For clarity’s sake

10 11 2008
10 Nov 2008, 0050 hrs IST, ARIF MOHAMMED KHAN

Source: TOI
The announcement by Jamiat Ulama-e- Hind to issue a new declaration against terrorism signed by around 6,000 muftis at its conference at Hyderabad is a welcome decision. Still more important and ambitious is its proposed plan to redefine ‘jihad’ so as to enjoin the terrorists from hijacking Islam by misquoting the Quran.

Jamiat Ulama-e-Hind is a religio-political organisation of Indian Muslim clerics formed in 1919 in the wake of the pan-Islamic Khilafat movement. Initially Jamiat consisted of Muslim scholars drawn from all over the country but later it came to be dominated mainly by Deoband clerics.

The Jamiat had rallied around Mahatma Gandhi and the Congress during the freedom movement and opposed the creation of Pakistan. But there was a sizeable group of the Deoband ulema like Mau-lana Ashraf Ali Thanvi who did not endorse the politics of the Jamiat. The differences led to split and a parallel organisation headed by Mufti Shabbir Usmani was established in 1946 that actively supported the Muslim League and the demand for a separate state of Pakistan.

The Jamiat described participation in freedom movement a religious duty and not a national obligation asserting that “religious freedom was more important than political emancipation”. So much so that it claimed that its flag was a “replica of the flag carried by the Prophet and his companions”. It exhorted Muslims to support the Khilafat movement as a religious duty, to boycott foreign goods as enjoined by the sharia and to fight the British as ordained by God.

It was this practice of invoking religion in every affair that irked Maulana Azad to say “the effect which the words ‘nation’ and ‘motherland’ have on the rest of the world is produced on the Muslims by the words God or Islam. You can stir the hearts of thousands simply with one word — nation — but in the case of Muslims the only comparable word for the purpose is God or Islam”.

There is no doubt that the Jamiat had adopted a nationalistic stance on the questions of Indian freedom and common nationality. But the demands it has been pressing from time to time also deserve an objective assessment as to its impact on the Indian polity.

I would like to draw attention to one of its resolution adopted in the 1939 session to protest against the Wardha scheme of education. The Jamiat censured the new scheme as anti-Islamic and said, “The Wardha scheme emphasises the philosophy of non-violence, and presents it as a creed. We have accepted non-violence only as a policy. This cannot be accepted as a creed. This is against the teaching of the Quran which encourages the Muslims to jihad.”

It is clear from the wording of the resolution that the Jamiat believes that the concept of jihad runs counter to the principle of non-violence. But, it has been contested by several Islamic scholars who insist that Quranic jihad is only a defensive measure against religious persecution. The resolution referred to is very old but it is part of the Jamiat’s official record and finds mention in several books and academic papers. Unless withdrawn it continues to reflect the ideological position of the Jamiat. It is not difficult to surmise the impact of such resolutions on impressionable minds, which become vulnerable to the exploits of the agents of violence and terror.

The other part of the resolution is even more shocking where it says “the danger of the Wardha scheme is that children will be indoctrinated in such a way that not only would they be friendly to other religious groups, but they would also consider every religion of the world a true religion. This belief is un-Islamic”.

The claim made by the Jamiat resolution defies any explanation. They are great scholars but even a layman can see that the Quran has more than 10 verses in which it enjoins the faithful “to believe in all the Prophets and make no distinction among them”. The exercise to redefine jihad will require withdrawal of all such resolutions to make it clear that jihad is no licence to indulge in violence.

The writer is a former Union minister.

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Why Kashmir is up in flames ?

29 08 2008

Source: Rediff.com

Colonel Dr Anil A Athale (retd)
August 29, 2008

As someone who has been active in resolving the Kashmir issue since 1990, recent events did not come as too much of a surprise. Many observers have commented that the situation is back to the days of 1989-1990. They are only partially right, on the surface it does appear so, but there are major differences. How the situation is similar and yet different is an important issue since the Indian response has to be based on sound analysis lest we repeat our past mistakes. Public memory is short but it is the job of analysts to remember the past and bring it to public notice.

Rollercoaster public opinion in the Kashmir valley

The first thing to understand about the people of the Kashmir valley is that their views are fickle and can see radical changes.

In 1947, in the wake of the tribal invasion led and masterminded by Pakistan, the valley welcomed the Indian Army [Images] with open arms. One of INPAD’s members, retired Lieutenant General Eric Vas remembers that the soldiers were showered with rose petals. It was thanks to Sheikh Abdullah’s secular leadership as well as the Sufi tradition that Kashmiris rejected the poisonous Muslim League propaganda. In 1965, when Pakistan repeated the 1947 feat and sent in infiltrators, there were very few takers for the idea of merger with Pakistan and the infiltration failed to achieve the goal of engendering an insurrection.

