What Makes the Muslims Angry: Analysing the Causes that Foster Fundamentalism

Throughout history, Islam has demonstrated through words and deeds the possibilities of religious tolerance and racial equality.”
—Barack Obama, 44th President of USA

THE year 1979 holds special importance. It was the year that saw two significant happenings in the Muslim world. The events occurred in two states holding contrasting views on Islam but triggered by a common enemy, the US. One was the hostage crisis in the Shiite ruled Iran, which was covered quite extensively by the press, the other being the lesser known and reported uprising at Islam’s holiest shrine in Mecca, the city under the control of Sunni Muslims.

There was a fundamental difference though between the two events. The embassy takeover in Tehran was a student initiative against the US for its meddling in the country’s politics. The siege of Mecca was the rebellion of a Muslim group against the policies of the ruling family in Saudi Arabia which were influenced by the US.

The rebellion in Mecca combined with the events in neighboring Iran forever changed the equation of Muslims with the US, and the west in general.

Act I, Tehran

On November 4, 1979, some 400 Iranian students decided to stage a sit-in at the American embassy in Tehran. It was a demonstration both against the Iranian Prime Minister Mehdi Bazargan’s meeting in Algiers with Zbigniew Brzezinski, Jimmy Carter’s National Security advisor, to discuss common security issues and the Shah’s admission to America for his cancer treatment.

The protest soon turned into a takeover of the embassy and its staff as more radical elements took over. The captives were paraded blindfolded before the world’s media.

Ayatollah Khomeni at first wanted the students to be taken out by force, but later changed his mind riding on the popular mood and supported their cause. He even denounced the embassy as a ‘nest of spies’. Con Coughlin writes how it influenced the Islamic revolution in Iran, “The American embassy siege proved to be a defining moment both for Khomeini and the Islamic revolution. Whereas previously he had sought to control the wilder excesses of the revolution, such as limiting the number of executions, now he fully embraced the concept of revolutionary action, and gave the student revolutionaries free rein to confront the negative influences of imperialism, liberalism and democracy.”[1]

The move was also initially opposed by two prominent student activists – one of them (surprisingly) was Mahmoud Ahmadinejad from Tarbiat Modarres University. Both eventually joined ranks with the majority.

Although the hostage crisis was a student initiative, it found mass support in Iran because of the role US played in the past politics of the country. America helped depose the elected and popular government of Mohammad Mosaddegh in 1953. Iranians never really forgave the US for it.

The embassy staff of 52 Americans was held hostage for a total of 444 days. It damaged relations between Washington and Tehran permanently.

Act II, Mecca

The Mecca uprising was the revolt of a group of Muslim extremists against their own rulers.

Juhayman ibn Saif al Uteybi, a retired corporal in the Saudi National Guard, was the chief architect of the events that unfolded in Mecca on November 20, 1979.

His role in the uprising was an outcome of the anger that has been building inside him for some time. Perhaps it’s not surprising then that his name itself means ‘Angry Face’ in Arabic.

During the mid 1970s Juhayman lived in Medina trying to model his life on the ways of the Prophet 14 centuries earlier. He was not alone.

Robert Lacey sheds light on such individuals, “Those who opted for back-to-basics called themselves Salafi, because they sought to behave as salaf, literally the pious ancestors of one of those three early generations that were mentioned with such approval by the Prophet. A group calling itself Al-Jamaa Al-Salafiya Al-Muhtasiba, “the Salafi Group That Commands Right and Forbids Wrong,” had been active in Medina for some time, and Juhayman joined it when he came to town, plugging himself into some of the Kingdom’s strongest and most ancient traditions of piety.”[2]

Medina’s Salafi Group was created around 1965.

For Juhayman, wherever he looked he could detect bida’h (any Islamic innovation). By now his rejectionist thinking found a few takers. They started referring to themselves as Al-Ikhwan (the Brothers). The word itself had a dangerous resonance with the Saudi past. It was also Juhayman’s legacy.

A confrontation with Sheikhs though resulted in the security forces running after the Ikhwan for interrogation. Juhayman was on the run.

Unable to meet his followers, Juhayman turned to the written and spoken words. His printed words (“The Letters of Juhayman”) survived and have long influenced Muslim extremists over the years.

His grievance was that al-Saud had exploited Islam to guarantee their worldly interests, and have brought evil and corruption upon the Muslims by paying allegiance to the Americans.

It was in late 1978 that Juhayman started having dreams about the Islamic Messiah – the Mahdi or rightly-guided one – who would come down to earth to correct the problems of mankind. His dreams even revealed the identity of the Mahdi as one of his own followers, Muhammad Abdullah Al-Qahtani. Juhayman soon married his sister.

This was also the time when Juhayman was ready to confront the rulers by violent means. His armed men took control of the Grand Mosque on the First day of Muharram (first Islamic month) in the Islamic year 1400, which translates to November 20, 1979.

The siege finally ended on December 4 as the last of the remaining rebels were captured by the government forces.

The bitter struggle saw 127 government soldiers perish and 450 injured. Some 117 rebels including Muhammad Abdullah were killed. Twenty six worshippers also lost their lives.

The outcome surprised even Juhayman. Yaroslav Trofimov in his definitive account of the events says, “As Juhayman was led away, one of the officers asked him again why he had desecrated the holiest shrine. The reality of utter defeat began to sink in. “If I had known it would turn out this way, I wouldn’t have done it,” Juhayman muttered in response.”[3]

It would take several months to undo the physical damage to the Grand Mosque.

The Brothers in Islam

The founder of modern Saudi Arabia Abdul Aziz Ibn Saud was ably supported by warriors from the Bedouin tribes who called themselves Al-Ikhwan. For them to support the Saudi cause was to engage in Jihad and that made them ferocious warriors.

As the empire got established the Ikhwan were told to settle down peacefully. But being the Bedouin warriors, they continued their raids suspecting their former leader to have made peace with the British.

Abdul Aziz spent more than a year in vain to strike a deal with the Ikhwan. The showdown finally came in March 1929 in the open plain of Sibillah, north of Riyadh. The Ikhwan were given one last chance to surrender but they ignored and attacked. In response Aziz’s men opened fire. Hundreds of men and their camels perished that day.

Among those who survived the onslaught was Muhammad ibn Saif al-Uteybi, father to Juhayman.

Birth of Political Islam

The siege of Mecca was the first major challenge to the ruling group in Saudi Arabia since the Ikhwan rebellion. It brought into open the rising tension between the state and its own religion.

Madawi Al-Rasheed explains, “It was vital to devise a formula for reconciling the state’s immense wealth with the austerity of Wahhabi* Islam. The incompatibility between religious dogma and royal pomp and the vulnerability of the royal family to attacks from within the ranks of the most loyal supporters (the religious establishment) shocked inside and outside observers who considered Saudi Arabia one of the most stable states in the Middle East. The constant search of the Saudi state for ways to accommodate the ‘old’ and the ‘new’ crumbled with the siege of the mosque.”[5]

It also forced the rulers to grant more powers to the ulama (Islamic scholars) and Islamic activities more political space in the early 1980s. The ulama seized the opportunity to reinforce the strict Wahhabi rules on ritual observance and moral behaviour.

It was also the beginning of a new era where the banner of Islam was unfurled for political means. Thomas Hegghammer talks about its ramifications, “However, the ‘Wahhabism’ and the ‘pan-Islamisation’ of 1980 Saudi Arabia represented two distinct processes with different causes and results. While the first was a purely domestic process promoted by the Najdi Wahhabi ulama and resulting in social conservatism, the latter had international ramifications, was promoted by the Hijaz-based organisations such as the Muslim World League (MWL) and produced political radicalism. Nevertheless, both processes left more political space for Islamist activism of all kinds. The political opportunity structure for Islamist activists – especially those seeking to mobilise people for the jihad in Afghanistan – thus became highly beneficial.”[6]

The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 prompted several Islamic organisations to issue calls for jihad against the occupiers. This gave the conflict a whole new religious dimension.

Saudi involvement in Afghanistan was unprecedented and it exceeded even the assistance for the Palestinians. It also saw the Kingdom graduate from a passive and financial to an active and military approach to pan-Islamism. This was made possible by US approval, the access to Pakistani territory, and the willingness of the Afghans.

Iran, sharing its border with Afghanistan, saw this as an opportunity to increase its influence in the area. It backed the Afghan Northern Alliance, which included the Shiite Hizb-l Vahdat representing the Hazaras (a local minority Shia tribe).

The invasion of Kuwait by Saddam Hussein forces gave another opportunity to the fundamentalists. Fearing a possible Iraqi attack on its own soil, Saudi Arabia welcomed foreign forces in 1990 to help defend the country. This was also the time when some sahwa** members began to speak out against the monarchy. Under pressure the government looked out for ways to compensate the lost credibility.

The opportunity came in the form of the Bosnian war of 1992.

Saudi was not alone in making the most of it. Iran and Sudan, too, tried to exploit the Bosnian crisis to gain regional control.

In fact Iran made good use of its long-standing links with Bosnian political leaders to provide substantial material support for the war ravaged country.

The roots of Political Islam were firmly established by now.

The Role of Wahhabism

The rigid views of Wahhabism and the patronising it received from the Saudi rulers in the past, fostered Muslim fundamentalism. The doctrine considers Muslim sects like the Shiites and the Sufis as heretics. It even inspired people like Juhayman to take up arms against the royal family.

Although Juhayman was beheaded soon after the uprising, his ideals and vision survived long after. The baton was passed on to another misguided flag-bearer of Islam, Osama Bin Laden. Like Juhayman, Osama too, had issues with Saudi ties to the US.

It came as no surprise to many that 15 of the 19 al-Qaida jihadists involved in the 9/11 attacks were from Saudi Arabia. The sad news was followed by a discovery of a huge arms cache in Riyadh and subsequent attacks on residential compounds in 2003. The terror continued in the country so much that by the December of 2004, some 176 policemen and civilians (mostly foreigners) had lost their lives.

