War & Water in South Asia

May 13, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Geoffrey Cook, MMNS

Los Angeles—April 10th—Ashok C. Shukla, an independent scholar, who has written and edited several books on South Asian security issues that are largely available in India, but, unfortunately, too often have to be imported from there into North America.  He has been commissioned by an editor to compose a chapter on energy security in the environs for as yet unnamed publisher.

Most of the presentation was on the problematic future transport of oil and gas across Pakistan into India.  Yet, the crucial issue of water came up early.  With today’s political situation, fresh water is problematical there, too — competitive to say the least. The Ganges-Brahmaputra basin provides the fresh water or part of it for all but two of the area’s nations.  This probably supplies a billion people with their drinkable supply of water.  The competition between India and Pakistan is a volatile one, and most likely will not terminate itself to the satisfaction of all parties anytime soon.  At the very worse it could become a trigger for thermo-nuclear war between the two military giants within Southern Asia that could destroy hundreds of millions of people along with its ancient civilization!

(Also, not as pressing, towards the east, there have been unsubstantiated accusations that India has been skimming off part of Bangladesh’s aquifer.)

As has been intimated, Dr. Shukla’s chapter will examine the energy insecurity of the remarkably expanding economy of India.  (Since this is the Muslim Observer, although Bharat (India’s) population is only 12% Islamic [about the same percentage as Afro-Americans in the United States], it has the second highest Islamic national numbers in the world.  In Pakistan, 98% of the country is Muslim; Afghanistan, who potentially could play a role in the transportation of oil and gas to the Subcontinent, is circa 99%.  Bangladesh is an Islamic State Constitutionally along with substantial non-Muslim minorities, though; and most of the new raw energy-rich former Soviet Republics are (Socialist) secularized Islamic States currently rediscovering their Islamic roots.  (Your essayist wishes to point to the veracity of the Islamic political issues of the discussion which were not considered by Mr. Shukla.)

Both India and Pakistan are important to the interests of Washington because of the economic rise of New Delhi and the strategic military significance of Rawalpindi.  Also, within, South Asia, there are overbearing ecological issues impacting the entire globe.  India desperately, requires propulsion sources for their spectacularly expanding industries which resides in raw form in Central Asia and Iran, but Islamabad (and to a lesser extent Afghanistan) holds the key transit routes for the necessary pipelines.  The bad feeling between Indo-Pakistan means that in any crisis the Pakistanis have the capability to turn off the valves bringing India’s burgeoning economy to a halt.  Further, the United States is against India buying Iranian gas which would, also, transverse Pakistan.  (This goes back to our bad relations with the Persians which probably will turn out to be temporary anyway.) The United States is pressing for the pipelines to go through Turkestan.  Nevertheless, added to American opposition, New Delhi does not accept Pakistan’s terms to permit a pipeline from Tehran.) 

Whatever, SAARC (the South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation) will not involve itself in political matters between India and Pakistan by the very nature of its charter (it is only an economic organization), and, thus, will not intervene in bi-lateral matters.  (For this reason, it lacks relevance as a prospective influential territorial negotiator on dangerous political issues over the vastness of the geographical extent of the Indic sphere. 

Ashok C. Shukla ended his proposed chapter with the statement that South Asia totally lacks energy security.

(Your reporter pointed to the fact that Bangladesh, one of the poorest countries in the world, may be sitting on a sea of gas.  Although a Muslim country it is friendly to India [as is Iran and the Central Asian Republics].  One of the reasons that the gas fields have not been developed is that the technology to liquefy the gaseous energy has not been perfected yet in large enough quantities to ship it to the West and China on ships.  It would make sense, though, to send it to India through pipes, and that would solve the energy security issue for New Delhi, and, further, it would help with the ecological problem since the Republic of India depends on coal for its industrial expansion, and natural gas is much, much cleaner burning).

Dr. Shukla rejected this due to Bangladesh’s nationalistic sensibilities (which your writer finds it hard to believe, for the East Bengals badly require foreign exchange, and their gas could make them as rich as some of the Middle East oil giants! ) 

12-20

Honor for Prof. Barlas

May 6, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

asma-barlas ITHACA, NY—Longtime faculty member and administrator Asma Barlas has been named director of Ithaca College’s Center for the Study of Culture, Race, and Ethnicity (CSCRE). She served as the founding director of the CSCRE from 1999 to 2002 and returned to the position for a three-year appointment in 2006.

A member of the faculty since 1991, Barlas is a professor in the Department of Politics in the School of Humanities and Sciences. She has focused her research on Islam and on how Muslims interpret and live it in accord with the Qur’an, particularly with regard to women.

The CSCRE is a campus-wide interdisciplinary unit within the Division of Interdisciplinary and International Studies (DIIS). It offers courses that engage with the experiences of ALANA people (African-Americans, Latino/a-Americans, Asian-Americans, and Native-Americans), who are generally marginalized, under-represented or misrepresented in the U.S. as well as in the curriculum. The center hosts an annual year-long discussion series to promote meaningful dialogue on themes that may not be well covered in the college-wide curriculum.

“Dr. Barlas is noted for her intellectual accomplishments, advocacy on behalf of ALANA people and commitment to considering the connections between the domestic and the international,” said Tanya Saunders, dean of the DIIS. “We are delighted that she will continue to lead the center, contribute to the college’s plan for diversity, support student and faculty engagement with life in a dynamic multiracial and polycultural world, and strengthen the understanding of how race and ethnicity shape an individual’s identity and life chances.”

Barlas has authored the books “Islam, Muslims, and the U.S.: Essays on Religion and Politics,” “‘Believing Women’ in Islam: Unreading Patriarchal Interpretations of the Qur’an” and “Democracy, Nationalism and Communalism: The Colonial Legacy in South Asia.” In the spring of 2008 she held the prestigious Spinoza Chair at the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands, where she delivered public lectures, discussed her work in progress with faculty, taught a course for graduate students on Islam and pursued her own research.

A Muslim and a native of Pakistan, Barlas was one of the first women to join the Foreign Service and later became assistant editor of a leading opposition newspaper. In the mid-1980s she came to the United States, where she eventually received political asylum. She holds a Ph.D. in international studies from the University of Denver, an M.A. in journalism from the University of the Punjab, Pakistan and a B.A. in English literature and philosophy from Kinnaird College for Women, Pakistan.

12-19

Singh & Gilani Agree To “Normalize” Indo-Pak Ties

May 6, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Nilofar Suhrawardy, MMNS India Correspondent

NEW DELHI:  The much-awaited talks between Prime Minister of India Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani were held last week on sidelines of 16th Summit of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) in Thimpu, Bhutan (April 29). Though the two sides still retain differences over several issues, including Kashmir, the high-level talks are viewed as a “positive breakthrough.” The key point is their agreement to revive the Indo-Pak dialogue process, practically put on hold since Mumbai-blasts in 2008. Though the two prime ministers last met at Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt in July 2009, Indo-Pak dialogue has yet to be brought back on track. Till date, it has been held back because of terrorism, sources said. While concern about terrorism still remains high on agenda of both the countries, the positive outcome of talks in Thimpu is that they agreed to “normalize” Indo-Pak ties and decide on dates for talks to be held at various levels.

Briefing media persons on Singh-Gilani talks, Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao said: “They discussed all issues in a free and frank manner. They agreed that India-Pakistan cooperation is vital, if the people of South Asia are to realize their destiny and if SAARC is to become an effective and powerful instrument of regional cooperation. They agreed that relations between the two countries should be normalized, and channels of contact should work effectively to enlarge the constituency of peace in both countries.”

Singh voiced India’s concern about terrorism to Gilani. “India,” Singh told Gilani, “is willing to discuss all issues of concern with Pakistan and to resolve all outstanding issues through dialogue, but that issue of terrorism is holding back progress,” Rao said. On his part, Gilani told Singh, “Pakistan would not allow Pakistani territory to be used for terrorist activity directed against India.”

“The meeting was an exercise in mutual comprehension because there is a lack of mutual trust in the relationship impeding the process of normalization. The two sides have agreed on the need to assess the reasons underlying the current state of relations, or current state of affairs of the relationship and to think afresh on the way forward. They have agreed that the foreign ministers and the foreign secretaries will be charged with the responsibility of working out the modalities of restoring trust and confidence in the relationship and thus paving the way for a substantive dialogue on all issues of mutual concern,” Rao told media persons.

To a question on dates for taking forward the process of Indo-Pak talks, Rao replied: “The two sides have agreed to meet as soon as possible.” While dates have yet to be decided, Rao said: “The instructions of the prime ministers are that the foreign ministers and the foreign secretaries should meet as soon as possible.”

When asked on whether Pakistan gave any “commitment” to India regarding terrorism, Rao said: “Prime Minister (Singh) was very emphatic in mentioning that Pakistan has to act on the issue of terrorism, that the terror machine, as he termed it, that operates from Pakistan needs to be controlled, needs to be eliminated.” Gilani’s stand, according to Rao, was that Pakistan was “equally seized of these concerns, that terrorism has affected Pakistan’s well-being also, and that they want to address this issue comprehensively and effectively.”

In a separate press briefing, Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said that the two prime ministers’ meeting had played a major role in improving the atmosphere between the two countries. The “outcome” of their meeting has been “more than expected,” Qureshi said. “It is a step in the right direction, a concrete development and we will build on it,” he stated. Dismissing prospects of any major breakthrough in immediate future, Qureshi said that “trust deficit” between India and Pakistan has to be bridged through “confidence-building measures.” “We have to be realistic and pragmatic. It (bridging trust deficit) will not happen in a day, it is a process. If we allow the process to continue, obviously with passage of time, the deficit will be narrowed down,” Qureshi said. “There was acknowledgment about deficit in both sides. The two prime ministers have to bridge that divergence and build confidence,” Qureshi said.

Islamabad will be hosting the SAARC home ministers’ meeting this year on July 26. On this, Qureshi said: “We welcome Indian home minister to take part in that meeting.”

Rao and Qureshi held separate press briefings in Thimpu soon after Singh-Gilani talks, which lasted for about an hour and a half. Both described Singh-Gilani meeting as comprehensive, cordial and friendly.

Notwithstanding the fact that diplomatic tension still prevails between India and Pakistan on issues such as Kashmir, their agreement to take forward the dialogue process and “fight terrorism” together is viewed as a major development in their bilateral ties. While in some quarters, this has been described as a “firm, strong step – finally taken,” others view it simply as a “thaw” in Indo-Pak ties which had been “frozen” since Mumbai-blasts.

United States has welcomed the decision of India and Pakistan to resume their dialogue. “Obviously there is a long way to go. But certainly, the de-escalation of tension between the two countries would help in fight against Taliban and Al Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan,” White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said in Washington (April 30). Earlier, State Department spokesman Philip J. Crowley said: “We always think that when leaders of countries, particularly countries with the unique history of India and Pakistan, anytime they can get together for high-level constructive dialogue, that is good for the region, and we support it.” On whether US had played any role in making Singh-Gilani meeting possible in Thimpu, Crowley replied: “We have encouraged the leaders of Pakistan and India to restore direct dialogue that has been characteristic of the relationship between those two countries within the last few years, and we’re encouraged that they are taking steps to do that.”

