Join The Struggle

garam hawa posterIf you have not watched the movie “Garam Hawa” I will say that you don’t read this post any further because it may spoil the movie for you. I would highly recommend this to any one to understand the situation that Muslims of India were going through post-partition. This movie is based on a short story by Urdu writer Ismat Chughtai.

Story, direction, acting, dialogues everything is excellent in this movie. It has been many years since I watched it and now I am unable to get any DVD of this movie.

Towards the end of the movie when the whole family decides that they had it enough and can not take the discrimination and living in fear and it is time to move to Pakistan. On their way to the railway station they see a group of young men holding a demonstration for getting employment. The son steps down and moves towards them to join them and the father looks on his son approvingly. Giving this message to Indian Muslims if you want to feel at home then you have to join the struggles for a decent life.

Recently Syed Shahabuddin raised similar sentiments in his monthly magazines “Muslim India.”

The Muslims have to participate in the struggle of the common man for a better life and not confine themselves to their own deprivations and grievances. In brief, their political strategy has to be inclusive, for full participation in the quest for justice for all deprived sections of the people.
—- Muslim India, June 2007 editorial.

A natural question at this point is that then why do we need a blogging site like IMB? For simple reason is that joining the struggle and becoming part of the main stream doesn’t mean that we lose our identity. This is the beauty and strength of India that it draws from all different religion, culture and philosophical sources so that all communities feel a part of it and the result of this “manthan�? is our India.

Islamic Terrorism: A Fundamental Mistake

The first time I heard terms like ‘Islamic terrorist’ and ‘Islamic terrorism’ I got both angry and sad. Angry because the media got it all so wrong and sad because of the amount of bad publicity Islam as a religion received due to it.

The word ‘Islam’ means “submission or total surrender of oneself to God or Allah.” The Oxford dictionary defines ‘terrorism’ as “the act of using violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims.” So the very use of these two words together is fundamentally and factually wrong. Surely the lord doesn’t want his own creations to hate, fight and kill each other. Unfortunately this is the sad truth of today. We fight in the name of religion, which we practice according to our convenience. We don’t know our own religion well and we question the faith and beliefs of others.

The holiest book for Muslims – the Quraan starts with the verse (or Ayat), “Bismillah hir rahman ir raheem.” It is very important to reiterate the fact that the first Sura of the holy book (Al-Fatiha) has this as the first verse. It means, “In the name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.” And this is what the famous translator of Quraan Abdullah Yusuf Ali has to say about it in his commentary on the holy book:

The Arabic words “Rahmaan”and “Raheem” translated “Most Gracious” and “Most Merciful” are both intensive forms referring to different aspects of God’s attribute of Mercy. The Arabic intensive is more suited to express God’s attributes than the superlative degree in English. The latter implies a comparison with other beings, or with other times or places, while there is no being like unto God, and He is independent of Time and Place. Mercy may imply pity, long-suffering, patience, and forgiveness, all of which the sinner needs and God Most Merciful bestows in abundant measure. But there is a Mercy that goes before even the need arises, the Grace which is ever watchful, and flows from God Most Gracious to all His creatures, protecting them, preserving them, guiding them, and leading them to clearer light and higher life. For this reason the attribute Rahmaan (Most Gracious) is not applied to any but God, but the attribute Raheem (Merciful), is a general term, and may also be applied to Men. To make us contemplate these boundless gifts of God, the formula : “In the name of god Most Gracious, Most Merciful” :is placed before every Sura of the Quraan (except the ninth), and repeated at the beginning of every act by the Muslim who dedicates his life to God, and whose hope is in His Mercy.

How can a religion which asks its followers not to forget the lord at any stage of their life teach violence in any form?

The same fact has been stressed upon throughout the book of the lord.

“Let there be no compulsion in religion.” 2:255

“Invite (all) to the Way of the Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching; and argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious.” 16:125

“Did not God check one set of people by means of another, there would surely have been pulled down monasteries, churches, synagogues, and mosques, in which the name of God is commemorated in abundant measure.” 22:40

“Fight in the cause of God those who fight you, but do not transgress limits; for God loveth not transgressors.” 2:190

I can quote several other verses but the point is God has clearly instructed us to be human first. It’s a pity that the extremist amongst us overlook all these commandments of God and quote certain verses in the wrong context to suit their beliefs. What can one say about a set of people who don’t even fully agree with the book of the lord. They are surely not the Muslims that Quraan is talking about.

Not just the Quraan but the life of the Prophet Mohammad [PBUH] is full of respect for others. He always laid stress on the importance of making peace with others, sometimes against the wishes of his ardent supporters. And he was never the first to raise sword against any of his opponents.

