combing the want ads, and annoying my colleagues looking for another job for this coming fall.

With a son, a mortgage, very little savings and a job that I love and would grieve to lose, I tried to muster the enthusiasm necessary to hunt for another job while simultaneously remaining the kind of “super-teacher” that we’re expected to be in order to maintain an evaluation rating that would allow us to be hired by another principal.

In May, I was informed my job was safe, but my assistant teacher’s wasn’t. Due to budget cuts, she’s being replaced with a cheaper, part-time version.

Reason No. 2: The month of May is supposed to be a wonderful month for preschool teachers: We ready our student’s yearlong work portfolios and bask in the glow of their progress and reminisce about how far we’ve come.

We go on field trips and have culminating projects that we enjoy sharing with our students and families. We look forward to summer break.

We begin to say goodbye to the little people we’ve nurtured and loved and taught for the proceeding nine months.

This May, I spent the entire month, as I have for the past three years, conducting a standardized test on my 4 and 5-year-old students to determine their “kindergarten readiness.”

It used to be that by virtue of turning 5 years old, you were deemed “kindergarten ready.” Those days are over. In the name of accountability (which always seems to mean accountability for those with the least say-so), we have turned our schools into test-taking factories, with no child too young to be tested.

Reason No. 3: The day before the strike vote, my school clerk stopped me in the hallway. He had an emergency letter from Jean-Claude Brizard that we had to distribute to parents informing them of why the strike vote was wrong for teachers to do and insulting our collective intelligence by claiming that our leadership hadn’t informed us of what was at stake in our contract negotiations.

The attempt by Brizard to turn parents against teachers was expected, his condescending tone familiar, but what was unheard of was that the letter was translated into Spanish, Mandarin, Polish and Arabic.

As a teacher of English Language Learners, I was dumbfounded. We can NEVER get materials or information translated into our students’ home languages without doing it ourselves.

Was this the proverbial final straw? No, I had already made up my mind to vote “yes” because I want dignity, respect and resources for what I do and for the students I teach.

But it did underline to me that if they can so easily find the resources to drag us down, then they can be forced to find the resources to build up public education.

Reason No. 4: The $5.2 million in TIF money the city council just handed to billionaires CPS board member and infamous union buster Penny Pritzker to build another Hyatt Hotel for her empire. Resources not there? Yeah, right.

I voted “yes” because I have self-respect, and I was always taught (and teach) that when you stand up for yourself against bullies and liars, others will stand up with you. Well, the teachers are standing up. Will you join us?

 

Youth Economic Forum for Lebanon:  How little money does great jobs

It is no secret for most Lebanese that they never enjoyed a valid and strong central State, that the successive governments since independence in 1943 were huge creative smokescreens for the real power structure in Lebanon represented by the “officially recognized” 18 religious sects and the private banking institutions. But the Lebanese youth in the last two years have been actually building a civic true State from the ground up.

Lebanon political structure has de facto handed down to the “officially recognized” 18 religious sects the responsibility to identify a citizen and run his social and civic status (a sort of de facto multi-theocratic State).  The youth of every generation have taken to the streets for a fair and equitable election laws, but there never existed a government to listen and act upon youth expectations.  The Arab spring upheavals are giving youth movements in Lebanon live engagement ammunition to hope for successful demands to reforms.

So far, the only duty of the government is to issuing passports, coining currency, and taxing the people. But the Lebanese youth in the last two years have been organizing in specialized NGO to supplement the deficiencies of a non-existing civic central government in gathering data on our social reality and problems.

Youth movements, and the Youth Economic Forum for example, have demonstrated of being capable of doing great things and executing good jobs with little money. What’s the story?

Two years ago, the finance ministry organized training sessions and invited university students to participate. At the end of the sessions, Yahya Mawloud took the initiative to establishing an association with the goal of canvasing Lebanon for collecting feedback of local urgent needs to development.  Apparently, 300 university students joined the association called Youth Economic Forum, and were willing to pay about $15 per year as dues. The well-to-do and more engaged members contributed more to the treasury and enabled the association of undertaking its mission.  About 70 paying members participate every year in electing the benevolent board of directors.

Youth Economic Forum (YEF), headquartered in Badaro, organizes day-long conferences, two-day workshops in four districts, outside of the Capital Beirut.  The conferences are done in universities and students are invited to participate such as in Balamand, Lebanese International, NDU, Antounieh, Al Manar, USJ, Sagesse, LAU…  Workshops were initiated Nabatieh, Marje3youn, Majdal Anjar, Jeb Jenine, Zahleh, Baalbak, Koura, Tripoli, Mina, Badawi, Donnieh…

The conferences approach topics related to individual initiatives, creation of small enterprises, link between economy and higher education, role of youth, hardship of reality, disaster preparation…

The workshops training sessions relate to public policy research methodology, brainstorming sessions for feasible project ideas and plans, written evaluation procedures, filling forms for project grants…Workshop are planned to accommodate local mayors, elected officials, and local NGO in order to present the social and economic conditions and priority lists of urgent projects that government and authorities usually ignores or have limited engagement.

Economic development are divided into two main categories: Human development (education, health, housing, environment…) and economic development (fiscal policies, public transport, telecom, power generation, agriculture, administrative reforms…)  I think development categories should be separated along human development indicators as defined by the UN such as infantile mortality, elementary education, preventive health care, basic sanitation… and State investment in human skills, education programs, job creation, administrative reforms, direct access to forms and application…

It’s projected that within two months, Youth Economic Forum will publish 33 ideas for decentralized projects, ideas gathered and discussed in workshops around the country.  The ideas are meant to modernize Lebanon. USAID will incur the expense of publishing the booklet of ideas.

A few dedicated graduate students, barely earning a living, are doing great jobs.  The project manager earns $100 for a day work, the project coordinator $40, and the field officer $20.  No work, no pay. They sleep in inexpensive hostels ($25 per night).  The corporate does not offer health benefits, annual or sick leaves, does not withhold or file taxes on behalf of the contractor.  The contractor agrees to hold YEF harmless for any loss, damage, or injury incurred as a result of work under the agreement…

Note: Cedric designed the blog page yeflb.wordpress.com.  The blog shows details on the workshops, videos, and the schedule of workshops and conferences…

How long have you graduated? Are you still in training?

