Islam and Judaism

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 29 January 2020 | Posted in , , , ,

By Rabbi Allen S. Maller

I am a Rabbi who has had an appreciation for Islam since the age of ten, when I learned in my synagogue's Hebrew school about the Golden Age of Medieval Judaism in Muslim Spain. A decade later I studied Islam when I was a student at UCLA 60 years ago, and then I studied Islam again while I was in Rabbinical school studying to become a Reform Rabbi. Over the years as I continued to read the Qur’an, Ahadith and other Islamic books, I came to think of myself as both a Reform Rabbi and a Muslim Jew. I am a Muslim Jew because I am faithful to my commitment to submit to the One God who liberated the Jewish People from oppression in the land of Egypt, and made a covenant with the People of Israel through Prophet Musa.

I am a Reform Jew because I belong to the People of Israel, and I am loyal to the teachings of the Torah, the Jewish community and its traditions liberally interpreted. When I read Islamic books, I do so as the Prophet taught his followers to do in a Hadith “not as a believer, and not as a disbeliever”. What does that mean? The Qur’an, of course, is sacred scripture for Muslims.

A disciple of Muhammad named Abu Huraira relates, “The people of the Book used to read the Torah in Hebrew and then explain it in Arabic to the Muslims. Allah’s Apostle said (to the Muslims). 'Do not believe the people of the Book, nor disbelieve them, but say, We believe in Allah, and whatever is revealed to us, and whatever is revealed to you.’

“Following Muhammad’s teaching, I too neither believe nor disbelieve in the Qur’an. If I believed in the Qur’an I would be a member of the Muslim Ummah (community). And I cannot disbelieve in the Qur’an because I believe that Muhammad is a prophet; and I respect the Qur’an as a kindred revelation, first given to a kindred people, in a kindred language.

In fact, the Arab people, the Arab language and Muslim theology are closer to my own people, language and theology than that of any other religious community on earth. So I offer to all readers who believe in the One God; my answers to the Quran's statements:


“ALL MANKIND were once one single community; [then they began to differ -] whereupon God raised up the prophets as heralds of glad tidings and as warners, and through them bestowed revelation from on high, setting forth the truth.”

Judaism teaches that all present day humans are descendent from Adam [the Hebrew word for All Mankind/Homo Sapiens] and Eve [the Hebrew word for life-giver i.e. motherhood]. As their names indicate these two figures are archetypes for all humans who are created in the image of God and whose creation is blessed by God, and thus we, like Muslims, deny the doctrine of original sin. [Genesis 1:26-28, Al-Hedger 26&28]

Both the Qur'an and the Torah are in fundamental agreement on the uniquely exalted status of our species, Homo Sapiens. Each sacred scripture gives us some unique additional details suitable for our own religious community. Thus, the Qur'an reveals details about the creation and nature of Jinn [Al- Hijr 27 and in more than two dozen other Ayahs] and the Torah reveals details about the human need to marry and bond into a loving relationship. [Genesis 2:18-24]

Judaism also teaches that God does occasionally inspire either a human male or female, [like Prophet Miriam, the sister of Prophet Moses and Prophet Aaron, Exodus 15:20 or Prophet Hulda 2 Kings 20:14-22] who is either a Jew or a non-Jew. [like Balaam Al-A'raf 175-76 & Numbers 22: 7--14] Since the Qur'an is a much more recently revealed scripture; it gives many explicit examples of God's inspired prophets.

2. CONTINUATION OF THE REVELATION [Divine Guidance Quran – 35:32]

“Then (after every Messenger), We have made those of Our servants whom We chose heirs to the Book (to preserve and teach it, and secure its practice in daily life)” Judaism also teaches that God still inspires those who study their revealed scriptures to find new insights and understandings to guide each new generation. This is the role of the rabbis in Judaism and the ulema in Islam. One of the wonderful aspects of the Qur'an is that it is the only book of revelation that includes within itself a theory of prophethood which includes other religions. Of course, there have always been (since the days of Adam) people inspired by Allah who urged their community to avoid destruction by turning away from their corrupt and unjust ways, and turning to the One God who created all humans. But prior to Abraham none of the communities they established lasted more than a few generations.

Photo Courtesy: wikiHow
The Qur'an mentions 25 prophets by name (most of them known also to non-Muslims) and Muslims believe there were one hundred twenty four thousand others, whose names are now unknown. Of the 25 mentioned by name in the Qur'an, only four (Moses, David, Jesus, and Muhammad) revealed books of sacred scripture that are the bases for three major religions that still flourish today.

According to the Qur'an, every nation in the world receives at least one prophet who speaks to it in its own language. However, one nation, the Children of Israel, has received a great many prophets. The Qur'an doesn't tell us why so many prophets arose within the Children of Israel, except to refer several times to many prophets who were of the descendants of the family of Abraham.

Perhaps the fact that the Jewish People preserved a very long recorded history of their religious development enables us to know of more of their prophets than any other people. Many people would say that people like Joseph Smith, prophet of the Mormons, and Bahá'u'lláh, prophet of the Bahais, are modern prophets; but they have not been recognized as such by the leaders of the Jewish, Christian or Muslim community.

