Narendra Modi and Ram Leela

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 21 November 2013 | Posted in , , , ,

By Syed Ali Mujtaba

The RSS has created a new Ram for the Indians to worship. His hanuman is Amit Shah. The duo had staged one Ram Leela or rasleea, the skeletons of which is tumbling out of the cupboard, which they are finding it hard to keep back and shut the doors.

Those who are not familiar with this story, let me put this in perspective. A young lady called Mansi Soni, befriended Gujarat Chief Minister and she was snooped by his acquaintance, the reasons of it is shrouded in mystery.

Ms. Soni hails from Bangalore and was selected as the landscape architect for the development of Bhuj city in the Kutch district of Gujarat. It’s since then she came in proximity with the Gujarat Chief Minister and the story begins.

It appears that one Pradeep Sharma who was once collector of Kutch district and now victimized by the Gujarat Government has filed a petition in the court alleging that Ms Soni had developed intimate relations with Chief Minister Narendra Modi.

The fact of the intimacy is confirmed by the petitioner who saw them in close proximity and overheard their conversation during one of the official functions.

Subsequently, according to Pradeep Sharma, Ms. Soni confide to him that when she called Modi in his office, he would freely interrupt scheduled meetings, walking out of his office in order to speak to her privately……

One may believe this story or not but the fact remains that it has been submitted to the court and let it cast it judgement on it.

How does this connected with the surveillance issue that is hogging limelight now? Well the lady in question is none other but Ms Soni, mentioned in Pradeep Sharma’s petition. The stalking incident actually took place in August-September 2009, when Amit Shah was holding junior Home Minster’s portfolio of Gujarat.

A sting operation jointly conducted by two media outlet has produced audio tapes that reveal that the illegal surveillance of Ms Soni was ordered by Amit Shah at the behest of his ‘Saheb’ Narendra Modi.

The Anti-Terrorist Squad of Gujarat carried out month long minute to minute tracking, surveillance, stalking and phone tapping of this young lady.

The orders given by Amit Shah clearly come out from recorded conversations captured in the audio tapes that are submitted to the court handling Ishrat Jhan encounter case.

Prima facie facts that emerge out is that Narendra Modi through Amit Shah did order and carry out the most brazen, unauthorized and illegal stalking activity in the country.

Why did he do so? What was the motive behind it? The nation is seeking answers to it ever since this story broke out. This is more so because the common man want to know the motive before making choice for the Prime Minister of the country.

The BJP line of defence is this was done to ‘give protection to the girl,’ but this argument needs scrutiny. First of all why protection was need at all, from whom the girl felt threats? Even if we buy the protection argument, then a police jeep could have been sufficient for security, what was the need for stalking and that too for more than a month?

The father of the girl has come out with a statement that his daughter does not wish for an investigation into the politically charged controversy and has claimed that the surveillance was mounted on her with her consent.

There are two threads to this argument, one desisting from an investigation, and other to take on the blame. Both arguments seems to be of dubious and do not live up to the test of reasons.

The third argument is built by Madhu Kishwar, one time feminist writer, now doing public relations for Narendra Modi, calling Ms Soni a terrorist. She justifies the stalking that was done to check her credentials.

Well can terrorist be a landscape architect, who goes through the rigmarole of competing through open tender and wins the contract of Bhuj city’s beautification. Suppose, if she was not selected for the project, then was she still stalked?

This brings us to the last motive and that is Ram Leela or Rasleela of Narendra Modi. The 63 year old bachelor has gained notoriety for making livid comments on women. He had called Sonia Gandhi ‘Burhia’ (old lady) and Shashi Tharoor's wife, a 'Rs 50 cr girlfriend.' Even though unrelated, these comments point figures and his character. The Prime Minister in waiting has to come clean on the “character dhela hai” apprehension of the people of this country.

This episode also reflects the style of functioning of Narendra Modi. He is known for taking decisions that has resulted in post Godhara riots and fake encounters. Can India be handed over to someone who goes by his whims and fancies to run the administration of his state?

There is more than what the eyes can read in this story. The truth about this chilling instance of state-sponsored stalking must be known. The audio tapes clearly prove that illegal state sponsored surveillance of a young female had taken place. If that’s the case, then the stalkers, who are now equated with the rapist, in this case would find its place in the same category? If proven guilty what would be the quantum of their punishment?

It’s high time that the conspiracy of silence in this case should be broken. The patriarchal defence do not hold ground in such a case. The adult woman or the man in the dock should make the motives clear and bring the real truth in public domain. If they cannot do so, then an independent inquiry should be ordered to unravel the mysteries surrounding it.

[Syed Ali Mujtaba is a Journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at syedalimujtaba@yahoo.com]

Baba-e-Urdu Moulvi Abdul Haq: Renowned promoter of Urdu language and literature

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

By Rohail Khan

Moulvi Abdul Haq (Father of Urdu) was born 141 years’ ago on 16th November 1872 in Hapur, Ghaziabad District, India. He was an acclaimed Urdu educator, writer, critic, linguist, lexicographer, editor, compiler, translator, etymologist, biographer and grammarian. His entire life was devoted to making Urdu the foremost language across sub-continent.

At an early age, young Abdul Haq acquired expertise in Urdu, Deccani, Persian, English, and Arabic languages. In 1894, he obtained B.A from the Aligarh Muslim University. During his formative years, his contemporaries included progressive scholars like Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, Moulana Shibli Nomani, Sir Ross Masood, Nawab Mohsin-ul-Mulk, Professor T. W. Arnold.

In his early career, Moulvi Abdul Haq served as Translator at the Home Department and based on his esoteric capabilities he was later appointed Inspector of Schools (Aurangabad, Deccan).

Simultaneously, he also served as Secretary, All India Muslim Educational Conference, where he managed the Promotion of Urdu across the entire British India.

Baba-e-Urdu was a moving spirit behind the establishment of famous “Osmania University”, Hyderabad Deccan; where he was instrumental in curriculum design and development of teaching methods in Urdu for all subjects and faculties.

Under his able supervision, textbooks and reference material were compiled and taught in Urdu. Later on, he served as chairman of the University’s Department of Urdu. Osmania University rose to new heights under his leadership and became second after Aligarh Muslim University.

It was Moulvi Abdul Haq who worked hard to enrich Deccani Urdu literature and make it familiar to the masses. He was the first in unearthing various old rare manuscripts from the archives that remained unattended for centuries. He introduced Deccani literature to Modern Urdu readers and historians and strengthened the roots of the Urdu language.

Having realized the demise of Persian language, Moulvi Abdul Haq made it his mission to place Urdu language head-to-head with English and Arabic. He ensured that Urdu books and material are developed in basic fields of knowledge i.e: medical sciences, arts and crafts, geology, astronomy, mathematics, economics, and social sciences.

In his tenure, he edited rare manuscripts such as Meraajul Ashqeen (1924), Zikr-e-Mir (1928), Bagh-o-Bahar (1931), Sab Ras (1932), Nikat-o-Shoara (1935), Nusrati (1938), Qutub Mushtari (1939), others.