There is this mentality of “auto-exploitation syndrome” that has been rampant in the last 15 years.  Worse, politicians, governments, universities, and the “trainees” have opted not to making waves, for jobs well-done gratis:  There is a deadly conspiracy of “silence“. Why?

The trainees are apprehensive of “ruining their professional perspectives“; universities are happy to be paid for units obtained outside the university premises; and the best of all, talented trainees pay employees in companies to be able to work for free!

For example, in order to work for free at Versace, in-training costs the trainees $5,000; to have a blogging right at the site of the Huffington Post, the trainee has to caught up $13,000.  One crazy mature trainee paid $42,000 for the privilege of working just two days at Vogue!

Do you know that Dream Careers (California-based) sells over two thousand training jobs around the world?  Trainees pay over $8,000 to work for free during an 8-week summer session.  and If you selected to be “trained” in London, you pay $9,500!

It goes without saying that the pedagogic and training values of these summer stints are practically worthless, whether organized by Dream Careers or universities.

Ross Perlin estimated that capitalist enterprises in the US benefit $two billion from these free training professional jobs.

Why pay an employee if hoards of young talented in-training graduates are willing to pay to work?  Actually, most of these internet start-ups have made it big on the shoulders of excited talented graduates who were “thankful” of contributing to challenging new technologies.

In the US, 50% of trainees don’t receive any compensation; a few get some social benefits, gas stipends, or health coverage… Trainees at the White House or Westminster don’t count: Their folks lend them the Aston Martin to drive and horses to ride

75% of trainees in the US have a second part-time paying job, just to enjoy the training privilege!

What of these graduates who hop from one training session to another, spanning more than two years, in order to land a steady job that is not within their field of study?  Thousands of graduates in developed States, like Sweden and Germany, spend years after graduation in training sessions; many decided to immigrate to Norway, working in odd jobs because the pay is good.

This idiotic capitalist system keeps reinventing means of exploiting talented brains for free.

Note 1: The heir of the Huffington Post internet site reaped $300 million and all these talented volunteers received not a dime.  It is the case of all these big internet international companies, shareholders making billions, while the gratis volunteers are glad contributing in projects “bigger than life”.

Note 2:  Don’t be fooled with the so-called “Non-profit organizations“.  They just fill those stupid legal forms:  The scores of directors and managers, with no practical job descriptions, receive hefty salaries at the expense of thousands of zealous volunteers.

Is polio next to be eradicated? What disease was wipe-out anyway?

Melinda Gates spoke on TED (Technology, Education, and Design) and claimed that polio is 90% eradicated (kind of less than 2,000 cases last year).  She was apprehensive that the generous donors might be witnessing “polio fatigue”, and might be reluctant perusing donations after two decades of containing polio.

In India, a single case of polio generated the vaccination of 2 million kids in the region.  Ethiopia is witnessing a significant drop in infantile mortality rate because remote communities are training specialized nurses for vaccinating and delivering pregnant women.

Diseases like malaria, diarrhea, measles, tuberculosis, cholera, polio, and countless others banal diseases that have vaccines, or can be treated with antibiotics, are still rampant and killing everyday thousands of babies and adults in under-developed States, particularly, kids under 5 years of age.

For example, Cholera is back in force and threatening to spread in many neighboring States to Zimbabwe.  Mugabe of Zimbabwe refuses to step down as President and his State is suffering great famine, miseries, and the plague.  Thousands of people have contracted cholera and over 7,000 have already succumbed.   Cholera cannot be controlled; it could not be through the ages and current progress is not at a par with that plague.  Why?  Cholera has the capacity to mutate: an element of AND code new functions for the benefit of the bacteria, modifying its genome and increasing its adaptation to treatments or new antibiotics.

So far, medical research has not mapped out all the means of transmissions of Cholera.  It is possible that home pets, cats and dogs, carrying flea might be transmitters of the epidemic.  What is known is that older generations of antibiotics such as streptomycin, chloramohenicol, and tetracycline are increasingly inefficient against the bacteria of cholera.  The antibiotic based on fluoroquinolone might be of more effectiveness.

The best angle to analyze the topic of transmissible diseases to divide the diseases in three categories.  The first category represents the diseases that have effective and cheap vaccines and antibioticsThe second category represents disease that require costly vaccines, expensive treatments, and common surgeries but can effectively cure.  The third category is reserved for diseases that have no cures but can be contained for several years until progress is achieved like AIDS and a few other cancerous cases.

For the third category, funds are allocated to the under-developed States, simply because the rich States need guinea pigs to experiment with treatments that are traumatic in their own communities.

The first category is the most promising for decreasing drastically the casualties at an affordable cost.  Basically, the vaccines and the prior generations of antibiotics have already covered the expense of experimentation, and have been a cash cow for many decades.  The main expense would be to train local nurses in remote communities, and university students in medicine, to administer vaccines and inexpensive antibiotics that are still effective.

The second category is not as urgent for the under-developed States as the funding and the structural organizations for eradicating the diseases in the first category.  There has been a mobilization in 1994 for creating a world bank for medicament and vaccines and a few States invested funds in that bank but there was lack of active pursuit for the long term.  All the health related branches in the UN such as UNICEF, OMS, PAM, FUND, Red Cross, and Red Crescent have been working on the field for many decades, but diseases are gaining the upper hand.

The scarcity of resources allocated to fighting disease in the under-developed States need to be restructured.  Priority should be given to diseases in category #1, before attacking effectively diseases in category number two.  At least, trained nurses and medical students would be ready to tackle more complex treatments.

You may read my article https://adonis49.wordpress.com/2009/02/17/the-under-developed-countries-are-plagued-with-common-diseases-any-resolutions/

Note 1:  A short history on Cholera or plague.

Bubonic plague has a long history, through the ages, to devastating more than a third of a population as it hits.  Cholera lands suddenly, kills for a short period and then disappear for no known reasons.  The best remedy was to flee as quickly, as far away as is possible and not to return any time soon.

The Jews in Judea were decimated during David.  The troops of the Assyrian Monarch Sanhareeb, putting siege to Jerusalem in 701 BC, suffered the plague. Greece and Athens in 430 BC was devastated by cholera as Sparta was laying siege to Athens. Ancient Rome was plagued.  Cholera hit Byzantium during Justinian for one century and traveled around the Mediterranean basin; Pope Pelage II succumbed to cholera in 590.

