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Books and Documents

Debating Islam

Barring four exceptions, none of the winners have been from the Muslim world. The exceptions were: Abdus Salam from Pakistan, in Physics, 1979; Naguib Mahfouz from Egypt, in literature, 1988; Ahmed Hassan Zewail, an Egyptian-American, in Chemistry, 1999; and Orhan Pamuk from Turkey, in literature, 2006. Ironically, except Ahmed Zewail, who is a US citizen, the Muslim world did not give the due recognition or respect to their best and the brightest. In fact, they were treated unfairly. Naguib Mahfooz, was stabbed in the neck by religious extremists. Orhan Pamuk was put on trial by the Turkish government for “insulting Turkishness”, because he talked of Kurdish and Armenian deaths in Turkey. Abdus Salam was virtually disowned by his country because of his faith. We are frequently reminded of the great contributions the Muslim scholars and scientists made in the past, and how it was through their works the West became acquainted with Aristotle, Greek knowledge and other scientific discoveries and inventions. -- Aziz Akhmad

The book under review has been written by Ghulam Nabi Kashaafi as a counter-argument to Maulana’s “Qayamat ka alarm”. Mr Kashaafi has written the book with a lot of research, balanced approach, realism and impartial analysis. When we received the book and a letter to the editor of the Jam-e-Noor monthly from Mr Kashaafi, we were taken aback and it took us some time to realise that this was from the same pen that had been spewing fire in Maulana’s defence for the last ten years and from a person who did not find any rival to Maulana from Arab to Ajam (from the East to the West). Not only that, whenever even Jam-e-Noor wrote something against Maulana Wahiduddin Khan, Mr Kashaafi came forward to defend him. It was hard to believe how such a big advocate of Maulana could turn his adversary…..

But when for the first time the realisation dawned on me that Maulana was preparing himself to be the Mehdi model or Christian model I suffered bouts of anxiety and restlessness and was ashamed of my support to him all these years. Then I reviewed and pondered over the ideology and thoughts of Maulana anew and the May 2010 issue of Al Risala became the basis of my final disillusionment with him.” --- Zeeshan Ahmad Misbahi, Editor, Jaam-e-Noor Urdu Monthly. [Translated from Urdu by S. Arshad, NewAgeIslam.com]

The proclamation that Taseer hated India is one of the biggest crimes against the truth. Based on many discussions with the late governor, I can say it with full responsibility that the claim is wrong and must be based on some personal considerations, certainly not factual. Many close friends of late Taseer would bear me out on this. … The difference between him (Shashi Tharoor) and I may be (in addition to his intellectual superiority) that in order to love my country, I do not feel the need to hate India, which still carries the roots of so many Pakistanis. Just like an Indian liberal is an Indian first, a Pakistani liberal is a Pakistani first. Whenever the conscience has demanded to choose, Pakistani liberals have made the right choice — truth vis-à-vis blind complacency. The reason why we are so critical about our own state is precisely this: we love Pakistan. Please take it as it is. -- Marvi Sirmed

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“To understand the Pakistani obsession with India, to get a sense of its special edge — its hysteria — it is necessary to understand the rejection of India, its culture and past, that lies at the heart of the idea of Pakistan,” Aatish Taseer averred. “This is not merely an academic question. Pakistan’s animus toward India is the cause of both its unwillingness to fight Islamic extremism and its active complicity in undermining the aims of its ostensible ally, the United States.” ...

… As this otherwise minor editorial spat demonstrates, Indians need to put aside their illusions that there are liberal partners for us on the other side of the border who echo our diagnosis of their plight and share our desire to defenestrate their military. Nor should we be surprised: a Pakistani liberal is, after all, a Pakistani before he is a liberal. -- Shashi Tharoor

In one case, the female weightlifter Kulsoom Abdullah was initially barred from the US championships, because she wanted to compete in clothing that would cover her elbows and knees. She had wanted to wear such clothing in accordance with her interpretation of Islamic rules of modesty for women. Officials were concerned that such clothing would obscure the view of the judges to assess whether she had achieved a proper "lock" of the elbows and knees, which is essential for a weight-lifting competition. Subsequently, Kulsoom Abdullah proposed to wear a tight-fitting unitard under the compulsory competition costume, which would allow the judges to assess whether her elbows and knees were properly locked while lifting weights. The International Weightlifting Federation agreed to this compromise and Kulsoom Abdullah then registered for the US Championships. -- JALEES REHMAN

 

