ANALYSIS: Society, Media, Sex and Rape

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 26 January 2013 | Posted in , , , , , , , , , ,

By Dr. Amjad M. Husaini

‘Sex’ is a multifaceted phenomenon and I have been contemplating on its origin and objectives since the day the news of a heinous rape of a young woman in a Delhi bus, named in media as “Nirbhaya” was put in limelight by the national media.

In my opinion it is important to discuss various aspects of sex and try to place rape in the right context. These aspects are:

1. Spiritual aspect of sex- Sex is a medium of ‘expression of love’, and a mode of closest possible ‘union on the physical plane’ between two individuals whose hearts long for each other. It is a union between a lover (Aashiq) and his/her beloved (Mashooq), which brings a sense of joy, satisfaction, contentment, and respect for each other.

2. Biological aspect of sex - Sex is the only natural mode of procreation (reproduction) in higher animals, amongst which human beings are at the top of the evolutionary ladder. Being at the top and living in a social setup the facilitation, formalization and legalization of such a courtship and sexual union has culminated in the ‘institution of marriage’. Marriage has added cultural, social and economic aspects to this otherwise a purely biological phenomenon, due to the evolved state of human beings as social animals.

3. Carnal aspect of sex - On a psychological level it is the stretching of animal-like desire for passion and excitement which is able to express itself easily in the absence of a strong moral character in a human being. Generally, ‘rape and/or sexual assault’ is the manifestation of a complex phenomenon involving lack of moral ethics, poor self control and will power, improper upbringing, emotional instability and deprivation, or hostility towards victim which get a chance to express when the victim (almost always a woman) happens to come in contact with such an individual in a lonely place or situation where she is not able to defend herself, and most often has decorated herself beautifully and looks too attractive. This is generally accompanied by use of force and by overpowering the victim owing to superior muscular strength of man.

To a biologist, however, it is a complex interplay of some chemical substances (hormones) which get induced upon exposure to sensual, sensuous and indecent exposure/display of primary or secondary sexual characters by either of the two genders. If a woman happens to be the perpetrator of such an act, she generally does not use force and uses the tactics of placating a man by inviting verbal comments, physically beautifying herself beyond descent public limits, display of private parts, etc.

4. Economic and social aspect of sex- The lavish lifestyle adopted by the young generation due to advent of multinational culture, and measurement of success in terms of economic fortune, wealth and position has lead to the use of ‘sex’ as a means of acquiring these with minimum possible input and without much hard work. Why to toil so hard, when the same can be attained by being a little smart, is the slogan of this generation. After all this is my body and I have every right to use it as I may wish, is the new thought! Hence ‘looking attractive’, giving sexual favours, or even resorting to sex is the new ‘mantra’ and the easiest possible way of rising up the ladder for the over-ambitious. This applies equally to both the genders, be they men/women subordinates corrupting their men/ women bosses or vice versa.

If it happens to be a man who gets morally corrupt by such practice, one day comes when he tries to impose his will / sexual desire even on a person who is not willing to compromise on her dignity resulting either into a rape or loss of her job. Incidentally if it happens to be a woman boss, then it may result in loss of job for such a male subordinate.

The big multinational houses who invest in fashion, clothing, and cosmetics promote their economic interests in the name of ‘modern’ culture. They make use of print and electronic media to exploit the underlying desire of every individual (especially the youth) to look beautiful and attractive. Looking beautiful is not bad, but this competition between the peers in looking ‘more attractive’ than others has a reduced a human being only to a ‘physical body’, and has promoted sensual indulgence in society (as discussed in 3). Does that mean that in the modern times ALL women and men are bad? No, not at all! However, even a handful of bad people can turn the whole society filthy- a single dirty fish pollutes the whole pond. But we ALL are responsible for this state of the society, to varying degrees. We watch such TV channels that pollute the young immature minds of our children; we aspire to be rich, powerful and famous by corrupt means and set a bad example for our young kids to follow; we teach lessons of morality in our text books but ask them to be ‘practical’ in life by hook or crook.

In earlier times, prostitutes used to be restricted to some areas (brothels and red-light areas) and were looked down upon, although they were the victims of social deprivation and ‘needed’ to resort to prostitution for feeding themselves and their children. However in present times the same class of women are being glorified and commoditised to meet the demands of an open market economy. Women are objectified as a commodity and are served ‘hot’ on television channels and internet sites. They have even entered our kitchen, living and dining rooms through soap operas, reality shows etc., and have further polluted our minds. These have torn away the veil of respect and dignity between the brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, uncles, aunts, etc., promoting the carnal desires (as discussed in 3), and the week in mind easily fall prey to such desires! How many amongst our young generation see a role model in Lord Rama or Guru Nanak or for that matter follow the example of Holy Prophet? In this land of Mahatma Ghandi, almost all our young try to imitate actors (their heroes), actresses (their heroines), models, business tycoons, etc. and want to be like them. They say that this is to be ‘modern’, because by dubbing ‘immodesty’ as ‘modernism’ they can easily rubbish the traditional ideals of human behaviour and label the right thinking older generation as ‘old fashioned’ and obsolete.

5. Subjugative and authoritative aspect of sex - It is generally performed by the winner of a war / battle, heads of a clan against those who rebel (like in case of Late Phoolan Devi) or self-proclaimed village authorities (like upper castes) against weaker classes and tribes. The aim is to subjugate and oppress the opponent by giving tremendous mental agony to them, by way of asserting their authority on their most honoured and precious thing i.e., chastity of their women. In extreme cases men are beheaded or killed while women are used as sex objects, on the one hand to fulfil their carnal desires (as discussed in 3) and on the other to inflict deep wounds on the psyche of the oppressed women (representing the defeated class). This is also to show authority, as well as serve a befitting punishment and warning against raising their voice again in future.

Do these pictures fall within the ambit of decency of a common man’s level of perception?? Would you like to see your wife or mother or sister to be dressed like this?? Then why do you like to see others dressed like this?? Why not to turn your face away and save yourself from unhealthy influences....

