Disrespect Towards Saudi King!

The attitude of the section of media and particulary Times of India during the visit of Saudi king raises serious questions. It decided suddenly not to use honorifics for the visitor and dropped even the word King before his name.

Fistly, the stand was faulty because until Jan 26 the paper was mentioning him as King Abdullah. Secondly, the paper does not adhere to what it preaches. Had it been writing the modern spiritual gurus like Sri Sri Ravishankar as just Ravishankar and other TOI’s own list of dignitaries the recent goof-up wouldn’t have caused such embarrassment to paper. Bush becomes President Bush or Just Prez as if he is president of India or world even in headlines and rarely mentioned as US President Bush.

But surprisingly King Abdullah remains just Abdullah. Meanwhile, let me make clear that if Times decides not to adds any prefix to Abdullah’s name or even stops mentioning him I don’t care but what it did was really bizarre and ultimately when the paper was exposed, it had to publish a clarification in the form of editorial that further eroded its credibility. In fact the name of Saudi monarch was published as Abdullah again and again in one story and so casually that it seemed deliberate. It must have evoked reaction so the paper later came out with an editorial on Jan 27 under the title ‘In the republic royal honorifics are out of place’ where it wrote that:::

 ”We had also consciously dropped the honorific for the visiting Saudi king. This is not in any way to slight or to show disrespect to Abdullah. Rather this is to put into perspective the aura surrounding heads of state. There is a need to deconstruct the pomp and splendour around visiting dignitaries. Heads of state are not supernumerary figures of authority. Though Abdullah is a hereditary ruler, from the perspective of a mature democracy he ought to be seen as someone who merely governs his nation. This is as true for Abdullah as for any other visiting head of state. They are guests of the government and entitled to certain privileges as dictated by protocol. But there is no need for the media or the public to do the same. Even in the language that we use, we have fallen into the trap of according superior status to heads of state. When we talk about governments in India and elsewhere, we often say X or Y has come to power. The reality is, however, that the people elect heads of government. And they can be as easily unelected.

Part of the blame can be laid on the media, which is inclined to describe governments as regimes. How often have we heard of the Indira or the Rajiv regime, hence giving it royalist overtones. This is in some ways emblematic of the awe…..BLAH BLAH”

Now see how the paper ends up with egg on its face. A clarification that is printed in editorial. That’s bad. I don’t want to mention Pioneer that has a history of 130 years and the great institution has been turned into a phamphlet of propaganda. But what I do want to say is that lately there is a tendency to be harsh on Saudis.

Take the recent example of the Jama Masjid renovation. Some newspapers twisted it to hilarious levels. Isn’t it a shame that the country which first opened its doors to Indians for jobs, long before Indians in hordes reached US for software jobs, should be treated in such a shabby manner.

The fact that 25 lakh Indians work in Gulf should not be forgotten so easily and so the fact that we owe the first wave of prosperity in India to the Gulf. In this context it is really bad on part of certain media groups to try to portray the Saudi Arabia as a state that encourages terrorism and fundamentalism etc.

Survey of Indian Muslims Shatters Some Myths

Hindustan Times, one of the major newspapers of India in collaboration with CNN-IBN carried out a State of the Nation Poll that shatters quite a few misconceptions about Indian Muslims.

98% of Indian Muslims say that they are proud or very proud of being Indians, one percentage point more than Hindus. Most of the Muslims disapprove of ‘triple talaq’ and polygamy. 49% say that Government is responsible for their current state with 13% blaming themselves. Gujarat riots seem to have affected the relations between Hindus and Muslims with 35% believing that the relations got worse but are better now. Interestingly, 37% chose ‘Dont Know’ for the same question. 20% of Muslims say that they have faced discrimination.

Poverty and unemployment is the most important problem for 69% of the Muslims, with lack of educational opportunities coming a distant second at 14%.

1510 Muslims were interviewed for the survey out of which 64% were in rural areas, 46% were women and 42 belong to the Hindi heartland. The survery surely gives some interesting insights into the psyche of Indian Muslims.

What does our readers think about the survey?