12-19

The Pakistani (Acting) Consul General For the West Coast of the United States

May 6, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Geoffrey Cook, MMNS

Muhammad Khalid Ejaz

Los Angeles–April 10th–My last two articles came out of a discussion with the Indian (former) Ambassador to Afghanistan.  I was fortunate to hear a speech of the (Acting) Consul-General of Pakistan to the Western United State at the South Asian Studies Association (S.A.S.A) banquet here at U.S.C. (the University of Southern California).  His comments balanced those of Ambassador Maukapadya in Berkeley a month before.

Dr. Ejaz stated that Pakistan was the fifth most populous country in the world, but because of political disruptions over the land, (there has not been an accurate census since 1991, but it is safe to say that in early 1994, the inhabitants of Pakistan were appropriately estimated at 126 million, making it the ninth most populous country in the world although its land area, however, ranks thirty-second among nations.  Thus, Pakistan, then, had about 2 percent of the world’s population living on less than 0.7 percent of the world’s land. The population growth rate is among the world’s highest, officially assessed at 3.1 percent per annum, but privately considered to be closer to 3.3 percent for each year. Pakistan is assumed to have reached 150 million citizens ten years ago, and to have contributed to 4 percent of the world’s growth which is predicted to double by 2022.)  All this past paragraph demonstrates is that the  Consul-General’s approximation of Pakistan’s place in population today in relation to the demographics of the world probably is close to correct.

Strategically, his nation is at the intersection of four vital locales to the U.S. and to the developing world.  That is both Central and South Asia, and the Middle East and with China on its border connected by the Karkoram Highway.  Several of these regions are either oil/gas rich, or require Pakistan’s help to transport this energy to their ever-expanding economies.

During the 1950’s and 1960’s, Rawapindi was America’s most allied of (trusted) allies.  Now, NATO (the North Atlantic Treaty Organization) fulfills that function for Washington. 

In the 1980s, the two countries joined forces to help defeat the Russians in Afghanistan, but the District of Columbia deserted not only the Pakistanis, (but the Afghani and foreign fighters in the Hindu Kush Mountains. With the retreat of the Russians, and the collapse of their empire [the U.S.S.R, or [the Union of Soviet Socialist Republic], and [the whole “Second World” with it]), a five-way Civil War developed in Afghanistan, and eventually the rise of Taliban.) 

Thus, (your author consigns the blame the roots of 9/11 on the Reagan Administration ill-advised policy of not providing development aid and skills to Afghanistan and Pakistan.  This, in turn, has lead to our current War in the Pakistani-Afghanistani Mountains.  That is why your writer designates Reagan to have been one of the worst of American Presidents instead of one of the best which the vulgar declare him to be in the Metropole [the Center of Empire] here.  Besides Washington’s airport being named after, there is a movement to put his face on the fifty dollar bill!).

After the ninth of 9th of September 2001 Islamabad was (forced) to become a front line State once again.  Ejaz asserted our allied relationship with the U.S.A. should evolve into a more equitable one.  We should have a “normalized” relationship with both those in the West, (and with the Taliban)!

We (Pakistan) are, also, under the threat of terrorism whose roots reside along the Durand Line.  It is a porous border that dives a subnationality (the Pashtoons) that should have a right to regularly cross that frontier to visit their relatives on the other side!  We cannot seal the borderland where the tribes exist in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.  It is true, though, many things that happen on the Afghani side of the border deeply impact the Northwest Frontier Provinces.

With this porous borderland, there are fighters who cross into our country for sanctuary.  Thus, despite the West’s accusations, Rawalpindi has suffered high casualties!  Muhammad Khalid Ejaz called on the U.S.A. to become more involved with development in the Af-Pak territories.  There is a serious problem between Pakistan and India, too, over water rights; the great powers could help negotiate this.  Still, Pakistan, as a nuclear power, has issues with nuclear India.  He affirmed that Kashmir can be settled!

He concluded that the U.S.A. has a role in the Afghan conflict, but the tribes have to have their traditional rights of cross-border movement.

12-19

Chameleons!

May 6, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

tufail

Chameleons (family Chamaeleonidae) are a distinctive and highly specialized clade of lizards. They are distinguished by their parrot-like zygodactylous feet, their separately mobile and stereoscopic eyes, their very long, highly modified, and rapidly extrudable tongues, their swaying gait, the possession by many of a prehensile tail, crests or horns on their distinctively shaped heads, and the ability of some to change color. Uniquely adapted for climbing and visual hunting, the approximately 160 species of chameleon range from Africa, Madagascar, Spain and Portugal, across south Asia, to Sri Lanka, have been introduced to Hawaii, California and Florida, and are found in warm habitats that vary from rain forest to desert conditions.

Chameleons vary greatly in size and body structure, with maximum total length varying from 3.3 cm (1.3 in.) in Brookesia minima (one of the world’s smallest reptiles) to 68.5 cm (27 in.) in the male Furcifer oustaleti. Many have head or facial ornamentation, such as nasal protrusions, or horn-like projections in the case of Chamaeleo jacksonii, or large crests on top of their head, like Chamaeleo calyptratus. Many species are sexually dimorphic, and males are typically much more ornamented than the female chameleons.

Chameleon species have in common their foot structure, eyes, lack of ears, and tongues.

Their eyes are the most distinctive among the reptiles. The upper and lower eyelids are joined, with only a pinhole large enough for the pupil to see through. They can rotate and focus separately to observe two different objects simultaneously. It in effect gives them a full 360-degree arc of vision around their body. When prey is located, both eyes can be focused in the same direction, giving sharp stereoscopic vision and depth perception. They have very good eyesight for reptiles, letting them see small insects from a long (5-10 cm) distance.

They lack a vomeronasal organ. Also, like snakes, they do not have an outer or a middle ear. This suggests that chameleons might be deaf, although it should be noted that snakes can sense vibration using a bone called the quadrate. Furthermore, some or maybe all chameleons, can communicate via vibrations that travel through solid substrates such as branches.

Chameleons have very long tongues (sometimes longer than their own body length) which they are capable of rapidly extending out of the mouth.

Tongue structure

The tongue extends out faster than human eyes can follow, at around 26 body lengths per second. The tongue hits the prey in about 30 thousandths of a second.[4] The tongue of the chameleon is a complex arrangement of bone, muscle and sinew. At the base of the tongue there is a bone and this is shot forward giving the tongue the initial momentum it needs to reach the prey quickly. At the tip of the elastic tongue there is a muscular, club-like structure covered in thick mucus that forms a suction cup.[5] Once the tip sticks to a prey item, it is drawn quickly back into the mouth, where the chameleon’s strong jaws crush it and it is consumed. Ultraviolet light is part of the visible spectrum for chameleons.[6] Chameleons exposed to ultraviolet light show increased social behavior and activity levels, are more inclined to bask and feed and are also more likely to reproduce as it has a positive effect on the pineal gland

12-19

Muslim Observer Writer Takes Part in Conference

April 15, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Susan Schwartz, MMNS

The Muslim Observer’s Dr. Geoffrey Cook took part in a conference sponsored by the South Asia Studies Association this past weekend. The two day event was titled: “South Asia and the West: Entwined, Entangled, and Engaged” and took place on the campus of the University of Southern California (USC) in Los Angeles.
Dr, Veena Howard of the University of Oregon was the other presenter. Professor Dean McHenry of the Claremont Graduate school was the moderator.

Both scholars spoke on India’s M K Gandhi, his philosophy and his teachings and influence. Dr. Howard was the first speaker.

Dr. Howard’s specialities are comparative religion and Hindu thought. She is associated with the University of Oregon and Lane Community College in Eugene. She has delivered papers at other symposia including the Peace and Justice Studies Association and the Darma Association of North America.

She began by describing the eclectic sources of the philosophy of M K Gandhi. Yet, the philosophy he espoused and taught was his own. His passive resistance or satyagraha can be easily misunderstood if examined through the filter of Western values. Here it would imply a do nothing approach even in the face of injustice and oppression. Quite the contrary, Gandhi mobilized the masses including groups within India that were normally marginalized. He did this with “soul force”

His call to vows of chastity, simplicity and fearlessness resounded within the religious traditions of his country. They empowered rather than deprived his followers.He believed that Truth was the only perfect description of God.

“The soul is supreme”, said Gandhi and compared the soul to a to a superior steel sword. He appealed to the Indian collective and urged the people to pit their strength against evil through inner force.

Dr. Cook told his audience that Gandhi was as concerned with the welfare of Muslims in India as he was with Hindus. He wrote about Palestine from the 1920’s through the 1940’s. He also favored a caliphate in Turkey.

Gandhi’s opposition was not to Jews living in Palestine. He believed that friendship between Jews and Arab Muslims was possible – indeed the perfect solution -, and history would seem to support it. He opposed the assertion by Zionists of sovereign rights and the imposition of governance by them. His opposition was to Zionism as a political branch of Judaism and supported only by a small percentage of Jews. Making allowances for the time in which he lived, his bias was toward a one state solution (though the term was not in popular use then).

Dr. Cook spoke of his meeting with Dr. Richard Falk, the United Nations Human Rights Rapporteur for the (Israeli) Occupied Territories. Dr. Falk was denied entry into Israel despite his standing. He favors a one state solution for the Israeli conflict, a point which Dr. Cook disputes. Dr. Cook suggested to Dr. Falk that he read Gandhi’s central essay

Dr, Cook described M K Gandhi as having a mind that was “a curious mixture of the practical and the impractical”. He developed his methodologies on non violence in South Africa. His commitment to truth and to justice would permeate his thoughts and his proposals.

Gandhi sympathized with Jews, but his devotion to truth and justice would not permit him to sanction Zionist entry into Palestine under “British bayonets”. He regarded Palestine as a British possession in the same way that his own country of India was a British possession.

Dr. Cook spoke of how much different the world might be today had we listened to Gandhi; how much freer from the conflicts that seem to be endless, in South East Asia and in the oPt particularly.

A question and answer session followed the two presentations.

12-16

OpEd–An Insulting Comment

April 1, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Geoffrey Cook, MMNS

I was very surprised to find a reference to my work while “googling” to see if a certain academic piece of mine was online, for I wished to make a reference to it, but I discovered, in the internet edition of Outlook India of August 27th 2007 (http://www. outlookindia/article.aspx?23514), I found an unflattering reference to myself.  In an interactive comment at the bottom of a travel article on Kashmir, “Eden’s Secret” by Parvaz Bukhavi, there was an attack not only on me,  but another American academic and three leading progressives in India.  To quote the comment by a Mr. Varun Shekkar of Toronto Ontario in Canada:

“Articles like this [it happened to be an apolitical travel piece] should give lie to Kashmiri separatists, but to their supporters across the border [i.e., Pakistan], and their vulgar sympathizers in the international media like Eric Margolis and Geoffrey Cook(!)..”  The interactive commentator goes on to say because of the comparative peacefulness of the region of Gurais in the (Indian, sic.[!]) State, “…the…Kashmiri movement is not a province-wide struggle against ‘Indian rule’…a strong rebuff to the likes of Arundhati Roy, Praful Bidwai and Nandita Haksar.”

Thank you, Mr. Shekkar, for including me in such a stellar array of fighters for human rights!  I am a great admirer of Mr. Margolis, but the Ms. and Mr. Roy, Bidwai and Haksar are, also, Indian citizens, and they are courageous individuals for speaking criticizing their own country’s policies when  those procedures are wrong!  I am afraid my name should not be listed with these brave and learned individuals, but I am glad at least someone is reading my works – even my critics!

For me this insult is praise!  From time to time I receive such “compliments” in the press and listservs.  That is one of the drawbacks for “opinion makers,” such as journalists politicians and other  individuals who expose their necks to the public.

