Are Blasts must to be called a terrorist?

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 26 January 2013 | Posted in , , , , , ,

By Abu Asim

After a long hush, intelligence agencies have swung into action and arresting people who had detonated bombs at different places of the country and by these arrests the government wants to give the message that it won’t tolerate any kind of terrorism -- saffron or green. But question comes to mind that only detonator of bombs are terrorists?

Languishing in jails, the alleged perpetrators of Malegaon and Mecca Masjid blasts would be cursing their fate for being branded as terrorists. Not even in their wildest dreams they would have ever imagined sharing cells with the Islamic militants.

Had they any prior idea that they would be jailed for slyly detonating bombs, (meant to malign Muslims for killing innocent people) would have preferred to rioting and killings rather than setting of bombs.

If they had taken part in instigating communal violence, like their would have been walking free and daydreaming of becoming chief ministers, and even prime minister of the country. But mistake had been committed.

In fact, they had an impression that the cops that had been turning a blind eye to the act of overt terrorism of their gurus, unfortunately swung into action and nabbed them, which is sheer diversion from the India’s old tradition of policing.

For that, they should raise their voice of protest against such a blatant discrimination. If the government can arrest them on charges of covert terrorism why it has been shying away from putting the perpetrators of overt terrorism behind bars? Even it is not ready to call it an act of terrorism. While the objective of both the actions--- bomb blasts and rioting-- was the same --to terrorize and weaken the Muslims of the country.

Therefore, they should not be made scapegoat since what they had done was only a part of the project of destruction and that was also on the direction of their masters. Why should they be fall guy for the crime that involves majority of the country? So, the government cannot hang them just for detonating a bomb somewhere at a religious place!

In fact, in covert terrorism only a few people are usually involved but in the act of overt terrorism, apart from majority of people, police and the whole government machinery happily take part in destruction and tear up the flimsy fabric of communal harmony.

Moreover, the people involved in covert terrorism, only get the amount promised for the execution of the job but in the act of overt terrorism, they are not only paid for instigating violence in streets but also get the spoils of the looting and destruction.

The pleasure they get in playing with the pride of the respected people and seeing veiled women along with their relatives with folded hand begging for leaving them inviolate, which the perpetrator of covert terrorism can only dream of.

The victim of covert terrorism just vanishes from the scene in a fraction of a second while the victim of the overt terrorism carried out by communal violence, departs his life in installments. He becomes a walking ghost. With his own open eyes he sees his world being torn apart what he had built brick by brick after years of toil. He helplessly watches his establishments being destroyed, his own loved ones being slaughtered and sisters and daughters being raped by his trusted neighbors.

To his horror, he sees that the very people who had killed his loved ones and ruined his life, giving speeches about non violence and peace and also being voted to power by people as reward for their outstanding service to society.

And he cannot do anything because his loss of dear ones, and loss of faith in justice and in his fellow countrymen snatches away every reason of life.

If anyone travels the length and breadth of the country will certainly find the traces of overt terrorism that have been continuing for a century. But strangely, most of the perpetrators of plunder and destruction were hardly ever punished on the charges of overt terrorism!

Surprisingly enough, the government is hounding the detonators of bombs even on foreign soil, and the whole nation celebrated the arrest of the culprits of terrorism, while the Assam and UP were burnt in communal fire and thousands of people fled their homes to take shelter in the refugee camps, the same people were silent and the government appeared helpless before the rioters and waited for the time when crime against humanity would be forgotten, as thousands have been forgotten.

That is why the naked dance of rioting had failed to create anxiety in the country. Nobody shouted from rooftop to fight all-out war against wide-spread destruction nor security agencies released sketches of suspects nor houses were raided and people of the area were shepherded to the police station for interrogation.

More strikingly, neither Foreign Minister S M Krishna wept on the Uncle Sam’s shoulder and said amid sobs, “ Bodos attacked our people” nor the US President Obama consoled him saying, “As I slain Osama Bin Ladens after destroying three countries, I will destroy the whole India to nab the culprits of the massacre.”

However, playing to the gallery our Prime Minister called that slaughter a ‘blot on the face of country’ as his predecessor Atal Bihari Vajpayee had used the same words when genocide was continuing in Gujarat in 2002. The similarity was that both the leaders did little to stop the violence.

The reason behind this apathy is that nobody considers this bloodbath an act of “terrorism”.

If the government is really sincere about stamping out the menace of terrorism, it should redefine the word terrorism and put both kind of terrorism ---overt and covert terrorism in the same bracket as there are many culprits of barbaric act of overt terrorism are walking free because of the limit of the meaning of the word terrorism.

Therefore, the government should arrest the terrorists of all hues (covert and overt) and prosecute them under TADA, POTA, MOCOCA and whatsoever suitable Acts may be and give them befitting punishment the same way as the Ajmal Qasab has been given otherwise the dream of terror-free country will always remain a distain dream.

