The Minority’s Minority

July 26, 2012 by  
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Pakistan, Tehelka Magazine, Dated July 28 2012: Sunni supremacist groups have terrorised the Ahmadiyyas in Pakistan and declared them non-Muslims. This hatred is now taking roots in India.

“The breed of Qadianis will never change. They may multiply up to 99 generations; still the 100th one will continue to be a dualist-infidel and apostate. The reason is that their crime is a never-ending one. The offence will never cease to exist in their progeny. Let it be clear to every Muslim that the crime of apostasy runs throughout the lineage of a Qadiani. If he is adamant and refuses to renounce his apostasy, then Allah’s sacred soil deserves to be cleaned of his foul existence. By the law of Shariat, they should be awarded capital sentence because they are dualist-infidels (zindiq). If they are masquerading as Muslims on the globe, it is because they have not been sentenced. Hunt the liar in his mother’s haunt [Britain]. I ask my Muslim brethren — Don’t you have any grace left in you to answer these shameless Qadianis? Peel their camouflage off from every nook and corner of the world, just as it has been done in Pakistan.” – From a booklet published by the Majlise-Tahaffuz-e-Khatm-e-Nubuwwat Trust, Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh.

IN RECENT days, as news of the Higgs Boson and the so-called god particle swept across the globe, some commentators in Pakistan referred to the strange and paradoxical case of the late Mohammad Abdus Salam. A physicist of renown and Pakistan’s first Nobel laureate, Salam is hardly remembered in his country, and even mocked because he belonged to the Ahmadiyya or Qadiani sect of Islam. In recent years, as Sunni supremacism and an extremist, Wahhabi form of the religion have gained ground in Pakistan, Ahmadiyyas have found themselves under attack.

Is the fire spreading to India? The Ahmadiyya sect was born in this country, its adherents being followers of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, a 19th century religious preacher who lived in Qadian, near Gurdaspur in Punjab. Yet today, a silent social boycott of the community in India is isolating it from other Muslims.

No one knows this better than Jehangir Ali, 82, a wizened resident of the Old City in Hyderabad. We are standing in his house, part of a complex that includes the 398-year-old Qutub Shahi Mosque, the family graveyard, living quarters and a small poultry business. “Look around you,” he says, “what do you see?” This reporter looks around — there are trees, a railway line, and more trees. There’s nothing really; rare open spaces in the otherwise congested neighbourhood of Falaknuma.

That’s exactly the point Ali is trying to make — his and his family’s exile from the community. His family — including those of his two sons and two grandsons — has not just been excluded and pushed to the margins, it has been repeatedly threatened.

Religious zealots, backed by the Andhra Pradesh Wakf Board, are claiming ownership of the mosque Ali’s family has so lovingly tended to.

“This mosque was in a bad shape when my grandfather came here in 1890,” says Ali. “He became its caretaker and spent his money restoring it. Not even a single person came here to read namaz back then. Even today, no one else comes here to pray except us. They still want to throw us out.”

On 18 February, the Wakf Board issued an order resolving to “take over possession of the mosque and the graveyard from the custody of the Qadianis. Since Sunni or Shia mosques cannot be administered by non-Muslims, it is ordered that the said property be taken under the Wakf’s direct management”. In effect, the Wakf Board declared the Ali family non-Muslims.

Despite his frail health, Ali is not giving up. “I will continue to tackle all this legally,” he says. “My father rests here in his grave and so will I. And so will my son and his son and his.”

While his determination is admirable, Ali’s case is not unique. A growing intolerance is beginning to leave its impact on India’s Ahmadiyyas, in line with disturbing trends in other parts of the Muslim world. What is particularly worrying is it is not just a radical fringe that is attacking Ahmadiyyas but established and powerful Muslim organisations as well.

During a public meeting at Delhi’s Ramlila Maidan in May this year, the Jamaat-e-Islami Hind called for a “complete social boycott” of Ahmadiyyas. Deobandi leaders, under Abdul Qasim Nomani, congratulated the Andhra Pradesh Wakf Board for its decision to take over Ahmadiyya properties and urged Wakf Boards of other states to do so.

Muslim political parties such as the Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM) are hardly immune to such hate speech. In March, an Ahmadiyya mosque in Saidabad, Hyderabad, was attacked while many people, including women and children and the elderly, were offering prayers. Stones were pelted and a petrol bomb assault threatened if the “Qadianis don’t fall in line”.

In Old Delhi’s Jama Masjid area, it is not uncommon to see posters that call for “eliminating the Ahmadiyyas off the face of the earth”. On 24 September 2011, an exhibition related to the Quran was organised by an Ahmadiyya organisation at the Constitution Club, walking distance from Parliament House in New Delhi. It was vandalised and forcibly shut down by Islamist fanatics, with the Delhi Police unable to guarantee security. In Kerala, mobs have shut down Ahmadiyya book exhibitions in Kannur and Kozhikode.

Victims of hate An Ahmadiyya mosque in Hyderabad operates with closed shutters (left); Policemen carry an Ahmadiyya victim after the 2008 attack in Lahore

WHO ARE the Ahmadiyyas and how are they different, if at all, from other Muslims? Ahmadiyyas differ from Sunnis on two counts. First, they consider Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, who laid down the principles of the sect on 23 March 1889, in Qadian, as a great messiah who championed the true teachings of the Prophet and so purged Islam of fanatical misinterpretations. Sunnis say this means Ahmadiyyas don’t accept the finality of Prophet Muhammad — and don’t consider him the “Seal of the Prophets” — but accord Mirza Ghulam Ahmad the status of Mahdi (Redeemer of Islam, as guided by Allah).

