Lalu Prasad Yadav’s poll debacle – From a Muslim Perspective

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 29 May 2009 | Posted in

By Tarique

People of Bihar do not want to see Rabri Devi as Chief Minister (CM) or opposition leader due to her lack of education and experience in politics. She may be a good person but she is not a person who can represent Bihar. CM is one who represents state, handles peoples’ problems and solves them. Also, before speaking in public many things must be considered. Rabri Devi lacks these things. People of Bihar, even Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) voters, were feeling embarrassed in having voted and opting for uneducated Rabri Devi as the CM of Bihar.
Lalu Prasad Yadav, on the other hand, thought that Muslims are his 'jagir' (property) and that the Muslims will vote for him without any failure because he is the only person in Bihar who can save them from communal violence. Though Laloo Prasad Yadav made a number of mistakes, like not giving justice to the victims of Bhagalpur because all the accused were Yadavs. This message went against Lalu Prasad Yadav in the Muslim community. Bhagalpur riot was the issue for the Congress downfall and rise of RJD to power. He didn’t do anything for any section of Muslims either rich or poor. Muslims became economically weak and uneducated in the RJD regime. On the other hand during Laloo Prasad Yadav and Rabri Devi’s tenure one could easily find more Muslim becoming goons and indulging in extortion from Muslim businessmen and from other section of Muslims as well.

This easy money resulted in more and more Muslims becoming criminals, and these criminals were working for RJD ministers and enjoying the power without any fear of police. They were also not allowing Muslims from raising their voice or demanding Lalu Prasad Yadav to take some proper actions or in election matters. Election booths were surrounded by these types of criminals so that general people and Muslim intellectuals could keep away from voting. Thus, slowly the Muslims began losing interest in politics and all the Muslim classes stopped giving votes as they all thought that they were cheated by Lalu Prasad Yadav. The fact is that Lalu Prasad Yadav didn’t do anything for them except for a handful of so-called Muslim leaders who used to loiter around him. Muslim criminals virtually had a free run during his and Rabri Devi's regime.

Rise of Nitish Kumar begun because Muslims did not see Nitish or his brand of politics as a threat to the community. Though Nitish Kumar is in alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and the fact that Muslims don't like BJP, but this well-known fact didn't deter them from voting for Nitish Kumar.

Another factor that led to Laloo Prasad Yadav's debacle is the mistake made by him in not selecting right Muslim leaders. He didn't bother to inquire that how many time these self-proclaimed Muslim leaders interacted with the community or solved their problems. The so-called Muslim leaders only used to always come up only with their family's problems, to give their relative a RJD ticket or transfer the police or others of their choice so that they can rule the city, take the contract and take money for transfer and postings of government officials. Whenever these self-proclaimed Muslim leaders or Laloo loyalists were approached with any problem, these Muslim ministers used to say: "I cannot put your demand or problem in front of other minister because he is very junior to me and if the issue is to be raised in front of Laloo then they were told that the problem was too small to be put in front of Laloo." In both cases, only general Muslims used to suffer. Their main aim was that no other Muslim should come in contact with Laloo Prasad Yadav or become the well wisher of the Muslims so that only one or two Muslim ministers would enjoy the power.

Laloo Prasad Yadav has to think of such Muslim leaders once again and bring new educated Muslim leaders who can put Muslim agenda for betterment of Muslims, or else Laloo Prasad Yadav can forget Muslims returning back to his party RJD. Congress and JD-U are now also the options for Muslims since at the Centre the BJP stands completely marginalised. Thanks to crucial Muslim votes and also the votes of mature, secular Indian electorate.

[Tarique is currently a resident of Germany. He can be reached at duisburgman@yahoo.in]

Indian Muslim News - OPINION

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 13 May 2009 | Posted in ,

Many Muslim organizations irate over FBI tactics

By Ashfaque Swapan

A large number of national Muslim community organizations are demanding negotiations with the U.S. Justice Department to address community grievances over alleged harassment by the nation’s top domestic intelligence agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Activists accuse the FBI of sending infiltrators to mosques, trapping youths and tainting Muslim organizations with guilt by association.

"We reaffirm our commitment to being full partners in the defense, development and prosperity of our homeland, the United States,” the American Muslim Taskforce on Civil Rights and Elections, a national coalition of Islamic organizations, said in a statement issued April 20 after a meeting in Washington, D.C.

Its press release said the task force reaffirmed its “opposition to FBI tactics and government policies targeting the Muslim community.”

According to the statement, its key demands include a meeting with the Obama administration to address the following issues: “Infiltration of mosques . . . Use of agent provocateurs to trap . . . youth, Unfair targeting . . . of CAIR, a national Muslim civil rights organization . . . Dissemination of Islamophobic analysis.”

The recent stance of the taskforce to limit interaction with the FBI, however, has caused some misgivings within the community.

“I think it’s a little bit extreme,” South Asian community activist Ras Siddiqui told India-West. “I don’t know how much of this has actually taken place. I think the language can be toned down.”

But Agha Saeed, the chair of the taskforce, said what some critics called confrontational was as American as apple pie.

“Well, this is not confrontational, it’s what the first amendment says on the right of any organization to seek redress for grievances by public action designed to seek correction,” Saeed told India-West during a phone interview from Washington, D.C. The whole history of civil rights could be labeled confrontational, he said, “if one thought standing up for our rights is confrontational.”

A number of recent incidents have caused alarm in the Muslim community.

Southern California Muslims have been rocked recently by Irvine, Calif., resident Craig Monteilh's admission that he spent more than a year pretending to embrace Islam in various Southern California mosques as part of an FBI-led effort to weed out terrorist threats. Monteilh claims that the conversations he recorded helped lead to the arrest last month of Ahmadullah Sais Niazi, a Tustin, Calif., resident and member of the Islamic Center of Irvine, on several immigration-fraud charges. FBI officials at Niazi's bail hearing claimed he had been secretly recorded discussing terrorist plots.

Muslim groups were furious after learning that Monteilh had previously served a prison term for conning two women out of more than $150,000.

"The government was paying a convicted felon who would probably not be trusted to be a cashier at a supermarket,'' Hussam Ayloush, executive director of the Greater Los Angeles Chapter of the Council on Islamic American Relations, told the Orange County Register. "Yet the FBI found it acceptable to entrust this convicted felon with national security issues.

The Detroit News has reported that the FBI has come under fire from Muslim leaders in Metro Detroit who say the agency is threatening or coercing local residents into informing on people in their communities and mosques.

The prospective informants, their lawyers and community leaders said the federal agents identify themselves and tell them their immigration status could be blocked or revoked if they turn down FBI requests to report on activities of people who attend mosques.

FBI officials say recruiting informants in the Muslim community is part of their work but add that agency rules strictly forbid unwarranted scrutiny, especially in houses of worship.

Meanwhile, in California, a federal judge in Santa Ana said April 20 that he will review records of FBI inquiries into several Muslim groups and activists who claim they have been unfairly spied on and questioned.

U.S. District Judge Cormac J. Carney ordered the FBI to turn over more than 100 pages of documents the agency holds on 11 Muslim activists and organizations, to determine whether the information should be released to the public or protected under federal law.

The decision comes amid a nearly three-year battle by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Muslim groups to obtain records they say would prove the FBI is unlawfully targeting Muslims in Southern California.

“It all goes back to security versus liberty,” said community activist Siddiqui. “And it’s supposed to be liberty and justice for all. So we are caught in a catch 22. The best thing I can advise is not overstepping on either side.”

He said law enforcement agencies in the U.S. were often a vast improvement on their counterparts in the old country. “Let’s be honest,” he said. “In Middle Eastern countries you have no rights to speak of, especially if you are not from there.”

Sabahat Ashraf, a Pakistani American community activist who writes a blog under the name iFaqeer, says Muslims face a real dilemma.

“In South Asia we have a saying about the police . . . ‘Inki dosti achchi na dushmani?’ It’s not too good to be interested in them (but) it’s not good to be in their bad books either,” Ashraf told India-West. “And that captures the dilemma, right? Do you want to be in there or not? It’s not an easy topic to handle. There is the matter of yes, if something wrong is happening in your community, now you really should try to help address the problem.”

Siddiqui said he believes there were a substantial number of Muslims who prefer a more conciliatory approach, but they tend to avoid raising their voices.

“They are not exactly the most vocal. . . We are more inclined towards the Democratic and Republican politics,” Siddiqui said.

Saeed brushed aside any idea that the taskforce had anything less than overwhelming community support. “I think the proof is in the pudding, and the pudding is that the 13 largest national organizations are united in a recent statement,” he said. “We’d like the Justice Department to convene a meeting, a broad-based meeting with all sectors of opinion . . . and hold negotiations on the issues.” (Courtesy: Indiawest.com)

Indian Muslim News - OPINION

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | | Posted in ,

Madrasa education and the condition of Indian Muslims

By D. Bandyopadhyay

The Indian nation cannot march forward with a major segment of its largest minority group remaining backward, illiterate, unenlightened and weak. It is the duty of every section of Indian society to help in the mainstreaming of this section. But the issue of modernisation of madrasa education brings up the vested interests of fundamentalist elements trying to protect their turf and the political system which strives to utilise the backward for electoral gain. Strangely, the interests of the non-secular religious groups and those of the so-called ’secular and progressive’ politicians merge, reinforcing one another.

Life of Vedvyas Krishna Dwaipayan, the author of the Mahabharat was not known to me. I learnt about it from a novelette by Shajad Firdausi, a Bengali litterateur. Firdausi’s language is elegant and chaste. His presentation of the theme does justice to the all-time classic, the Mahabharat. It is a piece of literature in Bengali which is likely to transcend itself into a classic in time to come. I am born a Hindu Brahmin belonging to the Sandilya clan ('gotra'). And as the name indicates, Shajad Firdausi is a Muslim by birth. But as a Muslim he had no compunction in delving into the mysteries of the genesis of a classic of the ‘infidels’. Nor did I have any problem in savouring the sweet richness of the literary creation of a ‘mlechha’. Both these have been possible because of the secular education that we had and, perhaps, the liberal ambience in which we grew up in our early days.

The issue is being raised because of the widespread controversy regarding madrasa education now going on not only in India but also in the west, particularly after the events of September 11, 2001. Whether any anti-national or illegal activities are being carried on or not in these madrasas is for the authorities to enquire. It is hoped that in doing so the functionaries would be objective and would not be swayed by communal feelings or considerations.

No one can accuse Buddhadev Bhattacharyya, chief minister of West Bengal, of communalism. In fact, the opposition in West Bengal always accuses the Left Front (LF) of pampering the minorities for electoral gain. Yet Buddhadev Bhattacharyya made a few statements in January stating that there had been an alarming increase in the number of madrasas in the border areas of the state, largely financed by petro-dollars. He suggested that these unregistered and therefore unauthorised madrasas should be investigated, both with regard to their sources of finance and the types of activities they carried on. His partial retraction of these statements later is a different issue. But as a person in charge of the governance of the state what he said could not be ignored.

