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Indian Muslim News - ISSUES

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 18 September 2009 | Posted in ,

On Muslim 'Failed States'

By Syed Akbar Ali

Since the 1960s, we have become familiar with a string of labels describing the various countries of the world. The Third World, Developing Countries, Least Developed Countries or LDCs, Newly Industrialising Countries or NICS, the First World, the West, the countries of the South, the Islamic Countries (why are there no such terms as Christian Countries or Buddhist Countries) are names or phrases that have been coined to capture in a snapshot of just a few words the entirety of a nation.

There have been many definitions and redefinitions of most of the terms quoted above.

The term Third World is attributed to Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India to describe nations that were aligned neither to the West nor the Communists during the Cold War (Wikipedia). Here is one redefinition of Third World:

...the technologically less advanced, or developing nations of Asia, Africa, and Latin America, generally characterized as poor, having economies distorted by their dependence on the export of primary products to the developed countries in return for finished products. These nations also tend to have high rates of illiteracy, disease, and population growth and unstable governments. The term Third World was originally intended to distinguish the nonaligned nations that gained independence from colonial rule beginning after World War II.” ( Columbia Encyclopedia).

An Islamic Country usually suffers all the above, plus a little more. Often, an Islamic Country may also suffer violence either within its own borders against its own people or violence imposed from outside. Another feature of Islamic countries is that the people are always walking around in fear of suffering embarrassment from breaching some religious rule or another. They always seem to suffer a guilty conscience. They are an unhappy people. And, on top of it all, the Islamic Country suffers the fit that it is somehow still blessed by God and that its inhabitants, especially its religious leaders, will all go to heaven.

A failed state is one where the clock has been turned back. Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran (all three being Islamic countries) are the clearest examples of this definition of a Failed State in the modern era. In the past, whole civilizations and empires have failed and had their clocks turned back. A very good example was the Islamic civilization. From being innovators and leaders in science, literature and almost all forms of knowledge the Muslims became superstitious, childish, unhygienic, violent and poor.

Today the vast majority of the Arab countries – which most definitely form the remnant of the Islamic Civilisation – are Failed States. The Arab Human Development Report 2004 produced by the United Nations Development Programe summarises all the Arab states as:

  • lacking freedom and good governance

  • suffering acute corruption

  • marginalizing segments of their population like women and minorities

  • and also that Arab governments suffer crisis of legitimacy. This means their governments do not represent the will of the people.

Documenting the Economic Collapse of the Arab World, Stephen Glain in his book 'Mullahs. Merchants and Militants' laments that during the Islamic empire, Arab currency was held from Scandinavia to China and a draft order signed against a Damascus account would be honored in Canton. The draft orders were known in Arabic as sek, which inspired the English cheque (pg. 77).

Yet all the 22 members of the Arab League today are basket cases. Glain's notes that from 1990 to 1999 the per capita income growth in the 22 Arab countries averaged less than 1 % growth whereas their population averaged 4% growth over the same period. Saudi Arabia suffered an economic contraction of 1.1% in the ten years from 1989 to 1999. The Syrian Government does not even publicly announce its economic growth rates. The US Embassy in Damascus believes that the Syrian economy is actually contracting by as much as 4 % a year. But Syria has an expanding clique of noveau riche or the new rich. Some of them are almost billionaires who enjoy ties to the ruling elite and can corner vast monopolies. I think in Malaysia we call them cronies.

Let us look at some more definitions of a Failed State. These have been derived from various sites on the Internet. But I believe the message gets across about what is a Failed State.

A state is failing when its government is losing physical control of its territory or lacks a monopoly on the legitimate use of force. Other symptoms ... include the erosion of authority to make collective decisions, an inability to provide reasonable public services, and the loss of the capacity to interact ... with the international community.

Another definition says a State is failing when there is extensive corruption and criminal behavior, inability to collect taxes or otherwise draw on citizen support, large-scale involuntary dislocation of the population, sharp economic decline, group-based inequality, and institutionalized persecution or discrimination are other hallmarks of state failure. States can fail at varying rates of decline through explosion, implosion, or erosion.

I would like to stress that these are not fixed and fast rules and neither are any of these definitions of a Failed State written in stone. They are just a simple and organized way to arrange our thoughts about this thing called a Failed State which I hope will make for easier discussion. I am sure the reader may have other definitions or more structured thinking on the matter.

What is important to realize is that there are such things now as Failed States. 50 years ago when many countries in the world were still colonies or had just been released from the grips of colonialism – the problem of the Failed State was not such an issue especially to their own peoples because at that time they did not have freedom to determine their future. But a Failed State is becoming an increasing reality now after 50 years or more of independence for the Malaysias, Bangladeshs and Egypts of the world. We are now operating under our own steam. After 50 years of post World War II independence, many of these countries or people are just falling down.

The point I would like to make here is that a country can regress and become a Failed State. The other thing that I would like the reader to bear in mind is that all the Islamic countries are well qualified to become Failed States. I would especially like the Muslim readers to realize this and then hopefully they will start panicking immediately. Perhaps they will then be motivated to urgently do something useful and positive to rectify the predicament they are in. They really do not have the luxury of time. Of course there will also be those who will bury their heads deeper in the sand and say “We are fine. Leave us alone”.

Sometimes the failure is not in the whole state but among certain population groups only. In some countries that are multi cultural, multi ethnic or multi religious (especially like Malaysia) we may observe some of the characteristics of the Failed State in one group of people – for example within the Muslims only. Lets coin a phrase for them. These would then be the Failed Population Groups. However whether a State or a Population Group the characteristics of their failure are the same.

The following definition of Failed State does narrow it down to a population group and not necessarily the whole State.

Characteristics of Failed Countries: Whether analyzing military capabilities, cultural viability, or economic potential, these seven factors offer a quick study of the likely performance of a state, region, or population group in the coming century.

These key "failure factors" are:

1. Restrictions on the free flow of information.

2. The subjugation of women.

3. Inability to accept responsibility for individual or collective failure.

4. The extended family or clan as the basic unit of social organization.

5. Domination by a restrictive religion.

6. A low valuation of education.

7. Low prestige assigned to work.

It is unnerving yet many of the above seven characteristics are also descriptive of the situation of the Muslims in Malaysia vis a vis the non Muslims in the country. In Malaysia the non Muslims can discuss their religion at will. The Muslims can go to jail or have fatwas issued against them if they raise issues that are deemed as insulting to the religious authorities. The non Muslim women can dress in just about any way they want but the Muslim women are frowned upon if they don't wear a head cover or tudung. Marina Mahathir, a newspaper columnist and a commonsensical person, has said that Malaysian Muslim women suffer "apartheid".

Here is an excerpt from the AFP news service:

AFP KUALA LUMPUR, March 9, 2006 - The daughter of former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad has likened the status of Muslim women in Malaysia to that of South African blacks under apartheid. Marina Mahathir, a prominent social activist, made the claim in her regular Wednesday column for the Star daily to mark International Women's Day. The column did not appear Wednesday but will be published Thursday, she said. Marina Mahathir said that apartheid was still being practised in other forms even though it had disappeared from South Africa.

"In our country, there is an insidious growing form of apartheid among Malaysian women, that between Muslim and non-Muslim women," she wrote in a copy of the text obtained by AFP. Malaysia's population of 25 million is dominated by some 60 percent Muslim Malays. Chinese and Indians make up 26 percent and 8.0 percent respectively. "We are unique in that we actively legally discriminate against women who are arguably the majority in this country, Muslim women. Non-Muslim Malaysian women have benefited from more progressive laws over the years while the opposite has happened for Muslim women," said Marina Mahathir.

Marina's views were eloquently restated by Zainah Anwar, another spokesperson for the Sister's in Islam – in her column in the New Straits Times where she wrote: “For Muslim women it is all the more painful that it is Islam that is used to deny change. Is it any wonder then that many are beginning to describe Malaysia as a country that practices religious apartheid as it formally establishes one set of rights for non-Muslims granting equality and justice between men and women, and a separate set of rights for Muslims, moving toward more inequality and injustice for Muslim women. As it was under apartheid rule in South Africa, separate can never be equal.” (NST 7/4/06).

