Security And Safety Is A Core Issue Of Muslims In India

By Abdul Hannan Siwani Nadvi,

Whether or not quota or reservation is necessary for Muslims is still a big issue among Muslims in India. If a class rejects it, other one supports it, both having their own logics, reasons and arguments. The class in favor of Muslim reservation, says that Muslims’ backwardness can be removed by it, and the second one that rejects it, says that Muslim community can’t move forward only with reservation. Maulana Kalbe Sadiq, a prominent Shia cleric, said in a public convention: “no community can move forward on crutches, we need to instill life in it.”

I think reservation for Muslims is not a main issue. Instead of wasting energy on it, Muslims must know that security and a society free from religious hatred and communalism are very basic needs for them in India, because security, guaranty of safety of life, jobs and shops play a key role in the development of any nation, or community or the country.

Quran also indicates towards it. Quran says, “When we made the house (the Ka’aba at Makkah) a place of resort and a place of safety” (Surah Al-Baqrah 125). After mentioning a place of resort Quran also described Ka’aba as a place of safety because safety is the first step toward development.

When Hazart Ibrahim (A. S) began to build Ka’aba at Makkah, he said to Allah, “My Allah, make this city (Makkah) a place of security” and then after, Hazrat Ibrahim said “and provide its people with fruits”, means security is the life of development. If any community finds avenues of development, but there is no security and no safety, so certainly this community will fail in achieving a better future.

In India where the majority of Muslims are poor security and safety is a big issue before them.

Muslims were affected by the violence against them during 53 years of independent India, and we can say with full confidence that such violence pushed them back by hundred years. The latest example is Muslims of Gujarat where they were collectively targeted by Hindutva terrorism; a majority of them are still living in camps or in slums. Fear and terror can be read very easily on their face.

In this situation, if we tell them that government has agreed to provide them with reservation and quota, it will be a big mockery of the situation they are living in.

Communal terror is a big threat to Muslim’s progress in India. We know that various governments are doing their best to prevent such communal terrorism, but the Muslims are the only losers if it takes place as police turn mute spectator or go on rampage only against Muslims.

Reservation is not a big issue and backwardness of Muslims is not only because they are not getting reservations. There are so many reasons of Muslims’ backwardness across India. The Muslim leadership has to find it out first and then take a look at the real reasons that are affecting the progress of the Muslim community.

If Muslim leadership succeeds to take the government into confidence regarding the spreading communal terrorism and convince it to take steps to protect Muslims from the effects of the menace, it would mean that Muslim leadership solved a big issue of their backwardness. Safety and security is the key for advancement for any country or community.

Honour Killings In India

By Zohra Javed ,

Murderers have become bold. They are killing their own family members and loved ones in broad daylight, without any remorse and knowing fully well that no law or law-maker will dare touch them. The Khap Panchayats are in news yet again. And they are not the only ones we have to blame. Honour Killing is spreading fast. Killing is becoming so common in our civilised society, which is more often represented by a so called “urban India’, a “shining India” and such other fantastic and well-coined phrases.

And mind you we are said to be fortunate to be living in a democracy, which is being hailed far and wide. That is not all. The all-powerful USA is out to usher in democracy in every little nook-and-corner of the world through violent and bloody wars. And in our country, the largest democracy in the world, we hear of “honour killings” in addition to rape, murder, terrorist activity and so much violence under every possible pretext.

Is this the kind of world we have in mind when we talk of the future, when we plan to have children, when we talk of human rights?

Is this the kind of development and progress we think would take us forward?

Is it not time the youth get their freedom as a right, not as a favour…

What is still worse is when the community that they belong to seems to disown them, does not support them…treats them like outcast…and does not think twice before killing them???

Stop violence against women, says NISA on International Women’s Day 2010

Anyone in their right mind would feel very sorry for those young people who get a little ahead of society and find their own spouses…and then get badly beaten or lynched in the name of family ‘honour’…

Such cold-blooded killing is one of those unfortunate things that utterly crazy people undertake driven by fantastic ideas of honour and pride… but the problem is not just the Khap Panchayats…how many of us are ready for inter-cast/religion marriages?

Parents still take their duties of “finding-the-perfect-spouse-for-my-perfect-child”, very seriously. And many children still expect that to happen. To their minds, it’s just the way things happen, natural course of life.

At the tender age of eighteen we expect our children to be mature enough to choose their representative in the government, and also to choose their career, but at the age of twenty-five or more they cannot be trusted to choose their life partner… how much more idiotic can we possibly get…

There may be some young boys and girls who would prefer to go by what their parents decide. So be it. Let the parents do the “looking around” and take the decisions. But even then it should not be a blind-date kind of thing. Ample interaction and space must be allowed for the two people expected to enter the wedlock, to understand each other.

I strongly feel that marriages should be more out of love and understanding, rather than be associated with family honour and “national pride”…or some such stuff.

More and more people are trying to come out of the shackles and chains of dogmas and as someone said “change cometh, albeit slowly.”

Let us hope it will come sooner than we expect…
Parents always say that the happiness of their children is supreme for them and they can do anything for their children.

Hence it should only be a matter of time when the Ram Senes, Khap Panchyats or more such other outfits in the name of religion (all included) or family will become irrelevant.

Is this what makes the extremists and the dogmatic orthodox desperate as they see the winds of change unlocking their closed doors and disinfecting the termite-inflicted humanism? Do they see (and hence fear) the inevitable end to their tight hold over peoples’ conscience?

Muslims Of Gujarat: The Real Picture

Gujarat government has made many claims about vibrant Gujarat. Recently, it has also made claims that Muslims in Gujarat are in much better condition that many other states of India. When Narendra Modi’s newspaper ad in Bihar was found to be using image of the UP Muslims, BJP spokesperson claimed that facts about minorities of Gujarat remain the same. He said his party is ready to debate the data. It is time to test the facts and see how Gujarat fares in the light of public data.

1. Muslim population of Gujarat:

According to Census 2001 figures, Gujarat has 4.59 million Muslims out of total state population of 50.67 or 9.1% of the population. Total Muslim population in India, according to the same census data is 139.2 million, therefore a total of 3.32% of Indian Muslim population live in this state. Closest state to Gujarat in terms of Muslim population and their share in total state population is Rajasthan with 4.79 million Muslims (8.5% of total).

Of the top fifty districts of India by Muslim population only one district of Gujarat finds a place. Ahmedabad with a Muslim population of 6,62,799 (2001 census) is at 45th place on this list of fifty. Surat is another city of the state with a significant Muslim population of 4,47,951.

Data computed by Sachar Committee shows that 58.5% of Muslim population is between the age of 15 to 59, 35.3% are of age group 0 to 14 years, and only 6.1% above the age of 60. Gujarat is ranked third in India in terms of proportion of population 15-59 years of age. Only Tamil Nadu and Kerala have more percent of their Muslim population in the range of 15 to 59 years of age.