It is often alleged that the LF has been ignoring the issue of illegal migration of minorities from across the border for far too long. Perhaps to prove their credentials as a non-communal coalition of left forces, they have been too soft on this issue even to the point of overlooking the established laws on the subject. There are now six districts in West Bengal where the ‘minority’ constitutes the ‘majority’. Though the Bangladesh authorities would strongly contest the point, no observer can ignore the unusual increase in the ‘minority’ community population in the border districts and in certain localities of the Calcutta metropolitan area. One can legitimately ask the question what happened to the substantial ‘Bihari’ population in Bangladesh, a community ostracised by the Bangladeshis for their anti-liberation role during the freedom struggle and abandoned by their godfather state of Pakistan? The sharp decrease in their number in Bangladesh can only be explained by their clandestine migration to India mainly through West Bengal which has a large Hindi-Urdu speaking population. It is so easy to get mixed up with this population, making detection a near impossibility. That Calcutta became a safe haven for some anti-national elements became evident in the last couple of years when one noticed a sharp increase in cases of kidnapping for ransom and the recent shoot-out at the American Centre on the Chowringhee.

It is not my intention to recount these stories which have already been publicised with all frills and trappings in newspapers and magazines. The short point I would like to highlight is the type of pupils that madrasas turn out in our country. Is that education likely to make the students good and responsible citizens of our sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic republic, or make them incompatible with the basic values on which our republic rests? If it be latter, there would necessarily be some concern about the pedagogy and the content of such education.

Without going back into the history of Muslim rule in India, let us start our short survey from the beginning of the British raj. The board of directors of the East India Company in the early days of British domination in India, while sympathetic towards attempts to revive Indian learning, entertained no idea of introducing any system of education in the country. In 1781, however, Warren Hastings established the Calcutta Madrasah College for Muhammedans for the study of “Muhammedan law and such other sciences as were taught in Muhammedan schools”. In 1792 Jonathan Duncan, resident at Benares, obtained permission “to establish a college in the holy city for the preservation and alleviation of laws, literature and religion of Hindus, for recovering and collecting books on the most ancient and valuable general learning and tradition now existing in perhaps any part of the globe” (B Prashad, The Progress of Science in India during the Past Twenty-five Years, Indian Science Congress Association, Calcutta, 1938, pp vii-viii).

The point to be noted here is that both the Madrasah in Calcutta and the Sanskrit College at Benares had one common objective of study of Muhammedan and Hindu laws. Before the introduction of the Anglo-Saxon juridical system in India, the Company’s magistrates and judges had to depend on Hindu pandits and Muslim quazis for the administration of justice. Thus in spite of the general disinclination of the Company’s board of directors to introduce any system of education, the local government had to introduce both the Hindu and Mohammedan systems of education to perform the basic duty of administering law and justice. Incidentally, the Sanskrit College of Calcutta was established subsequently.

British Policy The British followed the policy of strict neutrality in religious matters. In reply to an address by the Christian missionaries, Lord William Bentick, the governor-general, said, “The fundamental principle of the British rule, the compact to which the government stands solemnly pledged, is strict neutrality. In all schools and colleges supported by government, this principle cannot be too strongly enforced, all interferences and injudicious tampering with religious belief of the students, all mingling, direct or indirect teaching of Christianity with the system of instruction ought to be positively forbidden.” These views were affirmed in a Despatch of the Court of Directors dated April 13, 1858 (GoI, Report of the University Education Commission, Vol I, New Delhi, Chapter VIII, p 289).

The Education Commission of 1882 reiterated the same position. The Indian University Commission of 1902 and the Calcutta University Commission 1917-19 also maintained the same stance of religious neutrality “in view apparently of the difficulties of the problem in a country where religion seemed to be a source of strife and disunion” (ibid:290).

The Central Advisory Board, 1944-46, observed, “After fully considering all aspects of the question, the Board resolved that while they recognise the fundamental importance of spiritual and moral instruction in the building of character, the provision for such teaching except insofar as it can be provided in the normal course of secular instruction should be the responsibility of the home and the community to which the pupil belongs” (ibid:290).

Following the same tradition and logic the founding fathers of our Constitution incorporated Article 28 which, inter alia, states, “No religious instruction shall be provided in any educational institution wholly maintained out of state fund”. Inferentially, it can be argued that the state should not subsidise or fund any institution which imparts wholly religious teachings. The Great Indian Mutiny of 1857 and the subsequent transfer of authority of governance of India from the John Company to the British Crown had a very peculiar impact on Muslim education in India. A large number of Muslim jaigirdars and landowners, particularly belonging to the erstwhile kingdom of Oudh taken over by the British by deposing Nawab Wazir Ali Shah, took part in the revolt. Some of them also thought of bringing back the Moghul rule by defeating the imperial power. After the crushing of the mutiny, ruthless revenge followed in which many Muslims along with Hindu landowners and petty chiefs suffered badly.

In the aftermath of the mutiny, having been alienated and distanced from the imperial power several social and religious trends emerged among the Indian Muslims in their bid to resurrect and revive their social and political standing vis-a-vis both the colonial power and the majority Hindus. Their dream of resuscitating Muslim rule in India through the last of the Moghuls, Bahadurshah, who died in exile in Burma having been dashed, the elites among the Muslims thought of different routes. They ranged from Deobandis to pro-western reformers who set up colleges such as Aligarh Muslim University based on the British model which would teach Islam and the liberal arts and sciences so that Muslim youth could catch up with the British rulers and compete with the established Hindu elites (Rashid Ahmed, Taliban - The Story of Afghan Warlords, Pan Books, London, 2000, pp 87-88).

Islamic social and political leaders in India identified education as the key to creating the modern Muslim. A large member of madrasas were set up in the latter half of the 19th century. Most important and famous among them were (source: Muslim India, October 21, 2001): Darul Uloom, Deoband, 1866. Mazaheral Uloom, Shaharanpur, 1866. Madrasa Baqyatris Salehat, Vellore, Tamil Nadu, 1883. Jamia Mazharul Uloom, Benares, 1893. Darul Uloom Nadwatul Ulema, Lucknow, 1894. Madrasa Ameenia, Delhi, 1897. Darul Uloom Khalilia Nizamia, Tonk, 1899. Jamia Arabia Hayatul Uloom, Mubarakpur, 1899. Madrasa-ul Islah, Sarai Mir, Azamgarh, 1909. Jamia Darus Salam, Umnabad, 1924.

It is to be noticed that most of the well known madrasas were situated in UP. Before the partition UP had a large population of the Muslim elite. They took the lead in establishing these institutions as a part of their social and religious obligation to the community and simultaneously to create and enlarge their social and political base.

Deobandis Among these madrasas, the one at Deoband created a niche for itself as the most puritan and orthodox seminary of Islamic theology. “The Deobandis aimed to train a new generation of learned Muslims who would revive Islamic values based on intellectual bearing, spiritual experience, Shariah law and Tariqah or the Path. By teaching their students how to interpret shariah, they aimed to harmonise the classical shariah texts with current realities” (Rashid Ahmed op cit, p 88). The Deobandis were very conservative in their approach. They took a restrictive view of the role of women and rejected the Shias. Students coming out of these ‘deeni’ madrasas (religious institutions) called ‘talib’ constituted a cadre of Islamic zealots. Deobandis set up madrasas all over India. By 1879 there were 12 Deobandi madrasas. By 1967 when the Deobandis celebrated their centenary they had 1,000 madrasas in south Asia (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh).

After the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Zia-ul Haq, the Chief Martial Law Administrator of Pakistan set up a chain of deeni madrasas of the Deobandi school on the Pak-Afghan border. He did so to turn out highly motivated jihadis to support the Mujahideens fighting the Soviet forces. Madrasas of the Deoband School earned a reputation of producing fiercely fanatic Islamic zealots who would rather die in a jihad to go to paradise direct than live a normal life. The standard syllabi of such madrasas “include learning of the holy Koran by heart, tajweed (correct pronunciation of Koranic verses), tafseer (interpretation of holy scriptures), fiqah (Islamic Jurisprudence), shariah (Islamic law), ahadis (life and decisions of the holy Prophet on various issues brought before him by the faithful), mantiq (philosophy), riazi (mathematics) and falakiat (astronomy) and tabligh (spreading the word of god)” (Kamal Matinuddin, The Taliban Phenomenon, Afghanistan 1994-97, OUP, Karachi, 2000, p 15).

It is generally a 12-year course. A ‘talib’ is a student who has not completed the required number of years. But a mullah has to go through the designated number of years in a madrasa under different religious scholars. Only then a proper dastarbandi carried out and the recipient is entitled to carry the title mullah (Kamal Matinuddin, ibid, pp 15-16). Once a mullah, he could be an ‘imam’, ‘quazi’ or ‘khatib’ of a mosque or become a ‘quazi’. These madrasas not only imparted religious instructions of sorts, but more than that they organised students into militant groups who would use force to make their point. Motivated fighters came out of these deeni madrasas.

Not being a student of Islamic theology I feel handicapped to comment on the pedagogy and content of study in madrasas. “Muslims regard the Quran which means ‘the recitation’ as the eternal words of Allah himself. Thus Muhammad is the conduit of god’s words and not their composer for Muslims. God is one, indivisible and absolutely transcendent. For every Muslim, the presence of Allah can be experienced here and now through the very sounds and syllables of Arabic Quran. Thus only the original Arabic is used in prayer - even though the vast majority of Muslims do not understand the language. It does not matter, the Quran was revealed through Prophet’s ears and not his eyes…They (Muslims) cherish the tradition that Muhammad could not read or write as proof that Quran is pure revelation. It is enough for them that Islam is the perfect religion and the Quran the perfect text” (U L Woodward, ‘The Bible and the Quran’, Newsweek, February 11, 2001, pp 53-54).

The Quran being the book of divine revelation, it does not admit of any interpretation. The Arabic text has to be accepted as containing the eternal truth revealed by Allah through Muhammad. The book contains sporadic calls to violence. When Muslims run into opposition, the Quran counsels a bellicose response. “Fight them [non-believers] so that Allah may punish them at your hand and put them to shame”. Another verse says “fight those who believe not in Allah and the Last Day and do not forbid what god and his messenger have forbidden - such men as practice not the religion of truth, being of those who have been given the book - until they pay the tribute out of hand and have been humbled” (’Repentence’, 9:25). There are other verses in the Quran which justify, nay, sanctify violence against non-believers. “Surely the worst of beasts in god’s sight are the unbelievers” (’The Spoil’, VIII:55). “Certainly, god is an enemy to the non-believers” (’The Cow’, II:90). “Oh ye who believe! Fight those of the unbelievers and let them find in you harshness” (’Repentence’, IX:123). “Humiliate the non-Muslims to such an extent that they surrender and pay tribute” (’Repentence’, IX:29). Or say “Then when the sacred months are drawn away, slay the idolators wherever you find them and take them and confine them and lie in wait for them at every place of ambush” (’Repentence’, IX:5). [These quotations from the Quran were taken from Anwar Shaikh's two books This is Jehad and Islam and Human Rights, Houston, 1998 and 1999.]

