SPECIAL REPORT: Congress revival chances among Gujarat Muslims much brighter with Rahul Gandhi's visit, Congress may win 8 to 10 Lok Sabha seats

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 11 October 2013 | Posted in , ,

By Abdul Hafiz Lakhani

Ahmedabad: Rahul Gandhi has finally arrived on the centrestage of Indian politics. The angry, young, pragmatic Rahul Gandhi with his masterstroke of tearing and throwing away of the recent ordinance brought by his own government has in fact severely rattled the Indian political landscape virtually tearing into the opposition parties itself so much so that RSS-annointed Prime Ministerial aspirant Narendra Modi seems to be completely lost and considerably mellowed down his attacks. And, Modi knows it only too well that the law is soon going to catch up with some of his cabinet colleagues and associates debarring them from electoral politics just like the convicted MPs Rasheed Masood and Lalu Prasad Yadav.

The moment a confident Congress Vice President, Rahul Gandhi, arrived in Gujarat along with Ahmedbhai Patel, Political Adviser to Congress President Ms. Sonia Gandhi, the Congress Party rank and file in the state has been spurred. Rahul Gandhi's assertion that BJP, the rightwing affiliate of RSS, has mastered the art of doing politics by pitting Hindus against Muslims has raised his profile as a sincere and honest leader who wants to restore the credibility of Indian politics. The recent visit of Rahul Gandhi to Gujarat has made Congress revival chances in the state much brighter and has undoubtedly brought increased acceptibility among Muslims here. Even Ahmaedbhai Patel is seen to be working hard to restore Congress Party's lost glory in Modiland. His confabulations with party workers has upped the ante and the party seems to be readying itself to give some tough times to the Hindu mascot and Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi.

Ahmedbhai Patel, while addressing the gathering in Bharuch recently, said that Congress Party was not at all bothered about Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi's nomination as BJP's prime ministerial candidate for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. He said, "Modi's nomination does not make any difference to Congress. We are not bothered about it. It is the prerogative of a political party to nominate its candidate for the post."

Referring to Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi's recent visit to Gujarat, Ahmedbhai Patel said that the state unit of the party has become more "energetic" after that. "Rahul Gandhi's visit has inspired Congress workers. He asked them to unite and observe party discipline," he said.

He expressed confidence that Congress would perform well in the upcoming assembly polls in Delhi, Rajasthan, M.P. and Chhastigargh and Mizoram.

Ahmedbhai Patel attended the executive committee meeting of Bharuch district unit of the party and asked the party workers to bury differences with the aim of defeating the BJP.

The executive meeting adopted several resolutions asking party workers to launch agitation after CAG's report on corruption involving Rs one lakh crore and also against Modi government's "failure" in appointing Lokayukta in Gujarat.

The resolution also demanded adequate compensation for the farmers of Bharuch district, who suffered losses due to heavy rains and floods in the district.

According to political pundits, After the visit of Rahul Gandhi and Ahmedbhai Patel, hundreds of veteran Congress workers feel emotional and they have vowed to struggle hard to bring back of party's golden days in the Modiland.

When this Correspondent talked to many Congress workers, it seemed that party workers have already started making extensive efforts to pose a bigger challenge to BJP in Gujarat. Most of the party workers said that Congress Party might win 8 to 10 Lok Sabha seats in the state in the coming parliamentary elections to be held in 2014.

[Abdul Hafiz Lakhani is a senior Journalist based at Ahmedabad, Gujarat. He is associated with IndianMuslimObserver.com as Bureau Chief (Gujarat). He can be reached at lakhani63@yahoo.com or on his cell 09228746770]

Origins of hostility to Indian Muslims

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

By Maryam Imran

Recent anti-Muslim riots in Muzaffarnagar, Uttar Pradesh (UP) are yet another experiment in Hindutva laboratory. In 2002, the success of an earlier such experiment in Gujarat had helped Hindutva proponents consolidate their electoral victory not only in Gujarat but also in several other Indian states. Claim to Gujarat’s throne by them is thus far unrivalled encouraging the blood thirsty scientists to replicate their success story now in UP. In Hindutva annals, Gujarat stands as a shinning monument of Hindu political unity since in 2002 Hindu extremists had managed not only to break the indifference of Dalits and other depressed classes towards communal calls by Brahman dominated Sangh Parivar but had also pushed them to an animated joint action against Muslims- thus exposing hapless Muslim community to a united, aggressive and violent Hindu front. For lower castes it was a disgraceful shift from Ambedkar’s enlightened humanism to Sarvarkar’s rabid communalism.

