The cost of unbelief – The Economist

Interesting:

ACROSS the world, people who reject all religious belief or profess secular humanism are facing ever worse discrimination and persecution, but the existence and legitimacy of such ideas is becoming more widely known and accepted. That is the rather subtle conclusion of the latest report by the International Humanist and Ethical Union, an umbrella body for secularist groups in 40 countries, which in 2012 began making annual surveys of how freedom of thought and conscience are faring worldwide.

In common with lots of other reports on the subject, it noted that many countries still prescribe draconian penalties for religious dissent, through laws that bar blasphemy against the prevailing religions or “apostasy” from Islam. Some 19 countries punish their citizens for apostasy, and in 12 of those countries it is punishable by death. In Pakistan, the death sentence can be imposed for blasphemy, for which the threshold is very low. In all, 55 countries (including several Western ones) had laws against blasphemy; the perceived offence could lead to prison terms in 39 countries and execution in six.

Aside from all that ghastliness, the report detected a new trend, a “marked increase” in the specific targeting of atheists and humanists, which was a kind of back-handed acknowledgement of the reality that such beliefs existed and were spreading. Saudi Arabia had enacted a new law equating atheism with terrorism. In Malaysia, Prime Minister Najib Razak had branded “humanism and secularism as well as liberalism” as deviant. And in Egypt, the youth ministry had launched an organised campaign against non-belief among the young, designed to spread awareness of the “dangers of atheism” and the “threat to society” that it posed. Dreadful as it was, this trend could be a negative side-effect of a “different, positive, parallel trend”—the fact that atheism and humanism were being recognised as cohesive world-views.

I asked one of the best-known professed atheists to have emerged from the Muslim world, the exiled Egyptian blogger Mikael Nabil Sanad, what he thought of the report’s conclusions. And Mr Nabil, who was not involved in the report, offered a very similar point about his native country. On the one hand, despite the overthrow last year of an Islamist regime, repression of all minorities, including atheists, is as bad as ever. But, he says, acceptance by society of atheism as a tenable position is growing. Mr Nabil, who recently moved to Washington, DC, told me that in 2008, when he renounced his Coptic Christian background and declared himself an atheist, “it was completely shocking to society”. Now, he says, “society accepts it” as a possibility. For example, there have been television debates between Christians, Muslims and atheists. Last year, a group of Egyptian atheists made some proposals to a committee that was reviewing the constitution; the very fact that such proposals could be aired and reported marked progress in a country where officialdom generally assumed that everybody was Muslim, Christian or Jewish.

Having spent much of 2011 in prison, where he was tortured and went on hunger strike, and then studied for two years in Germany, Mr Nabil says it is unsafe for him to return to Egypt because blasphemy charges have been laid against him. He now hoped to write a book about his experiences and campaign for change in his homeland, where despite the authorities’ best efforts, social media and private communications were still buzzing with discordant and dissident opinions, including atheist ones. There is a broader point there. The fact that dissident religious and anti-religious ideas are being persecuted ever more severely does not mean that the persecutors will prevail.

The never-ending argument over what is “real Islam”

Good piece and advice from The Economist:

IN THE commentariat, the world of higher learning (religious and otherwise) and the corridors of political power, the long-running, hot-tempered debate about the real nature of Islam shows no sign of reaching a conclusion. The temperature rises every time some ghastly act of violence is perpetrated by people who say they are inspired by their Muslim beliefs. Broadly it pits those who think that killers who practise violence in Islam’s name are traducing the faith and perhaps mis-stating their own motives, up against those who insist that Islam’s core beliefs (and not just some idosyncratic version of them) can easily prompt people to take up the sword.

Sam Harris, an atheist public intellectual, is among the best-known advocates of the second view. Despite the change of guard at the White House, and the apparent conversion of Donald Trump to a slightly more emollient view of Islam, Mr Harris is still pouring scorn on Barack Obama for insisting that Islam was at heart a religion of peace. Another person whose views Mr Harris excoriates is Tariq Ramadan, a Muslim thinker who combines leftist political ideas with fairly traditional religious ones. Mr Ramadan incurs the American writer’s contempt when he argues that political, economic or geopolitical grievance, rather than any Muslim beliefs, motivate the terrorist group known as Islamic State (IS).

