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'Manthan Award encourages the innovators for development'

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 04 December 2012 | Posted in , , , ,

IMO News Service

New Delhi: "I’m impressed, I need to say. Really rarely we encounter such positive and encouraging initiatives, as we see here today amidst all nonstop negativity," said Union Foreign Minister Salman Khursheed during the Manthan Awards - South Asia and Asia Pacific on 1st December 2012 at India Habitat Centre.

Salman Khursheed speaking at Manthan Awards Gala
Mr. Khurheed also expressed his delight at the level of passion and dedication put by the finalist from rural areas for the development of their respective countries.

Apart from Mr. Khursheed, National Minority Commission Chairman, Wajahat Habibullah, Delhi Minority Commission Chairman Safdar H Khan, Maharastra Minority Commission Chairman Munaf Hakim, and various dignitaries from corporate sector marked their presence in an annual celebration.

In a session on Digital Minority Summit, Wajahat Habibullah emphasised on the obstacles and problem faced by Indian minority community.

Wajahat Habibullah addressing the participants
Manthan Award - South Asia & Asia Pacific Grand Gala is an annual global celebration being held since 2004 to recognize the best practices in ICT4D under 16 categories. It is an initiative of Digital Empowerment Foundation, which recognizes meritorious and innovative efforts to improve content and services for communities in developing countries. The day-long celebration involved activities like film screening of popular innovations, Interactive Summit, Conferences, Exhibitions and above all Manthan Awards for Excellence to 33 winners. However, there were 30 finalist and 11 special mentions for the splendid innovations and initiatives to empower their respective community.

Every year Manthan award has been successful in assembling and recognizing various talents from professional and start-up level working towards digitally empowered society. Similarly, this year too in the 9th edition of the annual Manthan Award also enjoyed representation by 74 finalists from various countries of South Asia and Asia Pacific.

OPINION: Controversy rages as Maharashtra Muslim police personell give priority to beards instead of professionalism

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 03 December 2012 | Posted in , , , , , , , , , ,

By Danish Ahmad Khan

In Maharashtra, a controversy is currently raging as the state Director General of Police (DGP) has asked Muslim police personnel to sport beard with prior permission. "The order of DGP is in strict violation of Union Home Ministry's instructions dated 19.03.1989, which permits a Muslim para-military personnel to grow beard, and is totally against the fundamental right of Muslims guaranteed by the Indian constitution," said All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) president Maulana Badruddin Ajmal.

AIUDF chief Maulana Badruddin Ajmal recently met Union Home Minister and Union Minoritiy Affiars Minister over Muslim police officials beard issue. Maulana Ajmal, Member of Parliament (Lok Sabha), led a delegation from Maharashtra on 27th November 2012 and met the Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde and Union Minority Affairs Minister K. Rahman Khan at New Delhi over the issue of beard for Muslim police officials in Maharashtra.

During his meetings with the two ministers, Maulana Badruddin Ajmal strongly protested the Circular (No. DGP/6/4601/2006, dated 07.02.2006) by Director General of Police (DGP), Maharashtra, in which it said that a Muslim police personnel can keep beard temporarily for some period of time that too with prior permission from senior officer.


Maulana Badruddin Ajmal said, "The circular issued by the state DGP was totally against the instructions of Central Home Ministry dated 19.03.1989, which permits a Muslim para-military personnel to grow beard."

He said that the state DGP's circular was totally against the fundamental right of Muslims guaranteed by the Indian constitution.

In his memorandum addressed to the Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh, UPA Chairperson Ms. Sonia Gandhi, Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, Union Minority Affairs Minister K. Rahman Khan, Chief Minister of Maharashtra Pritviraj Chauhan and Home Minister of Maharashtra R.R. Patil, Maulana Badruddin Ajmal said, "I would like to draw your kind attention to the above mentioned issue that there are many Muslim who are working in Maharashtra Police Service and some of them keep beard as it is essential according to Islamic point of view. But the Muslim police personnel in Maharashtra seeking permission to grow beard are being tortured. "

Maulana Badruddin Ajmal alleged that the Government of Maharashtra is interpreting the Central Government’s rules on the subject arbitrarily against the Muslim community working in police department. Maulana Ajmal has sought intervention on the issue in the larger interest of society.

Islamic Perspective on Beard

Maulana Badruddin Ajmal may be right in questioning the circular and actions of Maharashtra DGP and raising a pertinent issue of fundamental right to freedom of religion as guaranteed by the Indian Constitution.

But terming the "keeping of beard as essential according to the Islamic point of view", and therefore "obligatory" by Muslim police personnel in Maharashtra raises serious questions. Maulana Badruddin Ajmal has rightly raised the issue treating it as discriminatory on religious grounds as this is in violation of the constitutional right to freedom of religion. But, is it okay to mix religious ideologies with professionalism? Isn’t the issue worth pondering?

Insofar as keeping of beard by Maharashtra Muslim personnel or any other Muslim is concerned, it may be right as it is considered a Sunnah (Practice by Prophet Mohammad (SAW)) – a permissible act, and not obligatory. In other words, this simply means that if a Muslim keeps beard it is the most preferred act according to Prophet’s Sunnah, but if a Muslim doesn’t keep beard then it is surely not a grave sin (Haram). It may at best be considered "Makruh" (an undesirable act and a lesser sin).

Even several Islamic scholars are sharply divided over the issue of keeping beard Prominent Islamic scholar Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi says: "We see that there are three views on shaving the beard. First, shaving beard is prohibited. This is the view of Ibn Taimyiah. Second: it is Makruh (reprehensible), that is `Iyad’s view. The Third view is that there is no problem in shaving the beard. This view is held by many contemporary scholars. It seems to me that the closest of these three views is the one that deems shaving beard as Makruh. As the stated reason for growing the beard is to be different from the non-believers, it is similar to the matter of dyeing gray hair in order to be distinct from the Jews and Christians; it is known that some of the Companions of the Prophet did not dye their grey hair, signifying that it was commendable rather than obligatory. Similarly, growing the beard may be regarded as commendable but not obligatory, and, accordingly, shaving it would be classified as Makruh rather than Haram. It is true that none of the Companions was known to have shaved his beard. Perhaps there was no need to shave, and perhaps growing the beard was a custom among them."