Rural UP and possibly other Hindi belt states are going to be the future testing grounds for Hindu Rashtra theories of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), Bhartia Janata Party (BJP) and their associates. Hindutva gangsters will now put their skills to breaking ethnic bonds between Muslims and Hindus belonging to Jat, Rajput and Gujjar communities in Northern India. These bonds have so far prevented violence based on religion in UP’s rural areas.

With elections in India now few months away, UP is primary arena for political muscle flexing. It sends 80 MPs to Lok Sabha, the single largest slab. It is considered to be the cradle of Hindu faith and ethos and an unavoidable power broker in India’s politics. No wonder, Amit Shah, an accused murderer of two Muslims in 2002 Gujarat riots and a close associate of Narendra Modi, has been sent to the state to organize BJP before elections, perhaps with the mandate to experiment whether Hindutva could drive a wedge particularly between rural Muslims and Hindus who traditionally do not fight on communal lines. Joint Hindu action as was seen in Gujarat can help defeat Samajwadis and Congressites in the forthcoming elections despite their efforts to woo Muslims. Welded out of anti-Muslim sentiments, Hindus could possibly vote enbloc for BJP while Muslims who voted in large numbers for Samajwadi may respond with a vote divided this time among Samajwadi, Congress and Bahujanis. In that case, the appeal of Muslim joint electoral action against Hindu extremists will be sadly lost.

Whenever Muslims are made victims of Hindu chauvinism in the largest democracy one wants to understand the roots of this hostility which refuses to go away and which once led to the partition of India. This hostility manifested for the first time in anti-Muslim riots of 1893. A decade earlier it was expressed in one of the most distinct landmarks in India’s anti-Muslim politics i.e, Bankim Chatterjee’s novel Anandamath that contains infamous song, Vande Mataram , widely considered as one of the reasons for Muslim separatism in South Asia. India’s secular leaders had adopted Vande Mataram as their national anthem after establishment of the Congress Ministries in Muslim minority provinces in 1937.

Anandamath can rightly be considered as one of the earliest organized expressions of Hindu communalism that propagated aggression and violence against Muslims. It is nothing but a precursor of the hate literature of today’s Hindutva inspired thugs. In today’s political environment, the novel deepens the understanding of communal politics of India.

The latest translation of the novel has been rendered by Julius Lipner, a Cambridge Scholar. It was published by the Oxford University Press. Translated twice earlier, this is its third notable translation. While the first translation in the early 20 th Century had given an honest description of hate and venom it contains, the second in the 40s was politically correct. It expunged all references to Muslims to enable the Congress leadership to sell it to “all Indians”.

The novel is based on the 18th century Sanyasee rebellion of Bengal. It is structured like a Hindi movie with assorted heroes and heroines singing songs ( Vande Mataram is one of them) and leading gangs against foreigners. By foreigners the author means Muslims who are honoured with epithets such as “bearded degenerates, pigs and rascals”. Their cities, towns and villages are referred to as “ pigsties”. The British are revered as “valorous, friendly” people even while they take punitive actions against sadhus-sanyasies for their banditry.

As regards original Sanyasee rebellion, its exploits were mostly limited to kidnapping, loot, plunder and banditry. It may be an exciting fable, the reality is less so.

One can argue that timeframe for the novel’s story is Mir Jaffer’s lawless, anarchic and bandit-infested Bengal and the problem it might have created for the local people—thus description of Muslims as foreigners. However, the novel is not only against foreigner-looking Persian speaking urban Muslim elite of Bengal in large cities such as Murshidabad and Dhaka, but it is also against Bangla speaking rural Muslims ignoring the fact that rural Islam in South Asia is essentially a home-grown phenomenon resulting mostly from conversions.

