Eid Mubarak from Pres. Obama

September 24, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

The President released the following statement to mark the end of Ramadan and the beginning of Eid-ul-Fitr:

“As Muslims in the United States and around the world complete the month of Ramadan and celebrate Eid-ul-Fitr, Michelle and I would like to extend our personal greetings on this joyous occasion. Eid is a time to celebrate the completion of 30 days and nights of devotion. But even on this festive occasion, Muslims remember those less fortunate, including those impacted by poverty, hunger, conflict, and disease. Throughout the month, Muslim communities collect and distribute zakat-ul-fitr so that all Muslims are able to participate in this day of celebration. As I said in Cairo, my Administration is working to ensure that Muslims are able to fulfill their charitable obligations not just during Ramadan, but throughout the year. On behalf of the American people, we congratulate Muslims in the United States and around the world on this blessed day. Eid Mubarak.” 

Over the past month, the President and several government Agencies participated in events to mark Ramadan – the President continued the tradition of hosting an Iftar here at the White House while the U.S. Department of Agriculture hosted the first in their history. The Corporation for National and Community Service spearheaded “Interfaith Service Week” as part of the President and First Lady’s Summer of Service initiative and many other groups and individuals came together to make this month a time of giving and reaching out to our neighbors in need.

The President and the First Lady extend their personal greetings on this special day. May you be well throughout the year.

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Carter Fasts with Gazans

September 10, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Carter, Religious Jews Fast With Gaza

Palestine Chronicle

jimmycarter

Former US President Jimmy Carter and his wife fasted in solidarity with the people of the Gaza Strip who are living under siege.

About going without for day Carter laughed it off and said, “I didn’t miss the food at all, but I missed water.”

He said, “I spent all day thinking of the people of Gaza and the harsh conditions of life imposed on them by the embargo.” The former US President said that he prayed for the Palestinians of Gaza while fasting for the first time in his more than 80 years of life.

Jimmy Carter said that he had received a call from Khahamat religious Jews in the United States who told him that they had already begun fasting once a week in solidarity with Gaza and its people, and asked him to join them, but he and his wife decided that they would do so alone and already had started to do so.

Carter’s speech came during iftar, the evening meal, held at the Grand Park Hotel in Ramallah. It included members of the Elders, a group of world leaders founded by Nelson Mandela, and a number of Palestinian intellectuals, businessmen and representatives of civil society institutions.

During the meal to break the day’s Ramadan fast, the group exchanged views. Desmond Tutu said, “I’ve heard many Palestinian and Israeli youth. I have heard things that are very impressive, but I felt the presence of hope in spite of the occupation and the suffering of the Palestinians that it causes, which is very important.”

Speaking of politics, Carter said, “We must not forget that all the Israeli settlements to the east of the Green Line are illegal, how can you talk about a settlement freeze” in a clear reference to what is being talked about these days from the current US administration led by Obama.

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Community News (V11-I38)

September 10, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Muslims least likely to report discrimination

NEW YORK– Despite fears that Muslims in the United States may be unfairly targeted or harassed because fears about terrorism, a new survey by Public Agenda finds Muslim immigrants are less likely than other immigrant populations to say there’s discrimination against immigrants in the United States, no more likely to encounter it personally, and overwhelmingly more likely to say the United States will be their permanent home.

The report released this week  by the nonpartisan nonprofit research organization, Public Agenda, follows up on a groundbreaking 2002 survey and tracks immigrants’ shifting attitudes during a tumultuous period.  Conducted in May 2009, and funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, “A Place to Call Home: What Immigrants Say Now About Their Life in America,” utilized landline and cellular telephones along with oversamples to provide the widest perspective possible from more than 1,100 foreign-born adults overall, and including over 100 Muslims.  Of those surveyed, 3 out of 4 Muslims immigrated in 2000 or before.

Some 63 percent of Muslim immigrants say there is no (or only a little) discrimination against immigrants in general in the United States, compared with 32 percent of other immigrants. In addition, Muslim immigrants report encountering discrimination personally at about the same rate as other immigrants, with 27 percent saying they’ve experienced “some” or a “great deal” of discrimination personally compared with 26 percent of all other immigrants.

An overwhelming 92 percent of Muslims say the United States will be their permanent home, (compared with 69 percent among other immigrants).  Sixty-one percent of Muslims report that they’re “extremely happy” in the United States (compared with only 33 percent of other immigrants).  Muslims are more likely to give the U.S. better ratings than their birth country on key questions, such as having a free and independent media (79 percent say the United States does a better job, compared with 54 percent of other immigrants).

Salim Ejaz running for NYC Comptroller

Pakistani-American accounting professional Salim Ejaz is contesting the NYC Democratic Primary on Sept 15 to become eligible to run for the Office of Comptroller.

Salim Ejaz is the only Democrat candidate for the Comptroller’s position who is a professional Certified Public Accountant (CPA) who has worked for more than a decade with the State of New York as Director Audit.

With 40 years of financial expertise, including 12 years as Director of Audit of Nassau County in the State of New York, a multi-billion dollar governmental entity, his performance record is stellar, having exposed waste and losses generating savings which exceed $ 500 million through his audit reports and recommendations.

The NYC Comptroller oversees a budget of $ 60 billion and is also responsible for pension funds of $ 120 billion. In these financial turbulent times, it is imperative that the Comptroller, the City’s fiscal watchdog, has the right professional qualification and experience and a demonstrated record of achievement, says his press release.

His agenda is what every taxpayer wants: eliminate wasteful spending, lower taxes and achieve job growth, the PR adds.

OCU celebrates diversity with Islam Day

EDMOND,OK–Oklahoma City University hosted Islam Day Sept. 10 to encourage cultural diversity with various campus activities, including a charity fundraiser called “iFast.”

Political science professor and Middle East expert Mohamed Daadaoui organized a list of activities for students and faculty in order to foster cross-cultural dialogue and to spread awareness about the world’s second largest religion.

Daadaoui established iFast, an aspect of Islam Day when students, faculty and staff are encouraged to donate money to the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma.

“Instead of spending money on lunch, donors will be contributing toward meals for the hungry,” he said, noting that Muslim followers are encouraged to donate to charitable causes during Ramadan.

“There are many misconceptions and stereotypical views about Islam,” Daadaoui said. “If we can show students and the OCU community what it means to be a Muslim, hopefully it will be a step in the direction of furthering goodwill and understanding.”

Community organizations such as the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the Institute of Interfaith Dialogue and the Governor’s Ethnic American Advisory Council have partnered with OCU for some of the activities.

Daadaoui organized lectures and interfaith panel discussions with community leaders including Razi Hashmi of the Oklahoma Council on American-Islamic Relations; Imad Enchassi, Imam of the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City and Rabbi Abbey Jacobson of the Emanuel Synagogue in Oklahoma City.

“Islam Day is about people of all faiths communicating and learning about the cultures of others,” he said.

Free halal meals at Wayne State U.

