सांप्रदायिक पार्टी की ओर से शाहीन बाग़ को बदनाम करने की नापाक कोशिश

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 30 January 2020 | Posted in

India must repeal CAA, stop crackdown on protesters, Amnesty International USA tells U.S. Congress

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

‘CAA-NRC will create the world’s biggest crisis of statelessness’

IMO News Service

Washington, D.C.: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi must repeal the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and stop the brutal crackdown on anti-CAA protesters, Amnesty International has said.

The world’s premier civil rights watchdog has also said that the CAA and the National Register for Citizens (NRC) would create the world’s biggest crisis of statelessness.

“The CAA, both in structure and in intent, is exclusionary and inconsistent with India’s Constitution and human rights obligation,” Francisco Bencosme, Asia Pacific Advocacy Manager, Amnesty International USA, said at a Briefing at U.S. Congress. It “may deprive minorities of their citizenship in India. If implemented, this stands to create the biggest stateless crisis of the world causing immense human suffering.”

“We ask here today for the Modi government to repeal the CAA and stop cracking down on protesters and ensure that its citizens have the right to peaceful assembly.”

Bencosme was speaking at a Briefing on “Implications of India’s Citizenship Law (CAA)” attended by dozens of Congressional staffs of Senators, Congresspersons and House committees. Also in the audience were officials of Department of State.

The briefing, held on Monday, January 27 was organized by Indian American Muslim Council, the largest Indian American group advocating for Constitutional secularism in India; Hindus for Human Rights; Engage Action; and Council on American-Islamic Relations.

Bencosme said the prime minister’s “silence” on the police brutalities and crackdown “has spoken louder than his words”. “When he [Modi] has spoken about the protest he has been divisive, instead of healing the wounds of the country.”

Bencosme also said Amnesty International had documented “a clear pattern of the use of excessive force during protests and arrests of peaceful protesters”. There were also instances of “delayed access to legal counsel, differential treatment of assemblies, and bias in police and administrative response.”

Across India, anti-CAA protests had occurred in at least 94 districts across 14 states. At least 31 people have died in the violence. More than 110 have been arrested, and more than 600 have been kept in preventative detention, Bencosme said.

Most deaths have occurred in Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state where Mr. Modi’s party is in power. “Arbitrary detention, use of excessive force, differential treatment of assemblies, and torture in custody have sadly become commonplace in Uttar Pradesh,” Bencosme said. “The way the state government has, by and large, chosen to respond to the anti-CAA protests has been massively disproportionate, unwarranted and unlawful. We call on them to end the brutal crackdown immediately.”

Speaking of Prime Minister Modi’s parliamentary constituency, Varanasi, Bencosme police had continued their “intimidation and crackdown”. Many who were injured in December had left homes and sought medical treatment in other areas “due to fear of reprisals from authorities”. There was constant police patrolling even at night, he said.

Houses have been vandalized across Varanasi. In at least two instances, the police broke into houses “in the middle of the night to make arrests, destroying property”. The police have “induced a climate of fear in citizens’ homes in India.”

Bencosme quoted a Varanasi resident as saying, “if you are trying to participate in anti-CAA protests, the government will arrest you and threaten you and slap laws like sedition on you. But if you are pro-CAA, you can organize rally and solidarity events.”

On October 22, Bencosme had testified on the ground situation in Kashmir before the U.S. House of Representatives’ Subcommittee on Asia, Pacific and Nonproliferation. He had at that time criticized the Modi government for curtailing civil rights in Kashmir.

Malaysia has world’s most powerful Muslim passport

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

IMO News Service

Malaysia is proud claimant of the world’s most powerful Muslim passport. A new list published recently by The Henley Passport Index has declared Malaysia as possessing the 13th most powerful passport in the world thus making it to be the premier Muslim passport. 

The Henley Passport Index ranks all the world’s passports based on the number of destinations accessed by the respective country’s passport holders without a prior visa. The list is published every year.

A citizen holding a Malaysian passport is allowed to travel to 178 countries visa-free. Malaysia is a developed country having strong bilateral relations with many regional and international bodies. Malaysia’s strong global standing has made its passport prestigious. 
Among other highly ranked Muslim countries include UAE (18th) and Brunei (23rd). The UAE has attained a significant boost climbing a remarkable 47 places over the past 10 years. The Gulf nation has a visa-free/visa-on-arrival score of 171 now.

Middle East countries have managed to make strong gains on The Henley Passport Index list due to extensive efforts to boost tourism and trade. The UAE and Saudi Arabia both climbed four places each, while Oman climbed three. Saudi Arabia is now placed 66th, with its citizens able to visit 77 destinations worldwide without a prior visa, while Oman is in 64th place, with a visa-free/visa-on-arrival score of 79.

However, most Muslim passports appeared at the bottom of the list with Afghanistan ranked last in 107th place. It has only 26 visa free destinations. Other Muslim countries that ranked 100th or lower were Sudan, Palestine, Libya, Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan, Syria and Iraq.

An Open Letter to students of Aligarh Muslim University (AMU)

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

Dear students,

Soon after India's Independence, AMU faced an existential crisis. There were inimical forces within that wanted to tear apart the house of wisdom Sir Syed Ahmed Khan had built so lovingly.

Watching closely the unfolding events at AMU from Delhi were PM Jawaharlal Nehru and his fellow traveller in the freedom movement and later cabinet colleague, education minister Maulana Abul Kalam Azad. Nehru and Azad scanned the horizon to choose a man who could lead AMU out of the dire straits it was in. Their choice fell on an eminent economist, educationist and academician Dr Zakir Husain.

An alumnus of AMU, Husain, as VC of Jamia Mallia Islamia University, had piloted then nascent nursery to national eminence. Because of his vision and a natural affinity with AMU as it was also his alma mater, Nehru and Azad rightly believed he would restore order in the varsity. They were not wrong.