[Abu Asim is based in Hyderabad. He can be contacted at abuasim09@gmail.com]

Book Review: Shades of Muslim Marginalization

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

Book: Muslims in Indian Cities: Trajectories of Marginalisation
Edited by Laurent Gayer and Chritophe Jaffrelot
Publisher: Harper Collins, Delhi 2012
Pages: 403
Price: Rs 499

Reviewed by Ram Puniyani

The welfare of the minority communities is the barometer of the health of a democracy. Going by that dictum, this book shows the poor health of Indian democracy, as reflected by, amongst other things, the marginalization of Muslim minorities. This edited volume contains eleven essays well written essays, which deal with study of the living spaces of Muslim community. The contributors to the volume have combined the field study with analytic observations of the quality of lives of Muslim community in these cities, some from the riot prone areas and other in the cities from former Muslim states. This largest religious minority of India, Muslims; have suffered a strange situation and have been subjected to communal violence and economic discrimination; both. These twin processes has given rise to the dynamics of politics from within the section of community which gives more importance to the identity issues. The violence and discrimination are the major factors leading to their marginality. This book is a unique contribution to the study of Indian Muslims and shows the immaculate editorial imprint of Chritophe Jafflerolt, who is a major authority on the politics of Hindu Right wing along with Laurent Gayer. The editors have not only contributed to study of one of the cities of the eleven discussed in the book, but their introduction to the volume and conclusions tightly sum up the theme of the book, the marginalization of Muslims from their earlier position of centrality.

The book revolves around the ghettoes, slums and other forms of segregation, including self segregation of the community during last six decades in particular. While the intensification of this phenomenon has taken place during last three decades in particular since the rise of Hindu nationalism, in conjunction with the compliant state. This whole trajectory of the phenomenon has shaken the faith of the community in the impartiality of the state. Muslims in India still bear the stigma of being responsible for the vivisection of the country, which is nowhere near to the truth. While making observations about the socio-economic and political condition of the Muslims, the editors in particular base their analysis around the fact that Muslims in India are no uniform community. Sachar committee and Rangnath Mishra Commission have brought out the dismal condition of Muslims, their discrimination in jobs and most of the aspects of economic life, in the arena of representation in jobs and electoral politics. To blame the madrassas for the plight of Muslims is also very much off the mark as only four percent of Muslim children go to the madrassas. It is in this light the talk of reservation for the Muslim community is gathering steam. Their representation in Lok Sabha, Parliament, is constantly declining, today with 13.4 % (2001 data) of Muslims, in Lok Sabha they are just 5.5%. The caste as factor of Muslim community is very much there, but the caste factor in this community is overall eclipsed by the religious identity as a minority. Comparatively Muslims are a more urbanized religious group, and the fact is that urban Muslims are poorer that their rural counterparts. It is in this backgrounds that the book sets out to compare the place which the Muslim community occupies in the 11 Indian cities to observe that this minority is declining, in a non linear way. To understand these case studies included in the volume, authors survey the position of Muslims amongst the local elite group. The case studies also look at the condition of Muslims localities in Indian cities for testing the Ghettoisation thesis. The volume is a unique mix of quantitative with qualitative approach, drawing from the richness of each.

The case studies do show the perception of three communities that ‘we are being pushed behind’. In Mumbai the large section of Muslims are forced to live near the largest garbage dump. One of the contributors Qudsiya Contractor argues that ‘state through its violent spatial strategies and the Hindu right through its cultural populism and communal politics, have played a crucial role’ in marginalization of this minority. Editors in their study of riot prone Ahmadabad, cull out a painful observation that in areas where there are no Muslims in Ahmadabad are regarded as ‘good’ areas! This observation tells a direction in which Indian democracy is being pushed over a period of time. In Ramganj in Jaipur, Gayatri Jaisingh Rathore observes that ‘social interaction with other religious groups is limited and the problems related to hygiene, education and unemployment abound’.

The editors quote Percival Spear approvingly where he says that, being relegated to the second class citizenship; Muslims have no future for them except their eventual absorption in Hindu mass. The decline of Muslims is not uniform all over India; they have been more resilient in Hindi belt, also known as cow belt. The process of ghettotisation is also very diverse. In this bleak scenario a section of new Muslim middle class is also emerging, around areas of meat export, leather goods, and Unani medicine and also in the newer areas like agribusiness, IT, pharmaceuticals and real estate. Connection with Gulf countries has also helped them in a major way. The book gives an interesting insight into the process of cultural occultation, which presents itself as ‘de-Islamized narrative’, which may be a tactical one, a survival mechanism. At the same time there is also re-Islamisation also there. How this dynamics of cultural occultation and re-islamization will play itself, time alone will tell. The totality of the process can be summed up in post partition fall and identity politics, over determination by communal violence and political obliteration and third is resilient cosmopolitanism. The totality of the process gets manifested in the spatial process of mixed localities, Enclaves, slums and Ghettoes. Mixed areas are replete with nostalgia and vestiges of syncretic culture. Enclaves are due to interaction of a desire to share common space with members of same community mostly after being pushed to ‘safe’ areas after communal violence. Ghettoes are dynamic self segregation in search of security.