DETROIT–The Pakistani Student Association is offering all Wayne State University is offering free halal meals as part of the observance for the month of Ramadan. The ‘cultural dinner’ is intended to create awareness about Islamic beliefs and practices.

PSA President Harris Khan told the South End News, ‘We are hoping to create a bridge between the PSA and other Wayne State students.’

The event has been called “From Fast to Feast’” and took a month of planning to organize.

Interfaith vigil supports Obama plan

BINGHAMPTON, NY–An interfaith vigil was held in Binghampton supporting President Obama’s healthcare reforms. It was attended by people of all faiths.

“It’s not for one group or another group.

This is for all of us, all together, the children of God on the face of the Earth,” said Muslim Speaker Kasim Kopuz.

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Community News (V11-I36)

August 27, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Airmen & families celebrate Ramadan

By 1st Lt. Joe Kreidel

18th Wing Public Affairs

8/24/2009 – KADENA AIR BASE, Japan  — “It’s like planning for Christmas while everyone else is going about their business,” said Tech. Sgt. Angela Errahimi, a combat communications chief with the 909th Air Refueling Squadron, about preparing for Ramadan here. This same sense of dislocation is no doubt shared by many military members celebrating Ramadan in places like Okinawa where Islam is by far a minority religion.

Ramadan, which began Aug. 22, is a 30-day fast during which devout Muslims abstain from food, drink, and sex from sunrise to sunset. Ramadan is the preeminent ritual in a faith that gives particular importance to its ritual observances.

“Islam was something I was looking for – the mosque was so quiet and peaceful,” said Sergeant Errahimi of her conversion six years ago. After meeting her now-husband, who is from Morocco, she studied at a mosque for one year prior to making her “shahada” or witness of faith.

It was Islam’s structure and emphasis on community that first appealed to Staff Sgt. Marvin Morris, an X-ray technician and the assistant NCOIC of radiology at the 18th Medical Operations Squadron. He called the daily regimen of five scheduled prayers “the military version of prayer.”

“The first few days of fasting are hard,” said Sergeant Morris. At Travis Air Force Base, Calif., where he was previously stationed, several non-Muslim friends attempted to join him in the fast; one friend made it one whole day. For Sergeant Morris, it’s in large part the hardship of fasting that makes Ramadan so special: “That’s what it’s about. It’s a cleansing process, a chance to focus inward and renew your commitment to Allah.”

The day’s perseverance is rewarded come sunset, as “Iftar” – the evening meal at which each day’s fast is broken – tends to be an extravagant affair. For a week leading up to Ramadan, Sergeant Errahimi and her husband, who have four children at home, prepared various dishes and pastries so as to have a stockpile once Ramadan actually began. Food preparation, too, is more difficult and requires more planning in Okinawa than in Washington, D.C., where the Errahimis lived previously. “Halal” meats are especially hard to come by.

Ramadan will conclude Sept. 19 with “Eid,” a major festival that traditionally involves a special public prayer, feasting, gift-giving, and visiting with family and friends. This communal, festive aspect of Ramadan may be somewhat lacking for Sgt. Morris this year, as he’s new to the island and hasn’t yet made many friends amongst the on-island Muslim community, miniscule compared to the one in northern California.

In 2007, Sergeant Morris celebrated Ramadan at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan. While there he worked the night shift, convenient because it allowed him to sleep during the day when he couldn’t eat or drink. On multiple occasions he was able take “Iftar” with a group of Egyptian Muslims working in Afghanistan. “I loved it,” he said, “It’s a different culture, but we’re connected by our shared faith. It’s like a family away from family.”

NC Mosque hit by hate crime

TAYLOR, NC– A mosque in Taylors has been victim of a hate crime. The words ‘Death to Muslims’ were carved in a concrete outside the Islamic Center.

The anti-religious message was written sometime in the early morning hours last Saturday.  For members like Miriam Abbad, it’s hard to see.  She’s worshipped for 10 years at the center.  “When they say death to Muslims, that means me, my young children, my husband, my whole family.  What did we do wrong to deserve such mean words to come out?”

The FBI is investigating the case.

Delaware Muslim prof. network

A new service-based organization has formed with the goal of inviting Muslims to participate in activities that benefit the community.

The Muslim Professionals of Delaware began last month and is working on its first project, a drive to collect school supplies for disadvantaged children.

Group founders Semab Chaudhry and Ahmed Sharkawy, said they want to work with interfaith groups to help the needy, foster greater cultural understanding and hold career and college development workshops.

Anyone interested in joining or working with the group can visit www.mpod.us.com or e-mail info@mpod.us.com.

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Houstonian Corner V11-I35

August 20, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Pakistan Center Annual Dinner: Councilman M J Khan Given Bombaywala And Mian “Life Time Achievement Awards”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         “I am happy to be here in Pakistan Center and want to congratulate the whole community that now we all have a home of our own”: These were the sentiments of the City of Houston Councilman M. J. Khan, as he handed out the highest award given by the Pakistani-American Association of Greater Houston (PAGH), “The Life Time Achievement Award”, to Former President Ghulam Mohammad Bombaywala and Mian Shabbir. All this happened during the annual dinner of PAGH on Friday, August 14th, 2009, which was attended by Consul General of Pakistan Aqil Nadeem, several Elected and Governmental Officials from the Homeland Security Department.

By the Grace of God, Pakistan Center is a huge place located in City of Houston District “F”, from where Masrur Javed Khan (past President of PAGH) got elected as the first Pakistani and Muslim City Councilman of Houston, but this past Friday was the first time M. J. came to this Center and everyone was most happy to see him and hoped this is not the only time.

Pakistan Center is the first of its kind in North America, was build in an old HEB Store, through the efforts done by the previous President of PAGH Ghulam Mohammad Bombayawala and his team. The huge Pakistan Center has several shops at the front end and huge party hall at the back, from where rental money is received, making the center self-sustaining. Center has nice offices, meeting rooms and library build for the administration of PAGH.

President of PAGH Khalid Khan had to leave for Pakistan to attend the 14th of August ceremonies over there being the Vice President of Peoples’ Party North America, but his wife and daughters filled up his spot pretty well by handing out flower bouquets to M. J. Khan and Mrs. Bombaywala.

Large numbers of attendees were entertained by famous comedians from Pakistan Kashif Khan and Pervez Siddiqui. Many people were listening to them for the first time and their jokes and presentation were quite fresh and most hilarious for everyone.

For more information on ongoing programs and projects for the community by PAGH, once can call 281-933-0786.

Bill King the Grand Marshall of the 1st Pakistan Day Parade in Downtown Houston

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         Hundreds of Pakistanis and their friends from other communities gathered in Downtown Houston for the historic first ever “Pakistan Day Parade Houston”, which was held on Sunday, August 16th, 2009.

It is said that inaugural Pakistan Day Parade in USA was held in New York, which was attended by around 100 persons. But this inaugural Houston parade saw seas of human beings coming together to fervently celebrate the day.