In a new twist of the argument, Mr Harris has published a podcast, lasting nearly two hours, in which he discusses these matters with Graeme Wood, an author and reporter who has travelled the world interviewing prominent members or supporters of IS and probing their motives and intentions. Both broadly agree that some widely held Muslim beliefs, especially those connected with the world’s end times and the battles portending that era, are important drivers of violent behaviour. But this emphasis has been dismissed as “deeply wrong” by Phil Torres, author of a book entitled “The End: What Science and Religion Tell Us About the Apocalypse”. His book argues that apocalyptic ideas could easily become self-fulfilling. But he also observes that bloodshed (and other dramatic events) in the here-and-now are the real reasons why people suddenly start to think about the final acts in history.

All participants in this discussion merit a hearing. Mr Harris and Mr Wood do a decent job of demolishing some of the more simplistic arguments used to support the views they dislike. For example, the point is often made that many of the people who become jihadis, whether they are converts or Muslim by birth, lack theological sophistication. Indeed, at least one was found to be studying a book with the self-explanatory title, “Islam for dummies”. So, the argument goes, being extremely Muslim and being extremely violent do not seem to go together.

The point about non-sophistication may be true as far it goes, but as both Mr Harris and Mr Wood agree, a person can be very passionate about a belief system without fully understanding its details. And there is no guarantee that even if those details were fully mastered, they would prompt the learner to behave in more peaceful ways. To put it bluntly, jihadis may indeed be theologically ignorant, but that does not prove that a sound theological education would make them more peaceful. (That said, there may be plenty of other reasons for encouraging nuanced theological awareness.)

Mr Wood’s research has reinforced his view that IS is much more apocalyptic in its mentality than earlier jihadi movements such as al-Qaeda. IS propagandists take seriously the notion that Dabiq, a location in northern Syria, will witness a titanic battle between Islamic forces and those of “Rome”—which might mean anything from NATO to the Christian world to the constitutionally secular republic of Turkey. Also widespread is the expectation that an Antichrist figure known as Dajjal will emerge (possibly from an island in the Red Sea) and kill Muslim fighters until Jesus returns to earth and leads the faithful to victory. (Jesus is the second-most-revered prophet in Islam after Muhammad.)

Mr Torres agrees that these beliefs are widely held and significant, but also asks why this is now the case. It was the 2003 assault by America and Britain on Saddam Hussein’s Iraq which turned many Sunni Muslims to end-time thinking, he notes: “prior to the US invasion, Sunni Muslims were uninterested in apocalypticism.” He points out that apocalyptic thinking is most widespread in the two countries where American-led armies have entered in force, Iraq and Afghanistan. As Mr Torres sees things, apocalyptic obsessions can be both a result and a cause of real-world violence.

So how can the “true nature” of Islam, or any other religion, be determined? It might be helpful to divide statements about this into two categories. First, there are value judgments, usually made from inside the boundaries of one’s belief system. This includes statements from religious authority figures such as: “Having studied and reflected on the matter, I believe the real message of our religion’s founder(s) is…” Such messages can have moral force even if they run completely counter to the way in which most followers of a religion have, in practice, acted.

In the second basket are historical or sociological statements, which can be made by any fair-minded observer. These are on the long lines of: “Whatever the prophets and scriptures of this religion may teach, it’s an observable fact that hundreds of millions of followers of this faith behave in certain ways, and that they root this stance in their religious world view.” You might call it a behaviourist approach. In the case of modern Islam, one would have to concede that a not-insignificant number of Muslims are, in some cases, prepared to condone religious violence. But they are far outnumbered by the hundreds of millions of Muslims who live peaceful, law-abiding lives and hope that others will do the same. These are statements which can be debated, investigated, affirmed or falsified in a way that religious statements cannot.

For figures of secular authority, be they American presidents, counter-terrorism officials or even opinion-makers, it is often best to stick to the second kind of statement. The “real” nature of a religion, if such a concept has any meaning at all, is hard for an outsider to determine, and certainly well beyond the remit of a more-or-less secular state.

Source: The never-ending argument over what is “real Islam”

What is the difference between nationality and citizenship? The Economist

Useful clarification of the nuance although less applicable in the Canadian context compared to the UK and USA (where we do not have distinct categories of citizenship – with the major difference being voting rights for non-residents):

IN OCTOBER, when Theresa May’s political future still looked bright, the British prime minister chastised her opponents: “If you believe you’re a citizen of the world, you’re a citizen of nowhere. You don’t understand what the very word ‘citizenship’ means.” In their defence, the concept of citizenship is complex, especially when compared with the similarly complicated idea of nationality. What is the difference between the two?

