What is common between Kiyoshi Ogawa, Hossein Fahmideh and Andrew Joseph Stack III ? They all died on a suicide mission for a cause they strongly felt about. Thanks to media and some groups, Suicide missions are projected to associate only with Islam. It is forgotten that neither Muslims are the first one to use it or will be the last one. The concept of self-sacrifice has long been a part of war and was used by many in conflicts. Continue reading Suicide Missions: Nothing Islamic About It
The abduction of a district collector and a junior engineer by the Maoists in Orissa has become a major news now. The discussion by the mediators and the details of those going to be swapped for the release of the two etc are filling the pages of the newspapers and taking hours in the TV channels. Like some earlier similar episodes in AP and W.Bengal, this episode is now over with the release of the two, of course with the government accepting some demands. Continue reading Are the Maoists Serving People’s Interest?
In 1920s famous American writer Lothorp Stoddard wrote in his book, The New World of Islam, that the widespread construction of roads, post and telegraph network by the European colonists in the heartland of Africa in 19th century helped Islam spread faster than Christianity. Ironically that was the time when Muslim empires the world over, were on retreat and the western imperialism was at its peak. Continue reading Arab upheaval: Misplaced Western Effort To Take Credit
British Prime Minister David Cameron’s speech against “Islamist extremism” delivered recently at a security conference in Munich sparked an unnecessary controversy in the U.K., particularly among Muslims. Ramadhan Foundation, a Muslim youth group, described it as an attempt to “score cheap political points” in a way that would “rip communities apart.” Continue reading David Cameron Was Right On “Islamist” Extremism
It is not over. We are mistaken. We all are standing at the Tahrir Square helplessly without being able to remove the rule of Hosni Mubaraks. These are those Hosni Mubaraks who have been in power for over generations. These are none other than us. Continue reading We – The Hosni Mubaraks
The three-decade-long active armed conflict between the Government of India/Assam and United Liberation Front of Assam has called it a day when most of the top leaders of the banned organization came for peace talks that kicked its start with the meeting with the Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram on February 10, 2011 at New Delhi. This icebreaking interaction was the result of the acceptance of unconditional talks by the ULFA.
ULFA which was formed on April 7, 1979 by Bhimakanta Buragohain, Rajiv Rajkonwar alias Arabinda Rajkhowa, Golap Baruah alias Anup Chetia, Samiran Gogoi alias Pradip Gogoi, Bhadreshwar Gohain and Paresh Baruah at the historic Rang Ghar in Sibsagar to establish a “sovereign socialist Assam” through an armed struggle. The group instantly became ‘Robin Hood’ though later suffered several setbacks for various reasons and for last two years government of India, with the help of neighboring countries, was able to bring them behind the bars. ULFA leaders like Paresh Baruah who pledged opposition to the peace talks and Anup Chetia who is in a jail in Dhaka are still not a part of the peace process and this may became a major ‘challenge’ to the peace initiative.
The Union Home Minister, Shri P. Chidambaram meeting with the ULFA Leaders, in New Delhi on February 10, 2011
It is pertinent to point here that the term “peace process” can be defined as per the definition constructed by Harold Saunders, that peace processes is a “a political process in which conflicts are resolved by peaceful means. “They are a “mixture of politics, diplomacy, changing relationships, negotiation, mediation, and dialogue in both official and unofficial arenas.”
Peace Process & Victims
Over the period of time it has been observed that peace processes after violent armed conflict often don’t include the issues of justice for the victims. Victims and their families are also kept from participating in the negotiation process. This is a grey area as the peace negotiation is between the parties that took part in the conflict and are both past perpetrators. Justice is sacrificed for the sake of peace.
The right to the truth has emerged as a legal concept at the national, regional and international levels, and relates to the obligation of the state to provide information to victims or to their families or even society as a whole about the circumstances surrounding serious violations of human rights. Right to truth is important to ‘fight against impunity, deterring or preventing future violations, satisfying victims’ needs and upholding their rights, removing dangerous political players from the political scene, re-establishing the rule of law and reaffirming the principle of legality’.
