Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Expectations high as Sonia Gandhi visits Malegaon

Malegaon General Hospital to be inaugurated today by Sonia Gandhi

For people of Malegaon, the long and patient nine-year wait is finally over as Sonia Gandhi visits Malegaon to inaugurate newly-constructed Malegaon General Hospital. The dream of a government hospital was envisioned by the then Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh in the aftermath of October 26, 2001 riots. For six years, Vilasrao Deshmukh kept dreaming about the hospital while people of Malegaon stood silently with an empty bowel. The soulful cry of a father that rose from the debris of 2006 cemetery shook the conscience of Mrs. Gandhi. Vilasrao woke up from the deep slumber of indifference and was compelled to implement his six year old dream.

So, what does people are Malegaon expect from Mrs. Gandhi, the political queen of India? People are of course happy and exuberant that Sonia Gandhi is going to visit their historical textile town. They just don’t want Mrs. Gandhi to cut the symbolic red-ribbon and repeat the usual platitudes. Any Tom, Dick and Harry can do that. People want Mrs. Gandhi to do an Obama in Malegaon. Muslim community, who very often feels betrayed by the state government, expects some plain and bold speaking from Mrs. Gandhi. She has to assure the town that the days of state neglect will be over. She has to utter unequivocally that Malegaon occupies a central place in the heart of Congress. She has to acknowledge that people of Malegaon are not very happy with the functioning of her party. The general election result in Malegaon is a testimony of this fact. If Mrs. Gandhi and her party want to conquer and safeguard Muslim votes, then Malegaon is an important bastion to wage the long and arduous battle.

Mrs. Gandhi should know that the feeling of injustice, alienation runs deep in Muslim psyche here. Her party should pick up a magnifying glass and take a hard look at ground realities. The wives of Malegaon bomb blast accused 2006 are desperately waiting for the completion of CBI inquiry. Mrs. Gandhi must use rightful political means to make sure that it doesn’t get delayed anymore. The growing kids of the accused need to know whether their fathers are really “guilty” in the official book.

People of Malegaon expect overall development of Malegaon. Malegaon is a town where the bellies of local politicians are fatter than a newly-built road. People want Mrs. Gandhi to use her political clout to ensure that central government schemes are duly utilised in Malegaon. They want Mrs. Gandhi’s government to treat Malegaon as a special zone for the development. They want colleges and institutes like the ones in Sonia Gandhi’s Rae Bareli. In the last 4 years, Mrs. Gandhi has managed to set up three institutes in her constituency.
People of Malegaon wonder whether it will also get the same kind of treatment which Rae Bareli enjoys where in a single year alone, 250 crores were sanctioned to build roads in and around Rae Bareli. One such another scheme of 313 crore was sanctioned to connect Rae Bareli to Allahabad.

There is a feeling of injustice among Hindu brethren of Malegaon. Some are of the view Malegaon is deliberately ignored because it’s a minority-dominated town. Mrs. Gandhi’s Congress party can prove this presumption false only by concrete action.

The patience of people of Malegaon can be gauged from the fact that their status has always been that of man waiting in a long queue. The wait never seems to get over. We are still waiting for railways promised 25 years ago. It has got the green signal of state government but the actual work is yet to begin.

Is Malegaon a town of waiting?

Mrs. Sonia Gandhi should know the answer.

Inquilab, June 30, 2009

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Unveiling Nicholas Sarkozy

Naked Truth: Nicolas Sarkozy is a hypocrite of secular liberalism. His problem is not that he can't accept Eastern tradition of convervatism in the form of burqa but his inability to come to terms with Western culrure of secularism liberalism.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy is the finest living example of Western hypocrisy. Hypocrisy, bias and double-standard are intrinsic in human nature and Sarkozy is no exception. Sarkozy’s racist, anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant speech at Chateau of Versailles, south-west of Paris on Monday, is bound to draw criticism from the Muslim World. When one dissects Sarkozy and his personal life with the help of a literary and secular knife, he emerges as a confused personality whose hostility against Islam is steeped in his ascendancy; his Jewish origin. His language was quite similar to the one used by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu recently. The draft of Sarkozy’s speech itself narrates a tale of his outlook towards Islam in general and Muslims in particular.