The events showed a scary trend. The home-grown fundamentalists were turning into terrorists. The rulers of the state had to take swift and strict measures.

Dr. Sherifa Zuhur gets the point across, “Saudi Arabian officials decried al-Qa’ida’s actions in the United States, and have captured and killed operatives, arrested more than 600 suspects, forced key clerical figures to recant their radical views on television, recalled more than 1400 imams who were counselled on their divergent opinions, and took a variety of measures to diminish the financial support of terrorist organisations. The government also announced modest political reforms that began with voter registration from 2004-05, and municipal elections in 2005 which will enhance political participation.” [7]

The tentacles of the Osama factory are now reaching Iraq, Sudan, Somalia, Yemen and Indonesia, among others. It misses no opportunity to unleash terror on countries and people in the name of God.

The Israeli Angle

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been the stumbling block in the stability of Middle-East and a cause for Arabs to take up arms. For years now it has been the driving force behind Muslim fundamentalism across the globe.

The difficulty in resolving the issue has only frustrated the parties involved.

The sad part is those who were once the land owners are now refugees in their own land. More than 300,000 Jews immigrated to the then British Mandated Palestine between 1923 and 1938. Now compare this with the 3.5 million Palestinians displaced because of the 1948 and 1967 upheavals (500,000 alone during the Six-Day War in 1967).

Millions of Palestinians refugees are today dispersed throughout the Middle-East, many in camps in neighboring countries. They are still searching for a way to coexist with the nation that is responsible for the mess.

According to Amnesty International 2011 Report, in 2010, Israeli authorities demolished 431 structures in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, a 59 per cent increase over 2009. At least 594 Palestinians – half of them children – were displaced, while more than 14,000 Palestinians were affected by demolitions of water cisterns, wells and structures relating to their livelihoods.

The Israeli military killed 1,510 Palestinians in 2006-09. Of these, 617, including 104 children aged under 18, were not taking part in any hostilities when they were killed.[16]

The Arab and Muslim worlds remain split between rejectionist forces and those willing to recognise Israel in the name of peace.

As for Israel it continues to enjoy strong support from both the Democrats and Republicans in the US. No US president ever questions the country’s so-called security needs.

Both Clinton and Bush failed to strongly take up the case of settlement expansion and certain occupation practices, which have nothing to do with security, with Israel.

Barack Obama generated so much hope in the Muslim world with his landmark speeches, but, he too couldn’t do much to help resolve the Israeli-Palestine conflict.

Flawed US policies in the past gave ample opportunities to other state actors with their own agendas. Both Syria and Saudi Arabia attempted to broker a Palestinian unity government without Washington’s help. Iran responded by strengthening its ties to Syria and Hamas, thereby increasing its influence in the region.

The Gaza blockade and the Israeli West Bank barrier have only added to the woes of Palestine. Indirectly it has fuelled the strong sentiments of the Arabs and Muslims elsewhere against the state of Israel.

Engaging the Extremists

The West over the years has followed a flawed policy of “engaging the moderates and shunning the extremists.” You ignore a person and you ignore his cause. By ignoring such individuals we harden their stand. It makes them look out for alternate ways to make their voices heard. Unfortunately, violence is one such means which makes maximum impact.

We need to condemn violence in any form. No second thoughts there! We also have to understand that killing one Osama Bin Laden would not help. Osama has become more of a symbol of resistance to the so called jihadists. You kill Osama and there are hundreds ready to take his place and promote the cause.

Occupying lands in the name of security threats will offer only temporary solutions and would strengthen the resolve of the jihadists. Incidentally it is also this angle which extremists, like Osama, relish.

In an interview given to CNN in 1997 Osama said, “If there is a message that I may send through you, then it is a message I address to the mothers of the American troops who came here with their military uniform walking proudly up and down our land while the scholars of our country are thrown in prisons. I say that this represents a blatant provocation to 1250 million Muslims. To these mothers I say if they are concerned for their sons, then let them object to the American government’s policy and to the American president. Do not let themselves be cheated by his standing before the bodies of the killed soldiers describing the freedom fighters in Saudi Arabia as terrorists. It is he who is a terrorist who pushed their sons into this for the sake of the Israeli interest.”[9]

The best way to approach them is to find their ideological mentors and engage them. A dialogue on any given day is a much better start.

This in itself is no mean task and a definite policy shift has to be exercised in the name of peace by the West.

Bridging Divides

The Muslims today are angry more than ever. But we need to separate anger from madness (of a few). Wherever the anger is justified it needs corrective measures.

1979 is history, but it could very well repeat itself. And with the power of the electronic media today the situation could be worse.

The West for its part needs to engage the Muslims more than ever before. Most importantly dialogues should be insulated from any act of violence. As we have seen in the past, the rise of Islamophobia only helps the extremists!

The US needs to rethink its policy of dictating other countries’ affairs in the name of national security. Afghanistan and Iraq are in a mess but the terror threat continues, not to mention the millions who lost their lives and the million others rendered homeless.

Sheikh Salman al-Oadah echoes the sentiments of fellow Muslims in the region, “And if the West considers September 11 as an affront to civil security in the West, then we can share with it that feeling and even the stance of rejecting attacks against civil security throughout the world. But it is important for the West to realize that civil security in the Islamic World has not seen stability for decades and a lot of the impediments to civil security have come about under the umbrella of Western policy and quite possibly due the direct actions of the West.” [10]

The once mighty British Empire also collapsed under the pressure of putting foot at too many places. You can’t win people over by occupying their lands!

The Palestine-Israel conflict is one issue that will influence any peace initiative between the Muslims and the West. For long it has been a stumbling block in the stability of the Middle East. You resolve that and half the work is done.

The US handling of this crisis also is faulty and needs serious rework. Daniel Kurtzer and Scott Lasensky stress this point, “The United States also has tried mistakenly to cherry-pick Palestinian negotiating partners, sometimes seeking to bypass more senior figures whom Washington perceives as intransigent. This approach tends to backfire; when we try to pick our winners, our diplomacy often loses.”[11]

Israel has also to be pressured into an inspection of its nuclear arsenal.

The two main players in the Middle-East, Iran and Saudi Arabia, influence most of the Muslim world today. The tension between them is a direct outcome of the desire to control the region and their different religious beliefs. This is also a sad reflection of the divide between the Muslims in general.

Saudi Arabia needs to promote more tolerance in its society. An outright rejection of beliefs not conforming to the majority is the first step in promoting hatred. Qur’an itself speaks against it. In verse 118, chapter 11, the books says, “If thy Lord had so willed, He could have made mankind one People: but they will not cease to dispute.”

There is also no denying the fact that the Saudi society is gradually changing and the new rulers must be credited for it.

The difficulty the rulers face is in striking a healthy balance between admonishing the violent opposition and co-opting those with similar views. Religious sensibilities have to be taken into due consideration before making any policy shift.

This is not an easy task as Madawi Al-Rasheed explains, “Saudi Arabia’s specific Islamic tradition, namely Wahhabi teachings, did not encourage an easy immersion in modernity in the twentieth century. From the very beginning, the ruling group stumbled across several obstacles when they introduced the most simple of technologies (for example cars, the telegraph and television among other innovations). Objections from conservative religious circles were overcome as a result of a combination of force and negotiations. Social and political change proved more problematic and could not be easily implemented without generating debates that threatened the internal stability of the country and alienated important and influential sections of society.”[5]

How successful would they be in the long run only time will tell!

The Saudis need the US support to guard themselves against a powerful neighbour in the form of Iran, something that has not gone down well with many in the Kingdom.

Iran needs to engage in dialogues rather than raising tempers with the now familiar diatribe of Ahmadinejad.

There are unsubstantiated claims by certain countries in the Middle East of Iran’s role in their internal affairs. The country needs to put more confidence building measures in the wake of its nuclear program.

Iran is also facing some problems internally. Post election, as the events at home show, there is a growing dissatisfaction of the young population with the power the clergy enjoys. The Shah’s toppling was not possible without the student uprising. Those in charge should never forget this simple fact.

The US needs to respect the regime in Iran (whosoever) and sit with it. Surely the lessons of the past have not been learned. Stephen Kinzer endorses the view, “Today, as anti-Iran rhetoric in Washington becomes steadily more strident, it is urgent that Americans understand how disastrous the last US attack on Iran turned out to be. They might also ponder the question of what moral responsibility the United States has to Iran in the wake of this painful history.”[12]

The answer to that has the potential to change US-Iranian relations.

Barack Obama talked about a new beginning in his landmark speech given at the Cairo University in 2009, “We have a responsibility to join together on behalf of the world that we seek — a world where extremists no longer threaten our people, and American troops have come home; a world where Israelis and Palestinians are each secure in a state of their own, and nuclear energy is used for peaceful purposes; a world where governments serve their citizens, and the rights of all God’s children are respected. Those are mutual interests. That is the world we seek. But we can only achieve it together.”

The average Muslim, too, is sick and tired of seeing his faith questioned every time some extremist blow himself to pieces in the name of Allah. They also seek a new start where they are free in their lands and are judged by their own actions.

The world has seen enough violence in the name of religion and security. Let’s give peace a chance!

(Revised and updated: Oct 29, 2011)

Notes

*Members of the Wahhabi movement prefer to call themselves Muslims, or muwahhidun (those who insist on the unification of the worship of Allah) or Ahl (community of) At-Tawhid (Monotheism). The teachings of the reformer Abd Al-Wahhab are more often referred to by adherents as Salafi (“following the forefathers of Islam.”)

**Sahwa movement emerged in Saudi Arabia during the late 1960s. It was a well organised political movement that pride itself on religious orthodoxy.

1. Con Coughlin, Khomeini’s Ghost (London: Pan Macmillan, 2010), 177.

2. Robert Lacey, Inside the Kingdom: Kings, Clerics, Terrorists, Modernists, and the Struggle for Saudi Arabia (New York: Viking Penguin, 2009), 18.

3. The Siege of Mecca: The 1979 Uprising at Islam’s Holiest Shrine by Yaroslav Trofimov (New York: Anchor Books, 2008), 214.

