AFMI Holds First Muslim Convention At Ranchi

December 29, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Nilofar Suhrawardy, TMO

DSCN1212RANCHI (JHARKHAND): The 20th International Educational Convention and Gala Award Ceremony hosted by American Federation of Muslims of Indian Origin (AFMI) held here (December 24-25) is the first Muslim convention of national as well as international level to be held in Jharkhand’s capital city.

The chief guest at AFMI’s Ranchi-convention was Dr. Syed  Ahmed, Governor of Jharkhand. In his opinion, “Female education is a must” as that helps in the “literacy of the entire family.”

Trustee and founder, AFMI, Dr. A. S. Nakedar highlighted importance of “social justice, gender equality, 100% literacy with substantial importance given to both formal and religious education.”

Appreciating the educational importance of Indian Muslims, Subodh Kant Sahai, Union Minister of Tourism, took note of Jharkhand children being among the national toppers. Among 11, class ten toppers from India, three belong to Jharkhand. Sahai pointed out that AFMI’s convention have held people in Jharkhand and outside become aware of educational importance given by Indian Muslims in this state and elsewhere. He pointed out, “We have gone through a tough stage when because of communal polarization, secularism was at stake. The situation has changed now.” Sahai also expressed “salaam” for Indian madarsas giving importance to education.

Though Haji Hussain Ansari, Minority Welfare Minister (Jharkhand) accepted that Muslims are moving ahead, with help of AFMI and other organizations, he pointed out their “progress is not in keeping with their population.”

During his address, former Union Minister and present member of Parliament, Ram Vilas Paswan complimented AFMI and Dr. Nakedar for holding these conventions and giving awards to deserving students. This contributes in enhancing the social importance of Indian Muslims. Paswan also laid stress on his favor for AFMI’s approach in giving importance to religious education together with different aspects of academics (Dec 25).

AFMI, formed by American Muslims of Indian origin in 1989, aims to work towards educational and economic upliftment of Indian Muslims with cooperation between American and Indian relief and educational organizations.

All over India, the Top Eleven from Class 10th are:

Inamdar Farhat Iqbal – 97.2% (Maharashtra); Kanize Robab Ali – 96.71% (West Bengal); Ruksar Banu – 96.48% (Karnataka); Memon Shaheen Iqbal Bhai – 95.60% (Gujarat) with the following having secured 95 %:– Suffeya Zeb (Bihar); Nausheen Najmul Haque Ansari (Jharkhand); Nafis Ahmed Siraj Ahemd (Jharkhand), Aarifuzzaman (Jharkhand); Navar P.M. (Kerala); Faheem K. (Kerala) and Sheikh Mohammed Israil (Orissa).

The Top Ten from Class 12th Examination (all over India) are:

Maha Fathima – 98% (Kerala); Sarah S.D. – 96.33% (Tamil Nadu); Maria Yusuf Lakkadwala- 95.4% (Maharashtra); Israrbanu Mansoor Ballary – 95.33% (Karnataka);

Syed Safaraz Syed Hasham – 95.30% (Andhra Pradesh); Mohd. Arish Abdul Nasir – 94.20% (Uttar Pradesh); Rana Junaid Babar – 94.00% (Gujarat); Sarfaraz Abdul Gafoor – 93.08 % (Rajasthan); Sakina Pitalwala – 91.8% (Madhya Pradesh) and Nazneen Nighar Sultana- 91% (Orissa)

In addition to national level awards, six candidates from different states were selected for gold, silver and bronze medals.

14-1

Indian Secularism’s Litmus Test: Malegaon & Sadarpur

December 1, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Nilofar Suhrawardy, TMO

NEW DELHI: Litmus test faced almost continuously by Indian secularism is far from over. From the legal, political and social perspective of Indian Muslims, the test shall continue till they are denied their due share politically and cease being subject to prejudice prevalent against them in the country’s law & order system. The judicial decisions pronounced recently, regarding Malegaon blasts of 2006 and Sadarpur riots (2002) give the impression that the Indian Muslims are finally being ensured a fair judicial trial. But a close analysis highlights the hard reality they have been subject to.

