Archive for June, 2009

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

US/UK’s good cop/bad cop act to subvert Iranon the dictats of Israel

June 19, 2009

Friday, June 19, 2009




US/UK’s good cop/bad cop act to subvert Iranon the dictats of Israel 


While Obama and his staff is treating Iran imbroglio with kid gloves, it would appear that they are in the good cop act, while the bad cop act was given to BBC, UK. The virulent depth of BBC’s beyond the call of duty involvement can be judged that on the day, the Mousavi protestors decided to hit the street wearing black, as a sign of mourning for the dead during the earlier protest rallies, BBC’s own anchor was given a black overcoat to wear over her private dress. This is how BBC’s objective coverage is managed. This shows how detailed and thorough the campaign against Iran’s ruling establishment under Ahmadinejad, is orchestrated by BBC and its possible funders from the British Jewry, probably as a commercial paid project. This is a blatant interference by UK in the internal affairs of a UN member country. UK leaders have always been given the dirty job by the US big brother. In the past, Bush arm-twisted Blair to drag UK into an illegal Iraqinvasion. While the people howled over Blair decision, UK administration found itself unable to shake off the pressure of British Jewry, which on the Labour party was represented by Lord Goldstein, the one man fund-raiser of the party. A group of protestors have gathered around BBC offices inLondon. As BBC’s propaganda activities against Iran in their agenda of regime change, persists day after day; there are the reasons to believe that BBC’s home offices will be a target for possible trouble makers too,  on behalf of rabble rouser, with direct vested interest in inflaming the fires in Iran.


UN secretary general should take note of BBC’s virulent propaganda campaign against Iran and caution the UK government against playing with fire that might breakout of the boundaries of Iran.



Ghulam Muhammed, Mumbai


The ‘Regime Change’ regime targets Iran – By Ghulam Muhammed

June 17, 2009

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The ‘Regime Change’ regime targets Iran

Long before Iran was to have its scheduled current election to elect or re-elect a new President, US had started its mission to sabotage the current Ahmadinejad regime, through massive instigation of opposition groups to prepare for an ‘Orange revolution’ type of ‘Green revolution’ in Iran. US Congress openly appropriated funds for this subversive mission. Obama came in with a new approach for speaking softly and engaging Iran in a dialog. The dialog was to try a new approach to substitute Israel’s obsessive demand to bomb away Iran’s nuclear facilities. Apparently after its disastrous war efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, US and its NATO allies are not in a mood to ‘permit’ Israel to start another of its promoted war adventure. Obama had therefore acquiesced if not actively offered to sabotage the election and bring in a regime change in Iran, using the same strategies that US had so successfully used in regime change ‘revolutions’ in East European countries that had got their freedom from Soviet Union, though still under Russian affiliations. One after another, the coups were organised openly and world got the front row view of the staged revolution on 24 hour television coverage where crowds surged on government institutions while US and its allies, using their powerful media relentlessly bombarding the world with its cacophony of expression of outrage on brutalities heaped on the protestors, who were nothing put hired thugs of the US and its western allies.

The same strategy was adopted by the US in Iran. In the forefront of the subversive campaign is BBC, with its Persian radio and television services. BBC world service TV and radio programs relayed round the clock commentary and voices of disgruntled Iranians, from within as well as from outside Iran. The organised nature of BBC’s new coverage was fully exposed when BBC’s star senior journalist John Simpson majestically descended on the streets in Tehran to anoint the crowds and encourage mass revolt on the streets. Its street by street coverage through use of latest electronic gadgetry was a new trench war. Each and every snap and video clip was most dutifully displayed by BBC to the world audience and its commentaries in Persian were on a war footing. BBC’s website carries a hyper coverage of the events unfolding on the streets of Iran. The US stamp of organisation was so blatant, so typical and so arrogant, that no one in the world is convinced that the current street jamming is a home grown instantaneous protest movement. Though BBC again and again refered to the Khomeini’s revolution as to how the street demonstrations overthrew the regime, the stark difference between the spontaneity of the ‘Khomeini revolution’ and the entirely foreign backed and funded orchestrated subversion movement was not lost to the world at large.

It is not that Ahmadinejad’s government was not aware of the huge and widespread preparation by the so-called liberal forces, not only to participate in the free elections, but more than that to be prepared for a huge protest demonstration, to paralyze the entire nation after they have lost the elections, which was hundred percent certainty. Each and every town and city of Iran was activated. Still, President Ahmadinejad had chosen to be very cautious in his response to the expected street protests of the opposition demonstrations. In fact, it was a test of depth of Khomeini revolution to observe how after 3 decades, it can fight off another western challenge to its continuity with mass support from its people, not only from urban centres but from all over rural Iran, which is by far the much greater part of Iranian nation.

Like the Shah, Ahmadinejad could have unleashed terror on the street. But that would have been counterproductive and a blot on the face of Islamic revolution.

President Obama, who only days earlier in his Cairo speech to Muslim world, had mentioned with a tinge of regret, now very suspicious, about America’s interference in Iran through Mossadagh revolution and its overthrow. Even now, according to BBC, Obama was refusing to ‘meddle’ in Iran. In fact, Obama was trying to douse the inflamed country that would have been a major thrust point for his new beginning with the Muslim world. Obama held that there was not much difference between Ahmadinejad and Mousavi in terms of their actual policies and the world should not believe all the advertised expectation propaganda.

However, Mousavi has turned out to be a dumb witted leader, who is trying to ride two tigers in one go. If he thought the forces that are unleashed in his name are in fact, under his absolute command, he is only fooling himself. It is therefore, appropriate that Obama has publicly disassociated himself and his country from the turmoil in Iran. It is the kind of decisive turnaround that former US President Dwight Eisenhower used to force UK- France and Israel from their joint action in Egypt, fearing a world confrontation with the Soviets. This time the threat to US is not from their cold war rivals the Soviets but from the Muslim world. He can never achieve his goal to win the hearts and minds of Muslims around the world, if he had supported the liberals that were unleashed by a section of his own administration, together with Israeli planners.

