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OPINION: Problem in Muslims is the lack of leadership

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 09 September 2013 | Posted in , , , ,

By Tanvir Salim

In spite of the fact that I have left India about a quarter of a century ago; my interest for the minorities in India always remained strong. I have found India as a country with a large Muslim population living amidst a larger Hindu population. For centuries both these communities have co-exist side by side in peace, but this peace is often shattered into pieces and then one realizes the fragility of the relationship between them. Some of the reasons for this fragility can be found in the pages of the history. There are discrepancies in the lifestyle and in the social status between these two communities as well as in the sub communities which are the tributaries of these communities. Some attribute this to the discrimination, which is prevalent in India. The blame is also put on the leadership or on the lack of Muslim leadership.

Muslims were not in the deprived conditions all the times. They had ruled the country for the past many centuries. So what went wrong and where it went wrong? It is not correct to point fingers in every possible direction; there may be short comings in us too. On one side, after our famous ‘tryst with destiny’, we as a country did many things that were correct and appropriate, but on the other hand, there were occasions where we failed as a nation. We took great pride in electing the occupants of the ‘Rashtrapati Bhawan’, a Muslim, Sikh or Dalit. But how can we look straight in the eyes of the mother in Moradabad, who on the fateful day of Eid in the early1980s was waiting for her children to come back home after offering Eid prayer? How about the widow whose husband was lynched by a mob when Indira Gandhi was assassinated? It is not important under whose watch these dastardly incidents happened, but what disturbs is that why we failed to learn the lessons and similar incidents were repeated again after a couple of decades in Gujarat and elsewhere? In my opinion, it is due to the absence of the leadership everywhere and at all levels.

In spite of the fact that the Mumbai carnage got the government to its knees, the country is moving forward on the path of optimism with new found confidence. Muslims are in a dilemma, they want to participate in this progress like everybody else. But at places, they find themselves alienated and their loyalty being questioned. They are looked with suspicion. When they turn around to find who is advocating for their cause, they get a jolt. Like always, nobody. They lack a leader. This lack of leadership at this juncture is detrimental to their cause. If everything depends on the timing, then certainly this doesn’t bode very well for them. This is the time like no other time. Muslims need a leader. Muslims need a leader, desperately.

The Indian Muslims born after India gained independence never faced the apprehension which our fore-fathers faced. For them it must have been difficult to decide whether to ride to the crest of the wave to opt for the new country which was creating a sense of euphoria to many. In the future, it had not taken long to realize that this birth of a new nation was one of the biggest mistakes of that century. Pakistan was created because there was a lean and determined Gujarati on one side and on the other side there was another lean Gujarati, who eventually succumbed to the mounting pressure of his colleagues. The creation of Pakistan witnessed the biggest migration of the human being in the recorded history. I hear that such was the magnitude of the tragedy that some trains that were leaving with the living human beings from one side of the border, were arriving at the destination loaded with dead bodies. The debate whether this tragedy could have been avoided or not, continues. Now at this stage in time, in my opinion, this is merely a topic for historians. To move forward, we have to leave it behind.

The condition of the Muslims in India at the best can be described as dismal. During partition, a major portion of the Muslim intelligentsia had left the country for the dream land in the hope for green pastures. At that time, some of the Muslims who were a part of the feudal system were leading a satisfactory life, but the majority of other Muslims were struggling to find both ends meet and this downwards slide continued. Today, even after more than sixty years after the independence, Muslims are still behind in every aspect of the life. The intensity of these differences is acknowledged in the report prepared by the Sachar Committee, which was formed by the Prime Minister to study the economic conditions of the Muslims in India. According to this report, the condition of Muslims is pathetic. They constitute only about 5% in the government jobs and only 3 % in the elite Civil Services. This adequately raises an alarm when seen in the context of the total Muslim population in the country.

After independence, there were scant opportunities which took the country towards the path of progress. The ones, who were better educated, reaped the fruits of the independence. The Muslims generally lagged behind because they lacked self confidence and were poorly educated. There was nobody to motivate and guide them. Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) provided quality education, but was inadequate. For the Muslims, the greatest challenge was at the feeder level. In the beginning, the children of the Muslim feudal class were quick to avail the opportunity provided by AMU. Later, students from other diverse backgrounds also benefited from this great institution. Apart from AMU, the scions of the feudal and well to do families had access to other institutions and by the education they received there, they became engineers, doctors, lawyers, and other officials which formed the back bone of the Muslim middle class, which still was quite small in size. The rest of the Muslim masses, mainly artisans, small peasants and day laborers had no access and incentive for the modern education. Thus, they remained, by and large confined to their hereditary professions.

In business and various other fields Muslims were also at the bottom and were living by exiguous incomes. Along with the resources, they lacked the skills needed to conduct the business. The Muslim artisans, to some extent flourished in the cottage industry, because of their skills, and hard work, but since they were not cautious and diligent, the profit was generally cornered by the middlemen. This is another example where due to lack of leadership, an opportunity was lost. It was not like that for all the time, I remember vividly, in the mid seventies in Uttar Pradesh, under the leadership of my grandfather, who was then the small scale industries minister in the state government, the artisans were flourishing. But that ended with the change in the government policies and the fact that there was nobody to advocate for them. As a result, the small scale industry, which was the pride of the lower and middle class Muslim artisans, died a slow and tragic death. It is a pity that those artisans who were able to program their handlooms on the basic principles of today’s computers, are working as day labor and as petty vendors in the neighborhoods. However far fetched it may sound, but there is some truth in the allegations that some of the riots were systematically planned to destroy the localities where Muslims had achieved economic prosperity. In this context Meerut, Moradabad, and Aligarh is freely mentioned.