Kashmir, after Palestine, is the most burning political issue within the Islamic world currently, for both sides of the argument are nuclear powers, and they almost came to explosive fisticuffs in 2001-2002 which would have killed and maimed hundreds of millions of human souls if not for the diplomatic skills of Perez Musharaf!
I do not wish to go over the recommendations that I made to the United States State Department through an elected Congressional official with whom I worked with on the conundrum and the United Nations — at their request. Because my scenario depends upon one step following after another, an order which is not the way how negotiations work – which are fraught with compromises, I shall not go into my suggestions as a whole.  Kashmir is a resolvable situation, though, but the problem lies within the Government buildings in New Delhi.

The Simla Agreement, where it was agreed that India and Pakistan would work out “outstanding differences bilaterally” without third party interference, has been unworkable!  Third parties (major extra-regional powers?) are needed – especially for shuttle diplomacy.

There is a fair enough chance that India’s right-wing political party, the BJP, who almost brought the region to catastrophe during the first year of this millennium, might be able to form a coalition after the next general election.

Kashmir can be settled, and it must be!  The sooner the better because of the  changing political landscape in South Asia  (Pakistan, too, is in danger that the struggle in the Northwest Frontier Provinces (N.W.P.)will descend into urban regions and their hinterlands there). 

The Arabian Sea area, which borders South Asia, portions of the Middle East and East Africa, does not only have a nuclear threat from Southern Asia but from the United States, France and Israel from  their nuclear missiles within their submarines which regularly prowl the vastness of that Sea.  The quandary lies not only with the Indo-Pak rivalry over Kashmir, but the other powers as well within that wide maritime territory.  The goal should be a nuclear-free zone in the expanse of that ocean and its surrounding nations!

The first step, though, is that Islamabad and New Delhi should begin consultations without preconditions!

12-14

M.K. Gandhi and the Birth of Israel

March 25, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Geoffrey Cook, MMNS

Gandhi1 Oakland–My Pakistani friends have no great respect for the “great soul,” because they are of the opinion that his great political skills dominated his moral authority, but it must be remembered that, although a Hindu, he supported the Caliphate Movement (the Sultan of Turkey as the temporal leader of Islam) during the 1920s.  Further, he gained the ire of international Zionism’s claims to Palestine which was an exacerbating point to South Asian Islam, in addition.  Therefore, your essayist has decided to write about the ideas of this great man on Palestine.  It must be remembered that he spoke up for the welfare of Muslims as well as Hindus in India.  If many of his ideas had been incorporated at the birth of an independent South Asia, there may not have been a Partition, nor would we be staring down a nuclear “gun” in that region, too.

Your author starts his composition with a remembered reading of “The Jews in Palestine” (Harijan of November 26, 1938: Collected Works, Volume 74).   As remembered, it permitted some room for a one-State solution in Israel-Palestine, but reading it closely again, there is not; yet, in a comment to a reporter, shortly before his death the profound man gave a suggestion for a solution to resolve the conundrum.  If that proposal had been taken seriously, the crisis in the Middle East might not be before us today.

Gandhi’s mind was a curious mixture of the practical and impractical.  His ideas on the Abrahamic “Holy Land” bear this out.  “I cannot…say…I have made a…study of the…religion [Judaism], but I have studied as much as a layman can…” (Interview in The Jewish Chronicle, London, Oct. 2nd, 1931).  In fact, he makes no references of the traditional Indian Jewish communities — the Cochin, the Bombay and the Baghdadi.  He seems to have known little about them.  In fact, as he states in his article we shall be discussing, he knew “…the Jews…in South Africa…” (“The Jews in Palestine,” the Harijan Nov. 26th 1938).  Incidentally, South Africa was where he developed his methodologies on non-violence.

Although he states that he will be talking about the “Jewish Question” in relation to Palestine and Germany, he knows very little about European Jewry and Palestine itself.  He states in the same commentary as mentioned above:  “I should love to go… [to]…the Holy Land…”  Much of what he does know about contemporary European Jewry and Palestine comes from Central European (German) and Zionist itself propaganda.

The whole question of a one-State resolution of the Israeli issue, which I do not personally hold, came in a conversation I had with Richard Falk, the United Nations’ Human Rights Rapporteur to (Israel’s) Occupied territories (Palestine) [Muslim Observer, March 19, 2009].  The Legal Doctor stated “The two-State solution is being undermined…because of the expansion of the Settlements and house demolitions…” Although some Palestinian intellectuals themselves are beginning to come to this position, too, such as Ali Abunimah who founded and maintains the Electronic Infitada (see his One Country).  A one State solution would not work well in my opinion because the Israeli right would repress it due to the fact that Israel would cease to be a Jewish State.  Within Israel itself, it has support within their Left, though.

Curiously, Falk had not read Gandhi’s central essay which we shall look at, and he made a note to do so.  In other collections of what M.K. Gandhi said and in Zionist replies to the piece the subject is often called the “Jewish Problem.”  Most scholars who discuss it today note this is not how we speak of it today.  No way is Judaism a “problem,” but a perversion of it, Zionism, is.  Most politicized aspects of all religions do have a “perverted” wing, also.  Politics and religions make devious bedfellows.

First I shall go through an exegesis of his text “The Jews in Palestine.”  He refers to it as the “Arab-Jewish” question – not the Palestinian issue.  Moreover, in accord with my statement above, when Gandhi applies the words “Jew” or “Jewish,” etc., please mentally replace it with ”Zionist” or “Zionism” to avoid the sectarianism of the time.  The founding and maintaining of the State of Israel was a Zionist project that involved only a small part of the Jewish people.  Furthermore, the function of Christian Zionism cannot be ignored although it is not relevant to this paper; and, thus shall be ignored in this paper.

Mohandas Gandhi, ever the adroit politician, states, “My sympathies are…with the Jews,” Then, he switches his position “…my sympathy does not blind me to the requirements of justice.”  He points out the “mythical” basis for the demand for homeland for the Jews in Palestine within the text of the Bible itself.  Clearly, he states his opposition to a Jewish State with these famous words, “Palestine belongs to the Arab…[as]…England belongs to the English or France to the French.  It is wrong and inhuman to…impose the Jews on the Arabs.”  Further, the Mahatma, as in his struggle in India, appeals to his readers’ ethical sensibility:  “What is going on…cannot  be justified by any code of conduct.”  It is quite apparent here that Gandhi’s perceptions are still relevant in this century.
More importantly, “It would be a crime against humanity to reduce the…Arabs…that Palestine can be restored to the Jews…”  This is a pretty strong attack upon the Zionists of the time since the principle of “crimes against humanity” had not been established in International Law.  Strangely, Gandhi had accused Zionists of collaboration with the Nazis as Lenni Brunner’s book (Zionism in the Age of Dictators), written in our generation, does.  Gandhi states in the essay under discussion, “…a cry for a national home affords a…justification for the German expulsion of the Jews…” to which, curiously, the archives of the Third Reich, that Brenner utilizes in his book, attest. 

M.K. Gandhi goes on to damn the National Socialist regime in Berlin.  He asks “Is England drifting towards armed dictatorship….?”  Here he is  equating his struggle in British India and the conflict in West Asia.  He makes assumptions that often are inaccurate because he cannot get away from his Indian environment.  He applies the Jewish concept of God with his Hindu perception of the Divine:  “…Jehovah of the Jews is a God more personal than the God of the Christians, Mussalmans [another word not used much anymore because it is in bad taste] or the Hindus.”  Gandhi’s theology is quite mistaken here.  Muslims and Christians look to a most personal God, too.  All three religious systems deriving from the Numen of Abraham share this principle.  Therefore, for Mohandas Gandhi “…the Jews ought not feel helpless.”  Further, “The same God rules the Jewish heart…[that]…rules the  Arab heart.” 

M.K. Gandhi felt that the Jews (Zionists] were going about it the wrong way.  He does not say that they cannot emigrate there, but they have to do so under Palestinian law. “The Palestine of the Biblical conception is not a geographical tract.”  This is, also, true for non-indigenous Muslims and Christians — except for their sacred places.  Thus, it is mere a locality “…in their hearts.”

“…it is wrong [for the Zionists] to enter it under the shadow of the British bayonet…”  Here Gandhi is speaking in terms of the Indian reality again, and, I believe, does not fully understand the crisis in the Levant of his period in history!

“ They can settle in Palestine …by the goodwill of the Arabs.”  That is under their law and permission, and it follows that they can only buy the land that the Arabs may alienate – not grabbing it violently from the Palestinians as they have proceeded to do!  He advises them to “…seek to convert the Arab heart.”  Further, he emphasizes the commonality between the two peoples, “…there are hundreds of ways of reasoning with the Arabs, if they [the Zionists] discard…the…British bayonet.”  (Again he is in looking at Palestine from the perspective of India once more, and considers the two resistances as one against the same Imperialism,) but the Mahatma accuses the Zionists that “…they are co-sharers with the British in despoiling…people who have done [them] no wrong…”  For the Mahatma his interest and attraction for Palestine is that they are both English “possessions,” which is only partly accurate.  For him what pushes this view askew is the Zionist factors that are actively plotting to steal the land when the Colonialist leaves.  Fortunately, this was not true in South Asia where the dominant demand was just as disrupting – a homeland for the Muslims.  Gandhi seems to have envisioned Palestine as a Muslim majority Mandate, which in actuality it was not so.  Although the United Kingdom invented the census for British India, they never had a chance to apply it to their Middle Eastern jurisdictions.  The best estimates are that before 1948, 45% of the population were native Christians; next the Muslims; then Palestinian Jews. 

It was a multi-sectarian State or Province that worked!  There was little tension between the three groups.  The establishment of the State of Israel lowered the Christian population to 7%; the Muslims now dominate the Occupied Territories, and the Arab Jews there were forced into Israel proper where they are treated rather shabbily for being “Oriental.”  Historically, the Jews were treated better in Islamic dominated areas than in Europe.  The Christian less so probably because of the mistrust generated from the Crusades.  After the establishment of Israel, unfortunately, Jews in other Islamic lands became highly resented.  Israel itself, also was perceived as a European neo-colony in the midst of Arab territory, and a threat to all of Islam.

Although Gandhi did not approve of the ferocity of the Arab defiance, for he wishes they had chosen non-violence, under the circumstances, “…nothing can be said against the Arab resistance…”

M.K. Gandhi concludes his important essay by urging the Jews to employ non-violence in Germany since it had been effective in India, but, realistically, would not in Germany.  Unfortunately, Zionism itself was entwined within the fascist goals by destabilizing the British Empire in the Middle East.  In his last paragraph Gandhi says “[The Jews] can command…[the] respect of the world by being [truly] the chosen creation of God instead of the brute beast…forsaken of God.”

Shortly before the end of his life, when it was likely that a State of Israel would be formed, a Doon Campbell of Reuters (the news gathering agency) asked our subject, “What is the solution of the Palestine problem?  Gandhi replied, It “… seems almost insoluble.  If I were a Jew, I would tell them:  Do not…resort to terrorism [in which the Zionists were engaged at the time].  The Jews should meet the Arabs, make friends with them, and not depend on British [non-players now]…or American aid.” (A.K. Ramakrishnan, The Wisdom).  How much different would the world be if we followed Mohandas Gandhi’s words, and that includes the Islamic world in the Middle East! 

