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OPINION: Indian Muslims have only THREE political choices to make

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 03 January 2021 | Posted in , , , , , , ,

By Syed Ali Mujtaba

Muslims in India are at the horns of dilemma. In the given circumstances Muslims have three broad political choices; vote for Secular parties, vote for Hindutva or vote for Muslim first. In the adult franchise and secret ballot, each voter is free to exercise its mandate. Nonetheless, Muslims have to choose from these three options and each has its own narrative built around it to entice the Muslim voters.

Vote for secular parties

There are many who argue that Muslims have no other option but to vote for the secular parties even if it means no betterment for them. The argument runs that voting for a communal party will polarize the Hindu votes and this will give the RSS- BJP a permanent majority in India. It will solidify BJP’s base permanently in the democratic system of governance in India. Those having such an opinion want Muslims to vote for the secular parties as it alone can provide them the shield (suraksha kabaj) against the onslaught of the RSS-BJP combine.

Those arguing for voting the secular parties’ seem to be convinced that all is well for Muslims in India. Even it means; lynching of the Muslims by cow vigilantes, Asifa rape and murder, assault on the Muslim personal law, SC judgment on the Babari Masjid, robbing of Muslim majority status to J&K, vilification of Tabligi Jamaat members and Muslims, shaving of a Muslim’s beard in railway station, making the Muslim drink cow urine in public view, cutting a Muslims hand that had Allah tattoo, conversion law, and Citizenship laws etc. They feel there are non-issues having any implication on the Muslims of India.

Those arguing for voting the secular parties’ tooth and nail oppose the political party that’s ask to vote for Muslim first political parties. The backers of vote for secular parties tell that Muslims will be doing political hara-kiri, if they choose the communal path of politics. To them secular parties are the best bet for the Muslims in India.

Vote for Hindutva

There are some Muslims who like to argue to vote for the Hindutva party. This is to buy peace if Muslims want to live peacefully in India. They are of the view that Muslims should willingly accept the ideology of Hindutva and vote the BJP- RSS combine and permanently get rid of communal polarization in India.

The vote for Hindutva protagonists feel that Muslims interests will be best served by merging their identity with the Hindutva ideology that sees every Indian as a Hindu. In order to trade for peace, Muslims only have to change their name, dress habits, food habits, culture, language, etc. This would satisfy the invincible Hindutva bandwagon who may refrain from constant vilification, subjugation, humiliation of Muslims in this country. The argument runs, if this happens so, there will be no more communal riots in the country and Muslims will get liberated from the current siege mentality. The argument further runs that under the Hindutva rule Muslims will see a new dawn for the community and will get thumbs up.

Muslims First

Those who argue for Muslim first political strategy come up with the fact that Muslims with a population of 200 million are about 14% but have only 27 seats in the current Parliament that has of 543 members. The ratio of Muslim representation in the state assemblies is even more embarrassing. These Muslim representatives cannot talk about their community issues. The interest of their political parties runs contrary to Muslim issues and they do not allow their Muslim leaders to voice their community interests because they belong to a secular party.


According to Muslim first political strategists; Muslims consistent support to the Congress and other caste based parties has brought them down to the level described in the 2005 Sachar Committee report. Since then Muslims condition has worsened and not improved even a bit though they are voting the secular political parties. The protagonists of Muslims First argue that Muslims have been tricked into supporting “pseudo secular” parties with the allurement that these parties will protect them and make their condition conducive for their betterment. But did that really happen? The Muslim first protagonists argue.

They explain that the so called secular parties seek Muslim support not to defeat the BJP but to enlarge their power base and end up doing nothing for the Muslims. What worse situations can Muslim face that is created by the BJP rule in India?

The solution that Muslim first apologists dish out that suppose if these 27 Muslim MPs may have belonged to one political party that espouses Muslims first, it certainly may have made some difference on the national scene.

Therefore Indian Muslims are on the horns of dilemma, caught between these three different shades of political choices. If they vote for the secular political parties there is hardly going to be any change. If they vote for Hindutva, thumhari dastan bhi na hogi dastano mein (their story will not be in the stories). If they vote for Muslim first political party, they have to make a choice between rock and the hard surface.

This is a very tough choice for the Indian Muslims to make. They are caught in a tussle between majoritarian Hindutva politics and minority identity politics. The majoritarian Hindutva politics pursued by the current regime is hegemonic in nature, wrapped in the toxic ideology of Hindutva that preaches racial supremacy of the Hindus.

In contrast, the Muslim minority identity politics is the desire for their proportional representation in the mainstream democratic politics. The minority identity politics is a quest towards social justice, equality and democratic way of life. The ultimate destination for minority identity politics is their amalgamation into the larger liberal secular polity with more democratic representation.

The problem with the minority identity politics is they fail to understand the shift that India has taken since 214. The BJP’s majoritarian politics is implementing its supremacist ideology in the country. That is to say everyone who has to live in India should imitate the Hindu way of life, like one nation-one network, kind of slogan.

This is a brand new republic where there is no place to accommodate “Eshwar- Allah tero naam,” kind of diversity in India anymore. The Hindutva politics has moved far from its own ‘Jai Sea Ram’ to ‘Jai Shree Ram.’.

This is a brand new republic where the main target is to subsume the Muslim religious identity within the Hindutva umbrella. The other objective is to flatten the federal humps of India categorized in the linguistic, cultural and other specificities. The Hinduvta politics aspires to establish the supremacy of the Hindi – Hindu – Hindustan identity over all these identities of India. Any resistance to this can be tamed in a muscular way as done to J&K, with one ‘vidhan’ one ‘nishan’ argument.

The problem is with Muslim politics as it is ignorant to deal with the current political situation in India. Some think that voting the secular party will maintain their status quo. Others think that voting for the BJP alone can ensure their safety and protection in the country. However, those pursuing Muslim first strategy say that Muslims should come out from their ivory towers. Its minority identity politics that alone can safeguard their interest in the country. Their separate identity alone can defeat the forces inimical to them. United we stand, divided we fall goes the argument.

This is a sanguine story that is unfolding in India. There cannot be a photo finish to this story. Let the democracy with its entire vicissitudes give its verdict on this tale of India.

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

OPINION: Global Islam in Crisis or the Rest of the World?

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

By Dr. Javed Jamil

This refers to Shekhar Gupta’s article, “5 reasons for the crisis in global Islam”, published in Print. He tries to make Muslims believe that

(1) Muslim World is in crisis

(2) What has happened in France is something particular to Muslims

(3) Muslims alone tend to think in terms of a worldwide dominance

(4) Muslims alone fight one another

(5) Muslim countries alone are largely undemocratic with high inequality

(6) Muslims alone can’t face criticism

Let us dwell on his arguments one by one!

Muslim World is in crisis?

He makes a whirlwind statement meaning that there is crisis in Global Islam. The truth on the other hand is that while the Global Islam is fast coming out of crisis, which gripped it during last few centuries, the rest of the word is getting embroiled deeper and deeper in crisis. Is India not in crisis, where the communal and caste confrontation has reached an intolerable level, and the tensions with its two neighbours has reached a flash point, which can lead to open war any time? Is the world not in crisis due to huge and ever rising rate of crimes, the so-called most advanced countries being at the top in terms of crime rates including murders and rapes? The more “advanced” and “civilized” a country is the more is its rates of crimes, its rates of suicides, its disintegration of family system, its economic inequality and its exploitation of women in sex trade, its rate of foeticides and its involvement in world wars and civil wars in other countries. The crime rate in Muslim countries happens to be among the lowest. And now the world is facing a big crisis in the form of Covid-19 pandemics. In last 25 years, HIV/AIDS has killed more than 35 million. Millions of children are aborted every year in the name of “Freedom of Choice”. Several million are consumed by alcoholism and smoking. Economic Inequality is rising with every passing day. But thanks to the world media dominated by the forces of economics and political power, only deaths attributing to political reasons attract media attention, especially if this involves Muslims.

There has been a ubiquitous practice in recent times that religion is seen as something different from ‘ideology’. The truth is that the world has religious and non-religious ideologies, and every single ideology goes political as soon as it starts winning sizeable followers. The most dominant ideologies in the world in last century have been Capitalism and Socialism (including Communism) and they fear Islam because Islam threatens their theories of economic fundamentalism, which defines ‘good’ and ‘bad’ on the basis of their importance to the Economics, especially market economics. Islam on the other hand distinguished “good” and “bad” on the basis of their impact on health and social peace, prohibiting or discouraging all such practices as pose threat to life and healthiness of life.

Today’s dominant political ideologies fear “Political Islam” just because it might further deepen their crisis, with statistics and scientific facts more and more proving their ideological position on issues such as alcohol and sex as pervert and dangerous for health and peace and their judicial system is an abysmal failure.

