Headlines

Curtailed haj compounds Saudi economic woes

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 30 June 2020 | Posted in , , , , , , ,

By Anuj Chopra

Vacant religious sites. Abandoned pilgrim tents. Lifeless hotels. A stunning emptiness -- and fears of economic ruin -- haunt the usually bustling city of Mecca after Saudi authorities curtailed the haj pilgrimage over coronavirus.

Islam's holiest city usually hosts millions of pilgrims for the annual rite, but the kingdom has barred overseas visitors from this year's event, scheduled for late July.

The haj and the lesser umrah pilgrimage together rake in some $12 billion, keeping the economy humming in Mecca, home to two million people and marble-bedecked skyscrapers towering over Islam's most sacred sites.

A construction boom in recent years has added shopping malls, apartments and luxury hotels, some offering spectacular views of the sacred Kaaba, a cube-shaped structure in the Grand Mosque towards which Muslims around the world pray. 

But most premises have lain empty since the pandemic reached the kingdom.

The virus, which hit Mecca hard, has also battered pilgrimage-reliant businesses that support hundreds of thousands of jobs, from travel agents to street barbers and souvenir shops.

Many have reported sweeping layoffs, pay cuts or delayed salaries.

"Zero sales, zero income," said Ahmed Attia, a 39-year-old Egyptian who works for a travel agency in the city.

"We're not used to seeing Mecca empty. It feels like a dead city. It's devastating for Mecca."

A tsunami of cancellations has also battered overseas haj operators who organize travel logistics for pilgrims, many of whom invest their life savings in the five-day ritual.

Saudi authorities had already in March suspended the umrah pilgrimage, which can be performed at any time.

Then, in a hugely sensitive but long-awaited decision, they said they would only allow around 1,000 pilgrims already present in the kingdom to perform the haj.

That is a tiny fraction of the 2.5 million pilgrims who attended last year.

"It will be a symbolic event, a photo-op that allows the kingdom to say 'we didn't cancel the hajj as many expected'," said a South Asian official in contact with haj authorities.

Saudi Arabia has stressed that the watered-down haj will be open to people of various nationalities.

But the selection process for the few spots is expected to be hotly contested, as some Mecca residents expect to be given priority over outsiders.

"I have gone to haj before and hopefully this year, with God's will, I will be among the first pilgrims," said Marwan Abdulrahman, a Saudi living in Mecca.

Many feared the pilgrimage, which packs colossal crowds into small religious sites, could have been a massive source of contagion.

The novel coronavirus has hit the kingdom with the highest number of cases in the Gulf -- more than 178,000 confirmed infections including 1,511 deaths.

But scaling the pilgrimage back will deepen the kingdom's economic slump, analysts say.

The move follows a sharp downturn in oil prices and coronavirus-led losses, which triggered austerity measures including the tripling of a value added tax and cuts to civil servants' allowances.

The haj decision "does compound Saudi Arabia's economic difficulties", Richard Robinson, a Middle East analyst at Oxford Analytica, told AFP.

On Wednesday, the International Monetary Fund warned the kingdom's GDP will shrink by 6.8 percent this year -- its worst performance since the 1980s oil glut.

The Saudi Binladen construction group, a bellwether known for vast mega-projects, has missed salary payments for thousands of workers in recent months, according to a source close to the company and employees complaining on social media.

The Arabic hashtag "Delays in Binladen salaries" has gained traction as the slowdown impacts the firm behind a series of critical projects, including a $15 billion skyscraper hotel complex that towers over Mecca's Grand Mosque.

The company is seeking to charter a number of private jets to send many of its laid-off South Asian labourers home, according to the source.

The company did not respond to a request for comment.

The downturn has also disrupted Riyadh's ambitious plans to build a tourism industry from scratch, a cornerstone of the Vision 2030 reform programme to reduce the kingdom's reliance on oil.

"The government has singled out tourism as a key area for growth under its diversification strategy, and the loss of haj revenues could set the sector back through lost investment or bankruptcies," said Robinson.

The kingdom began offering tourist visas for the first time last September in moves to open up one of the last frontiers of global tourism.

"While Saudis are looking to diversify tourism revenues beyond religious tourism, their efforts still build from the haj," said Kristin Diwan of the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington.

"Not having it at this time of disruption in oil markets is a blow."

(Courtesy: AFP)

Inciting Hate: The social media powder keg

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

By Suhail Ahmad

A recent study by US think tank Pew Research Center revealed that 93 percent Muslims view Hindus favourably, but only 65 percent Hindus view Muslims positively.

The survey titled ‘Attitudes Toward Diversity in 11 Emerging Economies’ may not be conclusive and updated enough, especially as it was conducted between September and October 2018, preceding many important developments which may have a direct bearing on the study findings. However, it’s still relevant and merits an objective assessment.

The survey results beg the question- why don’t the 35 percent Hindus view Muslims in positive light and what about the seven percent Muslims holding unfavorable viewpoint of Hindus? This may be subject of a separate survey, but one can still look into the possible reasons.

One of the reasons, infact, can be discerned from another important finding of the survey about the degree or frequency of interaction. Seventy per cent of Muslims frequently or occasionally interact with Hindus in India, while only 56 per cent Hindus interact with their Muslims counterparts.
As the study points out people who interact more with other religious groups tend to have more favorable opinions of them.

Of the Hindus who said they interacted with people outside their own faith — 71 per cent had a favourable view of Muslims. As opposed to this, just 56 per cent of Hindus, who reported infrequent contact with people of other religions, viewed Muslims favourably.

Let’s now focus on the Hindus who don’t have much interaction with Muslims.  Their beliefs and perceptions are largely shaped by mainstream media and social media and there lies our possible answer about the trust deficit. Social media, in particular, has proven to be a powerful influence on public perception.

A piece by Claire Teitelman (April 19, 2019) in Journal of International Affairs of Columbia University explored the role of platforms like WhatsApp and Twitter in sparking communal hatred and subsequent violence in India.

Before social media, television was the media of the masses. Claire contends that without revenue-generating streams of traditional media like TV, social media companies have had to be more aggressive with advertising, “which includes the development of targeted ads that meets your preferences and prejudices”.

She also quotes Guillaume Chaslot, an artificial intelligence (AI) researcher. “If the AI favors engagement, like on Facebook and YouTube, it will incentivize divisive content, because divisive content is very efficient to keep people online. The longer you retain people online, the more advertisements they see and the more opportunities you have to profit, which is what matters to social media-companies, like any commercial enterprise. The aim of social media algorithms is to keep people angry, engaged, and online.”

India has emerged as the fastest-growing market for Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp and YouTube so much so that for many social media has become an indispensible part of life. While the utility of these platforms cannot be denied, the prospect of their misuse remains pretty high. The speed and ease with which rumors spread on social media is frightening. There is a large gullible section of population with poor internet literacy - those who can’t differentiate between fact and rumour.

Claire refers to two incidents- the “Dadri Mob Lynching” in 2015 and the “Kathua Rape Case” in 2018. In both these incidents, protesters were riled-up by viral messages, photos, and videos on WhatsApp and other social media platforms.

Many of the videos were based on alleged cow slaughter or cow meat storage and consumption by Muslims. In an interview with news portal Scroll, the sister of one of the accused Dadri perpetrators claimed that she – and possibly her brother – had been inundated with messages and videos about cow slaughter on WhatsApp. No wonder, hoax WhatsApp messages led to more than a dozen lynchings in 2018 alone.