After his retirement from Osmania University in 1930, he compiled and edited a comprehensive and authoritative “English Urdu Dictionary” which is a great service to Urdu language.

Under his asture care, the “Anjuman e Taraqqi e Urdu” (Society for Development of Urdu), emerged as a powerful service organization across the sub-continent. In the 1930s, Mahatma Gandhi and his comrades started a campaign to change the Urdu script. Thanks to the Anjuman and proactive role of Moulvi Abdul Haq, the attempt was successfully thwarted. Thereafter, till the creation of Pakistan in 1947, he fought the Indian National Congress for the cause of Urdu and Pakistan.

In early1948, Moulvi Abdul Haq migrated to Pakistan. During the partition riots, thousands of valuable manuscripts, memoranda, books and articles that he possessed were inadvertently lost. Anti-Islam sections of the British Government had seriously damaged the Anjuman by withdrawing all support in 1945. Moulvi Sahib reached Pakistan poor in health, meager in resources but planted the Anjuman anew, on fresh ground. Under the aegis of the organization, countless books and several important journals were re-produced in Urdu.

During 1948 - 1961, Baba-e-Urdu patronized and inaugurated various “Urdu Public Libraries” and lived long enough to see his dreams come to reality i.e: introduction of Urdu medium institutions of higher learning, establishment of Arts and Science College with Urdu curriculum.

He continually stressed the need for a multi-dimensional multi-region “Urdu University” for which he even called a All Pakistan National Conference in 1959.

Moulvi Abdul Haq, a life-long proponent for Urdu, was the moving force behind making Urdu the National Language of Pakistan.

After a prolonged illness, Moulvi Abdul Haq departed on 16th August 1961 in Karachi. Government of Pakistani, in recognition of his tireless efforts, issued a postage stamp in his honor in 2004.

As a researcher, scholar, critic and lexicographer Moulvi Abdul Haq is a great name in history. It is, however, as the foremost campaigner of Urdu and its greatest servant that Baba-e-Urdu will be remembered for ever by 550 million Urdu speakers around the world.Urdu – Great Language

After Arabic, the largest source of Islamic literature is “Urdu”. Indeed, we must promote and nurture this fascinating language.

Urdu is spoken by “550 million people”, pre-dominantly in India and Pakistan. Significant Urdu speaking communities exist in the Sub-continent, North America, Middle East, and Far East. Urdu is the “national language of Pakistan”. It is widely spoken across India, where it is one of the 22 scheduled languages and official language of five states. The Indian film industry is dominated by Urdu as prime language since 75 years. Urdu is the language of love, peace, poetry, and communal harmony. Over 5,500 Urdu literary societies and associations are serving this great language all over five continents.

Based on the Khariboli dialect of Dehli, Urdu developed under the rich influence of Persian, Arabic, and Turkish languages over 900 years.

It began to take shape in what is now Uttar Pardesh, India, during the Dehli Sultanate (1206-1527 AD), and continued to develop and flourish under The Great Mughal Empire (1526-1858 AD).

The 550 million Urdu speakers make it as “4th largest language in the world”. Let's serve Urdu. Let's promote those who promote Urdu.

Phooloun ki mehek banke bikher jaye gi Urdu,
Yeh wehem hai aey dost ke merr jaye gi Urdu.

[Rohail Khan, a senior banker and social worker, is Chairman of Urdu Academy International. He is actively developing communities through literature, culture, and philanthropy. He can be reached at: rohailkhan00@gmail.com]

Fatwas and the Responsibility of Muslim Scholars in America

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

By Shaykh Luqman Ahmad

Islamic scholars occupy a special place in Muslim society. They are often considered to be amongst the elite of our faith. In one tradition, the Prophet (SAWS) stated; “One Scholar is harder against the devil than a thousand worshippers”. In another tradition; “The Scholars are the inheritors of the Prophets”. The Quran states that people are elevated by their religious knowledge “Allah will rise up, to (suitable) ranks (and degrees), those of you who believe and who have been granted (mystic) Knowledge. And Allah is well- acquainted with all ye do.” Quran 58:11 As the preservers, and often times interpreters of sacred law, Islamic scholars deserve our respect, support, and our gratitude.

Additionally, scholars of Islam are responsible for upholding the sacred trust that accompanies the acquisition of sacred knowledge; which is to explain the religion clearly and concisely and not cover up any part of it, “Those who conceal the clear (Signs) We have sent down, and the Guidance, after We have made it clear for the people in the Book,-on them shall be Allah’s curse, and the curse of those entitled to curse” 2:159. In today’s turbulent times a, the role of Muslim religious scholars and qualified teachers takes on a special significance for three reasons, the first being; the scarcity of people available who possess sound and accurate islamic knowledge, It was related in the hadith of Anas ibn Malik that the Prophet (SAWS) said: “From among the portents of the Hour are (the following): 1. Religious knowledge will be taken away (by the death of Religious learned men). 2. (Religious) ignorance will prevail. 3. Drinking of Alcoholic drinks (will be very common). 4. There will be prevalence of open illegal sexual intercourse”. The second reason is the responsibility to stand as barriers between ignorant Islamic leadership and the Muslim people themselves; “Verily, Allah does not take away knowledge by snatching it from the people but He takes away knowledge by taking away the scholars, so that when He leaves no learned person, people turn to ignorant as their, leaders; then they are asked to deliver religious verdicts and they deliver them without knowledge, they go astray, and lead others astray”.

The third reason is that the world has changed, people are mixing cultures, ideas, ethnic tendencies into one big melting pot in America and Muslim scholars need to help break down barriers between the diverse Muslim peoples living here. That means that they have to get out and understand what’s going on in the land. Scholars of Islam have to take the added step whenever and wherever possible, to familiarize themselves with the common people, and the intricacies of American life and culture, about which they render judgments and opinions. The Prophet (SAWS) said, “The Muslim who mixes with the people and is patient with their ills is better than the Muslim who does not mix with the people and is not patient with their ills”.

Some Islamic scholars find themselves either woefully unfamiliar, or subtlety indifferent to America, American people specifically, and in the process, Muslims Americans who are socially integrated into our country’s fabric. Some, due to their ignorance of American culture and her people, and often operating from abroad, have managed to demonize virtually every aspect of American culture and way of life. Sports, birthdays, Thanksgiving, family photos, decorating homes, designer clothing, thikr beads, wearing jeans, baby showers, attending graduation ceremonies, saying what’s up brother to a stranger on the street, being in a good mood during Christmas season, gospel music, wedding rings, visiting graves of relatives, bereavement practices, women entering Masaajid, loving one’s country, and a host of other things have ended up on the haram list of one scholar or another.