The systematic abuse of language in education and beyond is a disease that has taken monstrous form in Pakistan. We are raising children with an indisputable sense of superiority and bigotry against minorities and foreigners. What’s worse is the pervading maliciousness of the very same language and semantics against women and children. I have met individuals who have openly used ‘rape’ as an alternative for succeeding in a test and, much to my horror, as a joke. …. really does desire a revolution in Pakistan then he must commence to understand the power of language and knowledge. “You mean we don’t need to go out on the streets?” I don’t think so, honestly. -- Mehreen Kasana

MORE than six decades after Partition, India and Pakistan continue to be locked in disputes which even take them to the brink of war. It is difficult to believe that people who had lived side by side for centuries now refuse to recognise the commonalities in their culture and languages. Against this backdrop comes a breath of fresh air in the form of a new book that focuses on social harmony rather than cultural discord. Dr Tariq Rahman, a professor of sociolinguistic history at the Quaid-i-Azam University, has published his 11th book titled From Hindi to Urdu: A Social and Political History (OUP) that should make many scholars sit up. Some have already challenged his findings. -- Zubeida Mustafa

Sindh and the Census
Zulfiqar Halepoto

… as soon as it was announced that a census was to be conducted, there was a wave of comment, particularly in Sindh. The Sindhi media, nationalist forces and other stakeholders started questioning the transparency and eligibility of the process. Such mobilisation is based on the fear that Sindhi people may be converted into a minority on their own soil through tampering with the head count and manipulating data. … there are some allegedly ‘no-go’ areas: certain parts of Karachi and portions of interior Sindh that were gifted as fiefdoms to tribal chiefs and feudal lords by the Musharraf government, and later on legitimised by President Zardari under the ‘reconciliation’ formula. -- Zulfiqar Halepoto

Reflecting on Sai Baba’s life, one encounters moments of divine transformation, devotion, and public service as well as pain, death, and heinous accusations. Millions of devotees believed in and worshiped Sai Baba as a god-man, an avatar of God. Many also despised him as a charlatan, a sexual abuser, and even an accessory to murder. …. he claimed to be an incarnation of the turn-of-the-century Muslim saint, Shirdi Sai Baba. He renounced all normal social relationships and performed miracles that quickly attracted large crowds. -- Andrea R. Jain

Writing for NewAgeIslam.com, columnist Adab Nawaz wonders if the demand for imams to be paid wages by the secular government of India is justified. Will it not give fillip to competitive communalism, he asks. He quotes a member of All India Muslim Personal Law Board Kamal Farooqui as reminding Muslims the question the revered Islamic scholar Maulana Ali Mian Nadvi had raised in this context: “If the imams are on government’s payroll, the government will be justified in vetting the Friday khutabas (sermons). Are the Muslims ready for this?”

The Media and the Mullahs
Yoginder Sikand, NewAgeIslam.com

In my view, it is not Islam per se, but, rather, particular versions, or, more appropriately, visions, of it that are fundamentally responsible for the perceived inability of the mullahs to articulate sensible, meaningful and contextually-relevant interpretations of Islam for our times. Over the years, I have read the works of numerous progressive Islamic scholars, who articulate understandings of the faith, including on such issues as women’s rights, inter-faith relations, peace and communal harmony, and social and economic justice that are truly appealing and eminently sensible. However, they receive no recognition from the mullahs at all, most of who have not even heard of them. The mullahs simply do not feel the need to turn to them, for they imagine themselves, as they repeatedly claim, to be the ‘inheritors of the prophets’ or waris-e anbiya. Consequently, they feel absolutely no need at all to take lessons from others, be they non-mullah Muslims or non-Muslims. This is why progressive Islamic scholars find no place in the madrasas or in most Muslim bookshops that specialize in texts penned by the mullahs, besides the Quran and the putative sayings of the Prophet. -- Yoginder Sikand, NewAgeIslam.com

Posted below is a statement of Jamia Teachers' Solidarity Association, signed by several teachers of the University on the issue of minority status to Jamia. This was released in Feb 2010 and questioned the dominant discourse being put forth. The statement raises several issues about the demand for minority status--all of which have been left unaddressed by the votaries of the minority status. These questions remain relevant, indeed need to be responded to even more urgently now. It concludes: “Any genuine struggle for Muslim empowerment and rights should be to demand and ensure the presence of Muslims in all institutions of higher education rather than creating and limiting their presence in separate educational enclaves. This is a demand that the state would only be too ready to grant, allowing it to wash its hands off the more crucial and difficult task of making higher education across the board more accessible to Muslims. We caution the government not to perpetuate the politics of minority-ism while abandoning the cause of minority rights.”