The Kathua incident that involved the kidnapping, rape, and murder of a young Muslim girl was distorted through social media, contending that the girl hadn't been raped and false claims flooded WhatsApp, including an autopsy report purporting to disprove rape as well as proof claiming the innocent had been framed.

Social media has played a role in accentuating sectarian tensions. It magnifies the communal tensions by rapidly creating national crises out of local disturbances. As Claire argues, “Both the Kathua and Dadri episodes would have remained local events, but social media amplified and polarized them.” The resulting ‘Us’ against ‘Them’ mindset serves the parties who thrive on divisive politics very well.

Unfortunately, there seems to be no end to the social media hatemongering. If the hate and propaganda machinery is not reined in, we may see widening of the gulf between people from different faiths and spike in communal violence. We are sitting on the social media powder keg. Unless defused, it’s just waiting to blow up. 

(Courtesy: The Rising Kashmir)

India grants thousands citizenship rights in Kashmir to dilute Muslim population

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

By Hilal Mir

Srinagar, J&K: As many as 25,000 people have been granted domicile certificates in Muslim-majority Indian administered Jammu and Kashmir since May 18, which local politicians believe is the beginning of disturbing demographic profile of the region.

The certificate, a sort of citizenship right, entitles a person to residency and government jobs in the region, which till last year was reserved only for the local population.

Last year on Aug. 5, when India revoked the semi-autonomous status of the region, it also scrapped the local special citizenship law, guaranteed under Article 35 (A) of the Indian Constitution.

The law was barring outsiders including Indian nationals from settling and claiming government jobs, to maintain the demographic balance.
On Friday, a picture of the domicile certificate issued to Navin Kumar Choudhary, a bureaucrat originally from the Indian state of Bihar, went viral on social media.

In April this year, amid the ongoing coronavirus lockdown, the government notified domicile laws making an unspecified number of outsiders eligible for residency and jobs.

According to the new law, any person who has lived in the region for 15 years, or has studied in the region for seven years and passed his class 10 or class 12 examination is eligible for domicile certificate.

Also, children of Indian government employees who have served in the state for 10 years are eligible to settle and claim local citizenship rights. The law applies even if the children have never lived in Kashmir.

Out of 66, top bureaucrats serving in the region, 38 are outsiders belonging to other Indian states. Many other outsiders serve in various central government institutions like banks, post offices telecommunication facilities, security institutions, and universities.

Majority of new citizens in Jammu region

Kashmiri politicians across the divide have said the revocation of special citizenship rights was aimed at reversing the Muslim majority character of the region.

According to a census conducted by India in 2011, out of 12.5 million total population, Muslims comprise 68.31% and Hindus 28.43% in Jammu and Kashmir.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency on the condition of anonymity, a government official said, since May 18, when the rules were notified, 33,000 persons had applied for the domicile certificates. Out of them, 25,000 persons have been granted citizenship rights, he said.

As many as 32,000 applications were filed in 10 districts of the Hindu majority Jammu region. The highest number of 8,500 certificates has been issued in the Doda district, which has a delicate demographic balance, with Muslims comprising 53.81% and Hindus 45.76%.

As many as 6,213 domicile certificates have been issued in Rajouri district, which has 62.71% Muslim population. Authorities have distributed 6,123 citizenship certificates in Poonch, a border district comprising 90.44% Muslim population.

In the Kashmir region, which is about 96.4% Muslim population, 435 certificates have been issued so far, out of the total 720 applications.

As of now, it is not clear how many outsiders, like Choudhary, have been issued domicile certificates. The 25,000 new citizens also include Hindu refugees, who had settled in the region at the time of partition of the sub-continent in 1947. They had migrated from territories, now part of Pakistan. But due to the state’s residency laws and special status they were not granted local citizenship rights.

Disputed territory

Kashmir is held by India and Pakistan in parts and claimed by both in full. A small sliver of Kashmir is also held by China.

Since they were partitioned in 1947, the two countries have fought three wars — in 1948, 1965, and 1971. Two of them have been over Kashmir.

Some Kashmiri groups in Jammu and Kashmir have been fighting against the Indian rule for independence or unification with neighboring Pakistan.

According to several human rights organizations, thousands of people have reportedly been killed in the conflict in the region since 1989.

(Courtesy: The Muslim News)

From freedom fighters in British India to Dissenters in Free India: Face Sedition- Section 124A is the simple answer

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 24 June 2020 | Posted in , , , , ,

By Ravi Nitesh

Recently, Amulya Leona got bail from a Magistrate court after session court had denied her bail however, later, Magistrate court accepted the bail on the basis that Police didn’t file chargesheet within due time and during this she spent around four months in jail.

Saroofa Jargar, a youth activist in Delhi has been picked up from her home for her involvement in Ant-CAA protest on the charges that her involvement allegedly caused riots in Delhi. Saroofa is pregnant, a research scholar in Jamia Millia Islamia (which is in Top10 universities as per NIRF of MHRD).

Devangana and Natasha are founding members of a group Pinjra Tod and they were active in Ant—CAA protest in Jaffrabad area of North East Delhi and have been picked up by police on the charges that their involvement allegedly caused riots in North East Delhi. Devangana and Natasha are JNU students (2nd Rank University in NIRF universities ranking)

Delhi Minority Commission Chairman Zafrul Islam Khan is facing inquiry under sedition charges allegedly for his social media post and several visits of Delhi Police have happened at his residence in the name of inquiry.

Anup Singh, an individual from Prayagraj (U.P.) booked because he had posted a comment on a facebook post on migrant workers issue and had made an objectionable remark on CM Yogi Adityanath.

Many more known and unknown names across India can be added in above list with one thing common that they all are those who faced sedition charges in recent time. These known-unknown names include Students of JNU like Umar Khalid, many other Jamia and AMU students, journalists like Vinod Dua, Dhaval Patel, activists like Khalid Saifi to less known Kashmiri students, local journalists, individuals who wrote something against CM, PM, Government. You just name someone, share reports, criticize heavily, organize protests and the next week you may face undesirable guests in the form of police to detain you under charges of sedition filed against you by any less known person or a political worker in any xyz district. Mostly, sedition is not alone, and added with other charges such as UAPA, defamation law or other IPC sections etc.

Most of them have been in detention by police without any clear involvement of them in any riots or any evidence to prove that their actions are against the sovereignty of India. They have been pushed behind the ‘anti-national’ tag merely for their open criticism against the policy of the government with peaceful protests in writing or through practicing their right to have assembly and freedom of speech. Most of them are students, young researchers but they have been made accused with the help of amended laws of UAPA (in many cases) and also under sedition. The same colonial era sedition which already has caused difficulty in earlier years too such as in cases of Binayak Sen and in Kundankulam Protest, but in present, used excessively to suppress even basic criticism or even in the matter which could be ignored.
Section 124 (A) of IPC was made initially in the year 1870 (IPC-1860) by British against the Indians to suppress their voices of dissent and imposed against freedom of speech and expression, probably to ‘protect’ the British crown from any criticism by creating fear among freedom fighters, dissenters who were active through protests and through their newspapers. Bal Gangadhar Tilak faced sedition for his activities during the freedom struggle and later Mahatma Gandhi also faced the charge for writing an article in his newspaper Young India.

