Red journalism or yellow journalism?

October 3, 2009

3 October 1996

The Editor, Mid-day, Mumbai                                                                            


Mr. Iqbal Masud, the prominent media critic, should know better than to follow the hackneyed line of all news media and describe Taliban’s take-over of Kabul as barbaric victory, ( Ref: his article: ‘History cycle’ — Mid-Day, 3/10).

President Rabbani, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and Ahmed Shah Masud fled Kabul and the capital of Afghanistan fell to Taliban without a shot being fired.

How does this become a barbaric victory.

Just because they hanged ‘one’ Leftist stooge who had himself hanged and killed more than 20,000 Afghanis during his ruthless reign of terror?

Is this the new brand of red journalism to compete with yellow journalism?






September 13, 2009


Sunday Times of India published on single day, 3 stories that positively treat signs of Indian institutions picking up Islamic influences with far reaching consequences for the composite society.

1. Left led Kerala govt to start bank on Sharia principles

2. Hindu students shine in Madarsas

3. Bigamy: An issue of one too many:

Muslims bigamy cases far fewer than Hindus. Muslims give full and equal legal protection to their wives. Hindus do not. Hindu laws may borrow from Sharia to give better rights to Hindu women, including easy divorce, legal status and equality to wives in cases of bigamous marriage.

Ghulam Muhammed, Mumbai


Left-led Kerala govt to start a bank on Sharia principles
Ananthakrisnan G | TNN

Thiruvananthapuram: The CPM-led Kerala government wants to establish a financial institution compliant with Sharia laws and later convert it into a a full-fledged bank. Work on the project is on and the new entity is likely to start functioning from March 2010.
“We commissioned a feasibility study by Ernst and Young and as per the recommendations, a financial institution working under the Sharia principles will be set up,’’ industries secretary T Balakrishnan told TOI. The Kerala State Industries Development Corporation, a state government agency, will have 11% stake in the body.
Finance minister T M Thomas Issac told the assembly earlier this week that the venture will have an authorised share capital of Rs 1,000 crore. “KSIDC will also have two permanent directors in the new business model which will have a total of 12 directors,’’ Balakrishnan said, adding that a core group headed by businessman Mohammadali of Gulfar Group had been constituted to give the project its final shape. “By March, we hope to complete all formalities and begin operations by the next financial year,’’ he added.
“There will also be a body of Islamic scholars to advise the entity on whether it was complying with laws laid down by Sharia,’’ the secretary said. He said that under current RBI guidelines, an Islamic bank wasn’t feasible and that was why a financial institution was planned. “We want to convert it into a bank with pan-India presence at a later stage.’’
He added, “World over, there have been experiments with alternate financial models especially after the recent recession. There is also economic demand for the product as we’ve a fairly large Muslim population. If the community is happy with a system they feels is fair and inclusive, then why not.’’


Hindu students shine in madrassas

Faizan Ahmad | TNN

Patna: Are madrassas meant only for Muslim students? Far from it, if results of Bihar State Madrassa Examination Board are anything to go by. Pooja Kumari, Preetam Kumari, Priyanka Kumari and Surya Narayan Sah — all students of Madrassa Islamia, Sandalpur in Araria district — are among 100 Hindu girls and boys who have passed different grade exams conducted by BSMEB this year. The results of the madrassa board for Maulvi, Fauqania and Wastania grade exams, declared last week, showed that about a hundred non-Muslim students have passed these exams.
Board authorities, who could provide list of non-Muslim candidates of only Fauqania exam, said 37 of them have passed. They include Sanjay Kumar of Madrassa Islamia, Khardaur, Sanam Kumari and Sandhya Kumari of Madrassa Rahmania, Joktia (both in West Champaran), Rupa Bharti of Madrassa Munamia, Balia (Begusarai) and Anita Kumari of Madrassa Faiyazul Uloom (Chhapra).
‘‘All non-Muslim examinees were regular students of madrassas,’’ board chairman Maulana Ejaz Ahmad told TOI. He said he spoke to parents of many such students who said education at madrassas was better and their wards were more disciplined. In fact, the second generation of a former legislator is getting madrassa education, he added.
This year Muslim girls both outnumbered and outshone boys in madrassa exam in Fauqania (equivalent to matric) and Wastania (equivalent to middle). ‘‘That more girls are joining madrassa and pursuing education is an encouraging trend,’’ Ahmad said. He said enrolment of Muslim girls in all districts has risen.

RELIGION NO BAR: About 100 Hindu students have cleared the Bihar madrassa board exam with flying colours



More Hindus take two wives than Muslims, according to a survey. Surprised? It’s been that way for more than 30 years

Divya A | TNN

The Law Commission recently recommended a good way to prevent a married Hindu man from taking another wife: Deeming such a marriage illegal even if he converted to Islam before he wed a second time.
That Law Commission report, ‘Preventing Bigamy via Conversion to Islam’, essentially highlighted an important and little-known truth — namely that more Hindus than Muslims commit bigamy.
This has been true for more than a quarter of a century. In 1974, a government survey found Muslims to account for 5.6% of all bigamous marriages and upper-caste Hindus accounting for 5.8%. The difference may appear to be small but it is big, in real terms. The 1971 census records 45.3 crore Hindus and six crore Muslims. Allowing for women and children to make up 65% of each group, as many as one crore Hindu men had more than one wife in 1971, compared to 12 lakh Muslim men.
The trend continues, says sociologist Asghar Ali Engineer, head of Mumbai’s Institute of Islamic Studies. “The survey was conducted on a large sample in all parts of India and the report wasn’t made public. Further, polygamy was higher in South India than in the north, and more so among rich and middle-classHindus than the poorer sections.”
Go back still further – to 1961 – and the census records polygamy to be highest among adivasis, Buddhists, Jains, and Hindus, with Muslims right at the end. Engineer says the law matters only up to a point. “With both survey results coming out after the Hindu Marriage Act was passed in 1955, it shows that bigamy is basically a problem of a maledominant culture than religion.”
Bigamy disadvantages Hindu women more than Muslim, says Chandigarh sociologist Nirmal Sharma. This, because a Hindu man will desert his lawfully wedded wife to live with another, while the multiple wives of Muslim men are entitled to equal legal and social rights. “Closet bigamy in Hindus is worse than open polygamy among Muslims,” he says.
Fiza alias Anuradha Bali, who married Haryana’s deputy CM after the pair converted to Islam, says, “Our laws were far more liberal in ancient times. Most kings and many of our mythological figures had more than one wife.” Though Chand has converted back to Hinduism, Fiza insists she remains his “customary wife while the first one remains the legally-wedded one. There is no way to get out of a dual marriage in spite of a legal ban.”
Supreme Court lawyer Praveen Agarwal cautions that Hindu bigamists often go scot free because “the courts can do little until there’s a formal complaint.” And this is not always possible because in many cases, the two wives don’t even know of each other’s existence, says Agarwal. He adds that it is relatively easy for a Hindu man to remarry because temples don’t hold records. “However, if the matter goes to court, the second marriage is declared null and void.”
Take the case of K Suryanarayana, the Indian engineer killed in Afghanistan, who left behind a second wife and daughter. Though she laid claim to compensation from the government, the court ruled in favour of the first wife.
Agarwal suggests that stringent and time-consuming Hindu divorce may force many men to resort to bigamy. “Instead of going in for long-drawn-out and financially debilitating divorce procedures, men simply desert the first wife and marry again.”
Engineer says that bigamy is not as rampant among Muslims as believed. The Quran only offers conditional permission for a man to take four wives: in times ofwar or a crisis that sees women outnumber men. “The 2001 census found 935 females for every 1000 males in India. Among Muslims, it was 930: 1000. So it would be difficult to find even one wife for every man,” he says. Engineer says polygamy will never cease to exist. Perhaps it’s better to regulate it, he says.


September 13, 2009



Sunday, September 13, 2009

Those who ignore the lessons of history, come to grief. British experience in Afghanistan when out of 20,000 only one man survived, was repeatedly cited when both Russia and now US are bogged down in Afghanistan. Nobody paid heed. Taliban had brought peace to the country after Russia left. US had good relations with them. It is their arrogance of power that they had to suffer so much ignominy when they thought they can uproot Taliban and impose their cronies on the country.

It is still time for everybody that wishes to do business with Afghan to restore the country to their rightful owners and deal with them as equals.

Afghanistan should be brought into the mainstream of 21st century civilization, with its freedom, dignity and independence fully restored to its people. They are proud and talented people. They will make their mark in the comity of nations.

If the US and NATO leave now, there will be chaos, but the power that emerges will be able to ensure longer term stability, if the world learns the lessons from history and let Afghanistan be left to Afghans.

Ghulam Muhammed, Mumbai


Why run away from the enemy?

Swapan Dasgupta

Sunday September 13, 2009
There are good reasons why the commemoration of the eighth anniversary of 9/11 was remarkably subdued in both the US and Europe. The initial fear, followed by outrage and a steely determination to cleanse terrorism from the world has given way to frustration, despondency and defeatism. Iraq may have got off the front pages but Afghanistan, where it all began, is now increasingly being perceived as a hopeless war. Both liberals and conservatives in the West seem agreed that there is little point losing more lives and pouring money down a bottomless pit if the Afghans themselves are not sensitive to the charms of democracy and development.