Full page newspaper advertisement that claimed that "Muslims in Gujarat enjoy better education, employment opportunities, financial stability, health facilities, infrastructure.

2. What Gujarati Muslims see as their biggest concerns?

Representations made to Sachar committee reveal what issues the Muslims think are important to them. One third of issues raised by these representations (in Gujarat and all India) were related to education. Employment issues were ranked as number two for Gujarati Muslims (17% of total issues) while it was at number three for all India. For no other state, security was such an important issue as Muslims of Gujarat, they ranked it as their third most important issue (16%) while the all India level this issues was placed fifth out of the nine categories. The Report states that “for Security the issues raised included (a) Problems related to communal riots and associated ghettoisation; (b) Inappropriate attitude of government towards Muslims; (c) Sense of Discrimination; and (d) Impact of militancy and problems in border areas.” Obviously, only the first three will apply for Gujarat.

3. Gujarat’s ranking: (Where do Gujarati Muslims stand according to Sachar Committee report?)

3.1 Gender ratio (females per 1000 males): 13th (for all age group), 21st (for age group 0-6).
937 gender ratio for Muslims is much better than 920 for the whole population of Gujarat and slightly better for all India Muslim average of 936 but rank much lower than almost half the state. [Appendix Table 3.8: Census 2001]

3.2 Contraceptive Prevalence Rate: 1st.
58% of couples of reproductive age practicing some form of contraception, this is almost equal to state rate of 59%. This is the only category where Gujarati Muslims top the list. [Appendix Table 3.13: NFHS-2, 1998-99]

3.3 Literacy level: 5th(overall).
Gujarati Muslims literacy level (73.5%) is slightly better than the state average of 72.8% and much better than national average of 59.1% for all Muslims. [Appendix Table 4.1, 4.1a, 4.1b: Census 2001]

3.4 Mean years of schooling: 6th (overall), 5th (male), 7th (female).
At 4.29 mean years of schooling, it is about a year higher than national average for Muslims but lower than Gujarat average of 4.57 years. [Appendix Table 4.2: 2001 Census]

3.5 Proportion of children aged 6-14 years enrolled: 14th.
Gujarat is doing very poorly in this department, in fact it is worst than West Bengal for proportion of children aged 6-14 years and enrolled in schools. Only 78.9% of Gujarati Muslim children are enrolled, figures for all Gujarati children is 84.8%. If this trend continues coming years will show Gujarati Muslims further lag behind in education.[Appendix Table 4.3: NSSO 61st Round Schedule 10, 2004-2005]

3.6 Number of Madrasa students: 16th (boys), 16th (girls).
This data is based on NCERT’s 2002 All India School Survey and surprisingly only 4001 students are to be found in Gujarat madarasas. A comparable state Rajasthan has more than 9 times number of Muslims in madrasas. [Appendix Table 4.4]

3.7 Completed education: 4th (completed primary education), 6th (middle school), 7th (matric)
As Muslim students move through the education system, their share among the educated drop drastically from being fourth among all Indian states after the Primary level (74.9% have completed at least primary education) to sixth for Middle level (45.3%) to poor seventh (26.1%). These numbers are more than national average for Muslims (60.9%, 40.5%, and 23.9% respectively) but the difference gets narrower higher up the education level. [Appendix Tables 4. 6, 4.7, & 4.8]

3.8 Workers Population Ratio: 4th (all)
At 61.1% Gujarati Muslims rate is better than national average of 54.9 for all Muslims. Considering that Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, and Haryana (which have smaller population of Muslims) are the only states with better ratio than Gujarat, this data is significant. [Appendix Table 5.5] Of all Gujarati Muslim workers, 53.7% are self-employed, 22.7 is trade, and 13.3% in manufacturing.

3.9 Banking: 11th (outstanding amount), 5th (number of accounts & total savings amount), 8th (individual deposit)
Given that a higher percentage of Gujarat Muslims are workers and also that majority of them are self-employed, one would expect that their savings to be higher but they seemed to have less savings than Muslims from Maharashtra, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. Could this be because they don’t have access to banks in their areas? Their population share is 9.1%, however, in bank accounts their share is only 7.6%. Individually Muslims in Gujarat save more than other Gujaratis but their saving is less than Muslims of states such as Delhi, Karnataka, Maharashtra, and Tamil Nadu. [Appendix Tables 6.3, 6.7, & 6.8)

3.10 Poverty incidence: 7th (urban)
Poverty incidence is 34 for Muslims of Gujarat residing in urban areas, which is better than many states but almost double the state average of 18. [Appendix Table 8.5]

3.11 NMDFC beneficiaries: 7th (amount disbursed, number of beneficiaries)
National Minorities Finance Development Corporation (NMFDC), under the Term Loan Scheme give loans for commericially-viable project costing upto Rs. 5 lakhs. Gujarat performance under this scheme, in terms of number of beneficiaries served or amount disbursed matches their share in total Muslim population of India.

Another image of Gujarat: grave of Wali Gujarati was razed in 2002 and road built over-night, it is yet to be restored.

4. Gujarat over the years:

4.1 Proportion (per 1000 households) of households reporting land cultivated upto 1.00 hectares by major religion for major states
Survey : land cultivated (0.00 hectares) – (0.01-1.00 hectares)
NSS55: 743- 113
NSS61: 645- 117

4.2 Proportion (per 1000 persons) of persons in the labour force according to the usual principal and subsidiary statuses taken together for each major religion and major states.
Survey : rural Muslims – urban Muslims
NSS55: 374 – 329
NSS61: 482 – 307

4.3 Proportion (per 1000 persons) of persons employed according to the usual principal and subsidiary statuses taken together for each major religion and major states
Survey : rural Muslims – urban Muslims
NSS55: 356 – 324
NSS61: 476 – 325

4.4 Unemployment rates according to the usual status (principal and subsidiary statuses taken together) for each major religion and major states
Survey : : rural Muslims – urban Muslims
NSS55: 51 – 18
NSS61: 10 – 52

It is shocking that in five years between NSS55(1999-2000) and NSS61 (2004-2005) unemployment rate of urban Muslims has increased from 18 to 52. A reverse has happened with the unemployment rate of rural Muslims where it has come down to 10 from a high of 51. What explains this anomaly? Can this be because number of small farmers shows a significant decrease in the same period? Is it possible that Muslims barely eking out a living in rural Gujarat have moved to urban areas and now living as unemployed? To understand why these Muslims may have left villages we have to go back to the representations that was made to Sachar Committee and see that security is one of the highest concerns of Muslims of Gujarat.

5. Conclusion

Gujarat government has not released data to see if Muslims in the state has prospered in the “Vibrant Gujarat.” Even state government’s own ad had to resort to Sachar Committee data to make its claim. Notwithstanding that most of Sachar data is from 2001 and earlier, before Mr. Narendra Modi took office as the chief minister.