Most Jews think of Jesus as a Rabbi; who was a mixture of a “believe in the power of prayer” Hassidic Rabbi, and a “don't make religion hard” Reform Rabbi. Many other Jews also think of Jesus as a prophet, and some Jews even think of Jesus as a Messianic figure, who tried to liberate and redeem the Jewish People, but unfortunately was unsuccessful. Judaism however, totally rejects the idea that Jesus was a Divine Messiah, the son of God, and a part of a Divine trinity. This is also the view of Islam.

3. ALLAH Informed mankind about some of the recipients of HIS Books: [Quran - 2:136]

“Say: "We believe in God, and in that which has been bestowed from on high upon us, and that which has been bestowed upon Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac and Jacob and, their descendants, and that which has been vouchsafed to Moses and Jesus; and that which has been vouchsafed to all the [other] prophets by their Sustainer: we make no distinction between any of them. And it is unto Him that we surrender ourselves." Judaism agrees with this ayah, although we [like Muslims] do not accept the “son of God” trinitarian Christian view expressed throughout the New Testament.

Jesus refers to himself dozens of times as the “son of man” a messianic figure term. Paul, the creator of Christianity, who never met Jesus, never uses this term. Most of the non-Jews who convert to Judaism [about 5,000 a year] do so because, while they believe in God, they cannot believe that God has a son. Jews also do not believe the New Testament claim that the Jewish People were responsible for the crucifixion of Jesus.

Jews think the Roman government crucified Jesus, as the Roman rulers crucified Paul and Peter in Rome a generation later. But the Qur'an informs us that neither the Jews, nor the Romans, crucified Jesus. Jesus escaped from the Romans. As the Qur'an [An-Nisa 157-8] says: “And [for] their saying, "Indeed, we killed the Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary, the messenger of God.": they did not kill him, nor did they crucify him; but [another] who resembled him to them. Indeed, those who differ over this are in doubt about it. They have no knowledge of it except the following of assumption. They did not kill him, for certain. Rather, Allah raised him to Himself. God is forever Exalted in Might and Wise.”

If more Jews knew these verses in the Qur'an they would understand why arguing with Christians over who killed Jesus is a waste of time. If Jesus were to come back today, most Jews think he would not join a Trinitarian church. He would join a reform or conservative synagogue, and occasionally worship in a Hassidic [very pious] congregation or a Mosque.

[Rabbi Allen S. Maller is a Reform Rabbi and Muslim Jew based in USA. He can be reached at malleraj@aol.com]

Bhopal-based Muslim body MECAPS holds annual function, students awarded

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

By Pervez Bari

Bhopal: A Bhopal-based NGO Muslim Education & Career Promotion Society (MECAPS) held its annual function here on Sunday, January 26 at Ravindranath Tagore auditorium.

Dr. R. J. Rao, Vice Chancellor University of Barkatullah University, Bhopal, was the chief guest. Speaking on the occasion, he said, “I am overwhelmed to see MECAPS playing an active and significant role in the field of education and social service. I come from Andhra Pradesh and grew in an environment surrounded by Muslims. I have never never felt that Muslims and Hindus were two different communities but are complimentary to each other.”
Prof. Shakeel Samdani, Dean in the Faculty of Law, Aligarh Muslim University AMU), while addressing the gathering, said, “There is no short cut to success. Students who persevere in the field of education and competitive world sincerely can break all barriers impeding their progress to finish at the top notch. 

There is a general perception that Muslim students do not study and labour hard to be amongst top achievers in any field. This may be true to some extent but Muslim students have talent. This has been proved by the fact that thrice Muslim students have finished at the top of the IAS examination, which is said to be the toughest.” 

The students who attained success in IAS exams in the past and holding different positions included Javed Usmani (Uttar Pradesh), Amir Subhani (Bihar), Shah Faisal (Kashmir) and Anis Ansari. It is a matter of great happiness that  in CPMT out of 1350 seats 350 Muslim students were among those selected, he added.

Continuing with his speech Prof. Samdani said that for 600 years Muslims were intellectually, academically and scientifically superpower as far as knowledge and education was concerned. Then the Muslims excelled in the field of science, medicine, engineering, mathematics, astrology, oceanography, astronomy etc.  For these reasons Muslims, thereafter, became superpower politically too and ruled for nearly 900-1000 years on large parts of the world.

He said Prophet of Islam Hazrat Muhammad (PBUH) brought about the biggest revolution in the field of education which the world has ever seen. He believed such type of revolution will not come again till the Doomsday as about 1500 years ago there were no gadgets or tools of communication as we have today in the present era.

He pointed out that Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) in his 23 years of his prophethood focused on education which he compared with life. He released the prisoners-of-war when they taught his disciples to read and write. There were only 17-23 literate people in Makkah, the religious capital of the World, when Hazrat Muhammad (PBUH) was anointed as a prophet after the first “Wahi” (Heavenly revelation) which said “Read..................” Thereafter, at the time of his farewell sermon in Hajjat-ul-Wida there were about 1.4 lakh people who were all literate in Makkah.