4. As’ad AbuKhalil, The Battle for Saudi Arabia: Royalty, Fundamentalism, and Global Power (New York: Seven Stories Press, 2004).

5. Madawi Al-Rasheed, A History of Saudi Arabia (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 11.

6. Thomas Hegghammer, Jihad in Saudi Arabia: Violence and Pan-Islamism Since 1979 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010), 24.

7. Sherifa Zuhur, “Saudi Arabia: Islamic Threat, Political reform, and the Global War on Terror,” Strategic Studies Institute (2005), 13, accessed October 28, 2011, http://www.strategicstudiesinstitute.army.mil/pubs/display.cfm?PubID=598.

8. Noam Chomsky, Fateful Triangle: the United States, Israel, and the Palestinians (London: Pluto Press, Updated Edition, 1999).

9. “Osama bin Laden Interview – CNN,” FindLaw, accessed October 28, 2011, news.findlaw.com/cnn/docs/binladen/binladenintvw-cnn.pdf.

10. Sheikh Salman al-Oadah, “How We Can Coexist”, Islam Today, Jan 01, 2002  , accessed October 28, 2011, http://en.islamtoday.net/artshow-417-2952.htm.

11. Daniel Kurtzer and Scott Lasensky, Negotiating Arab-Israeli Peace: American Leadership in the Middle East, (Washington: United States Institue of Peace, 2008), 38.

12. Stephen Kinzer, All the Shah’s Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror, (New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons), xxiii.

13. “A History of Conflict”, BBC,  accessed October 28, 2011, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/shared/spl/hi/middle_east/03/v3_ip_timeline/html.

14. Roland Jacquard, In the Name of Osama Bin Laden: Global Terrorism and the Bin Laden Brotherhood (USA: Duke University Press, 2002, Revised and Updated).

15. Mark Bowden, Guests of the Ayatollah: The Iran Hostage Crisis: The First Battle in America’s War with Militant Islam (New York: Grove Press, 2006).

16. “Amnesty International Annual Report 2011: The state of the world’s human rights,” Amnesty International, accessed October 28, 2011, http://www.amnesty.org/en/region/israel-occupied-palestinian-territories/report-2011#section-67-5.

Paying Back To The Madrasah

By Dr Wasim Ahmad,

It has been asked that I should pay back to the madrasah whatever it has spent on me before writing….. Yes, I want to but there are some difficulties which I would like to share. How will I be able to pay back to the madrasah while allowing it to continue with only Muslim students? How can we exclude one of the ‘two eyes of the bride’? What will happen to our integration in the larger society? If there is a threat of the Muslims losing their identity why do we allow that in the cases of a huge majority? Why do we have two standards in dealing with Muslim kids? Why do we expect one thing from some of them and another from the rest of them? Why not what is good for one is good for the other? Why don’t we give them a free choice as per their natural inclination in terms of selecting their disciplines?

Does paying back to the madrasah mean that if I joined a madrasah that propagates one school of thought then I should never come out of it? Should I deny my existence to prove the existence of someone else? Should I renounce my right to think and exist? Should I think more about Islam or a given school of thought? What is more important? If I studied in a madrasah that glorifies a particular personality I should keep doing so for the whole of my life?

Whom should I pay back? Should I pay back to the madrasah or I should pay back to the community that spent on my education? Did the community pay to the madrasah so that the graduates pay back to the madrasah or to the community? This we need to decide.


Jamiatul Falah in Azamgarh

Also, what if someone continued his education after the madrasah and joined a University which “stands for humanism, for tolerance, for adventure of ideas, experimentation and unceasing quest and diversity of opinions” as described by Jawaharlal Nehru? How could we reconcile the paying back with these objectives of a University – if one is a graduate from a madrasah and a University both? Because someone has studied in a madrasah he should disregard the objectives of a University?

Now there is a dilemma as to whom I should pay back more? To a madrasah or to a University? The University also spent a lot on me. I would never have been able to hire any of those professors and all those facilities for even an hour. And I benefited from the same for years together. Should I pay back to some and not to some others? Should I be selective in paying back? The fact that the educational institutions should not be contradictory to each other and should be in harmony is beside the point.

Should I disregard the fact that the country, too, has invested a lot in me and I should pay back to the country as well? Where did the country pay from? From the taxpayers’ money. The taxpayers who comprised the Muslims and non-Muslims alike. Should we disregard the taxes paid by non-Muslims? What will happen to the justice that Islam wants us to uphold and administer?

Does paying back mean that I remain in a perpetual state of self-contradiction which is precisely what I don’t want to be in and am seeking to come out of? Or it doesn’t matter? If it doesn’t matter then we should stop our quest for truth. And should not pray for it. Then we should not read and recite Soorah al-‘Asr and stop relating and applying it.

“Paying back to the madrasah” to me means keeping the divide between deen and dunyaa alive. Perpetuating the division between deeni and dunyaawee till eternity. Anyone who has followed my submissions will know that I stand against it. How could I then pay backto the madrasah without first contradicting myself? If I contradict myself it means I am not concerned about truth (which is free from self-contradiction) and that I don’t stand for anything. How can I not stand for anything knowing that our bane is that we do not know what we stand for?

How can I pay back to the same madrasah which I don’t find contributing substantially towards the building of the modern India? How can it contribute towards this goal with the current exclusivist and isolationist approach? It does not serve the purpose of even increased communication with the different sections of the larger society – leave alone addressing any other areas of importance and common concern.

I want to know how can I pay back to the same madrasah which I find a psychological barrier in the path of Muslims’ excellent performance in all the walk of life because of truncated exposition of Islam? I want to know how I can pay back to the same madrasah which is instrumental in creating a self-doubt among the ‘modern educated’. Because of the continuing deep-rooted divide between deen and dunyaa and deeni and dunaawee the ‘modern educated’ harbour a degree of self-doubt about the pursuance of various disciplines. This acts as a psychological barrier and takes away excellence. How could there be any excellence with a degree of self-doubt? Just as an individual human being may have some psychological barriers, a people may also have, I guess.

I should pay back and in a coin which has already been visualized and maybe in which already a lot is being paid back? Is there any option for me to figure out anything about the coin itself? Or I should be like a mechanical organ from which some mechanical actions are expected? If we are able to define and describe the coin in advance then there is something seriously wrong in our educationsystem. Instead of trying to figure out what that wrong thing is we ask for only paying back.

If we are able to describe the coin in advance it means that there is and has been some problem at the cognitive level. The human beings are not a “product” or “item”. A seat of learning is expected to groom an individual to the maximum possible extent and give full expression to his uniqueness and peculiarity. There are no repetitions when it comes to the human beings. We are able to describe the coin because of a faulty education system.

How could we know what the graduates of an educational institution should be like and that they should pay back in a given coin? We should not be able to know that in advance and we should not be able to find a pattern. The human beings are not for sampling. We are able to do ‘sampling’ because we do not nurture creativity and thinking skills. “The most demanding work of our students is memorizing facts for regurgitation. The product of this educational culture is deficient in the inquiry, investigation, and reasoning skills”. Our students focus on obtaining marks which indicates that we are not fostering “problem-based and enquiry-based learning, which will develop their powers of investigations and critical thinking”. (Excerpts of Prof. William K Lim’s letters from ‘Nature, 465, 13 May 2010’ and ‘Science, 327, March 26, 2010’; courtesy Dr Abdul Jabbar Khan - ajabbar_7862001@yahoo.com)

We need to keep in mind that learning involves: “knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis and evaluation”. But “unfortunately, in our traditional education system learning means developing recall ability only. The other five aspects are generally ignored. That is why our curriculum is unable to induce critical and scientific thinking among its pupils. This problem has long been realized in scientifically developed societies and remedial measures were developed. Unfortunately, we are still living in the flat world.” (Courtesy Mr Pervez Ahmed -shamanaqvi@rediffmail.com)

Please help me come out of this dilemma as regards my paying back. In the meantime, I think the community needs ideas and this is what we should provide to the best of our capacities. The community needs to look at its age-old notions in a fresh manner. I have heard about “Islam (read Muslims) ki nash’at-e thaaniyah”. What does it mean? Does it entail any painful exercise? Will it come by without any adjustments? I seriously doubt it. If there are any short-cuts (which we are used to) please enlighten.

On the other hand, I think that I am trying to pay back to the madrasah and the community by sharing my submissions and by telling them what I think is wrong about them. But we don’t listen to those who pay back a bit differently. We are mindful of the huge investment made in them but we actually don’t want them to pay back. We want them to do the easier job. We should actually ask them to do the most difficult job on earth (thinking). What a paradox!?

(The author is Head of the Dept of Islamic Studies, Preston University, Ajman, UAE.  Email:malikwasimahmad@gmail.com)

Plot To Divide Kerala On Communal Lines?

An overview of the incidents leading to hand-chopping of a college lecturer and its consequences in Kerala’s contemporary politics

By Firose KC,

March 23, 2010 was a usual working day for Newman College in Thodupuzha, a Christian dominated town in South Kerala. It was exam season and among many other colleges affiliated to Kottayam Mahathma Gandhi University in Kerala, Newman College also conducted an internal assessment exam for the 2nd Semester B.Com students. More than the result, one particular question of the Malayalamlanguage paper got attention of the public; both among the “secular” and “religious” fanatics of Kerala this controversial question created uneasiness and protest. It soon led to a law and order violation and eventually to a criminal act of chopping the hand of thelecturer who prepared the question paper.

Prof. TJ Joseph, 53, the HoD of Malayalam, prepared the question. It asked the students to give proper punctuation marks: Here is the English translation of the contentious question paper:

Muhammed: O God, God!

God: What do you want, son of a b**ch?

Muhammed: If I slice a mackerel, how many pieces there will be?

God: Son of a b**ch, how many times I have told you that it will be three pieces?