In general, to be a national is to be a member of a state. Nationality is acquired by birth or adoption, marriage, or descent (the specifics vary from country to country). Having a nationality is crucial for receiving full recognition under international law. Indeed, Article 15 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights declares that “Everyone has the right to a nationality” and “No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality” but is silent on citizenship. Citizenship is a narrower concept: it is a specific legal relationship between a state and a person. It gives that person certain rights and responsibilities. It does not have to accompany nationality. In some Latin American countries, for example, such as Mexico, a person acquires nationality at birth but receives citizenship only upon turning 18: Mexican children, therefore, are nationals but not citizens.

Similarly, not all American nationals are also American citizens. People born in the “outlying possessions of the United States” can get an American passport and live and work in the United States, but cannot vote or hold elected office. In the past, these “outlying possessions” included Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, but in the 20th century Congress gradually extended citizenship to their inhabitants. Today, only American Samoa and Swains Island stand apart: the latter is a tiny atoll in the Pacific ocean, barely more than five meters above sea level, which, in 2010, had a population of just 17.

In Britain, thanks to the legacy of colonialism, the situation is even more complicated. There are six types of British nationality: British citizens, British subjects, British overseas citizens, British overseas territories citizens, British overseas nationals, or British protected persons. Sometimes it is possible to switch categories: for instance, before the British handed Hong Kong over to the Chinese on 1st July 1997, some British overseas territories citizens registered as British overseas nationals. These overseas nationals hold British passports and can receive protection from British diplomats, but they do not have the automatic right to live or work in Britain. So in Britain, there are several types of citizenship and some nationals who are not citizens at all. The targets of Mrs May’s ire are likely to have good company in not fully grasping the meaning of the word “citizenship”.

Source: What is the difference between nationality and citizenship?

Telling friend from foe: The Trump team is dogmatic on Islam, but Russia is more pragmatic | The Economist

Interesting Trump/Putin contrast – telling:

WITH every passing day, there seems to be fresh news about the Islamophobic sentiments harboured by people close to Donald Trump. It’s not so much that anything fresh is being said now. Rather, the ideological backgrounds of some senior individuals close to America’s new president are being studied ever more closely as they settle into power.

And at the heart of their declared ideology, it seems, is an essentialist view of Islam: in other words, a view that the religion itself, as opposed to some nasty misinterpretation, can push people to violence and is therefore to be treated as dangerous.

As one obvious example, Stephen Bannon, Mr Trump’s chief strategist, has spoken with utter contempt of the two previous occupants of the White House because of their optimistic insistence that Islam, in its heart, is a peaceful faith.

You would expect the former boss of Breitbart, a far-right news service, to be scornful of Barack Obama’s ideas about the Muslim faith. But as people are now recalling, Mr Bannon was equally dismissive of George W. Bush, who a few days after the 9/11 attacks insisted that Islam was “a religion of peace.” Such naivete, in Mr Bannon’s acerbic opinion, was to be expected from a “country-club” politician whose faint-hearted view of the world was little better than the Clintons’. In truth, Islam was a religion of submission and therefore it could not be a force for peace, he insisted.

One of Mr Bannon’s lieutenants, a former Breitbart writer who now has a job at the White House, takes a similarly Manichean view. That is Hungarian-born Sebastian Gorka, who will report to Mr Bannon as a member of his Strategic Initiatives Group. An ex-soldier and military lecturer, he was quoted by the Washington Post as saying he “completely jettisoned” the idea that the causes of terrorism were complex: on the contrary, what mainly inspired anti-American terror was the martial messages delivered in certain parts of the Koran.

To see a third strain of Islamoscepticism, take Ben Carson, an ex-presidential candidate and Mr Trump’s nominee for the job of housing secretary. A fundamentalist Christian with an apocalyptic streak, the retired neurosurgeon has espoused the view that Islam is not really a religion at all but rather a “life-organisation system”. It follows, he thinks, that no adherent of that faith should ever be president.

Whatever the intellectual merits of these arguments, one striking comparison immediately occurs. Although some of his Western admirers might be surprised to hear this, it is virtually unimaginable that Vladimir Putin or any of his well-disciplined team would allow themselves to make such a generalised critique of Islam or any other global faith.

