An extremely powerful speech by a Pakistani Politician against religious extremists and hypocrites pretending to be saviors of Islam and Pakistan.
An extremely powerful speech by a Pakistani Politician against religious extremists and hypocrites pretending to be saviors of Islam and Pakistan.
I request/urge/recommend/plead/ask you to show solidarity with your Shia brothers and sisters. Please take similar photos of yourself and remind these oppressors that we stand as ONE … that they are not eliminating Shias…but merely increasing their strength.
I’m not concerned about the Government that sees nothing…I’m not concered with the Media that says nothing…and I’m not concerned about the Judiciary that hears nothing…I am concerned with the Soul that feels nothing. I am ashamed not that my Pakistani brother pulled the trigger… I am ashamed that my life goes on…
I strongly protest the killing of innocent SHIAS!! Before becoming a Shia or a Sunni…one has to be a Muslim…lets just keep it to that.
If being a Sunni means to love the Prophet (SAW) then there is and was no bigger Sunni than Hazrat Ali (RAH)…and…if being a Shia means to love Hazrat Ali (RAH) then there is and was no bigger Shia than the Prophet (SAW) himself.
By Ziyad Motala
A pivotal theme in current Islamic political discourse is a demand for justice, a key tenet of the Quran. A popular complaint in Islamic political argument is discrimination against Muslims in the west such as the ban of the veil in European countries, minarets in Switzerland or racial profiling in many western countries. Unfortunately, there is a conspicuous lack of looking inwards to practices within Muslim countries. Muslims from all over the world have just completed the annual pilgrimage, the Hajj in Saudi Arabia. The Hajj represents a critical pillar of Islam and is supposed to represent a universal gathering of Muslims, which transcends race, ethnicity, color or any other distinction. Muslims are supposed to meet in the sacred precincts surrounding the holy city of Mecca as equals wearing the same simple clothing meant to symbolize perfect brotherhood, where individuals or groups do not see themselves as separate entities and differences of lineage, tribe or race have no bearing.
The experiences of the Hajj are very different depending on which part of the world you originate from. If you hail from Saudi Arabia or the Gulf states, you will perform the hajj in relative luxury and privilege, which is denied to Muslims from the sub-continent, Africa or the rest of the world. Those from Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states have a different Hajj based on luxurious accommodations, and preferential treatment in performing the rituals. The latest egregious practice is the high-speed rail service, which transports the pilgrims from Mecca to the sacred sites where the rituals of the Hajj are performed. The train is reserved only for Saudis and citizens from the Gulf countries. Citizens from Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries can be transported to the holy sites within a few minutes. For others, they will have to take the bus or walk which could take many hours each day. I cannot think of any other place in the world today that practices such crass racism. Imagine a train in the United States that states no Arabs — just people from the west — can ride in. The real tragedy is the lack of outrage from Muslims.
The Hajj as a gathering of Muslims, based on equality, simplicity and brotherhood is a fiction. The Hajj is a gigantic money making endeavor. All visits to the holy place have to take place under the auspices of a Saudi institution or company, which is totally Saudi-owned. Every opportunity is geared towards profit maximization. The Saudi companies in turn enter into agreements with parties in the local country where the pilgrim resides. The Saudi company takes care of the negotiation with the local hotels and other parties to organize and pay for the accommodations and internal transportation and the like. Saudis have profited greatly from the pilgrims who have been exploited on a scale that is beyond imagination. A two week visit to Saudi Arabia during the Hajj period (if you are not sponsored) in modest accommodations costs more than a month-long world tour (not counting the fact that for five days during the two week period, the pilgrim is staying in a tent). Imagine the outrage if a Saudi was told that he could not do business in the United States (including booking a hotel) except though a United States entity?
Saudi Arabia represents one of the worse examples of a stratified society at the apex of which sits the descendants of its founder Ibn Saud constituted in the current royal family. And then appears a pecking order based on lineage or clan and others recognized as Saudi. Then come hundreds of thousands of individuals (including second and third generation Saudi born), followed by hundreds of thousands of foreign guest workers.
The sum total of rights and privileges enjoyed — be it access to jobs, education, access to property, welfare benefits or the performance of the Hajj depends upon where one belongs in the pecking order. Those at the top enjoy considerable rights and power over those at the bottom. The most affected group is the foreign worker, particularly the foreign woman worker. These guest workers operate under a kafeel (master) to whom many are indebted for years, a situation that invites trafficking in people and a relationship akin to slavery. Over the past few days, we have been informed about several incidents of abuse of foreign guest workers from Indonesia in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states. Where is the outrage from Muslims and their scholars? Each year, thousands of female workers seek protection at foreign embassies from abuse and rape. International human rights groups and others have documented the rampant abuse, lack of fair trial standards, denial of freedom of movement, forced labor approaching conditions of slavery and beating of foreign workers. Also documented is the weak judicial system, which offers little protection to those at the bottom, rung of society. The judicial system gives more credence to the wealthy and locals in disputes involving foreigners.
Islamic law derived from the sayings of the prophet Mohammad articulates a vision of human dignity (in ways analogous to modern human rights) in stating “No Arab has any superiority over a non-Arab, nor does a non-Arab have any superiority over an Arab; nor has a white man any superiority over a black man, or the black many any superiority over the white man. You are all the children of Adam, and Adam was created from Clay”. Conspicuously absent are protests among Muslims about racism, racial discrimination, gender discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance prevalent in so many Muslim countries starting with the cradle of Islam, Saudi Arabia.