Clearly, the author had a specific political agenda when he weaved the story hundred years after Jaffer and Sanyassees (in 1881). He, even, clarified in initial chapters that Jaffer was unable to administer Bengal because the British had arrogated Diwani authority to collect taxes. But, he chooses to praise the Brits as friendly people helping Hindus get rid of “swines”, i.e. Muslims. In any case, Jaffer doesn’t appear anywhere in the novel except in the reference to the loss of diwani authority. What distinctly emerges in every chapter is a plan to loot and plunder Muslim villages and property through pogroms and rioting—something very familiar even in the 21st century India. Lipner in his introduction, which is bigger than the novel, acknowledges its controversial nature and the far-reaching changes it brought about in the political thinking of modern India.

In 1882, when the novel had been authored, no one had even thought about separate identity of Muslims in India. Some of the leaders of the Indian National Congress which was established later in 1885, however, embraced the novel something like a holy Bible despite its strong communal character. The Novel was, therefore, a prime inspiration for both Congress leaders professing secularism (none of whom can condemn it even today) as well as RSS thugs who have now come to dominate every city, town and village of India through their social, cultural, religious and political sub-organizations. With modern technologies at their service, they can spread fake movies showing Muslims killing Hindus or mobile messages such as the one making rounds in Northern India these days— “Muslim se beti bachao, Gaye bachao” (save your daughter and mother cow from Muslims), and incite large scale trouble at a very short notice.

If India really wants to live up to its constitutional commitment to its minorities, it must ban these organizations and their hate-based politics. History bears witness that it is not merely high growth rates but also inclusive politics particularly encompassing depressed minorities that ensure sustained progress of a society. Continued vulnerability of a group as large as Indian Muslims does not augur well for the stability of the Indian Union as a whole. India should look inwards and understand its contradictions- one of which is simultaneous allegiance to the ideology of Ananandmath as well as secularism. It must make visible efforts to overcome them. Anti- Muslim riots in India and their political and ideological basis must also help understand modern-day skeptics particularly in Pakistan about the roots of two-nation theory.

[The writer is freelance journalist.]

(Courtesy: Pakistan Observer)

All-women Sharia court to redress grievances of Muslim women launched

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

Pune: A Sharia court conducted solely by women with an aim to redress grievances of Muslim women has started functioning in the city. Set up by Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA), the first all-women Sharia Court in Pune will deal with various family issues, including marital discord, divorce as well as property-related disputes.

"We will be functioning to mete out justice to women in Muslim community in tune of with the tenets of the Quran which confers equal rights to both men and women.

"In reality, however, women are often discriminated against by the all-men Sharia Courts traditionally run by All India Muslim Personal Law Board," said Saeeda Jamadar, president of the Court's Pune branch that opened on Wednesday.

Saeeda, along with Zubeda Khatoon, BMMA's Maharashtra Convenor, will be on the two-Judge Bench of the new Court, seen as part of the Alternative Dispute Resolution (DSR) mechanism in the judicial system.

Explaining the BMMA measure which supports the cause of Muslim women, Saeeda said the Pune Court had been set up by the organisation following an encouraging response to a similar initiative in three other cities of the country.

Noting that Muslim women are condemned to untold hardships after they are divorced, she said, "If the Quran has given equal rights to both men and women, why should women always experience discrimination often practiced by the male-dominated Sharia Courts that take a biased view of the marital dispute?"

The BMMA Courts would aim at delivering justice to Muslim women without harbouring any bias against men who, too, are welcome to approach its forum, she maintained.

There had been instances where the muftis (scholars) manning the regular Sharia Courts fail to even summon the woman concerned before disposing of the matter, Saeeda said.

Besides this new initiative, BMMA is also working to create awareness among Muslim women about their property rights, Saeeda, a city-based teacher, said.

(Courtesy: The Indian Express)

Schemes for minorities being cornered by non-Muslims: Report

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

By Deeptiman Tiwary

New Delhi: Even as minority politics takes centrestage in the wake of recent riots in Uttar Pradesh, a report by the Council for Social Development shows how the UPA government has failed to implement the recommendations of the Sachar Committee, with its response to Muslim deprivation at best being "cautious and minimalist". The report said most of the benefits intended for minorities were being cornered by either the majority population or non-Muslim minorities.