M.K. Gandhi, a South Asian thinker has had a tremendous influence worldwide during the last century into this century.  Although his solutions were or seemed impractical, many of them can be re-examined now to see if we can extract anything practical for our times.  Though he had never been to West Asia, if his suggestions had been factored into the equation, the crisis that presently threatens a World War, which, most assuredly, would bring in the West, would never have unfolded in such a dangerous manner.  Still, what he replied to Doon Campbell’s question is even now applicable.  Washington should step aside from acerbating the conflict, and let the two parties negotiate amongst themselves.  At this point both sides should follow non-violence to allow the talks to proceed, and the West can enforce non-violence only if it has to do so.  M.K. Gandhi even at this time has much to say to our world.

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Saudi-India Ties: “A New Era of Strategic Partnership”

March 4, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Nilofar Suhrawardy, MMNS India Correspondent

2010-03-01T142216Z_1695035870_GM1E6311LXT01_RTRMADP_3_SAUDI

India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh (R) stands next to his wife Gursharan Kaur as he is given a King Saud University sash during a visit to the university in Riyadh March 1, 2010.

REUTERS/Stringer

NEW DELHI:  Prime Minister Manmohan Singh described his three-day visit to Saudi Arabia as “very productive and fruitful” (February 27 to March 1). The highlight of his visit was inking of “Riyadh Declaration: A New Era of Strategic Partnership,” by Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and the Indian Prime Minister. The declaration signed on February 28, states that the two leaders held “in depth discussions on a wide range of issues in an atmosphere of utmost warmth, cordiality, friendship and transparency.” They agreed that Saudi King’s India-visit in 2006, during which the Delhi Declaration was signed (January 27, 2006), and Singh’s “current” visit “heralded a new era in Saudi-India relations” “in keeping with changing realities and unfolding opportunities of the 21st century.”

In addition to laying stress on strengthening of bilateral ties between India and Saudi Arabia, the declaration highlights the crucial global issues discussed by the two leaders. They “noted that tolerance, religious harmony and brotherhood, irrespective of faith or ethnic background, were part of the principles and values of both countries.” Condemning terrorism, extremism and violence, they affirmed that “it is global and threatens all societies and is not linked to any race, color or belief.” “The international community must,” according to the declaration, “resolutely combat terrorism.”

With the peace process in Middle East high on their agenda, the two leaders “expressed hope for early resumption of the peace process,” “within a definite timeframe leading to establishment of a sovereign, independent, united and viable Palestinian State in accordance with the two-state solution.” They “emphasized” in the declaration that “continued building of settlements by Israel constitutes a fundamental stumbling block for the peace process.”

The declaration strongly signals their being against nuclear weapons while they favor peaceful uses of nuclear energy. The two leaders “emphasized the importance of regional and international efforts” directed towards making “Middle East and Gulf Region free of all nuclear weapons and all weapons of mass destruction,” according to the declaration. They “reiterated their support” to “resolve issues relating to Iran’s nuclear program peacefully through dialogue and called for continuation of these efforts.” They “encouraged Iran to respond” to these efforts to “remove doubts about its nuclear program, especially as these ensure the right of Iran and other countries to peaceful uses if nuclear energy” in keeping with procedures of International Atomic Energy Agency, the declaration states.

The situation in Afghanistan and Iraq also figured in their discussions. They called for “preservation of Afghanistan’s sovereignty and independence.” They “expressed hope” that forthcoming elections will help people of Iraq “realize their aspirations” by ensuring them security, stability, territorial integrity and national unity.

Though Indo-Pak relations are not mentioned in the Declaration, they figured prominently in discussions held between the two sides. While addressing the Saudi Parliament, Majlis-Al-Shura at Riyadh (March 1), Singh said: “India wishes to live in peace and friendship with its neighbors.” “We seek cooperative relations with Pakistan. Our objective is a permanent peace because we recognize that we are bound together by a shared future. If there is cooperation between India and Pakistan, vast opportunities will open up for trade, travel and development that will create prosperity in both countries and in South Asia as a whole. But to realize this vision, Pakistan must act decisively against terrorism. If Pakistan cooperates with India, there is no problem that we cannot solve and we can walk the extra mile to open a new chapter in relations between our two countries,” Singh stated.

During his interaction with media persons, to a question on whether Saudi Arabia can be “credible interlocutor” on some issues between India and Pakistan, Singh replied: “Well I know Saudi Arabia has close relations with Pakistan. I did discuss the Indo-Pak relations with His Majesty on a one-to-one basis. I explained to him the role that terrorism, aided, abetted and inspired by Pakistan is playing in our country. And I did not ask for him to do anything other than to use his good offices to persuade Pakistan to desist from this path.”

While addressing the Saudi Parliament, Singh highlighted importance Islam has for India. Describing Saudi Arabia as “the cradle of Islam and the land of the revelation of the Holy Quran,” Singh said: “Islam qualitatively changed the character and personality of the people in Arabia as it enriched the lives of millions of Indians who embraced this new faith.” Tracing their historical ties, he said: “It is said that during the reign of the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, Indian pilgrims constituted the largest movement of people by sea. Indian Muslim scholars went to Mecca in order to learn Islamic theology. Arab Muslim scholars came to India to learn mathematics, science, astronomy and philosophy. These exchanges led to the widespread diffusion of knowledge in the sciences, arts, religion and philosophy.”

“Today, Islam is an integral part of India’s nationhood and ethos and of the rich tapestry of its culture. India has made significant contributions to all aspects of Islamic civilization. Centers of Islamic learning in India have made a seminal contribution to Islamic and Arabic studies. Our 160 million Muslims are contributing to our nation building efforts and have excelled in all walks of life. We are proud of our composite culture and of our tradition of different faiths and communities living together in harmony,” Singh said.

Undeniably, the Indian Prime Minister’s visit to Saudi Arabia symbolizes the two countries’ desire to strengthen their ties, “upgrade the quality” of their “relationship to that of a strategic partnership,” as stated by Singh. During his visit, Singh also paid special attention to highlight importance of Islam from the Indian perspective. Besides, the Riyadh declaration specifically condemns terrorism and states that it cannot be linked with any “belief.” In addition to strengthening ties with Saudi Arabia, Singh’s words suggest that he is hopeful of it setting the stage for improving relations with other Muslim countries; it will enhance his government’s image at home among the business community eyeing for more trade opportunities with the Arab world and gain his party greater support from Indian Muslims.

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Book Review

December 31, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Ayesha Jalal,Partisans of Allah: Jihad in South Asia, Harvard University Press, Cambridge (Mass.), $29.95.

By Geoffrey Cook, MMNS

Madison (Wisc.)–With many contemporary books, I find myself merely skimming over the text.  (I think this comes from reading information over the computer.)  This book by Professor Jalal is too absorbing to do that, though. 

I was commissioned to do a scholarly a chapter on Jihadi websites here and in an abridged form in Orlando during early April.  I was encouraged to read Ayesha Jalal because it is the latest and most authoritative statement on Indian Jihadism.

Jalal goes into the fascinating South Asian history and theology of Jihad.  This is a challenging book to comprehend, but it is well worth it.

To a sincere traditional Jihadist, Shari a does not prohibit nationalist wars.  Therefore, a Jihad is not always a “physical” struggle for God (Allah [SWT]).  Still, some temporal rulers employ the concept against the “infidel” (both those who practice different forms of Islam and the non-Muslim), and, thus, in essence these rulers along with their militaristic entourages are imperialistic.  Still, there are those who believe that there is an intrinsic relationship between outward physical Jihad and violent resistance and faith in their concepts of religious concepts of personal and collective identity.

Nonetheless, Jihad has high ideals, but the tragic end to so many Jihadi fighters has led to a eulogistic and nostalgic fog concerning their actions.

Even such outstanding thinkers such as Muhammad Iqbal theorized on Jihad, but he saw Jihad in the original Arabic sense which denoted “a struggle within, or as he states in a poem:

“Jihad with death does not befit a warrior

One [who] has faith [is] alive and war[s] with himself.”

Iqbal’s originality gives elucidation to the love of God (i.e. Allah [SWT]).  Further, Muhammad Iqbal saw his poetry as an explication upon the Koran; consequently, therefore, he wrote upon his vision of inward Jihad “In…the ‘sword’ of men” which found expressed in his life, throughout.

Finally, in her study, Jalal brings Jihad into the contemporary period, and the perversion of the concept of Jihad amongst a minority of Muslims who have reinterpreted it as a violent struggle: “Equating Jihad with violence and terror makes a sheer tragedy of a concept… [that]… remains [at] the core of Islamic ethics.”

Dr. Jalal points to the lack of understanding by the counter-insurgent:  While The American-led [War on Terror until recently promoted] a military dictator in Pakistan [Musharraf] while seeking, at the same time, to spread democracy in the Middle East…”

Your critic considers Ayesha Jalal’s study to be an essential one on the subject.  It is important reading for all Muslims – especially here in the West – where one hears so much erroneous claims and counter-claims on Jihadism.  

Parisians of Allah is not only a book for education for Muslims, but the information presented can here help to explain the true nature of Islam to those outside the faith and to clarify the misrepresentation on many subjects to the non-Islamic world.

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“Building Peace in the Pursuit of Justice: The Issue of Kashmir”

December 10, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Dr. Ghulam Nabi Fai

Executive Director, Kashmiri American Council/Kashmir center, Parliament of World’s Religions, Melbourne, Australia

I feel gratified that the Parliament of World’s Religions is seized of the important matters relating to the building of peace in the pursuit of justice. The opportunity to exchange views on this important subject is wonderful.  The intellectual challenge is great and the stakes are equally huge. Men and women have yearned for peace and justice for ages. As the Old Testament taught, we should never sleep untroubled until justice flows down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.

International peace has been recognized over the years as an essential condition for the enjoyment of human rights and justice for all. It is axiomatic that international peace defines the basic condition for the respect for civil and political rights and promotion of economic, social and cultural rights. In an environment of turmoil and tribulations, the very concept of human rights becomes a mockery.  The most promising way to prevent conflict is to eliminate its causes.  The latter are well known. Violence and mayhem ensue because of mankind’s desire for domination, wealth, territory and destruction of people and things that are disliked for religious, racial, ethnic, cultural or other reasons.

After an end to the ideological confrontation between East and West, the international community had reason to hope that hostilities in many parts of the world would also come to an end and the residual regional conflicts would be resolved peacefully through negotiations. However, contrary to our expectations, in many parts of the world, bloody conflicts are raging which have destroyed all the hopes for a humane and stable world order.  The unresolved conflicts of Palestine and Kashmir are a challenge to international leadership and the human conscience.

Although the UN has written declarations that affirm the rights of vulnerable populations, there must be a greater worldwide effort on the part of governments, NGOs, businesses, and UN agencies to incorporate peace, justice and human dignity into internationalization and globalization.  Peace, justice and human dignity cannot take a back seat as societies globalize their trade, supply chaining, and outsourcing.  Freedom and justice must prevail above all political and economic aspects of international trade relations, and treaties even if it requires canceling trade agreements with countries that blatantly allow gross human rights violations to continue.  It is the responsibility of everyone operating in the international arena to ensure that peace, justice and human dignity are protected.  Global ethics must be fully integrated into the process of globalization.

As long as any one human being suffers the indignation of rape, slavery, torture or sexual exploitation, then peace, justice and human dignity remain absent from the human race as a whole.