Sadly today the extremists in the Muslim world are quoting weak hadiths and misinterpreting Quraan to justify their stand. Unfortunately, Islam is getting maligned in the process. And this, certainly, is not what the founder of Islam thought when he started his quest 14 centuries ago.

We, as Muslims, have to do some serious introspection. And as for the media, every religion of the world came for the good of mankind. They all teach us to be better human beings and to respect each other. Therefore, something which has such moral values fundamental to its very being can never show people the wrong path, let alone a path of violence and terrorism!

What About The Victims Of Bombay Riots?

Bombay RiotsBombay Riots

Bombay RiotsJustice has a sense of irony. In one corner of the world, as Dr. Muhammad Haneef was being released from the prison with terrorism charges dropped against him, Yaqub Memon in another corner, Mumbai to be precise, was being sentenced to death for his involvement in the 1993 Bombay blasts. Within 24 hours, Indians were greeted with two different set of good news, each being seen as a positive manifestation of the due process. Due process, however, has a due to those to whom justice has been denied by either political machinations or simply utter contempt of law. The victims of Bombay riots that preceded the blasts fall in this category. Times of India hits the nail in the head in its editorial (emphasis mine):

Justice is also as much about perception as it is about delivery. Delays in delivering justice colour the perceptions of the victim, the perpetrator of the crime and the observer. Each feels the strain of delay which arouses feelings of grievance. People under trial in the blasts case have reportedly asked the TADA court judges why there has been very little action on the justice Srikrishna report. Justice Srikrishna, who was appointed by the government to investigate the communal riots in Mumbai after the demolition of Babri masjid in December 1992, held several police officials and Shiv Sena leaders responsible for facilitating and actively taking part in the riots. Successive governments, including Congress-led ones, have failed to act on Srikrishna’s findings. Many people have cited this inaction on the part of the government as evidence of discrimination against Muslims, especially now that guilty verdicts are being handed out in the blasts trials. [TOI]

The previous BJP-Shiv Sena government first tried to scuttle the investigations by disbanding the commission and re-constituted it only under public pressure. When report finally came out they dismissed the findings as anti-Hindu when it was a just a corroboration of what people have seen with their eyes: Sena leaders and police personnel actively participating or abetting violence against Muslims.

“The response of police to appeals from desperate victims, particularly Muslims, was cynical and utterly indifferent. On occasions, the response was that they were unable to leave the appointed post; on others, the attitude was that one Muslim killed was one Muslim less…Police officers and men, particularly at the junior level, appeared to have an in–built bias against the Muslims which was evident in their treatment of the suspected Muslims and Muslim victims of riots. The treatment given was harsh and brutal and , on occasions, bordering on the inhuman…The bias of policemen was seen in the active connivance of police constables with the rioting Hindu mobs, on occasions, with their adopting the role of passive on–lookers on occasions, and, finally, their lack of enthusiasm in registering offenses against Hindus even when the accused was clearly identified and post-haste classifying the cases in ‘A’ (True but not detected) summary”. [Justice B.N. Srikrishna Commission Report]

Manohar Joshi, the erstwhile Sena chief-minister of Maharastra, is on the record saying that he would prefer to resign than take any action against Bal Thackeray or Shiv Sainiks. As soon as Shiv Sena-BJP alliance lost the elections in Maharastra, Bal Thackeray dared the newly formed Democratic Front (Congress-NCP) to take action on report’s findings:

“This is not an empty threat. I really mean it. If the new government decides to implement the report, which has already been rejected by the previous government, it will have to face the consequences. Though we were in power for four and half years, we never played politics of revenge. I hope better sense will prevail and the new chief minister will take decisions judiciously,” Thackeray thundered.

Thackeray recalled an incident to prove that he was not one to make empty threats and that once he takes a decision, he was not used to backtracking like other politicians.

During the emergency, he related, there was a message from Rajani Patel that within hours, all the top leaders of the Shiv Sena will be behind the bars since they were against the Indira Gandhi government. “I specifically told the messenger, Shantilal Mehta, that if the decision is implemented, by the time he reaches Patel’s residence, he will have to witness Patel’s funeral,” boasted Thackeray with complete lack of taste. [Indian Express]

The Congress led government in Maharastra chickened out for whatever reasons. In the past eight years of its rule has done virtually nothing to ensure justice to the victims of Bombay riots. 31 policemen were indicted by the Srikrishna Commission for their role during riots. No significant action has been taken against any of them yet. A Public Interest Litigation filed by Shakeel Ahmed has shed some light on the present status of these policemen.