Islamic Views On Clothing

An important aspect of Islam that must be observed is the code of dress for both men and women. The appearance is a sign of what one has in the heart. Allah mentions in the Holy Quran: O Children of Adam! We have sent down upon you a dress which may conceal your shameful parts and sent down feathers (or splendid garments) and the dress of piety (Taqwa) that is the best of all.” (Surah A'araf, Verse 26). 

In another verse Allah says: Say to the believing men that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty: that will make for greater purity for them: And Allah is well acquainted with all that they do. And say that the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty that they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what (must ordinarily) appear thereof; that they should draw their veils over their bosoms and not display their beauty except to their husbands, their fathers, their husband's fathers, their sons, their husbands' sons, their brothers or their brothers' sons, or their sisters' sons, or their women, or the slaves whom their right hands possess, or male servants free of physical needs, or small children who have no sense of the shame of sex; and that they should not strike their feet in order to draw attention to their hidden ornaments. And O ye Believers! Turn ye all together towards Allah, that ye may attain Bliss. ” (Surah An-Nur), Verse 30-31).

This code of behaviour and dressing sets moral standards in this world where morality is lacking greatly nowadays. Islam has got no fixed standards of dress as dress is regulated by necessities according to geographical conditions of countries. In cold conditions, warm clothes are necessary for the protection of the body. Similarly, in hot countries, thin clothes are mostly the norm. The Holy Prophet others, as it covers the major portion of the body.

For women Allah mention’s in the Qur'an: O Prophet (daughters and the women of the believers to draw over them their cloaks (veils). That in the least so that they be recognised and not be molested.” (Surah Ahzaab, Verse 59)

And remain within your homes and do not make an exhibition (of yourselves) like the displays (of the immoral women) of former times of ignorance.” (Surah Ahzaab).

Ibn Abbas (May Allah be pleased with him) quotes that the Holy Prophet of you shoould meet a woman in privacy unless she is accompanied by a Mahram (i.e., a relative witin the prohibited degrees)” [Bukhari, Muslim]

The Holy Prophet said don't make your body visible or wear light clothing which emphasizes or highlights the figure of the body.

Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) quotes that the Messenger of Allah said: “Women who are nude in spite of having garments on them; who allure others and are allured by others shall be consigned to Hell. Their heads are awry like the humps of the used a single long robe and recommended it for)!

Tell thy wives and thy said “No one gave warning against wearing transparent clothing which makes the said Bactrian camels because of their coquettish posture. These women shall not enter Paradise, nor shall enjoy the sweet fragrance of Paradise, although the sweet fragrance of Paradise can be savoured from a long distance off” [Muslim] (Chapter 292, Riyad al Salihin).

Islamic Views On Rape

Islam views human life as a sacred gift from Allah and repeatedly stresses the sanctity of life. The life of every single individual regardless of gender, age, nationality or religion is worthy of respect. According to Islam, a woman has to be respected and protected under all circumstances, whether she belongs to your own nation or to the nation of an enemy, whether she follows your religion or belongs to some other religion or has no religion at all. A Muslim cannot outrage her under any circumstances. Even some Islamic legal scholars classify rape under the category of ‘hiraba’, rather than the subcategory of ‘zina’ (consensual adultery). In the Hanafi school of law, the term zina is taken to refer to illegal sexual intercourse where rape is distinguished as zina bil jabr to indicate its forced and non-consensual nature whereas fornication and adultery fit zina bil ridha which indicates consent. Though the terminology uses the term zina, nonetheless, they are two categorically different crimes as rape is treated as a tazir crime by the judge and prosecuted based on circumstantial evidence (medical evidence, any number of witnesses, and other forensic evidence), very similar to how it is treated in contemporary Western law. Fornication and adultery by mutual consent (zina bil ridha) meets the classical hadd punishments from the Qur'an and sunnah provided there are four witnesses (if absent then they too default to tazir).

{Hadd: A punishment fixed in the Quran and hadith for crimes considered to be against the rights of God. The six crimes for which punishments are fixed are theft (amputation of the hand), illicit sexual relations (death by stoning or one hundred lashes), making unproven accusations of illicit sex (eighty lashes), drinking intoxicants (eighty lashes), apostasy (death or banishment), and highway robbery (death). Strict requirements for evidence (including eyewitnesses) have severely limited the application of hudud penalties. Punishment for all other crimes is left to the discretion of the court; these punishments are called tazir. With the exception of Saudi Arabia, hudud punishments are rarely applied, although recently fundamentalist ideologies have demanded the reintroduction of hudud, especially in Sudan, Iran, and Afghanistan.

Tazir: Punishment for crime not measuring up to the strict requirements of hadd punishments, although they are of the same nature, or those for which specific punishments have not been fixed by the Quran. Punishments range from the death penalty for espionage and heresy to flagellation, imprisonment, local banishment, and a variety of fines. Determination of punishment is left to the judge or chief executive, who can vary the punishment according to a number of criteria including who has inflicted the crime and upon whom.} (Source: http://www.oxfordislamicstudies.com)

Gang-rape or public rape is considered hiraba as that is more in line with its classical definition as a war crime or crime against civilization and society. In the author’s opinion this applies to the rape victim ‘Nirbhaya’ who was raped in a running bus and thrown away to die, and unfortunately later succumbed to her wounds in a Singapore hospital. This can be supported by the opinion of the famous jurist, Ibn Hazm, who gave the widest definition of hiraba, defining a hiraba offender as: ‘One who puts people in fear on the road, whether or not with a weapon, at night or day, in urban areas or in open spaces, in the palace of a caliph or a mosque, with or without accomplices, in the desert or in the village, in a large or small city, with one or more people… making people fear that they’ll be killed, or have money taken, or be raped (hatk al ‘arad)… whether the attackers are one or many."