Zakir Sahab led AMU as it's VC from 1948 to 1956. Closing charms, sewing up fractures, applying salve wherever needed, he nursed the once splintering institution back to health. The university got a speed that only picked up more pace in later years. In eternal gratitude of one it's greatest sons and a saviour, AMU later named its engineer college after Zakir Sahab.

Cut to 2020. AMU, along with Muslims of India, face an existential crisis again. With Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) threatening to turn Indian Muslims into second-class citizens as it makes religion basis for citizenship, the community is too distracted to give attention to what is happening at AMU. Since December 15 last year when the VC Dr Tarique Mansoor, in collaboration with the police, cracked down on students protesting the unconstitutional CAA and police attack on students of Jamia Mallia, the AMU students have been restive. When the varsity reopened after nearly one month's of forced closure, the students demanded the resignation of both the VC and the Registrar. Ideally the VC should have taken moral responsibility and resigned as he had failed to save students from police brutalities (he said he never asked the cops to take disproportionate action). Let us give the VC a benefit of doubt that he wanted action only against the anti-social elements who had mingled with regular students and were threats to university properties. Even then, as guardian of the children, if he thinks students are like his children, he should have stepped down because he has lost the trust of the student community on the campus. But he will not quit. He would rather close the university once again as his latest letter to students suggests than step aside and let a temporary VC run the show.

Dear students, you must understand that you are not in Nehru's India. And there is no Maulana Azad as education minister to indulge you even if you show anger to him. And Dr Tarique Mansoor is no match for Dr Zakir Hussain when it comes to summoning a combination of courage and foresight to quell student unrest. A hostile regime which is anti-intellectual wealth and sees a section of citizens with jaundiced eyes cannot be expected to be sympathetic to your cause.

Your demand, therefore, for resignations of VC and Registrar, though legitimate, will fall on deaf ears. By continuing to boycott classes and exams, you will be giving the VC an excuse to shut down the university again. Who will be the ultimate losers? The VC, teaching and non-teaching staff will continue to get paid their salaries even if there is no work on the campus. The cops will be asked to enter the campus again and evacuate the hostels. You will lose your session and probably one crucial year.

I just heard a viral audio conversation of a law student of AMU with Political Science's Professor Arshi Khan. When the student asks Khan what should the students do, Khan says that honesty feels the students should resume classes, sit for exams and protest to if they believe they must protest. He adds that his own children are no longer studying at the university and, if they were there, he would have advised them too not to harm their career. This seems a sage suggestion. Protest is a continuing process. For students, the world is a stage and peaceful protests can happen in various forms. A head of an educational institution will feel isolated if he is disliked by a majority of the students.

Professor Khan also gives yeo examples from history. He says, and rightly so, that Sir Syed would not have succeeded in his mission had he remained perpetually hostile to the British though he had lost close relatives in the Holocaust of 1857. His mother became so ill and famished due to lack of food and care that she died soon after the storm had passed.

Prof Khan cites the Hudaibiya agreement he signed with the pagan Meccans. Despite his companions giving a dissenting note that it was capitulation and humiliating, the Prophet went ahead with the agreement because he could forsee its noble results in future. Self-preservation is a trait of the wise and AMU students must learn it.
When I was a student at AMU in the mid-1980s I remember the renowned Urdu scholar late Qazi Abdus Sattar once saying:"

Hindustani Musalamaanon ka asli Taj Mahal woh nahin jo Agra mein. Woh hai jo Aligarh mein hai (The real Taj Mahal of Indian Muslims is not the one at Agra, but the one that is at Aligarh). How true. We are proud of the beautiful Taj Mahal in Agra. But it is an architectural beauty cast in cold, lifeless white marble. But the Taj Mahal that Sir Syed has left for us pulsates with a unique vigour and vitality. It epitomizes a renaissance that brought renewal to a community which had hit a dead end in the aftermath of 1857 pogrom.

Dear students, you have made a pledge to preserve and protect this great heritage that you have inherited. And let me tell you, the world can give you institutions with better infrastructure. The world cannot give you another AMU. AMU is intertwined with the fate of Muslims even if many may disagree. If AMU dies, so will Muslims in India. And there is nothing communal in saying so. Those who know the circumstances in and purpose for which AMU was created will agree.

As an alumnus, it is my fervent appeal to you to go back to your classes, defeat the designs of those who want your seminary to be locked up. You will not be ashamed before the old man of Aligarh when you meet him on the Day of Judgment. Neither will I.

Mohammad Wajihuddin
(Aligarh Alumunus)
Email: mohammed.wajihuddin71@gmail.com

Is India's media facing a credibility crisis?

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | | Posted in

From shouting matches to high-profile sackings, India's mainstream media is facing a mounting credibility crisis.

Israel wants it citizens to travel to Saudi kingdom, Saudi foreign minister says NO

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 29 January 2020 | Posted in , , , ,

By Danish Ahmad Khan

Israel has sought to make its 'secret' ties with Saudi Arabia public now. But, Saudi Arabia has rebuffed Israel government's overtures saying that Israeli citizens are not welcome in the kingdom for now.  

Aryeh Deri, Interior Minister of Israel, signed an order on Sunday, January 26, allowing Israeli citizens to visit Saudi Arabia for business meetings and explore investment possibilities in the kingdom. This is though conditional, and depends on a formal invitation and necessary clearance from Saudi authorities, said media reports.

The order will also be applicable to Israeli Muslim citizens for traveling to Makkah to perform Umrah or Hajj. Earlier, they had to travel for pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia on temporary Jordanian papers.

A statement issued by Israeli interior ministry said that Israeli citizens will be permitted to travel to Saudi Arabia for up to nine (9) days. The ministry official however clarified that the permit for travel will be for 90 days.

Israeli law had until now barred the citizens from traveling to several Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia, without express permission from the interior minister. Visits by Israeli businessmen had increased over past few years, but were generally held secretly.