Section 124A in its present form states: “Whoever, by words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise, brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards, the Government established by law in India, shall be punished with imprisonment for life, to which a fine may be added; or, with imprisonment which may extend to three years, to which a fine may be added; or, with fine.”

After Independence, IPC continued and sedition also remained a part of it and applied by the Indian government also against its own citizens when they tried to speak against the government. With the basis of accusing someone’s action seditious through using words like ‘disaffection’, this extremely serious allegation looks very vague and with all potential to be misused due to lack of clarity of ‘Disaffection’, which is free to be interpreted by anyone.

Probably looking at this and the trail that this law has been misused to tag people, particularly dissenters, activists etc. even a paper of Law commission advocated to repeal or at least review section 124(a). In its report, the Law commission states ‘Section 124A should be invoked only in cases where the intention behind any act is to disrupt public order or to overthrow the government with violence and illegal means.’ It also stated ‘Berating the country or a particular aspect of it cannot and shouldn’t be treated as sedition.’

Also, despite the fact that IPC already has many other provisions and there are many other separate acts in India which are more than sufficient to deal with any actual sedition charges but still applicability of sedition has not been reduced.

Considering the scope and applicability in terms of conviction, even the Supreme Court of India, in its judgements clearly said that statements against government cannot be termed as sedition. In the famous judgement of Kedarnath Singh Vs State of Bihar in 1962, court observed that any criticism and comment against the government cannot be termed as sedition unless it incite people for violence or with intention of creating public disorder. Similarly in Balwant Singh Vs State of Punjab case 1995, Supreme Court observed that casual raising of slogans once or twice (in this case Khalistan Zindabad) can not be said as an attempt to excite hatred.

With the recent data of NCRB, it is clear that conviction rate is extremely low (only 1 case in 2016, 1 in 2017 and 2 in 2018) as these cases couldn’t stand on legal ground inside courtrooms where constitution provides fundamental rights of speech and expression, but still the machinery is picking people frequently, probably because sedition also provides an easy ground to detain because of no clear definition or criteria and till the time a particular case will be judged in court, the dissenter may feel the fear and pain of being lodged in detention.

In recent times, these people, mostly university going boys and girls, research scholars who have been pursuing their thirst of understanding society, putting their opinions on front and without fear are in grip. In fact, a healthy democracy should welcome such people as any critical analysis, critical comments, protests, resistance and dissents are actually a true reflection that democracy is living in paper and spirit. A government in power at center or state, must not see itself as flawless or free from any public advice or public demand for change or criticism. A democratic government should be in fact more welcoming towards the change, as democratic values are like a river that flows continuously and stopping it would result in death.

Government must start striking off the sedition law first and any such actions, even if found to be punished, should be dealt with through other available provisions and this draconian provision, which is a sign of British colonial mindset to crush dissent, should be repealed to respect people’s freedom in Independent India.

Even if this can be done now, after 73 years of Independence, this would be a step in a larger contribution of making a democratic values stronger.

[Ravi Nitesh writes on issues of Peace, Human Rights and Development. He Tweets @ravinitesh] 

Six months since Jamia violence, police brutalities not forgotten

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 22 June 2020 | Posted in , , , , , ,

As we witness worldwide #BlackLivesMatter protests and criticisms of police brutality in the USA, we also need to take a look at our own police system and how it perpetrates violence.

By Ishmeet Nagpal

Any structure that exists with a clear mandate of placing absolute power in the hands of a few, will inevitably undermine the spirit of democracy at some juncture. From beating up of helpless migrant workers simply trying to go home, assaulting doctors and essential workers, to beating children, the police have shown us time and again they are not our friends (unless we are Members of Parliament whose children get birthday cakes from them).

In December 2019, while analyzing the Jamia violence perpetrated by Delhi Police, I had asked the following question in a Hindi article: “जामिया के छात्रों से क्रूरता क्यों?” (“Who is the target of the Police’s Lathi? This is something we should think about”). Therapist and researcher- Sadaf Vidha answers, “The brutality of the police is meted out towards those most oppressed in the society. In this, it follows the same pattern of discrimination that the larger society follows. In India, we see disproportionate police brutality towards the poor, the migrants, the caste minorities, women, and the tribal population. In a bizarre incident, a lawyer in Madhya Pradesh was beaten brutally and told later, with an apology, ‘We thought you had a beard, so you were a Muslim’. When they have to make split-second decisions in the absence of proper training, with violence as the only method available, the decision is made on the bases of these implicit biases that they learned growing up and were later reinforced at various stages in their lives.” (extracts from researcher’s essay on thechakkar.com)

The indiscriminate and unjustified violence meted out by the police in Jamia Milia Islamia and Aligarh Muslim University students, as well as the violent measures taken to curb Anti-CAA protests may have fallen out of the news cycle, but they will never be forgotten.

Any citizen of India should be very concerned if, in the end, the police are not held accountable for their actions. An extremely biased report is already doing the job of whitewashing over the facts of Delhi Pogrom 2020. Similar gaslighting can be expected in the cases of police brutality. Whether they enter our places of education to perpetrate violence or overturn vegetable carts on the street, the police’s abuse of power with impunity needs to be questioned.

The Delhi Police, in particular, has also been perpetrating another form of structural violence by making a series of arrests targeting students, activists, and peaceful protestors including Safoora Zargar who has been denied bail yet again. The Judiciary is supposed to step up and protect the interests of the citizens. Instead, the Delhi High Court has repeatedly adjourned petitions seeking police accountability for indiscriminate arrests.

The Bengaluru police targeting veteran journalist Aakar Patel for posting about a peaceful #BlackLivesMatter protest is the latest in a long string of nationwide crackdowns on journalists and their freedom of speech. If we look at the big picture, the very people we rely on to keep us safe, are the source of fear. The Judiciary and the Government are complicit even in being passive. From the protests that helped us achieve our freedom from the hands of the British, to the online protests that we participate in now from our smartphones during the lockdown, it is our right, as citizens, to voice our criticisms of the law and order system in our country. Our ancestors put this free, independent nation in our hands, and we must nurture this freedom, we must build on it, we must never give it up in any manner. Jai Hind!

(Courtesy: Sabrang

Yoga Day observed in AMU

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

IMO News Service

Aligarh: The Department of Physical Education, Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) observed the sixth edition of International Day of Yoga on Sunday, June 21 amid the COVID-19 pandemic by going digital sans mass gathering.

In line with the Government of India guidelines on social distancing, Yoga Asanas (Poses) were performed at the Department of Physical Education, where Prof Zamirullah Khan (Chairman) spoke on 'Yoga at Home with Family', the theme for Yoga Day 2020.

Speaking on the importance of yoga and meditation, Prof Zamirullah said that even as AMU is celebrating the Yoga Day indoors like other institutions in the country, it is the feeling of solidarity across the nation in the unprecedented time of the pandemic that keeps the spirits high.


Dr Rajendra Singh interacted with the audience as the Yoga expert, while Dr Merajuddin Faridi conducted the programme. Dr Naushad Waheed Ansari coordinated the event.

Dr Mohd Arshad Bari coordinated with Facebook live session and Dr Sayed Khurram Nisar extended the vote of thanks.