Professionalism versus Religiosity

Today, in India mixing religious ideologies with professionalism is becoming the order of the day and taking dangerous portends. In July 2009, Justice Markandey Katju, now retired judge of the Supreme Court of India and presently Chairman of Press Council of India, had to face protests over his remarks when he opined in open court that any Muslim that sported a beard must, by necessary implication, belong to the Taliban. Justice Katju later on immediately apologized.

The case related to one Mohammed Salim who was denied the right to keep his beard in a Christian convent school where he studied. Salim argued that sporting a beard is an intrinsic component of his Islamic faith. However, the convent argued that their status as a minority institution gives them broad powers under Article 30 to apply norms that could potentially conflict with the religious values of any student.

This is not the first case. On earlier occasions, Muslims employed in the Indian Army had to face similar issues of keeping beard and had successfully argued their case in the Indian courts.

But, raising such issues at intervals and mixing religion with professionalism sends wrong message and create hurdles in future progress of Muslims in national life and for their own prosperity. Had beard been a uniform issue for the entire Muslim Ummah or been kept by all Muslims in police, army, administration, or even in schools, colleges and universities, it would have been understandable and the people fighting the discriminatory approach would have received support from all quarters. But, surely this is not the case. It would be best if Muslims focus more on their employment issues, professional excellence, education, scientific and technological advancement, entrepreneurship and social integration. This would be more in their interest and future well-being. It’s about time to completely shirk extremism and adopt moderate thoughts and of peaceful co-existence.

How long will Muslims keep themselves entagled in religious issues, rather than being thorough professionals and achieve excellence in all walks of life? Will Muslims give a serious rethink?

[Danish Ahmad Khan, a Delhi-based Journalist, is Founder-Editor of IndianMuslimObserver.com. He can be reached at contact@indianmuslimobserver.com.]

Ayodhya: 20 Years After -- Two Domes Down

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

A Babri reporter on the cycle of history and how Muslims can break it

By S.N.M. Abdi

The Ram Janmabhoomi dispute winding its way down to the VHP, the demolition, the Liberhan Commission’s 17-year probe and, finally, the Allahabad HC verdict.

1528 Babar builds a masjid in Ayodhya.

1853 Hindus claim mosque built on Ramjanmabhoomi site. First incidents of communal violence reported.

1859 The British fence the site, allow Muslims into the inner court, Hindus in the outer one.

1949 Ninety years later, idols of Ram appear inside the mosque. Both Hindus and Muslims file civil suits. The Government declares the site as disputed, locks the gates.

1984 A movement to build a Ram temple and ‘liberate’ his birthplace at the site grows, led by the VHP and BJP leader L.K. Advani.

1986 When a district judge allows Hindus to worship at the disputed site, the Babri Masjid Action Committee is formed to protest against the move.

1989 The foundation of a temple is laid next to the disputed site.

1990 VHP members damage the masjid. Advani takes off on a rath yatra to gather support for the movement to establish a temple in place of the mosque.

1992 A year after the BJP comes to power in UP, karsevaks destroy the masjid, leading to communal riots. Over 2,000 killed in the violence. The Liberhan Commission is set up to investigate the demolition.

2002 Even while VHP sets a deadline for construction of the temple at the site, a train carrying Hindu activists is attacked in Godhra, 58 die. Bloody riots in Gujarat follow, thousands massacred.

2003 Court absolves Advani on the charge of provoking communal violence, he reiterates his commitment to building a Ram temple at Ayodhya.

2009 Seventeen years after it came into being, the Liberhan Commission submits its report, creates outrage in Parliament with its conclusion that top Hindu politicians incited the destruction in Ayodhya.

2010 The final verdict from Allahabad High Court comes in: the site is to be split—Muslims, Hindus and the Nirmohi akhara sect get a third of the land each. The main portion, where the mosque once stood, goes to the Hindus.

Today, when I look back on what I witnessed in Ayodhya on December 6, 1992, I can’t help also thinking about what happened in Gujarat in 2002 and in Assam this year. A leopard, obviously, can’t change its spots. And you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Such is the nature of the beast. But what is worth pondering over is whether we have learned any lessons or not from those calamitous events in the north, west and east—almost like three acts of a play—exactly at 10-year intervals.

I have vivid memories of that terrifying Sunday 20 years ago. From the roof of Manas Bhawan, Indian and foreign journalists watched one dome after another of the Babri Masjid being pulled down. The press was doing its job; the reporters were taking notes, the photographers clicking pictures. Not far away, the DM, SP and other worthies were comfortably seated on a perch the administration had reserved for itself. They sat there drinking endless cups of tea and coffee, observing the goings-on from their vantage point like VVIPs in the president’s box watching a game of cricket. We still expected New Delhi to step in, though. Some of us visualised commandos dropped down from army helicopters to stop the demolition, chasing nutty karsevaks out of the boundaries of Ayodhya. But the flying machines didn’t materialise and we suddenly stopped fantasising after the central dome came down around 5 pm.

Interestingly, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, which controlled Ayodhya in the run-up to the demolition, had made it mandatory for journalists to fill up forms for a ‘press card’ to cover the kar seva on December 6. The cards were issued by a VHP media centre run by a man called Ram Shankar Agnihotri. He handed me a form. I was filling it up when an abp reporter took me aside and said that the karsevaks wouldn’t spare me if the card pinned to my chest had a Muslim name. “For god’s sake, take a Hindu name, yaar,” he whispered. I told myself that if I was going to assume a Hindu name, it had better be good. Ultimately, I wrote A.K. Ray on the form along with the name of the magazine I worked for in those days, The Illustrated Weekly of India. A.K. Ray is phonetically similar to the Bengali words ‘E ke ray’—or ‘who is he’. The Bengali journalists gathered in Ayodhya complimented me for that touch of irony.

