Maulana Mahmood Madani, India Today Conclave 2009

13 03 2009

Transcript of address by Maulana Mahmood Madani, former Gen Secy, Jamiat-ul-Ulema-e-Hind

The Dalai Lama made some valuable suggestions in the first session. If we follow them, it will mean a solution to 90 per cent of our current problems.

Today’s subject is what is the role of religion? In fact, the greatest problem is terrorism, which is a fact. And terrorism is giving a bad name to it. Today’s topic has changed from religion to Islam. But the crux of the problem is that terrorism is being used for political gains. People are using religion for political gains.

Who has been maligned by this? Religion, or plainly speaking, Islam. On the other side are those who have started the war on terror. It has its speakers, writers and fighters and they too have targeted Islam. One of the speakers said terrorism cannot be fought because there is no weapon to prevent suicide bombers. But I feel responsible people should neither lose hope nor show pessimism.

Some of us are putting up resistance against those who cause terror as well as those who are fighting it. Both—people who are causing terror as well as those who have started the war on terror—are helping breed terrorism. I meet people who disdain my appearance, especially my turban, my beard and my dress. To them, I am the symbol of a terrorist. Branding a particular appearance as terrorist or jihadi is helping terrorists achieve their nefarious designs.

A terrorist should never be called a jihadi. Jihad is mandatory for every Muslim as enshrined in the Quran but we will have to differentiate between jihad and terrorism. Jihad is being given a wrong connotation—shedding blood, indiscriminate killing, suicide bombing—and this has boosted the morale of the terrorists. Opposition to terrorism is the greatest jihad which is incumbent on every Muslim. We are also struggling to save the image of Islam and its misuse by vested interests.

I could not understand fully what Irshad Manji had said therefore I don’t know how to react. I hold madarsas is high esteem. I know of an organisation that runs 3,000 madarsas and another 12,000 are associated with it but these are an asset to India as well as Indian Muslims.

I am asked on television whether I love Islam or my country more. This is a tough question. If I say Islam, they call me unpatriotic. I am always asked to prove my loyalty to either Islam or to India. Now I say, I have two eyes and you should tell me I keep and which I should give away. But I give preference to my religion which has inculcated in me the spirit to lay down my life for the sake of my motherland.

Islam respects women but Muslims do not follow that. At the same time, Islam does not have casteism as well as parochialism but our society still practices it.

I regard India as a magnificent country and the best country for Muslims on this planet. We have a pluralistic society which is why India has spread the message of a civilised society. Our culture inspires us to love, not hate.

Women have different roles to play in a society and it is a known fact that if women are literate that community will remain literate. But women today face two cultures—one that raises the banner of advancement by creating nudity and the other that seeks to imprison them by curbing their rights. I feel women should be given the freedom to do what they want to do.

Transcript of Q&A session with Irshad Manji, Maulana Mahmood Madani and S. Gurumurthy

Akbar (moderator): …that was raised to Maulana Mohammad. Ali and he gave this answer in 1925 after the Khilafat movement. And I must say I was so happy to hear about gender bias, I say this to audiences which are predominantly Muslim when I get an opportunity to address them and I am very pleased that at his last conference about seven thousand Maulvis were there in Hyderabad when he was launching his continued effort to explain and challenge the philosophy of terrorism which he is doing all over the country, he asked me to speak and there I thought it more important.

And I keep telling my fellow Indian Muslims that if you do not eliminate gender bias in your society, you are not going to enter the 19th century – who is inviting you into the twenty-first? You are just not going to get it. And in fact it is a very valid point that he made that it is really the struggle for modernity that we are facing. I know the Pakistani High Commissioner is here, but I will beg his pardon, because I do want to make a point which I hope you will not take amiss – I do believe it very strongly so therefore I am making it, not in the purpose of nationalism but I hope with a little more, let us say, less emotional objectivity.

What is the difference between India and Pakistan? Indians and Pakistanis are the same people, they have same strengths, same weaknesses. I believe, it is my view, that we have moved in different trajectories because the idea of India is stronger than the Indian and the idea of Pakistan is weaker than the Pakistani. That is the basis. And what is it?

Basically, I believe that India was fashioned around a modern idea which is built around, what might be called, three equalities and one equity. Three equalities being equal political right, democracy – one vote, one person, religious rights – secularism, irrespective of your religion you are equal before the law, number three – gender equality, critical, gender equality is critical for the creation of a modern society, and fourth economic equity – you cannot have economic equality that is an absurdity, but economic equity over and over again our various government, successive governments have actually fashioned economic policy with a view that there can growth without social justice, there cannot be.

So, this is what makes us a modern state and I do not really believe that faith is sufficient glue for the creation of a nation. If any faith, if for example Islam was sufficient for creation of nationhood, why would there be twenty-two Arab countries? As simple as that, however, I know nobody is asking for the revocation of the two nations but I think it may still make sense for the revocation of what might be called the two nation theory.

Finally one point that Guru you made about the cutting of trees. No author can ever resist an opportunity to plug his book. Right! If you read the Shade of Swords, Hazrat Abu Bakr who was the first Khalifa to send out army, right, he defined the ten rules of Jihad. Rule number eight or seven is very clear, seven is that you cannot kill innocents and so on that is well known and well advertised. Rule number eight that you cannot destroy palm trees, that you cannot destroy trees; you cannot do what is called destruction of fields which is part of Koran philosophy.

You cannot touch anyone worshiping, even if it is idol worship and so on. So there are great things that we have to find in common, the point is what to find what is in common rather than to find what creates conflict. And I think on that note may I, there is still time, may be take questions. I am sure there are questions. Please identify yourself. I will have one request, which is not a request, please be brief and make it a question rather than a viewpoint. Remember that Uncle Aroon has invited only three speakers.

Irshad Manji: I must tell you that I don’t consider myself a moderate Muslim at all. There is nothing moderate about my position. What I am is a, mind it, reformed Muslim and it is a very important distinction that Americans, especially as they stumble over themselves to determine who is an extremist and who is moderate, I think the more important distinction to be made today is who is a moderate and who is a reformer. Let me just quickly explain what I mean by this distinction.

Moderate Muslims certainly denounce violence that takes place under the banner of Islam. In many cases, public opinion has pushed them to do so. But the problem is they still deny the role that religion plays in inciting the very violence that is committed in religion’s name. You will often hear the next time a bombing or a beheading takes place, an Islamist group claims credit for this, you will often hear moderate Muslims say – no, no, please don’t misunderstand, Islam has nothing to do with this.

Not only is this dishonest, as many of the terrorists themselves prove, when they quote from scriptures, okay, not only is it dishonest, but it is dangerous, because in their denial moderate Muslims in effect hand over the opportunity for reinterpretation to those with already malignant intentions. In effect moderate Muslims say, “you terrorist get to walk away with the show, we are not going to come back at you with bold and competing reinterpretations – we can’t, because if we did, then we will be acknowledging that religion does really play a role”.

And we can’t go there since Islam is perfect. We reform minded Muslims, who are in a much smaller vocal category, we say – hold on, we must go there. Just as liberal Jews and liberal Christians had reinterpreted their violent passages for a brand new context, we have to do the same. And reinterpretation is not the same as re-writing. As a matter of fact, the Kuran itself contains three times as many verses calling on Muslims to think and analyze and reflect instead of versus that tell us only what is right or only what is wrong. In other words, three times as many verses promoting ‘Ichdihat’ than verses promoting blind submission. So by that calculation alone, I believe Sir, reformed minded Muslims are at least as authentic as the moderate mainstream and quite possibly more constructive. Thank you.

Question: My name is Dinesh Trivedi. Evidently there is so much of light out here, the light of knowledge, yet there is so much of darkness outside. My question is, is this terror purely money and business oriented or is conflict of civilization?

Answer (Gurumurthy): See, it is a mix of both. The war on terror is as bad, as Dr. Madani said, Jihad itself. And there is a mix up of so many things – geo-politics, money, economic interests, personal prejudices and so you are absolutely right there is a civilizational dimension as well as political and economic dimension. But, the more important thing which I tried to emphasize, may be in a lighter vein I distinguished, how some religions have been able to avoid this kind of situation in which the monotheistic faith have landed themselves.

See single god religions have to be more careful. A multi-god religion like Hindu religion, you know, we made peace between gods, got them married or whatever and ensured that gods lived in peace. The monotheistic faith have allowed their gods to clash. It is purely failure of interpretation according to me. No god can clash with other gods. He can only try to see my flock is retained with myself.

So I think there is a tremendous failure of religious failure in monotheistic faith and more in Islam and to that extent I agree with my fellow panelist Irshad Manji that there is a failure of leadership and what requires, and I wouldn’t exactly use the word ‘reformed’ because it is not a very good word in these days because economic reforms have thoroughly failed, and so I would like to use the word ‘introspection’ instead of reform. Every religion needs introspection. Every segment of a religion needs introspection and every leader and faithful needs introspection.

Maulana Mahmood Madani: Me is bare mein kehna chahonga ki Guruji ne jo bat kahi hai who, partially me use agree karta hoon, ki yakinan apna muhasba hame khud karna chahiye aur sab mazab walon ko iske bare me dekhna chahiye, karna chahiye aur kiya bi jata raha hai, lekin reinterpretation ka jo issue hai, who bhi bilkul hona chahiye. Usse bhi mein agree karta hoon ki reinterpretation bhi hona chahiye, lekin mein isse agree nahi karta hoon ki reinterpretation kaun karega. Yahan par masla khada ho jayega ki reinterpretation kaun karega. Hamare yahan bahut sare legal problem aati hain to uske bare mein legal opinion li jati hain, Soli Sorabji ko pucha jaata hain – Mehmood Madani ko koyi nahin puchta uske bare mein na. Nahin puchta na? Kay Sanjay Dutt election lad sakte hai ya nahi lad sakte, mujhse nahin pucha jata hai. To baat yeh hai ki jo logon ki jo field hai, us field ke logon ko usmein kaam karna chahiye aur jaroor karna chahiye.

M.J. Akbar: Just one point. The three major monotheistic faiths – Christianity or Judaism, Christianity and Islam have one thing in common, they have the same God.