The book comes are a very incisive indictment of the present state of affairs of Indian state, which is heavily tilted due to the communalization. The book gives not only a powerful incisive analysis and observation of Muslim community, but also presents the sad plight through which community is passing at the moment. The frightful prospect of de-islamisation is very much in the store. While coming powerfully on these major observations, it finally dismisses the need for reversal of the phenomenon through political and social initiatives. Barring the prescription of Mohalla committees, the book is silent on the immense possibilities of need for initiatives in the field of education, need for campaigns for physical security, the dire need to job provisions and economic alleviation, the subjective intervention to bridge the divides along religious lines needed to be mentioned and elaborated in the book dealing with the issue in such a profound way. Its content is a wakeup call to reverse the ongoing negative processes and need to try to restore the processes for communal amity and social peace, a pre requisite for development of any nation and a community.

[Ram Puniyani is based in Mumbai and is a strong advocate of human rights. He can be contacted at ram.puniyani@gmail.com]

Panel chief slams State on temporary minority education certificates

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

Chennai: National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions (NCMEI) Chairman M.S.A.Siddiqui on Tuesday came down heavily on the State Government for issuing temporary minority status certificates to educational institutions.

Addressing a conference on ‘Rights and opportunities for minority institutions in Tamil Nadu,’ Mr. Justice Siddiqui said, “Particularly in Tamil Nadu, there is tendency of issuing temporary minority status certificates either for one year or two, subject to renewal after expiry of the period. That is wholly illegal.”

The conference was jointly organised by the NCMEI and Muslim Educational Association of Southern India (MEASI).

Mr. Justice Siddiqui recalled that in the case of T.K.V.T.S.S Medical Educational and Charitable Trust Vs the State of Tamil Nadu, the Madras High Court had held that minority status could not be conferred on a minority educational institution for particular period to be renewed periodically like a driving licence.

The court had said, “It is not open for the State Government to review its earlier order conferring minority status on a minority educational institution unless it is shown that the institution concerned has suppressed any material fact… or there is fundamental change of circumstances warranting cancellation on the earlier order.”

Though such ruling was delivered in 2002, he said, “Still, the State Government is issuing temporary minority education certificates. That is contrary to ruling of the high court. That shows they don’t any respect either for their own high court or the constitution…this is totally illegal and [shows the] myopic approach of competent authority of the State Government.”

Mr. Justice Siddiqui said that when the institutions that had got temporary certificates approached the commission, the certificates were converted into permanent ones by relying on a Supreme Court judgment.

Advising the State Government to desist from such practice, he said, “We expect and hope that the officers will follow the judgment of the court.”

Dwelling on various functions of the NCMEI, Mr. Justice Siddiqui said that around 14,000 cases had been filed so far and 13,000 disposed. Only 1000-odd cases remained pending as on end of last year. Appealing to Muslim minority institutions to utilise the services, he lamented stated that “the Muslim community institutions have not fully utilised the services of NCMEI.”

Presiding over the conference, the Prince of Arcot Nawab Mohammed Abdul Ali urged that the mandate of the Commission be expanded to look into the problems faced by minority students in getting admitted to schools under Right to Education Act. It also could look into the drop-out rate among minorities and suggest remedies.

(Courtesy: The Hindu)

Over Rs.8 crs spent on ICMR centre and not single research carried out on Bhopal gas victims

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | | Posted in , ,

By Pervez Bari

Bhopal: Addressing a press conference the representatives of five organizations working among the survivors of the Union Carbide gas disaster in Bhopal, world's worst industrial catastrophe, condemned the National Institute for Research on Environmental Health (NIREH) for betraying the promises made during its founding in October 2010.

The organizations said that NIREH was established as the 31st centre of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) on 11th October 2010 with the primary objective of carrying out research that would benefit the survivors of the disaster who are still battling chronic illnesses. They said that despite the passage of more than two years, the centre has published only a manual for treatment of mental illnesses and less than two hundred survivors have received help in treatment for chronic respiratory diseases and eye problems.

Based on the documents obtained through the RTI Act the organizations said that NIREH has spent more than Rs.8/- crores in the last two years and has imported close to 30 equipments from USA, Germany, Japan and other countries. However, only two of these equipments have been put to use so far.

