India Islamic Culture Center to set up regional chapters

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 30 April 2012 | Posted in , , , , ,

By Ghazanfar Ali Khan

Riyadh: India Islamic Culture Center (IICC), an apex Islamic center with a mandate to provide a unified platform for promoting Islamic heritage and interfaith harmony, is planning to open regional chapters across India to give greater wingspan to its activities.

“A total of five chapters including one in the eastern Indian state of Bihar have been proposed,” announced Sirajuddin Qureshi, IICC president, in Riyadh Thursday night.

“The IICC will work with Indian government agencies and Saudi organizations including the New Delhi-based Saudi Embassy to generate support for the IICC’s expansion plan and for building its chapters in different provinces of India,” said Qureshi, while speaking at a function organized by welfare organization Bihar Anjuman in the capital. Qureshi arrived here on Thursday on a private visit. Nadeem Tarin, a prominent community leader and businessman, was the chief guest at the event, while Qureshi and Dilnawaz Roomi were the guests of honor.
Indian community leaders including S. Muneer Ahmed, Murshid Kamal, Faizan Balkhi, Jabed Hussain, Ziauddin Ahmed, Seraj Akram, Naushad Alam and Kaunain Shahidi were instrumental in organizing the event. A presentation about the activities of Bihar Anjuman was made by Shakeel Ahmed, the founder.

Qureshi said the state-level chapters would be launched soon. “We have already applied for the land allotments in some states,” said the IICC chief, adding that the IICC had called on the Kingdom's donor agencies and also the affluent NRIs living in Saudi Arabia and other countries to back the efforts to set up new centers.

To this end, he noted the IICC has become a hub of activities and program including seminars, symposiums and roadshows on mostly Muslim issues since its inauguration by Congress President Sonia Gandhi way back in June 2006. Late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi laid the foundation stone of the center in 1984. The IICC chief, who held a luncheon meeting with a group of affluent Indian community members to conceive the idea of IICC chapter in Patna and to formally launch a campaign to generate support for Patna center, said the New Delhi-based main IICC needs more resources to expand its facility.

India Islamic Culture Centre
Qureshi, who is chairman of the world-renowned India-based Hind Group, also called on Indian youth and especially his co-religionists to launch their own business ventures. "Our young generation must venture into the business field," he said.

Qureshi, who wrote his own fate and amassed huge prestige and wealth after starting a small venture on the roadside of the Indian capital several decades back, said business relations between Indian and Saudi Arabia are progressively growing.

He said official visits by leaders of both countries have built on the existing partnership. “In forging strategic ties with Saudi Arabia, India is always at an advantageous position,” said Qureshi, adding the recent visit of Indian Defense Minister A. K. Antony has boosted our defense ties with this nation. Qureshi, who heads a big Indian industry conglomerate with businesses in the slaughtering, processing and export of meat and meat products, fast food chains, infrastructure and aviation sector, has also plans to expand his fast food network.

In the meat industry, he has the most modern state of the art Abattoir-cum-meat processing plant, which is part of the Hind Agro Industries Limited. It was established in the CDF Complex in north Indian city of Aligarh with the world-renowned companies of New Zealand and Australia as technical collaborators.

Bihar Anjuman, which has chapters across the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and India, is a premier welfare organization dedicated to helping poor Muslims. Qureshi has always been on the forefront in promoting social and charitable organizations like Bihar Anjuman. The foundation for Bihar Anjuman was laid on March 11, 1999, with some people joining hands to help those who may be in need of financial help, or in need of a job.

(Courtesy: Arab News)

Umar Mita: Japanese translator of Qur’an

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | | Posted in , , , , ,

By Abu Tariq Hijazi

Umar Mita is the most outstanding name in the annals of Islam in Japan. He can rightly be called the pride of Japanese Muslims.

Islam came to mainland China in the earlier centuries. Later it was introduced to India and Indonesia. But the northward march of Islam was blocked by the Spanish colonization of Philippines in the 15th century. Japan on the other hand has been a Buddhist country. 

Though there were a few Muslims in earlier times, the first Muslims in the recent age to visit Japan were Malays who served aboard British and Dutch ships visiting Japan in the late 19th century. Another important contact was made in 1890 when Ottomans of Turkey dispatched a naval vessel to Japan for the purpose of establishing diplomatic relations between the two countries. This ship called "Ertughrul" capsized during a storm on Sept.16, 1890 on its way back home with 609 people aboard, 540 of them were drowned.

The first Japanese to go on Haj from Japan was Kotaro Yamaoka. He embraced Islam after coming in contact with Russian-born writer, Abdur Rashid Ibrahim, in Bombay in 1909. He took his name Omar Yamaoka. He got permission from Abdul Hamid II to build a mosque in Tokyo. The approval was granted and the mosque was completed in 1938.

The real Muslim community life in Japan began with the arrival of several hundred Turkmen, Uzbeks, Tajiks, Kyrgyzs and Kazakh Muslim refugees from Central Asia and Russia in the wake of the Bolshevik Revolution during World War I. These Muslims were given asylum in Japan and had settled down in several main cities. Some Japanese embraced Islam after coming in contact with these Muslims.

When the Muslim community grew in number, several mosques were built, the most important being the Kobe Mosque built in 1935 (which is the only remaining old mosque after the earthquake disaster in Japan). There are currently between 30 and 40 single-story mosques in Japan, plus another 100 or more "Musallahs" apartment rooms for praying.

During the WW I Japanese invasion of China and Southeast Asia many Japanese who embraced Islam returned to Japan and established the first Japanese Muslim organization, the Japan Muslim Association in 1953 under Sadiq Imaizumi. Later Umar Mita served as the second president of the association.

The authorized Japanese version of the Holy Qur'an with Arabic text was done by Umar Mita in 1972.

Mita was born as Ryoichi Mita on Dec. 19, 1892 in a Samurai (warrior) Buddhist family of Chofu town in Yamaguchi, Japan. He graduated from the Yamaguchi Commercial College in March 1916, at an advanced age of 24, because of his ill health. He visited China and learned the Chinese language. There he came in contact with Chinese Muslims and liked their way of life. He was impressed because he saw no such community life in Japan. In 1920, when he was 28 years of age, he wrote an article "lslam in China" in a Japanese magazine called "Toa Keizai Kenkyu" (Far-East Economic Research Journal). This was the first impact of Islam upon him.

Mita met Haji Omer Yamaoka, the first Japanese Muslim to perform Haj in 1909. After returning to Japan the following year, Yamaoka embarked on an extensive travel across Japanese islands introducing and explaining Islam. In 1912, Yamaoka wrote and pub1ished a number of books on his journey through Arabia and on the grand spectacles of Haj in Makkah. In 1921 Mita again met Yamaoka to learn more about Islam.

Finally, Mita embraced Islam in 1941 at the age of 49.

Japan's first Mosque in Kobe built in 1935
At the age of 60, Mita chose to devote himself to the cause of Islam and to the learning of the Arabic language. In 1957 he went to Pakistan on invitation and undertook various journeys in connection with dawa activities. In 1958 he performed Haj. In 1960, after the sudden death of Sadiq Imaizumi, the first president of Japan Muslim Association, Mita was elected its second president. During his term as the JMA president, he wrote books including, "Understanding Islam" and "An Introduction to Islam." He also translated Maulana Muhammad Zakaria's book Hayat-e-Sahaba (Life of the Companions) in Japanese language.

Three Japanese translations of the Holy Qur'an were published in 1920, 1937 and 1950, respectively. A fourth translation from the original Arabic was published in 1957. But all these Japanese translations were rendered by non-Muslim Japanese scholars. Mita was the first Muslim to translate the Qur'an in Japanese language.