In spite of the fact that Sachar Committee report is a true reflection of the conditions of the Indian Muslims, I strongly believe that the Indian Muslims have not lost the hope. They believe in the democratic principles and vote for their best. They actively participate in the vote politics, and punish and reward the politicians with vengeance. They are aware of the discrimination, which daily stares them in their face, yet this does not deter them from making an attempt to move forward. They realize that they are not alone in being discriminated. They do notice that every other Indian is being discriminated by another Indian, at least once in their life time. One of the facets of the discrimination originates from the caste system. This malaise is prevalent in both the religions. In one religion, it is well documented, whereas in another, it is practiced clandestinely. For Hindus, it has worked for their advantage because of the reservation that is guaranteed through the Indian constitution. Like Hindus, some classes of Muslims are more deprived than the others, but because of a discrimatory constitution amendment in 1950, they don’t have any protection or reservation to elevate their position to bring them equal to their well to do brethren. To many this is a genuine cause for concern.

Let us ponder about the issues of the leadership. One of the casualties of the great migration after partition was the absence of Muslim leadership on the Indian side. After Independence, for decades the country was single-handedly ruled by a single political party, i.e., Congress party, which thrived on the support provided by the Muslims and other minority groups. Since the Congress party lacked inner party democracy, the leadership was entirely based on the nomination process, which was at the fancy and mercy of the party high command. Often, Muslims were selected and groomed based on the loyalty factor and were imposed on the populace in quest to gain the maximum mileage during the elections. In this process, where loyalty was the sole criteria, nolens volens, genuine grass-root leaders were sidelined to give way to the sycophants, who were there for their self interests. As a result, the interest of the common people became a casualty. The failure of the Congress to protect the minorities during communal flare-ups was seen intentional, because of the compulsions of the vote bank politics. Some even say that the Congress was working on the British doctrine of ‘divide and rule’ and believed that by creating a phobia of Hindu resurgent, they will force Muslims to flock to the Congress for protection. Such was the moral bankruptcy of the Muslim leadership that they were scared to raise the issues of Muslim security in the legislative bodies, because they thought that this act of theirs will chastise them for working against the party line. This honeymoon with the Congress lasted for quite some time, and produced leaders, some of them, although were pygmies in stature, but attained high offices and decorated the Parliament and other legislative bodies. This worked very well, cemented our secular credentials, and caught the imagination of the world. But unfortunately, this did not give the full return on the deposit. The deposit here was being the Muslim votes.

The Muslim leaders who were cultivated in the past were not effective, because they lacked the ability to get elected on their own. Never mind vision, they generally lacked the other ingredients needed to win an election, i.e., charisma, money and muscle power. There are Muslims desiring to be the leader who have access to the money and muscle power both, but they lack respectability and their acceptability level is low. Once elected, it is observed that they generally focus on getting access to more muscle and money power, because they are aware that in a wooden utensil, one can only cook, once.

The dilemma of being deprived of having a Muslim leader who was not nurtured from the lowest ranks amongst the Muslims had serious consequence which is being noticed in our day to day life. Why the Indian Muslims could not get their own types of Laloo, Chandra Babu Naidu, Narendra Modi or Mayawati? If we look carefully, we will notice that for all the time after independence there was no Muslim leader of towering personality. The last time we had a Muslim leader; it was either Jinnah or Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad, with all India appeal. When Jinnah departed to Pakistan, the only Muslim leader who was in the field was Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad, who unfortunately was systematically marginalized by the leaders of the Congress Party. Minus Azad, it may not be out of place to mention that the last Muslim leader India had was Mahatma Gandhi, who paid th e ultimate price for being the leader of the Muslims. In the second and third levels, there were many who dominated the landscape, but they had limited and localized appeal, along with the shorter shelf life. Their credibility got low, because to get elected, they compromised on the principles and hopped from one party to another. It is sad that were not given the leadership roles by virtue of their following among the masses, but they were there holding high as well as low positions because of the privilege of the access they had with the powerful satraps of small regional parties. Having no grass root support, they were made leaders by the virtue of simply co-incidence.

Looking at the past, we will realize that Indian Muslims after being betrayed by the Congress Party have put their destiny in the hands of the local leaders, like Mulayam, Laloo and recently Mayawati. Was that a wise move, or a simple act of sheer desperation? When the choice is between two evils, the good practice is to choose the lesser evil. But we should not forget that by doing so, we loose an opportunity to nurture or develop a leader from ourselves – a leader, who we always lacked and who when patronized by us, could cater to our needs.

So far, the upper echelons of the Muslim community, who were better educated than the socially and economically weaker sections, provided the Muslim leadership. This provided leaders, who were sincere, but generally were not effective. Since these leaders for most of the time were from affluent background, they had no clear understanding, nor did they ever attempt to understand the challenges faced by the common Muslim. As a consequence, they were not in a position to work for the betterment of the Muslim community in the first place. On the other hand, the leadership of the weaker section of the Muslim community gained momentum with the advent of All India Momin Conference, but gradually with the passage of time and due to the lack of foresight, this movement fizzled out.

It is sad. But in India, the votes are cast on the basis of caste affiliations. In today’s political scenario, some of the electoral gains made by the parties and the leaders are on the basis of the numerical strength of the caste they are affiliated with. By the same token, the person who is vying to be the Muslim leader should be in a position to affiliate him with birth or with association with the caste that has an advantage over others in the number game. In spite of the fact that Islam prohibits division based on caste and creed, the Muslims of the Indian subcontinent to some extent, practice the caste system, which basically is adopted from the Hindu caste hierarchy. On the basis of the caste system, the Muslim community is highly stratified and the economically weak are placed at the bottom. Although this section constitutes the bulk of the Muslim population, but politically they have been marginal ized. It will play to the advantage of the Muslim leader, if he belonged to one of the marginalized groups, because numerically these groups have tremendous advantage over the others and since democracy is the game of numbers, this approach will not be inconsequential and will pay rich dividends. The dividend can be a Muslim Mulayam or Laloo or even another Muslim Mayawati.

There is a need for an ebullient Muslim leader who can perform and negotiate based on his credibility without the aid of crutches. The crutches in politics generally are the patronage of business houses, or a godfather, like Kanshi Ram, who was doing the ground work for decades. It may still be not too late, for the Kanshi Rams of the Muslims to emerge. It will be advantageous to the Muslim leader if he is capable to provide for himself and his family by his own means. This way he will not forgo the pledge to his constituents and will not become a participant in the mechanism to generate money by questionable means. It is tragic, but the leader simply became a sycophant to the local center of powerful.