The organizations said that of the five Bhopal based consultants employed by NIREH, three have full time jobs. In addition to their salaries for their full time jobs these three have been drawing Rs.40,000/- per month from NIREH as part time consultants. Interestingly, their duty hours at their places of fulltime employment overlap their duty hours as part time consultants at NIREH.

The organizations charged that the majority of the consultants do not have the required qualifications to carry out the research projects proposed by them and none have published any papers on the topics proposed by them.

One of the consultants –Dr. Brajendra Mishra who is supposed to be the Principal Investigator for a project to set up a registry on birth defects has never worked on the subject and there is proof that that parts of his research proposal at NIREH has been plagiarized from publications available on the internet. Moreover, in a clear demonstration of conflict of interest his Rs.3 crores project proposes providing treatment to children with birth defects at the Chirayu Hospital whereas he is a professor of community medicine in the medical college run by the same establishment.

Another consultant Dr. Arun Bhatnagar who is the Principal Investigator of a study on birth defects is according to his own website (http://www.cosmeticandplasticsurgerybhopal.com/) is a specialist in "cosmetic and plastic surgery and performs face lifts, implants, fat injections, breast and other surgeries". He has no published study on birth defects and his Rs.1 crore project is awaiting approval by ICMR.

The organizations said that except the manual on mental health care there has been no publication by the NIREH in the last more than two years. The technical report on long term epidemiological study from 1995 to 2010 has been revised four times but remains at the draft stage. A quarterly bulletin in Hindi proposed in September 2011 remains to see the light of the day.

The press conference was addressed by the representatives of the five NGOs namely Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karamchari Sangh, Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha, Bhopal Gas Peedit Nirashrit Pension Bhogi Sangharsh Morcha, Children Against Dow-Carbide and Bhopal Group for Information & Action.

It may be recalled here that on the intervening night of December 2-3, 1984 Union Carbide pesticide manufacturing factory had spewed poisonous Methyl Iso-cyanate gas whereby 3000 people had perished virtually instantly and over the years more than 25000 have kissed death and the sad saga is still continuing uninterruptedly. About half a million are suffering from the side effects of the poisonous gas and several thousand people have been maimed for life.

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

Sri Lanka’s Muslim IDPs 25 years on

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

Still searching for home nearly 25 years later

Colombo: Almost three years after the Sri Lankan government looked into resettling up to 100,000 Muslims displaced from the country’s north during the 1983-2009 civil war, thousands of Muslim families still find themselves in limbo, without the means to return to their former homes.

Despite a time lapse of almost 25 years, Abdul Malik still remembers the announcement Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE - separatist rebels fighting for an independent ethnic Tamil state in the north) made on 29 October 1990: All Muslims in Jaffna Peninsula, which included the capital of the war-hit Northern Province (Jaffna), had 24 hours to leave or face forced expulsion and death.

“It was horrible, there were only three [Muslim] families living in the area where we lived. We just left the place we knew as home overnight,” said Malik who is now a religious `Moulavi’ leader at a small mosque in the northwestern district of Puttalam, where most Muslim families relocated.

Why were they expelled?

While the country’s Muslims from the Tamil-dominated north speak Tamil, they are not generally considered ethnically Tamil by Sri Lankans - of all ethnicities - on account of their religion (most Sri Lankan Tamils are Hindus or Christians). The expulsion of Muslims, who made up 5 percent of Northern Province’s population before 1990, followed the emergence of a new national Muslim political party, the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress. LTTE leaders feared the new party undermined LTTE’s goal of a mono-ethnic Tamil state. The few Sinhalese who used to live in Jaffna city were forced out years before Muslims.

LTTE, which at the time controlled most of Jaffna Peninsula, made sure fleeing Muslims did not take with them any household items, furniture, or even land deeds in some cases. Each person could not carry more than US$2.25.

The 30 October 1990 mass flight was the largest forced eviction of Muslims during Sri Lanka’s civil war. Researchers estimate close to 75,000 Muslims were forced from their homes during the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Where are they now?

Most resettled in northwestern Puttalam District, which already had a sizeable Muslim population. Their number has now swelled to 250,000, according to Colombo-based NGO Law and Society Trust, as well as the Citizens Commission on the Expulsion of Muslims from Northern Province by LTTE in October 1990.

Formed in 2008 the Commission is a collective of Muslim civic groups campaigning for the rights of displaced Muslims.

Almost a quarter of a century after their flight and 44 months since the end of the conflict in May 2009, most are still living in what was intended to be temporary relocation sites.

“They really don’t want to go back if there is no guarantee of jobs and housing. So far there is no such guarantee,” said Abdul Matheen, a community leader working with displaced Muslims in Puttalam.

Researchers and experts told IRIN that resettling people displaced for years was more complicated than resettling those displaced for a short time.

“They tend to take longer to return and will attempt to rebuild their houses and livelihoods before shifting their entire family [back to their original villages],” said Mirak Raheem, a researcher with local NGO Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA).