According to Ahmadiyya scholars, Prophet Muhammad prophesied that the Promised Messiah would be found near a white minaret directly east of the city of Damascus. This prophecy, they believe, was fulfilled with the birth of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad in Qadian. Not only is Qadian to the east of Damascus but at 31o North it is almost on the same latitude as the Syrian capital (33o North).

Second, Ahmadiyyas differ in the interpretation of the term “jihad” or holy war. They say they have a more gentle definition of jihad, in which the war is waged against one’s own lowly desires. The main goal of every Ahmadiyya is to exert himself/herself to the fullest for self-improvement. Thus, violence of all forms is shunned and there is an emphasis on reforming one’s character. To be fair, other Islamic and non-Ahmadiyya schools also speak of such an interpretation of jihad. Nevertheless, Ahmadiyyas use it to distance themselves from the extremes of the Wahhabis.

Fareed Ahmad, the London-based foreign affairs secretary of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Association, says, “Our jihad is different from the jihadi acts that confront us on television screens and in newspapers. For the Ahmadiyyas, jihad does not seek self-glory, power or grandeur. In Islam, the greatest jihad is to conquer one’s self. That doesn’t require swords, bombs or bullets. Rather it needs a pure heart.”

There are other minor differences between Ahmadiyyas and bigger sects of Muslims, but those are largely of a non-theological nature. Mirza Ghulam Ahmad preached Jesus had not died at the Crucifixion but had escaped to India and spent his final years as a mystic in Kashmir.

All that is in the distant past, the current wave of violence against the community is no more than 3-4 years old. According to the Qadian-based Syed Tanvir, spokesman of the Ahmadiyya Jamaat, it goes back to the Khilafat-e-Ahmadiyya’s centenary celebrations in 2008. “Our yearlong celebrations across India were attended by many people,” says Tanvir. “This angered some of the radical mullahs. They decided to break us in every way possible.”

Relatedly or otherwise, the worst attack on Ahmadiyyas in Pakistani history took place in May 2008. Suicide bombers and terrorists armed with AK-47 rifles ravaged two Ahmadiyya mosques in Lahore, killing 98 people. Declared non-Muslims as far back as 1974, Pakistan’s Ahmadiyyas had found their lives, mosques and beliefs under threat from Sunni supremacist groups such as the Lashkar-e-Jahngvi and the Jaish-e-Mohammad.

From Pakistan, the flames have spread. There is a growing anti-Ahmadiyya sentiment in Indonesia and Malaysia. In Indonesia’s Java province, three Ahmadiyyas were murdered by a mob of 1,500 in February 2011. None of the attackers was brought to justice. Ahmadiyyas also report oppression and discrimination in Muslim countries of Central Asia and Africa.

In India too, an inclination to resort to violence against Ahmadiyyas is becoming visible in Sunni mosques. In Hyderabad, special donation boxes labelled “Radh-e-Qadaniat” (Eliminate the Qadianis) are found installed in mosques, and common Muslims are invited to give freely to kill “the Qadiani dogs”.

However, unlike in Pakistan and some other Muslim-majority countries, the law of the land in India backs the Ahmadiyyas. A Kerala High Court judgment of 1970 makes it clear that Ahmadiyyas have the right to call themselves Muslims and that other Muslim sects cannot force them to abandon their Islamic identity. The judgment observed Ahmadiyyas were Muslims because, like other Muslims, they adhered to two fundamental tenets of Islam: the supremacy of Allah as the One God; and recognition that Prophet Muhammad was a messenger and servant of Allah.

Even so, there are other forms of exclusion that Indian Ahmadiyyas suffer. The sect has been kept out of the All-India Muslim Personal Law Board, a body that is supposed to represent the diversity of Indian Islam. Since Ahmadiyyas are a minority within a minority, they are hardly a votebank. This has led to an undeniable callousness on the part of politicians and law-enforcement agencies, and created a fear psychosis among Ahmadiyyas.

After the Jamaat-e-Islami Hind called for a social boycott of Ahmadiyyas, members of the community alleged being forced to leave their houses by non-Ahmadiyya Muslim landlords or jobs by such employers. In cities such as Hyderabad and New Delhi and small towns of Kerala, Ahmadiyyas who run small businesses and shops say they are losing customers.

There is logic to the economic targeting of Ahmadiyyas. Every Ahmadiyya, irrespective of his financial standing, gives a 16th of his income to the faith. This is sent to Qadian to keep the religious mission going. In addition, an Ahmadiyya also needs to contribute a 10th of his income if he is to be buried in the “heavenly grave” and become a “moosi”. (It is a graveyard located in Qadian and Rabwah in Pakistan, established after Partition. It was set up by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad and all those who are moosis by virtue of their monetary contributions are buried here. A burial here is therefore a ticket to heaven.)

In his book The Ahmadis: Community, Gender and Politics in Muslim Society, Antonio Gualtieri notes, “It is clear that it is economically sacrificial to be an Ahmadi. Of course, if someone simply has no income, then these contributions are waived. But even a poor Ahmadi is expected to contribute proportionally from his meagre income to the jamaat.”

