Headlines

Al Wahda Mall to host Mobile Roadshow activations for UAE’s top professional football league

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 14 February 2020 | Posted in , , , , ,

Engaging and interactive experiences to promote the Arabian Gulf League

IMO News Service

Abu Dhabi, UAE: Al Wahda Mall will be hosting activations for the Arabian Gulf League, UAE’s top professional football league consisting of 14 football clubs from across the country from the 20th to 22nd February 2020 as they tour with engaging and interactive experiences aimed at promoting the league. 
The 2019/2020 season will witness a total of 182 exciting matches being played until May 2020 with football clubs battling for victory in their bid to win the Arabian Gulf League 2019/2020 season title at Match of The Week.

Navaneeth Sudhakaran, General Manager, Al Wahda Mall, said, “Al Wahda Mall is known to attract a sporty and active customer base who frequent the mall regularly to use the gym and the mall’s sports lounge and gaming areas. It is hence an ideal location for a sports campaign to generate awareness and we hope the activations also attract more sports fans to our mall.”

Al Wahda Mall is a leading shopping, entertainment and leisure destination in the heart of Abu Dhabi city, with over 350 brands spanning across a total size of 3.3 million square feet.

The award-winning Al Wahda Mall has over 400 tenants offering a superb retail mix of fashion, jewellery, electronics, food court, home improvement, family entertainment, beauty, gym, sports lounge, renowned high-street brands, kiosks, and over 50 mouth-watering world class F&B outlets.

The mall also offers a comprehensive selection of service outlets to include a large hypermarket, prominent banking services and telecom operators, and a Tasheel centre to provide Ministry of Labour services.

'Pakistan–India Cricket Series likely in 2014'

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 11 October 2013 | Posted in , , ,

By Rohail Khan

Great news for Cricket lovers across the world. Najam Sethi, interim Chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), has expressed confidence that a bilateral series with India could be held next year.

"I have got assurances that next year we could have a bilateral but for this year this is not on our agenda with India," Sethi told the media during the logo unveiling ceremony of the Pakistan and South Africa series in the UAE. He said he planned to visit India soon to start discussions with the Indian cricket officials for a bilateral series.

Sethi said Pakistan had been told by the government to lay stress on convincing international teams to tour Pakistan, and a bilateral series with India was high on this agenda.

"We also realize that revival of international cricket is very important for us and we have already started working on those lines and we are also working out plans for our premier league next year," Sethi said. "Everyone knows that even cricket ties with India are dictated to by the political relations between the two countries and I am confident we might see a bilateral series next year," he said.

Meanwhile, Punjab Chief Minister and Cricket enthusiast Shahbaz Sharif, commented: "We will prove to the world that under the current circumstances the country is quite capable of holding international events and I will ask the PCB to immediately invite any international team to Pakistan.

"We will provide all kind of security to our distinguished visiting team," Sharif said. "Pakistan is in dire need of international cricket events, so the PCB should launch full efforts," he added.

India has not played a full bilateral series with Pakistan since 2007 although it invited Pakistan for a short series in India last December.

Determined to re-build cricket relations with neighbouring India, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) is hoping to persuade the Indian Cricket Board (BCCI) to host a tri-series later this year when the officials from the two Boards will meet during an Asian Cricket Council conference.

"There is a strong chance that the BCCI might propose to have a tri-series sometime in December in India with Pakistan and Sri Lanka and the PCB is ready to accept this invitation," one source said candidly.

These developments are like “fresh breeze” to cricket lovers across the world.

[Rohail Khan, Canadian-Pakistani, is a senior banker, media advisor, social activist, and philanthropist. He can be reached at: rohailkhan00@gmail.com]

Fatwa on Muslim athletes a bad call, says Khairy

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 11 August 2013 | Posted in , , , ,

By Syed Jamal Zahid

Kuala Lumpur: Putrajaya will not agree to a fatwa keeping Muslim women out of certain competitive sports, minister Khairy Jamaluddin assured athletes and sports officials today after the National Fatwa Council (NFC) proposed the idea.

Yesterday Penang Mufti Hassan Ahmad was quoted as saying the NFC may ban Muslim women from certain sports events such as swimming and competitive gymnastics as it would expose their "aurat", on the heels of a similar fatwa on beauty pageants that recently sparked a storm over the Miss Malaysia World 2013 contest.

"I don't think this is a good idea at all. Sporting competitions are different from beauty contests. I would object to any banning of sporting events," Khairy told The Malay Mail Online in a text message.

The issue would be raised at the NFC's three-day committee meeting in September.

The news of a possible ban has sparked an uproar among sports officials with some arguing that such a move would "kill" the only few sporting events in which Malaysia excel.

Others have pointed out that a fatwa against Muslim women in gymnastics and swimming could lead to future bans in other sporting events.

"In gymnastics, most of them are already wearing leotards. Some international federations are relaxed with the attire of the contestants but some insist they have to wear a certain attire like beach volleyball.

"There’s netball, hockey and also athletics (where athletes wear short skirts or tight fitting attire). I hope the powers-that-be will be able to clear the air and state their intention. In Iran, there’s a women-only tournament while sports manufacturers can come up with suitable attire if clothing is an issue," said Olympic Council of Malaysia secretary Datuk Sieh Kok Chi.

“The council should think such matters thoroughly. One cannot say this can be done or that cannot be done without justification," he added.

Conservative Islamic scholars adhere to a strict dress code for Muslims, forbidding them from displaying certain parts of their body, or aurat, while in public. For women, this includes the hair and most of the rest of her body while for men, it is generally from the navel to the knees.

Other Muslim scholars preach a more pragmatic approach on the application of Islamic law on a person's dress code.

Khairy's position on the matter could also highlight the concerns raise by a Muslim women group over the binding powers of such fatwas.

Sisters in Islam (SIS) had recently suggested that fatwa be deliberated by a legislative body before they are made binding on Muslims after it deemed the current procedure “un-Islamic and undemocratic”.

SIS condemned the dropping of four Muslim candidates from the Miss Malaysia World 2013 contest because they purportedly violated a 1996 fatwa, which deems Muslim participation in beauty pageants sinful.

Their disqualification, the group said, raises concerns on the “over-reach” of a religious edict or fatwa beyond their original intent.

It further said its greatest concern was on the automatic enforcement of fatwa as law without being subjected to stringent scrutiny by a legislative body like Parliament or a state assembly.

After a fatwa is approved by a state executive council and a Sultan, the edict only needs to be gazetted before it is enforced into a religious law.

“It is not tabled for debate in the legislative body Any violation of the fatwa is a criminal offence. Any effort to dispute or to give an opinion contrary to the fatwa is also a criminal offence.

“Such provisions have no basis in the Quran and historical practices of Islam and violate several articles in the Federal Constitution,” the group said.

(Courtesy: TheMalayMailOnline.com)

Bhopal’s Muzaffar Ali decimates big guns to emerge as new champion of Mumbai Gulf Monsoon Scooter Rally

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 11 July 2013 | Posted in , ,

By Pervez Bari

Bhopal: Muzaffar Ali of Bhopal decimated big guns to emerge as the new champion of the Gulf Monsoon Scooter Rally held at Mumbai on Sunday.

Having been placed second last year, the 32-year-old rider Muzaffar went one better, leaving last year’s champion Rustom Patel, and former champions Manjeet Singh Bassan, Avtar Singh and Shamim Khan in the shade as he won the gruelling 25 kms monsoon challenge over the backwoods of Navi Mumbai in 28 minutes, 50 seconds in penalties. He received a cash award of Rs.10,000/- and a trophy.

Another lad from Bhopal Asif Khan riding a Kinetic Honda was adjudged best rider of Bhopal with a timing of 0:39:33 seconds in the Gulf Monsoon Scooter Rally

According to a Press release the Gulf Oil Corporation sponsored and Sportscraft-organised event was certainly also difficult riding through water-logged areas but almost all riders went through the exercise rather efficiently.

