Category Archives: Social Progress

Open Society Report – Muslims in Berlin

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Muslims in Berlin
At Home in Europe Project
New York: Open Society Institute, 2010

[Read the report]

The second of 11 city reports to be produced this year by the Open Society Institute At Home in Europe Project, based on research undertaken on the integration of Muslims in cities across Europe.

Muslims in Berlin examines the political, social, and economic participation of Muslim communities living in Berlin, focusing on the district of Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg. The 212-page report examines the experiences of Muslims in a broad range of areas including education, employment, health, housing and social protection, political participation, policing and security, and media.

From the Executive Summary:

  • The inhabitants of Kreuzberg in Berlin perceive their neighbourhood as a place in which the people living there have very diverse sets of values. Yet it is also a place in which people get on well together, work to improve the neighbourhood, and help each other. This important finding runs counter to the dominant belief that shared values are necessary for successful integration.
  • The overwhelming majority of Muslim and non-Muslim respondents said that Kreuzberg is an enjoyable and safe place to live. The study of the district of Kreuzberg highlights the success of an integrated structure and approach by citizens and policymakers to create a socially diverse environment. It is a part of Berlin in which individuals of differing ethnic and religious affiliations are able to successfully live together. The district’s experiences offer lessons to European cities with large minority groups on how to meaningfully adapt and accommodate the needs and concerns of their inhabitants. For a long time, Kreuzberg has perceived its multicultural character as an asset, and has encouraged the participation in public life of all different social groups, including Muslims from various ethnic backgrounds and communities.
  • For many Muslim respondents, Kreuzberg offers not only safety, but also refuge from other parts of the city (as well as the country as a whole), where they often feel alienated and excluded. The attribute that gives their district this safe character is its highly diverse nature. This creates a more welcoming feeling of multiculturalism and belonging than monocultural environments elsewhere. In Kreuzberg, unlike in other districts of Berlin, Muslim organisations have a strong presence within various political bodies. Local-government funding is distributed to Muslim groups, and district authorities and religious associations cooperate on local projects. This is particularly encouraging given the widely perceived stigmatisation and marginalisation of many religious Muslim associations in Germany.
  • Muslim inhabitants of Kreuzberg are not immune from discrimination. Respondents report difficulties in finding housing outside the district, gaining meaningful employment and apprenticeships, and, at times, obtaining culturally sensitive health care. The perception of unequal treatment is by no means restricted to religious affiliation. Muslims often perceive the multicausal experience of exclusion as anti-Muslim. Being labelled a Muslim does not only affect those who identify with Islam and are visible Muslims. It also affects those who may be non-religious and non-Muslim, yet whose skin colour, ethnic background, and perceived origin are viewed as signs of belonging to the Islamic faith.
  • The strategies and policies deployed in Kreuzberg offer an inspiring example that could help transform other cities even as Kreuzberg continues to learn from positive practices initiated elsewhere.

Download the full report, which includes recommendations and a comprehensive bibliography.

Indigenous knowledge of medicinal plants used by Saperas community of Khetawas, Jhajjar District, Haryana, India

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Panghal M, Arya V, Yadav S, et al. Indigenous knowledge of medicinal plants used by Saperas community of Khetawas, Jhajjar District, Haryana, India. J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2010 Jan 28;6:4. PubMed PMID: 20109179 PubMed Central PMCID: PMC2826346 [full text]

Researchers at Maharshi Dayanand University, Rohtak, undertook oral interviews with traditional herbal medicine practitioners of the Nath community in Jhajjar District, Haryana, India.

From the background:

“The indigenous community of snake charmers belongs to the ‘Nath’ community in India have played important role of healers in treating snake bite victims. Snake charmers also sell herbal remedies for common ailments. In the present paper an attempt has been made to document on ethno botanical survey and traditional medicines used by snake charmers of village Khetawas located in district Jhajjar of Haryana, India as the little work has been made in the past to document the knowledge from this community.”

The investigation found the people of the snake charmer community used 57 medicinal plants for the treatment of various diseases.

From the conclusion:

“This community carries a vast knowledge of medicinal plants but as snake charming is banned in India as part of efforts to protect India’s steadily depleting wildlife, this knowledge is also rapidly disappearing in this community. Such type of ethno botanical studies will help in systematic documentation of ethno botanical knowledge and availing to the scientific world plant therapies used as antivenin by the Saperas community.

Read the full article.

The information on my blog is not intended as a substitute for medical professional help or advice but is to be used only as an aid in understanding current medical knowledge. A physician should always be consulted for any health problem or medical condition.

Ethnomedical survey of plants used by the Orang Asli in Kampung Bawong, Perak, West Malaysia

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Samuel AJ, Kalusalingam A, Chellappan DK, et al. Ethnomedical survey of plants used by the Orang Asli in Kampung Bawong, Perak, West Malaysia. J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2010 Feb 7;6:5. PubMed PMID: 20137098; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC2843656. [full text]

Investigators at Masterskill University College of Health Sciences in Malaysia carried out a qualitative ethnomedical survey among a local Orang Asli tribe to gather information on the use of medicinal plants in the region of Kampung Bawong, Perak of West Malaysia to evaluate the potential medicinal uses of local plants used in curing different diseases and illnesses.