The person has to be educated, widely travelled, and should have the vision to look beyond the spoils of the power. The person should be able to inspire for the change and be able to provide hope. The person should know how to get connected with the people of Kashmir to convince them that a powerful and united India is the need of the day. He should be able to comfort the victims of Gujarat pogrom who are still struggling to put their lives back in order. He has to be believed by the migrant workers working in big cities, that he is aware of their plight and will advocate the case of their unfairly treatment. He should be equally comfortable in the company of the “rocket scientists” and should be on the same wave frequency with the not so educated constituents. That is the ideal leader we are looking for.

The foremost challenge for the Muslim leader will be to heal the indelible scars which are inscribed on the heart and soul of the Muslims. The Muslims are angry and frustrated over the happenings of the past. They have witnessed in dismay how Narendra Modi, a mendacious politician is able to build an empire on the graves of the Muslims, whose lives could have been saved. Their anger is a manifestation of their helplessness. During the independent movement some strayed and vented their frustration by killing the police personnel at a place called Chauri Chaura, in Gorakhpur. This single incident in all likelihood could have derailed the independence movement. But it was the charismatic leadership of Gandhi, which prevented another incident like this from happening elsewhere. Today, similar challenge is being faced by the Muslim leadership. The threat of the irresponsible outfits to creating chaos and hijack the Muslim leadership is real. To counter this calamity, we need a Muslim leader who can tame this tiger. We don’t have a leader like Gandhi, whose fast to death will bring cold sweats on the forehead of the bravest of the time. The challenge for the Muslim leader will be to put a leash on these irresponsible and emotional outfits because they threatens to negate the hard-won gains of a new generation of Muslims who have defied the odds to emerge as successful entrepreneurs and professionals.

It will be difficult to convince Muslims that to change their destiny, they have to believe that the panacea is hard work and good education. Some may be hesitant in subscribing to the concept of education. Today’s education is expensive and the gains of the education generally are not available immediately. In today’s life, where the foremost challenge is to provide for food and other immediate needs, the gains that may come from the education in the future looses appeal. In-spite of this shortcoming, for long term goals, the merits of good education should be conveyed to all, because education has brought wonders to the ones who have subscribed to it. Our leadership should be able to open new avenues in a quest that good education is available to all. We have witnessed sincere Muslim leaders, rather than championing the cause of getting good education, will put all of their energies on the agendas of getting reservation for the Muslims. There is no denying that soliciting for reservation will be beneficial and communities with reservations have benefited from this. But the leader should not be naïf, and be careful enough to pick his battles. One should not choose the battle which is insurmountable and will divert all your energy from the goal and rather will focus more on the path to reach it. This will wear them on the tracks and will take the attention away from the goal. The Muslim leader should be clear about the short term and the long term goals. Asking for the reservation for Muslims in government services is the example of long term goal, whereas guiding and mentoring them in achieving good education by the available resources is an example of the short term goal.

It is my hope that the Muslim leadership is somewhere in the making and the day is not far of when the leadership will emerge. All we have to do is to keep looking and punishing the rotten ones and embracing the deserving ones. If we are not careful in our choices, then who we are going to vituperate?

[Tanvir Salim is presently based in Canton, MA (USA). He hails from Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh. His works can be seen on his website www.TanvirSalim.com. He can be contacted at ssallim@comcast.net]

UK's first ever 3-day Halal Food Festival to be held in London from Sept 27

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

IMO News Service

London: UK’s first and world’s largest Halal Food Festival will be held at London Excel from 27th to 29th September 2013. The three-day consumer food show is dedicated to foodies, who eat halal or haloodies, as they have been coined by the festival founder.

Aiming to celebrate the range and diversity of halal foods from around the world the ticketed event will offer visitors a never seen before glimpse into the very best that halal has to offer.

Visitors can look forward to over 100 exhibitors from across the globe showcasing the most innovative and delicious halal food and drink products, restaurants and street food stalls as well as a cooking school and live demonstration kitchen featuring top chefs such as Shelina Permalloo (winner of Masterchef UK 2012), Cyrus Todiwala OBE (Patron Chef of Cafe Spice Namaste) and Jean Christopher Novelli (5 out of 5 AA rosette and Michelin award winning chef) to name a few.

Guests can tuck in to daring and innovative dishes such as green spiced chicken fenugreek or Bengali mutton by Joho Soho, meaning 'whatever happens'. The new Indian street food stall is being launched at the Halal Food Festival by acclaimed chef Vivek Singh (Executive Chef at Cinnamon Kitchen, Cinnamon Soho and Cinnamon Club) and Abdul Yaseen (Head Chef at Cinnamon Kitchen). Alternatively they can try their taste buds on sweeter options such as fine Palestinian mejdool dates, stuffed with organic fairtrade nuts and topped with rosebuds by the Datelatiers. The thirsty will find a range of halal drinks on offer including an area dedicated to the making of mocktails in which guests can throw together exotic ingredients, fruit juices and flavours to create their own expertly made drink under the guidance of a professional mixologist and a range of stands for little haloodies to enjoy too.

Accompanying these gustatory pleasures will be live music on the Human Appeal stage with performances including that of one of the biggest stars of nasheed and Islamic music, Mesut Kurtis. His latest album 'Beloved' has been a ground-breaking phenomenon in this genre of music across the Muslim world.

Halal is an Arabic word meaning lawful or permissible. It not only covers food and drink but also all matters of daily life. Followers of Islam (Muslims) must follow a dietary requirement that does not permit pork or pork products, alcohol and only allows meat slaughtered in accordance to strict guidelines in the Qur'an. Halal food is not a cuisine or a style of cooking in its own right. Therefore any cuisine or style can become halal provided it is cooked using halal ingredients and prepared in a halal manner.

With a growing UK Muslim population currently standing at 2.7million (Census 2011) with a £20.5 billion a year spending power (Mintel 2002) and expected to rise to 5.5million people by 2030 (Pew Report, The Future of the Global Muslim Population 2011) access to delicious halal food in the UK is becoming increasingly important. It is improving the range, availability and quality of halal foods and restaurants that drives the Halal Food Festival’s founder Imran Kausar.

