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Current Affairs ( 27 Nov 2015, NewAgeIslam.Com)

‘India first’ only religion of government, Constitution its only scripture: Modi: New Age Islam’s Selection From India Press, 28 November 2015

New Age Islam Edit Bureau

November 28, 2015

‘India first’ only religion of government, Constitution its only scripture: Modi

By The Hindu

The why of ISIS

By Gautam Adhikari

Fifty shades of intolerance

By Chetan Bhagat

A Little Bit Of Magic

By Khaled Ahmed



‘India first’ only religion of government, Constitution its only scripture: Modi

By The Hindu

November 28, 2015

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday said 'India first’ is the only religion and Constitution the only ‘holy book’ for his government which is committed to working for all sections and religions, a statement that comes in the midst of a raging debate on intolerance, even as he adopted a conciliatory tone towards Opposition.

He ruled out any review of the Constitution and reached out to the Opposition saying the ruling side does not believe in forcing decisions through majority but believes in working through consensus.

Replying to a two-day long debate in the Lok Sabha to commemorate the Constitution Day and the 125th birth anniversary of Dr B R Ambedkar, Mr. Modi also rejected the Congress contention that the NDA government was trying to deny credit to or was undermining the role of leaders like Jawaharlal Nehru, to whom he paid rich tributes.

The House later unanimously adopted a resolution hailing the contribution of Ambedkar and other founding fathers of the Constitution.

With his government facing attack on the issue of ’intolerance’ during the two-day debate, he asserted that diversity is the strength of India and it needs to be nurtured.

“For the government, the only dharma is ‘India first, the only dharma granth (holy book) is the Constitution,” the Prime Minister asserted in his 70-minute reply to the debate during which opposition members and questioned his “silence” over the issue.

However, Mr. Modi did not specifically refer to any recent incidents arising out of intolerance or nor did he touch on the debate that is raging in the country over it.

Invites Manmohan, Sonia for discussion

Mr. Modi’s conciliatory tone also came on a day as he had invited Congress president Sonia Gandhi and his predecessor Manmohan Singh for tea, in an apparent bid to seek a consensus on issues in Parliament, including passage of the GST bill.

During the debate on Thursday, Home Minister Rajnath Singh said secularism is the “most misused” word in Indian politics and sought an end to its abuse.

Congress President Sonia Gandhi hit back at the government saying the ideals of Constitution were under attack now and it was a “joke” that those who had no role in the making of the Constitution were now discussing it and demanding a review.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Friday utilised the debate in the Rajya Sabha to attack the Congress cited Hitler’s actions in Germany in 1930s for the imposition of Emergency in 1975 by “subverting” the Constitution. The “dictatorship was at its worst” then as even right to life and liberty was suspended, he said.

“The country will run by the Constitution and it should be run only by the Constitution. India has fundamentally grown on this ideology. The country has the internal energy amassed over thousands of years which gives it the stimulus and capacity to deal with crises,” Mr. Modi said.

Invoking Mahatma Gandhi, B R Ambedkar and Nehru repeatedly, he underlined that the ‘Idea of India’ is reflected by the aspects like ‘Ahimsa Parmo Dharma (non-violence is supreme duty), Sarv Dharma Sambhav (equal respect to all religions) and Vasudev Kutumbakam (entire world is a family).

“Our country has been there for thousands of years.

Shortcomings do come. Even vices do crop up. But there is something that keeps us going. Even when vices come up, solutions also emerge from within the society....It is like an ’auto pilot corrective arrangement' and this is our strength,” the Prime Minister.

Asserting that the thrust of his government is on sab ka sath (cooperation from all), he said, “no section of the society should lag behind. If any part of the body is paralysed, the body cannot be called healthy. We have to empower people from all sections, be it any community, region or language.”

Noting that India has 12 religions, 122 languages and 1600 dialects and comprises people who are believers in God as well as athiests, he said, “all should get justice. There should be harmony.”

Rules out review of Constitution

“There are people who believe in the God and those who do not believe in the God. There are people who do idol worship..All have different views. They have aspirations and expectations which have to be accommodated,” Mr. Modi said, noting that Ambedkar had taken these aspects into consideration while framing the Constitution.