The Quran being the text of Allah’s spoken words is immutable, unchangeable, eternal and permanent. It is beyond any interpretation. Its message is direct and has to be accepted as such by the believers. Assuming that the English version of the verses quoted above is correct, they do not admit of tolerance of other faiths or religion. They do not indicate any spirit of accommodation or reconciliation of other doctrines and tenets. They do not indicate that there are many ways of reaching Him and one can choose any path. There seems to be an inherent dogmatism in the Quran.

It is very often said that Islam means ‘peace’. But this peace promised by Allah to individuals and societies is possible only to those who follow the straight path as outlined in the Quran (Newsweek, op cit). Inferentially non-believers are not entitled to this peace.

The pedagogy followed by the madrasas is archaic and primitive. Squatting on the floor young boys memorise and recite the Holy Quran without often understanding what they are memorising. A person who memorises the Quran becomes a ‘hafiz’ and all religious Muslim families will like to have at least one ‘hafiz’ in the family. In a typical boarding madrasa the day begins at the crack of dawn with morning prayers. Then begins the academic session which is basically memorising the Quran. It continues till afternoon with a break for lunch and prayer. There will be no extra-curricular activities. Sports are not allowed. Television and radio are banned. A BBC documentary screened in 1997 showed some students in chain in a deeni madrasa in Pakistan being taught to memorise the Quran. What was even more appalling was that the head of that madrasa defended the practice saying that the chained students would otherwise run away to their homes (Matinuddin, op cit, p 13).

Young minds are brainwashed in madrasas for carrying forward the messianic spirit of Islam. Their dogmatic approach and intolerance of other points of view produce fanatics - the ideal material for Jehad.

Analysing the baneful effect of such doctrinaire education the University Education Commission (1962) observed, “One of the major causes of misunderstanding and conflict among individuals and groups is the habit of uncritical acceptance of beliefs and doctrines and transmission of them to our children through methods of teaching, conditioning and indoctrination. As a result of the adoption of these methods we grow to accept these beliefs as self-evident or revealed truths which we should preserve and protect at any cost. Doubts become difficult and obligation is felt to be sacred that we should spread the faith and compel others to come in. This type of competitive indoctrination has been in practice for centuries in the sphere of religion. A healthy scepticism is the only remedy for these disturbing phenomena. In universities and colleges we must develop the habit of free critical inquiry and apply the methods of objective criticism to beliefs and attitudes of people who differ from us but also to our own beliefs and attitudes” (Matinuddin, op cit pp 296-970).

The main objective of liberal education is to develop the faculty of logical reflection, questioning and inquiry. But when institutions impart dogmatic instruction they stifle the spirit of inquiry thereby negating the basic goal of liberal education. It applies to madrasas and similar institutions of other religions. That is bad for coexistence of various faiths and belief in a multi-religious society like ours.

There is, of course, no denying that for many Muslims madrasa education is the alternative to no education. Supported by endowments and charity, madrasas offer much cheaper education than even government schools. Board and lodging is provided at a nominal cost. Tuition is entirely free.

Since madrasas run on charity, they are often looked down upon by the Muslim elite. Affluent Muslims do not send their children to madrasas. As a result madrasas have become the repository of orphans and children of poor and destitute families. Syed Shahabuddin puts it nicely, “Hunger for education is increasing and even poor families are investing in education. In Muslim areas, one sees private schools sprouting as also private madrasas. They compete with each other. Naturally the well-to-do go to schools; madrasas care for the poor” (Muslim India, October 2001).

What Shahabuddin could have said and did not say was that this system of education is dividing the Muslim community into two nations: one affluent and employable in high paid jobs and the other poor, unemployable and forever deprived and disgruntled.

A study commissioned by the British government after the ethnic riots of Oldham and Burnby in March 2001 came out with some startling findings. It said Hindus in Britain are four times less likely to be unemployed than Pakistani and Bangladeshi Muslims. Muslim men of Pakistani and Bangladeshi background are disproportionately unemployed as compared to Hindus in Britain. This 220-page report says, “among south Asians Indian Muslims do better than Muslims from Pakistani or Bangladeshi background”. Though the report warns against concluding that religion necessarily causes economic disadvantage, it notes that “odds of being unemployed do vary significantly with religion”. Religion, including the influence of Islam, seems to be one of the “unidentified factors which need to be considered” by the British government in dealing with race relations (quoted from The Times, London, by The Statesman, Calcutta, February 21, 2002).

President Pervez Musharraf addressing the Science and Technology Conference at Karachi on February 18, 2002 said: “Today we are the poorest, the most illiterate, the most backward, the most unhealthy, the most unenlightened, the most deprived and the weakest of all human race. The time has come for Islamic nations to take part in self-criticism”. What president Musharraf told about Pakistani Muslims also applies, mutatis mutandis, to Indian Muslims.

The Indian nation cannot march forward with a major segment of its largest minority group remaining backward, illiterate, unenlightened, unhealthy and weak. It is the duty of every section of the Indian society, the state and the civil society to help in mainstreaming this group which has fallen by the wayside.

In this connection a question arises regarding modernisation of madrasa education. Is it possible? Here we would come up against the vested interests of the ‘illiterate mullahs’ trying to protect their turf and the political system which would like to utilise the backward for electoral gain. Strangely the interests of the non-secular religious groups and those of the so-called ’secular and progressive’ politicians merge, reinforcing one another.

The government of India has launched a scheme of modernising madrasa education since 1993. Under this scheme financial assistance is given to madrasas for funding of science, mathematics, social sciences and language teaching. But the scheme seems to be languishing. The issue of secular education in madrasa apparently raises many heckles.

The phenomenal growth in the number of madrasas and their possible link with Islamic militants has been engaging the attention of government of India. In February 2001 a committee of ministers observed, “A recent phenomenon is the mushrooming of pan Islamist militant outfits with links to radical organisations in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and some other west Asian countries. Funded by Saudi and Gulf sources many new madrasas have come up all over the country in recent years, especially in large numbers in the coastal areas of the west and in border areas of West Bengal and north-east. Reports of systematic indoctrination of Muslims in border areas in fundamentalist ideology is detrimental to country’s communal harmony” (Muslim India, March 2001). The report suggested vigorous implementation of the madrasa modernising scheme.

In West Bengal up to 1977 there were 238 official madrasas. During the LF rule from 1977 onwards so far additional 269 new madrasas have been opened. The budget allocation for madrasa education was Rs 5.06 lakh in 1977. In the 2000-2001 budget it was Rs 115 crore. The LF government is tom-toming these figures to prove their secular credentials. Spending so much of public funds in setting up new madrasas and in the financing of all old and new such institutions with antiquated syllabi of Arabic, Islamic history, culture and theology does not prove its secularism. It only shows that for garnering minority votes the LF can easily jettison all progressive and secular ideas to promote non-secular religious institutions. It also violates the spirit of sub-clause (1) of Article 28 of the Constitution. A real progressive stance would have been to set up good secular schools where children of minority and other communities together could have received good, usual education.

In fact one cannot agree more with Syed Shahabuddin when he writes, “Indeed such expenditure applying equally to all religious communities is against the letter and spirit of the Constitution. I would like the government to concentrate on providing a secular education to all children as a matter of right and leaving religious instruction to respective communities” (Letter to the Editor, The Statesman, Calcutta, February 12, 2002).

Protected by Articles 25 and 26 the minorities would continue to have their religious educational institutions. So madrasas will continue. What is expected is that madrasas should not provide substantive education replacing secular education. Every child of every community should go to secular liberal schools. If parents want their children to have religious education that should be an add-on to general education. In this regard the current practice in Kerala may provide a solution. There madrasas provide religious instructions. But madrasas work outside of normal school hours. Madrasas function between 7 am and 9 am in the morning and between 6 pm and 8 pm in the evening. Normal school education is not affected by religious instruction. Of course, there is the problem of the load factor for children. But that is a matter of adjustment. Those who want to be imams or other religious functionaries may take a vocational course on Islamic theology in madrasas after competing either the class X or class XII public examination. Only through this process can we mainstream the hitherto sectarian religious education and turn out employable and responsible young men and women from amongst the poorer segments of the Muslim community.

Let Firdausis write on the Hindu classics and let us, the lay readers, savour and relish their delectable literary fare! (Courtesy: EPW)

Indian Muslim News - EDUCATION

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 10 May 2009 | Posted in ,

Prof. Faizan Mustafa to become 1st VC of National Law University Orissa Prof Faizan Mustafa, a former Dean of Faculty of Law, Aligarh Muslim University, will become the 1st Vice-Chancellor of much awaited National Law University, Orissa. His appointment as Vice-Chancellor has been approved by Chief Justice BS Chauhan of the Orissa High Court. Professor Mustafa, at present, is the Director KIIT Law School, Bhubaneswar. He is a gold medalist in LL.M. from Aligarh Muslim University. Before joining KLS as Director, he was Dean of Faculty of Law, AMU and Registrar of AMU for a period of two years. The hub of the new Law University would be honesty studies rather than customary legal studies. Recess fields like Mining law, shipping law, food law and agriculture law would receive special attention in this university. AMU to confer D. Lit. (Honoris Causa) on A.R. Rahman
The Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) will hold its 59th annual convocation on 7 June 2009. The AMU has decided to confer D. Lit. (Honoris Causa) degree upon the renowned Indian Music maestro A.R. Rahman. It may be recalled that Rahman became the first Indian Oscar Award winner in Music in the film ‘Slumdog Millionaire’. Besides Rahman, the AMU has also decided to confer Honorary Degree on noted Urdu writer Professor Gopichand Narang, prominent industrialist Ratan Tata, and father of green revolution Professor M.S. Swaminathan. The annual convocation will be presided over by Justice A.M. Ahmadi, Chancellor of Aligarh Muslim University and former Chief Justice of India. The Vice Chancellor of AMU Professor Abdul Azis will present the Annual Report.

Indian Muslim News - OPINION

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 08 May 2009 | Posted in ,

Plight of Muslims : Some Plain Speaking

By Maqbool Ahmed Siraj

In a world where media is controlled by multinational corporations and academia looks towards them for funding, it is difficult to expect even a modicum of even-handed debate on various charges leveled against Islam and Muslims, as they do not figure anywhere on the world business radar. So those who own the media, also monopolise the message and exclusivise the freedom of expression for themselves. Notwithstanding these handicaps, Muslims must engage themselves in serious debate on issues that concern their existence in particular in plural societies, and generally, their ties with non-Muslims or secular nations. Unfortunately, the academic trend within Muslim societies has been one towards raising a puritanical society rather than dealing with a secular world that is more socially, scientifically and technologically developed as well as powerful and has shown remarkable cogency in words and deeds in matters of statecraft.