In Iran now, time is of essence. As back in 2005, a similar protest move was made by the opposition of vote rigging and a recount was agreed by the Guardian Council. In similar vein the readily agreed recount by Guardian Council for a recount, seems to be a time honoured means to defuse the tension. However, this time, unless the western supporters are silenced, especially the subversive media like BBC, Obama will find it hard to fine-tune his new beginning with Iran. The ball is in Obama’s court.

Ghulam Muhammed, Mumbai

Roger Cohen fails to find a quotable line in Obama’s Cairo speech – Comments by Ghulam Muhammed

June 10, 2009

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Roger Cohen fails to find a quotable line in Obama’s Cairo speech

The charm and majesty of Obama is in his delivery before his captive mesmerized audience that laps it up as he goes along, word by word, phrase by phrase, line by line.

It is like a symphony performance that lingers in the inner recesses of the listeners’ soul, long before it has ended.

Roger Cohen is a prejudiced commentator. He is Jewish and for all it may take, a Zionist too and since for the first time in last 8 years of Bush years, Israel is getting it right and left, all Jewish lobbyists and media moguls are enraged. Cohen’s comments should be hardly a surprise, given his loyalties with Israel. Naturally, not only he personally would like to forget all Obama speeches, after Cairo speech, in a retrospectively castigation, Cohen would wish the entire world to forget that Obama had ever addressed the Islamic World, when in the same breath Obama not only patronised Israel but exhorted Israel to change course. In fact, if Cohen is fishing for a memorable and quotable line in Obama speech, Obama could have added: Israel, get off while the going is good.

Cohen’s advice to Obama to resort to ‘cunning and maneuver’ is a throw back to typical Jewish traits that better not despoil Obama’s straight talk and straight walk. As it is, he has just come out of the dark shadows of American Jewish Neo-cons cunning and maneuvering record of manipulating Bush and Cohen’s counsel could hardly be other than poison in the garb of a literary/political critique.

This reminds me of an Indian folk story, where a village verse writer had a gift of ridiculing his village friends in matching rhymes. He saw a Jaat, a farmer sitting on a cot – Khaat and called out to him: Jaat re Jaat, tere sar be Khaat. (Jaat, may this Khaat hit your head).

Now it so happened that this ‘poet’ was a Teli, a ‘lowly’ caste that crushes oil seeds to extract oil. They use the heavy oil grinder that is driven by bullocks.

The Jaat instantly replied: Teli re Teli, tere sar be kulooh (grinder).

Teli, in the same vein as our NYT columnist Roger Cohen, came out with the retort: but this does not rhyme.

Jaat said, rhyme or no rhyme, when the grinder hits your head, you will know, who hit the hardest.

Ghulam Muhammed, Mumbai

Felicitation of Muslim MPs and Ministers

June 10, 2009

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: MJ KHAN <>
Date: Wed, Jun 10, 2009 at 6:39 PM
Subject: Felicitation of Muslim MPs and Ministers
To: "" <>

Union Government keen on Muslims welfare: Salman Khursheed

Speaking at the felicitation function organised by CMEII for Muslim Ministers and newely elected MPs at New Delhi on 9th June, 09, the union minister of minority affairs, Mr. Salman Khusheed said that he is under the prime minister’s instructions to take up programs directly and through various economic ministries for speedy development of minorities, particulalry muslims, who have been left out of the mainstream educational and economic activites in the last 62 years.

He asked that when demad for reservation is raised, we must be clear on what basis and under which provision the same can be done. He said Article 341 has its social and histrocal dimensions and in OBC reservation, muslims are included but, they have not been able to access opportuntiies. He said the Prime Minster is keen for muslims economic development and on quite a few occaisions, he has expressed that adequate resources need to allocated for their speedy progress. Now it is for us, how effectvely we can translate good intentions of the Government into some concrete schemes for us.

Speaking on the occaisiion, Union Minister, Dr. Faruq Abdullah said that we have been talking about increasing our representation In Govt, but in effect this is on constant decline since 1947. The figure of 31 out of 543 MPs in 15th Lok Sabha bears testimony. He emphasised the need to collectively pursue the development agenda for muslims and suggested to form a monitoring mechanism to get us work and correct us, if we go wrong.

Mr. Sultan Ahmad, Union Minister of State spoke on the need for work in rural areas. He said education holds the key to our development and we must concentrate on the same. He said we need a national leader from our community, under whose leadership, we could move for our struggle for progress. Mr. Ahmad demanded tabling of Mishra Commission report.

Delivering his Presidential Speech, Mr. K Rehman Khan, Hon’ble Dy. Chairman, Rajya Sabha said that let us not shy away that we are Muslims Representatives in the Government and we have to talk about their agenda and work for it. He said it is not the lack on the part of the Government in appreciating the difficulties faced by muslims, but our failure to clearly work out our agenda, put up demands collectively and pursue persistently to get them done. He said we need to understand our priorities – education, reservation and empowerment.

Present on the occaision were Mr. Asad Owaisi, MP, Mr. A Rashid, MP, Mr. Kadir Rana, MP, Mr. Ahmad Saeed, MP, Mr. B. Ajmal, MP, Mr. Zafar Ali Naqvi, MP, Mr. Azeez Pasha, MP, Mr.D Raja, MP, Mr. Maulana Qasmi, MP, Dr. Ejaj Ali, MP, Mr. Shariq, MP, Mr. M Adeeb and few other MPs, besides Mr. Shafi Quraishi, Chairman, NCM, Mr. PA Inamdar, Chairman, Azam University and others

Mr. Naqvi, Maulana Qasmi, Mr. Shariq, Mr. Ajmal and Mr. Rana also shared their thougths.

