:: APPEAL :: 'Muslim NGOs should come forward to help Muslims save their citizenship through Census 2011'

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 27 April 2010 | Posted in

'Muslim NGOs should come forward to help Muslims save their citizenship through Census 2011'

An enrollment in the census enables an individual to be 'the citizen' of the country. The Census 2011 will help determine the actual number of people living Below Poverty Line (BPL) in 2013. Moreover, the photos of those who are in the age group of above 15 years along with Biometric Identity and the databank will be collected during the census exercise, and would be used by the Unified Identity Authority of India (UIDAI). If any one fails to get his/her details into the databank being prepared by the enumerators involved in the census work, he/she would be out of UIDAI. Therefore, taking proactive part in Census 2011 is essential for each and every Indian, particularly Muslims as this would be a direct proof of their 'Citizenship' duly acquired through genuine and honest means. Furthermore, it is also important enough to get enrolled in Census 2011 since all the future Planning and Budget allocations against particular community or caste would be strictly based on this databank.

In this regard, it becomes foremost duty of Muslim NGOs, activists, social workers, community leaders and individuals to make efforts, motivate and contribute their every bit to educate common people to ensure that the complete and correct entries are entered into the databank during the census. Besides, it also becomes the duty of the Census Authority of India to train its enumerators through effective workshops to minimize common mistakes like wrong spellings of Muslim names and filling in wrong religion, language or caste etc.

Every educated Indian must cooperate in this massive task so that we may know ourselves correctly. Precise data is more important for minorities and marginalized sections. Caste based census was done last time in 1931. That is why there is a growing need for it now to reassure all statistics. If we update caste figures greater justice can be provided for marginalized people.

Every citizen should be alert about information which is being recorded. He/she must check and verify the forms which are being filled by enumerators. No room should be given to dishonest manipulators who are doing a disservice to nation and truth by incorrect data entry. I fervently appeal to all educated and aware Indians to make Census 2011 a beneficial exercise for the entire nation and for its people.

Thanks & best wishes to my countrymen.

Danish Ahmad Khan

:: ISSUES :: The Proper Understanding of the Notion of ‘Islamic Supremacy’

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | | Posted in

The Proper Understanding of the Notion of ‘Islamic Supremacy’

By Maulana Waris Mazhari

(Translated from Urdu by Yoginder Sikand/Noor Mohammad Sikand)

In the Quran, God declares: ‘It is He who hath sent His Messenger with Guidance and the Religion of Truth, to cause it to prevail over all religion’ (9:33).

What exactly does this verse mean when it talks about establishing the supremacy of Islam over other religions? Numerous ulema, including leading Quranic commentators, have interpreted this verse in different ways. The vast majority of the ulema regard the Arabic word izhar that is used in the sense of ‘prevail’ in this verse (which is translated as ghalba in Urdu) to mean the establishment of the intellectual superiority of Islam over other religions because, being in accordance with reason and providing sufficient arguments for its claims, Islam is indeed superior to them. In his al-Jami‘ al-Ahkam al-Quran, the noted classical Islamic scholar Imam Abu Abdullaj Qurtubi comments on the word izhar used in this verse as follows: ‘To prevail means to establish [Islam’s] superiority through proofs and evidence.’

In contrast, some scholars have taken the above-quoted Quranic verse as indicating the establishment of the superiority of, or domination by, Islam on the political plane at the global level, but they argue that this will happen only at the hands of Jesus when he returns to the world again, just before the Day of Judgment. This was the opinion of Abu Hurairah, a noted companion of the Prophet and narrator of numerous Hadith reports, and is mentioned in most of the important Quranic commentaries.

One of the leading classical scholars, Abdullah Ibn Abbas, who was a close companion of the Prophet, was of the opinion that the word izhar used in the above-quoted Quranic verse does not mean any form of domination. Rather, he translated the term to mean ‘to inform’. In other words, he opined that what is meant by this Quranic verse is that God had informed the prophet Muhammad of the truths and the details of all the religions of the world. Such an important Quranic commentator such as Imam Qurtubi mentions this explanation first while discussing this verse, which indicates that he possibly agreed with this argument or considered it to be more correct.

Another group of ulema argue that this Quranic verse is restricted in its geographical application and that it actually refers to the establishment of the supremacy of Islam over all other religions only in the Arabian peninsula, a domination that was secured by the Prophet Muhammad himself.

In contrast to these various explanations and theories, some influential modern-day Islamic political movements sought to give a political interpretation to this verse, arguing that it indicates the political supremacy or domination of Islam over other faiths and their adherents. Hence, in accordance with this political interpretation, they made the capture of political power as their main target. The key figure in this regard was the founder of the Jamaat-e Islami, Maulana Syed Abul ‘Ala Maududi (d.1979).

Maududi was of the opinion that Islam demands that Muslims should engage in constant struggle in order to establish an Islamic government that would encompass the entire globe. This capture of political power, he argued, was the principle objective of the Islamic movement. Indeed, he regarded this as a fundamental duty and as the basic mission of all Muslims. In his controversial book Islami Nizam-e Zindagi Aur Uske Buniyadi Tasavvurat (‘The Islamic System of Life and its Basic Conceptions’), he wrote: ‘Islam is a revolutionary ideology and creed that seeks to transform the entire global social order and to build it on the basis of its ideology and creed. Muslims are members of this international revolutionary party that Islam organizes in order to bring into effect its revolutionary programme.’