Prof. Samdani while exhorting the Muslim students to engage themselves spiritedly in serious studies said, “Ilm is Zindagi and Jahalat is mout” (Education is life while ignorance is death). He stressed: “Padho, Padho, Padho. Jadojahad karni hai; mahnat karni hai” (Study, study and study. Work hard and put in great effort) so that the golden era of the Ummah can be achieved once again. 

He urged the elders to contribute with open heart to fund the NGOs such as MECAPS and others which are engaged in educating children of poor families and their overall development of the Muslim Ummah. He said wealth possessed by well-to-do people given by the Almighty Allah (S) is not entirely theirs but they are only trustees of such fortune. They have to spend on the have-nots and orphans according to the wishes of Allah (S) as ordained in the Holy Qur’an and the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). If they do not do so they shall be punished by Him. He argued if these people save even one percent of their income from their extravagant expenditure then one and all needy students can get scholarships, he added.

He lamented that Muslims are very poor in social service task and only less than one percent NGOs are present internationally from 22 percent population of Muslims in the world. Same is the position at the national level. Quoting a Hadees, he said, compassion even towards animals will be rewarded by the Almighty Allah (S). So, serving the have-nots and fulfilling their needs and helping them to come out from the quagmire of illiteracy and poverty is much more important.

However, in south India, the scenario is quite different as Muslims there have a penchant for social service. They have built a network of educational institutions all over the states which have uplifted the Muslim community out from illiteracy and poverty. The common man in the community in south India is far well placed, both materialistically and spiritually, as compared to their counterpart in the north of the country, he pointed out.

He praised the founders of MECAPS who established an organization in 1985 as a non-profit body for the betterment of Muslim community along with those who are running it presently.

Meanwhile, Prof. Samdani was felicitated on the occasion and presented award for his contribution in the field of Law and Social Work. Similarly, Dr. R. J. Rao, Vice Chancellor University of Barkatullah University, Bhopal, was also presented award for his contribution in the field of education.

Dr. Zafar Hasan, honorary general secretary of MECAPS, welcomed the guests and presented annual report of the society.

Prizes were given to winners of Sagheer Baidaar Talent Search Test.  Meritorious students received Mufti Mohammad Ismail Memorial Golden Medal and Mohammad Ilyas Khan Golden Medal. Beside this students were honoured with Afaq Ahmad Memorial Award, Abdul Lateef Memorial Award, Abdul Haleem Qidwai Memorial Award, Mazhar Mehndi Memorial Award, Badar-un-Nisa Memorial Award, Maulana Inam-ur-Rahman Memorial Award, Zahoor-ul-Hasan Memorial Award, Syed Masood Ali Memorial Award.

The vote of thanks was proposed by Syed Arshad Ali, vice president of MECAPS. The programme was compered by Dr. Ahsan Aazmi with aplomb.

[Pervez Bari is a Senior Journalist based in Bhopal. He can be reached at pervezbari@yahoo.co.in]

Celebrating the constitution

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 27 January 2020 | Posted in

Indian Diaspora in London express solidarity with Shaheen Bagh protestors, holds demonstrations against CAA

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

By M. Ghazali Khan

London: Except that there was no Delhi police to harass and intimidate the protesters, the vicinity of Downing Street – where the official residence of British Prime Minister is – today briefly presented the scene of Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh where thousands of diasporic Indians representing various faiths and ethnicities assembled to march to Indian High Commission to protest against the ignoble CAA and NRC.

For more than an hour speakers after speakers addressed the gathering, paused by the chants of same slogans as raised by Shaheen Bagh protesters like, for example, ‘Ham kia chate? Azadi’; ‘Hai jan se piari Azadi’; ‘ham cheen ke leN ge Azadi’; ‘Tum kuch bhi karlo, Azadi’; ‘Modi ham se darta hai police ko samne lata hai’; ‘Jamia tum aage badho, ham tumhare saath haiN’; ‘AMU tum aage badho, ham tumhare saath haiN’; ‘Modi-Shah you can’t hide; NRC is genocide’.

 Holding India’s tricolour and placards and chanting slogans they marched to India House through London’s iconic Trafalgar Square. As the march reached India House, the contained anger of the protesters expressed itself in more vigorous chants of anti-Hindutva and anti-BJP slogans.

The marchers read and repeated the preamble of the Indian constitution and dispersed after singing India’s national anthem.

Those who addressed the gathering included Labour MP from Ilford South, Sam Tarry who expressed deep concern at the growing fascism in India under Narendra Modi and said that this situation must be causing lot of hurt to the souls of founding fathers of modern India including Mahatma Gandhi.

The demonstration was organised by human rights body South Asia Solidarity Group (SASG) and supported by Co-ordinating Committee of Malayali Muslims, SOAS India Society, Tamil People in the UK, Indian Workers Association (GB), Indian Muslim Federation (UK), Federation of Redbridge Muslim Organisations (FORMO), Kashmir Solidarity Movement, South Asian Students Against Fascism, Newham Muslim Alliance, and Ghadar International.

Five Labour MPs who were unable to attend the rally expressed their support in messages sent to SASG: “Some will characterise these movements for democracy as “anti-India”. But this is part of a global fight against the far-right— whether in India, Hungary, Brazil, or here in the UK. In South Asia and the diaspora, we can only overcome the politics of division by banding together on what unites us: aspirations for a good standard of living, a decent wage, safety, and a world in which our children can breathe clean air,” said Nadia Whitthome (MP Nottingham East), UK’s youngest MP.