The tone of his language must be understood clearly, it is only when one can draw conclusion about his intentions. “The burqa”, he said, “is not a religious sign, it’s a sign of subservience, a sign of debasement—I want to say it solemnly. It will not be welcome on the territory of the French Republic….In our country, we cannot accept that women be prisoners behind a screen, cut off from all social life, deprived of all identity.”

Sarkozy is a self-appointed representative of the same West that believes in the doctrine of freedom. The definition of freedom in Western parlance is absolute. It includes freedom of choice rather than freedom of chance. The expression of freedom has been abused and used to suit Western convenience. So when it comes to freedom to choose one’s dress, they have no qualms about bikini but they would always have problem with burqa. A bikini is viewed as a symbol of women’s emancipation while a burqa is looked at a form of forced slavery. To men like Sarkozy, the bodily form of liberation is more important than the mental form of liberation. What more, when bodily form of liberation extends their desired limitation, they take the help of a flaccid morality evaporating slowly from the Western geography. So when an old nude photo of Sarkozy’s super-model wife Carla Bruni was leaked on the internet, Sarkozy left no stone unturned that it doesn’t get republished in any of the French magazine and tabloids!

Will an enlightened West question Sarkozy’s definition of secular liberalism? If he really believed in the doctrine that freedom is absolute then he should have allowed his wife’s photo to be published. That would have made him an icon and torchbearer of absolute freedom of expression!

Sarkozy’s comparison of burqa as a “prison sentence” can be understood if it is forced and made compulsory in a free Western society. But what if a woman chooses to wear burqa voluntarily? Won’t the same freedom to wear a bikini be extended to a lady who wants to don a burqa? In this hypothesis lies the irony of the West. This irony looks like an ugly and a repulsive creature on the mirror wall. The Western leaders claiming to be secular need to take a hard look in the mirror. There they will encounter a bitter pill hard to swallow.

The main problem of Sarlozy is not burqa but his inability to do nothing to stop the rise of Islam in his own country. According to one independent report, Islam is spreading most rapidly in France in the entire Europe. France is the only country in Europe which has the largest number of Muslims, 6 million to be precise.

Sarkozy need to understand the definition of secularism in the Indian context where multicultural and heterogeneous society is flourishing. Noted lawyer Fali S. Nariman has rightly defined secularism as, “secularism in India means the ability to comprehend and tolerate an infinite variety of social problems.”

The present Century is going to be a Century of soft power. In dress code, if a bikini is manifestation of West’s soft-power, then burqa is an Islamic symbol of soft-power. Men like Sarkozy fear that in this bikini-burqa collision, the latter may emerge as a winner given the rise of burqa in the West.

Sarkozy may be comfortable with his wife in a bikini on a beach front but the same will not be true in Eastern countries especially India. No seasoned Indian politician will ever do such a thing. He will not be comfortable in a bikini or a mini-skirt even with his wife. Therefore, if a burqa is a statement of separation as believed by Sarkozy, then a mini-skirt is not an invitation to familiarity.

The ongoing debate about separation of church and state raises some interesting points. If we apply that logic then the Church of England should be disestablished, the blasphemy laws abolished, and religious education in schools replaced by an objective consideration of the role of the various religions as a part of History and Social Studies.

Nicolas Sarkozy is a product of secular hypocrisy. He would do well to remember what a British scholar once wrote, “My old mother, a very proper Christian lady, used to wear a headscarf – whether to quell lust or just in order to look respectable I don’t know. The ‘simple fact’ is that in the customs of most societies men and women dress differently.”