Naskih’s Shamim Khan (Mahindra Rodeo), who was champion in 2003 and ’04, finished second with 0:29.02 seconds in penalties and Bangalore’s R Natraj (TVS Wego) of TVS Racing was third with 0:29.08 seconds.

Defending champion Rustom Patel (Honda Activa) was fourth and 2011 champion Avtar Singh (Honda Activa) fifth. Four-time champion Bassan, who won in 2002, 2005, 2007, 2008, finished sixth.

Astride a Suzuki Access, Muzaffar Ali overcame unyielding conditions and a strong field of 32 riders to emerge triumphant. After the riders started from Our Lady’s Home in Parel on the 35 km transport sector, Ali rode with gay abandon over the dirt tracts on the competitive sector of Navi Mumbai to turn tables on the favourites.

Though it did not rain heavily during the rally, riding on the gravel-laden, slushy course was dicey. The riders had to exercise extreme caution while negotiating the steep inclines and hairpin bends. Practically all of them took a tumble or two and some even damaged their scooters.

Mentioned must be made about Loretta D’Lomen, the only female rider in the fray. She battled over the course, completing the final leg with a flat tyre to finish with a creditable 1:41.47 seconds in penalties.

Dheradhun’s Shradul Sharma, astride a Honda Dio, was adjudged the best first timer and awarded the late Firdosh Vajifdar trophy for his spirited riding. Vikramjit Boparai was adjudged the best Thane-Navi Mumbai rider.

[Pervez Bari is a senior Journalist based at Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh. He is associated with IndianMuslimObserver.com as Bureau Chief (Madhya Pradesh). He can be contacted at pervezbari@yahoo.co.in]

Dahab's first Egyptian woman divemaster blazes a trail

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 27 February 2013 | Posted in , , , , , ,

By Christopher Reeve

She takes her clients to another world — one in which, as if traveling to outer space, visitors must wear special suits and carry equipment in order to breathe. Humans weren’t built to maneuver in this landscape without assistance.

As a divemaster, Suezett al-Fallal, 27, is responsible for the safety of the tourists she leads to submersion, so must remain hyper-vigilant of their well-being. But when she goes on dives, the glimpses of marine life, the sensation of buoyancy and the quiet of the Red Sea lead her to imagine that she is the only one around.

“I feel a bit alone,” she says.

Fallal, originally from Cairo’s Nasr City district, moved to Dahab last April to realize a dream. “I wanted to be a divemaster at 18,” she says from a café overlooking the Red Sea and a not-too-distant Saudi Arabia. “It was my first target as a job.”

While plenty of Egyptian men and foreigners of both sexes work in Dahab’s numerous dive shops, taking the town’s visitors to its famed dive sites, Fallal represents something new to the scene. She is Dahab’s first resident Egyptian, or even Arab, veiled woman divemaster.

Hamdy Anan, co-owner of Shams Dive Center — one of the five dive centers where Fallal works — oversaw her three-month training to become a licensed divemaster.

Anan, 33 and originally from the Delta city of Mahalla, has seen Dahab slowly develop into the international diving hub it is today. Reflecting on the 17 years he has lived here, he says, “For [this] long period of time ... [there was] no Egyptian female diver.”

Fallal is initially hesitant to be interviewed by Egypt Independent, saying she does not believe that being Dahab’s first Egyptian woman divemaster is worthy of a profile.

“I’m not Baumgartner, who jumped out of outer space,” she says, referring to the Austrian man who recently broke the sound barrier on a 39-km skydive to earth.

“Wallahi (I swear to God), I’m doing this for people who might read it,” she says, justifying her decision. “Maybe a girl will read it and [decide to] do something that she really likes, and someone who thinks negatively about Muslims will read it and change his mind.”

She admits she faced several obstacles in pursuing her ambition. “It’s hard for Egyptian women to travel and live on their own,” she explains. “If you move to a place like Dahab, where there are no [Egyptian] women, people will judge you.”

Her tone exudes a confidence in that tricky business of defying conventions. There is also the factor of physical strength and stamina necessary for diving. “It’s heavy-duty stuff,” Fallal says.
She talks about having to carry not just her own nine-and-a-half-kilogram air tank, but also that of a customer who was unable to carry her own. Fallal is no stranger to rigorous activity. She was a personal trainer at several gyms in Cairo before moving to Dahab. She was also an assistant coach of parachuting at a club organized by the Egyptian military.

But personal training and parachuting are only part of her story. Fallal also has a degree in cinematography, and has worked as a stylist and camera assistant in the film industry. She left that field due to her personal convictions.

Fallal says the film industry does not use its potential to affect society in a positive way. “In Egypt, not a lot of people read,” she says. “They watch movies.” She ultimately left because she felt it “use[s] women to degrade women. ... It’s against my religion and against my principles.”

Fallal became a devout Muslim four years ago. She keeps her hair, arms and legs covered, even as she braves the Sinai desert heat on her bicycle, with an overstuffed bag strapped to her back. When underwater, she dons a wetsuit that allows for the same level of coverage.

“I’m a feminist,” Fallal says, adding that she finds inspiration from the women of Islamic history.
Some of her European clientele have questions about Arab women and Islam. Fallal takes advantage of these moments to explain her culture. “If people ask about deen (religion) or hijab (veil), I answer,” she says, “and I think I am doing something good for my religion — not on a big scale, but I’m making a difference.”

Fallal still has many more goals she hopes to achieve, including becoming a dive instructor and opening her own dive center, becoming an underwater photographer and even learning to sew so she can design and make her own clothes.

For now, she is still settling into Dahab and its diving culture. Fallal says she has found support and acceptance over time. As for her relationship with the other divers in town, she says, “I’m like their little sister.”

And when preparing for her next dive, like Baumgartner, she must gear up before entering an atmosphere for which humans were not made. “I love it,” she says. “It’s addictive.”

(Courtesy: Egypt Independent)

From a tent in Mumbai's Azad Maidan, a cricket star rises

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 02 February 2013 | Posted in , , , , ,

By Siddhartha Sharma

New Delhi: Two years ago, when Adeeb Usmani's family left Mumbai for their village near Azamgarh, the 13-year-old stayed back; he wanted to be a cricketer. He was alone in the big city, and his father could give him no money, so Adeeb made a tent in Azad Maidan his home, and his coach Naushad Khan his life's anchor.

In the under-16 Vijay Merchant tournament that ended on Monday, the opener-wicketkeeper played consistently well, helping Mumbai to the title. His 366 runs from five matches up to the final included a century and a 77 in the semifinal against Punjab; in the final, he scored 54 in the first innings.

"My father had a hotel in Dharavi but he suffered huge losses. So he had to move to UP. Naushad sir helped me get a place in the tent at Azad Maidan. Whatever I am today is because of him," young Adeeb told The Indian Express on the sidelines of the final against Delhi.

Adeeb has his meals at a small restaurant an uncle of his has near Azad Maidan. "Naushad sir spoke to him and he agreed to give me food. But he has no interest in cricket," Adeeb said. He said his father doesn't keep well; he calls home regularly, but hasn't had the chance to visit his village.

Adeeb studies in class 10 at Anjuman Islamia, where cricket helped him get admission. Mumbai U-16 coach Vinod Raghavan said he was "an upcoming prospect".

Adeeb hasn't told his parents he lives in a tent. "I tell them I live in a room, so they feel I am secure. Otherwise, they will call me back to the village."

Adeeb himself doesn't mind the tent, pitched in a park that has nurtured generations of cricketers. "The tent is a happy place for me. I have lots of memories attached to it."

(Courtesy: The Indian Express)

Cricket Muslim Slur Sparks Australia Uproar

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 11 November 2012 | Posted in , , ,

Cairo: A former Australian cricketer has ignited a new controversy after using racist comments against the Muslim community in the country.