Even with Sachar data, Gujarat ranking among states is far from being impressive. Execpt for Contraceptive Prevalence Rate, Gujarat is not number one or even top three in any of the socio-economic indicator. It is true that Gujarat is not at the bottom of the ranking but its performance in these indicators for its Muslim population is below par or at best at par with what should have been considering its population size.

[Second photo by Nasiruddin Haider Khan]

Reservation For Muslims In West Bengal – Gimmick or Affirmative Action

By Sabir S. Ghaffar,

The Constitution is the State Religion of India. Every state, administration, judiciary, and every citizen is duty bound to abide by the Constitution. Equality of every citizen irrespective of caste, religion, language, place of birth, profession etc. is the vision and aim of the Constitution. If in any office, or state administration, or in any post the representation of any community is below its proportion of population, it must be understood that inequal treatment has been meted out to that particular community.

According to the Constitution, any form of discrimination based on religion, caste, race, and gender is punishable by law. Yet no observer can deny that caste is a ubiquitous aspect of Indian social life. Caste is something that the state does not recognize and approve of, but its presence is undeniable.

State-wide Feb. 2010 campaign by Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind for Muslim reservation in West Bengal

Empowerment of the community through legal, constitutional ways

We can be proud of having such a secular, democratic constitution of ours. Our constitution can be described as one of the best in the world. I would like to cite certain vital clauses of Indian Constitution which ensure Minority Rights.

Article 14: Equality before Law

Article 15(1): Prohibition of Discrimination on the ground of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth etc.

Article 15(4): Enabling provision for advancement for socially and educationally backward citizens including SC/ST

Article 16(1): Equality for Educational Opportunities

Article 16(2): Protection against discrimination on employment

Article 16(4): Enabling Provision for making reservation in employment

Article 25: Freedom of Faith etc.

Article 29: Protection of Culture, language etc.

Article 30: Right for establishment and administration of educational institutions by the minorities according to their choice.

In addition to the above constitutional guarantees, there are volumes of recommendations by various commissions such as:-

1. 1985 Kaka Kalekar Commission
2. 1980 B.P. Mandal Commission
3. 1983 Gopal Singh Panel
4. 1986 National Policy On Education With A Separate 5. Chapter For Minority Education
6. 2006 Sacchar Committee
7. 2009 Ranganath Misra Commission

State-wide Feb. 2010 campaign by Popular Front of India for Muslim reservation in West Bengal

It may also be noted that several state level committees and commissions were also constituted in the same direction. If we analyze the situation in its reality of contemporary Indian situation in respect of the minorities it is not at all happy. Sachar Committee and Ranganath Misra Commission both agree that the Muslims in the country has been neglected like anything and in many cases their position is lower than SC/ST. Sachar Committee which looked into the various problems connected with equity, identity and security reveals that the position of the Muslim minority in India is really deplorable. If you verify all the development indicators, Muslims are in the lowest minimum. Both these commissions are of the view that empowerment of the community can be possible only through the united effort of the Community. Both these committees have arrived at a conclusion that unless political power is gained things will go from bad to worse.

Sachar Committee Report

On 9th March 2005 The Prime Minister’s Office in India, through a Press Release, had ordered a High Level Committee headed by former Delhi High Court Chief Justice Rajinder Sachar to find out the social, economic, educational status of the Indian Muslims. By November 2006, the committee submitted its findings in the form of a Report to the Prime Minister’s Office. The findings of the Report included the states and districts in which Muslims were concentrated, their occupations, their income and property, the literacy level in the community, school drop-out rate, child death rates etc. and their comparison with other communities, the percentage of Muslims in government and private jobs, the percentage of Muslims getting Bank Loans, the availability of educational and health services to the community, and even the percentage of Muslims included in the OBC category in various states.

In this Report, it is found that the Muslim population of West Bengal state stands at 25.2%, however only 9.2% have got bank loans and only 2.1 % are in Government Jobs. This Report also compares the conditions of Muslims in various states. Amongst the recommendations of the Sachar Report are increasing the participation of Muslims in the Political process in order to bring them into the mainstream, giving importance to madrasa education, increasing the percentage rate of Muslims in government and non-government jobs, helping the community to get loans from banks and other agencies, as well as improving the infrastructure in Muslim concentrated districts and areas. However, the Sachar Report stopped short of recommending reservations for Muslims in education, jobs and other sectors. However on the basis of the facts and figures including detailed research by the committee and included in the report, it was beyond doubt that the Indian Muslim community was a backward community, and the unfavorable bias of the State and Administration towards the Muslim minority was to a great extent responsible for this backwardness of the community. Without ‘affirmative’ action by the state, and serious policy changes to uplift the single largest religious minority of the country, it will not be possible to take out the community from this backwardness. In spite of the Sachar Report falling short of recommending Reservation of the Muslim minority of the country proportionate to their share in population, in order to materialize its other recommendations extending reservation to the Indian Muslim community in all spheres was important.

Ranganath Mishra Commission Report

In the year 2004, the government of India formed a commission “National Commission For Religious and Linguistic Minorities”. Former judge of Supreme Court Ranganath Mishra was appointed Chairman of the Commission. Its purpose was to identify the socially and economically backward people among religious and linguistic minorities. The commission was meant to recommend reservation and other development-oriented measures for educational and economic development of this portion of the Indian citizens.

The commission submitted its report to the Prime Minister in 2007. After that no proceedings and movements were seen in this regard. Some part of the report got leaked and was published in the Hindu newspaper. (The entire report was published on TwoCircles.net) Later it was produced in the winter session of the Parliament in December 2009. The commission has given suggestion on many issues like education, job, administration and legislative system. The recommendations are made considering the 16(4) of the Constitution. While the recommendations were made, the provisions of article 16(4) were kept in mind.

Two recommendations are very important. Firstly, 15% posts in every Central and State Government department must be reserved for minorities — 10% would be for Muslims and 5% for other minorities. If Muslim candidates are not found for the above mentioned 10% posts, then those would be filled with candidate from other minority communities. By any means it must not be done with candidate from the majority part. Secondly, if it becomes a judicial deadlock with the situation which cannot be avoided, the recommendation is that among the total population of other backward classer 8.4% is minority. For that reason from the total 27% reservation for OBC’s 8.4% seat must be kept aside for minorities. This 8.4% would be divided into two parts – 6% for Muslims and 2.4% for other minorities.

Two things are also attached with this issue. One is that in the 3rd paragraph of 1950’s Constitutional Order, only the backward part of Hindu population was considered and they were recognized as Scheduled Caste. Sikhs and Buddhists were included later.