13 Muslims get Padma Awards

This year the government has selected 13 Muslims in the list of 106 persons selected for the Padma Awards. Though every year a few classical musicians and artists amongst Muslims get the award, the good thing is that this year women from different spheres, scientists, doctors are included in this list.

Obaid Siddiqui of Karnataka was amongst the nine persons who got the highest of Padma Awards viz. Padma Vibhushan in the field of Science and Technology.

Ustad Abdul Halif Jafar Khan and Ghulam Mustafa Khan got the Padma Bhushan for art. Ustad Sabri Khan also got it in the field of art amongst the 36 who in all got Padma Bhushan.

Of the 61 who got Padma Shree, the journalist Fatma Rafiq Zakaria (mother of celebrit journo Farid Zakaria, editor of Newsweek), Hakim Syed Zillur Rahman (UP) in the field of medicine, Mahmooda Ali Shah, Dr Ahtesham Husain, Mahmood Dhaulpuri, Ustad Rashid Khan, beautician Shahnaz Husain, Tennis star Sania Mirza and Qatar’s Sheikh Abdul Rahman.


Happy Republic Day India !

Here is wishing our nation peace, prosperity and prularism on the event of 57th Republic Day. We have had our share of ups and downs, successes and failures during all these years, and we certainly have a long long way to go. Amidst the celebrations, let us give a thought (and more) for the millions of our unfortunate fellow Indians who live in abject poverty, day in and day out.

From Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s stirring poem, sub’h-e-aazaadii,

abhii garaani-e-shab meN kamii nahiiN aa’ii
nijaat-e-diida-o-dil kii ghaRii nahiiN aa’ii
chale chalo ki wo manzil abhii nahiiN aa’ii


Six years of Milli Gazette

Congratulations to Dr. Zafarul Islam Khan and the team of Milli Gazette for completing 6 years of publication. Considering how much Muslims help and support their organizations it is a big achievement.
Just like magazine Urdu Book Review’s 10 years went unnoticed similarly MG’s service to the community didn’t draw any response from the millat. There were no congratulatory messages, no meetings, no

Dr. Khan shouldn’t lose heart but should understand that we Muslims need his tireless work and publication, and our apathy is the best reason why we need MG.

This is my 2nd year of subscribing to MG and as a subscriber I have a right to do some criticism; I hope it will help making MG little bit better.

It is good to see that the cover page got changed a bit, but the new font is not very attractive, I would suggest going back to the earlier font or finding a font that is little bit modern in style, to show that MG is not stuck in the past but looking towards the future.

Secondly, MG should have regular editorials where issues of Indian Muslims should be addressed by Zafrul Islam Khan. The cover page is good, not too crowded and it looks good. I really like reading news and issues facing Indian Muslims, captured in the first few pages of MG. By providing regular updates on Babri Masjid court case, you are doing a very important national service, which no national newspaper seems to be doing that.

There should be more writers like Nilofar Suhawardy writing regular columns highlighting the issues of the millat. Dr. Ram Puniyani and Asghar Ali Engineer articles appear time to time but they are not exclusive to MG. Syed Shahabuddin’s regular articles are read with interest.

“Community News”, “Newsmakers” are very important part of MG, they capture news missed by the national media. I don’t mind the “Education and Careers” page even though it doesn’t help me but I am sure other people are benefiting from it.

What I really don’t like are the international pages of MG. I subscribe MG to get news and views of and about Indian Muslims. International pages have US and Israel bashing articles that were published elsewhere and reprinted in MG. If they are exclusive to MG or written from Indian Muslims’ perspective then I will be interested otherwise please drop those and devote more pages to the issues that matter to Indian Muslims.

MG should hire journalists in different parts of India, those who are close to the action so that they can have their fingers on pulse of Muslims living all over India.

I understand why MG is publishing months old issues on their website, but they should do at least partially publish fresh news on the website, to keep it fresh and people flocking to it to learn the MG’s
perspective on the news affecting Indian Muslims.

This is my sincere review, comments, criticism and suggestion to MG because I believe they are doing an important work and this is my way of helping them.

You can subscribe here : http://www.milligazette.com/

For a list of Muslim Media organizations: http://www.indianmuslims.info/?q=node/8

What about this appeasement and violation of High Court’s order?