Another Muslim journalist, Sajeda Momin, The Telegraph’s Lucknow correspondent, became Sujata Menon for the same reasons. Sajeda, a British national of Indian origin, didn’t have to wrack her brains, though. Her friends in Ayodhya had already rechristened her for her own good. Coming to me, I had to assume yet another alias for the return journey from Lucknow. Flights were badly disrupted by the post-demolition tremors. Taking no chances, I boarded the Punjab Mail as Frank Anthony to save myself from Hindus and Muslims alike. I reached Calcutta safely but there was a lot of explaining to do when I submitted the tour bills. However, everyone, including the ToI accounts department, was very sympathetic after reading my story (A Brick in the Wall) and I got away.

In 2002, I was working for the South China Morning Post. Foreign editor Peter Kammerer told me to go to Gujarat to cover the post-Godhra violence. I was keen to take the first available flight out but contacts in Ahmedabad categorically warned me against it. Their refrain: if you value your life, stay out of Gujarat. I tried arguing that I would probably be spared because journalists, after all, are like Red Cross workers. Then I was informed that the situation was so bad that Muslim ips officers and HC judges were fleeing their homes! I explained the situation to Peter, who understood. But I will always nurse a grouse against Narendra Modi—because of him I missed a big story. This August, again I covered the religious violence in Assam’s Kokrajhar district for Outlook, where Muslims accounted for 80 per cent of the casualties.

Why do I inevitably think of Gujarat 2002 and Assam 2012 when I recall the demolition of the Babri mosque? Because the Sangh parivar is the common denominator. While its role in Ayodhya and Gujarat is too well known to bear repetition, Outlook exposed the Sangh’s moral and ideological support to the genocidal Bodo campaign against Assam Muslims. Muslims across India seem to know who their enemy is. But do Muslims know who their friend is? Well, the most powerful bulwark against the Sangh are the Hindus themselves. Muslims must understand that if the Hindus were all anti-Muslim and pro-BJP, then the BJP would have been perpetually in power at the Centre. It wouldn’t have been rejected in 2004, and again in ’09.

As for Ayodhya, the best bet for Muslims, it seems to me, is to help spiritually minded Hindus—not the Sangh heavyweights—build a grand Ram temple where the mosque stood. The gift will suck the wind out of the Sangh sails. And by neutralising the saffronites, Muslims will fortify their own position as partners in India’s progress. All this is easier said than done. But it’s worth a try.

(Courtesy: Outlook)

AMP conducts a successful seminar on “Vision 2020 for Indian Muslims”

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

IMO News Service

Mumbai: Association of Muslim Professionals conducted very insightful and successful seminar on “Vision 2020 for Indian Muslims” in Mumbai on 1st December 2012.

Considering the current pitiable state of Indian Muslims and to look forward for the way ahead in improving its present condition and state of affairs, AMP organized an insightful discussion and brainstorming to have a vision charted out for improving the state.

The guest consisted of various dignitaries from academic, social and political field.
K. Rahman Khan, Union Minister for Minority Affairs, Govt. of India was the Chief Guest on the occasion. Sayed Mohammad Qasim Ashraf, a respected Islamic scholar and community activist presided. Guests of Honor included Dr. Zaheer Kazi, President of Anjuman Islam Group of Institutions; Dr. Javed Jamil, eminent Social Scholar and Islamic Social Scientist; Amin Patel, Chairman, MAMFDC & MLA; and many other scholars, intellectuals, professionals, students and general public.

Amin Patel, Member of Legislative Assembly, asked the audience to realize their share in the budget and accordingly demand for the same to make optimum utilization.
Dr. Javed Jamil said that there was a need to understand and analyse the budget from the community perspective and propose reforms in the planning stage itself rather than discussing about the pros and cons of after the budget is declared.

Dr. Zahir Kazi pointed out that there was need to build a pressure group so that the government made to realize the importance of Muslim community and pay heeds to their demands. “We need to realize our share of rights and demand for the same so that we can try and achieve as much development as possible. For this matter we need youngsters who are political conscious, but not politically ambitious,” said Dr. Kazi.

Elaborating about his personal vision for Vision 2020, Dr. Kazi said that he would try his best and reclaim the Ismail Yusuf College land so that it could be developed to center of Excellence as originally envisaged by its donor.

K Rahman Khan, the chief guest, said, “We should not have a micro approach to the minority budget, but have a macro vision of our share in budget which is more than Rs. 16,000 lakh crore.”

Mr. Khan further said, “We need to establish ourselves in the education field, and also in the corporate circle as well. We should not be dependent on any government for our progress, but we have to be self sustained for our own development.” He suggested that community activists need to have planned approach for our development and progress.

“There is an urgent need that community activists should plan for the development and progress of the country on the similar lines of the 5 Year Plan of the Government. We need to have similar approach for the development of the community with adequate focus on education and generation of income, all-round economic development, and focus on social development issues etc.,” said Mr. Khan.

K Rehman Khan also applauded the efforts of AMP and effective role it has been playing in the educational, social and economic development of the community. He suggested creating a Vision document and sharing it with him, for which he assured his complete support.

Maulana Syed Qasim Ashraf also praised the efforts of AMP as an organization focused on community development and admired its various activities conducted over the last few years. He said that the communities’ bright future depends on its young generation, for which AMP has already taken the responsibility. He said that we need to have not just an intellectual mind, but also a healthy heart and a clean spirit for which we need to establish institutions which focus not just on professional brilliance but also spiritual excellence.

