Saturday, October 27, 2007

Out-of-the-Box Thinking by Muslim Students at Berkeley

I was discussing the recent Newsweek story about Pakistan with my daughter Michelle who is a sophomore at UC Berkeley and a member of the Muslim Students Association (MSA) on campus. I explained to her my feelings about Newsweek's bias and about some of the reactions by my friends. In response, she told me about what happened at UC Berkeley last week where an anti-Muslim group was having "Islamo-Fascist Week" and how MSA responded to it. Initially, when the MSA members met to discuss how to respond, there were a few angry voices demanding a confrontational approach by disrupting the activities of "Islamo-Fascists Week" organizers. Fortunately, however, the saner elements prevailed and MSA decided to respond by organizing "Peace, Not Prejudice" week on campus. "Peace, Not Prejudice" was joined by 30 other student groups and turned out to be a great success. The "Peace, Not Prejudice" coalition success completely overshadowed the "Islamo-Fascist Week" organizers. Even the UC Berkeley chancellor Robert Birgeneau threw his support behind the MSA sponsored events.

For full story, please visit The Berkeley Daily Planet.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Is Pakistan the Most Dangerous Nation in the World?

The cover of the Oct 29, 2007 issue of Newsweek has a picture of bearded, young, angry Pakistanis with their fists punching the air. The caption says: The Most Dangerous Nation in the World Isn't Iraq. It's Pakistan.

The crux of the argument it offers is captured in a quote from Bruce Riedel, former senior director for South Asia on the US National Security Council. Here's the quote: "If you were to look for where Al Qaeda is going to find its bomb, it's right in their backyard- in Pakistan."

If you are curious to find out more, here's a link to the Newsweek story:

Needless to say that our greatest threats come from within our own Pakistani society, but we also face potential threats of preemptive action from the international community (including our neighbors such as China and India) fearing for their own security.

This Newsweek story, in my view, represents only the tip of the iceberg of growing concern in the West and our own neighborhood about developments in Pakistan. It's in our best interest to pay attention and do our part to stem the rising tide of religious fanaticism as manifested by the scourge of suicide bombings killing large numbers of our fellow Muslim Pakistanis.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Indo-American Elected First Non-white Governor of Louisiana

Recently, I talked about IAC, the Indo-American Council and its inaugural conference attended by many elected officials of Indian-origin across the United States. Well, there is one new significant addition: Bobby Jindal.

Here's a BBC report that caught my attention:
The US state of Louisiana has elected its first non-white governor, Bobby Jindal, since the 1870s.Mr Jindal, 36, also becomes the youngest US governor and the first Indian-American to head a state.The Republican took 54% of the vote to win outright over his nearest rival, Democrat Walter Boasso, who got 18%.

I see it as good news for aspiring second-generation
non-white Americans seeking public service positions as a career option.
Congratulations to Bobby and his family.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Are people of color less intelligent?

The statement last week by Nobel Laureate Geneticist Dr. James Watson regarding Africa as a laggard has slightly re-opened the taboo subject of the link between race and intelligence.
Here's what The Times of London reported: "The scientist, who won the Nobel prize for his part in discovering the structure of DNA, was quoted in an interview in The Sunday Times saying he was “inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa” because “all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours - whereas all the testing says not really.”
When I saw this, my first reaction was: Does Watson have a history of racist thinking? Like another Nobel Laureate and semiconductor pioneer William Shockley? Or he just naively spoke his mind without realizing the consequences? Well, Dr. Watson is no stranger to controversy. He has previously argued that stupidity is a disease that should be cured, and that "it would be great" if women were genetically engineered to be pretty
Nonetheless, I decided to search for "testing" that Dr. Watson refers to. And here's what I found:

Richard Lynn, "Race Differences in Intelligence: An Evolutionary Analysis" 2006 Table 16.2 (indigenous populations) Estimated average IQ
Arctic Peoples 91
East Asians 105
Europeans 100
Native Americans (north & south) 86
Southern Asian & Northern Africans 84
Bushmen (southern Africa) 54
Africans (subsaharan) 67
Native Australians (aboriginals) 62
Southeast Asians 87
Pacific Islanders 85

Apparently, this is a compilation of data from "credible sources" and published in respected journals such as American Journal of Psychology. The neutrality and factual accuracy of these studies and data have been questioned by many researchers and scientists. The most common criticisms are that these studies and tests are developed in the European context and they measure mainly problem-solving capability and skills.
For those who are curious, Pakistanis are included along with Indians in Southern Asia with an average IQ of 84, about 16 points below Europeans and almost 21 points behind East Asians including Chinese, Japanese and Koreans.

On the question of nature versus nurture, here are some data on minorities tested in North America and Europe:

This data indicates that the context and the environment do have an impact on the IQ test results but they do not completely erase the difference. However, the debate continues with lots of questions as to the design, the content and the bias in IQ tests.
What do you think? Please comment.