In 1968, the translation of the text was completed and its first revision was received by the Japan Muslim Association. In June 1970, Mita submitted the revised manuscript to the Muslim World League in Makkah. The manuscript was thoroughly checked by a committee of scholars and after about six months the work was finally approved for printing by Takumi Kobo Printing Company of Hiroshima.

Finally on June 10, 1972, the printing of the translation of the Holy Qur’an in Japanese was completed and its first edition was published after 12 years of strenuous efforts. It was a joyous occasion for Mita as his efforts were crowned with success at the age of 80. He died in 1976 at the age of 82. May Almighty Allah rest his soul in peace.

(Courtesy: Arab News)

Is Iran engaging in sectarian discrimination against its Sunnis?

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | | Posted in , , ,

By Ali Rıza Gafuri

Historically, Iran had been virtually Sunni, with small minorities of Shiites only in some cities, until the 16th century when the Turkish-Sunni Safavid dynasty, ruling over the Iranian region, changed its sect to become Shiite due to political considerations.

Later, it emerged as a rival to the Ottoman Empire and became known as the “Islamic community that does not join the Holy War (Jihad).” After the 16th century, the Sunni community in Iran had to move toward and even beyond the borders as a result of pressure and oppression. Today, about 2 million Sunni Turkmen live along Iran’s common border with Turkmenistan, 4 million Sunni Baluchs live near the border with Pakistan and Afghanistan, several million Sunni Arabs live on the coasts of the Persian Gulf, about 7 million Sunni Kurds, Sanandaj Sunnis, Kermanshah and Hamadan Sunnis, about 500,000 Sunni Turks and several thousand Sunni Turks live in Talesh and Astara; all suffer from serious repression.

Iran’s inner opposition is always troubled with its own specific problems, and they don’t care about the problems of Sunnis. Any interest in the problems of Sunnis is deemed as animosity against the revolution and as separatism. So no one dares do this. Since the Islamic revolution of 1979, Sunnis have been perceived as a national threat and, therefore, their activities have been continually monitored, and they have been classified as non-Islamic, uncultured and uncivilized, and this is how they are portrayed for Shiite Iranians.

Serious areas of concern

Today, Sunnis in Iran have a substantial population (around 15 million), and I will now mention some of the problems Sunni communities face in Iran. Some of the following items may surprise you, but it is obvious that there is currently very serious Shiite sectarian discrimination in Iran.

Sunnis living in Iran are not allowed to name their children as they like. There is a book of permitted names at civil registers, and no one can pick a name that is not in this book. For instance, Iranian authorities do not allow people to choose Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman, or Aisha as names for their children. Civil registers won’t put these names on ID cards. They tend to refer to the famed Persian poet Omar Khayyam as Khayyam, dropping the Omar part.
Sunnis are allowed to serve in the military, but they are not permitted to become officers.
Almost all administrative or employment forms contain the question, “Are you Sunni or Shiite?”

Printing of Sunni reference books is not free.

Religious courses given in schools in predominantly Sunni regions teach Shiite beliefs. Little information is given about Sunnism.

Several years ago, a political decision was made to introduce a Shiite representative of the spiritual leader (Wilayat-e Faqih or Guardianship of the Jurist) to religious madrasas belonging to Sunnis. This representative enjoys extraordinary power and authority. He can appoint or remove from office anyone at will. The practice, opposed by Sunnis for the time being, enables Shiite beliefs to be taught in these madrasas.

Every year, the “Week of Union” is marked in Iran to promote rapprochement between Shiites and Sunnis. But this is just a slogan, and this activity is intended to lure Sunnis into Shiism. So their message is, “Come and join us so that Islam becomes united.”

Currently, there is not a single Sunni minister in the current cabinet. However, since the public elects deputies, there are several Sunni deputies in Parliament.

Sunni madrasas and mosques are not provided any state support. They are maintained by the endeavors and efforts of Sunni communities.

Recently, two Sunni mosques were demolished by the state, citing various reasons, in Mashhad and Bojnourd.

Although there are around 2 million Sunnis living in Tehran, there is not a single mosque where they can perform their Friday prayer. Moreover, Sunnis who used to go to the Pakistani Embassy School and the Indonesian Embassy to perform their Friday prayers are now prohibited from doing so; this is a clear indication of the pressures against them. Although there are numerous churches (mostly Armenian) in Tehran, it is peculiar that there is not a single Sunni mosque.

In Iran, Sunni scholars are prohibited from gathering together. They cannot travel freely -- abroad or at home.

Sometimes, TV channels, radio stations and magazines openly insult the well-respected figures of Ahl al-Sunnah [non-Shiites and those who follow the Sunnah]. In particular, they openly attack Aisha.

Are you a Muslim? Are you Sunni? These questions are very common. Ahl al-Sunna is generally designated as Ahl al-Dalalah (the misguided).

Shiites call Abu Lolo -- a Persian soldier also known as Pirouz Nahavandi -- who martyred the Caliph Umar, Father Lolo. They do this out of respect for him and, until very recently, they would visit Abu Lolo’s grave in Kashan near Isfahan in an ostentatious way to hurt Sunnis. (The death of Caliph Umar is a sad event for Muslims, so a loud homage to Abu Lolo is very hurtful to Muslims.) On the anniversary of the martyrdom of Caliph Umar, they hold a ceremony they call Djashn-e Omar koshi (the celebration of the killing of Umar), and create a statue of Umar and throw dirt and other things on it. This ceremony is still held in the south of Tehran and in some parts of the country.

All of the administrators in predominantly Sunni regions are Shiite. Sunnis are never allowed to become such administrators.

Sunnis do not have their own TV channels, radio stations, newspapers or magazines. In comparison, Armenians have their own newspapers and magazines published in Armenian, and Zoroastrians have their own newspapers and magazines.

Sunnis who changed their sects to become Shiite are given positions and ranks.

Sunnis are prohibited from wearing their traditional apparel at school, and instead, they are made to wear a particular uniform.

Sunni languages (Azerbaijani, Turkmen, Talesh, Kurdish, Baluch) are not taught in school.
Sunni scholars who deliver sermons parallel to (or in line with) their beliefs are punished. Recently, Abdolali Khayrshahi, a Baluchi imam, and Eyup Genci, suffered serious torture. Sunni scholars were executed on various charges in Iranshahr.

Although popular among Sunnis, Sufism is forbidden in Iran.

All religious leaders whom Shiites love are also loved by Ahl al-Sunnah, but Shiites do not pay the slightest respect to the leaders loved by Ahl al-Sunnah. Thus, they say, “May God’s curse be upon him/her” when the names of highly respected leaders of Islamic history such as the caliphs Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman and Muawiyah as well as the wife of Prophet Muhammad, Aisha, are mentioned.

When Ali Shariati argued as a result of his studies that some of the Shiite practices against Ahl al-Sunnah are unjust and wrong, Shiite Iranians accused him of being a Sunni. Until recently, his books were censored in Iran.

Iran considers defending the rights of Shiites in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Bahrain, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia to be its responsibility. Is it so merciless against Sunnis in its territories because it sees them as unprotected? Is it the sort of justice and fairness that their understanding of Islam dictates? Or does Iran obtain a sort of satisfaction connected to some historical incidents?