However, petitioner Shakeel Ahmad (and also Jyoti Punwani as a journalist), on looking into the Action Taken Report of the Maharashtra government, found that most of the officers against whom Justice Srikrishna passed severe strictures were in fact promoted. Many were granted anticipatory bail. All were released on bail with the public prosecutor often not arguing for their detention. RD Tyagi, a joint-commissioner of police at the time of the riots, was, according to Srikrishna Commission, not at all justified in killing unarmed and innocent nine bakery workers on January 9, 1993; he merrily continued in service and retired as DIG. He has also been discharged from a case that was initiated against him. He was appointed to this high post by the Shiv Sena-BJP government at the instance of Bal Thackeray. [Communalism Watch]

Bombay riots of 1993 were different from the previous riots in the sense that it led to the migration of Muslims from the Hindu-dominated localities and vice-versa. City demographics have changed a lot as a result and now Muslims prefer living in Muslim localities and it is quite difficult for them to find a house otherwise. It is also widening the gulf between the communities, creating misconceptions and reinforcing stereotypes.

So far, 12 people have been sentenced to death in the Bombay blast cases. On the other hand, the perpetuators of Bombay riots roam free and so far have been able to subvert the system with impunity. It is high time that justice is done to riot-victims instead of false promises and empty rhetoric. Lack of action by the government in such cases goes a lont way to augment the victim mentality many Indian Muslims feel towards the system.

Images Courtesy: Times Relief Fund

Update: Indian Express has an editorial on an issue today which I think deserves to be quoted in full.

After one and a half decades, the perpetrators of the Mumbai blasts are being brought to justice. Sure, delayed justice is better than no justice. But to bring a measure of closure to the tragedy, we need to ensure credible justice is also delivered to the victims of the riots that preceded those blasts. This means dusting down the Justice Srikrishna Commission report. The Commission, after five years of relentless inquiry, painstakingly pieced together a shocking story of communal politics, administrative apathy and police impunity. The contents of the report seared the conscience of the nation but could not, it appears, shame the political guardians of Mumbai into taking necessary action.

The Shiv Sena did all it could to sabotage the Commission. When it was in power, the party changed the Commission’s terms of reference, prematurely and arbitrarily wound it up and rejected its findings. When out of power, its leaders did all they could to browbeat the rulers of the day into inaction. This is entirely unsurprising. The commission had passed strictures against the Shiv Sena supremo, Bal Thackeray, former chief minister, Manohar Joshi, and several other senior leaders of the party.

But while the Shiv Sena’s animosity towards the commission can be explained, what can account for the Congress’s complete indifference to the Srikrishna report? A party that has been in power in Maharashtra in coalition with the NCP since 1999 has deliberately and persistently stalled any attempt to punish the guilty — ranging from politicians who provoked and encouraged crowds to massacre and pillage to trigger-happy, communal policemen. The Commission, in fact, indicted 31 police officers, ranging from the rank of deputy commissioner of police to constables, for their roles in the riots. The Congress has been extremely vocal about the Gujarat riots of 2002 and justifiably so. But the unfinished business of justice delivery in the Mumbai riots, which had occurred under its watch a whole decade earlier, may yet come to haunt the Grand Old Party and its leaders. [Indian Express]

Experts Have A Dialogue On Islam At NW/WP

Newsweek and Washington Post hosted a dialogue at their ‘On Faith’ website over the controversial issues related with Islam and Muslims.

The uniqueness of this forum is that some leading Muslim theologians and thinkers like Shaykh Goma and Tariq Ramadan as well as non-Muslims like Jimmy Carter and Tony Blair participated. Click here to go to the page. Continue reading Experts Have A Dialogue On Islam At NW/WP

Dr. Mohammad Haneef To Be Released

Haneef and FirdousFinally some good news.

The Australian authorities have dropped terror charges against an Indian-born doctor over the failed car bomb attacks in the UK.

Mohamed Haneef had been accused of giving “reckless support” to terrorism by providing a relative in Britain with his mobile phone SIM card.

Director of Public Prosecutions Damian Bugg said, following a review of the case, that “a mistake has been made”. [BBC News]

Sydney Morning Herald had this to report:

The Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews will grant Dr Mohamed Haneef a “residential determination” that will allow him to return to his Gold Coast home or another approved residence.

Mr Andrews said he would seek further advice from the Commonwealth Solicitor General in the meantime.

The decision means Dr Haneef will not be detained at an immigration detention centre until Mr Andrews changes his decision.