What has happened in France is something particular to Muslims?

Out of a feeling of extreme religious hurt, a student killed a teacher who had caricatured the Muslim Prophet. This was followed by another incident, which killed three people. There is no doubt that the insult and injury to Muslim sentiments as well as the extreme reaction by the student and even more specifically the killing of three persons who had nothing to do with the cartoons, all are condemnable. Unfortunately, most of the non-Muslim world, including Indian Prime Minister, who claims to be the Prime Minister of Hindus as well as Muslims, did not care at all about the sentiments of Muslims and chose to condemn “Islamic” terrorism/Islamofascism alone. And now it is being argued as if such reactions are specific to Muslims.

In America, several thousand fall prey to hate crimes every year. The recent killings and brutalities against Blacks by police led to the protests all over the country. Mass shootings are common occurrence, some of which are related to racial or religious motives. Most of the culprits are white Christian Americans. In India, Muslims have been lynched just because of the suspicion of carrying cow meat and not shouting Jai Shree Ram. According to a Reuters report, in India, a total of 63 cow vigilante attacks had occurred between 2010 and mid 2017, mostly since the Modi government came to power in 2014. In these attacks between 2010 and June 2017, "28 Indians – 24 of them Muslims – were killed and 124 injured", states the Reuter's report. Out of more than 35000 terrorist related deaths in India in last 30 years, an overwhelming majority has been at the hands of Non-Muslims (Naxalites, Bodos, Ulfa, Maoists), most of whom are Hindus by Census. In the nearby Sri Lanka, tens of thousands to one hundred thousand killings were at the hands of Tamil terrorists. Only last year, in New Zealand, more than 50 Muslims were massacred by a Christian shooter.

9/11 killed around 3000 people, and without any inquiry, within few minutes American President blamed Al-Qaedah for this. Those who carried out the plan perished with the planes. The declared “mastermind” was killed in an isolated attack in Pakistan eleven years later. In between America-led war killed hundreds of thousands of innocent Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan who had nothing to do with 9/11. But America, France and all other countries involved and Christian community who are in majority in these countries continue to be “peace-loving”, while Muslims continue to be “violent”. Nobody had the courage to condemn West for these pogroms in Muslim countries. From all accounts, it appears that ISIS was formed with the support of West in order to topple President of Assad. It became their enemy only when, due to its failure in Syria, it converged on Iraq, which was under America-supported Government.

If we have to establish peace in the world, we have to combat all forms of violence, wars, civil wars, day-to-day violence due to failed Judicial System, violence like induced killing of fetuses and all forms of terrorism. Out of all these, terrorism is the least lethal. Every single death of an innocent needs to be condemned, irrespective of the identity of the perpetrator and the victim, irrespective of the motivating ideology, religious or non-religious and irrespective of the method used; and the condemnation and response should be proportionate to the magnitude of violence rather than the identities of those involved. If we use this criterion, we will have to condemn West millions of times while condemning Muslims few thousand times.

Muslims alone fight one another?

Hardly a century has passed since the First World War and the centenary of Second World War is sill about two decades away. Who were the people fighting each other in these wars? The majority of the countries involved were predominantly Christian countries. More than 70 million perished. Till a few decades back, the major Cold War had been between America and Russia, again both having either Christian or atheist population. If the majority of the countries are either Christian or Muslim, obviously their internal rivalries would be most noticeable. But compared to Christian countries, the list of wars within Muslim world is much shorter. In the ancient past, before Muslim rule, Indian history too is full of bloody wars between different Hindu rajas. Hindus happen to be perhaps the only community in the country where its religious scriptures as well as festivals are related to wars.

Muslims alone tend to think in terms of a worldwide dominance?

This again is mistaken generalization. All the ideologies, religious or non-religious have a desire to become dominant in the world. There is no exception. It is particularly true for the ideologies which have either big following in the world or big power. During last few hundred years; the fight has mainly been the two economic ideologies of Communism and Capitalism. Before that, it was between Christians and Muslims. In India, Hindutva is trying to emerge as a dominant power at least in this country. Currently, Westernism is perhaps the most radical ideology seeking world domination in terms of its concepts like West-style democracy, freedom and market fundamentalism. As Mr. Gupta himself admitted, in recent times, Muslim countries have not invaded other countries; but so many of their countries have been invaded.

In fact, others feel threat from Muslims because of their sheer numbers in terms of the population as well as the countries. Though most of the statisticians tell that Muslims are the second largest community after Christians, the truth is that in terms of real beliefs, they outnumber Christians by a big margin. While a large number of born Christians in Western countries, ranging from 20-60 pc, are no more believing Christians, more than 95 pc of Muslims continue to be Believing Muslims.


As already said, another reason of feeling threatened from Muslims is that Islam poses threat to the vested interests of the market forces, which commercialise not only human needs but also human susceptibilities. Islam prohibits alcohol, sex outside proper male-female marriage and gambling, all of which are big markets. Dominance of Islam means threat to these markets.

Interestingly, while Christians have a Pope in terms of a world leader, there is no pope of Muslims. Pope often speaks on behalf of all Christians, but there is no Muslim Imam who can speak on behalf of all Muslims.

Muslim countries alone are largely undemocratic?

This again is something which looks to be more a propaganda than truth. The truth is that the percentage of democratic countries in Muslim world is higher than the percentage of democratic countries in the whole world. Most big countries like Indonesia, Pakistan, Turkey, Iran and Malaysia are democratic. And the number is growing with Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, Lebanon, Tunisia, all becoming democratic. And of course, about 12-15 pc of Muslim population live in India. Moreover, the most populous country of the world China remains largely undemocratic. Even Russia was not democratic till the breakdown of Soviet Union. When we talk of Christianity, we tend to think about West. We forget that a large number of Christian countries in Africa and South America are hugely backward and poor, with hardly any democracy.

What is however unfortunate is that even democracy has not proved to be a saviour of the masses. The conditions in democracies prove that democracies in themselves are no guarantee to better conditions. The Western model of Democracy has proved to be a total failure becoming in effect Corporatocracy, which works mostly for the few corporate at the cost of the people. The political leaders in Democracies – from West to India, have proved no less corrupt and inefficient than “monarchs”.

Muslim countries have one of the lowest crime rates, lowest suicide rates, lowest number of deaths due to alcoholism and sex related diseases, good life expectancy and good per capita income. In the list of top 15 countries in terms of economic inequality, Turkey alone happens to be the Muslim country, South Africa, USA, India and China being among the top 5.

Coming to the question of Economic Inequality, let us first see some of the statistics:

• Recent figures show that the per capita income of the highest income country is 400 times greater than that of the lowest income country. The difference between Switzerland’s per capita income of $40,080 and Ethiopia’s $100 is striking, to say the least. (World Development Report 1999) (Both Christian)

• Statistics also show that 13 economies have per capita income exceeding $20,000, compared to 26 countries with per capita income less than $350. Indeed the gap between the affluent and deprived economies in the global economy is so great that if one were to add the per capita GNP of 50 Least Development Countries (LDC), it does not exceed half of the per capita income of one of the developed countries. (World Development Report 1999)

• 47% of the population of the second most populous nation on earth lives under the international poverty line of $1 a day, and 87% below $2 a day. This adds up to over 700 million human beings.. (World Development Report 1999)

• Currently, the richest 1% of people in the world receives as much as the bottom 57%. The ratio between the average income of the top 5% in the world to the bottom 5% increased from 78 to 1 in 1988 to 114 to 1 in 1993 (Milanovic 1999).

• Income disparity between the richest one billion and the poorest one billion people has doubled over the last three decades and reached by now a dangerously high level of 150 times. (This is surely much more than the internal economic disparities of the developed and developing nations. The income disparity between the richest 20% and the poorest 20% of the people within nations is far smaller 5 times in Sweden, 6 times in Germany, 9 times in USA and 26 times (the highest) in Brazil.) (hdrnet.org/40/1/humandevelopment.pdf)

•• Even mighty international institutions like the World Bank and the IMF are now taking more money out of the developing world than they are putting in, adding to the reverse transfer of around $50 billion a year from the commercial banks. (hdrnet.org/40/1/humandevelopment.pdf)

• It is estimated that 28% of the total net wealth is held by the richest 2% of families in the U.S.

• The top 10% holds 57% of the net wealth.

• A survey of 26 industrialised nations (the Luxembourg Income Study) found that the gap between the wealthiest 10% and the poorest 10% is greater in the United States than any other country except Russia (Wallechinsky). (Again both Christian)

Not only several Muslim countries have very high per capita income, Economic Inequality within Muslim countries is surely much less than most Christian countries. Islam’s system of Zakat ensures that the rich contribute at least 2.5 pc of their wealth at the end of every year to poor. This helps trhe cause. What comes out of the Zakat system is that the world must tax Wealth rather than Income and Expenditure. If the world adopts this formula, Economic Inequality will drastically reduce.