In recent years, bonhomie between Israel and Saudi Arabia had increased clandestinely, particularly focusing mainly on security issues, especially due to mutual enmity to Iran.

Saudi Arabia had opened its airspace for a commercial flight to Israel in 2018 with the start of a new Air India route between New Delhi and Tel Aviv. However, Israel’s national carrier El Al Israel Airlines has so far not been allowed to use Saudi airspace for eastward flights.    

It may be noted that only two Arab countries – Egypt and Jordan – have peace treaties with Israel. The growing influence of Iran in the Middle East region has perturbed Israel for quite some time now thus leading to thawing ties with some major Gulf countries as well.  

Saudi Arabia has decided to open up and reduce its dependency on oil. Saudi Arabia had last year launched a new tourism visa for visitors from 49 countries, excluding Israel, aimed at giving significant boost to its economy and diversifying it further.

Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shia Iran are embroiled in a tug of war over the leadership of the Muslim World. So far, Saudi Arabia has been firmly in the saddle, but Iran’s expansionist designs in the Gulf region has unnerved it thus forcing to forge stronger ties with Israel and make the ‘secret’ relations public now.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia has responded to the Israeli overture in the negative categorically saying it will not ease restrictions on Israeli nationals, who are generally barred from entering into the country.

Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan said Monday, January 27, that Israelis are not welcome at the moment in Saudi Arabia, home to Islam's holiest sites, reported CNN's Arabic website. 

"Our policy is constant. We don't have relations with Israel and holders of Israeli passports cannot visit the kingdom for now," Saudi foreign minister said. 

Currently, Saudi Arabia doesn't have diplomatic relations with Israel like most Arab countries, except Egypt and Jordan.

[Danish Ahmad Khan, based at New Delhi, is Founder-Editor of IndianMuslimObserver.com. He can be reached at indianmuslimobserver@gmail.com or on his Mobile at +91-9990179721]

OPINION: Shaheen Bagh and the Political Future of Indian Muslims

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The collective essence behind the Shaheen Bagh protest is showing a new face of India’s diverse civilization

By Omprakash Kushwaha

I was very excited to visit Shaheen Bagh protest from the day it was started. My many friends have already visited and described interestingly the way through which protestors particularly Muslim women are still chanting slogan and raising voices against the government’s citizenship amendment bill. But for me, it was a new kind of anti-establishment gathering through which I was more interested to know the pattern and politics of this kind of gathering against the present government’s citizenship amendment bill.

Although, Shaheen Bagh, in itself, is a new experiment and shows people’s anger against the government’s citizenship bill. The place becomes suddenly important not just for news media but also for protesters who opposing government different policies and political activists across the country. Because the place turned into a symbol of unique protest after the brutal crackdown of Jamia Student’s protest against the government’s citizenship amendment bill by the Delhi Police. People from different places came together at Shaheen Bagh showing anger, chanting slogan and raising voices to oppose the government’s new citizenship bill. Initially, it was a spontaneous gathering of women from Jamia locality. Mostly the women who gather at Shaheen Bagh were the mother of who brutally beaten during the Jamia Protest by the Delhi Police. One of a female protester at this place I meet who told the story “I was in the Jamia Library reading a book that day when some people enter in with the police dress beaten me so badly. I was unconscious for many days and not able to do anything else for almost the fifteenth days. For that reason, my mother sits here every day from the morning. But this is not the only one story; several other Muslim women from different places come every day saying the present BJP government is anti-people and is attacking not just over the Muslim but also over the students who are opposing the government policies.

The Shaheen Bagh protest, apart from this, has emerged through several other narratives based on anti-establishment and claiming a new paradigm of Muslim politics in Indian. This new paradigm may be understood through two different key characteristics of this protest gathering. First is that the protest does not legitimize the notion of Muslim’s separate identity. The protest site, in this sense, has become a space for liberation where everyone can come to this place to show their anger against the new citizenship act with any form following the idea of non- violence. Therefore, the protest has many shades; it may be amebedkarite or it may be left centric or it may be Gandhian. But it is interesting to know that Hindus and Muslim are together and chanting the slogan, distributing pamphlets with the picture of Gandhi, Ambedkar, Bhagat Singh and many other icons. The sole concern among the protesters is to appeal widely with the sprit against the new citizenship bill by replacing and cultural gab among Hindu, Muslim Sikhs and Christianity with liberation and anti-establishment spirit.

The second key characteristic is that the protest encounters the religious dogma that has been defining Islam as beliefs against other religious faith. Islam, at this place, has emerged to be a source of liberation and humanity for all human beings. The issue of faith in Indian democracy and its constitution is not the question. Everyone is saluting to Gandhi, Ambedkar and Bhagat Singh and showing their strong anger against the traitor of the Indian constitution and the traitor of Ganga-Jamuni Tahjib. Either Muslim speaker or Hindu or other, everyone has the same spirit and the same notion of liberation and humanity. Women from different sections come to this place in a large number every day from morning 10 AM tonight at 12 PM. They use to sit in an organized manner raise slogans and listening speeches of liberation to fight against the traitor of Gandhi, Ambedkar, and Bhagat Singh’s .ideas. The sign of Burka and hijab has become old fashion and this unity shows no one can reclaim the place, the women occupied at this street.

The collective essence behind the shaheen Bagh protest therefore is showing a new face of India’s diverse civilization. It shows a new ground where Muslim will no longer justify their faith in Indian democracy rather they are ready to claim all spaces not just for themselves but also for all human beings who deprived for thousands of years.