By Air Commodore (R) Khalid Iqbal
It is not a fairy tale. Not very long ago, Muharram was not the season of sectarian violence and mayhem; people of all sects would attend the Majalis, under the same roof, to pay homage to the Great martyrs of Islam. While the Shias would move in processions, Sunnis would line up along the routes and manage Sabeels. Rise of sectarian violence in Pakistan is a recent phenomenon. People of Pakistan are not sectarian-minded, and for most of the country’s history, people of different sects have co-existed peacefully. The sectarian scourge, in its current form, is certainly deep-rooted and cannot be eliminated easily. It is being systematically fanned by misguided adventurers and religious bigots. An unfortunate combination of vested interests, misplaced policies and discriminatory laws has drastically reduced the scope for a religiously tolerant state and society in Pakistan.
Communalism, religious intolerance and the sectarian violence are ugly scars on the face of any society; these are certainly an anti-thesis to the teachings of Islam. The word ‘Islam’ means peace and harmony. As a matter of doctrine, it forbids bigotry and fanaticism. What to talk of intra-Islam harmony, it pursues generosity and tolerance towards the followers of the other religions as well. It is interesting to refer to Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s address to the Constituent Assembly on August 11, 1947: “… you are free to go to your temples; you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place of worship… You may belong to any religion or caste or creed – that has nothing to do with the business of the State.” This speech came under similar circumstances when post partition communal violence was at its peak.
Expanse of sectarian extremism has enhanced over the last 3-4 decades. Earlier it was confined to rural pockets, now it haunts major metropolitan centres as well. In good old days sectarian violence used to spark up spontaneously, and then subside quickly to give way to peace. Now it is a perpetual activity spanning over the entire year. Older version of extremism was a reactive response to objectionable utterances or actions of rival sect; now it is a proactive and premeditated activity, incorporating a shade of battles for turf. Earlier weapons were glass bottles and knives, now we face grenades and bombs.
Another factor sustaining the sectarian intolerance is its politicization. Sectarian parties have entered the arena of politics; clerics contest elections on sectarian rather than Islamic basis. Sectarian intolerance is now the springboard for political dividend. Even mainstream political parties like to have electoral adjustment with sectarian clerics-turned politicians. The conflict between sectarian groups is not merely ideological; often it is impelled by the desire to obtain political power. Undue patronage of the clergy by various governments has steadily raised their public profile and influence, culminating in a larger than life political clout of sectarian parties.
Yet another cause is dominance of orthodoxy in the religious scholarship and their acceptance as an authority on religion. While orthodoxy holds the sway; main stream clergy stands marginalized. Peripheral theological debates provide the basis for volatile divisions. As a result, healthy academic discourse has been replaced by militancy.
Of late, a dangerous trend has emerged whereby sectarian groups are playing an increased role in fueling the insurgencies in Baluchistan & FATA. Most of the extremist outfits either have well thought out linkages with terrorist organizations or they are unwittingly strengthening their agenda. Acts of violence by sectarian organization are reinforcing the global perception of equating Islam with militancy and terrorism.
It is an over-simplification to attribute the mushrooming of sectarian violence as a spinoff of Afghan Jihad or Islamisation effort by President Zia-ul-Haq. Afghanistan, where successive wars have destroyed the physical infrastructure and the social fabric, sectarianism is much more contained than in Pakistan. Likewise, Saudi Arabia where legislation has a heavier bias towards Sharia, does not have the kind of sectarian violence. Wide spread perception has it that Saudi Arabia and Iran are fighting their proxy war in Pakistan by funding the seminaries of their favourite sects. Proponents of this acuity argue that sustenance of any kind of militancy is resource intensive, and Pakistani economy alone could not have afforded it for such a long time.
While challenging institutionalized sectarianism is certainly not easy, strengthening the common cultural heritage of Pakistani people offers a less-confrontational way to reverse the trend. The compulsions fuelling religious conflicts are certainly complex. They have multiple negative implications. At the same time, this is not a problem that will go away on its own. It needs to be confronted head-on.
Government, civil society, political parties and media have critical roles to play in countering the trends through promotion of religious freedom, social harmony and protection of divergent opinion holders. The blame for the current situation falls squarely on successive governments. The strategy to tackle sectarian extremism has always been reactive than proactive; i.e. it has always been about damage control. Successive governments have seldom been serious to arrest the steady rise of sectarian extremism.
It is high time that Pakistan comes up with a well-thought out national strategy to tackle the sectarian extremism. The government cannot contain religious extremism and violence by simply issuing executive orders. It requires a comprehensive approach that entails monitoring supporters of the militant groups, curtailing their societal sources of support, and taking appropriate action against the hard-core sectarian militants. The government must also adopt measures to address socio-economic inequities. Unless poverty and underdevelopment are addressed effectively, ideological appeals and militancy will continue to attract the alienated youth.
The problem which has taken roots over a couple of decades may not necessarily take as long to eradicate. It is, however, essential that the effort to tackle the sectarian violence begins immediately. This effort must be underwritten by unwavering political will, and a long term strategy. Mere cosmetic measures won’t achieve much beyond patchy pauses of calm.
Writer is Consultant, Policy & Strategic Response, IPRI.
By William Wan
WESTBURY, N.Y. – They called it a summit to teach Muslims how to fight prejudice and fear. But all day long, fear was inescapable in the fluorescent-lit meeting hall of the Long Island mosque.
House hearings, scheduled to begin in late February, have touched off a wave of panic throughout the U.S. Muslim community.