Seven Muslims were released on bail last month as there was lack of evidence for being responsible for Malegaon blasts. It may be recalled, these seven were among the ones picked up by Maharashtra Anti-Terror Squad (MTS) within a few days after the blast. Despite their being no constructive proof of their being the guilty party, legally they are still viewed as suspects. They have been released on bail, paid on their behalf by an organization. If the bail had not been paid and had certain secular Indians as well as organizations not been pursuing action on their behalf, they may still have remained arrested.

Ironically, it did not take long for MTS to pick the seven individuals along with several others as responsible for Malegaon (2006)-blasts. Equally perplexing is the fact that the legal procedure has taken several years to accept that they were arrested without substantial proof convicting them of having committed the crime. Now, does that imply that they were picked up, without any proof, but only because they happened to be Muslims? Also, if it became clear that there was practically no evidence against them, why were they kept in prisons for several years? Who and/or what should be held responsible for not paying due respect to law and order that is meant to take action against law breakers and not hold innocent persons as the guilty?

Incidentally, whenever blast incidents take place, usually Muslims are picked up almost instantly as suspect “terrorists.” Little importance is given to conducting appropriate investigation and collecting substantial evidence to arrest the actual culprits. In blast cases, unless the criminals are suicide bombers, there remains the strong possibility of there being little or no proof at the affected site. This also limits the prospects of almost immediately rounding up the suspect persons. In other words, the Indian secularism is still affected by a certain bias which instantly prompts concerned authorities to arrest Muslims, even if there is no evidence of their being responsible for the blast incidents.

Against the Malegaon-backdrop, Sadarpur-case presents a different picture from several aspects but one. The aggrieved party in this case too were the Muslims. Last month was witness to sentence given to 31 people for rioting in Sadarpur village, Gujarat in 2002. They have been held guilty for rioting in which 33 Muslims were burnt alive in Sadarpur, one of the many cases during which Muslims were brutally targeted in the Gujarat-carnage. Undeniably, the Sadarpur-sentence is hardly reflective of those guilty of rioting against Muslims during Gujarat-carnage being behind bars. It is an open secret that a significant percentage of rioters and those responsible for provoking the same may never even have any case filed against them. Regarding Sadarpur, it may also be noted that charges were framed in 2009, around seven years after the Gujarat-carnage, against 73 for murder, attempt to murder, rioting and arson. On these grounds, 21 persons were arrested. Besides, nearly a decade has passed since the Gujarat-carnage and also for a judicial decision announcing punishment against 31 held guilty of Sadarpur riots.

When riots take place, particularly if they are of the nature of Gujarat-carnage, with rioters present at the site, those responsible for security of the people and ensuring law and order are naturally expected not to spend too much time in picking up the guilty persons. In fact, if this action had been taken, brutal rioting could have been checked and Muslims may not have fallen victim to the Gujarat-carnage. But as is well known, due to certain political pressure, the concerned officers turned a blind eye to the carnage. In other words, they let the rioters target the Muslims. The hard fact that ten years have been spend in taking action against a few of the guilty is also reflective of a certain bias against Muslims being responsible for this delay.

Without doubt, whether it is the case of Malegaon or Sadarpur, Muslims have fallen victim to a bias entertained against them at certain levels. In Malegaon, it led to their being framed as suspect terrorists and in Sadarpur, it led the rioters target Muslims and remain free for several years till recently when a few of them received sentences. Undeniably, had secular organizations and activists not pursued these cases, neither Malegaon nor Sadarpur may have witnessed what seems to be “fair” and “just” trials. Certainly, the judicial decisions in both cases have led many people heave a sigh of relief that at least the judicial system has not displayed a bias against the Muslims. But this also indicates that till a bias prevails against Muslims at several levels, Indian secularism as well as judicial system shall continue facing a litmus test on whether Muslims have been denied justice or not.

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Abdul Ghaffar Sheikh, Dedicated AFMI Member, Passes Away

December 1, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

scan0129FARMINGTON, MICHIGAN—It is with profound sadness that the American Federation of Muslims of Indian Origin (AFMI) announces the passing away of Br. Abdul Ghaffar Sheikh. Inna Lillahi Wa Inna Ilaihi Rajioon.  He was the former president of AFMI-Canada anda life-long dedicated activist for the cause of education.  He suddenly passed away at the Mumbai airport on reaching from Toronto.  He was planning to attend AFMI’s convention scheduled to be held on December 24-25,2011 in Ranchi.