Ealier making background presentation, MJ Khan, President, National Economic Forum for Muslims said that the world order is changing and the community need to access quality education for mainstreaming role, growth and a place in the society. He emphasised that youths are looking forward to playing mainstream role in the social and economic development of the nation. They need enabling environment and level playing field. He spelt out Six point demand for the consideration of the Government:

Six Point Agenda

  1. Govt. support in education, skills development, equal opportunities and fair share in national resources
  1. Community needs the Instrument of Reservation. Mishra Commission Report to be Tabled in House
  1. Equal Opportunity Commission to be set up
  1. The reports of all Commissions and Committees to be tabled and ATR presented within 3 months
  1. Muslims sensitivities to be respected
  1. Audit of Ministries and States on “Minorities Confidence Level” and to release Annual Survey Report

Based on that four specific demands were spelt out by MJ Khan, while concluding his presentation. The program was ably conducted by Mr. Kamal Farqui.

  1. The discrimination meted out to Muslims under article 341 through the Presidential Order 1950, must be revoked and Muslim SC/SC castes must be entitled to the same benefits, as other SC/ST
  1. Muslims need the instrument of reservation. The OBC quota may be tri-furcated among Advanced OBCs, MBCs and Muslims for a just and fair share to all the three sub-groups
  1. 15% share in all educational institutions, Govt or private, and in all Govt. and PSUs schemes, allocations, dealerships etc., as suggested by Mishra Commission. A Monitoring Officer in each Ministry.
  1. Support in skills up-gradation and certification through launch of a major program up to block levels by the Union Ministry of Labour and Employment with allocations of Rs. 3500 crores annually

More details with photograph would be sent soon. We shall appreciate your kind comments and suggestions.

With regards

MJ Khan

President – IMRC and Muslim Economic Forum

New Delhi – 1

Comments posted on The Times of India website over Swagato Ganguly’s Edit page article: Taliban can be beaten

June 10, 2009

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Ghulam Muhammed <>
Date: Tue, Jun 9, 2009 at 11:01 PM
Subject: Comments posted on The Times of India website over Swagato Ganguly’s Edit page article: Taliban can be beaten

Comments posted on The Times of India website over Swagato Ganguly’s Edit page article: Taliban can be beaten

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

For over a century now, Americans lived with the dictum: What is good for GM, is good for USA. GM filed for bankruptcy last week. In India, our intelligentsia, since the arrival of a World Bank advisor, Manmohan Singh, with his bag of liberalisation cookies, has been following a new line of thinking: What is good for USA is good for India. This, while USA itself is tottering on the verge of bankruptcy.

In today’s TOI edit page article: Taliban can be beaten, have no need to think independently – who are Taliban, how far India is their target, why US attack on Afghanistan should be lauded by India. All they are obsessed with is that Taliban are Muslims and we hate Muslims, so we should hate Taliban. In their

Swagato Ganguly’s comments: The Taliban can be beaten, suffer from a major analytical flaw, when he fails to highlight that there is deep divergence albeit with some overlap between US and India‘s identification of who is the enemy. Neither Muslims nor Taliban is a monolith. US is targeting Al Qaida for 9/11 and Taliban for not allowing US corporate UNOCAL to lay its oil and gas pipeline through ‘independent and free’ Afghanistan, which Mulla Umar had wrenched from his own countrymen – Gulbuddin Hikmatyar and Abdullah Masood. India‘s enemy is Muslim groups based in Pakistan and not in Afghanistan, who have been making forays into Jammu and Kashmir. If India is mixing up the two groups and presenting them as one, just to get sympathy and help from the US over its problems with Jihadist (for want of a better and correct phrase), it cannot fully blame the US for not coming to the aid of the party.

Besides, if India falls into a trap of owning up US enemies as its own, it is open to an extension of its war against the Jihadi, into other areas. US has global hegemonic underpinnings to its ‘neo-con chalked out world strategies’. India has to find its own objectives first, and need not fall into strategies of the New World Order, where India will be merely the supplier of mercenary forces where our Jawans will sacrifice their blood and sweat to carry out a colonial war being marketed as war against terror or war against Jihadists. India should not fall prey to such motivated and self-serving agenda of the US backbenchers, who are still holding on to Bush era fundamentals and priorities.

2. Swagato Ganguly’s definition of modernity lacking in Taliban is a much skewed proposition. In the use of modern weapons, they are as modern as the US and NATO forces and much more modern than the current level of modernity available to Indian armed forces. Taliban are not village bums. They have earlier able to use even stringer missile to take down enemy aircraft. They are international traders in arms, ammunitions, drugs and currencies. The modernity sought by the West in Afghanistan is merely a smokescreen to demonise the ‘other’ and get support world-wide. India should have its own assessment of what modernity means to an undeveloped region, be that Afghanistan, Pakistan, India or Bangladesh.

3. Even though a reference is made to ‘international jihadist activity’, it cannot be denied that India has till now escaped the full force of such activity in Jammu and Kashmir and even in mainland India. India therefore should do everything to keep the genie into the bottle and not get tempted to ‘virtually’ invite international jihadist forces to ‘come into our parlour’ through ill advised moves, public and private.

4. Sometime back I wrote: Taliban cannot be fought; though they can be bought. It only means that between war and diplomacy, there are better chances for diplomacy to succeed. In its latest interview with German magazine Der Spiegel, Pakistan’s Pervez Musharraf admits they negotiated with Taliban to get Pakistani Ambassador to Afghanistan free. That proves discretion is better part of valor and Swagato Ganguly’s bravado — Taliban can be beaten — has no leg to stand on.

The myth of the invincibility of Afghan/Pathan/ Pakhtoon/Taliban is not mere historical or Kiplingesque fiction. There are easily observable reasons for that invincibility. And for that one does have to rely only on Kipling. The terrain is so vast, mountainous, craggy, full of natural hideouts; the people are deeply committed to their personal freedom and independence, their own sense of justice, their own standards of generosity and revenge. Like the Wild West, they too have personal security and safety as the sine qua nonof their armed existence at individual level. All these cannot be broken down with aerial bombardments. Even with heavy aerial bombardment, US and NATO forces are bogged down in Afghanistan and the government of US promoted President Karzai does not extend beyond his heavily fortified residence.

Besides Afghan/Pakhtoon/ Taliban are not fighting a conventional war, they are into an ongoing guerilla war. As you eliminate some, others take their place. They are residents of their country; others are merely visitors in a place that cannot hold attraction for them for long. Even timeless time is on their side. They can survive on minimum. Modern armies need to be funded and financed by sacrificing public budgets. Taliban resources are meager but limitless. Others’ are limited.