Further, Maududi added: ‘The objective [of Islam] is to establish government based on its ideology and creed, irrespective of who takes its flag and unfurls it and whose governance it causes damage to. It demands land—not just a small bit of land, but, in fact, the entire world [to govern].’

In accordance with his particular political understanding of Islam, which he elaborated upon in many of his works, in his widely-read Quranic commentary Tafhim al-Quran, Maududi interpreted the above-mentioned Quranic verse as follows: ‘The aim of sending the Prophet, this verse explains, is to establish the supremacy of the religion of truth, which he brought from God, over all religions, ways of life and systems. In other words, the Prophet was not sent so that the system of life that he brought with him be made subservient to or dominated by any other system of life or that it be permitted to remain confined to the extent that other systems of life permitted it to be.  Rather [the Prophet] comes as the representative of the Lord of the lands and the heavens and desires that the true system of the Lord be made dominant. And, if any other system of life be [allowed to] remain in existence, it must remain confined to the extent that the divine system permits, as in the case of the system of the zimmis [protected, non-Muslim subjects] on payment of the jizyah.’

This passage clearly indicates that Maududi understood the term izhar, as used in the above-mentioned Quranic verse, to mean Islamic political hegemony so that the entire world comes under, and subservient to, what he regarded as Islamic rule. In other words, he understood this Quranic verse to mean that the whole world be brought under the rule of Islam and Muslims. This political interpretation of this verse, indeed of the entire Quran, of Maududi today enjoys particular favour with Islamist ideologues and activists. Numerous anti-imperialist revolutionary Muslim movements have made this political vision of Islam their motto.

Yet, this interpretation of the verse is open to serious questioning. Is it at all possible, feasible or realistic for the whole world to come under the political rule of Islam? Is this not in clear contradiction of the Quran, which clearly states: ‘On no soul doth Allah place a burden greater than it can bear’ (2:286). It must also be asked that when the Quran, in the above-mentioned verse, speaks of the reason why God sent the Prophet, does it mean what Maududi argues it does: to establish the political rule or political supremacy of Islam over the entire globe?

Those who, based on an erroneous interpretation of the above-mentioned Quranic verse, claim that the basic aim of the advent of the Prophet was to establish Islamic political supremacy are oblivious to the fact that by arguing in this fashion they make Islam appear as an imperialist power, making the mission of the Prophet seem as no different from that of any other imperialist power. It is obvious, and needs no explanation, that, contrary to what Maududi insisted, establishing Islamic political rule over the entire world today is simply impossible. That is why the ulema generally believe that this can only happen in the distant future, towards the advent of the Day of Judgment. Further in contrast to Maududi, who regarded the struggle for establishing global Islamic political rule a fundamental duty of every Muslim, many ulema regard it as the task and responsibility of Jesus in his Second Coming, who, they believe, will come strengthened with the special protection, assistance and miraculous powers bestowed by God. Other ulema believe that the domination or superiority that the above-mentioned Quranic verse refers to is not at all political, and does not refer to the establishment of Islamic government. Rather, it simply means the establishment of the intellectual superiority of Islam over other religions, and in this task, they argue, ordinary Muslims must play a key role by conveying the truth of Islam to others.

Those who, like Maududi, believe the basic aim of Islam is to establish Islamic or Muslim political supremacy also refer to a statement attributed to the Prophet, according to which he is said to have declared: ‘Islam is dominant, not dominated’ (al-islam yalu wa la yula aleih).They argue that this statement also indicates that Islam has come to rule as a political force and that it must be politically dominant, indeed hegemonic, throughout the world.

In my view, this interpretation is completely off the mark, for several reasons. Firstly, this statement is not to be found in any of the six authoritative collections of Hadith, nor in other such important Hadith collections such as the Musnad of Imam Ahmad Ibn Hanbal and the Muwatta of Imam Malik. Rather, it is contained in Baihaqi, and its status, in terms of its chain of narrators, is recognized as weak. Secondly, there are no other Hadith reports that speak of or indicate Islamic political supremacy. Rather, like the above-mentioned Quranic verse, this report simply indicates the establishment of the intellectual, in contrast to the political, supremacy of Islam over other religions.

This firm conviction in the intellectual supremacy of Islam should not be regarded as tantamount to imperialism. It is natural, and but to be expected, that a believer in any religion or ideology regards it as superior to other religions or ideologies. That is why Muslims, like people of other religions, think that their religion is the best. This does not, however, mean that establishing the superiority of any religion or ideology, including Islam, through force or by capturing power and political dominance is permissible.

It must be recognized that this political interpretation of Islam is a recent development, invented by modern-day Islamist ideologues. This is a product of their seeking to interpret Islam on their own (tafsir bi‘l ray), in reaction, in particular, to certain modern political developments, particularly Western colonialism. This political interpretation of Islam is deeply tainted by feelings of revenge and a strong streak of emotionalism. The most pathetic and extreme case in this regard is that of the founder of the Jamaat-e Islami, Maulana Maududi, as evidenced in his book Quran ki Char Buniyadi Istilahen (‘Four Basic Terms of the Quran’), wherein he provided a political twist to the notion of God’s sovereignty and where he argued that later generations of Muslims had completely forgotten the basic intention of the Quran, which, he claimed, was to establish Islamic political rule over the entire world. He went to the extent of claiming that this book of his was an attempt to revive consciousness of this supposedly long-forgotten basic intention of the Quran.