The South Asian region furnishes an undeniable evidence of how respect for human rights cannot be achieved without first creating conditions for international peace. The people of Kashmir were pledged by no less authority than the UN Security Council to exercise their right to decide their future under conditions free from coercion and intimidation.  The denial of this right is directly inter-related with the peace of the region.

I believe that peace and justice in Kashmir are achievable if all parties concerned – India, Pakistan and Kashmiris – make some sacrifices.  Each party will have to modify its position so that common ground is found.  It will be impossible to find a solution of Kashmir conflict that respects all the sensitivities of Indian authorities, values all the sentiments of Pakistan, keeps intact the unity of the State of Jammu and Kashmir, and safeguards the rights and interests of the people of all the different zones of the state.  Yet this does not mean that we cannot find an imaginative solution.  It is possible provided all parties will modify their stated positions and show some flexibility.

I also believe that peace and justice in Kashmir are achievable only if pragmatic and realistic strategy is established to help set a stage to put the Kashmir issue on the road to a just and durable settlement.  Since, we are concerned with setting a stage for settlement rather than the shape the settlement will take, I believe it is both untimely and harmful to indulge in, or encourage, controversies about the most desirable solution.  Any attempt to do so amounts to playing into the hands of those who would prefer to maintain a status quo that is unacceptable to the people of Kashmir and also a continuing threat to peace in South Asia.  We deprecate raising of quasi-legal or pseudo-legal questions during the preparatory phase about the final settlement.  It only serves to befog the issue and to convey the wrong impression that the dispute is too complex to be resolved and that India and Pakistan hold equally inflexible positions.  Such an impression does great injury to the cause.

We anticipate that this forum will make valuable contribution not only to build peace in the pursuit of justice, but also to build stronger partnership between members of various religious groups and civil society for this important task.

Dr. Fai can be reached at gnfai2003@yahoo.com

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Sir Syed Day 2009 in the San Francisco Bay Area

December 3, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Ras Hafiz Siddiqui

SIRSYED

The annual Sir Syed Day 2009 gathering in the San Francisco Bay Area once again brought together south-Asian Alumni of this esteemed university and a rainbow of enthusiasts of the Urdu language at the India Community Center in the city of Milpitas on Saturday November 14th. And once again great pains were taken during this two part educational and literary gala to keep the legacy of a great man alive and to highlight the efforts of the Aligarh Muslim University Alumni Association of Northern California (AMUAA-CA) in raising funds to offer educational opportunities to several disadvantaged students to enable them to attend AMU.

Sir Syed Ahmad Khan (1817 to 1898), the founder of the Mohammedan Anglo Oriental (MAO) College which became a full-fledged university in 1920 was a remarkable individual who defied the odds and was able to provide an avenue for Indian Muslims to get a scientific-modern education at a time when the community was shunning progressive ideas. And because of him and the institution he founded this event became possible because Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) is recognized today for its academic and not to forget artistic contributions (e.g. Indian Actor Naseeruddin Shah).

The evening started with fine food from Chandni and some valuable networking opportunities as both the “Old Boys” and now “Old Girls” who have had the privilege of attending this unique institution located in Aligarh, India caught up on their current lives, the past, and speculated on the future. AMU, which started off as a somewhat exclusive Muslim university has now acquired a more religiously diverse student population whose its ethnic diversity has remained legendary. Scions of families from Peshawar to Dacca (Dhaka of the old) and from Kashmir to Hyderabad Deccan all have attended AMU from the early 1900’s onwards and some graduates have gone on to lead countries, states and other educational institutions. Today, the university population is global and they including over two hundred in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Sitting at the table with Prof. Munibur Rahman and Prof. Steven Poulos was indeed an honor. We will revisit Prof. Rahman later in the report. His friend Dr. Poulos who has been Director of the South Asia Language Resource Center at UC Berkeley and the University of Chicago and did research at AMU in the late 1960’s also shared his feelings on his visit there and where things stand today. The program at the University of Chicago has been instrumental in creating the first online Pashto dictionary and has created a Pashto proficiency test and also offers online courses in elementary Sindhi and intermediate Urdu.

The formal evening proceedings started off with an invocation and Ms. Huma Abidi made the necessary introductions, welcoming back Aligarians to Sir Syed Day and reminiscing about her own past experiences at the historic campus. She then invited AMUAA President Nihal Khan to present his thoughts. Khan Sahib highlighted facts on how the Sir Syed’s memory and the Aligarh tradition has been kept alive for the past decade in the San Francisco Bay area but also reminded everyone that there was a dual purpose for the evening which is to raise funds to provide students in need to get an education, making the purpose of this Mushaira (Poetry Recital) broader. He also thanked a list of sponsors for making this gathering possible.

Next, Keynote Speaker Dr. Aslam Abdullah who wears many hats including that of leading both American and Indian Muslims in thought, started by stating that in cities all over the world Aligarh Alumni pay tribute to that giant of a man (Sir Syed). Quoting from poet Allama Iqbal looking through Sir Syed’s eyes, Dr. Abdullah explained how Sir Syed’s efforts started when the Muslims of India were at their lowest self-defeating point. Modern scientific education was negated by the religious leadership of the time to the point when they defined the poor Muslim conditions post 1857 as a divine scheme to be accepted. “Sir Syed challenged that view,” said Dr. Abdullah. He gave the example of how at one time England was debating how many teeth a chicken had. The debate went on and on till Francis Bacon simply asked why don’t you open the chicken’s mouth and find out?  He said that Similarly, Sir Syed promoted analytical thought. “He wanted to inspire the younger generation,” he added. He wanted his community in India, especially the young to understand both the Holy Quran and modern thinking. . “He did not want to build an ordinary university,” said Dr. Abdullah. This was a revolutionary movement inclusive of others but people mistakenly made it a minority issue, which is not correct. “Today, we need to re-awaken that dream,” he said.

After a brief ceremony for a local Aligarh Cricket League where the “Man of the Tournament” and the winning team was presented awards, everyone was reminded of the fundraiser (www.aeef.net) and the first part of the event came to its conclusion with the traditional singing of the university anthem the “Tarana-e-Aligarh” in which many in the audience participated.

The second part of this program was once again the Urdu poetry recital or “Mushaira” which draws on the essence of a culture, which is associated with the Urdu language. Dr. Nausha Asrar from Houston, Texas conducted the proceedings and introduced all the poets and invited Prof. Munibur Rahman to preside as the most senior person present. And from that point started a literary journey of wit, humor, reason, wisdom and in the end emotion moved many listeners.

Starting with local San Francisco resident Engineer Vasmi Abidi who questioned why neighbors who share walls here don’t know each other, to India ’s Tahir Faraz asking why trees of friendship have little support from even a gentle wind while the trees of hate today are so full of fruit? And then Abbas Tabish from Lahore, Pakistan explained how his own condition has started to reflect the condition of his house and the lament of those who sell their village land and soul to big cities for a song. Nausha Asrar next added both his wisdom and humor while Khalid Irfan from New York was at his satirical best about donkeys in public places and the government and why one more mule would not make a big difference. He was also for the exchange of female Indian Bollywood dancers with extremists from across the border for better Pakistan India ties (We don’t believe that the Indians would agree).

Senior poet Meraj Faizabadi from India next brought the audience back down to earth speaking of glass houses and dashed hopes amidst betrayals. On Aligarh he asked what is a flame without its spreading light? On India-Pakistan friendship he explained that he was all ready to reach across the gap that divides the two people, but strangely he was still trying to find where that gap really was?

The other senior poet, Waseem Barelvi also from India requested that other avenues of expressing sadness be found, since his tears are now too old to express his feelings anymore. He spoke about the human relationship with God and the uniqueness of the Aligarh culture or “Tehzeeb”. He said that one should try to give up on expecting generosity from others to protect one from painful disappointment but on the other hand, one should be ready to hit a wall if the cause is just. And yes on the topic of love without which the language of Urdu poetry would remain incomplete, if you have lost in love, your loss is painful but in that loss it is still a gain, he said.

Last but not least the President of this Mushaira, Michigan resident Prof. Munibur Rahman, who holds two Masters Degrees from Aligarh, in History (1942) and Persian (1944) and a contemporary of this writer’s father, shared his thoughts. Prof. Steven Poulos was quite accurate in describing him earlier as he turned out to be an amazing presenter. Someone who can think in English, Urdu and Farsi simultaneously, he moved us all to an emotional level seldom reached. The pain of old age, the parting of his beloved wife, visiting a relative with Alzheimer’s disease, all this reporter can say is “Maan Gayay Sahib” (We knew that we were in the presence of excellence). Several people were moved to tears with his Nazm “Guftugu” (Conversation) written for his late wife in which he tries to bridge a gap between his current life and her death. Down to her “Chabi Ka Guccha” (Key Ring) a stark reminder of her, we found out what true love was. Prof. Rahman also highlighted his trials and tribulations on aging, trying to reach out to busy children and losing one’s old friends in a unique and beautiful manner. His standing ovation was certainly well deserved. All this writer can add is that I was humbled in his presence and Prof. Munibur Rahman is one fine example of some of the people who graduated from and taught at Aligarh.

In conclusion, this was possibly one of the finest evenings that the local AMUAA has put together in the past decade or so. Our congratulations to all the local volunteers who put this event together and a word of thanks to Nihal Khan, Dr. Shaheer Khan and their team for continuing to keep us in mind when Sir Syed Day comes around every year. It was almost surreal but this time “Mehfil Ka Mahol Bahot Khoobsoorti Say Ban Giya” (the environment of the event came to a beautiful medium naturally). Bahot Khoob!

Readers are encouraged to contact the AMUAA at http://www.amualumni.org/

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Community News (V11-I46)

November 5, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Ruhi Khan named VP of Acorda Therapeutics

HAWTHORNE, NY–Ruhi Khan recently named Vice President, Business Development, of Acorda Therapeutics reporting to President and CEO RonCohen, M.D. Previously, Ms. Khan was the Executive Director, Business Development at Acorda.

Before joining the Company, Ms. Khan was the Senior Director of Business Development at Lexicon Pharmaceuticals. While at Lexicon, she led the business development function for both in-licensing and out-licensing of programs, research stage collaborations, technology assessments, spin-outs and other strategic initiatives. She was also responsible for market research and market analysis for clinical product candidates. Prior to that, Ms. Khan was a Director at Fidelity Biosciences, the biotech venture capital investment division at

Fidelity Investments; in that capacity, she had operational management responsibilities at EnVivo Pharmaceuticals, a biotech company focused on the development of therapies for central nervous system disorders. Ms. Khan has a Bachelor of Arts from Harvard College and a Master of Business Administration from the Wharton School.

“I`m delighted to announce the promotion of Ruhi Khan to Vice President of Business Development,” Dr. Cohen said. “Ruhi`s first assignment after joining Acorda was to lead our process to obtain a commercialization partner for Fampridine-SR outside the U.S. She did an outstanding job of executing this process and concluding a great deal with an optimal partner, Biogen Idec. I expect Ruhi to continue to be a major contributor to Acorda`s future successes as we work to capitalize on business development opportunities and build shareholder value.”

Islamic Studies at Lehigh University hosts first speaker

The Center for Global Islamic Studies at Lehigh University  welcomed David Lelyveld, author and professor of history at William Paterson University, to give the center’s inaugural lecture in Linderman Library on Wednesday.

Lelyveld’slecture, “Sir Sayyid’s Dreams: Biography and Islamic Dream Interpretation in Nineteenth Century India,” focused on the life, accomplishments and dream interpretation of one of the most well known Muslim reformists in late colonial South Asia, Sir Sayyid Ahmad Khan.