Therefore the classification of rape in ‘Hiraba’ is logical, as the "taking" is of the victim’s property (the rape victim’s sexual autonomy) by force. Maliki judge Ibn ‘Arabi, relates a story in which a group was attacked and a woman in their party was raped. Responding to the argument that the crime did not constitute hiraba because no money was taken and no weapons used, Ibn ‘Arabi replied indignantly that "hiraba with the private parts" is much worse than hiraba involving the taking of money. The Maaliki Jurist, Ibn Abdul-Barr has stated regarding rape “The scholars are unanimously agreed that the rapist is to be subjected to the hadd (i.e. the punishment of death) if there is clear evidence against him that he deserves the hadd punishment, or if he admits to that. Otherwise, he is to be punished [with tazir].

The focus in a hiraba prosecution is the accused rapist and his intent and physical actions, and not second-guessing the consent of the rape victim. Hiraba does not require four witnesses to prove the offense; it requires circumstantial evidence, medical data and expert testimony to prosecute such crimes. During the time of the Holy Prophet was inflicted on a rapist on the solitary evidence of the woman who was raped by him. Wa'il ibn Hujr reports of an incident when a woman intending to go for Prayer [in the mosque] was raped. Later, when some people came by, she identified and accused the man of raping her. They seized him and brought him to Allah's messenger, where the rapist admitted his crime. Allah’s messenger said to the woman, "Go away, for Allah has forgiven you," but of the man who had raped her, he said, "Stone him to death." (Tirmidhi and Abu Dawud).

In Holy Quran Allah says: O ye who believe! Stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to Allah, even as against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it be (against) rich or poor: for Allah can best protect both. Follow not the lusts (of your hearts), lest ye swerve, and if ye distort (justice) or decline to do justice, verily Allah is well-acquainted with all that ye do.” [Surah al-Nisa: Verse 135]

So what is our duty as members of this society, and Allah’s vicegerent on earth? To stand by justice in whatever possible capacity we can…..be that as a witness, as a police man, as a medical expert, as a judge or simply as a common man!!

A Dialogue With A Friend

All the above analysis on the reasons and genesis of ‘rape’, the most deplorable and heinous crime against women reminds me of a discussion with a female friend few years back on a similar theme. I would like to share the dialogue that happened between me and my dear friend Aayisha with readers:

Amjad: Aashu have you ever seen your parents making love or for that matter kissing or hugging in your presence?

Aayisha: No, not at all. Ours is a very dignified family.

Amjad: Have you ever kissed or hugged your boyfriend in presence of your or his parents?

Aayisha: How is it possible yaar?,,,,, to indulge in such acts in presence of our elderly and respectable ones. No, not at all.

Amjad: Oh ! I suppose you don’t feel to get intimate with him??

Aayisha: Of course I do have such feelings yaar. After all I too am human.

Amjad: Where do you meet then?

Aayisha: We generally meet in a park under open sky, or in a coffee shop, or in a cinema hall if he has money for tickets. The cheapest is to sit under a tree in a public park!

Amjad: Don’t people see you there??

Aayisha: So what!! They don’t know us. Who cares! We are open minded and free to enjoy anywhere.

Amjad: But,,,,I once went into such a park along with my parents when I was a kid myself. I saw a couple in an intimate position, who were kissing, rubbing and hugging under a shady tree. It surprised me and I asked my parents that what are they doing?? They blushed and asked me to shut up and not pay attention to them. However the scene and the thoughts reverberated in my mind for several days!!! Don’t you feel that kids and teenagers get unduly influenced and readily carried away by your this act, and their immature minds get polluted?

Aayisha: May be! But what do I do? I am young and independent. I too have a right to enjoy my life! I cannot take responsibility of the whole society!!

Amjad: Yes you are young, so why don’t you get married?

Aayisha: Are you nuts? I am too young, just eighteen and my boy friend is nineteen. He has a long way to go for a proper professional settlement and I too am not yet prepared for the responsibilities of marriage.

Amjad: Why so?

Aayisha: I am as ambitious as you are. I have been brought up by my parents as an equal to my brother, and want to be financially independent before getting married.

Amjad: Why do you wear such clothes in which you look half naked?

Aayisha: Mind you!! I am an independent citizen of an independent country and want to look beautiful and attractive. I am comfortable in such clothes. What is your problem?

Amjad: Aashu, I don’t have any problem. However, I feel these attract the attention of undesirable and criminal elements towards you because they see you as an object. A genuine man shall get attracted to you and will appreciate your beauty as a person, not as a body. So whom do you want to attract?

Aayisha: But I don’t mind as long as they behave properly.

Amjad: God forbid, if they start misbehaving then what will you do? You know your whole honour as well as peaceful life of your family shall be at stake!

Aayisha: What nonsense? I will be the victim and despite that you are trying to frighten me??? You male chauvinist!

Amjad: No dear, I am only worried, and am cautioning you because I am your well wisher. Trust me!

Aayisha: But my feminist friends and women activists say that, being a patriarchal society women are oppressed and objectified as machines for producing children. Further sons are given undue importance, which bolsters them to look down upon women. This promotes them to carryout crimes against women, like rape!

Amjad: But to my knowledge, women are enjoying equal rights vis a vis men under our constitutional setup. Even some special provisions are also there, which are meant for women welfare only. Further I have never seen a family which would encourage their children to molest or rape a woman, in fact the head of the family often sets an example by discharging his responsibility of ‘protecting’ the members of his family, be that his wife or his daughters or sons. However, in families were fathers have a drinking habit and either of the parents is morally bad; children may get adversely affected and develop either 11 oversensitivity or insensitivity towards such crimes against women. But, alas! Government gets excise duty and other taxes from liquor sale and it is therefore in their interest to protect this industry. This is a paradox!

Aayisha: Mind your own business and just leave me alone Amjad. I am yet to meet a fool who is ready to take a risk of going to jail for a life-term or at least 7 years, just for fulfilling his lust of 30 minutes! Besides, laws of our country and the police are there for my safety!

