When Muslim neighbours helped in a Kashmiri Pandit's last rites

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 12 August 2010 | Posted in

When Muslim neighbours helped in a Kashmiri Pandit's last rites

By Parvez Bhatt

Setting an inspirational example of brotherhood and communal amity in the ongoing the holy month of Ramadan, a group of Muslims on Thursday here helped their Hindu brethrens to perform the last rites of a Kashmiri Hindu.

Somnath Koul, a Kashmiri Pandit, died at about 7:00 a.m.. But in the absence of enough people to properly perform the last rites, the Muslim neighbours filled the vacuum.

"This body is of our neighbour who was a Kashmiri Pandit. He died at around 7 in the morning today (August 12, 2010). There were just a few Pandits in their house, rest of us are all Muslims, so we have assisted in the performing of all his last rites," said Shahid Muneer, a Muslim neighbour of Somnath Koul.

Veerjee Koul, son of the deceased Somnath expressed his gratitude to his Muslim neighbours.

"Muslims have contributed a lot. 90 percent of the people present here are Muslims. As you have seen how many people were present here. So we are very thankful to the Muslims," said Veerjee Koul, son of the deceasd.

It was a rare sight to witness a large number of Muslims making their presence felt during the last rites of a Hindu.

So much so the Muslims facilitated almost all the arrangements for the final rituals.

Somnath was a resident of Chanapora region on the outskirts of Srinagar city.

On the onset of turbulence in the Kashmir valley, there was an exodus of thousands of Kashmiri Pandit families who migrated to other places of the country.

However, the family members of Somnath decided to stay back in the valley.

(Courtesy: ANI, August 12, 2010)

Sami Yusuf & IMC: ‘Healing and You Will Be Healed’

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | | Posted in ,

Sami Yusuf & IMC: ‘Healing and You Will Be Healed’

By Lulwa Shalhoub

British Muslim singer Sami Yusuf released his new single “Healing and You Will be Healed” on Wednesday (August 11, 2010) in cooperation with the International Medical Center (IMC, www.imc.med.sa).

The song was shot in Jeddah at the IMC’s building and other venues in the city by the Red Sea last week.

Four years ago, the song was just an idea that occurred to Dr. Walid Fitaihi, founder and CEO of the IMC. Sami was on a visit to Jeddah when he met Fitaihi and visited the hospital.

“He gave one of his inspirational talks and presentations. I was really moved,” Sami said.

Fitaihi was inspired by Sami’s song about the mother and an older song about Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) called “Al-Muallem” (The Teacher). “I felt there is a need for a song that delivers the concept of healing in a more comprehensive meaning.”

Fitaihi added that most people in the health care industry focus on physical treatment rather than healing in a holistic way.

“Anyone has the power of healing. A kind word or a smile could be healing. This vision was shared with Sami Yusuf and it found an echo in this heart,” he said.

According to him, Sami’s vision is very much aligned with the IMC’s mission “to pioneer a unique approach of healing the body, mind and soul by applying the best global health care standards and pursuing divine ethics.”

IMC is committed to embracing and promoting such values to the community as part of its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) program.

“Dr. Walid Fitaihi is a visionary and I share his vision,” Sami said.

In late 2009 and through 2010, Fitaihi gave another talk explaining IMC’s philosophy regarding corporate social responsibility.

“His concern was not about a brand or a singer; it was about a view he believed in. The whole healing concept and the title of the song moved me,” Sami said.

Lyrics of the song include the line, “a smile can change a life, let’s start believing.”

“I believe this is so true,” Sami said.

“We brainstormed together and came up with the lyrics and melody but then I went home. I sat by the piano and one day the melody came and the lyrics came. I used a lot of Dr. Walid’s lyrics. It was a collective effort. Everyone worked together to make this project special.”

Fitaihi agreed that the song was a true collaboration.

“We worked on the lyrics together. I believe people don’t choose words... words choose them. Once they have a vision, it becomes part of their lives. These words come from our beliefs and values so they speak up what we believe and feel — a reflection of our inner beliefs and values,” Fitaihi added.

Sami worked with the Danish director Jacob Kusk, who is a cinematographer for a number of films and videos, including the documentary “Deliver us From Evil” that was nominated for an Oscar in 2007. Kusk previously directed Sami’s previous video “You Came to Me.”

This song comes out as a single and can be downloaded for free.

“This song and this concept are not for sale. I am very grateful for Dr. Walid to be involved in such a project. It is a timeless charity project that is international and for everyone. I consider it as ‘Sadaqa Jaria (ongoing charity),’” Sami said.

Fitaihi said that he would be working with Sami on future projects. “Sami has a very clear vision and mission that go with those of our own,” he said.

“This was really one of the best things I have ever done. It took a long time to accomplish this project but we finally did it and I am really honored that I took part in this,” Sami said.

