Asghar Ali Engineer -- His life was Gentle; and the Elements…

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

By Syed Ali Mujtaba

Well I will never forgive myself, if I don’t pen an obit on revered Islamic scholar Asghar Ali Engineer who passed away on 14 May 2013 in Mumbai. He was a reformist-writer and activist and internationally known for his work on liberation theology in Islam. He led the Progressive Dawoodi Bohra movement. The focus of his work was on communal and ethnic violence in India. He was an advocate of a culture of peace, non-violence and communal harmony.

I first met him at AMU Aligarh in early eighties where I was an undergraduate student of History there He was lecturing at the Kennedy Hall and some friends told me about this event. My knowledge about Islamic history was zero and I just curiously went to hear him. He was quoting from the Islamic literature and his speech was so learned that it bounced over my head. Nonetheless I am indebted to him as he opened the horizons of my knowledge.

I remember vividly how he described about his Bohra community’s politics. The diktat of the spiritual head of the Bohra community Mr. Syedna, how he was attacked inside the mosque when he resisted his fatwas. I owe all this knowledge to late Asghar Ali Engineer. That conversation continued much after the lecture. This event happened more than 30 years ago, but the memories are still fresh.

After that I started reading him mainly his write-ups in Mainstream then edited by Nikhil Chakravartty, also in Seminar edited by Romesh Thapar. Those were the days I was preparing for Civil Services exam in JNU. I was as well researching on the theme The Demand for Partition of India. My thesis is now in a book. - http://www.amazon.com/demand-partition-India-British-policy/dp/8170998689

It was also those turbulent years of the late eighties and early 90’s. Ayodhya - Babri Masjid controversy was boiling, all around riots were happening in the country. A sequel of communal politics was happening in India, with first the demolition of Babari Masjid, the Mumbai riots, and then the s writings Mumbai bomb blasts. All this had put the secularist in a corner while the communalist held sway.

It was at this moment of time Asghar Ali Engineer was not only chronicling those events but also through his writing resisting the politics of hate and revenge that ruled the roost. He upheld the secular values at time when communalism was making an onslaught. This is his greatest contribution to Indian society.

I remained deeply engrossed reading his ideas on communalism and secularism as they were so profound. He is the first person in this country to highlight the menace of communal riots. He use to visit those places where the communal riots took place and his fact finding reports published in the media exposed the saffron biases against the Muslims.

It’s only when his fact finding mission reports gained publicity the so called national media which early use to parrot the police version of the riots or cooked up its own stories, to blame the Muslims, were forced to take a balanced view of such events.
Asghar Ali Engineer was not simply an armed chaired theoretician but also a grassroots worker who actually saw the developments on the ground and made his observations and comments. This makes his position much above the ranks and files of the scholars who have made their own distinct contributions.

Engineer served as head of the Institute of Islamic Studies and the Centre for Study of Society and Secularism, both of which he founded in 1980 and 1993 respectively. He also made contributions to The God Contention, a website comparing and contrasting various worldviews.
Dr. Asghar Ali Engineer’s autobiography “A Living Faith: My Quest for Peace, Harmony and Social Change” was released by Vice President Hamid Ansari on 20 July 2011, in New Delhi.

My next encounter with him was in Chennai in 98-99, when I went to interview him as a reporter of a local daily. He was talking at the Anna University, after which I had an opportunity to interview him on the subject of communalism in this country.

My interview centered on the perils of communalism and his prognosis how to uphold the secular values in multi religious country like India. I found him to be convinced about the idea that secularism alone can be guiding principal of nation building.

He said communalists are like frogs that may come during rainy season and vanish. Secularists are those who can brave all weathers and stand like a rock to combat the divisive forces in the society. I must pay him my deep respect and sincere gratitude for imparting me a few piece of wisdom.

Even though he is no more among us, but his writings would continue to inspire millions of people in the country. He was bacon of light serving the humanity with utmost conviction. All those who have read and heard Asghar Ali Engineer will never forget him and he will live in their hearts as long they are alive.

There can be no one like Asghar Ali Engineer but I am sure his words and action will be a source of aspiration to many in the country who may like to tread the path that was laid by him. I have no doubt in saying that he was of the finest human beings with whom I had the privilege to meet, interact and shake am hands. I really feel proud for having such an opportunity.
I like to quote William Shakespeare and his famous lines in Julius Caesar as my concluding remarks in praise of late Asghar Ali Engineer – His life was gentle; and the elements so mixed in him, that Nature might stand up and say to the entire world, THIS WAS A MAN!

[Syed Ali Mujtaba is Journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at syedalimujtaba@yahoo.com]

Mumbai gets its first Shariah court

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | | Posted in , ,

Mumbai: In Mumbai, a Muslim group has set up a Shariah court to settle civil and marital disputes among Muslim families.