[Omprakash Kushwaha is Research Associate at Department of Sociology at Kamala Nehru College, Delhi University]

OPINION: Islamophobia Goes Global

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

By Zaman Stanizai

World War II ended the reign of fascism and racial supremacy and the victors of the war took pride in their cultural diversity, ethnic pluralism, and universal humanitarianism. They defined their modernity through the scope of civil rights and liberties not just for their own ethnic minorities, but for deprived and disenfranchised minorities globally. International organizations such as the United Nations addressed the same concerns beyond cultural identity and cultural relativism through the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and other such agencies. Nations adhered to, or at least respected, the principles of democracy. Even authoritarian states pretended to be democratic, at least in name: the Democratic Republic of Korea, the German Democratic Republic, the people’s democratic republic of… Other nations proudly claimed to be ‘the beacon of democracy,’ ‘the world’s largest democracy,’ or ‘the Middle East’s only democracy.’ In the short interval before the East-West military realignment, it seemed that humanity had reached a critical turning point in its history and that any return to the tyrannies of the past genocides, pogroms, massacres, and holocausts were just that—the past.

At the end of the Cold War impasse, however, as the Berlin Wall came crumbling down, the ideological divide of the East-West was replaced by the Middle East-West racial, religious, and cultural divide that culminated in the election of Donald Trump and the rise of neo-fascism parading as super-nationalism. With the imposition of the Muslim Ban, Bush’s "you're either with us, or against us" anti-terrorism campaign shifted into high gear and every effort of Obama’s attempted outreach to the Muslim world was thrown out the window.

Religious extremism was no longer lurking on the fringes of the society as a rebellious opposition or a disenfranchised minority, rather it was firmly established in the seat of power from Eastern Europe to the Middle East, and from India and Myanmar to the Philippines, and under the guise of ideology even in Russia and China. Most of these governments and the media readily portrayed the terrorists as Muslims, but were reluctant to identify the victims of these terrorist and counter-terrorist campaigns as Muslim civilians.

The United States dealt its neutrality as an impartial arbitrator in the Middle East conflict fatal blows with concrete anti-Muslim positions such as recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, subsidizing unhindered settlements on occupied lands, rescinding the designation ‘occupied’ from Palestinian territories, and giving the green light to Israel to drill in and practically annex the Golan Heights.

Even India’s Hindu nationalist government joined what appears to be an unholy alliance of sorts against Muslims by becoming the largest customer in the world for Israeli weapons and by turning Kashmir to one of the most militarized places on earth through a massive infusion of Indian forces. The Indian suppression of Muslims in Kashmir now resembles the Israeli suppression of the Palestinians. The Indian annexation of Kashmir mirrors Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights and the rumored annexation of the West Bank. Both countries wreaking havoc on victims of the 1947 and 1948 partitions of India and Palestine respectively. As the Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC) claims: “The Israeli weapons that India uses to oppress Kashmiris have been ‘field-tested’ on Palestinian bodies.” The parallels play out further as the Hindu nationalists who consider India ‘the Holy Land of the Hindus’ recently denied the autonomy of the Muslim state of Kashmir by revoking Article 370 of India’s Constitution and enacted the Muslim exclusion in the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) raising concerns about the bill's constitutionality amidst growing anti-Muslim rhetoric in India. The Hindu nationalists seem to be bent on replicating the 1947 partition of the soil of India with the partition of the soul of India seven decades later.

Not to be left behind, China has sped up the cultural colonization of the Muslims in Eastern Turkistan (Xinjiang) where they have put some two million minority Uyghur Muslims in ‘re-education’ camps. Hundreds of thousands of children of millions of Uyghurs who are in concentration camps are taken to detention centers for forced assimilation and ‘cultural cleansing.’ Thousands of Uyghur intellectuals are imprisoned, some of whom have been investigated by Radio Free Asia.

A BBC report reveals widespread destruction of mosques and a Wall Street Journal investigation reveals the extensive use of cutting-edge technology by the Chinese government in the domestic surveillance of Muslims. CNN’s Matt Rivers referred to China’s policy of cultural repression as “the biggest human rights story on earth."

If you thought genocides like the Russian tyranny in Grozny or the Muslim massacre in Srebrenica by the Serbs was a thing of the past, think again. As Islamophobia goes global, Muslims became every oppressive regime’s favorite minority to suppress—from the Rohingya in Myanmar to the Mindanao Muslims in the Philippines to the Muslim refugees fleeing their devastated homelands. Even the repressive regimes of the so-called Islamic states like Saudi Arabia in Yemen, Turkey in Kurdish lands, Syria against its own citizens are persecuting their ethnic, linguistic, or sectarian Muslim minorities. What it leaves behind are devastations of cities, destruction of lives, and displacement of refugees in the millions.

The sad irony is that this globalized islamophobia is carried out not only by authoritarian regimes that have no concern for the world opinion but by political parties who themselves represent minority constituencies. The Republican Party, the Grand Old Party in the U.S., is anything but grand with only 32,854,496 members. The Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) claims 180 million members, a mere 37% of the constituency in a country of more than a billion people. The Communist Party of China, even if we assume it adheres to democratic principles and procedures, has a membership of 90,594,000 that is even smaller than India’s BJP for a population of roughly the same size. The Likud Party’s small representation is evidenced in its inability to form a majority government—proof positive that the tyranny of the minority has morphed.

The twists of ironies are many and they originate in pretty much the same period of time: the partition of Kashmir in 1947, the partition of Palestine in 1948, and the annexation of Eastern Turkestan in 1949. When foreign powers with their foreign solutions came to these unfortunate neighborhoods, they drew lines of otherness between people making them foreign to each other. A critical turning point in human history? Not so fast.

Whether there is light at the end of the tunnel depends on how long the tunnel is. It’s a déjà vu all over again. The political suppression in Muslim majority states in the 1960s and 1970s resulted in the marginalization and radicalization of political Islam that produced the likes of bin Laden in the 1980s and 1990s. What the outcome of the upbringing of the millions of Muslim youngsters in these refugee camps and of this wave of vilification through Islamophobia will be in a decade or two, only time will tell.