The song, produced by the British record company ETM International, is now available online at Sami Yusuf’s official website at www.samiyusufofficial.com/healing, which also launches today.

The video will be shown on mainstream TV channels, including MBC, Melody and Mazzika.

(Courtesy: Arab News)

The issue of breastfeeding

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 11 August 2010 | Posted in

The issue of breastfeeding

By Lisa Kaaki

Islam champions the need for children to be breastfed, yet despite its support, breastfeeding rates in Saudi Arabia are not what they should be. In fact, according to a 2005 UNICEF report, Islamic states have the world’s highest child mortality rates. Sixty percent of Muslim children die from disease and malnutrition before their first birthday. Over 4.3 million Muslim children worldwide under the age of five also die every year and over one-third suffer from permanent malnutrition.

As a result, “Our children are dying in direct relation to the decline in breastfeeding, which could so easily provide food security for at least the first two years of their lives” says Dr. Modia Batterjee, a breastfeeding advocate and author of, “A Fading Art, Understanding Breast-Feeding in The Middle East.”

Faith leaders rally against impending Arizona law

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 07 August 2010 | Posted in

Faith leaders rally against impending Arizona law

By Anthony Advincula

As SB 1070 goes into effect in Arizona on Thursday (July 29, 2010), religious leaders and their faith-based allies across the nation are gearing up for what might become the largest interfaith collaboration against the law.

From Arizona to New York, vigils and prayer rallies will be held in mosques, synagogues and churches throughout the day to protest the bill that will criminalize the presence of undocumented immigrants in Arizona.

In Phoenix, where U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton is expected to issue a decision on whether SB 1070 should be implemented, opponents of the law will gather and recite the rosary at the state capitol as early as 1:00 a.m. on Thursday.

After the prayer, the group will march in a procession to the Trinity Episcopal Church. By 9:00 a.m., they plan to march downtown, including outside Sheriff Joe Arpaio's office.

"Arpaio even plans to deploy his police officers and start to arrest undocumented immigrants at 12:01 a.m. on Thursday morning," said Rev. Phillip Reller, a pastor with the United Church of Christ in Scottsdale, who is one of the organizers of the nationwide protests. "But enough is enough. We're coming together for hope to defeat this unjust and immoral law."

While expressing optimism that an injunction against SB 1070 may be issued, Reller said that many church leaders believe that Judge Bolton will retain some of the bill's provisions.

Ahmad Al'Sqeirat, an imam at the Islamic Community Center in Tempe, about 13 miles from Phoenix, said that a special prayer service will also take place at the mosque on Thursday morning. Many members of the Muslim community in Tempe and its neighboring cities are also afraid of what the bill would mean for their community.

"Our families have already been hurt by the people in the law enforcement who profile Muslims because of their religious beliefs and the color of our skin," he said. "This needs to be stopped, rather than perpetuated by this law."

Although there is no statistical data available, Al'Sqeirat said that an estimated 50,000 Muslims live in Arizona. The majority of them drive every day to work, to the mosque, the shopping center and school. With SB 1070, even legal Muslim American women who wear the hijab, a traditional headdress, will be vulnerable to search and scrutiny by the police.

"Immigrant families here have already been hurting. They have left, and many are still in the process of leaving," he said.

Since SB 1070 was signed by Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, the size of some congregations at church services in different parts of Arizona have decreased by more than 50 percent, according to Noel Anderson, who is in the process of his ordination and works for the Good Shepherd United Church of Christ in Sahuarita, Ariz., a few miles from the Mexican border.

Anderson said that the entire congregation of some of these churches have already left ArizonaNew Mexico, California and Texas. and relocated to different states such as

"This is forced attrition, oppressing minority and immigrant communities," he said. "As people of faith, we have a higher calling that is based on human rights. When the law of the land is inconsistent with human rights, moral law should be above it."

Anderson and his fellow church members will hold an all-night vigil and interfaith services of prayer and music on Thursday.

In Grand Marais, Minn., several interfaith leaders and their supporters will fast for more than eight hours on Thursday. The organizers are expecting hundreds of people to gather in support of other churches around the country that are praying for the repeal of SB 1070.

"We're standing in solidarity with our sisters and brothers who have been keeping a constant vigil in churches and state capitols. We're in profound opposition to SB 1070, as this punitive law unfairly targets immigrants and tears apart families and communities," said Loren McGrail of First Congressional United Church of Christ in Grand Marais.

On July 6, the Obama administration, through the U.S. Department of Justice, filed a preliminary injunction against the state of Arizona and sought to ban the implementation of the law. Gov. Brewer criticized the federal action, calling it "a massive waste of taxpayer funds."