It was done clearly on religious basis. Muslims, Christians and Parsees were not included and the reason behind that was also religious consideration. Then how does reservation remain a secular process? The commission justly recommended abolishing the directive principles of the Constitution of 1950’s. The recognition of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes should be done secularly. That means, the manner in which a portion of the Hindu population namely Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes are given recognition and reservation, Muslims and other minorities should also be given the same privilege of reservation like them.

Mishra Commission and Responsibility of Central Govt

In order to materialize the recommendations of the Ranganath Mishra Commission, the Central Government’s role is most significant. In order to declare any community SC/ST the Central Government needs to pass legislation in Parliament, in the same manner in order to materialize the 15% reservation for Minorities the central government will need to play a significant role. The problems in extending reservation to minorities as came out in the Balaji case, the central government will need to ensure that the reservation for minorities is extended by overcoming the problems by adopting adequate measures, including amending the constitution to allow reservation for any community ‘backward’ in proportion to its population. In the Balaji case 50% had been capped as the highest permissible quota. In the Commission it has been shown that as per article 15(4) of the Constitution, any community may be declared as backward and required measures and ‘ affirmative action’ may be taken to remove the backwardness of the community.

Reservation for Muslims in West Bengal

What is the Government Announcement?

Religion cannot be the basis of this Reservation. The sole criterion is backwardness. From now on, 10% jobs are reserved for Muslims who remain economically, educationally and socially backward. Already there is 7% reservation for other backward class which reaches 17% after addition of this 10%. This privilege is only for Muslims who are lagging behind. The leading Muslim population will not be under the ambit of Reservation. Muslims having a yearly Income of 4.5 lakhs or above are out of this Reservation. Presently Reservation will be provided in the job sector.

Majlis Ittehadul Muslimeen conference on Muslim reservation in March 2010 in Hyderabad

What is the process of identification of the backward Muslims?

A commission has been working in West Bengal on this regard. After receiving application from relevant person the commission will investigate the case, summon the applicant as witness, visit the area if needed, and will take the decision. As many as 12 sections of Muslim community are already in the OBC list. Three-four new sections are going to be included. Another 10-12 new applications are with the Commission for consideration. The Chief Minister of West Bengal has promised to see that the total process is accelerated.

The Total Process will comprise of 3 stages; Firstly, identifying the backward section, secondly, identifying the rich section whose yearly income is 4.5 lakhs or above ; Thirdly, supplying the identified persons with certificates by the respective Govt. Official at the earliest.

What will be the Process of Implementation? Whether it will be through a bill in the assembly or through an Ordinance or by an administrative order it will be finalized later through observation. The Chief Minister has announced formation of a Committee that will look upon the entire situation. Representatives from the State Minority Development, OBC Welfare Department, and two commissions – Minority Commission and West Bengal Commission for Backward Classes would be engaged in this matter.

Who will benefit?

Muslim population in West Bengal is more than 2 crore. In percentage it is 25%. About 8.3% of the total Muslim population belong to the OBC list which stands at 16,38000. In this State the OBC list comprises 66 communities which include both Hindus and Muslims. Among them 12 are Muslims.

The literacy rate of the Muslims in West Bengal is very poor and stands at 54.5%, while the literacy level in the state stands at 64.6 %. The literacy rate amongst Muslim women in West Bengal is a poor 49.8% while the Women literacy level in the State stands at 59%. Madhyamik level school drop-out rate in the state is 78.74% while in the whole of India it stands at 62.54%. Mishra Commission report has mentioned the poor administration and facilities in Muslim girls hostels in the State. The Chief Minister of West Bengal Mr. Buddhadeb Bhattacharya has informed the Ranganath Commission about the very less number of Muslim educational institutions in the State. The Ranganath Mishra Commission Report has recommended 15% reservations for minorities in the country, out of which 10% would be for the single largest religious minority Muslim community. It has also recommended lessening the cut off marks, reducing price of forms, and other facilities extended to the SC and ST community in the country. It has also recommended special facilities in education for Muslim girls in particular.

In the 30 years of Left Front rule in West Bengal, the representation of Muslims in government jobs is lowest among all the states of India. The CPI-M led Left Front Government should have extended reservation to the Muslim minority community much before the forming of the Sachar Committee or Ranganath Mishra Commission. However the CPI-M led Left Front government kept harping on the constitutional obstruction to extending reservation to any religious minority or community. However there would have been no constitutional barrier to declaring the Muslim community as ‘backward’ and extending reservation benefits to the community on this basis. Many other states like Karnataka and Kerala in India had extended reservation benefits to the Muslim community much before the forming of the Sachar Committee was announced. Even Tamil Nadu has declared the Muslim community as OBC and the Muslims thereby stand to gain from the 70% reservation extended to the OBCs in Tamil Nadu. In West Bengal 12 sub communities amongst the Muslim Community were declared as OBC, however the OBC enjoy only 12% reservation in the State and no reservation in higher education. Therefore, in West Bengal, neither the Hindu OBC nor Muslim OBC has benefitted much from this.

In Kerala the reservation for the OBC is 40% (Muslims 12%, Erauya 24%, Latin Catholic 4%, Nadar 2%, ST 1%, dheerab 1%, vishwakarma 3%, other backward communities 3% ) and for schedule castes 10%. Had the CPI-M led Left Front State Government in West Bengal wanted they could have extended reservation benefits to the Muslim Community by declaring them as “backward”. However their version of not being able to include Muslims in the Reservation gambit due to constitutional barriers is nothing but a Big Lie to cover up their shortcoming.

After the Ranganath Mishra report was placed in parliament, the Chief Minister of West Bengal Mr. Buddhadeb Bhattacharya announced 27% reservation for the OBC and 10% reservation was extended for the Muslim community in the state. However, the ambit of this reservation was limited to jobs and not education sector. On 8th February 2010 the announcement was made by the chief minister and on 9th February 2010 the CPI-M mouthpiece Ganashakti carried an article with the headline “10% reservation for Muslims in the State: The first step by West Bengal state in the light of the Mishra Commission report”. The CPI-M actual tried to bluff the Muslims by propagating that all these years the Muslim community could not be brought under the ambit of reservation due to constitutional barriers, however after the Ranganath Mishra Commission was tabled in Parliament, West Bengal was the first state in India to extend reservation benefits to the Muslim community.

However there are some serious questions to the 10% reservation extended to the Muslim community in West Bengal;

* Out of 2 crore Muslims residing in West Bengal, how many would be benefitting from this 10% reservation? In the current OBC List only 12 sub-communities of Muslims are included which are jola, fakir, hauyari, dhunia, kasai, nasa sheikh, pahariya muslim, shersabadi, bayen, hajam, chauduli, and batidar. The State Government puts their combined numbers at 15,38000. This number is merely speculation, as there is no official census to prove this. Khota, sardar, and beldar are also going to be included in the ambit of OBC, whose combined numbers stand at 10 lakhs as per the state government version. Apart from this mahaldar, abdaal, basni, and kankhalifa will also be brought under OBC. Thus the total number of Muslims which would be brought under OBC category would be less than 40 lakhs in number. This is less than 20% of the Muslim population of West Bengal. 60% of Muslims of West Bengal will still stand deprived of the advantages of Reservation. One more problem is the fact that Muslims have no solid proofs to prove their caste identity due to the absence of caste system in Islam and Muslim society, thus they face immense difficulties in securing OBC certificates.

