Monday, February 9, 2015

The victory of Kejriwal opens a new era of Indian politics - Ghulam Muhammed, Mumbai

The victory of Kejriwal opens a new era of Indian politics. The Brahmin political formulations have fooled the people of India with their fraud in the name of secularism, Hindutva and Marxism. India needs new rulers for whom each and every Indian is a proud citizen of India; period.

Kejriwal has moral strength to clean up the dirty politics and heaven knows how much the people hate the old corrupt rulers at all levels in this great nation. India is not being mortgaged to Kejriwal, he should hold his office of trust with humility, honesty, generosity and justice for all.
Ghulam Muhammed, Mumbai


Barack’s message - By Sudheendra Kulkarni - The Indian Express, Mumbai, INDIA

The Indian EXPRESS

Barack’s message

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi with US President Barack Obama.

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Written by Sudheendra Kulkarni | New Delhi | Posted: February 9, 2015 12:04 am

What was the most important outcome of US President Barack Obama’s recent visit to India? Certainly not the civil nuclear deal, even though Prime Minister Narendra Modi, at his joint press conference with Obama, described it as the “centrepiece” of the transformed relationship between the two countries. The contribution of nuclear power to India’s energy basket is going to remain small even after 20 years.

Had Obama come to India mainly to secure some business for his country’s nuclear power companies, he would have been viewed by Indians as a mere salesman. However, going by the adulation his wife Michelle and he received in India, which was much more than what his previous visit in 2010 witnessed, there is no doubt that Obama struck a chord in the minds and hearts of Indian people of diverse backgrounds. And when they saw that he and Modi had forged a bond of uncommon conviviality – Obama calling our PM “friend Modi” and the latter addressing him by his first name — one thing became obvious. The most important outcome of Obama’s visit was not the promise of nuclear power, but the promise of the power of mutual friendship and trust between India and the US, despite significant differences.  And precisely because Obama came across as a genuine friend and admirer of India, even his parting comment – “India will continue to succeed so long as it is not splintered on religious lines” – did not sound like an overbearing American president’s gratuitous interference in our internal affairs. On the contrary, it resonated with the idea of India, didn’t it?

Now, within a fortnight of his departure from India, Modi’s friend Barack has spoken again. Speaking in Washington DC at the National Prayer Breakfast, an apt occasion indeed, he has lamented that the “acts of intolerance experienced by religious faiths of all types in India in the past few years would have shocked Mahatma Gandhi”.

We Indians generally disapprove of foreigners making critical remarks about our country. And imperious America does have the unmatched habit of telling other countries what they should or should not do. Indeed, Obama himself needs to be told that Mahatma Gandhi would have been shocked even more at the US’s immoral and illegitimate acts of militaristic violence, which has killed hundreds of thousands of innocent people in Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The moot point here is not America’s wrong deeds, but the wrongs happening in our own country. If we love India, and all of us do, we must introspect over the growing religious intolerance in our society. The responsibility of introspection falls primarily on Modi and his party. To be fair to him, he has not uttered anything objectionable on religion-related matters since becoming PM in May 2014. Indeed, in his Independence Day address, he wisely appealed to the people to “put a moratorium for 10 years” on communalism and casteism. Yet, he has not deemed it necessary to publicly rebuke communal voices in the Sangh Parivar, of which his own party continues to be a member. It is not enough for him to convey, behind closed doors, his displeasure over the “ghar wapsi” campaign launched by VHP functionaries, which was endorsed by none other than Mohan Bhagwat, the RSS chief. As PM, it is his duty to let the nation know that both conversions and reconversions which use fraudulent means and spread bigotry are illegal, unacceptable and heavily punishable. He must also announce a zero-tolerance approach to attacks on churches.

Many sensible leaders in the BJP abhor the utterances and activities of the extremists in their parivar. However, they are loath to recognise that the ideological roots of Hindu intolerance lie in the parivar’s pet concept of “Hindu rashtra”, which violates the letter and spirit of the Indian Constitution and has given rise to understandable concern and ire among non-Hindus. BJP leaders’ inability and unwillingness to confront the core of the RSS ideology is the cause of their split personality. Take Modi’s own example. He has surprised his critics as well as his supporters by repeatedly invoking the name of Mahatma Gandhi, even making him the icon of his flagship Swachh Bharat mission. Yet, neither he nor any of his colleagues in the party or the government has publicly praised Gandhiji’s lifelong mission for communal harmony, for which he sacrificed his life. Perversely, some BJP supporters have been emboldened to eulogise Godse.

Modi should know that the stakes are high, very high. To his credit, he has, in a very short time, emerged as a leader with global stature, building a personal chemistry as much with Obama as with Chinese President Xi Jinping. But he must know that the international community wants to see multifaith India, the land of Buddha and Gandhi, become a beacon of tolerance and peace, at a time when fanaticism is spilling so much blood around the world.

This requires Modi to act boldly. He may have been an RSS pracharak in the past. But today he is India’s prime minister, who has the constitutional duty to disown a Hindu rashtra and defend secularism. Any hesitation on his part, and on the part of the BJP, to publicly delegitimise the RSS’s concept of, and its strident call for, a Hindu rashtra is bound to hurt his government’s efficacy and global image, and undermine his promise of development, for which (and not for Hindutva) the people have given him a decisive mandate.