This event was widely appreciated by one and all who said that such events are the need of the hour stir the spirit of the community and shake them out of its deep slumber. The guests and audiences simultaneously agreed that AMP has always read the pulse of community and kept itself abreast of its condition, playing a vital role towards its development and progress.
This event was a prelude to the week-long Annual Career Fest which is one of the largest Education Guidance festivals in the country and has been successfully conducted since last 4 years.

For details, Contact:

Abrar Syed: +91-9860603447
Mohd Shahanshah Ansari: +91-9738560514

Eminent leaders, Sportspersons, Journalists conferred ‘Karmaveer Puraskaar’

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

IMO News Service

New Delhi: The “Karmaveer Puraskaar” awards ceremony has over the years become a 'melting pot' where people from India and Global Citizens that comprise individuals ranging from princes and princesses to global bestselling authors, young politicians, statesmen, bureaucrats, ambassadors, actors, singers, captains of industry, media professionals, development workers, young adults, students, school children, homemakers, academicians, slum workers and others who come “Together as One to Right every Wrong”.

This year also witnessed eminent leaders, academicians, intellectuals, artists and Noble Laureates conferred with Karamveer Purashkar at the prestigious Annual National Awards for Social Justice & Citizen Action in Delhi.


Journalist and Activist Shahid Siddiqui receiving the award
Among the awardee, journalist and activist Shahid Siddiqui was felicitated with the coveted ‘Karmaveer Puraskar’ award for his commendable work in the field of social service and media activism under the banner of Association for Community Research and Action. While, former Chief Election Commissioner and social activist S Y Quraishi and filmamker on contemporary issue Hanshal Mehta were among those who were conferred with the Karamveer Puraskar for Lifelong Fight for Social Justice and Action in their respective field. However, boxer and Olympic medalist Mary Com was awarded by "Karmaveer Puraskaar" for using her popular status to render more visibility to a cause for possible solutions.

“Karmaveer Puraskaar (KVP)” is the Award for Social Justice and Action that honor concerned citizens who have been and led the change they wanted.

This awards are given every year on the 26th day of November, our National Social Justice and Citizen Action Day, the day we adopted our constitutional pledge as a Republic and Indian Citizens in 1949. It is the first award of its kind from India, and probably around the globe, that has been held every year at a very austere, simple and dignified program in New Delhi.

The UN vote: Palestine wins first war for statehood

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

Second birth of Palestine

By Dr. Abdul Ruff

As one of the most important developments in the world history, the UN General Assembly on 29th November has voted overwhelmingly to recognize Palestine as a non-member observer state after decades of non-stop struggle by the Palestinians. Against the background of tragedy in Palestine caused by intermittent terror attacks of occupying fascist Israeli regime, the UN assembly voted 138-9 in favor, with 41 nations abstaining under tremendous US-Israel pressure tactics. Three countries did not take part in the vote at all. At least 17 European nations voted in favor of the Palestinian resolution, including Austria, France, Italy, Norway and Spain.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas had focused his lobbying efforts on Europe, which supplies much of the aid the Palestinian Authority relies on. Britain, Germany and many others chose to abstain. The traditionally pro-Israel Czech Republic was unique in Europe, joining the United States, Israel, Canada, Panama and the tiny Pacific Island states Nauru, Palau, Marshall Islands and Micronesia in voting against the move.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said shortly before the vote in New York: "The General Assembly is called upon today to issue a birth certificate of the reality of the State of Palestine." Last year, Abbas asked the UN Security Council to admit the Palestinians as a member state, but that was opposed by the USA. The much-anticipated vote came after Abbas denounced Israel from the UN podium after receiving a standing ovation for its "aggressive policies and the perpetration of war crimes," remarks that elicited a furious response from the Jewish state. "The General Assembly is called upon today to issue a birth certificate of the reality of the State of Palestine," he said.

The vote was held on the 65th anniversary of the adoption of UN resolution 181 sixty-five years ago, partitioning the land of historic Palestine into two states. The 193-nation UN General Assembly overwhelmingly approved the de facto recognition of the sovereign state of Palestine after Abbas called on the world body to issue its long overdue "birth certificate," as the notorious UNSC controlled by USA to defend fascism and capitalism and for decades refused to recognize Palestine along with hurried creation of Israel on Palestine lands. Abbas rightly said this was the "last chance to save the two-state solution" with Israel.

Approval for Palestine non-member observer state is obviously a symbolic milestone with a lot of implications. Nonetheless, it is the greatest victory of Palestinians so far over their common enemies and in fact can contribute enormously to the reality of an independent Palestine state. While Palestinians see no changes on the ground with immediate effect, the symbolism is all-important.

As it can only be natural, spontaneous outburst of expression of joy is prevalent all over Palestine and world at large; In the West Bank, crowds celebrated the vote by waving flags and chanting "God is great!" "For the first time, there will be a state called Palestine, with the recognition of the entire world", “Today the world will hear our voice" etc. Palestinians particularly celebrated on the streets of Ramallah, in the West Bank after the result was announced. Fireworks erupted in Ramallah with the news of the vote. The parties began in Yasser Arafat Square long before the voting.

Abbas made a speech in New York as crowds of people waving flags gathered around large screens carrying the live feed. Abbas led the campaign to win support for the resolution, which followed an eight-day conflict this month between Israel and Islamists in the Gaza Strip, who are pledged to Israel's destruction and oppose a negotiated peace. While the vote and PLO move is seen as a symbolic milestone in Palestinian ambitions for statehood, the "Yes" vote have a practical diplomatic effect.

Both Americans and Israelis feel awful, humbled by international community. The threat of so-called "law fare" has already prevented some Israeli civilian and military leaders from travelling abroad out of fear they'd be arrested as war criminals. Israelis are afraid of being hauled to The Hague. These rogues would now consider entire humanity as their common enemy.