In 1346, the Mogul troops, laying siege to Caffa in Crimea, were plagued and they catapulted infested bodies over the rampart of Caffa.  The Genoa defenders fled Caffa and transmitted the plague to all Europe; Spain, Marseille, Paris, England are contaminated and then Russia ten years later. France lost over a third of its population and Spain as many if not worse.

Cholera crashed London in 1665.   The English monarch and his family had to pay a long visit to the French Monarch.  The plague subsided when fire engulfed the better parts of the poorer quarters of London in 1666.

The last time, before Zimbabwe, that cholera expressed its virulence was in 1894 in south east China.

History accounts shows that cholera was carried by the Mogul troops arriving from Mongolia and Central Asia. As they sweep into relatively humid regions then plague settles in during summertime. India, Iran, Iraq, and Syria suffered plague during the Mogul successive invasions. I cannot but figure out a few hypotheses.

Note 2:  Alexandre Yersin, a French physician and bacteriologist, discovered in 1894 that Cholera is a bacteria but he failed to come up with a curative serum. Yersin still believed that rodents (rats) are the main culprit for transmitting this disease.  Only in 1898 did Paul-Louis Simond confirmed that cholera is transmitted by flea that quit dead rats to other greener pastures by sucking blood elsewhere.  Rats are infected with cholera but they are not affected or transmit it because they rarely bite humans.  Once a man is afflicted with cholera then the main transmitter of the epidemics are men.

Cholera infects people but does not bloom in dry arid regions.  Cholera is virulent in humid regions and during the hot seasons. Could it be because people sweat profusely? Especially because people failed to wash or take bathes in older days?  Or is it that since sweat excretes most of the salt in the body then cholera has an ideal medium of less salty body fluids to flourish and concentrate during the ripe seasons?

WOMEN IN ISLAM (Submission to One God)  (April 24, 2009)

 

 

Note 1:  I published 8 posts on Women in Islam and I decided to join them under a comprehensive essay.

 

Note 2: It interesting to differentiate between the original message of the Prophet Muhammad and the subsequent political applications and practises by the various Moslem sects that do not necessarily correspond to the intention of the message.  The fact remains that the official Koran issued by the third Caliphate Othman bin Affan was emasculated, tampered with, and many verses ommitied and burned  to satisfy political interests in the de facto domination of Islam to vast conquered Empires such as Byzantium and Persia by the time the Koran (of Medina) was officially transcribed.

 

Note 3: Parson Warkat bin Nawfal, the patriarch of the Christian-Jew sect of the Epyionites in Mecca and an older relative of Muhammad, taught the Prophet reading, writing, and transcribing the Arab version of  the Old and New Testaments that were written in Aramaic. Parson Warkat also chaperoned Muhammad in contemplation, meditation, and fasting one month a year.

 

Note 4:   In Mecca and for 13 years, Khadija, the first wife of Muhammad and 15 years older than the Prophet and the richest among her clan, aided the Prophet in transcribing revelations and verses during his epileptic fits. In Medina, Aicha bint Abu Bakr, the youngest, educated, and most beloved wife of the Prophet, was almost exclusively in charge of recording the revelations when the Prophet Mohammad had his bouts of seizures. She would cover him with warm blankets and write down the verses until he falls asleep.  Aicha has dedicated her life into gathering, organizing the revelations and meeting with scholars and close friends of the Prophet to keep a complete record.

 

Introduction:

 

It is still applicable that women are in permanent struggle for equal rights in laws and in daily practices.  Even in the most advanced State of Sweden, women are far behind in equal work conditions and pay; they are beaten and raped by their relative on a wide scale. In most religions, women have had to fight for their rights and dues, and their struggle is ongoing. Christian women have gone to the extreme of changing the text of the Bible to make it less “sexist” and more “acceptable” to women.

 

In a previous post “The unpublished Book” I stated that the Prophet Muhammad was crystal clear in his message: making the religion easy, light, acceptable to most sects, and readable by the language of every nation since a prophet is sent to every nation.  The Koran was focused on the value of life and uniting as many sects as possible satisfying common denominators in belief, stories, and myths.  The Prophet Muhammad did not regard with keen eyes the abstract theological concepts that were limiting and restrictive for particular religious sects (these abstract theological structures were the result of urban cultures prevalent in Byzantium and the Persian Empires that generated schisms to the benefit of the few power mongers of the various sacerdotal castes).

 

The social conditions of women in Mecca and Yathreb before Islam were different. In Mecca, a strict patriarchal structure was instituted; the powerful Christian-Jew sects in Mecca had contributed in transmitting the customs and traditions of the Hebraic laws that suited desert life style.  In Yathreb, a six-day journey north by camels, the independent minded women of Yathrib could divorce their husbands by just turning the entrance of their tents around; the husbands settled in and were attached to the wives’ clans.  Muhammad had a hell of a time submitting the women of Yathrib to what his men followers from Mecca were used to. The many wives of the Prophet (numbering 12 and not counting favorites and concubines) were frequent sources of calumnies and hot stories: situations that forced the Prophet to resume his month long of fasting and isolation until rumors calmed down; these meditation periods were used to re-read the Bibles for wisdoms and appropriate regulations. The Prophet had to issue many verses, as Islam gained strength around Medina, to reduce the women of Yathreb into submission and follow the customs of Mecca and obey their husbands and seclude themselves in their homes and wear the veil when out. In the early period of the message, 13 years in Mecca, women and men were no different in the eyes of God and they enjoyed spiritual equality of the sexes.

 

.           For example, in the sourat Al Ahzab (religious sects) it is said “For Muslim men and women, for believing men and women, for devout men and women, for true men and women, for men and women who are patient and constant, for men and women who humble themselves, for men and women who give in charity, for men and women who fast (and deny themselves), for men and women who guard their chastity, and for men and women who engage much in Allah’s praise – for them has Allah prepared forgiveness and great reward”.   In the sourat Al Imran (dedicated to the Virgin Mary and her parents haneh and Joachim) it is read “And their Lord has accepted of them, and answered them: Never shall I suffer to be lost the work of any of you, be he male or female: you are members, one of another…”   In the sourat Al Natal it is read: “Whoever works righteousness, man or woman, and has Faith, verily, to him will We give a new Life, and life that is good and pure, and We will bestow on such their reward according to the best of their action.”