Imran Kausar says, “The growing British Muslim middle-classes have greater needs and demands from food producers, retailers and restaurateurs and command significant spending power. The Halal Food Festival will bring together consumers and businesses in a festival format that can be used to showcase new brands and to raise the range and quality of halal offerings to the consumer.”

Noman Khawaja, Events Director adds “The Halal Food Festival sets a new standard in food shows aimed at Muslims in the UK. The range of chefs, features, exhibitors and production quality will leave haloodies eager for the show each year.”

Moscow Halal Expo Organizing Committee to participate in EURO-ASIA EXPO 2013

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | | Posted in ,

IMO News Service

The Organizing Committee of Moscow Halal Expo has said that it will take an active part in EURO-ASIA EXPO 2013, which is being held from October 3 to 6, 2013 at Kazan, Russia.

Moscow Halal Expo is an annual event growing significantly with a number of Russian and international companies participating every year.

Moscow Halal Expo aims at offering interactive platform for the sharing of experience among countries in the sphere of certification of halal production and services, mutual recognition of halal certificates, strengthening business relations between Russia and the Muslim countries, and the development of Islamic finance issues in the Russian Federation.

The programs of Moscow Halal Expo include Islamic Investment and Finance Forum, Halal Congress, Festivals of Muslim fashion and national Muslim cuisine.

The Organizing Committee of EURO-ASIA EXPO 2013 in a press release said that the cooperation between two exhibitions of Halal Industry will promote Halal market development in Russia and will also open new possibilities for the international investments and cooperation.

IMO In News Archive

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 08 September 2013 | Posted in ,

Saudi Gazette, Saudi Arabia

Date: September 4, 2013

Media Marginalization of Muslims in India

Tariq A. Al-Maeena

There are sentiments in some quarters within India that the Indian media is not necessarily fair to Muslim issues and to the sensitivities of its largest minority. The 160 million plus minority, the largest in India, is not necessarily alone in such thoughts. Such feelings often held privately were publicly aired by India Press Council Chairman and a former judge in the Indian Supreme Court, Markanedya Katju, who criticized the media for "demonizing" Muslims through “irresponsible journalism”.  To drive home his point, he added that "whenever a bomb blast occurs or such incident takes place, within an hour or so many TV channels start showing that an email or SMS has come from the Indian Mujahideen, JeM or Harkat-ul-Jihad-e-Islami, or some Muslim name, claiming responsibility.”  Such news items are rarely verified before they are quickly broadcast and later retractions are far too little to undo the damage done. Others are countering that Indian Muslims must shed the syndrome of victimhood and persecution and take charge of matters effectively. They should not view the media suspiciously but be part of the process.  This would eventually ensure a balance in reporting with minimal bias. Danish Ahmed Khan, an Indian who operates the website IndianMuslimObserver.com has recognized that a significant part of the problem lies in the meager representation of Muslim journalists in mainstream media.  To this end he has come up with an idea of encouraging more Muslims to enter journalism... Read More

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YaHind.com, Saudi Arabia

Date: September 8, 2013

Media Marginalization of Muslims in India

TARIQ A. AL-MAEENA

There are sentiments in some quarters within India that the Indian media is not necessarily fair to Muslim issues and to the sensitivities of its largest minority. The 160 million plus minority, the largest in India, is not necessarily alone in such thoughts. Such feelings often held privately were publicly aired by India Press Council Chairman and a former judge in the Indian Supreme Court, Markanedya Katju, who criticized the media for "demonizing" Muslims through “irresponsible journalism”. To drive home his point, he added that "whenever a bomb blast occurs or such incident takes place, within an hour or so many TV channels start showing that an email or SMS has come from the Indian Mujahideen, JeM or Harkat-ul-Jihad-e-Islami, or some Muslim name, claiming responsibility.” Such news items are rarely verified before they are quickly broadcast and later retractions are far too little to undo the damage done... Read More
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On Line Opinion, Australia 

Date: August 7, 2013

Becoming the Bread Basket of Muslim Asia

By Jonathan J. Ariel

Not for long hopefully. HDC's promise is to help businesses access new markets both in Malaysia and abroad. For businesses, it means Halal is the avenue for new markets with the help of HDC and its agencies. For consumers, it means that with the growth of the Halal industry, they will have increased awareness and better choices on Halal goods. And finally, for the government, with new markets reached through Halal, it translates into economic growth. While the author Liow Ren Jan dwells on Malaysia's place in the global Halal marketplace, the book would be an excellent read for Australian managers in both government owned organisations tasked with "food innovation" as well as policy wonks in the Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade; Austrade and food industry managers and entrepreneurs generally who are interested in lifting Australia's game in marketing (especially) value added foodstuffs to our near neighbours. So why should Australia focus laser-like, on Halal certified exports? Hasan Mulani of New Delhi's Indian Muslim Observer explains that Islam is one of the largest and fastest-growing religions in the world; over 25 per cent of the world's population - about 1.75 billion – follows the teachings of the Prophet Mohammed... Read More

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Outlook, India

Date: December 5, 2011

The Yin, Wounded

Debarshi Dasgupta

It has been 53 years since she was subjected to the agony. But as Zenab Bano, a retired political science professor in Udaipur, recounts the horror of that day, the wound is laid bare all over again—still raw, still unhealed. Barely seven years old then, she was told to go with her friend and her grandmother to a function for children at the end of which she would get a gift. “Before I realised what was happening, there was this woman pulling down my undergarment,” she says. “I had no idea what she was doing. It hurt a lot and I cried.” What Bano describes is the female circumcision ritual called khatna that most Bohra Muslim girls in India had to go through then. And which is still a rite of passage for many even today. What happened to Bano was never openly talked about within her household. “Whenever I asked my mother about it, she would say it’s nothing and that it’s done to all,” she says. The efforts of a 42-year-old Bohra woman from Mumbai, however, may finally bring the taboo subject to light, despite the cold indifference of orthodox members. Tasleem (who doesn’t want to reveal her surname), the mother of a 19-year-old girl, launched an online petition this October to try and get Bohra high priest Mohammed Burhanuddin to put an end to this archaic ritual. She sent her campaign material, including a large cardboard blade embossed with a photograph of a wailing girl being circumcised, to Burhanuddin’s office, but got no response. This campaign has now been picked up by Indian Muslim Observer, a website dedicated to Muslim affairs, for broader dissemination amongst other Muslims. According to Tasleem, khatna is still widely practised. “It still happens among rich, poor, the middle class,” she says. “I’d say 90 per cent still practise it.” Bohra reformist and scholar Asghar Ali Engineer too acknowledges that female circumcision is still very much prevalent. “But it would be difficult to ascertain the scale as it is a very hush-hush affair. In big cities like Bombay, it is done is hospitals right after birth and in smaller towns it is done around the age of six.”... Read More