First setback for US-Israel terror twins

Granting Palestinians the title of "non-member observer state" falls short of full U.N. membership - something the Palestinians failed to achieve last year. But it does have important legal implications - it would allow them access to the ICC and other international bodies, should they choose to join. Abbas did not mention the ICC in his speech. But Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki told reporters after the vote that if Israel continued to build illegal settlements, the Palestinians might pursue the ICC route.

Israel and its fascist allies like USA and Canada have got their first ever jolt for their cynically anti-Palestine operations. The assembly approved the upgrade despite threats by the USA and Israel to punish the Palestinians by withholding US aid and funds for the West Bank government. Opponents of the PLO bid now say a Palestinian state should emerge only out of bilateral negotiations, as set out in the 1993 Oslo peace accords under which the Palestinian Authority was established. Israeli fascist premier Benjamin Netanyahu responded quickly, condemning Abbas' critique of Israel as "hostile and poisonous," and full of "false propaganda. However, UN envoys said Israel might not retaliate harshly against the Palestinians over the vote as long as they do not seek to join the International Criminal Court.

Thus far Americans have used UN to promote US-Israeli interests, In Washington, a group of four Republican and Democratic senators announced legislation that would close the Palestinian office in Washington unless the Palestinians enter "meaningful negotiations" with Israel, and eliminate all U.S. assistance to the Palestinian Authority if it turns to the ICC. "I fear the Palestinian Authority will now be able to use the United Nations as a political club against Israel," said Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, one of the sponsors.

The UN victory for the Palestinians was a diplomatic setback for USA-Israel terror twins, which were joined by only a handful of countries in voting against the move to upgrade the Palestinian Authority's observer status at the United Nations to "non-member state" from "entity," like the Vatican. The Vatican with similar UN position of membership praised the move and called for an internationally guaranteed special status for Jerusalem, something bound to irritate Israel.
UN move is hence strongly opposed by both Israel and the USA almost on similar tones. Israeli Netanyahu called the vote "meaningless", and said that Abbas' address in New York had not been "the words of a man who wants peace". He reiterated Israeli calls for direct talks with the Palestinians, dismissing the UN resolution as "meaningless." US foreign terror minister Hillary Clinton quickly called the vote "unfortunate and counterproductive," in keeping line with its pro-Zionism policy.

A number of Western delegations noted that the vote should not be interpreted as formal legal recognition of a Palestinian state. Formal recognition of statehood is something that is done bilaterally, not by the United Nations. After the vote, US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice called for the immediate resumption of peace talks. She added that both parties should "avoid any further provocative actions in the region, in New York or elsewhere."

Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad in Gaza said he hoped all sides would use the vote to push for new breakthroughs in the peace process. "I hope there will be no punitive measures," Fayyad told Reuters in Washington, where he was attending a conference. "I hope that some reason will prevail and the opportunity will be taken to take advantage of what happened today in favor of getting a political process moving," he said. Britain's U.N. ambassador, Mark Lyall Grant, told reporters it was time for recently re-elected U.S. President Barack Obama to make a new push for peace. "We believe the window for the two-state solution is closing," he said. "That is why we are encouraging the United States and other key international actors to grasp this opportunity and use the next 12 months as a way to really break through this impasse."

Abbas was much criticized by many Palestinians for remaining on the sidelines of the conflict earlier this month in Gaza and efforts to achieve a ceasefire with Israel. His Fatah movement, based in the West Bank, is deeply split from the Hamas movement which governs Gaza. Gaza's elected Prime Minister Ismael Haniyeh said in a statement that Hamas support for the UN bid is based on the 'rule of non-recognition of the occupier Israel until full UN membership as well as their legitimate demands are met like the right of Palestinians to return to their homeland".

What the non-member observer state means?

Upon imposition of an illegal Israel in Mideast by US-UK terror twins, the Palestinians have been seeking UN recognition of a Palestinian state in the remaining lands of Palestine, including West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, the lands Israel captured in 1967 with American weapons and support.

When Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas addressed the United Nations in September he specifically accused Israel of committing war crimes. The Palestinians have long planned to use non-membership statehood at the U.N., once obtained, as a way to enter the ICC. One Palestinian negotiator, in talking to the International Crisis Group, called the strategy a "legal or diplomatic intifada" against Israel.

Last spring, the ICC's former chief prosecutor turned down a 2009 Palestinian request for prosecution of Israel's actions in the 2008-2009 Gaza war with Hamas, specifically noting that Palestine was only a U.N. observer entity. In September, the new ICC prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, said a General Assembly vote could make the difference.

UN overwhelming vote to recognize Palestine as a non-member state in fact offers little prospect for greater clout in world politics but it could make a difference in the international courts. With its upgraded status at the UN, the Palestinians shall now seek to apply to the ICC for membership and authority to file war-crimes charges against the Israeli government and its officials. The formal recognition of statehood, even without full U.N. membership, could be enough for the Palestinians to achieve membership at the Hague-based International Criminal Court (ICC), where member states have the power to refer for investigation alleged war crimes or crimes against humanity.

The Hague-based ICC is the one international venue where individuals can be criminally charged. All 117 countries that ratified the Rome Statute, which created the court, are bound to turn over suspects. The United States and Israel have not joined the Rome Statute, but that would not prevent the Palestinians from pursing cases under the treaty. ICC arrest warrants and rulings carry geopolitical weight even when they can't be enforced. An indictment of Libya's Col Moammar Qaddafi last year helped mobilize western support for the rebels who opposed him.
Upon relentless struggle for years now the Palestinians can now take part in UN debates and potentially join bodies like the International Criminal Court. There is also hope that access to UN bodies will bring new rights. A successful application for membership of the International Criminal Court could be used to accuse Israel of war crimes or make other legal claims against it.