Right to Truth
In many African countries truth commissions emerged as a strategy to preserve truth and to seek victim’s right to truth. A truth commission or truth and reconciliation commission that usually aims at finding and discovering or revealing the past wrong doings by the state and by the non-state actors and confessions before these commissions are not for legal proceedings. South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, established by President Nelson Mandela after apartheid, is popularly considered a model of Truth Commissions. Russell Tribunal, also known as the International War Crimes Tribunal or Russell-Sartre Tribunal, can be cited as another model which was a body organized by British philosopher Bertrand Russell that investigated and evaluated American foreign policy and military intervention in Vietnam.
In North East India, Inquiry commissions were set up on several occasions to find out the truth behind human rights violations by both state and non-state actors. In Assam in particular K.N Saikia Commission on secret killings in Assam, 2007 is well known. The reports of the inquiry commissions are not binding for the government but are to be discussed before the legislature.
In the present context, the ULFA leader’s acceptance for unconditional talks with government for a peaceful solution of the armed conflict is welcome. The leaders of ULFA have also termed and accepted the killings of civilians as “mistakes” and these “mistakes” include the 1997 murder of social activist Sanjay Ghose and the 2004 bomb blast in which several children lost their lives in Dhemaji while celebrating Independence Day. It is already reported in media that preservation of Assamese culture and heavy development packages for Assam are supposed to be figured in the negotiation deal. At this point we should also remember that justice for the victims are an essential part for overall peace process and both the groups in the negotiation table must take into account the sufferings of the innocents during the bloody days of violence. This attention is essential in order to bring peace now and in future. Peace negotiation must be treated as an opportunity for both the combatant parties to rectify the ‘mistakes’ of the past. A truth commission in the above model can be easily considered a ‘package’ in the peace negotiation which would in turn prove vital to discover the truth, at least to heal the wounds of the victims and their families.
In the aftermath of the bomb blasts at Ajmer Sharif Dargah (2006), Malegaon (2006), Mecca Masjid (2007) and Samjhauta Express (2007), our intelligence agencies claimed that these gruesome attacks were the handiwork of Islamist terrorist groups. The disclosures were followed by large-scale arrests of suspects — predictably all of them Muslims. That was not all!
The intelligence agencies fed the media with detailed accounts of how the accused had planned the mass killings in cahoots with their Pakistani and Bangladeshi counterparts. As tangible evidence, Muslim men and even boys with beards and skull caps were paraded as the perpetrators of terror before an unquestioning media, and in turn some mischievous media men coloured the incidents with a communal hue. It was no surprise then that during this period, a vicious SMS proclaiming “all Muslims are not terrorists but all terrorists are Muslims” was widely circulated in a clear attempt to reinforce prejudices and further the divide between Hindus and Muslims in the country.
Biased war on terror and ordinary Muslim
The woes of the ordinary law-abiding Muslim have been compounded by these mindless acts of terror. Living as he is on the margins of society, discriminated against in the job market, in education, when seeking loans and even when looking for accommodation, he is now burdened with the stigma of being in tacit collusion with the terrorists. His commitment to the nation is being questioned because of the widespread belief, fuelled by the intelligence agencies and media that all terrorists were Muslims. Numerous Muslims have complained about being called “aatankvaadis” sometimes by their associates and sometimes even by strangers. An entire community is being punished for the crimes of an aberrant few. Scores of Muslims have been rounded up, detained without any proof of wrongdoing and tortured.
So insecure is the Muslim mindset that following every terror attack, we have the spectacle of Muslim leaders and celebrities of every hue condemning the barbaric attacks. Clearly the Muslim celebrity feels that unless he publicly condemns the terrorist acts, the general impression would be that he actually approves of these acts or was indifferent to them; perhaps at the back of their mind was the infamous statement of the former Prime Minister Vajpayee who almost justified the Gujarat riots 2002 by stating that the Muslim condemnation of Godhra incident was not loud enough: hence the loud protests. They tiresomely proclaim the universal truth that terrorists have no religion. And yet Muslims feel insecure and harried with every terrorist attack as they sense the country’s negative focus on them.