Some Muslim Americans find themselves apologizing for being born in this country of ours as if it were a curse. The average Muslim, especially the convert, who simply wants to worship his or her Lord, and live an Islamic lifestyle, is often left in an almost perpetual state of confusion. Scholars, as they learn more about American society alternately prohibit things in one instance and then make them permissible according to their own evolutionary knowledge of our country, our culture and our way of life.

Anti American oratory has surreptitiously made its way into the modern canonical dialogue of Islam. Many American Muslims have been morally blackmailed into having to repudiate American culture in order to find acceptance as Muslims by immigrant scholars. Even today, rhetoric from a minority of Muslim scholars and some imams are replete with anti-American invectives or rallying cries against so called ‘western culture’ or values. It is ironic however, that from an Islamic theological perspective, morality has no hemispheric basis; “to Allah belongs the east and the west, wherever thou turnest, yr shall find His (God’s) Face”.

Islam for many Muslim Americans has become too complicated to be user friendly. The dozen or so, often conflicting spheres of scholarly influence has created a virtual merry-go-round of Islam in America, and we need to do something about it. Understanding how to apply Islamic law and morality, in the United States, require a thorough understanding of the shariah, the culture norms of the people, as well as the inclusion and consultation of indigenous American Muslim imams, laymen and intelligentsia.

The famous 14th century jurist, Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya alluded to this issue very succinctly; when commenting of the necessity of understanding people’s cultural practices, he said: “This is a major foundation that every mufti (legist) or ruler needs; he must be both well-versed (in peoples traditions) as well as matters of command and prohibition and then apply them both simultaneously. Otherwise he will do more harm than good. If he is not intimately aware of an issue in which people have particular understanding, a transgressor will appear to him as the transgressed and the truth will appear to him as falsehood and vice versa.”

Ibn Qayyim went on to say: “Because of his ignorance of the people, their traditions, their conditions and their habits, he will not be able to distinguish (between truth and falsehood), Thus, it is imperative that (the scholar) understands the machinations of the people, their deceptions, their cultural traditions and their habits because fatwa (religious rulings) change with the changing of time, place culture and condition, and all of this is part of the religion of Allah.”- Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya (D. 751 A.H.) quoted from: “Ii’laan al-Muwaqqi’een an Rabbil aalameen” vol. 4, p. 157

American Muslims need to realize that this is our country, and for indigenous American Muslims, and others who intend to stay here permanently, this is our homeland. We don’t have a “back home” to go to. So we need to be certain that the teachings of Islam in this country are not tainted by anyone’s political prejudices, cultural sensitivities, or ignorance about America and our way of life. Granted, this is a difficult topic. Nevertheless, it is one that must be addressed if we have any hope from curbing the undercurrent of extremism that still germinates in the minds of some of our youth. As Muslim Americans, our first duty is to our Lord, and our number one priority is our own salvation. As American Muslims, we have the god given right to look out after our own spiritual self-interests.

[Shaykh Luqman Ahmad is the Imam of Masjid Ibrahim Islamic Center, Sacramento California. He is also a national shura member of MANA (Muslim Alliance of North America) and an Executive committee member of NAIF (North American Imams Federation). He is also Executive Director of the Lotus Tree Institute, a center for research and traditional Islamic learning based in Sacramento California. He can be contacted at imamabulaith@yahoo.com]

Poisoning the Hindu Mind

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 15 November 2013 | Posted in , , , , ,

By Dr. Mohammad Manzoor Alam

The single specialisation of RSS since 1920s has been sowing hatred and hostility in the Hindu mind against religious minorities, particularly Muslims and, to a lesser degree, Christians.

One of the themes of the anti-Muslim propaganda: the Muslim birth rate is so high that by 2035, Muslims will become the absolute majority in India.

The latest round of demographic propaganda began recently with the exhortation of RSS joint general secretary Dattareya Hosable to Hindus to produce more children to “maintain the demographic balance”.

Up to here it was ok. But soon the RSS website came up with the following canard: “… In 2035, Muslims will become absolute majority in India (total population: 197.7 crore). Conversion, threatening, rioting, slaughtering, terrorism, intrusion, polygamy, avoiding birth control are major tools for Muslims to reach that figure within the said period”.

This is nothing but hate propaganda based on falsehoods. How does threatening, rioting, slaughtering, terrorism and intrusion increase the Muslim population? Where are Muslims threatening, rioting and slaughtering?

Every few years the RSS comes up with this and people regularly explain that this is not the case. According to some extreme scenarios, Muslims may overtake (which is not possible keeping other factors in mind) Hindus in 250 years if one goes by RSS standards. That is 2263, not 2035.

That is not going to happen as the new global trends show. Worldwide Muslim population growth rate is falling and other, formerly stagnant declining populations like Russian, Japanese, French and Israelis are growing steadily. India is no different.

There is a general falling trend in population growth across communities over the last six and a half decades in India. In the earlier years of freedom every woman had seven children, which over the decades became six, five, four, three and two and a half. Muslims have not been different, except marginally. The size of the Muslim family has shrunk drastically, like any other.

The small, virtually insignificant, margin is explained by greater poverty and illiteracy among Muslims. The poor and the illiterate always have more children. In the years ahead Muslim poverty and illiteracy will decrease. So will their population. Their relative population will shrink, not outgrow others.

[Dr. Mohammad Manzoor Alam is Chairman of Institute of Objective Studies, New Delhi. He can be contacted at manzoor@ndf.vsnl.net.in]

Deconstructing Modi

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

By Dr. Chandan Yadav

Some of the recent pronouncements of Modi seek to give an impression that he is a changed man. He has been talking about welfare of the Muslims and fighting poverty. Does this articulation mean that Modi wants to change himself and project himself as something other than he is perceived as? While seeking answers to these questions, one could deconstruct Modi’s speeches through what is unsaid rather than said. We must try to look into the meanings of what has not been said, but is implied and meant. When Jacques Derrida wrote his theory of deconstruction, is it possible that he had a sense of prolepsis and had the likes of BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi in mind? Derrida’s Deconstruction theory, in very simple terms, refers to an understanding of an idea in terms of its binary oppositions i.e. what is NOT stated, and as an attempt to expose and undermine these oppositions. No other personality in current Indian political discourse offers himself to be such a ripe candidate for testing of Derrida’s theory.

