Indian Muslim News - ISLAMIC DAWAH

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 20 January 2010 | Posted in ,

Develop new ways of understanding Islam that can promote human rights: Egyptian Islamic scholar Nasr Hamid Abu Zayd

Nasr Hamid Abu Zayd is a well-known Egyptian Islamic scholar. In 1982, he joined the faculty of the Department of Arabic Language and Literature at Cairo University. In 1995, he was promoted to the rank of full professor, but controversies about his academic work led to a court decision of apostasy and the denial of the appointment. A hisbah trial started against him Islamist groups and he was declared a heretic (Murtadd) by an Egyptian court. Consequently, he was declared to be divorced from his wife, Cairo University French Literature professor Dr. Ibthal Younis. This decision, in effect, forced him out of his homeland and seek refuge in the Netherlands, where he now works. In this interview with Yoginder Sikand, he speaks about his work and reflects on his efforts to promote a humanistic reading of the Islamic tradition.

Q: You have been writing on the question of human rights in Islam for a long time now. What are you presently working on?

A: I am presently working on a project that explores and develops the notion of the rights of women and children in Islam. The aim of the project is to promote knowledge of the traditional sources of Islam, such as the Qur'an, the Sunnah or practice of the Prophet and fiqh or Islamic jurisprudence, within Muslim communities so as to help promote general awareness of these rights. Alongside this, the project also seeks to critically look at aspects of tradition that might appear to militate against these rights.

Q: In the course of your work how do you relate to those aspects of the historical Islamic tradition which you think might be opposed to the notion of women's and children's rights?

A: Every tradition has both negative as well as positive aspects. The positive aspects are to be further developed, while the negative aspects need to be discussed closely, to see if they are indeed essential elements of the faith or are actually simply human creations.

Q: How does this work relate to what you have been previously engaged in?

A: I see it as part of my long interest in Islamic hermeneutics, the methodology of understanding the Qur'an, the Sunnah and other components of the Islamic tradition. Of particular concern for me are certain assumptions in popular Islamic discourse that have not been fully examined, and have generally been ignored or avoided. Thus, for instance, Muslim scholars have not seriously reflected on the question of what is actually meant when we say that the Qur'an is the revealed 'Word of God'. What exactly does the term 'Word of God' mean? What does revelation mean? We have the definitions of the Word and revelation given by the traditional 'ulama, but other definitions are also possible. When we speak of the 'Word of God' are we speaking of a divine or a human code of communication? Is language a neutral channel of communication? Was the responsibility of the Prophet simply that of delivering the message, or did he have a role to play in the forming of that message? What relation does the Qur'an have with the particular social context in which it was revealed? We need to ask what it means for the faith Muslims have in the Qur'an if one brings in the issue of the human dimension involved in revelation.

Q: Are you suggesting that the Qu'ran cannot be understood without taking into account the particular social context of seventh century Arabia? In other words, are there aspects of the Qur'an that were limited in their relevance and application only to the Prophet's time, and are no longer applicable or relevant today?

A: What I am suggesting is that in our reading of the Qur'an we cannot undermine the role of the Prophet and the historical and cultural premises of the times and the context of the Qur'anic revelation. When we say that through the Qur'an God spoke in history we cannot neglect the historical dimension, the historical context of seventh century Arabia. Otherwise you cannot answer the question of why God first 'spoke' Hebrew through his revelations to the prophets of Israel, then Aramaic, through Jesus, and then Arabic, in the form of the Qur'an.

In a historical understanding of the Qur'an one would also have to look at the verses in the text that refer specifically to the Prophet and the society in which he lived. Some people might feel that looking at the Qur'an in this way is a crime against Islam, but I feel that this sort of reaction is a sign of a weak and vulnerable faith. And this is why a number of writers who have departed from tradition and have pressed for a way of relating to the Qur'an that takes the historical context of the revelation seriously have been persecuted in many countries. I think there is a pressing need to bring the historical dimension of the revelation into discussion, for this is indispensable for countering authoritarianism, both religious and political, and for promoting human rights.

Q: Could you give an example of how a historically grounded reading of the Qur'an could help promote human rights?

A: Take, for instance, the question of chopping off the hands of thieves, which traditionalists would insist be imposed as an 'Islamic' punishment today. A historically nuanced understanding of the Islamic tradition would see this form of punishment as a borrowing from pre-Islamic Arabian society, and as rooted in a particular social and historical context. Hence, doing away with this form of punishment today would not, one could argue, be tantamount to doing away with Islam itself. By thus contextualising the Qur'an, one could arrive at its essential core, which could be seen as being normative for all times, shifting it from what could be regarded as having been relevant to a historical period and context that no longer exists.

Q: If one were to take history seriously, how would a contextual, historically grounded understanding of the Qur'an reflect on Islamic theology as it has come to be developed?

A: As I see it, Sunni Muslim theology has remained largely frozen in its ninth century mould, as developed by the conservative 'Asharites. We need to revisit fundamental theological concepts today, which the Sunni 'ulama, by and large, have ignored, for there can be no reform possible in Muslim societies without reform in theology. Till now, however, most reform movements in the Sunni world have operated from within the broad framework of traditional theology, which is why they have not been able to go very far.