In 1975-1976, when Sheikh Abdullah was the chief minister, there was a widespread movement in Pakistan occupied Kashmir to march to Indian Kashmir — an exact opposite of the present Kashmiri slogan of ‘Chalo Muzaffarabad’.

On April 1, 1979, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was hanged by military dictator Zia-ul Haq. His hanging sparked off large-scale violence in the Kashmir valley. Those owing allegiance to the Jamaat-i-Islami, led by Syed Ali Shah Geelani, were the main target of attack. Their houses were destroyed by firebombs. The provocation: The Jamaat had distributed sweets to celebrate Bhutto’s hanging. It was the Indian Army that rescued Geelani and his people.

On April 4, 1979, Kashmiris held a massive congregation in Hazratbal to thank Allah that they were a part of India and paraded a donkey with a placard that read ‘I am Zia-ul Haq’.

The flip side

Post-1947 support for India vanished in a few years. In the late 1950s when Nehru sent Haribhau Pataskar to gauge public opinion in the valley (in order to hold the referendum he had promised), Pataskar told him that the valley was all for joining Pakistan.

Sheikh Abdullah, who was elevated to the status of ‘Pir’ (holy man) by Kashmiris, fared no better. He died in 1982. Within seven years, his birth and death anniversary became occasions to burn his effigy. A police guard was placed to protect his grave from vandalism. He now became the ‘great betrayer’ from his erstwhile position of ‘Lion of Kashmir’.

Zia-ul Haq, the Pakistani dictator, saw a total reversal of fortunes. His bemedalled photographs began to adorn the homes of Kashmiris.

The late Hamid Dalwai, a Muslim reformist from Maharashtra, recounted his encounters in Kashmir that aptly sums up the reasons for Kashmiri flip-flop. He asked several people as to why they were unhappy in India. The answer given to him by one shikara owner was that they had everything going for them in India, “but after all, must we not care for the flag of Islam?”

Understanding the present crisis

The year 2008 till July was extraordinarily peaceful by Kashmir’s standards. Pakistan was so embroiled in its internal crisis that it had no time to devote to Kashmir.

The present crisis in Kashmir erupted when an innocuous transfer of land to build temporary facilities for Amarnath pilgrims was made an issue by politicians like Mehbooba Mufti and Omar Abdullah. The usual Srinagar [Images] protests by unemployed youth and crowds on hire so rattled the government that it revoked the land transfer. At that stage, a little firmness and explanation that the land was being given to a statutory body established by the state legislature and that too for temporary structures should have doused the fires in the valley. But with an eye on upcoming elections, the People’s Democratic Party and the National Conference jumped into the fray and made allegations about attempts being made to change Kashmir’s demography!

When the land order was revoked, the government thought that like countless other surrenders earlier, it will get away with this one too. In any case the prime minister was busy sewing up the nuclear deal with the US and the supreme leader of the ruling combine was enjoying the Beijing [Images] Olympics [Images] in the company of her family! Nobody had much time to devote such trifling matter as a major crisis in Jammu and Kashmir [Images].

The reaction in Jammu came as a surprise to one and all (including the ineffectual Bharatiya Janata Party which later tried to jump on the bandwagon). Frankly, the protests in Jammu had very little to do with the Amarnath land transfer issue. It was a spontaneous outburst of pent-up anger at the last 60 years of mollycoddling of the valley and discrimination towards the region. Other hilly states like Himachal Pradesh [Images] or Uttarakhand [Images] are marching ahead of J&K.

It is the obduracy of the valley — that sees demons in any and every attempt at economic development as ‘Indian imperialism’ — that has got the people of Jammu agitated.

The measure by former governor retired Lieutenant General S K Sinha to extend the Amarnath Yatra [Images] saw a bonanza in the shape of over 500,000 pilgrims making the arduous trek. Even at an average spending of Rs 2,000 per pilgrim, it meant over Rs 100 crore was pumped into the state’s economy, directly benefiting the common man. That this was opposed surely takes the cake, as the world over religious tourism is being encouraged.

To be continued…

Colonel Dr Anil Athale (retd) is the Chhatrapati Shivaji Fellow at the United Services Institution, Delhi [Images], and coordinator of the Pune-based Institute for Peace and Disarmament