This rampant militarism cloaked in vapid nationalist sloganeering may be serving the excesses of unbridled corporate greed, but it definitely destroys a social order whose unforeseeable consequences will be detrimental to civil order and world peace. If names like Sanna Marin (Prime Minister of Finland), Katrín Jakobsdóttir (Prime Minister of Iceland), Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (U.S. Congressperson), and Greta Thunberg (Swedish activist) are the signs of the future, then it is likely that the wounded soul of the world will be healed through a harmonic convergence of the feminine energy, wisdom, and foresight.

[Zaman Stanizai, Ph.D., is a Professor of Mythological Studies at the Pacifica Graduate Institute in Santa Barbara, California. He teaches Political Science at California State University, Dominguez Hills. He can be reached at zstanizai@csudh.edu

OPINION: India’s iconic democracy feels like it is under siege

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

By Pamela Constable

Once upon a time, I lived in the world’s largest democracy. India at the dawn of the millennium was a sprawling, kaleidoscopic society of nearly 1 billion people, beginning to emerge from Cold War insularity, open its long-sheltered economy and grab onto the nascent high-tech boom.

It was also a foreign correspondent’s dream, with a panoply of topics, some exotic and others troubling, to cover — Bollywood premieres and village dowry burnings, deadly religious riots and mass festivals where millions of barefoot pilgrims crammed sacred riverbanks, lost in spiritual rapture.

Poverty and desperation were in full view. At traffic circles near my office, children with deformed limbs begged until long after dark. At construction sites, migrant laborers carried pans of dirt on their heads and slept on pieces of cardboard. In villages, people used the fields as their toilets, and some were so indebted to landlords that they had to rent out their children as servants.

When I think back on the contentious but secular mosaic of India I experienced between 1998 and 2005, I am stunned to see the ominous turn it has recently taken into religious intolerance.

 At that time, Hinduism was dominant but not overbearing. With colorful rituals and beloved gods including an elephant and a monkey, it offered entertainment and escape, solace and hope for the masses. One of my most moving experiences was accompanying a modest Hindu family on a long train journey to the Ganges, where they waded in at dawn and baptized their shrieking baby boy in the frigid waters, certain that he was now blessed for life.

Promotion of the “Hindutva” ideology, an all-encompassing guide for life, often took the form of public services, carried out by disciplined youth cadres. I once watched a squad of these young, uniformed activists collect bloated corpses after a cyclone in Orissa state, while residents watched, grateful but horrified.

But religious tensions remained close to the surface, especially between Hindus and Muslims, whose differences had festered since the chaotic partition of India in 1947. Despite a population of 200 million and a few high-profile celebrities, such as film star Shah Rukh Khan, Muslims remained largely second-class citizens with little political clout.

My first encounter with such “communal” hostility occurred in my kitchen, where the Hindu manager angrily upbraided the Muslim watchman for drinking from his teacup. In public, far uglier clashes erupted periodically: In 1992, militant Hindu groups invaded and demolished the historic Babri Mosque; a decade later, Hindu-Muslim riots in Gujarat state left more than 1,000 dead.

In a dozen reporting trips over a decade to the Kashmir Valley, a bucolic alpine region on the Indian-controlled side of the Himalayan territory claimed by both India and Pakistan, I saw how the historic dispute had created a permanently open wound and a vicious cycle of protest and repression, often sparked by insurgent attacks.

The valley looked like Switzerland but felt like the Gaza Strip. I drove past apple orchards and meadows and visited quaint house boats that bobbed on Dal Lake, waiting for tourists who never came. But the news that brought me there was depressing and often deadly. The local Muslim populace was always waiting for the next funeral.

Yet somehow, something held India together — an intangible common cause among a billion people of many faiths, castes and languages.

I caught glimpses of this spirit during independence day celebrations and at peaceful demonstrations by striking teachers or railroad workers in a site in the capital reserved for protests. I saw it at election campaigns in crowded slums, and at village meetings where people spoke their minds and the statue of a man holding a book — the social reformer B.R. Ambedkar — stood nearby.

But I didn’t really understand it until I had also spent considerable time in Pakistan. Like India, it had a parliament, a judiciary, a vibrant press and frequent public rallies for various causes. But gradually, I realized that there were certain limits on all of this activity, mostly invisible and unspoken, but understood by everyone.

In practice, Pakistan’s governing system was rigged in favor of the rich, and the military wielded more power than civilian institutions. Millions of ordinary people had few rights or opportunities, making them vulnerable to the appeal of radical Islam. Rallies for Kashmiri independence were officially sanctioned, but anyone who truly challenged power was threatened or stopped.

What made Hindu-majority India more successful than Muslim-majority Pakistan was not religious dogma, it was political freedom. It was the glue of tolerance, the secular system that promised — if not always ensuring — that all Indians had a chance to air grievances and practice their faith. Corruption and caste discrimination persisted, but people felt that their voices and votes counted.

Today, though, India’s vaunted South Asian democracy is under unprecedented attack — not by foreign rivals, but by its own leaders.

The governing Bharatiya Janata Party is the same Hindu nationalist group that dominated power during the years I lived there. But its once-inclusive message — then tempered by the opposition Congress party — has been replaced by an aggressive agenda of Hindu hegemony. And the prime minister is now Narendra Modi, a religious hard-liner who was once accused of abetting the anti-Muslim rioters in Gujarat as the state’s chief minister.

Modi’s election in 2014 was largely based on his record as a champion of economic growth. But his reelection in May was stoked by a wave of patriotic and religious emotion after an especially deadly suicide bombing in Kashmir — which triggered an aerial skirmish between Indian and Pakistani warplanes — brought the nuclear-armed rivals dangerously close to war.