Unlike India's mainstream court system, justice in the court is said to be quick and less expensive.

For a long time, Mumbai's Muslim community has wanted to have a Muslim Arbitration Tribunal to resolve disputes among Muslim families.

Shariah courts already function at many Indian regions, such as Hyderabad, Patna and Malegaon.

Although they are barred from passing judgement on criminal cases, the judges, also known as Qazis, listen to the community's various disputes and deliver their judgements. They are appointed by the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB).

Maulana Wali Rahmani, a senior Muslim cleric and secretary at AIMPLB, said: "This court will function to settle mainly family disputes among Muslim families pertaining to marriage, divorce and inheritance on the basis of Shariah law."

Based on the Muslim personal law, the Shariah court resolves family and even property disputes, if a settlement can indeed be arrived at according to Shariah law.

It does not aim to compete with the civil courts but on the contrary will lessen the burden of these courts which have a long back-log of cases.

Yusuf Muchulla, a senior advocate and head of AIMPLB's legal cell, said:

"You see, it's a concept of having a domestic tribunal. It is like an alternative dispute resolution mechanism which is being encouraged now. There has been a congestion of cases in local courts. So this is to encourage people to come and solve their cases according to Muslim law."

Some erudite Muslims however, have questioned the value of Shariah court verdicts.

Dr Farrukh Waris, principal of the Burhani College of Commerce & Arts, feels that despite being the word of law for Muslims, Shariah courts don't punish an individual if its judgement is disobeyed.

This, she believes, might reduce the courts' relevance for people who come to seek justice.

Dr Farrukh added: "The bulk of the community will benefit in a very big way but what will be the binding on the people? We will reach there, hear our part of it. If it pleases us, I accept it, if it doesn't please me, then I am not accepting it. In a condition where I am not accepting, what is the control on me to be able to toe the line that the judgement that has been given to me is accepted and not trivialize the judgement of the Shariah court?"

The court began operating at the end of last month and people can now file their complaints or seek justice according to the Muslim law. And as family disputes top the list of cases registered in the local courts, this alternative tribunal is perfectly placed to potentially lessen the heavy judicial burden, provided of course, that its verdicts are fully honoured.

(Courtesy: Channel NewsAsia)

Mamta Kulkarni’s Life -- Another Dirty Picture in Making

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

By Syed Ali Mujtaba

Bollywood diva of the 1990’s Mamta Kulkarni who was lost in this lonely planet for some time now has finally been discovered to be living in Nairobi, Kenya.

The heartthrob of millions of youth of her generation has converted to Islam and is living with her husband Yousuf alias Vicky Goswami, a drug lord, who after serving prison sentence in Dubai has moved to Nairobi.

It is said that Mamta had a big role in Vicky’s release as she married him while he was serving jail sentence in Dubai. The marriage took place according to the Islamic rituals and both groom and the bride, recited passages of Holy Scripture before being declared husband and wife.

Mamta’s journey in life seems to be a fairy tale that has all the juice and spice for a Bollywood pot-boiler. It just needs a screen play writer to produce another 'Dirty Picture'.

Mamta charmed her way to stardom in Bollywood in the 90’s and then cashing on her physical assets moved into the inner circles of the underworld, finally to settle with Vikram alias Vicky Goswami, a drug lord.

Vicky Goswami (now 52), was a drug baron in South Africa. He first landed there in 1994 after being deported from Zambia for suspected drug trafficking. He left South Africa in 1995 in a huff, after the murder of drug dealer Robert "Rocks" Dlamini.

Vicky moved to Mumbai from where he continued his business. He supplied drugs to filmy personalities and it is then JAB WE MET story of Mamta Kulkarni started.

Mamta showed great interest in Vicky’s business and it seems both were made for each other. It was around 2002, when Mumbai police was looking for Bollywood connection with the underworld that Mamta moved to Dubai along with Vicky Goswami.

In Dubai, Vicky linked up with senior government officials and set up two methaqualone (mandrax) manufacturing plants. His business flourished but a joint sting operation in Mozambique and South Africa led to the unearthing of his drug manufacturing factories in Dubai. Vicky was arrested and sentenced to life imprisonment.

It is reported that when Vicky was in Jail, Mamta stepped into his shoes to control his business. Sources imprisoned with Vicky say that he was treated well in jail. He had access to cell phone and he controlled his business with that.

Mamta use to visit Vicky in jail regularly. She is believed to be instrumental in setting her lover free. Mamta was able to convince the authorities that Vicky has converted to Islam and like to marry her, who has also converted to Islamic faith.

A life sentence in Dubai is in effect 25 years, but prisoners can apply for early release on various grounds. Apart from good conduct, these include converting to Islam and learning to recite passages from the Holy Qu'ran.