"Even if the law goes into effect on Thursday, hundreds -- or even thousands -- of us will march across the Brooklyn Bridge in solidarity with Arizona. We will say, 'No to SB 1070!' and we have to tell President Obama to stop the massive deportations of immigrants across the country," said Patricia Malcolm, minister and secretary of the Churches United to Save and Heal in Brooklyn.

(Courtesy: New America Media)

Muslim Americans, ACLU seek data on FBI profiling; FBI denies racial targeting

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | | Posted in

Muslim Americans, ACLU seek data on FBI profiling; FBI denies racial targeting

IMO News Service

Muslim American groups and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) have demanded that the FBI turn over records relating to agency guidelines they say permit the FBI to collect and use racial and ethnic data.

According to a report published by Religion News Service (July 28, 2010), the groups alleged that the Domestic Intelligence and Operations Guide, an FBI policy manual published in 2008, gives FBI agents the authority to map and investigate communities based on ethnic behaviors and lifestyles, cultural traditions, and "ethnic-oriented" businesses, even when there is no evidence of criminal activity.

The guidelines however don't mention Muslims specifically, but opponents say they are used almost exclusively against Islamic followers. Critics have decried FBI move saying such policies are not only unconstitutional, but ineffective, and often counter-productive.

"It drives a wedge between the police and the communities they are sworn to serve," said Michael German, an ACLU lawyer and former FBI agent. "The FBI should be focusing its efforts on people it has a factual basis for suspecting of wrongdoing, not targeting communities with race-based investigations."

Rather than profiling, the FBI would be better off establishing cooperative and open relationships with Muslims, since they are in the best position to detect radicals, critics say.

Farhana Khera, executive director of Muslim Advocates, a San Francisco-based civil liberties group, agreed.

Meanwhile, the FBI is denying allegations of targeting innocent Muslims through a counter-terrorism program.

According to reports, Muslim groups and the ACLU have accused the FBI of sending undercover agents into mosques without proper cause, and that, racial and ethnic profiling is being used.

FBI Director Robert Mueller denied those claims and told Congress that the domestic surveillance guidelines are being enforced fairly.

The guidelines "do not target based on race," he said.

The FBI has said they would only investigate a mosque if there was suspicion of criminal activity. But Farhana Khera, with the group Muslim Advocates, argues the FBI has lowered its standards.

The guidelines, which were set in place by the Bush administration, also allow agents to monitor financial transactions and employment history to track what the FBI calls genuine national security threats.

The ACLU has asked the FBI in 29 states to turn over their records on the collection of data on race and ethnicity.

Turkey to host welknown Muslim musicians in "Jazz in Ramadan"

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | | Posted in

Turkey to host well-known Muslim musicians in "Jazz in Ramadan"

Istanbul, the main cultural hub of Turkey, will host worlwide known Muslim Jazz musicians, in Ramadan within a festival named “Jazz in Ramadan”.

It will be the first such kind of event in Turkey, gathering jazz music and Muslims in Ramadan.

"Jazz in Ramadan" will take place in Istanbul between 14-31 August in two beautiful historic Sultanahmet venues will be the settings for eight concerts: the courtyard of the ArcheologicalMuseum and the glamorous gardens of Topkapi Palace.

The festival, organized by Hakan Erdogan Production, aims to propose the idea that social peace comes first and foremost from the sharing artistic inspiration; so will feature world-renown jazz musicians from the Muslim world such as Ahmad Jamal, Anouar Brahem, Abdullah Ibrahim and Dhafer Youssef.

On the other hand, the popular jazz musicians from Turkey such as Ilhan Ersahin and Aydin Esen will also participate in the event.

Aydin Esen will perform his special program on Ramadan, named as “Aydin Esen Plays for Ramadan”.

Besides jazz singers, the classical Turkish music group that is name after one of the biggest musician of Otoman-era, Dede Efendi, also will participate the “Jazz in Ramadan”.

Dede Efendi Ensemble, lead by Munip Utandı, will take place in Archeology Museum.

The last concer of the event is “Islam Blues” which will be performed by reed flute (Ney) player Kudsi Erguner.

The catering will be available in Iftar times in the concerts.

Festival program:

14 August: Anouar Brahem Quartet / Archaeological Museum
17 August: Ahmad Jamal Quartet / Topkapi Palace
18 August: Dhafer Youssef Quartet / Archaelogical Museum
20 August: Dede Efendi Ensemble--Munip Utandi / Archaeological Museum
21 August: Ilhan Ersahin & Istanbul Sessions / Archaeological Museum
24 August: Abdullah Ibrahim Trio / Topkapi Palace
26 August: Aydin Esen Group / Archaeological Museum (Aydin Esen Plays For Ramadan)
31 August: Kudsi Erguner Ensemble--Islam Blues / Topkapi Palace

(Courtesy: World Bulletin)

Bangladesh's Islamist parties face ban after court rules against religion-based politics

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | | Posted in

Bangladesh's Islamist parties face ban after court rules against religion-based politics

By Farid Hossain

Islamist parties in Bangladesh face a ban from politics after the Supreme Court ruled religion-based organizations cannot participate in political life, the law minister said Thursday (July 29, 2010).