Some MPs have written letters to British Foreign office and Indian High Commissioner in London expressing their concern on the continuously deteriorating political situation in India.

In a special message veteran anti-war activist and writer Tariq Ali said, “Thank you Modi for uniting Hindus and Muslims.”

The organisers have also written an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressing, “our outrage at India’s descent into open fascism under your government. Since 2014 we have watched the growing epidemic of mob-lynching, rapes and attacks on Muslims, Dalits, Christians and Adivasis, along with attacks on dissenters, human rights defenders, journalists, lawyers and even judges who dare to speak out and uphold the truth about what is happening in India under your government.”

The letter reads further, “The events of the last six months have been particularly disturbing. First the revoking of Article 370, the further militarisation of Kashmir, India’s only Muslim majority state, which was already the most highly militarised zone in the world, the imprisonment of leaders, continual curfews, torture, including torture of minors, and the imposition of  a lock down  on internet services while outsiders including your corporate friends such as Reliance’s Ambani buy up land in the Kashmir valley.

This was followed by the handing over of the land on which the iconic Babri Masjid had stood for some 500 years, before it was demolished by RSS stormtroopers, to a Hindu right-wing organisation for the construction of a massive Ram temple.”

Highlighting BJP led government’s historical anti-Muslim hatred the letter reads, “We note with alarm that historically mass disenfranchisement of a targeted minority has been closely followed by ethnic cleansing and genocide.” The letter strongly condemns the CAA and NRC and urges Mr Modi “to listen to the voices of mass democratic united protest in India and revoke the CAA and abolish the NRC and the NPR as a matter of urgency.”

[M. Ghazali Khan is based at London, UK. He is Editor of UrduMediaMonitor.com. He can be reached at mkhanghazali@gmail.com]

Germany’s prominent Muslim diplomat Murad Wilfried Hoffman dies

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

IMO News Service

Murad Wilfried Hoffman, one of Germany’s prominent Muslim diplomats and scholar died on 13th January 2020 in Cologne. He was aged 89.

Hoffman began his carrier as a German diplomat in 1961 and served for 33 years in many countries, including Algeria and Morocco, and as also as director of information for NATO.

Hofmann was born into a Catholic family in Germany's Aschaffenburg in 1931, but later converted to Islam in 1980. He was educated at the University of Munich and Harvard University.

He was also a scholar par excellence and wrote many articles and books on intercultural issues and religion. He authored books like "Journey to Makkah" and "Islam: The Alternative".

He was an honorary member and advisor to the Central Council of Muslims (ZMD) in Germany.

5th IoT Middle East 2020 conference to be held at Armani Dubai on February 24

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

Armani Dubai to be the venue for talks on how to generate business out of IoT, AI, ML and Intelligent automation as the adoption of IoT is expected to accelerate over the coming years

IMO News Service

Dubai, UAE: An impressive line-up of speakers will be addressing how to manoeuvre the IoT landscape for higher profits at the 5th Internet of Things 2020, held at Armani Hotel Dubai on 24th February 2020.

The cross-industry C-level conference aimed at decision-makers in both the private and public sector focuses on the business aspects of digital transformation. The event brings together forward-thinking experts sharing insights on business, technology and organizational transformation to leverage new business and new eco-systems.

Attendees have the rare opportunity of networking with experts, discussing the optimization of company revenue, reducing costs, changing business models, opening up new services and markets for key stakeholders and disruptive new entrants.

According to Johan Ehrstrom, CEO of 5th IoT Middle East 2020, “Collaboration is the new competition and eco-systems will replace traditional industry boundaries. New tech like AI and ML needs the data of IoT to deliver accurate analyses and output. IoT adoption is hence expected to grow by two-digit numbers and reach $18 billion in MEA related IoT investments by 2023, as both governmental and private sector companies ramp up their digital transformation capabilities.”

“The 5th Internet of Things 2020 is a game-changing platform, attracting over 400 attendees yearly, addressing the business relevance of technology across multiple verticals. IoT Middle East 2020 is for all who are less interested in the tech-aspects, but eager to future proof strategies, grow the bottom-line impacts and set the direction for the new decade.”

Over 30+ international and regional speakers, including executives from PwC, Evoteq, du, McKinsey, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, London Business School, Cigna, Iqvia, Haltian and PTC will take the stage and highlight novel utilization of technologies designed to shape the foundation of the future success stories.

Participants can register on www.iot-dxb.com. Registration is now open for USD 745 for individual tickets.

Against Fascism in India: In solidarity, through care

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

Women are leading the resistance against the unconstitutional Citizenship Amendment Act

By Enda Verde and Chandan Kumar

On the 4th of December 2019 the Hindu nationalist Bharatya Janata Party (BJP)-led government of India introduced the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) in parliament. By the 11th of December the bill had been enacted into law after being pushed through parliamentary votes, and signed by the President. The rules of the law are still being written and yet Home Minister Amit Shah announced on the 10th of January 2020 that the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) is now in operation. By doing so, the BJP has chosen to ignore thousands of citizens who have been gathering on the streets to protest against the Act since the 4th of December, and who continue to do so in defiance of state and police violence across the country.

