New Australian cabinet: Most women, first Muslim sworn in

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 05 July 2013 | Posted in

Melbourne: Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd Monday unveiled his new cabinet, including a record number of six women, along with the first ever Muslim in the country's parliament.

Governor-General Quentin Bryce swore in the ministers Monday afternoon before a first cabinet meeting in Canberra.

Rudd named six women to his cabinet, the largest number in Australian parliamentary history.

In another first, 43-year-old Ed Husic was elevated to a senior role and named parliament secretary to the Prime Minister as he became the first ever Muslim to be sworn on to a federal government frontbench.

Rudd said he wanted the "best players on the field" and his new ministry has been chosen on merit and it outpoints the opposition on quality and experience, local media reported. He pledged to work for a "stronger, fairer Australia... and never ever, ever allow the fair-go to be thrown out the backdoor."

The women ministers include newcomers Jacinta Collins as minister of Mental Health and Ageing, Tasmanian MP Julie Collins as minister for housing, Homelessnes and status of Women and Catherine King as minister for Regional Australia.

Rudd Monday said women in his ministry were there based on their talents, not their gender.

(Courtesy: The Indian Express)

Burma’s Rohingya Muslims targeted by Buddhist mob violence

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 04 July 2013 | Posted in ,

By Brendan Brady

Muslims from an obscure ethnic group in western Burma have become targets of vicious Buddhist mob attacks. Brendan Brady reports from Rakhine state on the increasing violence.

As mobs wielding torches and machetes rampaged through his neighborhood, Abdul had a strangely candid encounter with one assailant. Recognizing the man as his long-time neighbor—the same man who had once showed great affection towards Abdul’s children—Abdul yelled to his would-be executioner: "‘Why are you doing this?’ He told me, ‘Sorry, I’m fighting for my people.’” Abdul, whose full name is withheld to protect his identity, is a Muslim from the Rohingya ethnic group and his attacker, a Buddhist. Abdul kept him and other members of the mob at bay by throwing his valuables out of his window onto the street. As they were distracted collecting the cash and jewelry, another group of Buddhists from his street approached his house from the rear. They, too, were armed but they had come to escort Abdul and his family out of the besieged neighborhood. “They saved our lives.”

The conflict in western Burma’s Rakhine State erupted last June, when reports spread that a Buddhist woman was raped and murdered by three Rohingya men. Shortly after, a mob of Buddhists exacted retribution by pulling over a bus carrying Muslims and beating 10 passengers to death. The incidents ignited sectarian violence throughout the state. Nearly 200 were killed and many more injured, and some 10,000 homes were destroyed. The vast majority of the estimated 140,000 displaced were Rohingyas, and a year after their violent upheaval they continue to languish in squalid temporary encampments.

In recent months, the violence spread to include attacks on Muslim communities in other parts of the country. In March, provoked by a small dispute in a Muslim-owned gold shop, a Buddhist mob tore through a town in central Burma, killing over 40 people, burning mosques and Muslim homes, and displacing thousands. In May, 1,200 Muslims in the country’s northeast fled from their homes when throngs of armed Buddhists mobilized after unconfirmed reports that a Muslim man killed a Buddhist woman in the area.

The turmoil carries worrying implications for national reconciliation and the sustainability of democratic reforms in Burma, also known as Myanmar, which is in the first stages of transitioning from military to civilian rule. Since independence, in 1948, Burma’s government has been in alternately hot and cold conflicts with myriad ethnic minority groups in the country’s border regions. The xenophobic generals who seized power by coup in 1962 justified their iron-fisted rule as necessary to hold together a fractured country. The junta stepped down in 2011 and Burma’s new semi-civilian government has carried out surprisingly comprehensive reforms: loosening controls on political association, civil society and the press, as well as releasing hundreds of political prisoners. But fresh sectarian violence serves as fodder to the army’s insistence on remaining a backstop to the fragile civilian government and maintaining ultimate authority. It also raises questions about how far democratic reforms will extend to minorities.

Regarded in many quarters as the most persecuted ethnic group in Asia, the Rohingya live in the borderlands between Burma and Bangladesh but are officially a stateless people. There are around a million Rohingya in Burma today. Their exact roots are debated but many likely settled in Burma in the 19th century, having migrated from modern-day Bangladesh into the newly-acquired lands of the British empire. Today, the Rohingya, along with a few other maligned minorities, are excluded from the 135 ethnic groups Burma’s government recognizes as citizens. Many Burmese say the Rohingya should “go back” to Bangladesh, whose government also disavows the Rohingya. Among other consequences of apartheid policies against them, the Rohingya need special permission to travel and marry and face severe discrimination in access to employment, education, and medical care.

Last year’s violence unveiled particularly chilling dimensions of racial and religious hatred toward the Rohingya. When the wife of Mohamed Salam was found dead floating in a river, her body carried a sinister message. She was abducted along with two of her children in June, and Salam was later told by sympathetic Buddhists how they had died. According to them, her captors said her breasts gave milk to Muslim babies and her womb gave birth to future generations of Muslims. Her breasts were then hacked off and her genitalia mutilated with sharpened bamboo. Her teenage son was tethered to a motorbike and dragged across a rocky road. Salam would not elaborate on how his daughter met her end. Today, he cares for his remaining 5-year-old boy in a camp for displaced people outside of Sittwe, the state capital, and the prospect of receiving justice is even more illusory than his chances of returning to his home and job.