Bangladesh banned religion-based politics after it gained independence from Pakistan in 1971, but an amendment to the country's constitution in 1979 allowed Islamic parties to operate again.

Since then Bangladesh has seen the emergence of more than two dozen Islamist parties, some demanding the establishment of Islamic Shariah law in the predominantly Muslim country governed by liberal secular laws.

In a ruling released Wednesday, the Supreme Court struck down the 1979 amendment saying it contradicted secularism, one of Bangladesh's four founding pillars.

"The ruling has paved the way for banning the political parties, which use religion as their main ideal and propagate it," Law Minister Shafique Ahmed said Thursday. "The issue will now be discussed in the Parliament."

Nearly 88 per cent of Bangladesh's 150 million people are Muslims.

One Islamic party expressed anger over a possible ban.

"We shall not allow any move to ban Islam-based politics in our Muslim nation," said Fazlul Haq Amini, head of Islamic Oikya Jote, an alliance of some smaller Islamic parties. "We can't separate Islam from politics."

The largest Islamist party is Jamaat-e-Islami. Like other Islamic groups, Jamaat seeks to establish Shariah in Bangladesh, but shuns militancy.

Jamaat is an ally of Bangladesh's main opposition group, Bangladesh Nationalist Party, led by former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia.

(Courtesy: AP, July 29, 2010)

German Muslim group permits professional footballers to break Ramadan fast

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | | Posted in

German Muslim group permits professional footballers to break Ramadan fast

By Clark Whitney

Germany's Central Council of Muslims and German football authorities have announced that professional Muslim footballers are permitted to break their fast during the holy month of Ramadan.

"The Muslim professional can make good the fasting days in times when there are no matches, and so continue to pay God and the holy month of Ramadan honour and respect," said Aiman Mazyek, general secretary of the Central Council of Muslims.

"Keeping the body healthy plays a leading role in Islam."

The discussions followed a dispute between 2. Bundesliga club FSV Frankfurt, who formally warned three of their players for fasting last fall.

According to Islamic customs, Muslims are supposed to fast from dawn to dusk during the month of Ramadan. In contracts with the players who were warned, FSV Frankfurt included a clause to prevent fasting without the club's express permission.

"We very much welcome the fact that an arrangement has now been found that allows players to carry out professionally their work in high-performance sport and in doing so live their faith to the full," said FSV Frankfurt sporting director Bernd Riesig.

Germany's Central Council of Muslims said it sought advice from Egyptian theological institute Al-Azhar, as well as other sources.

This year's Ramadan month will span from August 11 to September 9, and will overlap with the first two Bundesliga fixtures.

(Courtesy: Goal.com)

India's Israeli-Arab tightrope walk

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | | Posted in

India's Israeli-Arab tightrope walk

By Ramananda Sengupta

"We do have a defence relationship with India, which is no secret. On the other hand, what is a secret is what is the defence relationship. And with all due respect, the secret part of it will remain secret." - Mark Sofer, Israel's ambassador to India, in a recent interview given to OutlookIndia.com.

India and Israel were born within months of each other. While the former became an independent state on August 15, 1947, the latter was born on May 14, 1948, following the decision of the United Nations to partition British Mandate Palestine.

India, which had opposed this partition, remained officially cold to the Jewish state. In May 1949, it voted (in vain) against the admission of Israel into the UN. In early 1950, after recognising the state of Israel, a visibly reluctant New Delhi allowed it to set up an "immigration office" in the port city of Mumbai. This eventually morphed into a "trade office" and then into a consulate.

But New Delhi dithered over according full diplomatic recognition to Israel until early 1992, when the two nations formally opened their respective embassies in Tel Aviv and New Delhi.

Pro-Arab leanings

Indian foreign policy in the early days after its independence was heavily pro-Arab, partly due to the fact that India has a huge Muslim population which empathised with the Arab world and viewed Israel with suspicion and distrust. But that was not the only reason.

Almost a decade before independence, the father of the Indian freedom movement, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, had clearly articulated his position on the issue. In an editorial in the Harijan, a widely circulated Indian weekly, on November 11, 1938, Gandhi declared: "My sympathies are with the Jews ... but my sympathy does not blind me to the requirements of justice. The cry for the national home for the Jews does not make much appeal to me ... Why should they not, like other peoples of the earth, make that country their home where they are born and where they earn their livelihood? Surely it would be a crime against humanity to reduce the proud Arabs so that Palestine can be restored to the Jews partly or wholly as their national home."