As I listened to Modi delivering his speech in Patna, I realised that either this man has no idea of what he is saying, or second, the irony of his own pronouncements is lost on him. Or perhaps, he is deliberately, dangerously and surreptitiously trying to communalise the polity. Why else would he, in his blatant distortion of the history of Bihar bring the foreigner Alexander to its shores, but omit the story of the native Sher Shah Suri? Opportunism, communalism, casteism and dynasty are the biggest impediments to democracy said Modi. Why does he not practise what he preaches? Isn’t Narendra Modi himself today one of the biggest examples of opportunistic politics in this country – a man who has used the likes of Haren Pandya, Keshubhai Patel, DIG Vanzara, Sanjay Joshi and most recently his political ‘guru’ L.K. Advani, to fulfil his agenda and then thrown them by the wayside? Hasn’t he subverted legal processes by refusing to have a Lokayukta in Gujarat during his entire tenure? And even while he spoke out against the evil of casteism from the dais in Patna, within the next few minutes, he launched into an appeasement drive towards the Yadavs and the backward castes, condescendingly proclaiming how he would “take care” of all Yadavs, and playing his own background and roots to the gallery. Why was so much of his speech comparing Muslims in Bihar and Gujarat? An editorial in the New York Times published this week states that “Muslims in Gujarat, are much more likely to be poor than Muslims in India as a whole, even though the state has a lower poverty rate than the country.” The implicit irony of this cannot be ignored. While one of Narendra Modi’s pet peeves seems to be the dominance of ‘dynasty’ in Indian politics, he perhaps forgets that, India has not had a ‘dynastic’ Prime Minister for almost the last quarter of a century! In a democratic set up, every eligible person has the right to contest elections. Being born as the son or daughter of someone cannot be a source of disqualification. India’s vibrant and functioning parliamentary democracy is the cynosure of the whole world. The people of India have elected those that they have found deserving, similarly, even big ‘dynastic’ names have been defeated at the hustings. A close reading of Modi’s speeches therefore shows that this man will stoop to any level to assert his superiority, and posit himself clearly as the “Self” in the dialectic discourse. Last Sunday’s speech in Patna was no different – interspersed with rhetoric, lies and even exposed his ploy to distort history and falsify facts.

Everything about Narendra Modi is craftily constructed. From his walk to his hair to his clothes to his tweets, there is a whole image and personality cult that is sought to be created; to take away from the opposite, rough reality. Uncomfortable issues are buried under the carpet. And instead, “facts” are conjured and presented to the public as the truth and nothing but the truth. As one lie gets nailed; another one comes out of the “magic hat”. The most recent of these came when he stated that Pandit Nehru had not even attended Sardar Patel’s funeral. Earlier, there were lies about the so-called “Gujarat development model”. Then it was the GDP spend on Chinese education system. How can one forget the lies about his ‘Rambo’ act in Uttarakhand! He has constantly been speaking of a “Congress mukt Bharat.” The Congress is not just a political party; it is an ideology that is embedded in our Constitution, a bond that has joined generations of Indians together for the last century and more. A Congress free India is a pipedream that can never be fulfilled.

Would it therefore be wrong to say that the BJP Prime Ministerial candidate is nothing but an opportunistic, double-faced personality, who contrary to his real self is being projected by his organisation, his PR managers and also his own self as someone with almost superhuman powers, a desi ‘Rambo’? However a closer look reveals that he was totally confused as to what he wanted to be in his youth – from joining the army (Haryana rally), to being a sadhu like Baba Ramdev to becoming a teacher to the more recent career goals like being a Chowkidaar (a clear reference to his Prime Ministerial ambitions). Like a chameleon, he changes his colours to suit the situation. Deconstructing Modi’s speeches bring out the facts – the real truth – a deeply communal man who is unapologetic about his past deeds, a man who spews venom and hatred, a man who epitomises opportunism and can lie through his teeth to achieve his aims, a man who shows no remorse for the dead- either those killed in Gujarat, or for the DIG who collapsed on the dais while he was speaking on Independence Day. His speeches are dominated by negativity and rhetoric – he has not yet given one constructive agenda for the future which is not vague. The more he speaks, the more is kept hidden – the logos only further articulates the differances. Reality is far removed from what is perceived to be real. The man is nothing but a split personality.

[Dr. Chandan Yadav has a Phd in Linguistics from Jawaharlal Nehru University. He is currently Spokesperson, Bihar Pradesh Congress Committee. He can be contacted at chandanjnu@gmail.com]

Pakistan: A Class Of Her Own

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

In the squatter colonies of Pakistan, education is something that happens to other people—especially if you are female. Rahul Bhattacharya meets Humaira Bachal who, as a girl, taught a whole community a lesson

By Rahul Bhattacharya

In the settlement of Moach Goth on the outskirts of Karachi lives a heroine. To meet her you must drive out towards the provincial border of Sindh and Balochistan. En route to Moach Goth, you are shown the flyover that collapsed, the factory that burned, and an entrance to Lyari, the ghetto whose gang wars and body-counts are in the papers every day.

It was a momentous time to be in Pakistan, ten days after general elections and the first transition in the nation's history from one elected government to another. The talk was of tabdeeli, change, and dhandhli, rigging. The talk was of whether things were getting better, or whether they were going to get worse before they got better. The day before repolling in a constituency in southern Karachi, Zahra Shahid Hussain, a much-admired professor, activist and vice-president of the political party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, had been shot dead at the gates of her house by two men on a motorcycle. The next morning Samina Baig, a 22-year-old, became the first Pakistani woman to scale Everest.

To enter Moach Goth is to begin to understand another climb, that made by Humaira Bachal. When she and her family came here, they had just cleared their debts. It was probably some time in 1995, but they are not sure. The settlement was small, nothing like now. A fishing village had been here for a long time, but now it was transforming into a squatter's colony in the fast-expanding conurbation of Karachi. When they arrived, as they remember it, there were about a hundred mud and straw huts. There were jungles of thorny acacia. The gangs had not yet formed, and in any case no vehicles really came to the village, so you didn't need to flash your headlights in code to enter anybody's turf after dark.

Now, between the Sindhis, Balochis, Kutchhis, Brohis, Mohajirs, Punjabis and Bengalis, there are 160,000, perhaps 180,000, people in Moach Goth. The sand blows through its unpaved streets. The cement water tower that stands tall over the population worked for two months, then ran dry, so now they must buy water from private contractors. Electricity lines have been installed, but there are power cuts for nine hours a day. Sewage pipes were laid twice; each time they burst in the rains.

Two of the three government schools in Moach Goth are ghost schools, abandoned by their teachers and administrators and occupied instead by junkies or criminals; there are an estimated 30,000 such schools in Pakistan. The single working school left in Moach Goth barely functions. Boys are usually pulled out at 12 by their families and put to work in factories or on construction sites; girls are rarely permitted to study at all. Government figures state that 40% of Pakistani girls have had a primary education, but other official sources put female literacy in Pakistan at 26%. According to independent sources, if you exclude those who can form only their signature, the figure tumbles to 12%.

So when Humaira Bachal matriculated—the equivalent of taking her GCSEs—it was about the most improbable thing a girl from Moach Goth could do. And then she built perhaps the most improbable school in the world. She is 26 now, and she started it when she was 13.

Humaira was born on a Friday morning, "black and thin," she says, "like a little rat". Her grandfather looked at her and cried: "Allah, will this girl live to ever give me a glass of water?" She was the firstborn of Mohammad Bachal and Zainab Bibi, though each had four children from a previous marriage.