The top issue on everyone’s mind this month at the Islamic Center of Long Island was this: What could be done to stop planned congressional hearings on alleged hidden radicalism among American Muslims and mosques?
The House hearings, scheduled to begin next month, have touched offa wave of panic throughout the U.S. Muslim community, which has spent much of the past year battling what it sees as a rising tide of Islamophobia. Conference calls, strategy sessions and letter-writing campaigns have been launched. Angry op-eds have compared the congressional inquiry to McCarthyism and the World War II persecution of Japanese Americans.
But for those who gathered at the Long Island mosque, the coming hearings represented not just a political issue, but a personal one. For the man organizing the hearings was the very lawmaker who was supposed to represent them in Washington – Rep. Peter T. King (R-N.Y.). Long before he had become their enemy, he had been one of their community’s closest friends.
“He used to come to our weddings. He ate dinner in our homes,” said the mosque’s chairman, Habeeb Ahmed, a short medical technologist with graying hair sitting near the front. “Everything just changed suddenly after 9/11, and now he’s holding hearings to say that people like us are radical extremists. I don’t understand it.”
At the meeting that day, Ahmed, a 55-year-old immigrant from India, was surrounded by more than a hundred Muslim leaders from New York and beyond.
There were Sunnis and Shias. There were doctors, engineers and pharmacists who had left Pakistan, Indonesia and Bangladesh to remake their lives in the United States. There were African Americans who had embraced Islam decades ago and new converts who were learning what it meant to be Muslim in America.
Some had flown in from as far away as Chicago. But the majority were regulars at the local Islamic center, including Ghazi Khankan, who had been one of its earliest members and had defended it for years against King’s scorn.
“We have nothing to hide,” Khankan said. “No matter what King says, others know that we are a peaceful community.”
Although no member of the Islamic Center has ever been accused of terrorism, King has singled out the mosque as a hotbed of “radical Islam” and called its leaders extremists who should be put under surveillance. He maintains that most Muslim leaders in this country aren’t cooperating with authorities, even as arrests of homegrown terrorists are rising greatly.
Now, as the new chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, King said he is finally in a position to do something about it.
“My first goal is just to have people even acknowledge this as a real issue,” King said. “This politically correct nonsense has kept us from debating and discussing what is one of this country’s most vital issues. We are under siege by Muslim terrorists.”
For years, such statements by King have provoked anger among Muslims in his district, but with the hearings looming, there is also a sense of shame and regret. Long Island Muslims worry that what began long ago as a broken relationship between them and their congressman could soon pose a threat to the entire U.S. Muslim community.
Friend, then foe
The Islamic Center of Long Island sits just beyond the boundaries of New York’s 3rd Congressional District. It is an imposing green-domed building nestled amid suburban split-levels and cul-de-sacs.
Muslims were once a rarity here, but a wave of immigration in the 1980s changed that. Today, 70,000 Muslims are estimated to live on Long Island, worshiping at about 22 mosques.
With 400 members, the Islamic Center is one of the largest and most prominent of the mosques. It took the lead in hosting the recent all-day summit for Muslim leaders, at which the discussion often devolved into anguished debate over how to deal with King.
We should pray for him, some said. We should try to vote him out of office, others said. One man proposed organizing protests outside King’s congressional office. Another said that kind of reaction would play into the congressman’s hands.
The problem has plagued the Westbury mosque for the past nine years. But it was not always so.
During King’s earliest days as a congressman, he gave speeches at the Islamic Center and held book signings in the prayer hall. He took in Muslim interns and was one of the few Republicans who supported U.S. intervention in the 1990s to help Muslims in Bosnia and Kosovo.
In return, the Westbury mosque presented him with an award for his work in the Balkans. Many of its leaders regularly contributed to his campaigns, often paying $500 a person to attend his fundraisers.
King was even the main guest of honor on the day of greatest pride for the community: the 1993 opening of its long-awaited $3 million prayer hall, which many proudly note was built completely with locally raised funds. For years, a picture of King cutting the ceremonial ribbon hung on the bulletin board by the mosque’s entrance.
Then came Sept. 11, 2001.
A breach of faith
In the weeks after the twin towers crumbled and the Pentagon burned, local reporters swarmed Long Island’s mosques looking for reaction.
On Oct. 18, Khankan and another Westbury mosque leader were quoted in the local paper, repeating conspiracy theories that it wasn’t Muslims who had orchestrated the attacks.
“Who really benefits from such a horrible tragedy that is blamed on Muslims and Arabs?” asked Khankan, the mosque’s interfaith director at the time. “Definitely Muslims and Arabs do not benefit. It must be the enemy of Muslims and Arabs. An independent investigation must take place.”
Safdar Chadda, a dentist from Pakistan who was then co-president of the mosque, speculated that “the Israeli government would benefit from this tragedy by now branding Palestinians as terrorists and crushing them by force.”
Their statements infuriated King, who had lost friends in the attacks, as had many in his district, which lies 30 miles east of Manhattan.
“At this key moment for our country, the worst attack on us in history, these people who I thought were my friends were talking about Zionists and conspiracies,” he said. “They were trying to look the other way while friends of mine were being murdered.”
The day after the newspaper article appeared, the mosque’s founder, Faroque Khan, went to a neighboring synagogue in a largely unsuccessful attempt to retract and explain what members of his mosque had said.
In the weeks that followed, Khan and others issued progressively stronger statements condemning al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden for the attacks. They forwarded these to King’s office, but the damage was already done.
To King, the fact that those words were ever uttered branded the mosque’s leaders as radicals.