Human Rights Watch alleges last year’s bloodshed amounted to ethnic cleansing. In a detailed report released in April, the international rights monitor said state security forces did more to facilitate than to prevent abuses against the Rohingya, and sometimes even directly participated in atrocities. The group profiled one particularly brutal episode, last October, in which 70 Rohingyas, including 28 children, were left easy prey for a Buddhist mob to butcher after local riot police disarmed the Rohingya of rudimentary weapons they carried to defend themselves. The report said local Buddhist politicians and monks publicly demonized the Rohingya—describing them as a threat to Burmese society and encouraging their removal from the state—“in full view” of authorities, “who raised no concerns.” Burmese rights groups have criticized Human Rights Watch’s assessment as one-sided, and instead described the violence as “communal.”

Such labels aside, what may be most foreboding are the dim prospects for a normalization (in relative terms) of life for Rohingyas in Burma. Time has not softened the vitriol many Buddhists in Rakhine State feel towards the group. “We cannot go back to living together,” says Hla Moe Thu, a 58-year-old Buddhist woman living in a camp for displaced people on the outskirts of Sittwe. “They should go to Bangladesh, where they came from, or they should be killed,” she adds, as her grandchild sits beside her. According to Ashin Ariya, the head monk of Shwezedi Monastery in Sittwe, Rohingyas have wicked designs: to rape Buddhist women, colonize Buddhist land, and convert non-Muslims to Islam. “The Muslims like to kill people and rape women, and they want to take over the whole area and make everyone Muslim,” he says matter-of-factly.

Paradoxically, democratic reforms have fed the jingoistic chorus. Over the past year, Burma’s new government has dialed back the heavy press and Internet censorship of the previous military regime, allowing journalists greater independence and web users nearly limitless access to sites. But freedom of speech has unleashed pent-up prejudices. Online forums contain rafts of posts referring to the Rohingya in expletive-filled terms, and Burmese newspapers have shown the Rohingya no quarter. Eleven, one of Burma’s largest-circulation newspapers, has focused its coverage of Rakhine State on slamming the Rohingya. Ho Than Hlaing, their correspondent in Sittwe, says the “Bengalis” living in relief camps are quarrelsome freeloaders who receive better care than displaced Buddhists—in fact, conditions in camps for the much smaller number of displaced Buddhists are markedly better than those in Rohingya camps, some of which are blocked by authorities from receiving international aid.

When the wife of Mohamed Salam was found dead floating in a river, her body carried a sinister message.

The rhetoric has carried over into daily life. A recently launched campaign urges Burmese to only patronize shops that display “969” signs—a code referring to Buddhist teaching—in their storefronts. The group of zealous monks spearheading the movement allege it is intended to promote Buddhist pride, but its true aim seems to be to marginalize Muslims.

Aung Naing Oo, a member of the Myanmar Peace Center, a governmental group that advises on ethnic disputes, likens the dangerous nationalism in Burma today to the escalation of ethnic tensions in former Yugoslavia after the fall of the Soviet Union: no longer fettered by the strictures of a military state, people are freer to act on long-suppressed prejudices. But even within this scheme, animosity toward the Rohingya is singularly severe. Indeed, they are viewed both as carpet-bagging intruders and low-caste detritus. “Indians”—including various peoples from the subcontinent and those with South Asian features— are resented in Burma because many arrived following the British takeover and soon emerged as a dominant group in urban commerce. Rohingyas are viewed with particular suspicion and scorn for their religion and distinctly dark skin. And, to top it off, they are seen to epitomize the existential threat posed by neighboring Bangladesh, whose large and poor population the Burmese feel is perpetually on the cusp of spilling over en masse into Burma.

The turmoil in Rakhine State is further complicated by hostilities between the local Buddhist population, from the Arakanese ethnic group, and the Burman majority and central government they dominate. The Arakanese were the ancestors of a small kingdom that used to control what is modern-day Rakhine State and, like many ethnic groups in Burma, they desire autonomy. Beyond ethnic pride, the Arakanese resent that Rakhine is Burma’s second-poorest state despite its natural riches – the area’s timber, oil, gas and precious metals have for decades been pillaged by the military and their cronies. “Our people want a real federal state with self-determination and our share of profits from natural resources,” says Than Thun, a community leader in Sittwe. But Arakanese autonomists like Than Thun have, for the time being, found common cause with the central government in directing their ire towards the Rohingya, who are easy scapegoats.

Few figures inside Burma have spoken out against the anti-Rohingya sloganeering. Most conspicuous has been the near silence of the country’s iconic human rights and democracy icon, Aung San Suu Kyi. After 15 years under house arrest, Suu Kyi is now a parliamentarian and has political calculations to consider. Observers believe she sees support for the Rohingya as going treacherously against the tide of popular opinion. The new president, Thein Sein, has said he will crackdown on “political opportunists and religious extremists,” but his intentions and ability to control eruptions of violence remain unclear. Thein Sein is a former high-ranking general who has surprised many in and outside the country with his moderation but that may not extend to his feelings toward the Rohingya. And observers note the upper echelons of his government remain stocked with former military figures who delight in the potential for sectarian violence to steer power back toward the army.