Sunday Inquilab, June 28, 2009

Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Real Test of Obama

Let's Talk: President Obama making the historic speech in Cairo

Is Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu following in the footsteps of American President Barack Hussein Obama? Ten days after Obama’s address at Cairo’s Al-Azhar University, Netanyahu delivered a speech at the Begin-Sadat Center of Bar-Ilan University in Israel where he laid down his vision to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict. One may not agree with his flawed vision but one thing is certain that Netanyahu’s speech was in response to Obama’s castigation of Israel. Then shall we consider it as a step in the right direction? Yes and no.

“I strongly support the idea of regional peace that he (Obama) is advancing”, Netanyahu said on June 14. “I share the President of the U.S.A’s desire to bring about a new era of reconciliation in our region.”

Although his speech was full of flaws, this kind of language has never been used by an Israeli Prime Minister. When was the last time an Israeli prime minister used the word ‘peace’ 32 times in a single six-page speech? We do not hold the view that uttering the word ‘peace’ again and again can bring peace in the Middle-East but there is a fundamental shift in perception-management by the Jewish State of Israel and we have no doubt that this is the result of President Obama’s speech.

Any peace-loving person would be enraged after reading Netanyahu’s speech because apart from the word ‘peace’ which has been used as a camouflage, there is not much in it. The change in lingual tone was to please American President Obama and dullards in United States who believe Israel is committed to the idea of peace. Netanyahu has very carefully pushed the conditional ball of peace in Obama’s court. He wants a “demilitarized” Palestine.

“I told President Obama in Washington, if we get a guarantee of demilitarization, and if the Palestinians recognize Israel as the Jewish state, we are ready to agree to a real peace agreement, a demilitarized Palestinian state side by side with the Jewish state”, he said in the speech.

Even if one assumes that Palestinians recognise Israel as the “Jewish State”, is it possible for any State or country in the world to be “demilitarized?” Any such condition or assumption will be akin to living in fool’s paradise. Even Maldives, one of the smallest countries in the world with a population of 3, 40,000, has a National Defence Force to defend the security and sovereignty of the country.

Now the real test and truthfulness of President Obama’s Cairo speech lies in just one aspect of Israel-Palestine conflict. How Obama returns the conditional ball of peace in Netanyahu’s court remains to be seen. Obama must ponder over this issue with clarity of mind and conscience. How he deals with this condition will prove to be a litmus test. His decision can make or break America’s relationship with the Muslim World. If Obama wants to win over Muslims hearts and minds, then he must reject any such condition outright.

Netanyahu also warned that the Palestinians must decide between path of peace and path of Hamas. Perhaps Netanyahu has forgotten that Hamas is democratically-elected body of Palestinians. If Netanyahu wants Palestinians and Arabs to recognise the Jewish State of Israel then he must also recognise Hamas as a genuine political and military force in the region.

One common feature in both Obama and Netanyahu’s speech was the language of economics. With world economy looming under crisis, both know that to overcome this depression, Muslims all over the world needs to be involved because of their large population.

Action speaks louder than words. Both Obama and Netanyahu would want us to believe that this Century is going to be the Century of peace and dialogue. Their words must be matched by substantive acts. They also understand that the Muslim world is going through twilight-phase where one world is dead and another is waiting to be born.

Sunday Inquilab, June 21, 2009

Sunday, June 14, 2009

An Open Letter to KP Raghuvanshi

Dear Mr. Raghuvanshi,


Congratulations for accepting the post of new ATS chief. You have once again proved that you are a brave heart and indeed an iron man of Maharashtra police. You have agreed to become ATS chief at a time when our senior police officers are wary of taking up any post associated with terror! How can senior police officers decline the post of ATS chief citing ‘personal reasons’? Perhaps they have been “terrorized” by the fall of an equally noble officer, Hemant Karkare. The reluctance of law-keepers is an irony in itself. In this irony lies your bravery.

The good news must have lightened up your fortnight holiday. Why should it not? Tough cops like you deserve a standing ovation. What more, now your post has been elevated to the rank of additional director-general. We are in a state of double-bliss!

