State of the World: January 2015 Update

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January 25, 2015

It seems that since November of 2014, I haven’t been able to catch my breath – between conferences in Italy and China, teaching courses in Geneva and Kabul and research in Qatar, India and Kashmir, I haven’t had time to comment on the goings-on of the world. But I’ve been tracking – and thinking. And I am rarely short on thoughts or opinions – so I thought I’d just do a quick rundown on some of this month’s issues.

China: Control of Information

Global Next just finished its first leadership conference in Beijing, China. One of the first things you notice is that you can’t just hop on Facebook or Google. There are ways, but those ways are becoming fewer. China has begun cracking down more and more on the ability of its citizens or foreigners to have full access to the Internet. This is not new behavior for China – but they are stepping up their game in controlling information. And speaking of freedom of information…

Paris: Terrorism and Free Speech 

On Friday, more groups in Pakistan, Kashmir, Afghanistan, the West Bank and elsewhere continued to gather together to protest the provocative publication, Charlie Hebdo. Earlier this month, terrorists, offended by the content and images of the satirical magazine murdered 12 people in the offices of Charlie Hebdo. After three days of terror in Paris, 17 people had been killed.

God must grieve over humanity as people try to defend His honor by murdering others – others who are also created in God’s image. Yes, they may be flawed, broken people, even offensive people – but aren’t we all?

I interviewed numerous people in India and Kashmir regarding this issue of the Paris terror attacks. Most Muslims I interviewed were quick to avow that Islam was peaceful and that these acts of violence were not compatible with what Islam taught. But not all – some were very vocal in their agreement with the murders. Through some misunderstanding of the Koran, some think they have to defend God, the ruler of the universe. Take a look at this picture – the largest picture ever taken (1.5 billion pixel image) of earth’s nearest galaxy. The God who designed this universe is more than capable of defending His own honor, which is certainly not a fragile honor. That’s why He is worthy of worship.

Free speech can be painful – especially when it mocks something you believe in – something that is at your core. But when it comes to free speech, in order to keep your rights of expressing your faith, your beliefs, your worldview and even non-violent protests,  it means that you’re going to have to deal with others who might use their free speech to offend. But I would prefer to deal with offense than to deal with limitations on my own thoughts and expressions.

Yemen: Descending into Chaos

Yemeni President Hadi resigned on Thursday after the Houthi rebels battled their way into the presidential palace. Yemen is descending into chaos – the very place that President Barack Obama recently mentioned as a “success story” in the Middle East and the War on Terror.

Who backs the Houthis? Of course Iran. I mentioned before that when all the chaos in this part of the world settles down, Iran will emerge as the one nation who benefits and who increases her influence in the region. And yes, Iran will get nuclear weapons – it’s only a matter of time. And speaking of nations that are nervous about Iran…

Saudi Arabia: Death of a King

90-year-old King Abdullah died early on Friday, replaced by his brother, Salman. The power transition comes at a very tense time for Saudi Arabia – with the instability in Yemen, ISIS vying for regional power, plunging oil prices and Iran’s growing regional influence, the state is ripe for social unrest.

You can expect decisions out of Saudi’s capital, Riyadh to be somewhat careful and more calculated. You can also expect the small, modest social reforms from the former king to take a back seat at this time – incoming King Salman may not want to rock the boat with issues regarding women’s rights or other social changes.

Japan: Beheading of Japanese Hostage

As of this writing, there is credible evidence that one of two Japanese civilians held hostage by ISIS (Islamic State) has been beheaded. The second hostage is still being held and ISIS is offering a trade – the Japanese journalist for a female terrorist being held in Jordan.

One of the questions surrounding this event in Japan is how long Japan will decide to remain pacifists as outlined by their constitution. Events involving ISIS as well as tensions with China may lead Japan down a very different road.

Those are just a few of the events that are keeping the globe occupied. All I can say is that 2015 is off to an eventful start. In addition, ISIS hasn’t been deterred, at least 18 died in Egypt’s violence today (the 4th anniversary of their Arab Spring uprising) and I think we can finally admit that Ukraine and Russia are actually at war…

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