If anything Mr Putin grows more insistent over time in following and even outdoing the Bush-Obama school: respectful of Islam as a religion, determined to give his own Muslim citizens a decent existence as long as they obey him, and open to geopolitical co-operation with Islamic countries. And in the regions of Russia where Islam prevails, loyalty to Mr Putin sits comfortably with an increasingly conservative religious culture.

In a news conference last December, Mr Putin firmly told a questioner he did not like to hear Islam “wrongly linked to terrorism”. Earlier last year, the president said that “in Russia, Islam will always find a reliable ally, prepared to cooperate in solving world problems.” Opening a mosque in Moscow in 2015, he excoriated the Islamic State terror group for “discrediting a great world religion”.

Does this mean that he or other powerful figures in Moscow have pored over the Koran and come to conclusions which are different from those of Mr Trump’s zealous advisers? Of course not. It simply means that the Russian state, like any confident geopolitical player in a diverse and volatile world, wants to keep its options open. To commit yourself unconditionally to supporting one global religion against another is an act of irrational self-limitation. Such a one-track approach would be, to use a favourite Russian word, netselesobrazno (“inexpedient”).

The same sort of flexibility (call it ruthless pragmatism if you like) characterised 19th-century Britain and France when they battled to support the Muslim Turks against Christian Russia. A similar approach was taken by American cold-war strategists who forged deep alliances with Muslim powers such as Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Indonesia.

By contrast, some of Mr Trump’s people talk as though they really do put religious or cultural differences above all else in the way they analyse the world and plan America’s course. Mr Bannon, for example, thinks present generations should be inspired by the example of their forefathers and their “long history of the Judeo-Christian West [and its] struggle against Islam.” But the truth is that those forefathers were often more utilitarian in their choice of friends and foes than we might imagine.

In contrast with America’s new masters, Mr Putin’s Russia is closer in mentality to Lord Palmerston, the British statesman who said in 1848 that in matters of diplomacy, “we have no eternal allies and…no perpetual enemies, [only] our interests are eternal.” Whatever their own affiliation, single-minded strategists usually apply the same principle to religious diplomacy too.

How to teach citizenship in schools | The Economist

Good discussion of what citizenship or civics education should entail:

IN 2012 David Souter, a retired justice of the Supreme Court, argued that the greatest threat to American democracy was neither a foreign invasion nor a military coup, but ignorance about how government functions. “An ignorant people can never remain a free people,” he said, referring to Thomas Jefferson, “and democracy cannot survive too much ignorance”. People become willing to hand power to a strongman who promises to solve all their problems. “That is how the Roman Republic fell…That is the way democracy dies, and if something is not done to improve the level of civic knowledge, that is what you should worry about.”

He was on to something. The World Values Survey, a global study by social scientists from over 100 countries, found that far fewer millennials object to autocracy than their elders. Only 19% of millennials in America and 36% in Europe say that if the government were incompetent or failing to do its job, a military takeover would still not be legitimate. Just a third see civil rights as “absolutely essential” to democracy. In America, more than a quarter dismiss the importance of free elections. In 1995 only 16% of American youngsters thought democracy was a “bad” system; by 2011, that number had risen to almost 25%.

One reason may be that long-standing democracies have forgotten the need for eternal vigilance. Worried about unemployment and global competition, governments and schools have focused on preparing young people for work, rather than to participate in democracy. Citizenship education, said Michael Gove, Britain’s education secretary from 2010 to 2014, was a “pseudo-subject”. In America, schools no longer bother testing it. When the subject survives, it is often recast narrowly, says Bryony Hoskins of Roehampton University, as a way to counter radicalisation or promote national values to recent immigrants.

In Britain, a positively regarded curriculum introduced by the Labour party in 2002 has been largely dismantled. There is much talk of “educating for character”, with the aim of developing “grit” and “resilience”. But it is narrow and instrumental, says Ben Kisby of the University of Lincoln, reflecting the government’s focus on pupils as future workers and consumers, rather than as voters. In Poland, a recent revision to the syllabus has thrown out all discussion of how the European Union functions; the focus is on Polish identity formation. “‘Nation’ is more important than ‘society’; ‘Pole’ is more powerful than ‘citizen’,” says Alicja Pacewicz of the Centre for Citizenship Education in Warsaw.