India's first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, agreed. Nehru was among the founder members of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), along with Presidents Josip Broz Tito of Yugoslavia and Gamal Abdul Nasser of Egypt. This relationship with Nasser and other Arab members of the movement made it difficult for Nehru to align openly with Israel. Besides, while the NAM was an attempt to stay non-aligned during the Cold War, Israel was seen as too closely aligned with the US.

Another reason for India's coldness towards Israel was that, after independence, a large number of Indian workers migrated to the Gulf. The money that they sent back to India formed a sizeable chunk of India's foreign exchange inflow.

This foreign policy position laid out by Nehru and Gandhi was challenged, however, by opposition parties in India from both ends of the political spectrum; they consistently argued for better relations with Israel.

Establishing relations

Although formal relations between India and Israel were established only in 1992 during the tenure of Indian Prime Minister Narasimha Rao, informal relations in the areas of defence and intelligence had commenced long before that. It is interesting that Rao, who was prime minister from June 1991 to May 1996, also aggressively wooed Iran, a nation which did not recognise Israel's statehood, preferring to describe it, instead, as "the Zionist regime".

India's historically hostile relations with Pakistan are often cited as a key reason for the India-Israel defence and intelligence link. But military aid from Israel (mostly in the form of artillery shells) was received by India even during the 1962 India-China border war, which ended only when the Chinese unilaterally withdrew to their pre-attack positions.

Before Rao officially recognised Israel in 1992, Indian and Israeli intelligence officials often met surreptitiously in third countries, particularly after the India-Pakistan war of 1971.

During that war, which led to the birth of Bangladesh from Pakistan's eastern wing, Israel again helped India with mortars and ammunition. One of the Indian heroes of that war was the then eastern command chief, General JFR Jacob - a Jew.

Then, during the Kargil war of May-July 1999, when India attempted to repel Pakistani intruders who had taken up positions on the higher reaches of the Kargil mountains, Israel quickly sent Heron and Searcher unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs, to locate and identify the Pakistani-held positions. It also supplied ammunition for the Bofors field guns and night vision equipment, both of which played key roles in the conflict.

Endorsing Palestinian cause

Paradoxically, India also, simultaneously, endorsed and espoused the Palestinian cause. On its website, the Indian ministry of external affairs says with regard to its relations with the Palestinian people: "India's empathy with the Palestinian cause and its friendship with the people of Palestine have become an integral part of its time-tested foreign policy. In 1947, IndiaPalestine at the United Nations General Assembly. India was the first non-Arab state to recognise the PLO [Palestine Liberation Organisation] as sole and legitimate representative of the Palestinian people in 1974. India was one of the first countries to recognise the state of Palestine in 1988. In 1996, India opened its Representative Office to the Palestine Authority in Gaza. The office was moved to Ramallah in 2003." voted against the partition of

The founder and chief of the PLO, Yasser Arafat, had made numerous visits to India, where he was always received warmly. In April 1984, Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi visited Arafat's headquarters in Tunis after a state visit to Libya. When Gandhi was assassinated a few months later by her bodyguards in New Delhi, a shocked Arafat wept in public.

One might wonder how New Delhi reconciled these seemingly irreconcilable positions. It did so by getting the Palestinian Authority on board. Zikrur Rahman, the Indian representative to the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah, told the London-based Al-Haqeq newspaper on 12 May 2007: "When we recognised Israel and normalised relations with her, we did that after taking the approval of the Palestinian leadership; we said, after you agree we'll recognise [Israel] .... The Palestinian leadership told us: 'There are signed accords between us [and Israel] and we are now talking to the Israelis; your establishing relations with Israel helps us.'"

India has also been consistently contributing huge sums of money as grants for budget and development aid to the Palestinian Authority. A recent example took place during the visit of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to India in February 2010.

On that occasion, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced a grant of $10mn as budget support to the Palestinian National Authority. This followed several earlier grants of similar amounts, as well as assistance with the development of schools, stadiums, roads and hospitals. India also trains Palestinian diplomats.

An 'unwritten axis'

Over the years, however, the India-Israel relationship has burgeoned into a situation where IsraelIndia, a position currently held by Russia. Israel also trains Indian special forces, which are then deployed in the troubled region of Kashmir and in India's north-east areas. is poised to become the largest defence supplier to

Apart from strategic and military interactions between the two nations, Israeli sensors and satellites are used extensively to monitor the Kashmir border to detect infiltration by insurgents from Kashmir and Pakistan.

The events of 11 September 2001 and the subsequent "war on terror" served to further strengthen this relationship. So did the 26 November 2009 Pakistani terrorist strike in Mumbai. The three-day ordeal left some 200 people dead and more than 300 wounded. Six of the dead were Jews at the Chabad House, a Jewish centre near Nariman point, which was specifically targetted.