It is time Times of India choose its lead commentators that do not boast of being more wild than Taliban, just to prop up a public charade.

Ghulam Muhammed, Mumbai

Obama’s Cairo speech –

June 9, 2009

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: <>
Date: Tue, Jun 9, 2009 at 2:32 PM
Subject: Obama’s Cairo speech – Ed. 22

b i t t e r l e m o n s. o r g
June 8, 2009 Edition 22

Palestinian-Israeli crossfire

Obama’s Cairo speech
. A level US-Arab playing field

by Yossi Alpher

The message was quantitative.

. Waiting expectantly

by Ghassan Khatib

Too many times burned, most observers received the speech with a wait-and-see attitude.

. Trust is not enough

by Saul Singer

Why can’t we all just get along?, Americans want to know.

. A breeze of change

by Ali Jarbawi

Palestinians must be facilitators, not spoilers.


A level US-Arab playing field

by Yossi Alpher

US President Barack Obama’s speech in Cairo last week devoted unusual emphasis to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In this respect, the message was quantitative. Obama never mentioned the prospect of an Israeli-Syrian peace process and he devoted barely a sentence to the Arab Peace Initiative and little more to key issues like democratization and women’s rights. But the Israeli-Palestinian issue got huge play, clearly reflecting the US administration’s recognition of its centrality to the Arab discourse and decision to concentrate on it in the months ahead.

The speech also presented a calculated effort to balance statements deemed friendly to Israel with those friendly to the Palestinian and Arab cause in general. Israel got a "Jewish homeland"; Palestinians an end to the occupation, a two-state solution and repeated use of the term "Palestine". Hamas was told to accept the Quartet’s three conditions, but Israel was told to end the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Arabs were asked to recognize Israel’s right to exist, abandon violence, end Holocaust denial and cease using the conflict as a distraction from other problems; Israel was told to freeze settlement construction and remove outposts. Arabs were informed that the Arab Peace Initiative is "an important beginning, but not the end of [Arab states’] responsibilities"; Israelis noticed that Obama never used the words "terrorism" and "normalization" even as he talked at length about these very issue areas.

At a broader level, the speech appeared to be an attempt to cultivate the more moderate forces of political Islam, offering dialogue to anyone who is "peaceful and law-abiding" and, perhaps symbolically, repeatedly recognizing women’s right to wear the hijab. It barely confronted Iran’s drive for nuclear weapons and seemingly hinted at Israel in presenting a demand to eliminate all nuclear weapons (from the region? from the world?).

The speech also, not once but twice, referred to the need for Palestinians, with Arab help, to develop their "capacity to govern" and build the "institutions that will sustain their state". Herein lies an important message to Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. While Obama insists that Netanyahu endorse the two-state solution and cease settlement expansion–two very problematic demands for this Israeli coalition–he also seemingly endorses Netanyahu’s vision of an Israeli-Palestinian peace process built from the bottom up, with special emphasis on institution-building.

Netanyahu can also find solace in Obama’s avoidance of presenting a major new Israel-Arab peace initiative that the current Israeli governing coalition would find hard to digest. That may still be in the works, particularly if Netanyahu fails to come up with a viable initiative of his own (he has now committed to present his own plan next Sunday). Meanwhile, in view of Obama’s demand that Hamas recognize Israel’s right to exist, cease violence and accept past agreements, the likelihood of the Palestinians fielding a united and viable negotiating team in the near future is low. That means that it will be extremely difficult to translate Obama’s vision into a peace process.

Obama set out in Cairo to reverse the damage wrought by eight years of the George W. Bush administration: to level the playing field between the US and the Arab world, between Americans and Muslims. This largely explains the extensive retelling of America’s interaction with the Muslim world, juxtapositions like Holocaust/ Nakba and the indirect comparison between the saga of blacks in America and the plight of the Palestinians.

Many Israelis and supporters of Israel are inevitably uncomfortable with these themes, which can be construed to adopt the Palestinian narrative without recourse to historic criteria and objective analysis. By the by, it is easy to ignore how this way of dealing with the issues also facilitated Obama’s exhortation to Arabs "to choose progress over a self-defeating focus on the past" and his recommendation to the Palestinians to adopt non-violence.

If Obama’s approach does the job of restoring American credibility and boosting his moral authority in the Middle East, the exercise may prove useful. This could happen if and when this US president exercises that authority at critical times ahead, for example to persuade the Palestinians to drop their demand for the right of return or to rally Arab countries, alongside Israel, against Iran and its allies.- Published 8/6/2009 ©

Yossi Alpher is coeditor of the family of internet publications. He is former director of the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University.


Waiting expectantly

by Ghassan Khatib

The speech delivered by US President Barack Obama in Cairo last week was impressive in intent, taking on the great rift that now divides the United States and the Arab and Islamic world. Its main impact, however, was to generate cautious optimism. Too many times burned, most observers received the speech with a wait-and-see attitude, hoping for practical implementation of these expansive new ideas.

Obama’s speech can be divided into two spheres: the first was general and conceptual, engaging the relationship between the American people and US administration and the Arab and Islamic world. The other was practical, concentrating on the Arab-Israel conflict and Iranian-American tensions.

Dealing with the first–and more prominent–level, the president showed a depth of understanding and used language that were together a marked departure from the approach of the previous administration. Political ideology, and the September 11 events, led the previous administration to deal with problems in the region–including "terrorism"–as solely technical, and related to security and the military. This approach produced superficial and wrong-headed diagnoses and treatments, and deepened negative attitudes in the region toward the American government.

Obama’s speech went much deeper than others in diagnosing regional problems, referring, for example, to the negative impact of globalization in the region, which has swept in western cultural domination and all the resulting negative social and economic implications. This nod, together with prescriptions for improving and investing in education and women’s issues, shows a level of understanding that the people of the region are not used to in American rhetoric.