When told that King had specifically cited his statements after Sept. 11 as the turning point, a pained look spread across Khankan’s face.
“You have to understand the confusion and shock at the time,” said Khankan, who is 76, with a shuffling walk and a shock of white hair.
Tapes of Osama bin Laden had just been released in which he praised but was not yet openly taking responsibility for the attacks. Many at the mosque still remembered that Muslims had been immediately and falsely blamed for the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.
After Sept. 11, Muslim children were being bullied at school, and someone had shot a pellet into the Islamic Center’s window.
Khankan said he had spent most of his life working for Muslim groups, trying to create a bridge between outsiders and his community. That his words may have helped plant the seed for King’s hearings, he said, is a heavy burden.
“I just wish I could talk to Pete today,” he said. “I want to say to him: ‘Tell me what I said or did so I can explain it. Give me a chance to clarify.’ “
Targeting Islamic extremists
Since then, King has not set foot in the Islamic Center. Over the past decade, he has become one of the country’s loudest voices on the dangers of Islamic extremism.
He has called for ethnic and religious-based profiling of air passengers and told Politico that there are “too many mosques in this country.” He later tried to clarify that remark, saying he meant that “too many mosques in this country are not cooperating with law enforcement and too many have been taken over or are heavily influenced by extremists.”
Of late, he has repeatedly alleged that 85 percent of U.S. mosques are run by radical extremists – an assertion he attributes to a 1999 statement by Sufi leader Hisham Kabbani at a State Department forum. It was rejected at the time by every major Muslim organization in the country.
But for some of King’s Muslim constituents, his most hurtful words came in the form of his 2004 novel, “Vale of Tears.” The story revolves around a fictional congressman who stumbles across a plan by terrorists – who are associated with a Long Island mosque and work with al-Qaeda and remnants of the Irish Republican Army – that could kill hundreds.
King dedicated the novel to “those who were murdered on September 11″ and explained his purpose in the preface: “It describes how vulnerable we can become if we lower our guard – for even the slightest moment – and if we fail to recognize that our terrorist foes comprise a worldwide network with operatives active within our borders.”
Few take issue with King’s assertion that homegrown terrorism is rising dramatically.
In the past two years, according to Justice Department statistics, nearly 50 U.S. citizens have been charged with major terrorism counts – all of them allegedly motivated by radical Islamic beliefs.
But many law enforcement leaders disagree with King’s allegation that most Muslim leaders do not cooperate with authorities. In the past, FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III has praised the community. And in a speech last month, U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said: “The cooperation of Muslim and Arab-American communities has been absolutely essential in identifying, and preventing, terrorist threats. We must never lose sight of this.”
Experts also point to a string of recent terrorism cases that were foiled or reported by Muslim leaders.
Within King’s district, Nassau County Lt. Kevin Smith said he couldn’t recall the last time police received a tip from local mosques. But the detective said: “It’s hard for us to judge what that means – whether that’s because they’re not reporting something or if there’s just nothing to report. On the whole, though, I think we have a good relationship with the mosques in our county.”
Working with King
Many Muslim leaders say that after years of reaching out, they’ve given up on changing King’s mind. At the Islamophobia summit, one man compared it to hitting his head against a brick wall: “If nothing changes, why keep beating yourself up?”
But one leader stood up and urged the crowd to keep trying. His name was Mohammed Saleh, and to the surprise of many, he called King a reasonable man.
“I have met King recently and talked to him,” said Saleh, 63, a balding bespectacled immigrant from Bangladesh. “In many ways, he is a good man.”
Their relationship, Saleh said later, began as a result of the Sept. 11 attacks. As one of King’s constituents, Saleh asked for help because someone with his name was on the government’s airport watch list and he was being detained on international flights.
King helped devise a system by which Saleh could call authorities a few days in advance when he flies. Since then, Saleh has organized fundraisers for King and arranged for him to meet others in his circle of Bangladeshi Muslims.
Some Muslims question why Saleh would raise money for a man who regularly attacks their community. But as a pharmacist who has spent his life weighing dosages and prescriptions, Saleh said he has scrutinized the political makeup of King’s district – a conservative strip amid a largely Democratic state. King won 72 percent of the vote in last year’s election, he notes.
“I am a pragmatist, and it’s clear we have to learn to work with Mr. King,” Saleh said.
Saleh also says that as one of King’s Muslim constituents, he bears a responsibility for King’s views on Muslims. “If it was a broken relationship that sent King on his path now,” Saleh said, “perhaps a new relationship will lead him back.”
So, he spent most of last week trying to meet with King to express his concerns about the hearings and ask King to make sure they are fair.
In response, King said he is willing to listen but plans to push ahead with the hearings no matter how uncomfortable they may be for Muslims in his district or nationwide.
“This was not a fight I was looking for,” he said. “I originally came into this as a supporter and friend of the Muslim community. But now we are facing a danger from within. And we need to see it and recognize it, because it’s not something we can ignore anymore.”
After massive rapes in Kashmir, Indian soldiers open a new front in Afghanistan with this case of a married Indian army major with two children who claimed to have converted to Islam, who married an 18-year-old Afghan girl in Kabul and then dumped her. Now the girl is in New Delhi seeking justice. The case highlights Indian army’s violations against women in occupied Kashmir and Afghanistan. It also opens a little known secret: India’s controversial military presence in Afghanistan.