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Outlook, India 

Date: November 19, 2012

Green Colour Paper

Debarshi Dasgupta

Launching an English daily that specialises in covering Muslim affairs is an idea many have broached, even attempted. But it has remained illusory so far. While many attempts didn’t go beyond the drawing board, the few that made it to a print-run didn’t survive more than a few months, accentuating the challenges to launching a community-specific daily for India’s Muslims. However, this hasn’t deterred a group of Andhra Pradesh Muslims from reviving the idea with a new daily called Deccan Age, which they promise to launch on January 1, 2014. While there are many Muslim-specific dailies in Indian languages like Urdu and Malayalam, it’s the lure of having one in English—the language of many decision-makers—that has proved elusive. There are English journals for Muslims, like the Radiance Viewsweekly, the fortnightly Milli Gazette and the monthly Islamic Voice. But there’s no daily. Hoping to break this jinx, the Hyderabad-based Deccan Age was registered in September 2010... Meanwhile, a lot of what Rahman and his backers intend to do is already being done by websites that specialise in covering Muslim-related news, such as Two Circles, Ummeed and Indian Muslim Observer, and that too at far lower costs... Read More

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World Muslim Congress, USA 

Date: November 27, 2011

Female Genital Mutilation among Bohra Muslims - A Report

I applaud the courage of Mr. Danish Ahmed for reporting this issue head on in his magazine Indian Muslim Observer. There is a lot that goes on in our societies, Muslim, Hindu, Christian, and Sikh or otherwise, in this instance a large number of Bohra Muslim Women are being genitally mutilated in secrecy, as it is an illegal practice within several cultures. Even if one woman, Muslim or otherwise is deprived of her God given pleasures of life, it must be stopped. Standing up against oppression is one big aspect of being a Muslim. Injustice to anyone and particularly women will eat away the morality of the society from within. Oppression cannot go on for long. Every religion has been a medium to restore righteousness in the society, the guidance is universal including Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) who said, the least thing you can do against injustice is to speak up. Speaking up is the right thing to do... Read More

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NPWJ.org, USA 

Date: November 15, 2011

Uproar over Female Genital Mutilation: Bohra Muslim Woman

By Danish Ahmad Khan, Indian Muslim Observer

Female khatna’ (circumcision) or Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), which is widely prevalent in Africa and the Middle East among sections of Muslim, has come under sharp criticism by a female activist who has termed it grossly ‘inhuman, unjust and un-Islamic’ and is clamoring for a ban on its practice. The activist, who prefers to be named Tasleem, has launched a campaign on Facebook and making sincere efforts to collect signatures to petition the Bohra High Priest His Holiness Dr. Syedna Mohammad Burhanuddin ordering a ban on this ritual and stop this cruelty being foisted on Bohra females. The activist has urged the people to actively take part in this campaign against FGM and sign the Online Petition [https://www.change.org/petitions/hh-dr-syedna-ban-female-circumcision-ladkiyon-par-khatna-2] to put adequate pressure on HH Dr. Syedna Mohammad Burhanuddin to finally put an end to this abhorring and ghastly practice... Read More

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Orchid Project, UK 

Date: September 29, 2011

FGC in India and Pakistan

A widely held misconception is that female genital cutting is solely an African issue. Far from it. FGC is practised in all corners of the globe from Kurdistan to Australia, the Yemen to the UK – take a look at our two previous blogs about the state of FGC in Indonesia and United Arab Emirates. In this week’s blog, Orchid turns its focus to a part of the world where FGC is less well known about. We look at personal testimonies that provide anecdotal evidence of FGC occurring in the Bohra communities of India and Pakistan. The Bohra is a small, tight-knit community made up of approximately one million adherents, the majority residing in west India. Bohra communities have inhabited regions of Gujarat in western India since around the 11th Century. They spread to the Sindh region of Pakistan during independence from India and from British rule in 1947. The word Bohra is derived from the Gujarati, ‘vohorvu’, meaning ‘to trade’, and Bohras have traditionally been merchants in their communities. The Bohra observe a form of Shi’a Islam. Their ancestry and religious roots hail from the Yemen and from Egypt, where, significantly, FGC is believed to have begun. They are known to cut their daughters, and commonly practice type 1, the removal of all or the tip of the clitoris... Read More

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nextGenIndia Network

Operation Blade: Stop FGM

It was indeed a disturbing truth that the brutal practice of female genital mutilation (FGM) continues in parts of the African continent. What most of us did not expect was the ugly revelation that this method of oppression was being practiced in our own backyards. Reports of the prevalence of FGM (known as khatna in the community) among the Dawoodi Bohra community have taken many gender activists by surprise. FGM is an uncomfortable reality, about which few Bohra women had so far dared to talk about openly was brought to light by an anonymous letter to the chairperson of the international NGO, Tostan. We took up the issue and created a bloggers campaign around it along with a social media dialogue. The objective was to collect online signatures for the petition against the practice... Read More