* A few examples in this case might be helpful. There is a community among Muslims named ‘Guri.’ They are basically fishermen. Actually they are called so because they catch tiny (Guro) fishes. In my village only, there was a ‘Guripara’. Berhampore has a road named Gurimahal Road. Non-Muslims who catch fish enjoy reservations as schedule castes. The question is that why the Muslims doing the same work will be left out of reservation? In my village only, there was ‘Kolupara’. The Kolus make oil that means they produce mustard oil in wooden machine using cattle power. The number of Muslim ‘Patuas’ cannot be neglected. They live in Midnapore and are inside reservation. But ‘Lodha’ Muslims in that same Midnapore are not under the ambit of reservation.

* The ‘Lodhas’ live on primitive hunting system and their behavior, customs are almost like tribals but they are Muslims in their religious belief. In Midnapore there are also the ‘Kelas’ and ‘Kherias’ who have many things in common with the Hindu tribes. As Hindu the tribes are enjoying reservation but ‘Kherias’ miss it only on the ground of being Muslims. There is the ‘Ghoshi’ community in Barrackpore and Kharagpur who once came there from North India. They raise animals. ‘Tantias’ live at different places in Midnapore. They are connected with sericulture. There is a community named ‘Dhakuri’ at Amdanga, a place very near to Kolkata. They are very few in number and very poor in status. They recycle old clothes by making ‘Dhokra’ (heavy bedspread). There is a community called ‘Penchi’ at Aurangabad in Murshidabad. Their number is considerable. Some Muslims earn their livelihood as cobblers. Hindu cobblers are inside the periphery of reservation but Muslim cobblers are left out of it.

The second question is related to the percentage of reservation. The percentage recommended by the Ranganath Mishra Commission Report was 10%. This is a fair percentage keeping in mind that Muslims from 13% of the total Indian population. However, in a state like West Bengal where Muslims comprise 25.3%, at least 20% reservation must be extended to the community in education and jobs. Like in states like Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, Tamil Nadu, and Orissa where Muslims comprise less than 5% of population, the 10% reservation will not be extended to them.

The third question is related to the economic criteria for reservation. As per the State Government announcement, only those Muslims would be eligible for reservation whose income is less than Rs 4.5 lakh. Thus, children of school teachers or college teachers will be deprived of advantages of reservation. Thus it stands that one would not be able to apply for high posts in administration. This announcement would be welcome if the state Government had said that those with below the cap of Rs 4.5 lakh income per annum would be given first preference to the creamy layer.

If the CPI-M led Left Front State Government is actually serious in extending the Reservation benefits to the Muslim community in West Bengal they must:

* Declare the entire Muslim community in West Bengal as Backward Community.

* At least 20% posts must be reserved for Muslims in Government and semi-government jobs, Medical and engineering seats, and in all spheres of education.

* The state Government must say that those with below Rs 4.5 lakh income per annum would be given first preference to the creamy layer, however the creamy layer must not be deprived from the advantages of reservation.

It is through reservation benefits extended to them that the Muslim community in Kerala has been able to progress in education and jobs and empower themselves politically and socially. Even in Andhra Pradesh Muslims have been able to secure reservation for themselves by taking advantage of the constitutional articles for reservation in 340, 15(4) and 16(4) of the Constitution of India.

Article 16(4) of the Constitution lays down – “Nothing in this article shall prevent the State from

making any provision for the reservation of appointments or posts in favour of any backward class of citizens which, in the opinion of the State, is not adequately represented in the services under the State.” This article can be called a safeguard for minorities in order to enjoy benefits of “Reservation” as an “affirmative action “by the government. Kerala and Andhra Pradesh Muslims have been able to secure “reservation” for themselves on the basis of this article.

(The writer can be contacted at sabir.msf@gmail.com)

Dr. Khudsar’s letter to the US Ambassador

Visa is a privilege and not a right, but when a scientist that is invited by Smithsonian is refused visa then the host country has some explaining to do.

Biologist Faiyaz Khudsar, PhD was the only person in a delegation of 11 that didn’t get visa for travelling to the United States.

He is not sitting quietly and has contacted Indian ministers to argue his case. Here is a copy of the letter that he wrote to the US Ambassador to India.

Faiyaz Khudsar

To,

Mr. Timothy J. Roemer
US Ambassador to India

Dear Sir,

I would like to inform you something very unpleasant which actually heart me a lot. I am a scientist (wildlife biologist), working in a very ambitious project for Delhi “ Biodiversity Parks Programme” in University of Delhi.

I was selected for a “Training of the Trainer Program of Smithsonian Institution, Virginia focussed on tiger conservation which is one of the most importantant coservation issues in our coutry today. Part of this training program was delivered in India and final modules were scheduled to be held in Smithsonian Institution, Virginia, USA from 1st June 2010 to 15th June 2010. There were 25 persons selected from seven tiger range countries, in which 11 persons were from India.

I attended six weeks training program in India and subsequently scheduled to attend the rest at Smithsonian Institution, Virginia, USA.

Keeping in view the formalities involved I applied for a visa with United States Embassy, New Delhi well in advance on 07 April 2010 via confirmation no. AA0008H46B and was interviewed on 05 May 2010 in New Delhi. After the interview, I was informed that I would be getting visa but it will take some time for administrative processing. When I requested that my scheduled departure for Smithsonian is 01 June 2010, I was assured by the embassy that visa will be sent to me before the departure date and given a case no. 2010125-838-1. But unfortunately I kept waiting and didn’t hear anything regarding my visa till date.

When I did not receive visa till 2nd week of June 2010, I requested US embassy, New Delhi to send my passport back which I received on 19th June 2010 without assigning any reason for none processing of visa. .

I wonder when 10 people out of 11 from India were given visa for the same invitation from Smithsonian Institution, why I was not given visa. I therefore, request you to please let me know the reason behind non-processing of my visa application.

Sincerely,

Faiyaz A. Khudsar, Ph.D.
Scientist Incharge
Yamuna Biodiversity Park
CEMDE, School of Environmental Studies, University of Delhi
Delhi-110007

[Photo of Dr. Khudsar: DelhiGreens.com

A Different Jihad

The word jihad’s literal meaning is to strive, for any thing good including striving for peace, for welfare humanity. If the Qur’anic verses in Qur’an are read with its oft repeated command that the believers should enforce what is good and forbid what is evil (ya’murun b’il ma’ruf wa ynahauna ‘anil munkar) the whole meaning of jihad assumes a new significance.