A matter of opression

The main subject of this article is, as the headline implies, the ongoing merciless and inhuman oppression of 15 million Sunnis in Iran. As is known, Iran never exhibited support of Muslims in the face of the injustices and tyrannies they faced in Bosnia, Chechnya, Kashmir and China. Why? Because Iran did not dare confront Europe in Bosnia, Russia in Chechnya, India in Kashmir and China in China, and the Muslims in these areas are Sunni. Why does it care about Iraq and Palestine? First of all, it has perfectly good relations with the large Shiite population in Iraq, and it exerts much influence over them. Second, by pretending that it cares about the Palestinian issue, it seeks to create grounds for conflict with Israel and to benefit from this conflict. In any case, any chaos in the Middle East serves to extend the life of the regime in Iran. Iran does not have any agenda items other than nuclear energy and conflict with Israel. When these two elements are removed, the game Iran is playing will end, and it will have to deal with its internal conflicts. Unjust pressure against Iran’s Sunnis has never been on the agenda of Turkish foreign policy. The problems Sunnis are facing in Iran are not heard in Ankara as they never make it to Turkey’s embassy in Tehran. In addition to the above-mentioned problems, the intensity of pressure against Sunnis has recently increased, going beyond the limits of endurance.

In June of last year, Maulana Abd al-Hamid, the representative of the Baluchistan province and all Iranian Sunnis, attended the international conference of Islamic scholars in İstanbul, but after his return to the country, he was detained at Imam Khomeini airport in Tehran; he was questioned, his passport was confiscated, and he was banned from traveling abroad. The timing of this act is meaningful as it came after his return from Turkey. Just as Shiites living in Iraq, Bahrain, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Oman, Yemen and Saudi Arabia have expectations from Iran, 15 million Sunnis living in Iran expect the same from Turkey. Like Maulana Abd al-Hamid, the master and manager of Iran’s biggest Sunni madrasa in Zahedan, Baluchistan, many other scholars who attended the conference in Turkey were detained, questioned and banned from traveling abroad.

Iran did not stop at wasting the support Turkey openly lent to Iran in the face of its international problems. According to reports by http://en.sunnionline.us, the official website of Iran’s Sunnis:
The Revolutionary Guards surrounded the Friday Mosque in the city of Kamyaran in Kurdistan province and searched people who wanted to perform the Friday prayer to provoke them.

The Resalat newspaper published a fabricated story about Maulana Abd al-Hamid, claiming that he had issued a fatwa, telling Sunnis not to put alms in Khomeini Committee aid boxes. 

This story was refuted by Maulana Abd al-Hamid.

The sources of the funds allocated to the renovation of a mosque in Zahedan were questioned, and the Sunni scholars in the region were slandered.

Hafez Ismael Mollazehi, the son-in-law of Maulana Abd al-Hamid, who was teaching at the biggest Sunni madrasa in Iran, Dar al-Ulum, was arrested without any explanation.

Likewise, Haji Abdurrahim, the second son-in-law of Maulana Abd al-Hamid, who was one of the caretakers of the madrasa, was also arrested without any explanation.

Hafez Mohammad Islam, from the same madrasa, was assassinated.

Mawlawi Amanallah Gumshadzehi, a master at the madrasa, was assassinated.

Maulana Ahmad Naruyi, the administrative affairs director of the same madrasa, was arrested without any explanation.

Mawlawi Abdulali Khayrshahi, a scholar from Zahedan, was arrested.

Sunnis were banned from performing Friday and eid prayers in some mosques in Tehran.

Mullah Muhsin Husayni, the imam of the city of Kamyaran in Kurdistan province, was arrested.

Sheik Shafi Kurayshi, a scholar among the Talesh, a Turkish tribe, with a population of several thousand, living in East Azerbaijan province, was arrested.

Hafez Abdurrashid, the Sunni Friday prayer imam of the city of Zabol, was arrested.

Tehran deputy Mehdi Kuchekzada insulted Aisha in Parliament, and this drew flak from Sunnis.

Mawlawi Ali Reza Rasuli, a Sunni scholar in Mashhad, was arrested, but later released.

Eyup Genci, a scholar in the city of Sanandaj in Kurdistan province, was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Shafi Burhani, a lecturer at Mahabad Azad University in the province of Kurdistan, was summoned to the intelligence branch and went missing.

Of course, there are many other names and acts not covered here. We hope these incidents will stop. Now the question is: Are these problems covered by Turkey’s foreign policy?

[Dr. Ali Rıza Gafuri is an independent researcher and writer.]

(Courtesy: Today's Zaman)

Sri Lanka's road to peaceful co-existence

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | | Posted in , , , ,

The intent to demolish Dambulla mosque tears at wounds of ethnic violence which are in the process of healing

By Tariq A. Al Maeena

Following a protracted and violent civil war that lasted for more than 26 years costing thousands of lives and destruction of property, it would have been natural to assume that Sri Lanka would set itself on the path of healing through national reconciliation with all its peoples; Buddhists, Tamils and Muslims.

Yet, within many Tamils there exists a widespread belief that the Sri Lankan government is trying to wipe out their Tamil culture and religious identity by constructing Buddhist temples in Tamil areas. Now many of another ethnic minority feel recent moves have taken another dimension.

In a dangerous precedent reminiscent of another time and place, the Sri Lankan Prime Minister D.M. Dayaratne ordered the demolition of a 65-year-old mosque in Dambulla stating that the area was sacred to Buddhists. He tried to appease local sentiments by saying that the mosque would be relocated to another area. This public statement followed events recently when Buddhist agitators stormed the mosque and vandalised it, threatening its destruction.

The incident undoubtedly angered the island's Muslim community who have seen enough suffering and were severely victimised during the civil war for which they had paid a heavy price. During the civil war, caught in the crossfire between the government and the Tamils, they were attacked and slaughtered in village after village, even while offering prayers in the sanctity of their mosques. Their paddy lands were looted, businesses closed and had their very means of survival taken away. The entire Jaffna Muslim population was booted out of their homes and their belongings and property were stolen from them.

They are shocked and hurt that the demolition order strikes at the very core of religious freedom in a country attempting to heal itself. Muslim Congress Secretary and parliamentarian Hassan Ali said the "community will not accept a mosque in another place even if it was built of gold".

He also added that "If the places of religious worship of the minorities are being attacked while the police and army are idly watching, it implies that they are supporting the marauders and providing security to them, instead of the law abiding people". Faced with the initial opposition, the prime minister claimed that this decision was taken after consultations with Muslim politicians. However, it was immediately debunked as a ‘blatant manufactured lie' and strongly rejected by leading Muslim politicians: Senior Minister A.H.M. Fawzie, Deputy Minister M.L.A.M. Hizbulla, Western Province Governor Alavi Moulana and Parliamentarian Abdul Khader, all of whom categorically reject the prime minister's claims. They assert that the mosque was built on land legally bought in 1964 and simply dismiss the allegations of militant Buddhists who claimed this area was sacred just two years ago.

Misleading people

Asad Sally, chairman of the Islamic Solidarity Front (ISF) and former deputy mayor of Colombo, stated that "it is misleading to say that the mosque was in existence for two years as it has been there for more than 65 years. We have all the documents to prove that it is a legally constructed mosque under the Waqf Act. Therefore the statement by the prime minister claiming that the unauthorised construction of the mosque has been stopped is totally false. The land on which the mosque was located was bought by a Muslim lady in Jaffna from Englishmen. This mosque has existed since then.

"Later the adjacent land too had been bought by mosque authorities in 1995. This statement by the prime minister is misleading the Buddhists in the country. The prime minister should not make such irresponsible statements as the Waqf Board comes under him and he is contradicting his own statement. Besides statements like Muslims will not have a place to urinate are not only irresponsible but very dangerous too."