Muslims alone can’t face criticism?

The truth is that Muslims have been at the receiving end of unbearable criticism. Mostly, others are questioning Muslims, and they are defending themselves. Muslim intellectuals, on the other hand, are more involved in criticising themselves rather than questioning others. While the world is full of Islamophobic material, actively propagated by Jew, Christian, Hindu and many atheistic organisations, Muslims never indulge in derogation of other religions. This is because Islam clearly prohibits speaking ill of others’ gods and figures. In India, cow slaughter was banned just because it hurts the sentiments of Hindus. Violence over insult or desecration to statues is quite common in India. Let France make some derogatory cartoons of Ram and Krishna and see the reaction. Let French “Heroes” be caricatured in a Muslim country and see the reaction.

As far as the Mahathir statement is concerned, it is surprising coming from him. It cannot be condoned. But Shekhar Gupta would have been more just if he at the same time had condemned the Macron’s support for the Cartoons in the name of Free Speech. Surely, the selective interpretation of Freedom of Speech is even more condemnable. Any utterance against Jews is condemned as anti-Semitism and any remark about women that irks the market forces is sexism. Even if one starts telling about the medical dangers associated with homosexuality, one will be hounded. But mocking Islam is freedom of speech. First, terrorism is defined in a way that becomes exclusive for any violence involving Muslims, and then Muslims are blamed for the majority of terrorist incidents. And France is a country which was part of the “War on Terror” which killed millions of innocents in Iraq and Afghanistan, none of whom had any involvement in 9/11 attacks. But any violence committed by West becomes “understandable”.

In conclusion, I would like to assert that we must learn to become objective in our thinking and aims. The most important aim for the world must be to safeguard life and healthiness of life. To create a health-protective and crime-free system must be the ultimate goal of our efforts. All religions need to unite on the ground of religious morality, which is almost common to all religions as well as health sciences, rather than fighting on the ground of religious identity. Islam will continue to emerge stronger because it aims to discipline the world, protect them against unhygienic and self-destructive substances and practices and provides a more effective judicial system, which supports the innocent rather than the criminals. The challenge for Muslims is to present true facts to the world, counter the propagandists of market-driven ideologies and work for the unity of all religions with the aim of building a cleaner, healthier and more peaceful world.

[Dr. Javed Jamil is India based thinker and writer with over a dozen books including, “The Devil of Economic Fundamentalism”, “The Killer Sex”, “Islam Means Peace”, “Muslim Vision of Secular India: Destination & Road-map”, “Qur’anic Paradigms of Sciences & Society” (First Vol: Health), “Muslims Most Civilised, Yet Not Enough”, “Economics First or Health First?” and “Justice Imprisoned”. He can be reached at doctorforu123@yahoo.com]

Opposing Slander of the Quran

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

By Rabbi Allen S Maller

Christian missionaries are always interested in proving the superiority of the Christian Bible to the Qur’an. They say that the Old Testament and the New Testament are the true word of God: and the Qur’an is not.

They try to prove this by asserting that when the Qur’an’s narratives differ from the Bible’s narratives about the same event; the Qur’an must be wrong.

It is sad that these missionaries, who claim to be the disciples of Jesus, ignore his teaching to love not only your neighbors, but also your enemies. They would reply that the search for God’s truth is so important that it justifies insulting other peoples prophets and sacred texts; even when they also teach monotheism.

These Christian missionaries are ignorant of, or simply reject, two very important Ahadith, that I, a Reform Rabbi who considers himself to be a Muslim Jew, always respect.

I am a Muslim Jew i.e. a faithful Jew submitting to the will of God, because I am a Reform Rabbi. (Reform Jews are now the largest of the Jewish denominations in the U.S. In the U.K..Reform Judaism is called Liberal Judaism.)

As a Rabbi I am faithful to the covenant that God made with Abraham, the first Muslim Jew, and I submit to be bound by the covenant and commandments that God made with the people of Israel at Mount Sinai. As a Reform Rabbi I believe that Rabbis should modify Jewish traditions to prevent them from making religion too hard to practice.

This is an important teaching in the Qur’an (7:157) and one that prophet Muhammad taught 12 centuries before the rise of Reform Judaism in the early 19th century. As Abu Huraira related: The Prophet said, “Religion is very easy and whoever overburdens himself in his religion will not be able to continue in that way. So you should not be extremists, but try to be near to perfection and receive the good tidings that you will be rewarded.” (Bukhari book 2 #38)


The two Ahadith that every Christian missionary should learn and abide by, teach respect for the Sacred Scripture and the Prophets of other monotheistic religions. A hadîth Narrated by Abu Huraira says, “The people of the Book used to read the Torah in Hebrew and then explain it in Arabic to the Muslims.

"Allah’s Apostle said (to the Muslims). “Do not believe the people of the Book, nor disbelieve them, but say, ‘We believe in Allah, and whatever is revealed to us, and whatever is revealed to you.’ ” (Bukhari book 92 #460 and book 93 #632)

Following Muhammad’s teaching I too neither believe nor disbelieve in the Qur’an. I do respect the Qur’an very much as a kindred revelation, first given to a kindred people, in a kindred language. In fact, the Arab people, the Arab language and Muslim theology are closer to my own people, language and theology than that of any other on earth.

Islam teaches clearly that God does not have just one people or one true religion. Rather, God chose not to create human beings as one nation or with only one religion so that each religion could compete with all the others in order to see which religion produces the highest percentage of moral and loving people; and which people best embody in their personal and communal lives the moral teachings of their prophet.

As it is written in the Qur’an [5.48] “For every one of you did We appoint a law and a way. If Allah had pleased He would have made you one people, but (He didn’t) that He might test you in what He gave you. Therefore compete with one another to hasten to virtuous deeds; for all return to Allah, so He will let you know that in which you differ.”

This is a wonderful further development of the teaching of the Biblical prophet Micah (4:5) that in the end of days (the Messianic Age), “All people will walk, each in the name of their own God, and we shall walk in the name of the Lord our God forever.”

In terms of respect for the prophets of other religions I have not seen the equal of the following hadith: Narrated Abu Huraira: Two persons, a Muslim and a Jew, quarreled. The Muslim said, “By Him Who gave Muhammad superiority over all the people! The Jew said, “By Him Who gave Moses superiority over all the people!” At that the Muslim raised his hand and slapped the Jew on the face.’

The Jew went to the Prophet and informed him of what had happened. The Prophet sent for the Muslim and asked him about it. The Muslim informed him of the event. The Prophet said, “Do not give me superiority over Moses, for on the Day of Resurrection all the people will fall unconscious and I will be one of them.”

I will be the first to gain consciousness, and I will see Moses standing and holding the side of the Throne (of Allah). I will not know whether (Moses) had also fallen unconscious and got up before me, or Allah has exempted him from that stroke.” (Bukhari book 76 #524)

All the people of the book; Jews, Christians and Muslims alike, should learn humility from this profound teaching of Prophet Muhammad.”

[Allen S. Maller is an ordained Reform Rabbi who retired in 2006 after 39 years as the Rabbi of Temple Akiba in Culver City, California. His web site is: www.rabbimaller.com. He blogs on the Times of Israel. Rabbi Maller has published 400+ articles in some two dozen different Christian, Jewish, and Muslim magazines and web sites. He is the author of two recent books: "Judaism and Islam as Synergistic Monotheisms' and "Which Religion Is Right For You? A 21st Century Kuzari". He can be reached at maller.allen1948@gmail.com]

Singapore offers 1st Asia Pacific Halal / Muslim Friendly Cruise Ship Experience

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 02 January 2021 | Posted in , , , , , , , ,

IMO News Service

The halal industry is growing rapidly whereby it was approximately USD2.3 trillion, which has now almost tripled, to USD 6.4 trillion as of 2020. UNWHD has identified its exact and accurate partnership with Genting Cruise at this juncture by identifying the niche market and the right partners to engage with.

There have already been cruises in the Asia Pacific region serving halal food but World Dream is the first to embrace a more holistic Muslim-friendly approach beyond just having a halal-certified kitchen. The “halal/Muslim-friendly cruises” concept has been talked about since a few years now. It has been getting more and more interest from Muslims preCOVID. This growing interest from Muslims encouraged some cruises to have halal-certified kitchens.

Halal is not only for Muslims but for the whole mankind and UNWHD and Genting Cruise have made these arrangements so that everyone can have a home away from home feel.