You must be happy and proud that you have regained an old post. You were the first occupant of the ATS office. With Karkare’s death, you have once again got an opportunity to occupy ATS office. Life has completed a full circle.

We are very happy that you have been credited for “successfully” investigating July 2006 train blasts in Mumbai and the subsequent cemetery blasts in Malegaon. We congratulate you for “cracking up” these two cases but we will not hold a felicitation for you. We would like to felicitate you in Malegaon only when it is proved in a court of law that all the accused in Malegaon case are the real culprits. We, like you, have faith in India’s judicial system despite its flaws.

We are happy that it was you who had spoken firmly on Nanded blasts of April 2006 in which a youth manufacturing a bomb died inside the house of the local Bajrang Dal and Vishwa Hindu Parishad activist. It was you who had conducted brain-mapping and narco-analysis test. It was you who had said openly that the same group of terrorists is responsible for the bomb blasts at the Parbhani mosque in April 2003 in which 25 persons were injured. It was you who had said that Nanded incident could have “frightening repercussions”. It was you who very frankly acknowledged that this was not an isolated incident but also part of an “organised pattern.” Unfortunately, the organised pattern was reflected on September 29, 2008 in the form of a bomb blast at Malegaon’s Bhiku Chowk. Your fears were true but alas each one of us could do nothing to stop it.

Hemant Karkare exposed the “organised pattern” in Malegaon. His greatness does not lay in the arrest of Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur but his ability to turn his “enemies” into “well-wishers” even after his death. It was his determination that brought out the Muslim community from the cocooned shelf of fear-psychosis.

Your appointment may once again draw flak from a section of Muslims in Maharashtra. We are aware that many Muslims have questioned your integrity. You have been accused of being “communal” and “biased.” It’s the time for you to turn the tables. You have a golden opportunity to prove your secular credentials. You must have heard of the famous English proverb: opportunity knocks but does not linger. You can still win over Muslims by your substantive acts rather than reassurances. We don’t hold the view that all police officers are communal, but there is no denying the fact that a minuscule minority is dirtying the pond of intelligence. It is your job to identify such dirty fishes and throw them away!

Some Muslims may raise the issue that you had invited Colonel Purohit and Major General Ramesh Uphadyay, both accused in 2008 Malegaon blast, for a lecture on intelligence for the ATS in 2003. We give you the benefit of doubt that you may not have been aware of their true intentions. All will be forgotten if your team can successfully prove them guilty in a court of law.
It was you who had rightly asked a question: Why are no questions being raised by fact-finding teams about the arms hauls in Malegaon and Aurangabad and the identity of the accused who have been arrested? This indeed is a right question. We will be very happy if you can seal the arms haul case with judicial seal. We would like to believe that it was a big haul but there is one question we would like to ask: What is the origin of such a big haul? Did it come across the border? Or did it originate in India itself? There are many questions which every sane Indian need to ponder over.

We wish you all the best and hope that your second inning will be more interesting and remarkable than the first. Each one of us, including your team, need to take a pledge to fight terrorism together because a bomb does not discriminate between a Hindu and a Muslim.

Hemant Karkare has left footprints in the sand. We hope you would follow in his footprints before it gets washed away in the tidal wave.

Yours humbly,

An ordinary citizen of India

Sunday Inquilab, June 14, 2009

Thursday, June 04, 2009

World Muslims Welcome Obama Speech

By IOL Correspondents

MUSLIM CAPITALS — From Asia to the heart of Africa and in the troubled Middles East, Muslims are hailing US President Barack Obama's speech as an important step on the way of healing the deep rifts in America's relationship with the Muslim world.

Yet, some Muslims believe the nearly one-hour address that touched on everything from Islam's contribution to humanity to the Mideast conflict had its weak points that overshadow Obama’s commitment to a "new beginning" with Muslims.