Internationally, unlike Sunnis and Shias, Ahmadiyyas have no State power or nation to support them, and no network of wellfunded charities underwritten by governments in West Asia. They depend on bottom-up contributions from within the community, and as such practice what they consider a more democratic structure. If the contributions from the community dry up, it would cripple the Ahmadiyya mission. As Syed Tanvir says, “The aim is to break the backbone of our community, which is sustained by contributions of our members. They believe if Ahmadiyyas are financially destroyed, then the faith too will disappear in India.”

The economic debilitation of Ahmadiyyas seems to happening in tandem with a social boycott. Reports from several cities say qazis are refusing to perform the nikaah of an Ahmadiyya bride or groom. Sunni families are being advised to have no social or economic dealings with Ahmadiyya families.

THERE ARE more than 50,000 Muslims in Hyderabad’s Jalakoocha neighbourhood. Barely 100 of them, just about 15 families, are Ahmadiyya. When TEHELKA visited these families, they were clearly in fear. Some of them refused to talk to this reporter openly on the street.

Mohammad Ibrahim, 36, is a tailor in Jalakoocha and had to bear the fury of a 100-strong mob earlier this year. They vandalised his shop and only means of sustenance. “I can’t say what will happen, and when,” he shrugs. “I remember the mob shouting ‘Qadiani murdabad’ as they destroyed my shop. It was a terrifying moment for my family. The police do nothing… If I name the culprits, my family will be in trouble.”

Not too far away, at the busy intersection of Afzalganj, is the Masjid-i-Ahmadiyya. The mosque is draped in a big and ugly plastic sheet to protect it from the weather. There was a protective wall till a year ago, but it “collapsed” mysteriously one day. Attempts to rebuild it have been sabotaged by radical elements who keep threatening the mosque’s caretakers.

Most mosques anywhere in the world have their doors open. The Masjid-i-Ahmadiyya functions with its shutters closed. A lone police constable is seated at the entrance. He is a Muslim but a non-Ahmadiyya and distinctly unsympathetic when asked why the mosque is in such a dilapidated condition. “They [Ahmadiyyas] deserve this,” he insists. “They forcibly occupy Muslim mosques and then cry when they are shown their rightful place.” As TEHELKA started to photograph the mosque, the policemen grew excited. “I advise you to get out of here or you too will be in trouble,” one of them warned.

Inside the Masjid-i-Ahmadiyya, there is hardly any activity. In a small room — barely 8ftx6ft — sits Maulvi Sadi, the man in charge of the mosque. He expects trouble to come knocking anytime. “The growing aggression towards us is being instigated by politicians,” he says. “In the 2009 Assembly election, Asaduddin Owaisi and the MIM lost considerable influence. The CPM has made a dent in the Muslim vote. Owaisi is trying to revive his fortunes by telling other Muslims that the religion is under threat because of Ahmadiyyas. He is using religion to unite our Muslim brothers against us.”

Expectedly, MIM President and Hyderabad MP Owaisi has another view. “We consider the founder of the Ahmadiyya religion to be a mad man,” he says. “A man whose fantasies and beliefs are laughable. If I use the name of TEHELKA and print my own magazine with that name, how would you feel? Does it not violate copyright laws? Start a new religion if they want, but if they begin altering the fundamentals of Islam, then it cannot be tolerated at any cost.”

Owaisi is entitled to his beliefs but the fact is the same Constitution offers the same rights to Ahmadiyyas as well. At least in Hyderabad, there is a sense that the hate campaign against Ahmadiyyas is being run in collaboration with arms of the State, the political class and the law-enforcement agencies. Ahmadiyyas talk of the crudeness of an assistant commissioner of police (ACP) in the Old City. A Muslim himself, he has warned Ahmadiyyas against taking out religious processions, and cautioned they would have to face raging mobs.

“It is unfortunate that some in India are embracing the radical mindset of Pakistan,” says Maulvi Sadi. “An Ahmadiyya will never resort to violence even if he is attacked first. That is our greatest strength. It is being seen as a weakness.”

FROM A belligerent social campaign, there is an inevitable push towards influencing State policy against Ahmadiyyas. In May this year, Mohammad Bashiruddin, the Grand Mufti of Jammu & Kashmir, demanded the state Assembly pass a law that decreed Ahmadiyyas as non-Muslims. “There has been a significant rise in the influence of Qadaniat in Kashmir,” said the Grand Mufti. “The Islamic Sharia Council has made it clear all across the world that Qadianis are non-Muslims. Designating Qadianis as non-Muslims will address the concerns of the people of Kashmir.”

It is not as if the police and state governments have succumbed to such pressure uniformly. In May, a small congregation of Ahmadiyyas was attacked by extremist Islamists while at a seminar in Tirupur, Tamil Nadu. Posters were torn up, hate slogans raised and the event vandalised. However, the police responded quickly and escorted the Ahmadiyya families to safety in Coimbatore, 30 km away.

Some theological scholars couch their antipathy for the sect in the fight against colonialism. They argue that the fact that the Ahmadiyya community’s international headquarters are in London is evidence it comprises “British stooges”.

“During the British period, Ahmadiyyas were a colonial design to damage the Islamic community,” says Akhtarul Wasey of the Zakir Hussain School of Islamic Studies at Delhi’s Jamia Milia Islamia. “The British resented the fact that Muslims wanted to stay free and not under the rule of anyone. Their founder bowed in reverence to the colonial masters and renounced jihad to make the British comfortable. Ahmadiyyas are therefore not just anti-Islam, they are anti-India in their hearts.”