Q: How would this new understanding of theology that you propose reflect on the issue of inter-faith relations?

A: When I suggest that we need to reconsider what exactly is meant by saying that the Qur'an is the 'Word of God', I mean Muslims must also remember that the Qur'an itself insists that the 'Word of God' cannot be limited to the Qur'an alone. A verse in the Qur'an says that if all the trees in the world were pens and all the water in the seas were ink, still they could not, put together, adequately exhausted the Word of God. The Qur'an, therefore, represents only one manifestation of the absolute Word of God. Other Scriptures represent other manifestations as well. Then again, many Sufis saw the whole universe as a manifestation of the 'Word of God'. But, today, few Muslim scholars are taking the need for inter-faith dialogue with the seriousness that it deserves. Most Muslim writers are yet to free themselves from a rigid, imprisoning chauvinism.

Q: How does this way of reading the Qur'an deal with the multiple ways in which the text can be understood and interpreted?

A: The Qur'an, like any other text, can be read in different ways, and there has always been a plurality of interpretations. The text does not stand alone. Rather, it has to be interpreted, in order to arrive at its meaning, and interpretation is a human exercise and no interpreter is infallible. As Imam 'Ali says, the Qur'an does not speak by itself, but, rather, through human beings. True, Muslims from all over the world, do share certain rituals and beliefs in common, but their understanding of what Islam and the Qur'an are all about differ considerably. It is for us to help develop new ways of understanding Islam that can promote human rights, while at the same time being firmly rooted in the faith tradition.

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

Indian Muslim News - BUSINESS & ECONOMY

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 18 January 2010 | Posted in

Islamic Economy – the Pacemaker for Recession-hit World

In India there is ample scope for the launching of Islamic banking as an alternative system that is not affected by the recession.

These were the views of Mufti Barkatullah Qasmi, Shariah Supervisor at Islamic Bank Britain and Judge at the Islamic Shariah Council, London who has come especially from the UK to offer advice to financial institutions in India on Sharia complaint banking. He was speaking at a conference on “Islamic Banking in the Light of the Qur’an and Sunnah” at Markazul Ma’arif Education and Research Centre (MMERC), Mumbai, recently.

He revealed that the different kind of application forms now used in the world were first mentioned in the Qur’an over 1400 years ago. These were mentioned in the surah Al-Baqra and ‘it was enjoined upon Muslims to write down whenever they made a transaction’.

He said that the present conditions were favourable for introducing Islamic banking institutions in India. Interest-free banking was a worldwide trend with over 500 Islamic banking institutions and 400 Islamic funds operating in nearly 70 countries, and realizing the feasibility and the profit-and-loss-sharing of such institutions it was time that they started operating in India too.

Ethical financing has come to the fore in the current recession. On all the three levels of customer, manager and investor, Muslims are taking part in Islamic interest-free banking.

The unique features of such institutions shield them from the effects of the recession and some of them have outperformed the equities listed at the bourses. Some aspects in the modern economy are kept secret and the giving or taking of interest has been termed as oppression in Islam, he said. As opposed to this, the Islamic system of economy offers complete transparency, agreement between the parties, ethical dealing, satisfaction with the business engagement and complete clarity on the issues involved.

Sometimes the customer is asked to sign some forms but the complete details are not revealed to him as in insurance dealings. Quoting the Qur’an, Mufti Barkatullah said that when someone makes a deal Allah himself overlooks the deal and is a party to it. His presence remains until the deals are based on transparency, trust and justice; the moment one of them tries to cheat or lie or use subterfuge, Allah disassociates himself from it. When in business transactions, cheating, lying and cunning is used, then the baraka is leached out of it and the business becomes inauspicious.

This concept of sharing in profit and loss is used in Islamic institutions. Simple deals are encouraged in Islamic. Deals should be open and transparent and they should not be too sophisticated. These give growth, stability and long life to the economy and do away with volatility.

Whichever business causes harm to the environment or is engaged in taking or giving interest or alcohol is frowned upon in Islam.

Takafful insurance has taken root in some Gulf countries. Islam is not against insurance as such but only against the wrong means adopted to secure it.

Talking about investing in the share market, he said Islam does not allow short selling. This is trying to make a deal when the actual goods are not with you. After the financial crisis some countries have banned short selling which goes to show that Islam’s golden principles are favourable for business transactions and the world is slowly coming to realize their importance and necessity.

In those countries where Islamic interest-free banking is in operation, not only Muslims but other businessmen and customers constitute 40 per cent of the clientele.

Islam focuses on justice and transparency. According to Islamic fiqh, there should be an equal partnership in loss or gain, while dealing with interest in any situation is oppression. It is unjust to say to someone whom you are lending money that whether he earns a profit or not he has to pay a fixed return in the form of interest.

In India also the doors are slowly opening for Islamic banking and there are efforts being made in this direction but real success will come to us only when we try and work together to achieve our goals.

Islamic finance would not only give a general fillip to economy but on the secondary level Muslims also stand to benefit. Some foreign firms have invested about Rs 600 crore in the new airport coming up near Panvel, Mumbai on the basis of an equal share in profit and loss, which goes to show that Islamic banking concepts are slowly making their presence felt in India.