Singapore is a pioneer country in many aspects and has always been a front runner for taking new & unique initiatives and setting as an example for other countries.

Creating an edge to accept & obtain Halal/Muslim Friendly Compliance in Cruise Ship is a goal for many leading industry players, United World Halal Development (UNWHD) a Singapore-based Halal Certification Body was the pioneer to certify Halal Friendly Cruise Ship in the Asia Pacific.

World Dream, one of the services from Genting Cruise Lines, a brand of Dream Cruises, which is Benchmarked by the OIC/SMIIC Standards & Guidelines for Halal Food And Beverages Prepared, Stored And Served as well as Halal Tourism Guidelines set out by the Standards and Metrology Institute for the Islamic Countries (SMIIC).

The cruise is also officially rated by Halal Travel Authority Crescent Rating. The Singapore-based Muslim-Friendly Travel Authority told Salaam Gateway this is the first time it is rating a cruise service based on the services they (World Dream Cruise) offer (halal-certified food, prayer facilities etc.), they are rated Crescent Rating 5,” Being the highest.

UNWHD and Genting Cruise who had similar vision of serving to all immaterial of any caste creed or religion decided to give an amazing cruise experience which complies with Halal Friendly environment.

UNWHD follows a stringent audit process which complies with Halal & Shariah Compliance Standards before issuing the certificate. Genting Cruise has gone through such scrutinized process to attain the Halal Friendly Cruise Ship certificate. Genting Cruise ship has a halal-certified central kitchen with halal-certified ingredients for halal cuisine, prayer room with access to Quran, prayer mats, and compass to locate the Qibla. It will also cater to Ramadan guests with Suhoor and Iftar menus.

This stunning initiative is expected to bring more tourists as being the centric in the Asia pacific and Singapore to become the global tourism attraction in the field of Halal / Muslim Friendly Tourism.

United World Halal Development (UNWHD), Singapore strives to continue its solid commitment towards people’s safety and welfare. UNWHD is built on internationally applicable standards of practice, knowledge, and ethics encircling all businesses to offer quality products and services. UNWHD vision is to extend the halal way of life to all businesses and explore new areas of economic growth of halal standards, certification, and practices.

Asaduddin Owaisi and Kamal Hassan may jointly contest Tamil Nadu polls

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

By Syed Ali Mujtaba

Chennai: All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMM) headed by Asaduddin Owaisi's and Makkal Needhi Maiam (MNM) headed by Kamal Hassan are joining hands in the upcoming polls in Tamil Nadu to be held in April or May 2021.

TS Vakeel Ahmed Tamil Nadu State President - All India Majlis-e-Ittihad-ul-Muslimeen said this reporter that AIMM is likely to contest in 25 assembly seats in Tamil Nadu. “The party is likely to have conferences in Trichy and Chennai in January to finalize the electoral plan,” Vakeel Ahmed said from Hyderabad where he has gone to consult party’s president and MP Asaduddin Owaisi.

Mr Ahmad said, regarding AIMM joining hands with MNM of Kamala Hassan, ‘MP Saab’ is holding a meeting with party office bearers of Tamil Nadu in Hyderabad.


Kamala Hassan has already announced that he will contest state assembly elections slated to happen in 2021 He told to make an announcement later about the constituency from which his party will be contesting.

It may be recalled that last year, Owaisi and Hassan were on the same page when the AIMM chief had backed Hassan's statement that Nathuram Godse should be called the ‘first’ terrorist of independent India.

Tamil Nadu has about 6 per cent Muslim population and in few constituencies they have dominant presence. Muslims can make their electoral presence felt if they combine with Dalit and other backward caste group in Tamil. So far Muslims have voted either for their own political parties or the Dravadian parties or the Congress. They never got any importance by siding with all these political formations. Now, in the new political matrix, Muslim feels they may get better deal in any coalition political arrangement in the state.

TS Vakeel Ahmed said, he is in talks all the Muslim parties in Tamil Nadu with the plan to unite them under one common platform. There six main Muslim political parties Tamil Nadu. Indian Union Muslim League, All India Muslim League, Indian National League, Manithaneya Makkal Katchi, Manithaneya Jananayaga Katchi, Tamil Nadu Thowheed Jamaath.

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

BOOK REVIEW: A Systematic Study of ‘The Holy Qur’ān’

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

“Monumental Work, with Unique Insight into the Wondrous Verses of the Holy Qur’ān”

By Seyed E Hasnain

Dr Javed Jamil, currently Chair in Islamic Studies in Yenepoya University, Mangalore, has already earned a reputation at the international level as an innovative thinker, scholar and writer. In recent years, he is being admired for his effort to establish what he calls Applied Islamics as a full-fledged discipline of Islamic studies. Applied Islamics, according to him, is “a dynamic concept, which studies and analyses the modern theories in all the fields including Natural Sciences, Health Sciences, Social Sciences and Philosophy, and presenting alternative Islamic concepts, definitions, theories, paradigms, models, programmes and policies for the benefit of the entire humanity.”

His latest book, “A Systematic Study of the Holy Qur’ān” is a monumental work, with remarkably fresh insight into the verses of Qur’ān. What attracted my attention at the very outset was the caption on the cover of the book. The book describes Qur’ān as “a humble endeavour to make a Systematic Study of the Holy Qur’an in terms of the Systems Almighty God created in the Universe, on the Earth, in Human Life, and the System He wants man to establish and adhere to with the aim of building a Healthy and Peaceful World and ensuring a Successful Life in the Hereafter”.This is a categorical confirmation of the fact that, in Qur’ān there are a very large number of verses, which describe the Creation and Functioning of the Universe as a whole and the Functioning of the Earth, including its flora and fauna. There is absolutely no doubt that, if human beings have to establish on earth the kind of harmonious functioning existing in the universe, they have no option but to follow God’s injunctions in full. The particles of the universe, the stars, the planets and all other celestial bodies follow the Laws of Nature created by God with unimaginable precision. If God gave us human beings certain flexibility, we should endeavour to work only within the boundaries prescribed by Qur’ān. Moreover. the system that God has directed through His Final Book and Final Prophet (SAW) needs to be established not only in the lives of the people, but in the world as a whole, including the legal, social, political and administrative levels.


The failure to focus on these three critical issues is largely, rather solely, responsible for the current sad state of affairs we are witnessing in the world today. Health and peace are the most important requirements for mankind; and Islam wants mankind to give them supremacy over all other aspects. The current COVID-19 pandemic, which has already taken over a million lives globally, termed as the worst pandemic of the century, is the Creator’s way of sending a reminder to humanity not to drift from these fundamental issues.

This is seen in his other works also like “Islamic Model for Control of AIDS’, “Qur’ānic Paradigms of Scientific and Social Theories (First Volume: Dynamic Paradigm of Health)” and his works on Theoretical Physics like “Qur’ānic Version of Anthropic Principle” recently carried by International Journal of Islamic Thought, published by National University of Malaysia (UKM), and his long interview on Covid-19, published in the WML Journal of Rabita Alam-i Islami (World Muslim League) from Saudi Arabia. He does not fail to point out that the development of modern scientific philosophies has been under the patronage of the economic forces, which are determined to keep religion and God out of the international affairs because of their commercial interests.

As Dr Jamil writes in the very first sentence of his Preface, “Qur’ān is not an ordinary work of an ordinary mortal but a Singular, Supreme and Majestic Work of a Singular, Supreme and Majestic Author, God the Creator and the Lord of the Multi-World”. What a wonderful description of the Holy Book and its ‘Author’, because it is not possible for any man or even the whole humanity to fully comprehend the wondrous verses of God! Qur’ānic wonders have continued and will continue to be known to the world till its ultimate end. What we can do is to try to understand and implement its message in the world. Dr. Jamil sums up the purpose behind the book in a highly absorbing way.

He adds: “The world today, despite its apparently advanced and sophisticated ways of living, is overpowered with chaos at every level. The current international system, which many proudly call New World Order, appears to be highly advanced in method but is a colossal failure in the results. At the individual level, notwithstanding huge advancement of healthcare system, physical, mental and spiritual illnesses are ever on the rise. At the family level, the disintegration of family is fast becoming the norm rather than an exception. At the social level, the ever rising crime rate, social and economic exploitation, commercialisation of all forms of dangerous substances and practices including sexual deviations, addictions and crimes, and various kinds of extremist movements working in the interests of certain forces have almost completely destroyed the peace of life. It is in the background of this asphyxiating disruption of harmony that Qur’ān needs to be understood and applied in all spheres of life.”