 

1) On Infanticide 

 

In Mecca before Islam, infanticide of born girls was prevalent.  The attitude of the pagan Arabian society (Jahiliyyah as opposed to Islam for historical differentiation) buried female babies alive.  This practice is nowaday widespread in India and in China and millions of girls are aborted every year and newborn girls are left to die of hunger and neglect as boys are born. The populous States are experiencing an epidemic of enfanticide under its strict population control laws that prohibit families to procreate more than one child; as most parents want sons, so girls are abandoned and allowed to die, or are killed, so that the parents may eventually have a boy. The laws for infanticide are lenient; the legal system and the administrators turn blind eyes in cases of girl’s killing. Girls are married as early as 8 of age and they are sold as slaves. Even today, many societies view the birth of a girl as bad news and negative omen.

 

       

        The Qur’an expressively forbids killing babies, whether by infanticide or abortion, on gounds of fear of poverty or losing face in the community.  In sourat al Anaam it is read: “Say: Come, I will rehearse what Allah has (really) prohibited you from: join not anything as equal with Him; be good to your parents; kill not your children on a plea of want – We provide sustenance for you and for them – come not nigh to shameful deeds, whether open or secret; take not life, which Allah has made sacred, except by way of justice and law: thus does He command you, that you may learn wisdom.”  Thus, Islam gives glad tidings to a woman regardless of the gender of the foetus from the time a child is conceived,. The pregnant woman is held in the highest esteem, and her patience in bearing the discomforts of pregnancy is regarded as an act of virtue which brings her closer to Paradise. If the baby is a girl, this opens up further opportunities for the parents to attain Paradise. The Prophet gave the glad tidings of Paradise as the reward for the parents who welcomes a daughter, brings her up properly, provides a sound education and arranges a good marriage for her. In another hadith, it is stated that the fire of Hell will not be permitted to touch one who goes through trials and tribulations because of a daughter, who does not hate her for society’s prejudice but treats her well against all odds.

 

            In the sourat al Takwir it is read ” When the female (infant) is buried alive then the  question is raised- for what crime she was killed?” Consequently, the Koran says that the parents of innocent girls, who were slain for no other reason than that they were female, will be asked on the Day of Judgement for what sin they were slain.  The crime is that of the parents, not of the child. Parents should not think that they are at liberty to do whatever they like with regard to their children.

 

            Not only does the Koran protect the female infant from being murdered by ruthless parents, but it describes girls’ birth as good news, and grants her the right of inheritance from her father, husband and brother, and gives her the right to own property and conduct business transactions independently and in her own right.  In the sourat al Natal it is said: ” When news is brought to one of them, of (the birth of) a female (child), his face darkens and he is filled with inward grief! With shame does he hide himself from his people, because of the news that he has had! Shall he retain it (and suffer contempt), or bury it in the dusts.  Ah! What an evil (choice) they decide on.”

 

2) On Education 

      

Islam has given rights to women in all aspects of life. The spiritual equality of the sexes in Islam extends to equal value quality education for both sexes. The Prophet said: “Seeking knowledge is a duty for every Muslim male and female. Seek knowledge from the cradle to the grave”. In the sourat Fatir it is read: “Those truly fear Allah, among His Servants, who have knowledge.”  Women had to be educated in order to shoulder their rights guaranteed by the message from consent to mariage, to setting the mariage contracts of conditions in writing, to equal inheritance, to managing her household, and to raising her offspring.

 

In sourat Al Nisaa (Women) it is said “Do not covet those things in which Allah has bestowed His gifts more freely on some of you than on others: to men is allotted what they earn and to women what they earn: but ask Allah of His bounty. For Allah has full knowledge of all things.”  Islam bestowed upon women a legal economic entity. A woman could now own, manage, inherit, distribute and sell her own property as she wished and in her own right. Her assets remained hers, and marriage or divorce did not alter her rights. Islam brought these rights to women fourteen hundred years ago, long before equal rights were thought of or campaigned for in other lands.

 

Women’s emergence into the economic arena in the West took hold during the First World War to fill production gaps vacated by the conscripted men for the war effort.  However, it has taken much heartache and a great deal of struggle and striving to bring women anywhere near a position of equal economic status. Even today, the Western woman is economically bound to her husband, who can demand a share from her earnings for ongoing domestic expenses and, in the case of divorce, can claim a share of her savings. In general, the Muslim wife is entitled to be supported by her husband, no matter how rich she may be in her own right; whilst she is a child, she is entitled to be supported by her father and in old age she is entitled to be supported by her children. The Muslim woman is relieved of the burden of having to earn a living, and she is allowed to dispose of her earnings in whatever manner she chooses.

 

In the sourat al Nisaa it is read “From what is left by parents and those nearest related there is a share for men and a share for women, whether the property be small or large -a determinate share.” Islam offers a “ready-made will” that no written will or local tradition can bypass for not allotting women at least half what the males inherit.

 

The reason for men being given a portion twice as much as that given to women if no writen testiminy is left is that men are responsible for taking care of their womenfolk: A man may be required to spend on his mother, sisters or other female relatives. A woman is entitled to dispose of her share of the inheritance as she wishes, and is under no obligation to support anyone, even herself. When these facts are borne in mind, the just and equitable position of Islam becomes reasonable.

 

3) On Polygamy

 

Polygamy in Islam is restricted and may be practiced theoretically only when certain strict conditions are met. It is also the exception rather than the norm in Muslim societies throughout the World. A World Health Organisation census has shown that less than 5% of Muslim men practice polygyny. This is in contrast to other groups in countries such as India, where 15.25% of men from tribal religious groups practise polygyny; 8% of Buddhists, 6.77% of Jains and 6% of Hincus have plural marriages. The percentage of polygynous marriages in India is lowest among Muslims, at 5.7%.

 

The fact that Islam permits a man to have more than one wife has been the cause of much ridicule and misinformation. The fact is that the Mormons, “the pseudo Christian sect in Utah, USA) are still practising polygamy and the blind eye of the State of Utah is functioning though a recent Federal Law has prohibited this practice.

 

Prior to the advent of Islam, women were treated as chattels and objects for the gratification of men; it was the same prejudice of the Jews in Judea and in poor agricultural lands. In the modern world, this practice continues under the guise of frequent divorces, affairs, mistresses and prostitution. Women are left alone to fend for themselves and their children, whilst divorce is so common that there exist groups such as “Single Again”, which cater for people who have been divorced for the second (or subsequent) times.