The Center for Global Islamic Studies was launched in the fall of 2009 with the support and grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and is an intellectual community committed to the study of Islamic civilization. “This four-year grant provides support for library acquisitions and faculty research,” said Robert Rozehnal, the director of the center and professor of religion studies. “Thanks to this grant, the center now has a real dynamism and direction.”

The grant also funds three visiting faculty positions: a professor of practice in Arabic, a visiting scholar and a pre-doctorate/post-doctorate scholar.

During their time at Lehigh, each visiting scholar will teach a range of courses in their respective fields, while contributing to the intellectual life and numerous activities of the center.

Lynchburg mosque to hold open house

LYNCHBURG, VA–The Greater Lynchburg Islamic Association is holding an open house this Saturday for everyone in  the community to come and learn  about Islam.

The mosque was opened last December and on average about thirty people attend the prayer services. Speaking to the media GLIA’s president, Maqsud Ahmad, said you’ll often hear in the media about those who are not representing the true image  of Islam.

“We want to tell them that you know we are just like you, we are as friendly as you are. We believe in one God, the same God you believe in.”

Mosque opposed once again in Gwinnett County

ATLANTA, GA–Gwinnett County Commissioners delay voting on a zoning application that would allow a mosque to move forward with its expansion.

The commission is considering a re-zoning application by the Darus Salam mosque. They want to build a 20,000 square-foot, two-story mosque with towers.

Neighbors against the mosque say the issue is traffic and parking.One woman told commissioners, “It is not about the mosque itself. It’s about how they conduct themselves toward the neighborhood.The mosque said they need the space to accommodate a growing number of worshipers. They have bought the surrounding property. In addition to the mosque, they are planning a small strip mall with stores downstairs and a library upstairs.County staff recommended the re-zoning application be denied. The Commission is delaying their vote.

Interfaith prayer service held in Toronto

TORONTO, CANADA–About 100 people from synagogues, mosques and churches gathered last week at the Church of the Transfiguration for an historic service of Evensong (the traditional Anglican late-afternoon/evening service), sponsored by the Neighbourhood Interfaith Group. The Reverend Canon Michael Burgess, incumbent, officiated at the service; Imam Dr. Abdul Hai Patel delivered a sermon; Rabbi Baruch Frydman-Kohl of Beth Tzedec congregation recited a prayer, and Archbishop Terence E. Finlay, former Bishop of Toronto, gave the blessing.

“This interfaith Evensong service and kosher-halal reception is a unique way of bringing people of our Abrahamic faiths together,” said Bryan Beauchamp, chair of the Neighbourhood Interfaith Group, which represents five Christian denominations – Anglican, Baptist, Lutheran, Roman Catholic and United Church – and three Jewish denominations – Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist.

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Indo-Pak Nuclear Handshake Affirmed By Soldiers’ Diwali Celebrations

October 22, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

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

NEW DELHI: Ironically, festival time spelt celebrations and exchange of pleasantries between Indian and Pakistani soldiers at the international border, even though diplomatic relations between the countries continue to be strained since last year’s Mumbai-strikes. Marking Diwali, the festival of lights (October 17), at the joint check post at Attari Border, the Indian Border Security Force (BSF) Commandant S.H. Dhillon handed over seven boxes of traditional Indian sweets and a big basket of fruits to the Wing Commander of Pakistan Rangers Mohhammad Akbar Ali Bhatt. Soldiers of both the countries shook hands and interacted with each other exchanging pleasantries. Similarly, the two sides exchanged greetings at Chakan-da-Bagh crossing point along Line of Control (LoC).  Representing the Indian side, Colonel J.P. Yadav handed over eight boxes of sweets and dry fruits to Pakistani side led by Colonel Asad. While exchanging greetings, they also prayed for peace between India and Pakistan. Border security officials from the two sides exchanged sweets last month also, celebrating Eid.

While exchange of pleasantries at the border between soldiers of two sides has not hit headlines globally or nationally, it certainly conveys a strong message. Though as their respective national security demands, they are prepared for war, India and Pakistan certainly seem in no mood to reach even a near-war or a war-like stage at least in the near future. In fact, probability of an open conflict between India and Pakistan has been ruled out since the two attained nuclear prowess and subsequently reached a nuclear understanding with each other. This point is being specifically made as it defies the claim made by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Taylor Branch in his new book, The Clinton Tapes: Wrestling History with the President (Simon & Schuster), about India and Pakistan being on the verge of a nuclear conflict in the late nineties.

There is nothing astonishing or even new about Branch’s claim as United States has been apprehensive about nuclear policies pursued by India as well as Pakistan from the very beginning. United States has always been against their proliferation drive and has repeatedly tried securing their signatures to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). When India initially stepped onto the nuclear path, followed by Pakistan, Washington raised hue and cry over it, emphasizing that it would take the subcontinent only towards MAD, that is Mutually Assured Destruction.

Branch has repeated the old US-stance against the rise of nuclear prowess in subcontinent by drawing attention to there having prevailed the possibility of a Indo-Pak nuclear war in 1999 over the Kargil-conflict. Well, the risk of a nuclear war between India and Pakistan over numerous issues, such as Kashmir, terrorism and others has been a permanent one. It shall remain so probably for decades to come. It is indeed paradoxical that the superpower has failed to credit the two nations, particularly the Indian government for not reaching the war-stage even in 1999, despite all the preparations being in place. India’s nuclear diplomacy prevailed. It defeated the US apprehension that Indian nuclear prowess would spell destruction. Indian nuclear diplomacy strongly signaled the victory of deterrence pact it had entered into with Pakistan against the criticism levied by United States towards their proliferation drive. Signed by then Prime Ministers Rajiv Gandhi and Benazir Bhutto on December 31, 1988, the two countries agreed not to attack each other’s nuclear installations and facilities. Notwithstanding all the hype raised over the stall in the Indo-Pak dialogue process, the two countries have continued to practise this agreement which entered into force on January 27, 1991. They inform each other of nuclear installations and facilities covered by the agreement on first January of every calendar year. Despite the Mumbai-terrorist strikes serving as a diplomatic irritant, they exchanged the lists this year too.

True, the Kargil-issue nearly brought India and Pakistan to the stage of an open conflict. Without doubt, India as Big Brother in the region had (and has) options to display an aggressive approach towards its neighbors by reaching the war-stage when provoked by external elements desirious of chaos and instability in South Asia. The Kargil-issue followed by several terrorist incidents, including the Mumbai-strikes, provoked by extremist elements across the border are all suggestive of designs contemplated to incite the two nuclear powers to the stage of an open conflict. If they did, it would add credence to apprehensions voiced by United States that India and Pakistan are not diplomatically mature enough to pursue the proliferation drive. It is time that Washington revised its opinion about fears it has entertained against India’s nuclear drive from the beginning.

Nuclear diplomacy as laid out and followed by Indian government should be viewed as a perfect example of a nuclear power’s foreign policy towards another country, even though it may entertain long-lasting differences with it on certain crucial issues. Branch’s reference to India and Pakistan having almost reached the stage of nuclear war in late nineties may well be viewed as a reiteration of old stand entertained by United States against proliferation drive in South Asia. Rather than question Indian nuclear diplomacy, which has only been successfully practiced till date, United States needs to reconsider whether its own nuclear diplomacy has been equally successful or not. War games played by the superpower in Iraq and Afghanistan can hardly be signaled as a success of United States’ nuclear diplomacy. War only spells failure of diplomacy. The Indo-Pak nuclear handshake together with their symbolic exchange of greetings on festive occasions at the border itself defeat all the hype entertained by Uncle Sam about their preparing for a MAD nuclear war.

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Community News (V11-I40)

September 24, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Adnan Zulfiqar hired as UPenn Interfaith fellow

adnan zulfiqar

The University of Pennsylvania has hired a Muslim scholar as its interfaith fellow.Adnan Zulfiqar – a 2008 graduate of Penn Law and a “brilliant scholar,” according to University Chaplain Chaz Howard – will serve as an Interfaith Fellow and Campus Minister to the Muslim community.

“The concept was that our office wanted to provide a fellowship where the campus religious groups who do not have full-time dedicated staff could have that,” Howard told the Daily Pennsylvanian.

So far, Zulfiqar has received a warm welcome.

“Adnan is fantastic not only because he’s very knowledgeable about everything that has to do with Islam, but also because he has tried everything you would want to do after finishing your undergraduate degree,” said Muslim Student Association communications chairwoman and College junior Roxana Moussavian.

Originally from Alexandria, Va., Zulfiqar is currently completing a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages. He also holds a Bachelor of Arts in Religion and Anthropology from Emory University and a Masters from Georgetown University.

His research focuses primarily on Islamic law and history, politics and governance in the Middle East and South Asia, and law in the developing world.  He previously helped draft the Penal Code of the Maldives, serving as a Team Leader helping to synthesis multiplelegal systems into one comprehensive code.  Zulfiqar also served as a legislative staffer and personal aide to U.S. Senator Max Cleland(D-GA) advising him on immigration, education and foreign policy matters.  In addition, he has been an associate at the Legal Resources Center in Pretoria, South Africa, a visiting scholar at the Center for Excellence in Public Law and Human Rights in Tehran, Iran and a presidential fellow at the Salzburg Global Seminar. 

Zulfiqar  serves as an Adjunct Professor at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College and Arcadia University.  He received his B.A. in Religion and Anthropology from Emory University, M.L.S. in International Affairs (thesispending) from Georgetown University and Juris Doctor (J.D.) from theUniversity of Pennsylvania Law School.  Zulfiqar has spent over 11 years residing inthe Middle East, South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa and is proficient in 5 languages including Arabic, Urdu and Farsi.

Class, June 2009

MD Muslims celebrate ‘Eid at Six Flags

ICNA organized a national Muslim day at amusement parks, participated in by several thousand Muslims at six different parks, with halal food, prayer tents, and naats broadcast over the PA speakers. Following is the account of one such event:

UPPER MARLBRO, MD–For the first time, Maryland Muslims were able to reserve the Six Flags in Upper Marlbro for exclusive use. To make the experience even more interesting the day coincided with Eid ul Fitr.

The day, designated Muslim Family Day 2009, featured a bazaar with local vendors and a prayer pavilion and halal food.

“The purpose is to gather Muslims in one place for some good, clean, Islamic fun,” said volunteer organizer Salman Sheikh. “It will bring communities together and you usually you don’t get that chance, so it’s great for the kids.”

New York: Halal food vendor fight

NEW YORK–Halal food business is a lucrative one and the competition can be cut throat. The demand being not only limited to Muslim consumers but also to people of other faith. While the opportunities are vast so is the potential for the competition to get ugly.

The New York Post reported last week that a dispute over sharing territory between two halal hot dog vendors in New York resulted in a slashing of a arm. The story as reported by NBC goes like this”

Walid Osman sold hot dogs out of his cart outside Kings County Hospital until sometime in August; then he thought it would be wise to add chicken to his offerings, reports The New York Post.

Mohamed Hanafi and Abdelrao Akl Hamdy, who had always sold poultry out of the cart on the same corner – Clarkson and E. 37th Street – were miffed that Osman, 32, was luring away their customers with the scent of succulent chicken.

So they did what any New Yorker would do – they relocated their cart right next to Osman’s and slashed their prices in half, reports the Post.