Predictably, the dreaded Taliban with their medieval fanaticism and warped values invite maximum derision. But Western scorn is being dished out in equal measure at president Hamid Karzai whose exotic elegance once induced the perfect multiculturalist wet dream. Karzai is today being cast as a ballot thief and linked to sinister drug barons and ugly warlords. The ethical commitment that galvanised the post 9/11 crusade against the new evil has been considerably blurred by the realisation that the home side also plays foul. In the framework of moral absolutes, “we” are seen to be as imperfect and sinful as “them”. The will to fight the “just” war in Afghanistan has evaporated.

The implication is obvious: If the West can’t carry the proverbial white man’s burden in Afghanistan and, in Kipling’s immortal words, “veil the threat of terror/ And check the show of pride”, it should concentrate on its own aam admi concerns – like addressing schoolkids, pushing for universal healthcare and coping with the recession. A century ago, empire-builders could take on the fanatical Mahadi and his “Fuzzy Wuzzies” in Sudan to avenge the murder of General Gordon. In those days, public opinion at home didn’t count. As former US president Lyndon Johnson discovered to his cost in 1968, today a spectacular domestic track record can be effortlessly nullified by an overseas misadventure.

In the past six months, the West has acknowledged that it no longer has the political and moral resolve to do what it takes to win the Afghan war. Britain can barely stomach the death of 200 soldiers; a reinvented Germany can’t get over the collective trauma of having ordered the bombing in Kunduz; and the US Congress is taking a dim view of General Stanley McChrystal’s request for a last ditch surge in ground forces.

The war aims of the US-led NATO forces have been dramatically modified. From mounting an assault on a global menace, the West now wants to merely safeguard itself from terror attacks. In other words, if the Taliban can guarantee that it won’t mount terror strikes against the West or help those crazies from Birmingham who want videographed martyrdom, they can earn themselves the uninhibited right to thrash every barber, every musician and every unveiled woman. Their pent-up jihadi impulses can be carefully redirected elsewhere, as long as it is not Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, the ones who are likely to oversee the post-withdrawal arrangements.

For Pakistan, the departure of the US-led forces and its own assumption of peace-keeping duties (for a generous consideration, of course) in Afghanistan will be triumph comparable in scale to the recovery of East Pakistan. First, it would have recovered its lost “strategic depth” in Afghanistan, an enormous gain in the context of its hostility with India. Secondly, it would have inherited the entire military arsenal of the retreating army. Third, as a price for guaranteeing zero terrorism against the West, it would have a reserve army of motivated Islamists to work for the “liberation” of India, particularly Kashmir.

India was an unintended beneficiary of Osama bin Laden over-reaching himself and inviting US retribution after 9/11. With the West’s likely retreat from Afghanistan, these gains stand in danger of being nullified. With an assertive China in the east and a re-energised Pakistan in the west, India may have reason to be deeply worried. How long can New Delhi live in denial and continue to raise the threshold of tolerance?

Yet, it’s not India alone that should be alarmed. When the last helicopter departs from Kabul and Mullah Omar returns to reclaim his lost Emirate, the Islamists would have won a spectacular victory. In just two decades, jihad would have been seen to have vanquished two superpowers – first the Soviet Union and now the US. The inevitable triumphalism is bound to infect the entire Muslim world. In Iran, it will reaffirm the conviction that a self-absorbed, decadent Western civilisation doesn’t have the moral gumption to resist a resurgent Islam.

The West should realise that running away doesn’t solve a problem; it often emboldens the enemy.



Rated4.8/5 (39 Votes)1 2 3 4 5

Agree (5)
Disagree (14)
Ali Khan says:
September 13, 2009 at 04:04 AM IST
9/11 is one of the incident in the World which has so many Conspiracy Theories Associated with it. One can just go to YouTube and you find a lot of people talking about it. We have seen 9/11 Truth Demonstrations through out the world but the interesting point is US Government never comes with their explanation or more evidense to support their story. One of the common quesion which we can ask to ourselves is where did the Plane Gone after hitting the Pentagon, the pictures shown were just showing a small hole/crater on one of the wall of pentagon.
Another interesting thing the series of things happened soon after 9/11 shows that this tragedy has been Politically utilized to its Full Extent by the US Government!!!

Agree (4)
Disagree (12)
Sameer says:
September 13, 2009 at 04:06 AM IST
9/11 is an Inside Job…

Agree (5)
Disagree (9)
September 13, 2009 at 05:10 AM IST
First Super Power USSR (now Russia) and now
Super Power America,together with other powerful
allies, are paying the price in fighting enemies
in primitive Afghanistan. Russia dug in for 10
years and left hiding the tail between the legs
incurring heavy losses in terms of human lives
and arms and ammunitions. America is in 7th year
and is finding the frustation of war in Afghanis-
-tan. Financially, all involved in Afghanistan
are now almost “bankrupt”. Very difficult to
pull on ? World is waiting to see who has the
last laugh !

Agree (11)
Disagree (2)
Rajat says:
September 13, 2009 at 06:49 AM IST
your whole article basically stands on the premise that Pakistan or some one there can guaranty that there wont be any strikes against the west post retreat from Afghanistan.
Americans might be foolish but they sure are not blind, they have seen what happened to the erstwhile USSR, and know that nothing could be more dangerous than giving the Jihadists the slightest chance to proclaim victory.
You should also know that there can be no end to this problem until either we are able to wipe out the jihadists or the whole world population turns to islam and we start moving back in time.

Agree (9)
Disagree (2)
Nitesh says:
September 13, 2009 at 08:09 AM IST
A very thoughtful article.
Once NATO forces go back and the dust settles in Afghanistan and adjoining area of Pakistan,Pakistan will turn the attention of taliban and other islamic fanatics towards India. And jammu & kashmir will again bleed and I shall wait for another terrorist attack in India though on a bigger scale.

Agree (2)
Disagree (20)
sam the man from pakistan says:
September 13, 2009 at 08:41 AM IST
untill the root causes of the terrorism is not dressed,their will never be a peace.greedyness of israel and india will keep the terrorism alive untill terrorism take them down.solve the palistine and kashmir problem according to the wishes of the people of kashmir and palistine,their will be no more terrorism.
fait of usa and other involve is going to be worse then rusia.mujahadins will humuliate these forces so bad that they will never dare to attack afghanistan again.

Agree (14)
Disagree (3)
Azharuddin Masood says:
September 13, 2009 at 10:22 AM IST
The world changed negatively after 9/11, but for Pakistan, it changed for better. Immediately after 9/11 it was well understood and conceived that Pakistani Government, Pakistan’s spy agency ISI was involved in the 9/11 attack. Since Pakistan have always been an ally of US right from the day of creation, Bush administration fully covered Pakistan and heralded as an ally of US and went after Al Qaida and Taliban, instead of waging a war campaign against Pakistan US included Pakistan as a frontline state in the war on terror but in reality Pakistan is the enemy of America, Afghanistan, India and humanity at large PATHOS!!! It was clearly indicated with proof that the then ISI chief General Mahmoud Ahmed instructed Omer Sheikh to transfer $100,000 before 9/11 attack to Atta the ring leader of 9/11. When the ISI chief was exposed of having send the money to the hijackers, the then President Musharraf now mentally retard, forced ISI general to retire immediately. Soon after the invasion of Afghanistan Taliban and Al Qaeda leaders went on run. Pakistan seems to be harboring Al Qaeda and Taliban terrorists. Pakistan knows very well that until terrorists are with them they will continue to get monetary aid and military aid from US which they are accumulating it to use against India. After 9/11 many Pakistani journalists’ referred to Al Qaida as Al-Faeda such was the monetary benefit to Pakistan. 9/11 literally spawned a new industry named “terrorism” for Pakistan. This not at all surprises me; Pakistan is a devil in the face of an ally. The best suggestion is the US should send its military into Pakistan from the western borders from Afghanistan and at the same time India should attack Pakistan from the east. World will never be able to root out terrorism without dismantling Pakistan. 99.9 % of Pakistanis are heavily sympathetic to radicalism. Its enough now and we should stop daydreaming and take a strong stance and attack Pakistan to make this world free of terrorism.

Agree (4)
Disagree (1)
Gunjan says:
September 13, 2009 at 12:09 PM IST
Very well written article and analysis. But we must not forget that the west would not hesitate to use the nuclear option like it has done in the past to tilt the balance in its favour.
What can stop them from doing it ? World opinion. But then the world opinion of the powers that matter (Russia, China, Europe, India and even Israel) are themselves fed up of islamism and its dangers. So its not unlikely that after the NATO forces leave, one large attack occurs on the world and the west builds a consensus to nuke the troubled areas of pakistan/afghanistan.
@ Sam the man from pakistan – palestine and kashmir are excuses that islamists use to justify their inherent need for fighting a holy war at any cost. We have seen it in the past and the world wont be fooled by such excuses to vent your islamic frustration. The moment you get palestine and kashmir, you would find another excuse. Let me give you an example – you as a pakistani – what do you have to do with palestine really ? Just because the palestinians are majority muslims, right ? In the same line of thought, you would find chechnya next, philipines after that, Uighuir chinese next and so on and so forth.
The cause of islamism does not stop at palestine and kashmir – it extends into world domination. And it is this desire that makes the west their most hated enemy as they cant tolerate the prosperity and power of the western world. THAT is the root cause of islamism and not political issues in faraway lands like kashmir and palestine. They are mere symptoms of the disease.