The other main speaker on the occasion was Mr Gaffar Shaikh, Managing Director of the Maulana Azad Minorities Financial Development Corporation. He dwelt on the abysmal economic condition of the Muslims and gave examples to show that the community was engaged in petty businesses and was far behind the other communities who are progressing from small cap to mid-cap industries and from SEEPZ to Special Economic Zones.

Lamenting the fact that most Muslims are engaged in small businesses such as construction, machine repairing and tobacco manufacturing, there is a need for them to go for bigger businesses.

There are only two respectable options open to us; either go for large businesses or go for government jobs. On both fronts our condition is very poor. Muslim representation in government jobs ranges from 2 to 4 per cent. Hence on both counts the community has failed.

The causes for these failure is within the community itself and cannot be laid at the door of the government alone, he emphasized.

He lamented the lack of knowledge in the Muslims community about both central and state welfare schemes for the minorities and those living below the poverty line. He said according to government figures about 30 per cent of Muslims live below the poverty line. But due to various reasons they are unable to take advantage of government schemes meant for the poor.

He tried to disprove the misunderstandings prevalent among the Muslims that the government is not doing anything for them. Muslims are first in the open or general category but they do not avail themselves of the opportunities offered by government welfare schemes, he complained, on the other hand, other communities are quick to seize upon such opportunities, he said.

Furthermore, he said that Muslims do not even take note of those schemes meant primarily for the Muslim community or for adivasis or OBCs. This is mainly not only because of a lack of awareness but also because Muslims are not so interested about them.

He said that the way of routing welfare schemes for the poor has changed dramatically in the last 25 years. Now most international schemes, central schemes and state schemes are now routed through NGOs. The problem is that there are not many NGOs working exclusively for the Muslim community.

He called upon the community to take advantage of government schemes which are meant for the poor and the disadvantaged.

Maulana Burhanuddin Qasmi, director of MMERC, gave a brief introduction of the two main speakers of the programme. He said that this was the second in a series of programmes to engage the community on the importance of the economy. Participation in the growth of the economy would definitely contribute to the success of Muslims, he said.

Maulana Shahid Moeen, Coordinator DAIE of MMERC, gave a brief overview of the beginnings of Markazul Ma’arif and the stellar contribution of Maulana Badruddin Ajmal and his family in many fields, not only in Assam, but in other parts of India.

Second Year student of MMERC, Muhammad Hanif Qasmi, gave a short speech on ‘Economic Challenges of Muslim Ummah’ where he briefed the ways to restructure the Muslim economy.

The programme which began with a recital of parts of the Qur’an from surah Jummah by Nizamuddin Qasmi, first year student, was ably compared by Maulana Mudassir Qasmi, lecturer of MMERC, Mumbai. Maulana Atiqur Rahman Qasmi gave the vote of thanks at the end of the programme which was presided over by Mufti Azizur Rahman Fatehpuri, grand Mufti of Maharashtra.

(Courtesy: Ummid.com)

Indian Muslim News - PEOPLE

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 16 January 2010 | Posted in

Zoological Society of India felicitates Prof. Wasim Ahmad of AMU

Prof. Wasim Ahmad of the Department of Zoology, Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) has been felicitated by the Zoological Society of India for his commendable research activities and outstanding contribution in the field of Zoology at the 20th All India Congress of Zoology

The Zoology Congress was jointly organized by the Zoological Society of India, the Helminthological Society of India and the Indian Fisheries Association held at Central Institute of Fisheries Education in Mumbai recently.

Prof. Ahmad who is an expert on the taxonomy of soil inhabiting nematodes of the Orders Dorylaimida, Mononchida and Tylenchida, has not only described several hundred new taxa of nematodes from around the world but has also given new definition and classification of higher taxonomic groups based on his morphological, ultra structural and molecular studies.

His recent studies on phylogenetic relationship of mononchs using 18s rDNA sequence has given a new insight into the classification of this group. He has also contributed significantly to the functional diversity and food web diagnostics of soil inhabiting nematodes in natural forests.

The major part of his work has been published in top nematology journals of the world, such as Nematologica/Nematology from The Netherlands; Revue de Nematologie/Fundamentals and Applied Nematology from France; International Journal of Nematology from UK; Journal of Nematode Morphology and Systematics from Spain Nematologea Mediterranea from Italy and Journal of Natural History, UK.

Besides, his monumental book entitled “Dorylaimida; Free-living, predaceous and plant parasitic nematodes” published by RJ Brill, Leiden, The Netherlands is a unique world-wide reference for study of dorylaim nematodes. A similar treatise by him on Mononchida has just been published by EJ Brill, The Netherlands.

He has visited a large number of countries of the world as an expert for the study of dorylaim and mononchid nematodes and is recipient of prestigious visiting fellowships from Royal Society (London). DFG (Germany), TWAS (Italy), JSPS (Japan), Erasmus Mundus (European Union), CAS (China), KOSEF (Korea), RMBR (Singapore), and many others.

Apart from that, he is on the editorial board of several prestigious journals published from India and abroad and is reviewer of papers published in most of the Nematology Journals of the world. He is also a Fellow of the National Academy of Agricultural Sciences and the Linnaean Society of London.