Related Links:

Mena Pakistan

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

PakAlumni Worldwide has 500 members three weeks after launch

I launched PakAlumni Worldwide just three weeks ago after the successful conclusion of NEDians Convention 2007. PakAlumni Worldwide is a social network to specifically address the needs of Pakistani university alumni and students by providing them with an international online platform to connect, share and collaborate.
A brief visit to with its various discussion forums would quickly show you how it is different from Orkut or Linked-In or Facebook. In addition to sharing culturally-appropriate photos, videos, music and blogging, its discussion forums range from mentoring students and young alums on career choices, higher education abroad to alumni giving and entrepreneurship. The instant popularity can be assessed by the fact that it reached more than 500 members within three weeks without any serious promotion effort. When it reaches its full potential, I expect it to serve tens of thousands, even millions of Pakistanis around the world by bringing them together to connect, share, collaborate and socialize on an international scale.
The Pakistani diaspora is huge, successful and powerful. It can be galvanized to exert a strong, positive influence in shaping Pakistani society for the benefit of all Pakistanis and our friends around the world. I have big dreams for this effort and I remain optimistic that these dream are quite achievable.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Indo-American Council, an Indian lobby in the United States

Last Saturday on October 6, 2007, I was invited to attend the inaugural conference of Indo-American Council (IAC) by my Indian friend, Dr. Hasan Kamil, a Silicon Valley venture investor and a graduate of Aligarh Muslim University, MIT and Berkeley. Dr. Hasan Kamil's wife, Talat, an accomplished entrepreneur in her own right, was a co-chair of the conference along with Vinod Dham who I have known as a highly accomplished individual and as a former colleague at Intel. Kamil ,Vinod and I are also charter members of TIE, the Indus entrepreneurs organization. The event was held at the Indian Cultural Center (ICC), Silicon Valley, CA. The ICC is housed in a very impressive new building with excellent facilities including a large well-equipped auditorium, classrooms, conference rooms, a fitness center, a snack bar with an ample lobby for schmoozing, politicking and deal-making . The agenda, the speakers and the turn-out was even more impressive than the venue. A lot of the work in organizing this event was done by Saima, daughter of Kamil and Talat and a senior at Stanford along with other young, rising Indians.

The first keynote was by Steve Westley, a wealthy former EBay executive and the former controller of California state with ambitions to become governor or senator. It was obvious that he has had close connections with the Indian community during his election campaigns. He talked about the success of the IIT system which has produced a large number of very successful entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley. These IIT alumni have produced a lot of wealth and now ready to turn the financial strength into political clout for the Indo-American community. He described India as sharing the values of embracing diversity and democracy with the United States. In addition to the normal pandering, he advised the audience to follow the example of the Jewish community and their tremendous success in the United States. He compared the ICC to the JCC (Jewish Community Center) in Palo Alto and other parts of the United States. ICCs combined with IAC will serve as a vehicle for the Indian community to get involved in public service and the political process in the same way that JCCs have done by joining forces with AIPAC, the Isareli lobby. Then he went on to elaborate on the political "clout" of AIPAC in the United States and talked about how Indians can take "a leaf from AIPAC's playbook".

The next speaker was Gavin Newsom, the mayor of San Francisco. Newsom also talked about India's embrace of broad religious and ethnic diversity and spoke of Gandhi as one of his heroes. He said" Tolerating diversity is not enough. We must embrace and celebrate it" as is done in San Francisco and preached and practiced by Gandhi.

Then there was a panel discussions including elected officials of Indian origin in various cities and states of the United States. They were quite inspirational in their description of how they succeeded in various parts of the United States including the heartland such as the mid-western
states of Kansas and Missouri where very few Indians or minorities live. I heard interesting anecdotes such as one by Swati Dandekar elected to the Iowa legislature as a Democrat in a heavily Republican district. She went knocking on doors to ask for votes. As she knocked on one of the doors, a man came out and told her he does not vote for women. "Well, my opponent is also a woman." She said in a heavy Indian accent. He responded, "then I'll skip voting." Later on, he had a problem and called Dandekar and asked "Do you remember me." She did and then helped him out by solving his problem and he became a convert. She was re-elected for her seat.

I didn't stay after this session but the roster of speakers in the afternoon was very impressive as well. They had Barak Obama via video link, US Representatives Lofgren and Honda in person.

As the Indians take a leaf from the Jewish playbook, so should we as Pakistani-Americans. So far Pakistanis' focus has been on building only mosques. We should continue building mosques but we need to expand our focus to include building Pakistani-American community centers and participating in the political process as Pakistani-Americans. A modest beginning has been made by the efforts of NEDian Asghar Aboobaker to inaugurate Pakistani-American Cultural Center in Sunnyvale, CA. I think our second generation of Pakistani-Americans need to be inspired to go beyond the work done by the first generation in the public service arena. I signed up and had my daughters Amber and Michelle participate to be inspired by the attendees at this conference.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Alan Greenspan's book tour

Former Federal Reserve Chief Alan Greenspan has been promoting his book "The Age of Turbulence" for the last couple of weeks. Among other things, he is talking about his reasons for supporting the Iraq invasion and his assessment that the Chinese stock market is a bubble waiting to burst. On the question of his support for Iraq invasion, he explains that he was convinced Saddam Husain would block the Strait of Hormuz if not removed from power. I think he's just flat wrong on this reasoning.Other than the US or Europeans, the only power that had the capacity to close the Strait is Iran. The removal of Saddam has, in fact, strengthened Iran significantly and made it more likely that the Strait would be closed in the event of war in the Persian Gulf involving Iran.
On the question of Shanghai bubble, he is more qualified than most but I still think he is wrong. The Chinese economy is very strong and growing rapidly. China is the factory of the world and it is developing a very large consumer class of its own with a pent-up demand not too different from the US consumer demand right after the WW II. So the Chinese markets are backed up a strong and rapidly growing economy to justify high valuation of its stock.