Question: You know I was wondering listening to all of you, what would be the final aim of, if I may say, the top management of terrorism? The people down, they use perhaps religion to make good people into terrorist, so they feel that alright if you do this you will go to heaven so people at the lower rungs what they do I can understand, but the real managers or the management of terrorism, what do they want and do they think they will succeed? Bombay saw about two hundred people dead, the papers mentioned that they were aiming at five thousand people to be there. Even if that had happened and what then, but if that happened do you think the terrorist would have earned whatever was ruling of a nation or capturing of a nation? What is it that the terrorist wanted?

Answer (Gurumurthy): For the terrorist, terror is an advertisement, it is a public relation campaign, it is a motivational exercise. This is where Bush went wrong. He made terrorist larger than they are, more powerful than they are, more motivated than they are. The hatred against Bush transformed into motivation for terror. We should never handle terror that way. The most important way of handling terror is for people here who accrue higher positions in the society to understand that you cannot tackle terror purely by modernity. Modernity is one of the targets of terror.

So we must understand the actual ground level reality and try to think of it. Actually, I find layers and layers of differences. So my feeling is a very powerful sustained dialogue is needed. And I found, probably Maulana Madani is one of the most important personalities of “Orthodox Islam”. But I don’t find any difficulty in talking to him. Both of us understand religion. Only those who understand religion, religious sentiments, can have the dialogue. We must promote dialogue between religions – honest dialogue, sincere dialogue, not false dialogue that all religions are same. They are not same.

All religions have the same goal – they don’t have the same goal. They don’t have the same methods. But all religions must learn to live together is the principle. That is the only way by which we can get over this menace, I entirely agree with Doctor sahab that we are promoting terrorists when we club them with Islam. But I would certainly say that Islamic scholars like him must come out and clarify that non believers in Islam do not mean Kafirs. Generally non-believer is a Kafir.

You ask a Hindu, he will say a Christian according to him is a believer; a Muslim according to him is a believer, only the person who doesn’t believe in any religion, a Hindu will consider him a non-believer. But a non-believer in Islam is considered to be a ‘non-believer’, then the problem arises. That is what I told him before we came here and that is my appeal to him. If this concept is accepted all the space which the terrorist want to occupy is denied to them.

M.J. Akbar: ‘Lakun De Nakun Velyadin” – very important and basic principle of the Koran, your religion for you and my religion for me. As simple. That is the best definition of secularism. We don’t impose upon each other. May I just in answer to that have one sentence? One of the purposes of top management, that was really a very good question, is to destroy alternative models of society through chaos with your inability to defend yourself. So each time it is a major test.

Question (Mohini): My question is to Madani Sahab. Religion is a personal affair. It is my personal relationship with my god. That is it. Why should any Mullah or any Sankaracharya or the Akal Takht or the Pope in Rome tell me what sort of relationship I should have with my God? Apne kaha ki kisi religious leader to precepts lay down karne hain. I don’t accept that. Can you convince me?

Answer (Madani): Dekhiye baat yeh hain ki, yeh baat bilkul sahi hai ki kisi ko, kisi ke saath zabardasti karne ka koi hak nahin hain. Lekin jab ham ek society mein rahte hain to hamari ek us society ko jo hum munasib samajhte hain – hamse sawal kiya jar aha hein ki ye Jihad ho raha hain, ab Jihad ke bare me bataye ki kya hai yeh. Yeh Jihad hai? Hum kehte hain Jihad nahin hain yeh fasad hain. Kehte hain na! Aur usko log pasand bhi karte hain, kyonki woh zarorat hai, woh zarorat hai is waqt ki hame kehne hai, ladna hain un logon se joh Jihad ke naam par fasad faila rahain hain. Asi hi doosere issues par bhi, jisko sahi lage maan lo, nahi sahi lage mat maano. Zabardasti toh kuch hein nahin isme. To joh bhi mazhab ho, jaise kal Dalai Lama Sahab the, woh compassion ki baat karte theh, love ki baat karte theh, aur bahut sari baatein unhon-ne kari. Kisi ko achcha lagega bilkul manega, kisi ko achcha nahin lagega to woh apne dil mein hate leke baithega – ki hame hate hain aur hate mein hi rahna hai.

To hain bhi hate wale log duniya mein. Yeh apni apni choice kit baat hain. Hum to bata sakte hain ki duniya ko modernization ki tarafh is taraf lejane wale log bahut bada challenge ban ke hain. Hamari civil society break ho rahi hain, tuth rahi hain. Hamara joh Hindi mein kehte hain, English zaban mein to culture kahte hain, Urdu mein hum log tehzeeb kahte hain. Hamari tehzeeb khatre mein hein. Tehzeeb alag cheez hai, mazhab alag cheez hai. Mazhab bilkul alag cheez hai – woh individual matter hain, bilkul sahi. Lekin hamari ek tehzeeb hai, hamari ek society hain, India ki bhi apni ek tehzeeb hai – sanskriti, hamari sanskriti joh hain, hame usko bachana hai. Hum modern ho jayen, bilkul ho jayen – apne kapdon se, apne khane pene se, lekin vichar se hamen modern nahin hona chahiye. Vichar hamara wahi rahna chahiye jo hamari sanskriti ne hame diya hain. Yeh ek khayal hai, aapko nahin achcha lagta nahin maniyein.

Question (Mohini): Aap keh rehe the ki jo interpretation hain religion ka woh kisi Maulvi se, ya Akal Takht se aana chahiye.

Answer: Meine Maulvi se nahin kaha. Dekhiye, har cheez ka ek field hai. Us field ka joh specialist ho usise aap karaiye. Jho aadmi jis field ke baare me jaanta nahin, mein Indian Penal Code ke baare mein nahi jaanta, kuch pada nahin uske baare mein, meri who field nahin hai, to mujhse uske baare mein koyi bhi nahi poochtha. Lekin dharam ke baare mein sab log sab se poochne lagte hain aur sab bolne lagte hain. Yeh problem aa jaati isme thodi se.

Question: I’am Anuradha from the SRM University. When a child is born, you know, the child is neither a Hindu or a Christian the child just takes the religion that the family follows. Later the child also has a choice to convert into the religion the child likes. What is the significance of religion? How important are these interpretations to them? Will our children become the victims of religion because we are not agreeing on a common understanding of what religion means to us.

Answer (Irshd Manji): If I may try to answer that very profound question and it is deep. Something else that is deep today in this modern world is the sense of meaninglessness. You know, we live in an age as everybody knows, of globalization and this relatively free movement of capital, of goods, of people, even of jobs what few exist now, but what it suggests is that people are thrown into chaos of their own. And so many people around the world don’t quite know who they are.

And so in a time of such aggressive fluidity it is easy for religion to become calcified to be source of absolutes and for people to cling and to be able to say through this I know who I am.

The problem with that notion of who I am is that it is actually not about who you are at all, it is about what you are. Identity is only about what you are. It is constructive, often in relation to the other – integrity, which is not identity. Integrity is much more complex. It takes into account your particular values, your personal narrative, your authentic journey in this world.

That I believe is one of the great transitions that we have both the opportunity and the challenge to make through our children, you know, in the years coming is that transition from identity into integrity and what are we teaching our children about integrity. If anything, do we even use that word in our own languages? Do we even understand that concept of homeness.

Because it allows us to be many contradictory things at once, whereas identity allows you to be only one thing at once and that reduces you as a multi-faceted human being to something far less than you actually are. And I wanted to springboard after that idea to quickly address the Gentleman’s question about – what is it that the terrorist want? I know sir, I remember very clearly that you were asking about the top tier management. But my constituency is a relatively a young one. In the people from whom I hear around the world are in their teens, in their twenties and in their thirties and many young fundamentalist actually do e-mail me, usually to berate me, but then I, you know, engage in conversation and I come to learn some of the insights about how they got to be where they are.

I must tell you I am amazed that this not reported in the media. But I hear this over and over again from young radicalized Muslims in the West that they are not just fighting, what so many people say is the racism of their society – that is easy, that is a lazy answer, what they tell me is that they are also actually fighting what they call the tribalism within their own, Pakistani in many cases, I am thinking of the U.K. in particular or Bangladeshi communities in particular, where their elders are saying to them this is who you are – which is really to say what you really are, this who you are, this is where you belong, this is what you believe. No questions allowed. End of story.

And you know what, in this world of free movement of information these kids are not to be infantilized that way. Do we really think that they are that stupid? Do we not realize that they are making decisions every single day as they navigate information and misinformation on the Internet. They feel utterly humiliated by their own and not just by their so-called outside oppressors. And so that makes them extremely vulnerable to anybody who preaches to them. And that is the power of religion.

Akbar: Thank you very much. Must compliment India Today for putting together such an erudite panel. Just by way of observation that is not a question, nothing official about it, for that I get plenty of opportunity otherwise, M.J. you talked about the two nation theory and very rightly said that what the two nations truly exist, that is a matter of fact, matter of history. But as regards the theory itself, let me tell you that this is still the feeling in Pakistan – that this is the glue which keeps the people of Pakistan together. But, I must also quickly add that this is in no way to suggest that on the average the people in Pakistan do not want good, better relations with India.

That is besides the point. But the fact of the matter is that the two nation theory, you know, sixty plus years ago there was an idea, a realization – the two nations have come to stay, but at the same time as I have said there is a genuine desire on both sides, I believe, to improve relations with each other. So that is about the two nation theory. Maulana Sahab aapne farmayah ki yahan aapko badhi pazerahi milti hai, yahan aapko badhi achi tarah se sunah jaata hain. Mein aapko yakin dilate hoon ki aap Pakistan Tashreef layen, apko wahan bhi isi kisem se aapko haatho haath liya jayega, jis tarah yahan liya jaata hain.

Question (Aroon): I am Aroon uncle, Aroon Chacha. It seems to me that most of terrorism which is happening today is happening in the name of Islam for whatever reason. And it seems to me also that they are also winning this war in terms of hearts and minds. What is it specifically that the Panel would suggest for media, politics, society as a whole, that how do you counter it? I know it is a big large issue, people had said in our conclave that you know, it is poverty, it is discrimination and the war on terror creates its own reaction. But, I think that these are all a minority. How do we fight this war on terror as individual, physically. Theological debates can happen, but in the end we have to deal with this on the ground.