The simmering food fight boiled over on Wednesday, when Hamdy and one of his workers, Farajat Yehiak, allegedly took a butcher knife to Osman’s arm, reports the Post.

The two foodies were charged with assault, menacing and criminal possession of a weapon, and were released without bail after arraignment in Brooklyn court, according to the paper.

Osman, an Egyptian immigrant with two daughters, was treated at the scene for non life-threatening injuries, reports the Post. But that may not be the last he hears from Hanafi.

“He said, ‘If you don’t move your cart to another area, I will kill you,’” Osman told the Post. “He wants to kill my business. I have kids and a family.”

The alleged menacing won’t keep Osman from doing what he has to do to provide for his family, however; he plans to be back at his cart today, reports the Post.

Hanafi argues that Osman is to blame for the feud. The vendor says Osman used to work for him and signed a non-compete agreement of sorts – promising not to manage a chicken cart – and alleged Osman slashed himself and he had nothing to do with it, reports the Post.

The above incident is unfortunate. There is enough room for all to grow in the Halal market. Instead of feuding over territories the halal vendors of New York should venture out for new areas. They should also honor their contracts and respect the rights of others.

Buffalo Muslim women to hold seminar on domestic violence

BUFFALO, NY–Muslim women leaders of Buffalo area are holding a seminar to provide a deeper understanding of the roles and rights of Muslim women.

The event to be held on Sunday September 27, will feature presentations by some of the most accomplished Muslim women in the United States.

The first annual seminar, “Wives of the Prophet Muhammad (s),” will be held on Sunday, September 27, from 1:00 PM until 4:00 PM at the Millennium Hotel in Cheektowaga. It’s free, but reservations are requested. To register or for more information contact Tahmina Rehman by email at tahminarehman@yahoo.com

NHK Labs, Inc. Recertified ISO 9001

NHK Laboratories, Inc. announced that it has been recertified ISO 9001:2008 by NSF International Strategic Registrations. The ISO 9001:2008 standard is an internationally recognized quality management system. The certification process required a multi-day independent audit of the company’s facilities, personnel, and procedures.

M. Amirul Karim, Chief Executive Officer of NHK Laboratories, Inc. said, “Our continued compliance with the ISO 9000 guidelines is a testament to our commitment to an internationally recognized quality management system.”  Mr. Karim added, “Our private label clients can be rest assured that we have super-adequate procedures and protocols in place designed to manufacture quality into the product, instead of solely relying on post-production testing.”

NHK Laboratories, Inc. is an NPA/NSF/FDA CGMP, ISO 9001:2008, CCOF & QAI Organic, and ISNA Halal certified custom formulator, contract manufacturer, and contract packager of private label dietary supplements, functional foods, and over-the-counter pharmaceuticals.  Established in 1987, the company operates two state-of-the-art facilities in Santa Fe Springs, California on more than 90,000 square-fee and also has an office in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

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Houstonian Corner (V11-I40)

September 24, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Astounding ‘Eid-ul-Fitr Celebrations as ISGH Organized Eid Prayers at GRBCC

Picture Q As per last week’s prediction by Pakistan Publications Inc., hundreds and thousands of Muslims thronged George R. Brown Convention Center (GRBCC). According to an estimate, more than 30,000 Muslims of all faces and facets of life responded this last Sunday, September 20, 2009, to the call of the Islamic Society of Greater Houston (ISGH) and attended ‘Eid-ul-Fitr prayers at the GRBCC. The prayer hall overflowed, and thousands had to stay outside due to fire-code regulations’ and were accommodated in a subsequent prayer.

Pakistan Publications Inc. extends Heartiest Congratulations and Kudos to the ISGH for organizing such a mammoth gathering in the most efficient and effective manner.

The Special Supplications and Presence Slogans (called the Takbeerats of Eid-ul-Fitr Prayers) by the attendees thundered in the hall since before 8:00am., while thousands of impressively dressed people in traditional dresses of almost the whole world, like the Far-East Australasia; South Asia India – Bangladesh – Sri Lanka – Pakistan; Middle East; Africa; Europe; and the Americas; made their ways through every door and into the Hall.

The meaning of these is Takbeerats is as follows : “Allah is Great, Allah is Great: There is no one worthy of prayer but Allah, and Allah is Great; Allah is Great, All praise be to Allah, It is He Who Guides.”

These Takbeerats continued for about one-hour, when around 9:00am. Shaikh Omar Inshanally, Imam at the ISGH Main Center Masjid, stood up to lead the prayers, which includes Seven Extra Calls of Allah is Great (Allahu-Akbar in Arabic) during the First Phase (called Rakat) and Five Extra Calls of Allah is Great (Allahu-Akbar in Arabic) during the Second Phase (called Rakat) of the Prayers.

During these Two Phased Eid-ul-Fitr Prayers, Shaikh Omar Inshanally recited from the passages of Quran that convey Allah’s unfathomable love for believers; remind believers of the inevitability of an end of everyone’s earthly life & the ultimate destination in front of Allah; and that Allah forgives all sins of those who sincerely repent and uplift their morality. Without exception, those interviewed after the prayer said that they felt deeply moved, and complimented the Imam’s Recitation (called Qiraa’at in Arabic) – The choice of passages, fluency, voice control, and mellifluousness.

After the prayers, ISGH President Dr. Aziz Ahmad Siddiqi provided in a positive fashion the State of Affairs of ISGH and the Muslim Community in the Greater Houston Region. He cited several major developments that whoever will seek, will benefit many, regardless of ethnic background or country of origin. President also mentioned that this year the ISGH membership has experienced an unprecedented growth of more than 25 percent. It was nice that Dr. Siddiqi’s presentation was not long and contained linguistic beauty.

Houston Mayor Bill White also addressed the audience, noting the size and importance of the local Muslim community. Mr. White is seeking higher state office, and a positive impression on him could be to the advantage of Muslims. The Chairman of the ISGH ‘Ulema Committee, Shaikh Abdul ‘Aziz of the Brand Lane Masjid also graced the occasion.

After the prayers and addresses the crowd filled the air with mutual bright smiles, cordial ‘Eid greetings, and warm expressions of love and unity. This all made for a truly awe-inspiring ‘Eid-ul-Fitr celebration organized by the ISGH. For more information, one can visit www.isgh.org.

Farouk Shami to Run For Texas Governor

Picture R He is the famous Houston hair-care millionaire Farouk Shami (originally from Palestine), seriously considering a run for Governor as a Democrat. He has already appointed a Treasurer, but has not yet filed papers.

At his Annual Ramadan Dinner at the Arab Cultural Center (ACC) Houston, the 66 year old Shami asked hundreds gathered if he should run or not and he got a tremendous “Yes,” with everyone standing and clapping.

One may recall that Farouk Shami first got some attention in the political arena during 2006 governor’s race, when as his business partner; he supported the independent gubernatorial candidate Kinky Friedman.

Farouk Shami got much appreciation last month for his decision to move 5,000 jobs from Asian manufacturing plants in China to Texas over the next five years to manufacture his famous hair-care products of BioSilk and CHI brands. He invented ammonia-free hair color products, was the official hair care sponsor of the Miss Universe, Miss USA and Miss Teen USA pageants and has sales that top $1 billion a year.

Farouk Shami in an inspiring speech said that Texas needs a change and he through his entrepreneurial spirit will bring fresh ideas to increase the tax base, create new jobs of the future, brings dignified healthcare for all, and make Texas the best place to live in the USA.

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Houstonian Corner (V11-I31)

July 23, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Pakistan Federal Minister Mir Gul Mahmood Jakhrani in Houston

Picture A “Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) represents the whole country, as we have strong presence in all the provinces of Pakistan and we have always worked for the reign of democracy and never accepted dictatorship. The sacrifices of their own lives by the founder of the party Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and recently Benazir Bhutto, have been for stronger and democratic Pakistan and under the present able leadership of PPP, we will achieve the dream of good governance in Pakistan as we will finish our tenure of five years:” These were the sentiments of Mir Gul Mahmood Jakhrani, Federal Minister Pakistan. He was on a short visit to Houston, after attending 25th Annual Convention of Sindhi Association of North America (SANA), which was held at Saint Louis, Missouri between July 2nd and 6th, 2009.

Earlier Vice President PPP USA Khalid Khan (who is also President of Pakistani-American Association of Greater Houston – PAGH) and PPP Houston’ President Syed Riaz Hussain welcomed all the esteemed guests, among whom were Consul General of Pakistan in Houston Aqil Nadeem, City of Houston Councilperson M. J. Khan, Office Bearers of SANA, and many more. They thanked everyone to have come on a very short notice.

City of Houston Councilperson M. J. Khan conferred Honorary Citizenship and Ambassador of Goodwill Proclamation on behalf of Mayor of Houston to Mir Gul Mahmood Jakhrani.

For more infromation on PPP USA activities, one can visit http://www.pppusa.org/

Hillcroft to be “Gandhi Avenue”?

Picture B Efforts are underway, by the India Culture Center, to change the name of Hillcroft between Highway 59 and Westpark to “Gandhi Avenue” before October 02, 2009, which is the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi and the International Non-Violence Day. Some are in favor, while others are not.

Those who favor it, say that Houston is an international city and this diversity should be reflected in the names of the various streets of Houston. Also as Gandhi’s name is associated with Non-Violence, that will help to restrain crime and ferocity in the area.

Since Hillcroft, between Highway 59 and Westpark, has many international shops and restaurants from South Asia, those in favor of the change in name are saying that this section of roadway qualifies for the new name, which can be either Mahatma Gandhi Street or Gandhi Avenue.

There are others, who say that since majority of businesses are South Asian, it will be proper, if both Indian and Pakistani personality names are part of the new name for Hillcroft, like Gandhi-Jinnah Avenue.

Houston City Council Person M. J. Khan is favoring the change saying if majority of the people of the area want the name to be altered, then it should be changed.

However there are others, who feel that this same area has famous businesses belonging to Spanish, Guatemalan, Arab and Persian Communities: As such they feel that if there is need to change the name, it should be all inclusive.

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Violent Jihadi Imagery

July 23, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Geoffrey Cook, MMNS

Your author has been commissioned to write a chapter on Violent Jihadi websites for a book on security in South Asia. He gave his initial findings at a conference in Central Florida early last April out of which came an offer to put it on the web, and, also, to expand it into a chapter.  Your scribe shall be presenting his further findings at a meeting in the upper Midwest this coming October.  After that time, he shall be glad to send on the full exercise to anyone who will e-mail me a request via the Muslim Observer where I shall be publishing a series of journalistic articles based on the research over the next several months.

I was sent a remarkable semi-confidential website study entitled The Islamic Imagery Project published (“pasted”) by an academic Committee of the Combating Terrorism Center within the Social Science Department at West Point in March 2006.  The document is an e-book, and as a student of such things, there are assumptions that are questionable within while, at the same time, the report is quite enlightening. 

The Obama Administration is questioning the purpose and tactics of the struggle in the Middle East and South Asia with what we vulgarly term “terrorism.”  The study of this document can be of value in creating new, more effective approaches in confronting the irregular clashes that often target civilians.  On March 12 2009 Aljazeera and the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) reported that the new government in Washington had decided to drop the designations of the “War on Terror” and “enemy combatant.”  Vocabulary can tell us much on how this struggle is changing, and on how counter-terrorism (i.e., counter-insurgency) should and /or could be waged more effectively. 