Now truth about Hindutva terror is out
But now the truth is out. Swami Aseemanand’s confession has finally and indubitably confirmed what Hemant Karkare had first exposed—the Hindutva nexus with terror. The brave Karkare’s investigations had sent shock waves through the nation and inevitably invited the wrath of known Muslim baiters such as Bal Thackeray and L.K. Advani. Despite the grave allegations against Sadhavi Pragya of inspiring the terror attacks, the President of a national party visited her in jail and came out strongly in her defense. But somehow the media and public at large did not seem too outraged by the open support given to such criminal, anti-national elements by leading functionaries of a national party. There is a lesson here somewhere. Would the nation at large be as tolerant if a Muslim leader had visited the perpetrator of the 26/11 attacks and spoken in his defense? Such a Muslim leader would most certainly have been pronounced an antinational. Clearly, there are dual standards in assessing actions of the dominant and minority communities respectively.
That the Hindutva terror network has spread far and wide is evident from the fact that apart from the Sadhavi, the Swami, myriad underworld figures, there is an army colonel involved in planning the attacks. For some strange reason there has hardly been any discernable public disquiet at revelations that Hindutva terrorists have executed a series of terrorist acts. However, it would be dangerous to dismiss the evil of Hindutva terror as a mere aberration or ‘the handiwork of a few hotheads’ when they should actually be regarded as monsters for the heinous acts committed. What is disturbing is that many misguided Indians believe that these mass murderers are giving Muslims a dose of their own medicine and therefore deserve commendation. Little do they realize that violence is a zero sum game. There are no winners in this awful expression of hate.
4 steps to undo wrongs against Muslims
There is no doubt that the fight against terrorism in this country is coloured with religious overtones. It is therefore essential that the government acts firmly and without prejudice in stamping out this cancer.
(1) The first job of the government should be to unconditionally release all those Muslims detained in connection with the blasts admittedly authored by Aseemanand and his group. The government and its law enforcement agencies cannot possibly undo the hurt caused to the hundreds of Muslims who have been persecuted for no fault of theirs, but by releasing these innocents unconditionally, the government would be sending a message that a grievous wrong is being corrected.
(2) Our country has been extremely sensitive to victims of any form of devastation whether natural, social or accidental. While no amount of compensation can make up for the torture and harassment undergone by countless Muslims for crimes they knew nothing of, it is imperative that the government adequately compensate the victims and their families. Apart from monetary compensation jobs should be given to each victim or some members of his family.
(3) The law enforcement authorities have been merciless in dealing with Muslim organizations such as SIMI, IM… that are suspected of nurturing terrorists. While the government may have strong reasons for the stringent action taken, it is intriguing that there is no move to ban equally dangerous organizations like the RSS, VHP, Bajran Dal and Abhinav Bharat. Soft peddling on this issue would not only encourage these antinational groups to continue their criminal activities aimed
at the minority community, but also heighten the sense of insecurity among Muslims. It was that great visionary, Nehru, who had sanctioned that by virtue of numbers as well as in other ways, it was the responsibility of the dominant community not to use its position in any way which might prejudice the secular ideal of the nation. If the fundamentalist outfits are not challenged and defeated, this country will continue to live in the shadow of terrorism.
(4) In the last two decades, innocent Muslims have suffered grievously at the hands of religious fundamentalist groups. The Mumbai pogrom of 1993, the Gujarat genocide of 2002 were not random killings but mass murder of a particular community, and both these ghastly happenings were at least as heinous as the dastardly Sikh Killings of 1984. Our Prime Minister rightly felt that the nation owed an apology to the Sikhs for that terrible act and it was indeed honourable of him to tender such an apology. In the last four years, scores of innocent Muslims have been rounded up, confined and tortured for bomb blasts engineered by fundamentalist Hindutva groups. Would it not be in the fitness of things for the Prime Minister to say sorry to the Muslims for the suffering that they have had to undergo for no fault of theirs?
Book: Rounded Up: Artificial Terrorists and Muslim Entrapment after 9/11
Author: Shamshad Ahmad, Ph.D.