Other than Marina's and Zainah's observations about the social welfare of Muslim women under the religious enactments and in the religious courts, the New Economic Policy and after that the Outline Perspective Plan or OPP are acknowledgements of the dire economic straits of the Muslims in Malaysia. Malaysia has indeed become an economic success story but the Muslims do not yet feel comfortable enough to lay claim to much of the success. As the ruling majority they have maintained the peace and been good administrators of the land which has provided opportunity for the non Muslims to go about their business largely unhindered.

Everyone has benefited from this relationship but there is much that simmers under the surface. There is now the real threat that with the increasing creep of religion, the Muslims may outwardly start to manifest the bad characteristics of a Failed Population Group within the larger Malaysian economy and society. The fact is this failure is already becoming visibly apparent.

Another definition of a Failed State has narrowed it down to the Twelve Indicators of a Failed State which are:

  1. Mounting Demographic Pressures

  2. Massive Movement of Refugees and Displaced Persons

  3. Legacy of Vengeance - Seeking Group Grievance

  4. Chronic and Sustained Human Flight

  5. Uneven Economic Development along Group Lines

  6. Sharp and/or Severe Economic Decline

  7. Criminalization or Delegitimization of the State

  8. Progressive Deterioration of Public Services

  9. Widespread Violation of Human Rights

  10. Security Apparatus as "State within a State"

  11. Rise of Factionalized Elites

  12. Intervention of Other States or External Actors

The world cannot ignore the Failed States or the Failed Population Groups anymore. If we ignore them it is at our own peril. Since self interest is the best interest, it is high time the world started paying real attention to these people or states and see what makes them fail. Then we must take steps to remove those cancers, viruses, toxins and whatever else there is that makes these people fail. Among all the Islamic countries, religion seems to have a larger than life role in ultimately causing State failure. This is the subject of this book. And when Islamic countries also suffer other problems like limited arable land in Egypt then they suffer a double whammy.

Experts have for years discussed an arc of instability – an expression that came into use in the 1970s to refer to an Islamic Crescent extending from Afghanistan and the Stans in the southern part of the former Soviet Union and on to the Horn of Africa and beyond. Although the definition of Failed States is not restricted to the Muslim countries, a large proportion (almost all) of the Muslim countries fall within this unfortunate classification.

Those Islamic countries that gained independence from the British and other European powers in the 20th century would have collapsed much earlier if it had not been for physical infrastructures and certain institutions of government and administration that were put in place by the colonials which sustained them for a time. Transportation networks, railway signaling systems, traffic codes, education systems, penal codes, government administrative departments and so on that were put in place by the colonials to serve rudimentary needs of a colonial economy were not sufficiently expanded to nourish development and growth.

The Developed World constantly adapts quickly to the changing environment to continuously make life easier for its people. The Third World believes that most things, especially its religions, are written in stone. Hence their people suffer. But in some Islamic countries, something even more nefarious crept into the system. The luckier ones only suffered weak implementation of a workable system. If a system is good and workable, weaknesses in implementation can be overcome by cleaning up the implementors. Corrupt judges, lazy bureaucrats or scheming lawyers can all be disciplined and the system will revert to good working order.

But many of the Islamic countries started creating their own way of doing things, usually according to some religious model, which could not work from day one. Like square shaped tyres, they were inherently flawed. Then after that they still suffered weak implementation of these already unworkable ideas. This was the double whammy again. In an inherently flawed system, no amount of cleaning up corruption or reducing laziness is going to help. They are doomed. This is one horror movie that does not end even when the lights are turned on. Remember that in this chapter we are talking about the Failed States and some of the factors that make them fail.

In Malaysia after independence, all men and women had recourse to the Civil Courts which were based on British Common Law principles in dealing with all matters. Then it was said that Muslims should only have legal recourse limited to the religious courts to handle their domestic and family matters. The British Common Law was an undang undang kristian or Christian inspired western law and therefore in certain matters the Muslims should have their own laws. Now after decades of suffering, many Muslim women are loudly complaining of poor treatment and prejudice at the hands of the religious courts in matters of divorce and matrimony. Non Muslim women in Malaysia do not have as many complaints about the workings of the Civil Courts. Hence Marina Mahathir's and Zainah Anwar's comments about apartheid for Malaysia's Muslim women. The perceived prejudice is not only by the implementors like the judges and the administrators of the Islamic courts but also by the laws themselves. The Sisters in Islam, a womens rights group submitted a Memorandum to the Government of Malaysia in March 1997 which had the following complaints about the Syariah System:

For years, Muslim women in Malaysia have complained about the injustice they have suffered in the syariah system, both when they seek help and advice at the Religious Departments and when they seek judicial redress to their problems in the Syariah Courts.

In spite of speeches and public support for the plight of women under the syariah system from the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, in spite of the continual newspaper coverage of the problems women face in getting access to justice, no comprehensive action has been taken to end. The widespread suffering of women and children when marriages break down.

The seeming arbitrariness with which judgments are made had left many women with the impression that the Syariah Courts are unable to give women a fair hearing and have failed to play the role of the impartial arbiter in cases of dispute between two parties. The widespread report of the injustice women have suffered in the syariah system has undermined women's confidence that the system can indeed dispense justice.” (www.muslimtents.com/sistersinislam/memo)

The views expressed by the Sisters in Islam in 1997 echoes the suffering felt by thousands of Muslim women in Malaysia until today. The system does not work. To make matters even murkier, the Government of the religiously educated Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi sponsored and passed a new law called the Islamic Family Law Bill for Muslims in December 2005 which has been strongly criticized even by Ministers. The womens groups feel that this law will be even more prejudiced against women especially in its implementation.

Some commentators in Malaysia have even questioned if indeed the Islamic Family Law Bill is part of the Syariah laws. This is not a surprising query. Often different Islamic countries have different flavours of Syariah law. While one party may claim that it is part of the Syariah, others may not agree. In Afghanistan, they once implemented a law whereby as punishment, a brick wall was dropped on convicted homosexuals. Other Islamic countries may not agree to the Afghan type looney tunes. In Malaysia the ruling party UMNO does not agree with all the Hudud Laws proposed by the PAS religious party.

In advocating a just system, the Quran does take the route of the proof of the pudding is in the eating. The Quran does not make new rules out of thin air but it affirms rules which observe what is fair to humans. For example murder is wrong not because the Quran prohibits it but the Quran prohibits murder because it is indeed wrong. The proof against murder is that human society cannot accept it. Conversely when so many intelligent women are complaining of injustice in the Islamic Family Law Bill we cannot say that they do not understand. What we do need to understand is that the Islamic Family Law Bill is not written anywhere in the Quran.

This is typical of the fate of many Islamic countries. They have inherited a workable system from their colonial masters. Then they start to fall down in the implementation of these old but proven systems. Corruption, laziness and inefficiency sets in. Then to overcome these weaknesses in implementation they may start creating newer religion based systems that are flawed from the beginning. This Islamic Family Law Bill is a clear example. And when it is implemented, it will be implemented by the same inefficient implementers from before. The double whammy again.

Very frequently what we are told is Islam or part of Islam is not only NOT stated in the Quran but it is often very different to the Quran. I believe the Muslim countries are falling down simply because they do not read and understand the Quran well. As just one example, this Islamic Family Law Bill has kicked up so much unhappiness in the country. They do not fully implement the grand teachings of the Quran. Here we are referring to their intelligentsia and their lawmakers. As for the vast numbers of the masses, we can almost completely forget about their understanding much from the Quran.

[Syed Akbar Ali is a noted writer and activist from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. He can be contacted on ali.syedakbar@gmail.com]

Indian Muslim News - JOB OPPORTUNITIES

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | | Posted in

URGENT - Doctor Needed at our Street Children's Project

The YP Foundation is urgently looking for a competent doctor to help its Blending Spectrum Project, which works with urban slum children. The requirement is absolutely urgent!