Saleh Hussein Darawish Farmer, trader from the West Bank

I listened to Obama's speech from the beginning to the end. I think it represents a sort of departure from George Bush's sullen political discourse.

This speech had a definite human touch, a fair degree of sincerity and honesty and frankness. Whether these characters, or more correctly these impressions, represent a real change of heart and mind on the part of the American government remains to be seen.

I personally liked his words about the merits of Islam and the Islamic civilization. This contrasted Bush's ignorance and unfriendliness.

Generally, speaking the tone of his speech was conciliatory and friendly.

On the other side, I was disappointed by his attempts to equate between Palestinian sufferings and Jewish sufferings, as if the Palestinians were responsible for the persecution of Jews at the hands of Western Christendom.

In brief, I can say that Obama's speech was generally balanced by the American standards. After all, it is unrealistic for Palestinians and Arabs and Muslims to expect a 180-degree transformation in the American policy toward the Muslim world, given objective political and historical considerations.

It is also unwise to think that this speech would immediately lead to new era of perfect harmony between the United States and the Muslim world. A real and lasting change will take time and a lot of good will, especially on the part of the US.

Now, it remains to be seen if the Obama administration will be willing to translate the speech into tangible policies or just consign to the dustbin of history.

Ahmed Abdul Baghdad Driver

I have hope that Obama’s words be put in practice and the human being equality, despite gender and religion become a true feeling among American society.

As he said Muslim people have highly helped for the development of United States economically and socially.

When he suggests the sharing of principles like justice, tolerance, dignity and progress, Iraqis and other Muslims around the world, should give him this chance to make the difference and bring peace in Middle East.

He said that will keep fighting extremists mainly Bin Laden, but he also should reflect that US Army has brought terror to our country like al-Qaeda.

The majority of Iraqi people have put all their hopes in his government, which will direct affect our lives in our country. The war was a mistake and he has in his hand the duty to correct what Bush couldn’t do.

I believe that he is a strong and powerful man who is able to look after human rights as priority.

But although we are thinking about our future, what I wish is that he really uses his potential to help the Palestinians and end up with all terror and displacement in their country.

Ahmed Abdel Ghany Carpenter, Egypt

Obama’s words are very nice in fact. He seems to have good knowledge of Islam and the holy Qu’ran. This shows that he has respect for the Islamic religion and Muslims in general.

The fact that he has taken off his shoes when he entered the Sultan Hassan Mosque reflects that Obama has real respect for the ideals of Islam.

But the problem is that the problems of Muslims would not be solved by words. The problems of the people in the Middle East would not be solved by words.

There must be some action.

Obama must be decisive with Israel. He must show some firmness in countering Israel’s desire to take up the whole of Palestine.

He says we should cherish our differences. That is great. But why are some Muslims subjected to mistreatment inside the US itself.

Islamophobia runs high inside the US. Americans should have respect for our faith.

Sarifah Barlian Secretary, Indonesia

I watched parts of President Obama speech. He is friendly, smart and charming. He said assalamualaikum. It’s very kind of him.

He even mentioned Indonesia many times in his speech. He gave us good impression and showed his ability to convince us to trust him.

He looks different with his predecessors. He did not seem arrogant. He seems sincere and honest.

When he talked about Islam in his speech, it’s like a proof of his commitment in his presidential campaign to be closer with Muslims. He also quoted the Bible and the Talmud to convince all religions to be united.

Since the beginning I liked him. When he started to run for president, I have been supporting him because he is young and having Muslim blood from his father.

I believe that his speech was not merely a bushtit. I think it’s not wrong to put a hope on him.

Abdul Hameed Shaikh, Laborer, India

I have heard the translated speech in Urdu but going by his body language, his concerns seemed to be genuine and he spoke from the heart.

From practical point of view, the speech was rhetorical but yet it’s an important milestone in the history of the Muslim-West relations. It was a carefully drafted and well-balanced speech.