He was associated with a number of community organizations in the Greater Toronto Area. He was deeply concerned about the educational status of Indian Muslims and had many ideas and plans of improving it. In thepast eight years he had hardly missed any of the AFMI’s conventions in India where he often moderated or spoke at the sessions. He would also mingle with the student awardees, giving them advice and inquiring about their career plans.

AFMI has lost a dedicated member whose presence will be sorely missed.

We pray to Allah (swt) to grant him maghfirah and the highest stations in jannah and patience to his family and friends.

The American Federation of Muslims of Indian Origin; 29008 W.8 Mile Road, Farmington Hills, MI 48336; Tel: 248-442-2364; afmi11@aol.com.

Mumbai and Kashmir

July 21, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Geoffrey Cook, TMO

INDIA/

A student lifts a placard as he and others line up to take part in a march for peace in Mumbai July 20, 2011. Students from the Antonio Da Silva high school marched through the streets of Mumbai to condemn the recent bomb attacks in the city. 

REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui

San Pablo (California)–The explosions in Mumbai last week (the 12th) killed twenty-one with over a hundred wounded in the Indian financial capital of Mumbai.  This event should have especial pithiness to Muslims in North America and elsewhere because, although still an overall minority, Delhi’s realm has the second largest Islamic population in the world whereas neighboring Pakistan is overwhelming Muslim.

Of course, the attack upon the Indian Parliament during the first year of this century by non-State actors with the ensuing near-nuclear confrontation that resulted was eventually diffused by the Pakistani Chief Executive despite the far right-wing Hindu chauvinist Government in the Indian Metropole.   Fortunately, at the time of the 2008 attacks upon Mumbai, India had a much more rational Centrist administration; so, the consternation within Bharat in 2008 was resolved more diplomatically than in 2001 over the issues arising around the State non-actors.

In 2008, it became evident that the roots of the attacks lay in the injustices within the Indian State of Jammu and Kashmir (J. & K.).   Whether terrorism is the proper way to conduct insurgency is debatable because it targets civilian rather than military targets, but it is a tactic of asymmetrical warfare wherein the counter-insurgents have an advantage over their irregular opponents, and the rebels believe that terror equalizes the battlefield, and can even bring their fight deep within the Metropolis of the their oppressor, and away from their peripheral homeland.

There is chauvinism within India – and to a lesser extent – within Pakistan that an attack within the border of either is instigated in the capitol of the other.  This often ignores the considerable home-grown discontent within their very boundaries.  It is true that rogue elements within Rawalpindi’s ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence) agency conduct aggressive foreign policy on their own initiative rather than in consultation with Islamabad.  Besides non-State actors, they have had allied out-of-control sub-State players in league with them in the 2001 and 2008 incidents, and might linger in the current incident, but it has not been Pakistani governmental policies to initiate these assaults!  Unfortunately, today Pakistan has a weak Government and is less likely to contain those elements than with their then strong Executive after the diffusion of the crisis in 2002.

Because of the “radical” right-wing and with their Indian media (those that are) sensationalist along with the Pakistani Center’s inability to contain their reprobate elements has caused a very dangerous bi-State situation.  Added to this, the “mercenary” Arab (especially Al’Quaeda’s) entrance into the Kashmiri cause for independence from the Af-Pak region, which has done more harm than good to the Kashmiris themselves, the greater area has become more explosive.

What happened last week is very dangerous indeed.  The Indians have taken a fortunate restraint until they can claim to have determined the guilty party and who – if any – were responsible for supporting them. 

I, personally, am most worried this will cause the fall of the rational (Indian) Congress ascendancy, and the subsequent  ascendance of the fascist-like BJP (the Bhartiya Janata Party), the political wing of the Hindu fundamentalist/casteist RSS (Rashtiya Swamsevak Sangh) who brought the world the assassination of M.K. Gandhi during his fast to end the slaughter ensuing the Partition of British India between the Muslims and Hindus, etc. just after the Independence of Pakistan and the Indian Union in the late 1940s.