They had fallen in love in Lyari, not then such a lethal place. (Decades later, the body of Bachal's only son would be discovered there in a sack under a bridge.) Zainab, a Baloch, was married at 11 to a drunk, drug addict and wife-beater. Bachal, a Sindhi, married a woman who loved someone else. She arranged for Bachal to wed Zainab. But he was cussed: for her troubles, she still did not get her divorce. "Your father is a most wicked man," Zainab would complain to Humaira and her younger sister Tahira, making them laugh.

After the marriage, Zainab and Bachal moved to the town of Thatta in Sindh, where they bought a piece of land and built a hut. He was a truck driver; she took stitching jobs. Humaira was born in Thatta, and three years later was admitted to a nursery school. It was the first time a girl in the family had started a formal education. Bachal tolerated it—Zainab had insisted, supported by her youngest son, Shakeel, who had found some progressive friends in Thatta. The elder daughters were not around, so it was Shakeel who would dress Humaira and Tahira and comb their hair, babysit them at the cycle store where he worked, and take them to their classes.

Humaira remembers summer visits to her father's village, where she would play with a one-year-old cousin, a boy called Munna. One day Munna had a fever, and Humaira was told to come back later. In the evening she found women assembled around the house, crying: Munna had died. It happened 15 minutes after he was given his medicine. She remembers people making absurd conjectures, like whether a lizard had spat in the bottle, before someone discovered that the medicine was past its expiry date. "I couldn't accept that a mother had killed her child, a child she loved so much. She had killed him because she couldn't read."

Her most vivid memory of Thatta is leaving it, soon after the wedding of Shakeel's older brother. The Bachals had put all their capital and more into the wedding, counting on recouping the cost through wedding gifts. But then the rains came. Interior Sindh was flooded. The animals their guests might have given them were washed away, crops were submerged. The roads were gone; hardly anybody showed up. The wedding went ahead, but left the family in debt.

"We sold the iron," Humaira says. "We'd saved up for a television, we sold that. One by one, we sold our utensils. I remember creditors coming round. I remember my mother taking the earrings from my ears and selling them, and I remember why she sold them: because we had the money of others." When the house they had built with their hands stood empty, Zainab Bibi said, "We cannot live here any more." They sold the house and land for 40,000 rupees (£261) and made for the big city, where lives sometimes change.

They reached Karachi in a truck, their belongings few, their money gone, not sure where to go. At first they lived with an uncle, though it was clear they were not welcome. At the time Moach Goth was being settled by people escaping ethnic violence in Orangi Town, Karachi. An acquaintance of the Bachals had acquired a small plot there for 1,000 rupees (£6.50), but did not need it. He offered it to them. "You'll have a place to live, and I'll know that nobody will squat on my property."

Mohammad Bachal didn't have a job, nor did Zainab's sons; Zainab knew nobody she could stitch for. Food was scarce. Humaira and Tahira were "distributed among relatives". Humaira was about eight. "It was tyranny, like they show in the films. I was made to wash clothes, utensils, clean the house, cook, but given only scraps of the leftovers. I carried their bull of a child all over the place until my back felt it was going to break. I couldn't stop crying. When my mother came to see me three months later, I forced her to take me back."

Because there was no sewage system in Moach Goth, there was work available digging latrine pits. This gave Bachal daily wages. Zainab, a generous woman, was known to give away fistfuls of firewood to whoever came asking. "I told my mother, 'why don't we sell the wood?'" says Humaira. "I was very business-minded from the start." They hounded a scrap dealer till he sold them a pair of old scales. On Sundays the family would go into the acacia scrub. Bachal chopped, Zainab removed the thorns, Humaira and Tahira bundled the wood and loaded it on a truck. On a good day they could gather 100 kilos. At home, Zainab would cut the wood into little pieces, and sell them for two rupees (1p) a kilo.

With the money she paid for the two girls to go to Islamia Public School, a few kilometres out on the main road. It cost 250 rupees (£1.63) a month for each girl. At first Humaira and Tahira saw school as a punishment. Instruction was in Urdu, and they knew only Sindhi. They would be beaten in class for their incompetence, then shouted at at home by Zainab for complaining. But they both grew to love it. Mathematics was Humaira's special passion. She was sometimes ahead of the teacher, which gave her a feeling of exhilaration. The sisters used to set themselves the challenge of getting into the top three in class. They usually managed it.

Humaira was 13 when a crazy idea struck her. "My mother used to get us ready every day, tie two ponytails for us, put 2-kilo schoolbags on our backs and send us off. We would walk for 20 minutes—but on the way not one other child in this settlement would join us. One, they did not have money, and two, nobody considered girls to be anything. Those who didn't mind sending girls to school couldn't afford to, because of fees, and the cost of books and uniforms. By then I was in sixth standard [the equivalent of year eight in Britain]. I thought, I'm a big star, I know everything, so I will teach them myself!"

What would become the Dream Model Street School began in 2001, with one blackboard, at home. Humaira taught ten friends of her age, seven of them girls. She started with the alphabet, in Urdu and English, and proceeded to the names of things. She supplied blank pages from her own notebooks, until it got her into trouble with her teachers. Then the friends went round asking people to donate paper, or bought scrap.

Soon, Tahira, who was 11, and three other girls were teaching alongside Humaira. "We were militant about time. Time for study, time for play, time to eat—and time to go out and recruit. We didn't have the sense to realise we didn't have space, books, teachers, money. We went around to houses, telling people, 'We've opened a school, send your children, you must send your children!'"

A short film released on YouTube this year, "Humaira, Dreamcatcher", demonstrates the challenges of this recruitment. It's the work of an Oscar-winning Pakistani-Canadian documentary-maker, Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, whose crew have been following the lives of Pakistani women fighting for change. Twelve years after the school started, the film shows local men still making their points: for girls to study is not our culture; they will be stared at while going to school; what use is educating a girl when she is only going to marry and run a house? Permissions, given reluctantly, are withdrawn easily.

Yet by 2003 Humaira's team had enrolled over 150 children. The students could no longer fit into the Bachals' home, so the young teachers decided to rent. They took a 240-square-foot plot with two sorry rooms surrounded by mounds of mud. They levelled the ground themselves, erected wooden poles and strung up discarded flour sacks for shade. These collapsed in the rain. Someone suggested they use Panaflex signboards in place of the sacks. But the wooden poles would not take the weight. Somebody else suggested they use iron pipes, so they found a welder who helped rig them up. Finally, the shelter stood.

They had just about plastered part of the floor with money from a small donation when a charity called arm Child and Youth Welfare came visiting. One of its initiatives was a home-literacy programme, which meant that it could provide textbooks. It could also spare 1,000 rupees (£6.50) a month. "To us," Humaira says, "it felt like a hundred times more. It meant we could pay the rent."

By now, her own education had become a fraught affair. In those days Islamia Public School taught up to the eighth standard, two years short of the matriculation exam. Humaira did not have her father's permission to study further, or farther away. Conspiring with her mother, she enrolled at the Government Girls High School in Baldia Town. The secret could be kept from her father, who was away in the interior for weeks driving trucks. Humaira shone at the new school, becoming class prefect and head of the students' union. She wanted to be a doctor and spent her free time in the lab, dissecting frogs that she carried in from home. To her joy, she cracked the stationery problem at her own school when she discovered piles of half-used notebooks: the dinner lady had been tearing out the pages to wrap samosas.