Though the leader of the United National Party Ranil Wickremasinghe is yet to make a public statement on the tense situation, his deputy Sajith Premadasa described the prime minister's order as "law of the jungle and nothing to do with Buddhism". Sajith wondered "how could we develop the country when the prime minister's office issues such false statements?"

Some public figures deplored the political pandering of the prime minister to a few Buddhist thugs, stating that in any civilised society one would expect unruly elements who vandalise places of worship to be arrested and brought to justice. Instead they have been rewarded in violation of all principles of human decency.

Tariq A. Al Maeena
Following Sri Lanka's recent and turbulent past, Tamils, Muslims and others had been looking forward to a period of peace and harmony. However the intent to demolish the Dambulla mosque tears at the wounds of ethnic violence still in the process of healing, and only serves to prove that reconciliation, peace and progress are nothing but distant dreams. The historical co-existence of Tamils and Muslims among the Buddhist Sinhalese people for more than 1,000 years is under threat.

[Tariq A. Al Maeena is a Saudi socio-political commentator. He lives in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.]

(Courtesy: Gulf News)

Iran reportedly hangs gay man

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | | Posted in , , ,

By Benjamin Weinthal

Leading ayatollah says homosexuals worse than dogs and pigs; gay activists says actions remove Iran from community of civilized nations.

Berlin: The Islamic Republic's campaign to execute gay Iranians is believed to have resulted in the public hanging this month of a man identified only as “CH. M.”

According to an online report last week in Europe’s largest gay news service, Pink News, Iran’s judiciary imposed the death penalty on Ch. M. in Marvdasht, Fars province, on April 19 “for allegedly engaging in ‘sodomy’ with another man.”

Iran has ramped up over the years its persecution of the country’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community.

The British Guardian earlier this month translated remarks from Grand Ayatollah Abdollah Javadi-Amoli, who said, “Even animals... dogs and pigs don’t engage in this disgusting act [homosexuality], but yet they [Western politicians] pass laws in favor of them in their parliaments.”

Stuart Appelbaum, a leading US gay activist and head of a large trade union, wrote to The Jerusalem Post by email on Saturday: “The fact that Iran promotes and tolerates this kind of action removes itself from the community of civilized nations. The entire world – gay and straight – should be appalled.”

Appelbaum added, “If members of the LGBT community speak out about the Middle East and yet remain silent about the horrific acts and statements coming out of Iran, they are culpable as well.”

Appelbaum is president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, UFCW, and president of the Jewish Labor Committee.

Pink News reported that Gholamhossein Chamansara, the attorney-general of Marvdasht, told the government-controlled Iranian Fars News Agency that a man (Ch. M.) was sentenced to death because of his “despicable/heinous act that contradicted Shari’a Muslim laws.”

Yoav Sivan, an Israeli journalist who served on the boards of Aguda – the Israeli Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Association and the Jerusalem Open House and the Israeli board of the World Jewish Congress, wrote to the Post on Saturday: “Unfortunately, we have become inured to hearing such homophobic expressions coming from top Iranians. We should note that the expression is not just homophobic but just as much anti-Western by describing tolerance toward a minority as a shortcoming of Western politics. So Ayatollah Abdollah Javadi-Amoli teaches two lessons. One homophobic directed primarily at his audience at home, and one anti-Western that should be heard primarily among us in the West.”

Gay sex is punishable by death under Iranian law ”so long as both the active and passive partners are mature, of sound mind, and have acted of free will.”

According to Pink News, “the Iranian Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRAN) stated that the reference to ‘despicable/ heinous act’ indicates that the death penalty was carried due to same-sex acts. However the judiciary regulatory office in Fars Province was unwilling to give more precise information about the case and the type of sexual activities of the executed man.”
In an interview last week with the Die Welt am Sonntag, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu commented on Iran’s human rights record.

“After all they stone women, they hang gays – this is a backward, dark medieval regime that imposes its tyranny on its own people. Shoots them on the sidewalk, goes into their homes, culls the Internet, takes people away at night,” he said.

Human rights activists, gay journalists, and LGBT publications criticized Human Rights Watch for failing to focus on the rise of persecution of gays in the Islamic Republic.

The online publication Queerty wrote an article titled, “Disgraced Human Rights Watch Director Scott Long Quits...” back in the summer of 2010. Long had failed to publish a study documenting intense repression of Iran's LGBT community.

Writing on his blog “A Paper Bird” in February, Long, whom critics also accuse of fanning anti-Israel sentiments, continued to downplay violent repression of Iran’s LGBTs, saying that Iran has “a unique genocide, the first genocide in world history with no demonstrable dead.”
After Long’s departure, HRW issued a respected study in 2010 on the persecution faced by Iran’s LGBT community.

Long has praised anti-Israel advocates such as Sarah Schulman, who claimed that Israel is mounting a “pinkwashing” campaign to promotes its gay rights record to blunt criticism of the Jewish state.

(Courtesy: The Jerusalem Post)

BOOK REVIEW: Beyond boundaries

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | | Posted in , , , ,

By Sravasti Datta

Tabish Khair's novels address multiple themes. His recent novel, How to Fight Islamist Terror From the Missionary Position, is a satirical take on “dead serious issues”

The theme of identity has been explored variously by Indian writers in English. Yet, hackneyed as it may seem to some, the genre takes on a new meaning in Tabish Khair's works. In the award-winning “The Thing About Thugs” Tabish, with his unique plot, touches upon identity while drawing from Victorian literature. The award-winning author, in an e-mail interview, contends that he lives out his identity rather than think too much about it. “I know that all identities, including mine, change as well as stay the same in some ways. What I feel strongly about is the bid in the world today to fix people in identity slots. I resist that when it is done to me, even when it is well-intentioned. That is why I resist being called ‘diasporic', ‘postcolonial' etc.”

Tongue in Cheek

In his latest novel, “How to Fight Islamist Terror From the Missionary Position”, Tabish employs an interesting narrative style. “In my new novel, with its tongue-in-cheek title, I try to provide a funny, suspense-filled narrative that, finally, makes the reader confront his own preconceptions and, perhaps, prejudices. You can say that I laugh at both — so-called Islamist terror and the so-called ‘war against terror' from a largely third world-ist position, and in the process I provide a portrait of life and love in the world today. It is very much a novel about love too.” Tabish admits that he considers the “dead serious issues” that fundamentalists and others concern themselves with absurd. “What I find ludicrous are people who are absolutely convinced that they, and only they, are right. These people might be religious fundamentalists or atheists, they might be capitalists or communists; it hardly matters if they do not allow difference around them and doubt in themselves.”

Tabish, hailing from Bihar, worked briefly as a journalist before leaving for Copenhagen to do a Ph.D. Having lived in small towns such as Gaya in India and Aarhus in Denmark, where he presently lives, and big cities such as Delhi and London, Tabish says that living in small towns is as rewarding as living in big cities. “I find the overlooking of supposedly non-cosmopolitan spaces very disturbing; I don't think we have ever lived in an era where aggressively ‘cosmopolitan' narratives have been so dominant. It seems to me that just as most capital flies from one big city to another, most narratives traverse big city networks. The pity of it is that this reduces even our understanding of a term like cosmopolitanism. My works often try to highlight how small places have their own avenues of exchange and even cosmopolitanism, which are rendered invisible in the light of big city narratives at times.” Tabish has written a range of critical essays, from “Babu Fictions” to “Muslim Modernities”, apart from a collection of poetry, “Where Parallel Lines Meet” that won the Indian poetry prize.

But to him, fiction and reality are related. “Each defines the other, each exists with the other. All our realities are partly fictional and even our wildest fiction is partly real. To a large extent, this is in the very nature of language, which permeates both our realities and our fictions and yokes them together.”