Vicky in order to strengthen his clemency appeal, converted to Islam took the name Yusuf and prayed five times a day in order to prove that he has became a devout Muslim and recited passage from the Holy Scriptures daily. While being incarcerated, he got married to Aysha alias Mamta Kulkarni according to Islamic rites. These things speed up his early release and his life sentence was cut short by ten years.

Vicky was released from the Dubai central jail in November, 2012. He was deported to India but since he had no cases pending against him, he left for Kenya along with Mamta Kulkarni. The couple are believed to be living happily in Nairobi.

Mamta Kulkarni was at a point in time, one of the biggest actors in Bollywood. In the ‘90s, she had worked with some of the top stars, including the three Khans, as well as the likes of Govinda and Akshay Kumar who were at the peak of their careers.

Born in 1972 in an ordinary Maharashtrian family, Mamta joined Bollywood at the age of 20. She worked in Tiranga in 1992 with Raj Kumar and Nana Patekar, and carved a niche for herself in the industry.

She got the lead role the very next year in Aashiq Awara with Saif Ali Khan. Both Mamta and Saif won the Best debut film awards that year. In 1993 Mamta paired with film star Govinda in the film Ashant.

Mamta worked in nearly a dozen films in a brief span on two years, and signed up films at random for the next three years. Her film with Akshay Kumar in Sabse Bada Khiladi was a super hit. In 1994, she had another hit Krantiveer with Nana Patekar.

Rakesh Roshan's Karan Arjun was a super hit in 1995, in which Mamta appeared with Shah Rukh Khan. At one point of time, Mamta was working with all three great Khans in Bollywood, Shah Rukh, Salman and Aamir. She did Baazi with Aamir Khan in 1995, which was a big hit.

It was the year 1997; Mamta become the love interest of director Raj Kumar Santoshi, who gave her an item number in the film Ghatak. Their relationship prospered and Santoshi signed her up for his next film China Gate. A quarrel between Santoshi and Mamta, led to her ouster from the film.

It is reported that Mamta complained this matter to underworld don Chhota Rajan, who intervened and Santoshi was forced to take her back. He however pruned her role badly, and gave the dazzling item number ‘Chamma Chamma’ to Urmila Matondkar. This led Mamta to level serious charges against Santoshi including those of sexual exploitation.

By the year 2000, Mamta was nearing a steep decline in her film career. Her film Qila with Umesh Mehra flopped, and Chhupa Rustam with director Madan Mohla too fared badly at the box office.

In 2002, Mamta did the role of a Devdasi in the film Khajuraho, a small B-grade flick, exposing her physical attributes, but that too got bombed.

In a desperate attempt to revive her career, she appeared shirtless on the cover page of the magazine Stardust, but that failed to create any ripples. The steep decline in her film career was evident.

Some say, Mamta’s mother was the reason behind her downfall, as she was greedy, and forced her daughter to sign films recklessly. Whatever may be the case, it was after that, Mamata changed tracks. She started doing shows for selected clients. This included parties thrown by the people from the underworld.

In 1997, she was reportedly paid a large amount to perform at a private function by a legislator from Bihar, who was later arrested after investigations into the Fodder Scam case.

As Mamta allegedly started keeping wrong company her personal life got in the way of her professional life. Her co-stars and producers began to avoid her, as she was found hobnobbing with the dreaded figures of underworld.

In those turbulent years, when Mumbai police was anxious to unravel the Bollywood-underworld connection, Vicky Goswami got struck in Mamta's charm. Mumbai police record shows that Mamta was in relationship with drug smuggler Vicky alias Vikram Goswami, a drugs supplier to those associated with the Hindi film industry.

Their relationship flourished and the lovers moved to Dubai to avoid controversies and crime. It was from 2002 onwards that Mamata Kulkarni totally disappeared from the Bollywood scene.

It is reported that Mamta owns three flats in her name at Sky Anchorage apartment in Andheri West, Mumbai. All the three flats remains locked but Mamta sends maintenance charges for them regularly.

The latest buzz is that the 90’s beauty has got a plastic surgery done on her face in 2010 and has acquired a totally different look. She has obtained a passport from Dubai with a different looking photograph. Speculations are rife that Mamta is trying to erase her identity from her acquaintances in India and wants to live a life of complete anonymity in Nairobi.

The saga of Mamta Kulkarni is not yet over. The South African investigation agencies are still looking for Vicky Goswami for his illicit crimes committed in that country. It’s likely that there will be more news coming about Mamta Kulkarni in times to come.