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The Indian Express, India 

Date: March 18, 2011

Click on the 'Muslim' Story

Irena Akbar

Mainstream English and Hindi media look at them in black cloak or wearing a skull cap. Or so many Muslims in India believe. The Urdu media, on the other hand, is more interested in covering a seminar at AMU or some mushaira somewhere in Lucknow, than in real socio-economic issues that affect the community. Frankly, who cares about the Urdu press? Not many Muslims today can read the language, and thus don't read Urdu newspapers. My bet is that sadly, very sadly, my parents' generation is the last generation that can read an Urdu newspaper. Caught between the mainstream media and the Urdu press, the Indian Muslim community is trying to find an outlet for expression in the new media – the Internet. There are a couple of news and information websites run by Muslims that feature news and articles about the community, from their perspective. Some that I have read include Ummid.com, Indianmuslimobserver.com, Newageislam.com and Twocircles.net. Indianmuslimobserver.com, run by a group of journalists in Jamia Nagar, Delhi, calls itself, "Your Window To The Muslim World"... Read More

Symposium on removal of Arabic and Persian from UPSC examination

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 03 September 2013 | Posted in , , ,

By Manzar Imam

New Delhi: The All India Association of Arabic Teachers & Scholars (AIAATS) in collaboration with the All India Persian Scholars’ Association (AIPSA) organized a symposium on “Problems and Issues Related to Arabic and Persian” with special reference to UPSC’s recent decision to remove Arabic and Persian from Civil Services examinations on Saturday, 31 August at Ghalib Academy.

The decision to remove Arabic and Persian from the Union Public Service Commission’s examination has shocked teachers and thousands of students enrolled in different universities and colleges across India. Many see it as narrowing the opportunities for students many of whom aspire to join India’s top administrative services.

It should be noted that earlier in March 2013, the UPSC had removed Arabic, French, German, Pali, Persian and Russian from the list of optional subjects for the main examinations.

Speaking on this occasion Rajya Sabha MP, Mohammed Adeeb, termed the decision as injustice which can never be tolerated. He said that both Arabic and Persian have been India’s official languages for centuries and their removal from the UPSC cannot be justified. The MP further said that he had spoken to the Prime Minister to think over the decision and in the meantime he also asked people to meet political leaders and office bearers in the ministry of education in groups and delegations to register their protest against the decision.

This is for the first time in Independent India that a meeting is being organized for survival and protection of Arabic and Persian, remarked Prof. Sharif Husain Qasmi. The decision of the UPSC Committee to remove Arabic and Persian from the competitive examination is very unfortunate. The Committee did not understand the significance of these languages. If this is what democracy is, we lament it. He said that even during the Narasimha Rao government Arabic, Persian and Pali languages were removed from UPSC competitive examinations, but after protest the decision was taken back.

Prof. Akhtarul Wasey of Jamia Millia Islamia blamed the UPA government for doing what was not done even during the NDA regime. When English which came to India two centuries ago could become the official language how would Arabic and Persian which have been the official languages of India for eight centuries not be promoted, asked he. He demanded that Arabic and Persian should be promoted and included in the category of modern Indian languages.

Noted Arabic scholar Prof. Zubair Ahmad Farooqi called it an academic corruption and said, “The decision is intended to absolve Muslim energy and prevent Muslims from constructive thinking”.

Prof. Chander Shekar, Head of the Department of Persian, University of Delhi criticized the government for the decision and said that alike the British government which had decided to kill India languages, the Indian government now seems to have decided to kill its own language and culture. He said that Urdu, Hindi and Sanskrit would remain incomplete without Arabic and Persian.

Tracing the root of Arabic and Persian to India’s long past the AIAATS president, Prof. Mohammad Nauman Khan said that Indian skills, arts and crafts were first introduced to the outside world through Arabic and Persian languages. Arabic and Persian are the languages of national integrity and a means to preserve India’s cultural heritage.

While expressing his displeasure over the decision, JNU’s Prof. Ainul Hasan, president of AIPSA called the decision a conspiracy. He said that teaching of Arabic and Persian was imperative to understand the Medieval Indian history.

Prof. Khalid Hamidi of Jamia Millia Islamia said that the decision was an example of grave ignorance. It isn’t just a matter of languages but a national issue. Persian is a centuries old language and Arabic used to be the official language of Sind and Punjab government of the undivided India.

A resolution which condemned the removal of Arabic and Persian from UPSC examinations was read out by Prof. Syed Hasnain Akhtar of Allahabad University. It termed the decision improper and uncalled for and said that in the era of globalization Arabic and Persian languages were being used to enhance India’s relations with the Arabic and Persian speaking countries. The resolution further read that Arabic, Persian, Pali and other classical languages had immensely and positively led to the evolution of composite culture. The resolution was unanimously upheld by the audience.

[Manzar Imam, a Delhi-based Journalist, is Special Correspondent of IndianMuslimObserver.com. He can be reached at manzarkhalil@gmail.com]

Gulf feels heat of Syria crisis

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | | Posted in , ,

The regional implications of western military intervention are potentially dangerous, but doing nothing means countless more deaths

By Tariq A. Al Maeena

Last week, as many Gulf residents returned from holidaying abroad and began preparing for the new academic year, there was apprehension about the escalation of rhetoric concerning large-scale military action in Syria.

The Syrian conflict has been a long-drawn and draining exercise in bloodshed that seems to have no end. It took an ominous turn recently when it was alleged that the ruling Al Assad regime had used chemical weapons against its own people, a charge quickly dismissed by the Syrian government.

Western leaders mobilised early last week to up the ante and forge a military response and Gulf residents were left to decipher when such an attack would be come. But as the week drew to an end, there were signs of reluctance from some of the permanent members of the UN Security Council.

The Russians have always been adamant against any form of military action or intervention in Syria, labelling it a civil war best determined by the will of the Syrians without foreign interference. On the other hand, countries in the West have been aghast at the intensity of violence that President Bashar Al Assad has demonstrated against his detractors. This week however, restraint followed the earlier calls for immediate military action. Meanwhile, UN inspectors were quickly dispatched and were on the ground in Syria till Friday to examine evidence to determine whether chemical weapons were indeed used and by whom.

The German and Chinese leadership, who want Al Assad to step down, want further political dialogue to end the impasse between the warring factions. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said: “China calls on all parties to exercise restraint and calm,” adding that a political solution was “the only realistic way out on the Syrian issue.” An editorial in the People’s Daily, a reflection of Chinese government policy warned that the “use of force against Syria would cause even graver consequences than the war in Iraq”.