The report listed misplaced focus of minority-oriented programmes, lack of funds and fear of 'minority appeasement' taunts as the reasons for government's failure to fulfil its promises.

The 'Social Development Report 2012: Minorities at the Margins' was prepared by scholars such as Zoya Hasan, Mushirul Hasan, Tanweer Fazal, Javed Alam Khan and Abusaleh Sharif among others.

For example, the report illustrates how programmes intended to improve school education among Muslims has focused on modernization of madarsas even though only 4% Muslims go there for education. In higher studies, the government has focused on providing assistance to minority institutions rather than expanding the overall education network to include Muslims.

It also brought out the failure of multi-sectoral development programme (MSDP) — launched after the Sachar Committee's report — targeting 90 districts with around 25% Muslim population for infrastructure development through enhanced funding. The report noted that benefits of the scheme reached only 30% of Muslim population in these areas, indicating others have cornered most of the resources. In states such as Bihar and Uttar Pradesh (with high concentration of Muslims), infrastructure projects have been diverted to non-minority areas.

The Reserve Bank of India's efforts to extend banking and credit facilities to Muslims, a major fallout of the Sachar Committee report which said Muslims were out of the banking system, has also ended up benefiting non-Muslim minorities whose socio-economic status is comparable to upper caste Hindus, the report said.

"Diffidence at the policy level to clearly focus on Muslim deprivation translates into active reluctance by the implementing agencies on the ground to target the Muslims even in districts with high Muslim concentration," the report said.

Mushirul Hasan blamed the minority affairs ministry for such failures. He told TOI, "The ministry has become a liability. It is devoid of any ideas and lacks social commitment."

According to the report, both funding and its utilization have been a problem. In the 11th plan, allocation for minorities was 6% of the total outlay with minority affairs ministry's share being only 0.79%. The report called it insignificant to address minority development. It also noted that unlike SC/ST, budgetary plans for minorities were not proportional to their population.

Even these funds are not utilized properly. During 2007-2012, state governments did not utilize even half of the allocated funds. Twelve states utilized less than 50% of funds and some states spent only 20%. States such as Bihar, UP, Maharashtra and Assam (all with high concentration of Muslims) were in the category of those that spent less than 50%.

Government's scholarship scheme for Muslim students has been widely praised, but the report found it to be too little and poorly implemented. While 2.45 crore Muslim students were enrolled up to upper primary level (2009-10 data), the government has provided 24 lakh pre-matric scholarships for minorities, the report said.

It also found the scholarship amount of Rs 1,000 to be too little. It noted that compared with SC/ST, the scheme was discriminatory. While income eligibility criteria for SC/ST to avail scholarship was kept at Rs 2 lakh per annum, for minorities it is only Rs 1 lakh.

(Courtesy: The Times of India)

Karnataka has highest dropout rate among Muslim students

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

By Manu Aiyappa

Bangalore: Karnataka, often called a "progressive state", has the highest dropout rate among Muslim students. On an average, 50,000 students from the community dropout of school each year, a majority of them at the high school level, according to a survey done by the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA).

The average dropout rate is 6.2% compared to the national average of less than 5%.

"The statistics show a worrisome trend," says Mohammed Ali Sheriff, a Harvard and IIM-B research scholar who has studied surveys by the SSA, the National Minorities Development Corporation and other agencies on school enrolment and dropouts among Muslim students.

Survey data for the period between 2008-09 and 2011-12 shows that more Muslim boys drop out of classes IX and X than girls. "This can possibly be because of the transition of a large number of students from Urdu-medium primary schools to high schools that have Kannada or English medium," Sheriff says.

About one-third of Muslim children in Karnataka study in Urdu-medium schools. One of the main reasons for increasing dropouts is that there are just 520 Urdu-medium high schools against 2,411 primary schools that have Urdu as medium of instruction.

The Gulbarga and Belgaum divisions have the highest number of students studying in Urdu-medium schools.

But there's a silver lining: between 2008-09 and 2011-12, about 15.1 lakh Muslim students were enrolled — a healthy 15% of the total enrolments in the state.

