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Such incidents pose a great threat to academic freedom. The academic space has become very vulnerable today. The educational institutions are being besieged by outside forces, both political and social, to shape the academic programmes in accordance with their world view. The political agenda of Hindu fundamentalists is to redefine the nation as Hindu and the ideological foundation of this re-articulation is monolithic Hinduism. When SAHMAT organised the exhibition Ham Sab Ayodhya in 1993, one panel depicted different versions of Rama Katha. This exhibition was disfigured and those involved in its organisation were assaulted by the members of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad. While Delhi University succumbed to political pressure exerted by the Hindu fundamentalists, in Kerala it was the turn of the Catholic Church to influence the type of history taught in the classrooms. It is common knowledge that Renaissance and Reformation in Europe cannot be made intelligible without explaining the practices of the medieval Church. -- K.N. Panikkar, renowned historian in an interview with G. Krishnakumar (Photo: K.N. Panikkar)

‘Was USSR imperialist? Well, imperialism has to do with capitalism, capitalist accumulation, and transfer of wealth from other countries to the imperial centre, extraction of surplus value from the labouring masses of the imperialised countries, the enrichment of the imperialist bourgeoisie, enforcement of capitalist relations of production in the dominated countries. I don’t see how the word imperialist could be applied to USSR’ “You don’t have to be for the Taliban, and you don’t have to be for the Americans. Whether in Pakistan or elsewhere...the best thing is to build a left movement on grounds that are peculiarly and specifically the arena of left politics”, says Aijaz Ahmad. In liberal discourses Soviet Union is also delineated as an imperial power. Given the Soviet role in Poland, Finland and later Hungary, Czechoslovakia, or Afghanistan, can we characterize Soviet Union as an imperial power? -- Farooq Sulehria

 

William F. Engdahl believes the uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa is a plan first announced by George W. Bush at a G8 meeting in 2003 and it was called “The Greater Middle East Project”.

It was masterminded to take under control for the “democratization” of the entire Islamic world from Afghanistan down through Iran, Pakistan and the oil producing Persian Gulf area, across North Africa all the way to Morocco.

“The so-called Arab Spring had been planned, pre-organized and used by the instigators of the ‘spontaneous’ protests and Twitter revolts in Cairo and Tunisia and so forth,” insists the historian.

Engdahl exposes that the some of the leaders of the protests had been trained in Belgrade, Serbia, by activists of Canvas (the Center for Applied Non-Violent Actions and Strategies) and Otpor (a youth movement that played a significant role ousting the former Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic), organizations financed by the US State Department.

Engdahl names two reasons for the US State Department’s designs on the Islamic world.

The first reason is a vast wealth in the hands of the Arab world’s leaders, sovereign wealth funds and resources. The agenda – exactly as it was done with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 – is “the IMF privatization, ‘free market’ economy and so forth so that Western banks and financial agencies and corporations could come in and take the plunder.”

“The second agenda is militarize the oil sources in such places as Libya and the so-called Republic of South Sudan, that are directly strategic to China’s future economic growth,” points Engdahl.

“This is all about controlling Eurasia, something Zbignew Brzezinski talked about back in 1997 in his famous book The Great Chessgame, especially about controlling Russia and China and any potential cohesion of the Eurasian countries economically and politically,” he says.

And the results are already there – in Egypt and Tunisia the democracy has already brought weak economy, while Libya, the country with the highest living standards in all of Africa before the NATO bombings, today is in ruins.

The concern of the Western powers, especially the Pentagon, is the military control of the troubled region, not restoring normality, the historian evaluates. The NTC puppet government’s main concern is giving NATO prominent basing rights – something unheard of during the 42 years of Gaddafi rule. -- William F. Engdahl in an interview with Irina Galushko

 

 

Well, everything is raised in a meeting with people sitting around a table, and that has – that reflects the worry and the frustration for this reason. I was just at our Embassy in Kabul. The Haqqani Network bombarded our Embassy for many hours. We were very fortunate that no Americans lost their lives, although some Afghans waiting for visas were unfortunately killed. And I’m the Secretary of State. I’m responsible for the lives and the well-being of the people who are our diplomats and our American employees and our local employees in embassies across the globe. I just want you to put yourself in our position. We have been warning about the Haqqanis, we’ve been warning about safe havens, we have presented information and evidence, we have shared intelligence.