Raheem, who specializes in displacement, told IRIN that most displaced Muslims were wary of leaving their current residence because they lacked the means to resettle. “They have lived for so long in displacement and tried to build a life there, they may opt to settle there. This is especially true for the generation borne and brought up in displacement.”

What support are they getting?

There are no current government or NGO-supported programmes to facilitate resettlement of displaced Muslims.

The November 2011 report by the government-appointed Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC), which looked into the conduct of the war, noted “the treatment given to the Muslim community of the Northern Province has led them to believe that they are at the bottom of the list of priorities of the government, INGOs [international NGOs] and NGOs and the donor community”.

Assistance targeting displaced Muslims has been scant; one rare case is the US$34 million World Bank funded Puttalam Housing Project, completed in 2011,which provided 4,460 houses to internally displaced persons (IDPs).

Have Muslims registered to return?

In mid-2010 almost all displaced Muslims registered to return in order to qualify for six months of government-supported rations for returnees, according to Farzana Haniffa, editor of The Quest for Redemption: The Story of the Northern Muslims.

But few actually made the return journey.

Haniffa, who teaches at Colombo University, told IRIN it was up to the government to support the return of Muslim IDPs, most of whom have a closer linguistic affinity to the north. “They speak Tamil, while in Puttalam the working language is Sinhalese.”

Are there any local tensions?

In Puttalam, most displaced Muslims continue living off odd-jobs. Decent jobs, especially for youths, are scarce. Malik told IRIN that even after almost 25 years in Puttalam, he still felt alien. “I know that we are still looked upon as second class citizens here.”

Matheen, the Puttalam community worker, said dwindling water and land resources, as well as scant jobs, have heightened tensions between Puttalam’s native population and Muslim arrivals.

CPA’s Raheem told IRIN that if there were enough jobs, schooling, housing and health care in the north, many of the displaced would return. But jobs and housing reconstruction have lagged far behind needs in the former northern war zone.

What about reintegration and reconciliation?

The LLRC report acknowledged Muslims IDPs have been living in “dire conditions” for more than two decades and have had trouble integrating. Muslim IDPs interviewed by the Commission reported not being recognized as IDPs. In addition, they said they were “short-changed” in peace negotiations: their request to participate as an independent delegation was not honoured.

The Commission concluded that Muslims IDPs remain one of the “key post-conflict challenges” with a “significant impact” on reconciliation prospects.

“The Commission is of the view that durable solutions should be found to address this long-standing IDP issue concerning the Muslims evicted from the North, which contains the seeds of disharmony and dissension if it remains unaddressed.”

(Courtesy: IRIN)

Memoir of a Muslim boy growing up in the West

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

What goes into making the perfect gentleman? The author of a delightful memoir on being a Muslim boy growing up in the West tells us.

By Sharmilla Ganesan

Meeting Imran Ahmad after reading his book The Perfect Gentleman is rather surreal; it feels like you know entirely too much about a person you’ve just met, thanks to his honest, endearing and witty memoir.

You know, for instance, that he secretly wore pyjama bottoms under formal trousers when he was young, because the material irritated his skin otherwise. You know he was secretly tempted to bash in the head of a racist school bully with his briefcase (and yes, he carried a briefcase to school). You know that he secretly imagined himself to be a cross between James Bond and Simon Templar. You even know that, as a teenager, he agonised over what he was supposed to do on his wedding night.

So open is Imran about his experiences, thoughts and emotions of being a Pakistani Muslim growing up in London that you forget you’re reading an autobiography and he begins to feel more like an absorbing fictional character – which can be rather odd when that character is sitting in front of you having a cup of coffee.

“Unless I was absolutely honest, there was no point in writing the book,” says Imran, who recently turned 50. “I wanted readers to understand my own internal, mental and spiritual development. You’ll notice once I slip into the story, I write in the present tense. It’s meant to be in the moment, there is no apology from the writer for 30 years ago.”

Currently based in Kuala Lumpur and working with an investment company, Imran was born in Pakistan and moved to Britain with his parents at the age of one. Having attended a prestigious boys’ grammar school, he went to university in Scotland where he studied chemistry, but eventually ended up working as a management consultant, in renowned corporates like Unilever and General Electric.

Originally written and self-published in 2005 as Unimagined, the book was picked up by British book retailer Waterstones in 2007. Imran, however, had his sights set on a US publisher, with dreams of getting that coveted Oprah Winfrey book endorsement. In 2012, his dream was achieved when US publisher Hachette republished the book and distributed it worldwide under its current title. The cherry on the cake? The book landed on O, the Oprah magazine, as a recommended book.

Imran’s efforts to reconcile his ethnic and religious identity with mainstream Western ideals form the basis of The Perfect Gentleman, as he grapples with questions on spirituality, culture and race.