 

Islam did not abolish polygyny, as it recognised that in some cases, polygyny would be necessary and even preferable to the alternatives of leaving unmarried widows. However, it strictly limited it, to a maximum of four wives at any one time; there are also stringent conditions to be met by a man who wishes to take a second wife.

 

The initial intention of this law was to bring some order to the people of Arabia and neighbouring societies, who had been accustomed to unlimited numbers of wives, and to inaugurate a civil system that would take care of the needs of women; it sought to solve the problem of the existence of large numbers of widows and orphans who were left to fend for themselves after the many raids and warfare among the tribes.

 

 In the sourat Al Nissa it is said: “If you fear that you will not be able to deal justly with the orphans, marry women of your choice, two, or three, or four; but if you fear that you will not be able to deal justly (with them), then only one, or (a captive) that your right hands possess. That will be more suitable, to prevent you from doing injustice.”

 

Thus, any man who wishes to take a second wife has to meet the important condition of fair treatment of all his wives; he is commanded to treat wives equally, and anyone who is unable to do so should marry only one wife. Equal treatment includes all social, economical and physical needs. It is very difficult for human beings to be completely fair, a fact which is recognised by the Koran  In Al Nissa you read: “You are never able to be fair and just with even two women, even if it is your ardent desire: but turn not away (from a woman) altogether, so as to leave her (as it were) hanging (in the air)” and  “A man who marries more than one woman and then does not deal justly with them will be resurrected with half his faculties paralysed”.’  In the case of men who had more than four wives when they embraced Islam, such as Ghaylan ibn Umayyah al-Thaqafi, the Prophet asked them to keep four wives and to release the others.       

      

The topic of polygyny cannot be considered complete without some discussion on the Prophet’s Id practice and the historical context in which he and his wives lived. This is a topic which has received much attention from the West, and about which many Muslims are confused.        It should be noted that in seventh-century Arabia, adultery, rape and fornication were the norm. The Prophet remained chaste from the age of 25 when he married Khadijah , who was twice a widower 40 years of age. Their marriage remained harmonious until Khadijah passed away some 25 years later. The Prophet was 50 years of age and started his exile to yathreb (Medina) in 633.

 

The Prophet’s second wife was Sawdah. She and her husband had been among the earliest converts to Islam. They suffered great hardship at the hands of Quraysh(inhabitants of Mecca), so the Prophet had instructed them to migrate to Abyssinia (Ethiopia). There, her husband passed away, and Sawdah suffered much hardship as a widow in a foreign land. The Prophet He knew that he was responsible for the welfare of his followers, so he proposed marriage to Sawdah. This marriage brought relief, respect and status to her, and provided the Prophet with companionship and assistance in raising his children from his marriage to Khadijah. At the time of her marriage to the Pronhet, Sawdah was around 55 vears old.

 

In order to create blood ties and to show his love and respect to his closest Companions who had given up this world for the sake of Islam, the Prophet gave two of his daughters in marriage to Ali and ‘Uthman’; he also accepted in marriage ‘A’ishah and Hafsah , the daughters of Abu Bakr and Umar, respectively. His marriage to these two noble women not only enhanced his close ties with his Companions, but these women were later to offer deep insight into the Prophet’s life. They were responsible for narrating over half of the ahadith which now form the basis of the Islamic code of conduct. ‘A’ishah alone is known to have narrated over two thousand ahadith.

 

Zaynab was a cousin of the Prophet. She had previously been married to Zayd , the freed slave and adopted son of the Prophet Hi. This marriage had been arranged by the Prophet , but the couple were never happy in their marriage and it became apparent that they were not compatible. At the Prophet’s insistence, they had stayed together for several years, but in the end Zayd could not tolerate it any longer, and decided to set Zaynab free from the marriage contract. The fact that an enslave had divorced a woman of the noble Quraysh tribe became the subject of much gossip among the pagans and the weaker members of the Muslim community. Not surprisingly, Zaynab confined herself to her quarters and it fell to the Prophet to relieve her of her misery. He married her, and she was around 38 years of age at the time. This action achieved two ends. One was to demonstrate that Islam makes no distinction between class, race or status, as the Qur’an teaches that the noblest person in the sight of Allah is the one who is most pious. The second was to indicate that adopted sons were not to be counted as blood relatives, as had previously been the custom in Arabia.

 

             It was the custom to have blood ties with the various large tribes for unification purposes. Hence some of the Prophet’s marriages were arranged to establish inter-tribal ties and to further the cause of unity. The Prophet’s marriage to Juwayriyah led her tribe of Banu Mustaliq, who had been among the fiercest enemies of Islam, freeing all their Muslim prisoners. The whole tribe later entered into Islam. Maymunah came from the tribe of Najd, who had murdered the emissaries sent to them by the Prophet. After his marriage to Maymunah, however, their attitude changed and Najd became favourable towards Islam.

 

            All In all, the Prophet had eleven wives, of whom two – Khadijah and Zaynab – passed away in his own lifetime. After the ayah restricting the number of wives to four was revealed, he contracted no further marriages, but his nine remaining wives were regarded as “mothers of the faithful” and as no other man would be permitted to marry them if he divorced them he kept all his wives on the grounds of compassion.

 

With the exception of ‘A’ishah, all of his wives were widows or divorcees. His marriages were all for political reasons or were contracted in order to set an example of compassion, as in the cases of Zaynab and Sawdah. His polygynous marriage all took place rather late in his life, from the age of 55. The prophet Muhammad was in a position of great political power to be choosy but he marry widowers and older women – a sure indication of his upright moral character and desire to set the highest example to his followers.

 

4) On Marriage

       

Mariage is encouraged in Islam at an early age.  This tradition is widespread in underdeveloped countries regardless of religions.  Islam considers sexuality to be a natural part of life, which is to be channeled into a healthy marriage life to avoid exploitation of women through prostitution, pornography, and rape.

 

The Prophet Muhammad advised Muslims: “Whoever is able to marry should marry; that institution will help the Moslem lower his gaze and guard his modesty”. Islam regards marriage as necessary and has raised it to the level of being a positive virtue and described it as being half the faith.

 

Marriage is a consented contract between two equal parties; neither male nor female should be forced into a marriage. Islam clearly states that a marriage contracted without the free consent of the woman is null and void. The Prophet said: “No widow should be married without consulting her, and no virgin should be married without her consent.” Allah said: “When one of you seeks to marry a woman, if he is able to have a look at the one he desires to marry, let him do so”.