While that may be an overstated contention, there is admittedly a theory among sections of non-Ahmadiyya Muslims that Mirza Ghulam Ahmad was encouraged by the British Raj to divide the Muslim community in India, and to renounce jihad as warfare in the days following the 1857 uprising.

The Ahmadiyya founder’s own writings don’t help matters. In Sitara-i-Kaiseriah, Mirza Ghulam writes: “I have not come to stimulate war and strife. I have appeared to open, in the manner of the first Messiah, the doors of peace. If the foundation of peace is not amidst us, then the whole religious order is useless. My contribution to the British is that I have distributed thousands of books in the country and the rest of the Islamic world telling people that the British are the benefactors of the Muslims and that it is their duty to obey them dutifully. The result of this was that thousands of people gave up their … ideas of jihad, which had permeated their hearts due to the teachings of ignorant mullahs.”

On the street, this has allowed the adversaries of the Ahmadiyyas to paint them as British and later American puppets, and acting against the better interests of Islam. On their part, Ahmadiyyas say they are being persecuted for being enlightened and open minded about interaction with the West and with other cultures.

The new hate expression for the Ahmadiyyas is that they are “Zionist agents”. Sunni clerics point to the Mahmood Mosque in Kababir, a neighbourhood in the Israeli port city of Haifa, as alleged evidence. This sea-facing Ahmadiyya mosque is close to an Israeli naval base. An overwhelming majority of the Muslims in Kababir are Ahmadiyyas, some of whose ancestors migrated from British India. To this day, Kababir receives many missionaries from Qadian, who propagate their faith among Palestinian Arabs.

To some Islamists, this amounts to a strategic export of the Ahmadiyya faith from India to Palestine via Israel. They consider it a serious threat and a part of Israel’s political designs.

All that is far away from the crowded streets of old Hyderabad or the dusty bylanes of Qadian, or indeed from the many small towns of India. It is here that India’s Ahmadiyyas, ordinary people with ordinary hopes, dreams and fears, live and it is here that they suffer silent and sometimes not-so-silent vilification. It would be a tragedy if they were left to fend for themselves.

– sai manish, tehelka.

Who is afraid of the Laity Synod?

July 26, 2012 by  
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ChhotebhaiKanpur, July 10, 2012: The Laity Synod should contextualize catholic faith in the modern world.

Was Jesus afraid, or reluctant to empower his disciples? Did he not rather say that anyone who believed in him would in fact “perform even greater works” (Jn 14:12) than himself?

Jesus empowered his disciples; he did not feel threatened by them. The explanation lies in the same farewell discourse, “I am in the Father and the Father is in me … it is the Father living in me who is doing his works” (Jn 14:10).

Thereby hangs a tale.

Why is the Indian Church hierarchy so afraid of a strong, enlightened and united laity? This has again become more evident in the opposition to the proposed Lay Synod being organized by the All India Catholic Union (AICU).

St John again provides the answer. “In love there is no room for fear, but perfect love drives out fear … and whoever is afraid has not come to perfection in love” (1 Jn 4:18).

I have been actively involved in the lay apostolate for the last 43 years, and can say with certitude that the clergy and hierarchy are intrinsically afraid of empowering and enlightening the laity. They feel threatened. If they have nothing to hide then why are they afraid?

It is 47 years since the Second Vatican Council ended in 1965. There have been 47×52 = 2,444 Sunday sermons since then. I throw an open challenge. How many of these sermons referred to the role and rights of the laity in the Church?

Most lay organizations are under the direct control of the hierarchy. The AICU and its affiliated Catholic associations are the only autonomous lay organisations, as provided for in the Latin Code of Canon Law of 1983 (cf Can 323).

Unfortunately there is no such provision for “Private Associations of Christ’s Faithful’ in the Oriental Code of Canon Law of 1990. But self-seeking or spineless lay leaders tend to sacrifice their autonomy to curry favour with the all-powerful hierarchy.

Vatican II’s “Dogmatic Constitution of the Church” (LG) was a course correction for the Church. Chapter IV articulates the rights and role of the laity, both within and outside the Church (LG 30-38).

The Latin Code of Canon Law (LC) also has specific provisions for the laity to express its views and expectations (cf LC 212:3, 229, 231). Again, the Oriental Code does not have any such provisions.

Is this one of the reasons why the ancient, apostolic, Oriental Churches of Kerala have less autonomy for the laity than the Latin Church? Since bishops, priests and religious of Kerala origin are the vast majority in India, they are the de facto controllers of the Church. Could this be a contributory factor to the infantile and servile status of the laity?

As for the proposed Lay Synod, what is so threatening about it?

The word “synod” comes from the Greek “sunodos”, which etymologically means, “walking together.” According to the Collins dictionary it has the acquired meaning of “any council, especially for discussion.”

Significantly, the word is not found in the Bible, hence it is a mere man-made term. Nobody has a monopoly over such a word, or its usage. If a group of sadhus or university professors were to call a synod, could the Catholic hierarchy object to it? Ironically, here again the LC provides for a Synod of Bishops (342-346) and a Diocesan Synod (460-463), but there is no mention of a synod in the Oriental Code. These omissions are significant and should not be lost on us.