In the meantime, Rohingya in and outside the camps are in greater numbers turning to the sea to escape their dire prospects. Chris Lewa, head of the Arakan Project, an NGO that tracks rights abuses in Rakhine State, estimates that nearly 28,000 Rohingya attempted to flee through the Bay of Bengal during the recent dry season, three times the normal rate. The journey is perilous: hundreds die every year from starvation, dehydration, and drowning aboard barges that are ill-equipped for ocean travel and steered by mercenary crews.

In Boomay—a Rohingya quarter just outside of Sittwe that is hemmed in by a series of army checkpoints—a group of men in a shanty teashop are watching an ancient television tuned to a news channel with footage of Rohingya on barges intercepted by the Bangladeshi navy. The program shows Rohingya kneeling under tarps on the deck of a boat as waves come crashing against the bow. The teashop’s owner pays little attention to scenes of horror—she has already determined her daughter will attempt a similar voyage to join her husband in Malaysia, where he is working illegally but earning steady wages. “If we could stay here in peace and have some freedom, then it would be better to stay here and not take this risk,” says the daughter, who is in her early 20s and plans to take her 5-year-old child along. “But we don’t know if that will ever be the case.”

(Courtesy: The Daily Beast)

Promoting Islam for Phuket youths, tourists

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | | Posted in , ,

By Irfarn Jamdukor

Maroj Thongyon, a 66-year-old Phuket native, has been a member of the committee of the Phuket Islamic Council since 1990 and is president of the Foundation Nurul Islamiah. Two years ago he took the position of Imam at the Nurulislam mosque in Patong. Here, he talks about the loss of cultural identity among Phuket Muslim youth and the opportunity to market Phuket as a halal-tourist destination.

Phuket: Phuket is a very popular destination for tourists from around the world. Our island needs to promote its Muslim heritage by promoting halal food shops, marking sites important to Muslim history on the island and by noting mosques on guide books and maps.

Thai-Muslims compose about 30 per cent of Phuket’s population. Many Muslim communities on the island are historically located in Cherng Talay, Kamala, Rawai, Baan Ko En and more isolated areas across the island.

The members of these communities traditionally were fishermen or orchard gardeners, and unlike most of the Thai-Muslims in Yala, Narathiwat, and Pattani, Phuket’s population speaks Thai, not Malay.

There are many cultural Muslim traditions kept alive in Phuket, with celebrations being observed regularly.

The fact that we celebrate Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha, as well as many other holidays, allows Muslims around the world to come to a tropical paradise and feel welcomed into communities that understand their needs and can cater to them.

For example, Eid al-Adha is the holiday observed at the end of the Hajj, the annual Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca, which is one of the most significant religious observances in Islam. For those who are unable to go to Mecca, there are morning prayers held here in Phuket.

In Phuket, we maintain halal. The term “halal” is used to designate any object or action that is permissible to use or engage in according to Islamic Law. The term does not cover just food and drink, but all matters of daily life.

These traditions and our culture need to be preserved and advertised because they can attract tourists but mainly because we need to re-inforce the values of our culture in the youth of today.

I think youths are not aware enough of the importance of the rules, rituals and practices that compose religion.

They lack the understanding, knowledge and education about religion and its importance. In many ways society is now pushing them away from religious understanding.

I am worried that one day they may look at religions and cultures and see nothing of value in them – it is a very serious problem.

Islamic education needs to be instilled in educational institutions. We have received very positive feedback when discussing this idea with educational institutions.

It also must be presented to young people by members of their family, religious leaders and relevant organizations.

I hope in the future the new generation of Phuket Muslims will be more aware of their Islamic heritage and be stricter in their observations of halal customs.

(Courtesy: Phuket Gazette)

I wasn’t looking for a religion ... I just fell in love with Islam

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | | Posted in , ,

Meet four of the 5,000 Brits who become Muslims each year

Every year, more than 5,000 Brits convert to Islam.

More than half of those who make the switch are white – and 75 per cent are women.

But what would make someone want to change their lifestyle so dramatically? Police Community Support Officer Jayne Kemp left her Catholic roots behind after “falling in love” with Islam while helping victims of so-called honour violence.

Here Emily Foster, Jenna Sloan and Emily Fairbairn speak to Jayne and three other women about why they decided to become Muslim.

PCSO Jayne, 28

Jayne Kemp patrols her beat wearing a traditional hijab headscarf and even works extra time after shifts so she can attend Friday prayers at her mosque.

Devout Jayne converted to Islam last April and even plans to change her name to Aminah.

The single mum, who patrols Eccles, Gtr Manchester, as a Police Community Support Officer, says: “I thought Islam was all about women being forced to slave away in the kitchen — but I found out it was about being generous with your time, and patient and respectful of others.

