How India Alienated Kashmir

November 10, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Aijaz Zaka Syed, Arab News

Kashmir_mapAN unjust law is no law, warned Martin Luther King, the celebrated US human rights icon. The Kashmiris have been living with such laws for decades. At least one in every five Kashmiris has at some point or another in his/her life suffered violence, humiliation, torture and old-fashioned abuse at the hands of security forces without any recourse to justice or a distant promise of retribution.

The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act has been a license to abuse, torture and kill the Kashmiris in their own land. A law that confers “special powers” on men in uniform to do as they please and get away with it; a law that the UN says violates “contemporary international human rights standards” and a law that cannot be challenged in any court of law no matter how grave the crime.  

Following the division of the subcontinent in 1947 when India and Pakistan actively courted the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir, it was promised a “special status” and special treatment by New Delhi. The Article 370 of Indian Constitution was supposed to protect that “special status” of Kashmir.  We made a lot of other promises as well that are too familiar to revisit here.      

And we have ensured and protected that “special status” of Kashmir by gifting them the AFSPA that offers sweeping powers to the security forces while ensuring their total immunity. This special law has turned the Vale of Kashmir that the Moguls believed was paradise on earth into a beautiful hell.

Is it any wonder then the Kashmiris today find themselves hopelessly alienated and persecuted even as our politicians never tire of pronouncing the state an “integral and inseparable” part of India?
How did we end up here? Who lost the paradise? The answer is out there and everyone knows it. In our desperation and determination to keep Kashmir with us and away from our neighbor, we have ended up losing the Kashmiri people.

Of course, the role played by Pakistani agencies, not to mention groups such as the one led by Hafiz Saeed, who have made a business enterprise of jihad, in adding to the woes of Kashmiris isn’t in anyway insignificant.

But if an entire generation of Kashmiris has grown up loathing all things Indian it is because of the excessive presence of the security forces in the Valley and their heavy-handed approach to the local population. And if there is one thing that epitomizes all that has gone wrong with India’s Kashmir affair, it is the AFSPA. This black law has created a dangerous, ever deepening disconnect and gulf between the Kashmiris and the rest of India. A draconian law that belongs in a police state, not in the world’s largest democracy.

Thanks to these “special powers”, just about anybody could be picked up from anywhere any time, kicked, abused, raped, killed in broad daylight or simply disappeared and no one including the state government can do anything about it.

Security forces are a law unto themselves. And you see their power in full display all across the state including in capital Srinagar. There are more soldiers than tourists or even locals constantly reminding the Kashmiris of the original sin of being born in this land of incredible beauty. Peaceful protests last year saw scores of young people, some of them as young as nine, felled by the bullets of the forces that are supposed to protect them. In the course of fighting terrorists and cross-border infiltrators, we have turned this beautiful land into a permanent war zone and its proud people a hostage in this never-ending conflict with the neighbor. This war has claimed more than a hundred thousand Kashmiris over the past two decades, not to mention the tens of thousands who have gone “missing.”

If the 2,730 unmarked mass graves recently discovered across the state had been found elsewhere they could have shaken the world, as they did in Srebrenica, in Iraq and Rwanda. But they were met with stony silence in the ever-shrill Indian media and its self-righteous Western counterparts.

Human rights groups including the State Human Rights Commission that finally acted on the complaints of thousands of families of “disappeared persons” unearthing graves with hundreds of bullet riddled bodies fear this may be a tip of the iceberg. The dead in Kashmir have finally begun to speak up, as Arundhati Roy so evocatively puts it.  But justice may still elude the victims as long as the AFSPA reigns in Jammu and Kashmir.  And India’s powerful security and defense establishment, including the army, are determined to retain it. And why wouldn’t they? It’s this law that allows the security forces to rule and treat Kashmir as their fiefdom without anyone, including the elected government, questioning their authority and excesses. Despite being a fine and vibrant democracy with robust democratic institutions and judiciary that we can justifiably be proud of, we are yet to realize that no people can be governed at gunpoint. Not in this age and time. Not with black laws like the AFSPA and not by constantly waving half a million guns that have contributed to the alienation of Kashmiri society and radicalization of its youth.  If India is to win Kashmiri hearts and minds, it could do so only with love, compassion, respect and justice.