In the Christian context, a synod is not just of walking together, but of walking with the Lord, as on the road to Emmaus. The disciples were discussing current affairs (Lk 24:14), when Jesus joined them (Lk 24:16), explained the scriptures (Lk 24:27), opened their eyes (Lk 24:31) and their hearts burned with zeal (Lk 24:32). A significant sequence of events.

This is what the Lay Synod is supposed to be. It is meant to be an exercise in discernment to, to know “what the Spirit is saying to the churches” (Rev 3:22).

It should contextualize our faith in the modern world. It should address genuine lay concerns like its autonomy in temporal affairs, participatory structures and accountability in the Church’s functioning, and the entire gamut of sexual ethics, family planning and other issues.

As I have said before, it is unfair for celibate old males in boardrooms to decide what young couples should do, or not do in their bedrooms.

The Church should welcome the Lay Synod. But it is afraid, because its priorities are not in consonance with God the Father, but from father parish priest, who usually dictates terms, and has his own concerns. Fear, as St John has shown us, is symptomatic of an absence of love, in this case pastoral love. Pastors have now become masters!

The laity has distinguished itself in temporal affairs. We even have a Catholic candidate for the president of India. We have had Chiefs of the Army, Navy and Air Force, Governors, Ambassadors and Supreme Court Judges. How many of these worthies have been found worthy of a position of authority in the Catholic Church? It is only when they are in office that bishops go to them seeking favours. After retirement, they fall out of favour!

Whether or not the AICU is able to pull off a real Lay Synod, it is incumbent on the laity of India and its leaders, to revolutionize, reform and renew the Catholic Church that we love.

For love casts out fear, even rejection. Else the laity, for fear of reprimand or rejection, will continue in its infantile and servile role of pray, pay and obey, Vatican II and Canon Law notwithstanding.

– Chhotebhai is a former National President of the AICU

WB: Villagers rally for proper food distribution

July 26, 2012 by  
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West Bengal, July 23, 2012: The protesters also demanded that the government scraps its plan to reduce the food grain to the poor.

Church people from different denominations led a rally of around 800 men and women in Bankura district of West Bengal demanding proper distribution of food grains to poor.

The protesters also demanded that the government scraps its plan to reduce the food grain to the poor.

They said that all poor, irrespective of whether they live above or below poverty line, should be given food grains through public distribution system.

Catholic church-run Udayani Social Action Forum and Protestant Church of North India pastor Kalya Kisku organized the rally along with other social organizations.

Later, the protestors submitted a memorandum of their demands to district controller food and supply at his office on July 18.

The district collector said that vigilance committees would be formed at the block and shop level to monitor the supply and price of food grains.

He said the state government has ordered for increased ration supply to people from August.

The official also enumerated the scale of quota and price of each item for people living above and below poverty line. He invited the NGO representatives to join him on his weekly visits to the blocks and shops in the villages.

The NGOs decided to work together on food rights of the people and continue to intensify the awareness campaigns at the village level.

– ucan

Hijab banned at Karnataka college: Protest of Muslim girls enters 10th day

July 26, 2012 by  
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Karnataka, July 24, 2012: Sri Ramakunjeshwara First Grade College Ramakunja near Uppinangadi in coastal Karnataka has caught the imagination of the whole south Indian Muslim community due to the relentless protest by nearly 100 Muslim girls of the college. Protest has entered 10th day for the Muslim girls of the college demanding lifting of ban on Hijab and Scarf in the college campus. They are boycotting classes for nearly 2 weeks and staging sit down protest outside the college main gate. The whole Muslim community in Karnataka is now rallying behind these girls who started this protest 10 days back. This Hijab incident has occurred in Uppinangady village located in the Puttur taluk of Dakshina Kannada district in Karnataka.

Dakshina Kannada district, the dominion of BJP and Sangh parivar is termed as most hyper-sensitive of all districts in Karnataka. This district few years back hit headlines for attack on churches by Right wing Hindu groups.

Ramakunjeshwar College principal Vasanth Rao speaking to media said, “The management was of the opinion that wearing a hijab would affect teaching-learning process in the institution. Besides, students of other communities who study here would feel uncomfortable. There is no discrimination. We are implementing a rule that already existed. The parents were aware of it.” He also added that there is a conspiracy behind this protest, “We informed the students and their parents about the dress code prior to the admission in the college, they didn’t have any objection to the ban on wearing hijab. Now, suddenly they are protesting against our policy. We have a common code for uniform and that cannot be broken, we will not bow down to any religious pressure”.

College management for past 10 days is appealing to the Muslim students to call off their agitation and return back for studies, but Muslim girls seem relentless to their demand of lifting the ban on hijab which they termed as their religious right and an obligation.

Their persistent demand and unfettered approach is due to the support they are receiving not only from the Muslims of Dakshina Kannada district but from whole Karnataka. For example a massive protest on 21st July was organized by The Karnataka Forum for Dignity (KFD) ‘Ramakunja Chalo’ protest to show their solidarity with the protesting Muslim girls, another protest was held under the banner of Mangalore University All College Students’ Union. In the beginning local police and college authorities thought it will be same like any other protest of village Muslims and numbers won’t cross hundred. But to every one’s shocker Muslim students from colleges all over the district arrived in the village in tempos, buses, and other vehicles, and numbers were unexpected. Muslim students shook the whole village by slogans against the Ramakunjeshwar College authorities and assembled at main gate of the college. KFD and many Muslim students from all over the district submitted a memorandum to the college authorities demanding to lift the ban on Hijab.