Answer (Madani): Media ke point of view se keh rahan hoon, Islamist terrorist ka labze bandh kardena chahiye, isseh uneh support milit hai. Jihadi kehna bandh kar dena chahiye, agar musalman hain to kaha jaye Muslim terrorist. Islamic na kahen. Islamic keh dene se woh baat wahan chali jaati hain ki ye unko support hain. Unko usseh alag karna hai. Choteh se group mein unko sideline karna hai pure muslim ummah se aur Islamic world se.

Gurumurthy: Islamic scholars should be asked to deny that Hindus are Kafir. Second India is not Darul Harab. This should be unanimous opinion. Not one institution saying it and others denouncing it. This is the only way you can win a theological test with terrorism. See you can never contain it by any other means – secular means, modern means, military means, political means are inadequate. You have to get into the core of what is their claim over Islam. Their claim over Islam is that non-Muslims are non-believers, non-believers are not Muslims. You have to say non-believer means you don’t believe in any religion. The Hindu position should be taken by Islamic scholars; that is the only answer and the entire intellectual establishment should demand it.

Madani: Dekhiye, Muslaman is mulk mein minority hain and minorities hi kafi chalta bhi hai uske hawale bahut sari baaten hoti hain, seedhi bhi or ulti bhi. Mein manta hoon ki musalman is mulk ki second-largest majority hain aur musalman is mulk ka asset hain aur ushe asset banna hai, ushe mayus nahin hone dena hain, hopelessness usme paida nahi hone deni hain, usko mainstream me lana hain.

Yeh joh sawal aata hai baar baar, Musalman is mulk ko Darul Harab manta hai – achcha nahin mante ho to sabit karo, sab log mil karke fatwa do. Isi tarah se kaha jaata hai, ke tum log kafir mante ho isliye problem.

Hum kahten hain hum kafir nahin mante hai isliye problem hai, uske bawajood bhi problem hai problem ke bahut sare sources hain. Please gaddhe me mat dalo, deewar se mat lagao, aise kaam mat karo ki jisse logon mein hamesha yeh baat paeda rahe ki hum to mujrim hain. Terrorism pe humne shuruh kiya aur kafhi kuch kiya to kisi sahab ne mujhe kaha ki pahle fatwa lao tab manenge. To hum fatwa le Aaye. Ab kahene lage ki Darul Aman mano aur iska fatwa do. Woh fatwa bhi leaye. To ab sabh log mil kar ke kehane ke baad aur bhi kayi sawal khade ho gaye, log karte rahenge.

Irshad Manji: I haven’t had a chance to answer that question. Very briefly, we talk about you know ensuring that various schools of Islamic thought can agree that Hindus are not Kafirs or infidels of any kind. This again inculcates the Islamic interfaith blessing for marriage the one that is translated into Hindi actually makes the case for why the Hindus are believers in a way that Muslims can accept, so for those of you who are interested there are some copies for you.

Aroon chacha you asked and again I am taking you literally, you asked what is it that individuals can do because we are talking big pictures concepts here, what is it that you can do?

Sri Lanka suicide blast kills 14, wounds minister

13 03 2009

Source: AP

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) – A suicide bomber attacked government ministers leading a procession to mark a Muslim festival in southern Sri Lanka, killing 14 people and severely wounding one of the officials.The government blamed Tamil Tiger separatists for Tuesday’s blast, which wounded 45 other people, saying the rebels had grown desperate in the
face of an army offensive that has driven them close to defeat after more than 25 years of civil war.If the assault was carried out by the Tigers, it shows that the guerrillas can still launch strikes far from their traditional strongholds in the north and east even as they face battlefield defeat.
As the military has pushed the rebels into an ever-shrinking sliver of territory in the north, human rights and aid groups have voiced concern for the fate of the tens of thousands of civilians trapped in the pocket. Heavy artillery attacks Tuesday killed at least 49 ethnic Tamil civilians and wounded hundreds of others, the top government health official in the war zone said.While fighting rages in the north, the suicide attacker struck in the southern town of Akuressa as six ministers led a procession toward a mosque for a ceremony to commemorate the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday.Television footage showed men in white robes and caps slowly parading down the street before the blast sent them running in all directions. Afterward, charred bodies lay scattered among their torn clothes and severed limbs just outside the mosque compound’s gates.?I heard a huge sound, and then I saw people had fallen everywhere.

They were covered with blood and flesh, and the wounded people were screaming,? Ahamed Nafri, 29, said by telephone from the hospital in the nearby town of Matara.Police and bystanders hauled the badly bleeding Minister of Posts and Telecommunications Mahinda Wijesekara into a van. He was later flown to the capital for treatment to a head wound.Dr. Hector Weerasinghe, director of Colombo National Hospital, said the minister underwent three hours of surgery and was still in serious condition late Tuesday.The government said the attack killed 14 people and wounded 45 more.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s office said selecting a mosque on an Islamic festival for the attack showed the rebels ?hatred? of Muslims and strengthened the government’s resolve to defeat them.There was no indication Muslims were specifically targeted on Tuesday. However, the Tamil Tigers used violence to drive many Muslims and ethnic Sinhalese, who are mainly Buddhist, from areas dominated by Tamils, who are mostly Hindu.

In one of the bloodiest incidents, suspected rebels attacked a mosque in an eastern town in 1990 with guns, grenades and machetes, killing 140 worshippers.Muslims, many of them descendants of Arab or Indian traders, make up about 7 percent of Sri Lanka’s population. Many speak Tamil but the community has largely stayed out of the war.With most communication to the north severed, rebel spokesmen could not be reached for comment.

The Tamil Tigers have fought since 1983 for an independent state for the Tamil minority, which suffered decades of marginalization at the hands of governments dominated by the Sinhalese majority. More than 70,000 people have been killed.

Britain and its Muslims How the government lost the plot

2 03 2009

Feb 26th 2009
From The Economist print edition

A desperate search for a new policy towards Islam has yet to produce results


A WAR, a riot, a terrorist attack or a row over blasphemy: not long ago, Britain’s government knew exactly what to do when a crisis loomed in relations with the country’s Muslims. As recently as July 2005, after bombs in London killed 56 people, Tony Blair was confident that he could avoid a total breakdown of trust between Muslim Britons and their compatriots.

Using an old formula, the prime minister called in some Islamic worthies and suggested they form a task force on extremism. Then, hours before the worthies were due to reconvene and mull their response, Mr Blair breezily announced that a task-force of top Muslims had just been created. They moaned, but dutifully went to work.

That system of trade-offs, the equivalent of the “beer and sandwiches” once used to woo trade unionists, had some big drawbacks. It gave hardline Muslims—generally male, old and new to Britain—disproportionate sway. It also led to some dubious bargains; for example, Muslim resentment of British foreign policy was parried by, in part, huge generosity towards the cultural demands of some Muslims—such as the right to establish schools where the curriculum bears scant relation to the lessons other young Britons get.

But in its own odd terms, the old system “worked”. Messages could be relayed between the corridors of power and the angriest and poorest parts of the Muslim street; and Muslim leaders could be induced to expend personal and political capital urging their flock to co-operate with the police and provide useful information.

Now that system, and its unspoken compromises, lies in ruins. It was jettisoned in the autumn of 2006, when the government downgraded existing ties with the Muslim Council of Britain (in which movements close to the Muslim Brotherhood and the Islamists of Pakistan were strongly represented) and tried to find different interlocutors.

But attempts to define a new policy towards Islam in Britain have been floundering since then. The Muslim population is in many ways diverging still more from the mainstream. With its large, young families, it is also growing much faster (see chart): there are 2.4m Muslims today, according to the Labour Force Survey; the census of 2001, a rather different measure, put it at 1.6m. The government is under fire from the political centre-right for being too soft on radical or reactionary Muslim groups who stop just short of endorsing violence. It is also attacked from the left (Muslim or otherwise) for using the fight against terrorism as an excuse for a general assault on Muslims and their cultural rights.

Hazel Blears, the communities secretary, sought to clarify official thinking in a speech on February 25th, after a stream of reports that the government was about to launch an ideological war against illiberal or extremist ways of thinking, even if they were not directly associated with violence. The government, she said, would reserve the right to deal with people whose ideas were unpleasant through a “spectrum of engagement, carefully calibrated to deal with individual circumstances”. With groups that have “an equivocal attitude to core values such as democracy, freedom of speech or respect towards women” there might be “some scope for limited engagement”, the minister carefully added. But on certain forms of “absolutely unacceptable behaviour”—such as homophobia, forced marriage or female genital mutilation—the government would firmly enforce the law with no regard for a cultural “oversensitivity” that had gone too far.

Her speech suggests that a debate within the cabinet on which war to prioritise—the one over ideas and values or the one against terrorism—is unresolved. The government wants to keep its options open.

But the failure of current policies aimed at fostering moderate Islam can hardly be overstated. After spending lavishly on a strategy called Prevent that was supposed to empower moderates—at least £80m ($116m) will have been dished out on such efforts by 2011—the very word “prevent” has become discredited in the strongholds of British Islam, which include east London, Birmingham and a string of northern industrial towns. At the Muslim grass roots, there is a sense that any group or person who enjoys official favour is a stooge.

Many in the government, meanwhile, think their partners are not delivering value for money. The whole relationship has deteriorated since August 2006. After a foiled plot to blow up transatlantic flights, and amid huge ire over the war in Lebanon, a group of prominent Muslims, including two now in government, signed an open letter arguing that British foreign policy in general, and its softness towards Israel in particular, was an important factor behind a surge in extremist sentiment.

Tripping up

Nearly three years on, the government’s biggest problem is that it is struggling with two big questions at once. One is the set of problems described under the catch-all term of “cohesion”—narrowing the social, economic and cultural gap between Muslims (especially in some poor urban areas of northern Britain) and the rest of society. The second is countering the threat from groups preparing to commit violence in Britain or elsewhere in the name of Islam.

The government says the two problems are related: poor, frustrated and mainly self-segregated groups are more likely to produce terrorists. Muslims as a group lag behind other Britons in qualifications, employment, housing and income (see chart). But in fact the overlap between exclusion and extremism is messy. And attempts to fight terrorism through tougher policing, which can alienate whole communities, make boosting cohesion harder.