In contrast to Maududi, the ulema almost unanimously agree that the basic aim of the Islamic invitation or da‘wah is not the capture of political power, but, rather, to call all human beings, across the world, to the path of God. This is indicated in the following Quranic verse: ‘Thus have We made of you an ummah justly balanced. That you may be witnesses over the nations, and the Messenger a witness over yourselves’ (2:143)

This duty of inviting others to the path of Islam was the basic duty of the Prophet, and is also the basic responsibility of his followers.

As is evident from numerous Hadith reports, God Himself has arranged for the establishment  of ideological supremacy of Islam. According to one such report, in every century God sends to the world a reviver of the faith (mujaddid). Over the centuries numerous mujaddids have appeared, about whom there is a consensus among the ulema. It is vital to note that most of these mujdaddids stayed away from politics and, instead, concentrated on the revival of Islam and the reform of the community. They believed that their mission was the revival of Islam, and not the establishment of Islamic or Muslim political supremacy.

According to another Hadith report, the Prophet is said to have remarked that God has arranged for His religion to be protected from the corruptions of the extremists, from the wrong interpretations of the ignorant, and from deceit of the lovers of falsehood.  This statement also indicates the divine plan of preserving the intellectual supremacy of Islam. In contrast, it is important to note, there is no Hadith report that clearly talks of divine promise to arrange for the political supremacy of Islam.

Loud slogans of ‘Islamic awakening’ and ‘Islamic Renaissance’ emanate and echo from Islamic circles today. Many leaders and activists in these circles take these slogans to represent existing reality, which, of course, is not really the case. If at all there is any truth in these slogans it is simply that, as compared to the recent past, there is a greater degree of religious awareness among Muslims today. Organisations of ulema, Islamic preachers and scholars are today engaged all over the world in da‘wah or missionary work. Today, there is certainly much more scholarly and intellectual work being done in Islamic circles than in the recent past. This is an indication of God’s help in strengthening the intellectual supremacy of Islam.

On the other hand are those elements who regard Islamic awakening as synonymous with, or, at least inseparable from, establishing Islamic political supremacy at the global level. However, they have no basis from within the Islamic scriptural tradition to back their stance. The whole world is witness to the fact that, despite their efforts, rather than acquiring political power, Muslims are on the path of political decline or, at the very least, have proven unable to make any significant dent in their subjugation that is now over three centuries old.

This should make it obvious to present-day Islamic movements that they need to shift their focus from their obsession with the capture of political power so that they can work in a more effective manner for the cause of Islam and its adherents. If this does not happen, it is very likely that the work of Islamic da‘wah or inviting others to the path of God, which is the basic aim of Islam, would be faced with even greater hurdles than today.

[Maulana Waris Mazhari is the editor of the New Delhi-based monthly Tarjuman Dar ul-Uloom, the official organ of the Graduates’ Association of the Deoband madrasa. He can be contacted on w.mazhari@gmail.com. Yoginder Sikand works with the Centre for the Study of Social Exclusion at the National Law School, Bangalore. He can be contacted on ysikand@gmail.com]

:: MUSLIM NATIONS :: Intelligence, moderate Islam at heart of Saudi discovery of India

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | | Posted in

Intelligence, moderate Islam at heart of Saudi discovery of India

By Jyoti Malhotra

It is being dubbed the rediscovery of India by the all-powerful House of Saud and its latest protagonist, Prince Salman bin Abdul Aziz al Saud, governor of Riyadh and third in line to the throne, has over the last five days in Delhi, Agra and Mumbai reaffirmed the message that terrorism in the name of Islam is not Islamic and that the entire region must be united against jehad.

As the guest of Vice-President Hamid Ansari, a former ambassador to Saudi Arabia and an Arabist of some repute himself, the red carpet has been pulled out for the Saudi prince, his five sons and a large retinue of businessmen and advisors, across the Indian landscape.

With Prime Minister Manmohan Singh away in the US and subsequently in Brazil all week for summit meetings with the heads of state of Brazil, South Africa, Russia and China, External Affairs Minister S M Krishna has led the political charge with Prince Salman. President Pratibha Patil feted him as did the Jamia Millia University in the capital, where he was awarded an honorary degree.

But, it is the eye-popping nature of the strategic partnership, launched by King Abdullah himself during his visit in 2006 and reaffirmed by the PM during his visit to Saudi Arabia a couple of months ago, that sets this relationship apart from Delhi’s every other foreign policy experiment in recent years.

By proposing a regular and upgraded partnership between the two foreign ministries, the intelligence communities as well as between the two National Security Advisers, Delhi and Riyadh are giving teeth to the two declarations signed in these two cities in 2006 and 2010, respectively.

Alongside this revamped political and strategic partnership, India and Saudi Arabia are pushing both their business communities to take advantage of mutually changing perceptions, and invest in areas like infrastructure, energy, industry and services. Prince Salman’s encounters with the chambers of commerce in Delhi as well as with key businessmen in Mumbai is in keeping with the belief that trade and investment will lubricate the wheels of politics.

According to Talmiz Ahmad, India’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia, who has been in the forefront of the partnership revamp, both countries are readying themselves to take the relationship “to the next level”.

Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to India Faisal Hassan Trad told Business Standard, that “sky is the limit in the India-Saudi relationship and it is not limited to the energy sector”.

So far, Ahmad explained, 1.8 million Indians, mostly from the blue-collar working class, sent back as much as $5 billion home in annual remittances. Meanwhile, the government procured about 20 per cent of its petroleum needs from the Saudi kingdom.

But in the “new strategic era” between India and Saudi Arabia, Delhi is hoping that big business will transform the economic landscape, from information technology to energy. “Let me put it like this,” said Ahmad, “from the use of Indians to the use of India, that’s the nature of the change. It goes much beyond the buying and selling of oil”.

Officials from both sides admitted that one big reason for the shift in Saudi Arabia’s perception of India was due to the way the world changed after the September 11, 2001 incidents. From being one of only three countries in the world that had recognised the Taliban in Afghanistan (the other two were Pakistan and the UAE), the shock that accompanied the fact that 15 of the 19 hijackers on September 11 were Saudi nationals, Riyadh’s internal overhaul could not avoid the conclusion that the rampant mix of religion and terror was actually a deadly cocktail.

“We were deeply affected by terrorism and we learnt how to deal with it,” Trad admitted.

Pakistan’s unique relationship with the Saudi kingdom, meanwhile, had been underlined by the belief that “Pakistan and the Pakistan army was a source of stability in the region. But Islamabad’s continuing demands for ‘strategic depth’ in Afghanistan as well as the “moral and diplomatic support” it gave to the Kashmir jehadis, also did not escape Riyadh’s notice.

In contrast, India was a large, Muslim nation, but mostly a benign one. Meanwhile, the situation in Afghanistan began to rapidly deteriorate. That’s when Delhi began to convey its own message to Riyadh that the Pakistan army was really part of the problem, not the solution, said an Indian official on condition of anonymity.

As the custodian of the two holy mosques in Mecca and Medina, to which 1.6 billion Muslims all over the world looked for guidance and support, King Abdullah’s Saudi Arabia embarked upon “a very, very major U-turn” when it began to recognise that India, because of the nature of its open, democratic spirit, actually played a major role in the security and stability of the region, the Indian official added.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Riyadh in February and the follow-up visit of Prince Salman to India, the official said, are manifestations of this new partnership.

Asked whether Saudi Arabia was interested in brokering a solution to the Kashmir dispute, as had been widely reported in the media during the PM’s visit to Riyadh, Trad did not give a direct answer. Instead, he said, “We fully understand India’s sensitivities and concerns. We also know that progress is not possible without peace,” Trad added.

Indian officials, even as they publicly rejected all suggestions of third-party interference to the Kashmir dispute, seem much more accepting in private of Saudi Arabia’s enormous influence with Islamabad. “As a good friend of Pakistan, Riyadh can persuade Pakistan to see reason. That would make a huge difference,” the officials said.

(Courtesy: Business Standard)

National Meet On Women's Reservation Bill 2010

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 26 April 2010 | Posted in ,

National Meet On Women's Reservation Bill 2010

Greetings for peace,

Women’s reservation Bill that was passed in the Rajya Sabha using Marshals for some of the members of Parliament has received critical responses in India. There are organizations who feel that a major milestone has been achieved with regard to gender justice, but at the same time, there are critical concerns with reference to inclusive justice for women belonging to Dalit, OBC and Muslim communities that have not been addressed in the bill. Considering the critical responses from the political parties representing these groups and community organizations, National Economic Forum of Muslim (NEFM), Indian Muslim Research and Coordination Centre (IMRC), Jamait-E-Islami Hind, Milli Gazette in cooperation with several other organizations is organizing a National Meet on Women's Reservation Bill 2010: Issues and Implications for Dalits,Mulsims and OBCs on 27 April, 2010(Tuesday) at Constitution Club from 4.00 pm to 7 p.m.

It would be a honor and privilege for us if you could participate and share your views in this important meeting in order to ensure that gender justice is achieved with social inclusion through the Women’s Reservation Bill. We believe your participation and sharing would greatly enrich the deliberations towards making the Women’s Reservation Bill sensitive to the concerns of social inclusion.

Looking forward to your kind acceptance of our invitation.

With warmest regards.

Yours sincerely,

Dr. M.J.Khan                          
President, NEFM           

Mr. Mujtaba Farooq

Dr. M.Mukhtar Alam
Executive Director, IMRC

:: ISSUES :: Muslim decline and the responsibilities of the Ulema

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 24 April 2010 | Posted in

Muslim decline and the responsibilities of the Ulema

By Maulana Waris Mazhari

(Translated from Urdu by Yoginder Sikand/Noor Mohammad Sikand)

The fact of Muslim decline on almost all fronts is one that most Muslims themselves would readily concede. The moral distinctions that once characterised the early Muslims are no more, and the only thing that distinguishes them from others are external markers of religious or communal identity. The ulema once provided moral leadership to Muslim society, playing a central role in its formation and reformation. They were meant to be the true guides of the community, in accordance with the well-known saying of the Prophet Muhammad: ‘The ulema are the inheritors of the prophets’ (al-ulemao warasat al-anbiya). Throughout their history, the Muslim masses have always looked at the ulema to guide them. However, at times when rulers succeeded in co-opting sections of the ulema to justify their oppressive rule, they failed, as a class, to fulfill the duty entrusted to them by the Prophet. This also happened when sections of the ulema fell prey to worldly blandishments and temptations and strayed from the straight path. It cannot be denied, however, that in the early period of Islam the majority of the ulema remained determinedly on the right path and fulfilled their social responsibilities.