True, the West does indulge in doublespeak on issues like fundamentalism and terrorism. Notwithstanding the fact that Apartheid, Stalinist terror, Bosnian genocide, colonization of the third world, World Wars, Chernobyl, Holocaust, et al were products of the West, it is capable of mocking at Muslims in particular and generally at the third world for its incapacity to come to grips with issues like poverty, social disharmony, diseases, violation of human rights, gender injustice, inefficiency and lack of transparency in governance. Ownership of the media lends it the advantage to impose its version of the civilisational discourse. However, the questions that Muslim must be addressing is as to why their media does not enjoy a credibility on par with the Western media; why universities in the Muslim world are bereft of original research on issues that matter their immediate surrounding; why science and technology continue to get a backseat in the Muslim world; why Muslim scientists and social scientists take the easy route of settling down in the West; why the best as well as the most critical writings on contemporary Islam emerge from the Western universities and why not from the institutes in the Arab world.

Mere criticizing the Western media for its doublespeak and the West for its double standards would not, in any measure, mitigate the sufferings of the Muslims or exculpate them from the charges of terrorism. There is total absence of introspection and lack of self-scrutiny among the Muslims and more so among the societies and nations which they rule. Howsoever the West might be inimical towards Islam and Muslims, an average educated Muslim, if given the choice of migrating to the West and any country in the Middle East, would invariably choose the former over the latter. Obviously his choice is guided by the promise of access to good education, enormous opportunities for employment and blossoming of enterprise, freedom for women to work, freedom to express and above all the rule of the law that makes the West an attractive destination. It is not for nothing that nearly 50,000 Muslim scientists are working in the United States; that the best books on contemporary Islam and Muslim societies have been authored by intellectuals like Murad Hofmann, Ziauddin Sardar, Jeffery Lang, Jamal Badawi, Karen Armstrong, G. H. Jansen, Carol L. Anway, Raji L. Faruqi, all having benefited from Western scholarship; that women could pray along side men in the Western mosques; that erudite Muslim women scholars like Amina Wadud, Nimat Hafez Barazangi, Asma Barlas, Fatima Mernissi could blossom only after taking up asylum in the West; that Muslims could carry on the dawah in all these societies without hindrance; that innumerable non-Muslims find spiritual solace in the fold of Islam there; that ISNA or ICNA could stage massive conclaves in Washington or Chicago.

It is however not to deny that the West conspires to colonize the Muslim world. Islam is being developed as a bugbear for the world security by American think tanks. The Wests role in keeping afloat the Zionist state of Israel and destroying Afghanistan, Iraq and Lebanon is above board. Its MNCs are plotting to capture the world and eliminate the national borders under the guise of free market is also apparent.

But pause for a moment and take a hard look at the Muslims world. The humanity there cries for freedom. No former prime minister can continue to live in Pakistan. They are ensconced in London and Jeddah. No single president (Ghulam Ishaq Khan, Farooq Ahmed Laghari, Rafique Tarar) could complete his term. Except for a few, all countries are ruled by dictators, despots and monarchs. Sons succeed fathers in as diverse polities as Syria, Jordan, Kuwait, Bahrain, Turkmenistan and Morocco. Rule of the law is pathetic. Visas to the West are issued as per law, against a fee and to the seekers who stand in a queue. Visas to any Gulf nation could be bought by a crook in black market and the trail of the money leads to some prince in Riyadh or Dubai.

And it could be denied to an intellectual, a scribe or even a genuine tourist. In most cases the wealth of the ruling family exceeds that of the nation, is regularly parked in Swiss banks and is beyond the pale of accountability. Moroccos King Muhammad owns overseas assets worth about $40 billion in Spain while his country owes foreign debt to the tune of $ 7 billion. Elections are rigged. Even in nominal democracies electoral exercises are sham. Victories could be predicted without any shred of doubt and the margin of victories of rulers like Husni Mubarak of Egypt, Ben Ali of Morocco and Islam Karimov could embarrass the ruler himself. Gulf rulers feel no qualms in spending millions of dollars on their pet horses and hawks, but have no funds to invest in free media which could enable them to interact with their people. Kuwaits emir had no inhibition in donating a million dollar to save the London Zoo but does not contribute 10,000 dollars annually to International Islamic News Agency in Jeddah, an outfit established by the OIC.

Thats all about the Muslim rulers. If rulers despotism constricts the political space, the narrow-minded clergy narrows the mindscape of the masses. It does not see anything beyond the letter of the scriptural text. So when a girls school in Makkah caught fire, the police instead of rescuing the girls, pushed them inside to come out in hijab. Fourteen innocent girls perished in fire. The Talibans destroyed the world heritage site of Bamiyan by blasting the Buddhas which had stood there for 2000 years and even an iconoclast like Mahmood Ghaznawi had not touched them. A Muslim televangelist from Mumbai, immensely popular on the dawah circuit, legitimizes this destruction telling the jubilant audiences that Talibans in fact helped Buddhist follow the real teachings of Gautam Buddha as he did not teach idolatory. Would he similarly legitimize the destruction of Taj Mahal if VHP demolishes it camouflaging its intentions behind the directive of the Prophet to level the graves? Wouldn't this amount to helping Muslims to follow the real Islam which does not sanction raising of mausoleum?

For the last three decades puritanical quest has kept the Muslim youth engrossed in debating frivolous issues like validity of ablution (wuzu) on painted nails and lips, if perfumes containing alcohol could be applied on body, the ideal length of the beard and height of the trousers above ankles. These educated youths should have been discussing as to how social and economic justice could be established, how globalization is ruining the livelihood of people in the third world countries, how women are downgraded in Muslim societies, how consumerism is altering lifestyles of people in the developing countries and depleting their natural resources. But alas, there is no cogent thinking on these issues in the Muslim world.

An offshoot of the Islamic revival manifests itself through ritualism running berserk in the Islamic world. It appears Muslims have mistaken rituals for values. Even as public life in the Islamic societies is bereft of rule of the law, accountability and transparency, truthfulness and honesty, rituals are drawing larger than ever hordes of faithful. Nearly 2.7 million now attend prayers on the 27th holy night of Ramazan in the Mosque of Haram in Makkah, clearly surpassing the numbers that perform the annual Hajj pilgrimage. Even as Muslim schools, media, libraries, housing, research institutions go abegging for funds, faithful are prepared to squander money on religious tourism masked under pilgrimage. A Muslim individual is willing to sacrifice any number of animals on Eidul Azha, but would not dole out the same resources for immediate social needs of the community. The prime motivation is accumulating sawab, not the social welfare. Narrow pieties befog the Muslim mind and keep him away from the larger public good.

Muslim clergy takes the human rights as a one-way street. They are jubilant on winning some converts from among the whites and publicise it widely in a show of one-upmanship. But feel no qualms in declaring death penalty for Muslim converts to other religions and would generally dub it an outcome of a conspiracy. Marrying a Christian and Jewish woman is permitted for Muslim men but the vice versa is a taboo. And even the leading members of the Islamic clergy feel no prick of conscience while explaining it in a plural society. It barely hides the patriarchal attitude ingrained in such archaic laws.

Talk about womens right, and the ulema would ceaselessly sing paeans of Islams progressive laws. But would refuse to take notice of the ignominy suffered due to the arbitrary divorce. Mehr is invariably never paid to women who are expected to write it off while dying or even as husband lies on the death bed. Dowry is as much rampant among Muslims as among other Indians. Slums reek with broken homes, uncared children, child marriages and early motherhood (which denies girls access to education), rampant polygamy and alcoholic husbands who do are economically irresponsible. But our theological schools only produce muftis, not musleh (social workers and reformers). Any plain talk on the issue of women is considered a slur on the Muslim Personal Law, hence taboo. Intellectuals offering objective analysis live under the threat of being declared heretics. The community raised a ruckus when a frail and old Shah Bano was granted alimony, but no one took notice of denial of share in inheritance to Muslim women in Uttar Pradesh Wetland Act in 60s. More Muslim women are deserted by their husbands in India than divorced, yet the Muslim Personal Law Board has no provision to build homes for such destitute women. There are virtually no Islamic marital counseling centres in this vast country. We choose to ignore the tensions of urbanized and industrialised life.

Simply criticizing the West for our plight would not work. Making others wrong does not offer solution to our ills. Muslim world and communities are in need of rationally analyzing the mess that surrounds them. They need to shift from rituals to values, from hollow advocacy to activism, from praising Islam to practicing it, from denigrating the West to learning from it, from criticism of others to introspection. Unless this is done, the siege would deepen, snuffing out life from the ummat e wasat (the moderate nation) that we need to be.

[Maqbool Ahmed Siraj is the Editor of the Bangalore-based monthly magazine 'Islamic Voice' (http://www.islamicvoice.com/). He can be contacted on maqbool_siraj@rediffmail.com]

Indian Muslim News - OPINION

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 07 May 2009 | Posted in , , , ,

When pork is found in halal-guaranteed food

By Mohammad Yazid

What could consumers say when they found pork in a product guaranteed as halal by the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) as happened recently?

The council executives were very quick to declare themselves innocent in the fatal incident and blame others.

As the country's highest Islamic vanguard, the MUI is very active in issuing edicts (fatwa) including controversial ones.

"We are only in charge of the certification. The control function is in the hands of government agencies like the Food and Drugs Control Agency (BPOM), the trade ministry or the health ministry," said MUI chairman Amidhan recently.

The council leaders need to honestly acknowledge that they may have gone too far in requiring food and beverage companies to get halal stamps from the MUI because it does not have enough personnel, networks or the technology, and let authoritative government agencies handle halal requirements.

Let the council concentrate on much more fundamental issues. But because the halal stamp also involves money, the temptation to retain power may be just too strong to resist.

Realizing that sticking on halal labels issued by the MUI can jack up the sales turnover of products, many fast-food restaurants display such labels at their entrances or front windows.

Some food and beverage producers also unhesitatingly put the same labels on their goods to attract consumers, particularly Muslims.

Do they have a real concern about halal products or merely care about commercial considerations? Are Muslims actually protected by the halal labeling?

This is a very serious and complicated problem to resolve as Indonesia is facing various constraints that hamper consumer protection, such as weak supervision, meager legal certainty and powerful business interests.

The halal labels, made by the Assessment Institute for Foods, Drugs and Cosmetics (LP POM MUI) for the purpose of providing certainty about the permissibility of some products to ease the minds of consumers, have turned into business commodities.

Some producers are concerned about the permissibility of their products for consumption. But most others consider it a business opportunity that can't be missed and frequently they prioritize business interests over consumer benefits.

Consequently, a lot of consumers are disadvantaged and halal labels are no longer a guarantee to obtain products permitted by their religion.