Many Muslim organizations have already approached Dakshina Kannada district administration demanding justice and intervention of authorities into this matter.

But now the impasse between college management and Muslim students has taken a serious turn. On 22nd July principal Vasanth Rao filed a criminal complaint against 14 Muslim girls students of the college who joined that massive protest against the college on 21st. The complaint filed in Kadaba police station against those 14 students states that students had used defamatory words against the college authorities and behaved in a manner to instigate a riot.

On the other hand, Muslim girls are firm on their demand; they termed the police complaint as another act of college management to pressurize the students to end the protest.

– tcn

World’s Greatest Chef

July 24, 2012 by  
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I love the taste of T-bone steak,
Delicious every bite,
But there’s nothing like the Word of God,
For my spiritual appetite.

The Word of God has milk and meat,
And even ice cream and cake.
Take a slice of the Bread of Life,
And coffee to keep us awake.

Open your Bible and turn to Psalms,
For David’s famous buffet.
You can drink all the wine of the Word you want,
And still feel fine the next day.

There’s enough of the Word for everyone,
And no one has to cheat.
The Word of God is a smorgasbord,
So take all you are able to eat.

Let’s have a little long suffering,
Job gives the recipe.
Patience is the main ingredient,
Self denial is the fee.

Wrap that up in temperance,
It may not make much sense,
Cover that with contentment,
Then add some joy! for strength.

Let’s have love for dessert,
Jesus made this dish,
Cream of joy and peace together,
Sift out all selfishness.

Add some deeds of righteousness,
Enough to make it sweet.
Humility is the frosting,
That makes the dish complete.

Or are you on a diet,
Cause the race seems hard to run.
For a weight losing menu,
Try Hebrews 12 and 1.

Are you suffering from malnutrition,
And don’t know what to do?
Your spiritual growth seems hindered,
Try I Peter 2 and 2.

If when every time you battle,
the enemy always wins,
Try some Holy Ghost Protein,
And spiritual vitamins.

God’s Word can feed millions,
And still have plenty left.
Because the Word of God is Soul Food,
Sent from the World’s Greatest CHEF.

– fwd: kennedy dias

Al-Azhar calls on constituent assembly to adopt a separate article for Christians

July 24, 2012 by  
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Egypt, July 20, 2012: Article 2 of the constitution is still under discussion. It cites Sharia principles as the basis of Egyptian legislation. Religious affiliation continues to prevail in the country. This could lead to the isolation of the Christian community.

The heated debate between Islamists and moderate Muslims over Egypt’s constitution has led al-Azhar University to propose a new article to protect Christians in case Sharia is adopted. Earlier this month, a Constituent Assembly committee drafted Article 2 to state, “Islam is the religion of the state and Arabic its official language. Principles of Islamic law (Sharia) are the principal source of legislation.” However, the assembly drafting the new charter is considering adding a line that reads, “Christians and Jews shall resort to legislation derived from their own religions.”

Mohamed Abdel Salam, adviser to the Al-Azhar grand sheikh and member of the Constituent Assembly, said that, as it stands, the article is ambiguous, since it does not say which Sharia principles it should refer to and references to Christians could be misleading.

Al-Azhar would prefer that a separate article be added to the constitution to stipulate that Christians be subject to their own religious laws, rather than including this provision in Article 2.

Despite the steadfast defence of Christian rights and moderate Islam by al-Azhar and certain Muslim groups, the situation in post-Mubarak Egypt has not changed. Religion, not civil rights free from religious interpretations, dominates the debate, which is not what many of those who protested in Tahrir Square wanted. Notions like citizenship, the rights of the individual and the separation of state and religion are still excluded from the debate.

For some experts, a separate article or law would protect Christians as a minority, but would lead to their total isolation, a trend already visible in many Cairo neighbourhoods and villages, where residential segregation along religious line prevails.

This has slowed down Egypt’s march towards modernity.

Orthodox and Catholic Copts represent about 10 per cent of the population. Many are in favour of religion-based rights. This is already the case in Ira, Syria and Lebanon, where the population is defined by religious affiliation rather than shared citizenship.

This has favoured the progressive ghettoisation of minorities, who face the danger of total isolation, which is counterproductive and damaging to universal civil rights.

Article 2 of the constitution has not yet been changed. In order to stem the Islamist wave, al-Azhar Grand Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayyeb has called on his representatives in the assembly to leave Article 2 of the 1971 Constitution as it is since it was agreed upon and accepted by all national forces.

– asianews

Burmese authorities accused again of violence against Rohingya

July 24, 2012 by  
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Burma, July 21, 2012: Human rights groups say that the Muslim minority is the victim of attacks, killings and property seizures by security forces and Buddhists. Rakhine state spokesperson denies the claims.

Burmese security forces and Buddhist civilians have continued their violent attacks against ethnic Rohingya, a Muslim minority, in the western Burmese state of Rakhine, this according to Amnesty International. The violence includes assaults, killings and property seizures, Bangkok-based Benjamin Amnesty researcher Zawacki said.

A state of emergency is still in force in the area. According to reports by Human Rights Watch (HRW), the Burmese security forces have carried out “mass inspections” and other abuses against the Muslim communities in the area.