Today, the crucial question of what role the ulema should play in the reform of Muslim society remains hotly-debated and is as yet unresolved. In this regard, it is crucial that the ulema turn within and seriously introspect to see how far they have been able to live up to their responsibilities vis-à-vis the wider society.

The ulema have a greater role to play in social reform than other sections of Muslim society and, hence, the need for them to introspect is perhaps greater. After all, according to the Quran and the Hadith, the ulema have been accorded a more important role precisely because of the responsibilities with regard to social affairs that have been entrusted to them. If they shirk these responsibilities they cannot remain in their position and will inevitably be critiqued and even condemned by others, as is common today. The ulema claim that they have been given the role of guiding and leading the Muslim community, and so, if they do not do so in an appropriate manner it is obvious they will lose their relevance and popular support. In countries such as India, the majority of the ulema are economically dependent on the Muslim masses. This further requires that the ulema remain accountable to the latter in terms of fulfilling the roles required of them.

It is undoubtedly true that, in general, the ulema have played, and continue to play, a central role in promoting moral consciousness and religious awareness among the Muslim masses. At the same time, it is also true that, by and large, the ulema have not really lived up to the roles expected of them. Gradually, the ulema in most countries have withdrawn from social affairs. Lacking the appropriate skills and attributes of proper leadership, they are gradually losing the support of the Muslim masses. The ulema regard this as ‘deviation’ and as an ‘un-Islamic’ tendency, while the Muslim masses see the ulema as being concerned solely with rituals and external markers of religious identity and as no different, in terms of morals, from them. Indeed, many ‘ordinary’ Muslims even view the ulema as responsible for a host of ills, including of seeking to provide sanction to heinous sins through sophistry and trickery and wrong interpretations of the religious scriptures.

Two basic pillars of social reform are education and morality. The Quran refers to these two in the following verse:

‘Our Lord! Send amongst them a Messenger of their own, who shall rehearse Thy Signs to them and instruct them in Scripture and Wisdom, and purify them: for Thou art the Exalted in might, the Wise’ (2: 129).

There are different aspects of education, one of which is the transmission of the tradition of Islamic knowledge from one generation to the next. This task has been admirably undertaken by our ulema, who have set up a vast number of madrasas and other Islamic institutions for this purpose.

Another aspect of education is the intellectual formation and development of the community. This is also a task for the ulema, but, particularly after the departure of the British from India in 1947, they have almost wholly ignored it. It does not need to be stressed how crucial the intellectual development of a community is in its overall civilisational progress. A community that fails to keep up at the intellectual level with changing conditions and to keep up with other communities on the intellectual plane will inevitably be pushed to the margins of history. It was the task of the ulema to intellectually train the Muslim community by developing appropriate responses, from within the broader Islamic paradigm, to the changing demands and conditions of the times so as to enable Muslims to progress in an Islamically appropriate manner. Lamentably, however, they have failed to take up this crucial responsibility.

Morality is the underlying spirit and basis of religion. Promoting morality was the main objective of the mission of the prophets. The Prophet Muhammad is said to have remarked: ‘I have been sent to establish the pinnacle of morality’ (bohithto li uttamima husn al-akhlaq). In this regard, it can be said without any hesitation that the ulema have completely ignored the need for the moral development of the Muslim community on several fronts, and the baneful consequences of this, in terms of woeful moral standards, are fully in evidence, among both madrasa-educated Muslims as well as those who have studied in secular institutions. Indeed, so shocking is this lamentable state of affairs that managers of madrasas, who are meant to be the champions of morality, are known to grossly exploit the teachers and staff employed in their institutions, who are their fellow ulema, and, caring nothing for democracy, exercise a dictatorial control over community institutions, treating them as their own private properties. They splurge the money entrusted to them by the community on setting up massive buildings and lavish mosques or squander this money on useless things just for show and fame while caring nothing for the desperately poor people who live in their vicinity. How, then, can people accept to accord such ulema the lofty position of ‘preachers of morality’? Many of the institutions run by the ulema are torn by strife and internal conflict, and characterised by lack of transparency and rules, corruption, nepotism and gross inefficiency. Given this, how can the ulema expect to be respected by the masses? How can the masses consider them as their moral guides?

The basis of social reformation is the moral development of the members of a society. If those who claim to be the custodians or enforcers of morality, as the ulema see themselves, are themselves corrupt, to expect and hope for the community to develop is mere wishful thinking.

Another major drawback of our ulema is their marked tendency to ignore the demands of morality and the true spirit of religion in matters related to relations with other communities. Often, communal prejudices overshadow the demands for morality and justice. Let me explain this with the help of a single case. In 2007, some Hindu policemen deployed in Jamia Nagar, a Muslim-dominated locality in New Delhi, were alleged to have disrespected the Quran. On hearing this, a huge crowd of Muslims gathered at the police station and set it on fire. Several police posts in the vicinity were also attacked. Later, every sensible Islamic scholar learned that the whole incident was the handiwork of some rabble-rousing Muslim elements, and that the policemen had not deliberately treated the Quran with disrespect, as was alleged. However, I myself heard numerous ulema who are supposedly highly respected in Muslim circles saying that while the fault was actually that of the inflamed Muslim youth and not of the policemen, out of political compulsions they must support the former.