In America civic-education classes no longer cover what life is like in non-democracies. Schools used to educate their charges about life in the Soviet Union, points out Richard Kahlenberg of The Century Foundation, a think-tank, making the case for democracy by comparison. But when the cold war ended, that stopped. He thinks declining support for democratic values is a partial consequence. “It’s easy to be sceptical [about the value of democracy] when you don’t know anything different,” he says. Without context to help them appreciate the benefits and safeguards afforded by democracy, young people may be vulnerable to emotional appeals to nationalism and fiery rhetoric about seizing power from “elites”.

Laboratories for democracy
The best civic-education classes do more than impart knowledge about how government works. They create environments in which pupils get used to the tools of democracy, such as debating controversial issues and disagreeing respectfully. Parents may worry that schools are indoctrinating their children, and teachers can be wary of treading on thorny ground. But schools are more ideologically diverse than many other environments, making them ideal testing-grounds for such skills.

It is important to avoid crude propagandising, says Peter Levine of the Centre for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement at Tufts University. Pupils’ criticisms of their country’s politics and governance may be perfectly legitimate. Members of some minorities may be justified in distrusting arms of the state, such as the police; cheerleading in the classroom may alienate them further. Best to combine realism with discussions of practical steps pupils can take to bring about change, says Mr Levine. Rather than simply teaching about Martin Luther King Jr and the Voting Rights Act, for example, use the story to emphasise that social movements are driven by ordinary people, who can make a difference.

Schools in Nordic countries seek to ensure democratic values are developed right across the curriculum, and from the very start. Even the youngest children take part in age-appropriate decision-making: choosing the name of their group, for example, or what they will eat. Older pupils are expected to help develop school policy. They learn to make a case and cope with being outvoted—and that every choice, even that to abstain, has consequences.

Research suggests that these programmes work: pupils who have become used to discussing current affairs are much more likely to be politically engaged and involved in their communities, and to vote when they are old enough. Civic-education programmes also increase the likelihood that pupils will have more accepting attitudes towards people of different backgrounds. In Norway, where 95% of 14-year-olds participate in school elections, more than in any other country, nearly the same share participate in multicultural activities outside school.

A new programme, “Learning Democracy at Utøya”, has turned the Norwegian island where 69 people were killed by a far-right terrorist in 2011 into an education centre. Over three days pupils learn about the attack, as well as challenges to democratic values and how to respond to them. Much of the programme is interactive, prompting students to reflect on their values and argue their position. They then develop lessons to share with their peers back at school. Participants say it is an emotional experience: most of the victims were teenagers. In the words of Marianne Støle-Nilsen, a teacher in Bergen who took four of her pupils to the island, it is a place “where you don’t have to explain why teaching democracy and continuing to fight for it is important”.

Source: How to teach citizenship in schools | The Economist

Poor countries need to allow more immigration, too | The Economist

Good commentary on the self-defeating immigration policies in some developing countries:

All political leaders, even dictators, must take some note of how their people feel, and the citizens of poor and middle-income countries are often no better disposed to immigrants than are voters in the rich world. Besides, a government that threatens to shut its refugee camps or uproot millions of migrant workers from their homes might be able to extort some money out of Western donors. But the treatment meted out to immigrants in developing countries is nonetheless dismal—futile, illiberal and economically ruinous.

Even in rich countries, where most workers have formal jobs and are known to the authorities, illegal immigrants are hard to catch. In poorer countries, where the state is weak and almost everybody works informally, it is close to impossible. National boundaries tend to be porous. At about 4,100km (2,500 miles), the border between Bangladesh and India is longer than the border between Mexico and the United States. It is so thinly policed that cattle can be trafficked across it.

Like migrants everywhere, the people who cross into developing countries are nearly always trying to better themselves and their families. Unlike the migrants who make it to the West and the Gulf states, they are frequently very poor indeed. When America and Europe tighten their borders, middle-class Indians and Nigerians lose out; when India and Nigeria crack down, some of the world’s most desperate people suffer.

A populist boomerang

The astounding success of the south Asians who were booted out of Kenya and Uganda in the 1970s and ended up in Britain suggests that Africa would have done well to keep them. Migrants bring dynamism and fresh ideas to poor and middle-income countries as well as rich ones; the lump-of-labour fallacy is just as fallacious in the developing world. Sometimes governments realise this and pull back. In 2014 South Sudan unveiled a mad plan to force companies to sack their foreign workers within a month. It backtracked when firms and charities pointed out that they could not function without Kenyans and other immigrants. South Sudan is not exactly overflowing with skilled graduates who can keep the lights on.