For activists, local authorities are also responsible for acts of “discrimination” against minorities, because they leave the Buddhist Arakan unpunished and go after the Rohingya.

A couple of weeks ago, the United Nations reported the arrest of some humanitarian workers, including UN employees.

Sectarian violence broke out in June, when the District Court in Kyaukphyu, Rakhine State, sentenced three Muslims to death for the rape and killing in late May of Thida Htwe, a young Arakanese Buddhist. Since then, violence has continued almost without interruption.

Win Myaing, a government spokesman for Rakhine state, has however rejected Amnesty’s claims as groundless.

By contrast, Chris Lewa, director of The Arakan Project which focuses on Rohingya in the region, backs Amnesty.

Speaking to the BBC, he said that hundreds of Rohingya Muslims have been arrested, some allegedly beaten and even tortured.

– asianews

Cardinal Gracias: Prayers for new Indian president

July 24, 2012 by  
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India, July 23, 2012: The President of the Bishops’ Conference of India greets “with pleasure” the election of Pranab Mukherjee, who has impressive political “leadership qualities” and a great “interest” for the good of the country. The prelate calls for renewed cooperation between the government and the Catholic Church, the mission among the poor and the marginalized.

For Card. Oswald Gracias, president of the Bishops’ Conference of India, the election of India Pranab Mukherjee to president is an opportunity to reaffirm “the values of a culture of life, peace and harmony, dialogue and integrity in public life” in their the country. In a letter of greeting to the 13th President of India, the prelate sets out the key points of the mission of the Catholic Church in the country, and renews the invitation for “ongoing collaboration between Church and government in nation building.”

“We welcome the election of Pranab Mukherjee and on behalf of the Church in India  we offer him our warmest congratulations to President as being elected as the 13th President of India,  We ask God for his Blessings on the new  President and on our beloved country.

I have personally met Mr. Mukherjee on a few occasions and was impressed by his leadership qualities and his concern for the country and we pray that Mr Mukherjee will be a Statesman like President.

I would like to reassure our new President of the commitment of the Catholic Church in India towards nation building and we look forward to the continuous collaboration with the Government in nation building.

The Catholic Church in India has always addressed the causes of poverty throughout the country. Our tireless selfless service in Education has been to the neglected remote rural areas, nearly 60% of the Catholic schools situated in rural areas.
The Church tireless services the needs of the girl child and a large percentage are girls’ schooling in Indian villages and rural areas, through our social welfare ministrypromotes empowerment of women and  girl child and youth to ensure that the poorest of the poor and marginalised  live a life of dignity with self reliance.

The Indian Church has decidedly focused on selflessly serving the un-served areas through our Health Ministry especially in  remote rural and tribal areas where healthcare needs are the greatest.As a matter of fact, a large number of health care facilities of the Church are located in the inaccessible and underserved areas to serve the poor and marginalised people, and only a small per cent are located in urban areas. This reflects the real meaning of the Christian life and mission: to be at the service of the last, the least and the lost
The Church in India is hopefull that  with Mr. Mukherjee as President, the Church will continue to collaborate with the government in the Mission to the poorest and the marginalized.

The Church in India gives emphasis on the dignity and sacredness of the person, the core of the Catholic social teaching and we pray that our beloved Motherland will promote a culture of Life, where the social malaise of female foeticide and female infanticide are completely ended and where the dignity of the unborn and girl child is protected and celebrated.

The range of our health-care services, most of them in rural areas, is immense with 788 hospitals, numerous dispensaries and centres for mental health, leprosy, tuberculosis, and terminally ill. We mention in particular those centres catering to people afflicted with HIV/AIDS. All these centres have been serving people irrespective of creed or caste without any discrimination.
 
Well known too is the Church’s involvement in development and social projects in the country from water harvesting to establishing self-help groups and so on.  The Church has also entered, in a big way, into capacity building and empowerment programmes
The Church in India has been particularly concerned with corruption and we hope and pray, that the evil of corruption is addressed under Mr. Mukherjee’s Presidency and eradicated.

The Indian Church’s commitment to dialogue has seen many initiatives of  Inter religious Dialogue at every level of society, beginning from grass roots mohalla committees to high level dialogues. The Church in India prays that with Mr Mukherjee as president, India is strenghtened values of a culture of life; culture of peace and harmony;a culture of dialogue;a culture of integrity in public life.

God Bless Our New President,

God Bless Our Beloved India

– asianews

Lt. Col Purohit: Acts of terror and finding escape route

July 24, 2012 by  
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India, July 22, 2012: In the wake of the various acts of terror and Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur’s motor cycle being traced, it became clear that the investigating agencies are acting on the wrong thesis that ‘all terrorists are Muslims’. A Pandora’s box opened and the link of ex-ABVP activist, Pragya Thakur, Swami Dayanand Pandey, retired Major Upadhayay, Lt Col Prasad Shrikant Purohit and Swami Aseemanand came to surface, Role of two organizations inspired by the ideology of ‘Hindu nation’, Abhinav Bharat and Santana Sanstha also came to light. The investigations led by Hemant Karkare, by the Rajasthan ATS and National Investigation Agency (NIA) made it clear that there is a deeper nexus of elements like Purohit &Co., those who have been part of terror groups or have been supporting them in various ways. The confessions of Swami Aseemanand, named many more activists belonging to RSS combine, who are currently cooling their heels in jails and are facing investigations for acts of terror.