In this context, the role of non-Hindu communal forces in spreading religious intolerance should neither be denied nor belittled. It is the responsibility of the leaders of the Muslim community to denounce, without any ifs and buts, acts of terrorism in the name of Islam taking place in different parts of the world. In particular, they must wean away the small section of the Indian Muslim youth that is getting radicalised by religious extremism. Similarly, leaders of the Christian community must acknowledge that the conversion of poor and indigent Hindus by foreign-funded evangelical organisations in the name of social or religious service (they dare not convert poor Muslims) is creating a backlash from Hindu bigots. Obama has provoked Indians to do soul searching. Let’s ponder over his message and not shoot the messenger.

The writer was an aide to former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee

The Muslims of Early America - By PETER MANSEAU -- The New York Times

The Muslims of Early America


FEB. 9, 2015


Credit Andrea Mongia
IT was not the imam’s first time at the rodeo.

Scheduled to deliver an invocation at the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo last week, Moujahed Bakhach of the local Islamic Association of Tarrant County canceled his appearance because of the backlash brought on by a prayer he had offered a few days before. The imam had been asked to confer a blessing on horses, riders and members of the military. He was met with gasps from the audience and social media complaints: “Outraged at a Muslim prayer at an all American event!” “Cowboys don’t want it!”

Vocal anti-Islamic sentiment is undergoing a revival. Four days before the imam’s canceled benediction, protesters at the State Capitol in Austin shouted down Muslim speakers, claiming Texas in the name of Jesus alone. In North Carolina two weeks earlier, Duke University’s plan to broadcast a Muslim call to prayer was abandoned amid threats of violence. Meanwhile Gov. Bobby Jindal, Republican of Louisiana claimed that if American Muslims “want to set up their own culture and values, that’s not immigration, that’s really invasion.”

No matter how anxious people may be about Islam, the notion of a Muslim invasion of this majority Christian country has no basis in fact. Moreover, there is an inconvenient footnote to the assertion that Islam is anti-American: Muslims arrived here before the founding of the United States — not just a few, but thousands.

They have been largely overlooked because they were not free to practice their faith. They were not free themselves and so they were for the most part unable to leave records of their beliefs. They left just enough to confirm that Islam in America is not an immigrant religion lately making itself known, but a tradition with deep roots here, despite being among the most suppressed in the nation’s history.

In 1528, a Moroccan slave called Estevanico was shipwrecked along with a band of Spanish explorers near the future city of Galveston, Tex. The city of Azemmour, in which he was raised, had been a Muslim stronghold against European invasion until it fell during his youth. While given a Christian name after his enslavement, he eventually escaped his Christian captors and set off on his own through much of the Southwest.

Two hundred years later, plantation owners in Louisiana made it a point to add enslaved Muslims to their labor force, relying on their experience with the cultivation of indigo and rice. Scholars have noted Muslim names and Islamic religious titles in the colony’s slave inventories and death records.

The best known Muslim to pass through the port at New Orleans was Abdul-Rahman Ibrahim ibn Sori, a prince in his homeland whose plight drew wide attention. As one newspaper account noted, he had read the Bible and admired its precepts, but added, “His principal objections are that Christians do not follow them.”

Among the enslaved Muslims in North Carolina was a religious teacher named Omar ibn Said. Recaptured in 1810 after running away from a cruel master he called a kafir (an infidel), he became known for inscribing the walls of his jail cell with Arabic script. He wrote an account of his life in 1831, describing how in freedom he had loved to read the Quran, but in slavery his owners had converted him to Christianity.

The story of Islam in early America is not merely one of isolated individuals. An estimated 20 percent of enslaved Africans were Muslims, and many sought to recreate the communities they had known. In Georgia, which has joined more than a dozen states in the political theater of debating a restriction on judges’ consulting Shariah, Muslims on a secluded plantation are known to have lived under the guidance of a religious leader who wrote a manuscript on Islamic law so that traditional knowledge might survive.

A clue to what happened to these forgotten American Muslims can be found in the words of a missionary traveling through the South to preach the gospel on slave plantations. Many “Mohammedan Africans,” he noted, had found ways to “accommodate” Islam to the new beliefs imposed upon them. “God, say they, is Allah, and Jesus Christ is Mohammed. The religion is the same, but different countries have different names.”
The missionary considered this to be lamentable evidence of Muslims’ inability to recognize the importance of religious truths. But in fact it proves just the opposite. They understood that their faith was important enough that they should listen for it everywhere, even in a country so distant from the places where they had once heard the call to prayer.

Islam is part of our common history — a resilient faith not just of the enslaved, but of Arab immigrants in the late 19th century, and in the 20th century of many African-Americans reclaiming and remaking it as their own. For generations, its adherents have straddled a nation that jolts from promises of religious freedom to events that give the lie to those promises.

In a sense, Islam is as American as the rodeo. It, too, was imported, but is now undeniably part of the culture. Whether or not protesters in Texas and elsewhere are ready for it, it is inevitable that some Muslims will let their babies grow up to be cowboys. A few cowboys may grow up to be Muslims as well.
Peter Manseau is the author, most recently, of “One Nation Under Gods: A New American History.” 
A version of this op-ed appears in print on February 9, 2015, on page A17 of the New York edition with the headline: The Muslims of Early America. Order Reprints| Today's Paper|Subscribe