Among those who claim to speak for disadvantaged Muslims and articulate their grievances, there has been an outpouring of indignation over the government’s stated aim of “preventing violent extremism” by making Muslim communities more “resilient” and better at dealing with hotheads. The idea seems to stigmatise all Muslims, many complain, while the violent extremism of, for example, the white far right is ignored.

Another gripe is that the Prevent programme has poisoned relations between central government and the city councils through which the money is channelled. Some say councils are being strong-armed into carrying out “community” programmes that are really thinly disguised police and intelligence work.

In Birmingham the council’s loudest activist, Salma Yaqoob, complains that Prevent money goes only to those who avoid suggesting that British foreign policy helps to foment extremism, even though the link obviously exists. (Indeed, a government security minister, Lord West, admitted in January that to deny it was “clearly bollocks”.) Resentment of the gag was exacerbated by the recent Israeli assault on Gaza. Many Muslims followed it on Middle East-based media that presented an even gorier picture of Palestinian suffering than other British viewers saw.

The Gaza crisis also triggered a round of name-calling within the world of British Islam that has laid bare a rapid diminution of the middle ground on which emollient types hope to stand. Senior Muslims at the Quilliam Foundation, a “counter-terrorism think-tank” which has received nearly £1m in funding from the home and foreign offices, issued in January a denunciation of Israeli actions that was mocked as faint-hearted by more radical Muslims, while voices on the political right questioned whether the government’s “investment” in this body was paying off.

Torn between remaking the Muslim community—a task that turns out to be much harder than the designers of the Prevent strategy ever imagined—and simply fighting terrorism, the government, understandably, feels it can hardly be expected to abandon the latter. Probing and pre-empting attacks by Muslim extremists is now understood to occupy about 75% of the energy of the British security services, who claim to have had some success in reducing the number of terrorist plots that are stopped only at the last minute. Another less obvious factor in British thinking is strong American concern over the risk that a British-born Muslim could enter the United States and commit a terrorist spectacular there. A healthy slug of America’s anti-terrorism spending goes to forestall just such a possibility.

Meanwhile a string of high-profile court cases involving terrorist conspiracies has served to increase the emotional chasm between Muslim Britons and their compatriots. As an example of two worlds diverging, take reactions to the plight of Binyam Mohamed, an Ethiopian who sought asylum in Britain and was later incarcerated in Guantánamo Bay. He says he was tortured by his American captors, with help from the British secret services.

Mr Mohamed returned to Britain on February 23rd, to mixed reviews. For Muslims (and human-rights campaigners on the secular left) his saga is a tale of American brutality and British collusion. In the rambunctious popular press, however, he is portrayed as a nuisance whose presence in Britain will burden the taxpayer and waste the security services’ valuable time in surveillance.

A way forward

For all the problems besetting British Islam, however, there are plenty of individuals who exemplify at least part of the solution. Among them—at least until the recession makes it harder for strivers to climb out of poverty—are successful young professionals and entrepreneurs, often women, who have managed to fly high in business, medicine, accountancy or the media. “We have prevailed in a two-fronted struggle” against social conservatism and discrimination, says Saeeda Ahmed, the founder of a social-affairs consultancy in the north (to hear an interview with Miss Ahmed, see article).

But successful British Muslims as well as poor ones resent the fact that the rest of society often sees them mainly as potential extremists. Sarah Joseph, a convert to Islam who edits the glossy monthly Emel, says Muslims are fed up with being asked if they are against violence; they want people to know what they are for, such as social justice. The sad fact, in a country that has come to live in fear of terrorism, is that many Britons are indeed more interested in assessing Muslims’ potential for violence than in anything else about them.

Islamic council’s fatwas divide Indonesia Submitted by Marina Dimova on Thu, 02/26/2009

1 03 2009


A series of religious edicts issued by Indonesia’s council of Muslim scholars has triggered controversy, exposing sharp divisions between conservatives and liberals in the world’s most populous Muslim nation.

In January, the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) issued a fatwa, or religious edict, banning Muslims from practising yoga that includes Hindu rituals, such as chanting.

It also ruled smoking in public and abstaining from electoral voting are sinful.

The rulings, which are not legally binding, sparked criticism from some Indonesians who worried about their implications on human rights and democratic freedom with some critics going further by suggesting that the government disband the council.

The council has been criticized for fatwas issued in 2005 declaring that liberalism and secularism are against Islamic tenets and that the Ahmadiyya Muslim sect is heretical because it does not recognize Muhammad as the last of the prophets.

The fatwa on Ahmadiyya has been blamed for a series of attacks on the property and followers of the sect by fundamentalist Muslims.

The council has defended its edicts, saying its job is to provide guidance to Muslims on issues of public concern.

“It’s obvious there are Muslims who don’t understand religious laws, and they need fatwas on issues that are not clearly stated in the Koran,” said Amidhan, a council deputy chairman who, like many Indonesians, goes by one name.

But some liberal observers said they believe the fatwas are a threat to the country’s reputation as a tolerant nation that respects diversity.

Muhammad Syafi’i Anwar, executive director of the International Centre for Islam and Pluralism, said the edicts showed that the council was aligning with groups that seek to impose sharia, or Islamic law, in Indonesia.

“This is part of creeping ‘shariaization,’ but I’m optimistic they won’t go very far,” Anwar said. “I believe the media is critical.”

The council and other groups representing followers of Buddhism, Christianity and Hinduism were set up by the government of former dictator Suharto as part of his efforts to maintain religious harmony and his grip on power.

The council is not a government institution and is funded by public donations, but under Suharto’s rule, which ended in 1998 amid widespread unrest, the council’s fatwas tended to toe the government line.

“The MUI is trying to assert its power because it was only a rubber-stamp institution during the Suharto era,” Anwar said “They have more influence, thanks to the backing of groups that promote conservative agendas.”

The overwhelming majority of Indonesia’s 190 million Muslims are moderate, but a vocal Islamist minority has been clamouring for the imposition of sharia.

Fachry Ali, a political analyst at the University of Indonesia, said he did not believe the council had ambitions beyond what it sees as religious duties.

“Yoga, for example, is problematic in the context of pure Islam, which is against all forms of idolatry,” he said. “MUI is just one of those groups seeking to purify Islam.”

“The MUI believes that the views of the liberals are not based on religious texts,” Fachry added. “It’s hard to reconcile when both sides stick to their points of departure.”

The council said Muslims could still practise yoga, which is increasingly popular among middle-class Indonesians, if they don’t use chants associated with Hinduism and treat it purely as a form of physical exercise.

The council said it fears the ancient Indian exercise could erode the faith of Muslims

Dian Putri, who works for a media company, said she did not intend to follow the council fatwas although she does not practice yoga with chanting.

“They’re too extreme,” she said. “It’s like they’re playing God. Maybe those fatwas are useful for religious Muslims, but for more liberal ones, sometimes their statements are disturbing.”

But Henri Basel, a teacher, said he supported the council.

“People criticize the fatwas without reading them in their entirety,” he said. “Of course, people can choose not to follow the fatwas if they also have sound religious reasonings, but there’s no point in making a fuss about it.”

“Those so-called liberals have access to the media like newspapers, TV and the Internet, but the majority of Indonesians don’t necessarily agree with them,” he said.

Demanding fairplay is fine, but Azamgarh Muslims need to introspect too

11 02 2009

Source: New age Islam
Muslims from Azamgarh were merely exercising their democratic right to peacefully protest a perceived discrimination and voice their demands for justice and fair treatment.

There is a general feeling in the Muslim community, and not only in Azamgarh, that after every terrorist act the police pick up innocent Muslim youth at random and even if they let them go after interrogation, their lives are already destroyed. They lose their jobs, marriages break down, their Muslim relatives and friends too start avoiding them, not to speak of their Hindu friends or employers. This has already happened to several Muslim youths in different parts of the country.

It is easy to blame the police and the government. Not that they do not deserve that blame sometimes. But while we have to try and keep them on their toes, through peaceful protests, through political mobilisation, and so on, that is not going to solve our problems in the long run. Even the denunciations of terrorism, that some of our ulema are organising in city after city, while useful, are not going to solve our problems. We need to introspect deeply, if there is something that could be wrong with us, with our understanding of our scriptures, and if there is something we can ourselves do to ameliorate our conditions instead of merely hoping and waiting for others to pull our chestnuts out of fire.

Sultan Shahin, editor, New Age Islam

Demanding fairplay is fine, but Azamgarh Muslims need to introspect too

By Sultan Shahin

Any demand for justice and fairplay in a democratic system of governance is unexceptionable. And to that extent the Muslims of Azamgarh, who descended on Delhi recently to voice their protest at a perceived wrong being done to them or their youth, cannot be faulted. They feel that innocent Muslim youths from Azamgarh are being picked up by the police in various parts of the country for involvement in terrorist acts – a couple of them were even killed in what has become notorious as Batla House encounter.

Muslims from Azamgarh were merely exercising their democratic right to peacefully protest a perceived discrimination and voice their demands for justice and fair treatment.

There is a general feeling in the Muslim community, and not only in Azamgarh, that after every terrorist act the police pick up innocent Muslim youth at random and even if they let them go after interrogation, their lives are already destroyed. They lose their jobs, marriages break down, their Muslim relatives and friends too start avoiding them, not to speak of their Hindu friends or employers. This has already happened to several Muslim youths in different parts of the country.

So one could make the case that Muslims of Azamgarh were merely exercising their democratic right to peacefully protest and voice their apprehensions and demand redressal of perceived wrongs. But every right has a corresponding duty. In case of Indian citizens, it is their duty not to bring our criminal justice system, which by and large functions well enough, into disrepute. Muslims from Azamgarh were demanding judicial enquiry into the September 19 Batla House encounter. Other people, even leaders of the ruling Congress party and its ally Samajwadi Party, not to speak of opposition Communist parties, have done so in the past.

But now the case is in the courts and as of now there is no reason to believe that the court is not performing its task of ferreting out the truth of that encounter. We may not be able to boast of an exemplary judicial system, but our courts have acquitted themselves well, more so in the recent past, and even in cases of Muslims accused of involvement in terrorism.