Alish, Vikas Raghav and Nehave Verma were the demonstrators. Over 500 viewers watched the live session on Facebook.

Reclaiming Rumi: How Islam was erased from the Persian

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

A new online campaign, “Rumi Was Muslim”, seeks to rectify the whitewashing and mistranslations of the renowned 13th-century Persian poet and Muslim scholar.

By Sahar Esfandiari

Founded by researchers and translators Sharghzadeh and Zirrar, the Rumi Was Muslim platform seeks to rectify inaccurately translated and wrongfully attributed work relating to the 13th-century Persian poet Mowlana Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi.

In recent years, Rumi has become a household name in the West, and work attributed to his name has received unparalleled recognition in popular culture. Rumi was even named the best-selling poet in the US in 2014.

Work attributed to the 13th-century Muslim scholar and poet is frequently quoted in the media by celebrities and public figures, such as Ivanka Trump. Even Drake is thought to be a big fan, while Beyonce named one of her daughters after him.

The issue with the mainstream circulation of the quotes attributed to Rumi is that they are often inaccurately translated from Persian and interpreted in a way which removes any trace of Rumi's Islamic faith, as well as any cultural references to the Muslim world.

Sharghzadeh, a Detroit-based graduate of The University of Michigan and co-founder of Rumi Was Muslim told The New Arab that "many of Rumi's most famous works have been translated from Western scholars to remove any mention of Islam, and often embedded with orientalist tropes."


Context and history surrounding the poet's work, which are both linked closely with his identity as a Muslim, are often absent entirely, and add to further misinterpretation. The post below shows a widely quoted verse attributed to Rumi.

Placed side by side with a new translation from Sharghzadeh, who also runs the page persianpoetics, the absence of religious terminology such as "kafir" is evident, as well as the inclusion of the word "caravan," a term that could be accused of evoking orientalist stereotypes of the East. 

'Rumi Was Muslim'

After some time discussing these issues between them as friends, the founders launched the Rumi Was Muslim project as a long term campaign on Instagram and through a website with two primary aims in mind. 

"We made Rumi Was Muslim a movement with two goals, firstly to increase public awareness about misleading or fabricated Rumi quotes that circulate on the internet," Sharghzadeh told The New Arab. 

"Secondly, we want to produce our own, accurate translations of poems by Rumi and other Muslim poets. At the moment, translations of Persian poetry are either highly technical, academic translations that are not accessible to the average reader, or 'pop translations' or renderings by people like Coleman Barks," he said.

The Rumi Was Muslim campaign seeks to bridge the gap between these two bodies of interpretation.


According to the founders, they hope to produce translations that are academic in accuracy and research but remain accessible to English-speaking audiences through availability to a wide audience.

In addition to their own translations, the Rumi Was Muslim platform also promotes books translated by esteemed literary scholars such as Jawid Mojaddedi and Ibrahim Gamard, whose work is considered to be accurate and does not erase historical context.

The most widely printed translations of Rumi's work are linked to Coleman Barks, an American poet who does not read Persian or Arabic but re- interpreted nineteenth century translations of Rumi for a mass US audience.

It is often these translations which make it to the mainstream media and are quoted in popular culture.

Whitewashing Rumi

Today in the West, Rumi is usually referred to as a 'mystic,' 'spiritual' and sometimes 'Sufi,' but rarely described as Muslim. 

"Mowlana is universal, but he didn't emerge in a vacuum, he was Muslim, and his universality should be understood within the context of the Islamic tradition. It's a form of cultural theft and Islamophobic erasure to downplay his Islamic identity," explains Sharghzadeh.

In the modern-day context, where mainstream representations of Islam and Muslims in film, TV, and literature are either absent or overwhelming negative, erasure of Islam from Rumi's poetry is particularly problematic - it lends itself to the "good" West vs. "bad" East orientalist stereotypes.

As far as literary accuracy is concerned, erasure of religious context can also detract from the original meaning of the poet's work.

"We should not forget that Rumi's writing isn't just love poetry, his works are part of our religious canon, just like any other important book in the Islamic tradition," says Sharghzadeh.

In a Q&A video posted on the platform, the founders explain that translating a piece of poetry from Rumi takes significant time and dedication, which makes it particularly alarming to see social media accounts with hundreds of thousands of followers post quotes which are not sourced or attributed correctly.

These quotes are at best inaccurate, and at worst entirely fictitious.

On the platform, Zirrar and Sharghzadeh say the quote above cannot be traced to an original Rumi work. Going forward, the pair hope to continue with the campaign and raise more awareness about the issues surrounding Rumi's work.

At the moment the campaign remains online, but they hope that in the future they can extend the Rumi Was Muslim to the wider publishing world.

[Sahar Esfandiari is a British-Iranian writer focused on the Middle East and its diaspora. She tweets @saharesfandiari]

(Courtesy: The New Arab

"Visit My Masjid" Programme gets a warm response in Tamil Nadu

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 11 March 2020 | Posted in , , , , , ,

By Syed Ali Mujtaba

Chennai: In wake of discretion of mosques and killing of ‘Imam’ at the recent riots in Delhi, some Muslims in ‘Vaniyambadi,’ a town about 200 km from Chennai, organized a ‘Visit My Masjid’ programme at Masjid-e-Khaderpet on  Sunday, March 1, 2020.

This was done to strengthen inter-faith relations and build a constituency of peace and communal harmony among the people of different faiths in Vaniyambadi, one of the hubs of leather exports at Tirupattur District in Tamil Nadu.

It was for the first time a mosque’s door was opened to people belonging to different faiths. More than 400 non-Muslim brothers and sisters visited Masjid-e-Khaderpet under the "Visit My Masjid" programme. 
They were curious non-Muslims visitors from all walks of life such as students, professionals, politicians and businessmen etc. They were welcomed with open arms by the volunteers, trustees and committee members of the Khaderpet mosque. 

They were taken to the different portions of the mosque and volunteers explained to them about the rituals and concepts of Islam. The explanation started with the water tank (Hauz) where the visitors were told about the way a Muslim perform ‘Wuzhu’ (ablution) before saying the prayers. This was to convey the message of importance of cleanliness in Islam.

Some visitors showed great interest in learning the way of performing the ‘Wuzhu’ and few tried to clean their hands and legs, nose and mouth in the Islamic way of ablution.

The visitors were them taken to the place from where the ‘Azhan’ call for prayer, was given. The Arabic words of ‘Azhan’ were translated and its meaning was explained to the guests.

This was followed by the explanation on the timings and names of daily five time prayers. They were also explained why the timings vary in hours. The guests were then taken to the prayer hall of the mosque. They were explained about the architectural features of the prayer hall like ‘Mihrab’, ‘Minbar’ etc.

They were explained about the ways of prayers in the mosque are performed.  How lining up or ‘Saf Bandi’ in prayer is being done. How “Khutba” or sermon in congregation prayers like on Friday prayers is made. The visitors were also told about the importance of “Imam” in leading the prayers.

Placards were at display in few places of the mosque to help the visitors understand the concepts of Islam and the way Muslim pray in a mosque to add clarity to ‘Visit My Masjid’ programme.
The visitors were then taken to nearby the graveyard or ‘Qabrastan.’ They were explained about the way funeral prayer is performed and how burial is done.  The visitors were also explained about the concept of ‘Aaqirath’ or life after death in Islam.