I have many friends and colleagues on both sides of the LoC (Line of Control, the de facto frontier between the two South Asian neighbors in Kashmir).  During the last fortnight, I have been daily on my phone to the Gulf and Subcontinent to get my learned acquaintances perspectives.

So, far I have been receiving replies of little concern over the recent incident within that region.   Whatever, the Kashmir “problem” is the second most dangerous conflict that could lead to lead to a larger conflagration, must be solved!   I only hope my resident friends there are right and the (nuclearized) State-level danger will subside with calm heads prevailing.

If it does not, I will be following this further.

13-30

Indian Envoy Conferred Top Saudi Honor

July 14, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Nilofar Suhrawardy, TMO

RIYADH/NEW DELHI: Indian envoy to Saudi Arabia Talmiz Ahmad has been conferred the King Abdulaziz Medal of First Class for his contribution to strengthening bilateral ties between India and Saudi Arabia. He is the first Indian diplomat to be conferred this honor. The medal, comprising a decorative badge and a certificate signed by King Abdullah, was presented by Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal (July 10).

“This (King Abdulaziz Order of Merit – First Class) is a tribute from Saudi Arabia to Talmiz Ahmad for his contributions during both his tenures as Indian Ambassador in promoting bilateral relations between the two countries,” Prince Al-Faisal said after conferring the Saudi Award of highest order to Indian envoy.

Ahmad has played a significant role in strengthening Indo-Saudi ties and promoting them on a “strategic level.” On this, Ahmad said: “Indo-Saudi relations have been transformed into a strategic partnership with the signing of the Delhi Declaration during the landmark visit of King Abdullah to New Delhi in 2006, and the return visit of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh last year.”

The Indian envoy, whose term in Riyadh ends shortly, is also credited for promoting relations between India and Saudi Arabia at several levels, including cultural and economic. Describing his role as “modest” in progress of bilateral ties, Ahmad said: “Mine has been a modest role in this endeavor, in which a large number of people have contributed both from India and Saudi Arabia.”

Ahmad was first appointed ambassador of India to Saudi Arabia in January 2000. He has served as ambassador in several other countries, including UAE and Oman. He was appointed again as Indian envoy to Saudi Arabia last year ahead of Prime Minister Singh’s visit to the Kingdom.

In addition to being a career diplomat, Ahmad has written several books and papers on politics of West Asia and energy. The Arabic translation of his book: “Children of Abraham at War: The Clash of Messianic Militarism” was released earlier this month in New Delhi. Ahmad was present on the occasion. His aim is to “promote Indo-Saudi ties in a number of areas on immediate, medium-term and long-term basis that include research and studies, energy discussions and advance guidance with regards to business imunity.”

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Haroon Siddiqui Speaks at Indian American Muslim Council Event at Tawhid Center in Farmington

May 26, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Adil James, TMO

P5210005One of the most prominent journalists in Canada spoke at the Tawheed Center Saturday evening.  Haroon Siddiqui, originally from Hyderabad, India, started working as a reporter before leaving India, then came to Canada and progressed through a meteoric rise at the Toronto Star, Canada’s best newspaper.  He progressed from reporter to national editor in only twelve years (1978 – 1990).  Finally he served for eight years as “Editor Emeritus,” the editorial page editor of the Star.

Siddiqui is the recipient of numerous awards from organizations and from national and provincial bodies.  For example, in 2000 and 2001 he became a member of the Order of Ontario, for crafting “a broader definition of the Canadian identity,” inclusive of our First Nations, French Canadians and newer Canadians he is active in several organizations, including service as a professor at the Ryerson School of Journalism.  He is also the author of Being Muslim, a book which he signed for visitors on Saturday evening at the Tawheed Center.

Saturday, Asim Khan of the Tawheed Center explained in detail the recent achievements of the Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC) which sponsored the evening with Haroon Siddiqui.  the IAMC is an Indian advocacy  and service organization based in Washington DC.  Recent changes included changing the name to reflect the IAMC’s center of gravity in the USA.  Achievements include serious work to counter discrimination in India (and to some extent in America) against Muslims.  Mr. Khan explained the most important achievement was the work of the Human Rights Law Network, an association of 300 lawyers in India who work to protect Muslims from abuses and injustices by authorities in India. The lawyers handled 50 cases this year.