In August, Modi’s government abruptly revoked the semiautonomous rights for Kashmir that India’s constitution had granted in 1950, then flooded the region with troops, cut off the Internet and banned news coverage for months. Last month, after a semi-clandestine visit, the New Yorker journalist Dexter Filkins described the mood among Kashmiri Muslims as isolated, frightened and smoldering with anger.

Across the country, authorities have also used force, legal measures and harsh rhetoric to intimidate Muslims, branding them as potential terrorists. Police have stood by as mobs lynched Muslims for selling cows, which are venerated in Hinduism. Last month, a law was enacted that eases the path for illegal immigrants of six faiths to become Indian citizens — but specifically excludes Muslims.

Modi’s supporters praise such measures as necessary to quash the lingering menace of Islamic terrorism and restore India’s image as a haven for foreign tourists and investment. The country has never fully recovered from the 2008 four-day siege of Mumbai, the financial capital, by a Pakistan-based terrorist squad that left 165 people dead.

But there still may be reason to hope that India, long a political role model for the developing world, has not lost its democratic backbone.

In recent weeks, the new citizenship rules have provoked spontaneous and widening protests by a cross-section of Indians, including students at the country’s leading university, in defense of both Muslim minority rights and India’s tolerant democracy.

Last week, news reports showed a young woman, her arm in a cast and her head bandaged after a beating by Hindu nationalists, defiantly addressing a crowd in New Delhi. “Even if you beat us, we won’t step back,” she cried. “Long live the revolution.”

Maybe the India I once knew is alive and kicking after all.

(Courtesy: The Washington Post)

Hasina Khan – Inspirational Leader for Muslim Women in India

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

By Kasmin Fernandes

In August 2017, the Supreme Court of India struck down the “triple talaq”—the practice whereby a Muslim man can instantaneously divorce his wife just by saying “divorce” three times. Widely regarded as a significant step forward for Muslim women in India, the decision culminated in the outlawing of the triple talaq with the passing of the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill in July 2019.

This hard-won outcome is the result of decades of work by many Muslim women in India, but none more so than Hasina Khan, founder of the Bebaak Collective, a national umbrella body of Muslim women’s rights groups.

Limited Opportunities for Muslim Women in India

Outside and beyond the courts, despite vociferous opposition, this case brought the conversations on women’s rights in India into mainstream public debate. The focus of her life’s work – 90 million Muslim women in India – remain among the least literate, most disadvantaged, poorest and least represented within India’s population.

They have limited opportunities for personal independence and have minimal access to resources. They do not have any rights over their matrimonial or natal homes. This status is reinforced by laws, such as the Muslim Women’s Bill (1986), which subordinates the rights of Muslim women to the demands of community identity, denying them constitutional rights as Indian citizens; and the Muslim Personal Law, which controls all aspects of the personal lives of Muslim women in India (until recently, including through the triple talaq provision).

As well as combating fundamentalism in the Muslim community, Khan was involved in working to end and resist communal violence in the 1992–1993 riots in Mumbai in which around 700 people died following the destruction by Hindu nationalist organizations of the Babri Masjid Mosque in the city of Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh State. Standing up to extremist nationalist views and actions has been another focus of Khan’s life and work.

Journey from Hardship to Leadership

From humble beginnings to national influence Khan’s leadership journey began in a Muslim-dominated ghetto in Bhendi Bazaar, Mumbai, where most families are staunchly religious and conservative. For women in these poverty-stricken families, their world begins and ends within the immediate community. After her father gambled away the family’s money, Khan’s mother worked as a maid and seamstress to send her children to school.

Life changed for her when her brother went to work in a Gulf State. With the additional income, she could continue school, even though her sisters had by then dropped out. When these resources were lost after her brother’s return, Khan supported her education by tutoring children and seeking donations, discounts and free books.

In the meantime, a catalytic opportunity that shaped her future stood across the street from the family home. This was the headquarters of the Awaaz-e-Niswan, the first Muslim women’s group to challenge the Muslim Personal Law and the organization in which Khan would one day become an active member. The organization’s head at that time, Shehnaaz Shaikh, became Khan’s mentor and her guide in life.

Working with Awaaz-e-Niswaan beginning in 1985, Khan also became aware of issues that influence the lives of women in general and Muslim women in particular. The local religious court unsuccessfully tried to persuade her family to stop her from going to work.

Through her role in Awaaz-e-Niswaan, Khan earned a reputation as a problem-solver and organizer in her community. Her father and community leaders came to see her point of view. The organization became a force within Indian civil society, campaigning for Muslim women in India and running education, literacy, legal service and livelihood programmes for young women in Mumbai and beyond.

Building on this experience, Khan founded the Bebaak Collective in 2016. The coalition is developing links and collaboration with counterparts in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka as well as with the Minority Rights Group and Women Living Under Muslim Law in the UK.

A significant factor in the success of Awaaze-Niswaan and now Bebaak has been a broad and participatory approach to organizing and advocacy, a reflection of Khan’s inclusive and open leadership style. “Women should represent their own interests rather than allow political and religious leaders to speak for them,” she told a journalist.

Building on the success of the triple talaq campaign, a core priority for Khan and the Bebaak Collective when looking at the future role of government policy and legislation is the abolition of all discriminatory personal laws. “Personal laws should focus on protection of personal rights rather than discriminate and should recognize marginalized groups within a community, in line with India’s constitutional values of equality, pluralism and secularism.”

(Courtesy: The CSR Journal)

Man who converted to Islam celebrates 'halal' Chinese New Year

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | | Posted in ,

A Chinese man and his Indonesian wife continue to celebrate the Chinese New Year with their families just like before they converted to Islam three years ago, only this time round they do it the Muslim way.

Ben Ooi Chooi Beng, 38, and Ema Ariani, 43, who were both former Christians, don’t perceive celebrating Chinese New Yer as an obstacle to their Islamic faith as they perceive it as a “cultural” celebration not a religious one.