Their survey revealed 62 medicinal plant species that grow in the wild naturally and have medicinal properties that are crucial in traditional medicine of the Orang Asli.

From the conclusions:

“…The local government and village authorities need to act fast to conserve the ethnomedical knowledge of Orang Asli in the village Kampung Bawong, and the medicinal plants require preservation in addition to the ethnobotanical and ethnomedical knowledge recording. The preservation of these herbs along with the traditional knowledge of how to use them is an indispensable obligation for sustaining traditional medicine as a medicinal and cultural resource. Thus a future extensive research of these plants in this locality is recommended to identify and assess their ethnomedical claim.”

The information on my blog is not intended as a substitute for medical professional help or advice but is to be used only as an aid in understanding current medical knowledge. A physician should always be consulted for any health problem or medical condition.

Ethnozoology of the Garasiya, State of Rajasthan, India

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Jaroli DP, Mahawar MM, Vyas N. An ethnozoological study in the adjoining areas of Mount Abu wildlife sanctuary, India. J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2010 Feb 10;6:6. PubMed PMID: 20144243; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC2836285. [free full text]

Zoologists at the University of Rajasthan and Govt. P.G. College did a study of the use of animal products among the Garasiya people of Rajasthan, a large, geographically diverse state in northern India. The team focused on areas around the Mount Abu wildlife sanctuary in the Aravalli Range, one of the world’s oldest mountain ranges.

The team documented a total of 24 animal species used for medicinal and religious purposes, including five species considered endangered, vulnerable, or near threatened. From their conclusion:

“Our study also shows that the Garasiya people have very rich folklore and traditional knowledge in the utilization of different animal[s]. So there is an urgent need to properly document to keep a record of the ethnomedicinal data of animal products and their medicinal uses. Further studies are required for scientific validation to confirm medicinal value of such products and to include this knowledge in strategies of conservation and management of animal resources. We hope that this information will be helpful in further research in the field[s] of ethnozoology, ethnopharmacology and biodiversity conservation…”

The article includes a comprehensive background section, outlining the history of zootherapy in India and documented in works like Ayurveda and charaka Samhita.

Important note: The information on my blog is not intended as a substitute for medical professional help or advice but is to be used only as an aid in understanding current medical knowledge. A physician should always be consulted for any health problem or medical condition.

Medicinal plants in Babungo, Northwest Region, Cameroon

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Simbo DJ. An ethnobotanical survey of medicinal plants in Babungo, Northwest Region, Cameroon. J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2010 Feb 15;6:8. PubMed PMID: 20156356; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC2843657. [free full text]

An investigator at University of Antwerp Groenenborgerlaan reports on a survey that identified and recorded 107 plants species from 54 plant families, 98 genera used for treating diseases in Babungo.

From the conclusion:

“The survey shows that a large number of medicinal plants are used in Babungo for treating different ailments. The knowledge of the use of plants to treat diseases has been with the people for generations but has not been recorded. This knowledge remains mostly with the traditional medical practitioners who are mostly old people. Most of the medicinal plants are sourced from the wild. In addition to their medicinal uses, some of these plants have other uses. The local population should be educated on sustainable methods of harvesting plants to treat diseases today without compromising their availability for future use. The youth should also be encouraged to learn
the traditional medicinal knowledge to preserve it from being lost with the older generation.”

Important note: The information on my blog is not intended as a substitute for medical professional help or advice but is to be used only as an aid in understanding current medical knowledge. A physician should always be consulted for any health problem or medical condition.

Herbal Mixtures in Traditional Medicine in Northern Peru

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Bussmann RW, Glenn A, Meyer K, et al. Herbal mixtures in traditional medicine in Northern Peru. J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2010 Mar 14;6:10. PubMed PMID: 20226092; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC2848642 [free full text]

Researchers at the Missouri Botanical Garden undertook a study of plant mixtures used in traditional medicine in Northern Peru, yielding nearly a thousand herbal preparations used to treat more than a hundred different afflictions.

From the conclusion:

“Our research indicates that a large number of plants used in traditional healing in Northern Peru are
employed in often sophisticated mixtures, rather than as individual plants. Peruvian curanderos appear to employ very specific guidelines in the preparation of these cocktails, and seem to have a clear understanding of disease concepts when they diagnose a patient, which in turn leads them to often apply specific mixtures for specific conditions. There seems to be a widespread exchange of knowledge about mixtures for treatment of bodily diseases, while mixtures for spiritual, nervous system and psychosomatic disorders appear to be more closely guarded by the individual healers.”

Important note: The information on my blog is not intended as a substitute for medical professional help or advice but is to be used only as an aid in understanding current medical knowledge. A physician should always be consulted for any health problem or medical condition.