It would be far better for the immigrants and for the countries where they fetch up if governments widened the legal routes for settlement. At present some of the world’s least appealing places have the toughest visa requirements and expect economic migrants to jump through the tiniest hoops. You would think their streets were paved with gold.

Source: Poor countries need to allow more immigration, too | The Economist

Protest and lose your passport: To silence dissidents, Gulf states are revoking their citizenship | The Economist

Western states that revoke citizenship are not in a position to criticize:

SINCE the small Gulf states became independent from Britain in the latter half of the 20th century, their ruling families have sought fresh methods for keeping their subjects in check. They might close a newspaper, confiscate passports, or lock up the most troublesome. Now, increasingly, they are stripping dissidents—and their families—of citizenship, leaving many of them stateless.

Bahrain is an energetic stripper. Its Sunni royals have dangled the threat of statelessness over its Shia majority to suppress an uprising launched in 2011, during the Arab spring. In 2014 it stripped 21 people of their nationality. A year later the number was up tenfold. “Gulf rulers have turned people from citizens into subservient subjects,” says Abdulhadi Khalaf, a former Bahraini parliamentarian whose citizenship was revoked in 2012 and now lives safely in Sweden. “Our passports are not a birthright. They are part of the ruler’s prerogative.”

Neighbouring states are following suit. Kuwait’s ruling Al-Sabah family have deprived 120 of their people of their nationality in the past two years, says Nawaf al-Hendal, who runs Kuwait Watch, a local monitor. Whereas, in Bahrain, most of those targeted are Shia, Kuwait’s unwanted are largely Sunni. Ahmed al-Shammari, a newspaper publisher, lost his citizenship in 2014.

In 2015 a Saudi jihadist blew himself during Friday prayers in Kuwait, killing 27 Shias. A crackdown followed, targetting the many Saudi Salafists suspected of obtaining Kuwaiti nationality in the chaos that followed the ejection of Iraqi forces from Kuwait in 1991. “We’re looking for frauds,” says General Mazen al-Jarrah, a member of the ruling Al-Sabah family responsible for the emirate’s Citizenship and Residency Affairs.

The socially more liberal United Arab Emirates does it, too. Fearful of unrest orchestrated by the Muslim Brotherhood, the UAE has revoked the citizenship of some 200 of its people since 2011, says Ahmed Mansoor, a human-rights activist now under a travel ban.

The most enthusiastic stripper of all is Qatar. It revoked the citizenship of an entire clan—the Ghafrans—after ten clan leaders were accused of plotting a coup together with Saudi Arabia in 1996. Over 5,000 Ghafrans have lost their nationality since 2004. Many have since won a reprieve, but thousands remain in limbo, says Misfer al-Marri, a Ghafran who is now exiled in Scotland.

The consequences can be severe. Summoned to hand over their ID cards and driving licences, individuals lose not just the perks that come with citizenship of an oil-rich state, such as cushy jobs, but the ability to own a house, a car, a phone or a bank account. Those abroad are barred from returning. Those inside the country cannot leave. The stateless cannot register the birth of a child or legally get married. They might find a sponsor and apply for residents’ permits as foreigners, but if refused they are liable to be arrested for overstaying. “It’s a legal execution,” says one Bahraini, who still has his citizenship. “They’re left without rights.”

Rulers say they are waging war on terror. Among the 72 who lost their Bahraini citizenship in January 2015 were 22 alleged members of Islamic State. But by blurring the boundary between peaceful and violent dissidents, the authorities risk turning the former into the latter. Laws which once permitted the removal of citizenship only for treason (or if people acquired a second nationality) are now much broader. Defaming a brotherly country can cost you your passport in Bahrain. There too the penalty applies to “anyone whose acts contravene his duty of loyalty to the kingdom” or who travels abroad for five years or more without the interior ministry’s consent. Victims include academics, lawyers, former MPs, their wives and young children.

Westerners are in no position to lecture, retort Gulf autocrats. Most EU states revoke citizenship for reasons other than fraudulent applications, in particular for involvement in terrorism. Britain, for instance, allows it if it is conducive to the “public good”. Before becoming prime minister, the then-home secretary, Theresa May, did it 33 times. “Everyone has the right to a nationality,” says Article 15 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Sadly, not everywhere.