But it is not just defence and security that India and Israel collaborate on, though those sectors form a huge, though mostly secret, chunk of bilateral relations. India is also increasingly using Israel's sophisticated drip irrigation technology to boost agricultural production. Non-military bilateral trade stood at $4.2bn in 2009, up from $200mn in 2001. Information technology, telecommunications, energy, chemicals, agriculture, and even real estate and space exploration are areas where there are significant business exchanges.

India recently put an Israeli satellite into orbit. The two sides already have several joint working groups, committees and other bilateral institutional mechanisms. Key among these are foreign office consultations, counter-terrorism, defence cooperation, trade and economic cooperation, agriculture, science and technology, and a dialogue between national security advisers.

While officially tight-lipped over nuclear cooperation, the two states clearly share deep concerns about the possibility of nuclear proliferation by Pakistan, as well as Iran's nuclear ambitions.

In September 2003, during the visit to India by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon (the first such visit by an Israeli prime minister), his deputy (now late) Yosef Lapid told journalists that an "unwritten, abstract" axis had been created between Israel, India and the US. While there was no "formal triangular agreement ... there is mutual interest of the three countries in making the world a more secure place for all of us. There is American support for development of this unwritten axis," Lapid told reporters in New Delhi. Therefore, "in the abstract sense, we are creating such an axis".

In a talk delivered at the Indian Council for World Affairs the same day, he warned that both nations face threats from terrorism and "fanatic" Muslims, and said the "moment terrorists laid hands on nuclear weapons the face of the world will change".

Noting that Israel had accepted the possible existence of a Palestinian state, Lapid said this could become a reality the moment "Arabs stop terrorising us". At the same time, the strengthening of Indo-Israeli ties should not be a "disturbing factor" for Arab countries, and "the Indian government has a right to establish relations with any country," he added.

Arabs 'losing India'

"What made India change its mind and throw itself in the arms of a country that occupies Arab and Palestinian land, to the point where it has played host to Ariel Sharon?" asked Mustafa El-Feki, the chairman of the foreign affairs committee in the Egyptian parliament, and a former Egyptian ambassador to India, in an article in Al-Ahram Weekly.

"India and Israel have their own separate political agendas. India wishes to have access to US and Israeli technology, particularly in the development of weapons. Israel, for its part, wishes to have the political backing of a powerful nation," he wrote.

El-Feki pointed to several reasons for this cosy relationship between India and Israel.

First, we have made the error of viewing the Indian-Pakistani conflict from an Islamic perspective. We have tried to "Islamise" the ongoing conflict in South Asia, posing as protectors of Islam and custodians of the international community. And we have overlooked the regional role of India, with Arab leaders showing up in New Delhi much less frequently than before.

Second, he wrote, was the rejection of India's application for membership of the OIC. "A country with 120 million Muslim citizens applied for membership and what happened? Islamic countries, in typical naiveté, rejected the Indian application, imagining this would please Pakistan and teach India a lesson," he said.

Third, according to El-Feki, after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, India moved closer to the US for both political and economic reasons. He argued: "I wouldn't be surprised to see India assume the role of a policeman in the Indian Ocean and the outskirts of the Gulf, with US blessing and with the aim of encircling so-called Islamic violence. This would be in harmony with Israel's agenda, and it may pave the way to a scheme of joint control over the Greater Middle East."

Making a strong case for an even-handed Arab approach towards India and Pakistan, the former ambassador to India recalled that during his time in India, the Palestinian ambassador to New Delhi enjoyed the privilege of meeting the Indian prime minister at any time he wished to do so. But as the Islamic phenomenon spread and some Arab policies acquired a religious tint, India grew visibly suspicious of the Arab and Islamic worlds. To make things worse, Arab diplomacy in India was lackadaisical over the past two decades ... We have lost India so far for no good reason, I should say .... It is time we mend this error. It is time to bring Arab countries closer to both India and Pakistan, rather than take one side or keep our distance altogether. I believe the Arabs have only themselves to blame for India's change of heart on the Palestinian question."

'Enlightened self-interest'

Despite the rapidly increasing synergy with Israel, however, India continues to enjoy reasonably cordial relations with the Arab League and the Gulf Cooperation Council. India has been attending the annual Arab League summits as an observer since 2007, and the first Arab-India Cultural Week was held in New Delhi in 2008.

In a statement released on the eve of the 65th anniversary of the Arab League on March 27 this year, the League declared: "There is a need for collective and dedicated efforts for strengthening Indo-Arab ties with further building up of relations between India and the Arab world, including in the fields of Science and Technology, Education, Health, Telecommunication and Energy."

As far as the Gulf Cooperation Council (UAE, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Kuwait and Qatar) is concerned, while New Delhi enjoys reasonably cordial ties with the individual states (which supply almost 70 per cent of its oil and energy needs), attempts to forge a free trade agreement with the Council have been held up due to issues over whether oil should be part of the agreement.