People from other cities and States had also come for the Parade. Some people like Dr. Aziz Siddiqi came on their open cars with their names and message of Pakistan Independence Day written on their vehicles. Several Pakistani students from University of Houston and Houston Community College System had their separate floats and vehicles with Pakistani Flags and paling traditional music of various areas of Pakistan. All these Youth were organized by social figures like Mariam Issa and Dr. Birjees Ashraf.

Former Mayor of Kemah Texas Bill King was the Grand Marshall of this first ever Pakistan Day Parade in Houston, as he led several hundred enthusiastic Youth from the Houston Community College System and the University of Houston. Accompanying them were the Founding Members Khalid Mahmood (Chairman) & Nadeem Naik (Secretary); and the Consul General of Pakistan Honorable Aqil Nadeem & City Councilman M. J. Khan.

Later on at the stairs of Tranquility Park, where the parade culminated, having started at 400 Rusk Street and went around Rusk, Milam and Walker; the national anthems of Pakistan and USA were presented and several speakers made enthusiastic speeches. They included Bill King, City Councilpersons M. J. Khan and Jolanda Jones, Consul General Aqil Nadeem, Islamic Society President Dr. Aziz Siddiqi, Khalid Mahmood, Nadeem Naik, Mariam Issa, Dr. Birjees Ashraf and others. Stage Programs were coordinated by Saleem and Zara Syed of Young Trang; Rehan Siddiqui of Hum Tum City Radio and Moin Pirzada of Radio Perdes.

Following the parade, speeches and recognition of sponsors like Mega Energy, a concert; lots of food; intermingling of families, friends & colleagues and Pakistanis and Non-Pakistanis happened.

The next parade will be held in Houston on March 28th, 2010. For more information, one can call 832-876-2392; or visit http://PakistanDayParadeHouston.com

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Once Upon a Destined Time

August 6, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Siddiq Ather

Step, dip, look, hop, stumble, flail, drip, drop and step. It is always an annoyance when you accidently step into a puddle, a predicament that happened perchance because a lack of perspicacity or maybe simply put in place by destiny; drip, nevertheless no matter how many more thoughts profess it makes the water soak no less, it doesn’t clean the mess.  Since there is no use crying over spilled milk, he continued to walk under the silky sky with his big white hat and waving tie, no frown, no curse, no frustration dispersed, and maybe even a smile crossed his face. Pondering over how this was his problem in life, something so small. If he were to become angry how in the world he would stand next to those who are patient in times of real hardship. How could he stand with those who have no homes, no food, or no sight to lose? Don’t be confused, wet ankles and shoes aren’t his preferred medium of walking but everything must be put into perspective, dig?

That was his explanation to him as the bus’s speed began to dim, and it stopped.  He propped up and walked off saying goodbye to him; the doors closed and the rims began to spin. The bus darkened as its final destination for the day neared and its final passenger veered toward the exit. Though he usually wouldn’t mind to stay a bit, to chat and chit, there was something waiting, in somber solitude as it had waited for ages. Its pages waiting like papyrus cages holding words heavy on the heart but light on the sight. He hastily descended to the ground and laboriously looked around to avoid any puddles in the vicinity. Then he, quite easily, made his way to the bus stop shelter, listening to the sound of the bus leaving echo into the distance.  Walking into the glass box he heard the echo of the bus mince with the profound drips and drops falling down off of roof tops making small spots of dark gray on the pavement.

This time he was sitting in the light of day; the sun’s shining rays penetrated the clouds and went past the glass hitting those golden letters on that dark cover. He shuttered at the shining spots on the silver strap and the buckle burning brightly under the sun. He sat on the bench and exhaled. The cover sat there next to the unlatched buckle. He took a deep breath and opened the book with a quick glance at the title, Stories of the Wise and Human; the first page still held the phrase one person, one page. Flipping through the blank pages, he felt an odd texture on a page and stopped. It was wrinkled, the way paper gets after it gets wet and dries. It was brittle, hard, stiff, and stubborn all at the same time.  The page was covered in curly, but neat, blue ink; they looked like thin vines and leaves delicate, intricate, and complex gripping the various faces of the page. It was a beautiful piece of art further accented by the crinkled page behind it. The sentences twisted and turned in such a fluid manner that they seemed almost alive; he was careful not to tip the book to one side because of the fear that the liquid sapphire resting on the page might drop, in essence, a baseless fear.   Realizing his foolishness, he tipped the book side to side.  It looked nice, but what did it say?

In the name of the most merciful, may peace be upon anyone reading this book or writing in it. The world works in funny ways with nigh pitch black nights, and sunny days.  With its twists and turns, it is more like a maze.  Every soul follows its own path, converging and diverging with the lives of others.

It was one of those cold Chicago days you hear so much about, with the wind chill way below zero and piles of snow everywhere. I never really thought gloves were necessary until that day. You wouldn’t be able to identify any walking passerby as a person; they just looked like moving piles of cloth. I was wearing a sweat pants under a long skirt, a sweater, jacket, and a cloth scarf. You know how in the fall when it gets mildly chilly you always chance upon seeing that one determined individual in the morning, jogging with only shorts on in the “cold” weather, it is always such a juxtaposition  and deserves that “are you crazy” stare. Well, the tables had turned and everyone was giving me that “are you crazy” stare.  I didn’t know I would be standing in the cold for this long! I thought all I needed was something warm enough to get to the car and back. Turns out my car got towed. You would think they might have a shred of mercy in this freezing weather and seeing my out of state license plate.

Turns out my wardrobe hadn’t been the only reason I was getting the “are you crazy stare.” According to a round and fluffy tan jacket with what seemed to be a raccoon hat wrapped in a beige scarf,” taxis don’t really come round here. You should try the bus stop a few blocks down.”  From where I was standing, anything was better than standing here in the cold with the glacial gusts blowing right through my clothes and freezing me to the core, I was wrong. Trudging along buildings through about a foot of snow, completely oblivious as to whether I was on the sidewalk, grass, or shoulder of the road, was way worse. I had a cozy hotel room I could’ve been in, but no, I wanted to see “the town.”  After taking a few wrong turns I found the bus stop. Luckily or unluckily, I waited next to an old purple coat with an elegant air and a small energy filled pink jacketed munchkin that wouldn’t stop running around.  The purple coat had a black fur scarf, and was extremely well versed in how the Chicago bus system worked and the history of Chicago. When the bus came I sat with her part of the way to the lot where my car would be. She said I should call anybody I knew around here in case something went wrong. I called my best friend who I had come here for in the first place, she didn’t pick up. She was probably busy preparing for her wedding, which was tonight. I was busy the whole night before I had flown here early yesterday morning, and had slept the whole day. That’s what prompted me to venture into “town” today.