All those who are serving humanity in different ways by promoting a morally clean and non-corrupt society, are real mujahids. It is for this reason that the word jihad was interpreted differently by different sections of society. For rulers and political class it meant war and conquests to expand Islamic rule, for Sufis it meant to conquer ones own desires and greed and for theological class it meant efforts to enforce shari’ah law and to mould ones behaviour within shar’i limits (hudud).

And for Usama bin laden it meant again very different thing and he used it for retaliation against USA and gave rise to what is totally unacceptable phenomenon of terrorism. However, when the political class in medieval ages used jihad for territorial conquests, it was how the rulers expanded their regimes in those days. Even Ibn Taymiyyah had some justification for issuing fatwa for jihad after Mongol hordes sacked Baghdad.

But what Usama did was very different. It is neither an acceptable way in the contemporary world nor does he belong to a political or ruling class. No head of the Islamic state has approved of what Usama did nor has any army of a Muslim country invaded any other non-Muslim country. Usama is neither head of any country nor has he backing of any regular Muslim army. Thus his jihad has neither scriptural backing, nor political nor of Ulama. It is nothing more than personal and hence totally unacceptable.

Coming back to root meaning of jihad i.e. to strive for good of the society and for enhancing welfare of humanity as a whole, today one of the best ways of waging jihad would be to struggle and strive for saving our earth and its environment. This form of jihad has multiple levels of meaning of jihad: Firstly it is most ma’ruf (desirable and most acceptable) activity; secondly, it also has the sense in which the Sufis used it i.e. controlling ones desire and greed and exercising self control on ones inner self and fourthly it is also in keeping with the Prophet’s sunna as there are repeated commands of the Prophet to protect trees and crops and respect Allah’s creation.

Also, the very opening chapter of the Qur’an Surah Fatihah describes Allah as Rabb al-‘Alamin (i.e. Lord of the Universe) and the word rabb in Arabic means to look after carefully and take some thing through various stages of perfection. And if Allah is Rabb of entire universe and we worship him it is our duty to strive to look after it carefully and not to destroy it otherwise our worship of the Lord has no meaning, if we do not respect His creation.

Also, we must realize that global warming is the result of our greed for consumption. We are plundering the precious resources of earth for our greed. It is high time we realize the dangerous consequences of our reckless consumption and wage a jihad against our own greed as Sufis did. As political class has greed for more territories and do not care for shedding blood of innocent people, we as citizens in a modern capitalist consumer society, are plundering the scarce resources of the earth and do not care for the consequences and are making lives of our future generations difficult to live.

So, as Muslims (which means surrendering to the will of Allah) and as m’umin (which means believer, believer in the values enshrined in Qur’an and respecting the creation of Allah) we must strive i.e. wage jihad against all those who indulge in needless consumption and destroy our earth.

This form of jihad has to be both individual and collective: Individual in as much as we have first to struggle against our own greed and reduce our consumption to environmentally acceptable levels and collectively in as much as we have to make efforts to bring down consumption levels of entire world to acceptable levels through constant awareness campaigns and building pressures on the ruling classes and especially developed nations of the west whose consumptions of natural resources are far more than what is warranted by their population.

Many Arab countries have the rich oil resources and when used generates high carbon emissions which leads to global warming. When the Prophet was asked what the best form of jihad is, he replied telling the truth in the face of a tyrant ruler. Can these Arab rulers tell the truth to western and other nations, especially to USA to reduce their oil consumption and face the consequences? It would be a great jihad.

Is This The Price For This Development?

By Soroor Ahmed,

Justice delayed is justice denied, goes the saying. But the Indian law minister, Veerappa Moily, while reacting to the June 7 judgment of a Bhopal court on the gas tragedy coined a new term “Justice Buried.”

Just replace the word Justice with Compensation. Will the payment of Rs 10 lakh (one million) to each of the Bhopal gas victims 26 years after the tragedy amount to the Compensation Denied or Compensation Buried? Perhaps yes as many of the compensation-seekers have already got buried in the last quarter century––they are no more in the world to collect the amount.

Even if the compensation was paid on December 7, 1984 and by none else but Warren Anderson or Rajiv Gandhi or Arjun Singh, it would not have been enough as none of the thousands who perished are going to return. Nor will the money compensate for the loss of lives, health and vision.

Yet the offer of Rs 10 lakh to all the victims is being generally welcomed as, at least, it is better than paltry Rs 12,410 paid to each of them initially.

However, the problem is not just the money. Since our economy has now improved a lot in comparison to 1980s––no not just because of the FDI, but also because of the huge remittance and migration which our policy-makers fail to appreciate––we have learnt the art of enhancing compensation. Almost two decades after the anti-Sikh riots we enhanced the compensation to something around Rs seven lakh to each of the victim.

Similarly 20 years after the Bhagalpur riots, which took place during the height of Lal Krishan Advani’s Rath Yatra in October 1989 the government come under pressure to pay on par with the victims of anti-Sikh riots. In the same way demand was made to compensate to the victims of 2002 Gujarat riots.

After all that now comes the turn of Bhopal victims. The Group of Ministers headed by home minister, P Chidambaram, on June 21 recommended payment of Rs 10 lakh to the next of kin of the dead, Rs 5 lakh for the permanently disabled and Rs 3 lakh for those partially disabled.

The Congress apologized for the Sikh riots of 1984 and whatever happened to Muslims in Bhagalpur and elsewhere. A few years from now even Narendra Modi or at least his successor may apologize for whatever happened to Muslims in Gujarat in February to April 2002.

It is easy to announce and even pay hefty compensation and apologize 20 or 25 years later, but really tough to fight the real cancer plaguing the society or country––be it in the form of poisonous gas or the virus of communalism. The law of the land could give just two years punishment to the seven of those Indian top managers who were involved in running the Union Carbide. Yet we talk about the extradition of Warren Anderson, as if we would really hang him.

In 1993 the Japanese government apologized to Korea for the barbaric and inhuman treatment meted out to comfort girls of that country. These girls were in fact mostly Korean women forced to work as sex-slave for the conquering Japanese army in Manchuria and other places of East and South East Asia during the Second World War. In mid-1990s, that is half a century later, efforts were made to raise fund to pay compensation to those surviving comfort girls. It is other thing that in 2007 another Japanese Prime Minister said something controversial about the whole episode related to the comfort girls.

Since Japan took half a century to apologize about the heinous crime and talk about paying compensation to the people wronged by its army, we in India are taking half of that––25 years, to apologize and pay enhanced compensation to our own people. While Japan was forced to do under the compulsion of international diplomacy we do so for our own political ends.

Yet what we miss is that compensation is not what the people all need. Delayed compensation often opens a Pandora’s Box and leads to litigation and quarrel within the family.