Allaying apprehensions in some sections, the Prime Minister asserted that there will be no review of the Constitution as its framers, like Ambedkar, have done an extraordinary and visionary task.

Describing the Constitution as a “social document” which is perfect, he said there should be maximum propagation about it among the masses as its provisions are the marg darshak (guide).

With Congress president Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul Gandhi listening keenly, Mr. Modi also showered praise on Nehru, saying he was a great personality, and rejected the perception that the NDA government was trying to deny credit to him.

“Today’s topic of discussion is not about ‘I’ and ‘you’ but it is about ‘We’...I have said from the Red Fort (in Independence Day address) and I am repeating that all previous governments and former Prime Ministers have made efforts and have contributed in making the country great,” he said.

“Hard work of many leaders has gone into shaping India.States also have played a role...There may be complaints that some government has done less but nobody can say that previous governments have done nothing,” the Prime Minister said.

Answering questions raised by the Congress over holding of the discussion now instead of January 26 when the Indian Republic came into being, Mr. Modi said, “26 November is a historical occasion and our intention is not to downplay the importance of January 26. We celebrate January 26 because of November 26.”


The why of ISIS

By Gautam Adhikari

November 28, 2015

Beyond immediate political causes, we need to look at how religions are exclusionary

Reams of analyses, speculation and helpless befuddlement have inundated the media around the world since the murderous assault of ISIS on Paris two weeks ago. Everyone is trying to find answers to the who, where and how puzzles that the extremist Islamists of ISIS have flung at us by their nonchalant brutality. Hovering overhead is a dark cloud asking: Why?

Immediately obvious whys, such as why they bombed a Russian plane full of civilian passengers or why they attacked Beirut or why they killed with Mumbai-style mercilessness in Paris, can be answered with reasonable accuracy. No answer, however, can fully explain an overarching why: Why do violent religious extremists come to do the sort of terrifying acts which the vast majority of humanity, including their co-religionists, can only imagine in horror?

Just asserting that it’s all because the US attacked Iraq and Afghanistan, or that it’s a result of the frustration of Islamic youth at the failure of the Arab Spring to flower, or that the historic Shia-Sunni divide is at the root of it all, are partial answers to immediate worries. The larger question of why religion at its extreme drives people to intolerant, unrelenting butchery is more difficult to answer. But we could begin a search for explanation by observing a few ground realities.

Here are three observations. Point One: Notice how Islamist violence today is almost entirely inspired and committed by Arab Islam. Non-Arab Islamic countries, such as Indonesia and Bangladesh which together account for at least a quarter of the world’s Muslim population, have their share of sporadic extremist violence mostly inspired by foreign factors but are by and large stable societies that also, along with Tunisia, testify to the fact that Islam and democracy are not necessarily incompatible. These nations do not have a policy of exporting Islam unlike, say, Saudi Arabia and some Gulf states.

My second observation might rile many readers. That’s because they are more likely than not to be believers in one religion or another. With apologies, let me assert that every organised religion is by definition exclusionary and, therefore, potentially though not always in reality, intolerant. Each claims to offer a better path to salvation or eternal bliss than competing faiths.

They all say they’re peaceful but each has a history of violent aggrandisement along with periods of peaceful expansion. Each has a fierce extremist fringe that brooks no dissent. And those fringes turn into bloodthirsty sects, like ISIS, seeking power and mastery over mortals.

Each religion demands ‘respect’. It’s a bit like demanding respect for politics. Religion like politics is grouped into competing sects and parties each of which competes for influence over people’s minds. Like politics, religion has not been eternally present in humankind’s history. Homo Sapiens evolved into being in eastern Africa about 2,00,000 years ago. Religion in its present forms has been around for only around 10,000 years.

Evolutionary historians have through careful study laid out that religion seems to have grown in animistic forms a few thousand years before the agricultural revolution. That probably morphed first into a polytheistic stage before monotheism became culturally and politically dominant. These are rationally demonstrable facts though those who want to believe in Noah’s Ark or Samudramanthan may be disinclined to find out what evolutionary science has put together.