Suppose they had gotten lucky. Suppose that car bomb had killed 77 American soldiers or suppose a car bomb or an effective barrage of assault weapons had killed Americans. Put yourself in the position that suppose that had happened to the Pakistani Embassy in Kabul or some other place. We don’t want to act unilaterally. We want to act in concert with our friends, our partners, our strategic allies in Pakistan, but we don’t want there to be any misunderstanding that we have to act, otherwise there will be perhaps an incident in the future that takes it out of the hands of any president. We don’t want to get to that, and it’s something that we are doing everything we can to avoid.

So when we talk about actions, as I was just talking to Munizae about, we talk about specific things we can do together. But a lot of it depends upon cooperation with our Pakistani counterpart. We think that is far better than having some disaster happen that requires some kind of response, which we are not at all interested in getting to. We want to avoid that. -- Hillary Rodham Clinton, Secretary of State

 

I think old ghazals had no discipline. People sang them without realising they were ghazals. Also they were not sufficiently structured. Now, if you think back, most popular Hindi film songs from the 1950s were based on ghazals. If you hear any old Hemant Kumar number, say Yaad kiya dil ne kahan ho tum, they were mostly ghazals. Composer Madan Mohan set so many ghazals to his inimitable tunes. To give just some examples, Yun hasraton ke daag or Mai re main kaase kahun peer. Even then ghazals were preferred because they reflected sensible poetry, there was no silly tukbandi (rhyming). When I branched out on my own, I was determined to polish up the genre and make it more acceptable to modern tastes. I read ghazals thoroughly and in my early years I would select classics by Ghalib, Mir, Jigar, Firaq and Daagh. Later, I turned to more contemporary writers like Nida Fazli, Wasim Brelvi and Bashir Badr. My knowledge of Urdu being limited, I chose only simple poems and set them to simple tunes. I also introduced Western instrumentation to make the overall effect livelier. Incidentally, that idea I borrowed from film music, it wasn’t exactly original. -- Jagjit Singh in an interview with Chandan Mitra (Photo: Jagjit Singh)

 

I often ask my audience if they have heard of Aurangzeb. Everyone says yes. But when I ask if they have heard of Dara Shikoh, very few say they have. We remember Aurangzeb because he has been presented as a villain - but we have forgotten his brother Dara Shikoh, who championed Hindu-Muslim unity by translating Hindu scriptures into Persian. He also penned a classic called Majma-ul-Bahrain (co-mingling of the rivers). We need to teach our children correct history. The reformist movement in Dawoodi Bohras has met limited success, but we have not given up. I have fought against narrow interpretations of Quranic verses and the Hadiths. I have always maintained that Islam should be understood in a modern context, not with a prism formulated by medieval scholars. – Asghar Ali Engineer in an interview with Mohammed Wajihuddin

These days, with the advent of modern communications and transport, we have many people coming from many schools. Even in the Middle East you have many ways of teaching and practicing religion, from the Gulf states to the more conservative Saudi Arabia. When they come back, they bring their own views of Islam, and how they have been taught. In some ways this is unfortunate in a society that has had a very strong accord with religion. People are coming back with different religious experiences, and when they try to practice it here it sows discord. We have always seen religion as a force that bound the people of Maldives together as one, we are now seeing it as a source of discord. And that is a pity. We hope that rather than stick to dogmatic views, we will be able to stick to a point of view that brings us together as one. The more you study the more you become aware of the complexities – whereas when you have only the basics, you can accept unquestioningly. -- Abdul Ghafoor Mohamed, Maldives Ambassador to the UN in an interview to JJ Robinson (Photo: Abdul Ghafoor Mohammed)

Even as the controversy saw these groups grapple with wrenching First-Amendment questions of religious freedom, the man at the centre of the controversy, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, persisted with his decades-long efforts to promote a multi-faith dialogue for better understanding across faith traditions. He ultimately won the approval of not only the Manhattan community board where Park51 is located but also NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg and even U.S. President Barack Obama.

What does this mean? It means a number of things. It [raises the question,] how do we express our values? Every religious tradition has a perennial challenge, which is, what are the eternal values of our faith and how do we express them in a different time and in a different place? So we now have a task to do [and that is to ask,] how do we express ourselves as British Muslims, French Muslims, German Muslims and American Muslims? This is the task I am working on and one of the key aspects of this Cordoba House project [is that it] has been my vision and it will be built, whether it is on that site or this site.