I exited the bus and walked to the end of the street where I found the “prison” where my car was being held.  Because of various reasons which I couldn’t explain if I had to, it took hours for me to get my car back; luckily, I had prayed beforehand. I took some hot chocolate from the vending machine and ran to my car. I thought why I had to go through all this trouble, why all these bad things happened to me. I turned on the head lights, reversed, and drove out. It appeared that I wasn’t the only one in a hurry; some of the cars around me were driving just as fast, despite the snow. A green light turned yellow, but I needed get back fast. The light turned red, and I braked. The problem was my car didn’t stop. I had no control and no grip. I heard loud honking, and as I looked through my window I saw a car coming at me from the side, its lights getting brighter and brighter. Everything went by very slowly. Suddenly, the car skidding behind me, bumped me forward, just enough to be missed by the oncoming traffic. Not looking back I heard what I thought was the car behind me and the car that was about to hit me crash; the sound of bending metal and shattering glass permeated the air. My car got grip again and I parked on the side of a road, and called the police. A few moments later an ambulance came and took the people out of their cars. Most of them were able to walk away, but some were taken in the ambulance to have some injuries treated, at least that’s what they told me.  The police said the main cause of the accident was something called “black ice” around the intersection. I talked to the officer about the whole incident, in the end they said to drive safe and have a good night.

I sat in my car and cried thanking the most merciful. I remembered something my mum said before I left,” no matter what happens always say alhamdulila.” I said the supplication or dua before driving a vehicle and drove back to my hotel.  I received a call from the friend whose wedding I was missing. I could tell she was uneasy about something as soon as she picked up the phone.  I told her the whole story and by the end she was more worried about me than whatever had happened. Apparently, it was so cold that some pipes had burst around the hall they were using, so everyone was moved to a random empty hall in the middle of the wedding, and by the time everything was sorted out most of the guests had left. She said that I shouldn’t worry about it though, and that they were holding a smaller function at her uncle’s house with close family and friends. She sincerely apologized for not calling sooner, but after hearing about how busy she was all day, I understood.  We talked most of the night, and she said she would pick me up tomorrow, I declined.  She insisted it wouldn’t be much trouble. I told her I found out there was a bus which went straight to where she lived, and it was pretty close to my hotel, she finally accepted saying she would be waiting at the bus stop. I told her the departure and arrival times, and went to bed.

I walked to this bus shelter and found this odd but interesting book, and couldn’t help but write down the events that had transpired. I just got a call from my friend; she is actually across the street. She said she’d be waiting at the bus stop but asserts that she didn’t mention which one; she also says I should come quickly because my hot chocolate is getting cold. The snow has lightened up a bit, and is not as bone chilling as yesterday. I guess I’ll be going soon so I will end with a final bit. If you’re in Chicago or any other city, watch where you park, prepare for the weather, and if the times get tough, trust in the most merciful. With every hardship comes ease.

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ISNA/FCNA Ramadan and Eid ul-Fitr Announcement

July 23, 2009 by · 2 Comments 

ISNA Special Announcement

CrescentMoonOcean

First day of Ramadan will be Saturday, August 22, 2009 and Eid ul-Fitr on Sunday, September 20, 2009, inshaAllah.

“O you who believe, fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that you may (learn) self-restraint.”

Qur’an 2: 183

The Fiqh Council of North America (FCNA) recognizes astronomical calculation as an acceptable Shar’ia method for determining the beginning of lunar months including the months of Ramadan and Shawwal. FCNA uses Makkah al-Mukarram as a conventional point and takes the position that the conjunction must take place before sunset in Makkah and the moon must set after sunset in Makkah.

On the basis of this method the dates of Ramadan and Eid ul-Fitr for the year 1430 AH are established as follows:

1st of Ramadan will be on Saturday, August 22, 2009.

1st of Shawwal will be on Sunday, September 20, 2009.

Ramadan 1430 AH: The astronomical New Moon is on Thursday, August 20, 2009 at 10:01 Universal Time (1:01 pm Makkah time). Sunset at Makkah on August 20 is at 6:47 pm local time, while moonset at Makkah is at 6:46 pm local time (1 minute before sunset). Therefore the following day Friday, Au gust 21, 2009 is not the 1st day of Ramadan. First day of Ramadan is Saturday, August 22, insha’Allah. First Tarawih prayer will be on Friday night.

Eid ul-Fitr 1430 AH: The astronomical New Moon is on Friday, September 18, 2009, at 18:44 Universal Time (9:44 pm Makkah time). On Saturday, September 19, 2009, sunset at Makkah is 6:20 pm local time, while moonset is at 6:36 pm local time. Therefore, first day of Shawwal, i.e., Eid ul-Fitr is Sunday, September 20, insha’Allah.

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The CIOGC Trip to the Illinois Capitol: The Senate Floor

July 23, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Siddiq Ather

SMCapitalDome

This day I was blessed and allowed the privilege of shadowing a senator and being a page on Muslim Action Day. It was a very enlightening experience, following the process through which laws are made. The senators behaved very amiable and openly explaining and explicating on the sides of the bills being voted and discussed on.  The event resulted in many beneficial dialogues on issues such as gambling and the original topics previously arranged as well as new issues that happened to fall on the senate floor. It was also interesting to observe the way bills would be voted on , not by one group of voters democrats another group republican, but a mixture of republicans and democrats on either side. Certain caucuses and groups of senators united under specific bills they all supported or opposed, and at times unanimous votes occurred on certain bills.

At times there were lulls while at other times opposing sides, the support and opposition of a bill, would rise and debate going into further detail on each other’s positions and analyzing them for faults and problems. One point to note is that this is only half a senator’s job; the other half is when the senator is in his district office dealing with issues relating specifically to his/her district, so they have to address issues both when they are in the senatorial hall as well as in when those that concern their individual districts. One thing that astounded me was the relaxed manner in which some senators talked with journalists, even when it wasn’t “off the record”.  All in all it was a great day, but as time passes I hope the event becomes even more strategically organized, gathered, and implemented.

In retrospect, today was a day when the Muslim community seized and acted upon its democratic responsibility of letting its voice be heard by its representatives; they showed what community wants and doesn’t want. Instead of being immured in homes and community centers, the voice of the ummah of Illinois came out into the open and became manifest to those chosen to represent us in our state congress. Although to some the “voice’ of the ummah was not as complex and powerful as they had imagined, one must consider that, like the first words of growing child, this event, this action that is more powerful than any word is a symbol of progress and growth. We must remember that all praise is due to Allah, and he is the one who has all control; similarly, we must remember that He is also the answerer of supplication. We should make supplication that the voice of the ummah in Illinois, in America, and around the world became more powerful.

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Harun Yahya – Secrets of the Hypocrites

July 16, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

They Argue about Allah in the Absence of any Evidence

Among people there is one who argues about Allah without knowledge or guidance or any light-giving book.

Al-Hajj: 8

Their highest goal is to turn people from Allah and His religion and to hinder the spread of religious moral values on Earth. They therefore argue about Allah in such a way as to confuse people, and urge them to shape their own speculations about Him. Since they have a tendency to spread strife, they actively seek to eliminate people’s respect for and fear of Allah, but carry out these activities in a sly manner. Using a similar method to that employed by satan, they address people’s subconscious and speak in such a way as to confuse them.