Interwoven with these are the more personal aspects of his life: cars, books, movies, friendships, first love (and heartbreak), job interviews, and so on. Imran even bravely shares his experience of agreeing to an arranged marriage, and later, after 20 years, his divorce.

He sees it as a process of acceptance and taking responsibility for his decisions.

“How are we going to be happy and empowered without being honest about what we’ve been through? Ninety percent of what we all go through is part of the common human experience, everyone goes through these issues and feels these emotions. People don’t feel so alone when they discover that others have shared similar experiences to theirs.

A recurrent theme in The Perfect Gentleman is Imran’s ambivalence towards the idea of an arranged marriage, while being confronted with the idea of falling in love. Proudly dubbing himself a feminist, Imran adds that one of his missions with the book is to end the traditional arranged marriage practice, where potential spouses are matched based on race, religion, social standing, wealth and physical appearance.

“Growing up, I always wondered, why (Westerners) married for love, and we South Asians married for anything but love. When we keep to traditions like arranged marriages, we deny that we individuals have personalities, desires and dreams. We need to be allowed to stop repressing our emotions, and be free,” he says. “I never thought I would come to a place in my life where my ex-wife, my daughter and I would all be happy, and on excellent terms with each other, but it happened. That is the real miracle of my life.”

A large part of the book’s narrative also deals with Imran coming to terms with his spirituality. Often being the only Muslim in his social circle, he spent much of his life struggling with matters of faith – both his own and others’.

“For me, the book was always a spiritual journey. It takes a long time to break the bonds that we’ve been conditioned with, but when it comes to religion, the important thing is to let go of tribalism, and focus on our common humanity. My little contribution to the world, if I may say so, is to promote this. I want to re-humanise Muslims to the rest of the world.”

Despite the thought-provoking issues he raises, the book remains consistently light and readable, thanks to Imran’s inherently humorous writing style and ability to make his experiences relatable.

“I absolutely did not want to make it a miserable book!” he asserts. “My life wasn’t miserable; I mean, there were certain dark aspects, but I wanted to keep the book light and moving forward. I tend to take a philosophical attitude towards my negative experiences. After all, even the racist bully in school provided a necessary narrative and drama in my book.”

Imran is by no means done with sharing his life’s stories. He’s already got a sequel drafted out, with plans for a third book as well.

“I’ve always had a compulsion to write, I just didn’t know what to write about. Earlier, writing my personal story seemed too sensitive, but as I became older, I realised my book was already written in my head!” he says.

Currently single and having settled into his new life in KL (he’s been here for about two years now), Imran is looking forward to beginning life anew. He continues to look for his ideal woman, whom he says is “intelligent, elegant, successful, independent, vivacious, active, spiritually aware, and doesn’t actually need a man to look after her.

“She will challenge me, not bring me tea. And she definitely won’t iron my shirts; mine are all non-iron, in any case!

“Being in a completely new environment and free from baggage, I feel young and full of potential. I think we should all dare to dream and believe that we can have life, love and happiness. Why not?”

(Courtesy: The Star, Malaysia)

Hijab power and song proves fruitful in the UK

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

By Mette Reitzel

London: A recent parliamentary report in the UK reveals that some Muslim women are removing their headscarves and anglicizing their names to improve their chances in the job market. Two best friends featured in the upcoming documentary film Hip Hop Hijabis did the exact opposite.

Born in Bristol to Jamaican parents, they converted to Islam in 2005, started wearing the hijab and changed their names to Sukina Abdul Noor and Muneera Rashida. Together they are known as the Hip Hop duo Poetic Pilgrimage and have toured internationally to critical acclaim.

It is estimated there are a total of 100,000 British converts to Islam, a majority of them are women and a growing number are black youth from the inner cities. Combined with immigration this has made Islam the second largest religion in the UK at around 5 per cent of the population according to the latest census data.

Polls indicate that roughly half of all Britons think that is too many and that “Muslims create problems in the UK” reports an Evening Standard article on 11 December 2012. Yet evidence compiled by Islamophobia author Chris Allen shows that two thirds admit to knowing “nothing or next to nothing about Islam” and get most of their knowledge from the media, which the Leveson Report on British press culture recently described to be biased in their coverage of Muslim stories.

By gaining insight into the mindset and daily lives of two outspoken female Muslim converts, Hip Hop Hijabis aims to dispel some of the misconceptions that cause such polarised views, especially around the issue of gender equality, which was a major concern for Sukina and Muneera when they initially felt drawn to the religion.

Researching the question further they found that in historical terms Islam was radically egalitarian, – condemning the common practice of female infanticide and introducing rights of inheritance, divorce and education for women at a time when they were generally considered their husbands property. They also learnt that customs such as female genital cutting and honour killings predate Islam and are not sanctioned by the Quran.