It is indeed very correct when he says: “The contest today is not between different religions. The real contest is between religion and irreligion; between the scientific (or healthy) morality preached by Divine Messengers and the commercial morality propagated by the tyrannical monarchs of the business world; and between the ‘Comprehensive Peace’ propagated by the Scriptures and the ‘materialistic peace’ imposed by the forces and powers that rule the roost."

In addition, he combines creative and investigative style of writing, which makes his works not only highly thought-provoking, but also extremely absorbing. Even the translations of the verses by the author are in modern, flowing English, which makes the work even more noteworthy.

I strongly feel that this is a Must-Read work for all those, Muslims and Non-Muslims, who want to understand the importance and relevance of Islam in the modern world.

In short, “A Systematic Study of the Holy Qur’ān” is a monumental work, with remarkably fresh insight into the verses of Qur’ān. In particular, I am sure; it will take the subject of Applied Islamics way ahead in the field of knowledge, and will hopefully inspire the researchers, both Muslims and non-Muslims, to benefit from the Wondrous Book of God. I strongly feel that this is a Must-Read work for all those, Muslims and Non-Muslims, who want to understand the importance and absolute necessity of Islam in the modern world.

[Seyed E Hasnain is former Vice Chancellor of Jamia Hamdard, New Delhi. Dr. Javed Jamil, the author of the book can be reached at doctorforu123@yahoo.com]

PEOPLE: My Guru, My Father – Ustad Haafiz Ali Khan

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By Amjad Ali Khan

Ustad Haafiz Ali Khan was born in a house responsible for giving the Sarod its present shape and structure. The traditional style of music which today has become somewhat rare is called Dhrupad, where the use of embellishments does not exist. The usage was more of long glides both for vocalists and instrumentalists. He added to it the melodic possibilities of instrumental music in its complete dhrupad form. A rabab oriented Sarod style, more staccato, more right hand than left, more mechanical than melodic was converted by Ustad Haafiz Ali Khan to a brilliant amalgam of feeling and cleanliness, heard only in the Rudra-Been and the Sursingaar of the descendants of Mian Tansen. Ustad Haafiz Ali Khan could make his sarod sing. This he did by a very advanced technique of the left hand fingernails and a thorough understanding of the Raga pattern filtered through feeling and Aesthetic awareness. He could flower with tonal accuracy even when the string pitch went down by a quarter note or more. He was himself a great dhrupad singer and discovered a brilliantly coordinated and synchronized stroke sustainability in his sarod. With this he could translate his vocal dhrupad lines in the otherwise metallic instrument of his ancestors, to a stream of aesthetic melody patterns.

Haafiz Ali Khan lived for Music. For my father, though, there was no question of a life outside music. Life itself was Music and Music was Life. And so I came to inherit from him the legacy of five generations of musicians as naturally as a bird taking to the air. His exquisite music was not just an artistic performance but a form of prayer. He was initiated in the tradition of the Senia Gharana by direct descendants of the line of Swami Haridas, Mian Tansen and leant at the feet of Ustad Wazir khan of Rampur. Ustad Wazir Khan broke the convention of teaching only family members and accepted him as his disciple. Now a direct disciple of the Tansen School, Haafiz Ali Khan Saheb started flowering under the Ustad’s undiluted teaching. More knowledge enriched the already exposed brilliance of Haafiz Ali Khan Saheb and his strict adherence to vocal dhrupads made the veterans of his time look at him with admiration. His performance together with his tonal richness and accuracy from instrumental music a status equivalent to vocal music; The melody rich Sarod got an unthinkable status.


Ustad Haafiz Ali Khan was honoured with the title of Aftab-e-Sarod by the All Bengal Music Conference in Calcutta, the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award and also received a fellowship of the Akademi. The Universities of Vishva Bharti and Khairagharh conferred doctorates on him. The Government of India conferred the award of Padma Bhushan in 1960. The true Godfather of Instrumental music of his times! Far ahead of his time, Ustad Haafiz Ali Khan realized the coming of the industrial age, its rapidity and its lack of leisure and want of time. He believed that rag music in its purity, can only be preserved by precision. Stretching the raga too long will lead to irrelevant phrases, raga dilution and deviation. Rabindra Nath Tagore also believed in this. Ustad Haafiz Ali Khan was the last musician who stuck to his dhrupad roots. He created the correct raga environment by playing dhrupad lines verbatim and then elaborated and expanded them. He will also be remembered as the last of the Senia dhrupad greats. Apart from his formidable command over traditional sarod compositions, dhrupad and thumri, he was particularly appreciated in the Viceregal firmament of colonial India for his unique, stylized renditions of "God Save The King" on his sarod.

The Sarod Ghar-Museum of Musical Heritage in Gwalior, is a unique institution devoted to promoting Indian classical music, heritage and culture. Under the aegis of Haafiz Ali Khan Memorial Trust, through this 'window' to the past, music lovers can gain a better understanding of the evolution and history of Indian Classical Music and can get a deeper perspective and insight into the context of the art as it exists today. The aim of setting up this institution is to create awareness and respect for classical music, musicians and the variety of instruments of India. The road on which the museum stands has been named Haafiz Ali Khan Marg by the Govt. of Madhya Pradesh. The first instruments exhibited were the instruments belonging to his forefathers. Madhya Pradesh has had a whole history of great musical legends down memory lane . The great vocalist Ustad Amir Khan Saheb, Ustad Jahangir Khan Saheb, Ustad Abdul Haleem Jaffar Khan Saheb, Bharat Ratna Lata Mageshkar-ji are among the prominent aristes who belonged to the city of Indore. The city of Dewas gave birth to another two prominent personalities. Ustad Rajab Ali Khan and Pandit Kumar Gandharva. The legendary Hindi film playback Singer Kishore Kumar-ji and his brother the famous Ashok Kumar ji also belonged to Khandawa.



A road in the name Ustad Haafiz Ali Khan Saheb was inaugurated by the Honourable Chief Minister, Smt. Sheila Dikshit few years ago at PWD Road. This is the 2nd entry road to Nizamuddin Railway Station. This is the only road named after an artist after Tansen and Thyagaraja in the capital city in 2011. The Kolkata Municipal Corporation also renamed New Park Street as Ustad Hafiz Ali Khan Sarani by chief minister Mamata Banerjee in 2013.

Having spanned over 90 years, my fathers was a life that connected the high points of the colonial era to the turbulence of our own times. Born sometimes in the 1880s at Gwalior where his father Nanneh Khan was court musician, Haafiz Ali Khan Saheb took great pride in the fact that it was his great grandfather, Ghulam Bandegi Khan Bangash, who turned his native Afghan rabab into what we know today as the sarod. Yet his thirst for knowledge took him to Pandits Chukha and Ganeshi Lai of Vrindaban, who were stern practitioners of the Dhrupad and then he went on to Rampur, where he became a disciple of the great Ustad Wazir Khan, the descendant of Tansen. My father left his impression not only in that provincial court but, more importantly, also in Calcutta, then the Imperial Capital. It was here that he received the love and adulation that was to endow him with the legendary status. Raichand Boral, who later rose to fame as the music Director of the New Theatres and the discoverer of K.L. Saigal, was more intimate and colorful in his reminiscences always told me that the first time my father came to his house in 1918, the Great war had just ended and a complacence was beginning to set in the music world of Bengal. ‘With his coming, we were suddenly confronted with a genius who almost rudely banished smugness, lethargy and tidy housekeeping.’ He discovered the link between dhrupad and thumri long before it was commented upon by others. To be able to see Haafiz Ali Khan in proper perspective in the words of Dr Narayana Menon was that Haafiz Ali Khan was the poet. Abba Saheb, as I called him, was a born extrovert, held his head high, brooked no nonsense from any quarter and walked the earth like a renaissance prince.

On the occasion of Ustad Haafiz Ali Khan Saheb's 48th death anniversary, I pray to my father and guru, like every day. May his soul rest in peace! As I have written in my memoir about Ustad Haafiz Ali Khan (1877- December 28, 1972) that for me, the seven notes of music were him. He was the epitome of music. He was my inspiration, my reason of perspiration and he was my idea of representation.

[Amjad Ali Khan is a world famous musician. He was conferred D. Lit from Khairagarh University of Music on Dec 26, 2016]

Islamophobia, struggle for Identity and Teenage angst

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By Nalini Naidoo 

As Islamophobia awareness month was in November, the learning that has occurred through this month needs to continue on. Professionals working with young Muslims need to look at how Islamophobia awareness impacts their practice.

The effects of Islamophobia can seem obvious. As Muslims, most of us understand the feelings of being attacked and threatened, the humiliation and the sense of powerlessness that Islamophobia can cause. What we may often fail to consider are the effects that islamophobia can have on the self-esteem, identity development and wellbeing of young people.

What is well-being?