[Syed Ali Mujtaba is Journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at syedalimujtaba@yahoo.com]

Afghanistan team evinces interest in DPIP projects’ impacts in Madhya Pradesh

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | | Posted in , ,

By Pervez Bari

Bhopal : A study team of Afghanistan Rural Development & Rehabilitation Ministry evinced inquisitiveness and keen interest in successful implementation and encouraging results achieved under the District Poverty Initiatives Projects, (DPIP), in Madhya Pradesh.

The study team on two-day visit to the state, apprised itself of livelihood augmentation and socio-economic changes through women’s self-help groups and Gram Utthan Samitis at DPIP’s state unit here on Monday.

It may be mentioned here that the District Poverty Initiatives Project (DPIP) is an ambitious project of the Government of Madhya Pradesh for the alleviation of poverty in the State.

Led by Ms Naila Ahmad of World Bank, the study team from Afghanistan Rural Development Project currently on Madhya Pradesh visit comprises of Rahmatullah Khan, Mohammad Asif, Ghulam Nabi, M. Malikzai, Ahmad Masood, Sulaiman Sarwari, Mohammad Ashraf, Ahmad Zaki, Zaki Ahmad Rashish etc.

Greeting team members, DPIP Project Coordinator L.M. Belwal apprised them about DPIP, National Rural Livelihoods Mission, other rural development and social sector programmes.

Ms Naila Ahmad of World Bank informed that Afghanistan Rural Development Project and National Solidarity Programme are being implemented in Afghanistan. The study team from Afghanistan has come to Madhya Pradesh and other places in connection with chalking out designs for next phases of these programmes. The study team will utilise experiences, learning, innovation and results of DPIP projects for chalking out these programmes. Ms Naila Ahmad informed that as a member or World Bank study team, she has already took stock of DPIP projects’ implementation by visiting villages and interacting people over there.

It was informed in the presentation of District Poverty Initiative Project that its target has been achieved by forming over 30,000 self-help groups linking 3 lakh 46 thousand women.

Monitoring and Evaluation Coordinator Manoj Saxena informed in the presentation that 18 producer companies have been formed under a novel effort. Of these, 15 companies are agriculture-based, which are benefiting small farmers. These companies have over 46 thousand shareholders with turnover of over Rs.43 crore.

Afghanistan study team members evinced special interest in DPIP’s community development works through interaction with rural communities, constitution of producer companies, various innovations and job-oriented training programmes and their encouraging results. The team members sought information in detail about the work of mobilising rural communities, specially rural women.

Later, the team member left for visits to Raisen and Rajgarh districts. During the visits, they will interact with members of self-help groups and Gram Utthan Samitis and study functioning of producer companies.

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

India–China have to build a model relationship

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

By Syed Ali Mujtaba

The visit of the Chinese premier Li Keqiang to New Delhi comes in the wake of the heightened border tension and growing mistrust and suspicion between the two neighbouring Asian giants.

Although the Chinese premier is being quoted saying that the purpose of his visit to India was three-fold — to increase mutual trust, to intensify cooperation and to face the future, the ground reality is, there exists a huge trust deficit between the two countries.

Notwithstanding the facts, if the two countries have to raise the bar of their relationship to face the future then they have to further deepen mutual understanding and construct a new paradigm in relationship.

The question remains what could be the new model relationship to promote healthy and sound development of each other. It goes without saying that this has to be based on cooperation rather than competition and in order to do so, both the countries have to eschew the cold war mindset and develop sufficient level of trust for cooperation with each other.

This nugget of wisdom for this comes from Mount Kailash pilgrimage tour that points to a new type of relationship developing between India and China .

The Kailash Sacred Landscape (KSL) includes an area of the remote south-western portion of the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) of China , and adjacent parts of north-western Nepal , and northern India , and encompasses the cultural geography of the greater Mt. Kailash area.

Each year, India ’s Ministry of External Affairs sends some 400 people to Kailash Manasarovar Yatra that includes visit to Mount Kailash and the Manasarovar Lake .

The Kailash Sacred Landscape Conservation Initiative (KSLCI), under the umbrella of the intergovernmental institution called International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) based in Kathmandu facilitates all the formalities of this tour. These organizations have set up an example of how trilateral relationship can actually work.

If Mount Kailash belongs to China , it also belongs to India and Nepal in a cultural sense. This internationalization is now highly formalized, as a trans-boundary process involving three governments, their official research institutes and many NGOs working together for a common purpose.

In this pilgrimage tour, India , China and Nepal , are enthusiastic partners. All see it an opportunity to promote healthy and sound relationship based on mutual trust and deeper understanding of each other. This rapprochement serves as a model relationship that seems to be working well in spite of differences on many other areas.

Now, when we compare this bohemian with the recent boundary standoff between India and China , one wonders why the same trust level of Kailash Manasarovar Yatra not being replicated to resolve the border row.