Amjad: Oh sorry! I hope the poor policeman reaches to your rescue, if he is not busy protecting the so called VIPs. You and I are LIPs (Less Important People), and therefore for us I think “Prevention is always better than cure!” Bye. Take care!

Aayisha: You too. Bye

I am missing my cute innocent friend Aayesha these days more than earlier, as she is no more now. She killed herself after facing defeat at the hands of this cruel society which bolstered her into being bold and (so called) modern, but did not support her after she met with more than an accident....Rape by her boy-friend’s friend !


[Dr. Amjad Masood Hussaini is an Environmental and Plant Biotechnologist of International repute currently working as Assistant Professor (Senior Scale) in Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences & Technology of Kashmir, J&K (India). Dr. A. M. Hussaini is also associated with IndianMuslimObserver.com as Environment Editor. He can be contacted at amjadhusaini@yahoo.com]

Azadi versus Fundamentalism

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

The Jamaat-e-Islami has demanded that co-education be abolished in India to prevent rapes

By Fahad Hashmi

‘For most of history, Anonymous was a woman.’ – Virginia Woolf

There seems to be a structural resemblance among fundamentalists of all hues, evident from their comments in the wake of the 16 December gangrape in New Delhi of a 23-year-old woman who subsequently died from her injuries. Just like RSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat had opined that rapes happen in India and not in Bharat, the Jamaat-e-Islami has also submitted an 11 point recommendation to the Justice JS Verma Committee, which the government has constituted to suggest changes required in existing laws to provide better security to women in India. Two points out of the 11 that the Jamaat-e-Islami, a politico-religious organisation whose ultimate goal is to bring khilafa (creating God’s kingdom) on Earth, has proposed are worth our attention. (For details look up: http://jamaateislamihind.org/eng/ban-co-education-live-in-relationships-to-prevent-rapes-jamaat-e-islami-hind/).

First, (3) Co-education should be abolished and proper education facilities meant for women only should be available at all levels of education.

Second, (4) Educational institutions should prescribe sober and dignified dress for girls.

How should one look at this take from the Jamaat? It has its roots in history. The Jamaat is afraid of gharabzadgi, an Iranian concept prevalent in the 1960s – 70s, which is often translated as ‘Westoxication’, “Westitis”, “Westmania”, etc. These terms denote an illness, a virus, a plague from the West, which has a devastating effect on any culture or community. It is a very common perception among these patriarchs and self-proclaimed guardians of a community that women are most vulnerable to this gharabzadgi. Therefore, through women, the warp and weft of the social fabric would be easily contaminated and then this gharabzadgi will wreak havoc on the Muslim culture. They also want to make us understand about the ‘evils’, which Europe and the US owe to the desegregation of the sexes, and the shamelessness and immodesty of contemporary Western culture. To score points over the West they place Islamic rights and stereotyped roles for women in opposition to the eroticised other — in this case the Western civilisation. As per their understanding, the female body provokes men and arouses them sexually and hence endangers moral behaviour so women must not take part in the public sphere. Therefore, the best way to arrest crimes against women is to house arrest them, either by imposition or by coercion. Such mentality and mindset makes legitimate, in many areas of the Islamic world, women’s surveillance by the family, community, and the state.

If one looks at the Jamaat in its entirety, one finds that the sine qua non of its existence is to make a pious society, take a cue from Shariah. In the traditional set-up men are supposed to be the breadwinners and hence the public sphere is their exclusive domain. Certainly, this implies that the private sphere belongs to the female sex, and their domestication and inferior designation euphemistically makes them the ‘Queen of the House’! In other words, Jamaat approves and endorses patriarchy, and to this end it quotes scriptures where the mard (male) becomes the qawwam (guardian) of the ‘second sex’. This implies the super-ordination of men and subordination of women.

But we do not live in the Victorian society where women were forced to wear chastity belts. We have a democracy, even if a weak one. Times have changed and the new educated generation wants to come out of this ‘church, children and chars’ trap. We cannot domesticate them anymore using the tools of shastras, shariah, sanskriti and sabhyata, as individual liberty is the supreme right of our time and cannot be compromised anymore. Moreover, this generation is not going to let their bodies be a site of contestation between tradition and modernity.

The important point that these fundamentalist organisations need to note is that there is no escaping modernity. Coming to terms with it would require a kind approach and a level of ingenuity they need to develop. Islam is not resistant to change as some make it out to be. That Islam is not change-proof can be known from a comparison of the laws and customs prevalent in the time of Hazrat Umar, who was one of the most powerful and influential Muslim rulers of the 6th century. I am neither professing the mindless borrowings of the Western category of thought nor advocating that we become a cultural clone of the West to be modern. However, we need to know that there is a wide difference between the Shariah (Islamic jurisprudence) and the Holy Scripture. The latter is divine and the former is a social construct. Shariah came into being long ago to solve the problems of people of a particular time and space at a specific point of history. Over time the human civilisation has taken a long stride, and the scale and scope of human understanding have increased manifold with subtle and nuanced dimensions. Consequently, society faces a good number of new problems. Those old solutions are not relevant today. Therefore we cannot equate Islam with conventionality and self-righteousness. Neither can its teachings be considered puritanical and patriarchal. On the contrary, we have to admit that gender bias is the Achilles’ heel of the Indian Muslims. The Muslim society, rather any society, cannot progress leaving behind half of a nation’s population. To empower the community, we have to empower our women.

Every structure which feeds upon and sustains gender inequality is bound to be challenged and face unprecedented eruption of mass protests filled with angst, anger and aggression. Women from within the community have been putting a good deal of effort in fighting their structural marginalisation as well as freedom from oppression. But their jihad still has a long way to go. In fact, reviving a radical jihad, for the restoration of their right, honour, dignity, and freedom from fear of all sorts should be in its essence. Amen, I would say!

[Fahad Hashmi is pursuing MPhil in Sociology from DSE, University of Delhi.]