Lt. Col Prasad Shrikant Purohit came to be identified as one of the major player in the whole episode. He is the core person of extremist Hindutva group Abhinav Bharat. He was arrested on 5th November 2008 by Maharashtra ATS for his role in Malegaon blast. It was the investigation of Malegaon blast, particularly under the leadership of Hemant Karkare, which unearthed the whole terror network, which later on came to be termed as Saffron terror by P.Chidmabaram, the Union Home minister. For Purohit and other army officers, the army instituted a court of inquiry.

During the inquiry what Col Purohit said is very revealing. Purohit claimed that he was part of the network as an infiltrator and was keeping his superiors in the loop, keeping them informed. He claims that he infiltrated the terror network to keep a tab on the same. But his statement leaves a lot of questions unanswered. The major question is if he was doing all this for army, why did army hand him over to Anti Terrorism Squad?

The whole investigation seems to be mired in mystery and lots of facts need a further probe. Tehelka had also published investigative reports naming several ex-military men from the Bhosala Military School and their involvement in the Malegaon and other blasts, which was later confirmed by the ATS. The involvement of other army officers needs to be brought to surface as the whole matter seems to be much serious than just a case of few officers keeping a tab of these terrorist groups.

The blasts taking place in front of mosques and similar places where Muslims congregate for prayers, at the time when they are leaving the congregation was a clear indication of involvement of ‘other’ groups than the usual suspects, in which many a Muslim youth had been arrested and later released due to lack of any evidence whatsoever.

In the light of many a military officers role in these acts, it did not therefore, come as a surprise that Mohan Bhagwat, RSS Chief used the platinum jubilee celebrations of the Bhosala Military school (BMS) say that “military schools run under the aegis of Hindutva institutions are the need of the hour,”.

Looking at the key role played by Bhosala Military School, which is run by a group of people whose sympathies with the RSS is no secret, one fails to understand why the chief bosses of the school were not investigated for their role in the acts of terror? Very few people even know that BMS is one of those rare schools who impart training on service pattern to the students along with regular courses which is aimed at encouraging and preparing them for entry into National Defense Academy (NDA), Indian Military Academy (IMA) etc and other defense services.

Bhosala Military School has a long history. It was set up by Dr. B.S. Munje, the mentor of RSS Sarsanghclak, Dr. K.B. Hedgewar. Dr. Munje was inspired by Benito Mussolini’s fascist methods and believed that one who controls army rules the country. His statue in the Nagpur, where RSS was founded, has this phrase written on the plaque. With this perspective in mind this school was set up to act as a feeder for Indian army. The school was set up with the assistance of British and it supplied officers to the British army. Its training is meant to supply officers for Indian army. Now it emerges from different confessions and statements that the groups involved in terror had deeper connection with this school. What ideology it teaches and what it aims is very clear from some of the statements of the accused.

The phenomenon of Hindutva terror allegedly revolves around the likes of Lt. Col Purohit and Swami Aseemanand of RSS to name the two central characters. After Swami Aseemanand’s confession the total picture and their agenda becomes clear. Aseemanand had said that ‘bomb is the answer to bomb’. He also wanted to pave the way for the goal of Hindu nation through such terror outfits and their goal was larger than just a blast here and a blast there, they aimed at Hindu nation. Purohit in his statements during interrogation has said that their effort was to fight the Indian Constitution for (Hindu) Nation, “We will fight the Constitution to fight for our nation.” The RSS propaganda that Hindu religion is in danger and it needs to be defended was also stated by Purohit. He also says “many things are wrong in the country and need to be rectified. Hindu religion is in danger. It is our duty to defend Hinduism.” And finally “We have to establish this country in accordance with the Vedic procedures; we want the Sanatan Dharma, the Vedic Dharma.”

The Purohit affair is getting murkier and murkier. The agenda of Hindu nation, the role of Bhosala military school and other army officers in the whole chain of command cannot be accepted at the face value. It needs a deeper probe and investigation of the whole terror network and the role of army officers, as it is clear that Col Purohit’s statement that he was keeping other army officers in the loop for an operation which was not the part of the army intelligence work, is a matter of worry. The role played by Bhosla Military School also needs to be probed. The ideology which such people are harboring to fight Indian Constitution to build Hindu nation is a clear danger to our Constitution, the democratic values and the plural character of the country. How does one save the values of India’s Constitution, the values of India’s freedom movement?

– Ram Puniyani

WB Govt to build student hostels at madrasas, ITIs in Muslim areas

July 24, 2012 by  
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West Bengal, July 22, 2012: Government of West Bengal has taken initiative to establish Students Hostel in every government aided Madrasa, recognized by the West Bengal Board of Madrasa Education. The newly appointed Joint Secretary of Minority Affairs and Madrasa Education department, Mr. Bikram Sen declared it on Friday, 20th July at the CM administration office.

Sen said, there are 611 Government aided Madrasas in the state. State Government will establish Students Hostel in the Madrasa premises under the Multi Sectoral Development Program (MsDP) of Central Government. Not only Students hostel, new ITIs and Markets will be established in the Muslim dominated areas.

Mr. Sen also said, Central Government allocated additional Rs 300 cr for West Bengal, students hostels for Madrasa students to be made from that amount.

Like Left Front regime, Trinamul Congress-led Mamata Government has also kept the Minority Affairs and Madrasa Education department in the hands of Chief Minister.

– tcn

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