The keynote speaker, Mr. Siddiqui, spoke on wide ranging issues concerning the philosophical foundation for Muslims to live in the United States and Canada. He spoke about the three levels of conflict that arose out of the 9/11 attacks (a generalized war on terror, actual war in Iraq and Afghanistan, and by a few, a cultural warfare aimed against Islam and Muslims–blaming every Muslim for every evil done by any Muslim).  He quoted Anne Frank, who in her diary explained that when a Jew does something wrong, every Jew is blamed, but when a Christian does something wrong then only that Christian is blamed–Siddiqui showed the parallel current situation for Muslims. Siddiqui emphasized that “there is no dichotomy between being Muslim and being American, no clash, no law contrary to Islamic principles, except one–four wives.”  He emphasized that in the West there is in fact sometimes more freedom to practice Islam than in supposedly Muslim countries.

He also advised against pitfalls that he said confronted Muslim immigrants to the West, including individual success built at the cost of community success.

13-22

2011 Indian Premier League Cricket Season Under Way

April 14, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Parvez Fatteh, Founder of http://sportingummah.com, sports@muslimobserver.com

Indian Premier League_1The fourth season of Indian Premier League cricket kicked off on Friday April 8th. And through ten matches thus far, the Mumbai Indians and the Rajasthan Royals have jumped to the early lead in the standings. Those two teams are the only undefeated clubs remaining with identical 2-0 records. Rajasthan started their season with an eight wicket victory over the Deccan Chargers. They followed that up with a six wicket victory over the Delhi Daredevils.

Mumbai were finalists in last season’s IPL, so their thirst for the cup is great, knowing that they were within a whisker of the title last year. They opened their season this year with an eight wicket victory over the Delhi Daredevils. In that match, Muslim bowlers Ali Murtaza and Munaf Patel were a big part of the victory. The left-handed Murtaza bowled four overs, giving up only 21 runs, and grabbing one wicket. His right-handed Muslim counterpart, Patel, completed three overs, giving up only 20 runs, without any wickets.

In their second match, Mumbai demolished the Royal Challengers Bangalore by nine wickets. Murtaza and Patel proved quite dependable in that match as well. Murtaza tossed a steady four overs, giving up 26 runs without any wickets. Patel, meanwhile, bowled three overs and gave up a miniscule 10 runs, without any wickets. It appears that if Mumbai are to take that next step and win the 2011 IPL title, this lefty-righty Muslim tandem will definitely play a role.

13-16

Alert: India Preparing for Nuclear War?

January 21, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

By Zaheerul Hassan

Reliable sources stated that Pakistani authorities have decided to move her forces from Western to Eastern border. The move of forces would start soon. The decision has been taken after receiving the threat from Indian Army Chief General Deepak Kapoor to strike Pakistan on November 22, 2009. Indian Chief warned that a limited war under a nuclear overhang is still very much a reality at least in the Indian sub-continent. On November 23, 2009 Pakistan Foreign Office Spokes man Abdul Basit asked the world community to take notice of remarks passed by the Indian Army Chief. He also said that India has set the stage and trying to impose a limited war on Pakistan. There are reports that Indian intelligence agencies have made a plan to hit some Indian nuke installation, alleging and then striking Pakistan. It is also added here that India has started purchasing lethal weapons. According to the careful survey a poor Asian country (India) has spent trillions on purchasing of Naval, Air force and nuke equipments.

Thus, Indian preparation simply dictates that she is preparing for nuke war. The Kashmir conflicts, water issue, borer dispute between China and India, American presence in Afghanistan, Maoist movements, Indian state terrorism, cold war between India and regional countries would be contributing factors towards Next third world war.

Indian Chief’s statement by design came a day earlier to Manmohan Singh visit to USA. The purpose of threatening Pakistan could also be justifying future Indian attack on Pakistan. Therefore, Islamabad concern is serious in nature since any Indian misadventure will put the regional peace into stake and would lead both the country towards nuclear conflict. Islamabad probably conveyed her ally (USA) regarding danger of limited war against Pakistan; she has to cease her efforts on western border for repulsing Indian aggression on eastern border. In fact, Indian government and her army chief made a deliberate try to sabotage global war against terror. In this connection Pakistan Army Spokesman Major General Athar Abbas time and again said that India is involved in militancy against Pakistan and her consulates located in Afghanistan are being used as launching pad.