Unsurprisingly, therefore, pork can be freely sold after halal labeling. As reported by the media, the Food and Drug Control Agency (BPOM) recently found five pork products in abon (shredded and fried meat) and dendeng (jerked and dried meat) forms sold in several traditional markets in the city with beef preparation labeling and halal certification. Several days later, similar products turned up in other parts of Indonesia.

The case of the discovery of pork-based abon and dendeng reflects the very poor system of registration and control of food products, which involve the MUI, the BPOM as well as the central government and regional administrations.

On the other hand, it would be unwise to put the blame only on the MUI, because Indonesia has various weaknesses in its food and beverage control.

Based on professional considerations, the time is opportune for the MUI to give up the function of halal certification and focus more on its main role of fostering the Muslim community. Various ways are still at the disposal of the MUI to protect its community by ensuring the halal condition of food products.

In connection with the halal and haram (forbidden by Islamic law) edicts issued by the MUI, the MUI's role is, of course, still needed by Muslims. The problem is that there is a strong impression in society today that the MUI is too generous with less essential rulings. The edicts announced are frequently seen as being devoid of thorough evaluation and lacking in harmony with universal values as taught by Islam.

This may be one of the factors why the MUI's edicts have often triggered public controversy and confusion, as was the case with the haram rulings on yoga and smoking, which in practice are mostly ignored by the Muslim community.

However, it is an example of how a fatwa or edict requires profound study based on the principle of prudence, with due consideration to the degree of its implementation in society.

The question is: What is the purpose of issuing a fatwa if, finally, the edict causes confusion among Muslims, as it fails to serve as a guide and draws less response?

Doesn't this situation only make Muslims victims, especially those in dire need of good examples from their clerics?

(Courtesy: The Jakarta Post)

Indian Muslim News - OPINION

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 06 May 2009 | Posted in , ,

The man Muslims love to hate By Abhay Singh Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi has won the support of billionaires, who praise his business-friendly Gujarat state government—even as Muslims complain he keeps them mired in poverty. As Narendra Modi, chief minister of the state of Gujarat, walks into a cavernous tent filled with 20,000 investors and business leaders in western India, he’s greeted like a Bollywood movie star. Conference goers surround the politician to shake hands, snap photos and touch his shoes—a show of reverence in India. After the January conference gets under way in the city of Ahmedabad, billionaire Anil Ambani, whose empire ranges from telecommunications to financial services, steps to the lectern. He praises Modi, 58, for turning Gujarat into India’s top destination for investors before paying the Hindu nationalist the ultimate compliment: He should be prime minister. v Since Modi became head of Gujarat in 2001, he’s lured investors with a rapid approval process for developments, a network of roads and ports and uninterrupted power supply—a rarity in India. “If Narendra Modi can do so much for Gujarat, imagine the possibility for India by having him as the next leader of India,” Ambani says. Some 40 kilometers from the conference, in a Muslim ghetto called Juhapura on the outskirts of Ahmedabad, Modi’s name isn’t celebrated. He’s a top official in the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), or Indian People’s Party, which opposes special treatment from the government of any one religious group, including Muslims. For the 700,000 residents of Juhapura, the water runs only 15 minutes a day, potholed asphalt roads are lined with rubble and government-subsidized shops sell contaminated flour and rice that make people sick, says Mohammad Ishaq Sayed, a tailor who lives with his family of six in a one-room, 9.3-square-meter apartment. “We live in Gujarat and still we get nothing,” says Sayed, 53, sitting in a plastic chair outside his apartment, where naked electrical wires snake along the walls. “Why is there no development for us? What enmity do they have with us? We are Muslims, that’s why.” As India continues to tally the economic costs from the terror attacks by Islamic militants that killed 164 people in Mumbai in November, Modi stands out as a symbol of a nation that, 62 years after independence, has yet to come to grips with a sectarian divide that’s fueled decades of violent riots and the marginalization of Muslims. The 158.6 million Muslims, which account for 13.4 percent of India’s population of about 1.2 billion, are among the poorest people in the country. They are shut out of jobs and unable to get equal access to education, according to a 2006 government-sponsored report. At state-run companies such as banks and railways, Muslims make up only 4.9 percent of the workforce. Thirty-eight percent of them live in such deprivation that they consume less than 2,100 calories of food a day, the report says. By comparison, 20 percent of Hindus living in cities don’t receive proper nutrition. Alakh Sharma, director of the Institute for Human Development, a New Delhi-based group that studies labor markets, development policy and education, says India’s exclusion of Muslims from the mainstream hampers its economic growth. “If 13 percent of the population is alienated and doesn’t become part of the economic process, how will the country continue to grow?” Sharma says. “It’ll affect demand for goods and become a source of conflict and strife.” In more than two decades in the BJP, during which time he’s ascended to the position of general secretary, the third-highest rank, Modi has been in the middle of the sectarian conflict whose origins go back centuries. Modi helped organize a campaign in 1990 for the BJP leader to drum up support for building a Hindu temple at the site of a Muslim mosque in the state of Uttar Pradesh, according to his Web site, narendramodi.in. In Gujarat alone, the BJP campaign spurred 1,520 violent incidents between Hindus and Muslims from April 1990 through April 1991, according to a report by the New Delhi-based Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies. “Modi’s rise is a very scary prospect for India,” says Shabnam Hashmi, an atheist who runs Act Now for Harmony and Democracy, a group started to counter sectarian politics in India. “He polarizes people by promoting the ideology of hate.” Jagdish Thakkar, Modi’s public relations officer, didn’t respond to several requests for an interview. In February 2002, four months after Modi took control of Gujarat, Hindu mobs went on a rampage against Muslims after a fire on a train claimed 58 lives, among them Hindu pilgrims. In the riots that followed, more than 1,000 people were killed, mostly Muslims, while Modi allegedly instructed police to stand down and allow the violence to continue, according to an investigation by the eight-member Concerned Citizens Tribunal. The group, with no legal standing, was made up of former judges, professors and a retired police officer. “If you are a minority you are pushed to the brink and treated like dirt in this state,” says Cedric Prakash, a Jesuit priest who runs a human-rights center in Ahmedabad. Modi has denied the allegations from the citizens group and critics. “My future will be determined by the people of Gujarat,” Modi said at a conference sponsored by the Hindustan Times newspaper in October 2007. “In a democracy, criticism is welcome, but I am against the allegations.” The Supreme Court of India is still investigating the riots. The killings in Gujarat partly inspired Lashkar-e-Taiba, an Islamic militant group based in Pakistan, to launch its holy war against India, according to a study on the Web site of the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies, a US Department of Defense institute in Honolulu. In November, 10 members of Lashkar-e-Taiba attacked two luxury hotels, a Jewish center, a café and railway station in Mumbai, according to Indian officials. In a massacre that shook India, the terrorists killed 164 people, including 26 foreigners. Earlier in 2008, the Muslim group Indian Mujahideen claimed responsibility for a series of bombings in three Indian cities. The spate of violence weighs heavily on Indians as they elect a new prime minister starting in mid-April. The BJP is attacking the ruling Indian National Congress party for being soft on terrorism. The government of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, 76, has delayed the hanging of a convicted Muslim terrorist sentenced to death in 2002—a fact that the BJP’s candidate, Lal Krishna Advani, 81, rails against on the campaign trail. The BJP is trying to return to power after a six-year term from 1998 to 2004, during which time it stiffened prison penalties for terrorists and lengthened the maximum detention period for suspects who hadn’t been charged to 180 days. “People lived under six years of a BJP government, but the end of terrorism was not one of its achievements,” says Mahesh Rangarajan, a professor of modern Indian history at Delhi University. “The terrorism card that the BJP could cash in on is gone.” India’s economic downturn may be an even bigger election issue in a country where voters have regularly rejected incumbents, Rangarajan says. The economy grew 5.3 percent from October through December, the weakest pace since the last quarter of 2003. The recessions in the US and Europe, combined with the terrorist strikes in 2008, are taking a toll on India’s tourist industry. The number of visitors to the country plunged 12 percent in February compared with a year earlier. A February poll by an Indian affiliate of CNN showed that neither party would gain 50 percent of the vote, forcing the winner to cobble together a coalition government. The divide between Hindus, who make up 80.5 percent of the population, and Muslims runs deep. In the 16th century, the Mughals, an Islamic dynasty, took over and ruled the land until the British made the subcontinent a part of its empire three centuries later. Before Britain relinquished control of India in 1947, it partitioned the nation into Muslim Pakistan and Hindu-majority India to buffer historical conflicts. Eleven million Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs were uprooted, seeking refuge in one of the two countries and clashing along the way. The violence took 500,000 lives. Since the 1960s, there have been at least four major sectarian battles each decade in India, spurred by everything from a Muslim’s cow entering a Hindu’s house to conflicts over religious sites. Muslims, fearing violence, tend to live together in small clusters in places like the Byculla area in Mumbai and the neighborhood of Nizamuddin in New Delhi, according to the 2006 report sponsored by the Singh government, “Social, Economic and Educational Status of the Muslim Community in India.” In Ahmedabad, Gujarat’s largest city, where investors have backed new malls with big grocery and electronics stores and movie multiplexes, some apartment complexes are off-limits to Muslims, according to the rules of occupancy set by building owners. Activist Hashmi says her family, because of its Muslim name, has felt unwelcome in parts of New Delhi. In 2003, her daughter, then 7 years old, came home from school after being verbally attacked. “Another girl told her that we should go live in Afghanistan, this is not our country,” Hashmi says. Muslims also face obstacles in finding employment at state-run companies, which provide 70 percent of the full-time jobs with benefits in India, the report says. At Indian Railways, one of the country’s largest employers, with 1.4 million workers, Muslims make up only 4.5 percent of the total. Among civil service officers—bureaucrats, diplomats and police—3.2 percent are Muslim. At banks such as State Bank of India, the No. 1 lender, the figure drops to just 2.2 percent. Of the 30 companies in the Bombay Stock Exchange’s benchmark Sensitive Index, only one—software services provider Wipro Ltd.—is led by a Muslim, billionaire Azim Premji. The report recommends that employers include Muslims in hiring to increase their numbers. “A very small proportion of government employees are Muslims, and on average, they are concentrated in lower-level positions,” the report says. “While no discrimination is being alleged, it may be desirable to have minority persons on relevant interview panels.” Dev Desai, an economics undergraduate student at GLS College in Ahmedabad, encountered discrimination recently when trying to get a Muslim friend and fellow student a job. “I spoke to some people and told them she was from my college and studies with me,” says Desai, a Hindu. “On hearing her name, they asked if she is Muslim. When I said yes, they told me to let it be.” The minority group lags behind in education as well, partly because of a shortage of schools that teach in Urdu, a language used by Muslims. As many as 25 percent of Muslim children ages 6 to 14 never attend school or drop out. Muslim kids in the Juhapura ghetto face another issue: Their school is in a Hindu area. “Some children are afraid and don’t go,” says Niaz Bibi, a resident and mother. “Their thinking is, we’ll never get a job so why study? Might as well learn a vocation like fixing cars.” In top colleges offering science, arts, commerce and medical courses, only 1 in 25 undergraduate students is Muslim. “This has serious long-term implications for the economic empowerment of the community and consequently for economic development of the country,” the report says. India has put aside its sectarian differences in a few areas, such as its movie industry. Muslim film celebrities Shah Rukh Khan, a romantic leading man also known as “King Khan,” and Aamir Khan often top the box office. Aamir Khan starred in Bollywood’s biggest hit of 2008, Ghajini. While Indians have never elected a Muslim prime minister, lawmakers have selected three Muslim presidents, the titular head of government, including A.P.J. Abdul Kalam from 2002 to 2007. Modi mocked the government report, which was chaired by retired judge Rajindar Sachar, at a conference sponsored by India Today magazine in March 2008. “Mr. Sachar came to see me and asked, ‘Mr. Modi, what has your government done for Muslims?’ I said, ‘I’ve done nothing,’” Modi said. “Then I said, ‘Please also note that I’ve done nothing for Hindus either. I work for the people of Gujarat.’” As head of the state, Modi has spurred a construction boom by attracting a slew of investors, including Sabeer Bhatia, cofounder of e-mail service Hotmail. Investors pledged $243 billion to Gujarat at the 2009 Vibrant Gujarat Global Investors’ Summit in January, a 60-percent jump from the previous event in 2007. In a country infamous for bureaucratic red tape, Gujarat lures investors with a streamlined process requiring developers to get approval for major projects at only one agency, the Gujarat Infrastructure Development Board. Tata Group, the $62.5-billion conglomerate that owns everything from salt to software companies, got permission from the state to build a plant to produce the $2,500 Nano, the cheapest car in the world, in three days. “Most of us in India have come to regard a time frame of six months or three months as an average time to get clearances,” Ratan Tata, chairman of Tata Group, said from the stage at the January conference in Ahmedabad. “In this particular case, that tradition was shattered, and we had our land and most of our approvals in three days. That, in my experience, has never happened before.” After Tata’s speech, Modi walked toward the lectern and gave the executive a hug before addressing the crowd himself. “Even in a recession, companies aren’t going to stop manufacturing,” he said. “They will prefer a destination where low-cost manufacturing is possible. This is a chance for a country like India, if we can provide a low-cost manufacturing environment, to grab this opportunity.” Modi joined the burgeoning Hindu nationalist movement as a teenager after growing up in a family of modest means; his father ran a tea stall at Vadnagar railway station in Gujarat, according to a 2007 article in the Times of India. After completing his master’s degree in political science at Gujarat University in the 1970s, he became a member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), or National Volunteers Corps, his Web site says. The RSS advocates that Hinduism is central to Indian culture and life. At the time, northern India was recovering from a famine and sectarian violence was rising: 500 people were killed in Ahmedabad in 1969. Members of the still active RSS take part in regular military-style parades, drills and exercises dressed in white shirts and khaki shorts. The RSS, which hatched political groups that would coalesce into the BJP in 1980, remains the fount of the party’s ideas. “The RSS ideology is all about cultural nationalism,” says Prakash Javadekar, spokesman for the BJP and a member of India’s upper house of parliament. “We are an ideological fraternity.” The BJP built itself into a national power starting in the late 1980s with a campaign to construct a temple where a mosque stood in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh. Modi, who joined the BJP in 1987, helped organize a 10,000-kilometer journey for Advani, now the BJP’s candidate for prime minister, to rally support for the temple and the party. Advani’s trip in a truck, with the bed trussed up to resemble a chariot from Hindu mythology, was scheduled to end at the site of the mosque. Hindus believe the site was the birthplace of the Hindu god Ram and that a temple once stood there until Muslim invaders destroyed it in the 16th century and built the Babri Mosque. Advani’s journey was cut short when authorities arrested him in the state of Bihar in October 1990. According to Advani’s Web site, he was arrested by political foes who opposed a resurgence of nationalism in India. Two years later, Hindu mobs tore down the mosque, fomenting riots in Mumbai that claimed more than 1,000 lives, mostly Muslims. The temple campaign catalyzed Hindu support across India for the BJP, which won its first national election in 1996 and its second in 1998. “Communal violence in the last two decades is a result of the manipulation of religious sentiments by Hindu right-wing organizations for political gains,” according to the Institute of Peace & Conflict Studies report. “The politicization of the temple-mosque issue and the subsequent demolition of the mosque gave the BJP the opportunity to consolidate its vote bank.” Javadekar rejects that claim, saying the Congress Party’s sectarian politics and favoritism toward minorities poses the biggest danger to India. Javadekar says the BJP supports the equal treatment of all religious groups in India. “That means you do justice to all and appeasement of none,” he says. The 2002 riots in Gujarat began with a fire in a train coach carrying Hindu pilgrims returning from Ayodhya. A commission set up by the Gujarat government said that Muslims set the fire after an altercation at the station between some pilgrims and Muslim vendors. The report of the citizens tribunal, which was released in October 2002 and based on about 2,000 interviews, shows the fire started within the coach and was not deliberate, says Ghanshyam Shah, a social scientist who was a member of the tribunal. As news of the fire spread through the state, Hindu mobs surrounded Muslim neighborhoods, destroyed houses with homemade bombs, raped and killed women and butchered men, according to the three-volume report of the citizens tribunal. “We escaped with just the clothes on our backs,” says Sayed, the tailor in Juhapura. “Everything was destroyed. Our house was torn down, and all our possessions were stolen.” Sayed, his wife and three sons were rescued by a Muslim police officer and taken to a camp outside Juhapura. “The Muslim officer risked himself and brought us to the camp,” Sayed says. The police didn’t respond to calls for help from many Muslims, according to the report. It details the murder of Ahsan Jafri, a former member of parliament from the Congress Party. The attack on the neighborhood where Jafri lived in Ahmedabad began on the morning of February 28, 2002. A high-ranking police official visited Jafri at 10:30 a.m. and assured him that police reinforcements were on the way to quell the riots. The police never came even after Jafri’s desperate phone calls to Modi’s office and the police. Jafri was dragged out of his home and killed in the afternoon, as were others who had taken shelter in his house, the report says. Three years later, in 2005, the US State Department denied Modi a diplomatic visa and revoked his existing one under a section of the Immigration and Nationality Act that bars entry of foreign officials who are complicit in severe violations of religious freedom. “The violence in Gujarat in 2002 was extremely serious; it went on for months,” says Delhi University’s Rangarajan. “If you travel in the hinterland of Gujarat, what is more serious is the absence of a healing process.” In 2008, six years after the riots, the Supreme Court of India formed a special team to investigate the violence. In February, the team arrested Deputy Superintendent of Police K.G. Erda, the officer in charge of the area where Jafri lived, for dereliction of duty and abetment of murder, according to Mitesh Amin, Erda’s lawyer. Erda has been released on bail, and the Supreme Court has halted the trial, Amin says. In March, investigators submitted their confidential report to the court, which asked the Gujarat government to file a response by April 13. The 2002 riots shouldn’t taint Modi’s reputation as a good administrator, says Ajit Gulabchand, managing director of Mumbai-based Hindustan Construction Co. The company is building an $8-billion waterfront development in Dholera, an industrial and business hub. “What happened was terrible,” Gulabchand says. “The question is, Are we moving on? Here is somebody who welcomes people and creates an atmosphere for business and other investments to thrive.” Yogesh Patel and his business partner, Hotmail’s Bhatia, are also bullish on Gujarat. They’re building university campuses in Dholera and have partnered with Carnegie Mellon University to open a graduate school there. During a meeting last year, after Patel told Modi about the potential for generating solar energy in northern Gujarat, the chief minister immediately called in a bureaucrat and asked him to get working on a plan. “It’s like dealing with a private enterprise and talking to a CEO,” Patel says. While political analysts say Modi is a possible future candidate for prime minister, he would face hostility from Muslims. “God will bring Modi down one day,” Sayed says. In states with large Muslim populations, where they comprise more than 15 percent, Modi would have to soften his anti-Muslim image. “Modi’s problem is very real,” Rangarajan says. “Modi has to evolve.” In Ahmedabad’s Juhapura ghetto, Hindus built a 10-foot-high wall with barbed wire at the top to separate themselves from Muslims. The wall is a reminder of the issues confronting Modi and his party as they vie to rule India again. (Courtesy: Businessmirror.com)