As far as the complaints against the police go, the police should indeed show the same discretion in picking up Muslim youths as they have shown in arresting Hindus accused of Malegaon blasts; not a single person was arrested there unless the police had genuine reasons for suspicion against them and all those arrested are now being prosecuted. It does show, however, that the police does not pick up only Muslims in terror-related charges. Another thing that has to be kept in mind is that in any terror-related investigation some innocents are bound to suffer; these investigations take place in the backdrop of innocent people having been killed in terrorist attacks and the police working under great media and political pressure to come up with quick results; they can easily make mistakes in such circumstances. Suspecting Muslims is easiest, I suspect, perhaps not so much because the police or the government are discriminatory, but perhaps also because we Muslims have allowed a situation to develop worldwide in which any terrorist event happens and the needle of suspicion automatically points to them.

One of the worries arising out of the episode of the “Ulema Express “ – the name given to the chartered train that brought people from Azamgarh to Delhi – is the clear case of politicking involved. The worries of the Muslim residents of Azamgarh are genuine. Any authentic, well-meaning leadership would have guided them towards deep introspection as to why educated Muslim youth, particularly from Azamgarh, are getting involved into terrorist acts. Instead they are being led into total denial of the very existence of the militant fundamentalism virus imported from Saudi Arabia-Pakistan-Afghanistan region that is gradually infecting Indian Muslim youth too. There is enough evidence to suggest that this is happening, but our leaders, both political and theological, are leading the community into total denial. This does not bode well for the Indian Muslim community. The genuine worries of the Azamgarh Muslims are being channelised into wrong directions.

It would appear that the whole drama was not so much to help Azamgarh Muslims come to terms with the infection spreading rapidly in their area. What do the Muslims of Azamgarh think – one more Maulana winning a parliamentary seat will solve their problem? They must understand that this will only multiply their problems. It is the uneducated Maulanas who call themselves ulema (scholars) who have in the first place created this problem.

A 74-year-old Urdu teacher in a madrasa in Azamgarh, Shams Parvez, was quoted by a reporter as saying that he felt compelled to join the protest journey because he could not bear to see the reports brought out by police about madrasas giving Terror training to students. “Is it wrong for us to teach our children about our religion? How can they say that we impart terror education in our madrasas? As far as education is concerned, our madrasas impart lessons in Urdu, Hindi, science and even English. Why do they want to defame us and stop the education that has finally seen the light of the day in our town?” says Parvez.

Now, Mr. Pervez is right; I know that the madrasas don’t teach terror. But they apparently teach something that helps breed terror eventually, that leads their students and even those non-madrasa students who come under their spell to develop contempt for other religions, for other people; they teach Islam-supremacism. They hep their students develop a very narrow obscuratnist mentality. Is their any reason for Muslims to consider themselves superior to other religious groups? None whatsoever. Muslim community consists of only as many good and bad people as other religious communities. Islam has been as much a failure as other religions in creating better human beings. Some people are good, selfless, honest – everywhere – in every community, caste, country or region. And some are bad, selfish, dishonest again everywhere. The percentage is more or less the same. What ground is there for anyone to think otherwise? Why should any religious community consider itself superior to others? It is this supremacism – I know some Hindus too teach Hindu-supremacism and Christians and Jews teach Christian-supremacism or Jewish-supremacism- that is the culprit. It is this that impairs a person’s ability to integrate well in a multicultural society and leads to hatred and contempt for others. Terror is only one step away from there.

Do you, Mr. Parvez, teach your students that the verses in the Holy Quran that ask Muslims to kill kafirs, and Jews and Christians wherever they find them, are no longer applicable, as they had come in a particular context which has now become obsolete? Do you tell them that not all Quranic verses are of universal significance, that some of them just came to guide the prophet and his followers of the day out of a sticky situation and are no longer relevant? Or do you teach them that all verses in the Holy Quran are a patthar ki lakeer that cannot be obliterated and has to be followed to the letter by Muslims in all times and climes? Do you teach them Ijtihad, Mr. Parvez, asking them to think for themselves to solve the novel problems of the present age and not to always look for answers in the Holy Quran? Being an Urdu teacher, however, it is perhaps not your job too. But did your own teachers tell you this when you were yourself presumably studying in a madrasa, Mr. Parvez?

Mr. Parvez made another significant statement too, as quoted in the press. The report in the Indian Express says: He is also upset that a student in Jyoti Niketan College, who he says is a topper, is allegedly wanted by the police in connection with a terror case. “The principal there is my friend. He told me that the cops were looking for the boy. It is so sad because the boy is brilliant in academics. Do you understand when I tell you how they are targeting educated youth and spoiling their future?” asks Parvez

So t is not just madrasa products, but boys “brilliant in academics” that are being targeted by the police. In any particular case the police can be wrong, even biased and discriminatory. After all, they are only human and prone to err. But what we Muslims need to understand is that the police has a particular reason too to not only go after the madrasa-educated in terrorism-related investigations but also those who are brilliant in academics and have got their education in normal schools. Again there is a world-wide trend of Muslims in university campuses even of the West going radical. I was in the UK, most of the 1980s and I saw day after day how under the influence of Islamic radicalism brilliant students who had a career to look forward to converted to the pernicious religion of Jihadism. What is so surprising if that is happening today in India too?

It is easy to blame the police and the government. Not that they do not deserve that blame sometimes. But while we have to try and keep them on their toes, through peaceful protests, through political mobilisation, and so on, that is not going to solve our problems in the long run. Even the denunciations of terrorism, that some of our ulema are organising in city after city, while useful, are not going to solve our problems. We need to introspect deeply, if there is something that could be wrong with us, with our understanding of our scriptures, and if there is something we can ourselves do to ameliorate our conditions instead of merely hoping and waiting for others to pull our chestnuts out of fire.

Militants marry Kashmiri girls on gunpoint

9 02 2009

Srinagar, Feb 07:

Source: Zeenews

Militants in Jammu and Kashmir have been forcing young girls to get married to them at gun-point only to abandon them later. Such an instance came to light when sixteen-year-old Fatima Bi of Kishtwar district gathered courage to narrate her misfortune.

Fatima said she was abducted by Sher Khan, the then divisional commander of Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HuJI), a Pakistan militant group four years ago. Sher Khan and his associates tortured Fatima for eight days until she gave in to their demands and agreed to marry Hashim, a HuJI worker. She managed to run away and got a police complaint registered against Sher Khan, who was later arrested.

“There was this one Bilal, then another one named Ansari, there was a third man also, I don”t remember his name. They used to keep me in a room and beat me with iron rods. They used to tell me that if I don”t get married according to their will and wish, I would have to face dire consequences. I used to tell them I want to get married to a man I chose for myself. Sher Khan used to head these people,” said Fatima.

Fatima said that such horrendous abduction was still taking place, and authorities should put a check on them. “The girl has given a very different story and she has given a nerve shaking story in terms that she was forcibly married to a person against her will when she was a minor girl. It was done by a Sher khan and his associates who were running a HuJI organisation in this area,” said Haseeb Mughal, superintendent of police, Kishtawar district. Shehnaz of Doda district too was abducted just like Fatima.

“These militants they are dreadful people. They come to our village, sit and eat here, utter bad words for women, abuse them. But now the police is with us, I am sure we can also hit back at them,” said Shehnaz. Shehnaz felt that the future forced brides like her was dark. Many have to up bring their children alone, when their militant husbands get arrested. Society, too, sees them as an outcast. Police officials say that the militants get married in order to mingle with the locals and avoid any suspicious eyes on them. Though the authorities have been trying to tackle the issue but they express their helplessness, as such incidents come to light only when the forcibly married girls gather the strength to register a case.


Hate literature fed from childhood: Pakistan

30 12 2008

Primers Of Hate

History or biology, Pakistani students get anti-India lessons in all their textbooks

Source: outlookindia

When Mohammad Qasim stepped out to participate in the declamation contest held to celebrate Pakistan’s Independence Day, the topic he was to speak on was: ‘Why Islam and Pakistan are integral to each other’. Instead, this Class XI student of Lahore’s Government Central Model School lashed out against the Hindus, giving vent to inexplicable anger and hatred. This was particularly shocking because the Hindu community, constituting an infinitesimal percentage of Pakistan’s population, hasn’t been an aspect of Qasim’s life. Asked to explain his outpouring in the contest, the 14-year-old boy said, “We hate Hindus because they are Hindustanis and the number one enemies of both Islam and Pakistan. We know it all through our history and Pakistan Studies books. We learn what happened years ago all the time at school.”

Qasim’s explanation illustrates vividly the inimical impact of school textbooks, where history is manipulated to foster national chauvinism, where knowledge becomes a vital tool in the construction of national identity, where the sense of nation is promoted through veritable lessons in bigotry, hatred and gross misrepresentation of history. The extracts (see box) culled out from textbooks taught in government schools demonstrates how the ruling establishment, under the aegis of President Pervez Musharraf, is misusing books to develop an anti-India, anti-Hindu mindset—and also fan sentiments against Christians, Jews and the West. The regime’s control over the education system is exercised through Lt Gen (retd) Javed Ashraf Qazi, who heads the federal education ministry. Head of the ISI between 1993 and 1995, Qazi supervised the recruitment of students from Pakistan’s madrassas for constituting the extremist Taliban militia.

These textbooks came under the scanner following a story in the Los Angeles Times highlighting the tilt against non-Muslims. “Thousands of Pakistani children learn from history books each year that Jews are tight-fisted moneylenders and Christians are vengeful conquerors,” the newspaper said. It expressed astonishment that such lessons are taught not in madrassas but in government schools of a country whose leader (Musharraf) is an ally of the US in the war against terror. The LA Times report prompted the US administration to voice its grave concern over the textbooks to Islamabad. US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told a news briefing last August, “The issue is a matter of serious concern for Washington and the Bush administration would like the Pakistani leadership to effectively address it.”

Minister Qazi subsequently claimed efforts were afoot to revise and reform the public school curriculum. But the gargantuan nature of the task can be illustrated through the mindset dominant in the Islamabad-based National Curriculum Wing (NCW). Functioning directly under Qazi’s ministry, the NCW sets the guidelines for the four provincial textbook boards which publish course material for government schools. The NCW issued a directive in 2002 laying out the following objectives: nurture in children a sense of Islamic identity and pride in being a Pakistani and regard Pakistan as an Islamic country and acquire deep love for it. Ignored was the possibility that a child in school could be non-Muslim and might feel alienated because textbooks equate the Pakistani with Muslim. Although the subject of Islam, or Islamiat, is compulsory only for Muslims, the directive awarded an extra 25 per cent marks to a non-Muslim student should he or she opt for the course. The 2002 directive was issued a month after then education minister Zubaida Jalal had directed the NCW to revise history books taught in public schools.