“As I looked into it, I saw similarities with Catholicism and noticed values such as looking after your neighbours and cherishing the elderly, which is something older people say younger people don’t do any more.

“I wasn’t looking for any religion at the time but for every question I had answered about Islam, I had five more. I think I fell in love with it.”

Devoted Jayne even missed out on celebrating Christmas with her son, nine, and daughter, seven. She sent them off to their dad’s and cooked her own meal so it would be halal — the meat slaughtered in the manner prescribed by Sharia law.

And despite the drastic change, Jayne says colleagues at Greater Manchester Police and her family have been supportive. She is now helping to design a regulation police hijab and tunic — as one has never been needed before.

Jayne says: “I was worried about what my colleagues would think but they have been so understanding.

“People in Eccles have been great too — most don’t even mention it. If my children had struggled with me covering my hair I wouldn’t have done it.

“They have both asked a lot about it but I would never push Islam on them and they will be brought up Catholic.

“I just hope by speaking out I can show it is OK for a Muslim woman to work in the police force and change negative Islam stereotypes.

“My family, in general, are supportive. If I’m happy, they’re happy. My sister said I’m the happiest she’s ever seen me.”

Jayne was inspired to convert to Islam after chatting to other Muslims on Twitter.

Muhammad Manzoor, who runs Muslim Twitter account Local Masjid from his home in Whalley Range, Manchester, helped her make the transition.

He said: “I was humbled Jayne was asking me these questions.

“She has found this religion for herself and hopefully it shows Muslims can mix in society without compromising their faith.”

Student Alana, 21

Alana Blockley, a media student who lives in Glasgow, converted to Islam after meeting her husband Abdul on holiday in June 2010. She says:

My family are all travellers and we live on a caravan site. I was baptised as a Christian but church and religion were never a big part of my life.

I was 18 when I decided I wanted to go out to the Canaries. I wanted to work as a club rep and have the experiences people say you should when you’re young.

I arrived in Fuerteventura and after a couple of days, a hotel maintenance man offered to take me out for a coffee. He was Abdul, a Muslim from Morocco.

Ayesha Olumide
When I got home he asked me to come back and visit him – and after three visits we knew we wanted to be together.

I started to research Islam because I wanted to know more about his life.

I decided I wanted to convert. I was worried about telling my parents and burst into tears. Mum thought I was pregnant and my dad thought I’d crashed my car.

I started to wear the hijab last summer. We got married in a Muslim ceremony earlier this month in Fuerteventura.

I miss eating Parma ham but I don’t miss alcohol.

I celebrate Eid now, but I compromised with my parents and we all had a halal Christmas dinner.

I hope I’m going to heaven now and I like the rules of Islam.

Jobseeker Claire, 24

Claire Evans converted to Islam last July after researching it following a break-up. Claire, from Bridgend, South Wales, says:

After my heart was broken by a Muslim man, I wanted nothing more to do with the religion – I thought it was cruel and unkind.

But my mum started looking up more about Islam and pointed out the way this man had behaved was contrary to the faith’s teachings.

I read up on it and discovered that Islam actually promotes tranquillity and peace.

I wasn’t religious before I converted. I didn’t really believe in God. I now cover my hair and wear a hijab, which was a big decision. My dad doesn’t like it, though, and I don’t wear the hijab when I’m with him.

At first I got some stares and nasty comments but in the past six months I’ve grown in confidence. Now I go to the mosque once a week and I pray every day.

I also took a Muslim name, Safir, but I still use my old name of Claire too. I have a new partner too, who is a Muslim, but we’re not settling down just yet.

Islam has made me calmer and, for the first time in my life, I feel accepted.

There’s not much I miss about my old life, except the odd sausage roll – I can’t eat pork now.

Model Ayesha, 24

Ayesha Olumide, from Edinburgh, is a model who works under her original name of Eunice. She converted to Islam in 2009 while at university. She says:

Before converting to Islam I was a Christian – but where my family is from in West Africa, Islam and Christianity are both practised. But it wasn’t until I started studying philosophy at university that I began to learn more about Islam.

At first I was worried it would be too extreme but when I studied the Koran it blew my mind. The theories about nature and science appealed and I felt enlightened. You can’t always explain everything in a scientific way and Islam helps me with that.

I was first scouted as a model while a 15-year-old tomboy. I was into football and athletics – but a career in fashion is all about looks. Converting to Islam made me realise how much we value people if society thinks they’re beautiful.

At the mosque, women cover their head and dress modestly, so no one is judging you on what you look like. At first I found it hard to square being a Muslim with being a model. But I spoke to a Muslim sister and she said Islam is not an extreme religion, so if it felt too extreme to me it probably wasn’t right.

Now I cover my hair for 99 per cent of the time but if I don’t want to when I wake up one day, I don’t. And I don’t do any bikini or underwear shoots.

I don’t have set days at the mosque but I do go often and I pray every day. I would like to start a family in the future but don’t think I’d marry a non-Muslim.