All they manage to do, however, is deceive other hypocrites just like themselves. Allah reveals how the actions they take to turn people away from His path will rebound upon their own heads:

Turning away arrogantly, to misguide people from the way of Allah. He will be disgraced in this world and on the Day of Resurrection We will make him taste the punishment of the burning.

Al-Hajj: 9

They Admire an Ethical Model of which Allah Disapproves

As we have seen so far, hypocrites engage in all kinds of behavior displeasing to Allah. Unaware of the gravity of their situation, they also put forward negative, perverted ideas regarding Islam, the religion selected by and beloved of Allah. With their own defective logic, they regard their own ideas as good and the truth as ugly:

We brought you the truth but most of you hated the truth.

Az-Zukhruf: 78

As is revealed in the Qur’an, these two-faced people, “who have sold guidance for misguidance” (Surat al-Baqara: 16), refuse to recognize the revelation of Allah, and regard the truth as something ugly. The proper moral values that Allah revealed to believers through the Qur’an represent a model that they view as totally impractical. Since they themselves are full of hatred and uncleanliness, they imagine that others are too and could never abide by such a model.

No doubt, these ideas apply both to themselves and to other deniers of a similar nature. Good moral values can be implemented only through fear of Allah and absolute submission to His commandments. A person can maintain a good character only through faith in the Hereafter and the Day of Judgment and reckoning. For anyone who has forgotten that he will have to account for himself on the Day of Judgment, there is no motive to display patience or make sacrifices for others. He feels the need to engage in such behavior only if it squares with his own interests. Otherwise, for someone who lives far removed from religious moral values, it seems meaningless to display a good character in this world—which is in any case transitory—to people who are in any case mortal.

The hypocrite will receive no reward, either in this world or the Hereafter, for any good behavior he engages in for the sake of his own interests. If someone ignores all Allah’s commandments, everything that he does will be in vain, as is revealed by Allah in the Qur’an:

That is because they followed what angers Allah and hated what is pleasing to Him. So He made their actions come to nothing.

Muhammad: 28

Their Defiance of the Qur’an

First, in order to acquire a sufficient understanding of this matter, it should be useful to examine briefly the denier’s view of the Qur’an.

One of deniers’ most important characteristics is that they live by the religion of their ancestors instead of the religion of Allah. Under their religion, going along with baseless practices passed on by word of mouth is regarded as “religious observance.” By complying with these traditions, they imagine themselves to be virtuous and “obedient.” They never take the Qur’an as a criterion in any form whatsoever. The essence of this religion of the ignorant lies in traditions determined by the society, in which “goodness” lies in small matters performed with hardly any effort at all. They perform these in the name of “being good,” and thus think that this must make them “good” too.

For example, giving some spare change to a beggar they happen to meet on the street, or donating clothes that are too old for them to ever wear again is in their eyes a “good deed.” However, the true definition of goodness and righteousness is provided in the Qur’an:

It is not righteousness to turn your faces to the East or to the West. Rather, truly righteous are those who believe in Allah and the Last Day, the Angels, the Book and the prophets, and who, despite their love for it, give away their wealth to their relatives and to orphans and the very poor, and to travelers and beggars and to set slaves free, and who perform prayer and give the alms; those who honor their contracts when they make them, and are steadfast in poverty and illness and in battle. Those are the people who are true. They are the people who guard against evil.

Al-Baqara: 177

When these others are told about the criteria in the Qur’an, they refuse to abandon their distorted beliefs:

When they are told, “Come to what Allah has sent down and to the messenger,” they say, “What we found our fathers doing is enough for us.” What! Even if their fathers did not know anything and were not guided!

Al-Ma’ida: 104

Whenever they commit an indecent act, they say, “We found our fathers doing it and Allah commanded us to do it too.” Say: “Allah does not command indecency. Do you say things about Allah you do not know?”

Al-A‘raf: 28

They never want to abandon the “social religion” they’re accustomed to. For that reason, they seek out contradictions in the verses of Allah and strive to prevent people from His path. They are:

Those who bar access to the way of Allah and seek in it something crooked and reject the Hereafter.

Hud: 19

In short, these people are exceptionally insensitive with regard to the Qur’an and the verses of Allah; and their viewpoints never change in any significant way.

It is at this point comes a parting of the ways between hypocrites and deniers. Unlike the denier, the hypocrite does not completely reject the Qur’an. He will not emphasize that he does not truly believe in and submit to it, but on the contrary, seeks to hide that fact as much as possible. The denier does not implement the observances in the Qur’an unless he views them as a tradition left over from his ancestors; whereas the hypocrite does appear to fulfill a great many observances—on the surface.

Yet the hypocrite has not genuinely submitted to the verses. Whenever they impinge on his earthly desires, he remains completely insensitive to them. Furthermore, he performs only “formal” observances, even though a great many other observances need to be performed: such as complete submission to Allah and His messenger, and genuine acceptance of the messenger’s stipulations. In addition, the hypocrite ignores those commandments of Allah concerning proper moral values that happen to conflict with his worldly interests—which interests include defending those desires, belittling others and regarding oneself as superior.

Great wisdom underlies Allah’s revelation of the Qur’an, in which He warns against the Day of Judgment, and shows people the true path. However, only a few believe in the Qur’an and live by it in a fitting manner: Those are the faithful.

Believers are most respectful of the provisions of the Qur’an and submit to them. Their respect stems from their profound respect for Allah. Every time the Qur’an is recited, they fall silent to listen and fully reflect on the verses. The Qur’an increases their faith, and gives their hearts satisfaction and repose. In one verse Allah describes believers as:

. . . those whose hearts tremble when Allah is mentioned, whose faith is increased when His signs are recited to them, and who put their trust in their Lord.

Al-Anfal: 2

The attitude of hypocrites towards the Qur’an is highly two-faced. They abide by some of the verses of the Qur’an, but not by others. Their criteria are their earthly desires. They turn their backs without a qualm on provisions that feel difficult for them, such as spending in good causes or regarding their brother’s desires as superior to their own. They are very flexible when it comes to implementing many provisions that are actually obligatory, and do not implement others at all if no one is looking.

As the above verse reveals, believers who read the Qur’an grow in faith, while hypocrites grow in denial. This is actually one of Allah’s great miracles. That is because despite their reading exactly the same verses, two entirely different spiritual states emerge. Believers perceive the wisdom in the verses, while hypocrites are completely unable to fathom it. They may even be unaware of their inability to understand and imagine that they actually comprehend the Qur’an very well indeed.

The way this miracle comes about is set out in the Qur’an:

When you recite the Qur’an, We place an obscuring veil between you and those who do not believe in the Hereafter. We have placed covers on their hearts, preventing them from understanding it, and heaviness in their ears. When you mention your Lord alone in the Qur’an, they turn their backs and run away.