Mr Andrews originally revoked the visa on character grounds after Dr Haneef was charged. That charge was dropped this afternoon. [SMH]

It is great news for everyone concerned and especially for his family. A couple of things stand out in this entire episode:

1.) The case against Dr. Haneef was weak from the very beginning. There was no direct evidence linking him to the terror attempts in London and Glasgow and even the circumstantial evidence was not strong. As it turned out, the SIM card on the basis of which the prosecution charged him with ‘recklessly aiding the terrorists’, was not found at the site of attack but was discovered by the British police almost eight hours later from a house. So, the prosecution charges that the SIM card was supposed to be destroyed during the attack were rendered baseless. It is difficult to say why the Australian authorities, despite a court order allowing Dr. Haneef bail, decided to stick to their fantastic theories and revoked his visa on ‘character’ grounds. A judge seeing the questionnaire that was used to make this decision noted that even he could not have answered those questions! What needs to be seen is why the Australian authorities were so keen on holding him in custody?

2.) After the first couple of days of shock, disbelief and anger, the opinion in India regarding Dr. Haneef became much more nuanced. The people were able to distinguish between Dr. Haneef and his cousins, Sabeel and Kafeel Ahmed as they have been distinguishing Vibishan with Ravana and Kumbhkarana. The commentators at and CNN-IBN suddenly became charitable and started to notice the inaccuracies in the case against him. Dr. Haneef was no longer just a Muslim but an Indian who has been unjustly held in a foreign country.

3.) This was after a long time that a high profile case involving Indian Muslims was not hijacked by rent-a-sound-bite Mullahs or self-proclaimed Muslim leaders. It was actually Dr. Haneef’s family which had total faith in his innocence and led the fight to get him released. Also, the fact that his family is educated, helped them to articulate his case in front of the media properly. The role of Government of India is worth appreciating and Manmohan Singh’s judicious comments regarding stereotypes were exemplary. He is from a community that went through the pains of stereotyping and profiling and understands the consequences well.

4.) The best thing about the whole ordeal was the support Dr. Haneef got from Australians. I salute their courage and understanding when they came out the protest against the illegal detention of Dr. Haneef. Terrorism is a touchy issue and many times civil liberties and human rights are trampled upon under the guise of anti-terrorism laws. Public opinion can be manipulated to have them live under a shadow of fear. Till the time the anti-terror laws are seen as fair and balanced and are not used to target one community or the other, they would not have enough public support necessary for proper implementation.

Urdu in India: opportunities and challenges

Since Urdu was recognized as a language, people have been claiming that Urdu is dead or going to die very soon. This trend still continues even though now we have more Urdu speakers than ever before.

Prophets of doom may predict the date when Urdu is supposed to be finished but all indications are that it will continue to survive and may be even flourish if it is allowed to grow.

Urdu Book Review is a bi-monthly magazine published by Arif Iqbal. People like him and journals like UBR give hope that Urdu can not only survive but achieve its full potential.

there are spaces and opportunities that we need to make use of’. ‘Ultimately’, he says, ‘it is up to lovers of Urdu to save, protect and promote the language’. And by publishing his magazine against heavy odds for over a decade now, Iqbal shows what a major difference a single individual can make in this regard.

To see what heavy odds that people like him or Urdu is facing, you just have to read this news item.

“The trend of supplying question papers in a language other than that of medium of instruction for the sake of administrative convenience is bound to seal the fate of not only Urdu medium schools but also the very language itself,” said Jayant Parmar, Urdu poet of national repute, who was conferred national award last year by HRD Ministry for his outstanding poetry in Urdu which is not his mother tongue.

Need we say more?

Now instead of crying about what government is doing or not doing. How about we help those who are doing something about it.

Please click here and subscribe to Urdu Book Review

Time For Change: Please Help Us With Your Ideas!

From time to time we have received emails from our readers about their experience at Indian Muslims. Quite a few of them have urged us to provide more diversity in terms of topics we cover. Others deal with the aesthetic aspects of the website and suggested changes in design. A couple others suggested new ideas and features that they would like to see. Some readers complained about the time it takes to load the website. In view of all these suggestions, we have decided to undergo a re-designing project at IM. However, before we embark on this project, we would love to hear your ideas about the same. It would give us a much clear idea of what our readers want.Here are a couple of ways you can help us:

  • Aesthetics: Do you like this theme? If not, then what changes would you like to see? What about the header images? Sidebar? Font size? Do you think there are too many images?
  • Advertisements: Do you think the ads in their current form hinder readability? If you would rather prefer less ads, which ones would you absolutely want to get rid of?
  • Functionality: What are the features you think are missing at IM? Can you give us a few examples of things you would like to see here?
  • Technical: In your opinion, does the website takes too long to load? Does it often crashes? Does it loads in jumbled fashion in your browser?
  • Focus: Are we focusing too much on politics? If you would want us to diversify our focus, what are some of the things you would us to cover?
  • Posts: Till this month, our posting frequency has been less than one a day. How many posts would you like to see daily? One, two, more than two? Also, would you like to read posts from fellow travelers who are not Indian Muslims?