(Courtesy: The Sun)

GUEST EDITORIAL: Muslims and secular Hindus will not give safe exit to Narendra Modi

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

By Kaleem Kawaja

In recent weeks some Muslim activists have made statements requesting Narendra Modi to consider the plight and backwardness of Indian Muslims and do something about it. That is very insulting to the 150 million Indian Muslims who have faced continual brutalities for 30 plus years at the hands of BJP. It is insulting for the entire Muslim community of Gujarat that has faced brutal deaths of 2000 Muslims, police and govt brutalities for 11 years in various aspects of life.

Some other Muslim activists are saying that if Modi apologizes to Muslims and retires from public life Muslims will pardon him and let him rehabilitate himself in society.

Why are these Muslim activists making such statements and on whose behalf are they speaking?

Modi has committed horrible crimes against humanity; he must be brought to trial before a court in India and given appropriate punishment according to the laws of India. Why should Modi not be tried and punished like his henchmen Maya Kodani and Babu Bajrangi? His crimes are more severe than those of these two criminals.

All over the world many oppressor rulers when they fell out of power have been tried and punished. Hitler, Mussolini, top Nazi generals and leaders were tried in Nuremberg at the end of WW II and punished. Saddam Hussain was tried and punished. President Gen Pinochet of Chile was tried and punished.

Why should Modi be given a safe exit and pardon, why not tried and punished like other murderers like him.

The people of India did not give safe exit to Afzal Guru or Dawood Ibrahim or Tiger Memon. Sikhs did not give safe exit to those who masterminded the murderers of the 1984 genocide of Sikhs. Why should we give safe exit to Modi?

The answer is that Indian Muslims and the large number of secular Hindus and Indians will not give safe exit to Modi. We will wait and keep on banging on the doors of India's justice system until Modi is tried in an Indian court and punished appropriately.

[Kaleem Kawaja is a community activist based at Washington DC. He can be contacted at kaleemkawaja@gmail.com]

In the wake of Zafar Mahmood’s move: Modi or no Modi, BJP is not acceptable to Muslims

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

By Dr Javed Jamil

Dr. Zafar Mahmood’s move to present a case to Modi on behalf of Muslims is ill-fated. I couldn’t understand the logic behind the move. And more than the move itself, I am piqued by his sense of some kind of achievement that seems to be visible in his statements to the press. I know Dr Zafar Mahmood personally for quite some time. He was one of the guests in my book release ceremony of “Islam means Peace” way back in 2006. This function happened to be only a few days after the release of Sachar Committee Report. I found him a man of devotion to Islam as well as community. Since then I have been in touch with him, even if not on a regular basis. Recently we both were also part of a discussion on ETV Urdu on the Budget. In some of his articles published in Rashtriya Sahara, he seems to have positively forwarded my own concepts of “Fundamental Prohibitions” and “Applied Islamics” as discussed in my works including “Muslim Vision of Secular India: Destination & Roadmap”. My respect for him has been quite firm. It therefore surprised me when yesterday I started receiving some emails and phone calls about Dr Mahmood’s move. Initially I thought it was not a bad idea if he could tell Modi face to face about Muslims’ rejection of him and the reasons why there is absolutely no chance of reconciling with BJP unless it surrenders its ideological paradigm altogether. But when I read the news items myself, I really felt bad about the whole thing. He seems to be happy by the mere fact that Modi listened to him carefully and made some appreciative remarks. Did he expect Modi to reject his presentation in the middle of a conference at a time when there is so much speculation about his role in the coming elections?

In 1998, I organized a three-day workshop in New Delhi on “In Search of a Comprehensive Solution for AIDS”. Among the speakers was Mr K R Malkani the old BJP ideologue and the then Vice President of the party. While inviting him to speak, I made following remarks:

“Mr Malkani. You very well know what Muslims feel about BJP and why. And being a Muslim, I am very much part of the community and their feelings. But if I have still invited you to this conference, it is because I feel that your party too must be feeling concerned about the fast erosion of religious values, family system and morality in Indian society. And I felt that if instead of harping on the agenda of Hindutva, which is based less on love for Hindu Dharma than hatred for whatever Muslims do and feel, you stand up for the religious values, and against the influences of Wersternism in Indian culture, a definite change can occur in the way India is developing. But I’m sure that the forces that BJP represent will never give up their present agenda, and Muslims will never accept BJP as its party. This is no election times, and this conference is not about any political agenda. But still I will love if you give any hint of bringing all communities together against the common ills of the nation rather than pursuing the communal agenda.”

Malkani gave a powerful speech against the erosion of India’s culture, commercial sex and nudity. But there was no hint of any change in the ideological paradigm that I was talking about. Since then the BJP’s Muslim-bashing has not shown any signs of dilution. It continues to be guided not by the core elements of Hindu philosophy but by the ever increasing hatred for Muslim community and whatever they stand for. If Modi is what he is today, it is simply because he successfully presided over the massacre of Muslims in his state and could go unscathed out of it, at least in legal and political terms. Advani strengthened BJP through “Demolish Masjid” Movement, and Modi further strengthened it through “Scare Muslims Agenda”. A chance as Prime Minister, and he or someone else who may step into his shoes, would try to further step up this agenda. They know it that once they succeed in doing this, there will always be some corporates and bureaucrats who will help them in pushing a “Development” plan that will give BJP an image of an organization that works for the development of the country.