Scientist and educationist Dr Pervez Hoodbhoy feels the ongoing redefinition of education, first initiated under President Zia-ul-Haq, will have profound illiberal implications for Pakistan.”A new concept of education now prevails, the full impact of which will probably be felt when the present generation of schoolchildren attains maturity.”

Not only have the Pakistan rulers divorced education from liberal and secular ideals, they also view it as essential for Islamising society and forging a new national identity. Hoodbhoy explains, “Important steps have already been taken in this direction: enforcement of chador in educational institutions; organisation of congregational afternoon prayers during school hours; compulsory teaching of Arabic as a second language from Class VI onwards; introduction of reading the Quran as a matriculation requirement; alteration of the definition of literacy to include religious knowledge; establishment of an Islamic university in Islamabad; introduction of religious knowledge as a criterion for selecting teachers; and the revision of conventional subjects to emphasise Islamic values.”

Renowned historian Dr Mubarak Ali says the westernised liberal elite, which had inherited power from the British, had given to education a basically secular and modern character. “However, the self-seeking and opportunistic elite in independent Pakistan simply abandoned liberal values because of political and economic exigencies,” explains Dr Ali, adding that this trend has impacted adversely on the education system.

The debilitating role of the political class in Islamising the education system can best be illustrated through an example. In March 2004, the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), the fundamentalist alliance of five religious parties, disrupted the National Assembly proceedings and staged a walkout claiming that a certain reference to jehad as well as other Quranic verses had been excluded from the new edition of a state-prescribed biology textbook. The MMA threatened to launch a protest movement if the Quranic verses were not reinstated. However, then education minister Zubaida Jalal clarified that no chapter or verses relating to jehad (holy war) or shahadat (martyrdom) had been deleted from textbooks, and that the particular verse referring to jehad had only been shifted from the biology textbook for intermediate students (Classes XI and XII, that is) to the matriculation level course (Class X). The education ministry never bothered to inquire—as most people familiar with the discipline of biology logically would—why there were references to jehad in the biology textbook in the first place.

The illiberal nature of Pakistan’s education system was brought out in pitiless detail by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI), Islamabad, in its report ‘The Subtle Subversion: The State of Curricula and Textbooks in Pakistan’. Authored jointly by A.H. Nayyar and Ahmed Salim, the 140-page SDPI report illustrates, through examples, how the education system is contributing to the culture of sectarianism, religious intolerance and violence.

Some of the important findings of the SDPI are: the current curriculum and textbooks are “impregnating young and impressionable minds with seeds of hatred” to serve a self-styled ideological straitjacket; substantial distortion of the nature and significance of actual events in Pakistan’s history; insensitivity to the existing religious diversity of the nation; promotion of perspectives that encourage prejudice, bigotry and discrimination towards fellow citizens, especially women and religious minorities and other nations; a glorification of war and the use of force; and incitement to militancy and violence, including encouragement of loaded concepts like jehad and martyrdom.

The SDPI report, however, also exposes America’s hypocrisy.Claiming that the concepts of jehad and martyrdom were incorporated into the Pakistani curricula after the start of the so-called Afghan jehad against the Soviet occupation troops, the SDPI report says, “At that point, it suited the US and its most allied of allies, Pakistan, to encourage and glorify the so-called mujahideen, or holy warriors, in the war against the Russians. An American institution of higher education was asked to formulate textbooks for Pakistani schools accordingly. The University of Nebraska at Omaha, which has a center for Afghan Studies, was subsequently tasked by the Central Intelligence Agency in the early eighties to rewrite textbooks for Afghan refugee children. The new textbooks included hate material even in arithmetic books. One question asked, ‘If a man has five bullets and two go into the heads of Russian soldiers, how many are left’?”

But the context changed dramatically post-9\11. A research thesis exposed in 2002 the role of Americans in writing pernicious textbooks. The SDPI report states, “Since the Soviets are no more, the mujahideen have not only mutated into Taliban but have also outlived their usefulness, the same American University (the University of Nebraska at Omaha) has been given an additional grant by the Bush administration to re-re-write textbooks, taking out material on jehad, etc.”

America’s hypocrisy apart, it is in Pakistan’s interest to delete from textbooks hate material and ensure today’s schoolchildren are groomed into liberal, democratic, secular Pakistanis, harbouring hatred for none and love for all.

magazine | Oct 10, 2005
‘Hindu, Enemy Of Islam’

These are extracts from government-sponsored textbooks approved by the National Curriculum Wing of the Federal Ministry of Education.

“Before the Arab conquest people were fed up with the teachings of Buddhists & Hindus.” “Before Islam people lived in untold misery.”

“European nations have been working during the past three centuries…to subjugate countries of the Muslim world.”

Class IV

  • The Muslims of Pakistan provided all facilities to the Hindus and the Sikhs who left for India. But the Hindus and the Sikhs looted the Muslims in India with both hands and they attacked their caravans, buses and railway trains. Therefore, about one million Muslims were martyred on their way to Pakistan.
  • The Hindus treated the ancient population of the Indus Valley very badly. They set fire to their houses and butchered them.
  • The religion of Hindus did not teach them good things, Hindus did not respect women.

Class V

  • After the war of 1965, India with the help of Hindus living in East Pakistan, incited the people of East Pakistan against West Pakistanis. In December 1971, the Indians themselves also attacked East Pakistan. As a result…East Pakistan separated from us. We should all receive military training so that we can foil the designs of the enemy in the future.
  • The Hindu has always been an enemy of Islam.

Class VI

  • In the middle of the city of Deebal (Sindh), there was a Hindu temple. There was a flag hoisted on top of it. The Hindus believed that as long as the flag kept flying, nobody could harm them. Mohd bin Qasim found out about this…. The Muslims began to catapult stones at the temple and at the flag, ultimately making it fall to the ground. The whole city became tumultuous and the Hindus lost heart. Some Muslims clambered up the walls of the temple and forced open the door. Qasim’s army entered the city and after conquering it, announced peace. The Muslims treated the vanquished so well many Hindus converted to Islam.
  • Before the Arab conquest the people were fed up with the teachings of Buddhists and Hindus.
  • The foundation of the Hindu setup was based on injustice and cruelty.
  • The Hindus who had always been opportunists cooperated with the British.
  • The Hindus used to please the goddess Kali by slaughtering people of other religions.

Class VII

  • Some Jewish tribes also lived in Arabia. They lent money to workers and peasants on high rates of interest and usurped their earnings. They held the whole society in their tight grip because of the ever-increasing compound interest.
  • History has no parallel to the extremely kind treatment of the Christians by the Muslims. Still the Christian kingdoms of Europe were constantly trying to gain control of Jerusalem. This was the cause of the Crusades.
  • European nations have been working during the past three centuries, through conspiracies or naked aggression, to subjugate countries of the Muslim world.

    w Hindus always desired to crush the Muslims as a nation. Several attempts were made by the Hindus to erase Muslim culture and civilisation.

  • The Hindus too wished to ruin Muslim civilisation and culture by destroying Urdu which has been closely associated with the Pakistan Movement.

Class VIII

  • During the Khilafat Movement Hindus and Muslims were completely united and like brothers and they started to cooperate and live in peaceful togetherness. But as soon as this movement ended, Hindu hatred of the Muslim re-emerged.
  • Before Islam people lived in untold misery all over the world.

Class IX

  • The Hindus and the Muslims…could not amalgamate each other’s way of life to become one nation. The main reason for this difference of cultures, civilisation and outlook was the religion of Islam which cannot be assimilated in any other system as it is based on the principle of…oneness of God….On the other hand, Hinduism is based on the concept of multiple Gods….There lies the difference between the Hindu and Muslim way of thinking.
  • In connivance with the (British) government the Hindus started communal riots and caused loss of life and property. At the time of prayers the Hindus tortured the Muslims by playing music in front of the mosques. Before the commencement of classes the students saluted the portrait of Mahatma Gandhi and Muslim students were also forced to do so.
  • Muslims promoted equality and social justice as against the division (created by) the (Hindu) caste system.

Class X

  • (The ideology of) Pakistan…was a revolt against the prevailing system of India in which Hindu nationalism was imposed on the Muslims….
  • Islam gives a message of peace and brotherhood…. There is no such concept in Hinduism. Moreover Islam preaches brotherhood, equality and justice…. On the other hand, the Hindu society is based on caste system which downgrades the entire mankind.
  • After the establishment of Pakistan the Hindus and Sikhs created a day of doom for the Muslims in East Punjab.
  • The Hindus were encouraged by the (British) government to force the Muslims to join the Congress.

(These extracts have been translated from Urdu which is the standard medium of instruction in government

HATRED – Terror’s only religion Himanshu Shekhar

2 10 2008
Source: Zee News
Himanshu Shekhar

“What people in the West simply don’t understand is that we love death even more than they love life.” – Osama bin Laden, November 1996.

It was 2002 when I was in first year of my college when an image released on Israeli television and published in leading magazines across the world hit me. The image titled ‘Hebron’s Baby Bomber’ sparked a worldwide debate. A debate which still remains relevant. Which religion teaches one to engage an infant baby of hardly 18 months for killing others? Definitely not Islam.

We are in times when the world is reeling under terror strikes which have a lasting impact and India is no exception. Terrorism is back in focus or perhaps it was never out of frame. That brings us to a simple question- why do some people love death more than life? As a modern civic society/ state are we prepared to counter the menace?

It is a basic challenge to locate and fix the problem first before embarking on curative measures. Who are these people? What is their religion? What is their mission?

London, Karachi, Bangalore, Jaipur, Ahmedabad, Delhi – blasts had one thing in common and that was their techno savvy nature. An email sent from a laptop with a Wi-Fi connection just before all these attacks from ‘Indian-Mujahideen,’ clearly means that terrorists were with a mission or at least they projected one. Once again the name given to such dastardly coward act was ‘Jihad’.