The trouble started here. The question paper used colloquial Muslim phrases like “Padachon” for God and the man who was asking the question to God was named Muhammed. The conversation was partially taken from a book, titled “Thirakkadhayude Reethishasthram” (How to write Screenplays), edited by Binu Kumar and published by Kerala State Language Institute and prescribed by the Mahatma Gandhi University. Originally, the dialogue was from director PT Kunjuhumuhammed’s speech given at a screenplay workshop. But he also chose not to name the madman. The trouble was with naming the madman as Muhammed and the way he was addressed. Had it been any other Muslim name, nobody would have bothered. But Joseph has an explanation: “As the Malayalam word Padachon is used by Muslims to address the God, I looked for a common Muslim name and I first thought of using the name of director PT Kunjumuhammed himself. Later I decided to write only Muhammed not to agonize the director”, says he.

It is obviously sad and questionable that the veteran teacher did not find it inappropriate and offensive to name the madman as ‘Muhammed’ and to use highly offensive word for him through God. “I know many Muhammeds, such as PT Kunjumuhammed, Vaikom Muhammed Basheer, N.P Muhammed, etc… I just considered it as a Muslim name. I had no intention to pester Prophet Muhammed”, adds TJ Joseph, though difficult to subscribe.

While typesetting the question paper, the typist did raise his concern whether this wouldn’t be problematic as Muslim students might feel offended. According to reports, he talked to Joseph about changing this but the latter chose to proceed. The principal also approved the question. While writing the exam, a Muslim girl called Thasni refused to answer the question and instead wrote that it is against her religious sentiments.

Things did not end there. Fate had its turn and the contentious question paper leaked and spread like fire. Local Muslims of Thodupuzha organized a protest. They called for a hartal at Thodupuzha and that was followed by the police imposing IPC 144 Act. The mob protested against the lecturer and the College authorities.

Police soon filed a case against TJ Joseph and issued arrest warrant for his provocative action. Joseph burrowed to escape from aggressive mob and the law. On March 26, by the time the damage was done, the college authorities apologized for the mistake of TJ Joseph, a late action. Had the College authority come up with corrective measures in the beginning, the consequences could have been averted. However, both MG University syndicate and Newman College authorities had suspended TJ Joseph from the service.

“There are 56 students in the 2nd semester B.Com. In this batch 24 students selected Hindi as their additional language. The other 32 opted Malayalam. Out of this 32, four are from Muslim community and rest of them are Christians and Hindus. No one filed any complaint with regard to the question paper issue. Though Newman College is governed by a Christian management, we welcomestudents from every religion. Here 47% of students are Hindus, Muslims are 14%, If Muslims want seats, we provide those even in the management quota”, Father Manuel, the local manager of Newman College, was quoted saying.

Seeing the situation potentially turning violent, Moosa Najmi, the Imam of the Nainar Mosque of Thodupuzha, called an urgent meeting of Imams and urged the people to keep calm. But that was not enough to stop the violent mob. The Muslim mob marched to Newman College. While the rally was going on, some conspirators pelted stones on the lamps of Srikrishnasami Temple at Thodupuzha. This provocative action made the condition worse. Still there are unclear doubts about the stone pelting. It is an assumption that somebody was deliberately doing this to create a Hindu–Muslim clash. Anyway Sangh Parivar also indulged in the quandary.

Police did not fail to arrest Muslim youths in connection with the violence and issued arrest warrant against TJ Joseph. A lookout notice was issued to produce him in front of the law. But a week later, on April 1, Joseph yielded before the police. He was remanded for a week and sent to sub jail, Muvattupuzha. The Court granted him bail on April 7.

A worse answer to the bad question

Malayalees, like any other consumerist society, tend to forget things very easily. The mainstream society had almost forgotten and forgiven the mistake committed by TJ Joseph. But in certain quarters, things were not calm. Joseph received death threats. He even complained to the police. No security was given to him. In fact, a few emotional beings were waiting for avenge: to commit the most stupid act of violence in the name of a community.
On July 4, TJ Joseph was returning from the Nirmala Matha Church, Muvattupuzha, after the Sunday mass. His aged mother Elikkuty, sister Mary Stella, wife Salomi, son Mithun and daughter Ami accompanied him in their car. About a few hundred meters away from their home, a belligerent gang in a Maruti Omni stopped them on the way: the gang contained about six persons looking like conservative Muslims in their typical dress code. Assailants created a horrible scene by using crackers and attacked TJ Joseph with sharp weapons. They chopped Joseph’s right hand and threw the separated palm to the nearby homestead.

The gory incident scared not only the family but the entire civil society and the state machinery in Kerala. Joseph’s family could not identify the criminals. They only noted the registration number of the vehicle. But later Police said that the number was fake.

Condemnation of the thoughtless incident came from all walks of life, especially from mainstream Muslim organizations, secularintellectuals, politicians and cultural activists.

It made big news on Kerala’s highly competitive TV channels. The visuals of chopped hand were broadcast continuously for days to come, even without thinking of the insensitivity and criminality of such a visual to families and children. Channels came up with live and hot discussions on the attack. The society collectively condemned the attack.

Injured Joseph got first aid from a hospital at Muvattupuzha, and then he was admitted at Speciality Hospital, Ernakulam where his separated palm was stitched up to his body by a panel of expert doctors. Another positive incident which got public attention during the trauma was the act of donating blood to the attacked Jospeh by the activists of Solidarity Youth Movement, a sister organisation of Jamaat-e-Islami Hind. According to the hospital authority, 100% success of the surgery cannot be promised.

Reaction to the chopping incident

Secularist Keralites denounced the brutal attack on TJ Joseph. Politicians, religious leaders, social activists, cultural luminaries, and people from all walks made their remonstration. Major political parties like CPM, INC, Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), CPI and BJP condemned the attack in very strong words. Muslim religious organisations questioned the Islamic legitimacy of the attack. Samastha, Jamaat-e-Islami Hind, Sunni-Kanthapuram group and Nadvathul Mujahideen declared their stand on this issue unambiguously denouncing it and urged their followers to work hard for a secular society.

“Even though Mr. TJ Joseph is charged with a serious offence, the attack cannot be justified. We have the judiciary to take proper action. Sin against sin, offence against offence will cause big damages to peace and tranquility of the society. The attack actually was a disgrace to religion and secularism, and it damaged inter-religious relations,” said PK Kunhalikkutty, the General Secretary of IUML.

Various religious organisations from both sides (Christian and Muslim) had taken special care not to spread the fanatic violence further. In a way, wise interventions from various quarters stopped the violence from spreading in new ways.

From the very beginning of the incident, it was the newly formed Popular Front of India which was under the target. The police and the people by and large suspected that the PFI was behind the attack, though the party, in a press conference in New Delhi, and in its mouthpiece Thejus, denied its involvement. However, the party’s denial was more or less mild, not very strong or unpretentious. It said “if party workers are involved in the attack, they would be kept away from the party and shall not be given legal assistance.” Activists of PFI, which was formerly called NDF, involved in debates on the Islamic legitimacy of the chopping act by quoting incidents from Islamic history out of context. Finally, according to sources, the party had to strictly ask its members to stop the SMS and email campaign justifying the act.

The police filed a case on the attack; almost all of the arrested and the suspected belong to the PFI. Then, came a spree of raids across Kerala. The police indiscriminately raided homes and offices that belonged to PFI and questioned even women without following judicial procedures. At the same time, it was accused that the main culprits stayed away from the police. More than a dozen people are detained and all of them are active members of PFI.
As part of the investigation, police questioned many youngsters and raided various premises including the local, district and state offices of PFI. Even at midnight Police disturbed the ladies and children, without police women being present. It is strongly pointed out by Human Rights groups that the police violated human rights during raids. “When the police came to search my house, all of them were males. And they terrorized us. Police seized the Malayalam translation of Holy Quran, some CDs and my hubby’s passport. It was very cruel. Surely I will complain to the Chief Minister, Home Minister and Women Commission”, said Sajida, the wife of Mansoor, the district secretary of PFI, Ernakulam.

There are many Sajidas. During the raid Police seized costly and valuable things including computers, books, CDs and Passports from different centres. During the search Police did not give any receipt for the seized goods and they didn’t disclose them.

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) issued a notice to the Director General of Police (DGP), on a complaint alleging that many members of a Muslim community have been harassed by the frequent search in relation with TJ Joseph attack. NHRC directed the DGP to submit a report within two weeks.

According to P Abdul Hameed, the State General Secretary of Popular Front of India, Police have hidden agendas and they are manipulating the case. “Police seized an air gun from the house of one of our members, next day newspapers reported that police had seized a pistol. Police must disclose the truth on what they seized and why they have taken that”, he said.

It is very clear that the police behaved totally irresponsibly in the Muvattupuzha incident. They targeted Muslim youth and tortured them. In most cases, Police’s behaviour was beyond being tolerable. Planned and frequent accusations on Muslim youngsters terrorized them and the entire community was forced to defend themselves in spite of their unwillingness to accept the criminal act of a few miscreants.

Also, in the least democratic spirit, it is not acceptable to crush a political organization for its accused involvement in a crime and raid its state level offices for a local incident. “Had they followed the same principle, how many times would the CPI-M’s and BJP’s headquarters in Kerala would have been raided”, asks PFI leaders.

A brief context to the question paper

It needs to be noted that for the last one year or so, a good quantity of provocative pamphlets were being circulated in south Kerala by Christian missionaries insulting and attacking Muslim sentiments. A father called PJ Samkutty (Sam Jacob) of Chungappara, Pathanamthitta wrote a controversial book, titled Chinvad Palam (the invisible bridge to heaven). Having written this on his deathbed, he had asked not to publish it before his death. The book was outrageously sacrilegious to Islamic sentiments, according to those who read it. One can doubt, if such a potentially hostile atmosphere between the two minorities in Kerala was deliberately being created, especially against the backdrop of the merger of two Kerala Congress parties, which would eventually lose the second largest seat-winning position of Muslim League in the state.

However, the controversial book Chinvad Palam was banned by the state soon after the attack as the book too had unacceptable content on Prophet Muhammed.