Indian Muslim News - OPINION

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | | Posted in

'Ram Rajya', 'Good Governance' & 'India Shining'

By Tanveer Jafri

In Indian Politics the phrase of 'India Shining' was used by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the last general elections in 2004, to woo the voters. It backfired. From the very beginning, political Analysts termed this 'India Shining' as hollow & misleading. But all senior leaders of the BJP were busy in publicizing their 'India Shining'. Even the BJP strategists were able to convince the most senior & sober leader of the party & the then Prime Minister Mr. Atal Behari Vajpayee. Perhaps in this context Vajpayee spoke in 2004- Maine kaal ke kapaal pe voh rekhaein khinchi hain, jise koi aajivan mita nahi sakta (I have draw such lines which can never be erased). But the politically aware voters didn't like these baseless rhetoric & thus shown the way out to the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government led by the BJP. Then the writers used the title- Mit gayi kaal ke kapaal pe khinchi rekhaein (lines are erased).

Now, after five years the 'Prime Minister in Waiting' & the most senior leader of the BJP, Mr. Lal Krishna Advani admits that 'India Shining' was a big mistake. But the voters are keen to know what this 'India Shining' is & when it happened? The United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government led by the Congress has completed its five years term. If the Congress strategists would have felt, they would have also publicized the India-US nuclear deal as 'India Shining'. But that's not the case. Even Rahul Gandhi, General Secretary of the Congress, in one of his elections public meetings said that there can be no 'India Shining' till even a single person is hungry in our country. Former President of India, Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam also has similar views. This visionary is of the view that until the smile is not returned on the face of every Indian, our nation can't become developed.

All the above definitions of 'India Shining' suggest a straight & simple meaning that without any discrimination every Indian must get complete justice, safe drinking water, shelter, food, clothing, roads for smooth transportation, electricity, health facilities, equal right to education, economic aid to poor to include them in mainstream etc. Till all these things are in place, the rhetoric of 'India Shining' is useless. In my view 'Ram Rajya' too includes all the above things because in 'Ram Rajya' too it is being told that all get equal justice, there is no partiality & the whole public is happy. If we analyse the Shabri episode of Lord Ram's life, we can't even think of casteism & communalism; forget untouchability. The question here is what the power hungry leaders, who created the rhetoric of 'Ram Rajya' & 'India Shining', are doing to make it true? To understand this we should learn from Gujarat, than any other state.