In many developed countries we talk about the concept of neighborhood school for children. In India we encourage neighborhood factories, that is, industries in the heart of population. In fact our school children are made to travel 20 to 40 km or even more daily as the real estate dealers, who double as the owner of schools, usually open such educational shops at the outskirts of the city where land is cheap.

The Union Carbide Corp was in the centre of densely populated area of Bhopal. Yet no effort was made by successive rulers to either remove the plant or de-populate the locality. Quarter of century later no town planner, minister or official responsible for its growth in the populated area was held responsible and punished.

We still have no plan to check the Bhopals and now even Chernobyls in the making. After all this is the price we pay for the development? Isn’t it?

Courtesy: TwoCircles.net

Indian Muslims – Problems And Voting Pattern

Recent election results of Municipal Corporation of Kolkata and other Municipalities in West Bengal were shocking for the Left Front. Of course there are very complex reasons for Left Front loosing its grip over voters of West Bengal. Experts and academics will analyse these results over a period of time. One of the important factors, as admitted by some Left Front leaders also, has been the loss of Muslim votes.

Before the Left Front came to power in West Bengal, it was communally very sensitive state and number of riots had been taking place since, of course, 1947. The Congress Government, for reasons not to be anlaysed here, never showed determination to put down these riots in which Muslims greatly suffered. The Communists had always been sympathetic to minorities and were against communal divide and, much more, against communal violence.

When they came to power in West Bengal they put a stop to communal violence and in past 30 years West Bengal did not see any major outburst of communal violence. The priority of West Bengal Muslims during this period was their security and they preferred to vote for Left Front for this very reason. Also, land distribution brought benefit to a section of Muslims in certain areas and this section was also won over by the Left Front.

Then what went wrong and what alienated West Bengal Muslims from the Left Front? Some reasons are of course common to all people of West Bengal and some are specific to Muslims. We will deal here with these specific problems to understand the Muslim electoral behaviour. Both in Bihar as well as in West Bengal one pattern emerges that to begin with minorities’ top priority is security in view of recurring communal violence.

Bihar has very similar case. Bihar too witnessed great deal of communal violence until 1990. But when Lalu Prasad used MY (Muslim-Yadav) formula for winning elections he too showed determination to put a stop to communal violence in Bihar and for 15 years that he lasted in power, he did not allow Bihar to witness communal frenzy. But after 15 years Muslims deserted him and voted for Nitish Kumar. Lalu Prasad was de-throned.

Indian Union Muslim League's election banner in Malappuram.

In both the states security did not remain top priority as security was ensured but apart from security Muslims have problem of grinding poverty and unemployment. After experiencing security, they want problem of poverty, illiteracy and unemployment to be addressed and that comes to be prioritized. Same thing happened to an extent with Mulayamsingh Yadav in U.P. too. He too came to power in U.P. on ‘MY’ formula but Muslims deserted him when he gave major chunk of jobs to Yadavs and left Muslims high and dry. Muslims switched their vote to Mayawati but she too is disappointing them. One has to see what happens in the next election in U.P.

West Bengal has about 28% Muslim population. It is a big chunk of population with concentration in certain areas like Murshidabad and this big chunk of votes cannot be ignored by any party which aspires to come to power. It is unfortunate that Left Front did not pay adequate attention to economic problems of Muslims and that became a cause of alienation.

The Sacchar Committee data showed that Muslims in West Bengal were far behind, of all other things, even in government jobs and other indicators. The average literacy level among West Bengal Muslims was found to be 57.5 per cent as against national average among them of 65 per cent. It is interesting to note that in Kerala which is also often ruled by Left, though not always, the literacy percentage is 89.4, quite high. And in U.P. and Bihar it is 47.8 and 42 respectively. Thus Bihar is of course far worse in this respect.

Incidence poverty among Muslims in West Bengal has reduced from 53 per cent in 1987 to 44 in 2004 as compared to Kerala from 56 to 31 percent in 1987 and 2004 respectively. And in U.P. and Bihar it was found to be 43 and 57 per cent in 2004. Thus Bihar is again worse. In Government employment Muslims were found to be just 4 per cent in West Bengal which is quite low.

But then West Bengal Government acted fast and gave 10 per cent reservation to Muslims in Bengal. However, it seems it did not have much impact in the present Municipal elections on Muslim voters. May be it will take time to sink among Muslims to create political impact. Also, what happened in Singur and Nandigram some Muslims also lost their land and Jamiat al-Ulama also had joined in protests. Thus Muslims lost faith in the left and switched their votes to Mamta Banerjee.

Now it is a big question whether Mamta will be able to deliver at all. Mulayam Singh and Lalu Prasad did not go beyond providing security and hence Muslims left them too. But it appears, Mamta too may not prove any better as she has no ideological commitment at all. She is quite mercurial and also she had, in search for power, joined hands with BJP and was part of NDA. She left NDA, among other things, to woo Muslim voters.

One lesson which politicians must learn is that now minority votes, especially Muslim votes cannot be taken for granted by any political party or alliance. When there was no alternative to the Congress up to late eighties, it (Congress) not only became complacent but often manipulated communal sentiments and even local congress leaders joined hands with communal outfits benefiting two ways: by seeking subtle support of such communal organizations (Mrs. Gandhi even sought support of VHP and RSS in early eighties) and also made Muslims feel only Congress is the secular alternative and were forced to support it.

However, this reality changed since nineties and many regional caste outfits after implementation of Mandal Commission Report appeared on the scene and Muslims found other parties to vote for in U.P., Bihar and some other states. That is why the Congress lost power at the Centre and could come to power in 2004 only by forming UPA. Now the left which has always championed minority cause is facing the same situation in West Bengal. Trinamool Congress is wooing Muslim voters as an alternative to the Left Front.

Our political culture, though democratic, is still not all inclusive. Political power and fruits of economic development are monopolized by upper caste Hindus, on one hand, and, a trickle is passed on to OBCs which support some political parties. Minorities like Muslims are left high and dry.

Democracy has no meaning if minorities are not secure and also do not get proper share in economic development in proportion to their population. The Muslims in India are a largest minority, around 15 crore (150 million) and yet are far from being in happy position. Sacchar Committee has shown, through formidable statistical data that they are slipping below dalits.

Now that a modern educated middle class is emerging among Muslims, it is acutely conscious of this reality and would not sit back with folded hands and watch the situation helplessly. Though yet, it is not as influential as the traditional ulama but it cannot be marginalized either. It is articulate and is becoming active. It is, what is more interesting, challenging the traditional religious leadership even on religious issue.

And if modernizations of madrasas, as some middle class Muslims are demanding, goes through it will have far greater impact on Muslim politics and voting behaviour in India. On one hand we have process of globalization and liberalization which tries to marginalize the poor and the weak which include Muslims who are at the bottom. But, and it is important to note, it also increases awareness of their rights through use of modern technology and makes them better organized political force.