Lastly, you might examine the power structure within each organised religion. Every one of them is dominated by males. Women, who for much of the recorded history of the past two or three millennia have been considered convenient accessories and passion receptacles for men, are barely visible in the top echelons of the world’s religions.

At those violent fringes we talked about you might find a few women who have been brainwashed into blowing themselves up for a supposed ethereal Good but almost all the assassins and terrorists are men, mostly young and hormonally restless. They and their older manipulators find ferociously expressed religious fervour a convenient tool with which to control and subjugate women. Witness the strictures against women and warnings against their supposed transgressions in most religious texts.

Such observations don’t answer the Why. But they might stimulate our search for answers.


Fifty shades of intolerance

By Chetan Bhagat

November 28, 2015

Chetan Bhagat in The Underage Optimist

Too bad if you don’t like something, you can’t let go of civil behaviour

One of the most misunderstood, out of control and inconclusive debates we have had in recent times is that on tolerance in India. A section of people are concerned, many have returned awards, made statements in the media and cited specific incidents including the Dadri killing and Kalburgi murder. Others feel India is a tolerant place.

The fact is we can freely discuss rising intolerance, or attack the government for it. That a billion plus Indians with tremendous differences in culture go about their lives on a daily basis shows that we are in fact, a tolerant country.

Both sides in the debate make their point vehemently, unwilling to listen to the other side. This alone is a kind of intolerance.

The questions remain though. Is India tolerant or intolerant? Can we be tolerant enough to say both the statements are true at the same time?

The confusion comes from the question itself. There is no one kind of tolerance. There can be religious intolerance, caste intolerance, economic inequality intolerance, intolerance of internet trolls, political intolerance, traffic intolerance, and alternate opinion intolerance.

The fact that we blare horns in traffic shows clearly who we are as a society (all developed and most Asian countries don’t have people blaring horns). If you have a Twitter account then the crude, insensitive comments that rule Twitter clearly suggest we are unwilling to treat differing opinions with dignity.

At the same time, it is unfair to suggest we are all intolerant.

Many Indians do not blare horns (a few idiots are enough to make the road noisy). Most people on Twitter have a positive attitude. The same goes for religious intolerance. Most Indians may not love every religion, but they are happy to co-exist with it.

Should we label such a society ‘intolerant’? Or should we blindly defend it as tolerant despite knowing that unsavoury things are happening? Or should we simply call it a real society where all shades exist, and that could work on being better? It is funny how none of the sides in the debate want to come to a real conclusion.

How do we make India more tolerant? For this it is important to understand the psychology of tolerance and keep it independent of politics as much as possible. The dictionary defines tolerance as “the ability or willingness to tolerate the existence of opinions or behaviour that one dislikes or disagrees with.”

The perceived level of tolerance or intolerance in society comes in a threestep process. One, there are things that bother us. Two, we choose to react to those bothersome things with specific actions. Three, those actions can create certain perceptions and fears in society.

The first step, what bothers us, is most important. It’s also the hardest to fix. We don’t have to become a society where nothing bothers us. Bad roads, corruption, inefficiency, mediocrity and poverty should bother us. However, in these areas we seem to be quite tolerant. We often elect corrupt or inept leaders.

What shouldn’t bother us are people whose belief systems are different – those who don’t believe in your religion, politics, culture or beliefs. You don’t have to love them. However, you have to learn to live and let live. If our differences didn’t bother us so much in the first place, intolerance would be nipped in the bud.

The only way this can happen, however, is the long process of educating and exposing society to various belief systems and cultures of the world. While that is happening in India with increased media exposure and people migration, change will be slow.

This is why the second step, how we react to what bothers us is important. Do we scream? Do we hit someone? Do we abuse? Or do we control ourselves emotionally? Can we learn to take a deep breath and say, Idon’t like what the other person is saying or doing at all, but I will not react in a violent or uncivil manner?

It seems many among us Indians have a hard time doing that. It is almost culturally acceptable to be ill-mannered when you are upset. This needs to change. Too bad if you don’t like something, but you can’t let go of civil behaviour.

The last step is what violent or abusive actions stemming from intolerance do to society. For one, they create massive amounts of fear. One religious attack will create fear in the minds of millions of others. Add to that over-eager and ever-present media these days, fear spreads faster than ever before.