— Aijaz Zaka Syed is a Middle East-based commentator and can be reached at aijaz.syed@hotmail.com

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Astronomer Threatened with Lawsuit for Doubting Eid Moon Sighting

September 8, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Md. Humaidan / Arab News

MoonSighting

JEDDAH: A number of conservative scholars have threatened to sue Saudi astronomer and scientist Khaled Al-Zaaq for doubting the testimony of citizens who reported to the Hilal panel (moon sighting committee) that the Shawwal crescent was visible on Ramadan 29 (Aug. 29).

After confirming the veracity of the sighting by the people who had reported to the panel, the committee declared the end to the fasting month of Ramadan and signaled the advent of Eid Al-Fitr the next day (Tuesday).

The threats of action came amidst an ongoing debate between Muslim scholars and astronomers about the possibility and probability of sighting the moon on Aug. 29. The astronomers claim the moon could not be sighted on that day as it had eclipsed before sunset.

According to the Islamic calendar, the Arabic months can be either 29 or 30 days long. On many occasions, Eid has been celebrated after only 29 days of fasting.

But this year the debate turned heated after Al-Zaaq was widely quoted by local press and electronic sites that there was no way to sight the crescent on the night of Ramadan 29, thus casting doubts on the testimony of those who claimed to have seen it.

The purists said the astronomer should not have cast doubts on the testimonies of the people who sighted the moon because their antecedents are checked before their word is accepted. Those who call in after sighting the moon are known for their integrity and straightforwardness.

A number of Saudi astronomers had issued press statements claiming that the moon could not be sighted while renowned Islamic scholars defended the testimonies of the people who sighted the moon and said Eid came at the right time.

Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah Al-Asheikh in his Friday sermon at Imam Turki bin Abdullah Mosque in Riyadh described those who doubted the moon sighting as “motivated and deviated people with foul mouths.”

“There are unjust pens and foul tongues that cast doubt on our religion which should be silenced. We are strictly following the Sunnah of our Prophet in fasting and marking Eid days,” he said, accusing the doubting astronomers of trying to impose their opinions on the nation.

The mufti said the Shariah was clear in the procedures of moon sighting and added that Muslims would never give up the Sunnah for false opinions.

The moon was very clear the next day and was seen in various areas on Tuesday night. This supported the stand of those who said they had sighted the moon on Monday evening.

A number of citizens in the western Al-Ais area said they were able to sight the moon on the night of Monday for half an hour. Their testimony contradicts the claims of the astronomers who said that the moon could not be sighted.

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Saudi- Indonesia Attempts to Save 28 on Death Row

June 30, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

MENAFN – Arab News

(MENAFN – Arab News) Indonesia has called home its ambassador to Saudi Arabia for consultation following the execution of an Indonesian maid in Makkah on Saturday.

“The Foreign Affairs Ministry in Jakarta has recalled Ambassador Gatot Abdullah Mansyur for consultations and to discuss measures to solve other serious cases,” said Wishnu Krishnamurthi, spokesman of the Indonesian Embassy in Riyadh, on Monday. “A note of protest over the beheading of Indonesian maid Ruyati binti Sapubi has been sent to the Saudi side.”

Krishnamurthi added that the Kingdom carried out the execution by sword without giving Indonesia prior notice.

Sapubi’s family has sought the government help to get the body to Indonesia. The maid from Bekasi district, Western Java, was executed for murdering her 70-year-old Saudi woman employer in January 2010.

Didi Wahjudi, a representative from the Indonesian Consulate in Jeddah, said neither the consulate nor the embassy was informed of the execution. The protest has been lodged because Indonesia was still trying to settle her case and seek clemency, he added.

Krishnamurthi said his government has stepped up efforts to save 28 Indonesians on death row.

“A plan is under way to reach a settlement in all cases either in the courts or through exerting more efforts in cooperation with Saudi officials for out-of-court settlements,” added Krishnamurthi.

He pointed out that the Indonesian diplomatic missions were seeking pardons from families of the victims in several such cases.

“We are quite hopeful that the embassy and the consulate will manage to secure pardons either by talking or by giving blood money to the victims’ families, which will pave the way for their release,” said the spokesman.

He said Indonesia had succeeded in solving three out of the 31 cases.