The British parliament rejected Prime Minister David Cameron’s call for military intervention. Many parliamentarians vividly remember the folly of UK’s participation in the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq based on fabricated charges of Weapons of Mass Destruction, and the loss of British lives.

And in the US, President Barack Obama, who once said that the use of chemical weapons would be the determining “red line”, seems to be holding back. It is the US who many in the region say would orchestrate a coalition of nations to lead the charge. Facing reluctance from the major powers to form an international attack force coalition, Obama has indicated that he is not willing to violate international laws and act as a world policeman without a specific mandate from the United Nations. That mandate has yet to be provided, possibly until the final report is submitted to the world body by the inspectors. But that alone may not stop Obama from going it alone.

The French government has shown reluctance for an immediate military intervention until the UN inspectors have completed their investigations and submitted their report to the world body. Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, a minister in the French government has stated that “before acting, we need proof”.

So what exactly do some Gulf residents have to say? Abbas, an economist, feels that the longer Al Assad is given a free hand, the worse it will be for Syrians. “Look, he has had two years and more of criminal activities against his own people. More than 100,000 innocent lives have been lost. There are some two million Syrian refugees. He is refusing to step down, content in the thought that killing an entire opposition will help him retain power. Day by day, the killing continues. Can he not see that he will never, and I emphasise ‘never’, be recognised as a legitimate leader by not just his people, but also by the people of this region, even if he succeeds in his diabolical plan?”

Mary, a retired US school teacher and linguist, adds: “Personally, I feel that the Syria crisis is a civil war and as such we ALL should be staying out of it and letting them get on with doing each other in and then we can ALL find a way to deal with the victor. Getting involved is, I feel, going to be detrimental to our own country’s interests over there. For too long Israel has pulled the US into its war designs and machinations to claim/control areas over there. I do agree with Obama that we should stop sending our troops into all of these regional conflicts. It’s been draining in every conceivable way. No one in the general population in the US wants any involvement in another conflict somewhere in the Middle East. Iraq began the same darn way ... in from the air first. Once we commit to interference I don’t see how we can limit our involvement when others are forced, in one way or another, to back their players as well. I just wish we would stop bowing to the desires and will of Israel. It’s going to blow that whole region if we don’t sit back and take a long, hard, cold look at what the result is likely to be before we take the first action.”

Sian Claire Owen, an editor at Geopolitical Information Service, warns that any US-led intervention would be akin to opening Pandora’s box. She writes: “If the West is to intervene in the Syrian crisis in response to allegations …, then it risks escalating the situation throughout the Middle East. It is arguable whether a ‘surgical strike’ will prevent the further use of chemical weapons. It will, however, increase the potential for dangerous escalation throughout the region. No one has any real idea about the consequences of military action against the Al Assad regime.”

To a war-weary region, one that has seen conflicts increase in magnitude in recent decades, such caution is precisely why unease has overcome many in the region. But what remain the alternatives?

[Tariq A. Al Maeena is a Saudi socio-political commentator. He lives in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/@talmaeena]

(Courtesy: Gulf News)

Afghan Girls armed with Pens and Poems

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

Teen Series Premiered on August 27 at the Afghan Women’s Writing Project

IMO News Service

Twelve year old Shahira has felt the repression of being a girl in Afghanistan, but she is one of the next generation of young Afghan teens arming themselves with pens in fierce determination to see their mother country into a new age. In her new poem, “Big Land,” Shahira accepts her own responsibility in Afghanistan\'s return to a place of light,

We are in darkness and no one can see us.
I am watching, playing, singing my best songs in darkness
but I don\'t know anything about myself.
Where I am, who I am?
There is no one to share with me in this land,
because I am alone.

But I will rise in the dark sky of Afghanistan
to bring back the shining sun.

Shahira works with an online writing mentor through the Afghan Women’s Writing Project (AWWP). Her stories and poems, along with writings from scores of other Afghan women, are published online for the world to read at awwproject.org.

Madia, a young woman of fourteen, is also experimenting with poetry to express the sorrows of her family and the stories of their lives. At such a young age, her writing shows a vulnerable wisdom in these lines from her recent poem, “Talking With Flowers:”

Sometimes I talk with flowers
And I know they hear me...
I need someone to know what I am feeling,
And the beautiful flowers listen to me.

There is fighting in the streets of Kabul
And people are dying in front of our school.
Students could die, when all they want
Is to learn, to get an education.
It is not fair, and I tell this to the flowers.

This new series from the Teenage Writers Workshop premieres online today featuring the work of Shahira, Madia and other young women. As of early 2013, close to 800 of nearly 200 writers’ works have been published on awwproject.org where visitors from over 190 countries have “heard” the Afghan women’s voices through their written words.

The AWWP was founded in 2009 in defense of the human right to voice one’s story. For more information, please visit awwproject.org or contact them at contact@awwproject.org.

BOOK REVIEW: Brands from Muslim world changing, influencing the world of business and branding

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

Book: Made With - The Emerging Alternative to Western Brands
(1. From Istanbul to Indonesia)
Author: John Grant
Publisher: LID Publishing, September 2013
Available: Hardcover
Price: £19.99

John Grant's thoughtprovoking book "Made With" a wake-up call to the Western world. Brands from non-Western cultural tradition are changing and influencing the world of business and branding.

IMO News Service

“Made With” by John Grant is a thought provoking book and a wake-up call to the Western world, about how brands from a non-Western cultural tradition are changing and influencing the world of business and branding. The new Muslim majority countries account for many of the fastest emerging economies and have the potential to create tomorrow’s lifestyles, concepts and brands. The West and the spread of its products, culture, media and influence will not continue to dominate the world like it has for the last 100 years and “Made With” gives us a glimpse into the “Made With” exposes how the countries in the so-called Islamic “Interland” have long been undervalued culturally but that it is now harder to ignore their economic momentum.