Political interests

According to Paul Zacaria, well known writer and social commentator, the way the chopping issue had been handled was politically motivated. Many Muslim leaders and writers in the state believed the CPI-M was cashing in on the issue as in the coming assembly election they are apparently going to lose for UDF, as goes the anti-incumbency tradition in Kerala.

In the previous assembly election, certain Muslim parties and organisations like INL, PDP and Jamaat-e-Islami Hind had supported the LDF, the CPM led alliance. However, the honeymoon has ended and the PDP and INL are no longer interested in CPI (M) policies. Jamaat-e-Islami Hind has already declared their independent political party. CPI (M) leaders strictly oppose the ideological stand of Jamaat-e-Islami Hind and PFI and term them as fundamentalist, obviously resembling the way western media terms Islamist political groups across the Muslim world.

Almost a year back, PFI announced a political party namely Socialist Democratic Party of India (SDPI). The party has been successful in drawing national recognition within a short span, with slogans and agendas of Dalit-Muslim unity. Kerala unit of SDPI is perceived as a threat to existing political alliances.

Christian community too is not very close to LDF, especially after the merging of two Christian dominated Kerala Congress parties in support of the UDF. As a result, the new political scenario urges LDF to appease the majority Hindu community for their votes.

The very next day of the attack, CPM leaders reacted furiously, not just against the attackers but on the entire community. Home Minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan and State General Secretary of CPI (M) Pinarayi Vijayan called the assault as Talibanism, a word coined by the US army as part of their assault on Afghanistan.

Police seized dodgy weapons from raids at various centres. And it was shown continuously on TV screens that the weapons were packed in PFI posters! It put the police version dubious and locals at places complained that the police came for raid carrying weapons.

Media too played its vulgar role in the issue by celebrating the attack. Despite the heinous goriness of the incident, it was not for the first time, a crime was publicly executed in Kerala in broad daylight. There are several party villages in Kerala for every mainstream party, where the party goons do every sort of atrocity, the most condemnable being the beheading of a teacher in his classroom in front of kids and causing the loss of a leg for a small girl in Kannur. But this was religious violence, whereas secular violence has been given some public nod which religious violence do not much enjoy anywhere in the world. The channels and newspapers presented this single incident as a national disaster putting the Muslim community in dark shades.

Kerala to be a Muslim state in 20 years!

On July 24th, while talking to journalists in New Delhi regarding the attack on the college lecturer, the Chief Minister of Kerala, VS Achuthananthan accused that the extremists are trying to make Kerala a Muslim majority state in a short span of time. “Within 20 years Muslims will become the majority community in the state. They have been converting many into Islam for this purpose by offering money and proposing to marry Muslim women. However, police have identified their secret agenda”, thus went the totally irresponsible statement of the CM.

Chief Minister’s statement was strongly questioned by all Muslim organizations and a few cultural activists. VS, who had made the infamous anti-Muslim statement about the educational progress of Muslims in Malappuram as a result of copying in exam halls, has now again come under dubious lights about his real political affiliations. However, despite criticism from many sides, he stuck on to his comment and was not ready to retract.

The planned indict on Muslims apparently started during the regime of EMS Namboothiripad, CPI (M)’s legendary leader, himself. He started injecting Islamophobia’s primitive modes by involving in the Shari‘a debates in the 80s. About the Babari Masjid dispute too, one of the comments made by EMS was to construct Ram temple where the masjid stood.

“Fanatic Campaigners” aim campuses
Most of the recent communal issues in Kerala were originated from schools and campuses. A hijab controversy is already running in the state, as many Christian management schools refuse Muslim girls to enter campuses wearing headscarf. Love jihad also had critically divided the campus into communal lines, making even friendships impossible between Muslim boys and girls from other communities. What is interesting is that none of these issues are created by students. The educational uplift of the Kerala Muslims has again become a real headache for the power-handling castes and communities in Kerala, and they are creating all sort of troubles to demolish the trust over the Muslims in the State, one can argue.

(The writer can be contacted at mbfirose@yahoo.co.in)

Gandhiji And The Prophet (PBUH)

Note: This imaginary dialogue between Gandhiji and the Prophet of Islam (PBUH) is to clarify many misunderstandings which are being spread about Islam and Muslims. My mission in life is to promote peace and inter-religious understanding and to struggle against religious fanaticism and extremism. As I have deep conviction about teachings of Islam, I am also great admirer of Gandhiji and his philosophy of non-violence. (A.E.)

Gandhiji: I have drawn inspiration from Islam as much as from Christianity. Islam’s emphasis on justice, equality and human dignityhas always attracted me as love and forgiveness of Christianity. The Sermon on the Mount specially attracted my attention. As you know I am deeply committed to philosophy of non-violence and it is in this respect that I am approaching you to know more in depth about Islam’s teachings about non-violence. It is necessary as Islam and terrorism are being equated by some anti Islamic forces and it is you who can help dispel these attacks on Islam. Who can be the better person than you, O Prophet of Islam.

Prophet: I am so much pained that Islam is under attack today whereas 21st century should have been the most appropriate period to appreciate its teachings. Yes, I admit there are all kinds of people in any religion and some may be motivated by their own selfish interests and indulge in violence or other misdeeds but a religion should be judged by its core teachings, not by what some followersdo. I hope you will agree with me.

Gandhiji: Yes I do agree with you sir, the great Prophet of Islam.

Prophet: You would agree with me no religion can teach violence and be followed by millions of people. The very purpose of religion is to refine morals and guide its followers to a purposeful and meaningful life with inner peace and deep conviction. Islam is a religion of surrendering to Allah and Allah is Compassionate and Merciful (Rahman and Rahim) and in your devotional song you also mention Ram and Rahim. All Muslims are supposed to invoke Allah, the Compassionate and Merciful before they begin their work (bism Allah al-Rahman al-Rahim). It is very central to Islam. Also one of Allah’s name in Qur’an, you must have noted, is Salam i.e. Peace.

Gandhiji: I understand true meaning of religion and its need for human beings in life. Inner convictions play important role in giving meaning and direction to human life. I have always relied on my own inner convictions before I took any decision. But I want to understand Islam in all its comprehensive way so that there is absolutely no confusion and it would certainly reinforce my own conviction in non-violence.

Prophet: Look when I was chosen by Allah to be His prophet the conditions in Mecca was extremely precarious. There was moral chaos in society, the tribal chiefs were growing wealthier and wealthier as they controlled international trade and were becoming arrogant and neglecting all their moral obligations towards weaker sections of society, the poor, the orphans, the widows, the needy and, in order to achieve greater grip over the minds of people, were promoting all sorts of superstitions and irrational beliefs. All this disturbed me deeply and I retired to the cave of Hira where I received revelation.

The Qur’anic revelation dealt with the situation on two levels: first, it promoted concept of one God – Allah- the creator of all and worship Him alone thus uniting entire human kind and on social level it strongly condemned accumulation of wealth and predicted it will turn into hell fire if the weaker sections of the society are neglected and injustice and oppression prevails. Thirdly, it gave equal rights to women who were denied all rights and treated as mere chattels. Fourthly, it stressed need for knowledge (‘ilm) and compared it with light (noor) and ignorance as darkness.

Gandhiji: How like Upanishads. Upanishad too compares gyan with light and one of its prayers says lead me from darkness to light.

Prophet: Yes indeed, this prayer exists in the Qur’an too. And one other prayer says rabbi zidni ‘ilman (O Sustainer of this Universe increase me in knowledge). Indeed religions (not to be confused with customs, traditions and cultural institutions) do not contradict each other but compliment and stress same values.

Gandhiji: In Hindu tradition we maintain entire humanity is one family (Vasudhaiva kutumbakum).

Prophet: Yes I too have said in one of my hadith al-khalq-u-‘ayalullah (entire creation is Allah’s family.)

Gandhiji: How similar are teachings of two of our great religions. But, Hindus often complain that Muslims call us kafirs. Sir, are wekafirs?

Prophet: No, no. there is great misunderstanding about kufr among Muslims and others. In Qur’an kafir is one who hides truth and actively opposes it. Every religion is embodiment of truth and in every religious tradition Allah or God or Ishwar’s name is Truth, In Qur’an one of Allah’s name is Haq (Truth). So those who hide truth and actively oppose it is a kafir, not one who believes in it and strongly affirms it.

Gandhiji: We Hindus do believe in truth and indeed I always said Truth is God.

Prophet: Yes, yes, how can you be kafir. All those who affirm truth, truth of values and right path cannot be kafirs. Qur’an teaches that every qaum (nation) was given truth through prophets and I have said that Allah has sent 1,24,000 prophets and Qur’an also says “We have sent prophet for every nation.” And some of the Sufis in your country have said Allah must have sent prophets to Hind also to fulfill His promise in the Qur’an. However, I know some Muslims, either out of arrogance or ignorance, call others kafirs. Do not worry about them. Then even one Muslim sect in my ummah, unfortunately call followers of other sects as kafirs. It is nothing but false sense of superiority over others.

Gandhiji: May I request you sir to further throw some light on concept of kafir in Qur’an as there is so much confusion about it amongpeople.

Prophet: When I began to invite people of Mecca to Islam, a religion of truth revealed by Allah to me and it invited the powerful leaders of Mecca too, to accept Islam, their ego as well as their powerful interests were deeply hurt and they began to actively oppose Islam. Firstly they felt how can an orphan, without any wealth and social status could tell us what is the right path and ask us to deviate from the path of our forefathers. Secondly, Qur’an, as I pointed out, attacked accumulation of wealth neglecting weaker sections of society.

This deeply disturbed them as wealth was their main power and there was no state machinery in Mecca to tax them so the Qur’an proposed a voluntary contribution and called it zakat which literally means to purify. The zakat is meant to be distributed among the weaker sections of society, the poor, orphans, widows, needy, travelers and liberating slaves and prisoners. Thus economic justice will prevail and their wealth will be purified. However, so far they had only accumulated wealth and never spared anything for the weaker sections of society. This also created strong resentment among the wealthy of Mecca and they began to actively oppose me and myfollowers and even using their power persecuted me and my followers, torturing them in most inhuman manner. They even did not allow us to enter Ka’aba, our holy shrine for centuries.