“There is absolutely no place for racism in sport on or off the field,” a spokesman for Cricket Australia (CA) told the Sydney Morning Herald on Sunday, November 11.
“We’re fully supportive of the ICC’s anti-racism policy on cricket.”

The controversy sparked during a test game between Australia and South Africa on Friday after former Queensland cricketer Greg Ritchie made racist remarks against Muslims.

“Just this morning I had to try and stop three little Muslim boys trying to break the lock on my car boot,” Ritchie said at a Brisbane Test luncheon.

“I had to say, 'Shut up! You're in there for a reason!'“

The former cricketer also used the forbidden racist “k-word” during the speech to describe Muslims.

“Hey Kepler, you're not going to call this lot kaffirs today, are you,” he said, in reference to his former teammate Kepler Wessels, who during the 1980s could not play for his native South Africa due to their international ban.

Despite criticisms, Ritchie declined to refuse for the racist remarks.

“I've got nothing against the Muslim people,” Ritchie was quoted as saying by Fairfax.

“That's a joke that I use, and I'll continue to use it. It's just a little humorous joke to indicate that they're not my favorite people of my choice. If they take offence that's their choice.”

He also defended himself against accusations of racism by using the word “kaffir”

“It's a joke I've used 500 times,” Ritchie said.

“It's a reference to us playing against the West Indies [in a match for Queensland against the West Indies in 1980] and I say to him 'You wouldn't use that word against these guys would you?'. I am not saying that Kepler said that word at all.

“It is to emphasize the fear I had playing against the West Indies. It is a shocking term and it relays the great fear that we all had about facing the West Indies bowling.

“It's disappointing to think this has become an issue. I do a lot of public speaking around the world and I tell the story all the time.”

Despicable

The racist remarks also drew fire from South Africa’s Muslim team manager, Mohammed Moosajee.

“If that is what was uttered, it is both disappointing and despicable for someone to make these racist comments,” he told the Sunday Times.

“Racism has no place in society and in sport.”

Former cricket player Wessels also threatened a legal action against the former batsman.

“That’s a disgraceful, offensive and libellous comment to make,” Wessels said.

“It’s certainly not what I’m about and everyone who knows me will know that. I have no idea what he might be referring to. I haven’t even spoken to him since the early ‘80s.”

The racial comments are not the first to be made by the former cricketer.

He had made offensive remarks about Muslim-majority Pakistan and its former cricket captain Imran Khan.

“There’s a place in Pakistan called Lahore. There weren’t many of them (w*****) around when we were there in 1982, I can tell you.”

About Imran, he said: “He’s an absolute knob is Imran Khan, that’s the only way to describe him.”

Trying to wind up the uproar, Cricket Australia said that Ritchie was not welcome at Australian cricket grounds until further notice.

“Cricket Australia is of the view that it's not appropriate for Greg to be at our cricket venues at this time,” he said.

A senior official from Cricket Australia has contacted the former cricketer, who has confirmed the content of that speech.

“We've made it clear that his comments were absolutely unacceptable,” the official said.

“We're going to take the opportunity to write to all our states and venues to remind them of the obligations under the ICC anti-racism policy in terms of speakers and what they should be advising speakers at their venues.”

(Courtesy: OnIslam.net)

Pakistan’s Islamic cricket: Mixing religion with the Sport

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 25 October 2012 | Posted in , , , , , ,

By Ale Natiq
Following the victory of West Indies in the ICC T20 WC 2012, I posted the above picture (in good humour) and later the status message on my Facebook which received mixed reactions. Some called it negative some said its discriminatory while others thought it’s provocative. And as wild as it gets, some angry Tableeghis considered it a sectarian attack. Cricket being the only source of entertainment left in Pakistan, this issue deserves more than a comical photo and a status message and so I would like to explain my reservations about the growing religiosity of Pakistan Cricket.
Let’s be clear first. I have no objection on the practice of Islam, or any religion whatsoever, by anyone including the sportsmen and Pakistani Cricketers in specific. My reservation is the mixing of religion with the sport, especially considering the fact that these men play Sport professionally, and employed to represent Pakistan and are paid from our tax money. They may like to practice whatever faith they want privately but it should not intermingle with the Sport they play professionally. As a friend quoted, “It’s the playing ground, not your prayer mat”.
I also understand that people have religious beliefs which they hold important but exhibiting them at the wrong time irrespective of the context does not appeal to me at least. To start with, it is aesthetically disgusting. For years we have heard and have become accustomed to the misfit calls to Allah in the post match ceremonies. Allah gets more mention than the player responsible for winning or losing the game. Why bother with this ceremony after every match when the man of the match for every game is Allah?
If you really want to thank Allah or give him the credit of your success or failure, you can do that in you heart of course. Allah is well capable to understand your courtesy and thankfulness even when you keep it to yourself and don’t exhibit it cheaply. What I do not understand is the desire to do this while telling the world that you are doing it. You want to thank Allah, fine, but why tell everyone else that you are doing it? You only make a laughing stock of yourself and sound idiot when you answer “First of all thanks to Allah” while the question asked is “So how did you find this pitch?” What is the relevance here? Clearly the idea is not to be humble, courteous and thankful to Allah but to push your religiosity down on others and show it no matter how absurd it sounds.
The more important question which I want to ask is why does every single member of the team so uniformly adhere to this religious exhibitionism? How has the Pakistan Cricket Team managed this uniformity in wearing-the-religion-on- your-sleeve attitude while on the playground? Why do we not have Cricketers who do not adhere to this exhibition of religion? Young Raza Hassan comes over to receive his first man of the match award and toes the same line of Inzimam, of Afridi, of Yousaf Youhana et al. Is it really an individual choice and act; as the supporters of Cricket religiosity would like to claim?
I think not. The First-of-All-Thanks-To-Allah syndrome is not about thanking Allah. They are using the Sport, the playing field and every opportunity to further their agenda of Tableegh. Pakistan Cricket Team is held hostage by Tableeghi Jamaat’s Tariq Jameel who is using celebrities to popularise their brand and religious exhibitionism is the best tool available at hand. This Tableeghi gang is a political power group within Pakistan Cricket and anyone who does not become one of them has to bear the consequences. Islam, once again has been used to gain and assert power.
Namaz was made mandatory as part of training by Inzy and those who didn’t pray didn’t get into good books of the captain.
We have lots of evidence to suggest that this religious exhibitionism has been unofficially institutionalised within Pakistani Cricket by certain team members. Newcomers have a choice: to come to the fold of Cricket religiosity or suffer a loner’s fate. Senior players were also not immune to this recruitment; we know the fate of Shoaib Akhtar and Younis Khan when they tried to counter this religious establishment within Pakistan Cricket.
Inzimam’s fondness to mix religion with cricket did not sit well with some members of the team who preferred to practice their religion privately. The non-Tableeghi players in the team included former captain Younas Khan, Shoaib Akhtar, Mohammad Asif and Danish Kaneria. They accused Inzimam of favouring the players who were members of the Tableeghi Jamaat. Inzimam initially known as a gentle giant turned into a dictator like captain and often ignored Shoaib Akhtar in the selection. It was rumoured that the real reason behind Shoaib’s exclusion from the team was his ‘liberal’ ways and late night adventures.
Tableeghi Jamaat infilitation in Pakistan Cricket – a bit of history