Sheriff notes: "This reveals an educational awakening among Muslims and success of the Prime Minister's pre-matric scholarship scheme for meritorious students from minority communities. Though the scheme started with only 21,018 scholarships across Karnataka in 2008-09, the number increased to 4.27 lakh in 2011-12."

Karnataka has the best gender balance among Muslims students, he says. The Gender Parity Index (the number of girls per boys) is 1.05, suggesting that more and more Muslim girls are enrolling themselves and moving to the secondary level.

Commissioner of public instruction Mohammed Mohsin told TOI that primary and secondary education minister Kimmanne Ratnakar will soon speak to Muslim legislators on checking the dropout rate. "The minister is aware of the problem and working out various schemes to arrest the trend."

Former education minister BK Chandrashekar said: "Socio-economic issues could be behind the high dropout rate among Muslim students. Community leaders and stakeholders must focus on offering scientific learning in Urdu schools at the primary level. This will make the students competent and focused."

(Courtesy: The Times of India)

India's second Islamic Cultural Centre to come up in Thane

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | | Posted in ,

Thane: India's second world-class Islamic Cultural Centre will come up in the Muslim-dominated town of Mumbra in Thane, Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar said here Tuesday.

The centre, to be modelled after the one in New Delhi, will come up at a cost of Rs 25 crore, he said.

"It will help remove the academic backwardness among Muslim students and will offer opportunities for their economic progress and amalgamate them into the national mainstream," Pawar said.

Besides, a new industrial training institute, a community technical college and a girls' hostel for Muslim students would also be started here, said Thane legislator Jitendra Awhad.

The proposed community technical college will be set up in collaboration with University of Mumbai and other international universities, he added.

Minority Affairs Minister Naseem Khan expressed hope that these moves would give a fillip to the development of the Muslim youth and help their rapid all-round progress which in turn would benefit the minority community.

Situated around 15 km from Mumbai, Mumbra has a population of around one million, of which 80 percent are Muslims.

Mumbra shot into the limelight when it offered a safe refuge to thousands of Muslims who fled Mumbai in the wake of the two-phased riots that erupted in December 1992-January 1993 following the demolition of the Babri Mosque in Ayodhya.

(Courtesy: IANS, October 8, 2013)

Legal centres to educate Muslim women on rights

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | | Posted in , ,

By Anangsha Patra

Guwahati: In a bid to create awareness among Muslim women about their rights and existing laws, an NGO will set up legal information centres across the state.

Marg, the NGO working for providing justice to women through legal empowerment, has decided to open these centres in the villages of the state. Initially, it has planned to open one centre. The project is supported by the British High Commission.

On the sidelines of the 'state-level meeting on strengthening institutional linkages and workshop on rights of Muslim women' held recently, Marg programme officer Rajesh Deoli said, "There are many Muslim women who have no idea about their rights or existing laws. They think that the laws formulated for the women of the country are not meant for them as almost everything in their lives are decided by imams. As a result, they remain deprived of their rights. We will open the legal information centres to create awareness among them about their rights."

He said the centres will work through local NGOs. Legal advisers would provide counselling to women in distress. The centres will also work for providing legal training and organize legal empowerment programmes.

"Even government offices discriminate against Muslim women. There are several cases when a Muslim woman who is a victim of domestic violence goes to a government organization dealing with women's issues are refused aid. Officials usually hesitate to take up the case on the premise that there are different laws for them, though that is not the case. Laws against domestic violence are meant for each and every woman in the country. However, now, the government is trying to change the scenario," he added.

(Courtesy: The Times of India)

Stop creating Muslim misfits

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

By Tufail Ahmad

In the interest of Muslims, there is an urgent need to reform or shut down Darul Uloom Deoband, the internationally known Islamic seminary engendering obscurantism, sectarianism and religious orthodoxies harmful to Muslims. In a recent fatwa, it ruled that Shias, mainly Bohra Muslims, are non-Muslims, violating the egalitarian tenets of the Indian republic. Fatwas are Islamic legal opinions given in response to a query and, while not many Muslims follow them, they do influence the devout ones. The accepted view that no clergy exists in Islam is untrue, as a large number of clerics in Indian villages act as doorkeepers to Muslim minds.

