Monday, December 31, 2007

Indian Muslims Review Unjust 2007

Praying for Justice: A Year of Unfulfilled Promises

New Delhi: For Muslims in Asian heavyweight India, 2007 will be remembered as a year of injustice, both politically and economically.

"Unfortunately in 2007, the pace of judiciary was slow," Javed Anand of Muslims for Secular Democracy (MSD) said.

He cited the complete ignorance of the recommendations put forward by the Sri Krishna Commission, set up to probe the 1992-93 Mumbai riots.

Anand said although the report blamed "trigger-happy" Hindu police officials for the violence nothing has happened.

"There has not been any progress at all," fumed the Mumbai-based activist.

Mustafa Khan, a university professor, also complained of lame justice.

"The year 2007 will go down as a dark year for the Muslims of India," he said.

He cited the August ruling in the 1993 Mumbai blasts where the court slapped death sentences against 12 Muslims accused in the bombings that followed violent anti-Muslim riots.

"In a sharp contrast, Hindus involved in the massacre of the Muslim prior to bomb blasts have not been even tried in the court of law."

The blasts were seen as the direct effect of the demolition of the Babri Masjid in Ayodha and the anti-Muslim riots that followed in Mumbai, the commercial capital of India.

Another example of injustices in 2007 was the manifested in the Muslim-majority rural area of Nandigram in West Bengal state.

A project by the local government to establish Special Economic Zones (SEZs) became a nightmare for Muslim residents who were forcibly evicted from their land and murdered in order to welcome multi-national companies.

"The state of West Bengal saw a communist government supporters raping and killing people of whom the overwhelming majority is Muslim and virtually taking over their land and property with impunity," professor Khan charges.


The election in the religiously-divided southern state of Gujarat was also bad news for Muslims in 2007.

"Renewed political life of Narendra Modi is not a healthy sign for Muslims," maintains Anand.

Munawwar Pheerbhoy, the chairman of Mohammed Azam Education Trust (Pune), agrees.

"It shows that communal forces are raising their ugly heads once again. Polarization is not good for Gandhi’s India."

Hindu nationalist leader Modi has been re-elected as chief minister of Gujarat.

Modi and his Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) have been blamed for stoking anti-Muslim riots in 2002.
He was censured by India's Supreme Court as "a modern Nero".

In October, a weekly magazine released a series of videotaped confessions of Hindu activists bragging about Modi support for the carnage that claimed the lives of up to 2,500 people, mostly Muslims.

"Gujarat saw the rapists and murderers of Muslims…appearing on television and confessing how they raped and killed Muslims, burnt and looted their houses and shops," noted professor Khan.

"After their boasting of the crimes of genocide, they still move around freely.

"It’s so disturbing."

Economic Paradise

M.J. Akbar, editor-in-chief of The Asian Age and Deccan Chronicle, complains that Muslims are suffering from economic discrimination.

"[The] Government has been high on promises and short on delivery," he said.

"It is as if because they have been permitted to survive and vote, they do not deserve anything more."

Akbar, an ex-lawmaker who was spokesman of late premier Rajiv Gandhi, notes that 2007 was the year of booming economy for India.

Although Muslims played a key role in achieving this "economic miracle," he add, they lived in absolute poverty and struggled to make ends meet.

"The young Muslims of Bengal…are feeling totally alienated from economic growth," Akbar cites as a case in point.

India's some 160 million Muslims have suffered decades of social and economic neglect and oppression.

They are under-represented in public sector jobs, register lower educational levels and, as a consequence, higher unemployment rates than the majority Hindus and other minorities like Christians and Sikhs.

Akbar regrets that a Muslim child of 1992 has grown up watching India turn into turning someone else’s paradise.

"No one has sent him an entry ticket to that paradise. He has not even been allowed to smell the flavor of the gate."

"He has been told, implicitly, to content himself with squalor while others on the same level as him have begun to take tentative steps towards new horizons."

Monday, December 10, 2007

A Hajj Aspirant's Dream Comes True

A Dream Comes True: Siraj Abdul Hameed in his tiny shop

Malegaon: Siraj Abdul Hameed patiently deals with a flurry of potential customers in his Itehaad Cut-Piece Centre, a tiny 10×10 shop specializing in suiting and shirting.

He welcomes visitors adjusting his traditional skullcap. Growing stubble is in sight. "Symbols of Faith" – as he put it – have never been closer to this man of small-means and big ambitions.

"Every day I deal with plenty of customers in my shop but this year Allah has decided to deal with me in His House," he said.

Hameed is part of the last Indian hajj flight leaving Mumbai on Friday, December 14.

Hajj had been on his cards for quite sometime but could not happen because of the "continuous economic crises".

"It was only in July 2007 that my sons convinced me that hajj is not that expensive," recalls Hameed.

"Earlier I used to think that it costs a lot ranging from Rs. 200,000 to 300,000."

He has registered with the Indian Hajj Committee, a government-owned body which subsidizes pilgrims from India.

"It will cost me only Rs. 80,000."

A total of 157,000 Indian Muslims will be performing hajj this year.

"Out of which 110,000 will be going through the Hajj Committee and the remaining 47,000 will go through private tours," said Maulana Hussain Ahmad Milli, who has been conducting hajj training classes for 28 years.

India is home to 160 million Muslims, second largest Muslim population after Indonesia.

Hameed, who stays in a dingy chawl overlooking densely-populated Islampura, a Muslim locality, sees himself as lucky since not all human dreams come true.

"In August 2007, my name did not appear in the first round of Qura Andaazi (random selection) of the Hajj Committee," he recalls.

"Even they returned my first demand draft of Rs. 21,400."

Hameed was disappointed but not defeated. He tried it in the subsequent rounds of Qura Andaazi but could not succeed.

But good things come late. Hameed couldn’t believe himself when his name figured in the final round of the Qura Andaazi.
"I was on cloud nine when I came to know about it," he said cheerfully. "Out of the 178 hajj aspirants, only 55 were selected in the final round and I was one of them."

The good news didn’t end Hameed’s woes because he was asked to deposit the rest of the money within two days.

Hameed had to arrange for marriage ceremony of one of his relatives on November 5.

There was a deliberation in the household whether he should go for the hajj since impending marriage demanded money.

"Economic cyclones keep coming", he said, "but one must learn how to deal with them."
Finally good sense prevailed.

"It all depends upon your intention", he said, "since both marriage and hajj are important in Islam."

"We gave importance to the both. A little saving here, a little thrift there can do the unthinkable," Siraj said.

He intends to quench his spiritual thirst on his forthcoming hajj journey.

"My restless soul can’t wait to see the sacred Ka`bah."

Hameed is desperately counting his days up to December 14.

His desperation grows every moment.

"Have you ever felt like a caged bird waiting to fly?"