One morning Mohammad Bachal returned home as Humaira was leaving to take her ninth-standard English exam. Enraged, he slapped her, then beat her mother, who urged Humaira to grab her bag and run. She sat the exam in a state of anxiety. When she returned, the house was calm. Her parents were having tea. He had not changed his mind.

Humaira says she told him, "Abbu [Daddy], if you are worried that you won't be able to marry me off, I promise you that no matter who you produce, even if he is blind or a cripple, tell me where to sign and when to say kabool [I accept], before the magistrate, and I'll do it, no questions asked. Just let me study." She knew it was a risk, but she was counting on her father's love and her mother's wisdom. "When a person is being stubborn," her mother would say, "it's because he hasn't understood yet. Once he understands, the severity with which he opposes you now, he will stand behind you with as much strength."

When he got a job in Karachi, Mohammad Bachal began dropping off his daughters at school in his truck, which delighted them. But his conversion was not complete. Shakeel remembers Bachal's recurring bouts of rage, the way he once brandished an axe during an argument. And the other men of Moach Goth would not let it be. They asked the family to leave the settlement: Humaira and Tahira were a bad influence. They sent thugs to intimidate them. "But over the years," the sisters tell me, almost with one voice, "everyone realised that we are more stubborn than them."

Humaira dropped her plan to study medicine when she found out the fees were around 350,000 rupees (£2,280) a year. Instead she enrolled in a madrassa, with the intention of becoming an Islamic scholar, taking a degree equivalent to a Bachelor of Arts.

She remembers putting on what's known as the "shuttlecock" burqa, head to toe, with stockings and gloves, and attending the madrassa, where the master taught from behind a purdah (screen). She became an occasional speaker at religious congregations. She instructed 350 girls in Moach Goth in namaaz, prayer, andwuzu, religious ablutions. Six months short of getting her degree, she quit.

Humaira does not name names, and keeps the details vague: there were arguments with the teachers at the madrassa, there was an attempt to kidnap her, her family feared for her safety. It's clear that the disagreements were fundamental.

"Their concept of women was four walls and purdah. To them women are naqis-ul-akl—of defective intelligence. My perspective on Islam was very different from theirs. In the time of the Prophet, peace be upon him, women were traders. Hazrat Khadija [the Prophet's first wife] was a businesswoman. Bibi Aisha [the Prophet's youngest wife] was a teacher of hadith, traditions of the Prophet, and fiqh, jurisprudence. In the time of the Prophet, peace be upon him, women had beensipahisalar, military commanders; they lived in camps. So is that the correct Islam—or is it four walls and purdah? Islam to me is the faith which gives rights, rather than takes them away. My conscience, my heart, was not satisfied with what they were saying. Why should I take a degree to which I am opposed? What would I do with it?"

From 7.30AM to 8PM, the 25 teachers at the Dream Model Street School educate 1,200 students over five shifts. The school is co-educational, the books are free, and there is no uniform. For those who can pay, fees are 30 rupees (20p) a month. Classes start from nursery and run up to eighth standard. The classrooms are partitioned by curtains, their walls alive with drawings and craft. The blackboards are busy with writing, not all of it completely accurate. "Present Simple Tense = Subject + Verb + Object. Anjum looks at wall clock every day". The teachers are in their late teens or early 20s. Most began their own schooling here.

In the evenings there are classes for child labourers. In the afternoons, a two-hour madrassa class, held for tactical, as well as educational, reasons. "Parents agree to send children to our school because of it," says Tahira, who took over as principal from Humaira six years ago, when she started another job. There are over 50 mosques in Moach Goth, and almost all have a madrassa. "We have seen cases where children have been taken out of the school, put in a madrassa and then talk all day about jihad. One boy, they brainwashed him so much, he pulled his sister out of school. He has become an imam."

Enrolment is one thing, retaining students another. Girls are often pulled out at 12. "The routine", Humaira says, "is matchmaking at 12, engagement at 13, marriage at 14, pregnant at 15. That is why we say we don't enrol a student, we have to enrol a family." They have made progress. A few years ago, of 50 nursery students, boys and girls, only two would still be attending by fifth standard. That number is now up to 20.

At noon there is an adult literacy class, used mostly by older girls who do not have permission to attend school—or a school to attend. Last year ten girls from Moach Goth matriculated. This was a record. They had studied at Dream's adult literacy classes, though for the purposes of sitting their matriculation exam they registered with a government ghost school. Reviving those schools is another part of Dream's agenda. They have already mounted a successful campaign to reopen one of the two abandoned primaries in Moach Goth. Police constables were sent in to clear out the junkies. The teachers—ghost teachers receiving real salaries—were ordered back.

I was accompanied to this school, a day after it had reopened, by two of Dream's male teachers. Qayoom used to paint spare parts for motorbikes, but quit his job when he realised how much he enjoyed being at Dream. Mujeeb was the younger brother of one of the original teachers. A few months ago he was picked up while standing sentry near the school, during a paramilitary operation to flush out criminals. His misfortune, according to his friends, was that he looked like a Makrani gangster: tall, dark, with matted hair. The Moach Goth gangs mostly respect the school. They may snatch mobile phones from its teachers, but they have never made demands: some of them have young relatives at Dream.

The de-ghosted government primary is as stark as a shell. Every piece of furniture, every fitting seems to have been stolen. Nothing remains, no doors, no windows, not even their frames. The white afternoon light explodes into the bare, ravaged rooms, onto the brown sandscape outside, the thorns on the acacia. There are squares of cardboard scattered on the floor, where students must have sat that morning.

By contrast, the second Dream School premises, under construction a kilometre away and close to Humaira's original school, gleam with promise. In 2009, an organisation called Shirkat Gah Women's Resource Centre made a film about Humaira, "A Small Dream". It was shown in Lahore, and Humaira, Tahira and their mother were invited, the first time they had been to the city. Humaira made a speech. The impact went beyond anyone's expectations. With the donations and networking that followed, teachers could be trained and paid a modest salary. The curriculum and the textbooks could be upgraded. "We need a space," Humaira had told the audience in Lahore. "We can't afford the rent, and the landlord keeps trying to lock us out. We are scared that the school will shut down."

The first part of the building, on a 500sqft plot, is the result of a gift from a Pakistani company, Engro Vopak, and a Swiss foundation, Volkart. The ground floor is almost done. If further funds come in, two more storeys will be built. "We want to have classes that go up to matric," says Humaira. "We will have chemistry, physics and biology labs, a computer room, a library, an auditorium. We will have outdoor activities in the back yard, a staff room, principal's room, accounts room. In the back yard we want to put fish and plants and birds. I don't want this to be a school, I want it to be a paradise for the children of Moach Goth."