Muslims on the other hand must make it clear that, Modi or no Modi, BJP is not acceptable to them unless it openly declares a paradigm shift in its fundamental ideology of communalism. Whatever the positives of Modi, his one crime is too big to ignore. If he has any sense of pashchattap, which is a core concept of his religion, he should declare that “he will not accept any post in the Government of India till Muslims do not forgive him on their own.” And Muslims will never forgive him. But if he announces renunciation of politics, his party in future may certainly benefit from his supreme sacrifice.

I hope Dr Zafar Mahmood will clarify his stand in no uncertain terms. He must make it clear without wasting any time that he is not going to extend any olive branch to the party of hatred on behalf of Muslims. I am pretty certain his clarification will follow, and all right thinking Indians will feel relieved. If he does not come up with a clarification, Muslims of course are not going to listen to him.

[Dr Javed Jamil is India based thinker and writer with over a dozen books including his latest, “Muslims Most Civilised, Yet Not Enough” and “Muslim Vision of Secular India: Destination & Road-map”. He can be contacted at doctorforu123@yahoo.com or 91-8130340339]

BJP’s double game: Hindutva + Muslim ‘empowerment’

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

By Amulya Ganguli

Under a new and as yet untested leadership, the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) is trying to formulate a fresh ideological framework for itself.

In doing so, the party seems to have juxtaposed its standard pro-Hindu agenda with an attempt to reach out to Muslims with a “vision document” for their empowerment. The endeavour may, however, lead to the party being caught in a situation where it will confuse and even alienate its core base of support – the communal Hindus – without being able to win over the minorities.

Even if the Hindu supremacist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the BJP’s mentor, reserves its judgment for the time being about this electoral gimmick in the belief that it may fetch some votes, militant outfits like the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and the Bajrang Dal are unlikely to look kindly at the BJP’s version of Muslim “appeasement”.

For years, the BJP, the RSS and other members of the saffron brotherhood have lambasted the Congress for its supposedly pro-minority policies for the sake of cultivating the Muslim vote bank. Their latest target of attack was the Rajinder Sachar committee set up by the Manmohan Singh government in 2005 to look into Muslims’ socio-economic conditions.

But, now, the BJP has decided to follow a similar path. Its reason for trying to reach out to the Muslims is obvious. With the general election due in less than a year, the BJP cannot afford to let the Congress walk away with nearly 40 percent of the Muslim vote when the BJP secures barely five or six percent. The party is evidently trying to deny the Congress this huge advantage.

However, the BJP’s problem is that its own history is against this opportunistic manoeuvre. Even if the anti-Muslim diatribes of its guiding lights like Golwalkar and Savarkar are ignored for the moment, the party will find it difficult to explain its relentless anti-Muslim propaganda during the Ramjanmabhoomi movement in the 1990s.

Apart from the targeting of mosques like the Babri Masjid, which was demolished by saffron storm-troopers Dec 6, 1992, and the ones in Varanasi and Mathura, the Hindutva brigade had some chilling anti-Muslim slogans.

It wasn’t Muslims alone who were demonised; the Christians, too, were portrayed as essentially anti-national as the anti-Christian riots in Gujarat’s Dangs area in the late 1990s and the burning of churches in Odisha in 2008 showed.

Both the communities were accused of conspiring to reduce the Hindus to a minority in their only country in the world, as the Sangh Parivar proclaimed, via conversions by Christian missionaries or by the Muslims with their four wives ignoring family planning – hum panch, hamare pachis, as Narendra Modi said.

Against the backdrop of such hate-mongering, which initially paid considerable political dividends by raising the tally of the BJP’s Lok Sabha seats from two in 1984 to 182 in 1998, it will be a herculean task for the party to woo Muslims. Even if the BJP has moderated its attitude to some extent in view of the realization that a community which makes up 14 percent of the India’s population cannot be ignored, the RSS, VHP and Bajrang Dal remain as virulent as ever. Their objective is still to establish a Hindu rashtra (nation) where the minorities will be second class citizens.

It is perhaps as a sop to these groups that the BJP has revived the call for scrapping Article 370 of the constitution, which confers a special status on Kashmir, and for introducing a uniform civil code for all religions. It has to be remembered that these issues, along with the construction of the Ram temple, were put on the backburner by the BJP in 1996 when it realized during Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s government of 13 days that it could not attract any other party to support it.

The shelving of this pro-Hindu agenda helped Vajpayee to form an alliance of 24 parties in 1998 which began to fall apart after the Gujarat riots of 2002 and has now been reduced to a group of three members. However, the return of two of the three points of the agenda means the BJP may play the Hindutva card again.

But riding two horses at the same time – Hindutva and Muslim “empowerment” – will require the skills of a circus artiste. Since the political acumen of Modi, Rajnath Singh and Co hasn’t been tested in an electoral contest at the national level, the chances of their success in carrying out the balancing act do not seem particularly high.