In a column, Tabish once wrote about the death of the reader, basing his arguments on Roland Barthes' “The Death of the Author”.

One wonders what a reader must do to come alive. Tabish puts the onus for this on writers and publishers. For the reader he only suggests: “Read, read and read, writers need to write with respect for the intelligence of the reader, her capacity to read creatively, and publishers and bookstores need to have respect for the thinking reader.”

(Courtesy: The Hindu)

BOOK REVIEW: West’s debt to Islam

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | | Posted in , , , ,

Book: The Monk, the Moor & Moses Ben Jalloun
Author: Saeed Akhtar Mirza
Publisher: Fourth Estate
Price: Rs 450

Modernity, as we know it, is synonymous with the West. Mirza seeks to undo this notion, says Anuradha Dutt

The world today seems to be shaped largely by the West. The influence is evident in the primacy of technology, lifestyle choices, aspirations, education, ascendancy of the English language, medical science, policy-making, financial and administrative mechanisms and other aspects of existence. Modernity, as we know it, is synonymous with Westernisation. And the clash of civilisations is seen to occur when this dominant ethos is confronted by a supposedly regressive ethos such as the Islamic. The West-centric viewpoint is routinely deployed to justify every fresh assault by the US-led power axis on Muslim countries, and every attempt at subversion of traditional cultures. However, standing such a notion on its head, filmmaker Saeed Akhtar Mirza’s second novel, The Monk, The Moor and Moses Ben Jalloun, seeks to undo the wrong by delving into history.

He comes up with astonishing proof of the West’s crushing debt to Islamic mathematicians, astronomers, scientists, architects, physicians, musicians, bankers, thinkers and sages. Mirza postulates that contrary to the common projection of Muslims as repressive and backward, in the middle ages, Arabs and Iranians, in particular, set the line for path-breaking discoveries and research. Some of it was derived from the work of savants further east, Aryabhatt’s numerals and zero — the latter known also to the Sumerians — being frequently cited for laying the foundation of all mathematics, computing, accountancy and allied disciplines. But algebra and chemistry were entirely the Arabs’. While acknowledging the contribution of sages and savants in China and India to the pool of knowledge, the author pushes the case of the precedence of Islamic and pre-Islamic cultures over the Western in a period of time when Europe was just beginning to come into its own.

The sun clearly rises in the East, though it is still to set in the West. The East, in this case, largely occupies the landmass that embraced Islam. Its sphere of influence expanded rapidly into Europe via Andalusia, and downwards into India. Europeans flagrantly plagiarised from Islamic treatises in the fields of science and arts, and even music and literature. The fact unfolds through the stratagem of an intellectual voyage of discovery, undertaken by four friends in an American university, to unravel the evolution of Western culture. Omar, an Arab Muslim, Sandeep, a Bengali, Steven, a South African and Linda, a White American woman, join hands . The Internet, library and an ancient diary, kept by an ancestor of the Arab, provide the necessary material for the exercise. Indeed, so overwhelmed is Linda  by revelations of Western perfidy and Islamic genius that her journey to Omar’s bed seems logical.

Whether the West will so easily capitulate is a different matter altogether. Beginning with Dante in his Divine Comedy lifting from Prophet Mohammed’s The Book of the Ascent (Kitab al-Miraj) and other Arabic texts, to the genesis of early Christian hymns in Arabic or Moorish ‘zajal’, Mirza details the Islamic influence on the West. Even Copernicus was not original for he had sourced his notion of the solar system, with the sun replacing the earth at the centre, as postulated before, from a Damascene called Ibn al- Shatir, who himself had drawn from the work of the astronomers Nasser al-Tusi and Mu’yyad al Din al-Urdi.

Translations of scientific and literary works were freely available. The influence of the Indian astronomers Aryabhatt and Varahamihir, who preceded them all, could not be denied either. But while lifting, Western luminaries failed to acknowledge the sources. This subterfuge is detailed by means of numerous examples from diverse fields even as the plot thickens via the unfolding of a second story, set in the time of Mahmud of Ghazni in the 11th century. The illustrious Iranian historian Abu Rehan al-Biruni, who was forced by Mahmud to accompany him on his military expeditions, and wrote a classic, documenting India, is a central protagonist in the second story. It also revolves around a group of scholarly translators, including Omar’s forbear, and a favoured Iranian girl student of al-Biruni, her marriage to a Pashtun commander in Mahmud’s army, and al-Biruni’s death.

The narrative moves swiftly, alternating between the past and present. Mirza’s writing is fluid, avoiding the density that is the bane of Indo-Anglian literature. However, since this book has a point to prove, it really is not a novel in the true sense. Also, he fails to explain the causes of the decline of Islamic civilisation, merely hinting at it by way of alluding to the rise of the West. The Islamic milieus, as projected by him, are mainly liberal, given to refinement and open to enquiry. And this is not just because of the Sufi influence. How and why attitudes began to harden could provide the sequel to this narrative.

(Courtesy: The Pioneer)

Islamic finance an opportunity for UK county Yorkshire

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | | Posted in , , , ,

Professor Ross Haniffa, Director of the Centre for Accounting and Accountability Research, believes Yorkshire should be taking the lead for Islamic finance in the UK.

By Isla MacFarlane

In a statement posted on Hull University Business School’s website, Haniffa talks about the opportunities for Yorkshire businesses to get involved in Islamic finance.

“A significant proportion of the UK Muslim community lives and works in the Yorkshire region. Yet banks offering the Shari’ah-compliant services of Islamic finance are still few and far between,” he said.

He stated that over the last few years, there has been encouragement from the UK Government for the growth of Islamic finance in the UK through legislative adjustments and creating a supportive environment, but this has focused on promoting the financial centre of London.
“Since financial services account for a growing proportion of the Yorkshire economy, should we as a region not be taking a lead in this growing market?” he asked. “Not just in terms of banking, but the periphery organisations involved in promoting the more ethical financing and business terms – solicitors to prepare the Shari’ah-compliant financial contracts, business consultants to advice entrepreneurs on Shari’ah-compliant businesses as well as advisers for the public sector initiatives. Can’t we be a hub for Halal food and pharmaceutical products for Europe?”

He said that there is “undoubtedly” an air of scepticism around Islamic finance, perpetuated by a lack of knowledge and understanding. “For example, many believe that you have to be a Muslim to be involved in Islamic finance and its periphery organisations or that it is an archaic system unsuited to the modern era,” he said.

“This is a misconception which institutions should be trying hard to correct. Far from being an outdated model, Islamic finance offers a viable alternative to the current accepted norm. Islamic economy and finance is a system free of exploitation from Riba and focuses on socioeconomic upliftment of the community,” he added.

He opined that Islamic finance has a chance to prosper during the current financial crisis. For investors, it is a safe and ethical choice as due diligence is always carried out – all business are screened to ensure that the business is not involved with interest, alcohol, gambling or non-real economic projects.

He also pointed out that bankers’ bonuses are not an issue as Islamic finance forbids the paying of exorbitant bonuses as it is based on the concepts of stewardship, trust and risk sharing. Interest is seen as unjust. Instead there is a culture of transparency – profit is called profit and is clearly shown in the contracts prepared.

“It could be seen as more stable than conventional banking. Unlike our banks today, gold not paper is the fundamental basis for lending as Islamic financial organisations are required to have equivalent gold stock investments,” he said.

“Yes, the underlying principles of Islamic finance are based on the teachings of the Qur’an – there is no shying away from the link to religion. However, there is a strong history in Yorkshire between religion and business, the Quakers of Rowntree, York, or Congregationalist Sir Titus Salt of Bradford.