Indian Muslim News - EDUCATION

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | | Posted in

In 2009, more Muslim kids joined school

Government's various initiatives for minorities seem to be paying dividend, with Muslim enrolment in schools -- for long a source of deep concern -- beginning to grow slowly but steadily.

The latest figures, part of National University of Educational Planning and Education's statistics, to be released shortly, shows that both in primary and upper primary level, Muslim enrolment has improved. Though it is early, a definite improvement can be seen in north Indian states.

Data collected from 1.29 million recognised elementary schools in 633 districts revealed a total enrolment of 14.83 million Muslim children in primary classes in 2008-09, which is 11.03% of the total 134.38 million enrolment in primary (I to V) classes. During the pervious year, the same was 10.49% and in 2006-07, it was 9.39%. Of the total Muslim enrolment in primary classes, the percentage of Muslim girls was 48.93%, similar to the share of girls in overall primary enrolment (48.38%).

Bihar continued to be among the performing states while Karnataka showed slow decline in Muslim enrolment, both at primary and upper primary level. Kerala remained the undisputed leader as it showed big improvement in enrolment both at primary and upper primary level.

Remarkably, the percentage of Muslim girls to total Muslim enrolment in upper primary classes is 50.03%, which is above the national average of 47.58%.

The highest percentage of Muslim enrolment was observed in Lakshadweep (99.73%) mainly due to the fact that the percentage of Muslim population to total population in the Union Territory in 2001 was as high as 95.47%. In Bihar, Muslim enrolment at primary level improved from 11.27% in 2007-08 to 12.96% in 2008-09. Even Assam showed a big improvement: from 31.94% in 2007-08 to 35.08% in 2008-09. Decline was most evident in Karnataka: from 15.06% to 14.67%. In Kerala, enrolment went up to 26.22% from 21.49% in 2007-08.

Enrolment in upper primary classes also improved to 9.13% in 2008-09 from 8.54% in 2007-08 and 7.52% in 2006-07. Of the total 53.35 million enrolment in upper primary classes in the country in 2008-09, Muslim enrolment was 4.87 million. In Bihar, upper primary enrolement of Muslims improved from 8.22% in 2007-08 to 10.35% in 2008-09. Decline in Karnataka was more perceptible: from 16.73% to 13.81%.

The data also revealed a share of 10.49% Muslim enrolment in elementary classes (I to VIII) of which 49.20% were Muslim girls (to total Muslim enrolment).

Preliminary enrolment data for the year 2008-09 also revealed that there were certain pockets in the country with high percentage of Muslim enrolment. There were about 87,690 schools with more than 25% Muslim enrolment (to total enrolment in elementary classes) which was 6.84% of the total schools that imparted elementary education in the country. Similarly, 62,534 (4.88%) schools had above 50% Muslim enrolment as compared to 48,946 schools (3.82%) having 75% and above and 41,300 schools (3.22%) even having a share of 90% and above Muslim enrolment to total enrolment.

Because of the high share of Muslim population to total population in J&K, 12 districts of the state had above 90% Muslim enrolment in 2008-09 in primary classes which was also true for enrolment in upper primary classes. On the other hand, 25 districts in the country had more than 50% Muslim enrolment in primary classes in 2008-09 compared to 20 such districts in case of upper primary enrolment. Fifteen districts of J&K, one each in Bihar, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Lakshadweep and Kerala and five districts of Assam had more than 50% Muslim enrolment in primary classes.

(Courtesy: The Times of India)

Indian Muslim News - MUSLIM NATIONS

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | | Posted in

Religion in politics

In a move aimed at reviving the spirit of Bangladesh’s original 1972 constitution which barred religion in politics, the Bangladesh Supreme Court recently lifted a four-year stay on an earlier ruling. As a result, the country’s dozens of Islamic political parties can no longer campaign under the banner of religion, and are likely to be forced to drop the religious reference from their names. The court declared as void ab initio the relevant fifth amendment to the constitution, which was carried out in 1979 during a Bangladesh Nationalist Party government. It allowed religion-based politics — which then flourished.

Given that Bangladesh has amongst the world’s largest Muslim populations, this is a quantum leap forward. The court decision, if upheld during appeals, will affect scores of powerful political parties and their voters, including the BNP now in the opposition. Yet it is worth noting that the verdict does not affect Islam’s constitutional status as the state religion or religious text that was incorporated in the constitution. Implicit, therefore, is the recognition that whatever the dominant religion, the business of the state and politics must be conducted independently; and that far from yielding benefits in terms of just and legitimate governance, the confluence of religion and politics can wreak havoc on a country’s political fabric.

Pakistan would do well to dwell on this. Religion, when enmeshed with politics, can deepen polarities and derail the examination of issues from the perspective of logic and the aggregate national benefit. We have seen, for example, how politics and state policies underpinned by religious diktat can lead to laws that are discriminatory and can be used as tools for victimisation. The Qisas and Diyat Act, the Hudood and the blasphemy laws are cases in point. At the very least, a political fabric woven from religion will either dismiss minorities and their rights, or polarise politics between dominant and minority religions. Pakistan made the state the custodian of religion through the 1949 Objectives Resolution, which was later made the preamble to the constitution by the Zulfikar Ali Bhutto government and added as an annex by Ziaul Haq. Although religious parties have not historically fared well in elections, Pakistan’s politics have, over successive decades, been coloured by religion. The separation of religion and politics will, of course, neither automatically ensure justice nor guard against the misuse of religion. But it can be a first step towards delineating the private and public spheres. This may be a good time to revisit Mr Jinnah’s 1947 address to Pakistan’s first constituent assembly, when he eloquently stated that religion had nothing to do with the business of the state.