The country, that has been in an existential crisis since its inception and yet to come to terms with its ideology and purpose, is leaning more and more towards rabid religiosity to find answers and Pakistan Cricket, being part of the same country and society, is no exception to this phenomenon. From the beginning of this millennium, there have been increasing and constant incidents of enforced religiosity in the team, a development which has been noted by and frowned upon by the Pakistan Cricket Board, but to little avail.
Former opener Saeed Anwar, who lost his daughter, was among the first who turned to religion for solace. One would argue that it may be a natural thing to happen. But then, he began to sermonize. His team members were the first circle of people within his influence. Former captain Inzamam-ul-Haq’s family already had a religious background. Slowly, the youngsters were lapping up whatever the seniors dished out as advice even on deeply personal issues.
Analysts also lay the onus on Pakistan batsman Saeed Ahmed and stylish opener, Saeed Anwar, both of whom had become leading recruiters for the Tableeghi Jamaat. Ahmed had been, like most Pakistani cricketers, volatile and aggressive on the field and equally colourful off it. It won’t be farfetched to suggest that captains like Imran, Mushtaq, Miandad and Akram wilfully kept the notions of morality and the social state of the team separated. They weren`t bothered by who was drinking or who was frequenting nightclubs and bars, as long as the players were performing to their potential on the field.
However, according to a former Pakistani player, it was Saeed Anwar who convinced Waqar that the team would remain volatile unless team members became ‘good Muslims’ and ‘started offering prayers’. Waqar saw this as an opportunity to rein in the notorious volatility of the team and both Saeed Ahmed and Anwar were allowed access to the dressing-room to preach the Tableeghi Jamaat’s highly ritualistic and exhibitionistic strain of faith. Mushtaq Ahmed and Saqlain Mushtaq were two early recruits of the Jamaat, but ironically, both, along with Saeed Anwar himself, suddenly lost their form and exited from the team. However, even though the team’s 2002 World Cup jamboree in South Africa was a disaster, Mushtaq and Anwar hung around as preachers and were successful in bagging flamboyant batsman, Inzimamul Haq.
Saeed Anwar and Junaid Jamshed - both recruited by TJ. JJ used to visit Pakistan Cricket team camps to deliver sermons.
It was Inzi’s instatement as the new captain in 2003 that opened the floodgates for the Tableeghi Jamaat. One could now see the team being given regular lectures by leading Jamaat members, including Junaid Jamshed who is on record as claiming that he also wanted to convert the coach, the late Bob Woolmer. Players like Shoaib Akhtar accused Inzimamul Haq for siding with those players who sympathised with the Jamaat and took part in the collective religious rituals enforced by the captain.
Saeed Anwar, arguably Pakistan’s greatest batsman is on record having said, “A day or night spent in the way of Allah is better than any other worldly activity“. Imagine this coming from a professional sportsman who is paid to play a worldly sport for his country. With this attitude, what does one expect in terms of performance?
Tableeghi Jamaat visiting camps and board office

Pakistan Cricket officials have confirmed the connection between Tableeghi Jamaat and Pakistani Cricketers and have on occasions showed their reservations too. A close study of media reports, reaction of PCB officials and PCB statements reveal that the board was not too bothered with this religious infiltration at the start with the belief that this might bring discipline to the team. However, with time they realised that this was counter productive, was resulting in more factions in the team and was a cause for poor performance. When they tried to intervene, they were probably too late.
“Officials in the Pakistan cricket board confirmed that members of the Tablighi Jamaat have been visiting the board’s offices and training camps regularly over the last several years. “
Inzimam-ul-Haq’s captaincy and influence of religion on the game

According to Pakistan daily Dawn’s Nadeem F Paracha, during Inzimam’s tenure as side’s captain, Tableeghi Jamaat enjoyed strongest influence in Pakistan Cricket. Cricketers instead of sticking to the nets for practice, were regularly assembled and lectured to by Tablighi Jamaat members including speeches by Junaid Jamshed, who went on record saying he wanted to convert late coach Bob Woolmer. Other members like Kamran Akmal, Shoaib Malik, Yasser Hamid, Rana Naved-ul-Hasan and Salman Butt had, at one time, grown beards or at least stubbles to impress Inzy. And Yousuf Yohanna aka Mohammad Yousuf apparently tried to proselytize New Zealand’s Daniel Vettori.
Inziman’s overly defensive and failed attempt at being the captain came as a surprise to many. It was ironic because as a batsman Inzi was fluent and liberally bordering on the flamboyant so what was the reason for the changed attitude at captaincy? Parach writes, “Conventional wisdom would suggest, yes, fear was the overriding reason. But during and after the procedures that initiated Inzi’s complete ouster from the team, insiders within the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) were also whispering about the effects of ‘tableegh-isation’ on the former skipper’s personality. In the course of two years before the 2007 World Cup debacle, the PCB had already asked Inzimam to cool it a bit with his Islam thing, while some cricketers discreetly complained that they were being forced by Inzi to follow dictates according to the Tableeghi Jamaat.“
During the ICC Champions Trophy in India, Inzimam was taken to task by the Pakistan Cricket Board chairman for insisting on holding joint prayers with his team on the ground where they were taking a training session.
Some commentators on Cricket and mainly the supports of this Cricket religiosity claim that influence of Tableetghi Jamaat in Pakistan Cricket has made the players more disciplined. The definition of discipline which they refer to here is (publicly) not going to pubs or clubs, not womanising, praying in public etc but cheating, swearing, leg pulling and spot/match fixing doesn’t matter. Let’s accept the discipline argument for sometime, the problem is that “this discipline was not exactly based on a willful belief in the importance of professional order, but rather a grudgingly submitted fear gained from the players by playing the ever-useful Islamic card and a strict code of conduct and ethics based squarely on the Tableeghi Jammat ideals of Islam. Early this year, during a talk show hosted by former Pakistani cricket captain Rameez Raja, Inzimamul Haq, when asked what his message would be for the youth, he suggested that along with worldly knowledge, they should also get religious education.
This says two things. First of all, it suggests that ever since Inzimam’s stint as captain, more and more Pakistani cricketers had started using the formulaic language used by Tableeghi Jamaat members. Secondly, and as some PCB officials and cricketers have already claimed, most Pakistani cricketers, if they had to be in the good books of the captain, had to tamely submit to his Tableegh regime in the dressing room. ” This is exactly what loner-Crickets like Shoaib Akhtar, Younis Khan and Danish Kaneria had to tell us.
Coach Bob Wolmer VS Captain Inzimam – the contest between authoritarian religiosity and training based Cricket

“Pakistan coach Bob Woolmer’s authority was undermined by captain Inzamam-ul-Haq’s ‘spiritual hold of the team.The more serious issue was that Inzamam was not only the cricketing leader but the spiritual talisman of the team who expected – and was mostly given – total obeisance by his team-mates. Inzamam would go into a “brooding silence” for days after disagreements with Briton Woolmer.” the former Pakistan Cricket Board chairperson Shaharyar Khan said.
Shahryar Khan has been quoted as telling Sportsweek on BBC Radio Five Live after the murder of Woolmer as follows: “Bob told me about six months ago that he was very frustrated because the team was always at prayer at lunchtime, tea and after play. He was not able to get through to them on cricketing issues. He felt frustrated about that and asked me what to do. The training schedules were not really interfered with by the prayers which only took about four or five minutes. It was the fact he could not get through to the team at intervals in matches. Eventually he learned to live with it because it led to unity.“
Shahryar also revealed Woolmer never had full control of the national side with skipper Inzimam-ul-Haq “the unquestioned leader“. “There was always a question mark regarding Bob taking total control of the team in every sense. There was resistance from Inzimam and perhaps successful resistance. Inzimam was the leader, the unquestioned leader of the team. They (the players) all fell into place around him and were totally supportive of Inzimam. Bob found it difficult sometimes.“
Outlook India reports that, “Woolmer attributed the decline in the performance of the Pakistani cricket team in recent years to the growing influence of the TJ on some of the players, including the Captain, and their consequent indifference to training.They believed that they could win by praying. When the TJ preachers were there in the hotel during tours,Inzimam and other TJ players used to ignore Woolmer and did not heed his instructions. He reportedly felt that their loyalty was more to the TJ preachers than to him. It is said that this often became a contentious issue between Inzimam and the coach.”
As one would expect, the mysterious death of Bob Wolmer made headlines across the world. What many do not know is that a lot of these news stories raised questions on Tableeghi Jamaat and the growing religiosity in Pakistan Cricket, with a possible connection to the Coach’s murder. It was widely known that Bob was critical of Tableeghi Jamaat’s involvement in Pakistan Cricket and tried to counter their growing influence. With this background, his death was bound to raise some eyebrows. Pakistani Cricket fans should consider themselves lucky that this didn’t go too far or this could have been another Lahore attack for Pakistan Cricket.
Younis Khan and the backlash from the team against his captaincy