The requirements are as follows:

1. must be a volunteer. (we can cover basic compensation per visit)

2. must be willing to visit location (Nizammudin Basti) once a week.

3. must conduct regular check ups of the children at location.

4. must maintain health cards of all children at the location.

5. must be able to administer basic medication for cuts, burns, bruises, minor infections, fever, etc.

6. must connect the people at the location to the nearest government hospital.

7. must help in educating the parents at the location about health care.

Apply at theypfoundation@gmail.com

Opportunities for Cricket Fans – Work for Royal Challengers Bangalore

Royal Challengers Bangalore, the Indian Premier League team, is hiring a Chief Blogger and Chief Photographer. And Cricinfo, the world’s leading cricket news website, is on the lookout for contributors for Champions Trophy.

Royal Challengers Fanatic Fans is a contest run by the team to search for a Chief Blogger, a Chief Photographer, and a Chief RCB Fan.

Deadline for submitted online applications is September 27, 2009.

To apply to this contest, click here.

Jagran City Plus has Openings for Ad Sales, Business Development and Circulation in Navi Mumbai; Freshers Can Apply

City Plus, a free newspaper weekly from the Jagran Group, needs following people for its soon-to-be-launched new edition in Navi Mumbai.

Assistant Manager: 1, The person will be responsible for generating revenue and business development and realisation. He/she will be responsible for handling a team of 4-5 executives initially. Professionals with experience in retail/classified will be preferred. Will also be responsible for printing , circulation and other administrative affairs.

Senior Executive: 2, The person will be responsible for generating ad sales and business realisation. Candidates applying should have minimum experince of 1-2 years.

Executives: 2, A minimum experience of 6 months is required for this post. Freshers can also apply.

Circulation Executive: The person will be responsible for dispatch, storage and distribution of Cityplus. Will make sure about the receivership of the product.

To apply, contact: ravi.sangtani@gmail.com

iStrat Software Needs Content Writer/Senior Content Writer in New Delhi

iStrat Software, a leading digital agency based out of New Delhi, is looking for writers — both part time and full time.Designation offered: Content writer/Senior Content writer

Qualifications:

* Excellent written skills and the ability to generate fresh ideas

* Versatility to write for various media (Web, Films, Print, etc.)

* Ability to carry out subject research independently

* Should have an in-depth understanding of the nuances of online media

* Should be familiar with Microsoft Word and PowerPoint in particular, and the Internet in general

Experience required for the job: 3-4 years

Salary range offered: Negotiable

Contact: Priyanka Billa at priyanka@nmicro.com

Phone: 01125511354

Positive Communications has Senior, Mid-level and Entry level Openings for Public Relations and Marketing professionals in New Delhi

Positive Communications is looking for experienced professionals from the fields of Public Relations and Marketing Communications for senior, mid-level and entry level positions.

Company profile: Positive Communications is a Public Relations and Marketing Communications agency headquartered in New Delhi. Established in the mid of year 1997, it has evolved into a full-service, integrated, and strategic marketing communications (MarCom) and public relations (PR) organisation in India providing 360 degree communications solutions to its customers.

Candidate profile: Beyond your qualifications put in pen and paper, if you think you can add value to our organisation with your hard work and perseverance, then you’ll surely reach the other end of our recruitment funnel.

Contact: Send in your resumes at careers@positiveindia.biz or call on 09871058649

Mediagraphix seeks PR Executive in New Delhi

Brief job profile: To coordinate with media, write press releases and following them up within deadlines.

Organisation: Mediagraphix

Location: Vasant Kunj, New Delhi

Designation: PR Pxecutive

Experience required for the job: At least 1 or 2 years. Those with prior experience of interacting with journalists in lifestyle or business sections shall be preferred. An ability to work independently while meeting deadlines is an essential.

Contact: Neena Gulati, neenagulati@gmail.com, Mobile: 09891306373

Indian Muslim News - ANNOUNCEMENT

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | | Posted in

What it means to be a Muslim in India Today?

National Meet on the Status of Muslims on October 3-5 in New Delhi

Anhad is organizing a National Meet on the Status of Muslims to document the continuing ways of discrimination, exclusion, persecution of Muslims in India today, to document overt as well as low intensity violence and the insecurity that they live with, and to prepare a charter of demands for the present government. We also plan to develop a strategy paper for voluntary organizations who are working for the minority rights.

During the three day meet senior activists, academicians, grass root workers and victims would present and listen to testimonies and reports, and reflect on these conditions.

Panelists:

Admiral Ramdas, Ahmad Saeed Malihabadi, Asghar Ali Engineer, Colin Gonsalves, Gagan Sethi, Ghanshyam Shah, Hanif Lakdawala, Harsh Mander, Justice Bhargava , Kavita Srivastava, Mahesh Bhat, Prashant Bhushan, Ram Puniyani, Rooprekha Verma, Sandeep Pandey, Shahid Latif, Tarun Tejpal, Uma Chakravarty, Zafar Agha, Zahid Ali Khan, Zoya Hasan

Speakers:

Abu Zafar, Ajit Sahi, Amit Sengupta, Apoorvanand, Arshad Ajmal, Ashish Khaitan, Avinash Kumar, Azam Khan, Aziz Mubaraki, Baharul Islam, Farah Naqvi , Harinder Baweja, Hozzefa Ujjaini, Iftikhar Gilani, Irfan Engineer, Jawed Naqvi, Jyoti Punwani, Manisha Sethi, Manoj Jha, Mehmood bhai, Minakshi Ganguly, Mohd Azam Khan, Mohd Shuaib, Nagma Nadaf, Naseem Ansari , Nihal Ahmad Ansari , Nishat Hussain, Noorjahan, Poornima Joshi, Rajendra Y J Clifton ( to be confirmed), Rajiv Yadav, Rashida Khan, Sarwar Raza, Shafeeq Mahajir, Shahnawaz Alam, Shesh Narain Singh, Sohail Hashmi, Vidyadhar Gadgil , Vineet Tiwari, Vrinda Grover, Yogesh Diwan, Yusuf Shaikh , Zaheer Ali Khan, Zakia Soman

Indian Muslim News - HUMAN RIGHTS

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 14 September 2009 | Posted in , ,

From the Valley of Death

By Mushtaq ul Haq Ahmad Sikander

The October 2003 issue of the Reader's Digest carries an article titled "After Life" that deals with stories of people who were declared dead, but by some miracle, came back to life again. Robert Milham is one such person. He says that his heart stopped during a heart attack: "The pain was gone. I was suspended over my body. I was looking at myself lying on the stretcher and they were putting paddles on me". After a life of selfishness, he says his brush with death made him a more giving person.

My case is also the same, but in some ways different. I am an inhabitant of the Valley of Kashmir, known all over the world for its beauty, but which could now be called a beautiful prison or an awesome concentration camp.

One day, I was heading to my tutor's house, situated at a walking distance from my home. On the streets of Kashmir, counter insurgency forces are omnipresent and we Kashmiris have got used to their sight. Suddenly, as I was trudging ahead, I was stopped by a paramilitary trooper. He ordered me to open my bag. I did as he said. He started frisking me.

Why have you grown such a long beard? Are you a saint?”, he asked me mockingly. I said nothing.

When he was satisfied, he asked for my identity card. When I thrust my hand in my pocket and started searching for my wallet, which also contained my identity card, I remembered that I had forgotten my wallet at home. I told the trooper about it, and tried to impress upon him that I was only a student and a law-abiding citizen. I told him that I lived nearby, pointing in the direction of my colony.

This, however, did not make a dent on him. Meanwhile, another student walked past and he stopped him and asked him where he lived. It so happened that this student also lived in the same colony as I, although I did not know this. Pointing at me, the paratrooper asked the student if he recognized me. He answered in the negative. The trooper then became furious. “Are you trying to deceive me?”, he shrieked.

