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Current Affairs

Tunisian Elections: Left Gains As ‘Islamists’ Lose
Dominique Lerouge and Freddy Mathieu

Unlike October 2011, the bulk of left forces were united for the elections. The number of elected members of the Front Populaire increased from 6 to 15, including 6 from the Workers’ Party, 4 from the United Democratic Patriots, 2 from the LGO, and 3 Arab nationalists. Strong pressure will be exerted on the Front to vote confidence in the future government, and even participate in the latter, or vote for the budget...


US-Assisted Taliban Surge Bad for India
G Parthasarathy

The most significant development that India can ill afford to ignore is that the US no longer regards the Mullah Omar-led Afghan Taliban as an Al-Qaeda “affiliate”. It also does not see the Taliban as a terrorist group A recent report issued by the Pentagon has, for the first time, alluded to “sanctuaries” in Pakistan for harbouring terrorists on its borders with both Afghanistan and India....


(Reuters) - A suicide bomber killed 45 people at a volleyball match in Afghanistan on Sunday, a provincial official said, as foreign troops withdraw from the country after more than a decade of fighting. Mukhles Afghan, spokesman for the governor of Paktika province, said at least 50 more were wounded in the attack in Yahya Khel district, where residents had gathered to watch a tournament final. He said most of the casualties were civilians.

Related: An Hour’s Drive Outside Kabul, Taliban Reign, NYT


Revisiting Nehru’s India
Najam Sethi

But we also grudgingly acknowledge that without Nehru India would not be the enviable democracy it is today, while we are still struggling to anchor ourselves firmly in it. After all, in 1947 both India and Pakistan were “fraternal twins”, in the sense of an overlapping genetic and linguistic heritage, a common struggle against colonialism, a post-colonial state-bureaucratic system and a common Anglo-Saxon jurisprudence. Both started off in quest of democracy. But India is a democracy today because it was a democracy yesterday, and the day before, and the day before......


Social harmony is in a shambles as trust between Hindus and Muslims has reached its lowest ebb. Most affected are youngsters as friendship between a girl and a boy of different religions is being seen with a sense of doubt, thanks to the “love jihad” activism of the saffron vigilante groups. Though marriage between Hindus and Muslim is not new in the region, “love jihad,” a term coined by the Sangh Parivar to paint courtship of Hindu girls by Muslim boys as a ploy for conversion, is vitiating the social environment and fuelling communal tensions……


The Muslim electorate is going through a big churn in India. They are disenchanted with the attitude of their religious and political leadership, and they are also tired of being treated as a vote bank. It shows in the way they have been voting in recent times but a clear pattern indicating a decisive shift in the mindset of the community is yet to be visible……

Rediscovering Nehru
Kancha Ilaiah

Rediscovering Nehru
Kancha Ilaiah

Nehru’s personal and political notion of secularism was formulated and executed from the fundamental belief of atheism, and liberal, democratic and Fabian socialist values which he encountered in England where he lived and was educated. Nehru maintained an equidistance in his personal, political and administrative approach to all religions…..

Imagine a World with No Religion, No Partition and No 9/11
Mark Tully

To win votes on a religious basis voters have to be convinced that their religion is threatened or they are being discriminated against because of their faith, whether they are the majority of an electorate or a minority. The story of the Ram Janambhoomi movement and the riots that followed the destruction of the Ayodhya mosque would have taken a different turn if both Hindu and Muslim leaders had sought for a compromise…..

Our Very Own Hamlet
Farooq Sulehria

Our Very Own Hamlet
Farooq Sulehria

The movie is a masterstroke – and so, it has been bitterly criticised and eulogised at the same time. Those upset with its political message refuse to acknowledge its artistic brilliance. Those carried away by its cinematic luminosity and creative lustre have ignored the complexity woven into subtly conveyed political message.  To fully appreciate Haider we must approach it from a political angle on the one hand, and judge it on artistic/cinematic standards, on the other. True, a neat separation is not possible here. However, this bifurcation will provide ease of systematic review……


There Really Is No Case for Uniform Civil Code
Manish Tewari

The preamble to the Indian Constitution enshrines secularism as a fundamental value of the Indian state. The first question that would arise then is this: Is there an inherent conflict between a preamble ideal and the remit of Article 44? The second query that would arise is whether there an intrinsic inconsistency with Article 25 that allows for freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion. The third enquiry that needs to be flagged is whether on a wider plane there is a basic incompatibility between retrofitting religious continuums dating back millennia into the conception of modern Westphalian nation states?....

It is no longer a question of what else will certain groups of Malay Muslims take offence to in Malaysia. Anything from a) places of worship of other religions must not be built in Malay-majority areas and b) alcohol cannot be sold in shops in Malay-majority areas, and even pictures of idols cannot be placed alongside Halal signs – has raised hackles among Muslim groups…..


Will Justice Be Done: The Story of Shama and Shahzad
Mehr Tarar

Shama, 24, and Shahzad Masih, 26, were brutalised by a frenzied crowd who, after tearing their clothes, breaking their bones, dragging them across the village, threw them in the burning furnace of the brick kiln where the latter worked. Shama, a mother of three, was four months pregnant. Shama, eyewitnesses say, was wearing clothes that did not burn easily, so her clothes were torn off her, and she was wrapped into cotton: cotton burns easily. And she had to be burnt. The mob had decided….

The Power of Imran and the Military Means Sharif's Rule Is Still Fragile
Mehr F. Husain

Will it be enough? Not likely. Right now, PM Sharif's entire mandate lies in tatters and it is imperative, not just for his own survival but for the country's sake, that some sort of solution is provided to ensure the country does not fall prey to complete darkness – literally.....