Agree (2)
Disagree (0)
Jake says:
September 13, 2009 at 12:22 PM IST
A really well writen article…it shows u have a real concern and understanding of the situation…while there is a lot that i could write on, including the real reasons for these wars, i’m just going to state here that american departure from afghanistan is imminent. The problem that the (the americans) have is that their population is wonderful (though horribly uninformed), and they really won’t let this war go on for too long….
Unfotrunately for the brave afghan people, the taliban will eventually take over (unless there’s a sustained effort by the international community to finish them)….Pakistan will be a victim of a monster of its own creation…..and incursions into Indian territory will not cease…
Never underestimate the afghans….afhanistan is the “graveyard of empires”….

Agree (1)
Disagree (0)
abhishek says:
September 13, 2009 at 12:25 PM IST
india has to learn some lesson from these attack and take some measure steep to stop it happen again but gov of india loock like to take it easey.

Agree (1)
Disagree (0)
anonymous says:
September 13, 2009 at 12:35 PM IST
The West must not abandon Afghanistan at this point in time.

Agree (0)
Disagree (0)
premji jairam says:
September 13, 2009 at 12:53 PM IST
It is strange that Indian dependence on US and western countries`stratagey regarding Af-Pak`terror agenda.This myopic view belittle political acumen of the Indian intellgentia who designed our policies.


Agree (4)

Disagree (0)

Nitesh says:
September 13, 2009 at 12:58 PM IST
@ sam the man from pakistan
So you want to say that till the time India and Pakistan doesn’t solve Pakistan problem, innocent kashmiri people will continue to die at the hands of the terrorist sent from your factories in Muzaffarabad and elsewhere which produce more terrorists than cotton produced in Pakistan. You see it’s a circle and you are seeing the circle anti-clockwise. Try to see it clockwise. Till the time Pakistan stops sponsoring terrorists across the boarder and planning attacks like 26-11 Mumbai attacks, the peace talks will never take off and bear fruits and remain hidden in the rusting files.
And don’t you worry about Afghanistan. Nothing will happen to terrorist’s hegemony over there. In some years USA will take it’s troops away and then you can always raise another powerful Taliban in Afghanistan and SWAT areas. This time ground Empire State building and Sears towers destroy statues of Buddha in India(World Trade Centre and Bamiyan statues are no more) and establish a rule of Islam whose meaning you fanatics don’t understand at all. Make Osama Bin Laden the Secretary General of UN if it at all exists in your Utopian world.

Agree (1)
Disagree (0)
Vikram says:
September 13, 2009 at 01:51 PM IST
The religious fundamentalist nut jobs should be fought with cold logic. There is no point in getting angry or emotional and making a lot of noise. It only makes them think that they have succeeded in upsetting others.
If they attack any civilized country, they should be systematically tracked down and eliminated. Also, destroy their irrational ideology with education and logic. Make them realize that there is no Jannat (Heaven) and that the only place they will end up if they become suicide bombers is six feet under the ground and decompose.

Agree (2)
Disagree (1)
Raj says:
September 13, 2009 at 02:05 PM IST
Whether one agrees or not ,the fact remains that Islam is fastest growing religion on the planet.
As I understand,in most of the arab countries unless a man has 4 wives and maintains 4 different homes to maintain them,he is considered to be not “strong enough”.The result is that muslims population is growing all over disproprtionately.
In India also Hindus,thanks to their adherence to family planning, are predicted to be minority in next 50 years and either there would be a civil war or another partition in such a case(even though I sincierly hope such things dont happen).
Even worldwide the these trends are being debated.For example a youtube video describes how Europe would be 30% Muslim in next 40-50 years and white Christian people may lose their liberal way of
life as Shariyat would implemented in such a case.
And if the strong leaders like Bush and Blair could not resolve this issue,who could?
Is it scaremongering and “communal” to raise such issues?I dont think so.
My suggestion is a frank and open dialoguse between various religions of the world so that consensus of peaceful co-existence could be arrived at.
Relions must encourage harmony amongst people and not create animosity between them.
Live and let live should be motto of everyone.


American Muslims – eight years after 9/11

September 9, 2009

September 11, 2009

American Muslims eight years after 9/11

By Abdus Sattar Ghazali

“Change” was President Barak Obama’s campaign slogan. The seven-million strong American Muslim community, firmly believing in his “change” slogan, voted overwhelmingly for him in the 2008 presidential elections with the hope that his administration would bring an end to their humiliation and sufferings they faced in the Bush era in the name of “war on terror.”

American Muslims were both pleased and surprised by President Obama’s inclusive words in his inaugural address, on January 20th, when he said America is “a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus and non-believers.” Such words signaled Obama’s recognition that Muslims are an important part of the American fabric.

In his historic June 4 speech in Cairo, President Obama hinted to the problems facing the American Muslims by saying that the United States “rules on charitable giving have made it harder for Muslims to fulfill their religious obligation. That is why I am committed to working with American Muslims to ensure that they can fulfill zakat.”

His Cairo statement coincided with a statement by Attorney General Eric Holder: “The President’s pledge for a new beginning between the United States and the Muslim community takes root here in the Justice Department where we are committed to using criminal and civil rights laws to protect Muslim Americans. A top priority of this Justice Department is a return to robust civil rights enforcement and outreach in defending religious freedoms and other fundamental rights of all of our fellow citizens in the workplace, in the housing market, in our schools and in the voting booth.”

Similarly, in his September 2nd speech at the White House Iftar dinner, President Obama emphasized that “the contributions of Muslims to the United States are too long to catalogue because Muslims are so interwoven into the fabric of our communities and our country.” While noting the contributions of American Muslims, president also alluded to their problems when he shared the story of the Muslim sixth-grader Nashala Hearn from Oklahoma, who was suspended twice last fall because the school officials claimed her hijab violated their dress code policy. The President said: “When her school district told her that she couldn’t wear the hijab, she protested that it was a part of her religion. The Department of Justice stood behind her, and she won her right to practice her faith.”

Not surprisingly, Valerie Jarrett, a Senior Advisor and Assistant to President Obama for Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs, was the keynote speaker at the inaugural session of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) Convention 2009. She paid a tribute to the diligent work of Muslim Americans on behalf of the country. Citing President Obama’s April 2009 Cairo Speech, Ms. Jarrett acknowledged the contribution of American Muslims to the overall development of American society and the strengthening of American institutions. Ms Jarrett pointed out: “Your work here is crucial in confronting the challenges that all Americans are facing. And you help advance the new beginning between the United State and Muslim communities around the world that the President called for in Cairo.”

These courteous and good gestures by President Obama are accompanied by the appointment of a number of American Muslims to some minor positions in his administration. Rashad Hussain, an American Muslim lawyer, has been appointed as Deputy Associate Counsel to the President. Dalia Mogahed was appointed by President Obama to serve on the Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) National Executive Director Kareem Shora has been appointed a member of the Homeland Security Advisory Council (HSAC).

However all these good gestures and public policy measures have little positive impact on the restoration of civil rights of American Muslims curtailed since 9/11. Profiling has been institutionalized in the post-9/11 America. State and federal agencies, under the guise of fighting terrorism, have expanded the use of this degrading, discriminatory and dangerous practice. The damage to civil liberties has been extensive, and a lot of work remains to be done.

American Muslims and civil libertarians are particularly concerned about Justice Department guidelines implemented in the last days of the Bush administration, which allow race and ethnicity to be factors in opening an investigation. Other civil rights concerns include FBI agent provocateurs sent into American mosques, citizenship delays, politicized “terror” trials, and misuse by the Department of Justice of the “unindicted co-conspirator” label.

Today, eight years after 9/11, incidents of racial and religious profiling in the United States have increased dramatically. Soon after the 9/11 attacks, racial profiling became the norm at American airports where anyone belonging to the Arab or Muslim communities was systematically called out for questioning and sometimes even detained. Eight years hence, August 14, 2009 detention of Indian Muslim superstar Shah Rukh Khan’s detention at Newark Airport in New Jersey is only one of the scores that take place every day.

COINTELPRO operation against the Muslims

Last October — in the waning days of the Bush administration — FBI director Robert Mueller signed new guidelines allowing broader FBI authority in pursuing potential threats to national security. The new guidelines allow agents to consider race or ethnicity in determining whether someone is a suspect. These guidelines – which became effective Dec. 1, 2008 — allow the FBI to launch a criminal investigation against someone without any factual predicate and without approval from FBI headquarters.

The guidelines are similar to COINTELPRO, an FBI program used in the 50s and 60s to spy on civil rights, environmental and labor groups, with the goal of unearthing Communist ties those organizations may have had. At Congressional hearings last May, FBI Director Mueller — who continues to serve as FBI director in the Obama administration — said the guidelines simply formalized processes the FBI had begun to use, post-9/11. President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder have not indicated whether they intend to scrap the new guidelines.