“Although I am now a convert, I’m still Chinese and my relationships with my family members have never been stronger. I became a Muslim, not a Malay. So, every Chinese New Year, I would head over to my brother’s house in Bayan Lepas to celebrate with other family members, including our parents, ” he said.

His parents who have been staying with him in Bukit Mertajam, usually attend a celebration dinner on the eve of Chinese New Year at his brother’s home and then visit their relatives and friends.

“In addition to Chinese New Year, my family members, who are all Christians, celebrate Christmas but they know my limits as a Muslim, especially regarding halal food. My brother would cook for all family members and buy halal food for me and my family from outside. We would then enjoy the meals together. We hardly see each other due to work commitments, so the Chinese New Year celebration provides a golden opportunity to get together with the family, ” he added.

He also highlighted that his parents never disapproved of him for converting to Islam but instead encouraged him to be a good Muslim.

“We respect his decision and our relationship will never change or be broken. As the saying goes, ‘blood is thicker than water’,” Ben’s father said.

Ben sincerely expressed his gratitude to all his family members for accepting his choices, especially his brother, Ooi Chooi Leong, 44, and sister, Ooi Kim Suan, 47, who provided his family with a prayer room in their homes.

(Courtesy: YeniŞafak)

An ode to khada dupatta

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

This ubiquitous garment owes its origin to the 17th century with the technique changing over the years

By Madhuri Dasagrandhi

Hyderabad based photographer Soumyajit Basu is known for his keen eye for intricate creations. This time he took up capturing the ‘Khada Dupatta’ which are the first choice of any true blue Hyderabadi ladies. He captured the beauty of the work with his models Afreen and Mehak and makeup done by Ayesha.

Originating in the 17th century, craftsman from Turkey and Persia were invited to India by Mughal Empress Noor Jehan and passed on the secret art of crafting to the nobles and their descendants. Later, the begums of Nizams of Deccan adapted the original Mughal style, especially in the form of khada dupattas which became the traditional attire of Mughal ladies.

Though this was a culture that was more defined in the later half of Asaf Jahi dynasty in Hyderabad, the montage gallery at Chowmahalla Palace, exhibits the royal dresses of Nizams Begums which include khada dupatta. The gallery also displays a tableau on the life of the begums. Quite a few don the khada dupattas — a four-piece ensemble that includes a trailing dupatta, one such khada dupatta adorned with intricate zari work weighs a whopping 17 kg.

The dress comprises of churidaar, a veil/dupatta which is six-yards in length, a kurta where the dupatta falls straight due to its heavy weight. This is accompanied by heavy jewellery which compliments the dress embroidered with zari and other work to give it a rich look. The dupatta is the largest part of the outfit and is made of tissue material.

Today, however, brides opt for net and even Banarasi dupattas since tissue does not fall gracefully. The colours preferred are usually golden yellow/ red and green. The silk tissue is hand-crushed and reduced to the width of a half metre. The border is adorned with handiwork of dabka, beads, mirrors, kundan and tikkis.

Golden trimmings on both sides of the borders give an antique touch to the royal ensemble. Front and back panels are embellished by handmade borders which are adorned with zardosi embroidery. Due to this, it has now become a traditional dress for all Muslim brides in Hyderabad.

The culture still exists in Hyderabad today, more largely among Hyderabadi Muslims. The improvisation has been a gradual process. “So as a fashion and portrait photographer, it was necessary to visit the fashion history of the City of Nizams, as even today khada dupatta makes many ladies stand out when paired with right accessories,” says Soumyajit Basu.

(Courtesy: Telangana Today)

Modesty Islamic Superstores launches new scarf collections for Muslim women in Australia

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

IMO News Service

Modesty Islamic Superstores has announced the launch of a new collection of scarfs that complements Islamic dressing and promote Muslim virtues. The move is aimed at bringing relief to Dandenong Muslims and its suburbs.

Modesty Islamic Superstores is an Australia based Islamic fashion products store that manufactures and sell modest fashion labels, and also into the design of modern stylish scarfs.

When asked about the motivation behind the establishment of Modesty Islamic Superstores, its founder and head of operations said, "The creation of Modesty Islamic Superstores was inspired by the Islamic ideology and teachings of Quran and Sunnah. Since its establishment in 2013 by Tamuryani family, Modesty Islamic Superstores had maintained its commitment to serving the need of Muslims in Australia and the global Muslim community by providing them with reliable, authentic, and fashionable Islamic dressing products".

Modesty Islamic Superstores is also into the design and production of modern Men and Boys' thobes and accessories. Modesty Islamic Superstores operates a wide collection of scarfs among which includes Chiffon Scarfs, Cotton Scarfs, Niqab, and Plain Cotton Scarfs all which comes in different colours and designs that best complement the ideal Muslim matching outfit desire. Materials used in the making of the Modesty Islamic Superstores garment collections are scientifically selected to ensure proper quality and suitability for each application. Modesty Islamic Superstores is also into the sale of other Islamic materials like Books, Zam Zam Water, Home Decoration, Perfume, Herbal products and many others. Products purchased from the Modesty Collections does not only guarantee quality that properly complement money spent but as well enhance proper fashion in a modest and presentable manner.

For more information, the company's website can be visited at https://www.modestycollection.com.au. Purchase can also be made offline at Modesty Islamic Superstores in Dandenong city, Victoria province.

Comic Artist Deena Mohamed on Representation, Authenticity, and Egyptian Art

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

By Amina Zaineldine

Imagine a Cairo where wishes are for sale in cans and bottles at the koshk on your street corner. Deena Mohamed did, and it won her Best Graphic Novel and the Grand Prize at Cairo Comix Festival in 2017. Mohamed, 25, is a comic artist, illustrator, and designer. With a uniquely Egyptian setting and authentically Cairene themes, her urban fantasy graphic novel trilogy Shubeik Lubeik is a fresh, humorous, magical, and emotive handling of the crisscrossing stories and identities that call Egypt home.