(Courtesy: Dawn)

Indian Muslim News - BUSINESS & ECONOMY

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | | Posted in

Bringing Islamic Banking to India

By M D Nalapat

There are more Muslims in India than there are in Pakistan, which is why it is surprising that successive governments have so far done nothing to bring Islamic banking into India. The consequence of such neglect is that millions of observant Muslims are forced to park their savings in dubious entities, because they have been deprived of financial institutions in India that are Sharia-compliant and avoid the payment of interest, because of its ban in the Quran (3:130).

Indeed, the Quran sets forth some very healthy financial principles, such as the avoiding of the giving of finance to unsavoury businesses (5:2), and the showing of compassion to the financially disadvantaged (2;280). As has been pointed out by several scholars, the prohibition of interest is not unique to Islam, but is also found in Judaism and Christianity (Psalms 15:5, Nehemiah 5:7). However, throughout the world, the giving and taking of interest has become widespread Financial experts estimate that more than $50 billion of funds from the Gulf can flow to India, should Islamic banking institutions be set up in the country. This will generate 2.7 million jobs in the country, both directly and indirectly. At present, almost all the surplus cash of the Gulf countries is parked in London (which, ironically, is the world’s top “Islamic Banking” centre), New York, Zurich and Frankfurt. Naturally, the financial institutions headquartered in these locations would not like to see India emerge as a competitor in the parking of funds from the Gulf.

They are aware of the strong historical and civilisational ties between India and the Arab world, and are nervous that this may result in funds moving away from them. Indeed, many Arabs are justifiably upset that they have suffered a collective loss of $1.3 trillion because of the numerous malpractices of financial institutions in the US and the EU, and would prefer to place their money in India. However, thus far, because of the immense influence that financial entities in the US and the EU have over the Reserve Bank of India and the Ministry of Finance, thus far, the policy changes needed to attract such funds have not come about So pervasive is the influence of US and EU funds over India’s financial policymakers that the Reserve Bank of India significantly slowed down economic expansion in India during 2007-2008 by raising interest rates to levels not seen in more than a decade.

Although the RBI justified this as an anti-inflation measure, they themselves know that such painful steps have no impact on price rise, caused as this is by speculation and by policies that favour the middleman over the producer and the consumer. All that the policy of high interest rates has done was to make several segments in Indian industry less competitive than they were when interest rates were low. The policies followed by the monetary authorities in India have forced several corporates to borrow money from London and other centres in the developed world at a profit for these centres of 3%.

Small wonder that there is so much pressure on India to prevent the authorities from taking steps that could attract funds from the Gulf. Had the authorities in India encouraged their domestic companies the way policymakers in the US and the EU unfailingly do, India would not have been in today’s situation, when even tiny Taiwan exports double the volume India does Recently, the government of Kerala, a state that has ties with the Gulf that go back for 1600 years, sought to set up an Islamic Banking division in one of their financial institutions. However, a politician having close links with a section of the Hindu religious leadership has got the Kerala High Court to stay the operationalisation of this move.

India’s courts are famously liberal when it comes to granting stays,with some even lasting for decades. In countries such as the US or the UK, stays are granted only after the court is convinced that there exists a strong prima facie case in favour of the individual making the request. In the case of India, stays by a court are granted far more liberally. The Kerala High Court order means that the attempt by the state’s Communist rulers to set up an Islamic banking system in a state where 20% of the population are Muslims may be indefinitely delayed. Bankers in Europe and in the US can rest easy, knowing that it may be a long time before the estimated $1.16 trillion dollars parked in so-called “Islamic Banking” institutions in these locations faces competition from India

Although it is true that several policymakers allow themselves to be unduly influenced by interested parties operating overseas, the fact remains that overall, India’s policymakers are a patriotic group. Indeed, with all their faults, India’s administrators have done a commendable job in ensuring a modicum of stability in the face of frequent political upheavals. Hence, this columnist is optimistic that it will not be long before India copies the Malaysian model, and brings Islamic banking into the country. Closer economic interaction between India and the Gulf is in the interests of both sides. The GCC countries and India are complementary in their skills and congruent in their interests. The setting up of Islamic banking divisions within the existing banking network in India would ensure a substantial flow of investible funds into the country.