Tellingly, the Obama administration has also formalized laptop seizure rules. On August 27, 2009, the Obama administration disclosed that it will carry on Bush administration policies that allowed the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to seize and search international travelers’ laptop computers, cellular phones, cameras, and other electronic devices, even in the absence of suspicion of criminal activity. The DHS made public two directives that formalized operational practices established by the Bush administration to carry out searches of the personal digital instruments of travelers, US citizens or not, passing across US borders. According to the directives, border police “may detain electronic devices, or copies of information contained therein, for a brief, reasonable period of time to perform a thorough border search. If DHS turns up nothing incriminating, to regain the confiscated item the traveler must return to the border crossing where the item was seized, or else pay for its shipment.

Although the electronic media search regulations apply to all passengers but Muslims are perhaps the main target at present because they are the target of extra scrutiny at the airports and other points of entry.

In April 2009, Muslim Advocates released a report – Unreasonable Intrusions: Investigating the Politics, Faith & Finances of Americans Returning Home – documenting the systematic and widespread practice of federal agents interrogating Muslim, Arab, and South-Asian Americans returning home after international travel — violating their rights to privacy and nondiscrimination, among others. The report pointed out: “Currently, no DHS policy limits the scope of interrogations, even those that probe the religious beliefs, political views and other First Amendment-protected activities of law-abiding Americans.

“For many hard-working, law-abiding Muslim Americans, questions about their political beliefs, religious practices, and charitable causes they support, as well as surrendering their business cards, credit card numbers and laptop and cell phone data, have become the price of admission to return home to the U.S.,” says Farhana Khera, executive director of Muslim Advocates.

On June 30, 2009 the ACLU issued a report titled: The Persistence of Racial and ethnic Profiling in the United States. The report said: “The Obama administration has inherited a shameful legacy of racial profiling codified in official FBI guidelines and a notorious registration program that treats Arabs and Muslims as suspects and denies them the presumption of innocence and equal protection under the law.……….As a result, in 2009, with a new administration in office, the practice of racial profiling by members of law enforcement at the federal, state, and local levels remains a widespread and pervasive problem throughout the United States, impacting the lives of millions of people in African American, Asian, Latino, South Asian, and Arab communities.” Tellingly, as a candidate, President Barack Obama’s campaign released a “Blueprint for Change,” which stated that, if elected, “Obama and Biden will ban racial profiling . . . ” In 2005 and in 2007, then-Senator Obama cosponsored End Racial Profiling Act (ERPA) which has continued to languish in Congress since its introduction in 1997. ERPA is the key piece of federal legislation as it would compel all law enforcement agencies to ban racial profiling; create and apply profiling procedures; document data on stop/search/arrest activities by race and gender; and create a private right of action for victims of profiling.


Eight years after 9/11, there is a rising tide of Islamaphobia, intensified by the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and U.S. government measures at home. Americans’ attitudes about Islam and Muslims are fuelled mainly by political statements and media reports that focus almost solely on the negative image of Islam and Muslims. Politicians, authors and media commentators are busy in demonizing Islam, Muslims and the Muslim world. Eight years after 9/11 attacking Islam and Muslims remains the fashionable sport for the radio, television and print media. Few recent incidents of Islamophobia:

In February 2009, Republican Senator Jon Kyl hosted screening of an anti-Islam film ‘Fitna’ at the Capitol building and invited anti-Islam far-right Dutch lawmaker, Geert Wilders, as his guest. Tellingly, Wilders was denied entry to London earlier that month because British authorities believed that showing his controversial film posed a threat to public order. Islamophobe Wilders, who built his political career on fear-mongering, compares Islam’s holy book Qur’an to Adolf Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” and calls for its banned.

Islamophobes are also teaching hatred towards Islam and Muslims to the school children. On August 24, Faith Sapp, a 10-year-old daughter of Wayne Sapp, pastor of the controversial church, the Dove World Outreach Center, in Gainesville Florida, was sent home for wearing a T-shirt with the words ‘Islam Is Of The Devil’ printed on it. Next day three more students were sent home for wearing the anti-Islam T-shirts. On their front, the T-shirts had a verse from the Gospel of John: “Jesus answered I am the way and the truth and the life; no one goes to the Father except through me.” The message “Islam is of the Devil” is on the back of the shirt. The Dove World Outreach Center’s anti-Islam T-shirts episode came a month after the church displayed a series of hand-painted anti-Islam signs.

In the latest incident of Islamophobia, Clarksville, Tennessee, Mayor Johnny Piper, on Sept. 4, sent an e-mail to every City Council member, every department head, and numerous other city employees, friends and family members, to protest a U.S. Postal Service stamp commemorating two Islamic holidays of Eid. The e-mail falsely claims that the stamp is new, and its creation was ordered by President Barack Obama. In fact, the stamp was first issued in 2001, and was reissued in 2002, 2006, 2007 and 2008.

Not surprisingly, Islamophobia has created an atmosphere of suspicion among the fellow Americans towards the Muslims. In this Islamophobic charged atmosphere, it is not surprising that 48 percent Americans have an unfavorable view of Islam according to a 2009 poll by Washington Post-ABC News. Nearly three in ten (29 percent) said they see mainstream Islam as advocating violence against non-Muslims. Unfortunately, what most Americans continue to see on television and read in newspapers since 9/11 are examples of Muslims and Arabs responsible for terror attacks, the repression of women, and riots.

Islamophobia incited incidents targeting American Muslim individuals and institutions. Eight years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, American Muslims and Arabs continue to suffer a severe wave of backlash violence. The hate crimes included murder, beatings, arson, attacks on mosques, shootings, vehicular assaults and verbal threats. Recent hate crimes include a bias-motivated attack on a Muslim woman and child in Seattle by a self-proclaimed white supremacist, vandalism of mosques in California, Florida and North Carolina, an anti-Islam sign outside a Florida church, racist fireworks sold in Wisconsin, the beating of a Muslim student in New York, and the death of a California Muslim leader in a “suspicious” fire.

Last month, an Islandia, New York, man threatened to kill a Muslim woman and her 20-year-old daughter as he tried to run them down with his car at a gas station. The victim, 49, and her daughter were dressed in an abaya, a traditional Muslim garment that completely covered their bodies and face, except for their eyes.

FBI infiltrated spies into South California mosques

In February 2009, the American Muslim community was shocked at the revelation, that the FBI has been infiltrating spies into a number of mosques in Southern California. The Orange County Register reported that the FBI sent a convicted criminal, Craig Monteilh, to pose as an agent provocateur in several of California’s mosques. In April, Monteilh told The Los Angeles Times that he posed as a Muslim convert at the request of the FBI to gather intelligence that might aid anti-terrorism investigators. Monteilh said he was instructed to lure mosque members to work out with him at local gyms. FBI agents later would obtain security camera footage from the gyms and ask him to identify the people on the tapes and to provide additional information about them. He was told that the agents then conducted background checks on the men, looking for anything that could be used to pressure them to become informants.

The Council of Islamic Organizations of Michigan (CIOM), in April 2009, asked Attorney General Eric Holder to launch an investigation into complaints that Michigan Muslims are being approached to spy on activities of Muslim congregations by the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI). Through coercion of certain members of congregations, the FBI is reportedly promoting entrapment of innocent, law-abiding citizens in otherwise peaceful houses of worship, said a CIOM statement. CIOM is an umbrella organization of mosques and Islamic organizations within the state of Michigan. The Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MI), which is a CIOM member, had received complaints that the FBI has approached Michigan Muslims, asking them to spy on unsuspecting worshippers including monitoring their legitimate charitable donations.

Muslim charities

Eight years after 9/11, Muslim charity organizations remain under pressure. In June 2009, the American Civil Liberties Union released an extensive report about how the U.S. terrorism finance laws and policies were unfairly preventing the seven-million-strong American Muslim community from practicing their religion through charitable giving. The 164 page report, “Blocking Faith, Freezing Charity,” is the first comprehensive report that documents the serious effects of Bush administration terrorism finance laws on Muslim communities across the nation. The core of the report is about how Muslims are being scared away from making zakat (a religious obligation) donations to Muslim charities. “U.S. terrorism finance laws and policies unfairly prevent Muslim Americans from practicing their religion through charitable giving, create a climate of fear and distrust in law enforcement and undermine America’s diplomatic efforts in Muslim countries,” the report said.

Since December 2001, the ACLU reports that the government has seized the assets of three Muslim charities, closed seven others and conducted raids of more. The stated purpose was to cut off the money that supposedly was heading from Muslim charities to groups that support or carry out terrorism. “Without notice and through the use of secret evidence and opaque procedures, the Treasury Department has effectively closed down seven U.S.-based Muslim charities, including several of the nation’s largest Muslim charities,” said Jennifer Turner, a researcher with the ACLU Human Rights Program and author of the report. “While terrorism financing laws are meant to make us safer, policies that give the appearance of a war on Islam only serve to undermine America’s diplomatic efforts just as President Obama reaches out to the Muslim world. These counter-productive practices alienate American Muslims who are key allies and chill legitimate humanitarian aid in parts of the world where charities’ good works could be most effective in winning hearts and minds,” Turner added.

In May 2009, after a series of legal twists, secret evidence and questionable witness of Israeli intelligence agents, five former officials of the Holy Land Foundation, once a leading American Muslim charitable organization, were sentenced upto 65 years imprisonment on charges related to humanitarian aid given to Palestinians living under Israeli occupation. The defendants said they were engaged in legitimate relief work, while the government claimed that work benefited terrorists. During the trial, defense attorneys accused the government of bending to Israeli pressure to prosecute the charity, and of relying on old evidence. The five were never accused of supporting violence and were convicted for funding charities that aided needy Palestinians.