Many Muslims would have expected him to be very specific as far as laying the foundation for a roadmap to improve the US-Muslim relationship. But a single speech cannot solve the centuries old problems.

President Obama’s speech was unexpectedly inclusive in the sense that he accommodated not only American views but also recognized the importance of Islam and Muslims.

But I was disappointed on two issues: when he spoke of Al-Qaeda’s mayhem on 9/11, he should have also raised the issue of innocent civilian deaths in Iraq. He chose to ignore this.

The second issue was the topic of nuclear proliferation where he squarely blamed Iran while ignoring Israel, the only nuclear country in the Middle East.

The nuke race is there because of Israel. If we consider Obama’s message that World should abandon nuclear weapons, it should start from Israel, at least in the Middle East.

Also, his speech was Arab-centric rather than an address to the Muslim world.

President Obama also should have given the example of Indian Muslims -- the second largest Muslim Population after Indonesia -- for their secular credentials and how they are thriving in religious diversity of India.

He carefully ignored the Indian Muslims whose lives could be a model to emulate all over the Muslim world. Perhaps, he should remember that in his next such initiative.

Malik Ahmed Electrician, Gaza

Obama’s message loses the least degree of objectivity.

He, in the beginning, criticized launching rockets by the Palestinian fighters and other means of resistance. He described them as useless means.

However, he didn’t say any word about the tons of explosives and the internationally illegal weapons the Israelis use against us.

He said that he understands the right of Jews to live in an independent state. This is a humiliation for the rights of the people who will be the preys for Jews; the Palestinians who had lost their historical land.

He spoke about extremism inside the Islamic countries and that it must be eradicated.

At the same time, he forgot to speak about the real extremism inside the United States which is represented by the very existence of Guantanamo.

He spoke about the nuclear power of Iran which until now no one can assert that it reached the degree to have nuclear power for peaceful purposes, while he ignored the widely-known nuclear power of Israel which has existed for several decades.

Finally, he spoke about development in the Muslim world and methods to improve it, while he can’t help himself to solve the unemployment problem in his country.

Muhammad Al-Amin Al-Nahhas Website editor, Khartoum

One saw in Obama’s speech a difference between the current US administration and the previous one.

He tried to show that the non-West could be an equal peer to the West; there was no sense of superiority.

There was also a sense that he was committed to the ideals he promoted during his electoral campaign, especially the idea of “change”.

It was important that he made clear that not all Muslims are extremists.

He emphasized the importance of Al-Azhar University, a mainly religious institution, as we Muslims see it; a source of enlightment to counter violent extremism.

Obama’s language in discussing the issue of settlements in Palestine seems to indicate a new policy that will address the Palestinian issue, a key issue to the Muslim World. It may not be at the level of our hopes but at least it signals that there is a move forward.

He should have though discussed Darfur in more details in a way that reflects the apparent current changes in US rhetoric toward Sudan. The new US special-envoy to Sudan, Scott Grasion, seems to reflect a new more positive policy towards Sudan.

Obama’s mentioning that Muslims in the US have the right to practice their religion freely seemed like an indirect criticism of other Western countries like France.

Mohammad. Badiul Alam Reporter, Bangladesh

The new beginning must start in USA with a broad -based change in US foreign policy.

The cycle of suspicion and discord has been created by the US foreign department and Administration. The US Administration is dominated by the Jews who are responsible for the conflicts in the world and the mistrust between USA and Muslim world.

The US should take first step to eliminate Jews from its administration and foreign department, then make new beginning in ties with Muslim world.

Mr. Obama said in his speeches that the world is passing through a tense time which is also created by the US.

The US should take proper attention and program to eliminate the tension in the world.

The US should withdraw all soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan and stop any US assistance to Israel to establish peace in the Middle East.

Valiant Mussa, Author, Malawi

His speech is quite remarkable to me. He has touched issues which no body before him has ever dared to address.

In His speech, I get a tone that Obama realizes the mistakes the US made to the Muslim world. He is trying to improve its image which battered in the eyes of Muslims all over the world.