Of course, none of this money would get diverted to industries such as gambling and alcohol that are barred in Islam. A beginning has been made by the Jamaat-i-Islami Hind, which has set up a committee on Islamic banking under a noted scholar, Mr Abdur Raqeeb. Some influential policymakers within the Congress Party are also active in seeking to overcome the block to Islamic banking that has been artificially created by international interests keen to ensure that India does not take money away from them India is a secular country, and therefore Islamic banking needs to be seen not as a “Muslim” issue, but as one that involves the welfare of each citizen, whether Muslim, Christian, Hindu, Jain, Sikh or Buddhist. After all, the huge volume of remittances from Indians working in the Gulf benefits the entire country and not simply those belonging to a particular religion. Islamic banking therefore needs to be viewed less as a religious right than as a secular advantage. Allowing India’s observant Muslims to gain access to domestic funds that are Sharia-compliant would ensure that they avoid getting duped by unregulated and often dubious entities that seek to profit from their faith. The Islamic world is India’s natural partner, and one way of strengthening such linkages would be through the introduction of Islamic banking in India Indeed, it can be argued that the healthy financial principles mentioned in the Quran were the earliest enunciation of the “mutual fund” concept. Unless mutual gain comes from mutual effort, and unless moral principles are given primacy in decision-making, the world will witness further man-made catastrophes such as the 2008 financial crash.

This was caused entirely by the greed of some 380 individuals, who were the prime movers in the relentless speculation that artificially drove up the prices of commodities such as foodgrains, copper, steel and oil. Sadly, apart from a handful, not one of the 380 have suffered any legal consequence of their devastating economic attack on humanity. Indeed, the Obama administration seems as deferential to them as was George W Bush. Small wonder that speculation in commodities is once again rearing its poisonous head, making the price of oil and other essentials rise despite the weakened state of the international economy. Judging by the way in which Barack Obama, Gordon Brown, Angela Merkel and others are obedient to their whims, it looks as though those guilty of causing the distress of hundreds of millions in their insatiable greed for money will once again plunge the world into chaos, and soon.

In such a context, the need to create financial systems grounded on moral values becomes clear. Should Islamic banking entities finally get sanctioned in India, and should they function in the way that is intended, then not only Muslims but Hindus and others will start putting their savings in them. As the sages say, we need to look for good everywhere, so as to reach it everywhere.

(Courtesy: Pakistan Observer)

Free to criticize religions but not with hate: Court

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | | Posted in

In a significant ruling, a three-judge bench of the Bombay high court on Wednesday [January 6] held that in India, criticism of any religion -- be it Islam, Hinduism, Christianity or any other -- is permissible under the fundamental right to freedom of speech and that a book cannot be banned on those grounds alone.

However, the criticism must be bona fide or academic, said the court, as it upheld a ban issued in 2007 by the Maharashtra government on a book titled ‘Islam - A Concept of Political World Invasion by Muslims.' The book contained was an "aggravated form of criticism made with a malicious and deliberate intention" to outrage the feelings of Muslims, the court said.

Delivering the landmark verdict on Wednesday [January 6], the court has in a rare instance upheld the state's ban on a book but at the same time brought joy to civil rights activists when it held that, "in our country, everything is open to criticism and religion is no exception. Freedom of expression covers criticism of religion and no person can be sensitive about it."

The bench, comprising Justices Ranjana Desai, D Y Chandrachud and R S Mohite, said, "Healthy criticism provokes thought, encourages debate and helps us evolve. But criticism cannot be malicious and must not lead to creating ill-will between different communities... (it) must lead to sensible dialogue." The courts must strike a balance between the guaranteed freedom and permissible restrictions, "a difficult task", as the 150-page HC verdict penned by Justice Desai observed.

The book, authored by R V Bhasin, a Mumbai-based advocate, in 2003 had been in circulation for four years before the state felt the need to ban it for "several derogatory and false statements about Muslim religion, the community, Mohammed Paigambar and Muslim priests". Bhasin later told TOI that he would go to the Supreme Court in appeal. "Freedom of speech cannot be blocked on interpretation," he said.

Bhasin challenged the ban the same year and his counsel J P Cama argued at length that freedom of speech and expression has to be protected and unless a book gives rise immediately to a present and sudden danger of disrupting communal or societal peace, its ban cannot be justified. He said the author placed certain lesser-known aspects about Islam before the people and said, "Assuming he is wrong, he has a right to be wrong."

But justifying the state's ban was advocate general Ravi Kadam and later Yusuf Muchala, the counsel for a few intervenors, including Indian Union Muslim League, Maharashtra Muslim Lawyers Forum, Islamic Research Foundation, Jamat-e-Islami-e-Hind and Bombay Aman Committee. One intervenor, I G Khandelwal, from Right to Read Foundation, supported the author.

The bench had reserved the matter for judgment last August after a lengthy hearing. The court said, "The author can say what he feels is right and if it is wrong, he cannot be punished for it. But what needs to be seen is whether it was done bona fide with real desire to explore the tenets of Islam and give his exposition,"

In this case, the court held that the criticism of Islam and "insulting comments with particular reference to Indian Muslims" were "not academic". "It is an aggravated form of criticism made with a malicious and deliberate intention to outrage the religious feelings of Muslims. The contents are so interwoven that it is not possible to excise certain portions and permit circulation of the book," the court said. The author had declined an earlier suggestion to delete certain parts.

A person may have a right to say a particular religion is "not secular", said the HC, but it cautioned against rabid contents "reeking of hatred for a particular community" and "malafide exercise to stir communal passions".

The HC also found "totally unacceptable" the author's argument that banning the book in the age of the internet is passe and pointless.

The book contains "highly objectionable and disturbing" statements about the author's wishful thinking of an impending war between Muslims and others and how Indian Muslims want to convert all Hindus, attack temples and Hindu women. Statements like these are "likely to incite people to violence and may promote violence, enmity or hatred".