It is worth mentioning here that Pakistan has deployed more than 100,000 troops on the border with Afghanistan and is fighting a bloody war against terrorism. Her security forces are busy in elimination of foreign sponsored militancy. Thousand of soldiers have scarified their lives not only for the motherland but to bring safety to the world in general. Pakistan is a key ally in the war on terror and the threat of withdrawal would alarm the USA as it could seriously hamper NATO troops fighting in Afghanistan. Pakistan is a nuclear power too and is able to handle any type of Indian belligerence.

In this context, earlier Pakistan Army Chief of Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani has categorically expressed at number of occasions that Indian attack would be responded in full strength while using all types of resources. On November 25, 2009 General Kayani stated that the nation would emerge as victorious in the on-going war against extremism. While addressing a ceremony at Police Lines he paid rich tributes to the Frontier police for their valuable sacrifices in the war against terrorism. At this occasion General Kayani revealed that Pakistan was founded in the name of Islam by our forefathers and each one of us should work for strengthening the country and should made commitment towards achieving the goal of turning the country into a true Islamic state. He also announced Rs.20 million for the Frontier Police Shuhada Fund.

In response to Indian Army Chief’ statement he also put across the message that the protection and solidarity of the country are our main objectives as our coming generation owes this debt to us and resolved that any threat to the sovereignty and integrity of the country would not be tolerated. The General made it clear that Pak Army has the capability and the capacity to fight the war against terrorists and adversary too. He praised the sacrifices rendered by the security forces and high morale of the troops. Lt General Masood Aslam, Commander 11 Corps, IGFC Major General Tariq and IGP NWFP Malik Neveed Khan were also present at this historic moment.

Pakistan Army Chief visits of western border reflect his commitment to root out the foreign sponsored militancy from the area. This rooting out is directly helping global war on terror, whereas on the other hand his counter part (Indian Chief) keep on yelling and dreaming of striking Pakistan. He probably has forgotten that Pakistan is a responsible nuke power and capable to defend and strike. In 2001 and 2008 at the occasions of attacks on parliament and Mumbai, both the nations close to a nuke war, this was averted by interference from the world community India and USA. At that time too security officials have also told NATO and USA that they will not leave a single troop on the western border incase of Indian threat.

12-4

Indian Muslims Need To “Correct” Their Image, Says Indian Vice President

December 17, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Nilofar Suhrawardy, MMNS India

NEW DELHI:  Have Indian Muslims taken too much for granted? Is there a need of newer impulses to respond to new situations? Vice President of India Hamid Ansari posed these questions while giving the Khuda Bakhsh Oriental Public Library Memorial Lecture at Patna, Bihar (December 12). The theme of his lecture was, “Identity, Citizenship and Empowerment.”

The Khuda Bakhsh Oriental Library, one of the oldest libraries in India, was opened to the public in 1891 by Maulvi Khuda Bakhsh Khan. It was declared as an institute of national importance in 1969 by an act of Parliament. Managed by an administrative board headed by governor of Bihar, the library is fully funded by the ministry of culture, with its director handling the regular managerial responsibilities.

Describing the library, as “amongst a handful of its kind in the world,” the golden jubilee of which is being celebrated this year, Ansari said: “It is a unique collection of Persian and Arabic manuscripts, described by a visitor as an ‘enclosed garden of precious things.’ These testify to the richness of the civilization of Islam…  One characteristic … is the diversity of the … dialogue conducted over centuries between peoples of diverse stocks and traditions and the interaction between Islamic values and the historical experience of Muslim communities.”

Deliberating on identity of Indian Muslims, Ansari said: “India is not a part of the ‘Muslim World’ but is not away from it; not a Muslim majority state in statistical terms yet home to the third largest community of Muslims in the world; not a society focused on Muslim welfare only but one in which the Muslims, as an integral part of a larger whole, constitutionally claim the attention that every other section does. The Indian Muslim community also has a history of engagement with the larger Muslim world and has contributed in intellectual, cultural and material terms to its enrichment.”