What has happened at Kundalpur Teerth (pilgrimage) in India is baffling. The order of the High Court was violated, the district administration was forcibly stopped from doing its duty, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) by-passed but no national newspaper or television channel is taking cognizance.

If you search Kundalpur in Google News, you may find a BBC story, a Hindustan Times story but no other mainstream newspaper is coming out with what exactly happened there.

The idols were taken away from 1,000 year old temple that is under ASI protection and shifted to another newly built temple. Administration was not allowed to intervene. ASI went to High Court and the court ordered status quo but defying court orders the huge idols were excavated, the other smaller idols to which it was attached were broken in process and the Bade Baba idol shifted to the new temple.

Further, six ASI officials were allegedly ‘abducted’ /confined. The devotees took to streets and the 15,000 strong mob pelted stones at police and did not allow the cops to implement the court’s order.

The government looked hapless. It sent a minister and his wife who sided with the ‘frenzied devotees’ in violating court’s order and the heritage was destroyed in front of everybody. The lone TV Channel Sahara that was unbiasedly covering the issue was targeted and its cameraman’s camera snatched by minister’s wife because the film could be used as evidence.

This controversy continued for 3-4 days but what newspapers published was the opposite. They did not at all report the violation of court order, can you believe this and instead focused on the devotees’ zeal and their ‘success’.

The High Court has taken strong view of this. The ASI is serious. The paramilitary forces have been rushed to town and the hill on which temple exists has been taken over by armed forces. It is to be seen what happens now but the issue has shown the press in poor light. Had Muslims even been remotely involved in any such incident, the same media would have blown it out of proportions and dubbed Muslims by all its favourite terms.

Acharya Vidya Sagar, the saint, said ‘We don’t need ASI’ and this was reported in Hindi newspapers. Except HT, Sahara and BBC all newspapers ignored it. National channels blacked out the news. The Indian Express that normally takes such issues ignored it. Had any other community even planned such an action, it would have led to wide criticism.

Rather the truth is that no minority community would have ever thought of violating court orders. But then the rules are different for different communities. Isn’t it! So much has happened at Kundalpur, Damoh that one is unable to write all of it. Is that because Kundalpur is a Jain shrine and Jains are leading the Hindu revivalist movement. And most of the big newspapers and channels are owned by Jains in India. It is important to note that Madhya Pradesh where Kundalpur is situated has 5 lakh Jains and 45 lakh Muslims but it has seven Jain ministers and not one Muslim.

I don’t have any grudge against any community but the blatant violation of rules in certain cases evoke no response while other sections are targeted routinely without their faults. A nine-year-old girl was raped in the temple premises but devotees once again cast finger on administration of defaming them. The complete shut down was observed by Hindu Jagriti Manch. It alleged that the rape occurred outside but police claimed it happened in temple area.



Detachment of Muslims and their ‘mistakes’

Yes ‘mistakes’, I dare say that. Agreed that Muslims may not have got great opportunities but what never fails to amaze is the aloofness of Muslims from the society. Let us start with social works–every day you open local vernacular newspapers and find Sindhi Panchayat, Agarwal Sabha, Bania Samaj, Jain community or say Kshatriya Mahasabha organising free health check up camps, blood donation camps, free fruit distribution at hospitals, distribution of books to poor children, blankets to poor in winter on pavement and umpteen similar camps.Have you ever seen Muslims ever do such charitable things?

 In fact, the poorest communities do lot of such social works that are  positive and create a good impression on the minds of people in society. I have seen at small railway stations the societies and groups of such communities providing cool water to passengers on passing railway trains.

In the scorching summer when the general and even sleeper compartments of the trains in India turn into ovens, such small gestures of charity strike a chord with the citizens. People remember the good works done by the particular community and if a person of that sect comes across they remember it.

Now why would any one remember Muslims–for protesting only about their issues. Why would it concern anybody else? That’s why a veteran wrtier said that she was appalled to find that in the Kashmir earthquake, many upper middle class people flatly refused to give any money to Muslims and this happened in posh South Delhi. Why? They said that we have nothing to do with Muslims, many were so filled with hate that they reportedly said that it was good that they have died.