(Courtesy: The Times of India)

Why profiling doesn't work

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | | Posted in

By Arsalan Iftikhar

In light of the botched Christmas Day airliner bombing aboard Northwest Airlines Flight 253 en route from Amsterdam to Detroit, the Transportation Security Administration has announced new enhanced "guidelines" requiring airline passengers traveling from (and through) 14 different countries to undergo especially rigorous security screening before being able to fly into the United States.

Under these new TSA guidelines, security screeners will conduct "full pat-down body checks" and extensive carry-on luggage checks for all passengers traveling from a country which the U.S. considers to be a "security risk."

These 14 countries are: Afghanistan, Algeria, Cuba, Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Libya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. Additionally, passengers traveling from any other foreign country may also be checked at 'random' as well.

These new rules mean that "every individual flying into the U.S. from anywhere in the world traveling from or through nations that are state sponsors of terrorism or other countries of interest will be required to go through enhanced screening," the TSA said.

On its face, this clear use of ethnic, racial and religious profiling will not achieve greater security in the long term for our country. In fact, by targeting only certain passengers for additional screening, "blind spots" can be easily identified and duplicitously exploited by violent extremists wishing our country harm.

Defenders of the new rules might say they're only profiling people coming from certain countries, but the fact that 13 of the 14 are Muslim countries makes clear the religious nature of the profiling.

This new policy deeply undermines the Obama administration's stated commitment to civil rights, equality before the law, and a much-needed effort to rebuild U.S.-Muslim world relations since the disastrous presidency of George W. Bush.

Under international law, countries including the United States that use race, color, ethnicity, religion or nationality as a proxy for criminal suspicion are in violation of international standards against racial discrimination and multiple treaties to which the U.S. is a party.

These include the U.N. Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) and the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

The clear alternative is for law enforcement agencies to focus on actual criminal behavior rather than solely on characteristics such as race, religion, ethnicity, or nationality. Senior international security experts have suggested, for example, that such an approach would have increased the chances that suspected shoe-bomber Richard Reid would have been stopped before he successfully boarded an airplane he intended to attack in December 2001. Among the red flags were that Reid bought a one-way ticket with cash and had no checked luggage.

For years, the concept of "racial profiling" has reportedly undermined important terrorist investigations here in the United States. Most notably, these examples include the April 1995 Oklahoma City bombing in which the two white male domestic terrorists, Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, were able to flee while officers operated on the theory that the act had been committed by "Arab terrorists" for the first 48 hours of the investigation.

Similarly, during the October 2002 Washington-area sniper investigation, the African-American man and boy ultimately accused of the crime reportedly were able to pass through multiple road blocks with the alleged murder weapon in their possession, in part, because police 'profilers' theorized the crime had been committed by a white male acting alone.

According to a report last summer by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Rights Working Group to the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination: "Both Democratic and Republican administrations [in the United States] have acknowledged that racial profiling is unconstitutional, socially corrupting and counter-productive, yet this unjustifiable practice remains a stain on American democracy and an affront to the promise of racial equality."

In fact, not only do such "racial profiling" practices waste limited resources, they simply make us less safe. For example, the arrests of John Walker Lindh (a white, middle-class man better known as the 'American Taliban') and Richard Reid (a British citizen of West Indian and European ancestry now serving a life sentence at the Supermax prison in Colorado) confirm that effective law enforcement techniques must rely solely on criminal behavior and not race, religion or nationality in order to ensure our citizens' security.

As the San Diego Union-Tribune said in an editorial: "The minute U.S. officials put out the word that they're not scrutinizing people with blond hair and blue eyes is the minute that al Qaeda starts recruiting people with blond hair and blue eyes. Would looking for Arab-Americans have turned up a passenger that resembled "American Taliban" fighter John Walker Lindh? Would applying extra scrutiny to people with foreign-sounding names have kept would-be shoe bomber Richard Reid off a plane?"

Of course not.

Even conservative Republicans like former House Speaker Newt Gingrich have argued that behavioral (and not racial/ethnic) profiling is the best way to prevent terrorist attacks on our country.

"We need to have the knowledge to be able to profile based on behavior," Mr. Gingrich recently said on ABC's "Good Morning America" while discussing the recent Christmas Day foiled bombing. "Not racial profiling or ethnic profiling, but profiling based on behavior and then, frankly, discriminating based on behavior," he continued during the same interview.

As our national debate on the phenomenon of "racial profiling" emerges once again, let's remember these words of the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Congressman John Conyers of Michigan:

"If Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. were alive today ... he would tell us we must not allow the horrific acts of terror that our nation has endured to slowly and subversively destroy the foundation of our democracy."

[Arsalan Iftikhar is an international human rights lawyer, founder of TheMuslimGuy.com and Legal Fellow for the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding, a nonprofit research organization, in Washington.]

(Courtesy: CNN)

Indian Muslim News - MUSLIM NATIONS

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | | Posted in

Malaysia Catholics allowed to call God 'Allah' again. Why the fuss?

Islam, like Christianity and Judaism, worships the God of Abraham. So why is Malaysia's government trying to prevent Catholics from calling God 'Allah?'