By speaking out against these cultural traditions from within an Islamic framework, Poetic Pilgrimage is part of a growing number of Muslim artists, activists and intellectuals reclaiming their religion.

Doing so through the language of Hip Hop has unintentionally become a statement in itself, as some interpretations of Islam consider music and female performance to be forbidden.

The advantage is that through their skilful rhymes, catchy beats and positive energy Poetic Pilgrimage can reach a wide audience, – both European Muslim youth who may be feeling trapped between cultures, and non-Muslims, whose stereotypes are efficiently challenged by two hijab-wearing rappers.

Though Hip Hop and religion may initially seem like unlikely partners, they both stem from a strong desire for social justice, and there have always been a large number of Muslim artists within the genre. A wide network of educational initiatives has developed around it, encouraging creative expression through Hip Hop as an alternative to violence, drugs and other destructive behaviour.

Extremism has been dominating the public debate around Islam for too long. There are many highly educated and outspoken Muslims who think that justifying misogyny and violence in the name of Islam is a gross misinterpretation of their faith, but their voices are rarely heard.

Conflict and tragedy simply make for better headlines but also breed fear and hate on both sides of the divide with potentially fatal consequences.

The Hip Hop Hijabis project is an attempt to redress the balance and contribute to a more nuanced debate. It will include creative workshops, lectures and public debates to encourage constructive dialogue and counter religious extremism as well as Islamophobia.

(Courtesy: Women News Network)

‘Muslim women should be able to wear hijab at work’

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | | Posted in , ,

By Patrick Cooke

More Muslim women would join the workforce if the Government issued a directive clarifying that the hijab headscarf could be worn at work, Imam Mohammed Elsadi said.

The public is generally very tolerant of Islamic dress.

“Some ladies who wear the hijab do not apply for jobs because they worry they will be forced to remove it,” Mr Elsadi said.

The Imam was recently speaking to Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi on the topic of wearing the hijab at work.

He told The Times when contacted that he would like the Government to clearly state women were allowed to wear it in both the public and private sector.

Two Muslim women working in non-medical jobs in Malta’s health sector had been forced to remove the hijab, he said. He also knew Muslim women teaching in Government schools who did not wear the garment at work.

“I don’t know if this is because they are forbidden to wear it, whether they remove it out of fear or whether they choose not to wear it,” he said.

Asked if he would like the directive to include the right to wear the niqab (face covering) at work, Mr Elsadi said he was focusing only on the hijab.

He added that Maltese authorities and the public were generally very tolerant of Islamic dress.
“We appreciate very much their attitude towards Muslim women,” he said.

(Courtesy: TimesOfMalta.com)

Muslim ‘modesty patrol’ stalking streets of London

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | | Posted in , ,

Group "commands the good and forbids the evil" in confronting those who dress inappropriately or drink alcohol.

By Jonny Paul

London: Borough officials, community leaders and police condemned a group of self-proclaimed vigilantes who took it upon themselves to patrol the streets of London confronting people they deemed as indulging in “non-Muslim” behavior.

Earlier this month, a group who had claimed an area in East London was a “Muslim area” had told people that alcohol was banned, or that they were dressed inappropriately.

The group, who dubbed itself a “Muslim patrol,” filmed the incidents and posted the footage on YouTube.

In one video, which was first published last week by the UK news portal The Commentator, the group could be seen destroying advertisements for H&M lingerie on bus shelters in the Whitechapel area of London.

“The Muslims have taken it upon themselves to command the good and forbid the evil and cover up these naked women,” one of the vigilantes says in the video.

Another video shows the group harassing members of the public for consuming alcohol. In one incident, a member of the public is told to dispose of a can of beer he is drinking.

The individual shown in the video is clearly shocked when he is told it is a Muslim area and that alcohol is “evil and banned” as they take his beverage away from him.

In yet another video, which begins with a logo stating that “Islam will dominate the world,” followed by a homophobic graphic, the group can be seen shouting at a man.

One member of the “patrol” shouts: “Hello mate, don’t you know this is a Muslim area?” He asks the man why he is dressed “like that” while another shouts “Homosexual! Homosexual.”

When the man, who appears clearly distressed in the video, asks why they are bothering him, the group hurls abuse at him.

“Because you’re walking through a Muslim area dressed like a fag. You need to get out of here.”

“You’re gay mate, get out of here you bloody fag. Don’t stay around here anymore.”

The self-styled group also stops people for dressing “inappropriately,” or for possessing alcohol near a mosque.

One young woman confronted by the group said she was appalled by their actions.

“This is Great Britain,” she said, to which the patrol can be heard saying, “We don’t care. It’s not so Great Britain, you understand? Vigilantes are implementing Islam.”