I said in an apologetic tone: "I reside in the locality whose name I told you".

"Go and sit in that vehicle,” he ordered me. When he indicated the vehicle, it struck me that this man was no ordinary Central Reserve Police Force trooper but, rather, that he belonged to the notorious RR, the Rashtriya Rifles, to whom a large number of human rights violations in Kashmir have been attributed.

I tried to plead my ignorance. That did not work, however. "Why are you without an identity card? If someone kills you, who will identify you then? Even being a student you bastard don't know the rules!” he angrily spat out.

I tried to persuade the man to let me go but all in vain. I told him I was getting late for my tuition class, but he did not pay any heed. He ordered me to sit inside the vehicle. I did as he commanded.

Thoughts of the past came ringing in my head, swimming around like a wild whirlpool. I thought of my parents, siblings, friends and relatives. I prayed to Allah to erase my sins as I imagined that now, in just a few days, I would meet my Lord. How were these troopers going to behave with me, I began to wonder. Would they kill me and label me as a “dreaded militant”? They might well do that, I feared, for they could possibly use my bearded appearance to justify their claim. Would they subject me to brutal torture, as so many have been before? Or would I be subjected to “enforced disappearance”, like thousands of others have?

I began to mourn what I feared was my imminent death. After some days, I began to imagine, my dead body would be handed over to my parents, who would be told that I had been killed in an 'unknown operation'. My killing would draw fierce condemnation. My family would publish my obituary in the newspapers, announcing to the world: "We regret to announce the martyrdom of Shaheed Mushtaq-ul-Haq Ahmad Sikandar at the hands of RR troops. He was loved by one and all, and leaves behind him a large number of friends and admirers to mourn his loss. His untimely death has left a void in our lives. He was like a flower, spreading fragrance by his jovial, humourous nature. Yet, fate crumbled this young flower before it could bloom,. His funeral rites will take place at 11 AM today".

At the bottom of the page would be an announcement: "Women are requested not to bring any kind of food item or fruits with them".

I was most concerned about my parents, especially my mother, who would not be able bear the shock of my death, I knew.

My friends would come to know of my death later. A friend of mine, Wani, is an early riser, and as soon as he gets up he reads the day's newspapers. The day after my death, I imagined, Wani would cursorily glance at the headlines of the newspaper, then have a shower and breakfast, after which he would pick up the paper again, when his eyes would scan the news of lesser importance. When he gets to page 3, he would abruptly stop, his face transfixed on the picture that accompanies the obituary that my parents have arranged for. His parents would tell him to rush to my house, but, shrugging his shoulders, he would say, “I have to be at the college in an hour. I have my practicals today and I can't miss them. We will, Insha-Allah, pay Mushtaq's family a visit in the evening.” Wani would then be busy with his practicals all day, while his parents would stay at home.

Mehran, another dear friend of mine who is studying architecture in Pune, would probably learn of my death after returning home during the vacations. And as for Wilayat, when he hears I have been killed, he will refuse to close his shop where he repairs mobile phones and come to my home to meet my folks. His parents will say, "Will you close your shop today?", but he will grunt in reply, “I'm afraid I can't as I have a consignment to be delivered. If I have the time, I will drop in on the way or we can call on Sunday.” I know Wilayat won't drop in on the way. Nor will he call on Sunday.

At 11 o'clock, a little crowd will collect at my freshly-dug grave. My friend Aijaz would be there, too, although he doesn't believe in attending funerals. All the same, he will come, reluctantly, as a sort of social obligation. Aijaz, like another friend Javed, thinks that death is no big deal, that it is really an unimportant event. Javed would rather drop in at Coffee Arabica, to meet his girlfriend Anjum, than be at my funeral.

A maulvi will then arrive to perform my last rites, and I would be laid in my grave, covered with a heap of soil. Everyone is going to weep for a week, but, I am sure, I will slowly slip out their memories. Only my family will remember the loss.

As I sat in the vehicle, I thought of Aneesa. What will she do after my death? After all, we had promised to be only each other's. When I am gone, she would probably marry somebody else. She might marry Faheem, who was besotted by her, but whom she constantly spurned, claiming that she loved only me, and that from the core of her heart.

I kept obsessing with these and other such frightful thoughts when, suddenly, a booming voice made me aware of my unconsciousness. “Come Out!” ordered the trooper. As I crawled out, dreading what was to transpire, I saw a bunch of my friends who had gathered round the trooper. They had enquired about my whereabouts and had told him that I was their friend. The trooper then relented. He let me off, but on one condition that I would always carry my identity card with me.

Not everyone would have been so fortunate.

[Mushtaq ul Haq Ahmad Sikander is a young Kashmiri student from Srinagar. He can be contacted on sikandarmushtaq@gmail.com]

Indian Muslim News - BUSINESS & ECONOMY

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | | Posted in

Shriram Life Insurance to launch pension plan to woo Muslims

Shriram Life Insurance would be soon launching pension plan specifically aimed at Muslim investors and to offer alternative investment options to its customers. The insurer’s new pension plan will also offer a Shariah-compliant option. The company has already received approval from the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (Irda).

Shariah-compliant funds do not invest in stocks of the companies that are in the business of gambling, alcohol, financial services, pornography, tobacco, certain categories of media and advertising, pork, trading of gold and silver as cash on deferred basis.

According to Gerhard Joubert, chief executive officer (new channel), Shriram Life Insurance, a lot of innovation and thinking needs to be put in for designing innovative covers. The company is aiming to bring in more risk insurance plans. Indian market is at a very nascent stage. Not many risk insurance products are available in the country. The company is looking at completing its product portfolio and set up infrastructure this year.

Shriram Life plans to launch more risk insurance products like disability insurance and product for HIV+ people. The company is also planning to enter health insurance market.

Shriram Life Insurance, which was focused only on the customer base of its promoters in South India, is now looking at other markets for expansion and increasing its footprints in the rest of the country.

Shriram Life Insurance will be focusing more on tier II and tier III cities and expects 85 per cent of its new business premium from smaller towns. The company is opening up five new branches every month. By the end of the year, the insurer will have a total of 43 branches.

Shriram Life, which has a capital base of Rs 125 crore, does not plan to make any new capital infusion to fund its expansion plans. “We will use our profit to expand. We do not intend to infuse fresh capital for this year,” said Gerhard Joubert.

Meanwhile, South Africa-based Sanlam Group, which holds 26 per cent stake in Shriram Life Insurance, is looking at increasing its stake in the company to 49 per cent as soon as the Indian government raises the FDI cap in the sector. “We see moves towards lifting FDI ceiling from 26 per cent to 49 per cent, which we hope is imminent,” said Joubert.

Indian Muslim News - ISSUES

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | | Posted in

Taqlid Versus Tajdid: A Malaysian Mufti on the Metholology of Islamic Reform

By Yoginder Sikand

Mohammad Asri Zainul Abidin (b.1971) is the present government-appointed mufti of the Malaysian state of Perlis. A prolific writer and a sharp political commentator, many of his writings are hosted on his website http://drmaza.com.

Although Zainul Abidin writes on a wide range of issues, this article looks only at his discussion of the concept of taqlid or strict adherence to traditional fiqh, and the notion of tajdid or restoration and revival of what are regarded as authentic Islamic teachings. Engaging with these two doctrines, he articulates a methodology for developing more contextually-relevant perspectives on Islamic jurisprudence and theology.

The actual scope of the shariah in terms of enforceable law in Malaysia is strictly limited, mainly to family matters and to some crimes involving Muslims. In such matters, official muftis are supposed to issue opinions or fatwas in accordance with the established prescriptions of the Shafi' school, which is the school of jurisprudence followed by most Malaysian Muslims. In other words, they are generally expected to abide by taqlid of the Shafi' school. Yet, despite being the official Mufti of a Malaysian state, Zainul Abidin makes clear his uneasiness with the doctrine of rigid taqlid, presenting the concept of tajdid or renewal of the faith in its stead. In this way, he argues for reintroducing what he regards as the lost dynamism of Islamic jurisprudence in order to be able to suitably address new and rapidly social contexts and conditions. He may well be unique among the muftis of Malaysia in this regard, all of who are state-appointed. This is one reason why he is often quoted with approval by numerous “progressive” Malaysian Muslim writers and activists.