India and China has an informal border separating the two countries known as the Line of Actual Control (LAC), while the borders have never been formally demarcated, the countries have signed two accords to maintain peace in the frontier areas. The two armies hold regular flag meetings and the two sides are also holding talks at regular interval to draw an actual Line of Control (LOC).

This exercise is going on since past 50 years or so, but no breakthrough has so far been made. Just like the Kashmir dispute between India and Pakistan the border dispute between India and China has become a sore point whose solution seems to be nowhere in sight.

India- China in between, had three border disputes; the Sino-Indian War of 1962, the Chola incident in 1967, and the 1987 Sino-Indian skirmish that all have sullied their relationship.

The Chinese military incursions into Indian Territory is often reported in the media, the latest being the face off, in the eastern Ladakh sector in April-May 2013.

The recent face-off between India and China actually took place at Raki Nala in the Depsang Bulge area, a table-top plateau, where China squatted some 19km inside Indian Territory , claiming to be their own geographical limits.

Chinese arduous intrusion threatened to cut off India 's access to some 750 sq km area in northern Ladakh. In retaliation, India also sent its troops to the actual flash point and both the troops of both sides faced each other at a distance of 300 metres for almost three weeks.

The main bone of contention was Indian observation post at Chumar that can overlook troop movements on the Chinese side. China insisted on the demolition of the observation post as a pre-condition for the de-escalation of tension.

It was after a series of flag meetings between the commanders of both the sides that was supported by Joint Mechanism between Foreign Office of both countries, that India and China withdrew their troops.

This standoff had all the trappings of a war breaking out as the fast paced developments sent chill waves across the borders. This was more so because war mongers were shouting form the roof tops to go for a kill!

In the end it was a victory of Indian diplomacy to defuse the tension, but then it remains momentary, as there is all likelihood of the repetition of such episode in future.

The border row has put the progress of the entire gamut of India – China relationship on tenterhooks. Both countries have steadily built-up military infrastructure along border areas and this simmering ember has the potential to burst into nuclear flames.
There is total trust deficit between the two countries. India harbours suspicions about China 's strong strategic relations with its arch-rival Pakistan . It also sees Chinese relationship with its other neighbouring countries as a design to encircle it. On the contrary, China sees India as a rising power and has expressed concerns about its military and economic activities in disputed South China Sea .

So the new relationship that the Chinese premier Li Keqiang talked about does not seem to be anywhere on the horizon. It appears that the both the countries like to compete with each other without realizing the futility of the exposition of such power game.

It’s to be remembered that the gap between India and China is deep and wide. If India can keep Kashmir issue alive till eternity, China can keep the border row melting beyond that time frame.

The quest for parity simply does not stand on the test the logic. As India , stands head and shoulders above Pakistan , in the eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth power game and cannot give up Kashmir, its same yardstick that applies to China on the border row and cannot accept Indian demarcation of its line of control.

It’s this disparity of power play that has to be recognized to forge a new relationship. India and China have to evolve a totally different approach to resolve the border row.

In order to do so a separate task force needs to be constituted. It should comprise of an array of specialists besides diplomats and field commanders. This should be an intergovernmental institution with the partnership with nongovernmental institutions working for the common purpose to resolve this festering problem in a time bound and planned manner.

In order to kick star such a process, the leadership of both the countries have to build mutual trust first and this could be in areas of cultural ties such as Kailash Manasarovar Yatra.

It is this new type of relationship that is based on cooperation alone can prepare the two countries to jointly face the future that the Chinese premier Li Keqiang was talking about in New Delhi .

[Syed Ali Mujtaba is a Journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at syedalimujtaba@yahoo.com]

Pakistan turns a page

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

By Tariq A. Al-Maeena

History has been made this month in this much maligned country. A democratic process of elections went through without the usual rash of violence or indiscriminate bombings that would have turned the whole thing into a farce. Instead, the Pakistanis took to the polls and decided upon a leader.

Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) was the unquestionable winner in a hard fought elections that saw the charismatic Imran Khan’s party, the PTI establish a firm foothold in Pakistani politics. There is a confidence in the air. The PML-N party now has five years to prove that the years their leader Mr. Sharif spent in exile were not in vain. There is another wave of optimism as the tsunami led voters of Khan managed significant victories in the Northern Province and will form the provincial government in Khyber Pakhtun.

There is much work ahead for both parties. The country has many domestic heights to surmount, let alone the foreign issues it faces in its war against terrorism. But such challenges are not impossible if all parties accept the will of the majority and go about making their country better.

There is evil lurking in the horizon though. The MQM through its Machiavellian party leader Altaf Hussain is threatening to dismember the province of Sindh form the country. Saeed Qureshi, a former diplomat and respected journalist charges that “Altaf Hussain the fiery and unbridled chief of MQM has enslaved or indoctrinated his Mohajir community, mostly settled in Karachi city after their migration from India in 1947. By his rigid and merciless authoritarianism, instead of integrating, he has isolated his community from the mainstream populace of Pakistan. MQM is basically a movement for the sake of Mohajirs as an ethnic entity and not for the Pakistani nation.”