This is a brazen case of narrow communal prejudice, so sternly condemned by the Prophet Muhammad, triumphing over morality and justice. It would not be an exaggeration to say that in most matters related to the community, our attitude is deeply coloured by this sort of communal prejudice. One can cite almost no cases in which our ulema have, in such matters involving Muslims and people of other faiths, abided by the demands of justice, morality and impartiality and have condemned the wrongful actions of their co-religionists.

The ulema claim to be concerned about the reform of Muslim society and often issue statements to that effect. However, their vision of reform is extremely limited—confined simply to purging Muslim society of non-Muslim influences. In actual fact, social reform is far more comprehensive than that. It concerns a channelization of energies at both the individual as well as collective levels for the welfare and progress of all sections of society and for overall peace and justice.

Certain other aspects of the social roles and responsibilities of the ulema, and their negligence thereof, must also be noted. For instance, sections of the ulema are now seeking to play a more prominent role in politics. An unfortunate aspect of this is that all sorts of ulema are now entering the political field, including many who lack the capacity for proper leadership, and some who are corrupt and for whom politics is simply a means to feather their own nests. This has, quite naturally, led to greater confusion and conflict, with many of these ulema indulging in immoral politics that thrive on communal conflict and strife.

Many ulema rather unrealistically expect Muslim society to reform itself simply by delivering long harangues about the need to abide by the laws of the shariah. Clearly, this is inadequate and, indeed, impossible. One cannot expect to change people’s behaviour simply by delivering fatwas on all sorts of matters. The only thing that can be done in this regard is to clarify the shariah position on various issues to those people who are willing to abide by the rules of the shariah. People cannot be forced against their will to do what the shariah expects of them. If the ulema seriously wish that in all matters people abide by the shariah, there is no alternative to gradually working for their intellectual and moral reform. For this, the ulema must be far-sighted, basing their actions and programmes on the future, rather than simply harping on the past. It is not enough for them to constantly dwell, as a means to exhort people to follow the right path, on how wonderful their predecessors were. Rather, their focus must be on the future, and Muslims must be made aware that if they fail to reform they will face a miserable future. This means that the ulema must live in the present, rather than in the past, and must plan for the future. In addition, the ulema must realize that this task is not for them alone to bear, and that they must share this with other sections of Muslim society, with whom they must work in tandem in a mutually respectful and meaningful manner.

In this regard, the issue of reforms in the madrasas, where the ulema are trained, assumes particular urgency. In the past, and even today, many social reformers among the Muslims were produced in the madrasas. The time has now come for the madrasas, particularly the larger ones, to set up specialized departments or centres for social work through which they can train their students, would-be ulema, to engage in social work and activism once they graduate.

Imams of mosques, who have close and daily interaction with the Muslim masses, have a crucial role to play in this task of social reform. Lamentably, however, untrained imams, far from doing anything positive in this regard, often become the cause of greater strife and division among the people. It is thus essential that the imams of mosques be given proper training for their additional role as community leaders. Perhaps the centres of social work that I have suggested that madrasas set up can provide them with the requisite skills. In addition, other Muslim institutions could develop and conduct courses for this purpose.

It is clear — and most Muslims themselves will admit this—that although Muslim society is today desperately in need of reform, the pace of such reform is extremely slow. Among the many reasons for this is the wrong and completely misplaced belief shared by many ulema that, as compared to other communities, Muslims are morally and intellectually much better off. Needless to say, this belief is based on a completely false and illusory sense of reality. The sooner the ulema realize this the better it would be—for themselves and for the Muslims in general.

[Maulana Waris Mazhari is the editor of the New Delhi-based monthly Tarjuman Dar ul-Uloom, the official organ of the Graduates’ Association of the Deoband madrasa. He can be contacted on w.mazhari@gmail.com. Yoginder Sikand works with the Centre for the Study of Social Exclusion at the National Law School, Bangalore. He can be contacted at ysikand@yahoo.com]

:: INTERFAITH RELATIONS :: Aligarh Muslim University alumni give healing touch at Kumbh

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 23 April 2010 | Posted in

Aligarh Muslim University alumni give healing touch at Kumbh

As a sea of mostly Hindu pilgrims descended here for the Kumbh Mela, Azim Mir Khan was among the many doctors who attended to their aches, pains and ailments as part of a medical camp set by Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) alumni.

The camp organised by the Sir Syed Forum, as the group is called, at the Sati Kund temple in Kankhal near here coincided with Baisakhi and Mesh Sakranti - two of the most auspicious days for taking a bath in the Ganga during the Kumbh Mela.

As pilgrims had to walk long distances to reach the bathing ghats April 14-15, the doctors
at the camp had their hands full.

"We attended to around 2,000 people in the two days," said Azim Mir Khan. He said people came with problems like vomiting, stomach ailments, body aches, joint pains, dehydration and hypertension.

"We kept a good stock of emergency medicines and those relating to fungal infections. We also sourced some medicines locally," Khan told IANS.

Apart from the medical camp at the Sati Kund temple, the forum organised two similar ones on the national highway leading to Haridwar. While one was held April 12-13 at Purkazi, 53 km from Haridwar, another was held March 15-16 (coinciding with the second royal bath) at Bhumanand Teerth Charitable Hospital, about seven kilometres from the holy city.