The protests have been fuelled by the controversial tenets of the act which effectively deny citizenship to Muslims, as well as the knowledge that this is part of a much longer agenda of the BJP to deepen state surveillance and turn India into a Hindu theocracy, or what some call a ‘Hindu Rashtra.’ The Act is complex as it cannot be seen as a stand-alone piece of legislation and the affects on people will be different depending on the state, due to historic migration patterns and the diversity of ethnicities across the country. Nevertheless, three core elements can be seen to directly compromise the democratic and secular Constitution of India, and have been the spark and fuel for protests across the country.

Firstly, the Act directly contradicts the fundamental rights of the Constitution, specifically Article 14 and Article 21. Article 14 guarantees “Equality before the law”, and Article 21 the “Right to Life”.

Secondly, whilst it claims to grant citizenship to all minorities being persecuted in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh, it outright excludes Muslims from these countries and does not provide citizenship to minority groups from countries such as Sri Lanka, Tibet, Myanmar and Nepal.

Thirdly, the entire exercise will be combined with the National Register of Citizens (NRC), the process will force existing citizens of a country of over 1.3 billion people to prove their citizenship through appropriate certification (birth, marriage, naturalisation), claiming that if you are truly ‘Indian,’ there is no need to worry.

In their disregard for the Constitution, the ethno-nationalism that lies at the root of the CAA and NRC is revealed. The arbitrary classification of citizens and implementation processes they propose will be the beginning of a slow, structural violence targeting the poor, marginalised and Muslim sections of society – a majority of whom are informal workers, the backbone of India’s economy. Indian citizens across the country can see through the claims of ‘humanitarianism’ and argue that the implications of this act bring the BJP a step closer towards making Muslims second-class citizens.

‘Citizens against CAA, citizens against fascism’

The citizen uprising against the CAA, that began in the north-eastern state of Assam (a state already familiar with the violence of the NRC), has spread across the country resulting in the government taking extreme measures to quell the dissent. Internet shutdowns happened in Assam, Uttar Pradesh and the capital of New Delhi, even as Prime Minister Modi called for ‘no violence’ via his twitter account. The Indian Police announced a ban on public gatherings of over five people on the 19th of December in most parts of country. Protests continued, resulting in thousands of arrests and violence against young people, mostly students.

The police have used batons, tear gas and firing arms against protestors. Universities, where many of the protests began, have been violently raided by police and youth groups who appear to be associated with the BJP and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) – a right-wing, Hindu nationalist paramilitary organisation that supports, and is supported by, the BJP. BJP-dominated states observed the worst violence with 23 people killed, mostly daily wage young muslim workers, and over 1000 arrested in Uttar Pradesh, whilst states such as Maharashtra remained calm with police supporting the non-violent protests. As protests retain momentum, however, arrests across the country are continuing.

These forms of state oppression are nothing new in India and neither are the acts of dissent. What is different is that the seemingly unstoppable culture of violent Hindu supremacy has come face-to-face with voices, acts and displays of communal unity playing out across the country. This article offers a brief glimpse into that complex reality through the perspectives and embodied acts of the women who are leading the protests, with the aim to tell a larger story of collective Indian dissent against what is potentially becoming an emerging Hindu theocracy.

Solidarity against state violence

Across the country, women have been at the forefront of the protests, putting their bodies on the line in the face of state violence and oppression. The anger and fear in their voices and on their faces have echoed in the streets, flashed across TV screens and circulated the internet.

As protests moved into the capital of New Delhi, growing out of university campuses, police cracked down on the students of Jamia Millia Islamia University (JMU). A recent reportcompiled by the Independent Women’s Initiative titled ‘Unafraid: The day young women took the battle to the streets,’ gave voice to the experiences of 18 women who were part of the protests at JMU. The report illuminates the involvement of women across social strata who are coming out in solidarity with students and Muslim groups to oppose the CAA, NRC and the unfolding violence happening on their doorstep. However, their involvement, they said, was not only about the discriminatory Act but about fighting for the future they imagined for themselves, their children and India.

The state violence happening at different sites across India has been captured on video by citizens using mobile phones, with much of the footage going viral. One particular videofrom the JMU protests and violence shows five women shielding a man from the police, refusing their violence, denying their authority. The video quickly went viral and has become symbolic of the centrality of women in the resistance against police violence. However, their act of embodied protection is not just about bravery or love for another. It is about justice in a fragile democracy. When the police become your attackers, citizens, friends, family, strangers become the protectors of bodies and the rights (enshrined in the constitution) attributed to those bodies. In doing so, the citizens of India are becoming the upholders of the constitution.

Careful dissent

In Chennai, the capital of Tamil Nadu in southern India, women activists have appropriated the traditional, everyday decorative and artistic practice of Kolams (Rangolis) as an alternative method of expressing dissent against the CAA. Kolams are associated with Hinduism yet widely practiced and used in both private and public space. A gendered practice, Kolams are emblematic of celebration and community. Its appropriation as a political tool has therefore been impactful in raising awareness about the Act, demonstrable by its continued use as a method of peaceful protest across Chennai and surrounding cities.