On the Arab-Israel conflict, the speech was also successful. Obama used the term "occupation", which has been intentionally banished from western diplomatic language for at least a decade. He also referenced the tragedy of the Palestinian refugees–their loss and displacement. And most importantly, he used clear language criticizing Israel’s settlement expansion and the need for it to stop.

People in this region have a long and negative experience with changing rhetoric, verbal declarations and politicians’ waffling over this conflict. All the while, however, the trend on the ground is for the worse. This has left the region’s peoples, especially Palestinians, unable and unwilling to build their hopes on words. We need concrete and practical change in our daily lives to convince us that it is, in fact, possible to end Israel’s occupation.

The US administration will now face the inevitable contradiction between its refreshingly strong insistence that Israel stop all settlement expansion and the continuous construction underway in the settlements–nails driven in place and cement poured at the very moments that Obama was speaking. In other words, the credibility of the US president is on the line in the region–first and foremost over the issue of Israeli settlements.

But also important to realizing the vision presented in Obama’s speech is the creation of local political realities more conducive to political progress. Yes, that means encouraging and empowering the Palestinian peace camp, but it also means supporting Palestinian dialogue between the factions by offering incentives, and encouraging Hamas to become part of the legitimate political system rather than forcing it out. Hints of this direction were to be found in Obama’s speech. Now we wait to see what he will do. – Published 8/6/2009 ©

Ghassan Khatib is coeditor of the bitterlemons family of internet publications. He is vice-president for community outreach at Birzeit University and a former Palestinian Authority minister of planning.


Trust is not enough

by Saul Singer

President Barack Obama’s Cairo speech embodied the paradox of the modern age: the wealthiest, most powerful nation in the world is also the most idealistic. One face of America is that of strength and confidence. Obama displayed another face of America that is no less essential: that of humility, honesty and innocence.

"All of us share this world for but a brief moment in time," Obama said. "The question is whether we spend that time focused on what pushes us apart, or whether we commit ourselves to a sustained effort to find common ground, to focus on the future we seek for our children, and to respect the dignity of all human beings."

Why can’t we all just get along?, Americans want to know. This sort of "innocents abroad" approach was mixed with an apologetics, lavish praise for Islam and extreme moral juxtapositions–such as comparing the Holocaust to the suffering of Palestinians and placing Israel in the role of oppressors as in South Africa under apartheid or American blacks suffering the "lash of the whip as slaves and the humiliation of segregation".

On the other hand, Obama had some blunt words for the Arab world: "Palestinians must abandon violence. . . . It is a sign of neither courage nor power to shoot rockets at sleeping children, or to blow up old women on a bus. That is not how moral authority is claimed; that is how it is surrendered. Now is the time for Palestinians to focus on what they can build."

And this: "Finally, the Arab states must recognize that the Arab Peace Initiative was an important beginning, but not the end of their responsibilities. The Arab-Israeli conflict should no longer be used to distract the people of Arab nations from other problems. Instead, it must be a cause for action to help the Palestinian people develop the institutions that will sustain their state; to recognize Israel’s legitimacy; and to choose progress over a self-defeating focus on the past."

This is greatly understating the matter. Since this was an opportunity to boldly tell the truth, he should have said to the Palestinians and the Arab states: "The dream of a Palestinian state is in your hands. It is the Arab world that has repeatedly rejected the partition of Palestine–in 1937, 1947, 1967 and 2000. If the Arab world steps forward and accepts the legitimate right of the Jewish people to a state in their land alongside an independent Palestine, the people and government of Israel will embrace peace, as they did with Egypt and Jordan."

Though Obama did not go that far, his call on the Arab states to do more could be an important step toward a more realistic policy. Yet the speech was not really about policy, but more a pressing of a rhetorical "reset" button. It is as if Obama has looked at the world and determined that what is lacking is inspiration, humility and vision. He used the word "mistrust" four times. Obama’s proposed remedy: "a sustained effort to listen to each other; to learn from each other; to respect one another; and to seek common ground."

But the focus on trust is a misdiagnosis. Would it were true that the world is suffering from a vast misunderstanding. Totalitarian movements–such as Nazism, Communism, and Islamism–do not attack, kill, oppress and expand because of a lack of trust.

Obama comes from Chicago, a place that has suffered from organized crime. Imagine that the mob controls half the city, imposing tremendous fear and poverty on millions of citizens. Next imagine the mayor making a long-awaited foray into the heart of this troubled area and calling for a new start and a better way of life.

Before such a speech, the mobsters might have been worried that the mayor would take them on, and the people hopeful for the same reason. But both sides would simply be mystified if the mayor came in and said, first, I’m not the mayor, second, sorry for bothering you and third, you really should stop fighting and behaving so badly–all without clearly mentioning the mobsters and sometimes even sounding like the people and mobsters were equally to blame.

The purpose of the Cairo speech, it seems, was to prove that the US means well. Now, however, it will be harder than before for the US to prove that it means business. In a mob-dominated neighborhood, the people only want to know one thing: is someone going to help us get rid of these thugs or not?

The danger is that moderate Arab leaders will take Obama’s speech to mean 1) the pressure is off on us to liberalize and 2) we’re on our own because Iran is going nuclear. The Arab people will similarly conclude that America is retreating and will not stand with them against their sclerotic governments or the spread of Islamism.

The only way Obama will convince them otherwise is if he suddenly shows that the US will put muscle behind its vision. In an interview with Newsweek last month, Obama said of his outreach to Iran, "if it doesn’t work, the fact that we have tried will strengthen our position in mobilizing the international community," presumably to impose draconian sanctions on Iran. This sort of stick was completely absent from the Cairo speech.

If there was a doubt, Obama has succeeded in proving that he is not George Bush. Yet the world has not changed. The mullahs continue to build their centrifuges, stoke terrorism and galvanize their veto power over any peace process. The Arab states will not risk reaching out to Israel under the cloud of a nuclear Iran. Building trust with the peoples of the region will not address their predicament. The future of Obama’s vision depends on whether he believes that trust alone will work, or if he understands that trust must be used to mobilize free and threatened nations to take effective action.- Published 8/6/2009 ©

Saul Singer is a columnist for the Jerusalem Post and co-author of the forthcoming book "Start-Up Nation: The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle".