Qureshi also contends that “since its formation in 1984 as Mohajir Qaumi Movement and later renamed as Muttahida Qaumi Movement in 1997, the imprint of MQM in the minds of the people is that of a kind of mafia or an entity of roughnecks or extortionists. It is believed that the special death and terror squads within MQM kill, kidnap and torture rivals including the critics from within the MQM fold.”

He adds, “There have been also a prevailing impression that has gained ground, that the extortions or the obnoxious “parchi system” was first started by MQM to raise funds for the organization to become financially robust for carrying out its political and apolitical activities.

Undoubtedly Altaf Hussain has proven to be a great and unassailable master and unbending and strict lord of his party.”

“Several pioneering cohorts and companions are alleged to have lost their lives in all these years ostensibly due to their opposition of the ruthless leader with symptoms of indiscretion. Their names are in public knowledge.The MQM captures most seats in Karachi both for the National Assembly and for the Sindh provincial assembly. These seats in the distant past used to be shared by Jamaat-i-Islami and some other political factions. But for many years now these are exclusively bagged by MQM. The MQM’s political behavior for all these years has been to browbeat and flex its muscles whenever its hegemony was challenged by other groups within the context of Karachi and broadly in Sindh.”

With the recent elections, most of the wind has come out of his sails as other parties made great inroads into the province he has been dominating with near like terrorism. The Pakistani voters have made up their minds and Hussain and his gang of rogues could be marginalized over the coming term. But such men do not go down quietly. And that is why he has now tried to rouse the call for separating the province from the country, and establish his own fiefdom in the process. He has come to be known as “a dreaded and pitiless czar and a violent baron.”

Imran Khan has accused the MQM warlords of killing one of his senior staff a week after a general election. He charged, “I hold (MQM leader) Altaf Hussain directly responsible for the murder as he openly threatened PTI workers and leaders through public broadcasts. I also hold the British government responsible as I had warned them about British citizen Altaf Hussain after his open threats.”

Personalities such as Altaf Hussain do not bode well for the future cohesion of Pakistan. In that most Pakistanis took to the polls in an orderly manner and exercised their choices this month, they should also continue to safeguard their country against despots who think nothing of breaking down their country for personal pursuits. It is now time for Pakistanis to make that choice.

[The writer can be contacted at talmaeena@aol.com. Follow him on Twitter: @talmaeena]

(Courtesy: Saudi Gazette)

Pennant Technologies Signs Ethica for Islamic Finance Certification

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

IMO News Service

The Islamic finance industry has unique IT requirements that require technology professionals to have some understanding of the processes around which Islamic finance products are based. Pennant Technologies, the financial IT specialist, today announced that it has signed on Ethica Institute of Islamic Finance in Dubai to train and certify its professionals in the core Islamic banking products. Ethica is the global leader in Islamic finance certification, now having certified professionals in 47 countries and over 100 institutions.

“We are excited to enhance our Islamic banking understanding in association with Ethica,” commented Rama Krishna Raju, CEO at Pennant. “The addition of online Islamic finance education and related certification programs will give significant benefit to the Pennant's Islamic banking product engineering and implementation staff,” added Pradeep Varma, Director at Pennant.

Ethica’s spokesperson said, “There is growing awareness that IT professionals at banks need to know Islamic banking at least as well as the bankers, especially if they are creating the systems on which the products will be executed." The fact that an Indian IT company focused on the banking and financial sector is developing its resources in Islamic banking with Ethica also marks a landmark event for Ethica's exclusive partner in India, Infinity Consultants whose Managing Partner, Saif Ahmed commented that, "With this important step of investing in its people, Pennant takes the long-term view that Islamic banking and finance is an important market for the IT sector and we expect to see other India-based IT firms choose Ethica's training solutions.”

Pennant develops enterprise level integration and business applications for the financial world and is now growing its expertise in Islamic finance. The professionals undergoing Ethica’s training at Pennant will take part in a rigorous 4-month online training program followed by a certification exam. Ethica’s Certified Islamic Finance Executive (CIFE) program takes newcomers to a high level of Islamic finance knowledge in an accelerated, practical program that focuses on what happens inside the bank, and less on the theory.

Muslim World Woefully Underserved By PR Sector

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

By Yusuf Hatia

The Muslim market is large, lucrative and underserved. Technically, it is the single biggest consumer market in the world – bigger than India and China - but treated differently because it isn’t limited to a geography, race or culture. And, at a time when companies are looking to find the next billion consumers the Muslim market presents a unique opportunity.