In recent years, the Darul Uloom Deoband has delivered numerous fatwas which undermine women’s freedom. Notably, women cannot preach or deliver sermons; working women cannot mix with male colleagues; women must wear a burqa; triple talaq uttered through a cellphone is valid; women cannot serve as qazis, or judges; talking to one’s fiancé on phone is haram or forbidden; adolescent girls over 13 years cannot ride bicycles; it is undesirable for women to drive a car; women shouldn’t contest elections and must observe purdah; co-education is impermissible. Such fatwas include: Muslims shouldn’t work in banks; modelling and acting are offences; watching cartoons on television is unlawful for children; donating blood and organs is haram; photography is sinful; celebrating birthdays is disallowed; a person blaspheming Prophet Muhammad should be killed; body scan is impermissible; and life insurance is illegal.

Such fatwas emasculate Muslim minds. Noted academic S Irfan Habib urged Muslims to ignore them. Yasoob Abbasi of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board said these “irresponsible” fatwas bring a bad name to Islam; another Board member Q R Ilyasi reminded that co-education schools exist in Saudi Arabia and Iran. Maulana Syed Ashraf Kichhouchhvi of the All India Ulama and Mashaikh Board, a body of Sufis, dubbed the anti-birthday fatwa as sans spiritualism. Regarding body scan, Faizan Mustafa, vice chancellor of the National Law University in Hyderabad, said that whatever the state does for the common good is allowed in Islam. Arshad Alam of the Jamia Millia Islamia University described these fatwas as sectarian, contested by Ahl-e-Hadees, Barelvis and Shias. Waqarunnisan Ansari, a Mumbai corporator, questioned the clerics’ competence to issue fatwas, asking if they know the terrible conditions experienced by women. Reflecting at the bigger problem facing Muslims, social activist Javed Anand warned that all religious groups such as Tablighi Jamaat, Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind, Ahl-e-Hadith and Jamaat-e-Islami do not think “any differently” from the Darul Uloom Deoband.

Islamists argue that one should ignore these fatwas as the silent majority of Muslims disregards them. This argument itself is a problem: the silent majority cowers behind the four walls of home when a cleric rules over an entire village.Islamists accuse liberal Muslims of defaming Islam and argue that anti-women fatwas are just a few. But, these fatwas are a mirror to the ruling ideology that causes Muslim decay. At this point in civilisation as we have journeyed from the invention of the wheel and steam engine on way to landing at Mars, it is meaningless to debate what arguments the Darul Uloom Deoband offers for its fatwas. The concern is: it is creating misfits for the modern world; its graduates will go on teaching a distorted version of Islam.

After 1857 when Muslims lost power in Delhi, two responses emerged: one, Sir Syed Ahmed Khan advocated scientific education as the cure for Muslim decay and established a modernist college known as Aligarh Muslim University; second, Maulana Muhammad Qasim Nanautvi favoured Islamic revival as the medicine for Muslim development and founded the Darul Uloom Deoband. The seminary relies on contributions and trains 5,000 residential students, with 1,000 graduating every year with an 8-year Fazeelat degree. However, its syllabus covers only three disciplines: Islamic jurisprudence, a hadith or traditions of Prophet Muhammad, the Koran. It doesn’t even teach Islamic history, except for bits that figure in a hadith. It has recently introduced skills courses in English and computer science for post-Fazeelat students but these aren’t aimed at broadening students’ minds.

Delhi-based journalist Abid Anwar, who studied at the Darul Uloom Deoband, says the clerics who issue fatwas do not read newspapers or watch television and are unaware of societal realities. “The seminary must incorporate social sciences, mathematics, geography and natural science right from year one of the Fazeelat course if it wants to prepare its students to interact with the wider society,” Anwar says, citing the example of Bihar where madrassas introduced the subjects in the 1980s. However, reform initiatives were always rebuffed. In 2009, the Indian government tried, in line with the Sachar Committee recommendations, to introduce a madrassa reform legislation so that their degrees are valued at par with mainstream schools. But Abdul Khaliq Madrasi, pro-vice chancellor of Darul Uloom Deoband, accused the government of interference. In 2011, the seminary’s reformist vice chancellor Ghulam Muhammad Vastanvi was removed. A tiny number of clerics sabotaged madrassa reform, though most Muslims favour it. This is the crux: a few Islamic clerics have the ability to push an entire community into decadence; while more schools are needed, the real problem is the darkness emanating from Darul Uloom Deoband. Not to forget: Deoband-leaning seminaries are producing jihadists and suicide bombers in Pakistan.