They visitors very much appreciated the "Visit My Masjid" programme.  They were impressed by the way they were welcomed and treated in the mosque. They gave their feedback in a form and also recorded their experience on video camera about their enhanced knowledge and understanding about Islam and its teachings.

The SIO Vaniyambadi Unit and members of the Masjid-e-Khaderpet deserve special thanks to initiate such a peace loving concept of "Visit My Masjid" programme. The organizers can be contacted at 9500359571 and 8148989402.

[Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at syedalimujtaba2007@gmail.com]

Pakistan: Pro-feminism organizations hold rally in Sukkur

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

By Abbas Kassar

Hyderabad, Pakistan: Various pro-feminism organizations took out a big rally in upper Sindh city of Sukkur, the epicenter of anti-feminism in Pakistan.

Various organizations, civil society, lawyers, journalists, writers, poets and social workers took out rallies from Lab Mehran (bank of Indus River) to the press club. Apart from women, a large number of men also participated in the rally.
The rally after reaching in front of the press club turned into a big public meeting. It was led by professors Arfana Mallah, Amar Sindhdi, Haseen Musrat Shah (Khana Badosh fame) Aalia Buxual, Attiya Dwood, Marvi Palijo, Rukhsana Preet Channar, HRCP Coordinator Imdad Chandio, noted writers and poets Taj Joyo, Adal Soomro and Ayaz Gul, advocate Shabbir Shar, Jami Chandio, Hamida Ghanaghro, Aisha Dharejo and others. A delegation of Sindhi Adabi Sangat led by Ahmed Solangi, Azad Anwar Kandhro, Prem Pittafi and Sajjad Mehr also participated. Police provided full security to Aurat Azadi March with 4 DSPs, 40 S.H.Os and 1000 COPs.

Addressing the rally at press club the speakers demanding right of freedom to women said women are facing anti-human atrocities including killing them under Karo-Kari (honor killing), giving in exchange for crimes of family males, cruelties under parenthood patronage, enforced marriages, domestic violence, social inequalities, and keeping them out of education. They said in upper Sindh area no voice was raised before, but now that women freedom voice has been raised and vowed to fight against deprivation and discrimination of women henceforth.

[Abbas Kassar is a Senior Journalist based in Hyderabad, Sindh (Pakistan). He can be reached at kassarabbas@gmail.com]

OPINION: Political, religious & demographic dynamics in South Asia & threatened co-existence of people with pluralities

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

By Dr. Firoz Mahboob Kamal

‘Rising Asia’ now runs as a myth in many Asian and non-Asian countries. But such a myth hides many awful realities. The case of ‘rising Europe’ in the past with its mighty economy, military and technology provides valuable insights to analyse the so-called myth of ‘rising Asia’. While Europe showed its fastest economic growth, also showed its fastest morale down-turn. Because of such moral down-turn, Europe could become the fertile breeding ground for evil ideologies like colonialism, imperialism, white supremacism, nationalism, racism and fascism. In fact, genocidal wars, colonial wars, World Wars and ethnic cleansing owe to such moral down turn. In those rising days of the west, the moral down-turn went so low that it couldn’t find any wrong in elimination of Red Indians from Americas, aborigines from Australia and Maoris from New Zealand. And, killings could be done on an industrial scale. As a result, they could kill about 75 million people only in two World Wars. This is why, the worst catastrophe in whole history is not caused by earthquakes, epidemics, cyclones or tsunamis; but by humans.

The same myth of economic development now dominates the socio-political spectrum of South Asia. The economic development has overruled the importance of moral development. And moral ill health or death now shows its own expression. In India, Muslims are being lynched to death on alleged accusation that they eat beef. On such a pretext, 25 Muslims are killed by the Hindu radicals in a period from 2015 to the middle of 2017. (Ananda Bazar Patrika, 2020). In 1992, more than 500 year-old historical Babri Mosque in Ayodhya was razed to the ground on a mythological assumption that Ram –a Hindu deity was born there. The Supreme Court of India declared in its recent judgement that there exists no evidence that the mosque was built on a Hindu temple. Surprisingly, absence of evidence couldn’t prohibit the Supreme Court judges from incorporating the Hindutva motive in their judgement. Therefore, the judges gave the dismantled mosque site to the perpetrators of the crime to build a temple there! Whereas in a previous ruling, the same judiciary condemned the destruction of the mosque as a heinous crime. Therefore, with the Hindutva fascists in power, everything looks changed. The police, the prosecution, the Hindutva politician, the judiciary, the media and the executive branch of the government now work together to promote the same Hindutva objective. Now, appeasement of the ruling Hindutva forces overrules the delivery of fair justice.

The Muslim population of India is about 200 million –larger than the combined population of France, Germany and the UK. The development of a state is indeed the aggregate development of all people of all denominations. Hence hindered access to education and training, employment opportunities for everyone and optimum utilisation of every talent and skills are vital. Any obstruction or exclusion of anyone restrict development. The GDP of country is indeed the summation of added values not only on land and materials but also on every individual. Therefore, if 200 million people are kept out of the value-adding process and employment, how can a country progress? Awfully such a basic rule of development is ignored only to harm Muslims. They also ignore to realize that such a policy immensely harms India. The impact reflects on the economic indicators. In terms of per capita income and hunger index, India stands lower than even Bangladesh –the bottomless basket case of the early seventies.

Currently, Muslims constitute about 15 per cent of the Indian population; but only 4 per cent of them are graduate and only 5 per cent are in the government jobs. (Sachar Committee Report, 2006). The maximisation of economic wellbeing of the Hindus and their access to the government offices are being achieved and sustained by maximum deprivation or exclusion of the Muslims. Such a discriminatory and restrictive policy was first initiated by the British colonial occupiers since they snatched power from the Muslim rulers. But it hasn’t been changed by the subsequent Indian governments. Now, with the Hindutva forces in power, the exclusion of the Muslims has become an overt government policy. More than 44 million Muslims live in Uttar Pradesh –the country’s largest province, but in 2014 election not a single Muslim was allowed to sit in the parliament. It is also worth noting that the Hindutva forces are not happy with the current level of exclusion, they want to put more restriction. In order to put permanent prohibition, they want to deprive Muslims of their citizenship rights. So, tools like National Citizenship Registrar (NCR) and Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) are introduced. BJP’s West Bengal chief told in public that 10 million Muslims will be evicted from West Bengal by deploying NCR. (Ananda Bazar Patrika, 17 February 2020). Millions of Muslims are targeted to make them stateless on the accusation that they have illegally infiltrated from Bangladesh. Bangladesh has already labelled it baseless and has expressed its refusal to take any stateless people from India. Hence such stateless Muslims face no option but to stand de-enfranchised and dumped in concentration camps. Already such concentration camps are being constructed in the state of Assam where 1.9 million people stand stateless because of exclusion from NRC. Such inhuman act stands unique in the whole human history.
The Hindutva fascists want to make India a Hindu state – as envisioned by their guru Savarker. Muslims and other minorities will survive only as second class citizen without any social, political and economic participation. This is why, even the publication of Sachar Committee Report that exposed sheer deprivation of the Muslims is so unwelcome in the Hindutva circle. Their argument is clear. While they do not bother to alleviate the deprivation, why do they need its publication? The Muslim rule in India in the past is being used to ignite the politics of revengeful anguish against the present days’ Muslims. In fact, resurgence of such Hindu vengeance forms the basis of Hindutva politics in India and gave birth to world’s largest NGO called Rastriya Shevok Sangha (RSS). The sole objective of RSS is to make India a Hindu state.-(Andersen, Walter; Damla, Shridhar, 1987). In the early days of independent India, RSS leaders opposed the Indian constitution for three main reasons. These are: 1). its secular character, 2). non-inclusion of ancient law of Manu, 3). equal rights for people of all clasts and religions. (Hadiz, Vedi). They also opposed tricolour Indian national flag. Instead, they wanted a saffron flag as an icon of ancient Hindu identity. For 52 years since independence, they didn’t hoist tri-colour Indian national flag in RSS head quarter; for the first time they did it in 2002. (The Times of India, 2002)