To borrow the OBM Watch, the Holy Land Foundation trial sends a chilling message to the US charities. It is virtually impossible for charities to determine what foreign organizations they can legally partner with. At the trial, Robert McBrien from Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control testified that it can be illegal to deal with groups that have not been designated as supporters of terrorism and placed on government watch lists. He said that keeping up with front groups “is a task beyond the wise use of resources.” As a result, charities now have to guess about whether or not any local charity or community leader may be considered a supporter of terrorism, said the OBM.

“Ramadan, Giving Wisely and With No Fear” is the title of an article about zakat which reflects the dilemma of Muslims to fulfill their religious obligation of zakat which is usually given during the month of Ramadan. Government crackdown of Muslim charities has caused tremendous fear and anxiety among Muslims, with many still fearful that a simple act of charity could lead to federal agents knocking at their door. Unfortunately Obama’s pledge to work with American Muslims to resolve the problem has so far helped little to assure the Muslims. In July, Muslim organizations joined other nonprofit organizations in signing a letter urging President Obama to follow up on his Cairo commitment to revise charitable giving rules.

On August 26, the Treasury Department issued a statement about charity giving in Ramadan. “As Ramadan begins, the U.S. Department of the Treasury recognizes the particular importance of charitable giving throughout the holy month of Ramadan for Muslims in America and around the world. Charitable giving is a fundamental characteristic of many faiths, and zakat, one of the five pillars of Islam, is a sacred obligation for Muslims.” However, the Treasury Department has failed to provide a safe list of charity organizations so that Muslims can donate without fear.

In short, eight years after 9/11, Muslims in America remained at the receiving end with assault on their civil rights and their faith. Muslims are the prime targets of the post 9/11 reconfiguration of American laws, policies, and priorities which have not been changed under the Obama administration. Defending civil rights remains the single most important challenge before the seven million-strong American Muslim community.

It will not be a harsh judgment to say that eight years after 9/11, American Muslims remain under siege. Despite healing words from President Obama about bridging the divide between the Muslim world and the West, America’s Muslim community is subject to pervasive and persistent attacks by the federal government, many spearheaded by the Joint Terrorism Task Forces. As President Barack Obama made his public appearance with Turkish President Abdullah Gul on April 6, 2009 as part of his first trip to a Muslim country, U.S. federal agents were preparing to arrest Youssef Megahed, a student from Egypt, in Tampa, Fla. Just three days earlier, a jury in a U.S. federal district court had acquitted him of charges of illegally transporting explosives and possession of an explosive device. Megahed was being held by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement for a deportation proceeding. The charges were the same ones from which he was completely acquitted. Surprisingly, in August he was released when an immigration judge refused to deport him, ruling the Department of Homeland Security had failed to prove terrorism charges.

Many people believed that after Bush had left the White House, rampant arrogance combined with stunning hypocrisy had also gone. Events have so far proved otherwise. Although Obama is able to give a more compassionate and intelligent speech than was possible with Bush, the essence of their policies is identical. To borrow Ted Rall: “Obama doesn’t talk like Bush; he just acts like him?”

Abdus Sattar Ghazali is the Executive Editor of the online magazine American Muslim Perspective: Email:

One-nation theory – By Amulya Ganguli – DNA Mumbai daily

September 8, 2009

Home > Opinion > Main Article

One-nation theory

Amulya Ganguli

Monday, September 7, 2009 20:09 IST

The controversy over Jaswant Singh’s book has seen the revival of the debate on Partition. What is curious, however, is the support which the saffron camp has extended to something which it earlier condemned as the vivisection of the motherland.

This transition from the earlier yearnings for Akhand Bharat to the acceptance of the reality of a divided India is a new feature of Hindutva politics.It can perhaps be traced to the observations of Girilal Jain, a former editor of The Times of India in his book, The Hindu Phenomenon, where he said that Jinnah “was the greatest benefactor of Hindus in modern times if he was not a Hindu in disguise. That has been my way of saying that Partition was the best thing that could have happened for Hindus … because without it they could not have produced even a workable Constitution, not to speak of a viable economic and democratic political order”.

In a recent interview, Arun Shourie said that “I have come to realise that Girilal Jain was the one who was right” for he argued that if there was no Partition “we would have been bullied and thrashed and swamped by Islamic fundamentalists”. Similar views were expressed by a former Union home secretary, Madhav Godbole, in The Holocaust of Indian Partition, where he said that undivided India would have presented “a frightening picture of a country torn asunder by internal dissension, political instability and social and communal tension”.

There are at least three factors behind such doomsday predictions. One is a dislike of Muslims, which is undeniably there among sections of Hindus. It was (and apparently still is) a relief to them, therefore, to get rid of the mlechhas. The second factor, which reinforces this sense of animosity, is the dread of the unknown alien with whom there is very little social interaction. And the third is a strange inferiority complex which is evident in the apprehension of being “swamped” by Islamists.

This fear of the Muslims may have increased because of the upsurge of militant fundamentalists in the Af-Pak region. An occasional contributor to a newspaper had wondered, therefore, how a united India could have dealt with the turmoil near the Durand line. He was happy that the Radcliffe line had been drawn.

What is strange about these attitudes is the cursory dismissal of the fact that Hindus and Muslims had lived together in the subcontinent for 12 centuries before 1947 and in divided India for another 60 years after that. Although the saffron brotherhood likes to project the earlier centuries as a period of endless conflict between the two communities, such a view fails to explain the development of the composite culture which wouldn’t have been possible in the absence of close and harmonious intermingling.

As historian Akhilesh Mithal pointed out, dhrupad, khayal, thumri and ghazal in the world of music could not have evolved without decades of friendly interaction. Nor would India have witnessed the architectural achievements of the Taj Mahal or its cuisine being enriched by the culinary innovations of what has come to be known as Mughlai food.

The cultural and literary efflorescence of Tulsidas, Surdas, Meera, Mir Taqi Mir, Ghalib and others is also a product of this amicable cohabitation. None of these point to being bullied or swamped.

Instead, Islam itself acquired a gentle face. As the Pakistani historian, Akbar S Ahmed, said, the subcontinental model of sulahkul or peace with all became a feature of Islam, whose most shining example was the dargah of Moinuddin Chisti in Ajmer.

“Can you imagine”, he said,” a saint living in Rajasthan in the middle ages surrounded by Hindus and propagating peace and harmony through Islam?”The political face of this model could be seen in the Unionist Party of Punjab, which the Pakistani historian, Ayesha Jalal, described as “a cross-communal alliance of Muslim, Hindu and Sikh agricultural interests” led by the two towering regional figures, Fazl-i-Hussain and Chaudhury Chhotu Ram.

Hussain was invited by Jinnah to preside over the Muslim League in 1936 with the words that “no one can give a better lead to the Mussalmans of India than yourself”.

Fazlul Huq of Bengal’s Krishak Praja Party was another such figure. Neither of them favoured Pakistan because the Muslims were in a majority in their provinces any way. Hussain’s successor, Khizar Hayat Khan Tiwana, told Jinnah, therefore, to “keep his finger out of the Punjab pie” while describing the idea of Pakistan as “nonsense”.

Yet these men are forgotten today along with their secular compatriot Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan while Jinnah’s Direct Action is remembered to justify the break-up in 1947.
Had there been no Partition, it is the likes of Husain and Frontier Gandhi, not to mention Nehru and Gandhi, who would have ensured the continuance of communal togetherness of the last 1,200 years without any side swamping the other.

The writer is a Delhi-based political commentator


September 7, 2009

Monday, September 07, 2009

Comments posted on Indian Express website over article: Personal law, social myths by Dr. Tahir Mahmood

“Dr. Tahir Mahmood had opted to figure out the true spirit of Islam in relation to monogamy and/or bigamy while advising Law Commission. One hopes he should have had the chutzpah at the same time to advise his own colleagues on the Law Commission about the true spirit of India’s constitution, where state undertakes to safeguard the constitutional right to freedom of religion; so that the judiciary, a part of state, would not keep on testing the limits of their relentless provocation to Muslims on one pretext or another.”

Ghulam Muhammed, Mumbai

PS:Dr. Mahmood writes:”The massive reform of Muslim law in the Muslim countries may have no persuasive value for religious circles in India, but for the Indian judiciary it has.”

It would appear that in a globalised world, while reforms in Muslim countries, should be of academic interest to Indian Judiciary; — they should however not lose sight of the fact that conditions in Muslim countries are not as conducive to democratic and secular life, as it is in India.


Personal law, social myths

By Tahir Mahmood

Posted: Monday , Sep 07, 2009 at 0220 hrs

The Supreme Court’s celebrated Shah Bano judgment of 1985 cited Mohammad Iqbal’s observation: “The question which is likely to confront Muslim countries in the near future is whether the law of Islam is capable of evolution — a question which will require great intellectual effort and is sure to be answered in the affirmative.” Soon after Iqbal’s demise the question did confront the newly established nation-states of the Middle East and, as expected by India’s far-sighted poet-philosopher, was answered in the affirmative. Since 1969, I have been researching and writing on the reforms which country after country in the Muslim world has introduced into family law. Writing in the Indian Express recently, Javed Anand discussed that work to question why, ignoring religious sensitivities, the Law Commission of India failed to recommend the introduction of similar measures in India.