(Courtesy: Tehelka)

'I don't believe Muslims are a problem and Islam a threat': William Dalrymple

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

'When Sikhs were killed in the Afghan-Sikh war in 1837, the Afridis used to bury their heads like flowerpots in the ground,' writer and popular historian William Dalrymple tells Rediff.com's Syed Firdaus Ashraf.

"This obsession of linking Islam and violence is a false one," says writer and popular historian William Dalrymple, whose latest book Return of a King is a historical work based on the First Afghan War.

In the second part of an interesting conversation with Rediff.com's Syed Firdaus Ashraf, Dalrymple discusses how the defeat of the great imperial power in that war is central to what the Afghans think of themselves.

Dalrymple, who has written two widely acclaimed books on the Mughals, counters the view that peace eludes the Islamic world and says that in the last 300 years there have been more instances of Muslim countries being invaded than them being invaders themselves.

"The British are partly responsible for stereotyping Islam. They have a lot to answer for and this book is a story of an unnecessary war waged against a nation which ended in horrible destruction," Dalrymple says in a thought-provoking conversation.

Do you feel the Western world still fears Islam as a religion and think of the Crusades when they invade countries like Afghanistan? Do you think they fear Islam could make a comeback as a potent force?

I think there is a huge ignorance about Islam in the West. 9/11 was a big shock to America as a nation. America is huge and like every huge nation is very self obsessed, China is and so is India.

India constantly looks within itself. If you see any Indian books they talk about them and not about American Presidents (laughs). So big countries are very obsessed with themselves.
America knew nothing of the Islamic world and suddenly 9/11 happened which they had to explain.

So there was a huge amount of fear, misrepresentation, expression of ignorance and we know that results in massive policy failures. As when George Bush tried to pretend that Saddam Hussain is part of Al Qaeda!It was nonsense!

What one has to do as a writer or intellectual is to try and present both the pictures and educate people. This is the point of being a writer and a historian.

Don't you think that Islam is an expansionist religion because historically they have expanded so well and so fast?

(Interrupts) I don't think, I don't agree. If you look at the history of great invasions, certainly, there is story of expansion of Islam in its early days, but the British declared war on every country in the world barring 17 (laughs) I think at some point in the last 500 years.

America has declared war on hundreds of countries in the last 100 years. Look at the Mongol Empire, that is not an Islamic empire and they too declared war on many countries.

Empires come and go. Powerful nations invade weaker nations. I don't think that is no more true in the Islamic world than anywhere else. I don't think Islam is inherently oppressive and inherently...(stops abruptly).

In fact, Islam has been invaded more than they have been invading.

Islamic countries have been invaded more times rather than they going out and invading other countries?

Yes. In the last 300 years certainly.

In Return of a King, you mention that many kings right from Nadir Shah to Aurangzeb paid protection money to the Afghans. Do you think believe NATO paid protection money to the Taliban?

The reality is that Aurangzeb while fighting the Marathas felt it was pointless to (also) fight the Pathans of the frontier tribes. He paid them protection money to keep the roads open. The same is the case of Nadir Shah.

The British used to have this saying, 'Thrash the Sindhis, befriend the Baluch, but pay the Pathans' (laughs). I am not advocating that policy (laughs), but that was the 19th century policy of the British rule.

No one has successfully subjugated the Pathans for long.

So you think NATO must not have paid the Taliban?

There have been scandals where security companies have been paying the Taliban not to attack their convoys. It is certainly one way of dealing with the problem.

I firmly believe it is quite possible for Afghanistan to develop like other parts of the world. There could be road building, local governance, education, sanitation.

The tragedy is that the international community took their eyes (away) from Afghanistan when they went to invade Iraq.

All the money promised to redevelop Afghanistan was never used. The money had to go to Afghanistan only for security.

Even after ten years and spending billions of dollars in Afghanistan, there are no decent roads in Afghanistan.

No streetlights. No rubbish collection.

The Afghans look at that and wonder where has all the money gone because they don't see their cities changing.

One thing you do see is the advancement in education. Every morning in the cities of Afghanistan you see school kids and young women in veils heading off to schools in big numbers.

Roads, administration, the illiterate civil service, all things that the West could have spent money on have been completely neglected.

Even the poorest and worst parts of Pakistan or the very worst administered part of Jharkhand or Bihar don't compare to the terrible neglect in basic infrastructure that you find in Afghanistan.
If only we had not spent huge money on armaments, drones and Humvees -- instead of that we had only spent money on education and infrastructure, we would have seen a very different outcome of Afghanistan.

What will your next book be about?

This is my third big narrative history. I have done three books, set in the late 18th and early 19th century. White Mughals, The Last Mughal and now Return of a King -- three snapshots of 19th century history.

This book is as good as I can do in this form. I am very much at peace with this book. The natural arc of the story is so extraordinary.

I stumbled upon a very good subject and was lucky to find these sources in Afghanistan.

I would love to do something big like cultural history or artistic history. There is a wonderful book from Russia called Natasha's Dance by Orlando Figes, who has told the whole cultural history of Russia using this wonderful method.

I am thinking of something big on these lines. It is very early days and I have not found my map yet through this landscape. That is the landscape I want to travel through my artistry.

I am a trained art historian. My last project was on Mughal paintings in New York.

Is it true that one of your great-great-great-granduncles, Captain Colin Mackenzie, fought in the First Afghan War?

He is one of them. I had read his book, but I had no idea at that time he was my great-great-great-granduncle. He was married to my aunt and was not my blood relation.

The story is full of unbelievable idiots (laughs) and also lot of pleasant people. Norton (General William Not) is sort of a jealous, pigheaded, bureaucrat. Burnes is always going with his own ambitions.

Leading British General Elphinstone (the commander-in- chief, Major General William Elphinstone, cousin of Mountstuart Elphinstone) is a complete idiot.

One or two guys come out with any saving grace. George Rawlinson is one of them and the second one is my uncle and I am very proud of that.

