Sunday, November 19, 2017

How a student made my day

Two months ago, we at the Medical University of Sofia were carrying out our regular additional autumn exam session, known among students and teachers as the "liquidation" session. It can be best described as "just another last chance" for students who have skipped or failed some exam both at the regular session and at the September corrective session. Unfortunately, while many students had learned at least the minimum of required knowledge and passed, others had not. (The ribosome, already proven to be a Waterloo for some, remained so; this September, two students independently prepared for me depictions of it as a circle surrounded by smaller circles like petals of a flower. I even composed a ribosome haiku: Know thyself and thy ribosome / And remember that it is crazy / To draw it shaped like a daisy.)

After one of those very hard exam days was finally over, I went out in a rush. There was a parent meeting at the school of one of my sons, the first such meeting for this school year. I didn't want to be late. The only way to get there quickly was by a taxi. I saw a free taxi, jumped into it and started to explain the destination to the driver.

Suddenly, a young man - apparently a student at our Medical University - shouted in English: "Doctor! This is a false taxi!" He came closer and pointed at the list of prices displayed at the front window of the car. The numbers were indeed about twice higher than those offered by most taxi companies. I usually check them, but not when I am in a hurry. Expensive or not, this taxi was my chance that night. So I said to the student "Thank you!" but did not leave the car. With it, I reached the school just in time.

That student made my day. I always try to teach well and to examine justly. And while I say that "I do my job the best way I can, and I do not care what others say", I'd wish my efforts to be appreciated... sometimes. That young man showed goodwill to me in circumstances where he could simply pass by. I am sorry that, with my poor ability to recognize faces, I shall not know him if I see him again. But I will remember him.

(This post, stuck in the pipeline together with many others, was called to existence by one of my current 1st year students, who rightly remarked that I should write not just about the poor students but also about the good ones.)

France, we have a problem

Below, another quote from the Newsweek about the scary reality of today's life in Europe - Muslim Anti-Semitism Threatens France's Democracy, a today's report by Simone Rodan-Benzaquen.

"Paris—“In the Merah household, we were brought up with hating Jews, the hatred of everything that was not Muslim.”

These were the chilling words of Abdelghani Merah at the trial of his brother, Abdelkader Merah, who was accused of conspiring with a third brother, Mohamed, to murder three soldiers, three Jewish schoolchildren, and a teacher in Toulouse, France, in 2012.

Abdelghani also revealed, at the time, that “when the medical examiner brought [his] brother’s corpse home, people came over. They cried tears of joy. They said that he had brought France to its knees. That he did well. Their only regret was that he had not killed more Jewish children.”

These appalling remarks, which suggest the environment in which Mohamed Merah was immersed and his family’s way of thinking, have sparked a debate about the extent of hatred of Jews in the French Muslim community.

For years, it has been nearly impossible to speak about French Muslim anti-Semitism.

Many refused to take notice for reasons of ideology, discomfort, or lack of courage. Many feared being accused of “playing into the hands of the far right”... The Merah trial exposed a reality in France: anti-Semitic roots run deep within some elements of the French Muslim community...

French anti-Semitism is distinguished in Europe by its level of violence, ranging from attacks to abductions and even to murders...

Now, some French Muslim intellectuals are speaking out. The most recent example is film director Said Ben Said, who, writing in the French newspaper Le Monde , clearly and courageously criticized Arab Muslim anti-Semitism, after learning that he would not be allowed to sit on a film jury in Carthage because he had produced films in Israel.

The moral courage of such Muslim intellectuals should be commended because we know how difficult it is for them to make themselves heard. Journalists often prefer to invite more controversial figures such as Tariq Ramadan to their TV and radio shows.

And even when these intellectuals are invited, the simple act of denouncing anti-Semitism and extremism makes them susceptible to criticism, insults, and even threats of violence.

They are afraid. How could they not be, when they see that jihadists assassinate French Muslim soldiers and policemen because they are considered apostates, or that outspoken Muslims who denounce violence need police protection?..."

Terrorists should not brag online, hurts job hunt

The text below is from ISIS Members From Europe Can't Get Jobs When They Return Home, a several months-old report by Jack Moore

“I just want to forget everything,” Walad Yousef, a 27-year-old returning fighter, told the newspaper. “I apply for a lot of jobs, but I can’t get any because my pictures are out there.”

Yousef had posted images of himself in Syria on Facebook, posing at a training camp with a Kalashnikov, and encouraging friends to join him. He returned to Sweden and said he had only gone to Syria to help civilians in the eastern city of Raqqa, where ISIS has beheaded several western hostages...

Employers fear that returning fighters may commit attacks or help others to commit attacks and do not wish to be associated with them, said another returnee who has changed his name to Yousef.

"You in the media have scared them. I do not know why they are afraid," said a jihadi from the southern city of Malmo of the fears that employees and civilians had of returning foreign fighters...

Sweden is one the best countries for a foreign fighter to return if they want to reintegrate. It is trialling a rehabilitation programme that gives Swedish extremists housing, employment, education and financial support. Anna Sjöstrand, the municipal coordinator against violent extremism in the city of Lund, said in October 2016 that it is much cheaper to reintegrate someone than to abandon them...

 The country suffered only its second radical Islamist attack in April when an Uzbek national plowed a truck into civilians on a busy shopping street in central Stockholm. The attack left five people dead. Authorities arrested the driver and said he had sympathies with ISIS. ISIS did not claim the attack, but it generally does not take responsibility for attackers who are captured alive..."

The moral? If you really, really want to join ISIS or another similar bunch of good fellows, at least do not brag all over the Web about it. May cause problems if some day you change your career.