If you are a Muslim who is mistaken as a Hindu in a group you may find lot of vitriol and anger. Aren’t Muslims responsible for their plight. No what we do is protesting and demonstration for issues that hardly help us.

We have no dearth of ‘leaders’ and politicians at all levels. The organisations are springing up every day–the Rangrez samaj, Quraish Samaj, Raeen society and what not. But no body looks at this aspect. Except in parts of Mumbai and some Sourth Indian states, no where Muslim organisations have any thing to dow with society.

If a Muslim leader of Congress in a town will organise a blood donation camp, the first thing is that someone will object and say it is un-Islamic etc. How many social organisations do we have that are active. How many iftaars are organised outside the ghettoes and why not poor non-Muslims actively invited at the ‘iftaar’ in large numbers.

An example of a city with 15 lakh population with 5 lakh Muslims and 10,000 Jains. Now Muslims are 25 times Jains but have one Musafirkhana where Muslim visitor coming from other city could stay at night but the Jains have around 20 comfortable dharam-shalas apart from 45 temples all of them having the same facility without any bar. In the Muslim musafirkhana, you would not be able to enter if you are poor or if you don’t have sifaarish.

There are hundreds of examples and there is just no comparison between Muslims and other communities. Our religion emphasises so much on good conduct with others and rights of neighbours but we stand aloof. That is why we 15 crore are now out of this mainstream in a sense. No matter how many Premjis and Kalams and Sanias come, they will remain exceptions because the image of a Muslims can’t improve until we take up cudgles and in every spehere where ever possible spread this awareness and make an effort to change the picture.

Adnan (www.indscribe.blogspot.com)


Haj Subsidy, Anyone?

Google the words Haj Subsidy and the top three results are from the rabid right wing Muslim-bashers. All the first 30 results are related to India and that means it is a big issue for Indian and Indians.

Since, the Haj pilgrimage has just concluded, it is the right time to ask this question, are we really getting a Haj subsidy?

First, let us analyze what exactly this so-called Haj subsidy entails. An Indian Muslim, who chooses to go to Haj through government run Haj committees, gets a subsidy of around Rs. 20,000 on their Air India ticket of Rs. 32,000. That is it ! The minimum cost of a Haj package through the Haj committees is around Rs. 92,000, of which Rs. 20,000 is paid by the Indian government to Air India as a subsidy on the Hajis ticket. The total Haj airline ticket subsidy was around Rs. 150 crore for the year 2001 and has been enmarked to Rs. 225 crores for the year 2005. It is interesting to note that the normal ticket to Saudi Arabia costs around Rs. 25,000 but Air India charges Rs. 34,000 from the Hajis. So, effectively the government is giving a subsidy of Rs. 12,000 only !
The Sangh Parivar zealots make is sound like that the Indian government sponspors an Annual-Go-To-Haj trip for anyone who is interested. Why this is such a big issue for them? I don’t think the amount involved (Rs. 225 crores) is the itching factor. They are more piqued at the fact that it allows Muslims to go to Mecca and Medina, their holy cities which are outside India, out there is some land called Arabia. The usual argument of these fanatics is that India and India alone should be the pitrabhuumi (fatherland) and punyabhuumi (holyland) of all Indians and since the holy places of Muslims and Christians are elsewhere, they can never be patriotic enough. This argument would have been plain ridiculous had it not been so malevolent. So, what they are trying to say is that a Hindu born and brought up in USA can not be patriotic enough to USA, if he chooses to visit the Somnath mandir in India as a pilgrim. A Swede, who converts to Hinduism, can not be loyal to Sweden if he scouts Mathura and Varanasi in search of spiritual salvation. The patriotism of all Sikhs who visit Nankana sahab in Pakistan is somehow suspect and all Hindus who undergo the arduous Kailash Mansarovar pilgrimage can not be termed Indians anymore because that site is under Chinese dominion. Welcome to Ram Rajya 2.0, as espoused by a few hate mongers. But then, these gentlemen hardly talk or understand a five lettered word, ‘sense’. We would let them go for the time being.