Well-being means different things to different people. Happiness, relaxation, health, having enough money, doing well at school, getting on well with friends and family, or getting a good job are some examples of what well-being might mean.

When well-being is suffering then young people may find it difficult to do all the things they need to do, such as interacting positively with others, building secure relationships, focusing on education or controlling their behaviour. They may lash out, or come across demotivated, argumentative or rebellious. The well-being of young people is important as positive well-being equips young people with the tools and knowledge to transition into successful, happy adults.

Identity

Identity refers to how we view our sense of self. It incorporates goals, values and beliefs to which we are committed to. For many Muslims, regardless of levels of practice and knowledge, Islam is the central component of their identity.

Psychologists view adolescence as a crucial time in the development of identity as during this time a young person’s ability to reason and think becomes more complex and abstract. Although many teenagers are regarded as physically baaligh (reached puberty), Islam also acknowledges the mental development that occurs in young people during adolescence through the Qur’an and advice of the Prophet ﷺ to treat one’s child as an advisor especially between the ages of adolescence. This shows recognition that during this time young people are increasing in independence and understanding of themselves and the world around them.

Central to the concept of identity is affinity and bonds of identification with others. As Muslims we experience this in the way we are encouraged to view ourselves as an Ummah and feel affinity with our brothers and sisters all over the world.

The similitude of believers in regard to mutual love, affection, fellow-feeling is that of one body; when any limb of it aches, the whole body aches, because of sleeplessness and fever. [Muslim]

Culture

Professionals may often view cultures as an external force that is imposed on young people. I have also come across professionals that feel cultures are a constraint on young people that they need to work to overcome, that prevents them from expanding their horizons and reaching their potentials. Culture is not only something external. It is the lense through which we interpret and view the world. For many it is an important part of their identity alongside their faith. Culture also provides young people a link between themselves, their families and their wider communities.

Islamophobia and well-being

Being a member of a group, such as being a Muslim, can help young people build confidence, satisfaction and a sense of purpose. However constant negative portrayals of Muslims and Islam can erase the positive benefits of being part of a group. Young people may internalise these negative representations, leading to internal conflict and confusion.

If young people have a negative perception of their identity within a group, they are then more likely to feel negatively about themselves. They are also more likely to react negatively towards members of that group. Which means if young people internalise negative perceptions of Islam and Muslims, they may start reacting negatively towards their immediate Muslim family members, leading to family breakdowns and isolation.


The acceptance of others and how you are viewed has a significant impact on identity. If you are rejected from a social group then it may be hard to build an affinity with them and accept being a member of that group as part of your identity. Overt Islamophobia in articles and interactions may be viewed by young people as rejection from social groups that they thought they belonged to. For example, a young person may see the UK as their home, but if they are constantly told that it is not their home, and they don’t belong here, they could start feeling separate from British society. Resulting in frustration, alienation and mental turmoil.

As young people are often not able to comprehend why they feel this way, or know how to deal with these feelings, they instead display them through their behaviours. This could include presenting with anxiety disorders, depression or defiant behaviours.

As well as dealing with overt, unquestionable Islamophobia, young people also face more subtle Islamophobic microagressions, such as schools discouraging prayer during the day, requiring boys to be clean shaven or having negative perceptions of girls who cover. In order to have an identity, people need others to affirm that identity resulting in a sense of belonging and place in the world. When it comes to young people who spend so much of their time in school, this means that lack of recognition and acceptance of their Muslim identities from teachers and leadership can lead to identity confusion, reducing well-being and preventing young peoples’ acceptance of themselves.

Supporting our Youth

Culturally competent and faith sensitive practice is essential to prevent all the negative impacts on well-being mentioned above that stem from lack of identity recognition. These involve practitioners reflecting on their own cultural norms and bias, and seeking to understand, accept and respect how the young people they work with view the world. As parents or family members of young people we should ask the professionals working with our youth to educate themselves in these areas.

Key components of cultural competency and faith sensitivity are:
  • Valuing the knowledge young people acquire from their cultural and faith backgrounds
  • Showing interest and willingness to learn about young peoples’ faiths and cultures
  • Asking the right questions to increase knowledge and valuing students as sources of knowledge
  • Creating an environment where families feel confident in stating beliefs and expressing when they don’t feel comfortable
  • Creating spaces for young people to safely challenge and explore faith/culture and come to deeper personal understandings.
  • Refraining from making negative inferences
  • Not putting young people in a position where they have to explain or defend cultural beliefs or faith when they are still developing understandings themselves
For instance when talking to young people about hijab. If a girl states she covers for modesty, the reply “Do you think women who don’t wear this are immodest?” is an example of putting that girl in a position in which she has to defend her beliefs. It infers a criticism of part of her identity which can lead to her emotionally disconnecting from that practitioner and feeling unsafe to engage and participate in future. It may make her feel angry or depressed or rejected. If that same practitioner was to act in a culturally competent way, they could instead ask “what does modesty mean to you?” This would allow the young person to explore her ideas and support the development of her identity.

With the Black Lives Matter movement raising awareness in the public eye this year, we all know more so that representation matters. What young people see around them has an impact on their expectations, aspirations and perception of choice. This also applies to Muslim students, they also need to see themselves represented.

This does not just mean having a diverse teaching staff, but also having positive representations of identities embedded in the curriculum. Take for example the book “Frankenstein” which is commonly taught in schools. How does it affect young people to routinely be taught texts in which Muslim cultures are objectified, viewed as “other” and seen as undesirable and less? Is this not an Islamophobic microagression? That is not to say these texts should not be taught, but problematic themes need to be explicitly discussed and criticised within the classroom.

Positive representation of Islam and Muslim cultures within the curriculum will foster a sense of emotional connection and belonging to the school community within Muslim students. It would help them feel safe, understood and confident leading to increased engagement with learning and participation in lessons and school life.

The impacts of Islamophobia pervade many aspects of a Muslim’s life without us even realising it. The impact on identity development and well-being in young people is just one of these ways. Let us as a Muslim Ummah continue to raise awareness of Islamophobia throughout the year. Start by sharing this article with any teachers, youth workers, counsellors, family support officers that you know. In Shaa Allah we can create a better, safer, happier future for our youth.

[Nalini Naidoo is Relationship Manager for The Children’s Society – Resilient Me Programme which supports the mental health and well-being of young Muslims in partner schools. Nalini is also co-founder of Newham Muslim Women’s Association, UK. The views in the article are her own and do not necessarily reflect those of any organisation that she is affiliated with.]

The Madrasa Education in India: Ailment and Reform

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By Javeed Mirza

At a zoom webinar organized on 29th December 2020, a participant quoted an author who mentioned that out of the 130 outstanding personalities of the period around 1000 AD, the Madrasa education had produced more than a hundred of the luminaries. The former Indian president Dr Rajendra Prasad, the reformist leader Raja Rammohan Roy and noted writer Munshi Premchand were Madrasa products. One can laud the Madrasa system that had produced such talented gems. For many centuries Education remained a scarce commodity and was the domain of a small minority of well-to-do. The Muslim Renaissance from 800 AD to 1300 AD had spouted high development of Science, Literature and Mathematics. The West used this learning as a springboard to attain its own greater height. The Muslim Renaissance died with the decay set in by its Feudal setup that preferred ignorance to learning, as it was a better means of controlling the subdued subjects it ruled. What had developed 200 years back lurks in today’s curriculum of the Madrasa. The Madrasa education today is hackneyed, obsolete and unproductive. It demands an overhaul.

The Indian education system, a product of British educational legacy, initiated with the intent to develop willing clerks for the continuation of the British Raj, is itself in need of massive reforms. Its public (govt.) school system is beset with poor quality; its administration is flawed and rampant with corruption and nepotism. The societal evils of caste, class and religious discrimination permeate its working. A whole marginalized section of school dropouts, Adult illiteracy, co-exist with lack of girl’s education, of slum children’s education and absence of special education for the handicapped. The Madrasa education is one such marginalized education composed of the children of have-nots. Amidst the poverty that the parents face in the upbringing of their children and the absence of good quality education as well as religious discrimination in the public school system, the Madrasa offers a way out where in students get free education and, in most cases, free boarding. The Madrasa has shielded the students from becoming vagabonds and instilled in most students a sense of ethics and morality, traits that are rapidly dying and in severe shortage. But this is no answer to the students’ need for sustenance, progress and for societal advancement.