Obama is sending a message to the rest of the Muslim world and the US that it is now time to forget what has happened before and forge ahead towards a path of reconciliation and that time for mistrust was fast nearing its end.

His speech alone is enough to heal the wounds Muslims had at the hands of some US presidents before him.

His speech is heralding a new era in the Muslim world in its relations with the US government.

He is giving us Muslims hope that under his administration, and even beyond, Muslims will not be treated as second class people and Islam, a second class religion.

In his speech, Obama is speaking like a comparative religious scholar and not a politician. It is this approach which gives me hope that one day the US will treat us with respect and recognition, even after Obama leaves the White House.

His Speech has laid the foundation. It is my only hope that whatever he has said will be highly accepted even by us Muslims.

We should now be waiting for nothing but real actions.

IslamOnline.net June 4, 2009

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Muslims' Message to Obama

By IOL Correspondents

MUSLIM CAPITALS – The world is full of anticipation and speculation about US President Barack Obama's long-awaited speech to the Muslim world, to be delivered from Cairo, Egypt, on Thursday, June 4.

But should not Obama first listen to Muslims and their grievances before he develops a new strategy to win them over and improve America's badly-damaged relations with the Muslim world?

With that in mind, IslamOnline.net's correspondents in several countries talked to common Muslims, not politicians or experts, about what they want, not expect, to hear from Obama.

Following are some samples from countries as far as Indonesia in the East, where Obama lived as a child, to Kenya in the black continent, the homeland of his father.

Shams Ali Runs a small medical store in Sultanabad, a slum town of Karachi

Actions speak louder than words. If Obama considers Muslims friends then be their friend. It is easy to say for him that US has great respect for Islam and Muslims, but it is not enough. There must be some quick actions to prove this contention.

The first issue I expect he would touch upon is the issue of Palestine, which is the mother of all problems, and major hurdle between US and the Muslim world. If this issue is resolved on the basis of give and take, I believe 50 per cent of hitches between the two sides would be resolved because the growing militancy in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, and other parts of the world are linked to that issue.

Until and unless the Palestine issue, and other co-related disputes, including Afghanistan, and Iraq are there, Al Qaeda and its associates will have no problem in adding fresh blood to their folder.

The US policy makers must comprehend the fact that it cannot divide Muslims into moderates or extremists on the issue of Palestine.

The second thing I expect from him is to fulfill his promise and work to resolve the lingering Kashmir disputer between Pakistan and India. The two countries have suffered a lot due to this dispute, besides fighting three wars. Both countries are nuclear powers, and the region will remain under a nuclear threat unless this dispute is resolved.

Obama has a golden chance to work to resolve this dispute as the atmosphere in this regard is very much there especially after the two governments have understood that militancy is not in favor of either side.

Muhammed Nasr Abdulqader, 38 Pharmacist, West Bank

I would want to ask him why his administration utterly refrained from denouncing Israel for the rampage of murder and terror which Israel carried out in Gaza recently. Does he think that terror become kosher or benign when committed by Jewish hands?

A few years ago, the US asked us to organize general elections. And when Hamas won the elections, the US boycotted us, blockaded us and starved our people in ways unprecedented in modern history.

The US might argue that Hamas incurred this collective punishment because it refused to recognize Israel. Well, we now have an Israeli government that doesn’t recognize the very existence of the Palestinian people, a government that vows to continue building settlements on occupied territory. So, I would want to know why is it that the US is refraining from punishing Israel for its fascist and anti-peace policies?

I would like to ask Mr. Obama why is it that the US is constantly backing these Arab tyrants who are constantly persecuting their own people by denying them the most basic human rights and civil liberties. Does he really think that human rights and civil liberties in the Muslim world are incompatible with American political and economic interests in this region?

Does he think that embracing these thugs will endear Muslim masses to America?