Coming back to the Haj subsidy, Haj is obligatory only on those who are physically and financially capable of performing the journey. So, all the expenses should be incurred by the Hajis himself and the government should not pay any part of that. Fair enough. But is the government actually providing any financial support to the Hajis? I don’t think so. The government is only subsidising their air tickets because the airlines they are travelling with belongs to the government. In other words it is a discount on an overpriced product. There are many companies that provide discounts to their regular users. What we fail to appreciate is that these Hajis are providing atleast 84 crores as revenue to Air India per year, year after year for the pathetic service they receive in return. Is it merely a rumour that the worst Air India carriers are employed by Air India for the Haj travel? Last year, on its way back, one of the Air India plane broke down. It has to be grounded in Sharjah for a full night. The Hajis were told that they would have to spend the entire night in the plane. Customer service anyone? After protests from the passengers, Air India finally relented and issued boarding passes to the passengers. Which traveller in his right mind would prefer travelling with Air India with so many airlines providing world-class service at comptetitive rates, nowadays?

More than 1,20,000 Indians went for Haj in the year 2001. That is a big big number and the that too within a specific time schedule. Out of these, around 50,000 chose to go with private tour operators. Why? Because there are many private tour operators that offer Haj packages for as low as Rs. 68,000, without any government subsidy (yes, the government gives subsidy only on the Air India ticket, not to the Hajis per se). What does that tells us? Let me make a guess, these tour operators are more efficient?

So, the goverment of India, in order to cover for their awful management of Air India, to hold on to a constant (and unquestioning) source of revenue (year, after year) want Indian Muslims to believe that it is doing a lot of favour by doling out some subsidy on an overpriced air ticket. That too for its own vote bank politics. Come on !

The consecutive governments in India have only used symbolism in the name of minority policies. Instead of focusing on the real issues, as to why Indian Muslims are at the bottom of the social rung, why the literacy rate of Muslims is the lowest, what are the reasons that Muslims fail to enrol their kids for school, what can be done to utilise the tremendous skills of business and entrepreneurship, all we are given is a pathetic subsidy on an overpriced airline ticket and that too, mainly for its own good. Symbolism sells, in India, it sells big. The fact that it also gives an issue to perennial Muslim-haters like Togadia, Singhal and Giriraj Kishore, is of no concern to it. Afterall, when these people bark, and occasionally bite, which way the terrified Muslim would turn to? Is it just a co-incidence or a well though strategy, that the BJP led government did not abolish the Haj subisidy in its 6 years of power because that would deprive its core Muslim-bashing constituency one of the favourite issues? Even Muslim leaders such as Syed Shahabuddin (not that Siwan hoodlum, but the ex-diplomat) has been demanding for 20 years that the Indian government should do away with the so-called Haj subsidy. He also claims that no Muslim leader ever asked for it.

The bottomline is this, Indian Muslims should reject the subsidized Air India ticket, if not for anything else then for common sense only. Once the Haj market opens and this forced monopoly of Air India goes, I would not be surprised if other airlines start offering discounts to the Hajis. Afterall, which company wouldn’t want to tap in an yearly market in excess of Rs. 350 crores, and that too, just for the airfare.


From Karachi to Ajmer

Indian government is planning to extend the proposed Khokrapar (Sindh) – Munabao (Rajasthan) rail link upto Ajmer Sharif. This is indeed good news. Not only it will result in the popularity of this rail link but more importantly, it would allow the Pakistanis an opportunity to again experience the composite culture of the sub-continent. One of the tragedies of Zia’s Islamization of Pakistan was the severance of roots of the people with their thirteen hundred years old culture. The culture of the sub-continent has always been unique and different from the Arabs in all its richness and diversity. Pakistan with its large Muslim population, has unsuccessfuly and sometimes, brutally tried to emulate them. A cover story on the recent Outlook edition talks about the plight of non-Muslims in Pakistan. More about it later, ye kahaanii phir sahii.

Coming back to the rail link, sufis such as Hazrat Moinuddin Chishti have always been the torchbearers of Hindu-Muslim unity. A visit to the shrine of any of the famous Sufis would open your eyes to the beautiful harmonious culture of the sub-continent that we inherited from our forefathers. On any given day, the number of non-Muslims is as much, if not more, than the Muslims. Go to any mosque for Maghrib (evening) prayers, and what you see when you come out. Scores of women, Muslim and non-Muslim (differentiable due to their bindis) are waiting with their ailing kids, for the namazis to blow away air on the kid’s face. This is faith. It might not measure upto the orthodox standards of the Saudi clergy, but it works for us. And it has been working for many centuries.