“Younis twice stepped down from the captaincy last year with player unrest against his leadership the underlying cause both times.” wrote Osman Samiuddin after Yousaf Youhana was axed from the team. The problem which this Tableeghi gang had with Younis Khan was one: he did not bow down to their religious exhibitionism. It is widely believed that Inzimam-ul-Haq and Yousuf Youhana, in the presence of Tariq Jameel, took an oath from other players on Quran that they will not support Younis Khan as captain of the side.
Yousaf Youhana’s conversion

There is no clear evidence but it is believed by some that the talented Christian, Yousuf Yohanna, had to convert to Islam in modern day Pakistan to be considered for the skipper’s post, however much he may deny that to be the purpose. Although Yousuf denied that anyone forced him to convert it is widely believed that owing to peer pressure and his desire to become the captain made him embrace Islam.
Yousuf Yohanna, who converted to Islam and became Muhammad Yousuf. Today he is one of the leading members of the Jamaat and was recently reported to have even tried to convert New Zealand cricket captain Danial Vetori. Though the bulk of the team joined the Jamaat, thus transforming the team culture from extrovert and flamboyant to fatalistic and (subsequently) somewhat uncompetitive, a divide soon developed when a handful of players refused to follow Inzimam`s Raiwind regime. These were Shoaib Akhtar, Muhammad Asif, Abdul Razzaq and Yunus Khan.
After the catastrophic showing at the 2007 World Cup in the Caribbean, Inzimam retired and there was a power struggle between the players to lay hands on captaincy. Though Younas Khan had served as the vice captain and was the favorite to take over the team yet Shoaib Malik, another member of the Tableeghi Jamaat, was Inzimam’s successor as skipper. After all, the PCB itself has been infiltrated by Tableeghi mission.
The young Shoaib Malik was a product of the Zia era and was no different than his predecessor. After Pakistan lost the final of the first edition of the T20 World Cup held in South Africa against arch-rivals India, Shoaib Malik apologized to Muslims all over the world for losing against India and showed the same self-established false importance of leading the Muslim across the world that has crept into the minds of his fellow Pakistanis. Maybe he forgot that a fellow Muslim from India Irfan Pathan was man-of-the-match and that Bollywood’s biggest superstar Shahrukh Khan, a Muslim, was in the stadium cheering for India.
Some observers considered it to be a somewhat racist comment, since there are Christians and Hindu Pakistanis as well who were supporting the team, and, of course, most Indian Muslims were rather happy that Pakistan lost!
Dawat-e-Islami in Pakistan Cricket

Tableeghi Jamaat is not the only puritan outfit to penetrate the national cricketing squad. Upcoming stars like Umer Akmal, Imran Farhat, Saeed Ajmal and Muhammad Amir have been won over by Dawat-e-Islami (Here is a Youtube link showing Umer Akmal and Saeed Ajmal eulogizing Dawat-e-Islami: http://il.youtube.com/watch?v=Q77KGTpc5ko). Most surprising convert is upcoming star Muhammad Amir who has been accused of spot-fixing recently along Salman Butt and Muhammad Asif. Amir’s sermon at Dawat-e-Islami centre is indeed heart-rendering in view of spot-fixing charges: http://il.youtube.com/watch?v=KhaUX_KwRv0.
Shoaib Akhtar – a loner in the Tableeghi team

Shoaib was said to be disgusted with the nature of Inzimam’s manipulative, religion-driven ways of gaining loyalty from his players, and it is only natural that a personality like Shoaib was bound to feel isolated and persecuted in the morally self-righteous and judgmental make-up and psyche of the Inzimam-led Pakistani cricket team.
Below is an excerpt from Shoaib Akhuar’s autobiography Controversially Yours:
Shoaib Akhtar’s comment above is inline with other reports that emerged in the media regarding Inzimam’s forced religiosity in the team. I would like to ask the supporters of Cricket religiosity how is this enforced religion doing any good to the game and any justice to religion? Shoaib Akhater goes on to add a lot more detail on this phenomenon in the book.
What has Tableeghi Jamaat (or religiosity) has done for Pakistan Cricket?

If you have read so far, you know a lot to answer this question but for those still not convinced, let’s carry on.
Following the team’s disastrous show at the 2007 World Cup, the team’s media manager PJ Mir, accused the team’s captain Inzimamul Haq of being more interested in preaching than in playing cricket.
Similarly, following the tour of Australia where the team surrendered pathetically, the media attention was less on players, their performance, lack of experience and talent BUT more on the enforced religiosity within the team and its influence on Pakistan Cricket. Question was posed about the psychology that triggers long periods of haplessness and sheer lethargy in a team culture such as Pakistan’s. Gone were the days of flowing flamboyance the Pakistan cricket team became famous for, and the somewhat audacious displays of snatching victory from the figurative jaws of defeat cultivated by captains such as Mushtaq Muhammad, Javed Miandad, Wasim Akram and especially, Imran Khan.
So how did the unpredictability tag that the Pakistani cricket team holds mutate from being something exciting and gregarious into exhibitions of pitiable surrenders and sudden, disastrous falls into the pits of mediocrity? Teams under Imran, Miandad and Akram were eccentric and flamboyant; and the reason why these teams were different than what we’ve had in the last ten years or so was their (albeit erratic but electrifying) mindset.
At least one of the things that also helped these captains cultivate a more dynamic demeanour was a positive unfamiliarity with the concept of enforced religiosity, the sort that started to trickle into the psyche of the team at the start of the new millennium. The ethos and culture of the team that developed from this psyche has often been criticised by various ex-cricketers and team managements for neutralising the team`s fighting instincts.
Inzimam’s Raiwind regime may have turned the Pakistan cricket team into a (seemingly) well-knit unit, but its many critics accused the captain of operating at the expense of ostracising talent that refused to bend to the religious dictates of his regime. Many also believe that Inzi’s religious zeal actually softened the team’s innovative and competitive nature, a nature that was rigorously nourished and encouraged by the likes of former captains like Imran Khan, Javed Miandad and Wasim Akram.
A leading paper, The News, complains:
One major factor that will have to come under scrutiny is the atmosphere in the dressing room. To be more precise, whether the overt and not-so-overt display of religiosity has been a distraction of sorts and taken away from the real job: that of playing cricket and focusing on the game.
Amir Mir further writes that batsmen have known to cramp because they fast and play during the holy month of Ramadan – The TJ has invaded the dressing room of the Pakistani cricket team—they can be seen praying with players and reciting the Holy Quran for the team’s success (never mind that it has been performing poorly). As TJ membership makes it incumbent upon a person to preach, most of the Tableeghi cricketers, especially Inzimam, often conduct preaching tours across Pakistan. Inzimam’s penchant to mix religion with cricket has already sparked accusations that he favours Tabeeghi players over those who are either secular or prefer to confine religion to their private lives. The non-Tableeghi group is reportedly led by Vice-Captain Younas Khan and includes Shoaib Akhtar, Mohammad Asif, Danish Kaneria, Imran Nazir, Abdul Razzaq, etc. This divide often shadows differences between players.
Let’s also reflect on the opinion of some of ex-Pakistani Cricketers on this issue:
Former Pakistani captain, Asif Iqbal, has mystery given a more perceptive reason for the downfall of the team: over emphasis on religion. Today, the Pakistani team looks like a band of religious zealots. There is nothing wrong with flaunting one’s religious identity, but not if it overwhelms every other aspect of a person. In the process, somewhere, the Pakistani team, which has no dearth of talented players, has lost its way.
What can religiosity do for Pakistan Cricket? – Tableeghi Jamaat’s religiopolitical and terror links

