Those who snigger at India’s secularism should perhaps take a step back from the fence that separates us from Pakistan. Only then will they realise how fortunate we actually are. All the forces of primeval passion, let loose by the Partition, were baying for a Hindu state mirroring that of Pakistan; blood for blood, and so on. Pakistan has not made matters easier either. Every time it gets too hot and crowded in their kitchen, they open the window and throw junk in our backyard. There have been more times than we would like to remember when we have given in to ethnic passions. That we did not go all the way is because secular values are still with us, courtesy, the founders of our Constitution. If we want to believe like our forefathers did, if we want to tremble at the sound of thunder, if we want to be helpless in the face of avoidable diseases, we should go back to religious passions. If, on the other hand, we want to enjoy the comforts of today, the sciences of today, then we better get secular. There is much more to secularism than mere religious tolerance, religious equidistance, or even religious goodwill. Without secularism there is no development, and that is the hard truth. The choice is clear. We can either think like our grandparents and go ethnic, or think of our grandchildren, as Keynes did, and become secular. There is no other option! -- Dipankar Gupta
On the other hand, the supervisor of Mother Academy, Deoband and advocate Arshad Ali Khan has made some statements suggesting that Maulana Vastanvi’s appointment was done at the behest of Ahmad Patel. It means that the decision was influenced by the Congress and the central government. He said, “One allegation against the Majlis-e-Shura is that now it is dominated by politicians and the rich and academicians and scholars have taken a back seat. Maulana Badruddin Ajmal and Maulana Vastanvi have been accused of using money power.” Mr Khan further said that the Majlis-e-Shura ignored the views of the Elders of the community like Maulana Mahmood Hussain Madani, Maulana Rabey Husni Nadvi, Janab Maulana Md Talha, Maulana Syed Arshad Madani, Maulan Usman Mansoorpuri and elected the Vice-Chancellor. Significantly, Maulana Vastanvi is pro-Madrasa Board which the Centre wants to persuade madrasas in India to adopt. Darul Uloom Deoband had opposed the proposed Central Madrasa Board. -- New Age Islam Edit Desk
Photo: Maulana Vastanvi presenting the controversial picture
Every 23 July for the past 58 years Egypt, my country of birth, has celebrated its "July revolution" that overthrew King Farouk and ended the monarchy and British occupation once and for all. It was no revolution: it was a coup staged by young army officers.
And so it has been with a series of "revolutions" around the Arab world in which a succession of military men went on to lead us in civilian clothes – some kept the olive drabs on – and rob generations of the real meaning of revolution. For years I looked at the Iranians with envy – not at the outcome of their 1979 revolution, but because it was a popular uprising, not a euphemism for a coup.
So you'll understand why, along with millions of other Arabs, I'll forever cherish 14 January 2011 – the day Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali fled Tunisia, his 23-year rule toppled by 29 days of a popular uprising. A real revolution for a change. --Mona Eltehawy
Salmaan Taseer was killed by his own bodyguard on January 4 in Islamabad and he was only 66. God in the Holy Quran says that “no people can hasten their term, nor can they delay it” (23.43). So Salmaan’s time had come just like it will for all of us. But Salmaan died like a courageous man, with his boots on. I am sure this is the way he would have wanted to go taking a principled stand for something he believed in. He did not die crawling.
The pity is that his death may cow down the remaining few sane voices in the country. One could perceive this while watching the programmes on various television channels following his murder. There is hardly an anchorperson bold enough to outrightly defend what Salmaan stood for and the politicians are a foregone conclusion anyway. Every politician becomes a martyr in Pakistan but nobody is willing to call Salmaan one. Is it because they do not believe in what he stood for, or are they scared of the repercussions?The worst part is that the lower class folks I came across on Tuesday unanimously supported his death, ranging from the cooks to the chowkidars. They all said that he stood for blasphemy and deserved to die. This is a sad and dangerous trend.