While M.S Golwalker became the RSS President in 1940, he set it a goal not to fight against the British. (M.S Golwalker, 1974). Muslims were stipulated as the number one enemy and not the British occupation. Hence, from day one of its inception in 1925, RSS was focussed on mobilising and strengthening the Hindutva recruits to fight against the Muslims. In 1927, within two years of its creation, the RSS launched its first Muslim cleansing operation in its birth place in Nagpur in Maharashtra. Its militants launched an organised attack against the local Muslims and the campaign went on for 3 days and forced the Muslims to leave the city. The creation of Pakistan in 1947 infuriated the RSS cadres; as if Pakistan has cut into pieces their mother India. Now they take the revenge from the captivated Muslims those who didn’t migrate to Pakistan. They consider every Indian Muslim a traitor cum termite and a Pakistani insider. (Ashish Nandi, 2002). For its terrorist activities, the RSS was banned 4 times in the past: in 1947, in 1948, in 1975 and in 1992.  During British raj, it was banned for its communal terrorism by the provincial government of Punjab in 1947. In 1948, it was banned for killing Gandhi. In 1992, it was banned for destroying the historic Babri Mosque. Since Norendra Modi -a lifelong member of RSS, became the Prime Minister, everything changed. The RSS is no more alone in its mission; the whole state apparatus, the media, the police and the army are now working hand in hand to attain the Hindutva objective. The policy of political and economic exclusivity and even cleansing operations against the religious minorities gets sanitised in the name of the democratic rights of the majority. Thus, the Hindutva majority has established marginalisation of the minorities and deprivation of their basic rights as the new normal.

The NRC project was first started in the north-eastern state of Assam. Because of it, 1.9 million people became stateless. Contrary to the Hindutva expectation, more than 70% of the victims turned out to be Hindus. Since exclusion of Hindus has never been the agenda of the ruling Hindutva extremists, the Citizenship Act was quickly amended to award them citizenship. But the door is kept closed for the stateless Muslims. A Hindu – even if born outside India, can get citizenship because of his religious identity, but a Muslim born in India needs to submit documents for that. Thus, NRC and CAA are being used as the discriminatory instruments against Muslims either to evict them as foreign intruder or dump them in newly built concentration camps as de-enfranchised and de-humanised alien creatures. 

Cross-party epidemic

Like virus, toxic ideologies never stay confined within the premise of a single political, religious or terrorist outfit. It shows a cross-party, cross-country and cross-border epidemic. Hence, what is happening in India, Myanmar and Sri Lanka against the Muslims shows the similar symptoms and signs. This is why, the anti-Muslim hatred in Indian politics is not a monopoly of RSS-BJP axis, and the parties like the Indian National Congress and many others have also been infected with the same toxicity. The spell of the Hindutva venom over the politics of Indian National Congress was exposed during the election campaign of 1989. To appease the Hindu voters, Rajiv Gandhi –the Congress Party’s incumbent Prime Minister attempted to snatch the Hindutva mantra from RSS-BJP family by outplaying the issue. He started his campaign from the district of Faizabad –known for its historic Babri Mosque. Dispelling the previous secular stand of the Congress, Rajiv Gandhi took the banner of Hindutva agenda in his own hand. He promised inauguration of Rama Rajya –the rule and the kingdom of Rama, in India.-(Pradeep Nayak, 1993). It was a clear departure from declared secular ideology of the Congress. He even opened the door of the Babri Mosque for the Hindu worshippers –which was strategically avoided by every Congress and non-Congress government in the past. By adopting such a communal agenda, Rajiv Gandhi enhanced Hindutva radicalization of his own party the Indian National Congress. He preferred getting more votes over higher human values, secular ideology, justice and respect for the minority rights. Such a policy of sliding towards the Hindu majority vote bank and turning a blind eye towards the Muslim minority, prompted the Muslims –the party’s traditional vote bank to quickly leave Congress. Along with the loss of Muslim votes, his hoax to amass Hindu votes didn’t work either. He failed to defeat the old and original vanguards of the Hindutva outfit like BJP. As a result of losing Muslim votes, the Congress Party ceased to exist as an electable contender of power in Indian national politics. It could show up only as a partner of regional parties to share power in some smaller states.  

However, Rajiv Gandhi is not the only Congress leader to embrace the Hindutva ideology. Even, Mr. Nehru -the first Prime Minister of independent India didn’t prove different either. Nehru couldn’t hide his affinity towards Hindutva extremism while he embraced Shyama Prasad Mukherjee as his first post-independence cabinet colleague. Incorporating a leader in the cabinet doesn’t go alone, it needs to accommodate his ideologies, too. Mr. Mukherjee is known as one of the most original gurus of Hindutva radicalization of Indian politics. He was the former President of Hindu Mahashava and the founder of Jana Sangha –the parental organizations of today’s BJP.

Nehru’s policy towards the Muslim rule in Hyderabad and the Muslim population in Kashmir –the only Muslim majority state in India, also proved terribly sinister. The first post-independence genocidal massacre of the Muslims that took place in Hyderabad in 1948 wasn’t the crime of RSS-BJP goons. It happened under the watch of Congress Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. His government didn’t bother to do a body count of the dead. The lowest estimate of the Muslim death has been reported to be 40, 000 (Komireddi, 2019). In other estimate, it is 200, 000. (Noorani, 2001). Muslim houses were looted and thousands of Muslim women were raped. Thugs and rapists were let loose to commit the crime; and hardly anyone was punished for such a horrendous crime.