It is true that those who are lured to indulge in such acts are misguided. People who are frustrated because of the political climate are the first targets. There’s no denying the fact the socio- economic factors are the ingredients in making of terror.

SIMI’s indoctrination

As the investigations reveal, the act was perpetrated by a new group named Indian Mujahideen which worked in tandem with the banned outfit SIMI. The roots of most serial blasts, which sent down jitters in India, were traced to Azamgarh – now referred to as India’s ‘terror hub.’ To say that it’s only the socio economic backwardness of the people is the only reason which pushes them towards these acts would be totally wrong. It’s the rich, the more affluent, highly educated and technologically advanced men who have been involved in the masterminding of these plots.

All the accused arrested in recent spate of blasts are in early 20s and one thing they had in mind was injustice meted out to people of their community in Gujarat riots. The mail sent by IM was just a confirmation of the sentiment. It is this sense of being denied due justice that lead the masterminds picking disgruntled youth.

A paper submitted by Marc Sagemen, a renowned expert on understanding of terror network, to the Tiffin University in Ohio says, “It is not a specific organization but a social movement consisting of a set more or less formal organizations, linked in patterns of interaction ranging from the fairly centralized to the more decentralized.”

Sagemen in his report further adds, “Some nodes are more popular and are attached to more links, connecting them to more isolated nodes.” Azamgarh was probably that isolated node to which these groups have now connected. Internet has definitely aided that inter-linkage.

Technology has increasingly helped terror groups in a way that they can successfully share their failure and success world wide. While the Delhi Police raided the ‘Batla House’ in Delhi’s Jamia Nagar, it was believed that these terrorists were doing a case study.

It is a really dangerous sign as it questions the very base of India’s secular credentials. The fact that a chunk of Indian Muslims feel they are ‘others’ when incidents like Gujarat or Babri demolition occur, in itself is disturbing because it hits the very ‘Idea of India’.

I- Factor

That brings us to another rudimentary question of terror’s linkage with religion. Are those who are perpetrators of this heinous and ghastly act there to spread Caliphate? Answer probably is big NO. Islam also means: as Salam, a word that signifies surrender. MJ Akbar in his book Shade of Swords writes, “But the Islamic faith from time to time also demands a holy war defined by specific circumstances, blood of the faithful in defence of the faith.”

Akbar further adds, “Shahada: Lailaha- il- Allah, Muhammad-ur-Rasul-Allah” – which means there is but one Allah and Muhammad is his Prophet. And those who become martyrs of Allah are the Shaheed.

It is these lines which are misinterpreted the most. A report submitted by Adam Fosson on cause and effect of ‘Martyrdom’ quotes Sheikh Yasin (a Hamas leader) as saying, “Love of martyrdom is something deep inside the heart. But these rewards are not in themselves the goal of a martyr. The only aim is to win Allah’s satisfaction. And it is Allah who selects martyrs.”

Indian Mujahideen clearly seem to get their inspiration from such misinterpretations. Probably Prophet Mohammad insisted on holy war against the enemy inside. For that matter the feeling shared by Indian Muslims can be really heart wrenching. ‘What can you say if after every terror attacks your own friends see you suspiciously just because you also follow the religion of those involved in these ghastly acts?” Their feelings can be best explained by these immortal lines of Iqbal in his masterpiece ‘Shikwa’;

Hai baja shewa-e-taslim mein mashhoor hain hum Kissa –e- dard sunate hain ki majboor hain hum.

(We won renown for submitting to Your will – and it is so; We speak out now, we are compelled to repeat our tale of woe.) Translation by: Khuswant Singh

It would be wrong for anyone to question Islam or Muslims as that would erroneously include all those Indian Muslims who have led their lives as good citizens trying to improve the lot of their country. India today is the emerging power in the world because all sections of society be it Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, Parsees and all others have contributed towards it. Can one question Dr APJ Abdul Kalam’s patriotism?

All those people who decided to choose India as their country during partition are Indian first and alienating or seeing them through cataract eyes would just be questioning the very concept of secular India. The fight against terror can begin only after killing its religion which undoubtedly is ‘HATRED’.

When Aurangzeb pleaded for mercy

22 08 2008

A page from History When Aurangzeb pleaded for Mewar Rana’s mercy
By Ganeshi Lal Verma

The Mughal-Rajput war was started after the death of Maharaja Jasvant
Singh on December 20, 1678 and it continued for nearly 30 years. The
Maharaja had died in Jamrud, Afghanistan, where he was posted by
Aurangzeb, the Mughal Emperor. On his death Aurangzeb expressed
happiness and said: “Pillar of infidelity has fallen.” He took
advantage of the situation and tried to annex Marwar—the Maharaja`s
kingdom. Aurangzeb went to Ajmer to make proper arrangements and
overawe the Rajputs of Marwar.

Meanwhile, Maharaja’s family reached Delhi in June 1679. Aurangzeb
ordered that the Maharaja’s family along with infant Ajit Singh, the
late Maharaja’s son, should be sent to the royal harem. The Mughal
Emperor said that Jodhpur gaddi (throne) could be given to Ajit Singh
on condition of his adopting Islam. This led to a fight between the
Mughal army and the Rathore warriors under the command of Durgadas.
The Rathore warriors easily defeated the Mughal forces. Ajit Singh
was safely taken to Marwar and proclaimed the Maharaja of Marwar.
Hearing about the defeat of Mughal forces, Aurangzeb himself took the
command of his army and invaded Marwar to suppress the revolt.

Aurangzeb suspected that Rana of Mewar was helping the Rajputs of
Jodhpur. So in retaliation Aurangzeb imposed jazia on Rana of Mewar.
Rana realised that Aurangzeb was bent on annihilating Rajput power.
Indeed the Mughals had invaded Mewar. Rana abandoned Udaipur,
surprised Mughal camp at Chittor and defeated the Mughals at Bednoor.
Aurangzeb now planned three-pronged attack from three different
directions. Still the Mughals could not make impressive advance
against the Maharana’s defences.

During the campaign Aurangzeb himself was encircled in a precipice by
the Rajputs. The Rajput closed the back movement of the Mughal army
by felling the overhanging trees. Aurangzeb’s favourite wife Udaipuri
Begum, who was also accompanying him in the war was also encircled in
another part of mountain. She however surrendered and was taken to
Rana, who treated her with utmost respect.

Meanwhile, Aurangzeb and his garrison was without food and water for
two days. The Emperor would have died of hunger if the siege had
continued. The Mughals however cried for Rana’s clemency. A treaty
was signed between Rana and Aurangzeb. It was promised on Aurangzeb’s
behalf that in future sacred animals would not be slaughtered. The
magnanimous Rana ordered his forces to withdraw from their stations
so that way could be cleared for Mughal army to withdraw along with
their emperor. The Begum, with her retinue was also sent to the
Emperor, who had withdrawn to Chittor.

Colonel Tod comments on the incident: “But for repeated instances of
ill-judged humanity, the throne of Mughals might have been completely
overturned”. (Annals & Antiquities of Rajasthan, Vol. I p. 379).
Aurangzeb learnt nothing from the defeat. Once out of danger,
Aurangzeb forgot the promise of not slaughtering the cows and the
clemency of Rana. Aurangzeb continued the war claiming that Rana’s
generosity was the result of fear of future vengeance by the Mughals.

Rana’s magnanimity was misplaced. It was as great a blunder as the
ill-fated interview between Rana Pratap and Man Singh at Udai Sagar
Lake. Mughal empire could have been shattered long before than
Marathas did it, if the Rajputs had been more politically minded.

‘There’s no greater place to live as a human being than the subcontinent’

13 06 2008

Inset: Author Tarek Fateh

‘There’s no greater place to live as a human being than the subcontinent’

June 12, 2008

The Atelier Club in downtown Toronto was packed to capacity recently for the launch of Pakistan-born Tarek Fateh‘s book Chasing a Mirage: The Tragic Illusion of an Islamic State.

Fateh’s book argues that Muslims have been force-fed lies about their history for over a millennium — not by Islam’s enemies, but by its imams.

‘Islam came to free humanity from the clutches of the clergy. Instead, the religion of peace has become a prisoner of war, held captive by the very priesthood it came to eliminate,’ Fateh, founder of the Muslim Canadian Congress, writes in his book.

In an exclusive interview Rediff India Abroad Senior Editor Ajit Jain, the prolific author, broadcaster and columnist pointed out that in India “Muslims, who are 12 per cent of that country’s population, thrive,” while “next door in Pakistan and Bangladesh,” which are Islamic States, “Muslims suffer.”

Through the book — written despite death threats against him — Fateh wants Muslims to understand that their future lies in “models that are based in India, South Africa and Canada.”

Many Muslims say Islam was supposed to be a way of life but it has become a dogma. That it has been politicised.

In some unfortunate way, it is correct. All the differences within the Muslim community, or the wars and the civil wars that have been fought, have never been about piety but about politics.

What is the solution to the increasingly political overtones to the perception of Islam?

We have to stand up to them (fundamentalists) and expose the ideology of hate. In the Indian context, this is the choice between Aurangzeb on the one side and Dara Shikoh on the other.

We know the catastrophe that happened after Aurangzeb weakened the whole of the subcontinent in his efforts to do what the Wahhabis (an ultra-conservative branch of Islam with roots in Saudi Arabia) are now doing. Aurangzeb killed his brother (Shikoh) who was the crown prince, because he (Shikoh) was very close to Hindus and Sikhs.

It is known historically how Dara Shikoh in the 16th century with the help of Hindu priests learnt Sanskrit and — again, with their help — he translated (50) Upanishads and the Bhagawad Gita into Persian, followed on what Akbar the great started, Din-e-Ilahi.

The entire thing became such a huge loss to India. Because of Aurangzeb and Islamic war, the whole country became feeble and the British were able to take over the country soon after his (Aurangzeb’s) death.

Wherever Islam has become synonymous with violence and hate, Muslims have suffered tremendously. Of course, non-Muslims have also died by the hundreds, but the main victims have always been Muslims.

The traditional orphans of the Iran monarchs or the Indians recognised this was politics. This was not seriously about religion. Religion was merely a tool that allowed them to stay in power, whether it is Saudis or ayatollahs or in the Indian context, Aurangzeb, we had catastrophes, and repression, and secular Muslims had to fight political battles against these fascists.