The UN vote, however, accomplished little because the lands currently controlled by Israel belong to the Palestinians and these needed to be returned. A few hours before U.N. vote, fascist Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu said it would not affect the stalemated peace negotiations with the Palestinians. The fascist leader said Israelis should not overreact because no matter how many hands are raised against Israel, there is no force in the world that can push him to compromise on the security of Israel.

The Palestinians can now have the opportunity for access to UN bodies that will certainly bring new rights: A successful application for membership of the ICC could be used to accuse Israel of war crimes or make other legal claims against it. This is a whole new ball-game now. Israel will be dealing with a member of the international community, a state called Palestine with rights. PLO official said "We will have access to international organizations and agencies and we will take it from there."

When the Palestinians join the ICC, they could file complaints with the court accusing Israel of war crimes, crimes against humanity and other serious crimes. So far, the ICJ and ICC have been silent spectators of scenes of Zionist crimes in Palestine. And now there is no guarantee for either side that the ICC prosecutor would follow through on charges. The ICC has procedural obstacles that could head off any prosecution there. Of course, if the Palestinians enter the legal battlefield, they, too, risk being accused and prosecuted in the venues where they'd try to target Israelis. Some commentators argue that, like lawyers in any legal fight, both the Palestinians and Israelis have exaggerated the stakes in what's more of a political and public-relations drama. And it's important to remember that the ICC, controlled by USA, is a political organization as much as a legal one -- cases are initiated by member governments and the U.N. Security Council -- so geopolitical considerations can trump a strictly legal case.

For Palestinians, as long as the Israelis are not committing atrocities, are not building settlements, are not violating international law, then we don't see any reason to go anywhere. "If the Israelis continue with such policy - aggression, settlements, assassinations, attacks, confiscations, building walls - violating international law, then they have no other remedy but really to knock those to other places.

Act against Zionist Crimes

Palestine obtained only temporary freedom from Zionist crimes against odds. Palestinians found joy in that it is the first time the international community has recognized Palestinians' right to statehood. They say the large number of UN members 138 that voted for them added legitimacy to their claim for statehood. They say the vote adds weight to their position in the peace negotiations with Israel. While the vote did not change much for daily Palestinian life, it was still cause for celebration. Importantly, on post-vote Friday in East Jerusalem, Muslim worshipers streamed through Damascus gate for prayers. The mood seemed relaxed for the first time in years. Israeli security forces were present but less visible than on previous Fridays. That is real change in Zionist attitude!

Palestinians have finally won a small battle at long last. There had been lobbying by Israel and the US on vote eve to try to delay the vote or change the text to obtain guarantees that no international legal action would be taken against Israel. The vital point is the Palestine bid was endorsed by a large number of European Union members that otherwise promote Israeli military terror prowess and US imperialism.

There are 4.3 million Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza besieged by Israeli military terrorists.The Palestinian people will wake up soon, if not tomorrow itself and find that their lives have changed because of UN vote. The prospects of a durable peace have only started. According to many experts, however, hthe concern that something dramatic would happen or change looks overblown.

Palestinians and world at large now have to protect the little freedom Palestine got through UN. Palestine must now ensure full UN membership and world support to end Zionist crimes once for all.

Israeli bluff leaders and fanatic military keep saying the country's armed forces “strictly adhere” to international law (read Israeli law) and argue the true aim of Palestinians' accusations is to isolate Israel.

Due to dirty tactics by US-Israel terror twins, latest leg of Obama mediated peace talks have been stalled for two years, mainly over Israeli settlements in the West Bank, which have expanded despite being deemed illegal by most of the world.

Now that Palestine is able to pass over the statehood hurdle, of course, under the General Assembly, then the ICC can do a lot to help the besieged Palestinians. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon also called for more talks, saying the resolution underscored the need to resume meaningful peace negotiations. Britain called on the United States to use its influence to help break the long impasse in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. Washington also called for a revival of direct negotiations.

The vote has vividly highlighted how deeply divided Europe is on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The fact that a veto France supported Palestine while another veto Britain abstained form vote instead of voting with USA-Israel terror twins as it had always done on previous occasions, show not just Israel is hated but also all powerful America is isolated ex especially by Europe.
Britain has clearly showed that they are with fellow Europeans and not with the dictatorial Americans with hidden agendas.

The outcome is disastrous for Americans themselves who thought they control Europe. The effect of US triclomacy through pressure tactics is fast waning and there is every reason Jewish Americans financing US politicians would feel terribly threatened- more than other pro-Israeli Americans.

Israel cannot henceforth go on attacking the defenseless Palestinians with its expansion and fascism, cannot escape ultimate punishment for its crimes against humanity.
A free and independent Palestine as a full member of UN is going to be the reality; so will also be the freedom struggles in other parts of the world.

[Dr. Abdul Ruff is Specialist on State Terrorism;Chancellor-Founder of Centor for International Affairs(CIA); Independent Analyst;Chronicler of Foreign occupations & Freedom movements (Palestine, Kashmir, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Xinjiang, Chechnya, etc.). He is also former university Teacher. He can be contacted at abdulruff_jnu@yahoo.com]

The rising innovation of Muslim women

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

By Shelina Zahra Janmohamed

There is in the Muslim world the rise of a new kind of Muslim, self-empowered individuals who combine faith and modernity, who are creative, vocal and game-changing, and believe change is a good thing.

Greater education and freedom has brought increased participation in the labour force and the economic benefits and independence that this brings. And later marriage brings freedom and self determination, all of which are being enhanced by global connectivity among Muslim women's groups which allows sharing of experiences and the creation of solidarity.

It also opens up the business space for women. All of these have been made easier by social media bringing down barriers, and making female participation more immediate and more acceptable.

These significant global trends affecting Muslim women are creating previously unimaginable spaces for innovative thought and activity. Politically, intellectually as well as commercially women are both the producers and consumers of innovation.