The Indian institutional set up has paid lip service to the educational needs of its massive poor. It has allotted low funds (3% GDP while western countries allocate 7%) and has skewed the funds in favor of prioritized sectors… the IIT’s, IIM’s, Central Universities and Research centers where the Indian privileged attend and shore up the system. The struggle by the SC leader Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar and his supporters produced Reservation for the Dalit and the Tribal. This has enabled a small section of the underprivileged to step out of the blighted alley and join the mainstream. It is a silver lining but one that is dwarfed by the many underprivileged that see no light at the end of the tunnel. Massive unemployment rules for those who were able to get education. Poor quality of learning, absence of needed skills training, poor planning, abuse and diversification of national wealth and resources for personal gain, have hobbled the system. Madrasa reform is part and parcel of the total system overhaul that is needed.


The Madrasa establishment exists. There is a vested interest by those running the system to nurture and keep it going. It serves to preserve their fiefdom and provides them with community funding and bestows honor. This is however at the cost of the lives of the Madrasa youth as there is no directional path for them to grow except to subserve the system and eke out a low-paid living with limited opportunities like Imam, deputy imam, muezzin or as an Arabic tutor for the children of the well to do. The Indian establishment, while decrying the Madrasa establishment, is also happy to see its preservation as it forsakes the community betterment and can be conveniently manipulated by taking its leadership under its belt through coercion or co-option. It was the educated mainstream Muslim youth that spearheaded the anti-CAA (Citizenship Amendment Act) movement.

The Basic ailments

a) Revision of curriculum and syllabus. There is a huge development of thought by Islamic scholars in the last few decades that can be incorporated in the syllabus and make it current. It can seek scholarship from noted institutions and enter academic relationships with them. Modern technology allows global connection. This needs to be availed and new thoughts encouraged.

b) Pedagogy is a key element of learning. Rote learning and the absence of reasoning and questioning are the opposite of the critical thinking. The latter is a pre-requisite for the problem-solving skills necessary for success in society.

c) Non-integration with modern education: The secular education promoted by the govt. allows students to continue higher education and climb the ladder. Madrasa education is cut off from the mainstream education and puts fetters on further growth of the student. Modern education, composed of pure sciences and social sciences, technology, Math, languages other than Arabic/Urdu is essential learning for all citizens. This should not be underestimated or underplayed. The Madrasa students are barred from pursuing higher studies and obtaining admission in skills learning institutions like the ITI or Polytechnic, as they do not meet the minimum threshold of passing the Xth standard.

d) Isolation from National integration: Like all religious based organizations, the Madrasa student’s interaction is primarily within his/her community and minimal interaction with non-Muslims. This fosters a disconnect with other communities and this in turn builds a wall of separateness that has the potential to build phobia and ill will.

e) Separation of gender-based education. Muslim girls’ total isolation in the Madrasa system is non-productive and staggers girls mental and social development. Girls have equal rights and equal capabilities and their Right to full learning and development of their potential should be respected and supported.

Reform

The issues outlined above need reform. Some suggestions are:

a) Madrasa Education must incorporate simultaneous learning of the Religious and the Secular. This can be done by dividing the Madrasa learning into two components and having one stream taught in the morning and another in the evening. This practice is being adopted by Muslim religious schools in the USA. The Jewish religious schools provide regular education for most of the day and have two hours daily allocated for religious education plus one day a week.

This approach will meet both the secular and religious learning requirements and equip the student with dual learning and enable higher education. If equal time cannot be allocated to secular education, then a couple of hours each day need to be allocated so there is a regular continuity of secular education. If all subjects cannot be taught, then essential subjects like English, Math and Computer skills should be taught as a starting point.

b) Most Madrasa students are from poor backgrounds. Economic sustenance is a primary need. Maximum skills-based training needs to be provided within the Madrasas with an objective of making the student ready to fill in jobs related to market based skills requirement.

c) Modern education tools must be used for building large scale education. MOOC (Massive Openware Online Courses like www.edx.org) and Free apps like www.khanacademy.org and Kolibri (www.learningequality.org) need to be incorporated in learning. Online skills-based training also exists, and it should be availed. The pandemic has further shown the relevance of developing online learning. Failing this, both the Madrasa and regular education had collapsed.

d) A Madrasa reform board needs to be established of Madrasa establishment and non-Madrasa reform seekers that will work out the details. Reform of Syllabus, curriculum and adoption of Pedagogy that is most current, innovative and productive, needs to be devised.

Conclusion

Even though Madrasa education is availed by around 4% of the Muslim youth, it has high significance. It involves the lives of millions of youths, their families, and their effect on interaction in the community. The propagation of Islam by the Madrasa educated Imams, having no understanding of the modern working of the society and the capitalist system, will be a hotchpotch of false understanding and imagined truths, leading to a distortion of Islam. The wastage of the talents of this huge turnover of a million or so Madrasa students each year is a blight on our society and its willingness to accept the students become alms-seekers instead of productive citizens. The concentrated memorization of 900 pages of the Quran that the Madrasa’s hafiz student does, has the potential to unleash high productive gains, if properly educated and gainfully employed.

Educational reforms, if not implemented, will limit the community and national growth. It will continue the community’s downslide that is seen for the past many decades and has been chronicled by bodies like the Sachar committee. This is not the end but the beginning. Social reforms are needed. Struggle for economic and political empowerment is needed. Educational reforms can initiate and build the crescendo for all reforms and prosperity.

[Javeed Mirza is a Social activist, Researcher and Writer. He can be contacted at javeed.mirza@gmail.com]

Communal rage in secular India

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By Mohammad Wajihuddin

As the blighted 2020 is behind us and we welcome the New Year, my thoughts are with my own elder brother at a hospital bed recovering as he is from a massive heart attack. I am announcing it here only to seek blessings from friends for his fast recovery. However, this essay is not about my personal pain. It is about the enormous pain our country is being forced to endure.

It is the raging fires of communalism which give me the sinking feeling. Since the country is glued to the farmers’ agitation at Delhi’s borders, communal clashes in villages of Madhya Pradesh have not received the prominence they deserve in the national media. Whatever little reports trickle in are disturbing.

And this is happening in the name of building a massive temple for Lord Ram in Ayodhya. Reports say that groups of boys are touring villages collecting chanda or contributions for the grand temple. Nothing wrong with that. In a free country an individual or groups have all the rights to collect funds for places of worship they want to build. I have seen and met multiple sofra (agents) collecting funds in a big city like Mumbai for mosques in remote villages of Bihar. In Bihar I have also seen and met young Hindu boys stopping public and private vehicles to get chanda for puja of different deities or to construct temples. I have willingly given whatever little I could to their coffers. It was never a big issue.

But here the issue is different. These groups of chanda collectors reportedly roam the villages and insist on raising provocative slogans, especially when they pass by mosques or mausoleums. This has resulted in clashes. Videos of hooligans planting flags of a particular hue atop minarets and chanting communal slogans are floating on social media networks. These portend ill for the country. The combustible situation is harmful to communal harmony and national integration. This chanda campaign will only widen the gulf between the two communities.


The world knows that, once out of the court settlement to the Babri Mosque-Ram Janambhoomi dispute didn’t materialize, Muslims said they would abide by the Supreme Court order. The order came and it gave the disputed land to Hindus to build a temple for Ram and awarded five acres of land in Ayodhya to the Muslims for a mosque. Though many Muslim leaders said they were not happy with the decision as the court itself conceded that there is no credible proof that the mosque was built after demolishing a temple, the Muslim masses accepted it. The country remained completely peaceful in the aftermath of the decision. We thought it was a closure to one of the longest-running feuds in the country.

I personally hoped this temple in Ayodhya would exemplify what the poet Allama Iqbal in his poem Naya Shivala (New Temple) dreamed of. In this famous poem, Iqbal vocalises the spirit of India. The poet paints a happy picture when he says: Shakti bhi shanti bhi bhagton ke geet mein hai/Dharti ke basiyon ki mukti preet mein hai. The poet reiterates that both power and peace are in praise of the creator and our salvation lies in peace and love. He urges the countrymen to build such a tall temple that touches the sky but also symbolizes peace, prosperity, love and harmony.

Unfortunately, there are elements who want to keep the communal pot boiling. For them permission to build Ram Temple in Ayodhya is a license to mock and humiliate others. To them social discord is the only vehicle to endear themselves to those holding the levers of power.

It was not like this. At least the villages were not so communally divided. We took pride in the bhaichara, the friendly atmosphere in our villages. In my teenage I remember non-Muslim women brining their infants to the gates of the village mosque at the time of evening namaz. As the worshippers exited after the prayers, these women put their kids in front of the devout Muslims to bless them. The Muslims, freshly out of the mosque, would chant some sacred verses and blow them over the face of small children. A belief had it that the blowing of sacred chants would ward the kids off evil eyes or illnesses. That India seems to have died.

