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The Index — May 12, 2009

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Michael Deibert: A Note on Violence at Jawaharlal Nehru University

In early 2007, while reporting on the conflict in India-controlled Kashmir, I sat at a small tea shop in Srinagar discussing the political trajectory of this troubled region with two friends—a Kashmiri attorney named Malik Aijaz Ahmad and a student named Idrees Kanth. I saw in Kashmir, as I have in other countries such as Haiti and Côte d'Ivoire, how the majority of the populace was caught in a vicious war of attrition between opposing sides with very little recourse or protection. Witnessing the situation in Kashmir led me to write my first long-form feature for World Policy Journal, the flagship publication of the New York-based World Policy Institute, where I have recently been named a senior fellow. During my time in India, I also became aware of the country’s complicated religious and ethnic dynamic. On one hand, this saw frequent and repeated episodes of discrimination and violence against the country's Muslim minority, including the murder of some 2,000 people—the vast majority of them Muslims—in a bout of ethnic cleansing in the state of Gujarat in early 2002. On the other hand, representatives of the Muslim community in India could also often behave in ways that reeked of intolerance, such as when members of the Majlis Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM) political party, including Indian lawmakers, attacked the Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasreen as she attempted to speak at a book release event in the city of Hyderabad in 2007. A recent email from Idrees, studying at New Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru University, demonstrates vividly to me that these tensions evident in Indian society as a whole do not shy away from rearing their heads even in a university setting. If communal violence, such as that which India witnessed in Gujarat in 2002, is also allowed to flourish in places of higher learning such as Jawaharlal Nehru University, it is a worrisome sign for a country that this month undertook another exercise in its vast experiment with democracy.

Jonathan Power: Where To Go on Holiday.... Travel Tips from a "Mad Dad"

My eighteen-year-old daughter asked me recently about where she can safely travel when she finishes school in June and starts a three-month holiday before going to university in September. “The Muslim countries or Japan,” I replied. She was quite taken aback. At school her friends talk about the United States, Australia, Thailand, or South America. But I emphatically said, “no, I don't want you to go there,” and then explained why her mother and I felt so strongly. I pulled out the figures from the new 2009 United Nations World Development Report, which compares murder rates from all the countries.  Every country—apart from those in the European Union—measure rape, theft, break-ins, and other crimes in different ways. Some figures are accurate, some seem like they've been drawn out of a hat. But most countries report their murder rate pretty accurately. There may be under-counting  in places with civil strive, as in Sri Lanka, where murder and the killings of war can blur into each other. Yet, even in most difficult cases, like Russia, press reports can help balance the official figures. To cut a long story short, I would gladly let her go to Egypt, which has the world's lowest murder rate—at 0.4 per 100,000 population, although Japan  closely follows at 0.5. Other Muslim, mainly Arab, countries follow next, all with less than 1 murder per 100,000 people: the United Arab Emirates, including Dubai and Oman at 0.6;  Saudi Arabia at 0.9; Bahrain at 1; and Jordan at 0.9. Indonesia, with all its political troubles, has but 1.1 murders per 100,000 citizens. Outside the Arab countries, the Scandinavian countries are the safest. Norway and Denmark come in at 0.8 and Iceland at 1. Sweden breaks the Scandinavian success rate with a poor 2.4, but in Europe, Holland and Ireland score well too. So, daughter: there's the list that I approve—and that your mother has been persuaded to approve. Ironically, for us, many of countries with high murder rates are of a Christian heritage—the United States at 5.6 murders per 100,000; Mexico at 13; Russia at 19.9; South Africa at 47.5; and Colombia at a staggering 62.7. We can put India on the positive side of the ledger: it's a big, very diverse country, and parts of it, like West Bengal and its capital, Calcutta, are very safe despite its rating of 3.7 murders per 100,000 population. You might argue that I've underestimated, bent, or stretched the statistics—everyone knows there have been many killings of tourists in Egypt—because I'm not including terrorist killings. Egypt although, I admit, has real risks. So let's strike that out. (It reminds me of Northern Ireland during the "troubles," when it had the lowest crime rate in Europe but the fighting was pretty horrendous.) Your “mad dad” has been to them all, I know, but journalists are stupid and take too many risks.

FALL FUNDRAISER

 

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