Al-Isra’: 45-46

11-30

Niqabi, Interrupted

July 13, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Wearing my niqab is a choice freely made, for spiritual reasons

By Naima B.Robert

Niqab3 I put on my niqab, my face veil, each day before I leave the house, without a second thought. I drape it over my face, tie the ribbons at the back and adjust the opening over my eyes to make sure my peripheral vision is not affected.

Had I a full-length mirror next to the front door, I would be able to see what others see: a woman of average height and build, covered in several layers of fabric, a niqab, a jilbab, sometimes an abayah, sometimes all black, other times blue or brown. A Muslim woman in ‘full veil’. A niqabi.

But is that truly how people see me? When I walk through the park with my little ones in tow, when I reverse my car into a parking space, when I browse the shelves in the frozen section, when I ask how to best cook asparagus at a market stall, what do people see? An oppressed woman? A nameless, voiceless individual? A criminal?

Well, if Mr Sarkozy and others like him have their way, I suppose I will be a criminal, won’t I? Never mind that “it’s a free country”; never mind that I made this choice from my own free will, as did the vast majority of covered women of my generation; never mind that I am, in every other respect, an upstanding citizen who works hard as a mother, author and magazine publisher, spends responsibly, recycles and tries to eat seasonally and buy local produce!

Yes, I cover my face, but I am still of this society. And, as crazy as it might sound, I am human, a human being with my own thoughts, feelings and opinions. I refuse to allow those who cannot know my reality to paint me as a cardboard cut-out, an oppressed, submissive, silenced relic of the Dark Ages. I am not a stereotype and, God willing, I never will be.

But where are those who will listen? At the end of the day, Muslim women have been saying for years that the hijab et al are not oppressive, that we cover as an act of faith, that this is a bonafide spiritual lifestyle choice. But the debate rages on, ironically, largely to the exclusion of the women who actually do cover their faces.

The focus on the niqab is, in my opinion, utterly misplaced. Don’t the French have anything better to do than tell Muslim women how to dress? Don’t our societies have bigger problems than a relative handful of women choosing to cover their faces out of religious conviction? The “burka issue” has become a red herring: there are issues that Muslim women face that are more pressing, more wide-reaching and, essentially, more relevant than whether or not they should be covering with a niqab, burqa or hijab.

At the end of the day, all a ban will do is force Muslim women who choose to cover to retreat even further – it is not going to result in a mass “liberation” of Muslim women from the veil. All women, covered or not, deserve the opportunity to dress as they see fit, to be educated, to work where they deem appropriate and run their lives in accordance with their principles, as long as these choices do not impinge on others’ freedoms. And last time I looked, being able to see a woman’s hair, legs or face were not rights granted alongside “liberté, egalité et fraternité”.

As a Muslim woman living in the UK, I am so grateful for the fact that my society does not force me to choose between being a practising Muslim and an active member of society. I have been able to study, to work, to establish a writing career and run a magazine business, all while wearing a niqaab. I think that that is a credit to British society, no matter what the anti-multiculturalists may say, and I think the French coul d learn some very valuable lessons from the British approach.

So, three cheers for those women who make the choice to cover, in whatever way and still go out there every day. Go out to brave the scorn and ridicule of those who think they understand the burka better than those who actually wear it. Go out to face the humiliating headlines. Go out to face the taunts of schoolchildren. Go out to fight another day. Go out to do their bit for society and the common good. Because you never know, if Mr Sarkozy and his supporters have their way, there could come a day when these women think twice about going out there into a society that cannot bear the way they look. And, who knows, I could be one of them.

And, while some would disagree, I think that would be a sad day.

Na’ima B. Robert is the founding editor of SISTERS , a magazine for Muslim women and author of ‘From My Sisters’ Lips ‘, a look at the lives of British Muslim women who cover.

11-29

No Longer a Day at the Beach

October 9, 2008 by · Leave a Comment 

By Sumayyah Meehan, MMNS

beach

Enjoying a day at the beach has always been something fun and affordable for families in Egypt. Who wouldn’t want to take a dip in the Red Sea or frolic in the sun soaked sand? But for many residents of Egypt a day at the beach, like so many other commodities in their life, is becoming unaffordable. Now anyone wanting to spend the day at the beach must pay to play.

The reason being is that wealthy developers and governorates of the coastal property are turning public beaches into private ones, excluding the general public from setting foot on the property. Egypt, with its stunning scenery, is fast becoming a playground for the elite. Chalets and 5-Star hotels are going up seemingly over night. And while the public does have limited access to the now private beaches, in the form of an entrance fee of about $18, it is still an unaffordable rate for many families in a country where 65% of the population can barely make ends meet.

More than 100 meters of the Egyptian coast from Alexandria to Marsa Matruh have now been cordoned off from the public. There is not a single public beach in the whole stretch of land. The beaches have also been renamed to further woo tourists. Names like Oxygen, Paradise and Bianki don the most exclusive beaches whom in turn shell out thousands of dollars to the governorates to rent the space. Then the costs are passed on to visitors in the form of high entrance, food and comfort fees. Most of the private beaches will give beach-goers a chair for free, but if they want a towel, sunglasses or even a glass of water they should be ready to pay through the nose.

The private beaches are popular for several reasons. The Red Sea is close to Cairo, which is one of the biggest cities in the World with high-flying executives and wealthy Egyptians seeking to shed the city for the weekend. Another attraction is women’s-only private beaches where women, who normally wear the face veil or burqa, can shed their everyday clothes in favor of a bikini so that they too can soak up the sun, sand and surf. And let’s not forget about global tourists who visit Egypt year round to tour the Pyramids and enjoy activities like desert safaris.

The facilities and leisure activities on offer at Egypt’s most prestigious private beaches are also a massive drawing point. Snorkeling, scuba diving, jet skiing, windsailing and parasailing are just a few of the activities on offer. There are also several resorts and private villages like La Hacienda, Marabella and Marina that offer live concerts, 5-star restaurants, bars and dance clubs.

With a favorable climate, especially in the winter months which is notably warm, more and more of the Egyptian coastline will be developed not for locals to enjoy but rather to cater to those guests who have more disposable wealth to pay for even the simplest entertainment.

The days of the remaining public beaches are most definitely numbered, with newly categorized private beaches going directly under lock and key.

10-42

Land and Freedom–Kashmir

August 28, 2008 by · Leave a Comment 

Courtesy Arundhati Roy, The Guardian

2008-08-22T122752Z_01_SRI15_RTRMDNP_3_KASHMIR-PROTESTS

A Muslim Kashmiri woman with a 40-day-old baby shouts pro-freedom slogans during a march to “Martyrs Graveyard” in Srinagar August 22, 2008. Tens of thousands of Muslims marched in Indian Kashmir’s main city on Friday, resuming some of the biggest protests in two decades against Indian rule. Hundreds of trucks and buses brought the protesters, many of them sitting on roofs and hanging out of windows, for an independence rally to be addressed by separatist leaders.