Critique of Taqlid

In a short essay, provocatively titled Abide by Evidences and Facts, Abandon Blind Taqlid, Zainul Abidin summarises his approach on the doctrine of taqlid, so stoutly defended by the traditional ulema. His central argument is that the 'supreme sources' of Islam being the Quran and the authentic Sunnah, any claim that goes against these two sources, including anything in the received fiqh tradition, must not be accepted. At the same time, he suggests, the primary sources of Islam do not speak for themselves. Rather, they need to be interpreted. For this task, a major tool is the use of reason. This is because, as he puts it, “Islam is a religion that is build (sic.) on reasoning and evidences. There is no Islam without reasoning and evidences. It is impossible to find in the teachings of Islam anything that is in contrast to literal evidences and academic facts.”

In this regard, he indicates that certain aspects of the corpus of fiqh and certain claims of those who regard themselves as Islamic authorities that do not stand to reason cannot be considered authentically Islamic. Thus, he writes: “Whatever opinion that is produced in the name of Islam but does not revolve around the axis of reasoning and evidences from al-Quran and al-Sunnah is not from the teachings of Islam. [This is] [r]egardless [of] whether the one who generates that opinion attaches to himself various religious title[s] or wears various types of attire that are correlated to being religious.”

Since reason and science are co-related, and since they are in consonance with Islam, Zaindul Abidin goes on, if any 'view' that is 'associated with Islam' by which he means human understandings of Islam contradicts the world's order or conclusively proven scientific facts it should be considered absolutely not from the teachings of Islam. Likewise, he adds, if any view that is popularly accepted as Islamic degrades the well-being of humankind in a conspicuous way, then, too it is absolutely not from the teachings of Islam.

Zainul Abidin here makes a crucial distinction between Islam, as Divine and Absolute Truth, on the one hand, and human interpretations of it which he terms as views that are associated with Islam on the other. The former are eternal verities, and are in perfect harmony with reason, the confirmed facts of science and human well-being. The latter, which also includes the corpus of fiqh, being , at least in part, human constructs, are liable to err, and, if they are found to do so by contradicting the Quran, the Sunnah, reason, the confirmed facts of science or human well-being, as defined by the Quran and Sunnah, Zainul Abidin argues that they must be rejected as un-Islamic, even if those who defend them might consider themselves to be Islamic religious authorities, such as muftis and other ulema.

This applies even to the opinions of the putative founders of the various established schools of fiqh. He cautions his readers that this is not a novel opinion of his own invention. Rather, well-known classical Muslim scholars, including noted fuqaha, ironically even the putative founding Imams of the established schools of fiqh blind conformity to whose views the traditional ulema continue to insist on were of exactly the same opinion.

By critiquing the notion of blind taqlid on solid Quranic grounds, and proving it to be even against the doctrines of the Imams whose rigid taqlid the traditionalists ironically continue to insist on, Zainul Abidin questions the widespread belief in the traditional ulema who enjoin strict taqlid of the established schools of fiqh as ultimate religious authorities. As he puts it, backing his argument with a verse from the Quran: “The opinion of any individual even a grand Islamic scholar is entitled to be questioned so long as it does not concur to (sic.) the evidences provided by al-Quran and al-Sunnah. There is no one who is maksum [infallible], other than the messengers sent by Allah. For every religious opinion brought up by a certain personality or an ustaz [Islamic scholar] does not necessarily have to be swallowed wholly.”

While Muslims should be respectful of the ulema, Zainul Abidin writes, it does not mean that they cannot present intelligent criticisms or question their opinions on the basis of the Quran and Sunnah. The reason that he stresses this point, he explains, is to critique those many Muslims who dare not question, for fear of being branded as weak in faith, the opinion of men commonly regarded as Islamic scholars even though what the latter claim may be utterly groundless. Bitterly critiquing such clerics, he argues: “It seems like they have been granted with a colossal tongue to speak of anything in the name of our religion even without presenting any reasoning and strong evidence. Even worse, some of the religious teachers in the old days warned their students against asking questions saying that 'Whoever asks a lot of questions, it shows that his faith is weak'.”

Such obduracy, authoritarianism, and hostility to being questioned on the part of many of those who assume themselves to be Islamic authorities, Zainul Abidin points out, can have devastating practical implications, such as in the form of wrong, and what he terms weird, fatwas, some of which might find their way into the statute books and becoming legally binding. He refers to just two such fatwas issued in Malaysia in this regard, but says that there are many other[s] of the same sort: a fatwa prohibiting Muslims from selling cows to non-Muslim Chinese; and another fatwa to the effect that if a particular sort of pickled fish (called Budu in Malay) were to touch ones clothing it would be considered an impurity although eating it is permissible. Besides fatwas of this sort that he critiques, he cites other claims made by self-styled religious scholars who, he suggests, do not provide any sufficient proof from the Quran and Sunnah for their arguments, and which, therefore, are to be rejected.

Further stressing the need for even ordinary or lay to question those who claim to speak of and for Islam, Zainul Abidin insists that it is the right of the Muslim community as a whole, and of individual believers as well, to ask Islamic scholars and preachers for both the textual reference or nas in the Quran and Sunnah as well as their reasoning for any statements regarding Islam. This is because, he says: “An ustaz or a respected guru is not God's appointed agent, unlike the Messengers of Allah, whose words, even if [in the event of ] lack of nas, must be agreed to [R]eligion is built on reasoning and evidences. If each one of us asks the ustaz for the cause and reasoning for every religious opinion given, then indirectly we would be fulfilling the principles of Islam and improve the intellectual level of our own group. Don't let ourselves be content with just by memorizing religious opinions without re-thinking them in an analytical and rationale (sic.) way.”

In this way, Zainul Abidin indicates, Muslims would be able to recover the inherent simplicity of Islam, which lies buried under man-made accretions over the centuries, a result, in part, of the influence of un-Islamic philosophies and what he calls useless and cumbersome disputes without any direction and benefit. It would help liberate the Islamic tradition from the morass of stagnation that is reflected in the insistence on mere memorization of texts while ignoring independent thinking and reflection. The latter, he explains, are sorely required to maintain the dynamism of Islamic thought and to practically prove Islam's continued relevance in changing contexts. Further, he adds, it would accelerate the process of liberating the Muslim mind from an obsessive devotion to a certain mazhab or school of fiqh. It would also democratize Islamic scholarship, and, hence, religious authority, liberating it from the monopolistic claims of those who claim to be experts in the field.

Appeal for Tajdid

Related to Zainul Abidin's forceful critique of taqlid is his passionate advocacy of tajdid or renewal of the faith. This is dealt with at length in an article titled 'Tajdid: A Necessity To (sic.) the Ummah'. As he sees it, blind taqlid and tajdid are opposed to each other in several respects. While Islam frowns on blind taqlid, he stresses that tajdid is a constant necessity, mandated by Islam itself.

The concept of tajdid has been interpreted diversely by Islamic scholars. For some, it simply means cleansing Muslim society of what are seen as superstitious practices and beliefs that have no sanction in the Quran and the authenticated Sunnah. Some extreme literalists interpret tajdid as indicating an effort to mould Muslim society on exactly the same pattern as that of the times of the Prophet. In contrast, other scholars see tajdid as aiming to revive or restoring true Islamic beliefs and practices as well as reformulating Islamic thinking, or what Zaindul Abidin describes as renewal of religious comprehension, in order to maintain its continued relevance in the face of changing social contexts. In this latter case, it is closely related to the concept of ijtihad, which is precisely the opposite of blind taqlid. It is in this more expansive sense that Zainul Abidin uses the term tajdid and advocates its practice, which he sees as a religiously-mandated duty, and not simply an intellectually luxury that can be ignored. It is, as it has been throughout Muslim history, he says, instrumental in protecting the Muslim ummah from becoming weak and impotent.