In a vibrant democracy like India, there is always something a government can do for its citizens. It must set up an educational commission on Darul Uloom Deoband and other seminaries, inquiring into their role in causing Muslim backwardness. It must: examine if their syllabus meets the educational needs of Muslims or they are producing second-class citizens in violation of the Constitution; probe their sources of funding and if they are influenced by foreign elements like Saudi Wahhabis; work to set up a council of fatwas representing clerics from all Islamic sects and ensure 50 percent of them are women; suggest measures for recruiting female teachers in seminaries in the hope that in a 100 years — as there is no shortcut — they will produce a women-friendly interpretation of Islam.

[Tufail Ahmad is Director of South Asia Studies Project at the Middle East Media Research Institute, Washington DC. He can be contacted at tufailelif@yahoo.co.uk]

‘Reduce Muslim wedding costs, do away with dowry’

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

Part of the movement is also Dukhtari Haq (Rights of the Daughters). "Don't give dowry to your daughters, give her rights in the ancestral property" is the movement's catchphrase. "A daughter is entitled to half of the son's share in her father's property. She inherits less because after marriage it is her husband's duty to take care of her

By Mohammed Wajihuddin

These are the people who took pride in their big, fat weddings. Baraatis would comprise hundreds and feasts at the bride's place would continue for three days. And dowry, both in cash and kind, had hit the roof. Now the same tribe is curtailing the number of baraatis, the amount of food served at weddings and has done away with dowry. Called Islah-e-Muashra (Reforms of Society), the movement of Muslims from Ghazipur (UP), is getting a good reception in Mumbai. Islah-e-Muashra's city wing called the Mumbai Forum is convening a meeting of over 2000 participants at Mackichan Hall in Girgaum today to discuss how to make the initiative more effective.

Muslim migrants from Ghazipur have joined hands with relatives back home to root out the system of dowry. Though the first Islah-e-Muashra of Ghazipur was started in 1910, the latest move began in 2011. Five friends—Asif Khan, Ghulam Mohammed Siddiqui, Akbar Khan, Javed Khan and Inam Khan—took upon themselves the task ofending dowry. "In 2010 alone people in Ghazipur sold land worth Rs 10 crore to fund their daughters' weddings. Till a few years ago, baraatis would come in more than 20 cars and dowry items would be carted away in trucks. This has now substantially reduced," says Asif Khan, nephew of famous Urdu journalist Haroon Rashid Alig, who was part of a similar movement in the 1980s.

According to the 15-point charter, baraatis will number not more than seven, including the groom. No lavish food will be served at the bride's place and the nikah will be preferably performed at the local mosque. Unlike in the past when brides were expected to be bejeweled and carry a variety of things to the groom's house, dowry has been curtailed to a few essentials. Now the bride will carry silver jewelry, one palang (cot), bed-sheets and pillows, a quilt, a prayer mat and a copy of the Quran. "There is no concept of either demanding or giving dowry lavishly in Islam. It has to be modest. We are trying to follow what the Sharia prescribes," says Ishtiaque Khan. "The rich have to set the example. The poor pawn their little landed property and borrow money at exorbitant rates to arrange for dowry. This has to stop."

Part of the movement is also Dukhtari Haq (Rights of the Daughters). "Don't give dowry to your daughters, give her rights in the ancestral property" is the movement's catchphrase. "A daughter is entitled to half of the son's share in her father's property. She inherits less because after marriage it is her husband's duty to take care of her," explains senior cleric Maulana Shoeb Koti.

Significantly, the movement is being backed by different sects of the community. "Despite our ideological differences, all the sects like Deobandis, Sunnis, Ahle Hadees, Barelvis agree that the evil of dowry needs to be eradicated," says Ashraf Ali Khan. The Pathans of Ghazipur areleading a silent revolution, both in Mumbai and elsewhere.