It is widely believed that Tableeghi Jamaat is purely a religious organisation which is completely apolitical and hence considered ‘safe’ even in times when Islamophobia prevails. This exception ticket gets them entry pretty much everywhere without any suspicion. This is exactly what helped them make inroads in Pakistan Cricket without any criticism whatsoever. But are they really safe? Is TJ really apolitical? Do they not have any terror links? Well, lets see…
Two of the London 7/7 bombers attended the Tablighi European headquarters mosque in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire.
At least four of those charged with the alleged airline ‘terror plot’ worshipped at another Tablighi mosque.
In September, Muslims in Gillingham, Kent, warned of a Tablighi Jamaat “fundamentalist” takeover there.
Iyman Faris, the Ohio truck driver involved in a terrorist plot to destroy the Brooklyn Bridge, came to Pakistan in late 2001 to attend a Tablighi gathering.
Americans say many Al Qaeda members have claimed connection to Tablighi Jamaat, including the ‘American Taliban’ John Walker Lindh, captured in Afghanistan. The TJ was cited on the cases of John Walker Lindh, and other captives the USA holds in its Guantanamo Bay detention camps.
A December 2001 article by the Boston Herald cited Indian security concerns branches of the Jamaat were related to al-Qaeda. “We have a significant presence of Tablighi Jamaat in the United States,” the deputy chief of the FBI’s international terrorism section said in 2003, “and we have found that al-Qaeda used them for recruiting now and in the past.”
More importantly, it should be noted that the terrorists involved in attacking Ahmadi mosque in Lahore in 2012 which killed nearly 80 people were holed up in the central mosque in Raiwind and the whole planning of the attack was undertaken there. When the law enforcement agencies wanted access to this mosque to apprehend the accused and their accomplices, they were stopped by the Chief Minister of the Punjab, Shehbaz Sharif.
The jailed shoe bomber Richard Reid is also known to have attended Tablighi meetings.
And, if you would believe Rehman Mailk, TJ is breeding ground for extremists which operate in Pakistan. There was atleast one news report which mentioned a terrorist captured from the TJ headquarter in Raiwind but the news was not well reported.
The general impression about the Tablighi Jamaat is that it does its work throughout the world with the help of voluntary preachers and does not hold any political affiliations. Certainly, the key people in the Tablighi Jamaat have never given the impression that they have political associations. It is however, difficult to claim that the Tablighi Jamaat has never supported a political party in the past.
Let’s reflect on Tableeghi Jamaat’s political connections…
A number of Tablighi office holders have been active in the ranks of the Muslim League (Nawaz). The biggest example is the former president of Pakistan, Rafiq Ahmed Tarar, whose religious and political affiliations are no secret; who used his Tablighi influence to the hilt to gain political advantage and who ended up occupying the highest office of the government.
The head of the ISI, general Javaid Nasser had a similar background. He became the chief of the ISI because of his closeness to Nawaz Sharif. Later on, he was made the chairman of the Evacuee Property Board, because of the support of the Nawaz Sharif government. He faced charges of corruption as well as supporting the Sikhs associated with the Khalistan movement. When the Sharif governemnt was deposed, general Javaid Nasser returned to the Raiwind Mosque.
Tablighi Jamaat members have tried to intervene in the political process before. One notable example is the failed coup attempt in 1995 by army officers who wanted to install the caliphate system in Pakistan. Several of the plotters were members of the Jamaat.
Notably, Tariq Jameel, the most famous and influential leader of TJ made headlines when he met political parties, notably, when he visited the Nine Zero, the headquarter of the MQM in August 2010.
Where is Pakistan Cricket headed?

The point is that religion is not a bad thing, as long as it is personal and motivating a human being to become better. Most players have deep individual faiths or lucky charms, which they turn to for mental support. But a line needs to be drawn between faith practiced in private domain and in public space. Its just that religion does not mix well with Sport or any secular activity for that matter. Assuming that it has not become debatable yet that Sport is a secular activity, I rest my case here.
How would it be if the Pakistan team gets more and more into dogma? During Football World Cup, UAE had declared Vuvuzela as ‘haram’ because it was too loud. Tomorrow, Pakistan may not want its women to play Cricket or ask women and men to sit in segregated compartments in the auditorium or not want women to watch men playing at all! Would it be okay for the team to play with alleged infidels in the first place? Will Pakistan be ready to play Indian infidels?
One may contend that what I am suggesting is a little too far fetched, but I would like to counter ask whether anyone had expected the Pakistan team to assume even the slightest religious hue in 1975? Yet, it has happened. One can never discount for what may happen in 2035.
Pakistani Cricket and its fans are suffering from the Lahore Attack, the Bob Woolmer episode could have been a similar one. With so much evidence at hand that this exhibitionist religiosity and Tableeghi Jamaat influence has harmed Pakistan Cricket in too any ways to mention, I think the fans should draw a line here and let Cricket be a Sport.
Knowing what Tableeghi Jamaat is and also considering that it is being monitored by security agencies across the world for its links to extremism and terror, Pakistan Cricket could face a fatal blow. Imagine a situation where Tableeghi Jamaat associated Islamists go violent somewhere, and it is put in the long list of banned extremist organisations. With such publicised and strong links with the Jamaat, who will give Pakistani Cricketers visa, who will host them?

(Courtesy: aleXpressed)

The last vestiges of male resistance

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 18 September 2012 | Posted in , , , ,

By Tariq Al-Maeena

The 2012 Olympics were different for one particular reason. It was the first time in history that female athletes participated from all attending countries. That included female participants representing the Kingdom in the form of the 19-year-old sprinter Sarah Attar and 16-year-old judo specialist Wojdan Shahrkhani. They broke the barrier of resistance, albeit with a little help from the international community. And in doing so, they did not bring shame to their country or their religion.

A few weeks on and many mothers worry today about getting their children safely to school. Other women, empowered by the Kingdom’s push toward female employment are hindered by mobility as they have to depend on a male to chauffeur them around. Often that male is lacking, either in attendance or punctuality, but it is the female who has to bear the brunt of his tardiness.
I wonder why we are allowing this to happen in this day and age. Why are we putting our women and children in a position of mortal danger at the hands of some very inexperienced drivers? Why are we an oddity among nations, with the dubious distinction of being the only country in the world that denies women the right to drive?

Is it our religion that forbids such a right? Obviously not, or else we would be damning devout Muslim women who enjoy such rights across the globe into a life of sin. Then what is it? Is it our culture, our social norms? Again, this does not seem to be a credible argument, as womenfolk in some towns and villages drive back and forth in pick-ups to farms and fields to help in the harvest or herding of livestock.

So just exactly what is the argument against women driving? I know of many in Jeddah, men and women alike, who would welcome such a move. And from correspondence with people from several provinces, it seems they share similar feelings.

The arguments for allowing women to drive today are increasing multi-fold. As more and more women enter the work force, they are inhibited from getting there in the first place. Adding to that, economically it is a hit on one’s budget to hire a family driver and provide accommodation, especially if one is just starting to earn a living. Add to that the inexperience of some drivers that has indeed led to many tragic accidents.

Children shuttled back and forth to school are often at risk as well and sometimes subjected to unrecorded abuse. No one can share a greater concern for the safety of a child than the parents themselves, and it is not often convenient for the man of the household to be shuttling his children between several schools and getting to work on time. Not everybody can afford the privilege of a family driver.

There is public resistance from some quarters toward granting this right to women. But should we be held hostage by the unrelenting views of such groups whose edicts in the past have all been directed at the subjugation and control of women? Many clerics have rightfully claimed in recent times that it is not an un-Islamic act for a female to drive a vehicle.