GULPARI NAZISH MEHSUD
NEW DELHI, India-This story reveals not only how an Indian Army major deceived an unsuspecting Afghan girl, but it also reveals how India is covertly expanding its military presence in Afghanistan under the guise of development work, with American blessings, hurting the legitimate interests of Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Major Chandrasekhar Pant was working at an Indian-funded civilian hospital in Kabul when he met an 18-year-old Afghan interpreter employed by the hospital management. Pant had an Indian wife and two children back in India but he lied to Sabera Ahmedzai that he was single. He met her parents and claimed to have converted to Islam to marry the girl, which he did. But three weeks later he left Afghanistan without informing his young wife.
It turned out he was redeployed by the Indian Army from Kabul to the border with China, adjoining the Chinese province of Tibet. He never contacted Sabera again.
In short, the Indian major entered into a fake marriage and lied about changing his religion just to have sex with the Afghan girl, who was 18 at the time.
But what Maj. Pant never expected is that the Afghan woman he deceived would reach New Delhi and take her case to Indian courts and to the Indian military.
“People in my country taunt me that I have been deceived by a doctor. He married me and went away. The local boys tease they don’t mind marrying me for 20 days,” Sabera told India’s IBN television.
Sabera Ahmedzai was born and brought up in Pakistan. When she finally managed to reach New Delhi and set out to find Major Pant, she discovered the Indian was not only married he also had two children. Not only this, Pant refused to recognize her as his wife and offered money and asked her to leave.
But instead she filed a petition in the Delhi high Court, asking Major Pant be tried under civilian and military rules and demanding compensation for destroying her life.
“When Sabera came to India on her own, she was surprised to find that Major Pant was already married and he refused to recognize her. Now a days, he is posted at 69th Mount Brigade Pithoragarh, Uttarakhand,” she says in her petition filed through an Indian lawyer, according to accounts in the Indian media.
The case has put Major Pant in a fix. He not only faces the charges brought by Ms. Ahmedzai, he also faces Indian Army’s own charges, including the serious offense of converting to another religion on a foreign soil while serving in the military without receiving a written permission.
The Delhi high court on Friday, 21 January, sought a response from the Indian government on Ms. Ahmedzai’s plea seeking sanction to prosecute for the alleged offence of bigamy by an Indian Army doctor who married her during his stay in Kabul and deserted her after coming back.
“Issue notice to the Centre (through Defense Secretary),” Justice S N Dhingra said and fixed the matter for March 8 for hearing on the plea of Sabera Ahmedzai, a resident of Kabul.
IBNLive has quoted sources at the Indian Army Medical Corps as saying, “Army Court of inquiry has found a prima facie case against Major Chandrasekhar Pant. A summary of evidence was conducted and the report has been submitted to the Central Army Commander. He is likely to be charged on two counts – bigamy and changing his religion without taking prior permission.”
“God will punish him for the wrong he has done to my life,” Sabera says. She is receiving help from Indian Muslims and from Kashmiris in the Indian capital.
The case is deeply embarrassing for the Indian army. Before relinquishing charge, former army chief general Deepak Kapoor told reporters Major Pant will be punished if found guilty.
The Indian army is also worried about its track record. Indian soldiers have been convicted of committing massive rapes across Indian occupied Kashmir. They are also at the top of a UN list for raping underage girls during peacekeeping missions in Africa. The cases are documented by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and Indian rights groups. The last thing Indian army needs is a new record of wrongdoings committed by Indian soldiers in Afghanistan.
The case also draws attention to Indian military presence in Afghanistan. India is not part of the international military force in Afghanistan called ISAF. India is also not one of Afghanistan’s immediate neighbors. And yet it has the largest number of diplomats and diplomatic outposts in Afghanistan after the United States. Pakistan accuses India of using these diplomatic missions for espionage against China and Pakistan. The two nations share the longest border with Afghanistan of any country.
India has claimed its presence in Afghanistan is humanitarian. But it is interesting to note the Indian government chooses Indian military officers to work at Indian development projects in Afghanistan. It’s a disguised military presence at its best.
This survey is bizarre. It’s designed to measure the patriotism of Muslims
BY SHAHINA KK
Test of loyalty? Karimadom colony in Thiruvananthapuram, where the dubious survey was conducted
Questioner: Do you like Osama bin Laden?
Answer: Hmm… neither like nor dislike.
Questioner: Oh, it means that you don’t dislike him. If he comes to Kerala, will you provide a hideout for him?
JASMINE, A Kerala housewife whose likes and dislikes seldom go beyond her family, got flustered when quizzed like this. It was the first time she faced such an interrogation, which she found a little difficult to comprehend. She was one of those surveyed by a market research agency. Four women came to her house and introduced themselves as employees of Taylor Nelson Sofres (TNS), a multinational marketing consultancy with branches all over India. When counter-questioned, they were not able to explain the motive behind a survey that seemed intended to measure the loyalty of the Muslim community.
“The questions are highly inflammatory. They may cause communal disharmony,” says P Verghese, Assistant Commissioner of Police, who is in charge of the probe. The police took the foursome into custody and filed a case against them for disseminating documents that may disrupt communal harmony. But they are clueless about the real motive behind the survey.
“The women who carried out the survey were locally hired daily wagers. It is learned that TNS has taken up this task for a US-based agency Princeton Survey Research Associates International (PSRAI),” adds Verghese.
The policemen came into the picture when residents of Karimadom colony, a Muslim-dominant locality in Thiruvananthapuram, alerted them about a survey targeting the Muslim community – its beliefs, attitudes and political positions. The team had targeted 100 households in the locality and everything went smoothly until Jasmine’s husband Nasar felt the questions were in bad taste. He called his 23-year-old nephew Afsan, who is studying for a master’s in criminology.