The brothers are said to have slit their family members throats in an attempt to 'restore the honour' of the family. They had been suspecting that their stepsisters were involved in prostitution and killed their mother for 'supporting them'. 'We have no regrets because we killed them in the name of honour,'….


My Role in Bridging the Gap between Britain's Muslims and People of All Other Faiths
Sadiq Khan

It depresses me how many people simply equate the length of your beard, the food you eat and the clothes you wear and 'extremism'. If you are a practising Muslim, it does not make you an extremist and I'm determined to play my role in standing up to this kind of sloppy stereotyping. The very people spreading lies about Muslims being extremists risk putting off Muslims from sticking their heads above the parapet and playing an active role in society…..


BJP Plans Unprecedented Drive To Recruit Muslims; But How Many Will Sign Up?
Hasan Suroor

When Arif Mohammed Khan, a former Congress and Janata Dal leader, joined the BJP in 2004, he was welcomed with open arms and even rewarded with a party ticket for the Lok Sabha elections. But the honeymoon didn't last long and he quit in 2007 complaining that he was being "ignored ". More recently Aamir Raza Hussain, the noted theatre personality, went through the same "in" and "out" routine. Even Najma Heptullah was in deep freeze for a long time and the only reason she didn't quit, it is believed, is because she had nowhere else to go. It is true that many join it out of sheer opportunism when the party is in power, and leave when they don't get rewarded or it loses power. Still, the BJP's Muslim retention rate is abysmally poor. From some of the accounts I've heard it seems there is little effort to retain them…..

These moves have come under intense scrutiny, with different groups calling for and against what some describe as growing Islamic conservatism, or to some, "manufacturing a siege mentality" among the majority Malays to shore up political support. These fatwas have added to other local controversies - from the banning of yoga for Muslims to several high-profile inter-faith disputes that have split mixed-marriage couples as well as a court decision banning the use of the word "Allah" for God in a Christian publication…..

The Dragon in Buddha’s Robes
Sunanda K. Datta-Ray

The Dragon in Buddha’s Robes
Sunanda K. Datta-Ray

For China, which is emerging as the strident protagonist of what can only be called a form of politicised Buddhism — that is, more politics than religion — the aim is twofold. Abroad, China wants to woo and win genuinely Buddhist hearts and minds in South-East, East and Central Asia. At home, it hopes to solve the problem of Tibet by saddling Tibetans and the world with an officially-approved successor to the present exiled Dalai Lama. Of course, there are genuine Chinese Buddhists. I have seen diners in restaurants in Beijing and Shanghai stand up with deferentially folded palms as small groups of monks entered….


Yasser Arafat and his generation did for the Palestinians what Zionism did for the Jews after World War II. Arafat, Abu al-Abbas and their comrades brought Palestinians out from the obscurity and persecution of the 1950s, from the misery of the refugee camps into the world as key players in international affairs. For 40 years, these leaders were the center of gravity in Palestinian politics. Power went where they went: Amman, Beirut, Tunis, Gaza or Ramallah. Everyone is to blame for the death of my husband and Yasser Arafat: Israel, the U.S. and Arabs…..


Shahi Imam Bukhari Has No Rights over Jamia Masjid
M J Akbar

Muslims claim, with justified pride, that the age of Jahiliya, or ignorance, ended when the message of Islam came to the Prophet Muhammad in the desert city of Mecca. Regrettably, Jihalat still lingers in parts of the Muslim world. It has found a temporary sanctuary in Delhi’s Jamia Masjid, the iconic symbol of Indian Islam…..

The Malegaon Mystery: 13 per cent of Muslim votes in Maharashtra Assembly polls went to BJP and another 11 per cent to the Shiv Sena
Javed Anand

If Malegaon’s Muslims continue to feel that successive Congress-NCP governments have done little to address their concerns, why then did they repose their faith in these very parties in the Assembly polls, unlike unhappy voters in other Muslim-predominant pockets who expressed their anger by turning to the MIM?....


Satire in the Middle East: Laughing At the Humourless

“If I were a cow, I would be wearing a bra,” goes a lyric in a popular song about Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of Islamic State (IS). This reference to bovine lingerie—a poke at Mr Baghdadi’s supposed umbrage at the sight of naked udders—gets cheers from the audience in Metro al-Madina, a theatre in Beirut. The tune about Mr Baghdadi leading Islam into the abyss has proven such a hit that the Lebanese band performing it, The Great Departed, has extended its show…..


Indian Muslims Lose Hope in National Secular Party
Neha Thirani Bagri

“We are not against any community, but we are certainly against the ideology of certain communal parties,” Mr. Pathan said, his voice soft but strained. “If anybody voices communal sentiments against any minority, we are not going to take it lightly. We are replying. That does not make us communal — we are just defending ourselves.”....

The Love Jihad Bogey
Flavia Agnes

Saif Ali Khan, in the context of the recent “love jihad” controversy, wrote in a newspaper: “When Kareena and I married, there were similar death threats, with people on the Net saying ridiculous things about ‘love jihad’”. A child of inter-faith marriage himself, he goes on to remind us that similar death threats were also issued when his parents, the Nawab of Pataudi and the then reigning Bollywood queen, Sharmila Tagore, a Brahmin, got married. In a candid account he states that rather than hatred towards any religion, this has made him more Hindu and more Muslim, and has taught him to respect all religions…….

Building Roads of Peace
Khaled Ahmed

Connectivity is another way of saying “no war”, but in our parts “no war” is considered a cowardly thing. Today, the world thinks if two warrior states become interdependent they will find it hard to go to war. Connectivity is achieved through free trade and you need roads to get your goods across borders. If Pakistan is sensitive to self-interest, it should truly exploit the “edge” of strategic physical location that makes neighbours interdependent with it. That edge is called transit trade….

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