The question is, who is going to change this mind-set and how? One cannot expect any sort of action from the present rulers because they lack the will, the vision and the intellect to do any such thing. The military has the might but it also has its limitations as such extremists are present in its midst as well and an intervention of any sort would be denounced and the political forces may suddenly unite against it. This leaves us with the media and the intellectuals. -- Anees Jilani
FOR THE first time in the 20- year- long period of insurgency in Kashmir, a votary of the secessionist movement has made a brutally frank confession about the killing of some prominent men of his own ilk. Prof. Abdul Gani Bhat, a leader of the Hurriyat Conference’s moderate faction, categorically said on Sunday that the security forces had played no role in the killings of separatist leaders Mirwaiz Maulvi Muhammad Farooq and Abdul Gani Lone as well as Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front ( JKLF) ideologue Prof. Abdul Ahad Wani. -- Naseer Ganai
Sometimes it takes time. The admission by Professor Abdul Gani Bhat, a key member of the original Hurriyat, that the gunmen who had assassinated top leaders such as Mirwaiz Muhammad Farooq, People’s Conference and Hurriyat leader Abdul Ghani Lone and Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front ( JKLF) ideologue Abdul Ahad Wani, had been killed “ by our own people” and not the Indian security forces is part of the painful process through which Kashmiri separatist leaders are coming to terms with the turbulent history of their own movement. -- Manoj Joshi
Recounting a long list of anti-Muslim brutalities (but conveniently ignoring similar outrages committed by Muslims on others), Maulana Ahmed exhorts his listeners to unite and take revenge. ‘O Muslims!,’ he shrilly appeals, ‘get up and take in hand your arrows, pick up your Kalashnikovs, train yourselves in explosives and bombs, organise yourselves into armies, prepare nuclear attacks and destroy every part of the body of the enemy.’ His speech is peppered with fervent calls for what he terms as ‘jihad’ against both America and India, these being projected as inveterate foes of Islam and of all Muslims. He prays for America to ‘be destroyed’, and ecstatically celebrates the recent devastating terrorist assault on Mumbai by a self-styled Islamist group that left vast numbers of people dead, unapologetically hailing the dastardly act as a ‘big slap on the cheek of the Hindus’. Not stopping at this, he calls for continuous terrorist violence against India, including, he advises, unleashing ‘bloodbath to [sic.] Indian and American diplomats in Kabul and Kandahar’. Only then, he argues, can Pakistan’s rulers ‘relieve the pressure’ on them and being peace to their country.
The ‘enemy’, as Maulana Ahmed constructs the notion, could be any and every non-Muslim, particularly Americans, Jews and Hindus or Indians. It is as if every non-Muslim is, by definition, irredeemably opposed to Islam and is necessarily engaged in a grand global conspiracy to wipe Islam from off the face of the earth. It is as if non-Muslims have no other preoccupation at all. All non-Muslims are thus tarred with the same brush, and no exceptions whatsoever are made. It is almost as if Maulana Ahmed desperately wants all non-Muslims to be fired by anti-Muslim and anti-Islamic vitriol, for that is his way to whip up the sentiments of his Muslim followers and fire their zeal and faith. It is as if further stoking such hatred is crucial to his ability to maintain a following and to claim to authoritatively speak for Islam and its adherents. ‘The hatred among the people against the kafirs has reached a new height,’ the Maulana exults. For the Maulana, fomenting hatred of non-Muslims is his chosen way of realising what has for centuries remained the elusive dream of Muslim unity. That this hatred, which he so passionately celebrates, inevitably further stokes the fires of Islamophobia and anti-Muslim prejudice, already so widespread among non-Muslims, appears of no concern to him at all. In fact, he seems to positively relish the frightening Huntingtonian thesis of the ‘Clash of Civilisations’.
Deobandi and Ahl-e Hadith outfits today enjoy tremendous clout in Pakistan, and they have been at the forefront of Islamist militancy that now threatens to drown the country in the throes of what promises to be an interminable civil war. As the speeches of these two Pakistani clerics, one a Deobandi and the other from the Ahl-e Hadith, so starkly indicate, inveterate hatred for India and the Hindus, indeed for non-Muslims in general, is integral to the ways in which vast numbers of Pakistani Muslim clerics understand religion, community, nationalism and the world. Such hatred is inevitably further fuelled by acts of brutality directed against Muslims by non-Muslims, including by the United States, India (particularly in Kashmir) and by militantly anti-Muslim Hindu chauvinist groups. Muslim and non-Muslim right-wing radicalism and militancy thus enjoy a mutually symbiotic relationship, opposing each other while, ironically, unable to live apart, needing each other even simply to define themselves. -- Yoginder Sikand, NewAgeIslam.com
The New York Times’ columnists Gail Collins and David Brooks talk about Christmas and where do you stand on the all-encompassing, retail-sales-enhancing holiday season?
Gail Collins: David, I know you’re a big fan of community-building activities. How do you come down on Christmas? I don’t mean the religious feast but the all-encompassing, retail-sales-enhancing holiday season. In which Americans of all stripes celebrate the winter solstice with family gatherings, exchanges of gifts and cards and the singing of really terrible seasonal songs.
Actually, the songs are the one part that I think cannot be pulled off without religiosity. That Mariah Carey thing, which is apparently the most popular holiday song in the nation, is worse than “A Holly Jolly Christmas”. -- Gail Collins and David Brooks
By questioning the legitimacy of India's sovereignty over Jammu & Kashmir, Beijing may be creating a future option for questioning New Delhi's locus standi to negotiate the future of the Indian territory in the Ladakh area under Chinese occupation. China could aggressively use this option if its relations with India were to deteriorate...