His aim was “to explore two aspects of the interaction that has characterised the Indian experience,” Ansari said. He posed the questions:  “Have the Muslims allowed their parameters to be frozen in time and taken too much for granted? Have they been sufficiently critical? Is there a need of newer impulses to respond to new situations?” Referring to “reality” portrayed by Sachar Committee Report that “examined the ground situation pertaining to identity, security and equity, highlighted facts emanating from official data and made recommendations for corrective and affirmative action,” Ansari asked: “What conclusions do we draw from our experience of six decades in terms, firstly, of the conceptual framework and, secondly, of the actual experience?”

Secularism, “accepted as part of the basic structure of the Constitution,” Ansari said, “pertains to three sets of relations in a society: between religion and the individual (freedom of religion); between the state and the individual (citizenship); and between the state and religion (separation of state and religion).” “The basic debate in India on the meaning and content of secularism has ranged on two principal approaches, namely (a) neutrality of the state vis-à-vis religions to ensure a basic symmetry of treatment between citizens of different religious communities and (b) prohibition of religious activities in the functioning of the state. The former implies respect for and implementation of rights given to religious minorities. The record of six decades shows that flawed practice has at times tended to dilute these principles,” Ansari pointed out.

Accepting that “practice has fallen short of the promise,” Ansari analysed the Indian Muslim mind. “Insecurity, frustration and uncertainty characterised the Indian Muslim mind in the immediate aftermath of Partition,” he said. Their grievances centred on five core concerns security, employment and reservations, Urdu, Aligarh Muslim University and Muslim Personal Law, he said. “The community’s internal discourse on these as also in the wider Indian circle is, therefore, of relevance. It was articulated through the ulema, political leaders, intellectuals and the general public. In many cases, these categories over-lapped; their responses varied. The record of six decades suggests an unduly defensive approach, sporadic and emotional rather than systematic and rational. The internal discourse repeated an old lament,” Ansari said.

“Suggestions for possible corrections were few, unfocused and far in between,” because of which, Ansari said, “an inter-community dialogue to seek correctives did not emerge; this enhanced distances.” Ansari emphasized: “There is, specifically, a requirement to address three challenges.” These include, he said: “Sustained, candid, and uninterrupted interaction with fellow citizens without a syndrome of superiority or inferiority;  involvement of  all segments of the community, particularly women who constitute half the population and are to be empowered in social responsibilities as equal partners with Muslim men; and self-empowerment in areas where competence already exists, making the best use of government assistance that is available, and creating capability to benefit from the opportunities being offered by an expanding economy.”

“The failure of communication with the wider community has tended to freeze the boundaries of diversities that characterise Indian society. People have tended to live together separately. As a result, stereotypes have been developed and nurtured,” Ansari said. “There is therefore an urgent need to correct the image, go beyond identity issues, project a more holistic view of Muslims as normal human beings and fellow citizens with the same rights and responsibilities as other citizens,” he said. “Islam’s emphasis on observance of ethical principles in interaction with all human beings should help Muslims to propel a positive image,” Ansari asserted.

Highlighting the need of “social awakening,” particularly with regard to status of women, Ansari pointed out that “in this effort, religious texts are not an impediment, social custom is.” “The endeavour should be inclusive; the traditionalists, who have a wider social reach, have to be included and reminded of Islam’s teachings on the status of women as also of the imperative of our times. What is needed is a virtual revolution in our approach to this question. The examples of education of women in Muslim societies like Indonesia, Malaysia, Iran and Turkey, and its eventual impact on the status of women in society, can be emulated with benefit,” he said.

“The social and economic rejuvenation of Indian Muslims is important for its internal dimension, as also for revitalising India’s traditional engagement with, and contribution to, the Muslim world beyond our borders,” Ansari stated. To keep the process on a progressive track and prevent regression, Ansari said: “The key seems to lie in a sincere, unconditional and uninterrupted dialogue and requisite corrective action within the framework of the Constitution. All segments of society, majority and minority, have a national duty to do so.”