According to general Muslim belief, derived from a Hadith report, the Prophet Muhammad is said to have predicted that at the end of every century God would raise a figure from within the Muslim ummah in order to restore Islam to its true form. This figure, the mujaddid, would engage in the necessary task of the tajdid of Islam. This does not, however mean, as some might construe it, that the tajdid of Islam is a task only for a single mujaddid to undertake in every century. To believe this to be the case would only encourage fatalism and laxity. Rather, the tajdid of Islam is something that Islamic scholars, and not just divinely-appointed mujaddids alone, must continuously and constantly seek to engage in.

As indicated above, tajdid, as Zainul Abidin sees it, is not limited only to cleansing Muslim society of wrong accretions in terms of belief and practice that have no sanction in the Quran and the authentic Hadith. Rather, in his more expansive understanding of the term, it also includes what he terms as innovation[s] of certain element[s] that might be deemed necessary in order to fulfill contemporary need[s] and requirement[s]. He likens this to the innovation of the modern vehicle, which did not exist in the past but which is legitimate in that it serves a very basic human purpose of moving from one place to another. Such necessary innovation demanded by changed social contexts, he suggests, is also part of the broader agenda of tajdid.

The necessary innovation that Zainul Abidin advocates is completely different from bid, strictly translated also as innovation, which is considered by many literalists to be impermissible in Islam. The innovation in the course of tajdid that Zainul Abidin stresses should, he specifies, be performed such that it does not change the religion. He points out that tajdid and the innovations that it might entail are not a license for free-ranging changes. Instead, as what he calls a suitable response to satisfy the new understanding or view brought about by the change in circumstances, they must not deviate from the essence and the requirement[s] of the Quran and the authenticated Sunnah. At the same time, he admits that such innovation might, at times, clash with traditionally-held views that reflect the deeprooted tradition of blind taqlid.

If tajdid is to be based on the Quran and the authenticated Sunnah, the question arises as to how these sources are to be interpreted. Just as he is critical of taqlid of the traditional ulema in matters of fiqh, Zainul Abidin also disagrees with those who argue that received interpretations of these two sources are to be blindly accepted. As for the Quran, he points out that while God has kept the text of the scripture completely free from error over the centuries, its interpretation, largely a human product, has been contaminated, owing, among other factors, to the influence of what are called Israiliyyat, stories and narrations of Jews and early Jewish converts to Islam, and other such mythical stories, which appear funny and impractical. Such distorted interpretations of the Quran, promoted by popular preachers, remain widespread, and combating them, he says, must be a major focus of those engaged in the work of tajdid.

Similar problems of authenticity relate to the existing corpus of Hadith not just to their interpretation, but, also, unlike in the case of the Quran, to the content of a portion of that corpus. Zainul Abidin points out that throughout Muslim history, thousands of fabricated hadith were created for the sake of various parties or due to lack of knowledge. These fake Hadith reports, which also include what he calls comical or garbled stories, continue to be widely quoted and narrated, he rues. He insists that tajdid must be extended to the corpus of Hadith in the form of weeding out fabricated reports.

With regard to tajdid in relation to both the Quran and the authenticated Sunnah, Zainul Abidin seems to caution against excessive or unwarranted literalism. In what can be construed as an appeal for a contextual understanding of some aspects of these two sources perhaps those with legal implications, although he does not specify this he states, “Some of the nas from al-Quran and al-Sunnah has to be viewed in a much broader context in terms of its meaning and substance.”

Tajdid, in the sense of what Zaindul Abidin terms renewal of religious comprehension, extends not simply to critiquing and abandoning wrong interpretations of the Quran that are heavily influenced by Israiliyyat traditions and abandoning fabricated Hadith. It also extends to issues of fiqh, or what is commonly regarded as the shariah in practice. Tajdid with regard to this sphere, Zainul Abidin says, would necessarily entail abandoning what he calls mazhab fanaticism, that is to say the tendency to insist on taqlid of a particular school of jurisprudence even when its prescriptions might contradict the Quran and the authenticated Sunnah. Such an approach, besides being un-Islamic, he writes, necessarily leads to narrow-mindedness and imposes considerable inconvenience and burden to Muslims themselves, something that the Prophet himself is said to have warned against in the following hadith report contained in the Sahih al-Bukhari which Zainul Abidin approvingly quotes: “Religion is very easy and whoever overburdens himself in his religion will not be able to continue in that way. So you should not be extremists, but try to be near to perfection and receive the good tidings that you will be rewarded.”

It is not just traditional fiqh prescriptions that have no warrant in the Quran and the authenticated Sunnah that need to be revised in the process of the tajdid of Islam, Zainul Abidin appears to argue. In addition to this are some fiqh rulings and opinions of the classical ulema which may have been appropriate in their social and historical context but which, he writes, now have expired due to the change in time and circumstances. Tajdid should extend to these as well, and they should be replaced by more contextually-relevant opinions or formulations, which should also be in accordance with the Quran and the Sunnah.

In advocating tajdid and decrying taqlid, Zainul Abidin is not unmindful of the opposition that his views are bound to invoke from some quarters. As he puts it, the advocates of tajdid are often criticized and subjected to slander by those who are bothered by tajdid. Yet, he insists, this is a task that must be carried out. He backs his appeal by invoking the Prophet as having said, “Indeed Islam began as something strange. And it will return as something strange the way it began. So give glad tidings to the strangers.” When asked who the strangers were, the Prophet was reported to have answered, “Those who are righteous when the people have become corrupt.”

[Yoginder Sikand works with the Centre for the Study of Social Exclusion and Inclusive Social Policy at the National Law School, Bangalore. He can be contacted on ysikand@yahoo.com]

Indian Muslim News - EDUCATION

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | | Posted in

Government plans three universities for minorities

By Khalid Akhter

After allocating Rs. 25 crore (Rs.250 million) for two more campuses of the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU), the government is planning to set up three more universities for the country's minorities, according to officials.

"Three universities primarily for the students of minority communities will be set up with a view to providing them better higher education," a senior official of the minority affairs ministry told IANS, requesting anonymity since he is not authorised to speak to the media.

These universities will be set up in Mysore (Karnataka), Kishanganj (Bihar) and Ajmer (Rajasthan).

According to the official, "Fifty percent of the seats in these universities will be reserved for minority students to make them more competitive in the job market."

To be set up on land owned by Waqf boards, these universities will provide education in all modern subjects along with theological teaching.

However, officials said the biggest problem in establishing such universities will be to overcome the legal hurdles for providing 50 percent reservation for students from minority communities.

"Our effort is to find a solution according to constitutional provisions so that the proposal doesn't get stuck in legalities as it happened in the case of AMU."

In a 1968 lawsuit, the Supreme Court of India scrapped the minority status of the AMU. Then prime minister Indira Gandhi restored the AMU's minority status through legislation in 1981.

But in 2006, a division bench of the Allahabad High Court struck down the provision of the AMU Amendment Act, 1981. It rejected the central government's plea for restoring the minority status of the AMU and scrapped 50 percent reservation for Muslim students.

This was challenged by the centre in the apex court, which is yet to take a decision on the matter.

Minority affairs ministry officials said the government was trying to work out a new model to overcome such legal hurdles.

According to this model, the "land for these universities will be given by the Waqf board and the government will set up a university on it. Since these universities will be for the minorities, reservation for 50 percent minority students will be justified".

The draft has been prepared and will be sent to the Ministry of Human Resource Development (HRD).