Obviously the government would have to come up with some creative ideas. How do you introduce women driving without causing some major problems? Certainly women drivers initially will be the target of unwanted and distractive attention if seen behind the wheel and in a society not accustomed to such a sight. What happens if they are involved in a collision?
In areas of the society which frown on such independence, women may feel threatened. The answer would be ZERO tolerance toward anyone bothering these women. Just as malls today have allowed entry to single males on the condition they behave themselves or face strict penalties, so should males caught in the harassment of women have their heads shorn and their photos displayed in newspapers. CCTV monitors placed strategically in the city can also help safeguard female drivers.

The government does not have to move radically. They can begin by licensing driving schools for women; hiring women in the traffic police force as other ministries are currently doing. Start the move by allowing women who have a driving license and accompanied by their male guardians to drive. Restrict the minimum age limitation for women drivers to a certain age, perhaps 30 years. Limit the driving hours for women between sunrise and sunset initially within city limits. Just like anything else, eventually the novelty of seeing an abaya-clad woman whizzing by in her own wheels would indeed wear off.

This is the 21st century, and what better time to help women to make a positive impact in our society and get to their pursuits on time and in one piece.

[The author can be reached at talmaeena@aol.com.]

(Courtesy: Saudi Gazette)

Bhopal Special Olympics: Disabled & Deformed Bhopal Gas Victims’ Kids Shame Dow Co. & Britons

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 08 August 2012 | Posted in , , , , ,

By Pervez Bari

Spurred by the NGOs working for their welfare, the survivors and the victims of the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy, the world’s worst industrial catastrophe, paraded their spirit of “Never say die” in admirable measure to participate in “Bhopal Special Olympics” on July 26, 2012, a day ahead of the opening of London Olympics 2012, to shame its sponsor the Dow Chemical Company. The Dow Chemical Company is the current owner of the killer Union Carbide factory that brought all round misery on people of Bhopal passing down from generation to generation.
Nearly maimed by the poisonous gas that spewed out of the Union Carbide pesticide plant, the survivors and their physically and mentally disabled progenies by their participation in the “Bhopal Special Olympics” exhibited their untold misery lingering for nearly last three decades in front of the world media, which had converged in to cover the games. In the process the survivors also shamed the Britons, who have ruled better part of the world in days of yore for centuries, by highlighting the atrocities committed by their rulers on the people of the Indian Sub-continent during their reign.

It may be recalled here that on the intervening night of December 2-3, 1984 Union Carbide pesticide manufacturing factory had spewed nearly 40 tonnes of poisonous Methyl Iso-cyanate gas whereby 3000 people had perished virtually instantly and over the years about 25000 have kissed death and the sad saga is still continuing uninterruptedly. About half a million are suffering from the side effects of the poisonous gas and several thousand people have been maimed for life. About 100,000 people who were exposed to the gas now suffer from ailments that range from cancer, blindness and birth defects.

Poignant Scenes Witnessed

On July 26 poignant scenes were witnessed as physically disabled and mentally retarded children, the progenies of the survivors of the gas tragedy, participated in the “Bhopal Special Olympics” in Bhopal to oppose the sponsorship of the Olympic Games by Dow Chemical Company. Hundreds of the survivors of the deadly gas leak assembled in Arif Nagar stadium overlooking the now defunct Union Carbide pesticide plant with their children and grand-children suffering birth defects to vent their ire and to shame Olympic sponsor Dow Chemical on the eve of the London Games. Having failed to get Dow's Olympic sponsorship quashed, Bhopal activists carried through with their threat to hold their own "Special Olympics" to showcase the devastation caused by the gas leak.

The disabled children, the second and third generation, the worst affected in the disaster, whose future is as bleak as ever for not fault of theirs, participated in the “Special Olympics” unaware of what fate awaits them. They were also unaware of the fact that they are victims of the world's worst industrial disaster that claimed thousands of lives and that the games are being organised to protest against the Dow Chemicals.

It was like a D-day in the lives of these chuckling children in dozens in wheelchairs or limping on twisted limbs, cheered on by their parents and activists, who raced for “glory” in their own "Special Olympics". The enthusiastic participants put their best foot and even hands forward to give their 100 per cent in the games. The intermittent rains which marred the “Special Olympics” could not dampen the enthusiasm of the participants and the organisers as well.
About 80 teenagers and kids as young as 5 who have birth defects blamed on their parents' exposure to the gas — struggled across distances they normally would not attempt in spirited competition. They took part in 10 sports events. Some of the events were football, soft-ball throw, an "assisted walking" 25-meter sprint, wheelchair races, and a "crab walk" in which participants unable to stand on two feet race on their hands.

At the outset the “Bhopal Special Olympics” kicked off with a song versifying the theme “From the East India Company to Dow Chemical Company”, accompanying a “Jhadoos” (Broomstick) march by the participants – some on their feet and some on wheelchairs assisted by their parents. The “Jhadoos” symbolize their demand that Dow clean up the plant,

The three-hour long event began with an opening ceremony marked by march past by children with cerebral palsy, partial paralysis and mental retardation parading in wheelchairs and walking with the assistance of others around the stadium. The decision by London 2012 organisers to stick by Dow Chemical has caused anger in Bhopal and led to complaints from the Congress-led Indian government, which asked for the company to be dropped as a sponsor.

A dance drama was presented after the march past. Organised by Argya Kala Samiti, the ballet under the direction of Vaishali Gupta enacted the arrival of British and their East India Company, India becoming part of the British kingdom, the onset of the Independence movement, the Industrialisation taking roots, and ultimately the Union Carbide pesticide factory getting established in Bhopal. The angst against the Dow Chemical Company could well be adjudged amongst the audience as people present in the stadium were seen clapping and enjoying whenever the Britons were seen being over-powered by Indians during the show. 

Baby Zehra Cynosure of All Eyes

Zehra Javed, a completely disabled little baby girl, was cynosure of all eyes who won the first position in 25-meter crab walk event. Master Ali Iqbal came second in the same event while Master Umar Farooq won the third position. The event stole the show as it was planned for those who cannot walk. They ran through the distance all on their four limbs. All the participants completed the event, though some took their own time.

Similarly, Master Hitesh, grabbed the first position in 25-meter Wheel Chair race. Master Sachin Jatav came second while Master Abdul Mannan grabbed the third position. While in the Walking with Walker Race Ashish, Shifan and Arman were placed first, second and third respectively. In the Assisted Walk event Karthik Sen emerged first followed by Abdul Mannan and Harsh Rajak in the second and third positions respectively.

Mrs. Jameela Bi brought her wheelchair-bound 11-year-old grandson, Amaan, who has cerebral palsy, to show what the disaster did to her family. "Today these children are participating, in spite of what Union Carbide did to them," Mrs. Jameela Bi said. "We are happy that they will walk. Those people will see that in spite of what they did these children are still participating."

Mrs. Nusrat Jahan, Zehra Javed’s mother airing her views on the occasion said: "We organised the Special Olympics at Arif Nagar as a mark of protest against Dow Chemical which has shrugged off its responsibility in connection with the Bhopal gas victims. The London Olympic sponsorship is a tactic of Dow Chemical to divert the attention of the world from its heinous act".

Baby Zehra's father Mohammad Javed is a victim of gas tragedy. "He was severely affected after the MIC exposure. Consequently, his eyes and kidney were badly affected," Javed's wife Nusrat said as tears rolled down her eyes.

Baby Zehra is a second generation gas victim with congenital physical problems. "After her birth, we came to know that she could not speak and her one leg was not developed. Later, we got to know that it was just because of the ill-effects of the gas that she got from her father," Nusrat moaned recounting her woes.