In your book you mention that the Afghans are hawks and the Indians are like Carrion crows. Is that so?

These are not my words. These words are of Mirza Ata (an Afghan writer of that time). I cannot make such racist statements (laughs).

(Ata also said) Afghans have seen themselves as free mountain people and they looked down on Hindustanis who were conquered by the British and earlier by the Mughals.

You still find in some parts of Afghanistan a very aristocratic disdain for India. Mirza Ata has more disdain for the British. He also says somewhere that Indians don't have the sense how to present themselves and how to dress. God save me from their dal and their miserable chapatis (laughs).

How far did the concept of jihad and martyrdom matter to Afghan soldiers fighting Westerners then and now?

The rhetoric of the resistance is extremely jihadi and Islamic. When there are public announcements they are calling themselves soldiers of Islam declaring themselves to be fighting the kafirs.

When you look at the individuals involved it is more complex. (warrior-aristocrat) Abdullah Khan's girlfriend gets seduced by Burnes and he fights to retain his honour.

Amanullah Khan fights because his land has been confiscated. Mian Masjidi (had intially supported the British, but later turned against them) has offered to surrender to the British, but they attack his home and kill his family, so he fights against them.

Behind the rhetoric which is very much one of jihad, there is individual human motivation in all its complexity.

What do the Afghans think of the First Anglo Afghan war?

It is their freedom struggle. The main diplomatic quarter of Kabul is called Akbar Khan after the resistance leader. He is remembered because his faction won. He is in the Afghan psyche.
What Chankayapuri is to New Delhi; Akbar Khan is to Kabul.

Even in tiny little Afghan villages names like Burnes and Norton are remembered though they have been forgotten in Great Britain.

The defeat of this great imperial power by their tribesmen is absolutely central to how Afghans think of themselves.

When America was about to go into Afghanistan in 2001-2002, Mullah Omar asked the Afghans whether they want to be remembered as the sons of Shah Shuja or Dost Mohammad Khan?

He then did what Dost Mohammad did. He went to the Ahmed Shah Durrani mausoleum in Kandahar and got the shirt of the Prophet and declared himself Amir-ul-Momin (Leader of the Faithful).

You mention how the Afridi tribe tortured the British and how they badly mutilated the dead bodies. Is that true?

It is true. The Afghans amazed the British. There was a huge risk for them to go and rescue the bodies of their dead soldiers. They could not go back and retrieve the dead bodies of every fallen soldier. They desecrated their enemy's bodies.

The Sikhs too did the same thing. This is something of a regional tradition rather than Islamic tradition.

When Sikhs were killed in the Afghan-Sikh war in 1837, the Afridis used to bury their heads like flowerpots in the ground which has been largely forgotten.

Is that the reason why Nicholson turned against the Muslims and Islam and vented his anger in 1857 war?

Yes, this is what I like about how these three books end. In White Mughals, the main villain is Henry Russell who seduces Khair-u-nissa. Norton, who is the villain from the British side, is the protege of Henry Russell.

Then on the other side at the end of this book John Nicholson sees his brother being killed and his body desecrated -- he turns out to be the villain in The Last Mughal.

These three books are linked, it is like a trilogy.

Do you think the Muslim world and the West can live peacefully in the future?

Of course I do. You seem to be very troubled by the Islam side. Your questions keep coming 
back: 'Is Islam a threat? Are Muslims a problem?'

I don't believe Muslims are a problem and I don't think Islam is a threat.

There are leaders in the Islamic world (who) a lot of us admire -- not the heads of the ISI or the leaders of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi.

There are militant leaders in many parts of the world. I don't think there are more in the Islamic world than elsewhere.

We don't find peaceful places in the Islamic world.

I totally dispute that. There are many peaceful places in the Islamic world. Some wonderful countries, I have been quite happy traveling through the Islamic world.

The developing world as a whole has many problems. India is a uniquely successful post-colonial society which has been able to keep democracy and the rule of law in spite of corruption.

We all know about the many problems of Indian politicians and so on. Despite that, if you look at the wider developing world and post-colonial world, there is violence in many parts of world.
Look at Africa. It is far poorer and far more violent than the most of the Islamic world.

This obsession of linking Islam and violence is a false one. You find this in post colonial societies which are developing.

There are violent strands in Islam. There are organisations like Al Qaeda and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi. You have Muslim leaders who are militant, but there are many peaceful Muslim leaders and fabulous Muslim countries like modern Turkey.

Go to Istanbul, you will find it like Bombay, if not more so. You need to be balanced about it. There is Malaysia.

There are many wonderful places and I certainly bristle when people say Islam is about violence and strife.

You wrote in The Last Mughal how British stereotyped Muslims and Islam in history after the 1857 war.

The British are partly responsible for stereotyping Islam. In the 19th century the British used to try and present Islam as a violent religion which opposed the peaceful religion of Christianity.
If you were a colonised British subject you didn't see the other way because the British were the ones who had expanded the most.

I believe there are good things and bad things that British have brought to the world. I would not take the view that everything what they did was wrong.

But they have a lot to answer for and this book is entirely a story of an unnecessary war waged aggressively against a nation which ended in horrible destruction and waste.
It is a cautionary tale for imperial powers for the future.

(Courtesy: Rediff.com)

Cultural terrorism in Indian cinema

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

By Dr. Abdul Ruff

Artistic freedom is vital for creative thinkers.

Muslims are the most insulted, most injured and most terrorized people on this earth and cinema and media have only aggravated the situation by their anti-Muslim or direct anti-Islam campaigns.

Role being played by essentially anti-Islamic media (AIM) in terrorizing Muslims globally has been devastating for decades now. Millions of innocent Muslims have been massacred by anti-Islamic axis powers led by USA-UK terror twins and assisted by their eastern puppet regimes.
Like other mass media, Cinema also has done its part in this criminal shames and in promoting Islamophobia.