(Courtesy: The Times of India)

Support pours in for documentary on Muslims

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | | Posted in , ,

By Subhro Niyogi

Kolkata: Writers, filmmakers, educationists, activists and hundreds of others from different walks of life have come out in support of filmmaker Soumitra Dastidar and have reacted angrily to the manner in which his documentary 'Musalmaner Katha' was denied screening at Nandan on September 30.

Filmmaker Soumitra Dastidar has been overwhelmed by the support from fellow film-makers, educationists, writers, social activists and people from other walks of life who have reacted angrily to the manner in which his documentary 'Musalmaner Katha' has been denied screening at Nandan. The film was abruptly yanked out six days prior to the scheduled show on September 30. That very night, police knocked on Dastidar's door to pick up a copy of the film.

"I am humbled by the support of the filmmaking fraternity and others from different camps and varying political beliefs. Hundreds have signed a petition condemning the police action and the forced withdrawal of 'Musalmaner Katha'. The support has reiterated my resolve to do two other documentaries on Muslims to complete what will be a trilogy on a community that is an integral part of India," Dastidar told TOI before the film was screened at the Muslim Institute on Saturday evening.

Bengal's split in 1947 is considered the defining moment for Bengali Muslims.

The screening was organized by Cinema for Resistance, an all-India organization that rallies for freedom of filmmakers, with Association for Protection of Democratic Rights (APDR), Indo-Pak Solidarity Forum, Little Magazine Samannay Samity, Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (Masum) and a host of other rights' groups.

While he has just begun filming the first documentary on Al Ameen Mission that has produced doctors, engineers, lawyers and scientists from the community, Dastidar is researching on Partition that will be the subject of his third film. The filmmaker is overwhelmed by the support from different quarters.

Filmmakers Buddhadeb Dasgupta, Raja Sen, Anand Patwardhan, Sanjay Joshi, Sanjoy Kak; educationists Samik Bandyopadhyay, Sumanta Bandyopadhyay, Jayati Ghosh, Amiya Bagchi, Prabhat Patnaik, professors from Jamia Milia Islamia; writers Arundhati Roy, Antara Deb Sen; social activists Wilfred D'Costa, Gandhian Himangshu Kumar; the cultural front of RSP and Forward Bloc as well as Buddhist monks have pledged their solidarity to Dastidar and condemned the administrative action against the movie because it lacks a certificate from the Censor Board.

Films Division's eastern India branch manager Sumoy Mukherjee insists documentaries screened at Nandan III do not require a censor certificate. It was Films Division and Cine Central that had invited Dastidar to screen his documentary on the plight of Bengali Muslims at the theatre. Dastidar said he would have probably sent the documentary to the Censor Board so that it could be screened to a wider audience but has decided against it, following the unsavory development.

"No written rule was cited to block the film's screening. No official communication was made to explain the reason. I later learned that it was hastily pulled out after a police directive on September 24. The cops who visited me that night were very cordial. But I believe they had no authority to demand a copy of the film. It has been over a week since I handed the DVD to them but they are yet to revert," said Dastidar, who is part of a tribe that is against censorship. The film has already been screened at the Press Club on July 8 and Presidency University Film Festival on September 2.

Dastidar says he is still unable to understand what led to the crackdown on his film when the present government declares itself as the true friend of Muslims. "I have not made any comment in the film; only provided Muslim women, teachers, social activists, cleric et al a voice so that there is a healthy debate. The only controversial person (so far as the government goes) featured in the film is police officer Nazrul Islam. The latter has been outspoken on a host of issues like no Muslim becoming a chief minister, chief secretary, director general of police or commissioner.

A cleric questioned the motive behind the government's decision to pay honorarium to Imams. Others have pointed to how few are in government jobs and how so many are in prison. They have spoken the bare truth that some may find unpalatable," the director said.

While Dastidar is glad that people are protesting against the muzzling of his film, he is also anguished at the reaction of some others, particularly a section of youths on Facebook whose comments reek of fundamentalism. "I am also hurt by the silence of the so-called progressive media and secular parties like the Left despite the likes of Md Salim expressing their solidarity personally," he added.

(Courtesy: The Times of India)

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