In the capital city of New Delhi, the ‘Women of Shaheen Bagh’ have received wide attention, and are creating ripple effects across the country. Since 2014, the BJP government has generated a rhetoric of ‘saving’ the ‘Muslim woman’ through speeches, targeted policies, and by creating a larger public notion of the ‘dangerous Muslim man’ and an oppressive Muslim community. These same, apparently oppressed Muslim women, are now at the forefront of the protests against the BJP’s latest anti-Muslim political move, the CAA.

At Shaheen Bagh, Muslim women from across class and caste backgrounds have come together in protest by holding a continuous sit in, defying patriarchal structures and norms that restrict their bodies, movement and time. Continuing now for over a month, these women have redefined the very idea of a protest in the country. Shaheen Bagh is completely leaderless, free of any NGO-isation, and it is based entirely on a collective, shared solidarity. It has become a space of care, redefining how care is perceived, turning ‘care’ into a form of resistance. Babies and small children join women at the protest, where they have created a designated area for children. There is a community kitchen, art corners, and readings of the Indian Constitution preamble in several languages.

This phenomenon remains unparalleled in the country and in the last week, the idea of a peaceful sit in by mostly Muslim women, has gone viral. Now there is a ‘Shaheen Bagh’ in Allahabad, Kolkata and Hyderabad, amongst others. The police in many of these cities, who have been ordered to take violent action against protestors, have not been able to grasp what is happening. The very women that the upper caste Hindutva leaders wanted to ‘save’, and free from ‘oppression’ – are the very women who will keep India’s Constitution alive in defiance of Hindutva. The strength of this resistance is arguably in its multiplicity, in its resistance against three structures of oppression: patriarchy, Islamophobia, and most of all, Hindutva: Hindu ethno-nationalism.

These acts of resistance to the unconstitutional CAA and NRC only catch a glimpse of the fight for democracy happening across India. Arguably those we see and hear are the voices of the relatively privileged, those who have the possibility (and relative safety) to put their bodies on the line, be vocal against the government and are receiving press coverage because of their social capital and position. Nevertheless, the glimpse illuminates the possibilities of collective public action and civil disobedience in a fragile democracy, suffering fractures from the violence of a government intent on sowing seeds of division and hate. It also sheds light on the centrality of women in the protests, complicating the reductive stereotypes that try to define the reality of ‘Indian women.’ The involvement of women in this fight is not monolithic or romantic. It is as necessary and powerful as the participation of all socially marginalised groups and the privileged, and yet it is ‘India’s angry young women’ whose presence is being most felt. Together citizens across gender, age, class and caste are raising a fierce rallying cry for unity against fascism.

(Courtesy: Open Democracy)

Fatima Sheikh: The Muslim Feminist Forgotten By Indian History

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

By Prapti Sarkar

Fatima Sheikh was one of the first Muslim teachers of India, who took to teaching Dalit children at the school run by Savitribai and Jyotiba Phule. However, like many women who fought against injustice, this educator and social reformer’s memory has been wiped out of Indian consciousness. To this day, she remains lost in the pages of history, despite her close association with Savitribai and Jyotiba Phule.

Why Should We Know Fatima Sheikh?

Fatima Sheikh was, according to some, India’s first Muslim woman educator. She and Savitribai became pioneers in education at a time when it was reserved for upper-caste men. She helped Savitribai set up their first girls’ school called “Indigenous Library”, in her own house, thus challenging the upper-caste Hindus as well as the orthodox Muslims.

What Makes Her Badass

Savitribai and Jyotirao Phule had to leave their home because they wanted to educate women and Dalits. For going against his Brahamanical views, Savitribai’s father-in-law threw them out of the house. In such trying times, Fatima Sheikh offered refuge to the couple. That home soon became the first girls’ school in the country. She taught at all five schools that the Phules went on to establish and she taught children of all religions and castes.

Biggest Battles She Faced

Little is known of Fatima Sheikh’s life beyond her involvement with the Phules. However, the resistance she faced must have been even more. She was marginalized not only as a woman but also as a Muslim woman. The upper caste people reacted vehemently and even violently to the start of these schools. They pelted stones and cow dung at Fatima and Savitribai while they would be on their way. But both the women remained undeterred. The journey was even tougher for Fatima Sheikh. Both the Hindu as well as the Muslim community shunned her. However, she never gave up and continued to go door to door, encouraging families and parents especially those from the Muslim community to send their daughters to school. As several writings say, Fatima used to spent hours counselling parents who did not wish to send their girls to schools.

Life Lessons We Can Learn From Her

Fatima Sheikh’s life stands as a testament to social reforms that were championed by Indian women in the pre-independence era, despite facing immense social resistance. She is an important figure in Muslim history and we, as a society, must give her the due credit. Her work is also of a large significance as she probably marked the first joint struggle of the Dalits and the Muslims. The unity amongst the oppressed groups has always directed the struggle of liberation, as was later seen in larger movements.

(Courtesy: SheThePeople)

Female Genital Mutilation: The Controversy within Islam and the West

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

By Mike Scruggs

According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), female genital mutilation (FGM) refers to “all procedures involving partial or total removal of the female external genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.”