The oversensitivity of the Muslims of India in respect of their personal law is a social reality — and so is official consciousness of it. Muslim religious circles here have been incessantly intolerant to codification or reform; and the powers-that-be are always considerate to this intolerance. The Terms of Reference of the Law Commission are, each time it is reconstituted, set by the government — and never have these included any aspect of Muslim law. Of course, it can take up any important legal issue suo motu, but none of the 17 Commissions set up since 1955 had ever recommended any reforms in Muslim law. No consultation with the Commission was made before enacting any law for the Muslims, including the infamous maintenance law enacted for Muslim divorcees in the aftermath of the 1985 Shah Bano case and the 1995 Wakf Act. The Supreme Court’s recommendation in the 1995 Sarla Mudgal case that the issue of reform of minorities’ personal laws should be entrusted to the Law Commission (which in turn should interact with the Minorities Commission) remains ineffective.

Mani Shankar Aiyer, commenting on the issue in his 2004 book Confessions of a Secular Fundamentalist wondered “What faith will the minorities have in the pronouncements of an all-Hindu Law Commission?” But the induction of a Muslim member in the 18th Law Commission in 2007 did not work either. Experience soon showed that on the question of perpetuating their ‘sacrosanct’ personal law — howsoever repugnant to the spirit of Islam its present practice may be — the community can disown even their most trusted well-wishers.

As in many family-law matters, Muslims are being inexplicably governed by outdated local customs repugnant to Islamic law, a report was drafted to recommend that — on the pattern of the scope of all other community-specific family laws of India — all Muslims everywhere in the country should, in family-law matters, be governed by Muslim law. The innocuous move was shouted down by religious leaders as a “conspiracy to pave the way for a uniform civil code.” The report had to be shelved.

The bigamy report addressed only the issue of sham conversions to Islam by unscrupulous non-Muslim men in a bid to escape anti-bigamy provisions of modern Hindu law. Since 1995, the Supreme Court has outlawed this practice: even by changing religion a married Hindu could not marry again without getting his first marriage dissolved. This report simply suggested that the judge-made law on the point, still being widely violated, be written by an amendment into the Hindu Marriage Act. It made no recommendation for amending Muslim law on bigamy — if it had, like the first report, this one too would have gone to the dustbin. We were not “terrified” by anything; we did say in our report that bigamy in its present form was against the spirit of Islam. We knew well that this realistic observation would create a storm in a teacup, and it did.

This emanates from certain myths: that what passes as ‘Muslim personal law’ here is the true Islamic law word for word; that blind adherence to it is covered by the right to religious freedom guaranteed by the Constitution. Every exposition of the reality that Muslim law is applicable in India not as part of Islamic faith but as part of the Indian statute-book, and that the Constitution does in no way protect it, goes unheeded.

Thus any legislative reform or codification of Muslim law in this country is a distant dream. This state of affairs is of course not confined to India. In Bangladesh and Pakistan, Hindu law is stagnating where it stood on 15th August 1947 — its total overhaul in India remains foreign to those countries.

In this situation the judiciary has an important role to play. In some recent cases the courts have made admirable efforts to read principles of Muslim law in their correct perspective. Religious circles see these rulings as mudakhalat fid-din or interference in religion. That perception might continue, but so must the on-going process of judicial restoration of true Islamic law. The massive reform of Muslim law in the Muslim countries may have no persuasive value for religious circles in India, but for the Indian judiciary it has.

The author is the Chairman of Amity University’s Institute of Advanced Legal Studies and member of the 18th Law Commission

QUIT AFGHANISTAN – By Ghulam Muhammed

September 5, 2009

Friday, September 04, 2009


Today BBC’s security correspondent Frank Gardner has gone record with a clear admission that US/NATO operations in Afghanistan on Taliban and Afghan civilians has nothing directly or indirectly relates to US/NATO’s avowed claim to be fighting Al-Qaeda terrorism in Afghanistan. None of the terror attacks in the West that Frank Gardner rattles off in his BBC intervention, according to him, has any remote relations with Taliban in Afghanistan or Pakistan. Daily aerial bombings are a serial war- crime murders committed against civilians in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Al-Qaeda is not necessarily based in these areas. They can operate from Yemen, Somalia and in future from North Africa. With each incident of wanton massacre of civilians, Obama, Gordon Brown and NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen instantly go on TV and fool their people back home, that their bloody mission in Afghanistan is necessary to protect homeland from terrorism emanating from Afghanistan and Pakistan. This is patent lies. They cannot fool all the people all the time. Time has come for US/UK/NATO to quit Afghanistan forthwith, without committing more and more war crimes daily on the innocent hapless people of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

NATO forces yesterday shot an oil tanker, hijacked by Taliban in Kunduz province. The tanker was stuck while crossing a river and Taliban had asked local people to empty the tanker, by taking away the fuel for their private use. NATO did not find it necessary to find out if the crowd collected around the hijacked tanker was that of civilians or Taliban. Reconnaissance can easily make out. However, NATO forces directly undermined clear instructions from the High Command and in an enraged vindictive action blew up the tanker. The action resulted in over 90 killed. BBC in its first report clearly mentioned that all were civilians. But the NATO Chief later find it convenient to resort to blatantly lie and say that all killed were Taliban. An enquiry is promised. But all such enquiries are self-serving, bending backwards to prove the forces to be not guilty. However, the civilians in these cannot be fooled. This carnage is going on by the hour and the world seems to be sanitized to one of the most blatant and wanton criminal war inflicted on a UN member country.

Though India at some level seems to be involved in the conspiracy being played out in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Indian people are not fully taken into any confidence, if the criminal acts have any legal basis. Indian government should gather up moral courage and come out with open notice to the US and NATO forces to QUIT AFGHANISTAN. A moral India owes it to its people to oppose such horrendous carnage in its neighbourhood. Needless to say, the fire could spread into India‘s own territory, in one form or other.

Ghulam Muhammed, Mumbai

Plassey 2009 – By Ghulam Muhammed

June 23, 2009

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


Plassey 2009



It was on June 23, 1757, a full hundred years before 1857 that British treachery won the decisive battle of Plassey, not by force of arms, but through manipulation of Mir Jafar, one of Nawab Sirajudulah’s general, who was bribed by Robert Clive to abstain from joining the war while the Nawab was routed.


The British had won a historical battle and had used the turnaround in their fortune to take over India.


Events in India, post 1990, move faster. Within no time, US and Israel ingratiated the ruling elite and have completely usurped the main sinews of power in the country. They have India’s economy and its armed might under their thumb. All they did was to get a simpleton who had no grasp of history to come to power through manipulations.


If people are still not aware of the longer range consequences of the momentous moves made by both US and Israel in conjunction, India will be subjected once again to the kind of pauperization that it suffered during British Raj. Its economy will be gradually mortgaged to the foreigners. While people will suffer the Bengal famine like calamities, India’s economic planners will work for foreigners free market priorities. In the name of liberalisation and globalisation, India’s poor will suffer most sordid future of destitution and misery. While a few Ambanis, Mittals, Birlas and Jains, will amass huge fortunes, the nations’ deprived will suffer in direst poverty and destitution.


Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s brilliance in economic management cannot vouch for the control of our economy not passing into the hands of foreign exploiters, who will dictate their terms on us, just as British collected 50% agriculture taxes, while Mughals did with only10%. The foreigners will bring capital and snatch opportunities from indigenous people and render them labourers with unsecured terms and conditions.

India’s leaders are not transparent in their commitment to an India, where all its people have equal opportunity to progress and prosper. It is time they take the people into confidence and respond to their grievances and their uncertainties. And ensure equitable distribution of opportunities.


Or history will record, the day when Manmohan Singh took over finance ministry of the nation and startedIndia’s second term of subjugation to foreign powers. That day will be remembered as equally infamous as June 23, 1757, when India lost its will to resist the British and was forced to mortgage its destiny, its wealth and its freedom with the rapacious colonist power.


Ghulam Muhammed, Mumbai



June 23, 2009

Tuesday, June 23, 2009



France’s President Sarkozy is Jewish. His antagonism against Islam is axiomatic.

The framing of Burqa, as a prison sentence for women, is understandable, if it is compulsory and forced without rhyme or reason.

But, if and when Muslim women are adopting it voluntarily and even as a fashion or identity statement; their rights cannot be questioned. Women should be given that freedom; which is even granted by Sharia.

Sarkozy’s defence of French notion of freedom for women should include freedom to live outside of France’s cultural mainstream.

Muslims in France are the second largest religious group and majority of them immigrants from France’s old French colonies. Now that they have become citizens of France, France will have to absorb their Muslim culture too, in its pluralist society.

Sarkozy’s move is patently anti-Muslim and tied up with anti-immigrant politics of France. It has no leg to stand on. In fact, it amounts to denial of Human Rights of French Muslims.

The inquiry into the matter as suggested by Sarkozy and endorsed by others, will prove that Muslim women are adopting burqa voluntarily and not being forced by any cultural edict that is bound to be diluted when the immigrant shifts from a Muslim majority state to a Muslim minority state.