“We need to look at Islamic finance as an alternative system based on basic ethical principles rather than religion specific. It focuses on the good of society and justice –for example, organisations of any denomination wanting funding to provide homeless shelters, or businesses involved in the offshore wind projects, hospitals, could apply to Islamic financiers.
“One of the major challenges to the success of Islamic finance is the lack of experts in the field. Many of those currently involved in the field are conventional bankers who bring with them ethos and ideas that are not necessarily compatible. We do have a rapidly growing number of students interested in this area and perhaps this is another opportunity for Yorkshire, for its universities to help train the next generation of Islamic bankers, accountants and lawyers, giving them a grounding in ethics and justice for society.

“The Yorkshire region needs to realise that Islamic finance offers a huge opportunity for growth and investment, not just for Muslims but for everyone. All you need to have is a little faith and the strong ethical principles to underpin it,” he concluded.

(Courtesy: CPI Financial)

Web series Newyorkustan aims to open minds of non-Muslims

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | | Posted in , , , ,

By Mark Lepage

The neighbours are not who we thought they were. Welcome to Newyorkustan, the first of its kind: a US programme on contemporary American Muslim realities.

This is not to be confused with reality TV. That's All-American Muslim - the TLC network show that trains the cameras on the Islamic community in Dearborn, Michigan, the largest in the US - or Shahs of Sunset, the Bravo network version about a group of Iranian-Americans living in Beverly Hills.

Newyorkustan is a drama seeking a deeper truth - a shoestring-budget web-TV series with the arc and power of narrative, about a small Muslim congregation, set against the teeming backdrop of Queens, New York. The young stars Gabriel (Vinny Anand) and Amir (Bilal Beydoun) fight to save their local mosque while developers, politicians and other adversarial parties scheme to pull the land out from under them.

The plot follows Amir, a Muslim-American, as he struggles to define his identity at the intersection of piety, politics, culture and love, wrestling with conservative/liberal forces, with Michelle (Axita Patel) representing the progressive voice. De Castro explores the American Muslim double-bind.

Progressive Muslims get heat from both sides - from the right wing, for being extremist, and from Muslims, for being too liberal. These are the contradictions in practising the fastest-growing religion in America while remaining an alien in your adoptive - or native - land.
Did someone say alien? Newyorkustan director Steven De Castro can push that further. He's not even Muslim. Raised Catholic "and not even religious", De Castro developed and executed the project "totally as an outsider - that's my strength".

A Filipino from DC, De Castro is a New York trial lawyer by trade who worked as a paralegal in the Jersey City Human Rights Commission. He was culturally politicised in 1994, after the arrest of Omar Abdel Rahman, who was eventually sentenced to life for conspiracy in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.

"Some folks in Jersey City wanted to go further than that - they wanted to evict the mosque" where "the Blind Sheikh" had preached, in a commercial building above a pizzeria. Jersey City went after the mosque for what De Castro calls "alleged zoning violations".

"Since I served as a human rights commissioner, I saw it as a violation of religious freedom," De Castro says. He fought City Hall, which backed off, "but I was canned. It was the proudest firing of my life".

And it was a spark. De Castro wanted to enter and affect the cultural debate, but not as a legal activist. "There's a difference between advocating for a group, and humanising them. I wanted to be a filmmaker," he says.

This, then, is a labour of love, among other virtues.

Newyorkustan was initially a Muslim crime story, but, "I didn't want to do it with stereotypes", De Castro says. "I wanted to teach people something about folks they didn't know."

Which took him to Imam Shamsi Ali, and the folks he knows.

Ali is the imam at the Jamaica Muslim Center mosque in Queens, "the most diverse county in the world". Indeed, with 135 different languages spoken, Queens is a boiling, roiling collision of cultures. The JMC has a congregation of 2,000, drawing from a larger pool of 10,000, a subset of the 800,000 Muslims in New York who have their own subdivisions and sources. They are African, Middle Eastern, European, South Asian (Ali is from Indonesia) and American.

De Castro sought Ali out several years ago and showed him a script. "I acted as a kind of 'cultural guide'," Ali says, opening doors and offering a sounding board. "I think he's a very fair-minded person. Willing to learn." And Ali saw in Newyorkustan an opportunity to "capture modern Muslim life" and even correct some misconceptions. "It's said that women are not allowed in mosques, but in Indonesian culture, there are often more women than men. Or that Muslims cannot have dogs."

Or that they are hellbent on destruction.

When Mohamed Merah, the French Muslim who admitted to murdering soldiers and Jewish citizens in Toulouse, was gunned down in a police firefight, Ali had just signed on to a joint statement with the New York rabbi Marc Schneier on "defeating the common enemy of prejudice". "It saddens me for many reasons. Our religion is misused as the justification for these terrible acts," he says. And said acts can only exacerbate tensions: as the joint statement reads, a recent Gallup poll found that "43 per cent of Americans admit to at least 'a little' prejudice against Muslims".

Is it, then, hard to be Muslim in America?

"No," Ali says. "For me, America is basically a good place to practise our religion because we're free. And to be Muslim, you must be free."

And this, of course, is an election year in the land of the free, so Newyorkustan won't be without its challenges. The title, for instance, reads like a Tea Party member's nightmare. However, Siraj Huda, one of the actors on the show, says "the object is to reach a neutral audience. Not necessarily non-Muslim, but neutral".

Huda plays Mr Atoue, the Lebanese landlord of the mosque. "He's not a very devout Muslim - he likes gambling. He's very money-minded," Huda says. Reflecting such unorthodox realities of modern life back to the core audience for the show may help it reach a wider audience. "I don't think that the show is preachy, so it should work." Especially here. "New York is open to so many cultures. It wouldn't be possible to make the show elsewhere," Huda says.

Likewise, the web. At 45, De Castro wasn't interested in "the years-long process" of dealing with network executives, "and then it never gets made". A web series is faster and cheaper - but then again, De Castro put up all the money. The first season cost US$10,000 (Dh37,000) "and everybody gets paid". With five episodes (each four to nine minutes long) in the first season done and a goal of 18 episodes in total, his series was an official selection to the 2011 Manhattan International Film Festival.

"You know, [polls say] that most Americans have never had a Muslim friend," De Castro says. "But most Muslims count a non-Muslim among their best friends."

So there remains a disconnect, although not in De Castro's case. It prompts the unasked question: you're not Muslim, so why should you care?

"When I was fired as human rights commissioner, someone stood up and spoke out for me in City Council," De Castro says. "It's my turn to tell stories that haven't been told."

• For more information, visit www.newyorkustan.com

(Courtesy: The National, UAE)

ANALYSIS: 'Communal, Anti-national' Team Anna confused about its priorities, anti-corruption movement targeted only towards Congress Party

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 29 April 2012 | Posted in , , , , ,

By H. R. Ahmad & Danish Ahmad Khan

Corruption is all-pervasive, while probity in public life continues to be a mirage in India. Corruption in our country is not a modern day phenomenon, but a ‘ tradition of sorts’ coming down the generation right from the days of Raja (King) Dahir till date. What led to the victory of Mohammed Bin Qasim who defeated Raja Dahir is a still a mystery. Modern historians tried to cover up the historical facts about the priest who cynically played a key role in precipitating the defeat of Raja Dahir.