REUTERS/Fayaz Kabli 

For the past 60 days or so, since about the end of June, the people of Kashmir have been free. Free in the most profound sense. They have shrugged off the terror of living their lives in the gun-sights of half a million heavily armed soldiers, in the most densely militarised zone in the world.

After 18 years of administering a military occupation, the Indian government’s worst nightmare has come true. Having declared that the militant movement has been crushed, it is now faced with a non-violent mass protest, but not the kind it knows how to manage. This one is nourished by people’s memory of years of repression in which tens of thousands have been killed, thousands have been “disappeared”, hundreds of thousands tortured, injured, and humiliated. That kind of rage, once it finds utterance, cannot easily be tamed, rebottled and sent back to where it came from.

A sudden twist of fate, an ill-conceived move over the transfer of 100 acres of state forest land to the Amarnath Shrine Board (which manages the annual Hindu pilgrimage to a cave deep in the Kashmir Himalayas) suddenly became the equivalent of tossing a lit match into a barrel of petrol. Until 1989 the Amarnath pilgrimage used to attract about 20,000 people who travelled to the Amarnath cave over a period of about two weeks. In 1990, when the overtly Islamist militant uprising in the valley coincided with the spread of virulent Hindu nationalism (Hindutva) in the Indian plains, the number of pilgrims began to increase exponentially. By 2008 more than 500,000 pilgrims visited the Amarnath cave, in large groups, their passage often sponsored by Indian business houses. To many people in the valley this dramatic increase in numbers was seen as an aggressive political statement by an increasingly Hindu-fundamentalist Indian state. Rightly or wrongly, the land transfer was viewed as the thin edge of the wedge. It triggered an apprehension that it was the beginning of an elaborate plan to build Israeli-style settlements, and change the demography of the valley.

Days of massive protest forced the valley to shut down completely. Within hours the protests spread from the cities to villages. Young stone pelters took to the streets and faced armed police who fired straight at them, killing several. For people as well as the government, it resurrected memories of the uprising in the early 90s. Throughout the weeks of protest, hartal (strikes) and police firing, while the Hindutva publicity machine charged Kashmiris with committing every kind of communal excess, the 500,000 Amarnath pilgrims completed their pilgrimage, not just unhurt, but touched by the hospitality they had been shown by local people.

Eventually, taken completely by surprise at the ferocity of the response, the government revoked the land transfer. But by then the land-transfer had become what Syed Ali Shah Geelani, the most senior and also the most overtly Islamist separatist leader, called a “non-issue.”

Massive protests against the revocation erupted in Jammu. There, too, the issue snowballed into something much bigger. Hindus began to raise issues of neglect and discrimination by the Indian state. (For some odd reason they blamed Kashmiris for that neglect.) The protests led to the blockading of the Jammu-Srinagar highway, the only functional road-link between Kashmir and India. Truckloads of perishable fresh fruit and valley produce began to rot.

The blockade demonstrated in no uncertain terms to people in Kashmir that they lived on sufferance, and that if they didn’t behave themselves they could be put under siege, starved, deprived of essential commodities and medical supplies. 2008-08-22T133347Z_01_SRI18R_RTRMDNP_3_KASHMIR-PROTESTS

To expect matters to end there was of course absurd. Hadn’t anybody noticed that in Kashmir even minor protests about civic issues like water and electricity inevitably turned into demands for azadi, freedom? To threaten them with mass starvation amounted to committing political suicide.

Not surprisingly, the voice that the government of India has tried so hard to silence in Kashmir has massed into a deafening roar. Raised in a playground of army camps, checkpoints, and bunkers, with screams from torture chambers for a soundtrack, the young generation has suddenly discovered the power of mass protest, and above all, the dignity of being able to straighten their shoulders and speak for themselves, represent themselves. For them it is nothing short of an epiphany. Not even the fear of death seems to hold them back. And once that fear has gone, of what use is the largest or second largest army in the world?

There have been mass rallies in the past, but none in recent memory that have been so sustained and widespread. The mainstream political parties of Kashmir – National Conference and People’s Democratic party – appear dutifully for debates in New Delhi’s TV studios, but can’t muster the courage to appear on the streets of Kashmir. The armed militants who, through the worst years of repression were seen as the only ones carrying the torch of azadi forward, if they are around at all, seem content to take a back seat and let people do the fighting for a change.

The separatist leaders who do appear and speak at the rallies are not leaders so much as followers, being guided by the phenomenal spontaneous energy of a caged, enraged people that has exploded on Kashmir’s streets. Day after day, hundreds of thousands of people swarm around places that hold terrible memories for them. They demolish bunkers, break through cordons of concertina wire and stare straight down the barrel
s of soldiers’ machine guns, saying what very few in India want to hear. Hum Kya Chahtey? Azadi! (We want freedom.) And, it has to be said, in equal numbers and with equal intensity: Jeevey jeevey Pakistan. (Long live Pakistan.)

That sound reverberates through the valley like the drumbeat of steady rain on a tin roof, like the roll of thunder during an electric storm.

On August 15, India’s independence day, Lal Chowk, the nerve centre of Srinagar, was taken over by thousands of people who hoisted the Pakistani flag and wished each other “happy belated independence day” (Pakistan celebrates independence on August 14) and “happy slavery day”. Humour obviously, has survived India’s many torture centres and Abu Ghraibs in Kashmir.

2008-08-22T123509Z_01_SRI19_RTRMDNP_3_KASHMIR-PROTESTS On August 16 more than 300,000 people marched to Pampore, to the village of the Hurriyat leader, Sheikh Abdul Aziz, who was shot down in cold blood five days earlier.

On the night of August 17 the police sealed the city. Streets were barricaded, thousands of armed police manned the barriers. The roads leading into Srinagar were blocked. On the morning of August 18, people began pouring into Srinagar from villages and towns across the valley. In trucks, tempos, jeeps, buses and on foot. Once again, barriers were broken and people reclaimed their city. The police were faced with a choice of either stepping aside or executing a massacre. They stepped aside. Not a single bullet was fired.

The city floated on a sea of smiles. There was ecstasy in the air. Everyone had a banner; houseboat owners, traders, students, lawyers, doctors. One said: “We are all prisoners, set us free.” Another said: “Democracy without freedom is demon-crazy.” Demon-crazy. That was a good one. Perhaps he was referring to the insanity that permits the world’s largest democracy to administer the world’s largest military occupation and continue to call itself a democracy.

There was a green flag on every lamp post, every roof, every bus stop and on the top of chinar trees. A big one fluttered outside the All India Radio building. Road signs were painted over. Rawalpindi they said. Or simply Pakistan. It would be a mistake to assume that the public expression of affection for Pakistan automatically translates into a desire to accede to Pakistan. Some of it has to do with gratitude for the support – cynical or otherwise – for what Kashmiris see as their freedom struggle, and the Indian state sees as a terrorist campaign. It also has to do with mischief. With saying and doing what galls India most of all. (It’s easy to scoff at the idea of a “freedom struggle” that wishes to distance itself from a country that is supposed to be a democracy and align itself with another that has, for the most part been ruled by military dictators. A country whose army has committed genocide in what is now Bangladesh. A country that is even now being torn apart by its own ethnic war. These are important questions, but right now perhaps it’s more useful to wonder
what this so-called democracy did in Kashmir to make people hate it so?)