Ghulam Muhammed, Mumbai


June 21, 2009




Sunday, 21 June 2009
From Tehelka Magazine, Vol 6, Issue 25, Dated Jun 27, 2009

Head Hunting

Hindutva is embarrassed by Hinduness. A new generation of confident Indians has started to move beyond its logic of fear and hate. Will the BJP be able to seize this moment for creative reinvention?


Save the Nation Youth being trained at a RSS shakha 
Photos: AP

THE CASCADING crisis within the BJP since May 16 and their confused debate about the role Hindutva has played in their electoral defeat tells a fascinating story. It would be premature to read any of this as a signal of either the disintegration of the party or Hindutva, but one could safely say the idea of Hindutva has been defeated by India for the moment. Put on a backburner and challenged to reinvent itself.

The BJP’s dependence on Hindutva as its defining characteristic was bound to become problematic for it. Data shows that less than 10 percent of Indians have ever voted for the BJP on ideological grounds. The Hindutva project was constructed on tapping into and fostering fear and a siege mentality within Hindus: a sense of being a minority in a country in which they are clearly a numerical majority. In itself, this was not a bad thing. You need a political party to ‘summit’ these emotions so you can manage them. The Republican Party in America, for instance, also encourages and allies with Christian fundamentalists. They know a small marginal part of the vote comes from there — small, but a crucial vote percentage. So they woo them pre-election. Post election, though, there could be indirect rewards but no official rewards are handed out to them. The BJP did not understand this art of political management. They did not learn how to treat Hindutva groups as merely a sect within them; they believed their entire existence depended on the ideology.

This whole ideological stand — making Hindutva their central official line – was a myopic mistake. (The RSS of course has never been in politics so their understanding of politics is even worse.) The Indian genius is to manage contradictions. Most people forget, the Congress Party, the original party of the freedom movement, allowed many of its members to simultaneously belong to both the Congress and the Hindu Maha Sabha or other Hindu nationalist formations. This was very prevalent in Bengal because a huge proportion of Bengali freedom fighters came from a background of Hindu nationalism. Tagore himself was a member of both the Congress and the Muslim League. It is because these political impulses were accommodated within the Congress as factions that they were easier to negotiate in the early years. The BJP’s dilemma is that it thought its existence was predicated on Hindutva: now that they have lost drastically, they think Hindutva has become a liability and should be jettisoned. But the fact is, the relationship between the BJP and Hindutva will only become more clandestine. The debate they are trying to have within the party is actually nothing more than a power struggle wearing the garb of ideological challenge.

Gandhi was no romantic. He knew that India could have its own version of a nation state

In itself, this power struggle is a healthy thing. Contrary to all the speculation around them, the BJP is not necessarily slated to disintegrate like the Janata Party. The Janata party was a coalition of factions; the BJP has merely become a party with factions. With Atal Behari Vajpayee and LK Advani past their time, all the top posts are vacant. If the BJP wants to survive and do reasonably well, they should “do a Congress”: they should find a Narasimha Rao or Manmohan Singh to lead them. All their current and prominent leaders are too high-pitched.

The BJP may be short-sighted in analysing its defeat dominantly through the Hindutva lens, but its electoral defeat does point to a kind of defeat of Hindutva itself. At the core of the Hindutva project is a war between Hindusim and Hindutva that is around 150 years old. It began in the middle of the 19th century, when ideas of Hindtuva began to take shape with the Hindu reform movements. In a sense, the defeat of Hindutva today is also a defeat of the West because the Hindutva project was one of the last remnants of the colonial West in Indian consciousness.

TODAY, BOTH detractors and defenders of Hindutva are confused about what it stands for. The truth may not be palatable to many, but Hindutva grew out of an admiration of the western European nation state and our attempt to have an indigenous form of it. When Veer Savarkar, the Hindutva fountainhead, insisted that Hindus must not read the Vedas and Upanishads but read science and technology and western political theory, this is what he had in mind. He was looking for a way to transform a chaotic, diverse, anarchic society into an organising principle for a masculine, western-style nation state, something akin to Bismarck’s Germany.

To achieve this, the Hindutva project required Indians to repudiate their Indianness, and Hindus to repudiate their Hinduness. That was part of the war. It required a chaotic, diverse society to homogenise itself into something that could be more globally acceptable and to live according to European norms. Again, public memory is short. Few people remember that Savarkar was very secular in his personal life – in the western sense. He refused to have his funeral rights according to Hindu custom; he wanted his body taken for cremation in a mechanised vehicle rather than the shoulders of relatives. He also refused to give his wife a Hindu funeral though women members of the Hindu Mahasabha sat in front of his house on a dharna.

Reformers were trying to produce tamed versions of religion able to sustain pan-Indian nationalism

Savarkar’s main criticism of Gandhi, in fact, was that he was unscientific, irrational and illiterate in modern political theory. He was wrong about that. Gandhi did understand political theory, but it had deeper roots, taken not only from Indian society but from the dissenting West. Gandhi did not believe in the modern nation state or in conventional ideas of nationality, nation and nationalism. He went on record to say that armed nationalism is no different from imperialism. At that point in our history, he seemed a romantic fuddy duddy. The fact is, he was way ahead of his time. He understood that India was particularly well-equipped to craft its own version of a modern nation state. It was under no obligation to follow European textbook definitions of the nation state. The irony is that today many western nations are moving away from the old model and becoming more flexible: 14 countries in Europe do not maintain any armies and have opened their borders to become the European Union. On the other hand, because of our colonial past, India and China are two of the purest forms of 19th century nation states you can find in the world today. Tagore’s friend, Brahmobandhab Upadhyay, a Catholic who called himself a ‘Hindu Christian’. Vivekananda himself said the ideal Indian would be one who had a Hindu mind and a Muslim body. But very early in his intellectual journey, Savarkar decided mere geography was too insipid a basis for nationality and began to advocate a more strident Hindu nationalism. The distasteful, clenched-teeth hatred of Muslims and other minorities associated with Hindutva took root then.

Club members Ganesh puja in Mumbai
Spine straight The Hindutva project wanted to cast Hindus in Islamic and Protestant Christian mould
Photos: AP
Multiple ledgers Two urchins celebrate Diwali 
Photos: AP

After its defeat this election, the BJP feels its middleclass base has moved away from it because it is disenchanted with Hindutva. This, perhaps, is not entirely true. The Indian middle-class has a natural affinity with the less strident aspects of Hindutva. Primarily, this is because the RSS and BJP had very strong links with the Hindu reform movements, particularly the Arya Samaj. Both Munje and Hedgewar, though, were also inspired by Ramakrishna. The project was very clear. There was a seamless continuity between these reform movements and European concepts of a nation state. This continuity began to transform Hinduism and partly led to a form of religion compatible with a modern nation state – in the same way that Protestant Christians in Europe had become more comfortable with the nation state, industrial capitalism and secularism. In many ways, all Indian religious reformers were trying to produce house-broken, tamed versions of religion which could sustain a pan- Indian consciousness and pan-Indian nationalism. All these reformers had internalised aspects of masculine Protestant Christianity. Angarik Dharmapal’s Maha Bodhi society in Calcutta, in fact, produced a kind of Protestant Buddhism which the Sri Lankans find very convenient for their majoritarian state. Hindu society was even more diverse and cruel. Anyone wedded to the conventional idea of a nation state naturally found it too chaotic, unmanageable and subversive. The idea of Hindutva was supposed to be something Hindus could hold on to and yet remain good citizens of a modern nation.

The middle-class — which is the most privileged and therefore naturally most invested in the conventional notion of the nation state — is therefore also a natural constituency for Hindutva and its version of Hindusim. In Savarkar’s fearsome novel Kala Pani, the only futuristic novel produced by a Hindutva ideologue, he paints a (for him utopian) vision of a future India that will be a totally homogenous society. People would marry across caste and sect and language and become good, pan-Indian citizens — almost like the over-insipid, boring, lowest common denominator Indians one sees nowadays in India’s metropolises. Indians with no difference in language or custom: everyone speaking in the same accents, everyone having the same choice in music, cinema, clothes. Absolutely homogenised — almost like uniform clones.

SAVARKAR WAS prescient because this, in fact, is almost a mirror image of contemporary urban middle class Indians. A class that has access to a globalised economy, speaks English as its primary language, and is shaped by a uniform media. What resonance does this new-generation Malayali or Bengali or Tamilian brought up in Delhi have with the vernacular Hindusim of his grandparents, or even parents? Do all those myriad gods and goddesses with strange names, family priests, ishta dev and ishta devis make any sense to them? What is emerging instead is a pan-Indian Hinduism that allows you to dip into a bit of Onam and a bit of Diwali and a bit of Durga puja, and not be too deeply invested in any of it. Contrary to the ‘milleniaold’ milleniaold’ tradition Hindutva ideologues claim they are a part of, this new kind of Hinduism is a very new faith. It is no more than 150 years old. It was born in the 19th century and is directly inspired by Protestant Christianity in the wake of the Arya Samaj. And this faith is also a kind of lack of faith. You can carry it with you wherever you go. It is a kind of laptop Hinduism.