FGM is particularly common in about 30 predominantly Muslim countries, but it is uncommon in as many more. Worldwide, about 22 percent of Muslim women and girls have endured FGM. There is no direct reference to FGM in the Koran, and Muhammad did not institute it. However, according to reliable Muslim scholarship, he did speak favorably of it but with a recommendation for moderation. Because Muhammad spoke of it, it has found its way into Sharia Law.

The Koran is by no means the only sacred foundational document in Islam. Islamic doctrines are formed by a trilogy of foundational writings believed by Islamic scholars to be reliable. The Koran is most sacred, but it represents only about 14 percent the words of Islam’s doctrinal sources.

The Hadiths are collections of Muhammad’s sayings that are almost as sacred and are necessary and explanatory in understanding the Koran. The Hadith collections make up 60 percent Islam’s sacred trilogy. Each Hadith collection is composed of individual hadiths, which are usually no more than a short paragraph quote. The Sira is a collection of approved histories of Muhammad, making up another 26 percent of the sacred trilogy.

Together the Hadiths and the Sira are often referred to as the Sunna. Whatever is sunna is right, noble, and reliable according to Muhammad. The Koran refers to Muhammad 91 times as the perfect Muslim, so the Golden Rule of Islam is to follow the example of Muhammad. Sharia Law, which is obligatory for all Muslims, is the legal codification of the sayings and example of the Koran and Muhammad.

In the classic and most respected Sharia Law manual Umdat al-Salik (Reliance of the Traveller) by Ahmad ibn Naqib al-Misri (1302-1367) and translated by Nuh Ha Mim Keller in 1988, “circumcision” is covered in Section e4.3. This is on page 59 of my 2015 English and Arabic edition.

“Circumcision is obligatory for both men and women. For men it consists of removing the prepuce from the penis, and for women of the prepuce of the clitoris (not the clitoris itself, as some mistakenly assert). (Hanbalis hold that circumcision is not obligatory but sunna [honorable according to Muhammad], while Hanafis consider it a mere courtesy to the husband.)”

Perhaps this alternative translation is more understandable: “Circumcision is obligatory for every male and female. This is done by cutting off the piece of skin on the glans of the penis of the male. Circumcision of the female is by cutting off part of the external fold of the labia minora forming a cap over the clitoris.”

There are four jurisprudential schools (Madhhab) in Sunni Islam, which are nearly identical in 75 percent of issues and close in most others. Ahmad ibn Naqib al-Misri was of the Shafii school. The Shafii school considers “circumcision” for both men and women, obligatory, while the Maliki, Hanbali, and Hanafi schools consider “circumcision” for women not obligatory but preferable or honorable (sunna), according to the example and words of Muhammad.

The Shafii school is the most conservative in sticking to the Koran, Sunna, and historical scholarly consensus in their jurisprudence. Malik ibn Anas (711-795) founded the earliest school of jurisprudence, and Muhammad ibn Idris al-Shafii (767-820) was one of his pupils. The Maliki school of Jurisprudence is probably the second most conservative in interpretations. Abu Hanifah (699-767) established the Hanafi school, which became the largest school during the rise of the Ottoman Empire and is the most inclined to be influenced by opinion. Ahmad ibn Hanbal (780-855) established the Hanbali school, which is the smallest but predominates in influential Saudi Arabia.

The Sunni jurisprudence schools are not exclusive in regional influence but have roughly defined areas of geographical dominance. The Hanafi school is the largest in Sunni Islam with perhaps 40 percent and dominates Western and Central Asia. The Maliki with perhaps 33 percent dominates in North and West Africa. Shafii is third largest with more than 20 percent and dominates East Africa including Egypt, Southeast Asia, and Yemen. It is also strongly associated with Kurds in SE Turkey, northern Syria, northern Iraq, and NW Iran. Hanbali is relatively small with about 5 percent and strongest only in Saudi Arabia, which has financed the building of many mosques in the U.S. and Western Europe.

The Shafii school punches with power far above its numbers. The author of the most used and respected Sharia Law manual, Ibn Naqib, was Shafii, and the six most respected and reliable Hadith collections are all Shafii. They are in the usual order of esteem: Sahih (authentic) al-Bukhari, Sahih Muslim, Sunan Abu Dawud. Sunan al-Tirmidhi, Sunan al-Nasa’l, and Sunan Ibn Majah. Hence it is not easy to dismiss the Shafii claim that female “circumcision” is obligatory.

Shia Islam represents no more than 15 percent of Islam. It has three schools of jurisprudence. Jafari (Twelvers) is the largest with 85 percent of the total, and its position on female “circumcision” is similar to Hanafi and Hanbali Sunnis. Female circumcision is honorable but not obligatory. It is frequently practiced, however, by those influenced by the smaller Zaydi and Ismaili jurisprudence schools.

There is a wide difference in Islam of those who practice FGM in its severity. The World Health Organization does not recommend female “circumcision” or any degree of FGM, but recognizes four different types: Type I, partial or total removal of the clitoris or prepuce; Type II, Partial or total removal of the clitoris and labia minora, with or without excision of the labia majora; Type III, Narrowing of the vaginal orifice by cutting and bringing together the labia minora and/or the labia majora to create a type of seal, with or without excision of the clitoris. In most instances, the cut edges of the labia are stitched together, which is referred to as ‘infibulation;” Type IV, Although usually less severe, all other harmful procedures to the female genitalia for non-medical purposes, for example: pricking, piercing, incising, scraping and cauterization.