Everywhere there were Pakistani flags, everywhere the cry Pakistan se rishta kya? La illaha illallah. (What is our bond with Pakistan? There is no god but Allah.) Azadi ka matlab kya? La illaha illallah. (What does freedom mean? There is no god but Allah.)

For somebody like myself, who is not Muslim, that interpretation of freedom is hard – if not impossible – to understand. I asked a young woman whether freedom for Kashmir would not mean less freedom for her, as a woman. She shrugged and said “What kind of freedom do we have now? The freedom to be raped by Indian soldiers?” Her reply silenced me.

Surrounded by a sea of green flags, it was impossible to doubt or ignore the deeply Islamic fervour of the uprising taking place around me. It was equally impossible to label it a vicious, terrorist jihad. For Kashmiris it was a catharsis. A historical moment in a long and complicated struggle for freedom with all the imperfections, cruelties and confusions that freedom struggles have. This one cannot by any means call itself pristine, and will always be stigmatised by, and will some day, I hope, have to account for, among other things, the brutal killings of Kashmiri Pandits in the early years of the uprising, culminating in the exodus of almost the entire Hindu community from the Kashmir valley.

As the crowd continued to swell I listened carefully to the slogans, because rhetoric of ten holds the key to all kinds of understanding. There were plenty of insults and humiliation for India: Ay jabiron ay zalimon, Kashmir hamara chhod do (Oh oppressors, Oh wicked ones, Get out of our Kashmir.) The slogan that cut through me like a knife and clean broke my heart was this one: Nanga bhookha Hindustan, jaan se pyaara Pakistan. (Naked, starving India, More precious than life itself – Pakistan.)

Why was it so galling, so painful to listen to this? I tried to work it out and settled on three reasons. First, because we all know that the first part of the slogan is the embarrassing and unadorned truth about India, the emerging superpower. Second, because all Indians who are not nanga or bhooka are and have been complicit in complex and historical ways with the elaborate cultural and economic systems that make Indian society so cruel, so vulgarly unequal. And third, because it was painful to listen to people who have suffered so much themselves mock others who suffer, in different ways, but no less intensely, under the same oppressor. In that slogan I saw the seeds of how easily victims can become perpetrators.

Syed Ali Shah Geelani began his address with a recitation from the Qur`an. He then said what he has said before, on hundreds of occasions. The only way for the struggle to succeed, he said, was to turn to the Qur`an for guidance. He said Islam would guide the struggle and that it was a complete social and moral code that would govern the people of a free Kashmir. He said Pakistan had been created as the home of Islam, and that that goal should never be subverted. He said just as Pakistan belonged to Kashmir, Kashmir belonged to Pakistan. He said minority communities would have full rights and their places of worship would be safe. Each point he made was applauded.

I imagined myself standing in the heart of a Hindu nationalist rally being addressed by the Bharatiya Janata party’s (BJP) LK Advani. Replace the word Islam with the word Hindutva, replace the word Pakistan with Hindustan, replace the green flags with saffron ones and we would have the BJP’s nightmare vision of an ideal India.

Is that what we should accept as our future? Monolithic religious states handing down a complete social and moral code, “a complete way of life”? Millions of us in India reject the Hindutva project. Our rejection springs from love, from passion, from a kind of idealism, from having enormous emotional stakes in the society in which we live. What our neighbours do, how they choose to handle their affairs does not affect our argument, it only strengthens it.

Arguments that spring from love are also fraught with danger. It is for the people of Kashmir to agree or disagree with the Islamist project (which is as contested, in equally complex ways, all over the world by Muslims, as Hindutva is contested by Hindus). Perhaps now that the threat of violence has receded and there is some space in which to debate views and air ideas, it is time for those who are part of the struggle to outline a vision for what kind of society they are fighting for.

Perhaps it is time to offer people something more than martyrs, slogans and vague generalisations. Those who wish to turn to the Qur`an for guidance will no doubt find guidance there. But what of those who do not wish to do that, or for whom the Qur`an does not make place? Do the Hindus of Jammu and other minorities also have the right to self-determination? Will the hundreds of thousands of Kashmiri Pandits living in exile, many of them in terrible poverty, have the right to return? Will they be paid reparations for the terrible losses they have suffered? Or will a free Kashmir do to its minorities what India has done to Kashmiris for 61 years? What will happen to homosexuals and adulterers and blasphemers? What of thieves and lafangas and writers who do not agree with the “complete social and moral code”? Will we be put to death as we are in Saudi Arabia? Will the cycle of death, repression and bloodshed continue? History offers many models for Kashmir’s thinkers and intellectuals and politicians to study. What will the Kashmir of their dreams look like? Algeria? Iran? South Africa? Switzerland? Pakistan?

At a crucial time like this, few things are more important than dreams. A lazy utopia and a flawed sense of justice will have consequences that do not bear thinking about. This is not the time for intellectual sloth or a reluctance to assess a situation clearly and honestly.

Already the spectre of partition has reared its head. Hindutva networks are alive with rumours about Hindus in the valley being attacked and forced to flee. In response, phone calls from Jammu reported that an armed Hindu militia was threatening a massacre and that Muslims from the two Hindu majority districts were preparing to flee. Memories of the bloodbath that ensued and claimed the lives of more than a million people when India and Pakistan were partitioned have come flooding back. That nightmare will haunt all of us forever.

However, none of these fears of what the future holds can justify the continued military occupation of a nation and a people. No more than the old colonial argument about how the natives were not ready for freedom justified the colonial project.

Of course there are many ways for the Indian state to continue to hold on to Kashmir. It could do what it does best. Wait. And hope the people’s energy will dissipate in the absence of a concrete plan. It could try and fracture the fragile coalition that is emerging. It could extinguish this non-violent uprising and re-invite armed militancy. It could increase the number of troops from half a million to a whole million. A few strategic massacres, a couple of targeted assassinations, some disappearances and a massive round of arrests should do the trick for a few more years.

The unimaginable sums of public money that are needed to keep the military occupation of Kashmir going is money that ought by right to be spent on schools and hospitals and food for an impoverished, malnutritioned population in India. What kind of government can possibly believe that it has the right to spend it on more weapons, more concertina wire and more prisons in Kashmir?

The Indian military occupation of Kashmir makes monsters of us all. It allows Hindu chauvinists to target and victimise Muslims in India by holding them hostage to the freedom struggle being waged by Muslims in Kashmir.

India needs azadi from Kashmir just as much as – if not more than – Kashmir needs azadi from India.

· Arundhati Roy, 2008. A longer version of this article will be available tomorrow at outlookindia.com.

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