 

As an equal partner, the Muslim woman may stipulate conditions in the marriage. The woman may stipulate, prior to marriage, the transfer of divorce power to herself, restricting the husband to one wife only, and clearly defining the conditions of maintenance. Muslim wives have always been allowed and expected to keep their maiden names after marriage.

 

The wife is a spiritual and moral being who is brought into union with a man on the basis of a solemn pledge which Allah is called upon to witness. The Prophet said: “You have seen nothing like marriage for increasing the love of two people”. In sourat Al-Rum (Byzantium) it is read: “And among His Signs is this; that He created mates from among yourselves; that you may dwell in tranquillity with them, and He has put love and mercy between your (hearts): verily in that are Signs for those who reflect.”  In sourat al-Aaraf (customs) it is read: “It is He Who created you from a single person, and made his mate of like nature, in order that he might dwell with her (in love).

 

In Islam, there is no notion of woman being responsible for the “Fall” or of being the first sinner and therefore responsible for all of mankind’s woes. There is no idea of man being created out of superior material and woman out of base matter. Woman is made equal, both men and women are the progeny of Adam, so both have similar souls. In sourat al Shura (counsel) it is read: “(He is) the Creator of the heavens and the earth: He has made for you pairs from among yourselves”.  In sourat al Nissaa (women) it is read: “Mankind! Reverence your Guardian – Lord Who created you from a single Person, created, of like nature, his mate, and from them twain scattered (like seeds) countless men and women – fear Allah, through Whom you demand your mutual (rights).”

 

Islam does not view woman as the instrument of the devil or evil creature. The Koran describes woman as muhsanah (charitable), a fortress against evil, because a good woman helps her husband maintain the path of righteousness.  Muslim men are continually admonished to treat their wives kindly. To those men who oppress their wives then the sourat al Nissaa said: “O you who believe! You are forbidden to inherit women against their will. Nor should you treat them with harshness, that you may take away part of the dower you have given them – except when they have been guilty of open lewdness; on the contrary, live with them on a footing of kindness and equity. If you take a dislike to them it may be that you dislike a thing, and Allah brings about through it a great deal of good.”

 

      

 Men are commanded by Allah to consort with women amicably and honourably. They should refrain from harshness in speaking to and dealing with them. Behaviour that goes against standards of morality and common courtesy is prohibited. Such wicked and brutal conduct is the sign of ignorance (jahidyyah) which Islam came to abolish.

 

The Prophet Muhammad attended to his own personal needs; he helped his wives in the house, he stitched and mended his own clothes, and kept a cheerful climate when he entered the house.  He demonstrated that a man is never too great to clean and look after himself, and he imparted the following advice:  “The best among you is the one who is best to his family, and I am the best among you to his family”.  “The most perfect believers are the best in conduct and the best of you are those who are best to their wives. By assisting your wives in their household duties, you will receive the reward of sadaqah (charity)”   In his famous speech given during his Farewell Pilgrimage, the Prophet reminded the Muslims of the importance of treating women equitably: “O people, fear Allah with regard to women..”

 

            Islam regards men and women as equal partners who should cooperate in making the home, be loyal, considerate and dependent upon one another. They should work together to overcome any problems and obstacles, work together to overcome the shortcomings of each partner, and present a united front to the outside world. They should also provide companionship and comfort to one another.  Islam clearly recognises the equal potential and ability of the sexes, but Allah has created human beings in a manner whereby men and women are better suited for complementary tasks.

    

5) On Motherhood

      

The Prophet indicated that a woman’s status is further enhanced when she becomes a mother. A man once asked him, “Who deserves the best care from me?” He replied, “Your mother”. The man asked, “Then who?” He replied, “Your mother”. The man asked, “Then who?” He replied, “Your mother”. The man asked, “Then who?” He replied, “Then your father”.

 

The Koran reads: ‘”Believer must not hate a believing woman; if he dislikes one of her characteristics, he should be pleased with another.  When a woman breast feeds, for every gulp of milk she will receive a reward as if she had granted life to being, and when she weans her child, the angels pat her on the hack saying, ‘Congratulations! All your past sins have been forgiven, now start all over again”:  “O women! Remember that the pious among you will enter Jannah before the pious men”  “During pregnancy until the time of childbirth, and until the end of the suckling period, a woman earns reward similar to that of the person who is guarding the borders of Islam”

    

            The Koran orders are to be kind and just to women, as daughters, sisters, wives and mothers. Muslim who seek to make their womenfolk happy may expect to earn the pleasure of Allah, and pleasing Allah is the key to Paradise.  The sourat Luqman says: “And We have enjoined on man (to be good) to his parents: in travail upon travail did his mother bear him, and in years twain was his weaning: (hear the command), ‘Show gratitude to Me and to your parents: to Me is (your final) Goal.

 

      

Although Islam tells us to respect both parents, the mother is given precedence. For months she bears the burden in her womb, sufferings the trials of pregnancy. After the exertion of labour, she suckles the baby for up to two years. She sacrifices her own comforts for the sake of her child. So a man has to recognise, first, the rights that Allah has over him, and then the rights of his parents, especially the mother; he must worship Allah, and occupy himself in obeying and serving his parents to the best of his ability.

 

Miqdam reported that the Prophet said: “O people, listen: Allah the Most High commands you to treat your mothers well. Allah the Most High commands you to be good to your mothers, and thereafter to your fathers”. Anas reported that the Prophet said: “Paradise lies at the feet of mothers”. What is meant by this is that a believer may attain the pleasure of Allah, and hence Paradise, by pleasing his mother and attending to her needs. Even if one’s mother is not a Muslim, one is obliged to treat her well and take care of her, so long as this does not entail any disobedience to Allah.

 

6) On Divorce

   

The Prophet said: “Divorce is the most hateful of all lawful things in the sight of Allah”. Divorce is allowed as a last resort.  If divorce were forbidden, then animosity and adultery may become rampant. To save individuals and society from the greater evils, divorce has been permitted. However, it is not a step to be taken lightly or hastily. Sincere attempts at reconciliation are to be made first and – as in the case of marriage – the rights and wellfare of women are to be upheld.

 

Imam al Ghazzali (b.1058 CE) who is honoured with the title of Hujjat al Islam ‘The Proof of Islam’ states, the greatest care should be taken to avoid divorce, for, though divorce is permitted, yet Allah disapproves of it. If divorce becomes essential then the woman should be divorced kindly, not through anger or contempt, and not without a valid reason. After divorce a man should give his former wife a present and not announce to others any of her shortcomings.