Haj Stampede, Solutions?

At least 52 Indians have been identified dead in this year’s Haj stampede at Mina, highest from any country. I offer my heartfelt condolences to the family members of all the victims. A great deal of criticism has been aimed at the Saudi officials for not doing enough to prevent this recurrent loss of lives. Some people have even suggested that the administration of the Haj must be handled by some International committee of some sort. I doubt if the Saudis would ever give up their right to the guardianship of the twin holy cities, Mecca and Madina. It is one of the few things that gives ‘theological’ legitimacy to the rule of the House of Saud over what is known as Saudi Arabia, and immense respect and goodwill amongst Muslims all over the world. The Ottomans, rulers of the last great Muslim kingdom, derived their legitimacy from the claim that they were the guardians of the twin holy cities as the area of Hijaz at that time was their protectorate.

So, it is almost impossible that the Saudis would hand over the management of Mecca and Medina to anybody else. Now, what are the options that may prevent further loss of innocent lives.

1.) Limit the Number of Haj Per Person:

Haj is one of the five pillars of Islam and every able bodied and financially capable Muslim is required to perform it. It is believed that all sins of a Muslim are washed away after performing the Haj and s/he comes out as pure as a newborn child. Apart from the theological necessity, there is something in the process of Haj that can only be experienced, not explained. The mere sight of the Kaaba, the direction towards which a Muslim prays, five times or more, a day is overwhelming to most of the pilgrims. Circumambulating the Kaaba, the House of Allah, in a sea of crowd, people seem to loose their self and reach a new level of consciousness. With growing levels of prosperity and ease of travel, more and more people can afford going for the Haj than ever before. In many countries, there is also an increased societal respect for a Muslim after the pilgrimage of Haj. Therefore, it might not be a good idea to limit the number of pilgrims for Haj. What can be done is to limit the number of Haj per person i.e. a person should not repeat the Haj in less than 10 years but rather should give chance to those who have not performed even once. In any case, it is required only once, after that it is strictly optional.

2.) Enforce Rules Strictly:

Saudi authorities are claiming that the stampede occurred because a few people tripped over the luggage that fell off from the moving buses and/or personal belongings which the pilgrims carried with themselves (instead of leaving at a site nearby), ultimately resulting in the stampede. Well, if that is the case, strict measures should be taken so that such an event does not occur again. I don’t think it is too difficult to convince a person that s/he may get killed if they take their belongings with them.

3.) Get a Fatwa, Change the Timings:

Saudi authorities are overzealous in getting a fatwa for their own good from their overabiding religious leaders. It is one of those countries in the world where the friday khutbah is government approved. How about getting a fatwa for a good cause, as of increasing the time during which the pilgrims can stone the devils. I have read that the Shias have ijtihad from their religious scholars that it is allowed to stone the devils even before noon. So, when most of the pilgrims are on their way up, many Shias are actually finished with the ritual. Moreover, their interior minister, Nayef bin Abdul-Aziz, has also called on Saudi clerics to issue a fatwa in that regard, so I can’t see any problems with it (Would a non-Arab fatwa suffice, btw?).

4.) Reconstrucion of the Platforms:

According to this report, the Saudi authorities will begin tearing down the current platform and building a four-level one with more access ramps to accommodate the millions of pilgrims, Turki said. The platform is to be finished within two years. Let us hope that the new construction would help reduce the loss of innocent lives in future.

After so many tragedies during the Haj, with such an alarming rate, it is no wonder that all the right thinking humans all over the world are concerned about the safety of pilgrims. Even before the advent of Prophet Muhammad, the pilgrims to Mecca were very important to the local citizens and Prophet’s family also helped in the maintenance of the shrine. The pilgrims brought with them a lot of offerings to the idols placed there and so many arrivals, year after year, also helped the local economy and trade. While, the times have certainly changed since then, the Saudi authorities would be too naive not to give these accidents proper consideration and take appropriate actions.