History has it that Mohammed Bin Qasim was on the wrong side of the battle when the chief priest of Royal temple rushed to him and pointed out the way to bring Raja Dahir to his knees. He told that if he (Qasim) managed to bring down the flag waving on the dome of the temple the soldiers would take it for defeat accepted by their gods and take to their heels. Mohammed Bin Qasim strongly objected to the proposal of the priest and described it as machination, not a success gained by virtue of valor and bravery. The priest, however, agreed to do it by himself in exchange for all the gems and jewels stashed away in the temple. Subsequently, the flag was brought down by the priest and Raja Dahir’s soldiers started fleeing the battlefield. Thus, Qasim's victory was clinched. This story goes on to prove the points that corruption is a century-old phenomenon, which Anna Hazare and his team want to fight it out by forcing the government to pass the Jan Lok Pal Bill (Ombudsman) of their choice. Anna Hazare has declared his 'War' on crooks and corruption. But, he is not ready to recognize the fact that corruption of various hues or at various levels exist in the country.

India is faced with political, economic, social, physical, and religious corruption. Anna Hazare is largely concerned with the corruption, which in other words may be described as ‘Economic Offence’. Why is Anna Hazare or his Civil Society silent about the religious humbugs moving around in “saffron clothes”. Will Anna Hazare and his Civil Society muster courage and be honest enough to declare war on the likes of Nirmal Baba, who is looting the gullible masses and amassing huge wealth? Why didn’t Anna Hazare ask Baba Ramdev how he rose from a humble milkman to the rank of Baba and made a good fortune?  Why did Anna Hazare keep mum on the pogrom committed so brazenly in Gujarat way back in 2002? The women were not only raped, but also the womb of pregnant women was cut open and her foetus was lifted on the spike of a spear and displayed as a trophy. Is such crime against humanity less important than ‘economic corruption'?

Why did Anna Hazare become suddenly so sensitive to the centuries-old corruption? What forces are working behind him? Trying to make people believe that the entire nation stands firmly behind him in his fight against corruption simply amounts to betraying the common masses. The faces that beamed on the TV screens were those of affluent people who live in their palatial buildings, move in their air conditioned cars and rarely bother to come out to exercise their franchise on the polling day. This happened in Anna Hazare's home state Maharashtra itself, when after the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai, some citizens of Mumbai indulged in meaningless gestures like taking out candle-light processions and forming human chain extending over the city, but they failed to see any connection between dealing with terrorist attacks and electing a state government in 2009, which can take effective steps to prevent and counter such attacks in future. Where was Anna Hazare when state elections were taking place after 26/11 Mumbai attacks, while 50 percent of Mumbaikars displayed brazen 'double standards' and chose to go out on holidays out of Mumbai instead of exercising their franchise? 

Forget this, even Team Anna's prominent core committee member and most visible face on TV news channels Arvind Kejriwal failed to match his saintly and tall words on high accountability in public life with his actions when he chose to catch a failed flight to Goa in connection with a Team Anna program on February 28, 2012, and deliberately failed to cast his franchise in the recently-concluded Uttar Pradesh assembly elections. And, all this happened despite the fact that Arvind Kejriwal and Team Anna are at the forefront making a strong pitch for electoral reforms. After all, does Team Anna really mean what it preaches or does it really represent the masses living in the countryside and facing plethora of problems.

Team Anna’s doubtful credentials

Anna Hazare’s credentials itself is dubious. The emergence of Anna Hazare on the national scene has been sudden and with the obvious support of the media, and which by all account is financed by Marwaris (Jains) and controlled by Brahmins thus putting a question mark on his pious intentions. These two powerful groups constitute the votebank of BJP. Media’s total focus on Anna and his team made the right thinking citizens of the country doubtful of his intention to carry on a ‘surreal’ fight against the corruption, and which is being seen more as directed against the ruling Congress Party-led UPA-II alliance. Anna Hazare campaign’s communal and dictatorial streak can be gauged from the fact that Magsaysay Award winner Rajendra Singh and Gandhian activist P.V. Rajagopal quit the original 26-member panel citing the political activism of Arvind Kejriwal and other leaders of India Against Corruption (IAC) after the campaign against the Congress Party in the Hisar parliamentary by-poll. Later, a prominent member Swami Agnivesh was booted out from the core committee after leveling charges of breach of trust.

Communal Face of Team Anna

Recently, a prominent Muslim member of core committee Maulana Shamoom Qasmi (who is an anonymous face among majority of Muslims and more known for his ambitious and selfish attitude) was humiliated and shown the door after leveling serious charges. However, Maulana Shamoom Qasmi said that he had quit the core committee as Team Anna had become politicized and was anti-Muslim. Even other founding committee Muslim members of Team Anna such as Maulana Mahmood Madani, Syed Rizvi and Syed Shah Fazlur Rahman Waizi have also quit the core committee.

This is, however, not for the first time that Team Anna’s communal face has been exposed. The Indian Muslim Observer was the first in India to expose the communal face of Anna Hazare and his movement. Not a single publication in the Indian mainstream media or a community journal was able to see through this nefarious game before the Indian Muslim Observer raised the issue and exposed RSS hand behind the so-called anti-corruption movement of Anna Hazare. The Indian Muslim Observer in its Op-Ed article “Fight AgainstCorruption: Can Indians Sustain It for Long?” by Founder-Editor Danish Ahmad Khan (Published APRIL 11‚ 2011 at 10:55 am) written just after 4-day hunger strike at New Delhi’s Jantar Mantar had clearly pointed out the RSS-BJP hand behind the whole movement. Mr. Khan wrote: “Being a political observer, it gives me a strange feeling and prompts to ask myself whether Anna Hazares’s movement is stage-managed by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) from behind the scenes. I say this with conviction because of the manner in which religious symbolism and national interests have been intermingled. The canvas at the backdrop at the stage, where fast-unto-death was taking place at Jantar Mantar, had a Hindu goddess holding the Indian National Flag similar to that of the RSS, the only difference being the National Flag replaced the Bhagwa Dhwaj in the hands of goddess Bharat Devi of the RSS. Displaying religious symbolism on such a grave issue of national interest smacks of a sinister conspiracy and the upper handedness of the pro-Hindutva elements in hijacking the very issue of corruption by using Anna Hazare as a mere tool. It seems that Anna Hazare’s love for the RSS and BJP stopped him from raising this important issue of corruption and going on fast-unto-death during the NDA regime. On one hand, it seems that the abrasive display of religious symbolism also kept away a majority of Muslims from sharing the stage or giving their wholehearted support to the movement, while on the other hand it also seems as if this was a deliberate ploy to keep Muslims away from this significant movement and then portray them as being anti-nationals, the stigma which they have been carrying with them all along ever since India’s independence…”

Anti-national and Corrupt Face of Team Anna

Communal face of Team Anna is only one side of the coin. The heinous side is Team Anna’s anti-national and corrupt face. The flag-bearer of Team Anna Arvind Kejriwal faces severe charges of intimidation by the recently-elected Uttar Pradesh government. Azam Khan, the urban development minister, has taken serious note of a letter allegedly written by Arvind Kejriwal to the Ghaziabad Municipal Corporation (GMC) in 2008 seeking permission to collect taxes from shopkeepers. He alleged that Kejriwal wanted this for the Kaushambi Residents' Welfare Association. Mr. Kejriwal had intimidated the officers in his letter and tried to put pressure on officials for outsourcing the responsibility of tax collection to his NGO.

Another prominent Team Anna member and Lawyer Prashant Bhushan has showed his anti-national attitude time and again. Prashant Bhushan had advocated plebiscite in Jammu and Kashmir, and for this he was brutally attacked and severely beaten up by three youth of a Hindu nationalist organization inside his lawyer’s chamber in Supreme Court of India. By his extremely controversial remarks Prashant Bhushan had unsuccessfully tried to flog a dead horse and hurt national sentiments as for majority of Indians plebiscite in Kashmir is a closed chapter now.