The London Metropolitan Police said that they are treating the incidents with “appropriate gravity,” adding that they are aware of the incidents and are increasing police patrols in the area.

“We are aware of incidents over the weekend of January 12-13, where members of the community had suffered harassment by as yet unidentified individuals stating the area was a ‘Muslim area’ and claiming to be a ‘Muslim patrol,’ a police spokesman said.

The police said it was engaging with a range of people in order to address the issue and find those responsible for the incidents.

“Patrols in the areas affected have also been increased in an effort to catch those carrying this out and to reassure the local community.

Officers have already been engaging with the communities of Tower Hamlets [Borough] including the businesses and mosques, and are working with local community leaders, influential people, local businesses and the local authority about what is being done, and can be done, to address concerns and identify those responsible,” the police said.

The police are urging anyone who has been a victim of the vigilantes, or anyone who knows the perpetrators, to come forward.

The Tower Hamlets Council told The Jerusalem Post they are “proactively working with partners in the community and police” to monitor for further incidents and take appropriate action.

“This is an isolated incident by a few individuals whose actions go entirely against the council’s and community’s ethos of One Tower Hamlets. We are proud of the community cohesion in our borough and know that the vast majority of residents believe that people from all backgrounds should be treated with dignity and respect,” a Tower Hamlets spokesman said on Monday.

Alan Green, chair of the Tower Hamlets Interfaith Forum said, “The behavior of the very few people who call themselves the ‘Muslim patrol’ does not represent the vast majority of Muslims living in Tower Hamlets.

These are troublemakers seeking to undermine the mutual respect which is at the heart of our diverse and vibrant borough and ensures that people of different faiths and view-points can live harmoniously together.”

A London Muslim Center spokesman said, “We wholly condemn their behavior.

They are not welcome in our community. We deplore the actions of a small minority who sow discord within our communities. It has no place in our faith, neither in its teachings nor practices.”

The Muslim Council of Britain, a Muslim community representative organization, told the Post that the group was an unrepresentative minority.

“We cannot comment on the veracity of this video, particularly as the website [The Commentator] you refer to revels in trading anti-Muslim stories. Nevertheless, if the contents of this is true, then we would urge the police to intervene; we do not condone such vigilantism.”

(Courtesy: The Jerusalem Post)

Burger chain settles halal dispute

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

McDonald's has settled a case in which it was claimed a Detroit restaurant falsely advertised food as being prepared according to Islamic dietary law

McDonald's and one of its franchise owners agreed to pay 700,000 US dollars (£440,000) to members of the Muslim community to settle allegations a Detroit-area restaurant falsely advertised its food as being prepared according to Islamic dietary law.

McDonald's and Finley's Management agreed to the tentative settlement, with that money to be shared by Dearborn Heights resident Ahmed Ahmed, a Detroit health clinic, the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn and lawyers.

Ahmed's attorney, Kassem Dakhlallah, said he was "thrilled" with the preliminary deal which i's expected to be finalised on March 1. McDonald's and Finley's Management deny any liability but say the settlement is in their best interests.

The lawsuit alleged that Mr Ahmed bought a chicken sandwich in September 2011 at a Dearborn McDonald's but found it was not halal - meaning it did not meet Islamic requirements for preparing food. Islam forbids consumption of pork, and God's name must be invoked before an animal providing meat for consumption is slaughtered.

Mr Dakhlallah said there are only two McDonald's in the United States that sell halal products and both are in Dearborn, which has one of the nation's largest Arab and Muslim communities. Overall, the Detroit area is home to about 150,000 Muslims of many different ethnicities.

The locations advertise that they exclusively sell halal Chicken McNuggets and McChicken sandwiches and they have to get those products from an approved halal provider, said Mr Dakhlallah. He said there was no evidence of problems on the production side, but alleged the Dearborn location on Ford Road sold non-halal products when it ran out of halal.

Mr Dakhlallah said he was approached by Mr Ahmed, and they conducted an investigation. A letter sent to McDonald's and Finley's Management by Mr Dakhlallah's firm said Mr Ahmed had "confirmed from a source familiar with the inventory" that the restaurant had sold non-halal food "on many occasions".

After they received no response to the letter, Mr Dakhlallah said, they filed a lawsuit in Wayne County Circuit Court in November 2011 as part of a class action.

In the settlement notice, Finley's Management said it "has a carefully designed system for preparing and serving halal such that halal chicken products are labelled, stored, refrigerated, and cooked in halal-only areas". The company added it trains its employees on preparing halal food and "requires strict adherence to the process".

He said although Mr Ahmed believes McDonald's was negligent, there was no evidence that the chain set out to deceive customers. Mr Dakhlallah said: "McDonald's from the very beginning stepped up and took this case very seriously. They made it clear they wanted to resolve this. They got ahead of the problem."

(Courtesy: Independent, Ireland)

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