The Qur’an condemned them as kafirs because they actively opposed the truth knowing fully well that I was bearer of truth from Allah. Their arrogance and their pride in their wealth blinded them. It indeed was not their ancestral religion but their arrogance and false pride in wealth which was the problem.

There were those Arabs who did not accept Islam but at the same time did not oppose Islam and hence Qur’an said for them that “O unbelievers for you is your religion and for me is mine”. Thus you will see religion was indeed not the problem, power, wealth and arrogance was. Also, the Qur’an says la ikrah fi’ al-din (i.e. there is no compulsion in matters of religion). No one can be coerced into believing as religion is matter of conscience and deeper conviction. Even an idol worshipper cannot be coerced into abandoning his way of worship. If a kafir (which only means non-believer in Islam) desires to live in peace with Muslims his way of worship has to be respected and protected along with his life and property. Qur’an calls them dhimmis (i.e. those whose responsibility of life and property) is on Muslims and those who harm them amounts to harming me and those who harm me they harm Allah.

Gandhiji: This completely clarifies the meaning of kafir. It is indeed very humane and in keeping with the contemporary world which believes in freedom of worship and freedom of conscience and freedom of religion. Unto me is my religion and unto you is yours. What more one can expect from any religion.

So sir it is not in keeping with the teaching of Islam that one should use sword to preach Islam. This misconcept is so widespread in the world today.

Prophet: This is sheer monstrosity. How can Qur’an which teaches freedom of conscience can teach such a thing. Qur’an says, on the other hand, call people to the path of Allah with wisdom and goodly words. Those who went out with swords were conqueror of territories, not conquerors of hearts for Allah.

Gandhiji: This clears many of my doubts and my countrymen’s doubts. I always thought Qur’an and Prophet of Islam can never allow such things. Religion is a moral force and can never permit coercion, let alone violence, for its acceptance. The conqueror may coerce some to convert but a religious person can never. Those conversions will be more for political than for religious conviction. In India most of the conquerors also hardly ever used coercion to convert Hindus though many of them supported various Muslim rulers militarily and politically. There may have been few instances but generally Hindus and Muslims lived in peace and harmony and evolved a composite culture.

Prophet: Yes indeed you are right and my mission (da’wah) was generally accepted by weaker sections of the society. In Arabia too it is poor, slaves, women, orphans and widows who responded to my mission promptly. In your country also, it is low caste Hindus who suffered indignities who responded readily as Islam stands for social justice, equality and human dignity.

Gandhiji: Now it brings me to the question of non-violence which I have practiced in my life, even for liberation of my own country from the British rulers. Does Islam accept non-violence as a basic doctrine? Or it accepts it only tactically in certain circumstances as many Islamic theologians maintain?

Prophet: Truth, as you know is very basic to the Qur’an as I told you and it is also one of Allah’s names. Another important names of Allah and Qur’an’s fundamental values are compassion and mercy. Now put all of them (truth, compassion and mercy) together and tell me how violence can ever be part of Qur’anic teachings? It is not merely tactical but non-violence is most fundamental to Islam.

You evolved the concept of satyagraha (insistence on truth) for practicing non-violence for liberation of Hind. Truth and non-violence go together and can never be a sundered apart. One who insists on truth, as you tried to do, can never resort to violence. Truth reflects our deeper conviction and is mirror of our pure conscience and you would agree with me conviction and coercion are poles apart.

Also, truth needs certain virtues most of all patience (sabr) and control over ones anger, desire and greed without which one cannot practice it. Qur’an also lays great emphasis on these virtues, as you also do. In one of the chapters of Qur’an it has been said, “By the time! Surely man is in loss, except those who believe and do good, and exhort one another to Truth, and exhort one another to patience.”

Thus it will be seen that truth requires tremendous patience and patience, in turn, curbs anger and desire. Those who have patience cannot be provoked. To practice truth you need these qualities. And hence where there is truth, there will be no violence. Violence is result of impatience, anger, greed and desire.

Gandhiji: You are very right O Prophet of Islam. I also always emphasized truth, non-violence and simple living. Without non-violence truth is not possible and without simple living too, non-violence is not possible. It is greed and desire which leads to more and more violence. In the twentieth and twenty first century more and more consumerism has meant more and more raw materials and western powers in collaboration with the native ruling elite plunder third world countries and for that they have to suppress people and displace them from their ancestral properties resulting in great deal of violence. The naxalite violence in my country is because tribal are being displaced without any dignified rehabilitation in the hunt for minerals.

Prophet: Yes, you are absolutely right. In Mecca when I exhorted the rich and powerful not to neglect the poor and needy and leave life of luxury they turned against me and persecuted me. My emphasis was on simple life and I set a rigorous example of simplicity. I am also known to Islamic historians as kambliwala i.e. one who used rough blanket and often wore patched clothes and used pillows stuffed with just palm leaves.

We have all this in common. But the powerful merchants of Mecca had greed for profit and were used to high life style and accepting my teachings would have meant giving up all this. When finally I left Mecca and migrated to Madina they pursued me and attacked me and first battle of Badr took place. It was the first battle ought by Muslims. It is Meccan merchants who were aggressors. I had to defend.

Absolute non-violence is not possible in the world where injustices abide, inequality and human lust is widespread and powerful are ever ready to exploit and deprive people of their rights and dignity. Violence is not our choice, it is often inflicted on us without we ever desiring it. I, along with my followers left Mecca quietly and yet the Meccan merchants inflicted war on us.

It was in this condition that the Qur’an permitted us to defend ourselves. The permission was granted conditionally that we do not commit aggression. Thus the Qur’an said that fight in the way of Allah against those who fight you and do not be aggressors as Allah does not love aggressors. If we had not defended ourselves we would have been wiped out. Non-violence should essentially mean absence of violence of aggression. And for Qur’an it is matter of basic principle that Muslims should not be first resort to violence..

Gandhiji: I am in perfect agreement with you honourable Prophet. I would also like to know more about the concept of jihad. It is highly misunderstood both among Muslims and non-Muslims. I hope it does not mean war and violence but I want to hear from you.

Prophet: You are right jihad does not even remotely mean war or violence. It means struggle for truth and truth prevails, as we discussed earlier, if we suppress our unjust desires, anger and passion for possession. Thus real jihad means to struggle against ones own selfish desires and this is most difficult struggle. I call it jihad-e-akbar i.e. the greatest jihad. Then I also have said that most meritorious jihad is speaking truth in the face of a tyrant risking ones own life.

People cannot wage such jihad, such struggle as it entails great sacrifices, they wage wars for selfish desires, kill innocent people and exploit the poor and call it jihad to legitimize it. Wars of aggression and territorial possessions can never be called jihad. Some of my followers in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq and some other places are killing even fellow Muslims through terrorist attacks and call it jihad. Terrorism is terrorism and most condemnable act of cruelty. How can it be called jihad which is very noble act of upholding truth even at the cost of ones life. It entails self sacrifice and not killing innocent people.

Islam opposes violence of aggression in every form and respects life of even enemy and that is why the Qur’an says with great emphasis that if you kill one person without justification it amounts to killing the whole humanity and if you save one life as if you have saved entire humanity. If this principle is universally accepted there will be peace on our earth.

Gandhiji: Indeed the concept of jihad is very noble as explained by you O Prophet. I wish all Muslims and non-Muslims follow this noble principle and instead of attacking others and launching wars of aggression fight against their own selfish desires and greed for consumption and more and more possession. I have always believed that real peace is inner peace, borne by giving rather than taking from others

Prophet: Yes indeed Qur’an also says that give away what is more than what is left after your basic needs are met. Do not accumulate. It is desire to accumulate that leads to war and violence. Accumulation robs you of inner peace. Inner peace and satisfaction is real paradise as Qur’an says enter (paradise) with complete sense of peace and security. It is our desire for wealth which turns into hell.

Gandhiji: I also advised my followers to serve people and not run after power and self. I even advised Congressmen to turn themselves into an organization of serving people after independence rather than fight for crumbs of power. Serving people by sacrificing our own selfish desires is the highest goal of life. It gives you inner joy and makes your life meaningful.

Prophet: But the modern economy isn’t need based but greed based and hence so much violence in modern world despite so much talk of human rights and dignity, peace and security. It will never be realized until we wage real jihad for these noble ideals of human equality, dignity and justice.

Gandhiji: O Prophet of Islam, it was indeed very ennobling to have the honour of having talked to you. In the end I would thank you profusely for enlightening me on all these issues which have been causing so much confusion in minds of several Muslims and non-Muslims. May Allah’s peace be upon you. Your contribution to culture of justice, peace and human dignity has indeed been immense.

Fuel & Engine

By Dr Wasim Ahmad,

Spirituality is a force. It is energy. It takes one through the thick and thin. It gives one a   much desired direction and purpose behind ALL his efforts. Bereft of it, one is directionless. Islam and Qur’an provide this energy and this force. They propel our cart in the rightdirection. They are like the much desired fuel for the much needed engine of life. But some of us have only fuel with them. Others have only the engine and not the fuel. The fuel alone isn’t moving. The engine is devoid of energy and it is not taking us on the highway of success, honor and positive contribution.

A question, however, may be asked: how and why are the others excelling? Others are excelling because they do not have self-doubt, which we do. They have relegated religion to a very marginal role in their life. Also, bereft of the ideals they veto the resolutions which they shouldn’t have. They act before truly verifying the existence of WMDs. Knowledge for them does not remain only for power. It becomes a source of blind power. This is exactly what we are experiencing today. About which we only complain. We do not analyze it to the core and do not suggest an alternative or the ways of betterment.

Being unaware of this, while we do lament on the fact that the world has lost a lot because of the downfall of Muslims we still make sure that the fuel doesn’t get nearer the engine. The logical outcome is that the Muslims will continue in the same state and the world will continue to suffer. But we don’t see any link between what we lament about and what we actually do. This is one of those situations which make me think that we don’t know what we are saying and we ourselves are not aware of what we are writing about.