Olympics - Philosophy of life

Earlier, former hockey Olympian Syed Jallaluddin Rizvi, who represented India in 1984 Olympiad in Los Angles, inaugurated the Bhopal’s mock-Olympics. Jallaluddin, in his speech, said: "It is not just a game. It is the philosophy of life. It is bitter truth that most parts of the world forgot about Bhopal after gas disaster of 1984. Union Carbide abandoned the factory and went off to the USA but hazardous waste that company had recklessly dumped, is poisoning the ground water and soil.

Jallaluddin said that the most painful fact is that even after 3rd December 1984, the factory has not stopped causing damage. Even today, 28 years after the disaster, lethal poisons from the factory are leaching into the soil and the water. Because of the parents’ exposure to poisonous gases, children are born with disabilities, and hundreds of children are also being born disabled because of the contamination of ground water due to thousands of tonnes of hazardous waste buried in and around the factory. Recent scientific studies have shown that, there are cancer and birth defect causing chemicals in the ground water, up to 3 kms from the factory. Till recently, up to 40,000 residents from the neighbourhood of the factory were drinking water laced with chemicals that damage the kidneys, lungs, liver, brain and other organs.

“I am an Olympian and as an Olympian I am ashamed that the organisers of the Olympic Games have made Dow Chemicals a sponsor till 2020. Instead of spending dollars on protecting the children of Bhopal from poisons, Dow Chemicals has given a 100 million dollars for the Olympics. This is a betrayal of the fundamental principles that I mentioned before of the Olympic Games. I and 25 of my fellow Olympians wrote to the organisers of the Olympic Games and requested them not to make Dow Chemicals a Sponsor, and provide it with an opportunity to green-wash its crimes. But the organisers which include British Olympians such as Sebastian Coe did not respond to our letter, let alone drop Dow as a sponsor”, the ex-Olympian lamented.

“As an Olympian, and particularly as a Bhopali Olympian, today I am proud that these children are keeping the spirit of the Olympics alive. I salute the spirit of these children, their courage and their sheer enjoyment in making the effort”, Jallaluddin said.

Amitabh Bachchan Flayed

While NGOs condemned Bollywood megastar Amitabh Bachchan for carrying the Olympic torch at Southwark, a day before the opening ceremony of the sporting spectacle. UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon and NRI businessman Laxmi Mittal were among others who were part of the relay team. Bachchan even tweeted: "A proud moment for me and the country".

Meanwhile, the representatives of five organizations viz. Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmachari Sangh, Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha, Bhopal Gas Peedit Nirashrit Pension Bhogi Sangharsh Morcha, Bhopal Group for Information & Action and Children Against Dow Carbide jointly organised the “Bhopal Special Olympics”. 

According to organizers' spokeswoman Ms Rachna Dhingra of Bhopal Group for Information & Action, the protests against Dow's sponsorship of London Olympics, which has a sponsorship agreement with the IOC until 2020, have been going on for a year now. “We want them to be dropped but we have realized this is not going to happen", Ms Dhingra said.
Dow, which bought Union Carbide in 2001, has repeatedly denied any responsibility for Bhopal and has refused demands, including from the Indian government, to increase a $470-million compensation package that Union Carbide paid to victims in 1989.

A Sad Commentary

It is a sad commentary that despite the hype given to “Bhopal Special Olympics”, not a single political leader, not even the local MLA, or any prominent social worker turned up during the event or to sponsor refreshments to the participants in the event.

"It's because, this is not the election time. The sympathy of leaders for the gas victims peaks during the election time, but dies down soon after that. No one bothers about the plight of victims once the elections are over," said Balkrishna Namdeo of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Nirashrit Pension Bhogi Sangharsh Morcha, one of the five organisations fighting for the gas victims.

"But our protest would continue as Dow still remains the sponsor of the Olympics. The demands of gas victims were once again overlooked probably because even our government was not keen on taking up the issue," said Ms Dhingra.

Referring to the participants like Zehra, Ms Dhingra said: "This is what we wanted to convey to the London Olympics organisers that despite facing odds in the life, even small kids affected from gas would keep protesting the decision of taking sponsorships from Dow chemicals."

"But our protest would continue as Dow still remains the sponsor of the Olympics. The demands of gas victims were once again overlooked probably because even our government was not keen on taking up the issue," said Ms Dhingra of the Bhopal Group for Information and Action."
Dow, which is sponsoring a decorative sheath around London's Olympic Stadium, was trying to use the Games to wash away its responsibility to the people of Bhopal, said Satinath Sarangi, a protest organizer. "Dow Chemical as a sponsor violates the very spirit of the Olympics," he said.

Survivors say Dow should pay $8 billion in compensation to the victims and their families and clean up the soil and groundwater around the plant.

Survivors’ Demands

Meanwhile, the demands of Bhopal Survivors from The Dow Chemical Company include: 1. Provide medical information on the leaked gases withheld by wholly owned subsidiary Union Carbide Corporation; 2. Present wholly owned subsidiary Union Carbide Corporation that is absconding for the last 20 years from the ongoing criminal case in the Bhopal District Court; 3. Pay additional compensation of 8.1 billion US dollars for deaths and injuries caused due to the gas disaster; 4. Clean up buried hazardous waste and contaminated ground water in and around the abandoned factory in Bhopal up to international standards and 5. Pay compensation for health damages, birth defects and deaths caused due to toxic contamination.

Ongoing Cases against Dow Chemical

The ongoing cases against The Dow Chemical Company, USA in India are: (i) In High Court of Madhya Pradesh regarding summons from Bhopal District Court to make Union Carbide appear in the ongoing criminal case; (ii) In High Court of Madhya Pradesh regarding clean up of contamination and payment of compensation for environmental and health damages; (iii) In Supreme Court of India regarding payment of additional compensation of 1.2 billion dollars for deaths and injuries caused by the gas disaster and (iv) In District Court of Patiala case against Dow Agro Sciences India Pvt. Ltd. regarding bribing of Indian officials for expediting registration of Dursban, Nuril and Pride pesticides.

Dow Chemical Denial

Meanwhile in a statement, Dow reportedly expressed sympathy with the victims but accused activists of trying to rewrite history. The company reiterated that it never owned the pesticide plant. It is linked to the tragedy because 16 years later, in 2001, it bought the Union Carbide Corporation, an American company that had a majority stake in the Bhopal plant.

Dow said the legal case was resolved in 1989 when the Union Carbide settled with the Indian government for $470 million, and that all responsibility for the factory now rests with the government of the state of Madhya Pradesh, which now owns the site. "Those trying to attach Dow to the incident are misinformed or misguided," said Scot Wheeler, a Dow spokesman.

“Jhadoos”

Meanwhile, to trace the “Jhadoos” (broomstick’s) associations with the Bhopal campaign, asserting “Women’s power against Dow Chemical” women leaders of organizations of survivors of the Union Carbide disaster in Bhopal had launched the “Jhadoo Maaro Dow Ko” [Beat Dow with brooms] campaign.

“We will take care of all Dow’s designs and all their advisory panels with our jhadoos” said a confident Mrs. Hajra Bi [40] from Jaiprakash Nagar, a community just opposite the Union Carbide factory. She described their current plans to collect used brooms from individual households in the affected communities and deliver them to Dow Chemical’s head quarters in Mumbai.

“We will bury Dow in a mountain of “Jhadoos” so they know that they cannot survive in this country unless they clean up the continuing mess in Bhopal”, said a confident Mrs. Sheila Thakur [50] who is still grieving the death of her severely exposed husband after years of confinement in bed. Mrs. Sheila played a prominent role in the relay fast that was joined by over 1500 hunger strikers from ten different countries. She described their plans to visit different parts of the country to launch a nation-wide ‘Jhadoo Maaro Dow Ko” campaign. “The broom is one of every woman’s personal weapon against injustice. We will turn it in to a political weapon for justice in the worst corporate crime in history” said Mrs. Sheila. 

[Pervez Bari is a senior Journalist based at Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh. He is associated with IndianMuslimObserver.com as Bureau Chief (Madhya Pradesh). He can be contacted at pervezbari@eth.net]

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