Snakebit in Brazil – A Village’s Beliefs and Practices about “Offensive Snakes”

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Fita DS, Costa Neto EM, Schiavetti A. ‘Offensive’ snakes: cultural beliefs and practices related to snakebites in a Brazilian rural settlement. J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2010 Mar 26;6:13. PubMed PMID: 20346120; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC2853519 [free full text]

Investigators at Universidade Estadual de Feira de Santana undertook fieldwork in a Brazilian rural settlement in 2006, totaling 53 days of living in the village and a followup stay of 15 days in 2007. They recorded a total of 23 types of ‘snakes’, based on their local names. Four of them, belonging to the family Viperidae were considered the most dangerous to humans, and causing more aversion and fear in the population.

From the conclusion:

“Ethnozoological information on the injuries caused by snakes and other potentially dangerous animals must be available to the community as didactic-scientific texts, written in a clear language and accompanied by illustrations. It is understood that the ethnozoological knowledge, customs and popular practices of the Serra da Jibóia inhabitants result in a valuable cultural resource which should be considered in every discussion regarding public health, sanitation and practices of traditional medicine, as well as in faunistic studies and conservation strategies for local biological diversity.”

Important note: The information on my blog is not intended as a substitute for medical professional help or advice but is to be used only as an aid in understanding current medical knowledge. A physician should always be consulted for any health problem or medical condition.

A Second Green Revolution – One Man, One Cow, One Planet

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Across India, farmers are rejecting chemical agriculture and turning to sustainable organic practices.

On one side, an American multinational, Monsanto, which sells genetically modified seeds and chemical fertilizers and pesticides. On the other, Indian farmers and an ally from New Zealand, who work together to grow crops independently.

By all means, question the science behind biodynamic farming. But look at the results. And apply the same skepticism to the science behind Monsanto’s selling of chemical agriculture and genetically modified crops.

Start here:

Film website

Shah Jo Raag Fakirs Freed from Homeland Security

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I was privileged to hear Shah Jo Raag Fakirs last night at Asia Society, but not after they spent several hours in custody at JKF. Ridiculous, since Pakistani Sufis are fighting the good fight for the soul of Islam (and for all of us), and are suffering for it. Fortunately Homeland Security listened to reason, in the form of a phone call from Rachel Cooper, director of Cultural Programs and Performing Arts.

From the program:

“Shah Jo Raag belongs to the family of musicians who sing at the shrine of Shah Lateef in Bhit Shah in the traditional manner that was created by the Shah himself about four hundred years ago. Shah Jo Raag is a direct descendant of Shah Jamal who was very close to Shah Lateef and his family has been the keeper of tradition. Every Thursday the session of singing begins after the esha (night) prayers and lasts the entire night. During the annual Urs celebration the singing goes on nonstop for the three days of the event. The Wai singers dress themselves in black and chant, strumming the dhamboor, the instrument created by Shah himself, and sing “Wai” the kalaam of the Shah by turns. Shah Jo Raag has been singing at the shrine for the last thirty years. His group has won awards in Paris, the Lateef Award and Rafi Peer Award in Pakistan.”

Even this brief encounter was unforgettable. Gratitude to the trio, who must have been exhausted after their journey and incarceration. Also to Asia Society and William Dalrymple, the author of Nine Lives – In Search of the Sacred in Modern South Asia.

Films I Want to See in New York – 8 – Winter’s Bone

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Watch This Film

Winter’s Bone
Debra Granik, USA
2010, 100 min

Cast: Jennifer Lawrence (Ree), John Hawkes (Teardrop), Kevin Breznahan (Little Arthur), Dale Dickey (Merab), Garret Dillahunt (Sheriff Baskin), Sheryl Lee (April), Lauren Sweetser (Gail), Tate Taylor (Satterfield)

Opening June 11, Angelika and Lincoln Plaza.

“It ain’t much, but it’s all we have.”

Winner of two independent juries’ prizes at this year’s Berlinale, Winter’s Bone is the unflinching telling of a Ozark Mountain girl’s desperate quest to keep her family intact by finding a father who vanished after posting their home as bond.

Ree Dolly (Jennifer Lawrence), the sole support of her younger brother and sister and mentally ill mother, is a classic film heroine who when up against impossible odds won’t take no for an answer. Dead or alive, she must find her meth-cooking father, defying a near-cultic criminal syndicate that manufactures, supplies, and supports crank culture in the Ozarks.

Based on a novel by David Woodrell and set on location in Christian and Taney counties in southwest Missouri, Winter’s Bone uses experienced actors in the lead roles and local actors and residents for most of the secondary parts. Dale Dickey is electric in the role of Merab, wife and gatekeeper to the local crime lord. John Hawkes shows unexpected tenderness and loyalty as Ree’s fearsome, addicted uncle. And Jennifer Lawrence inhabits the lead role with hardscrabble grit and enduring vulnerability as she tries to see her brother and sister through their own childhoods.

After several scouting trips to the area, and with help from local guides to one of the North America’s more exotic and dangerous locations, cinematographer Michael McDonough and production crew manage to skirt hillbilly cliche in settings of meth labs, run-down farms, and honky tonks.

In one expert nighttime composition, Ree waits in her uncle’s truck while he engages the opposition with some calculated violence, an American flag darkly reflected in windshield.

Update: US Distributor – Roadside Attractions (2010)