We have made sure that the two, FUEL & ENGINE, do not mix. The fact that both won’t work without each other is not of much concern to us. The fact that we don’t get started and don’t move in any direction is not a question worth pondering upon. Instead, I come across the expressions like “excellent job”. And I wonder what we mean by that!? Putting the fuel in the engine and enabling both to run on the highway that leads to the progress of humanity is what the Indian Muslims can offer to the world. We, the Indian Muslims, stand a huge chance of contributing positively to the world and lead towards building a better civilization.

The balanced, healthy and all-encompassing approach which the Aligarh Movement symbolizes and which is very well expressed in its vision (“The students coming out of our Universities should have Qur’an in the right hand, most modern scientific and technological advancements in the left hand and the crown of Laa Ilaah on the forehead. So that the Muslims regain the same glorious status of founders and promoters of science and technology as they did during the ascendance of their civilization.”) is the need of the hour. Before, however, we take it any further we need to see if we are living according to the spirit of this Movement and analyze the situation a bit more. The situation at the moment is that either the Right Hand is empty or the Left Hand. Both of them are not full – at the same time.


The Aligarh Movement is the antithesis of duality and the dichotomy of knowledge. It is about rejecting the serious and thick line that we have drawn between deen and dunyaa and deenee ‘ilm and dunyaawee ‘ilm. Aligarh Movement started to do away with this division. The movement did not ask to put two contradictory things together. It asked for putting two integrated things in two hands. Both are intimately related with each other. The Qur’anic spirit is behind all the scientific discoveries and technological advancements. But this is not the complete reality. It (the Book) gives a proper direction to all human activities and guides towards higher and long term spiritual goals as well. It combines ad-dunyaa with al-aakhirah.

The Aligarh Movement has a potentiality of doing away with the duality of knowledge and bringing about a confluence leading to excellence – paving the way for regaining the glorious position. However, even if the Aligarh Movement doesn’t do so the IndianMuslims in general can contribute their part. There is no insistence on the Movement. It is about the spirit. It is about the Book. More than anything else. Everything else is just a means to an end and not an end itself.

The descriptions like ‘deeni darsgaah’, ‘‘asri darsgaah’, ‘religious institutions’ and ‘secular institutions’ are all based on a misconception which is our bane. Similarly, I always wonder what we mean when we say, “Please avoid religious (as different from ‘worldly’) discussions”. We have deeply separated the spiritual from the material and have divided deen from dunyaa – forgetting that it is the outlook (niyyah) that actually determines the value of an action. These descriptions have entered quite deep in our psyche. Generations have grown up repeating these misnomers. No wonder that we have developed resistance for any criticism of these and are considering them as ‘articles of faith’ (arkaan al-eemaan). To me they amount to the jails of our own making. We need to come out of these psychological barriers.

Our ‘Ulama, unfortunately, have reinforced this DIVIDE and are perpetually reinforcing. If not much by words then certainly a lot by their actions – and by zabaan-e-haal. Being well versed in the Book they should have spearheaded the abolition of this DIVIDE. They are doing just the opposite is all the more surprising. We as a people should come out of such self-contradictory situations. And move inone direction with renewed energy and enthusiasm.

It is all about a BATTLE of minds and thoughts now. It is not about laying the foundation stone of a new College (which we must) as much as it was earlier. It is about correcting many prevalent and deep rooted (mis)conceptions. To be precise, it is now about listening to every speech and reading every write-up critically and analyzing it thoroughly. This is a must for a rebirth. We cannot avoid the pangs. But then we need very many people who should do this job.

The above task is a must to utilize the fuel for the engine – not only for the purposes of education but for engagement with life in its entirety without compartmentalizing it. Being divorced from the life as a whole and from the tools of modern education and its various disciplines it turned out to be a fuel which is left without the engine. It catches fire sometimes outside the engine. We do not analyze its reasons to the core. Islam is the fuel for life. We marginalized it fromlife. And, in turn, the life marginalized us.

Who takes up this job is a million dollar question. We all have to take it up. We all have to go back to ourselves. We all need to be watchful of our own expressions. Our own words. Our own speeches and utterances. We have to scrutinize our own thought patterns. Besides this, whenever we come across any such words and expressions that divide the knowledge and deen and dunyaa – we need to point it out. We need to correct it.

In this regard we need to do what the candle does. It brings light wherever it is. We almost always presume that the light needs to be brought somewhere else. The candle should lighten an unknown place – farther away. Our undeclared motto is “you bring light in mymohalla and I bring it in yours”. We need to put the fuel and the engine togetherwherever we are. We need to bring Islam back to the mainstream – in order to remove our own marginalization.

(The author is Head of the Dept of Islamic Studies, Preston University, Ajman, UAE. Email:malikwasimahmad@gmail.com)

AMU vs Nalanda University: Nitish Shows Different Approach

By Mohammad Mudassir Alam,

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar attended the meeting of Nalanda Mentor Group (NMG) held at Hyderabad House in New Delhi as a special invitee on Monday (August 2, 2010). Nalanda Mentor Group is working for the proposed University of Nalanda. External affairs minister S M Krishna was also present in the meeting called by the members of the Nalanda Mentor Group. Nitish Kumar is showing keen interest for setting up the Nalanda University and has given 448 acres of land free of cost, and urged Krishna that the Nalanda University Bill 2010 should be approved for consideration in the Parliament and not sent to the standing committee. In reply S M Krishna said that he will try his best to pass the Nalanda University Bill 2010 in this month.

During the meeting, Nitish Kumar informed the NMG that the state of Bihar has repealed its legislation in the last assembly session to give freedom to the Centre to move the Bill. The historic Nalanda University that is mostly in ruins now has been an ancient seat of Buddhist learning for people residing in various parts of the world. After many centuries, the Nitish led Bihar Governmentin suggestions of various groups including Nalanda Mentor Group (NMG) had shown interest in setting up the Nalanda University inthe vicinity of the ancient University. Perceived as a symbol of global cooperation in education field, the new University in Nalanda district would be established at an estimated cost of Rs. 1005 crores. It would have centres on Buddhist studies, philosophy andcomparative literature, historical studies and ecology and environmental studies.

Land meant for proposed AMU special center in Kishanganj

Bihar is lagging behind in comparison to other states of the country in various fields including education. After Nitish Kumar took over the Chief Minister’s chair he took various landmark decisions to bring back the state on the path of development. Particularly in the field of education Nitish has launched a number of projects including famous ‘Mukhyamantri Cycle Yojana’ especially for girls. Say it fortune of Bihar or Nitish led NDA government that in past two years the central government has come out with two magnum opus educational projects, namely the setting up of study centre of Aligarh Muslim University and Nalanda University.

Nitish Kumar who demanded for the ‘Special Status’ for the state of Bihar got two valuable gifts, now it was the time for Bihar government to take prompt action on both the projects. But sadly the approach of the Bihar government to make the proposals a reality differed for the two universities. The proposal of Aligarh Muslim University was made a communal issue by the saffron brigade, and Bharatiya Janata Party’s student’s wing ABVP (Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarathi Parishad) did all the misdeeds to block the way for the world class institute in India’s most backward district Kishanganj. Even RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) opposedthe proposed centre in Bihar. ABVP stages protests, bandhs, and other types of ways to disturb the noble cause of proposed study centre in Kishanganj.

What was the logic behind such opposition, nothing only the Muslim tag in the middle of Aligarh Muslim University. Fact is that, the present Aligarh Muslim University in Aligarh is offering education to all religious sects of the country including Muslims and Non Muslims. Quite surprisingly, the premier professional courses like M.B.B.S and B.Tech has almost 50-50 percentage of Muslims and Non Muslims. Then what the term Muslim signifies in the name of Aligarh Muslim University just the name of the university, not the percentage of enrolled students. Those who have objections over Aligarh Muslim University status quo can visit Aligarh and understand the real meaning and mission of the university.

Based on the recommendations of Sachar Committee and Fatami Committee the Central government guided the Aligarh Muslim University Vice-Chancellor to open study centres in the Muslim dominated areas of the country. The motive of Centre was to provide world-class education to Muslims whose status in a large scale is more or less like people falling on BPL (Below Poverty Line). Five states, namely Bihar, West Bengal, Kerala, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh were chosen by the AMU administration and court members as the proposed sites for the off-campus centres.

While Kerala and West Bengal governments provided the 400 and 355 acres of land without any fuss, the Bihar government made it a controversial topic with its decisions. Nitish Kumar announced that his government will provide the required land in Kishanganj instead of Katihar as earlier decided by the AMU administration in February 2009. Further in September 2009, Nitish announced that he will provide 100 acres land free of cost to AMU. On disapproval of AMU administration finally Nitish Kumar agreed upon giving 250 acres land but he put the 30-years-lease bound before AMU administration in February 2010.

In May 2010, AMU Vice Chancellor Prof. P.K. Abdul Azis visited the proposed land with his team and disapproved the Bihar government’s proposal because of 3 pieces of land. Next, the illegal encroachment of tribals on the proposed site was another big problem before the AMU off-campus centre. After coming back from Kishanganj, AMU VC written a letter to Bihar CM Nitish Kumar requesting the latter to provide the required 250 acres land in one contiguous piece. However, the AMU administration has not got any reply or new proposal from the Bihar Government. When asked about the delay in project, AMU VC said that the university is always ready to set up the study centre in Kishanganj. The work can be started only when the Bihar Chief Minister, Nitish Kumar provides the required land, said Prof. Azis. We can’t run the huge university campus smoothly in three pieces as the land in between has some population, mentioned the AMU Vice Chancellor.

Let us see the distinct approach of Nitish Kumar in two proposals, and his modus operandi. Bihar Chief Minister never misses the chance to hit the headlines by talking about the proposed AMU centre in Kishanganj. Even during his last rally in Kishanganj on July 4, 2010, Nitish Kumar made public statements regarding the AMU campus. He said that the Bihar Government has given the land to AMU and now it’s the duty of the centre to start the work. But in truth, the land offered to AMU administration has legal constraints and one section of the land is illegally encroached upon by the tribals who are always ready to attack with bow and sharp weapons. Logically, how can AMU administration accept the proposed land where there is safety issue that will persist for ever and it would not be easy to run the centre?