Islamic doctrine, by and large, is not ascetic and does not discourage trade or consumerism. Likewise, it does not divide the state from religion, which means that Muslims practice their faith hand in hand with the political, social and cultural roles they play in society. So, the concept of a Muslim market or a Muslim consumer, we believe, is a valid one.

Consider some of the demographic data that makes this consumer very interesting. The global Muslim population is expected to grow by about 35 percent over the next 20 years, rising from 1.6 billion in 2010 to 2.2 billion by 2030, or over a quarter of the world’s total projected population of 8.3 billion. By 2050, the Muslim population could grow to 2.6 billion and represent nearly 30 percent of the global projected population.

By 2030, 79 countries are expected to hold a million or more Muslim residents, from the current 72 countries. A majority of the world’s Muslims (more than 60 percent) will continue to live in the Asia Pacific region, while about 20 percent will live in the Middle East and North Africa. Muslims will remain relatively small minorities in Europe and the Americas, but will constitute a growing share of the total population in these regions. To be successful in Asia, as well as the Middle East and North Africa, companies must learn to understand and address the Muslim market on a large scale.

One demographic factor makes the Muslim market even more attractive to companies -- it is largely young and part of an emerging middle class on the road to greater consumption. Some of these consumers will bank, use branded products and go online for the first time and are likely to follow brands that are relevant to them and speak their language.

In Islamic majority and minority countries throughout Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and Europe, business activity is escalating, with Islamic trade currently estimated in trillions of dollars.

Excluding Islamic finance and banking, the global Halal market is valued at about $2.3 trillion. The worldwide Halal food market alone is worth an estimated US$650 billion or more and is close to 17 percent of the global food industry. A leading professor at a US university recently made the bold statement that any food company that doesn’t have a Halal strategy can’t consider itself to be a global company. It explains why companies like Nestle are betting big on the Halal opportunity.

At the end of 2011, assets compliant with Islamic banking topped the US$1 trillion mark and recorded another year of double-digit growth. The Halal pharmaceutical industry is estimated by some analysts to be worth as much as $500 billion while the Halal cosmetics market is worth around US$13billion and growing at a compound annual rate of about 12 percent.

Companies are starting to understand the great opportunity that the Muslim consumer represents. But addressing this market is not as straightforward as dealing with other billion population consumer markets such as India and China. For a start, the Muslim community is not a single homogeneous group. Muslims live in every country in the world, represent every race and come from every social and economic stratum. And although they share the common thread of their beliefs, they have their own cultural, regional or local nuances, preferences and practices.

The diversity of the Muslim consumer can prove to be a challenge to those who view markets as geographies and for whom the concept of an Islamic consciousness operating across market frontiers is alien. Neither can the Muslim economy be as easily defined as other cross-border markets such as the "green economy" or the "pink dollar."

For brands that find ways to embrace and engage the Muslim consumer, the rewards are rich. And smart, compelling communications will play a critical role in targeting a consumer market that already represents nearly a quarter of humanity.

These are some of the reasons why FleishmanHillard set up a group last year to better understand the development of the Muslim opportunity, where the greatest potential lies and analyze the communications and reputation issues that companies need to be aware of.

FH Majlis also exists because clients are beginning to ask us questions that we need to answer. We felt it important to adopt a clear position on the opportunity, which is to help both Muslim and non-Muslim organizations navigate the market and provide some pointers that companies need to consider.

We believe that the next four to five years will see this market become more pronounced as the consumer base grows – in size and spending power – and companies need to have a clearer understanding of the opportunity and a strategy to adapt their brands to the Muslim consumer.

[Yusuf Hatia is senior VP/Managing Director of FleishmanHillard’s Mumbai office.]

(Courtesy: O'Dwyer's)

Woolwich Killing: Mosques, Islamic Centres & Madrassah Security & Safety Tips

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

IMO News Service

Following the barbaric murder of a British Soldier in the streets of London yesterday, a number of reprisal attacks have been reported on Mosques and Islamic centres in the UK.

Faith Associates, a non-theological consultancy to meet the needs of ethnic minority faith-based communities in the UK, recently received requests by a number of Mosques and Islamic centres for advice and assistance on safety and security matters, and hence wanted to share the following advice and suggestion provided thus far.

Mosque, Islamic Centres & Madrassah Security & Safety Tips:

1. Prepare and Plan: Your management and executive team should meet and assess the levels of risk for your buildings, congregation, neighbours and local community. Engage you local police, fire or prevent engagement officers. Seek their professional advice on security protocols and local protocols for emergencies. They may have a local risk assessment that they can share with you to help judge the level of risk in your area.