Economist Daily Chart: Measuring Well-Being

Interesting if somewhat predictable:

HOW do you measure the well-being of a country’s citizens? Looking at wealth alone is clearly not enough: oil-rich states in the Middle East may have the highest levels of GDP per person yet they lag behind the West in terms of civil rights, education and a host of other quantifiable (and desirable) measures. Boston Consulting Group (BCG) attempts to answer this question with its “Sustainable Economic Development Assessment” (SEDA).

This year’s report, published on July 21st, encompasses 163 countries or territories and looks at each country’s performance across three measures: economics, investment and sustainability. Economics is made up of income, stability and employment; investment comprises health, education and infrastructure; and sustainability includes income inequality, civil society, government and environment. Altogether, BCG crunched nearly 50,000 data points.

The usual suspects occupy the top spots, with Norway reaching the maximum of 100 in the normalised scoring system, as it has every year since SEDA was launched in 2012. It is followed by northern European states and other developed countries. Petro-states such as the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, two of the wealthiest countries in the world, come in at 25th and 26th respectively. The United States’ relatively poor standing at 19th reflects its high income inequality as well as its low health and education scores.

BCG also compared financial inclusion (the percentage of individuals aged 15 or over with a bank account) against each country’s SEDA score, revealing a clear relationship.The report’s authors found that countries with higher financial inclusion generally had higher well-being than their peers at a similar income level. The relationship between financial inclusion and well-being is most closely connected to good infrastructure (telecoms and electricity), civil society (gender equality) and government (strong regulation and the rule of law).

Source: Economic Issues

Daily chart: A new ranking of every country’s citizenship | The Economist

Citizenship Comparison EconomistInteresting chart and comparison by Henley & Partners (the company active in citizenship investor programs). The higher rankings for Europe compared to Canada, USA, Australia and New Zealand, in particular, reflect the Schengen treaty and related visa-free travel among European countries, an over-weighted factor in my view compared to other factors:

IF A baby is born in a rich country, she will have a longer, healthier life with more economic opportunities than one born in a poor, conflict-ridden nation. But quantifying the value of a person’s nationality compared with another is tricky. The number of countries that a person can travel to or settle in without bureaucratic restrictions may be one indicator, but the appeal of those countries is just as important. Russian nationals can travel to over 100 countries without a visa, for instance, but none are rich economies. Similarly the size of an economy may be a large factor, but it does not account for settlement opportunities elsewhere. Americans benefit from living in the world’s largest economy yet they can settle in only a handful of smaller economies. An inaugural “quality of nationality index” (QNI) by Henley & Partners, a consultancy, attempts to do just that by looking at the value of citizenship on two counts: to a person living in the country (the internal value) and the ability to live or work elsewhere (the external value). The internal value combines a nation’s economic heft, its score on the UN’s human development index, and its peacefulness and stability. The external value measures the number of countries that a citizen may travel to and settle in, and the weight of those in terms of economic strength and stability.

In 2015 all of the top 32 spots were European, boosted by economic integration and the right to free movement and work. Germany’s position at the top reflects its stability, economic strength and the ability of its citizens to travel and work in strong and stable economies elsewhere. The United States ranks behind European Union states for two reasons: a lower score on peacefulness (measured on the Global Peace Index), due to its nuclear arsenal and involvement in armed conflicts, and a low score on settlement freedom. And as Britons prepare to vote on whether to leave the European Union on June 23rd, another filip to the Remain campaigners. Dimitry Kochenov, creator of the index, calculates that Britain would fall from 11th to 30th in the ranking were it to leave, placing it behind Japan.

Source: Daily chart: A new ranking of every country’s citizenship | The Economist

Shakespeare and religion: Shakespeare’s complex views of the Islamic world | The Economist

Another part of the richness and insight of Shakespeare:

Shakespeare, as proven time and again in other fields, was ahead of his time in his sensitivity to the Islamic world and its inhabitants. Of course, his plays reveal his own set of prejudices, fascinations and contradictions, but over the course of his career the myth of the bloodthirsty Muslim is eclipsed by a more sensitive depiction in Othello—a change possibly influenced by the visit of Morocco’s ambassador to London in 1600. In our present day, where skewed misconceptions about Islam in Europe is the norm, there is much Shakespeare can teach us about who and what we identify with.

Source: Shakespeare and religion: Shakespeare’s complex views of the Islamic world | The Economist