In April this year, Humaira was interviewed on stage in New York during the Women in the World Summit at Lincoln Centre. Her involvement was arranged by Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy: Pakistan needs heroes, she says, their stories must be told. When the talk was over, Humaira says, and the lights came up and she saw thousands of women in the auditorium standing and applauding, tears came to her eyes. Things were swimming like a film in her head: the hardships, the house, the village, people's insistence that "nothing will ever come of this". She was such a small part of such a small place, but look at the respect the audience was giving her. She thought, "I wish my father could see this."

Mohammad Bachal's house, on a plot the family owns, is today one of the finest in Moach Goth. His family has eased into comfort. Humaira's first salaried job, at 7,000 rupees (£46) a month, was as a mobiliser in a micro-finance project. She had taken it when rent for their school space increased to 3,000 (£20). Then she began exporting Chinese beauty products from Karachi to Iran—where some of Zainab's relatives have shops—and earned up to 30,000 rupees (£196) a month, until the border was closed. She now makes a living giving leadership training, and remains president of the school and the Dream Foundation Trust, which runs it.

Shakeel has a job in the granulation department of a pharmaceutical company. A few years ago, when he was out of work, he tried to commit suicide by drinking poison. Tahira gently admonishes him for having scared everyone.

Mohammad Bachal has fractured his hand, and has been persuaded to retire. He thinks he must have been 18 when Pakistan was created, which would make him 84. He looks nearer 64, lean, rugged, with kohl in his eyes and a red Sindhi topi on his head. "It was jahilpan, ignorance," he says about his years of opposition. "Even an animal will listen to a well-educated person, but illiterates are influenced by illiterates."

Zainab Bibi is wearing a traditional Balochi pashk. Her arm carries traces of an old injury, suffered at her husband's hands the day he found Humaira leaving for her exam. "I didn't want my girls to have my life," she says. "I wanted them to become something." The daughters say that Zainab is their hero.

Pakistan does need heroes; but heroism is a permanent hostage. Its fate is unforeseeable. Initiatives begin and are ridiculed, blindsided or murdered. Months before Zahra Shahid Hussain was killed, so was Parveen Rehman. An architect and social worker, she had been documenting land records of the poor in settlements similar to Moach Goth. She was shot dead, allegedly by the land mafia. Months before her, in a part of the country where more than 600 schools have been destroyed or closed down by the Taliban, 15-year-old Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head for wanting to study.

The courage of a Pakistani hero involves facing the ultimate fact of death. But the fantasy of martyrdom, where it exists, is largely a male one. A heroine needs a more supple courage. She must negotiate: with her emotions, with her adversaries, with her family, with hypocrisies. But not, if she can help it, with her ambition. "If I can teach a few mothers to read a few labels, that will be enough." That is what Humaira Bachal told herself, when she started her school.

(Courtesy: Intelligent Life)

Muslim Spelling Bee 2013 Finals on November 30 at Des Plaines Theater in Chicago

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

IMO News Service

Chicago, U.S.A.: Muslim Spelling Bee 2013, Finals will be held on November 30, 2013 at the Des Plaines Theater, suburbs of Chicago, from 8.30 AM (This is an open event and all are invited to attend). Tausif Malik, Founder of Muslim Spelling Bee, said: "240 finalists and families from all over the United States will converge for the World’s First Muslim Spelling Bee Second season Finals."

The premise of the bee is to connect Muslim students from all over the United States who attend public, private and Islamic schools. Regional winners hailed from Chicago, Houston, Atlanta, New York, New Jersey, California, Florida, Houston and Dallas and included high caliber competitors such as the Florida state spelling bee winner who will be competing in the Scripps’ National Spelling Bee.

“The Muslim Spelling Bee has become the most talked event in the community and this is due to the support of the community” said Tausif.

Recently the Muslim Spelling Bee competition has been nominated for Islamic Economy Award to be held in Dubai.

The 2013 season kickstarted in New York at Al Ihsan Academy, then it was hosted by Precious Sprouts of Ann Arbor, Michigan, Islamic School of Irving,Al Hadi School, Houston,Orange Crescent School,Orange County, Folson Educational Academy, Mohammed Schools of Atlanta, American Youth Academy,Tampa, Darul Arqam, New Jersey and ended at MCC Full Time School, Illinois.

Muslim Spelling Bee has created a new format, where the competition is divided into 4 groups based on age and Top five spellers from each group are eligible to participate at the Finals.

This years winners will get gifts from the Illinois Office of Tourism (IOT)-Museum of Science and Technology, Iqra Foundation, A1 Tax Chocolat Uzma, My Halal Kitchen, Sabika Seatle, Nahda Designs, Taaza2u.com, 99.0rg Comics, UPF Movies & Insiyah Atoor.

The event is sponsored by Comcast, University Islamic Financials, K12.com

Media supported by Al Hikmat TV, Al Jumuah Magazine, Asian Lite, Azizah Magazine, Desi Express, Dinar Standard, Dunya, Global Muslim Observer, Indian Express, Indian Muslim Observer, Infocus California, Islamic Focus South Africa, Islamic Post, Lone Star Crescent, Muslim Coupon, Muslim Backyard, Multicultural Familia, Muslim Digest, Muallim, My Education Key, News Pakistan, New York Awam, Pakistan Chronicle & Pakistan Journal, Pakistan Post, Pakistan Times & South Asian Gazette, Pakistan Express, Pakistan Voice, Radio Sargam/News Pakistan, Radio Sohni Dharti, Sadaa-e-Pakistan, Saavn.com, The Desi Times, Tribune Asia, TV ONE GLOBAL, Urdu Times Chicago, Urdu Times, Ummaland.com, Ummah Design & UmmahLinked

The Muslim Spelling Bee will be recorded and broadcasted by TV ONE Global.

Dawoodi Bohra from world over congregate in Mumbai, observe Ashara Mubaraka in presence of HH Dr. Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | | Posted in , ,

IMO News Service

Mumbai: Over 200,000 Dawoodi Bohra community members from all over India, South Asia, Far East, the Arabian Gulf, East Africa, Europe, North America and Australia congregated in Mumbai to attend the ten-day Moharram observance known as Ashara Mubaraka, with their spiritual leader His Holiness Dr. Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin.

The revered occasion concluded on the Day of Ashura, the 10th of Moharram. The tragic martyrdom of Imam Husain SA, the grandson of Prophet Mohammad (pbuh), was narrated during these solemn days with much fervor in remembrance of his sacrifice for the cause of Islam and humanity remembered.

With the directions of Syedna, his heir-apparent Syedi Mufaddal Bhaisaheb Saifuddin (70) delivered the Moharram discourses at Saifee Masjid in Bhendi Bazaar. Apart from imparting teachings based on Islamic principles on family values, women empowerment, and patriotism, he reiterated Syedna’s universal message of social justice, peace and international harmony. He also conveyed His Holiness’s special prayers for the progress and prosperity of India and for the wellbeing of humanity at large.