11-52

Vande Mataram Fatwa: Hardly Controversial

November 12, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

By Nilofar Suhrawardy, Muslim Media News Service India Correspondent (MMNS)

NEW DELHI: Notwithstanding all the reservations and bias, they entertain against each other, several groups representing extremist sections of Indian Hindus and Muslims may be blamed equally for needlessly making noise over their stand on the Indian national song- Vande Mataram. The controversy hit the headlines with Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind (JUH), a Muslim organization issuing a fatwa against recitation of Vande Mataram, as according to them several stanzas were against their religious principles. The JUH issued the fatwa at its 30th general session held at Deoband (November 3). It did not take long for extremist Hindu groups, including the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Shiv Sena, Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Bajrang Dal to immediately protest against the JUH-fatwa. Several leaders associated with saffron brigade also labeled as not singing the Vande Mataram as an act of treason.

Clarifying his stand on the issue, Minority Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid questioned both the JUH-fatwa and the saffron brigade’s stand on it being compulsory for all Indians, including Muslims, to sing Vande Mataram. “During the independence movement, all national leaders, including leaders of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Hind Hind sat together and resolved that some stanzas of Vande Mataram would be treated as the national song and would be sung voluntarily. Nobody was forced to sing it and this is something which was there in the resolutions of both JUH and the Congress party,” Khurshid said. Just as there was no need for JUH to raise the issue again, as it had been already settled earlier, no individual could be forced to sing the song, he said. “I don’t know why this issue is being raised again,” he commented.

Vande Mataram, song was a part of the novel written by Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay called Anand Math, published in 1882. When India achieved independence in 1947, it was expected to become the national anthem. Objections raised by Muslim leaders, led to the song (Jana Gana Mana Adhinayak Jaya), written by Rabindranath Tagore become the national anthem.

Considering the fact that issue was resolved several decades ago, there was no reason for any fatwa against it. It would have been different case altogether, had JUH issued the decree in response against any of their members or associates being forced to sing the song. Similarly, the protest raised by extremist Hindu groups would have carried some relevance were the JUH-fatwa legally or morally binding on the entire Indian Muslim community. Or if the fatwa was suggestive of their showing disrespect to the national song. In this context, Vande Mataram is not the only national issue over which controversies have been raised time and again. Officially, though Hindi is India’s national language, it is not binding for government work across the country. Each state uses its regional language, with Hindi being the official language of less than 10 states. Bengali is West Bengal’s official language, Tamil of Tamil Nadu, Marathi – Maharashtra, Gujarati – Gujarat, Telugu – Andhra Pradesh and so forth.

The key point here is that the decision of various states of not using Hindi as their official language is not regarded as an act of treason and/or their showing disrespect to the national language. So why should questions be raised regarding the JUH-fatwa on Vande Mataram? Just as all Indians cannot be forced to use only Hindi, why should hue and cry be raised if some individuals or even groups decide not to sing Vande Mataram? It would have been a different case altogether, if the same was suggestive of such national symbols being abused.

Besides, it is indeed surprising that a lot of noise has been made over JUH-fatwa. One organization’s fatwa has prompted critics to say that it reflects the backwardness of Indian Muslims, their suffering from leadership crisis and their life being still being confined to dictates of their clerics. These points would have had some credibility if JUH was representative of the entire Indian Muslim community. It is not. The error lies in the critics confining their approach to analyzing issues linked with Indian Muslims only to their stereotyped approach, strongly suggestive of the negative bias they still hold against the country’s largest minority community. Just as neither the BJP, VHP, Shiv Sena or any extremist organization linked with saffron brigade or known to project its Hindutva-agenda, be held as representative of the entire Indian Hindu community, no Islamic group – even if claims to – be regarded as the voice of all Muslims in India. The error lies in assuming a few select groups to represent one whole religious community. How can the regional, religious, casteist and other ethnic factors the Indian people across the country are divided into be ignored? This is strongly reflected by numerous political parties, spread across the country. Difference in political culture from north to south, east to west and from state to state also stands marked by the dress, language, even the variety in food, used by Indians. It is indeed amazing, that while making noise against the JUH-fatwa on Vande Mataram, the critics virtually ignored facts such as that organization does not represent the entire Indian Muslim community and singing it is not binding on all Indians, just as using Hindi as the national language is not. The issue, hardly controversial, has been made to appear as such by noise raised over it!

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