Targeting Muslims with incurious insults cannot make any real entertainment. Money and fame earned by anti-Muslim campaigns is dirty. India/Tamil cinema must leave Muslims alone...
In the name of entertainment, India cinema has systematically encouraged the anti-Muslim themes as part of cultural terrorism being promoted by Hindutva forces for Hindu votes more than for mere sadistic pleasure.

There are strong anti-Islam networks operating globally spreading poisonous hatred against Islam and targeting Muslims. India is known for its anti-Muslim mindset. Media nuts in India have acquired full liberty to throw mud on Muslims and defame Islam by using anything and everything they think fit for the purpose. Astonishingly even the Indian cinema which is supposed to cater for the societal need for entertainment during leisure hours have resorted to anti-Muslim portrayals.

This poisonous trend is harmful to the communal harmony and even nationhood in the long run.
Unfortunately, more than in Hindi and other languages, it is Tamil cinema which has been insulting Muslims. top actors are cast to discredit Islam and bring bad name for Muslims which harms ordinary Muslims in the society. It seems the directors/producers and censor board have encouraged this anti-Muslim phenomenon in culture.

The process of cultural malign campaigns in cinema and media against Muslims has been going on for years because the fanatics take silence by Muslims as tacit approval of anti-Muslim attacks. Also, because the censor boards supposed to promote cultural integration help the movie makers sow seeds of hatred against Muslims.

Obviously, the censor boards are infested by anti-Muslim fanatic elements and they need to be weeded out and boards reconstituted with genuine people.

It is in this context I appreciate the Tamil Nadu government orders for stopping the release of two Tamil moves of big stars in recent days. Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka have also banned the release of a Kamal film for the same reason.

Actors and artists need to be very cautious about the anti-Muslim content and anti-Islam phenomena in their movies insulting the helpless Muslims even directly. They are considered by many young people as role models and they have important responsibilities before the society. They should therefore try not to get into the trap of fanatics to belittle Muslims and try only to promote harmony as far as possible.

Films can be produced without insulting Muslims because as minority they would be placed under more strains because of the prevailing anti-Muslim environment in the country. Anti -Muslim outfits like Hindutva forces can easily use it to advance their vote bank politics.

India must ban all anti-Muslim movies that generate hatred towards Muslims and Islam. Tamil cinema is worse than Malayalam counterpart in insulting Muslims.

Popular cinema should work for real multi-cultural fusion and not to propagate cultural terrorism in any manner.

Cultural terrorism in Indian cinema as offshoot of political and economic terrorism as well as intellectual fanaticism can harm genuine interests of Muslims as major minority already facing perpetual wrath of ultra Hindutva forces for Hindu votes.

India cannot promote or pamper anti-Muslim entertainments!

[Dr. Abdul Ruff is Specialist on State Terrorism; Chancellor-Founder of Center for International Affairs (CIA); Independent Analyst; Chronicler of Foreign occupations & Freedom movements (Palestine, Kashmir, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Xinjiang, Chechnya, etc.). He is also former university Teacher. He can be contacted at abdulruff_jnu@yahoo.com]

Communal Owaisi does not belong in aspirational India

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

“…Khuda-na-khasta, hazaar martaba khuda-na-khasta, pehle tho nahin jaanewale, aur gaye tho khaali haath nahin jaayenge; Taj ko bhi le jayenge, Lal-Quiley ko ko bhi le jayenge, Qutub Minar ko bhi le jayenge” reiterates the speaker to a huge roar from the crowd. “Bachega kya?” he asks again in a mocking voice. Then he goes on to answer the question himself; “Ayodhya ki woh tooti phooti Ram ki mandir bachegi”… another roar, “Ajanta ki woh nangi nangi moorthiyaan bachengi” and another roar. The speaker then continues with even more vigour and venom in his eyes; “Arrey Hindustan, hum 25 crore hai na? Tum 100 Crore hai na? Theek hai, tum tho humse itney zyada hai, 15 minute ke liye police ko hata do batadenge kiss mein himmat hai, kaun taqatwar hai,” this time the crowd goes into, probably, the biggest roar of the evening.

The speaker, as is quite well known by now, happens to be Akbaruddin Owaisi, an elected legislator from Chandrayangutta area of Hyderabad. He belongs to the famous Owaisi clan and is the younger sibling of Asaduddin Owaisi, a member of Parliament representing Hyderabad and a permanent invitee in TV studio debates of Delhi as a Muslim voice of India. In his speech, the young MLA is virtually challenging the Indian State to withdraw the police force from the streets so that the 25 crore Muslims can show their supposed might to 100 crore Hindus.

The highest degree of condemnation from the secular brigade to the Owaisi speech has been that ‘he does not represent the (total) Muslim voice’ and that he is probably doing a ‘great dis-service to the Muslim cause by uttering those words’. Beyond these familiar reactions there has been only muted silence across the intellectual circles. Nobody has decried that ‘the idea of India’ is in danger, or that the much-vaunted Indian secularism is under threat. Not a word from any of those great souls living in their ivory towers. ‘Fascism’ has not been mentioned even in passing and it is almost as if Islam and Fascism can not co-exist in the same sentence, let alone in the same gathering or the world order.

Even the ‘not representing the (total) Muslim voice’ line of argument is merely an afterthought, as most secularists realise they cannot dismiss the Owaisis as fringe-elements, for they are the elite of the community and provide Muslim leadership in State assemblies, TV debates and national Parliament!

If a single sentence of a ‘fringe’ BJP player like Varun Gandhi had led to national outrage, this entire speech, demanding restoration of Mughal oppression, if not total annihilation of the entire Hindu race, has only met with stony silences from the entire secular, limousine-liberal gang governing the Indian mindspace.