“When I asked for the questionnaire to have a look, they first refused,” says Afsan. “They enquired about my educational status. Only when I said that I am a school dropout did they hand over the questionnaire.”
TEHELKA obtained a copy of the questionnaire, which has 91 questions divided into two sections – one focusses on the general public and the other the Muslim community. Both dissect the subject’s notion of the country, faith in the Indian State and judicial system. They examine what shapes the life of people, the motivating factors and the influence of leaders in their life.
THE SPECIFIC questions aimed at the Muslim community are framed on an absolute hypothesis that Muslims in the country have the potential to turn to unlawful activities and that they are more loyal to some forces outside than to the Indian State. “They asked which country we would prefer to go to if we move out. Whether we would opt for Pakistan,” says Nasar, adding, “Why Pakistan? I may prefer to go to a country whose currency offers better exchange value, like the US or Kuwait.”
The survey seeks information on faith, whether the respondents practice religion or not. It also asks what they would like to be identified as, whether an Indian or a Muslim! Another question is about the best model of governance for Muslims where the choices are: Pakistan, Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia, etc. Muslim participants are asked whether they support jihadi activities or not.
“We are taking it very seriously and have already sought the help of the Centre to unfold the mysterious motives of this survey,” Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, the Home Minister of Kerala, told TEHELKA. “A foreign agency cannot administer such surveys in the country without permission.”
Karimadom colony was the first target in Kerala. Police say that the survey has been done in 55 centres in 20 states
Mullappally Ramachandran, minister of state for home affairs, said the Intelligence Bureau (IB) has submitted a preliminary report. “This survey seems to be dubious,” says the IB report, which wonders whether it is an attempt at espionage.
The suspicion is reinforced by questions like: Please mark whether you support or oppose the following statements: (Answer codes: strongly support, support, oppose, strongly oppose)
A. Attacking people who visit Muslim countries from countries that threaten Islam
B. Attacking soldiers who have come to Muslim countries from countries that threaten Islam
C. Attacking ordinary citizens in countries that threaten Islam
Karimadom colony was the first target in Kerala. The police has learnt that the survey has been carried out in 55 centres across 20 states without causing a furore. The TNS staff said the questions had been prepared by PSRAI.
Meanwhile, in a belated response, this is what TNS had to say about the case: TNS have filed a writ petition in the Kerala High Court and a hearing is pending. As the matter is subject to legal process, TNS has no further comment at this time. TNS has been cooperating with the authorities concerned and will continue to do so. The PSRAI website claims it works for clients who need an independent assessment of people’s attitudes, knowledge or behaviour.
The Mumbai based group alleged that Al-Qaeda is a front organization of CIA and MOSSAD. “There is enough evidence that the Al-Qaeda is a front organization of the CIA and MOSSAD. The Bush junta has used the bogey of terror and of Al Qaeda to justify his unending and ever expanding Global War on Terror, which is only a means of capturing the resources of the world and of establishing the sole hegemony of Israel in West Asia,” said the group of activists and intellectuals. The group is holding a press conference in Mumbai on Wednesday to “expose the links between Al-Qaeda and the CIA-MOSSAD”.
Holding American-Israeli operation accomplices of the 9/11 attack on the WTC, the spokesman of the group said that this has been widely written about in USA and Europe itself and more than 50% of the American people and far more Europeans, now believe and are convinced about this fact. He said that sections of the Indian ruling political and military elite are importing the same Bush-Olmert formula into India. “The increasing terror attacks only serve the cause of the Indian elite and divide the masses along communal lines. It is only the ordinary Indians who are the victims of terror either in temples, mosques, buses or trains,” he said adding that practically no political leader suffers a similar fate, where the terrorists are apprehended and killed in “encounters”.
“Every terror attack is meant to push and drag the Indian masses further into the waiting arms of Uncle Sam and the Israeli Goliath. Every terror attack spreads further hatred for Muslims and Islam and weakens the Indian Muslim community,” he said.
By Stephen Lendman
On September 23 in federal court, US District Court Judge Richard Berman sentenced political prisoner Aafia Siddiqui to 86 years in prison. Outrage most accurately expresses this gross miscarriage of justice, compounding what she’s already endured following her March 30, 2003 abduction, imprisonment, torture, prosecution, and conviction on bogus charges.
Earlier articles explained her case in detail, accessed through the following links:
In modern times, she’s one of American depravity’s most aggrieved victims, now given a virtual life sentence for a crime she didn’t and couldn’t have committed, explained in the above articles.
In recent months, she’s been in New York’s Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC) in maximum security solitary confinement, during her trial, conviction and September 23 sentencing. Importantly, her life was effectively destroyed by years of horrific tortures, repeated rapings, and other abuses in Bagram Prison at America’s Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan.
Addressing the court, said said “I’m not paranoid. I’m not mentally ill. I don’t agree with” anyone saying so, though it’s hard imagining why not after years of horrific brutalization. A Pakistani/American scientist, years of torture and abuse destroyed her persona, yet somehow she survived and endured more stress from prosecution, a travesty of a trial, conviction and sentencing.
Reporting on the court’s decision, the BBC repeated government lies, including her possessing bomb making instructions to blow up New York landmarks – “evidence that she was a potentially dangerous terrorist.” Yet her indictment was on totally different charges – preposterous ones accusing her of the following:
In the presence of two FBI agents, two Army interpreters, and three US Army officers, this frail 110 pound woman allegedly assaulted three of them, seized one of their rifles, opened fire at close range, hit no one, yet she alone was severely wounded.