India's current prime minister, Manmohan Singh, has often described the country's growing relationship with the US, as well as the recent endorsement of US/UN sanctions against its long-term ally, Iran, as acts of "enlightened self-interest". Many in his government use the same phrase to describe the relationship with Israel.

India - and Israel - have taken pains to spell out that this relationship is not at the expense of India's relations with the Arab states. Indian diplomats and politicians keep pointing to the fact that India has publicly condemned Operation Cast Lead, Israel's name for the blistering three-week long attack on the Gaza Strip in late 2008-early 2009.

India also joined in the international condemnation of the May 31, 2010 pre-dawn Israeli attack on the Turkish Ship Mavi Marmara, which led the "Gaza Freedom flotilla" carrying humanitarian aid for the people of the blockaded Gaza Strip. Nine people were killed in the attack by Israeli commandos.

"India deplores the tragic loss of life and the reports of killings and injuries to the people on the boats carrying supplies for Gaza. There can be no justification for such indiscriminate use of force, which we condemn. We extend our sympathies to the families of the dead and wounded. It is our firm conviction that lasting peace and security in the region can be achieved only through peaceful dialogue and not through use of force," said a statement from the ministry of external affairs.

But while successive governments in New Delhi have been quietly trying to maintain and develop India's relationship with Israel without overly antagonising the Arab world, there are times when the stress shows. Take, for instance, the article written by recently-removed minister of state for external affairs, Shashi Tharoor, in January 2009. Tharoor was India's candidate for the UN secretary general's post in 2006. He quit after losing to Ban Ki-moon, and joined Indian politics. The syndicated column, distributed worldwide, was run by Israel's Haaretz newspaper with the title: "India's Israel Envy". The article, which coincided with Israel's operation Cast Lead, caused an uproar, both domestically and internationally.

During his election campaign in March 2009, the opposition used the article to imply that Tharoor endorsed the Israeli military operation in Gaza. Earlier, several Arab diplomats in New Delhi also voiced their concern, asking whether Tharoor's article reflected the ruling Congress Party's position on Israel.

Tharoor was subsequently forced to write another article defending himself, and clarifying that he had not endorsed Israel's military campaign in Gaza, and pointing to what he regarded as his long and consistent pro-Palestinian stand during his stint at the United Nations.

India-US relations

Another critical factor in the changing Indo-Israeli relationship is the rapidly developing ties between India and US. Given the strong US-Israel relationship, New Delhi does not want to rock the boat by openly antagonising Israel. Besides, the Indian diaspora in the US, which is growing increasingly active politically, admits to looking at the American Jewish Council (AJC) and America Israel Political Action Committee (AIPAC) as role models. As one analyst put it, IndiaIsrael move closer together each time the India-Pakistan conflict escalates. and

Officially, New Delhi insists that this relationship does not signify a change in its position on Palestine, or its ties with the Arab world. Privately, however, Indian diplomats point to the fact that despite numerous Indian overtures, the Arab world consistently backed Pakistan's position on Kashmir, while Israel endorsed the Indian stand.

In 2003, after Ariel Sharon's visit to India, then Indian foreign minister Yashwant Sinha had tried to allay Arab fears by telling the Pakistani newspaper The News: "The fact that Sharon visited New Delhi in no way makes us complicit to what the Israeli are doing or saying. We have explained our position with regard to Palestinian cause in very clear terms as indeed we have done repeatedly to Israel."

Responding to a question on India's relations with the Arab world, particularly in the context of Israel's decision to expel PLO leader Yasser Arafat, Sinha said: "I don't think Palestinians are in any doubt about Indian policy. The problem arises only with those people inside India and outside India who are more Palestinian than the Palestinian themselves."

Recently, a senior Indian foreign ministry official (who requested anonymity) remarked when quizzed on the status of India-Arab relations: "We are very keen to maintain friendly relations with both the Arab world and Israel. But it would help us a lot if the Muslim world took a more nuanced stand on Pakistan and Kashmir."

[Ramananda Sengupta is the chief editor of the Indian news website www.sify.com. The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera's editorial policy. This article was first published by the Al Jazeera Centre for Studies.]

(Courtesy: Aljazeera.net)

Bangladesh shows how to deal with Mullahism

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | | Posted in

Bangladesh shows how to deal with Mullahism

By Yasser Latif Hamdani

Bravo. Bangladesh has done it. It has successfully reversed the cynical Islamisation of its local General Zia. Not only is one fortified by their action that a Muslim majority nation state is capable of rolling back the Islamist project but as a Pakistani I am glad that at least some part of the former original Pakistan is now firmly allied with the principles that Jinnah laid down in his famous August 11, 1947 speech.