A differential threshold of ‘acceptable’ hate speech seems to exist in the perverted secular mind of India. Sadly though, the greatest ‘disservice’ to the ‘Muslim cause’ in India is not being done by the Akbaruddin Owaisis of the world, but by the Shabana Azmis, the Javed Akhtars and the so-called secular brigade. By not creating a level-playing field in the arena of hate speeches between Akbar and Varun, the secular brigade is encouraging the victimhood narrative to overrule development politics. This inherent flaw of Muslim intellectuals, in either outright rejection of the existence of Islamic fundamentalism or conditional acceptance of the same, is at the core of all the Muslim problems in India (and probably elsewhere as well).
Is there no hope for the Muslims of India?

Many times in the past I have wondered if the Muslim community of India is cursed to be an eternal vote-bank of a developmentally bankrupt and inherently corrupt political leadership of India. How long can the Muslim leadership sustain itself purely by playing the minority victimhood card? How long will Muslim voters place fear-mongering local Mullah above bread & butter issues? How long will Muslims of India suffer from invented phobias and let go of education, jobs, houses and other modern-day lifestyle necessities?

Until very recently, I strongly believed there was no hope of these fundamental attitudinal changes in Indian Muslims. Then I visited Gujarat in the last few months and I have returned a believer. No, all of you need not go to Gujarat to see that ‘hope’, for it is much closer than that. That ‘hope’ is in the same Owaisi hate-speech video that I have quoted at the beginning.

After his murderous diatribe against BJP, RSS, Modi and almost the entire Hindu race, Akbaruddin Owaisi, in his speech, tries to move on to regular issues like education & housing. He attempts to quote some statistics to impress the audience, “44,663 houses had been built by the Government in Adilabad district and that not one of those houses had been allocated to a Muslim”. Owaisi then raises his pitch and shouts that among the 400 odd Madrasas of the district, many don’t even have teachers to teach the Muslim students.

What is the audience reaction now? There is pin-drop silence. The same audience which was shouting and roaring and jumping all over the place prefers to be totally silent when Owaisi junior raises genuine issues that impact the livelihoods of all those Muslims gathered at that takreer.

That silence represents hope for Indian Muslims. That silence tells the real story, the story of the Muslim voter maturing, the story of fanaticism giving way to pragmatism, and the story of aspirational Muslim politics trying to find a way out of abject poverty. For even those semi-fanatic Madrasa-fed Muslims of the erstwhile Nizam ruled Hyderabad state realize the truth of the Owaisis of this world.

Increasingly, Muslims are beginning to realise that at best, an Akbaruddin Owaisi is a fanatic preacher who can make a clap-trap speech but cannot deliver on governance. Owaisis cannot fool the audience, for those Muslims know that the same speaker has been an MLA since 1999 and has been part of the coalition in the Congress Government that built those 44,663 houses. If no Muslim got a house in Adilabad, then the Owaisis are responsible for that and the clapping, jumping audience knows that. In that passing moment, Akbaruddin Owaisi stands naked in front of his audience of die-hard Muslims.

The alternate vision for an aspirational India

“He has totally eradicated rent-seekers, now all that we earn belongs to us and we don’t have to part with our earnings unjustifiably” asserts Basheer Mohammed, an auto-rickshaw driver in Ahmedabad. “We will vote for Modi, no doubt,” he continues, “This road that you are seeing (in the Jamalpur area) was full of goons earlier who always took on the cops violently at the slightest provocation and today most of them are either self-employed or are working somewhere else. Now there is peace here, Ahmedabad is a good city to live in,” Mohammad proudly proclaims about his city of dwelling.

Four days later, when the election results were announced, there was a great surprise in store for all the secularists; Jamalpur (now known as Jamalpur-Khadiya) had for the first time elected a BJP legislator. By not exercising their franchise merely to defeat BJP and by not being a vote-bank, Muslims of Jamalpur had sent a message to the secularists. This message was to be seen everywhere in the Gujarat Assembly election.

Initial estimates suggest about 30 per cent of the Muslims have voted for Modi’s BJP in Gujarat this time. This is unprecedented in BJP’s history, not even Vajpayee; the moderate face of BJP during the zenith of his popularity in the mid to late 1990s; was able to draw even half that number of Muslim votes. Nitish Kumar’s JDU, the supposedly secular side of the NDA, could only win about 18 to 20 per cent of the Muslim vote in the Bihar Assembly election last year.
In fact, had a significant proportion of Muslims not endorsed Modi, the BJP tally would have fallen short of hitting a century, due to drought and micro-shifts in the Patel and other agrarian community’s votes.

Muslim Vote%               Total seats            BJP           Congress
15%                                 +37                        24               12
10%                                 +66                        40                25

Data Source: Election Commission of India (1 seat was won by NCP among these).

In the 37 crucial Assembly seats where there is a significant Muslim population, BJP has managed to win close to 65 per cent of the seats. In 2007, BJP had managed to win only 48 per cent of Assembly seats where Muslim population was above 15 per cent. Further BJP’s strike rate in these 37 seats is higher than its overall strike rate of winning 63 per cent of the seats (the tally of 115). Most secularists and left leaning political analysts have been singing the same old tunes of Hindu vote polarisation in Muslim dominated seats. That is flawed analysis. Indian secularists must now start digesting the fact that Muslims have voted for Modi in Gujarat.

This is not just the Gujarat story. Muslim vote in India is in a great flux today. Probably, for the first time in many decades, a significant portion of Muslims are not willing to be blind vote-banks. Yes, a majority of the Muslim vote might yet accrue to the Muslim parties and pseudo-secularists, but a significant minority is aspiring to be a part of the neo-middle class.

Narendrabhai Damodardas Modi is emerging as by far the most important leader of Indian neo-middle class cutting across caste, region, language and also to some extent religion. Over the next few months and years, the Muslim segment of India’s neo-middle class will negotiate its concerns with the idea of Modi. In this engagement will emerge roadmap of India’s future. As we enter 2013, my thoughts and prayers are with the secularists and limousine liberals whose days are numbered, for their ‘isms’ and agendas do not have any space in future India.

(Courtesy: Niti Central)

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