A breeze of change

by Ali Jarbawi

The conciliatory tone of US President Barack Obama’s speech delivered in Cairo has attracted widespread praise. Many skeptics, however, are asking if and how these words will be translated into action, particularly in relation to the Arab-Israel conflict.

The recent history of US engagement in Israel-Arab relations provides grounds for skepticism. However, this speech and other preparatory actions taken by this new US president do offer some encouragement to those who seek a more even-handed approach from the US. It is essential that the Arabs and Palestinians give President Obama the benefit of the doubt, at least for a limited period, and avoid acting as spoilers of his declared intention to be an honest broker.

Ordinary citizens, as well as seasoned analysts, began poring over the text of Obama’s speech from the moment it was first posted on the web, just minutes after he left the podium at al-Azhar University. They are finding many examples of Obama’s intention to be frank and even-handed.

He made a direct link, in consecutive paragraphs, between the tragedy of the Nakba and the Shoah. He unequivocally called for a Palestinian state and used the word "Palestine"–something that previous US presidents have avoided. In addition to repeating his demand for an end to the settlement enterprise, he stopped short of supporting the concept of a Jewish state, preferring the term "Jewish homeland". He effectively called upon Palestinians to pursue peaceful resistance, whilst equating their struggle for rights and freedom to that of black Americans and South Africans. There was even an acknowledgement of Hamas’ legitimacy as a representative of the Palestinian people.

And he didn’t use the word "terrorism"–not once in 6,000 words lasting 56 minutes. These are not coincidences or missteps. This president and his speechwriters are well aware of the novelty of these messages coming from the US leadership; and they are cognizant of the disquiet they will cause among the Israeli political and military leadership and the settler communities.

Obama has also made some significant gestures in the way he has related to the Arab world, Palestine and Israel since taking office less than five months ago. King Abdullah of Jordan, a sharp critic of the new rightist Israeli government who speaks openly of his distaste for Binyamin Netanyahu, was the first Middle East leader to be welcomed into Obama’s White House. The US president overflew Israel on his way to Cairo last week and won’t be paying Netanyahu a visit for a while yet. The president has also appointed a slew of advisers and staffers who have a history of taking an uncompromising line on settlements, most notably Special Envoy George Mitchell and National Security Adviser General Jim Jones. And Obama’s chief of staff has been vilified by Israelis as a "self-hater" for his perceived role in formulating "anti-Israel" US policies.

US domestic political commentators who have observed Obama’s career closely repeatedly refer to his genuine interest in the experience–and often suffering–of the ordinary citizen. This interest has been given its most recent expression in his nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court. She is undoubtedly a woman of great intellect, but also a woman of the world who has a deep appreciation of how it feels to be at the bottom of the pile. In hearing his words in Cairo, in particular his description of the suffering of Palestinians, one wonders if he is the first US president in a long time to sense the brutality and the injustice of the occupation.

In his speech, Obama quite rightly pointed to the responsibilities that Arabs and Palestinians share in helping bring an end to the conflict and building the state of Palestine. Palestinian unity is an imperative regardless of Obama’s speech. Even if Obama does not fulfill his early promise, we must be united.

However, if his words are truly to be translated to deeds, Palestinians must be facilitators, not spoilers. If we remain divided, we run the serious risk of being labeled the opponents of peace. This does not mean we have to relinquish our resistance to the occupation, but we do need to pursue resistance more intelligently. It also does not mean that we should allow ourselves to be dragged back into open-ended negotiations. The US, Israel and the broader international community need to understand that there is a limit to our patience, and that we need to see rapid and tangible steps toward dismantling the infrastructure of the occupation.

United Arab support is also essential. As President Obama stated, the Arab Peace Initiative is an important beginning, but not the end of the Arab role. The stability and development of the region depend on concerted Arab support for the establishment of a stable state of Palestine. They will need to expend political capital in their own countries in the long-term interest. However, they need to be persuaded that the price is worth paying. The Arab nations, their leaders and their citizens, need to see an early and tangible return on their investment. They need to see an end to the suffering and indignity that has become part of the daily experience of Palestinians living under occupation.

In his famous "Wind of Change" speech delivered in both Accra and Cape Town in 1960, British Prime Minister Harold MacMillan said, "it is our earnest desire to give South Africa our support and encouragement, but I hope you won’t mind my saying frankly that there are some aspects of your policies which make it impossible for us to do this without being false to our own deep convictions about the political destinies of free men."

This speech marked the beginning in earnest of the British policy of decolonization and a political furor in the United Kingdom, infuriating those determined to hold on to imperial possessions. His words were soon followed by deeds. Let us all hope that the breeze that blew in from Cairo last week rapidly gathers strength.- Published 8/6/2009 ©

Ali Jarbawi is minister of planning in the Palestinian Authority.

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Editors Ghassan Khatib and Yossi Alpher can be reached at and, respectively. is an internet newsletter that presents Palestinian and Israeli viewpoints on prominent issues of concern. Each edition addresses a specific issue of controversy. maintains complete organizational and institutional symmetry between its Palestinian and Israeli sides.

Tavleen Singh’s lesson to Obama – By Ghulam Muhammed

June 8, 2009

Monday, June 08, 2009

Tavleen Singh’s lesson to Obama

Tavleen Singh’s article: Osama needs some more lessons in Islam, published in The Indian Express, is like the dropping of the second shoe, without which Indiawould not have slept that night. 

The resounding silence that could be heard all across the Indian nation, while the world tuned in to Obama’s speech at Cairo boldly and generously embracing Muslim world, was more painful in the backdrop of the most successful marginalization of Muslims in India

Tavleen Singh,. a writer famous for her thin skin as far as Islam and Muslims are concerned, was typical of the ultra jingoists, who could hardly breath, while world’s lone super power, had engaged the Muslim world so publicly and so passionately  and offering them a new strategic alliance for the peace of the world. 

The name of the emotion that gripped a section of the Hindutva elements was nothing but  sheer jealousy. 