Your comments about any or all of the above points would be extremely helpful to us in not only re-designing IM but providing a much more enriching experience to everyone involved. It has been a wonderful journey so far, please help us to make it even better.

Thank you,
Mohib Ahmad

Farewell to Chacha Kalam

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And yes this Chacha is a man of science so pure of human emotions 😛

He is, without even a shadow of doubt, the most beloved president India has ever seen. He was really the people’s president. Being a man of science, he understands the fact that if India were to become a developed nation by 2020 then it has to make steady progress technologically, a vision which is sadly non-existent in politicians who make to the top. The present day politicians and IAS officers have a love of technology so profound that they keep everything on papers and hate the computer keyboard, forget promotion of technology.

He understood that fact that children and youth are the future driving force of this great nation. On their shoulders lies the responsibility of taking this nation forward. It they who are going to make scientific break-through which are going to lead the world into a new era. Development in science is the backbone of any country’s progress.

Kalam is always enthusiastic in exhorting the youth of today to work tirelessly towards the dream of making India a developed nation by 2020. His inspirational works are so widely acclaimed that Wings of Fire is taught as a text book in colleges. His continuous interaction with students have helped him earn laurels among them.

Read few of the comments here.

After five beautiful and eventful years in Rashtrapati Bhavan, outgoing President APJ Abdul Kalam favours building of India as a developed nation where governance is responsive, transparent and corruption free.
In his farewell address to the nation, he said his mission in life would be to bring connectivity between billions of hearts and minds of people in the multicultural society and to embed the self confidence that “we can do it”.
“I will be always with you, dear citizens, in the great mission of making India a developed nation before 2020,” the 75-year-old Kalam said.

From TOI.

Even though he did face few inane protests on account of him being a Muslim, like the one of Afzal pardon case, his tenure at office has been the high point of Indian democracy. People love to club everyone into compartments of Hindu/Muslim and he too was a cause of tussle between these classes of people. RSS called him an ideal Indian Muslim because he reads the Gita. Muslims criticized his beliefs who took umbrage at his ‘worshipping techniques’. Anyway all these are frivolous as he has emerged out clean because of his silence over these issues.

His appointment, as the President of India, has far reaching consequences than anyone would have thought. His appointment did away with the notion that one has to be politically active to rise to this position. He gave the scientific fraternity the much needed voice, support and publicity. Working as a scientist in India is still considered cheap because of the pay scales and kind of facilities available here. One of the major reasons of brain drain in India is the pay scale of researchers in India. Researchers needed the attention, they wanted their efforts recognized and above all the they needed the enthusiasm to continue dispite all odds. With president of India himself a scientist, and such a popular one, this would have certainly boosted the morale of unknown scientist who work day in and day out to help India progress. I understand that his tenure won’t increase their salaries but it has certainly given them the feel good factor. I am unaware of any special funds that he got allocated for promotion of research in India but I am sure there must be.

His continuous interaction with children would definitely motivate these young minds to take up the profession of a researcher. His tenure couldn’t have come at a much better time, a time when India is poised to be world leaders in technology..its just a matter of retaining the bright minds.

We are all going to miss this great President, aren’t we?

A Muslim’s Viewpoint

(This was written in Aug 2005 and was published on Rediff. Reposting it here as thought it relevant in the context of recent discussions) 

There cannot be any justification for killing innocents. As Manmohan Singh said ‘There is no cause, root or branch, that can justify the killing of innocent people’. Many of the terrorists (not all), acting in the name of Islam, cite Palestine, Chechnya, Iraq, Kashmir and Afghanistan to justify the killing of anyone. They have lost their moral compass. For them anyone who does not agree with their point of view is an infidel and hence can be eliminated. They incontextually extract verses from the Quran to justify their acts. Not only that, they will issue fatwas even though they may not be having any legitimate authority to do so. Every now and then they will come out with a message rejoicing over terror acts and warning about some follow-up in barbarity. Their thoughts and even more their acts are completely despicable. Continue reading A Muslim’s Viewpoint