Another major impact that Darul Huda made is the change in the general perception about the religious scholar in terms of his roles and status. Attaining both alamiat and a university degree certificate and gaining efficiency in four major languages – English, Arabic, Urdu and Malayalam, the graduates of Darul Huda explore their potentials in different fields – in teaching, higher education, media, corporate sector, etc. Thus they are working as journalists including some of the leading Malayalam dailies, Arabic media such as Al-Jazeera, language expert in different ministries in Gulf countries, lectures, teachers and research scholars in different universities, trainers and counselors with different organizations. As players in diverse field, they are able to ensure their participation in the endevours of community and nation building and as religious scholars they are able to take the opportunities to explain and communicate with others the teachings of Islam in an informed and logical manner. This has been helpful in dealing with the stigmatization and the stereotypification of religious scholar….

Any experience that comes in the way of the new initiative can be taken in two ways: either as challenge and opportunity, or as problem and danger. The first approach leads to a proactive action while the other attitude may result in the reactive responses. Painfully, the dominant attitude has been the later – the reactive one, which always has been trying to find an answer for ‘whom to blame? The answer may be media, secularists, government agencies or conspirators, etc. However, the proactive style that Darul Huda has been following anticipates change by critically analyzing the trends and tries to cope with the situation by taking cues from the past. Thus, instead of looking for ‘who is to blame’ the approach has been and should be to look ‘What is to learn?’ -- Dr. Faisal Hudawi

From time to time in Britain, a cry goes up that multiculturalism has failed. The debate then quickly, almost seamlessly, turns to the problem of “integrating” the Muslim community with the wider British society and — its implied consequence — the rise of “Muslim extremism.” Once again, like the proverbial Groundhog Day, we are in that familiar territory after Prime Minister David Cameron recently used a speech at an international security conference in Munich to declare that the time had come to bury “state multiculturalism.” It had, he contended, encouraged “different cultures to live separate lives” with “segregated communities behaving in ways that run counter to our values.”

Mr. Cameron then went on to conflate the supposed failings of multiculturalism with the issue of radicalisation of Muslims (always the elephant in the room whenever Britain's social ills are discussed), which he blamed on a policy of “hands-off tolerance.” -- Hasan Suroor

The theme of my argument is the following statement: Islam, as a religion, has nothing to offer to economic or political theory. This simple idea has serious consequences. Political Islam, when it runs the country, will ultimately fail. It has no appropriate agenda that provides solutions to real political or economic challenges such as underdevelopment, unemployment, inflation, recession, poverty, just to mention a few.

(I will not touch upon the most significant political-socioeconomic issue which is income inequalities, because Islam accepts a society composed of very rich classes living side by side with very poor classes- examples can be found from history or from today’s Muslim countries like Saudi Arabia, and Iran). While some Islamists continue to claim the existence of “Islamic economics,” they have failed in producing anything close to a simple theory of economics. -- SAMIR YOUSIF

On a special "This Week" town hall, Christiane Amanpour moderated a fiery debate over the place of Islam in America.

 The first question the "This Week" anchor put to her panelists on all sides of the issue was: should Americans fear Islam?

Peter Gadiel, who lost his son in the 9/11 terrorist attacks, said that he would like nothing more than to not be afraid of Islam, but to ignore the "history of Muslim terror attacks," he said, would be unwise. Gadiel, who is a board member of the 9/11 Families for a Secure America Foundation, said "to ignore that threat is to ignore the history of Islam." Donna Marsh O'Connor, who lost her daughter in the 9/11 attacks, said that Americans should not live in fear of a whole group of people. "I think Americans should fear criminal behavior. I think we should do the best we can to control criminal behavior. But I can't raise my two remaining sons to fear the people who live next door to them. That is not what my grandparents came to America to escape," she said. -- JOSHUA MILLER and JACK DATE 

 

 