For the convenience of the thousands of community members converging to the city, elaborate arrangements had been made by Anjuman-e-Shiate Ali- the community’s Mumbai Jamaat and the International Ashara Mubaraka Committee for all the necessary facilities and recourses. Special cells for better management of the event had been set-up at the newly inaugurated Mufaddal Shopping Arcade, the first and only commercial transit provide by the Saifee Burhani Upliftment Trust (SBUT) that is redeveloping the Bhendi Bazaar area.

The community-run Saifee Hospital, The Saifee Ambulance Society and Burhani Medical Idarah (BMI) co-ordinated in providing the best of medical facilities to the attendees. As to de-centralize the large number of participants, the Moharram discourses were transmitted in 60 other Dawoodi Bohra Masjids and community centers in South Mumbai and in the suburbs.

The occasion of Moharram was also observed with much spiritual enthusiasm by the Dawoodi Bohras living in all parts of the world.

In the past years, Moharram sermons of Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin have been held in international cities like Cairo, Dubai, Houston, Colombo, Karachi, Nairobi, Dar-e-Salaam and in Indore, Pune and Jamnagar in India to name some. Last year the occasion was held at Surat.

Wipro Founder Azim Premji named Top Indian Philanthropist

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

By Rohail Khan

When it comes to social work and philanthropy, Indian Muslims normally outclass their peers. There are so many to mention. However, Azim Premji, Founder/Chairman of Wipro Group has topped the list.

Shanghai-based Hurun Data Group has this week released the Hurun India Philanthropy List 2013, with IT Industry leader and business magnate Mr. Azim Premji emerging as the most generous Indian with a donation of Rs 8,000 crores in the past year.

Born in Karachi on 24th July, 1945 and settled in Mumbai after partition, Azim Premji graduated from the world famous Stanford University, California. Hailing from a Gujarati business family, his entrepreneurial spirit and creative nature compelled him to set up the world-renowned Wipro Company some forty years ago.

Azim Premji has guided Wipro Group through four decades of expansion to emerge as one of the top world leaders in the software industry. He has been recognised by Business Week as one of the Greatest Entrepreneurs for being responsible for Wipro emerging as one of the world’s fastest growing companies.

In 2001, he founded Azim Premji Foundation, a non-profit charity organisation, with a vision to significantly contribute to achieving quality universal education that facilitates a just, humane and sustainable society. The Foundation works in the area of elementary education to foster systemic change in India's 1.3 million government-run schools. A specific focus is on rural areas where the majority of these schools exist.

In 2005, the Government of India honoured him with Padma Bhushan for his outstanding work in trade and commerce.

[Rohail Khan, a Canadian-Pakistani with strong parental roots in India as well, is a Senior Banker and CFO based at Jeddah. He is also Chairman, Urdu Academy International (UAI), Washington, D.C. He can be contacted at rohailkhan00@gmail.com]

'Indian Muslim Women remain unrepresented and unheard even after 60 years of Independence'

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 09 November 2013 | Posted in , , , , , ,

By Dr. Shabistan Gaffar

Sixty years after independence also the Indian Muslim women have remained unrepresented and unheard. The Sachar Committee appointed by the Prime Minister established the fact of poverty and socio-economic exclusion of the largest minority in recent decades. Although the report is sympathetic to Muslim women, it does not have detailed analysis of the condition and issues faced by them. Women in every community are victim of neglect, discrimination and some of the other form of injustice. This is true for Muslim women too. However, as has been pointed out by many perceptive observers, Muslim women constitute “Minority within minority”. The lot of the poorer section of Muslim women is far worse.

In today's fast changing society the rights of women is at stake and their position has become very much vulnerable. The balance between the rights of women and its protection and her family and social responsibilities is totally disturbed. Women have to play role in society, family and country. They are to be made to fulfil the responsibilities as daughter, sister, mother, wife, daughter in law and as a citizen of the country.

If we talk about overall empowerment of women in India, since the country became independent in 1947, the democratic government has tried to introduce measures to empower women, yet the expected measure of success has not occurred due to reasons like, bureaucratic delays, political compulsions, social and cultural constraints and the continuing poverty of the masses. Obtaining some measures of economic self sufficiency and independence is prerequisite to any advancement of women at social, cultural and political level.

The silver lining in the cloudy sky has been the development of several grass roots movements initiated by women themselves, especially those from the lower section of society.

No, less important than the government’s initiatives are society own mutually caring and cooperative actions which strengthen the ethos of social harmony and inter-dependence, exclusive thinking, exclusive concerns and excessive reliance on exclusive policies can never lead to inclusive development. Much less will it promote social and national integration, which must form the bed rode of both government and societal effort for inclusive development.

Yet another shortcoming in the debate and governmental and action that followed the Sachar report is that the problems and concerns of Muslim women have been largely bypassed. Grossly inadequate attention has been paid to the condition of Muslim women, their socio-economic and educational backwardness, and the efforts needed to bring them into nation’s development mainstream.

Muslims lag behind in education which is largely responsible for most of the problems faced by the community. If women of the community are educated, things would change as women are the axis of Indian families. Muslim women could reform the whole family moreover this will help her in protection of her rights and controlling crimes against women.

The educational and economic backwardness in which community lives make it necessary for policy makers to take urgent steps to alleviate this condition. The greater of multiple exclusion of women calls for a thorough analysis leading to understanding of their need and issues followed by multi-prolonged action to make a change the destination is equal citizenship of Muslim women in principle and in reality as guaranteed by the Constitution of India. The recent census of India has brought out a positive fact about the sex ration in the Muslim community being better than most other socio-religious communities. There is need to build further on this positive trend by paying equal attention to the education of girls and health and nutrition for the girl children and the mothers.

Apart from health care and nutrition, girls need opportunities for higher education, they need safety and security in order to access education of their choice. They need support and encouragement at home and in the community to realize their full potential as human beings. It calls for policy measures and financial allocations by the government apart from a supportive atmosphere in the family. Educated and empowered girls can be the change agents for an empowered community in the future. Social empowerment in general and women empowerment in particular is very fundamental in achieving such kind of goals.

Territory education is especially important so that women can move into positions of political, economical and social leadership. It is well known that Muslim women are home based working women, the Sachar Committee too endorsed this finding. There are women who missed out on education opportunities but are nevertheless working informally and out of homes. They work for very low wages and often in hazardous activities like beedi making and other activities posing hazard to eyes, lungs and skin.

They mostly underpaid or unpaid and exploited by middlemen. These women need support, mechanism at multiple levels beginning with skill training, skill upgradation, marketing support and financial support etc.

In fact, the voluntary organizations and experts faces lot of challenges in their work for empowerment of Muslim women. The work must happen at various levels, apart from continuous advocacy and campaigning for governmental accountability. They face the challenge of correcting and building understanding and perspective in the community society.

[Dr. Shabistan Gaffar is Chairperson, Committee on Girls Education,National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions,Government of India. She can be contacted at committeeongirlseducation@gmail.com]

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