Under Nehru’s rule, a massive genocide also took place in Jammu – a southern district in united Kashmir. Prior to Indian occupation in 1947, Jammu had Muslim majority population. The genocide was carried out under the direct command of Dogra Maharaja Hari Singh of Kashmir -as a part of the desperate move in his last days of rule, to make it Hindu majority area. Since there was no body-count, there exists gross variation on number of the death. It is stated 20,000 to 100,000 Muslims were killed and many more were evicted from their home. (Snedden, Christopher, 2015). But most the researchers agree that RSS cadres were brought in to conduct the genocide under the direct watch of Maharaja Hari Singh. (Chattha, 2009). Although Prime Minister Nehru considered Hari Singh guilty for the massacre, but gave him a safe sanctuary in Mumbai. (Praveen Swami, 2007). Because of signing the ‘Instrument of Accession to India’, Hari Singh has not only been exempted from legal prosecution but also his genocidal crime was airbrushed from history. (Komireddi, 2019).
Mr. Narasima Rao – Congress Party’s another former Prime Minister also showed anti-Muslim sentiment from his early career. He joined an armed group to fight against the Muslim ruler in Hyderabad. (K.S. Komireddi, 2019). While he was the Prime Minister, he allowed the destruction of Babri Mosque by his visible inaction. His government showed utter failure to prosecute those Hindutva extremists who committed such a heinous crime. Mr. Pranab Mukherjee – a former President of India and leader of the Congress Party also couldn’t hide his affinity towards RSS. He visited Nagpur –the birth place of RSS, to pay his deep homage to the RSS founder Mr. Hedgewar in 2018. The issue didn’t stop at his homage; Mr. Mukherjee exulted the RSS founder as “great son of Mother India” in the visitor’s book. Only a man with full endorsement of Mr. Hedgewar’s Hindutva ideology could write such a high eulogy. On behalf of RSS, it was acknowledged that after Mr. Pronab Mukherjee’s homage to Hedgewar, there was an upsurge in RSS’s membership. It is worth noting that Mr. Pranab Mukherjee is not alone to show the affinity to Hindutva ideology. Congress Party – the so-called secularist outfit proved to be embedded with many more like Mr. Mukharjee. In 1954, a Congress MP named Seth Govind Das moved a resolution in the Indian parliament for imposing a total ban on cow slaughter. Mr Vasan Sathe -another leading Hindutva fan in Congress, threatened to resign from the party if the party opposes the installation of a portrait of Mr. Savarkar – the original guru of Hindutva politics in India, in the parliament. (Naqvi, 2019).

Mr. Hedgewar’s ideology and his political objective were never hidden. Mr. Hedgewar proclaimed that India is a land only for the Hindus; and consistently loathed the Muslims. He could never swallow the six hundred years’ Muslim rule in India. He considered Muslims’ rule as a disgrace for the Hindus; and showed his obsession to take the revenge. Like Savarker, Golwalker and other Hindutva ideologues, he couldn’t think of Muslims as equal citizens. His obsession to take the revenge prompted him to form the RSS. His successor, Golwalkar, was an admirer of Hitler and his policies towards the Jews. He even wrote that Nazi Germany provides a “good lesson for use in Hindusthan to learn and profit by.” In such writings, Golwalkar’s implied message is clear. The Germans had the Jews and the Indians have the Muslims. Hitler had nothing to teach Indians on Hindutva ideology; but had a lot to teach how to carry out genocidal cleansing of the Muslims –as he did against the Jews. Hitler could also teach how he was successful to mobilise and motivate the German people to commit one of the ugliest crimes on earth like taking Jews to the gas chambers. Mr. Golwalkar was highly impressed by Hitler’s quick success; hence asked his Hindu compatriots to apply the same methodology against the Indian Muslims. How a man with an iota of morality can endorse or appreciate such a toxic ideology? But Mr. Pranab Mukharjee travelled to Nagpur to pay homage to the icon of such ideology. A Muslim can easily understand how dreadful to live amidst hordes of such indoctrinated people. In a conventional war, fear of death runs only through those who are in the battlefield. But for Muslims, the whole India had turned into a fear mongering corrosive battlefield.
                                                                                                 Deployment of more than 700,000 troops in Kashmir – the only Muslim majority state in India, tells another story of ongoing marginalisation and persecution of the minority in India. Kashmir is now the most militarised zone in the whole world. Because of recent abrogation of Article 370, Kashmir no more exist as a state; it has become a federal territory directly under the rule of Delhi. The whole state has turned into a prison. As a part of the punitive measures, curfew has been imposed for months after months. To disconnect them from the outside world, the internet services are either cut-off or given restricted access. Thousands of people are taken to prisons outside Kashmir. Such state-run killing, oppression, injustices and marginalisation only could work as the precursor of social unrest and militancy among the victims. As usual, such state-ran terrorism gets cover-up in the name of keeping stability and fighting the militancy. Because of similar punitive policy of the Myanmar government against the minority Rohynga Muslims, the country could become the “text book case of ethnic cleansing”. The situation in Sri Lanka is not different either; it only differs in severity from that of India and Myanmar. There too, the Muslim and Tamil minority suffer in the hand of the Buddhist Sinhalese majority.

All RSS compounds in India indeed work as training centres to make the party cadres ready for a Hindutva victory over the whole South Asia. The division of the sub-continent into India, Pakistan and Bangladesh has never been accepted by them; Gandhi –the father of India’ independence was murdered for accepting the division. The map that is displayed in RSS central office in Nagpur doesn’t show Pakistan and Bangladesh. (Al Jazeera English documentary). Accepting the RSS project to make India a Hindu state is projected as a marker of patriotism. Failing to fall in line with such a RSS vision is labelled as a Pakistani insider; and gets subjected to public lynch, rape, torture and mass slaughter on streets and also in domestic premises.

Muslims aren’t the only target

Muslims are not the only target of the Hindutva fascists. Non-Hindus like Sikhs, Christians and the untouchables also became the victims. What happened in Delhi in 1984 in the aftermath of the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Ghandi is indeed an organised slaughter of Sikh men, women and children abetted by the state. By official estimate, 3,000 Sikhs were murdered. The unofficial figure is much higher. Surprisingly, the Government ruled by Congress didn’t intervene – as was the case in 2002 in an anti-Muslim pogrom in Gujrat under Modi’s watch.  Two weeks later Rajiv Ghandi used a clarifying metaphor: when a big tree falls, the earth shakes a little. (Komireddi, 2019). The bloodbath of Sikhs appeased the Hindutva radicals so much that in 1984 election, the Hindutva activists like RSS cadres campaigned for Rajiv Gandhi. He was elected with 416 out of 543 seats in the parliaments. It was indeed one of the greatest electoral victory in the history of Indian National Congress. So, it ratifies the reality that if politics gets polarised with vitriolic hatred and massacre against minorities, brings land slide electoral victory to the perpetrators. In a milieu of such ideological intoxication, perpetrators of innocent men, women and children of the minority community never get prosecuted; rather receive honour with electoral triumph. In fact, Mr. Narendra Modi and his party BJP are the perfect example of that. Because of the heinous atrocities against the minorities in Gujrat, Muzaffarnagar and other parts of India, Mr. Modi and his BJP could quickly jump up in the popularity ladder. In such politics of populism, higher values or principle doesn’t work. This is why, it is the political strategy of the extremist forces to invent more pretexts to scale up atrocities against the minority. In Kandhamal in Orissa, Dalit converts to Christianity were the target of two and a half months of violence that left at least 16 dead and 40, 000 driven out of their homes. (The Hindu, 2008).  It is worth mentioning, that Christians were persecuted even by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru in his early days of rule. He authorised the bombing of the north-eastern Christians majority state of Nagaland for demanding the same independence that India got from the British. (Komireddi, 2019).