[Khalid Akhter can be contacted at khalid.a@ians.in]

Indian Muslim News - ANNOUNCEMENT

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 12 September 2009 | Posted in ,

Inaugral Ceremony of Cinemela Festival 2009

WHEN:

13 September/6.30 pm onwards

WHERE:

KC Open Air Theatre, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi

GUESTS/SPEAKERS:

Anwar Jamal, Renowned filmmaker and Director of National Award winning film, Swaraaj: The Little Republic

Prof Amitabh Mattoo, Renowned academician and Former Vice Chancellor, Jammu University

Prof S.N Malakar, President, Jawaharlal Nehru University Teacher's Association

Dr Ira Bhaskar, Associate Professor, Cinema Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University

Happymon Jacob, Assistant Professor, CIPOD/SIS, Jawaharlal Nehru University

Dr. Chandan Srivastava, Senior Associate Fellow, CSDS

Sandeep Singh, President, Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE EVENING

PHOTO EXHIBITION:

Inauguration of 4 days Photo exhibition on Peace Builders in 30 crises zones world over.

MUSICAL PERFORMANCE:

Sufi-Bhakti Music by Dhruv Sangari and the Rooh

THEATER:

Wed-Lock, a theater Performance by Pandies’ Theater

Quintessentially a forum exercise, Wed-Lock – directed by Sanjay Kumar - puts the beleaguered institution of marriage on the table.

SCREENINGS:

Films made by Lumière brothers- Auguste Lumière & Louis Lumière (1895)

Shot Dead for Development/Surya Shankar Dash/Kui/1min

The film uses the sacred art form to depict the devastation brought by the big companies in the tribal areas.

Gaon Chodab Nahi/K.P Sasi/4 min

The video song describes the present day exploitation of tribal land and forests in the name of development.

Shruti/Harish Vyas/Hindi/30min

A true story of a schoolgirl who contracted HIV from her own uncle who was sexually abusing her for long.

Indian Muslim News - JOB OPPORTUNITIES

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | | Posted in

Doctors without Borders Employment Opportunity

Receptionist/Administrative Assistant

Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is an independent international medical humanitarian organization that delivers emergency aid to people affected by armed conflict, epidemics, natural or man-made disasters, or exclusion from health care in nearly 60 countries. MSF unites direct medical care with a commitment to speaking out against the causes of suffering and the obstacles to providing effective assistance.

The New York office of MSF is seeking an Administrative Assistant to work at the front desk and operate a multi-line telephone system to answer incoming calls and direct callers to appropriate personnel. They will also support all other Office Services functions as required.

Position responsibilities:

  • Answers incoming telephone calls, determines purpose of callers, and forwards calls to appropriate personnel or department.

  • Welcomes on-site visitors, determines nature of business, and announces visitors to appropriate personnel.

  • Updates office-wide calendar and maintains conference room scheduling.

  • Retrieves and routes incoming faxes.

  • Performs other clerical duties as needed, such as filing, photocopying, and collating.

  • Monitors visitor and vendor access, including express mail and messenger services, and repair and maintenance.

Requirements:

  • Strong interpersonal and communications skills.

  • Ability to read and interpret documents such as safety rules, operating and maintenance instructions, procedure manuals, and floor plans.

  • Basic computer literacy, including ability to use word processing and spreadsheet software and to search the internet and navigate new user interfaces for online vendor accounts.

  • Ability to screen incoming calls and visitors with discretion and judgment.

  • Associate's degree (A. A.) or equivalent from two-year college or technical school; or six months to one year related experience and/or training; or equivalent combination of education and experience.

Conditions:

Starting salary approx. $23.00/hour. Excellent benefits package.

To Apply:

Send cover letter with resume to employment.msfusa@newyork.msf.org, ATTN: Office Services Administrative Assistant Search

Punch Vacancy General Manager – Based in Birmingham

General Manager – Based in Birmingham

Salary £25k - £28k depending on experience

Cultural educators, instigators and producers, Punch is one of the UK's premier music and arts development agencies.

Supporting cutting edge and progressive work, we specialise in Black led music events, promotions and touring productions including the annual BASS Festival and partnership with BlackRoutes. Our creative learning programmes offer a distinctly collaborative and often bespoke approach, working across education, community and commercial sectors.

The General Manager is a pivotal role within a small, committed and dynamic team.

Over-seeing the development of the company’s work, your can do attitude will be matched by proven project management experience, a solid track record in fundraising and partnership working and a passion for the potential of on line and social media.

http://www.punch-records.co.uk/About/Jobs/General_Manager.aspx

* Contact: Gurpreet Bilkhu

* Email: gurpreet@punch-records.co.uk

* Telephone: 0121 224 7444

Indian Muslim News - JOB OPPORTUNITIES

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 09 September 2009 | Posted in ,

RESEARCHER ON IRAN/BAHRAIN

Middle East and North Africa Division

(Persian Gulf Region)

Full-Time Position Available

Apply Immediately

Human Rights Watch ("HRW") is seeking highly-qualified applicants for the position of Researcher on Iran/Bahrain with the Middle East and North Africa ("MENA") division.

Description:

The Researcher will monitor human rights developments in Iran and Bahrain in order to publicize and curtail human rights abuses through writing and advocacy. Responsibilities include, but are not limited to: monitoring, investigating, and documenting human rights developments in Iran and Bahrain; maintaining working relationships with local, regional and international human rights activists, journalists, diplomats, and others; conducting fact-finding investigations in the region and elsewhere as appropriate; devising and implementing innovative research strategies when in-country fact finding is not possible; writing detailed reports, briefing memos, press releases, op-eds, articles, and government letters in a concise and accurate manner, usually on short deadlines; developing local and international advocacy strategies to influence the human rights policies of governments in the MENA region, Europe, the United States and the United Nations as well as intergovernmental organizations and international institutions through correspondence, briefings, and personal contact; responding promptly to queries from the press, the public, and colleagues in the human rights community; and other responsibilities as may be assigned. The Researcher should be prepared to travel to the Middle East and Europe for research and advocacy purposes. This is a full-time position, and will preferably be based in the Persian Gulf region preceded by a training period in HRW's New York or Washington, DC office.

Qualifications:

The successful candidate will be scrupulously objective, able to investigate and report on abuses without prejudice or favor, in contexts that are often highly charged politically. S/he must be comfortable working under public scrutiny, flexible, and able to respond quickly to crises as they occur. S/he should have good knowledge of international human rights and humanitarian law and Middle Eastern affairs. An advanced degree in law, international relations, journalism, Middle East studies, or a related field in the social sciences is required. Experience in human rights work, especially research on countries in the region, is required. Candidates should be fluent in oral and written English and Farsi. Knowledge of Arabic is highly desirable. The ideal candidate will be highly motivated, extremely well-organized, collegial, and able to work well under pressure and handle numerous tasks simultaneously. He or she must be willing to take initiative, prioritize with minimal supervision, and work independently as well as function as a member of a team. The successful candidate should have a demonstrated commitment to international human rights.

Salary and Benefits:

HRW seeks exceptional applicants and offers competitive compensation and generous employer-paid benefits. HRW will pay reasonable relocation expenses and will assist employees in obtaining necessary work authorization, if required; citizens of all nationalities are encouraged to apply.

PLEASE APPLY IMMEDIATELY (no calls or email inquiries, please) by emailing together a letter of interest, resume, references, salary requirements and a brief writing sample (unedited by others) to menajobs@hrw.org. Please use "Researcher on Iran/Bahrain Ref MENA-09-1031-A" as the subject of your email. Only complete applications will be reviewed. It is preferred that all materials be submitted via email. If emailing is not possible, send materials (please do not split a submission between email and regular post) to:

Human Rights Watch

Attn: Search Committee (Researcher on Iran/Bahrain Ref MENA-09-1031-A)

350 Fifth Avenue, 34th Floor

New York, NY 10118-3299 USA

Fax: (212) 736-1300

Human Rights Watch is an equal opportunity employer that does not discriminate in its hiring practices and, in order to build the strongest possible workforce, actively seeks a diverse applicant pool.