Publisher: The Troy Book Makers, Troy, New York 12180 (www.thetroybookmakers.com)
Pages: xxii + 267
When I first landed at JFK (New York) to attend the Electrochemical Society meeting in Washington, D.C. in 1983, the first person I came across after immigration formalities was a Policeman. To my query of making a telephone call to my friend living at that time in New York, he took out a coin of 10c from his pocket and gave me the direction to coin operated telephone booths. I politely declined his offer and thanked him. Later on, I visited USA a few times more and in my last visit in nineties I stayed for six months. What impressed me most were the freedom and almost equal rights of a visitor. I could easily get a driving license, of course, after passing the test, I could read books in the local library and borrow them on my cousin’s card, I could visit and consult literature without hindrance in NIST (earlier National Bureau of Standards), Gaithesberg, etc
After reading ‘Rounded Up’ I am simply shocked. Is it the same USA? It is unbelievable that inhabitants of USA, champion of human rights and land of many civil rights movements, could be made to live in perpetual fear after 9/11. How can enlightened and highly educated people react in such irrational way? An event, which is still shrouded in mystery and which quite a few people consider as an ‘inside job’, triggered unprecedented devastation in the form of loss of human lives and ruined countries around the globe. It also changed the lives of American Muslims who were targeted by FBI and put behind bars through planned sting operations.
A midnight knock at 274 West Lawrence Street, Albany (USA) on August 5, 2004, triggers event which led to search of a mosque after the arrest of two Muslims: one of them Yassin Aref, Imam of Masjid As-Salam, Albany. Professor Shamshad Ahmad, President of Masjid As-Salam, residing at 274 West Lawrence Street, was taken to the mosque by FBI to assist the search. ‘Rounded Up’ is about the sustained and well organized campaign led by Shamshad to defend and try for honourable acquittal of arrested Yassin Aref and Mohammad Mosharref Hossain. How they are charged with carrying out an illegal money-laundering scheme to support terrorism through sting operation devised by FBI employing a Pakistani criminal as a confidential informant and how the prosecution takes refuge under Classified Information Procedure Act blocking information to the defense has been narrated in detail. Sting tapes of 2003 and 2004 have been reproduced as Appendix ‘A’ and ‘B’. Arresting innocent Muslims on the basis of these tapes defies logic and clearly points to the sinister design of FBI to keep itself in business and earn accolades from a paranoid public.
In spite of good defense and formation of Muslim Solidarity Group (MSC) which included intellectuals, humanitarians and activists from the peace movement, labor and religious groups, etc. Yassin Aref and Mohammad Mosharref Hossain were sentenced to 15 years in prison by a jury which was subtly terrified. Doug Bullock, a labor leader, declared “We will not let this government harass our Muslim brothers and neighbours!”
Shamshad Ahmad in his post-sentencing statement tried to make American people think rationally. He said “This trial occurred because of the immense power of the government and its resolve to punish these two men, and through them, to punish the Muslim community locally and nationally. I invite you to think: there are more than six million Muslims in this country, and almost six years have gone by since 9/11, yet not a single Muslim terrorist have even been found here. We are not terrorists. We are part of this society, we share its concerns, and we want to share in its success and prosperity.”
This book has its share of humour and emotions: when FBI agent Jensen along with a security guard took Shamshad away to the mosque he thought “he wouldn’t have to do much to handle me if I misbehaved”, or in mosque press conference “when it came to the question of who would be the official spokesperson for the mosque, contrary to my expectation that everyone’s eyes would turn to me, people suggested that Faisal (Shamshad’s son) should be the one to speak”.
“American non-Muslim women were holding Aref’s three lovely children on their laps as if they were trying to shield them from the powerful and arrogant agents who had decided to prosecute their father. Looking at me while clutching Aref’s youngest son in her lap, one of the women said, “This is persecution, not a prosecution”(p. 155)
‘Rounded Up’ gives an insight into fake encounters (Batla House, Delhi) and witch hunting of Muslims by security agencies in India as well. It seems our intelligence is following studiously FBI.
This book is a must for all those working to uphold justice and human dignity.
There are three myths about the Aligarh movement: it was simply a movement for education, Aligarh Muslim University IS the movement, and that the movement is long dead. Syed Ahmed Khan’s concerns, visions, and efforts for the Indian Muslims came to be later known as the Aligarh Movement but it was not simply a movement to make Muslims learn Western education or even the establishment of a university. Continue reading Closer Look: Aligarh Movement