Right to rule as if the right to murder      

Appointment of Mr. Narendra Modi as the chief minister of Gujarat tells a lot about the political objective of the Hindutva forces in India. He was groomed as an obedient RSS cadre. To give more time and commitment to Hindutva mission, he even left his newly married wife. In 1992, he played a key role in mobilizing the RSS cadres to destroy Babri mosque. Such a role enhanced his credential among the key stakeholders of the party. In early October 2001, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee summoned Norendra Modi to his residence and offered him the chief minister’s job of Gujrat. (K.S. Komireddi, 2019)
Mr. Vajpayee is usually projected as moderate leader in the RSS-BJP camp. But how a moderate man can be compatible with an extremist man who could engineer destruction of a mosque? People of opposite intention and ideology can never work together. They need ideological match. Later on, Modi as a chief minister of Gujarat revealed not only his own color, but also the color of Mr. Vajpayee. That moment came within 4 months of his appointment.  In 2002, a train carrying Hindu extremists returning from the site of demolished Babri mosque caught fire. Fifty-eight people were burned to death. Mr. Narendra Modi didn’t wait for the police enquiry, rather grab it as an opportunity to do what he wanted to do. He instantly called it the work of the Muslim extremists. Modi’s announcement was enough to incite genocidal massacre against the innocent Muslims in Gujrat. In one Muslim neighborhood, a mob of about five-thousands Hindus made their way through a slum and hacked ninety-seven Muslims to death and a mosque was blown up with liquefied petroleum. Across the road from the scene of carnage, stood a reserve police quarters. But no one from there lifted a finger. (Human Rights Watch, 2002). In a civilized country, police reach within minutes if a house is under attack by a killer or robber. But Modi proved that India hasn’t reached to that stage. Under his rule, the state of Gujarat turned into a deep and distant jungle; no police appears in the site of carnage -not in hours, and not even in days. So the killing, the mass rape and the arson continues unabated. Thus, as a chief minister, Modi showed his own complicity in the crime. He need not kill or rape anybody himself; but his robust inaction worked as huge encouragement for the killers, the rapists and the arsonists to commit such crimes in thousands.

In an anti-Muslim pogrom, social position or contribution of a Muslim makes no difference to make him the worst victim. Mr. Ehsan Jafri -a former MP of Indian Parliament, was a very prominent Muslim leader of Gujarat. He had close acquaintance with Sonia Gandhi –the leader of Congress and personally known to Prime Minister Mr. Vajpayee. Mr. Jafri was sheltering about 250 helpless Muslims in his residence. He spent hours making desperate calls to Chief Minister Modi’s office, but received no help. Modi turned deaf. At the end he urged the attackers, “Whatever you want to do with me, do it; but please don’t kill those who have taken shelter in my house.” But his appeal felt on deaf ears. Mr. Jafri was dragged out of his house by the Hindu mob, tortured with all possible cruelty and sliced open with swords. At the end, he was burnt alive. Sixty-nine people of those who were seeking refuge inside Jafri’s house were killed in broad daylight over seven hours. But during the long period of seven hours, the state police didn’t bother to show up in the scene to stop this preventable massacre. (Vinod Jose, 2012)

The calamities of unequal development

Social, political and economic calamities in South Asia also owe to highly unequal development of people and the society. Indicators like per capita income, GDP (Gross Domestic Product), life expectancy and purchasing power of the people can’t capture information on all indispensable elements of inclusive development. The issues like moral and spiritual development, crime prevalence, per capita feeling of peace and sense of security, per capita access or deprivation of social, educational, economic and democratic rights, rule of law, state of access to the judiciary, and the state of persecution, deprivation and marginalisation of the weaker community still stay out of the focus. In fact, the UNDP’s indicators like life expectancy, education and purchasing power parity appear more narrow and restrictive to reveal any real state of the people. How one can give an estimate of human development without a proper estimate of the development of humans in humane parameters. The highest importance is given to security of the state, economic prosperity, infrastructural development and purchasing power of the people. As a result, moral failures like state-run policy of discrimination, persecution, deprivation, fascism, concentration camps and even genocide against minorities stand unrecorded in a maze of so-called economic development. India is labelled as an economic tiger; but basic human rights of millions that are consumed by these tigers stay ignored and unrecorded. Robbery, thievery and persecution against other people can’t be labelled as economic work. Similarly, development at the cost of deprivation of others can’t called as real development either. Such an asymmetrical and unjust developmental priorities were first seen in Europe and proved catastrophic for the whole mankind. Because of wrong parameters, the lethal ideologies like racism, nationalism, fascism, colonialism, imperialism and the projects like ethnic cleansing, lynching of the minorities, slave trading, colonial wars, World Wars could find foot-soldiers to carry out the vicious plans.

It is true that the South Asian countries have made some economic progress. But the newly gained economic strength is enhancing the political ability of the ruling elite to execute their evil agenda. The fascists always thrive on political polarisation based on hatred against the people of other faith, land and ethnicity. The multi-ethnic and multi-religious demography in India, Myanmar and Sri Lanka prove fertile for such polarisation. The majoritarian fascists could easily label a people of dissimilar ethnicity or religion as the enemy to perpetuate massacres. The German fascists could put a tag on the Jews fit for gas chambers. The fascists of India, Myanmar and Sri Lanka could also put a tag on Muslims for discrimination, persecution and elimination. The ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, lynching and genocidal massacre of Muslims in India and attacks on the lives and properties of the Muslims in Sri Lanka tell a lot about the horrors that are being inflicted on the minorities in South Asia. In a hype of Islamophobia, such crimes usually get sanitised, belittled or ignored by the global players only to promote their business interests. Therefore the travel ban on Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India for alleged complicity in the massacre of about 2,000 – 5000 Muslims couldn’t survive longer. It was lifted by the USA and the EU; and his evil motive was ignored and sanitised to access a market of about 1.3 billion Indians. In such a permissive and opportunistic world-order, China could construct the largest concentration camp on the planet for more than a million Uighur Muslims. So-called rising Asia indeed moving fast to that end.

Conclusion

The fate of a people is not decided by mere economics; rather more decisively by dominant ideologies. While two World Wars caused terrible havoc on earth, the economy wasn’t bad either. Persecution of people and peace can’t go together. Therefore, toxic ideologies like fascism, racism, must nationalism, colonialism and imperialism that promote persecution of people must not exist anywhere on earth. Otherwise, peaceful co-existence of people with diversity become impossible. Then, war may not be on the frontiers but enters into cities, villages and houses to kill innocent men, women and children. Because of Hindutva fascists in India, military racists in Myanmar, power-grabbing fascists in Bangladesh and ethnoreligious opportunists in Sri Lanka such wars have already done a great damage against the prospect of peace in South Asia. It is indeed a huge humanitarian as well as social science issue. Economy can’t fight toxic ideologies; it needs an ideological fix. Strong economy can even strengthen the lethal power of evil ideologues –as German’s strong economy did to fascist Hitler. It is indeed the most responsibility of the social scientists to bring social pathology to the limelight so that the political activists, the social engineers and the reformist philosophers can take cues to make an appropriate treatment plan. Only this way the growth and sustenance of human civilization can be influenced positively. Otherwise, in this global village, peaceful co-existence of people with pluralities will survive only as a dream. 

[Dr. Firoz Mahboob Kamal is a post-graduate Diploma in Dermatology from University of London; physician in Pakistan, Iran, Bangladesh & the UK; researcher in social sciences and presented research papers at international conferences of IUSSP (International Union of Scientific Studies of Population) at Beijing in 1997 and in Brazil in 1998; writes articles, newspaper columns & books in Bengali and English on various social, political, cultural, educational and international issues. He can be reached at firozkamal@gmail.com]

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