What matters for the religious right is obviously not the rightfulness or justice of its cause, be it substantial or procedural, it is naked power. And there are few things like the blasphemy law to give the appearance of power. The aftermath of Salmaan Taseer’s shooting is so very depressing. In a sense, it mirrors the aftermath of the Arizona shooting in the US, where a young man killed six people and injured 14 others, including Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. In both cases, we see the more progressive elements of the country embark on massive soul-searching. In the US, a vast debate on the role of the Tea Party’s extreme rhetoric in inciting violence has been launched. In Pakistan, many have written and spoken in defense both of Taseer and the values he stood for; many have revisited recent history to understand the causes of such violence, the betrayal of Jinnah’s dream, the ever damaging legacy of Ziaul Haq, the ambiguities of the subsequent governments towards extremists, and the cowardice of the current government in tackling them. Many are pondering about what went wrong, and how to change the course of a country seemingly running at full speed towards complete failure. --Sikander Amani

Photo: Salmaan Taseer

 

Pakistan Ulema Counsel Chairman Muhammad Tahir Mahmood Ashrafi condemned the murder of Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer and said that those who issued edicts for the Punjab governor’s murder over blasphemy issues were not muftis, a private TV channel reported on Monday.

Alamdin Ashrafi said that Taseer was not Raj Pal and Qadri was not Ghazi Alamdin Shaheed. He said that Islam had bestowed more rights on minorities than Muslims in society. He urged that religion not be used for vested interests of politics. He said that Aasia Bibi and Qadri’s cases were in court and the court would give its verdicts regarding the cases and we should wait and respect the court’s verdicts. He said that Taseer’s matter was in God’s court now.

Ashrafi said that Taseer had repeatedly said that only a fanatic could commit blasphemy, adding that the blasphemy law was amended twice during Nawaz Sharif’s regimes, adding that Taseer was killed for just talking about the law. He said that laws presented by Ziaul Haq, Nawaz Sharif or Asif Ali Zardari were debatable, adding that those who say that a debate on blasphemy law was not possible were misleading the nation—Daily times Monitor

Justice To Asia Bibi Accused Of Blasphemy In Pakistan

Asia Bibi is not a Muslim and is relegated to menial work that is considered unclean (Napak) by others, who consider themselves to be good Muslims, denied her water from the common source.  Is this not a most egregious insult, and the denial of water, the same as denial to sustain life? First of all he would not have denied Asia Bibi the water of life, indeed in another famous occurrence a person fed water to a thirsty animal and the Prophet had said God will grace the person for that act of kindness.  He would have been kind and magnanimous and would probably have us pray for Asia Bibi’s well being.  God loves the forgivers and those who repent.   As Muslims we need to keep his message of kindness alive and bring to fruition what he was all about; Rahmutul- Aalameen. Let the mercy and kindness he taught become a blessing to the universe and continue to shower on humanity. We owe an apology to Asia Bibi, her family and the Christian community.  We should build goodwill in our and their hearts.

 We ask the people of Pakistan to seriously debate about the blasphemy laws. The violent silencing of Governor Salman Taseer calls for an immediate need for a discussion on the topic. Islam is about free will and as Muslims we need stand against any oppression towards any human being following in the footsteps of the prophet. Amen!  We ask the people of Pakistan to seriously debate about the blasphemy laws. The violent silencing of Governor Salman Taseer calls for an immediate need for a discussion on the topic. Islam is about free will and as Muslims we need stand against any oppression towards any human being following in the footsteps of the prophet. Amen! -- Mike Ghouse (This appeal was prepared in consultation with Dr. Mirza Beg and Imam Zia ul-Haq Sheikh.)

THE 1920’s in India witnessed the publishing of an inflammatory book vilifying Prophet Muhammad (SAW) thereby adding fuel to the existing Muslim/Hindu tensions. The British Raj ruled India and the creation of Pakistan was still a distant dream in the hearts of the Indian Muslims. The Muslim population was understandably incensed and mass protests were held. Prashaad Prataab had authored Rangeela Rasool (The Colourful Prophet), under the pen name of Pandit Chamupati Lal. The word rangeela means ‘colourful’ but can be understood in this context to mean ‘playboy’. [Nauzbillah] Ilm Din was an illiterate teenager from Lahore. His father was a carpenter. One day he was passing near Masjid (mosque) Wazir Khan. There was a huge crowd shouting slogans against Rajpal. The speaker thundered: "Oh Muslims! The devil Rajpal has sought to dishonour our beloved Prophet Muhammed (S.A.W) by his ****** book!”