[Amulya Ganguli is a political analyst. He can be reached at amulyaganguli@gmail.com]

(Courtesy: FirstPost.com)

At Modi’s Muslim outreach, speaker flays BJP

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

Syed Zafar Mahmood made a power-point presentation whose focus was the BJP’s ideological opposition to Muslims

A conclave of young leaders organised by a local NGO, and attended by Narendra Modi here on Saturday, took a controversial turn, with one of the invitees using the platform to pose sharp and critical questions to the Gujarat Chief Minister on the BJP’s attitude towards Muslims

Syed Zafar Mahmood, formerly Officer on Special Duty with the Sachar Committee, made a power-point presentation whose focus was the BJP’s ideological opposition to Muslims. Mr. Mahmood, who also runs the Zakat Foundation, was one of about 50 prominent Muslims invited to the meet by NGO Citizens for Accountable Governance. Former President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam delivered the key-note address at the conclave and later he and the Gujarat Chief Minister participated in a joint interactive session

Mr. Mahmood began by saying that he was not seeking any personal favour from any government but that “I do value and cherish every bit of justice and constitutional rights for the deprived Muslims of India.”

He said worldwide there were 56 Muslim countries and another 20 where Muslims formed the dominant minority. And yet the essays featured on the BJP’s website were uniformly “anti-Muslim”, and one of them titled “Hindutva: The Great Nationalist Ideology” was “full of hate and provocations against Muslims.”

A second essay, headlined, ‘Give us this day our sense of mission’ and written by MV Kamath was a “call to Muslims to adopt Hindu names and [for] Muslim women to wear the mangal sutra.”

Mr. Mahmood pointed out that there was a third essay, titled `Semitic Monotheism’, that saw Muslims and Islam as a problem. He quoted from the essay: “We must realize that we have a problem on hand in India, the problem of a stagnant and conservative Islamic society. A national effort is called for to break Islamic exclusivism and enshrine the assimilative Hindutva.”

Mr. Mahmood said: “Any citizen with normal human compassion would not take kindly to such a sweeping [and] patently anti-Muslim approach.”

He went on to demand that the BJP show its sincerity towards Muslim by actually implementing measures that would help in their uplift. He placed before Mr. Modi a list of demands, including the full implementation of the Sachar Committee’s recommendations and help in the passage of a string of pro-Muslims laws. He wanted the BJP to support a resolution in Parliament towards creating a Indian Waqf Service.

Mr. Mahmood pointed out that Gujarat was among the few States that had not implemented the scholarship scheme for minorities recommended by the Sachar Committee and currently being overseen by the Union Ministry for Minority Affairs. He also said that Muslim neighbourhoods in Ahmedabad were neglected.

The Hindu had learnt that many of the Muslim scholars invited to the meet had dropped out. One of them, Mufti Aijaz Arshad Qasmi, a member of the All-India Muslim Personnel Law Board, and a former spokesperson of Darul-Uloom, Deoband, confirmed to the paper that he would not be attending the meet. However, Zafar Sareshwala, a local industrialist associated with the BJP, and one of the volunteers at the youth meet, said only a few of the Muslim invitees had opted out.

He claimed that a Kashmiri Muslim youth sought development akin to Gujarat in Kashmir. According to him, the youngster told Mr. Modi, “We are also a part of India and want job opportunities.”

Mr. Sareshwala said some 200 young people from all over the country had taken part in the event, including some 30-odd Muslims. According to him, some of the Muslims were eminent Islamic scholars.

“While some Muftis from Deoband and UP were pressured into not attending the event, others like Maulana Mohd Hussain Qasmi and Maulana Omar Abedeen Madani from Hyderabad did come over,” he said.

“For the first time Muslims spoke out freely and frankly before Mr. Modi and he heard their problems in rapt attention,” he said.

(Courtesy: The Hindu)

Indians should observe Independence Day as ‘Shok Diwas’: Prof. Jha

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | | Posted in ,

By Pervez Bari

Bhopal: “We must not celebrate August 15, 1947 as Independence Day, when India gained freedom from the British rule, but should observe it as ‘Shok Diwas’ (Day of Mourning).

The Britons before leaving India extracted their biggest revenge by dismembering the Indian Sub-continent into three fragments viz. India, West Pakistan and East Pakistan which later on went to become Bangladesh. The divide and rule policy was adopted by the Britons after the 1857 mutiny when Muslims and Hindus joined hands together to overthrow the foreign yolk but failed. In India both Hindus and Muslims had lived in peaceful co-existence since a very long time but Britons with their same divisive tendencies before being forced out of the country created such an environment that Muslims through Muhammad Ali Jinnah demanded a separate homeland and India was trifurcated”.

The above observations were made by Prof. Chander Prakash Jha of Rajasthan, a noted historian, who was the guest of honour, at the inaugural function of the five-day 113th Orientation Course in Records Management for Departmental Records Officers which began at the National Archives of India, Regional Office here on Monday.

Prof. Jha asserted that the Kashmir and Tibet tangles are such in nature which would never be solved and neither there would ever be re-unification of India and Pakistan in future as visualised in some quarters.