According to Pew Research Center, one in four people alive today is Muslim and the Muslim population is growing at double the rate of other populations. These emerging markets are starting to develop powerful alternatives, taking on the prejudice that emerging markets are just playing catch-up when it comes to brands. “Made With” contains interviews with leading brand creators in locations that includes Istanbul, Beirut, Dubai, Jordan, Jakarta and many others across the Middle and Far East. All highlighting to the West, what it can learn, and apply to its own markets.

The book captures how this region has one of the world's richest aesthetic and cultural traditions to draw upon, and a distinctly non-western mindset; for instance how the region values craft and community (the 'Made' and 'With' of the title) ahead of individual personality, which dominates western branding ('Made By'). Therefore, as these economies gain momentum and confidence, their different values naturally emerge within their brands to create challengers. “Made With” is bursting with fascinating stories - from the producer of a TV show that was a hit in 53 countries, to Obama’s State Representative to the Muslim World; from pioneers of the Arabic Web scene involved in $100m+ deals, to government politicians and social activists, secular democrats and hijab wearing fashionistas.

John Grant, the author, marketing expert and leading thinker explores the ideas and views emerging from the new Muslim world, and interviews first-hand the leading creatives, entrepreneurs and marketers driving these extraordinary developments. John Grant has written five other significant books on brands and trends.

John Grant has written five other influential marketing books – including The New Marketing Manifesto and The Green Marketing Manifesto (1999).The New Marketing Manifesto was named one of the Ten Best Business Books of 1999 by Books Online. In the 90’s John was co-founder and head of strategy at creative agency St Luke’s (as featured in the Harvard Business Review and Fast Company magazine). John advises global and local clients on brands, marketing, behaviour change, strategy, sustainability and innovation. His clients have included Amazon, the BBC, Cisco, Ernst & Young, HSBC, IBM, IKEA, ING, innocent drinks, LEGO, Microsoft, Nando’s, Napster, Natura, Nokia, O2, Philips, Unilever and various departments of the UK and Swedish governments.

Book launch event will be held on 19 September 2013 at Pentagram, UK. “Made With” has already been endorsed by some of the most prominent and influential names in thought leadership and media:

"Just as when Japanese brands began to go global in the 1960s and 1970s, the rise of emerging-market brands is destined to change the world. John Grant has given us a terrific field-guide to how to understand those brands and how genuinely different many of them are." – Bill Emmott, former Editor of the Economist

"Simultaneously an ode to emerging companies in what John Grant calls the geography (and mindset) of 'the Interland' and a wake-up call to the brands of the West, Made With provides not only keen insight but also the most unique model I've ever seen. It will guide you in appealing to the authenticity people increasingly seek." – B. Joseph

Pine II, co-author of The Experience Economy and Authenticity: What Consumers Really Want

Every now and again a new book comes along, that is a must read; a Malcolm Gladwell ‘Tipping Point’ moment or a Seth Godin’s “Tribes”. “Made With” by John Grant is that book and moment.

Exemplary Muslim Marriage in Toronto: Bride and groom go against local and Hyderabadi traditions, shun un-Islamic traditions

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

By Dr. Syed Ali Mahmood

Toronto (Canada): A quite simple marriage ceremony was held last week in the Masjid facility (Gymnasium, Cafeteria, Kitchen) of the Islamic Foundation of Toronto that accommodated around 600 people including some CC members. The exemplary features of this marriage were no Dowry-Jahez from the bride’s parents, no-Manje, no-Sachaq, no-Mehendi, no Exchange of indecent dialogues between friends of bride and groom, no Mix-gathering of ladies and gentlemen, no-Videography, no-Deejay (DJ) Music, and no-Ballroom, Salsa, Rock, Panjabi Bhangra or Swing dance. Nikah was carried out in the mosque in the presence of friends, relatives and musallis (worshippers). I asked the bridegroom, how it happened without any problem with the Hyderabadi parents, relatives and friends and he told me that my fiancée and I decided in the beginning not to do anything which is un-Islamic tradition. Moreover, he said that I am just providing my wife a decent home, standard living, and the Mahr (dower: a mandatory required amount of money or possessions ), according to my means. Soon after finishing the dinner party the newlywed couple left for honeymoon.

The mothers of the couple and some female relatives and friends disliked the 100% rejection of Hyderabadi and local traditions. As a protest, some female-guests used old attire in the wedding ceremony and some of them said that this event doesn't look like marriage function. However, the bride was very happy by stating that I spent only Canadian $10,000 from my savings for the marriage and I do not have to pay any debts.

The approximate average ages of first marriage of men and women in Canada, UK, USA, Pakistan and India are 31.1 and 29 years, 30.7 and 28.5, 29 and 27, 26 and 23, and 26 and 22; respectively. Unfortunately, in Canada most people including Desis are unable to get married before they reach late twenties or early thirties and this situation sometimes leads to much corruption. In some cases, people have already crossed 35 years of age without marriage. The main reasons of putting off marriage are financial (obligatory repayment of OSAP (Ontario Student Assistance Program) loans, high car insurance, cell phone bills, Visa/Master credit card, +/- home mortgage, etc.) and job market uncertainty.

Dear single youngsters (male and female) carry out your marriage according to the Islamic way and rebel against unnecessary customs and traditions but be kind and dutiful to your parents in all situations. Islamic marriage is very simple, straightforward and affordable, free from all unnecessary traditions that have been introduced to showcase and preserve the positions of two families in the society. Please connect your heart and soul with these words of Allah SWT and take inspirations: "You are preoccupied by greed for more and more, until you go down to your graves.” (Chapter 102-Al-Takāthur (Rivalry for Worldly Gain): Verses 1-2); “Yet you prefer this present life, while the life to come is better and longer lasting.” (Chapter 87-Al-A`lā (The Most High):Verses 16-17); Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you (Chapter 49-Al-Hujurat [part of verse 13]. The Prophet Mohammad SAS said: “Publicize marriage, and hold it in mosques and mark it with playing the tambourine.” [Related by Ahmad and Al-Tirmithi].

[Dr. Syed Ali Mahmood is based in Toronto, Canada and can be contacted at syedali15@yahoo.com]

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