2. Report Threats: Immediately document and report all threats, suspicious activities, packages or persons to the police. Do not make any attempts to confront threatening persons or touch suspicious packages. If you receive any threatening mail or emails keep them and hand them over to the police. Inform your congregation especially via Jummah khutba’s (Friday Sermons) that if they are confronted by Islamaphopic abuse (Physical or verbal), mail or emails that they should also report this.

3. Install Alarms and Cameras: Install fire (smoke and heat) and security alarm systems that are connected to local police and fire departments where possible. Make sure all access points are observed by security cameras that have remote off-site backup.

4. Keep Outside Areas Clean and Visible: Remove potential fire hazards, such as rubbish and debris and trim shrubs and vines to reduce areas of concealment. Install perimeter floodlights to cover the outside grounds and parking spaces.

5. Health and Safety: Review all emergency exists, entry points, fire hydrants, all staff need to be aware of emergency protocols especially Madrassah teachers, Imams, all paid staff and volunteers, first aiders, fire wardens. Your protocols need to be rehearsed before Jummah pray and all members of the team need to be aware of their responsibility before major events in your centre.

6. Plan for the Long-Term: Establish a security committee to work with Police with the goal of developing long-term security plans, threat assessments, crisis plans, trainings, and drills. Annually hold safety trainings and evacuation drills for all staff, volunteers, and worshippers. Your health and safety protocols need to be accessible in the premises for all staff and volunteers.

7. Working in partnership: Think local – your local Police and fire Safety teams will be ready to assist if you engage.

8. Mosque Open day: Remove any suspicions, open your Mosques to the wider community especially your local non Muslim neighbours. Be transparent and engaging as this will prevent external forces who wish to cause disharmony and have ill intent against your Mosque to exploit local tensions. (Free Mosque Open day guide)

Useful links:

For additional information, and to support your Mosque and Islamic Centre contact Faith Associates on 0845 273 3903, or via email at info@faithassociates.co.uk

UK mosques attacked in backlash of Woolwich beheading

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

By Kounteya Sinha

London: Britain experienced a communal backlash against Muslims within 24 hours of a young, serving soldier being butchered with "stone age savagery" in Woolwich by two radical British Nigerians who had changed from being "devout Christians to Muslims" recently.

Mobs calling themselves English Defence League clashed with riot police after last night's "terror attack". Mosques in Woolwich, Braintree in Essex and Gillingham in Kent were attacked with bricks and bottles.

Fearing such backlash could intensify and affect all Asian communities including Indians, 1,200 extra police officers were posted on the streets of London. Prime minister David Cameron called for calm saying the incident in Woolwich "has sickened us all".

"The people who did this were trying to divide us. They should know: something like this will only bring us together and make us stronger," Cameron said, adding that the attack wasn't just against Britain but against Islam as well.

"This was not just an attack on Britain and on our British way of life. It was also a betrayal of Islam - and of Muslim communities who give so much to our country. There's nothing in Islam that justifies this truly dreadful act. We will defeat violent extremism by standing together," Cameron said.

"Terrorism that has taken more Muslim lives than any other religion. It is an utter perversion of the truth to pretend anything different. That is why there is absolutely no justification for these acts and the fault for them lies solely and purely with the sickening individuals who carried out this appalling attack," he said.

Cameron then visited Woolwich and met leaders of different communities including Sikhs. The two suspects were known to Britain's intelligence agency MI5. One of the two was named as 28-year-old Michael Adeboloja.

Adebolajo is said to have joined the banned Islamist organisation Al Muhajiroun, which promotes Sharia law. He was stopped by intelligence agencies earlier on his way to join the militant Islamist group Al Shabaab in Somalia last year.

What has shocked most people is the brashness with which Adeboloja killed the soldier after hitting him with his car and then hacking him and beheading him. Britain's defence ministry named the victim on Wednesday evening as drummer Lee Rigby of 2nd Battalion, the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers.

Talking to passerbys with blood dripping from his hands, Adeboloja said, "It was an eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth." He hacked his victim shouting 'Allah-u Akbar', meaning 'God is great'.

In a chilling rant captured on camera, the knife-wielding Adeboloja then said, "The only reason we have killed this man today is because Muslims are dying daily by British soldiers. Remove your governments, they don't care about you. You think David Cameron is going to get caught in the street when we start bursting our guns? You think politicians are going to die? Tell them to bring our troops back so you can all live in peace."

Police investigating the attack have been searching an address in Greenwich and another in Lincolnshire, believed to be connected to Adeboloja. Four people have been picked up for questioned, three of them being women.

Metropolitan Police's Counter Terrorism Command and MI5 are trying to determine whether this could be part of a more orchestrated campaign. The Muslim Council of Britain said the murder was "a truly barbaric act that has no basis in Islam and we condemn this unreservedly".

(Courtesy: The Times of India)

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