Human Rights Watch is an international human rights monitoring and advocacy organization known for its in-depth investigations, its incisive and timely reporting, its innovative and high-profile advocacy campaigns, and its success in changing the human rights-related policies and practices of influential governments and international institutions.

The Middle East and North Africa ("MENA") division monitors issues related to human rights and international humanitarian law from Morocco to Iran.

RESEARCHER ON UZBEKISTAN

Europe & Central Asia Division

(Tashkent Office)

Full-Time Position Available

Apply Immediately

Human Rights Watch is seeking a Researcher on Uzbekistan for its Europe and Central Asia Division.

Description:

This is a full-time appointment in HRW's Europe and Central Asia ("ECA") division, to be based in Tashkent. The Researcher will be responsible for developing and implementing research and advocacy agendas focusing on Uzbekistan.

Responsibilities will include, but are not limited to:

Monitoring, investigating and documenting human rights abuses in Uzbekistan based on fact-finding field investigations as well as information gathered from other sources; Interviewing victims and witnesses to document human rights violations; Analyzing the compatibility of Uzbekistan's laws and policies with human rights law; Maintaining working relationships with local and regional human rights activists, journalists, diplomats and others; Developing local, regional and international advocacy strategies to generate pressure for improvements in practices in Uzbekistan; Working with local groups and activists, including through coalition work and campaigns with local groups; Expanding contacts with government officials and human rights groups in Uzbekistan, and international organizations, the diplomatic community and multilateral institutions based in the region; Developing media strategies to highlight human rights issues in Uzbekistan; Producing, in a concise, accurate and timely manner, a range of written documents including detailed reports, shorter briefing memos, press releases, op-eds and letters to officials; Responding promptly to queries from the press, the public and colleagues in the human rights community; and Other responsibilities as may be assigned.

Qualifications:

The ideal candidate will have an advanced degree in law, international relations, regional studies, journalism or a related field; several years of human rights experience, ideally with significant experience conducting on the ground research; and a demonstrated commitment to international human rights. Experience interacting with the media is highly desirable. HRW seeks applicants who can be based full-time at the organization's office in Tashkent. Candidates should be prepared to travel extensively in the region and occasionally to New York for consultations. Candidates should be fluent in Russian and have excellent oral and written English skills. Proficiency in Uzbek is desirable.

Salary and Benefits:

HRW seeks exceptional applicants and offers competitive compensation and generous employer-paid benefits. HRW will pay reasonable relocation expenses and will assist employees in obtaining necessary work authorization, if required; citizens of all nationalities are encouraged to apply.

PLEASE APPLY IMMEDIATELY (no calls or email inquiries, please) by emailing in a single submission: a letter of interest describing your experience, your resume, names or letters of reference, salary requirements, and a brief writing sample (unedited by others) to eca@hrw.org. Please use "Uzbekistan Researcher Ref ECA-09-1033-A" as the subject of your email. If emailing is not possible, send materials (please do not split a submission between email and regular post) to:

Human Rights Watch

Attn: Researcher Search (Uzbekistan Researcher Ref ECA-09-1033-A)

350 Fifth Avenue, 34th Floor

New York, NY 10118-3299 USA

Fax: (212) 736-1300

Human Rights Watch is an equal opportunity employer that does not discriminate in its hiring practices and, in order to build the strongest possible workforce, actively seeks a diverse applicant pool.

Human Rights Watch is an international human rights monitoring and advocacy organization known for its in-depth investigations, its incisive and timely reporting, its innovative and high-profile advocacy campaigns, and its success in changing the human rights-related policies and practices of influential governments and international institutions.

Human Rights Watch began in 1978 with the founding of its Europe and Central Asia division (then known as Helsinki Watch). Its primary goal was to monitor the implementation of human rights provisions established by the Helsinki Accords within the Soviet Union. Today, the division's work has expanded well beyond monitoring the Helsinki provisions to include gathering detailed information on human rights abuses throughout Europe, the Caucasus, and Central Asia. In addition to publishing reliable and comprehensive reports, the ECA division effects change through advocacy. The ECA holds accountable not only governments who abuse internationally recognized human rights, but also those who support abusive governments. The ECA division seeks to expand the implementation of human rights law in all of Europe and Central Asia.

ASSOCIATE

Europe & Central Asia Division

(Moscow Office)

Full-Time Position Available

Apply Immediately

Human Rights Watch ("HRW") is seeking highly-qualified applicants for the position of Associate with the Europe & Central Asia ("ECA") Division's Moscow Office.

Description:

This Associate position, based in the Moscow office, will provide HRW's Moscow-based staff with logistical, administrative, and clerical assistance, including, but not limited to: maintaining extensive files, contact lists, and databases; maintaining communication among HRW's Moscow office and international offices; drafting and editing correspondence and other documents; retrieving and responding to requests for information; preparing, formatting and distributing documents such as press releases, reports, tables, charts, briefing papers, publications and web content; preparing for and taking minutes at meetings; arranging meetings; assisting with special events; assisting with hiring and training; assisting with travel arrangements and follow-up; assisting with research for HRW reports and other publications, and occasional translating; processing expenses and recording departmental finances; updating ECA's website to keep pace with events; photocopying filing, faxing, answering phones, and processing incoming mail.

This is a full-time opportunity for candidates with a strong interest in a future career in international human rights as it offers close supervision by HRW staff and the opportunity to gain valuable exposure to the work of an international human rights organization. The Associate may have the opportunity to assist HRW's Moscow staff with research and monitoring activities, including interacting with local and international organizations, Russian officials, and visiting foreign delegations; helping with the collection of evidence of human rights abuses, including taking complaints; attending and taking notes at trials; and other tasks as they may arise.

Qualifications:

Candidates must be self-motivated, extremely well-organized, collegial, culturally sensitive, flexible and able to function under pressure and handle numerous tasks simultaneously. S/he must be able to take initiative, prioritize with minimal supervision, and work independently as well as function as a member of a team. Fluent oral and written English and Russian language skills are required. Strong interest in international human rights, as well as a degree in International Relations and/or relevant regional or thematic study or experience, is highly desirable. The candidate must have solid office/administration experience, demonstrated organizational skills, and excellent computer skills.

Salary and Benefits:

Human Rights Watch offers excellent employer-paid benefits, including medical, dental, disability and life insurance, an outstanding pension plan, and 20 days vacation per year.

PLEASE APPLY IMMEDIATELY (no calls or email inquiries, please) by emailing in a single submission: a letter of interest describing your experience, your resume, names or letters of reference, salary requirements and a brief, unedited writing sample to eca@hrw.org. Please use "Associate, Moscow Office Ref ECA-09-1032-A" as the subject of your email. Only complete applications will be reviewed. It is preferred that all materials be submitted via email. If emailing is not possible, send materials (please do not split a submission between email and regular post) to:

Human Rights Watch

Attn: Search Committee (Associate, Moscow Office Ref ECA-09-1032-A)

350 Fifth Avenue

New York, NY 10118-3299 USA

Fax: (212) 736-1300

Human Rights Watch is an equal opportunity employer that does not discriminate in its hiring practices and, in order to build the strongest possible workforce, actively seeks a diverse applicant pool.

Human Rights Watch is an international human rights monitoring and advocacy organization known for its in-depth investigations, its incisive and timely reporting, its innovative and high-profile advocacy campaigns, and its success in changing the human rights-related policies and practices of influential governments and international institutions.

Human Rights Watch began in 1978 with the founding of its Europe and Central Asia division (then known as Helsinki Watch). Its primary goal was to monitor the implementation of human rights provisions established by the Helsinki Accords within the Soviet Union. Today, the division's work has expanded well beyond monitoring the Helsinki provisions to include gathering detailed information on human rights abuses throughout Europe, the Caucasus, and Central Asia. In addition to publishing reliable and comprehensive reports, the ECA division effects change through advocacy. The ECA holds accountable not only governments who abuse internationally recognized human rights, but also those who support abusive governments. The ECA division seeks to expand the implementation of human rights law in all of Europe and Central Asia.

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