I am not talking about the Godhra & post-Godhra carnage. I don't want to criticize the 'Vibrant Gujarat' of Modi because I believe in development. And Development in any part of the country is indeed development of the nation. But when the questions related to Gujarat arise in people's mind, they think about the 'Good Governance' promise of the 'Prime Minister in Waiting' L K Advani. Advani's parliamentary constituency is Gandhinagar, in Gujarat. In an urban area of this constituency, there lies Juhapura, a thickly Muslim populated area. Hundreds of thousands of Muslims live in this vast area. It is being said that it is the largest Muslim area in Gujarat. If one tours this area, he would come to know what justice is being done to the people of the constituency of Advani who always talk about 'Good Governance'. Roads & streets of the whole area are damaged, potholes are filled with water. Drains of this area are damaged. Dirty sewer water enters in hundreds of houses which causes many diseases. There is no facility of safe drinking water in the area. Like the remote villages of Bihar, hand pumps can be seen at some places in this part of the capital of so called 'Vibrant Gujarat'. If one meets the residents here, he would come to learn that these people are treated as least grade citizens. Advani doesn't visit this area to ask for votes. No worker of the BJP likes to ask for votes from the people of this area. When the residents of this area visit the government offices asking for some development work & the solution of their problems, their application is thrown into dustbin. People of this area are desp erate to meet Advani. These people want that Advani come to their area and understand their problems. They want to know why this injustice to them? Limit is that the state government has totally neglected this area, but many NGOs, on their part and with the help of people, are working here since the Gujarat carnage & have helped people in providing healthcare facilities & building Public Park etc.

This was a brief description of Juhapura which is situated on one side of the road. On the other side of the same road is Baijalpura. This is thickly populated area of Hindus. This area can be called a part of the 'Vibrant Gujarat' or a prosperous area in the constituency of the 'Prime Minister in Waiting' as its roads, parks & other basic facilities of this area suggest. Shouldn't be Advani asked about the reason of step motherly treatment to one of the areas in his constituency? Is this the criteria of establishing 'Ram Rajya'? Not going in Muslim areas for votes & not sending the Muslim mascots like Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi & Shahnawaz Hussein to Gujarat for election campaign, isn't this a part of the same ideology? May be in view of Advani or Modi, 'Ram Rajya' is getting power after polarizing votes by misguiding people in the name of Lord Ram. But in my view this can never be said 'Ram Rajya'. If we really want to talk about India Shining, Ram Rajya & Good Governance, then every citizen of the country has to be given equal respect & justice. Indeed, we need to follow the credentials of Lord Ram rather than emotionally blackmailing the voters in the name of Lord Rama.

[Tanveer Jafri is a columnist based in India. He is related with hundreds of most popular daily newspapers/portals in India and abroad. Jafri writes in the field of communal harmony, world peace, anti communalism, anti terrorism, national integration, national & international politics etc. Jafri is also a member of Haryana Sahitya Academy & Haryana Urdu Academy. He can be reached at tanveerjafriamb@gmail.com]

Indian Muslim News – ENTERTAINMENT

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | | Posted in ,

Keeping tradition alive
By Joan Anderman
In these days of globalization, with world music a fixture in the mainstream, it's easy to imagine that we've heard it all. But odds are good you've never heard Sidi Goma, members of a tribal Sufi community of East African origin that resettled in India eight centuries ago. Sufisim is a mystical tradition that's scattered throughout the Muslim world and uses music and dance to enhance the act of worship; think of Turkey's whirling dervishes and the late Pakistani singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. The 12 members of Sidi Goma - four drummer/singers and eight dancers based in the Indian state of Gujarat - turn ritualistic calls to prayer and ancient dances of praise into exuberant, even ecstatic, performances.
They've been touring since 2002, but Sidi Goma appears in Boston for the first time on Saturday, at the Somerville Theatre. We corresponded via e-mail with Abdulhamid Sidi, the group's spokesman and one of its dancers, to talk about the group's rising international profile, getting close to God, and the benefits of cracking a coconut on your head.
Q. One of your goals in performing outside of your community is to raise consciousness about the discrimination Sidis face in India.
A. In India not many people know about the Sidi culture, and we don't get any official support. All this international recognition has helped us back home, because there is now more interest and we get booked for a lot more performances in India.
Q. Sidi Goma has been traveling the world for some years now. Has the group been influenced by Western culture?
A. Sometimes at festivals we get the chance to play with other musicians from different places, and it's always exciting to do that, but that does not mean we want to change anything. It is important to keep the tradition alive as we learned it from our grandfathers.
Q. You crack coconuts on your heads during performances. What is the symbolism of that act?
A. In our Sufi beliefs, music and dance brings you closer to God, and if you get close to God you get more strength and more power and you can do things you would not be able to do otherwise. So this is why we crack the coconuts. Sometimes in the village people walk on fire, or they break glass with their bodies - this is all to show how much strength you can get from being close to God.
Q. I've read that your shows are irreverent and funny. What place does humor have in sacred music?
A. It's not really so much about fun, it's about joy. Joy is important in the teachings of our saint Bhava Gor. The damal ceremony is about sharing joy, about making people happy, and we try to do the same in our performance.
(Courtesy: Boston.com)

The "Idea of India" after Mumbai

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | | Posted in

By Apoorva Shah

In 1947, as the British Raj prepared to devolve its former colony to the newly independent Republic of India, Jawaharlal Nehru and Mohandas Gandhi envisioned a modern, multicultural, and secular democracy whose first priority was economic progress, not ethnic communalism. Nehru and Gandhi's "idea of India" rejected the Balkanization of the subcontinent based on religious or ethnic division. Prior to and following independence, they strived to create and then preserve a unified nation.

Indian foreign policy and strategic interests, especially in relation to Pakistan, are closely linked to this founding idea. Since the partition of India and Pakistan in 1947, Pakistani founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah's "two-nation theory" of a separate, united Muslim state has inherently contradicted the "idea of India." This conflict has played out in a series of geopolitical skirmishes throughout the subcontinent.

The disputed territory of Kashmir has been at center stage in this struggle, with each side justifying accession based on its founding theory. On the Indian side, the secession of Kashmir would be "a defeat for secularism, [which] is not acceptable if the Indian republic is to be nurtured and brought to fruition," K. Subrahmanyam, an Indian strategic analyst, writes. For Pakistan, majority-Muslim Kashmir is critical to the "two-nation theory." If India relinquishes Kashmir, then Muslim "self-determination," not secular identity, can define the division between the two rivals. And, as Stephen P. Cohen notes, the Kashmir dispute is specifically important "to those Pakistanis who focus on strategic and security issues, notably the army."

The "idea of India" has also underlined domestic policy in India since the days of Nehru and Gandhi. For example, in 1947, civil servant V. P. Menon spent two years negotiating with the leaders of five hundred princely states and chiefdoms in order to absorb them into the Indian state. (He did not succeed in Kashmir.) Since then, ethnic separatists, from the Nagas in the northeast to the Tamils in the south, have attempted to undermine the idea, but the country has responded with both military force and socioeconomic assistance in order to deter secession.

The Changing Threat to the "Idea of India"

For most of India's history, dissenting parties to its founding idea--at least the ones that also pose threats of secession and violence--have metastasized in the form of separatist insurgencies. The majority of terrorist incidents in India have been the work of these insurgencies. Therefore, India's original counterterrorism strategy has been, in fact, a counterinsurgency strategy. For example, the Rashtriya Rifles, a specialized counterinsurgency force, was created to fight small-scale, low-intensity conflicts in Jammu and Kashmir, and the Indian army learned to integrate former insurgents, called ikhwanis, into cohorts that gather local intelligence in conflict zones. The government also provided civilian support and development assistance to insurgency areas in Punjab and Mizoram, addressing socioeconomic issues like unemployment, wealth disparities, and lack of education that exacerbate local tensions. But terrorism in India is no longer relegated to the mountains of Kashmir or the valleys of Manipur, and the culprits are not poor locals but rather well-trained urban soldiers.

Insurgencies employ terrorism for short-term tactical gains, but their preferred modus operandi is ideological indoctrination. Many terrorists, however, favor indiscriminate violence aimed at generating feelings of insecurity and provoking harsh responses by the targeted governments. Terrorism in India has moved away from the ideological cast of insurgency. The indiscriminate nature of Indian jihadist violence today is evident in the terrorist attacks conducted over the last three years by radicalized members of the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) and the Indian Mujahideen (IM), a prominent and well-networked Indian terrorist organization. In July 2006, SIMI militants detonated seven bombs on the suburban Mumbai railway system, killing two hundred commuters. Then, in 2008, the cities of Jaipur, Bangalore, Ahmedabad, and New Delhi were all sites of IM bombings whose casualties were all civilians. This is distinct from separatist operations, which tend to target security personnel. The IM and rogue members of SIMI are based domestically, and their attacks are intended to target major urban and suburban areas in order to inflict heavy civilian casualties. Not only are their motives fundamentalist and pan-Islamist, but the groups are also fueled by domestic grievances, such as ethnic riots, religious discrimination, and opposition to Hindu nationalist politics.

The IM, an umbrella organization that includes members of SIMI and other smaller groups, networks Indian terrorists across the country and organizes attacks. Its leaders, Riyaz Bhatkal and Abdul Subhan Usman Qureshi, both former engineers raised in middle-class families in Mumbai, have built a network of young radicals (including former software engineers and small businessmen) to manufacture bombs and attack India's largest cities.

Consider the July 2008 bombings in Ahmedabad. The IM prepared for these attacks in a highly coordinated, albeit decentralized, manner. Atif Amin, an IM commander, led the assault team, which planted the bombs, while a computer graphics designer, Qayamuddin Kapadia, provided safe houses and logistical support. At the same time, Bhatkal designed the bombs, and Qureshi coordinated the entire operation. A few days before their mission, three IM operatives took a train from New Delhi to Ahmedabad to conduct reconnaissance, finding unsecured wireless Internet sites for use during the bombings. Based in several cities, including Ahmedabad, Mumbai, New Delhi, and Mangalore, these terrorists used cell phones, Wi-Fi, and GPS to run a sophisticated and efficient operation that was difficult to track in real time.

In an e-mail entitled "The Rise of Jihad, Revenge of Gujarat," sent by the IM following the Ahmedabad bombings, the terrorists invoke distinctly political tones in their tirade against Hindu nationalist organizations such as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, calling for Gujarati Muslims to take revenge for the 2002 Hindu-Muslim riots in their state. The e-mail also lashes out at counterterrorist police forces in several states for their alleged religious profiling and at the Indian government in general for its discrimination and "harassment" of Muslims. Finally, the e-mail concludes with a request "to Lashkar-e-Toiba and other organizations, for the sake of Allah, not to claim the responsibility for these attacks." Indeed, the IM and similar domestic jihadists are distinctly Indian groups with Indian goals, but they have become allies of convenience with Pakistan and Pakistani operatives.