Information on the modern imagery of politically violent radical Islamic groups – especially as it appears on “Jihadi” websites — is imperfect.   Those conversant in Arabic know that Jihad mostly translates as a spiritual struggle within.  Thus, in correct parlance a Jihadist is one who is in spiritual struggle to find an inner “Truth,” but in Wahhabi Islam, which was born and nurtured in Saudi Arabia, and spread to become a foundation to fight against the Colonial powers in the Nineteenth, Twentieth and now in the Twenty-first Centuries, Jihad has become a physical struggle.  Today it fiercely fights against (Western) Post-Modernism (as it opposes the majority of other diverse forms of Islam).  Therefore, Jihad, also, denotes in this context to resist against the “kafir,” or non- Muslims, in contemporary radical Islam.  The “non-Muslim” is too often considered by them as “hetero-orthodox” Islam — such as the Shiites — as well. 

On the other hand, in Shiite and increasingly in modern Sunni Islam, the closely related concept of Itijihad is gaining parlance.   Since September 11, 2001, Islam has been grossly misunderstood, and it is the duty to change this through Itijihad as the junior Pakistani academic Rana Eijaz Ahmad argues.  Itijihad is a non-violent struggle of enlightenment.

These violent Jihadi organizations have had a brief – so far — but prolific history in the production and distribution of visual “propaganda” as the Committee, who created The Islamic Imagery Project, oversimplifies these images  The web masters have created their own distinct genre of Internet-based Islamist imagery.  The understanding of this sort of embedded iconography is at an early stage; and, thus, there is much to be done by the practioneers of various disciplines.  Within this particular study, the visual “propaganda” (i.e., visual “speech”) is more than textual messages; rather, the visual communicates explicitly, as the written word does. The radical Jihadi imagery has become a prime vehicle for communications and the essential tool for the diffusion of Jihadist ideals to diverse scattered cells – not only in South Asia – but throughout the world, but the modern violent Jihadi Movement had arisen in Afghanistan and now,  also, resolutely resides in the Northwest Provinces of Pakistan, but, also, has spread worldwide operating in secretive detached cells much as the classic Communist did during the Second World War where one cell may not be aware of the make-up or placement of an adjacent grouping making it hard for the counter-terrorist (anti-insurgents) to break the structures up, thereby, to destroy the resistance.

In future essays we shall observe how select pictures keep and break Islamic injunction using both Islamic and Western sources.

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Indo-Pak Joint Statement: Different Reactions

July 23, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Nilofar Suhrawardy, MMNS India Correspondent

2009-07-20T180844Z_01_DEL51_RTRMDNP_3_INDIA-US-CLINTON

Sec State Clinton and India’s FM Somanahalli Mallaiah Krishna smile during signing ceremony in New Delhi July 20, 2009.    

REUTERS/B Mathur

NEW DELHI: Ironically, though the Indo-Pak joint statement issued last week after a meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Yousaf Raza Gilani has received a favorable response in most quarters, at home, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and few others have not welcomed it. The joint statement was issued after the two prime ministers held talks on sidelines of the Non-alignment Movement (NAM) Summit in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt (July 16).

The statement described the two prime ministers’ meeting as “cordial and constructive.” “Both leaders agreed that terrorism is the main threat to both countries. Both leaders affirmed their resolve to fight terrorism and to cooperate with each other to this end,” according to the statement. While Singh “reiterated the need to bring the perpetrators of the Mumbai attacks to justice,” Gilani “assured that Pakistan will do everything in its power in this regard.” “Both leaders agreed that the two countries will share real time, credible and actionable information on any future terrorist threats,” it was stated. The two prime ministers “recognized that dialogue is the only way forward,” and that “action on terrorism should not be linked to the composite dialogue process and these should not be bracketed.” They agreed that the “real challenge is development and elimination of poverty,” “to work to create an atmosphere of mutual trust and confidence” and “reaffirmed their intention to promote regional cooperation.” The joint statement also said that “foreign secretaries should meet as often as necessary and report to the foreign ministers who will be meeting on sidelines of the forthcoming UN General Assembly.”

Briefing the Lok Sabha (July 17) on his meeting with Gilani, Singh said: “We discussed present condition of India-Pakistan relations, its future potential and steps that are necessary to enable us to realize the potential.”  “It has been and remains our consistent position that starting point of any meaningful dialogue with Pakistan is a fulfillment of their commitment, in letter and spirit, not to allow their territory to be used in any manner for terrorist activities against India,” Singh stated. Gilani “assured” him that “Pakistan will do everything in its power to bring perpetrators of Mumbai attacks to justice,” and “there is consensus in Pakistan against activities of terrorist groups,” Singh said. “As the joint statement says, action on terrorism should not be linked to composite dialogue process, and therefore cannot await other developments,” Singh said. With India keen to “realize the vision of a stable and prosperous South Asia living in peace and amity,” Singh said: “We are willing to go more than half way provided Pakistan creates the conditions for a meaningful dialogue. I hope that there is forward movement in the coming months.”

Expressing strong opposition against delinking of terrorism from resumption of composite dialogue process, the BJP legislators staged a walkout from Lok Sabha soon after Singh had read out his statement. “You have delinked terrorism and the composite dialogue. Why have you taken seven months to decide on this?” asked BJP leader L.K. Advani. “If terrorism is set aside, then how does the dialogue become composite? It ceases to be composite as a composite dialogue has to be all-pervasive,” Sushma Swaraj (BJP) said.

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, who served earlier as foreign minister, said: “If the opposition wants, we can have a structured discussion. There is no provision in this house to seek clarification from the prime minister on his statement.”

“We will have a structured debate, but as a mark of protest I would like my party to walk out to this capitulation,” Advani said and led his party colleagues out of Lok Sabha.

Outside the Parliament, BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar said: “This step by India has come as a shock. It is sheer betrayal and U-turn by the government. They are buckling under international pressure.”

Initially, the Congress declined to comment on the joint statement. But later, the party said that there was no question of not supporting it or backing out. “There is no occasion for such a question. We are not required to endorse it after the PM’s statement. His statement leaves no scope for any doubt and there was no question of not supporting it or backing out,” Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi said (July 20).

Welcoming the joint statement, Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) Chief Minister Omar Abdullah said in Srinagar: “The cordial meeting between the two Prime Ministers has become historical as both countries have agreed to delink terrorism from Indo-Pak dialogue.” Several Kashmiri separatist leaders, however, said that Singh-Gilani meeting was “inconclusive” without participation of Kashmiris.

People’s Democratic Party (PDP), the opposition in J&K, expressed “disappointment” with the statement. “We are concerned over the omission of Jammu and Kashmir from the joint declaration and ambiguity about resumption of composite dialogue. This has caused understandable disappointment among the people of the state who looked up to the summit with considerable hope,” PDP leader and former chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed said. Reiterating United States’ support for dialogue between India and Pakistan, the visiting US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said last week: “This dialogue between India and Pakistan is certainly one that could only be pursued with the agreement and commitment of the two countries and the leaders, but of course the United States is very supportive.” Earlier, Robert O. Blake, US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia said in Washington: “India and Pakistan face common challenge and we will support continuing dialogue to find joint solutions to counter terrorism and to promote regional stability” (July 16).

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How the Serenity of Swat Was Vandalized

July 16, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Javed Akbar, The Canadian Charger

Nightmarish scenes in the valley of Swat in northern Pakistan – a major tourist attraction known for its ‘indescribable beauty and serenity’ mark the latest stage of that nation’s crisis, brought to a boil by the U.S. escalation of its war in Afghanistan, which is spilling across the border.

But the turmoil is also a sign of the deepening contradictions of Pakistani politics following the downfall of the U.S.-backed strongman, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, last year amid growing unrest.

The rise of extremism, militancy and the Taliban are a reaction to the American-led “war on terror” and the occupation of Afghanistan. So big has been the displacement of people (1.7 million according to the UN) due to the latest military operations in Swat that UN officials are already comparing the unfortunate situation prevailing in Pakistan with that of Rwanda, the Central African country where genocide in 1994 forced large-scale dislocation of communities.

The resulting disequilibrium of Pakistani society has as its latest consequence an increasing influx of the internally displaced people of Swat.

The refugees from Swat are victims of a Pakistani Army offensive, backed by the U.S., against forces of the Taliban, which operate in both Pakistan and Afghanistan. Under pressure from the U.S., the Pakistani military broke a ceasefire arrangement with the Taliban and carried out a scorched-earth assault — with the excuse that this is the only way to flush out Taliban fighters.

But the civilian population is paying a terrible price. The Pakistani military will never be able to win over those people who actually experienced what is happening on the ground. And certainly those people are not Taliban supporters either, since they have experienced their terror.

The U.S. has created the bizarre new moniker “Af/Pak” as a way to cover over its expansion of the war from Afghanistan into Pakistan. Building consent for this expansion has been what all the State Department, Pentagon and media propaganda has been about before the onslaught of this military expedition.
Leading counterinsurgency theorist John Nagl, an Iraq combat veteran and now the head of the Center for a New American Security, writes that “there is a growing realization that the most likely conflicts of the next fifty years will be irregular warfare in an ‘Arc of Instability’ that encompasses much of the greater Middle East and parts of Africa and Central and South Asia.”

That goes a long way towards explaining U.S. strategic planning.

The U.S. wants to wind down its occupation in Iraq, which it sees as a distraction, and push ahead with a much larger scenario — ‘in the arc of instability’ from North Africa to the Middle East to South and Central Asia. The U.S. is gearing up for, in the shocking words of Nagl, 50 years of warfare in this area.

Such imperial-style strategic concepts echo the “Great Game” of rivalries in the region over who’s going to control the oil and natural gas resources. Beyond that geopolitical battle, the military industrial complex has a material interest in perpetual warfare.

This is the new Great Game involving the U.S., Russia, China, India, Pakistan and Iran. It’s all about the resources that we have been observing since the beginning of the war in 2001. The U.S. had planned a pipeline to go from Central Asia through the Pakistani province of Balochistan. Planners saw Afghanistan as strategically important in these designs. The strategic importance was considered high enough to open a new front on its open-ended “war on terror.”

Despite eight years of war, occupation and counter-insurgency, and seeing that war and occupation aren’t working and are, in fact, backfiring, U.S. thinking doesn’t seem to be shifting at all. The Obama administration is certainly trying to repackage its essential continuity with the Bush administration’s policy in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

But there isn’t a whole lot of finessing that needs to be done to sell this to the American public, since there is a widespread impression that the Afghan war is a moral war, a necessary response to the 9/ll attackers, and that Pakistan is an untrustworthy and reluctant ally that is crawling with militants.
The real alternative for President Obama should be to maintain a deterrent posture while immediately accelerating diplomacy to address legitimate Muslim concerns, from a Palestinian state to genuine progress on Kashmir.

By not recognizing that the unresolved Kashmir issue is a cause for promoting militancy in the region, Washington has opted for selective engagement with the underlying causes of militancy and terrorism in the region.

The anti-war movement should not let Obama continue this imperial policy of aggression into Afghanistan and Pakistan (and potentially many other states).

The heart of the crisis is that this has become a multiple-front war, and the main theater has spawned a second, more diffused arena for potentially disastrous outcomes.

Meanwhile the sufferings of the people of the Northern Pakistan continue, with the rest of country adversely affected due to a war imposed upon its people.
Barack Obama has been bombing Pakistan since the third day of his presidency, and on the ground the Pakistani army has been acting as his country’s mercenaries.

* Javed Akbar is a freelance writer based in Toronto.

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