-- Imam Abdul Rauf spoke to Narayan Lakshman (Photo: Narayan Lakshman)

Islamic Studies used to happen under the rubric of “Orientalist Studies” which was mainly philological and text-based, and was carefully sealed off from wider currents of cultural criticism. But in the 1980s, scholars began to take Islamic Studies out of this narrow field and merge it more with Religious Studies, connected to wider intellectual trends like feminism, interfaith dialogue, and progressive political analysis.  In the 1990s, this yielded a new intellectual climate. Mature scholars trained in Islamic Studies and textual traditions began to make bolder inquiries, and homosexuality was no longer considered a taboo subject; so for instance we see the books and articles of Everett Rowson (such as “The Effeminates of Medina” which you published in Que(e)rying Religion) who is a scholar of Arabic literature and Middle Eastern Studies. What was missing was a more intimate engagement with the religious tradition of Islam. This came with feminist Muslim scholars. They provided the techniques of skeptically critical yet faithfully engaged scholarship that nurtured a next generation of scholars. There was the cautiously secular approach of Leila Ahmed and the audaciously zealous approach of Amina Wadud; both styles of feminism provided tools and perspectives for sexuality-sensitive scholars to appraise the religious tradition of Islam from within. -- Scott Kugle in an interview with Susan Henking (Photo: Scott Kugle)

 

The revolution is completely unfulfilled. The situation is very frustrating for the youth that led the protests, came together and were there on Tahrir Square pushing for change. The youth are unorganized and have been pushed out, co-opted and fragmented into different groups. So we are disenfranchised and disappointed – maybe even more disenfranchised then before. I blame the US for not taking a strong stance on the Military Council – but I cannot just blame them completely. The revolutionary forces have not organized their demands or brought together their activities. There are over 70 political parties being created, there are over 210 coalitions of which only 5 or 6 are efficient. The scene is very fragmented and all over the place. The winners are the Muslim Brotherhood – but I am not scared of them. Why should I be? The liberals are using rhetoric like that of the previous government against them to try and keep the Muslim Brotherhood out of politics. They are trying to scare the West.-- Egyptian Activist Ahmed Naguib in an interview with Ben Judah

 

It is much easier to deal with so-called terrorists from beyond your borders and from beyond your frontiers. It is much more difficult when it is someone raised in your country that is supposed to uphold Christian values. The man is a Christian they reported. Why someone in a country like Norway carried such an attack? No government seems to be taking a swing at it; actually it is giving a pass, by constant attacks and dehumanization of Islam and constant attack on migrants coming to their countries. Currently we see both of them coming together ironically as Britain and France fight a war in Libya. There is a growing refugee crisis from North Africa and they welcomed these people. Strangely, we see growing hysteria about Islamic refugees coming into Western Europe. I think these governments find it difficult because they themselves created the atmosphere in which something like this can be created. -- Chris Bambery, Author and Journalist

There’s no one-size-fits-all. Something that’s a tradition for me may be very different from your family norm. I grew up in Massachusetts and was the only Muslim student in my school. I grew up very integrated; the Western values and Islam [were] handled side-by-side. I saw no difference between being Muslim and being Western. There’s a way to find a balance in your identity that makes sense for you and the way you were brought up. So I don’t have the right to comment on how anybody should live. Because Islam is made up of more than eighty different ethnicities in America, there is not one monolith approach that all Muslims must use. One of the things that troubles me greatly, not just for women but for youth as well, is that they don’t have the kind of alternative narratives available to them online that offer them that a diversity of thought on particular issues. I’m not talking about the typical conversations of hijab versus non-hijab, do you drink, do you not drink, do you date, do you not date - that happens all the time – but to talk about the choices you make and why you make them and how you live them. -- Farah Pandith, Special Representative to Muslim Communities by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in an interview with Asma T. Uddin and Sarah Jawaid

In Jinnah's Pakistan, religious minorities were protected while in today's Pakistan, even moderate Muslims who want to peacefully co-exist with people of other religions are insecure now. Jinnah's word was betrayed immediately after his death but the real change came in the '70s when General Zia-ul-Haq gave a long rope to radical Islamists taking advantage of the Afghan war. He also created separate electorates for Hindus thus virtually making them second-class citizens. -- MLA Ram Singh Lodha in an interview with Uday Mahurkar, Sr. Editor India Today