“Visibly Muslim Women”

Shubeik Lubeik is the most recent step in the colourful route that is Mohamed’s artistic career. Her breakthrough began with her webcomic Qahera, a web-based cartoon commenting on social issues such as Islamophobia and misogyny. The protagonist of this project — which Mohamed started as a joke on Tumblr — is a visibly Muslim female superhero named after Cairo’s Arabic name.

“I don’t really consider Qahera a ‘superhero’ character so much as it [the comic] is an editorial strip – so it’s a satirical cartoon that uses the tropes of superheroism to make a point, rather than a superhero comic that addresses political issues,” Mohamed told Egyptian Streets in elaboration on the character she created.

Egyptian Streets asked Mohamed whether, as some would believe may occur, she faced criticism or discouragement for putting visibly Muslim women and struggles unique to Egyptians in the foreground of her work — instead of walking the narrow yet safe path of easily marketed archetypes and less controversial issues. Her response suggested that the wrong question was being asked. She may not have met any resistance, but for reasons not always to her taste.

“It’s kind of a myth that people won’t support ‘diverse’ work. What actually happens is the opposite – people want you to write about ‘the issues’ (for Westerners, Islam and feminism, for Egyptians, feminism) but they want you to write about it in a very specific way,” she told Egyptian Streets.

“They want really superficial, easily-quoted takes,” she elaborates. “They love women empowerment, if women empowerment means sharing [online] a hijabi superhero comic without ever reading the messages behind it. […] At some point you start to feel very patronised.”

She goes as far as wondering whether the acknowledgement she is receiving is simply a means for those publishing or sharing to appear in a better light themselves.

“Am I included because I’m good at what I do? Or am I included because people wanted themselves to look good? Is anyone actually listening? Does anyone actually feel empowered by this?” she asks.

These concerns do not hinder Mohamed from imbuing her work with political messages. In fact, she uses her platform to lace her visual stories with political statements at varying degrees of subtlety. Shubeik Lubeik, for instance, makes a point of placing class separation in Egypt under a magnifying glass.

Art, Authenticity, and Values

However, at times, what is seen as a political statement is merely Mohamed’s insistence on accurately representing the people and the settings that feature in her story.

“I like to create things that feel both needed and natural,” Mohamed told Egyptian Streets. “A lot of people find it strange that I represent visibly Muslim women when I’m not [i.e. not hijabi], but I’m creating stories set in Egypt, and this is how the majority of Egyptian women look, and yet it is not how most women are represented, so to me its just part of telling stories based on where I am that I am familiar with, and would like to see.”

Mohamed, who was featured along with four other women in a Washington Post article headlined “5 Women Changing Their World For the Better”, explains that her choice of themes is the coming together of a number of factors: her own experience, her artistic preferences, her interests, the statements she wants to make, and the art and stories from which she draws inspiration.

“I don’t think I could change it if I tried, and I shouldn’t if it is sincere and it is doing what it’s supposed to do,” she says.

Mohamed believes that the occasional introduction of Western themes does not make stories written by Egyptians any less authentic. Just as Westerner have written about other nationalities, Egyptians can write about places they have not experienced themselves. Nevertheless, she feels that there is a lack of appreciation for art “made by Egyptians, for Egyptians”.

“I think we need to make a market for it and we need to encourage it. Even if that art is “Westernised” because Egyptians have to learn from Youtube tutorials created by Indian people about American programs, what does that matter? Is it good or not? That’s the question,” she argues.

Sincerity and originality are among the criteria that constitute what Mohamed considers “good” work, however they are not the only ones on her list. The moral value and message in art can also have a bearing on its quality in her view.

“There’s a lot of Egyptian art I really hate because even if it’s incredibly original since no one else has done it before, guess what? It is still classist and racist. So, like, at the end of the day – is it interesting? Is it good? That’s what matters.”

Graphic Novels in Translation

Qahera was first started in English given the lack of activity of Arabic users on Tumblr, the platform where Mohamed first began to share it. But as Mohamed became more immersed in the Egyptian comic scene, she was inspired to create stories that needed to be told in Arabic. This led her to writing Shubeik Lubeik in Arabic from the off.

“I’ve always had an interest in koshks in Cairo. I just think they’re really interesting because they’re always so colorful, and somehow just always convenient and available. But they’re also so colorful because they’re literally covered in soda brands and junk food boxes,” Mohamed told Egyptian Streets. “It’s a really interesting reality of capitalist life.”

However, given the roaring success of the trilogy’s first two installments, Mohamed is now translating the graphic novels into English herself, and they are due to hit bookshelves in 2021. How, then, will these deeply local themes be translated into English?

“I fully believe it will never be as good as the Arabic,” Mohamed said of the translation. “Hopefully the English speakers will never need to know what they’re missing out on!”

Nevertheless, sacrificing this bit of authenticity does not seem to faze her.

“It’s about time, because we’ve always been reading work that’s been translated or subtitled or adapted from other languages and countries, and I love that the process is reversed,” she continued.

Its Own Reward

Mohamed’s successes are ongoing and topical. Her books are currently among the books being sold at the Cairo International Book Fair, where she has in previous years signed copies of Shubeik Lubeik.

She was also the artist behind the Google Doodle of January 20, which celebrated the 106th birthday of Mufidah Abdul Rahman, one of the first Egyptian women to work as a lawyer, and the co-founder of the National Feminist Party.

But to Mohamed, one of the greatest joys of the work she does is the feedback she receives from readers with whom her stories resonated.

“Drawing and writing a graphic novel alone is really lonely work, so more than achievements and recognition, I just really love interacting with people about it afterwards. In fact, the only reason I like awards is because it hopefully means more people will read it and then I’ll get to know what they thought about it,” she concluded.

(Courtesy: Egyptian Streets)

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