According to reliable sources the new District Magistrate of Kishanganj, who replaced Feraque Ahmed last month, has not opened the AMU file even after one month of joining. If the Bihar Government is much concerned about the university, then why it is not trying to sort out the issue on immediate basis? Neither the Chief Minister nor the education minister of Bihar Hari Narayan Singh (who declared on May 30, 2010 that his government would provide land immediately) came forward to find out a solution of theAMU study centre land issue. In fact, the proposal of AMU centre is on hold due to negligence of Bihar Government and it needs to sort out before the implementation of Model Code of Conduct in the state on August 22, 2010.

On the other hand, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has always shown interest on setting up the Nalanda University in the state. The 448 land almost double in comparison to the required land for AMU was given free of cost for the University of Nalanda. Now the million dollar question before all of us is, why there is difference of approach in two projects? Both the proposals would bring educational revolution in the backward state of Bihar and surely change the poor economic condition of the people at a massive level. Based on the responses of Bihar Government especially Nitish Kumar, it can be said that the proposed AMU off-campus centre in Kishanganj is suffering due to political gimmicks.

Bottom line is that, the education, development and interest of common people should be kept at a bay from the political interests and benefits. Both Aligarh Muslim University study campus and Nalanada University is fruitful for the state of Bihar in the long run. Thousands of Biharis who migrate to other parts of the country and abroad for education and livelihood, need not to go outside if these universities come into existence. Before signing off I would request Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar to give proper attention to the proposed Aligarh Muslim University centre in Kishanganj like the Nalanda University, for which he travelled 1000 km and attended the meeting in New Delhi. Similarly, Nitish Kumar can break his journey to visit Aligarh Muslim University in Aligarh and meet the university authority for finding out a solution of the matter. Otherwise, the valuable gift in the form of Aligarh Muslim University campus in Kishanganj might be grabbed by some other states, where the problems are less in comparison to Bihar and many states have started to reach the AMU administration for such centre.

(The author is a Delhi based freelance journalist, he can be contacted at mdmudassiralam@gmail.com)

Our English Is Urdu

By Dr Wasim Ahmad,

Sometimes it occurs to me that we use English as Urdu. There isn’t much difference between the writings in both the languages. I thought that English was introduced in our education system – along with the ‘modern’ subjects – to give us some more ideas. I thought that I will encounter more analysis and more objectivity (which of course I do many a times). But I come across it less frequently. I mostly read Urdu even though it is English.

When I find more words and fewer meanings I consider it Urdu. When I find less reason and more emotion I consider it Urdu. When I find that we are not trying to get world class ideas because we are using a world-class language I consider it Urdu. There is nothing wrong with a language. There may be something (seriously) wrong with a people and the institutions as well as the traditions that they have developed.

When I find that there is less focus on the issues and more on persons it is categorically Urdu. When I find that some of the issues we have blown out of proportion I feel that it is clearly Urdu. When I find that the blame entirely lies with the communal forces and the West I feel that I have started reading Urdu now. When I find that we are not quite willing to deliberate on the ways of promoting critical and scientific thinking among our youngsters it appears as if we are not communicating in English – even though apparently we are.

When we start a topic and do not take it to its logical conclusion localizing the responsibility and stopping the buck it seems that we have switched over to Urdu. When I see that it is exactly the same email about the tearing of passport pages on Indian airportswhich is being forwarded for a couple of years without first verifying the content and the claim, it seems that now I am reading Urdu. When we unconsciously contradict ourselves every now and then and we do not know what we stand for then it occurs to me that I am reading more of Urdu.

When I find that we are glued to the past personalities and are basking in their reflected glory and are not mindful of the fact that we, too, will not live forever on this earth I find that the glorification is in Urdu. When I find that we are not willing to change our thought patterns and are most comfortable with the existing ways of looking at things I find that the expression of this desire and trait is in Urdu.

When I am satisfied with my existing situation and am contented with what I am doing or have achieved and I am expressing it, too, then I feel that the language of expression has changed from English to Urdu. When I read words like “great service” and “Islam ki khidmat” then both of these expressions seem to be Urdu to me.

When we talk about reservations for Muslims so frequently and do not do so with any reservations – completely forgetting that the Muslims should be the givers I feel that we have switched over to Urdu. When we talk of the minority character forgetting the real minority character I feel that we are communicating in Urdu.

When we leave the core issues and discuss the non-issues it is most likely to be Urdu than English. When a piece of writing starves the opportunities and feeds only the problems it sounds to be more in Urdu.

When we brand the people and label them with the names we desire then we have switched over to Urdu. When we summarily reject some people and do not deal with each point of discussion dispassionately we are not communicating in English. It is purely Urdu. The history bears it.

When we do not see the link between one piece of writing and another – no matter how distant the subjects may seem – then it has the dual distinction of being English and Urdu both. But then it ceases to be tahreer. Because it does not ‘liberate’ – the literalmeaning of tahreer. A piece of writing could be called a TAHREER only if it liberates – de-conditions. It should alter the schema. Only then it is TAHREER.

When we underestimate ourselves, talk more of hurdles and pass a lot of buck I feel that all these expressions are in Urdu. But by the same token there may be some whose Urdu is English if it has more meanings and reason. I may not know them but I salute them.

(The author is Head of the Dept of Islamic Studies, Preston University, Ajman, UAE.  Email: malikwasimahmad@gmail.com)

Commonwealth Games: Are We Playing A Cruel Joke?

By Soroor Ahmed,

We know that Delhi has been virtually made beggar-free on the eve of the Commonwealth Games as their presence would show thecountry in a poor light. But we do not know how much India has begged to host the 2010 sporting extravaganza in its capital? We know that an advanced country like Canada had to wait for 30 long years to pay back the loans it took for organizing 1976 Montreal Olympics. But we do not know how long will India take to return the money it borrows for such events. And finally the entire world knows that today poor Greece is a bankrupt nation and the economists are almost unanimous in blaming the 2004 Athens Olympics for this disaster.

However, thanks to the former Union minister of Sports, Mani Shankar Aiyar, a large section of countrymen and women now know that India will be spending something around Rs 35,000 crore on this 12-day long sporting event between October 3 and 14.

While Aiyar, a columnist and a Rajya Sabha MP of the ruling Congress party, told newspersons outside Parliament on July 27 that he would be unhappy if the Commonwealth Games succeeds others in India may not share his view in toto. But then very few right-thinking people would agree with the rebuttal of the Chairman of Commonwealth Games Organising Committee, Suresh Kalmadi, who dubbed his remarks as ‘irresponsible’ and ‘anti-national’.

While the expression anti-national definitely needs a better definition Aiyar, as a responsible citizen, has every right to ask “if the Commonwealth Games are successful, they will further organise Asian Games and other events.”

In a democracy he has the right to say “Just imagine if we would have spent the Rs 35,000 crore in providing training to the children, we would have won medals in every international sporting event.”

There may be no dearth of people who would not appreciate the tone and tenor of his statement but he has emerged as the man who had at least triggered a debate on the wasteful expenditure in the country where 77 per cent survives on less than half a dollar a day––or mere Rs 20.

True there are ways to promote games and sports, but may one ask whether the tally of medals have increased in Olympics or other international competition in the last four decades when we have hosted so many international events––the Asian Games, the Commonwealth Games etc. Instead except cricket––and possibly lawn tennis and badminton due to individual brilliance––we have gone from bad to worse. We have lost the game of hockey and our athlete are no match to that of many tiny Third World countries––not to speak of China, Japan or Koreas, and of course West.

We have hundreds of literally starving former sportsmen and women running tea-stalls, pulling rickshaws or driving autos or working as fourth grade employees in any unorganize sector. Yet in this poor country the game of rich––cricket, lawn tennis, badminton––get promotion and sponsor. Nobody bothers to bring back the footballing glory at least at the Asian Games level––though it is the game of poor.

This electricity-starved country is busy building stadium after stadium with flood-light arrangements, most of them to play day-night matches and IPL tournament. Can n’t these games be played in the day time as in the past? We do not have electricity for our irrigation and for the study of children. Most of our towns are just areas of darkness. During 2007 Champions Cup Cricket Tournament when Jaipur was hosting day-night match after match villagers in Sriganganagar in the same state, Rajasthan, were protesting for lack of irrigation facilities. In fact one of them even got killed in the police firing.

While we are unable to rehabilitate and pay compensation to lakhs of people displaced for constructing dams in the name of producing electricity we are trying our level best to compete with countries which has surplus-power and water.

Our misplaced priority to compete with West and China is driving many in our establishment crazy. We do not want to learn how badly events like Olympics or World Cups have bled the economy of the countries like Canada, Greece and many others white.

For Commonwealth Games, which is nothing but a symbol of British slavery, we will built beautiful stadiums for many of the gameswhich is not played in India. And we all know what will happen to them after the 12-day sporting jamboree––they will simply fall into disuse.

Like Commonwealth Games the Olympics are nothing but the way to assert the westernism over rest of the world. The very notion of reviving the Games in 1896 in Athens is to restore the glory of European West. Since the Christianized Europe has nothing to boast of in 2,000 years of history it fell back on the pre-Christian pagan era to revive its so-called supremacy. Thus if Olympic reminds the world of the western concept of superiority the Commonwealth Games recalls the so-called grandeur and magnificence of the British Raj. And perhaps no country paid the price of these false pretense as dearly as Greece itself. It was neither in the position of holding such show in 1896 nor in 2004, yet was encouraged and even helped by the western masters to do so for obvious reasons.

But then such huge events are reality now and one can not simply wish them away. What we need is to understand the larger design behind them, take part in them, make players more competitive and win more and more medals.

However, we in India, instead of improving our sports get trapped into the agenda of those who are running the show. We go beyond our means to build colossal infrastructure costing thousands of crores just for the players of other countries to play and win medals.