And it is this aspect of Muslim women and innovation that I'll be speaking about at the 8th World Islamic Economic Forum this week. Now in its eighth year, it aims to bring Muslims together on a business level, bypassing the usual narratives of terror, theology and sectarianism.

I'm fascinated by the commercial and social enterprise aspects that Muslim women are driving, which are in turn changing the social and commercial landscape. This then turns them into entrepreneurs and changes their own social role and economic status.

There are new industries that corporations had never considered such as Muslim fashion, halal cosmetics, modest swimwear and sports apparel, and private banking for women-only investors.

Whatever your opinion on these industries there is no doubt that Muslim women have expectations that social, civic and business organisations should innovate to meet their needs.
A great example is Sunsilk's shampoo aimed at women who suffer from the side effects of wearing the headscarf. Obvious to all women who wear the veil is that hair becomes greasier faster. But how refreshing that a large corporation should understand and cater for this. Plus, their communications too engage directly with Muslim women.

Theirs is probably the first shampoo advert ever to feature no hair, only smiling feisty Muslim women with their veils swishing about. Or Hilo in Indonesia focuses on veil-wearing Muslim women's needs for Vitamin D and calcium due to reduced sunlight. Again, it's a sharp insight into the lives of Muslim women. I know, I suffered from this too.

On the other hand when Muslim women see that their needs are not being met they go out to innovate for themselves.

Two halal organic cosmetics companies, One Pure Beauty, and Saaf Skincare were set up by women with cosmetics backgrounds, who became Muslim and found that there were no cosmetics products they believed genuinely met their religious aspirations as halal. So, they innovated, creating new products and businesses.

It all boils down to a simple problem: Muslim women are not just sometimes mis-understood, but they are under-understood, and as a consequence under-served. It is no surprise then that they themselves are the drivers as well as the consumers of innovation, not content to wait to be given economic or social power, but grabbing it for themselves.

[Shelina Zahra Janmohamed is the author of Love in a Headscarf and blogs at www.spirit21.co.uk]

(Courtesy: The National)

Muslim American women reclaim their narrative

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

By Shazia Kamal

Washington: During this 2012 election year, Muslim women from all parts of the United States rallied together to mobilize their communities to get out the vote. A social media campaign led by activist Zeba Iqbal encouraged Muslim American men and women to amplify their influence in their respective spheres and relay the importance of voting. We held the power to elect those that would make the best decision for our future. Irrespective of the candidate, the message to Muslim American women was strong and bold: reclaim the Muslim American narrative to be an effective decision–maker by claiming the vote.

In March 2009, Asma T. Uddin and a group of dynamic young Muslim American women launched the web magazine, AltMuslimah.com, an online space to discuss gender issues in Islam and beyond. Living in a multi-ethnic, multi-religious world, these women needed a space to talk about issues like relationships and marriage, women’s roles in political and social issues, and intersections of belief, practice and lived realities. These were critical conversations, especially during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and in a nation where beliefs persisted that Muslim women were oppressed by a religious doctrine, rather than by misguided individuals. It was time to reclaim the narrative.

Today, a new generation carries the torch, instigating opportunities for dialogue. Muslim women are proving themselves as community stewards and problem-solvers. Their education, expertise and experiences debunk the myth that they are oppressed, and show that they are more than capable of speaking about universal issues alongside members of other faiths.

As a Muslim American woman, I too felt the calling to demonstrate my commitment to educate my community about Islam and Muslims. I had always felt inclined to express what it was like to balance multiple identities, and AltMuslimah was the perfect forum for such expression. Moreover, it opened doors to dialogue with other faiths as well, presenting an opportunity to build understanding and harmony from the local to the global scale.

Like the founders of AltMuslimah.com, other Muslim American women are reaching across faith lines to amplify voices of positive change and community-building. From classrooms to courtrooms, non-profits to social media, Muslim American women have been paving the way for healthy communities for decades. They have been public servants, doctors, teachers and mentors, athletes and artists – all contributing to a more prosperous nation.

Reclaiming the narrative comes in multiple forms. While some encourage discussion of social issues, others think about how they can build bridges to make the nation safe and secure. For Rabia Chaudry, a safer nation means collaborating with law enforcement agencies to find solutions that protect everyone.

Chaudry is the Founder and President of the Washington, DC-based Safe Nation Collaborative, an initiative that works to build bridges and trust between Muslim American communities and law enforcement. She and her organization work to educate law enforcement officials on Islam and Muslims and engage in dialogue to promote understanding and cohesion. Such work is especially important as misinformation can create suspicion of Muslim communities. The Safe Nation Collaborative exemplifies the importance of reaching out to work towards a safer and healthier nation.

The Muslim American women’s narrative also champions the virtue of community service. Hind Makki is an independent consultant on interfaith, immigration and anti-racism issues and a blogger on Patheos.com, a site that engages in global dialogue about religion and spirituality. Makki’s work instills appreciation and recognition of the many faces that contribute to the United States of America and the world.

For Makki, opening spaces for discussion on pressing issues like immigration and anti-racism as well as interfaith relations are part of the package of community service. Her narrative provides a holistic approach to addressing global and local issues.

Aside from reclaiming the narrative of Islam and Muslims in their individual ways, Muslim women leaders in America as a whole are reclaiming a narrative that previously painted them as inactive and uninterested in societal affairs. Today, Muslim American women are translating the virtues and moral foundations of their faith to a language of solutions for education, health and harmony in the country they call home. The next generation will be equipped with the unique lessons and experiences of these Muslim women as they take on the task of building stronger societies.

[Shazia Kamal is the Associate Editor of Altmuslimah.com. This article was distributed by Common Ground News Service (CGNews).]