Ilm Din was deeply affected by this passionate speech and vowed to take action. ... Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah was his defence lawyer. Jinnah fought "Ghazi" Ilm Deen's case on a special request from Allama Iqbal. Jinnah urged Ilm Din to enter a plea of not guilty and to say that he had acted due to extreme provocation. The fact that Ilm Din was only 19 years old would have also worked in his favour. Ilm Din refused to offer such a plea and insisted that he was proud of his actions. This case was the only one that Jinnah ever lost. The Session Court awarded Ilm Din the death penalty. Against his wishes, the Muslims lodged an appeal, but it was rejected. -- TheMuslim.ca

Photo: Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the Founder of Pakistan

 

Until just a few years ago, women in some parts of Morocco still wrapped themselves in a broad wool cloth several metres long, which was wound around the head and body. This usually pale-coloured haik had its origins in pre-Islamic times, and its drapery, reminiscent of statues of women from the ancient world, was a source of inspiration for many artists.

But this traditional dress is gradually disappearing – not only in Essaouira, the Atlantic port that was famous for its haik-clad women, but also in other parts of Morocco. Instead, new versions of the full-body veil are rapidly becoming popular. The most common of these is the black niqab, in which a narrow slit leaves only the eyes exposed. In an allusion to the masks worn by riot squads, women who wear the niqab are sometimes referred to as "ravens" or "ninjas". -- Beat Stauffer

Photo: Burqas, niqabs, haiks and khimars … Unlike in Europe, most people in the Maghreb are able to interpret the subtle distinctions in meaning signified by the various different head and body coverings.

 

Terrorists co-opted Ronald Reagan's "Star Wars" strategy (which tricked the U.S.S.R. into spending itself into bankruptcy). Now, they are making us spend ourselves into bankruptcy. A handful of terrorists spend $4,200 and we have to waste hundreds of millions in direct response. If military history is instructive, it says that America must find a smarter way to resolve the disagreement between the East and West. -- David R. Usher

 
Will Azim Premji Be A Trendsetter?
Editorial in Asian Age, New Delhi

The advantage of having the private sector taking up the cause of education in India on a war footing — in Mr Premji’s footsteps — is that practically every rupee would be used for the purpose it is intended, and not — as would happen under the government’s management — that nine out of 10 rupees would go towards lining the pockets of a long line of middlemen and, of course, for “administrative expenses”. Now if only the many others in Mr Premji’s league would only follow in his footsteps. We don’t think it is asking for the moon! -- Editorial in Asian Age, New Delhi

Others, including prelates in Africa, have said condom use is worth considering when one partner in a marriage is HIV positive. Benedict did not address such cases in his interview, and he reaffirmed church teaching against artificial contraception. But he said, “There may be a basis in the case of some individuals, as perhaps when a male prostitute uses a condom, where this can be a first step in the direction of a moralisation, a first assumption of responsibility.” Asked if that meant that the church wasn’t opposed in principle to condoms, the Pope replied: The church “of course does not regard it as a real or moral solution, but in this or that case, there can be nonetheless in the intention of reducing the risk of infection, a first step in a movement towards a different way, a more human way, of living sexuality,” according to an English translation of the book obtained by The Associated Press. -- Victor L Simpson

Photo: Pope Benedict XVI

 

A close look at the results reveals that 19 Muslim candidates, including one from the BJP (Saba Zafar - Amour), got elected this time, four more than in 2005. More refreshing was the fact that 37 Muslims ended up in second position. Nine of them were defeated by less than 5,000 votes and three by less than 300. We have to acknowledge the “Nitish magic” when we see that of the 37 Muslim runners-up, 15 were defeated by BJP, 14 by JD(U), 4 by Independents, and only two each by Congress and RJD ticket-holders. Only four of the Muslim runners-up were defeated by Muslim candidates. This is another pointer to the “suspended untouchability” of the BJP in Bihar. -- Shahroz Tarique Raza

In Pakistan, the purported purpose of the blasphemy law is to punish anybody who offends society’s religious sentiments. However, the fact is that the provisions of this law are being misused to victimise and intimidate weak individuals or opponents. A Christian woman named Aasia Bibi was sentenced to death by a district and sessions court after a year long trial on accusations of blasphemy filed by Muslim villagers of Ittanwali. Aasia Bibi has repeatedly denied committing blasphemy and there is a growing perception that she has been accused of blasphemy to settle scores in a dispute over livestock with her neighbours. On January 28, 2009, the police in Punjab arrested five Ahmedis. The accusation against them was that they wrote ‘Prophet Mohammad’ (PBUH) on the wall of a toilet in a Sunni mosque. The senior superintendent of police investigated and reported to the ministry of interior that the accusation was baseless. These cases are a clear proof of how the blasphemy law is being misused to punish opponents or harass minorities. -- Mashal Sahir

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