Similarly, we would wait for the prasad or sweets that would come to our house from my father’s Hindu friends’ houses on occasions of Saraswati Puja or Chchath Puja. Saraswati Puja which used to be held at educational institutions as Saraswati is believed to be the goddess of education are now being held at gullies and mohallas. The visarjan or immersion of the idols is increasingly becoming a source of discord and conflicts. A section among the devotees of idols insist on choosing routes of the processions only to inflame communal tension. Maintaining peace during immersion of idols is a big challenge for the administration.

Why is it so? It is so because religion has been hijacked. Religion’s soul has been hollowed out and what we are left with are rituals. Competitive communalism force people to focus more on rituals than on the soul of the religion. So, the focus is not on worship and prayers but on building massive and opulent places of worship and selecting routes of procession that can create trouble.

A poet articulated the pain that God feels at ornamentation of the houses made in his name. The poet’s couplet goes: Main na khush wa bezaar hoon mar mar ke silon se/Mere liye mitti ka haram aur bana de (I am unhappy and uncomfortable with marble pillars/Build me a house of mud and soil). Does God need lavishly decorated dwellings? If you believe God is the creator of the universe, why does he need an opulent house for himself amidst pervasive poverty. A mosque, temple, church or gurudwara is just a facility to assemble and remember the creator. Building a massive structure and calling it a place of worship is nothing but mere assertion of the devotees’ so-called love for their God. I am afraid if God wants his subjects to take the begging bowls to prospective donors for a house for himself.

God will certainly disapprove of the bands of young boys creating ruckus outside places of worship of other faiths in the name of collecting funds for Him. This is against the spirit of religion. This communal rage is nothing but weaponizing religion and killing the country’s secular soul. This is an ungodly act. This is madness.

Let us stop this madness as we enter 2021.

[Mohammad Wajihuddin is a prolific writer and a Mumbai-based journalist associated with a leading newspaper.]

Why Female Genital Mutilation Endangers and Circumcision Protects

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

By Rabbi Allen Maller

When Mariya Taher moved to Massachusetts five years ago, she was shocked to find out the state had no legislation in place against female genital mutilation and cutting. Taher launched a petition, which got more than 400,000 signatures, urging the state to ban the practice.

On August 7, 2020 the the petition was victorious. After seven years of advocacy by survivors and activists in the state, Massachusetts is now one of 39 states in the U.S. that has criminalized female genital mutilation and cutting.

“It’s giving us validation that this is not something that can be sanctioned by culture or religion, that it is a human rights violation,” said Taher, who co-founded Sahiyo, a non-profit focused on ending the practice globally, particularly among the small Indian Muslim Dawoodi Bohra sect in which she and many other girls were cut at 7 years old.

Bradley Jones, Jr., who sponsored the legislation in the state House of Representatives, hailed the Governor’s signing of the law as “a great victory protecting some of our most vulnerable residents.”


Female genital mutilation or cutting, also known as FGM refers to the removal of the external female genitalia, in part or in total, as well as any other deliberate injury to genitalia for non-medical reasons.

FGM, although wide spread in limited geographic areas, is opposed by the majority of Muslim scholars (ulema). Of the four schools of Sha'aria only the Shafii school of law, declares FGM wajib, or obligatory. In contrast, the other three Sunni schools, plus the Shia schools, consider FGM sunnah- recommended but not required.

World Health Organization says female genital cutting, unlike male circumcision, has no health benefits for girls or women. The procedure can cause severe bleeding, problems urinating and infections, while increasing the risk of complications in childbirth and newborn deaths.

Thus, FGM is not circumcision: it is female genital mutilation, and calling it circumcision is a slander of both Islam and Judaism. It is important that Muslims and Jews make this distinction clear to the general public.

Christianity, Islam and Judaism all teach that circumcision was practiced by Prophet Abraham, who is revered by Christians, Jews and Muslims to this day. Christians do not believe circumcision is still a required observance.

But, even during Medieval times, Christian governments never prohibited ritual circumcision for Jews and Muslims living under their rule. Equally, Jews and Muslims never tried to force Christians to circumcise their children.

Only pagan governments like the Greeks and the Romans, or anti-religious secular governments like Communist Russia, have forbidden ritual circumcision of males. These governments are led by people who believe that their own humanistic, rational philosophy is on a much higher level than what has been taught by traditional religions, which they do not believe in.

Many European secularists regard circumcision of minors by Muslims and Jews, as a cruel violation of children’s rights. A similar debate is occurring across northern Europe about the issue of ritual slaughter of animals, which devout Jews and Muslims require be performed on conscious animals.

This is part of a larger dilemma facing left-wing parties in Europe, which often struggle to balance their stated commitment to minority rights, with a pushy, self-righteous, secularist agenda that is perceived as intolerant by most members of religious groups.

It is totally false to compare the custom of female genital mutilation to the religious practice of male circumcision.

First, while there are great medical benefits from removal of the foreskin of a male, especially in reducing the spread of HIV; there is no medical benefit to a female from the removal of her clitoris and labia.

In Africa, Jewish and Muslim men have much lower rates of AIDS than uncircumcised Christian men.

Second, there is no evidence that female genital mutilation promotes chastity and preserves a woman's virtue. Having a considerate, loving and faithful husband does much more to promote a woman's virtue than female genital mutilation.


Third, male circumcision is a religious requirement; female genital mutilation is only a tribal custom, originating in sub Sahara Africa; which is now being spread by Muslim religious extremists to Asia and the West as part of a reaction against the rising rate of girls going to high school and woman going to work outside the home.

Evidence that female genital mutilation is a only a custom comes from the fact that in rural Egypt even Coptic Christians mutilate their daughters genitals..

Finally, and most important, male circumcision is derived from the God inspired practice of Prophet Abraham and Prophet Muhammad. “Narrated Umm Atiyyah al-Ansariyyah: A woman used to perform circumcision in Medina. The Prophet said to her: ‘Do not cut severely as that is better for a woman and more desirable for a husband.’” (Abu Dawud 41:5251)

And God said to Prophet Abraham (Genesis 17:7): “I will establish my covenant between me and you, and your offspring after you throughout their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you...

(8-12) “And I will give to you, and to your offspring after you, the land where you are now an alien, all the land of Canaan, for a perpetual holding; and I will be their God. And God said to Abraham, “As for you, you shall keep my covenant, you and your offspring after you throughout their generations. This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your offspring after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised.

“You shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you. Throughout your generations every male among you shall be circumcised when he is eight days old,” (Genesis 17: 7-12a)

And Allah ordered Prophet Muhammad to follow the religion of Abraham/Ibrahim saying (Qur'an 16:123): "Then We inspired you: 'Follow the religion of Ibrahim, the upright in Faith'." And part of the religion of Ibrahim is, as is evident from the verses cited above, to practice circumcision.

Prophet Abraham was an old man when he circumcised himself, thus becoming a good example that one is never to old to do God's will. As a Hadith says: Prophet Muhammad said: "Prophet Ibrahim circumcised himself when he was eighty years old and he circumcised himself with an axe." (Related by Bukhari, Muslim & Ahmad.)

Abraham's first born son Ishmael, was a young boy when he was circumcised, so Muslims do not have to circumcise their son's on an exact date. A Hadith states: When Ibn Abbas was asked "How old were you when the Prophet Muhammad died?" He replied, "At that time I had been circumcised. At that time people did not circumcise boys till they attained the age of puberty (Baligh)." (Bukhari)

Prophet Muhammad himself selected the 7th day after birth to circumcise his own grandsons: Abdullah Ibn Jabir and Aisha both said: "The Prophet performed the Aqiqah of al-Hasan and al-Hussein (the prophets grandsons) circumcising them on the 7th. Day." (Related in al-Bayhaq & Tabarani)

Thus, for Jews circumcision is a sign of the covenant that God made with Abraham and his sons Ishmael and Isaac and their descendants for all future generations.

For Muslims it is a sign of their close connection to Abraham which is also celebrated each year at the annual Hajj ceremonies.

For both Muslims and Jews circumcision is a sign that one who submits to God's commandments and covenant cannot expect a life without some pain and suffering. But when endured for the right reasons pain and suffering always lead eventually to great spiritual benefits. Female genital mutilation is the exact opposite of circumcision both medically and religiously.

[Allen S. Maller is an ordained Reform Rabbi who retired in 2006 after 39 years as the Rabbi of Temple Akiba in Culver City, California. See his website www.rabbimaller.com to know more. Rabbi Maller blogs in the Times of Israel. His book ‘Judaism and Islam as Synergistic Monotheisms: A Reform Rabbi's Reflections on the Profound Connectedness of Islam and Judaism’ (31 articles previously published by Islamic websites) is for sale ($15) on Amazon. He can be contacted at malleraj@aol.com]

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