Even madrasas these days are using modern technology like computers, creating their websites and discussions are raging on various minority issues which tremendously boosts not only information but also political awareness. Many madrasa graduates are now opting for university courses and imbibing values of modern secular education developing better outlook on democratic and political rights.

Thus our attitude towards minority problems has to change. Indian Muslims have all the advantages of secular democratic culture and cannot be manipulated by traditional religious leaders as in most of the Islamic countries. To the contrary, traditional Muslim leadership can no longer take Muslims for granted. Though India has more Muslims than even in Pakistan yet religious orthodoxy and sectarianism is not as strong as in Pakistan.

Islam, in India, has very different image and Muslims are not involved in any international terroristic activities. In India the Jami’at al-Ulama-i-Hind organized, among Muslims, huge demonstrations against terroristic attacks and even Jamat-e-Islami-Hind also had to accept secular values and is now even thinking of joining democratic political processes which its founder once had declared haram in Islam.

Thus, if secular forces realize involvement of and all inclusive approach to political and developmental processes it would tremendously boost India’s progress. Muslims, like others, can provide great human resources which still lie dormant because of poverty and illiteracy and exclusivistic policies.

Why America Loves Israel And Hates Iran

By A. Faizur Rahman,

By announcing fresh sanctions against Iran the UN Security Council has once again displayed a kind of motivated obstinacy which makes one suspect that it is not really serious about establishing peace in the region. But then the UN rarely exudes neutrality. It has always been subservient to American interests, particularly the pro-Israel US foreign policy that has kept West Asia on the boil ever since the creation of the Zionist state.

On the face of it, it may appear strange that the US-controlled Security Council should let go of the historic opportunity offered by the Turkish-Brazilian initiative to amicably resolve the Iran imbroglio. But West Asia watchers know that US response to Iran’s nuclear program cannot be seen in isolation because it is dictated by the US-Israeli relationship which again is not a mere political alliance but a symbiotic bond firmly secured by Judeo-Christian theology.

An analysis of the U.S. political scene would reveal that it is the Evangelical Right, also known as the Christian Zionists, led by extremist televangelists such as John Hagee, Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, who, along with the Jewish lobby, call the shots, in so far as the U.S. Middle East policy is concerned. It must, however, be said that mainstream Christianity (including the Catholic Church) does not identify itself with the fanatical beliefs of Evangelical Right such as those discussed below.

In a recent article in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz titled Why Christian Zionists really support Israel Hagee wrote; “Our support for Israel starts with God’s promises in the Hebrew Bible, but it does not end there. Christian Zionists recognize that we owe an enormous debt of gratitude to the Jewish people. As I have stressed to my Christian audiences for years: If you take away the Jewish contribution to Christianity, there would be no Christianity.” (http://www.haaretz.com/jewish-world/why-christian-zionists-really-suppor…).

By “God’s promises” Hagee is actually referring to the deliberate misrepresentations of certain biblical verses. One such verse promises Prophet Abraham and his descendants the land “from the river of Egypt as far as the great river, the Euphrates” (Genesis 15:18). In another one God offers to give Abraham and his “seed” after him the entire land of Canaan (Palestine) “for an everlasting possession” (Genesis 17:8). It may be noted here that according to the Old Testament the Arabs and the Jews are the descendants of Abraham through Ishmael and Isaac respectively which, hypothetically speaking, makes them the joint owners of the “promised land.”

But for obvious reasons the Zionists and their Christian supporters do not recognise Ishmael as the legitimate son of Abraham as he was born to a “slave woman” named Hagar, the handmaiden of Sarah, the first wife of Abraham and the mother of Isaac (Genesis 16:1-6). This divide was further aggravated by St.Paul who advised the Christians saying, “Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise. At that time the son born in the ordinary way [Ishmael] persecuted the son born by the power of the Spirit [Isaac]. It is the same now. But what does the Scripture say? ‘Get rid of the slave woman and her son, for the slave woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with the free woman’s son.’” (Galatians 4:28-31).

It is therefore the belief of the Christians Zionists that the occupation of all Arab lands by the Jews (in fulfillment of the prophesy in Genesis 15:18), after driving out the children of the “slave woman”, is a prelude to the Second Coming of Christ and Armageddon, the biblical concept of the last battle between the Good and the Evil before the day of Judgment (Ezekiel 38-39). It is in this context that the US attitude to Iran must be seen and understood, and once again John Hagee personifies this extremist mindset. In his provocative book Jerusalem Countdown Hagee advocates a war on Iran saying; “The rise of terrorism in our world and the emerging crisis in the Middle East between Israel and Iran are part of a much bigger picture – that of God’s plan for the future of Israel and the entire world. We are going to discover we are facing a countdown in the Middle East – the Jerusalem Countdown, a battle such as the world has never seen or will ever see again.”

But what many Israelis are unaware of is that the Zionist Christians are not exactly honest in their support for their country. They have their own hidden religious agenda according to which, Jesus in his second mission will convert all the Jews to Christianity, and therefore, to hasten this process all must be done to help the Jews take over the Arab lands between Nile and Euphrates. This belief is based on a statement in Mathew 23:39 in which Jesus is quoted as saying, “For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’” As Jesus was speaking to a Jewish audience at that time the Zionist Christians interpret this statement as having one meaning: for Jesus to make a second appearance all Jews must be converted to Christianity.

No wonder Hagee was forced to clarify in his aforementioned article that, “I am not at all surprised that many in the Jewish community are skeptical of Christian support for Israel. Some worry that our efforts are motivated by a desire to convert Jews. Others posit that our Zionism is tied to an effort to speed the second coming of Jesus. Both of these allegations are flat wrong. All we ask of our Jewish friends is that they get to know us before they judge us harshly on the basis of myths such as these.”

It is a strange paradox that, on the one hand we have the Christian Zionists supporting Israel with financial, moral and military aid in the dogmatic hope of one day converting all the Jews to Christianity, and on the other, we see the cunning Zionists – who never accepted Jesus as their Messiah – successfully manipulating the Christian Right using their own Bible to further their diabolical expansionist agenda. The ultimate victims of this unholy scheming between two Machiavellian religious groups are the innocent Palestinians who have been rendered refugees in their own homeland.

(The author is the Secretary General of Forum for the Promotion of Moderate Thought Among Muslims. He may be reached at faizz@rocketmail.com).

[Photo by www.sodahead.com]

The Spirit of Islam

The recent fatwa issued by the Deoband Dar ul Uloom seminary discouraging women from working is unfortunate and unwarranted. Even though the majority of Indian Muslims do not adhere to the Deoband aqeedah, creed, such edicts reinforce stereotype perceptions of Islam and Shariah law. Unfortunately, the inability to communicate alternative enlightened narratives of the inclusive nature of Islam is the collective failure of Islamic scholars, for they remain busy defending their narrow vision and legalistic interpretations. Continue reading The Spirit of Islam