"The forum's decision to take this small step of holding medical camps is in keeping with the views and teachings of Sir Syed Ahmed Khan and his followers, who believed in joint participation in all social and religious functions to foster unity and harmony," said Syed Hussain Waheed, convenor of the forum.

"We believe that it is the common people who pay the price of social and religious tensions and it is they who must take the initiative to strengthen national unity," he said.

The devotees were all praise for the effort by the AMU alumni, saying the initiative would foster a sense of unity and brotherhood among the two communities.

Rajesh Singh, a resident of Jhijora near Jhansi, said he felt relieved after getting medicines for the pain in his hands and legs.

Jai Prakash Gupta from Kolkata who got some medicine for the blisters on his feet, said such camps were the need of the hour. "They increase love and respect between communities and foster the feeling of brotherhood," Gupta said.

Swami Mahamandelshawar Harish Chandra Maharaj, a Hindu saint who was invited by the forum to the Sati Kund temple camp to distribute juice cans among devotees, also lauded the effort.

"Such camps create a feeling of unity," he said and added that serving people does not need any religious sanction.

(Courtesy: IANS)

:: ISSUES :: Living together separately: Ghettoization of Muslims

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | | Posted in

Living together separately: Ghettoization of Muslims

By Ather Farouqui

With the spectre of communalism raising its ugly head all across the country, Muslim ghettoization is emerging as a grave and complex problem that requires urgently to be addressed. It has a decisive bearing on communalism. Unfortunately, it has not drawn any serious attention.

It is common knowledge that during the last two decades, Muslim families have faced enormous difficulties in renting houses and flats in developed residential areas, which are obviously Hindu-dominated areas, as Hindu landlords tend to shun Muslim tenants even if they belong to the same social class and enjoy equal or better footing in society. In Bombay, for instance, a large majority of housing societies openly refuse membership to Muslims. In other cities, too, it is difficult for a Muslim to get an apartment in a housing society. Landlords and housing societies generally may not openly say no to Muslims but adopt various subterfuges. If a well-known Muslim cine artist in Bombay finds it difficult to rent a house from a Hindu landlord, the plight of the common Muslim as well as the gravity of the situation can be estimated.

Muslim ghettoization began after partition but gathered pace with slow but steady migration of Muslims from rural to urban areas. Amongst other factors, the abolition of zamindari was a major factor for Muslim migration to urban areas as Muslims were the community most affected by the zamindari abolition. The second most important factor was the emerging insecurity as with the partition mass migration changed the sociology of demography. In the seventies and eighties it became a worrying phenomenon. Rural India is almost entirely bereft of Muslims except in Assam, Kerala and West Bengal. The villages of north India particularly, where Muslim presence was once 5-10 per cent, are now inhabited only by Hindus. The Muslim population has gradually been forced to migrate to Muslim localities in nearby towns. In all of north India, barring Jammu & Kashmir—which is itself a ghettoised Muslim society—it is difficult to find even a single Muslim family in Hindu-dominated areas even in towns and cities.

In general, Muslims are forced to settle in Muslim-majority areas with poor infrastructure and civic facilities, for which the government alone is to blame.

Until the early nineties, one could find Muslim government servants occupying government housing in areas where the majority of the population was not Muslim. But even here, a change has been visible since 1992. To take just one example: a large number of Muslim teachers of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in New Delhi, reputedly an enlightened institution with liberal outlook and social sensitivity, prefer to live in Muslim-dominated colonies or ghettos rather than on university campus after 1992.

The result of this phenomenon is that all over the country Muslim families are to be seen only in areas that can be termed as ‘Muslim clusters’. Muslim staff members as well as the old generation of teachers at JNU, have mostly returned to Muslim-dominated areas after retirement. An employee of the World Bank or a foreign mission, owing to fear psychosis, is often forced to live in places like the Jama Masjid area of Old Delhi, though his social profile certainly does not match that of the average inhabitant of the walled city. It has become common for families that moved from the walled city to New Delhi some fifty years ago to move back to their old family homes simply because they do not feel secure in Hindu-dominated areas.

Jamia Nagar, near New Friends Colony in south Delhi, boasts huge Muslim elite which shifted there after 1992. Land costs here have gone through the roof owing to limited space and tremendous demand as each new day brings more families, even NRIs, needless to say Muslim NRIs, seeking a safe foothold in Delhi further straining the already poor infrastructure. Such is the state of infrastructure here that Jamia Nagar, which adjoins the campus of theJamia Millia Islamia, a central university, does not even have a government dispensary or a branch of a public sector bank (though there is one on the university campus). Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit admitted the lack of these bare minimum facilities in the area in a TV interview after the Batla House shootout. The disturbing thing was that she had been unaware of the situation despite having been ten years at the helm of affairs in Delhi.

Jamia Nagar conjoins many Muslim colonies such as Batla House, Zakir Nagar, Abul Fazal Enclave, Ghaffar Manzil, Johri Farm, Noor Nagar, and Okhla Vihar. This whole area, with a population of about 10 lakh, is a victim of official apathy. The situation is not unique to Delhi but prevails in all state capitals and district towns.