By Dan Murphy

After a three-year battle, the Roman Catholic church in Malaysia won back the right to use the long-standing Malay-language word for God: "Allah."

A judge, responding to a suit filed by the editor of The Herald, a Catholic weekly distributed primarily to Catholics in the Malaysian portions of Borneo, found that an earlier government restriction allowing the term only to be used by Muslims was unconstitutional.

But the freedom to use what is commonly understood to be the generic word for the God of Abraham – in both Malaysian and in the closely related language of Indonesian – may not last long. On Jan. 4, the government said it would appeal the ruling. The official state news agency Bernama reported that "the Home Minister had justified the ban on grounds of national security and to avoid misunderstanding and confusion among Muslims."

The government's sensitivity on the issue seems to have less to do with linguistic precision and more to do with the complicated role Islam has come to play in Malaysia's political life. The country is about 60 percent Muslim, with most adherents belonging to the ethnic-Malay majority. But a sizable number of ethnic Malays on Borneo are Christian, both members of the Catholic church and various Protestant groups. A large portion of the country's ethnic-Chinese minority are Christians as well, with a smaller group of its ethnic-Indian population adhering to the faith.

The Malay word for "god" has been "Allah" for centuries, reflecting the strong Arab linguistic and cultural influence on the Malay Peninsula and the sprawling string of Islands in the area once known as the Malay Archipelago but now mostly controlled by modern Indonesia. Arab traders came to dominate the important Malacca Strait in the 13th and 14th centuries, which linked the markets of Asia to the Middle East and Europe, leading to both the spread of Islam and of Arabic influence on local languages throughout the islands.

"Allah yang maha kuasa," or "almighty God," is a phrase that is typically heard in Catholic churches in Sarawak, Borneo, and in Protestant churches on Sumatra in Indonesia. The word "Allah" of course, is also voiced to the heavens by Palestinian Christians in Bethlehem at Christmas and is used by the Eastern Orthodox Christians in Egypt, commonly referred to as Copts.

That this use of "Allah" is largely uncontroversial in the Arab world, which has plenty of religious conflicts of its own, points to the unusual nature of the Malaysian government's effort.

Political Islam has become a more important force in Malaysian society in the past 30 years, and Malaysia operates under two sets of law – one for Muslims, and one for everyone else. Alcohol is freely available in much of the country, though it's technically illegal for Muslims to drink it. That distinction led to a Muslim woman, who had ordered a beer in a Kuala Lumpur restaurant, to almost be caned last year. Malaysia also has a number of casinos, but national identity cards are checked at the door to keep Muslims out.

The most militant of Malaysia's Muslims have warned of efforts to "Christianize" the country and alleged at the time the government banned the Catholic use of the word "Allah" that its use was deliberately confusing and could be used in an effort to win converts. The Catholic church in Malaysia has argued that it was simply using the word best understood by its parishioners.

The Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS) is the most powerful group pushing for Islam to have greater influence over Malaysia's political life, and currently has 23 seats in the national Parliament. PAS has favored the ban in the past, and in a statement on Monday said it was "disappointed" with the high court ruling but urged followers to stay calm.

"PAS is worried that allowing the use of the name Allah in this publication will create confusion among Muslims, especially among converts and those wanting to draw closer to Islam,'' the Party said in a statement. The party said restrictions on use of the word are important to "close the door to wickedness for the Muslim community" and added that "it needs to be stressed that PAS is not opposed to freedom of religion."

(Courtesy: Christian Science Monitor)

Indian Muslim News - WAKF

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | | Posted in

Central Wakf Council opposes Punjab Law Commission report on wakf

The Central Wakf Council took strong objection to the Punjab Law Commission recommendation for a review of the status of registered wakf properties, saying that this was totally unacceptable under a view held by the Supreme Court.

"The Supreme Court has already said that once a wakf property, always a wakf property," Minority Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid told reporters, while briefing them about the decisions taken at the Central Wakf Council (CWC) meeting here.

Mr Khurshid said the CWC had decided to convey to the Punjab Law Commission its strong opposition to its suggestion.

Besides, it would also request the Home Ministry to convey the suggestions of the CWC to the Commission.

Under the law, status of a property registered as that of the wakf could not be changed, it could only be challenged in a court, he sought to point out.

The Minister said the Law Ministry had returned the final draft of the amended Wakf Act which had been sent to it for whetting, and it would soon be taken to the Cabinet and come up in the next session of Parliament.

Replying to a question, he said he could not give much details about the proposed legislation before it came to the Cabinet, but could only say that it was aimed at strengthening the Wakf Administration.

One of the important decisions taken at CWC meeting was that all wakf records would be computerised to remove the problem of their availability and their retrieval.

Besides, a decision was taken to launch a massive campaign for informing the public about the ongoing survey of wakf properties.

A scheme for training in wakf management would be started at the Bhopal Institute of Management.

He also announced that the Human Resource Development Ministry had given in principle approval to the proposal of the CWC to set up three universities -- in Ajmer, Kishanganj and Mysore -- on land endowed by the community.

These universities would be Central universities and would not come in the category of minority institutions though aimed at promotion of the educational interest of minorities, Mr Khurshid said in reply to a question.

Details of the model were being worked out, he added.
(Courtesy: IndLawNews.com)

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