 

The Koran advises a couple who are facing difficulties in their marriage to appoint arbiters.  In sourat al Nissaa it is read:” If you fear a breach between them twain, appoint (two) arbiters, one from his family and the other from hers; if they wish for peace, Allah will cause their reconciliation…But if they disagree (and must part), Allah will provide abundance for all from His All-Reaching bounty.”

 

In order to dissolve a marriage, it is essential to pronounce a declaration of “talaq”. There are three types of talaq (divorce) that are practiced among Muslims.

First, talaq ahssan – (the preferable type of divorce): After issuing one pronouncement of divorce, the couple wait for the ‘iddah (waiting period, which consists of three menstrual cycles of the wife, usually three months). During this time, all possible attempts at reconciliation should be made. The husband may take his wife back at any time during the ‘iddah period. During the period of iddah the man must oblige to either keep the woman in the same home or at least furnish her with a comfortable apartment, which is easily accessible to him. Further, the man must provide for her as if no divorce has taken place. At the end of the iddah or waiting period if reconciliation has failed then the marriage is broken. In sourat al-Talaq it is read: “And fear Allah, your Lord: and turn them not out of their houses, nor shall they (themselves) leave, except in case they are guilty of some open lewdness, those are limits set by Allah: and any who transgresses the limits of Allah, does verily wrong his (own) soul: you know not if perchance Allah will bring about thereafter some new situation.”

            Second, talaq hassan – is a divorce where a man pronounces talaq to his wife in three consecutive state of purity. Third, talaq bid’i where the husband issues three pronouncements of divorce at one time. According to the majority of jurists, this talaq is valid but it is against the spirit of the Shari’ah and so the man is an offender in the eyes of the law.  The last Talaq bid’i is considered a serious act against the Islamic teachings. The second Caliphate Umar, a close companion of the Prophet, used to whip the husband who pronounced divorce thrice at once and in the same sitting.

 

The sourat al-Baqarah (virginity) it is read: ” When you divorce women, and they fulfil the term of their (‘Iddah), either take them back on equitable terms or set them free on equitable terms; but do not take them back to injure them, (or) to take undue advantage; if any one does that, he wrongs his own soul. Do not treat Allah’s Signs as a jest, but solemnly rehearse Allah’s favours on you, and the fact that He sent down to you the Book and Wisdom, for your instruction. And fear Allah, and know that Allah is well-acquainted with all things.”

 

             Islam treads the middle ground in the divorce concept, and safeguards the rights of women. It neither prohibits divorce, thereby imprisoning women, nor does it regard divorce as an insignificant decision. The right to divorce is not restricted to the husband. The woman may also seek a dissolution of the marriage by means of a process known as faskh, whereby she applies to the Qadi (Judge) for an annulment of the marriage. The wife may seek faskh in several cases, including: apostasy (renunciation of Islam) by the husband; lack of equality of status (kafi’ah); lack of compatibility; spoiling of marriage (fasad); incurable impotence on the part of the husband and if the husband ill treats the woman (nushuz). The above cases present valid grounds for a woman to seek divorce from her husband. If the couple come to a mutual agreement for separation and get divorced then this is called khul.  In sourat al Nissaa it is read: “If the wife fears cruelty or desertion on her husband’s part, there is no blame on them if they arrange an amicable settlement between themselves; and such settlement is best…”

 

               Islam has decreed justice for both sexes in the case of divorce. Although the act of divorce is disliked, it is permitted for the sake of weak human souls who cannot always find comfort and solace in the marriage relationship. This is mainly due to lower tolerance levels, high expectations in others and needless desires.

 

7) On Modesty

 

 

Modesty, in the broadest sense, means humility, restraint in manner and conduct, avoiding excess and presenting an unpretentious appearance. In sourat al Nur (light) it is read: “And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that they should not display their beauty and ornaments”

 

            Abdullah ibn Mass’ud reported, “I asked the Messenger of Allah , ‘What is the greatest sin?’ He replied, ‘To set up rivals with Allah by worshipping others although He alone has created you’. I asked, ‘What next?’ He said, ‘To kill your child lest it should share your food’. I asked, ‘What next?’ He said, ‘To commit adultery with the wife of your neighbour’ (zina)”  The Koran warns in sourat al Israa “Nor come nigh to adultery: for it is a shameful (deed) and an evil, opening the road (to other evils)”.

 

The first step on the road to zina is sight. It is only after a person has had a glance that his desire are inflamed. The believing men and women are restricted from gazing at one another, as this is the gateway to greater sin. The Prophet said: “the zina of the legs is walking towards an unlawful act, the zina of the hands is touching and patting, and the zina of the eyes is casting passionate “lances at those who are forbidden to you”

 

It is the second glance which is punishable. The Prophet advised Ali “O Ali, do not allow your first glance to be followed by a second, because the first glance is permitted for you but the second is not”.  And “Let no male stranger sit in privacy with a female stranger, for the third among them is Satan”‘. And “Do not go to the houses of women whose husbands are absent”.

 

            There are exceptions to this prohibition on looking at members of the opposite sex. In the case of medical examinations or treatment, deciding on a marriage partner, recording evidence or carrying out criminal investigations, the rulings are relaxed somewhat, but proper conduct and modesty must still be adhered to.

            Appearing modestly in public does not correspond to prudism.  Erotism has always been encouraged in Arab traditions and Islam had to frequently turn a blind eye on erotic literatures because initiation to sexuality was transmitted early on for both genders.  Moslem theologians discussed freely on erotical matters, and most open was the most sought after in religious doctrines.  Sexsuality was taught in Mosques as part of education.  You may refer to “The garden of Lovers” by Ibn Qayyim al Jawziyya, or “The Perfumed Garden” by Nafzawi, or the various sexual positions by Tifachi.

In fact, Youssef Seddik claimed that Islam was a counter-revolution to the absolute independence of women in Arabia.  Women were the matriach in that tribal society and their effronteries would have surprised today’s feminists.  For example, during the yearly pilgrimage celebration in Mecca women would erect tents and receive lovers.  The next year, the woman would select one of her lovers to be her child’s father.

            A husband who realized that his wife’s passion for him waned would search for another male that might intice the desires of his mate.  During the month long fasting season sexual intercourse was prohibited then quickly rescinded.  By emulating the modesty of the wives of the Prophet the women communities learned new customs that religion could not supplant.