At trial, no credible evidence was presented. The charges were concocted and bogus. None accused her of plotting to blow up New York or any other landmarks or facilities.
Yet proceedings were carefully orchestrated. Witnesses were enlisted, pressured, coerced, and/or bribed to cooperate. Jurors were then intimidated to convict, her attorney Elaine Whitfield Sharp, saying their verdict was “based on fear, not fact.” No evidence was presented except claims government prosecutors invented to convict.
The International Tribune also highlighted today’s proceedings, headlining “Dr. Aafia sentenced to 86 years imprisonment,” saying:
It was on seven counts “for allegedly firing at US troops in Afghanistan.” After the announcement, protests erupted across Pakistan. In Karachi, civil society and political party workers rallied “in front of the Karachi Press Club….ask(ing) the federal government” to intervene on her behalf.
Jamaat-e-Islami, PASBAN, Defense of Human Rights, and other civil society members marched toward the US Embassy, expressing outrage and demanding she be released “as a goodwill gesture.”
“Advisor to Sindh Chief Minister Ms. Sharmila Farooqui asked the United States to release (her) on humanitarian (grounds) as a goodwill gesture to Pakistan….Now is the time for the US to show goodness and pardon a Pakistani woman who is innocent.”
Farooqui said Aafia was wrongly abducted, then handed over to US authorities. She’s “an innocent woman,” outrageously treated, convicted and sentenced.
Explaining further she said:
“In Islam and Pakistan, handing over a woman to foreign countries is a sin, but it is a pity that an innocent woman was mercilessly given in(to the) hands of the (previous) US” government.
She also urged international human rights organizations to actively pursue her release.
A Final Comment
At issue is 9/11 truth, the subsequent bogus “war on terror” based on a lie, America’s war on Islam that followed against Iraq, Afghanistan, and Muslim Americans, victimized for political advantage. Aafia is perhaps its most aggrieved living victim, her persona destroyed and life ended by a virtual life sentence unless clemency or world pressure saves her.
Her case should incite everyone’s moral outrage. It also reveals America’s true face, its rogue agenda, targeting Muslims for their faith and ethnicity, making us all equally vulnerable.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at email@example.com. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com
The emphasis of the Islamic education is on orthopraxy and doctrine
Pakistan just can’t get a break. If it is not being drowned by floods, it is being set ablaze by suicide bombers. On Friday, at least 53 people were killed and 197 injured in a suicide bombing targeting a Shia Muslim rally in Quetta. A day before, three bombs exploded at a Shia procession in Lahore, with a mounting death toll of 35 people and wounding over 170.
The Taliban has taken responsibility for these attacks and boldly asserted that Shias are their targets. The argument that the Taliban use to justify their actions is simple, Shias are non-Muslims and apostates, hence they deserve to die. There is such confusion currently in Pakistan that this ideology is tacitly supported by the people and the government, as is evident from the apathetic response to the Ahmadi attacks. This belief that “Shias and Ahmadis are apostates, hence deserve to die” needs to be put in the ground once and for all.
Even though Pakistan is struggling to cope with the aftermath of the floods, there needs to be a continuous concerted effort to challenge the ideology of the Taliban, so that they have no legs to stand on. For a country that calls itself the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, there is a significant deficit in Islamic education and intellectualism beyond doctrine and blind faith. It is this lack of Islamic education that is resulting in a rigid and exclusive interpretation of Islam espoused by the Taliban, in which the killing of innocent people is justified. If Pakistan is ever going to successfully tackle the Taliban, they must provide better Islamic education to the people of Pakistan, so that the people have the tools needed to challenge the Taliban’s ideology.
From day one in Pakistan, the emphasis of the Islamic education is on orthopraxy and doctrine, and little attention is given to trying to understand Islam and its history. It is more important for a Muslim in Pakistan to know how to offer his prayers than to know what his prayers mean. In addition to this, asking questions regarding Islam is discouraged or worse, could be considered blasphemous. You are supposed to take Islam as a given and blindly follow the practices of your forefathers. This blind following of faith and lack of Islamic intellectualism is creating an environment which empowers groups, like the Tehrik-e-Taliban. People in Pakistan do not have enough knowledge regarding Islam to challenge the claims of these self proclaimed experts.
There is a dearth of Islamic intellectualism in Pakistan. It is not taught in schools in Pakistan that after the death of the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) there were substantial debates and conflict amongst the Muslim community regarding the “Muslim” identity. The history of Islam and the context in which the Quran was revealed is complete ignored. This allows for verses from the Holy Quran to be taken out of context and be used by the Taliban to espouse their violent ideology. Without an understanding the rich history of religious tolerance and debate within Islam, the people of Pakistan are ill equipped to see how flawed the ideology of the Taliban is. This is an ideology in which they believe that everyone must share their belief or be subjugated by them.
While I am sure the Taliban could also find verses from the Holy Quran to espouse their ideology, the most important thing that could come out of improved Islamic education in Pakistan is that a dialogue would occur and a counter opinion would be formulated. Through this dialogue an ideology which is more representative of the peace loving people of Pakistan will emerge.
In the current Islamic education system the exclusive nature of Islam is emphasized, but with an improved Islamic education system the inclusive and tolerant nature of Islam will come through. An improved Islamic education system in Pakistan is the only sustainable way that Pakistan can tackle the Taliban. It will remove their ability to manipulate Islam to further their cause and negate their twisted justification for the killings of innocents.