… from economic issues to matters of national security, women's issues are neither "soft" nor exclusively "women's." Women and their children are still 70 percent of all civilians killed in war and 80 percent of all refugees. Only 8 percent of all peace talks have included women at any level. and only 3% of peace agreements are signed by women. Women are still underpaid for doing the same work as men—they do 2/3 the world's work, grow 50% of the world's food and are yet earning 10% of the income and own less than 2% of the property. One out of 4 women worldwide still face violence. -- Zainab Salbi in an interview with Eva Fernández Ortiz

 

Up till now, certain Gulf states have tended to provide a kind of link between Iran and the other Gulf states: Kuwait, Qatar and Oman in particular. Oman, however, is currently going through an internal crisis of its own; Qatar, which has recently emerged as a new regional power in the Arab world, has been distancing itself to an ever greater degree from Tehran, while Kuwait's relations with Tehran have slumped to an all time low. All of this means that the overall situation has clearly become more critical. -- Tarek Anegay in an interview with Lebanese political scientist Khattar Abou Diab

 

Dialogue with Pakistan is in India’s benefit. The talks between the two countries need to produce greater investment and economic interdependence. Pakistan can benefit from this economic growth and this is the factor that will bring the two countries together. The best way to combat terrorism is to attach Pakistan’s economy to India’s. But India does have legitimate concerns and has been unnerved by Pakistan’s delivery on terrorism. There has been no attack after 26/11, but another one is possible. India is an easy target, through the Kashmir border and the sea border. That’s, of course, a worry. India has every right to be disappointed with the Pakistan government’s response to terror, to 26/11 and with Pakistan for what they have allowed to develop on their soil. The solution has two directions. The first is to isolate Pakistan, punish the ISI and the army, and the other is to make Pakistan a part of India’s success story. -- Steve Coll in an interview with Alia Allana 

 

The possibility of another 9/11 are very low. But that does not mean the threat does not exist, and this needs to be understood through its current philosophy: one man, one bomb. And there are examples to validate this — last year there were two attempted attacks, one in Times Square in New York and the other in a New York subway. So the threat is random suicide bombings in Europe and the US. In fact, my fear would be attacks on Western military targets. -- Alia Allana

 

Gujarati Dalits have produced scores of saints and heroes who challenged Brahminism in their own ways and struggled for the rights of our people. But their memory has either been lost or else their traditions have been totally Brahminised. The Dalit priest (mahant) of the shrine was roped in by the BJP and his brother was given a BJP ticket to fight the elections. This was done deliberately to promote Dalit-Muslim conflict because that area has a sizeable Muslim population. -- Rajesh Solanki  in an interview with Yoginder Sikand, NewAgeIslam.com  

Iqbal’s been a sacred cow. But not anymore. He was a cultural icon who is wrongly hailed in this country as being some kind of a political hero as well. Iqbal’s audience was exclusive. He was talking to Muslim elite whom he wanted to emerge as a vanguard and rid the Muslim masses from what he considered were illiterate and distorted ideas about Islam. His understanding of ‘folk Islam’ that the Muslim masses still follow in the region was condescending and riddled with elitist biases.-- Nadeem Farooq Paracha

A major turn came in my life when my parents divorced. It was a pretty messy affair. My mother was highly educated, with a double MA. However, because she was not aware of all the many rights that the Muslim women have in the Quran, but which the mullahs have largely subverted in the name of Islam, she had a rough deal. Her lack of knowledge about women’s rights in Islam, as properly understood, disadvantaged her immensely. Had she been aware of her rights, she could have asserted her demands and might not had to resort to divorce. -- Sheeba Aslam Fehmi in an interview with Yoginder Sikand, NewAgeIslam.com

Demand for separate Muslim quotas is intrinsically discriminatory, and so is the entire politics around minority institutions. Granting minority status might give some people or institutions a temporary financial reprieve, but in the long run it saps their confidence, self esteem and dignity and undermines the quest for building a cohesive society. The very fabric of secularism is torn asunder when a nation starts viewing people or institutions in terms compartments based on ascriptive identities such as religion. The fundamental principles of equality are murdered in broad day light, and it only leads to the balkanization of society. All quotas are like begging bowls that will never be filled and that will make the ‘beneficiary’ community rust and perish rather than perform. When there’s a begging bowl in your hand, you never tend to seek to excel on merit or to be a go-getter. -- Firoz Bakht Ahmed in an interview with Yoginder Sikand for NewAgeIslam.com