No multinational bank provides the inhabitants of Muslim colonies with credit cards and MNC pizza and burger outlets, based in nearby posh areas refuse to deliver in these areas. The capital city of India, New Delhi, is no exception. Even housing loans are not extended by most nationalized banks in Muslim areas in Delhi and New Delhi, Jamia Nagar being just one example.

Who is responsible for this increasing ghettoisation of Muslims? Civil society is squarely to blame. Let me quote two instances which were widely reported at the time and still haunt the memory. The house of the famous Urdu poet Bashir Badr, who insisted on living in the Hindu-dominated colony of Shastri Nagar in Meerut because of his immense faith in secularism and popularity as poet amongst Hindus was lost to a communal blaze in the late 1987. Fortunately, the lives of his family members were saved as everyone was out at the time of the incident. Much worse was the assassination of Zaki Anwar, a college lecturer and Urdu writer, during the infamous Jamshedpur riots in 1979. Zaki had unshakeable faith in his Hindu neighbours, Hindu-Muslim unity, and Gandhian philosophy. He sat on a Gandhian-type long-drawn-out hunger strike in a Hindu-majority area to protest against communal tension. But all that his faith and his striving for togetherness and amity led to was his brutal killing. In both cases, it can be inferred that the Hindu neighbourhoods did not live up to the faith of the victims, whatever the reasons. Bashir Badr now lives in Bhopal and Zaki Anwar’s family in Jamshedpur, both in Muslim-dominated areas. One needs to study the case of Bashir Badr in perspective as he supported the BJP during NDA rule and is now a Muslim poster boy of the BJP in Madhya Pradesh. He made an all-India tour during the general elections of 2004 to convince Muslims to support the BJP and Atal Bihari Vajpayee as Prime Minster.

The poignant story of former Member of Parliament Ehsan Jafri, brutally murdered in a Hindu-dominated area in Ahmedabad in the 2002 Gujarat pogrom, is etched in the nation’s memory. No civil society can withstand repeated incidents of this kind.

The Bhagalpur riots of 1989 led to large-scale migration of rural Muslims in Bihar and the demolition of the Babri Masjid on 6 December 1992, and the resultant backlash drove the last nail in the coffin of Hindu-Muslim neighbourhoods all over the country. As per press reports on the Bhagalpur riots, in all the neighbouring villages of Bhagalpur, where Muslims constituted less than 10 per cent of the population, the majority were killed and only a few managed to flee. In Hashimpura locality of Meerut, 40 Muslim youths were taken away by the police in May 1987 and massacred in cold blood and their bodies thrown in the canal.

In sharp contrast, not a single incident has been reported of a non-Muslim, in particular a Hindu, family living in a Muslim-dominated area having faced a similar situation during communal tension or violence in India after independence.

All the same, post-1992 one can find hardly any Hindu family in a Muslim-majority locality, which was not the case earlier. Overall, the extremely surcharged atmosphere has forced non-Muslim families to shift out, turning their original abodes into Muslim ghettos by default. The phenomenon of a few Muslim families still living in Hindu dominated areas and vice versa needs serious sociological study.

The question is: does communal ghettoisation represent the death of our hitherto composite culture and liberal and tolerant outlook or can we still do something to save it? Do we have the option of remaining silent? The answer is decidedly no. The question then is: what can be done to set the clock back and foster communal harmony? It will take a lot of courage and determination to figure out the answers but that is the only way forward if secular democracy is to survive. And we have to do it before it is too late. A new and reformed politics shunning populism is a necessary step forward.

But we have to keep in mind that communal categorisation and communal identity perception can be resolved only through progressive mass movements dealing with issues pertaining to different facets of our shared life. Not for a moment does the term progressive refer to movement prescribed by different left wing political parties. The ideological confusion and resultant contradictions of these parties are more dangerous than the communalism. Movements for literacy, education, sports facilities, employment, health care, shelter, and community interaction can help develop a wider political and social consciousness, thereby lessening the communal identity perception of the common people.

This is also the only way forward if Indian democracy is to survive. And we have to do it before it is too late.

1. The shameful incident of Emran Hashmi, a noted film actor of Bombay, in July 2009 and a number of other incidents of the same nature in which high-profile Muslims were refused houses, highlight the problem. As per reports, Emran [Imran] Hashmi was ‘told by [the] Pali Hill’s Nibbana Cooperative Housing Society, [Bombay] to go and look elsewhere’. The actor, who is married to a Hindu girl, and interestingly whose mother is a Christian, ‘believes the housing society is discriminating against him because he is a Muslim’. He has further informed the media, ‘The seller, Survana, has now informed us that the society will not give us an NOC and it has blocked the sale. We have information that this has been done as they will not allow any Muslim in the society’.
It would be appropriate to remember that in the past, Bollywood actress Shabana Azmi, one-time Member of Parliament and her writer-activist husband Javed Akhtar, now a Member of Parliament, have faced problems getting a house in Juhu (Bombay). As per press reports appeared at the time of Emran Hashmi incident, we came to know that once actor Aamir Khan also filed a PIL after being refused a house in Lokhandwala, Maharashtra.

For a detailed report of the Emran Hashmi issue, see The Times of India, New Delhi, 31 July 2009 which published a news items entitled ‘ Emran Hashmi can’t get a house in Pali Hill’ on the front page with additional information entitled ‘Being a celeb does not mean you get everything’ on page 11.

(Courtesy: TwoCircles.net)

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