How can they tolerate that the Muslims who had ‘brutalized’ the Hindu over centuries and now finally been successfully divided in three parts in the sub-continent so as to render them insignificant in the comity of nations, should be given so much attention, so much lauding, so much importance that bordered on virtual call for peace negotiation after a virtual defeat that stared the US in the face. And all because of a handful of al Qaida ‘terrorists’, who seems to have pinned down their mighty army in these God-forsaken lands!

What a sudden change of fortune. It was only yesterday, when India was in love with President Bush and America‘s Jewish lobby has been working overtime to favour India, in its quest to find a new strategic partnership with their country and a new set of close relationship with Israel, ensuring billions of dollars worth of defense rearmament. In this equation, India‘s own 150 million Muslim were so totally marginalized, as if they deserved to be punished for their crimes of the past.

So it was a nightmare for the likes of Tavleen Singh to finish watching the worldwide telecast of Obama speech without him mentioning neither India nor the Hindus, even once in his hour long love fest with Islam. For TOI Washington correspondence, it was a relief that Obama left out Kashmir in his speech.

Tavleen had to react by puking her bile and offering her unsolicited lessons in Islam to the untutored Obama. Indian Express site mentions that her diatribe was the most emailed article of the day. Doubtless she has legions of supporters, who felt just like her, dejected and ignored, if not betrayed.

However, this is the worst case of insecurity and inferiority complex being so blatantly displayed in India‘s English media. India need not have cringed. It is great nation and it has great destiny ahead, if only it comes out of its exclusivity shell.

In the event, the world will not ignore India‘s adverse reaction to Obama speech.India and Israel were the only two nations in the world that had come out against Obama’s opening towards Islam. Israel’s reasons are obvious; India’s reasons are still obscure to the world.

Indian Muslims are a far cry from the Osama brigade and even though they have been institutionally discriminated against and reduced to the worst of the lot, they have remained peaceful all throughout the last 60 years of Indian’s freedom from the British.

In the recent elections, they had reverted to tactical support to Indian National Congress, which came out with a manifestly large clutch of parliamentary seats that virtually enabled it to dictate its terms to coalition partners. Though all around the nation media and intelligentsia are openly mentioning how Muslim support to Congress has turned the tide for Congress, the arrogant Congress leaders have yet to find the courage to cultivate the magnanimity to acknowledge Muslim debt and offer them their rightful place in the political formations.

Now that Obama has shown a different mode of reassessing the Muslim world and Islam, Indian leadership is demonstrably peeved. Only reckless commentators are wallowing in their own grief and writing poison articles. That can not delay the morn that is bound to break out from within this dark night of bigotry and prejudice.

Indian Express did try to balance the reactions to Obama’s Cairo speech on Islam, by publishing the next article by Sudheendra Kulkarni, on the same page. It is remarkable, how a liberal turned Hindutvadi had gathered up the courage to call for a positive engagement with the Muslims, even to his own extremist Hindutva party which finds itself at a dead end while stuck in the rut of hate and prejudice.


Ghulam Muhammed, Mumbai


on, 8 Jun 2009


 Obama needs some more lessons in Islam

Tavleen SinghPosted: Sunday , Jun 07, 2009 at 0342 hrs IST




The day before President Obama set off to win Muslim hearts and minds last week, I had an interesting conversation about Islam with a Lebanese gentleman and his wife. I met them at a discourse by an ex-Buddhist monk who smiled a lot and talked of happiness. It was when he said that all religions were the same that trouble began. An Indian friend I was with pointed out that Indian religions did not urge believers to rush off and brutalise (or convert) the nearest unbeliever while Islam did. This made the Lebanese lady angry and she stomped off asserting that the Koran said ‘to each his own belief’.

Then her husband got really angry when the subject of women’s rights came up. He said the Prophet of Islam had given more rights to women than anyone ever. I pointed out that what was progressive fourteen hundred years ago may not be progressive today. Many Islamic countries continue to declare nine as the age of consent for girls because the Prophet’s wife Ayesha was nine. I drew his attention to the treatment of women in Saudi Arabia (the Prophet’s native place) and reminded him that 60 girls were burned alive in a hostel some years ago because the morality police would not let them out unveiled. This infuriated him. “What about Mumbai,” he said, “where they sell the eyes and liver of young girls. If you hit on Saudi Arabia I will hit on Mumbai.”

I recount this exchange to make the point that when it comes to winning hearts and minds, the exercise must happen both ways. It is not just President Obama who should be required to do all the ‘outreaching’; the Muslim world has its share to do as well. Why should Saudi Arabia be allowed to get away with funding virulent strains of Islam in countries like ours? Why should Pakistan get away with textbooks that teach school children about ‘evil’ Hindus and Jews? Why should Pakistan get away with releasing Hafiz Mohammed Sayeed?

What is the point of fighting the Taliban in Swat and Waziristan if you can release the man who created the Lashkar-e-Toiba? The organisation he created has been declared a terrorist organisation not just by us but by the United States. It has been responsible for terrorist acts on Indian soil, including the attack on Mumbai. By any standards, that makes Sayeed a terrorist. If Pakistan were serious about fighting Islamist terrorism, they would have charged Sayeed with the crime of starting a terrorist organisation. Even before Mumbai was attacked.

The jihad did not appear one morning out of a clear blue sky. It happened because of a system of education in most Islamic countries that perpetuates the idea that Islam is the best thing that happened to mankind and that pluralism is wrong in Allah’s eyes. As for us happy idol-worshipping types, we are doomed to damnation. This idea is in direct conflict with the Indian idea of ‘sarva dharma samabhaava’. But, it is more than just religion that is the problem.

The Islamic sense of grievance is now so confused that the Americans are blamed for ‘abandoning’ Afghanistan after the Russians were defeated. Now that they are back, they are blamed for interfering in Islamic affairs. In the Middle East the stated objective of the jihad is to obliterate Israel but if Israel attempts to resist this fate it is charged with being brutal to Palestinians. It may not be politically correct to say this but the truth is that there could have been a solution in Palestine decades ago if Yasser Arafat had not been corrupt and amoral. The peace treaty that nearly got signed when Bill Clinton was President was as good as anything President Obama will be able to deliver. Do Palestinians ask why it did not go through?