I think that the average Muslim knows that suicide is forbidden by Islam. But there are still people who kill either themselves or an entire group of people. These people have to have a watertight argument based on Islamic law for carrying out these acts. To date, the legally watertight arguments used by these people have not been discussed or declared to be wrong. Moreover, no moderate legal scholar or anybody who advocates taking a middle course and doesn't believe in these acts of violence has yet gone on television and publicly opposed people like Bin Laden or al-Zawahiri, declared their ideas and actions to be wrong, and openly stated that such acts and ideas are forbidden by Islam. I don't think that this has happened as yet. And I don't think that these people are even in a position to do so, because the sources that are taught at Al-Azhar and in Saudi Arabia are the same as those used by Bin Laden and Aiman al-Zawahiri. But one person picks, another chooses, and yet another selects from these sources the things that suit them. We cannot go on without a radical religious reform in the Arab world, like the one initiated by Martin Luther. We have reached a dead end; we are stuck in a dark tunnel.  We must completely rethink the fundamental principles. It is said that the independent interpretation of sources is allowed, and I agree with that. -- Muhammad Shahrur in an interview with Ahmad Hissou

Since I am a believing Muslim, I looking at the issue from an Islamic perspective. Many Muslims wrongly blame Hindus alone for communal hatred and conflict Muslims are no less responsible and we must acknowledge that. Islam, as I see it, exhorts me to establish good relations with people of other faiths, and that is what Muslims should also try to do. Yes, we must promote secularism, but secularism, as I understand it, does not mean that you abandon your religion, culture and identity…

Muslims have generally not engaged in any sort of planning for the community’s future, but, yes, now there is definitely some sort of soul-searching happening. There is an increasing realisation that we have to be self-dependent in all fields, because, given the fascist anti-Muslim character of the state government and the enormous influence and power of Hindutva groups in Gujarat, we cannot hope for the state and the wider civil society to help us. Earlier, some Muslims thought that religious education was enough and that worldly education would lead their children astray. However, that is largely a thing of the past and now people, including the ulema, believe that both sorts of education are essential and both go together. Islam says it is impermissible to abandon the world for the sake of the faith. Some Muslims say, “What is the use of higher education? Why should we waste money on this because we know our children won’t get good government service jobs because there is so much discrimination against Muslims in Gujarat?” -- Afzal Memon in an Interview with Yoginder Sikand for NewAgeIslam.com

 

What you say is correct, to an extent, but this should not be exaggerated. It is not that all Dalits were complicit in the attacks or that they have been entirely co-opted by the Hindutva forces or that they have been completely Hinduised. This is not true. In fact, most of the attacks on Muslims in 2002 were engineered by ‘upper’ caste groups and elements and in relatively few areas were Dalit involved. In many places in Ahmedabad, the violence was led by migrants from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. Because Gujarat is relatively more prosperous, in recent years all sorts of babas, sadhus and mullahs and even criminals have been making their way from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar to Gujarat and are known to be the backbone of reactionary and obscurantist groups here, Hindu and Muslim, including those that spread communalism and violence. So that is another source of conflict. Dalits are being wrongly blamed for the attacks, in order to give them a bad name and to perpetuate conflict between Dalits and Muslims. Some NGOs have also made this claim, either deliberately, to defame the Dalits, or in ignorance, since many of them have little or no grassroots experience. In rural areas Dalits played little or no role in the attacks, which were mainly done by the ‘upper’ castes. This is because, in contrast to urban areas, in villages Dalits have no civic rights, and their oppression at the hands of the ‘upper’ caste Hindus is direct and stark. -- Valjibhai Patel in an interview with Yoginder Sikand for NewAgeIslam.com

“The attack on Libya, led by a French President whose policies towards North Africans have been openly racist, is the West's response to the uprising in the Arab world. Where is the proof that Gaddafi was about to slaughter civilians? -- Bedouin hyperbole is no proof. As Diana Johnstone has asked, why was no United Nations fact-finding mission sent to Libya to establish the truth before Sarkozy recognised a group led by Gaddafi's former right-hand man? If you support such a naked act of colonial intervention as the attack on Libya, you are not "progressive"; you are regressive”. -- John Pilger in an Interview to Farooq Sulehria

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