Female “circumcision” in Islam is based on some hadiths recorded by Muhammad’s followers. The clearest quoted here has its own ambiguities:

“Narrated Umm Atiyyah al-Ansariyyah: A woman used to perform circumcision in Medina. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said to her: ‘Do not cut severely as that is better for a woman and more desirable for a husband.’” — Abu Dawud 41:5251

“Abu al- Malih ibn Usama’s father relates that the Prophet said: ‘Circumcision is a law for men and a preservation of honor for women.’” — Ahmad Ibn Hanbal 5:75

This hadith is classified as Sahih (reliable) and indicates Aisha was circumcised: “Aisha narrated: ‘When the circumcised meets the circumcised, then indeed Ghusl [purification] is required. Myself and Allah’s Messenger did that, so we performed Ghusl.” (Jami al-Tirmidhi 108)

However, there is no shortage of Muslim leadership strongly opposing FGM. The Organization for Islamic Cooperation (OIC), representing 57 UN nations called for ending FGM in 2013. In 2005, a dean of Al-Azhar University of Cairo declared the act of infibulation (Type III) to be criminal. An International Islamic Conference held in Cairo the following year converged specifically to condemn infibulations.

The Muslim Brotherhood has not taken a position on FGM but has generally opposed banning it. That is a problem throughout Islam. Although many oppose it, few dare prohibiting it, because it is recognized as sunna. FGM’s prevalence remains very strong in Sub-Saharan central Africa, Egypt, Southeastern Asia, and among Kurds Eight African nations have FGM rates over 80 percent: Somalia 98%, Guinea 96%, Djibouti 93% Egypt 91%, Eritrea 89%, Mali 89%, Sierra Leone 88%, and Sudan 88%. A recent study in the Southeast Asia nation of Malaysia found that 92 percent of women had been “circumcised.” The FGM rate for Iraq is only 8 percent, and that is almost entirely the effect of Shafii Kurds. Syria and Iran would have very low rates except for their Kurdish minorities.

It is obvious that high rates of FGM is highly correlated with areas dominated by Shafii school of jurisprudence, but the high incidence of FGM in West Africa must surely also have a connection to Maliki influence.

The British National Health Service (NHS) has taken a strong position against FGM and supplied valuable advice on its harmful medical and psychological consequences, but it makes the false claim, undoubtedly bowing to prevalent political correctness and laws against “Islamo-phobia,” that no religion requires FGM. This is a dangerous half-truth.

Most of Islam honors it as noble but does not require it, and a large minority makes it obligatory. Furthermore, few are willing to ban it, because Muhammad made it sunna, and the Golden Rule of all of Islam is to follow the example of Muhammad. Many apologists for Islam say that FGM is cultural, originated among pagan African tribes, and is not religious.

But Muhammad found it thriving in Arabia and termed it noble rather than prohibiting it. Wearing a wreath of nobility, which could not be discarded, FGM spread primarily through the advance of Islam. Albeit, some of the most severe forms of it found in Somalia certainly exceed the instructions of Sharia Law stated by Ibn Naqib in Reliance of the Traveller. There are also about 27 predominantly Muslim countries that have been fairly successful in eliminating FGM. Some prohibit it, as have several European countries—France, Sweden, Germany, UK—but have allowed the acceptance of family Sharia Law courts to effectively abrogate effective prohibition.

U.S. Senator Marsha Blackburn (R,TN) recently introduced a federal bill to criminalize female genital mutilation in the U.S.

(Courtesy: The Tribune Papers)

Mysuru gets its first ever Muslim Woman Mayor

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 25 January 2020 | Posted in , , ,

For the first time in its 158-year history, the Mysuru Municipal Corporation has a Muslim woman mayor – Tasneem. According to the Indian Express, Tasneem is also the youngest ever mayor of the city. She is 31.

Tasneem has lived all her life in Mysuru’s Meena Bazaar area, and has been the corporator for the area since 2013. She replaced her uncle, three-time corporator Alhaj Naseeruddin Babu, as the Congress candidate from the ward after it was earmarked for women.

In 2018, she contested again on a Janata Dal (Secular) ticket and won. According to Indian Express, she was part of a Congress faction that chose to back the JD(S) before the assembly elections. She was reportedly a very popular corporator and a successful grassroots mobiliser, and thus made her way to the mayor’s position.

Tasneem told the Indian Express that she is making efforts to ensure that Mysuru retains its “cleanest city” tag. “Even though we ended up third on the list of cleanest cities in the 2019 rankings, we are now working towards securing the coveted top spot on the list. With the dedicated service of our pourakarmikas, officers across all levels and with the help of our residents, we are confident of winning the ‘Cleanest City’ tag this time. This is my priority as of now.”

Tasneem father, Munnavar Pasha, is a tailor and mother, Tahseen Banu, a homemaker. Tasneem herself now has two children. Her husband runs an embroidery business in Meena Bazaar.

(Courtesy: The Wire)

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