The Pakistan Question

Indian Muslim radicals expose India's cultural and religious fissures and fault lines, just as Sikhs, Tamils, and Nagas have in the past. The terrorists attempt to redress their grievances through acts of violence and propagate the notion that minorities–especially Muslims–cannot live peacefully in the Hindu-dominated Indian democracy. This is an image that Pakistan takes advantage of for its own strategic interests in Kashmir and for Indian-Pakistani relations in general.

Many analysts argued that the three-day siege of Mumbai in November 2008 by LeT only confirmed Pakistan's internal instability and inability to control expanding jihadist threats. Even the U.S. Joint Forces Command referred to Pakistan as a possible "failed state." Quite the contrary: Pakistan's strong military, which keeps Pakistan from failing, appears to dictate the country's internal and external decision-making for its own strategic interests. In the context of the geopolitical duel between Pakistan and India, which is underlined by their conflict of founding ideas, LeT's operations and Pakistan's inaction toward them make sense. LeT is simply another operative in Pakistan's quest to corrode the idea of India, and as LeT's proxy war raises tensions on the border, the Pakistani military can also shift focus away from a difficult mission in the tribal areas of Baluchistan and the North West Frontier Province. Even though Pakistan fights the same Islamists at home, the benefit provided by their operations in India makes the Pakistani choice more complex than it appears. Yet, Pakistani attempts to chip away at the idea of India are nothing new.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Punjabi Sikh militants who were part of the Khalistan independence movement, which advocated for the creation of a separate Sikh state, engaged in a series of riots, assassinations, and bombings across India. During this time, Pakistan and its Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) provided funding, refuge, and training sites for these militants. Since then, the leader of the International Sikh Youth Federation, Lakhbir Singh Rode, who has been accused of "arms smuggling and conspiracy to attack government and political leaders in Delhi," has been allowed to live in and work from Lahore. Apart from the Sikh movement, Pakistani militants supported by the ISI have sponsored and conducted attacks in Jammu and Kashmir. LeT, for example, has conducted the majority of its operations in the disputed region, with eighteen attacks between September 2001 and October 2004.

New evidence also shows that LeT has been able to conspire with Indian separatist groups that did not previously associate with radical Islamists. In Northeast India, the United Liberation Front of Assam, the National Democratic Front of Bodoland, and other militants have worked with jihadist groups in their latest attacks. In what the Jamestown Foundation calls "ethno-Islamist" terrorism, there were, for the first time, "tell-tale signs of collaboration between ethnic-separatist militants and Muslim jihadi groups with a strong cross-border reach." After more than a decade of calm, it also appears that Pakistan has begun to renew its support for Sikh militants fighting for an independent Khalistan--this time with the support of LeT and Jaish-e-Mohammad, another Pakistan-based jihadist group.

In each of these cases, from the Khalistan movement to the Mumbai shootings, the involvement of LeT and Pakistani operatives only reflects the increasing internationalization of the jihadist threat in India. The threat is still rooted domestically, under the leadership of Indian Muslim jihadists, but both Pakistan and LeT have been able to take advantage of the vacuum in which these jihadists operate in order to pursue their own strategic goals, whether they are geopolitical gains or global jihad. Just as India used counterinsurgency strategy in the past to contain domestic separatists, it will have to create a new counterterrorism strategy to deter domestic jihadists.

The State of Indian Muslims

The increasing radical activity of Indian Muslims–especially those of the urban middle class–poses questions: Do Indian Muslims in general buy in to the "idea of India"? Is domestic terrorism reflective of wider sentiment among the Indian ummah, or are these attacks merely outliers conducted by disillusioned rogues acting irrationally and excessively?

The World Values Survey asks subjects to respond to a series of questions about cultural and national identity, trust, and happiness. It is possible to tabulate these responses based on religion. In the case of India, not only are Indian Muslims equally as happy and proud to be Indian as Hindus, they tend to be apolitical and broadly respectful of democracy. Approximately 90 percent of Indian Muslims and Hindus express pride in being Indian, assert the importance of democracy, and are willing to fight for their country. According to the survey, Muslims are also slightly more active in religious practice (90 percent versus 80 percent) and less trusting of others (71 percent versus 61 percent) than Hindus, but they believe almost as strongly as Hindus that society should not be radically changed (85 percent to 86 percent).

Anecdotal evidence adds further confirmation of Muslim integration. Muslims play prominent roles in Indian popular culture and political life. Three of the country's most famous and widely adored Bollywood actors are Muslims named Khan (Salman Khan, Shah Rukh Khan, and Aamir Khan). The award-winning song by Muslim composer A. R. Rahman, "Jai Ho," from the blockbuster Slumdog Millionaire (which itself features a successful Muslim protagonist), became this year's campaign theme song for India's Congress Party. And in politics, A. P. J. Abdul Kalam was elected the first Muslim president of India by the parliament in 2002. Muslims are underrepresented in politics at the national level, but not significantly; they hold 8 percent of the seats against their national population share of 13.4 percent.

Evidence from the World Values Survey and examples of Muslim integration in Indian popular culture appear to support the idea that Muslims are not inherently excluded from the country's identity. Nevertheless, as a report by the Prime Minister's High Level Committee (the Sachar Commission) on the status of India's Muslims shows, there are still significant discrepancies between the socioeconomic status of Muslims and other Indians. By some measures, Muslims rank near the "untouchable" Scheduled Tribes and Scheduled Castes.

While Hindus had a literacy rate of 80.5 percent in 2004-2005, the rate for Muslims was 59.9 percent. Higher education graduation rates are also significantly disparate, with only 4.5 percent of Muslims between the ages of twenty and thirty having degrees at the tertiary level in 2004-2005, as opposed to 18.6 percent of Hindus aged twenty to thirty. As the report states, "In urban areas, Muslims are falling behind not only vis-à-vis 'All Other [Minorities],' but also Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in several states."
Compared to the national average, a larger proportion of Indian Muslims work in the informal sector of the economy or are engaged in "small proprietary enterprises." Yet, as the Sachar Commission report notes, "the access of Muslims to bank credit . . . is low and inadequate," and the share of banking facilities is much lower in villages where the percentage of the Muslim population exceeds 50 percent.

Discrimination against Muslims is also evident in civil society, in which segregation continues to be the rule rather than the exception. In 2006, Muslims made up only 4.9 percent of all government employees and 3.2 percent of all civil service officers. It is also important to note the vast underrepresentation of Muslims in the Indian army: out of 1.1 million soldiers, only 29,000 (2.6 percent) are Muslims.

In addition to social rifts, the ongoing religious and political tug-of-war between certain Hindu and Muslim factions could exacerbate extremism. Three events in modern Indian history–the destruction of the Babri Mosque in 1992, the 2002 riots in Gujarat, and the 1986 Shah Bano case–have dictated these tensions. The first two events, cases of religious violence between Hindu and Muslim fanatics, are of importance because of their human toll in addition to their impact on political debate. In 1992, a group of Hindu nationalists destroyed a sixteenth-century mosque in the town of Ayodhya, claiming that the mosque was built on the birthplace of the Hindu god Ram. A riot spread following the destruction, in which two thousand Indians, mostly Muslims, were killed. In 2002, more than one thousand people perished in riots in Gujarat following an arson attack on a train of Hindu pilgrims. Once again, the majority of victims were Muslims, and the BJP-led state government was widely criticized for its failure to respond to the pogrom.

The origins of these riots still evoke debate among members of the BJP, secular Hindu politicians, and Muslims in fear of a reprisal. The Hindu-Muslim conflict also hinders political discourse by prioritizing ethnic and religious divisions over critical social and economic issues. For example, in the latest election campaign, BJP candidate Varun Gandhi--an estranged member of the Nehru-Gandhi political dynasty and grandson of former prime minister Indira Gandhi--was arrested after making disparaging remarks about Muslim parliamentary candidates and telling supporters at a rally that he would "cut the hands" of anyone who "raised a finger towards Hindus."

The other turning point, the Shah Bano case of 1986, reflects discrepancies in the legal and institutional status of Muslims versus those of other Indians. In 1986, Shah Bano, a sixty-two-year-old Muslim divorcée, filed a suit to claim alimony from her husband, claiming that she had no means to support herself and her children. While orthodox Muslims felt that alimony was unacceptable according to sharia law, the Supreme Court ruled in her favor, invoking the Indian Code of Criminal Procedure. Following the ruling, an organization of Muslim community leaders and intellectuals successfully lobbied the government to overrule the court's decision. The government's appeasement was derided as "pseudosecularism" by its opponents, and it set a precedent for Indian Muslims that has made room for self-imposed compartmentalization and isolation from mainstream society.

Despite the presence of Muslims in prominent political and cultural spaces in India, the majority of Indian political and economic power still rests in the hands of Hindus, both secular and orthodox. As the primary owners of the country's political and economic capital, these Hindus should be conscious of their implicit responsibility to prevent calamities like the Babri Mosque destruction and the Gujarat riots and to bolster the social and economic inclusion of Muslims in the country.

But there is also an onus on the leaders of the Indian Muslim community to reconcile Muslim identity with Indian identity and address Indian Muslims' radicalization and social segregation. The ability of external forces, regardless of their strength, to influence the Muslim community is limited, compared to the capacity of Muslims themselves to address these issues. The Shah Bano case is an example of self-imposed isolation that hinders ethnic and cultural integration and compromises the secular nature of the Indian polity, which, as the World Values Survey shows, is not contrary to wider Muslim sentiment.


There is no easy path to prevent middle-class Indian Muslims from radicalizing and attacking their fellow citizens. But before addressing the problem, the Indian government must understand the roots of domestic jihadism and its implications for India's long-term strategy. As Angel Rabasa et al. write, "[A]t the strategic level, the Mumbai attack underscores the imperative of addressing the transnational sources of Islamist terrorism in India. How to do this is an extraordinarily difficult question that will require the reassessment of basic assumptions concerning policy toward Pakistan by members of the international community."
Nevertheless, the transnationalization of Islamist terrorism in India is rooted in the growing strength and scope of domestic Islamist terrorism, as evidenced by the increasing frequency and magnitude of attacks in urban areas of India. The attacks in Mumbai were merely one more step down a road that organizations such as the IM have been paving for more than a decade.

For more than six decades, Indian governments, despite occasional domestic pressures from the far right and left wings, have remained steadfast in their commitment to preserving the "idea of India." The threats to this idea continue to exist, but they have changed significantly. In a "post-11/26" world, preserving Nehru and Gandhi's vision of a secular and pluralistic democracy will require more than just a tough stance across the Indian-Pakistani Line of Control. It will require a reassessment of counterterrorism and counterinsurgency at home and a renewed focus toward the integration and assimilation of minorities, specifically Muslims, into the expansive definition of India.

[Apoorva Shah is a Research Assistant at AEI (American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research – www.aei.org)]

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