India has always been estimating the approximate length of the Sino-Indian border as about 3,500 kms in all the three sectors — Eastern, middle and Western — taken together. While it is about 2,000 kms in the Eastern and the middle sectors taken together, it is another about 1,500 kms long in the Western sector in Jammu & Kashmir. China, which had never openly questioned the Indian estimate of the length of the common border before, is now unilaterally seeking to exclude from consideration during the border talks the dispute between India and China over the Chinese occupation of a large territory in the Ladakh sector of Jammu & Kashmir. In fact, it is seeking to question India’s locus standi to discuss with China the border in the Jammu & Kashmir area in view of Pakistan’s claims to this area. -- B Raman
Initiatives such as the recent all-party delegation visit to Jammu and Kashmir are the ones that generate optimism. WILL IT LAST? There has been an attempt at restoring normalcy as this recent scene in Srinagar shows. But how long will peace last? One message to emerge from this season of delegations to Srinagar is: what Kashmir wants from New Delhi is political outreach. Earlier this month, a non-official delegation of parliamentarians and civil society made a three-day visit to Srinagar in an effort to break the ice on Kashmir without involving the government and by avoiding the trappings of state protocol. Its efforts at creating the space for dialogue made an impact....
It was for the first time in the last two decades that a political dialogue had been initiated with Kashmir. Back in 1990, Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi had led a similar delegation to Kashmir but he and his colleagues were caged in the Centaur Hotel, with militants having taken over the streets. This time, however, the situation in Kashmir had more political space, and the delegation was warmly welcomed as being a part of a genuine initiative. It was following the visit that the government announced its eight-point package. One of these was the appointment of a three-member team of interlocutors to prepare the ground to restart the dialogue process in Kashmir. -- Shujaat Bukhari
THE Wikileaks are sprinkled with some well worn wicked portraitures and political insights about Pakistan’s weak and dependent ruling elites. But there are some surprises 1. President Asif Zardari thinks he may be assassinated or “ taken out” by the military . We know this already because Mr Zardari has often talked publicly about being taken out of the Presidency “ on a stretcher”. But we didn’t know that, in the event, he would like Bilawal Bhutto to make Mr Zardari’s sister Feryal, President of Pakistan. She was his original choice to be president of Pakistan before he decided to crown himself but we didn’t know that he still thinks she may have a role to play in the future. -- Najam Sethi
The Aasia Bibi blasphemy case has caught the world’s headlines because it is full of desperate and nasty ironies. She is a Christian mother of five children sentenced to death in a Muslim country that is notorious for making and practicing laws that persecute its minorities even as its official state religion of Islam proclaims special protection for them; whose citizens “ hate” the West even as they push and shove outside Western embassies for work, education and tourist visas; whose governments shamelessly line up for financial handouts from Western aid agencies even as they roundly condemn the “ begging- bowl syndrome”; whose military establishment provides “ safe havens” for Al- Qaeda- Taliban terrorists in North Waziristan even as it fights them in South Waziristan and Swat; whose security posture compels its strategic US ally to look upon it as both the problem and the solution for the war in Afghanistan. -- Najam Sethi
The region known as 'Azad Kashmir' in Pakistan has a population of more than three million and comprises one-third of the erstwhile princely state of J&K. At the world stage, the region has come into focus during the 2005 earthquake or as one of the bases of militant outfits like the Lashkar. However, the region's impact on South Asian politics and even outside has remained a less studied subject of contemporary scholarship, though it has one of the largest South Asian diasporas living in Britain which has played a central role in internationalising the Kashmir issue since the early 1990s. -- Luv Puri
Saudi King on Zardari, Iraq PM
The cables also disclose frank comments behind closed doors. Dispatches from early this year, for instance, quote the aging monarch of Saudi Arabia, King Abdullah, as speaking scathingly about the leaders of Iraq and Pakistan. Speaking to another Iraqi official about Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, the Iraqi Prime Minister, King Abdullah said, “You and Iraq are in my heart, but that man is not.” The king called President Asif Ali Zardari of Pakistan the greatest obstacle to that country’s progress. “When the head is rotten,” he said, “it affects the whole body.” -- Scott Shane and Andrew W Lehren
Photo: WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange
AS voters in the American state of Oklahoma went to the voting booth on Nov 2, an unusual question awaited them. State question 755, also dubbed the ‘Save our state amendment’, asked voters to amend Article 7 Section 1 of the Oklahoma state constitution such that “courts rely on federal and state law when deciding cases”. It forbids courts from considering or using international law. It forbids courts from considering or using Sharia law. -- Rafia Zakaria
Tripura, which shares an 856-km border with Bangladesh, is building a huge war memorial and friendship park to memorialise the heroes of the Bangladesh Liberation War. Work on the Bharat-Bangladesh Moitree Udyan in a border hamlet in southern Tripura was inaugurated by Bangladesh Foreign Minister Dipu Moni on November 11.
The “friendship park” in Chottakhola has been planned in memory of the freedom fighters and Indian soldiers who died 39 years ago in the course of the struggle for Bangladesh's independence from Pakistan. The freedom fighters had their fortified base camps and launched guerrilla attacks on the Pakistan Army from Chottakhola. -- Haroon Habib