Recently, Prashant Bhushan's links with Maoists or Naxalites were exposed when he was named as a mediator along with other two people, BD Sharma and Manish Kunjam, to negotiate for the release of kidnapped Sukma Disctrict Collector Alex Paul Menon in Chattisgarh. The Government of India has been waging a war against the Naxals by launching Operation Green Hunt since long, whom it considers as anti-national, terrorists and disruptive elements. Though, Prashant Bhushan refused to take part in the negotiations with Naxals, but nevertheless his links with the Naxals stand exposed thus raising serious doubts over his patriotism. Even Anna Hazare and his team members have so far not made their stand clear over Prashant Bhushan's links with the Naxals. And, even if they do speak out on the issue denouncing the Naxal movement, and also prefer to keep Prashant Bhushan into the team then Team Anna's anti-national face stands exposed. Despite Prashant Bushan's anti-national stand on Plebiscite in Kashmir, Team Anna could not muster courage to throw him out of the core committee, nor will they have the courage to take action against Prashant Bhushan over his alleged links with Naxals.

Team Anna's Confused Priorities

The various stands and gestures shown by Team Anna aptly shows that it is confused over its priorities and fickle-minded over the issue of handling corruption. The first nervous signs of Team Anna were displayed when it could not withstand the severe public criticism over its overt and covert links with the rightwing Hindu nationalist organization RSS and the BJP for displaying the RSS-style Bharat Mata holding the national flag, instead of RSS Bhagwa Dhwaj, at the backdrop of the stage during its first 4-day Jantar Mantar agitation. During the second phase of the movement at New Delhi's Ramlila Maidan, the fickle-minded, anti-national, weak-hearted Team Anna chose to dump the Bharat Mata portrait for good, and instead display photos of prominent national leaders and freedom fighters at the backdrop of the stage.

Sample yet another fickle-minded and communal approach of Team Anna. During the first phase of the movement at Jantar Mantar, Yoga Guru-turned-Businessman Baba Ramdev had shared the stage with Anna Hazare at Jantar Mantar. But after criticism over his links with saffron parties, Team Anna broke ties with Baba Ramdev, and he was nowhere to be seen standing with Team Anna during the other phases of the movement.

Though, at one stage Anna Hazare had announced to join the fast to support Baba Ramdev's cause in June 2011, but at the last minute chose to stay away since Baba Ramdev's agitation at Ramlila Maidan was fully backed by rightwing Hindu nationalist organizations. The signs were everywhere to be seen at Baba Ramdev's agitation at Ramlila Maidan, from the fiery Sangh Parivar leader and chief architect of Babri Masjid demolition Sadhvi Ritambhara on stage to the fluttering banners of Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Mahasabha, Arya Veer and Veerangana Dal and Arya Samaj fluttering along the walls and inside the mammoth pandal. There was also a prominent portrait of the RSS-style Bharat Mata immediately below the stage, besides volunteers in khaki shorts and orange caps serving water.

Even, lawyer and member of the committee Prashant Bhushan also said he was 'unhappy' at the presence of Sadhvi Ritambhara on the dais, where Ramdev is on hunger-strike against black money, saying the platform should not be allowed to be used by "communal" forces. Prashant Bhushan was quoted as saying: "I am unhappy with the presence of Sadhvi Ritambhara. You cannot prevent anyone from supporting a cause but the platform should not be allowed to be used by communal forces.''

Now, exactly after one year Anna Hazare and Baba Ramdev have decided to join hands and launch a joint agitation. Recently, Anna Hazare and Baba Ramdev addressed a joint Press Conference at Gurgaon on April 20, 2012, and announced a series of agitations starting from May 1 followed by a joint fast at Jantar Mantar on June 3. On May 1, Hazare will start his agitation from Shirdi while Ramdev will embark on an yatra from Durg in Chhattisgarh. After all, what has led to the change of heart between Anna Hazare and Baba Ramdev just only after one year? Has Baba Ramdev changed his stripes or dumped his die-hard Hidu nationalists supporters? Isn't Baba Ramdev communal now? Let Anna Hazare, Arvind Kejriwal, Kiran Bedi, Prashant Bhushan and Shanti Bhushan do the explaining over this issue to the countrymen. 

Instead of focusing solely on corruption, Anna Hazare is trying to expand the scope of his movement and bring in the issue of electoral reforms within its ambit. Recently after being snubbed by Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray and denied a meeting at Mumbai, Anna Hazare met MNS chief and Bal Thackeray's estranged nephew Raj Thackeray and praised him for holding exams of probable candidates for Mumbai, Thane and Pune municipal elections. Though, the leading light of Team Anna Arvind Kejriwal neither believes in parliamentary democracy nor he is concerned about casting his electoral franchise as happened in the recently-concluded Uttar Pradesh assemble elections. Raj Thackeray is also well-known for creating hatred against people of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh in Maharashtra, and bash them up at the slightest instance. But the shameless Anna Hazare and his team, have never spoken against or lashed out at Raj Thackeray for using intimidating tactics against people of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.

Endgame for Team Anna

Whenever the likes of Ana Hazare have launched a war against corruption, communal forces have been strengthened. We have not been able to forget V.P Singh’s crusade against corruption in the guise of Bofors scandal, which helped BJP gain immensely in terms of vote share. The party rose to 83 from merely 3 seats, and didn’t look back since.

Presently, the BJP appears to be devoid of any emotive political issue like that of Ram Janambhumi, which could rally people behind it. Babri Masjid-Ram Janambhumi issue has already lost its appeal to the masses. The issue of terrorism stands exposed. Both Muslims and Hindus have come to know that the bomb blasts triggered at different places across the country was the handiwork of the organizations like ABHNAV BHARAT. The arrests of Army officer Colonel Purohit, and Hindu preachers Sadhvi Pragya Singh and Swami Aseemanand have almost put an end to the bomb explosions across the country.

So the only issue which appeared to be catchy and appealing to the masses was that of corruption and black money deposited in the Swiss Bank . And the only man who, the BJP and supporters could rely on was a Gandhi looking Anna Hazare who cannot even express himself in an impressive manner.

He speaks only as much as it is taught by Arvind Kejriwal, Kiran Bedi, Prashant Bhushan and Shanti Bhushan. How long will Anna Hazare persist in his fight against corruption on borrowed wisdom? The war against corruption launched by Anna Hazare and Baba Ramdev is solely targeted at ousting Congress Party-led UPA-II alliance out of power and aimed at preparing ground for the victory of the BJP in the forthcoming Lok Sabha election in 2014. Dr. Syed Ahmad Quadri, a renowned fiction and story writer, echoes the same sentiment. What happened in Uttar Pradesh despite Anna Hazare’s anti corruption campaign is pointer to the regional parties getting maximum number of seats in the parliamentary election in different states of the country. Political analysts and psephologists predict a hugely fratured mandate in which regional parties will call the shots in forming the new Government at the Centre, with both Congress Party and BJP made to eat humble pie. A veteran journalist Mr. S Ahmad is of the opinion that Anna Hazare is the Mukhauta (mask) behind anti-corruption war, and the real forces at work are the communal organizations like RSS , VHP, Shiv Sena and Bajrang Dal.

[H. R. Ahmad is a Journalist based in Bihar. He is a Press Correspondent with Hindustan Times. He is also associated with IndianMuslimObserver.com as Bureau Chief (Bihar). He can be contacted at hafizruknuddin@gmail.com. Danish Ahmad Khan is Founder-Editor of IndianMuslimObserver.com. He can be contacted at indianmuslimobserver@gmail.com]

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