Vol. 11    Issue 11   16-31 October 2016
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Professor A. R. MOMIN

Syria’s White Helmets

The horrifying civil war in Syria continues to wreak devastation and ruin across the country. Forces loyal to Bashar al-Assad and those opposed to his rule are engaged in a fierce and deadly battle with each other as well as with the fighters of the so-called Islamic State. The Assad regime, backed by Shia militias from Iraq, Iran and Lebanon as well as Russian forces, is increasingly targeting civilian areas. Russian forces are using more sophisticated and lethal weapons. More than 400,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed since the war erupted in 2011. More than 11 million Syrians have been displaced.  Read more



Professor A. R. MOMIN

Cuba is a Caribbean island nation with a population of 11 million. It was claimed by Christopher Columbus for Spain in 1492 and remained a Spanish colony from the late 15th century until 1898, when it was defeated by the US in the Spanish American War.

Cuba became a US protectorate in 1902. In 1959, revolutionary forces led by Fidel Castro overthrew the government of dictator Fulgencio Batista. Since then Cuba has been ruled by the Communist Party of Cuba.    Read more

World’s Largest Matrilineal Society

In the highlands of West Sumatra, a man is considered a guest in his wife’s home.

By Rathina Sankari

Ruled by women

Indigenous to the highlands of West Sumatra, Indonesia, the Minangkabau ethnic group is the world’s largest matrilineal society.

Legend has it that in the mid-12th Century, King Maharajo Dirajo, who established the Koto Batu kingdom, died, leaving behind three infant sons from his three wives. The first wife, Puti Indo Jalito, took charge of the children and the kingdom, thus sowing the seeds of a matrilineal society. (Credit: Rathina Sankari)  Read more


The Hui: China’s other Muslims

THE faithful are returning from the haj. Waiting for prayers outside the Great Mosque in Tongxin, a remote town in the western province of Ningxia, Li Yuchuan calls his pilgrimage a liberation: “Our prayers are just homework for it.” His 84-year-old friend (pictured, right) leaps up and twists himself with lithe agility into the shape of a pretzel. “We Muslims pray five times a day,” he says. “We are flexible and tough.” China’s Muslims need to be.

China has a richly deserved reputation for religious intolerance. Buddhists in Tibet, Muslims in the far western region of Xinjiang and Christians in Zhejiang province on the coast have all been harassed or arrested and their places of worship vandalised. In Xinjiang the government seems to equate Islam with terrorism. Women there have been ordered not to wear veils on their faces.  Read more

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