By Giorgiana Violante
This is the first time in weeks I have had access to the internet. I have not been allowed to receive or send text messages for three months. Just like all Kashmiris my telephone has been barred from such contact. The local news channels have been banned. India controls everything here. And then kills it. The situation is horrific. Over these months of food rationing and persistent curfew whereby all is closed and the streets totally deserted in utter silence, suddenly a protest arises and then spreads throughout the whole city in a surge of frustrated and famished rioters shouting ‘AZADI AZADI AZADI’ (freedom) until it dissipates suddenly into a cacophony of gunshots and clouds of teargas.
Police brutality in Kashmir
I observe all this going on at a safe remove of only one metre by a big thick brick wall interrupted by the Mevlana Rumi gate to Kashmir University, where I am residing. I see through the iron bars hordes upon hordes of protesters being shot at randomly, and I stand there repellently incapable of doing anything. An endless cycle of silence and violence. The Indian army own total control and freedom to shoot at will, to shoot to kill, anyone whom they choose to.
Last week a seven-year-old child was beaten to death. You cannot accidentally beat a seven-year-old to death. It is not like a bullet that goes astray. I cannot see how a stone thrown by a seven-year-old child can do sufficient damage to any man to warrant his being beaten to death. Children in this part of the world are tiny. A seven-year-old is the size of a three-year-old westerner. So what kind of person beats a tiny child to death when his stone throw must carry so little force that it barely deserves a shrug? This is such a common occurrence here.
The other day I left the university grounds to visit a professor only one minute away. True there is curfew but his house is in a private road attached to the university so I thought I would risk it. When I returned a roofless sumo vehicle full of ten Indian army thugs laughing and shouting came charging through the street waving their batons and guns. They headed for an old man and tried to hit him and then they knocked a four-year-old boy off his tricycle. For fun. He was only 50 centimetres outside his house’s garden so that hardly counts as disobeying the curfew and yet they charged at him on purpose. They knocked him off the tricycle and then headed for me, which as a western woman I did not expect.
I am living here within the deserted university grounds, alone with the security guards and a few random professors and clerks. The university was evacuated three months ago when the troubles commenced and the students and school children all over the valley have experienced, as they always do, a great void in their education.
The Indian army gun down eleven-year-old girls banging on the doors of pharmacists when it is clear that their disobedience of the curfew is purely out of desperation. How can a full grown man gun down and kill an eleven-year-old girl banging on a pharmacy door in an empty street? A woman kneeling on the pavement covering her face with her hands had her hands beaten to a pulp and they had to be amputated. Two weeks ago, on a Friday, I heard the usual impassioned pleads for freedom hailing from Hazratbal Mosque, which is just outside the university. For an hour the calls of ‘Azadi’ escalated and escalated until suddenly I heard a spray of gunshots. The shots continued sporadically over the next hour. I later found out that the mosque was raided by the army and people were beaten severely. Some died, of course.
The Indian army have the right and the freedom to behave like this, invading places of worship simply because of impassioned calls for freedom by a people who are being totally crushed and obliterated. This sort of thing happens every day. Total abuse of power by the occupying forces. But the people of Kashmir have no right to retaliate. Nor the freedom to even leave their homes. I cannot bear my complete and utter uselessness in this situation. As a rich westerner even I cannot get food. The other day myself and seven boys shared two carrots between us and a handful of rice.
So how can these Kashmiris be managing when they have not been able to open their businesses for three months? How can they even have the money to afford food, even if there WAS food to be had from somewhere? You risk your life in order to get food. How can you get food without leaving home? Yesterday a young boy working as a clerk in the university showed me his mauled arms and the gash in his thigh. His arms were black and purple with crusted blood from last week. His legs were obscene. Flesh made hell.
‘I went to get medicine’ he said, ‘and the army caught me’. I smiled and said, ‘Oh you people are always getting caught on the way to get medicine. Rubbish it was medicine. You went to get biscuits.’
‘Aren’t biscuits medicine?’ he replied, smiling the same smile as mine.
Last week as I circled the admittedly beautiful university grounds, a forest of chinar trees and endless rows of roses in full bloom, moghul gardens outside every department (Why are these gardens perfectly tendered? Given the situation outside how do these people have the strength and hope to even care to tend their gardens? Everything here is death and hopelessness. I would have expected the gardens to have been left to run to desolation), I saw a thin little old man with a cotton bag full of lumps. Usually one doesn’t see bags. Certainly not ones with lumps in them. Not in these conditions. My mind viciously wondered how he got the food? Who he got it from? Had he bribed one of the army pigs at the university gates? I suddenly realised I was frowning and in a very ugly-minded manner. The ugly things hunger does to a person’s mind is shocking. His bag was probably full of dirty laundry.
Sometimes someone will address me angrily as I pass by, something along the lines of:
“Hey you, America! Why aren’t you helping us? You do something.”
“What can I do?” I reply, “I’m neither a politician nor a journalist. I’m just trapped here like you.”
“But you’re a Westener. You see how things are here. We have been living like this for twenty years. When you go back to your country you tell them. You ask them why they aren’t helping us.”
“It’s your own fault,” I reply. “Why should we bother saving your country when its got no natural resources worth raping? All you’ve got is apples, goats and saffron. You’re doomed.”
A few seconds of silence will be followed by a warm invitation to tea. Muslim hospitality. At this time when every tea leaf is precious these people will share even their last few crumbs of powdered milk with you. And you sit there sipping the tea wondering how and where they managed to procure it and how much it cost them in beatings.