(Courtesy: Al Arabiya)

Muslim scholar wins prestigious Grawemeyer Award

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

By Omar Sacirbey

For the first time, the University of Louisville’s prestigious Grawemeyer Award in Religion, a $100,000 cash prize, will go to a female Muslim scholar.

Leila Ahmed, a Harvard Divinity School professor specializing in women and Islam, will receive the 2013 Grawemeyer religion award for her 2011 book, “A Quiet Revolution: The Veil’s Resurgence, from the Middle East to America.” The book explores why a growing number of Muslim women are wearing religious headscarves.

Ahmed, 72, was born and raised in Cairo at a time when few women wore religious headscarves, yet considered themselves observant Muslims. Why, she wanted to know, has the hijab enjoyed such a comeback?

Known for debunking stereotypes about Muslims, Ahmed acknowledged she started the research with her own prejudices. “I thought this was going to be connected with fundamentalist Islam, or patriarchal Islam,” she said.

Instead, interviews with Muslim women of diverse backgrounds around the world revealed that many of them wore the hijab as a symbol of activism and to assert their identity, especially in America after 9/11. “They wanted a way of saying,’I’m proud to be Muslim and I want to show you, you shouldn’t have prejudices against Muslims.’”

Some women hoped their hijabs would make other women think about their own styles of dress, as well as social justice and service. While activism often motivated women to don hijabs, religious commitment remained an important reason as well. “Many women wear the hijab because they believe that God requires them to,” Ahmed said.

Eboo Patel, founder and director of the Interfaith Youth Core in Chicago, became the first Muslim to win the prize in 2010, for his 2007 autobiography, “Acts of Faith: The Story of an American Muslim, the Struggle for the Soul of a Generation.”

(Courtesy: The Washington Post)

Revisiting awards in Islamic finance

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

By Rushdi Siddiqui

‘Hollywood has its Oscars. Television has its Emmys. Broadway has its Tonys. And Advertising has its Clios... And those are just the big ones...’ Joanne Lipman.

Its well accepted awards reward individuals and institutions for innovation, invention, performance, etc., based on absolute or relative (peer) basis. The recipient often issues a Press release and the award photo-ops, especially in competitive sectors like banking, which are incorporated in marketing and public relations (PR) campaigns.

In Islamic banking, deemed to have too many conference organiser/magazine awards, award winners, categories, etc., are the public, exiting and potential customers, influenced by the recipient’s award?

The question on the jaded minds concerning awards is not:

1. The Islamic banker of the year award? or
2. Best Islamic banking, takaful or asset management institution? or
3. Best ‘Islamic’ regulator?

But, ‘does the Islamic finance award recipient have a responsibility to the award category, especially high level awards, like the Royal Award for Islamic finance in Malaysia?’

Thus, much like the Pulitzer Prize (for journalists), Noble Peace Prize, or, even, the Miss Universe/World contest (probably not ideal example in this context), the recipients of such awards, typically, travel, talk, reach out to the public at large to convey the ‘values’ espoused by such honours. The interactions are meant to not only encourage the message of the Pulitzer or Noble, but also to inspire others to achieve such awards.

CSR

The follow-up question is, ‘should the high level award recipient be mandated to take time off from their ‘day job’ for, say, three (3) months, and talk, travel and reach out?’ This would be part of the corporate social responsibility of not only the person, but also the institution they represent that would sponsor the ‘tour.’

Yes, its disruption at the very top, but it’s also a smart strategy as addresses key man risk and establishes a track for potential successors. Thus, it also has corporate governance benefit as it reduces some uncertainty (on successor) for shareholders.

The tour in emerging Islamic finance markets like certain African, CIS, or even G-20/OECD countries would be like the inaugural Islamic finance conferences in these countries.
The first Islamic finance conference is almost always well received in new jurisdictions. The locals want access to practitioners and scholars they have read about; they want to ask questions that locals cannot answer; they want to discuss opportunities with outsiders, etc.

The tour would allow the executive to (1) connect with people, (2) hear their words and spread his/her own words via one on one, town halls, etc., (3) gain insights (first hand) into business development opportunities, partnerships, joint ventures, etc., and (4) provide great pictures for marketing materials and public relations with real people in real situations. For example, His Highness Shaikh Mohammad bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, is one of the few leaders from the 57 Muslim countries that is not only a key stakeholder of Islamic finance, but also a supporter of the movement before it became fashionable to support it.

Obviously, an Islamic finance executive would not generate the same level of enthusiasm as Shaikh Mohammad visit, but they can learn from His Highness’ trips.

IF award for environment

Islamic banks need to think outside the real estate box, and address something impactful that is local. For example, the GCC has a very large carbon foot print, hence, an opportunity to be part of environment, sustainability and governance (ESG). These are the ‘positive’ screens that build bridges to the ‘conventional’ ESG communities and movement.

It’s well-known that not one dedicated Islamic bank is a signatory to the carbon, climate or equator principles. Where are their stewardship responsibilities to the planet for future generations?

The global excitement created by the announcement of the massive Mohammad bin Rashid City, compromising of culture, entrepreneurship, retail and tourism (CERT), will augur well for Islamic finance, much like Qatar winning the FIFA 2022 mandate.

The leading Islamic banks have the opportunity to ‘green finance’ all aspects of CERT of the new city, including artificial turf golf courses and parks.

For example, turf does not huge amounts of water (especially summer), spraying of chemicals, carbon monoxide and dioxide emissions associated grass mowing, etc.

Conclusion

Conference organisers need to examine awards with not only recipient commitment to the category, but also expanding it to include pressing issues, like the environment with, say, a ‘Green Sukuk’ to build the Mohammad bin Rashid City.

[Rushdi Siddiqui is Global Head of Islamic Finance & OIC Countries for Thomson Reuters. He can be contacted at rushdi.siddiqui@thomsonreuters.com]

(Courtesy: Khaleej Times)

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