Bengalis have never been any less proud as Muslims than Pakistanis. Say what they may, champions of the so-called ideology of Pakistan cannot deny that had it not been for peasant nationalism in Bengal, the Pakistan movement would have fallen flat on its face. While opportunistic landowners jumped onto the Pakistan bandwagon in what became West Pakistan, it was the common man in the then East Pakistan who waged the struggle for a new nation. It may also be remembered that Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy, the founder of the Awami League, was also one of the founding fathers of Pakistan and that the Awami League was, at one point in its history, the Jinnah Awami Muslim League.

In 1965, when the Quaid-e-Azam’s sister rose to take on a dictator, it was again East Pakistan that rallied to her cause. And how did we pay them back? I do not wish to go into the atrocities of 1971.

One of the many steps taken by this new confident and independent People’s Republic of Bangladesh is the banning of Maulana Maududi’s hate-filled literature. Maulana Maududi is widely disliked in Bangladesh for his role against the Bengalis. There are some who object to this decision on grounds of ‘freedom of speech’. Well sirs, mind telling us where is the freedom of speech for non-Muslim minorities? It is quite like how some years ago many of our proud Pakistani Muslims defended Yousaf Youhanna’s conversion to Islam on the grounds of freedom of religion. And then someone asked, “What if he converts back to Christianity?” Silence.

What is sad, however, is that Maududi’s abuse against Pakistan and its founding father far outweighs his abuse against Bangladesh and yet Pakistan continues to tolerate Maududi’s legacy. Much of his horrendous abuse against the Quaid-e-Azam has been documented in detail. What is more, Maududi and his party openly supported usurper General Zia’s illegal military dictatorship.

The truth is that under the 1973 Constitution, a complete separation of church and the state may not be immediately possible, but if Pakistan can undo General Zia’s legacy, it will become a much better place to live in. For us, it is an urgent undertaking. We have now learnt that the dead body of Prem Chand, who died in the Margalla plane crash, was marked ‘Kafir’. Is there no end to such bigotry? Some might argue that this is because we asked for a Muslim majority state and a partitioned India. Be that as it may, it bears repeating that Jinnah tried very hard to keep Hindus safe and secure in Pakistan and his efforts paid off partially in Karachi. He also spoke of non-Muslim Pakistanis as being equal Pakistanis and having the closest association with the rest of Pakistan. Today, the minorities are marked separately as if they are less human, let alone less Pakistani.

To drive the message of equality and inclusiveness of Pakistani identity home, Jinnah appointed as his law minister Mr Jogindranath Mandal, a Bengali scheduled caste Hindu, and got Jagganath Azad, a Hindu Urdu poet, to write Pakistan’s first national anthem. Mr Azad had to escape for his life soon afterwards when things became unbearable for the Hindus in Lahore and soon after Jinnah’s death Mr Mandal was driven out. A transcript of Mandal’s signed statement is readily available on the internet. It is nothing less than heartbreaking for a Pakistani who wants to see this flag flying high.

Perhaps the founding fathers should have been more militant in their secularism given that they had gotten the state by mobilising a religious identity, like Kemal Ataturk and Ismet Inonu did in Turkey. Their Turkish nationalism grew out of the group identity of Muslims of Anatolia and Thrace and they deployed Islam to mobilise the Turks, Kurds, Macedonians and even the Arabs living in Anatolia during the war of independence in a much more blatant fashion than the founding fathers of Pakistan. Yet, after the emergence of the modern Turkish Republic, Ataturk and Inonu began to redefine Turkish nationalism in completely secular terms. Consequently, even Turkish Jews are Turks before they are Jews.

In stark contrast to Turkey, especially after Jinnah, Pakistani secularism has met with one defeat after another. We are now at a point in our history that the highfalutin articles of the constitution protecting religious freedom in Pakistan have been defeated in the courts of law. Pakistan may have ratified the International Convention on Political and Civil Rights, but in reality the application of this is impossible unless of course Pakistan’s leaders realise the urgency of the matter.

The poison of General Zia’s bigotry has spread like a cancer in Pakistan’s body politic. Had he not emerged on the scene, it is possible that Pakistan would have taken the regular course of a confessional state to a modern, inclusive and democratic state. While Islamisation was always a going concern in Pakistan since the Objectives Resolution, it was General Zia who ensured that it would always be negative and exclusionary, catering to the Maududian ideology. Pakistan must decisively roll back General Zia, taking a cue from Bangladesh, and declare all the changes inflicted on the legal and constitutional system of Pakistan from Zia’s coup to that grand explosion in the sky, null and void. This would give Pakistan a fighting chance to slowly dig itself out of the hole it has dug itself into.

Remember the war against the Taliban is a generational undertaking. It will be fought in our schools, colleges and courts for the next 50 years. Let us prepare for the battle by learning from Bangladesh.

[Yasser Latif Hamdani is a lawyer. He also blogs at http://pakteahouse.wordpress.com/ and can be reached at yasser.hamdani@gmail.com]

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