What saddened me most about President Obama’s speech was that without actually apologising for America’s mistakes he made it sound as if all the mistakes were on one side. It would have been nice when he mentioned American mistakes if he had mentioned a few made by Islamic countries. Pakistan ran a black market in nuclear bombs. Saudi money builds madrasas in Indian villages that poison our happy heathen atmosphere. The war with the United States was started by Osama bin Laden. India is under constant threat from terrorist groups that continue to be nurtured by the Pakistani state. The release of Sayeed is proof. And, the reaction of President Obama’s government is to give Pakistan more aid than ever before.

President Obama seems not to know that there are more Muslims in the Indian sub-continent than anywhere and that we lived in relative harmony till Saudi money started to fund Wahabi Islam.



Obama’s candour in timeless Cairo

Sudheendra Kulkarni

Posted: Sunday , Jun 07, 2009 at 0344 hrs IST

Barack Obama’s speech in Egypt on Thursday is quite simply one of the most important articulations by any world leader on the relationship between Islam and the West—indeed, between Islam and the rest of the world. The first sentence in his speech—”I am honored to be in the timeless city of Cairo”—is, outwardly, a tribute to the hoary civilisational past of the country and its capital. But the choice of the word ‘timeless’ also befits several themes and thoughts that flow through the speech like meandering River Nile. It is heartening to see the president of the United States approach many global issues, including issues that have created a problematic relationship between America and the Muslim community, from the standpoint of truth and justice. He made the Holy Koran’s injunction “Be conscious of God and speak always the truth” the touchstone of his speech and said, “That is what I will try to do—to speak the truth as best I can.” Like ‘truth’, the word ‘justice’ figured several times in his long, 5,802-word speech.


Obama’s choice of Egypt for delivering his much-anticipated address to the Muslim world, and his resolve to be candid and honest, reminded me of what the late Naguib Mahfouz, Egypt’s greatest novelist, said in his speech while accepting the Nobel Prize in 2006. “I am the son of two civilisations that at a certain age in history have formed a happy marriage. The first of these, seven thousand years old, is the Pharaonic civilisation; the second, one thousand four hundred years old, is the Islamic one¿Gone now is that (first) civilization—a mere story of the past. One day the great Pyramid will disappear too. But Truth and Justice will remain for as long as Mankind has a ruminative mind and a living conscience.”


Obama’s speech reached the heights of greatness because he recognised both the mortality of human beings and the immortality of the ideals that ought to guide the journey of humanity. “All of us share this world for but a brief moment in time,” he observed, and added words derived from the wisdom of the ages: “The question is whether we spend that time focused on what pushes us apart, or whether we commit ourselves to an effort—a sustained effort—to find common ground, to focus on the future we seek for our children, and to respect the dignity of all human beings.”


He seemed sincere in his soul-searching. “It is easier to start wars than to end them; it is easier to blame others than to look inward.” He almost admitted that America’s war on Iraq was wrong. Stating that his policy would be “Leave Iraq to Iraqis”, he added, “I have made it clear to the Iraqi people that we pursue no bases, and no claim on their territory or resources.” This is music to the ears of many fair critics of America. And so also is what he said on the other war that the US is engaged in. “Make no mistake: we do not want to keep our troops in Afghanistan. We seek no military bases there. It is agonising for America to lose our young men and women. It is costly and politically difficult to continue this conflict. We would gladly bring every single one of our troops home if we could be confident that there were not violent extremists in Afghanistan and Pakistan determined to kill as many Americans as they possibly can. But that is not yet the case.”


Obama is entitled to saying that “We will, however, relentlessly confront violent extremists who pose a grave threat to our security.” But we in India will judge him and his administration on the basis of whether they address the root of the problem, which is that terrorists in Pakistan are, and have all along been, protected and patronised by its military rulers. If the US is entitled to worry about, and take suitable steps for, its own security because “al Qaeda killed nearly 3,000 people on 9/11”, isn’t India, which has lost 20 times more people in attacks by Pak-based terrorists over the past nearly three decades, even more entitled to do the same? This is a question that Indians must keep asking our American friends. And it is also a question that India must be ready to answer on its own.


Obama’s Cairo speech covered a broad array of issues, from religious freedom to women’s empowerment, from the tensions between globalisation and religious-cultural identities to the need to move towards a nuclear weapons-free world. He was most impassioned on the imperative to end the Israel-Palestine conflict on the basis of fulfilling the legitimate aspirations of both sides. “Too many tears have flowed. Too much blood has been shed. All of us have a responsibility to work for the day when the mothers of Israelis and Palestinians can see their children grow up without fear; when the Holy Land of three great faiths is the place of peace that God intended it to be; when Jerusalem is a secure and lasting home for Jews and Christians and Muslims, and a place for all of the children of Abraham to mingle peacefully together as in the story of Isra, when Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed (peace be upon them) joined in prayer.” I, a Hindu, await that day as keenly as any peace-loving Jew, Christian or Muslim.


I found two things missing in Obama’s speech. Firstly, he did not explore, even tangentially, the theological roots of religious intolerance and extremism. Secondly, he nowhere mentioned India in his descriptive, analytical or normative narrative. After all, India is home to the second largest Muslim population in the world. More important, in its own 1,400-year-old interaction with Islam, India has changed it in ways that would certainly interest Obama. And unlike Egypt, India’s pre-Islamic civilisation or spirituality did not simply vanish in this interaction. In talking about the “proud tradition of tolerance” in Islam, Obama says, “We see it in the history of Andalusia and Cordoba during the Inquisition. I saw it firsthand as a child in Indonesia, where devout Christians worshiped freely in an overwhelmingly Muslim country. That is the spirit we need today.” Mr. Obama, if Indonesia, the most populous Muslim country in the world, presents a tolerant picture of Islam, it certainly has something to do with the civilisational and spiritual history of India.


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