It is here the top leadership can play a role. While the government doesn’t need to talk about every individual incident, if an incident has the potential to create fear in millions, it needs to be addressed at the top and fast.

Ultimately, we hope to reach a day where Indians get bothered for the right reasons. Until then, we simply need to be better mannered in our reactions. The top leadership as well as media should ensure any ill-conceived action doesn’t create fear in millions. We are a mixed society, tolerant and intolerant at the same time. Let us be tolerant enough to accept that for now and make things better.


A Little Bit Of Magic

By Khaled Ahmed

November 28, 2015

Reham Khan arrived on the scene in Pakistan in 2014 as a TV reporter. Her name was spelt funny in Urdu. She didn’t bother to clarify, so it was written with a big Urdu “h” rather the small Urdu “h”. It meant “uterus” when misspelled. But when spelt with a small “h”, it meant “light drizzle”. She was beautiful; and interviewee Imran Khan fell for her, married her, only to divorce her 10 months later — a second divorce for both. Her first husband is a psychiatrist in London. What began as magic, she says now, turned out to be black magic.

The Express Tribune wrote on November 15 about black magic being one possible reason for Reham’s divorce: “In the weeks before their divorce, Reham claims she found ‘things emerging in the house’. She said she doesn’t know what those ‘small things’ [talismans called taveezes] were but the servants said she shouldn’t be touching them. Reham earlier hinted at ‘black magic’ being the cause of their split and this is what she is said to have referred to.”

Imran’s first wife, Jemima, was a rich woman, financially secure, shy by nature, socially withdrawn, and tolerant of Imran’s spirituality. Reham was just the opposite: Assertive, constantly on the lookout for  a good chance, and less tolerant of what  she thought was black magic practised in Imran’s house.

In a book Imran wrote, Pakistan: A Personal History, he talks about his strong sense of personal destiny, revealed through soothsayers. He recalls: “Pir Gi from Sahiwal said I would be very famous and make my mother a household name”. Imran had announced his first retirement when he met another clairvoyant: “Baba Chala lived in a little village just a few miles from the Indian border. He certainly had not heard about my retirement… The man looked at me and said I had not left my profession…It is the will of Allah; you are still in the game”.

But the man who stood by him as his spiritual mentor and crystal-gazer was Mian Bashir, who shocked him by naming the Quranic verse his mother used to read to him as a baby and predicted that Allah had “turned the tables” in his favour in the libel suit two English cricketers, Allan Lamb and Ian Botham, had brought against him. From his sense of predestination comes his risk-taking character.

Imran married Jemima in 1995 but the marriage was soon on the rocks. He is graceful in his expression of sincere regret at what happened: “The six months leading up to our divorce and the six months after made up the hardest year of my life”. If the book is a personal narrative, Jemima probably deserved more space. She was of far greater personal worth than he realised, although he is appropriately grateful that his two wonderful sons are growing up with her in England, away from the violent dystopia of Pakistan.

Imran’s last known spiritual guide was Ahmad Rafique Akhtar of the city of Gujar Khan. Akhtar reportedly used to decipher people’s fate from their names. Reham complains that Imran insistently enquired from her the full names of her parents. She may have mistaken this for black magic. There are reports that Imran is no longer a devotee of the “oracle” of Gujar Khan. In fact, Akhtar has been reported as saying very negative things about Imran after the spiritual break-up.

Jemima told Vanity Fair why she left Imran in 2004: “The billionaire’s girl and her two children are frequently ill with stomach complaints while her husband is ‘practically penniless’ and frequently away from home pursuing a political career. Jemima and the couple’s two children — Sulaiman and Kasim — have suffered from tummy bugs in their previous [Islamabad] home, which had peeling paint, grimy furniture and power cuts.”

I am a supporter of Imran because he is uncorrupt in a financially corrupt society. He has built a charity cancer hospital of international standard in Lahore where the poor are treated for free. He has built a university in backward Mianwali, his father’s native town, and is about to open another charity hospital in Peshawar. The young like a tough-talking, full-time denunciatory leader. But the “divine mission” for which he makes domestic sacrifices may ultimately turn out to just be politics.


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