 

8) On Dress Codes

 

            Practically, the free mixing of men and women from the time they become sexually aware to the time they are no longer sexually active is prohibited. Muslims are required to dress modestly and conceal their private parts (awrah).  In the case of men awrah extends from the navel to the knee; in the case of women awrah includes the whole body except the face, hands and (according to some Hanafi scholars) feet. Muslims should wear clothes that are loose fitting, thick (non-transparent) and simple (not ostentatious or gaudy).

 

In sourat al Nur it is read: “And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what (must ordinarily) appear thereof; that they should draw their veils over their bosoms and not display their beauty except to their husbands, their fathers, their husbands’ fathers, their sons, their husbands’ sons, their brothers or their brothers’ sons, or their sisters’ sons, or their women, or the slaves whom their right hands possess, or male servants free of physical needs, or small children who have no sense of the shame of sex; and that they should not strike their feet in order to draw attention to their hidden ornaments. And O Believers! Turn all together towards Allah, that you may attain Bliss.” In sourat al Ahzab (sects) it is said: “O Prophet! Tell your wives and daughters, and the believing women, that they should cast their outer garments over their persons (when abroad): that is most convenient, that they should be known (as such) and not molested. And Allah is Oft Forgiving, Most Merciful.

 

Umm Salamah reported that she and Maymunah (who were both wives of the Prophet ) were with the Prophet when the blind son of Umm Maktumcame to speak with him. The Prophet told his wives to observe hijab in front of the visitor Umm Salamah said, “O Messenger of Allah, he is a blind man and will not see us”. The Prophet said, “He may be blind but you are not, and do you not see him”? The Prophet issued a warning: “Those women who appear naked even though they are wearing clothes, who allure and are allured by others, and who walk in a provocative manner, will never enter Paradise, or even smell its fragrance”.

 

Since antiquity, noble women wore the veil to be distinguished from the working women; the veil was a symbol of ranking because the sun did not alter the freshness of the face since whitness of the skin was very praised.  In Europe, women used to have a veil attached to their hats and they would lower the veil when outside their homes. 

In Mecca, the wives and girls of the rich traders wore the veil when out of their homes.  In Yathreb or Medina women were practically running a martriarchal system and thus, were mostly woking women.  Whe the Prophet Muhamad had to flee to Medina his folowers from Mecca were subjected to a cultural shock.  The Prophet had to be biased toward his followers because they were the backbone of his power.  Gradually but steadily the tradition and customs in Medina were altered. The Prophet took advantage of golden opportunities. After the inevitable rumors and flapps over his many wives behaviors the Prophet edicted that his wives would wear veil when on the streets and be accompanied by relatives.  The society followed the fashion of the famous.

 

The “Chador” and the dress codes of totally covering the body in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Afghanistan, and where extra-conservative Moslem sects are predominant are not dictated by the Koran.  They are simply patriarchal political acts meant to humiliate women and relegate them to non-individual class.  The Moslem clerics would like you to understand that the main aim of hijab is to allow Muslim women to enjoy the ability to express their personality and their intellect independently of men’s whims and desires.  It would be interesting to get the opinion of the concerned women on that concept.

 

Note 5: Aicha, the most beloved wife of the Prophet, saved her copies very jealously until the third Caliphate Othman bin Affan ordered the archive to be handed over to him. Aicha didn’t trust Othman and she kept copies of all her documents.  At the time, only rich people could afford to write down documents because they were recorded on special leather in the Arab Peninsula. Thus, rich educated people had the task of transcribing the verses for better retention, memorizations, and an act of devotion.

 

Note 6: By the time Othman decided to issue an official Book for Islam (The Koran of Medina) most of the Byzantium and Sassanide Empires were conquered; Egypt was part of the Arab Moslem Empire. The formal or official Book had to take these political realities into accounts, realities of victors and vanquished.  The Caliphate Othman sorted out the verses and selected what suited the political interest of the new Islamic Empire; many verses were burned and disappeared, others were tampered with such as adding “nassara” (Christian) after Jews though the sentence would break the rime (sajaa).  Othman arranged verses by order of length and the gathered book was considered the official Koran. For example, the shortest revelations or verses are the first chronologically and represent the message of Islam in the first 13 years (The Koran of Mecca) before the relocation to Medina or Yathreb in 633.  The longest verses came afterward and dealt mostly with civil management, daily routine, penal codes, and organization of the converts to Islam.

I hate to talk, read, and write. Oh, and I hate math: Different teaching resolutions… 

 

I got this revelation. 

Schools use different methods for comprehending languages and natural sciences.  Kids are taught the alphabet, words, syntax, grammars, spelling and then much later, they are asked to compose essays.  Why this process is not applied in learning natural sciences?

I have strong disagreement on the pedagogy of learning languages. 

First, we know that children learn to talk years before they can read. Why kids are not encourage to tell verbal stories before they can read?  Why kids’ stories are not recorded and then translated into the written words to encourage the kids into realizing that what they read is indeed another story telling medium?

Second, we know that kids have excellent capabilities to memorize verbally and visually whole short sentences before they understand the fundamentals. Why don’t we develop their cognitive abilities before we force upon them the traditional malignant methodology?  The proven outcomes are that kids are devoid of verbal intelligence, hate to read, and would not attempt to write even after they graduate from universities.

Arithmetic and math are used as the foundations for learning natural sciences. We learn to manipulate equations; then solving examples and problems by finding the proper equation that correspond to the natural problem (actually, we are trained to memorize the appropriate equations that apply to the problem given!).  Why we are not trained to compose a story that corresponds to an equation, or set of equations (model)?

If kids are asked to compose essays as the final outcome of learning languages, then why students are not trained to compose the natural phenomena from given set of equations?

Would not that be the proper meaning for comprehending the physical world or even the world connected with human behavior? 

Would not the skill of modeling a system be more meaningful and straightforward after we learn to compose a world from a model or set of equations?  Consequently, scientists and engineers, by researching natural phenomena and man-made systems that correspond to the mathematical models, would be challenged to learn about natural phenomena. Thus, their modeling abilities would be enhanced, more valid, and more instructive!

If mathematicians are trained to compose or view the appropriate natural phenomenon and human behavior from equations and mathematical models then the scientific communities in natural and human sciences would be far richer in quality and quantity.


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

September 2020
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