“These three Indonesians have been repatriated after they were pardoned by the families of the victims,” said the spokesman.

The move comes after human rights and labor activists called on the Indonesian government to take immediate action to assist Indonesian workers in Saudi Arabia.

Asked about the serious cases, Krishnamurthi said as many as 22 migrant workers out of the 28 are facing the same fate as Sapubi.

According to a report, a total of 316 Indonesians are currently involved in legal cases in Saudi Arabia, including those who have been sentenced to death.

The spokesman said Jakarta would strive to ensure they did not meet the same fate as Sapubi.

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Saudi Arabia to Host Global Conference on Memorization of Qur`an in June

May 6, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Report by Ummid.com

Malegaon: An international conference on memorizing the Holy Qur’an that according to the organisers would be unique will be held in Jeddah from June 5 to 7, reports the leading Saudi Daily Arab News.

“This conference is first of its kind,” said Abdullah Basfar, secretary-general of the International Organization for Qur’an Memorization (IOQM).

Basfar called for joint efforts by international Muslim organizations to spread the message of Qur’an, being the word of God and a blessing for the whole mankind.

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An Inspiring Story: Rwanda Turning to Islam

November 26, 2008 by · Leave a Comment 

Courtesy Arab News

capture11-25-2008-5.21.35 PM

Many Rwandans turned to Islam after the genocide because of the good example given by Rwandan Muslims during the genocide.  This is a portrait of a Muslim Rwandan girl visiting a mosque for a wedding (photo shown to document Rwandan Muslims, but does not to our knowledge directly relate to the genocide).

Courtesy “Samer!” on Yahoo/Flickr

DUBAI, 30 September 2007 — The life story of Umugwaneza Sulaiman, a contestant for the Dubai International Holy Qur’an Award, is truly inspirational since he has risen from rubble to create a renaissance.

Even though he is only 19, this young man from Rwanda has survived a life of hardship. As a young child he survived the genocide in Rwanda in 1994. He still has horrific memories of hiding in forests from militias that were killing people. The rivers and roads they walked through were littered with bodies. Later on he lost his father and had to lead a harsh life in one of the poorest countries in the world.

Despite all his hardships, Sulaiman was determined to become a hafiz and was rewarded by becoming the first Rwandan to take part in the Dubai International Holy Qur’an Award competition. Sulaiman’s quest with the sacred book started when he converted to Islam at the age of 11.

“Even though my family were Catholics I was never interested in the church. The Azan from the mosque in my neighborhood fascinated me and I started attending classes there,” he said.

When asked if he faced any resistance from his family, Sulaiman said that his family had no issues with him becoming a Muslim, as Islam is a held in high regard in Rwanda after the 1994 genocide. His whole family followed him a few years later and converted to Islam.

Since the genocide, Rwandans have converted to Islam in huge numbers. Muslims now make up 14 percent of the 8.2 million people in Africa’s mostly Catholic nation, twice as many as before the killings began. The reason behind the conversions lies in the fact that Rwandan Muslims did not take part in the genocide and played a key role in the humanitarian efforts that followed.

Muslims have been honored by the national government for their roles in saving the lives regardless of their faith. Many people attribute the recent spread of Islam to these humanitarian acts.

It took years of dedicated work for Sulaiman to memorize the Qur’an. The lack of qualified teachers in Rwanda made him make up his mind to travel to Kenya as there are good Qur’anic schools there.

“I was 15 when my five friends and I decided to travel to Kenya to seek knowledge. Two of my friends were converts like me,” he said.

The six young men packed their bags and traveled to the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, to find the school. They enrolled themselves in a free boarding school, which accepts students from all over East Africa. There they studied under the tutelage of Qur’an scholars. It took Sulaiman two years to memorize the whole Qur’an.

Now back home in Rwanda, Sulaiman works as a part time Imam and Qur’an teacher to supplement his income while studying at the only Islamic seminar in Kigali.

Masha Allah, there are so many Muslims now in my country. We are working hard at teaching the Qur’an to the new generation of Muslim children,” he said.

After finishing his education, Sulaiman hopes to get a scholarship to study Islam. “We get Muslim scholars coming from Uganda to spread the word of Islam in Rwanda. I hope that through my knowledge of Islam I will be able to help spread peace in my country,” he said.

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