Also read: The average Indian Muslim wants room to survive

Image: Hundreds of Muslim faithful pray at a mosque in Toronto, Canada, September 14, 2001 for the victims of the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, DC

‘Mosques have become places of politics’

June 12, 2008

You are making a distinction between such Muslims and secular Muslims.

About 50 to 60 per cent of the Muslim population is illiterate or semi-illiterate. They are not interested in political power. They barely exist, whether they are in Bihar or they are in Mauritius. They simply want to survive. This gain is for 1 to 2 per cent of the Muslim population. Through political power, they can send messages out.

Who are they?

Primarily the Saudi royal family, the ruling ayatollahs in Iran — some ayatollahs are in jails in Iran — and clerics everywhere.

Look at the structures of mosques in Toronto, or elsewhere in Canada. These are large properties. The imam is employed by the board and in many cases takes over the entire structures. I know one organisation that has a property worth $15 million accumulated by the congregation giving cash. Where does this money go? Anyone who controls that amount of money is in politics. He can manipulate lawmakers. He can buy memberships into political parties. He can hire buses and send them to demonstrations. This is what’s happening.

It is in the interest of these people to keep Islam politicised so that they can be self-appointed leaders who can communicate with the Western politicians. The ordinary Muslim who is driving a cab or (is) even a physician doesn’t have time for all this nonsense. These guys are taking advantage of it.

I have suggested, therefore, that donations given to religious institutions by Canadians shouldn’t be in cash but by cheques or credit cards. The money from outside comes in cheques anyway, except there’s no way for anybody finding out what’s happening in the mosques, as there’s no accountability of where this money goes.

There should be a maximum limit that an individual can donate in cash. He should give a cheque or a credit card, beyond that cash. The mosque will never accept that because it is then traceable.

Mosques have become places of politics, which is dangerous. Some mosques are openly defying their charters as charities because they indulge in politics. Every sermon is political because they invite politicians to speak and instead of looking after the affairs of the community and serving their spiritual needs, they [mosques] have become places of bargaining with political parties.

How do you distinguish between an Islamist and a Muslim?

An Islamist is someone who believes in invoking Islam for a political agenda. A Muslim, on the other hand, uses Islam as a moral compass for his betterment and the betterment of his family. An Islamist is also a Muslim but a Muslim is not an Islamist.

India’s first education minister, Abul Kalam Azad, a most respected statesman in the country, was not an Islamist. He was against Islamists. Similarly, there are many ayatollahs in Iran who are in jails — as they are not Islamists.

Also read: ‘Muslim fundamentalism simply has not played a significant role in Indian politics’

‘Saudi Arabia, sadly, is a racist State’

June 12, 2008

Some people say the Islamic world is divided into the privileged class of Saudis and ayatollahs and the ‘second class’ of ordinary Muslims.

It is more than that. The Saudi Muslim does consider a non-Arab Muslim as inferior. Saudi Arabia, sadly, is a racist State. It has salaries based on the colour of your skin, where an Indian Muslim is discriminated more than an Indian Hindu because a Hindu doesn’t pray five times a day but a Muslim does.

It is purely commercial and racial. There’s no element of spirituality. They have Kentucky Fried Chicken right around the house of god. It is an insult to the faith what the Saudis have done. And ayatollahs have become millionaires who are buying properties in Canada.

If you live in Pakistan, why should you care what the Saudis think of you?

Because I care what white people think of black people in the civil rights movement. It is an insult to me as a human being not to accept when racism, sectarianism and hatred of other human beings is being dressed up in my faith. It is an outrage.

Is Islamism confined within the borders of Saudi Arabia and Iran?

It is happening in Canada. It is happening because of Saudi money. The Islam of Indonesia, Malaysia or Bengal, Bihar, Punjab is different as the spiritual faith there is completely depoliticiced.

You go to any Muslim cemetery in Canada — you will not see a single tombstone. Why? This is a culture that celebrates the Taj Mahal, and in Canada we are not allowed to put a stone on the head of a child or a parent or a grandfather. Who decided that? The Saudi funded imams. This is contrary to all Islamic traditions. Go to any other country and you can see beautiful mausoleums, but here in Canada the imams, through Saudi influence, the city councils, have decreed that cemeteries here will have no tombstones. This is all Wahhabi influence.

In your book you discuss the Cairo Declaration of Human Rights in Islam and the United Nations’ human rights declaration.

The UN Declaration of Universal Human Rights, enacted unanimously in 1948, allows freedom of choice of religion — which means no coercion (on) who should believe in what faith. In many Muslim countries, they have decreed that if you choose to convert from Islam to any other religion, you should be punished by death. Second is the equality of man and woman. Such laws cannot be created from the divine text.

So, we have these 57 countries, members of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, who are controlled by the Saudis. Their head office is in Saudi Arabia. They fund the entire organisation. So, nobody can object to anything they want to do. They are principally involved in keeping the Muslim world in the era of darkness. Many Muslim States argue that the UN Declaration of Human Rights is part of the Judeo-Christian traditions and so it shouldn’t be applicable to the Muslim world. It is astonishing.

In my point of view you are walking into a territory that’s divine, reserved for god. Who is someone to tell me I am coming to your house and so you should convert your faith or I will kill you? That’s what’s happening because the moment a Muslim says that I think there’s a problem here and what should we do, they issue a fatwa to kill you.

They expelled (Bangladeshi writer) Taslima Nasrin after pressure from Kolkata Muslims. It is horrible. It is a disgrace not only for Muslims but also for the Indian government to have done that. That woman had to run away and that shows how sometimes non-Muslims also become complicit, saying what do we care if one Muslim kills another Muslim.

mage: An aerial view of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Photograph: Abdel Monaem Al-Keiyi/AFP/Getty Images

Also read: ‘Who is the ideological mastermind behind the new Taliban?’

Trying to make Pakistan into an Arab country is never going to work’ June 12, 2008

If Muslims can live in peace and harmony in India, why can’t they live in peace and harmony in Pakistan, a country supposedly created for them?

The movement for Pakistan was never by the people that comprise Pakistan today. The movement for Pakistan was essentially by upper class Muslims of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh.

Right up to 1946, Balochistan and Sindh were not voting for the Muslim League. They were voting for the (Indian National) Congress party. Balochistan was an independent state and they declared their independence three days before India’s Independence. The coalition government headed by Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy in Bengal was the result of Direct Action Day of August 16, 1945, which led to the massacre — actually genocide — of Hindus in Noakhali (now in Bangladesh). It happened when in fact Muslims and Hindus there lived happily for hundreds of years.

Why would a Muslim find living in Pakistan problematic?

Because the idea that some sort of an Islamic state has to be created can never function. It will result in failure when you set impossible targets from the first day. That is the problem. Pakistan as a secular country, like (Mohammad Ali) Jinnah said in his opening speech, never functioned. It resulted in the cleansing of all Hindus and Sikhs from Punjab.

Punjab is primarily 60 to 70 per cent of Pakistan. It was left completely wounded and destroyed. It is only now West Punjab is reconciling with its close links with East Punjab and Uttar Pradesh. It was a living organism that was cut into two.

India was so large that it managed to take those wounds but Pakistan, being comparatively a smaller country, its heritage was linked with northern India. You are trying to make Pakistan into an Arab country. It is never going to work.

Image: An Indian bus driver is embraced by a Pakistani after arriving at the Wagah border post, March 24, 2006. The first bus bringing Indian pilgrims arrived in Pakistan on way to Nankana Sahib, the birthplace of Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism. Photograph: Arif Ali/AFP/Getty Images

Also read: Pakistan: Geopolitical epicentre of Islamist jihad

In the heartland of Punjab and Sindh, no one says a negative word about India’ June 12, 2008

Your thoughts on the India-Pakistan dynamics.

It is in the interest of the armed forces to continue to raise the bogey of an Indian threat to exploit the whole country. So, from 1954 they have dissolved the constitution, they have raped the country, they have created wars with India that nobody wanted. It is an open secret that what General Ayub Khan did in 1965 is exactly what Pervez Musharraf did in Kargil. There’s no evidence of India ever attacking Pakistan. The people of Pakistan are quite aware of this.

The fact is that the army can only keep control over a large share of Pakistan’s budget if it can continue to say that it is India that has its eyes on Pakistan and it will finish it off. That fear of India has been hammered to such a degree that it (the bogey of India) has been able to survive.

I believe the people of Pakistan are smart enough, and they have realised that their future is in friendship with India rather than Iran or Saudi Arabia. They have lived in these two countries. Indians and Pakistanis are treated in a shallow manner there.

When a Pakistani is visiting India, people won’t let you pay for your meal. The same is true when an Indian is visiting Pakistan. Canadian Sikhs are going to Pakistan to visit Nankana Sahib. They come back and say that they couldn’t believe it felt like home. In the heartland of Punjab and Sindh, you will not find anyone to say a negative word about India.

In India you might find people who are less aware of Pakistan but in Pakistan everybody knows that their brothers and sisters are Sikhs and Hindus who are on the other side of the border.

In my book I have stated my ancestors are Hindus. We migrated from Rajasthan to Punjab after a famine in early 1800 and we converted to Islam and our family settled there.

Despite different religion, people of Pakistan are smart and resilient. Sixty to 70 per cent of Pakistanis are Punjabis. So, as long as in Lahore and West Punjab there’s goodwill towards India, the army cannot continue to create this myth that India is going to attack Pakistan.

Do you think one day Pakistan and India will be like the European Union?

Absolutely. I am 100 per cent sure it will happen because of goodwill. It will happen because of the laws of nature, because we are one people. We have common cuisine, common culture, common language, common clothes, common sense of humour, common geography, common weather — except, some believe in Bhagwan, some believe in Khuda, some believe in Namokar Mantra, and some don’t believe in anything.

There’s no greater place on this earth to live as a human being than the subcontinent. India as a subcontinent is a marvel of god’s creation. There should never be a communal clash because so much of Islam and Hinduism have been together. We need to bring Kabir’s Bhakti movement back, which the British crushed in such a crafty manner that we were left paralysed.

Image: Indian and Pakistani flags at the Wagah border post. Photograph: Narinder Nanu/AFP/Getty Images

Also read: ‘If the LoC is opened, more harm will be caused to Pakistan’