The Hindutva project in India is destined not to ever occupy centre space though, because it is challenged by Hinduism. When one talks of this Hinduism which is 4,000 years old, we have in mind a religion or tradition – a sentiment — that might be shrinking everyday but still moves a majority in India. It is this concept of faith — diverse, local, intimate and highly ritual — that most Indians live with. Apart from economic reasons and the crunch on jobs and infrastructure, one of the reasons why the Shiv Sena could garner so much support for their opposition to the influx of Biharis in Mumbai was the proliferation of chhat puja. The Mumbai-wallahs felt threatened, there was a sense of ‘itni chhatt puja kahan se aa gayi’? The Biharis would have had less of a hostile backlash if they had participated in the Ganesh pujas instead. Interestingly, there are many more Durga pujas in Mumbai and Delhi than in Kolkata, but there is no hostility against this because it has graduated into an all- India phenomenon. Chhathasn’t — yet.

The ‘millenia-old’ tradition Hindutva ideologues claim is actually a very new faith

It would be a mistake to conflate the occasional eruption of these hostilities with a belief that the idea of India’s plural traditions is a romantic myth. Religious groupings and sects — within Hinduism, and even between different religions — have always participated in each other’s local festivals, but they were not homogenised into an anodyne laptop religion. India was not an imitation of the Enlightenment model, in which you are deemed cosmopolitan only when you feel the other person to be completely equal. In traditional Indian societies, you are equal only in the sense that you have the right to think the other community is inferior to you, and the other person has a right to think you are inferior to them — even though neither of you might say so openly. In a homogenised, individualised society, the former is seen as cosmopolitanism. In a communitybased society, it is the latter cosmopolitanism that works.

In this continuing war between traditional, chaotic, diverse Hinduism and ordering, homogenising Hindutva, the BJP’s electoral defeat is a sign that Hindusim (which is by far the stronger force in electoral numbers) has defeated Hindutva. Hindutva expects Indians to live according to European norms of nationhood. But we are Indians: we are incorrigible, cussed, we have learnt to live with contradictions for centuries, we have learnt to live with chaos and ill-defined, half-baked ideas. We also want to keep options open for the next generation. These are the attributes that have ensured our survival when so many other major civilisations have failed. These are attributes that the BJP has to find ways to accommodate and respond to.

(I once interviewed Madanlal Pahwa — one of the Hindu militants who was among Gandhi’s assasins — in his old age. Ultimately, his most memorable years were of his childhood spent in a district in Pakistan’s West Punjab, which had Baba Farid’s mazar. There was a religious fair he would go to where qawwalis were sung. He called himself a kattar Hindu but that’s what his most nostalgic memories were about. This tells you something. We Indians are accustomed to living with multiple ledgers. He was a Hindutva wallah and all his language came from there, but his memories came from elsewhere.)

None of these arguments add up to an assertion that Hindutva will die out. What is true, though, is that, unless it metamorphoses, it will never enjoy the same vigour it did in past decades because it is inherently uncomfortable and embarrassed by Indianness and traditional Hinduism. For a generation newly emergent from colonial dominance, there was a fascination and sense of respectful subordination to things Western. But with this new post-independent, post-colonial generation, things are different. Indians have gone back to their own rhythms now, so even for the middle-classes, Manmohan Singh’s ‘West’ — with its idea that anyone can be a Tata or Ambani — is more attractive to many than Savarkar’s ‘West’. The aspiration for a global, material identity has overtaken cultural identity.

There is much Advani has to answer for, but he is quite a tragic figure. No one has read hm right

GIVEN BOTH the perceived and electoral defeat of Hindutva, it will be interesting to see what future route the BJP charts for itself. In many ways, Advani is a tragic figure. It is possible that no one has yet been able to read him correctly. Unlike Vajpayee, Advani had lived in a Hindu minority state and went to a Christian missionary convent. Having lived in a Muslimmajority state, Muslims were not unknown to him, and, perhaps, he did not feel the intrinsic discomfort expected of him. He was a part of the RSS – and probably believed in it — but there is a strong possibility that he also recognised in some ways that Hindutva was a political instrument rather than an all-encompassing ideology.

There is much Advani has to answer for. He is culpable for the Ram Janmabhoomi movement and cannot escape history’s judgement by saying he was talking of Ram as a cultural icon and not a religious figure. He knew he was creating an explosive communal situation. But his party’s reaction to his statement on Jinnah makes him tragic. There was nothing new he said about Jinnah – it is an indication of where our political culture has reached that no one seemed to understand this. Strangely enough, despite a tremendous difference in personality, like Savarkar, Jinnah was a person who thought entirely in Western liberal terms. Their ideological bouquet were almost exactly the same. Advani was only recognising that when he called Jinnah secular. Pakistan’s first law minister was a Hindu, its first national anthem was also written by a Hindu, upon Jinnah’s invitation. Both men shared the idea that nationality is crucial in a nation state and a certain amount of violence and bloodshed is normal in the jostling for dominance. In fact, Jinnah was less accepting of this notion of violence than Savarkar.

Advani tried to cast himself as a statesman in the Vajpayee mould, but could not repudiate his past. At the same time, he could not project himself as an ideologue that could be cast in a heroic mould as, say, Narendra Modi seems to have become for the Gujarati people. He did wear different masks at different times in his career to take political advantage, but it is possible he personally remained somewhat distanced from all of them.

Shadow play LK Advani ; perhaps the BJP now needs a leader who can lower the temperature of the party
Soul competition Middle-class Hindus today have a kind of laptop religion, easy to carry around

But this only intensifies the riddles for the BJP because it is quite possible that Narendra Modi too has passed his zenith. This election has indicated a decline in his popularity. The problem is, he did not leave any escape routes for himself, not even a cosmetic apology or expression of regret for the events in Gujarat 2002. This is likely to haunt his entire career. So the search for the correct leader has become the BJP’s biggest challenge – a leader who can lower the divisiveness and high temperature the party has become associated with.

But other questions remain for the party. If the BJP abandons Hindutva, what shape can its right of centre politics take? Its economic program cannot stretch too right of center because a majority of Indians live outside the spoils of the neo-liberal economic system. If only for electoral gains, they have to be accommodated.

What this means is that the BJP could be headed for a different kind of ideology, in which Hindutva will play a part, but there will be other competing concepts. There is no reason why Hindutva itself cannot take on a more benign form. Tagore, for instance, makes extremely powerful arguments for Hindutva in his novel Gora. This was a response to both Kipling’s Kim and Savarkar, and almost anticipated Gandhi in some ways. But even if the BJP and RSS’ think tanks are unable to come up with such innovations, it is quite certain that the party will retain some links with the ideology, and even if it is not part of its functioning ideology, it will be a party more tolerant of Hindutva groups.

VAJPAYEE, FOR instance, held Hindutva as a kind of vague, emotional frame. There’s no problem with that; in fact, it’s probably necessary in the Indian context. As Nawaz Sharif told Vajpayee, as part of the Muslim League and BJP, they were best positioned to break fresh ground in Indo-Pak relations as neither of their constituencies could accuse them of being wishywashy liberals. Above everything else though, like the Maoists who were encouraged to come overground and become part of the democratic process, the Hindu right wing must be politically accommodated. They cannot be annihilated or wished away, just as the Naxals could not be wished away. (Charu Mazumdar’s group in Bengal was wiped out with police action, but in barely 30 years Naxalism has come back again with greater force. These are idealistic people. It is a pity they have opted for the gun, but the problems they represent are real. Sitting in urban citadels, one might imagine that one can solve these problems over a 100 years and wait for some “trickle down” effect, but if millions of people are condemned to die in the meantime, one cannot expect everyone to remain unmoved.) In the same way, there are rump groups who are rabid enough to believe they should break down the Babri Masjid. They cannot just be wished away. They have to be politically accommodated and tamed.

The Mughal empire has some lessons that could be of great significance to contemporary India. The empire was so successful that the British left the Mughal system intact for 100 years. Even the Delhi Durbar of 1911 followed all conventions of a Mughal court. It allowed different levels of allegiance to the centre. The Jaipur Maharaja, for instance, was closer to Mughal Delhi than a sultan in Bengal: this meant he had more power and influence, nothing more.

The BJP has been demanding Article 370 should be abolished and the Uniform Civil Code brought in to India. These are legitimate demands in a European-style modern nation state. But why must we follow that route? Instead of hedging on Article 370, one should use it more effectively – go the whole hog with it. Why didn’t we give Article 370 to Sikkim instead of gobbling it up? Why didn’t we give it to Nagaland, rather than go in for 30 years of bloodshed which has made a whole generation bitter? If there is a worry that it is a border state, why not innovate and come up with Article 370 (a) – which defines more and less rights, with a clause put in for renegotiation at a later date? This would have increased the maneuverability of the Indian state immensely.

Savarkar’s novel Kala Pani covets exactly what the middle-class is today: insipid, boring, uniform

As Gandhi intuited, we are uniquely well-equipped to design our own version of a nation state. By pure default, we have gone in for some innovations — Indian secularism is one example. Both secularists and communalists complain about its compromises. But we will last as a society only as long as we compromise. The moment we try to harden it into something too defined, things collapse.

The current upheaval could be a creative moment both for the BJP and the RSS. Unlike the RSS heads that have gone before him, Mohanrao Bhagwat is not a very conspicuous ideologue. Nobody expects anything out of him. Because of this, he has the opportunity to be truly creative. But westernised Brahmins and modernity can be a lethal combination. It cuts you off from your native Indian genius. So will they be able to spot the moment?

From Tehelka Magazine, Vol 6, Issue 25, Dated Jun 27, 2009