Earlier, Dr. M. A. Haque, Deputy Director in the National Archives of India, Headquarter New Delhi, who was the chief guest, while inaugurating the Orientation Course threw light on the history of record keeping and its management. He said that records are integral part of any organization. They are the wheels of administration. Records management establishes standards of good management in respect of creation, control, preservation and disposition of records. The records management play a vital role for the government of the day which is accountable to its people, he added.

Dr. Haque said that the National Achieves of India, Regional Office, Bhopal came into existence on the basis of an agreement signed on 21 October 1953 between the Bhopal Government and the Government of India. All the records housed in the Central Records Office of the erstwhile Bhopal State which contain Mutiny Papers files relating to the Chamber of Princes and other subjects covering the years 1843 to 1949. These records are mainly couched in Persian and English.

He said that the National Achieves of India, Regional Office, Bhopal came into existence on the basis of an agreement signed on 21 October 1953 between the Bhopal Government and the Government of India. All the records housed in the Central Records Office of the erstwhile Bhopal State which contain Mutiny Papers files relating to the Chamber of Princes and other subjects covering the years 1843 to 1949. These records are mainly couched in Persian and English.

National Archives of India, New Delhi transferred 2008 bundles containing 2,51,000 files approx., as spare copies of Government of India records of various Ministries/ Departments of the Central Government for the years 1860-1938 for their safety and also to help facilitate the scholars of the adjoining states. Furthermore, the National Archives of India has also transferred 13,732 volumes of Gazettes of various states (inclusive years 1841-1971) for their permanent preservation, he informed.

Dr. Haque said that apart from the above this office has also accessioned way back in 1984, a collection of private papers (inclusive years 1928-19781) received from Pandit Chatur Narayan Malaviya, ex-prime Minister of the erstwhile Bhopal State. Among these private papers three volumes on the ‘Monuments of Sanchi’ of Sir John Marshall are also found.

Recently this Department has also started accommodating Microfilm Rolls of intrinsic historical value to be preserved as a second line of defense of records to serve as parallel archives for posterity. The Regional Office has also acquired a collection of books numbering about 3000 of historical and archival importance which are properly kept in our reference library to cater to the needs of scholars, officials and visitors, he added.

This Correspondent, who was also guest of honour, while speaking on the occasion emphasized that proper care should be taken to ensure that even oral orders given by senior officers are brought into writing for the benefit of coming generations.

Meanwhile, about two dozen Record Officers of Union and State Governments drawn from all over the state are participating in the Orientation Course.

At the outset Mrs. Pranjana Sinha, Asstt. Director of Archives, National Archives of India, Regional Office Bhopal, welcomed the guests and delegates. Dr. Devendra Kumar Sharma from NAI Headquarters in New Delhi is the Course Co-ordinator of the Orientation Course. He conducted the proceedings with aplomb. In the end Archivist Muzaffar-e-Islam proposed a vote of thanks.

[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]

Definitely something fishy about Khalid Mujahid's death: Zafaryab Jilani

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

By Gulam Jeelani

Uttar Pradesh additional advocate general (AAG) Zafaryab Jilani on Saturday said that there was definitely something fishy in terror accused Khalid Mujahid’s custodial death.

He however clarified that chief minister Akhilesh Yadav and national president of Samajwadi Party Mulayam Singh Yadav had no role to play at all.

“The circumstances in which Khalid died were certainly mysterious. But the CM and Mulayam Singh Yadav had no role to play,” Jilani told HT on the sidelines of a function organized in Lucknow to felicitate him after a ten day visit to the United States (US). He said that he told this to US based human rights activists and members of US Congress during his visit.

Jilani, who is also convener of Babri Masjid Action Committee (BAMC) and Executive Committee member of All India Muslim Personal Law board (AIMPLB) visited US on invitation of Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC)-a US based organisation-comprising mostly Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) alumni.

He participated in a series of seminars highlighting the ‘persecution of Muslims in India’ being organised by IAMC in five US cities including a three day event in Washington DC. The ‘cold blooded murder’ of Khalid Mujahid was also an issued discussed there.

“I interacted with US based human rights activists and members of US Congress there. We discussed different issues including the Khalid Mujahid death issue

Khalid, an alleged Harkat-ul-Jehad-e-Islami (HuJI) operative and an accused in serial blasts that rocked Lucknow and Faizabad courts in November 2007, died on May 18 after he fell sick and fainted, according to police, near Barabanki while being escorted to Lucknow jail after a court hearing.

Jilani said that he also apprised participants of the seminars that there were many cases in India where Muslim youth were wrongly implicated in terror cases.

“I told them we in India have laws safeguarding human rights but what we lack is an Act that would ensure compensation to those acquitted after being falsely implicated and punishment to the officials found responsible,” he added.

He said he also informed the participants about the action taken by the government that includes ordering a CBI probe and lodging an FIR against 42 police officials as demanded by Khalid’s kin. “I told them that government has ordered an inquiry and reality would come to fore to soon,” he added.

It is pertinent to mention in Lucknow that Jilani’s visit to US had sparked of a controversy among AMU alumni alleging him of being inclined towards SP government. Many AMU alumnis, including those based in USA, had decide to boycott all these programmes scheduled between June 14 and June 24.

(Courtesy: Hindustan Times)

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