Mohamed Shaaban, 57 Genitor in a major printing in Cairo

I really want the American President to increase financial aid to Egypt. I think our country is in bitter need of cash. The prices in the market are soaring to unprecedented levels. I can not remember the last time I bought beef for my children. We continue to cut on our diet day after day. Life can not go on forever. I know that the US gives lots of money to Egypt every year. But most of this money does not reach ordinary people on the streets.

At the same time, I want Mr. Obama to be serious about solving the conflict in Palestine. Thousands of Palestinians have been killed so far. Israel is such a brutal power that it has no mercy whatsoever. I see the images of death and destruction on TV and wonder why the world is passively watching.

Saiti Jambo Executive Director of the Muslim Association of Malawi (MAM)

From how we have suffered previously as Muslims, all over the world, Obama should assure the Muslim world that terrorism is an enemy to the US, but the US is not an enemy of Islam. We want him to assure us that Islam, just like other religions in the world will be accorded respect and fair treatment.

In Malawi, we have suffered quite immensely due to the negative attitude of the US towards Islam. We have had some of our Muslim brothers being arrested and flown out of the country in a very dehumanizing experience.

Relations between the Muslim world and the US government have not been quite cordial during the last ten years or beyond. The new leader should tell the Muslim world what is being worked out to heal the rift which has been there.

Mukhtar Adeel, 21 Student, India

President Obama must start his speech with a confession that United States of America has done a major blunder by invading Muslim countries like Afghanistan and Iraq. He must begin the act of conciliation rather than conflict by an acknowledgment of failure. There is no doubt that America has won the battle but lost the war both in Afghanistan and Iraq. Any reform starts a sincere introspection. He must say unequivocally that America, being a civilized country, abhors all kinds of violence; be it State violence or unorganized violence. He must apologize and make it clear that America does not stand for Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay. Both places represent American States’ ‘Talibanisation’. Both are symbols of American extremism. Obama should declare that any kind of extremism is bad.

Obama must make an announcement that he would commission a study titled Why Muslim World hates America? The question may sound rhetorical but it is still very much relevant. Muslim world does not hate Americans; it hates America’s foreign policy. He must make a distinction between the two: America and Americans! The entire Muslim world is witnessing cultural “Americanization” but still they don’t like America! It may come across as a paradox but it is true. Majority of Muslims would love to wear jeans, sip Coke and hog McDonald’s but they would still repulse at the very mention of America! It may sound strange but President Obama must take into account this curious case of love-hate relationship. He must initiate a dialogue with the Muslim world rather than dropping a bomb from B-52.

Abdullah al Shawish, 45 Unemployed, Gaza Strip

I ask Obama not to come and make this speech because, I think, that all the Arabs and Muslims especially the Palestinians are sure of the treason of his country to their rights. It was too clear during the Gaza war when the US tankers were loaded with heavy weapons while the US secretary of state was signing an agreement to fight us. I mean the agreement on fighting weapons smuggling.

Then, what will he say and what kind of good life he will promise? His country sponsors all wars against the Muslims all over the world. Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Pakistan, rebellions in the Sudan, etc… So that, what kind of persuasive speech would he try to use in order to persuade Muslims that he wants to help them and compose alliance against terrorism with them.

I think that it was too clear when his predecessor announced it when he started his attacks against Afghanistan. He said that it is a crusader war. But, unfortunately, there is some Arab and Muslim leaders who are always bowing their necks to the American dictates and carry out what everything they ask them to do.

I am sure that the Egyptian president will hospitalize him in a very strange way, but of course. It is not the same way he hospitalizes the Gaza patients. Then, he will thank him after he had finished his address and see that Obama has prescribed the true and real treatment for the rotten wounds of the Arabs and Muslims.

Al-Hidai Ahmad, 44 Translator from Khartoum

I want Obama to make clear that Islam is not linked to terrorism; terrorism is terrorism anywhere!

He must address the reasons that create what they call terrorism.

There are organizations like Hezbollah [in Lebanon] and Hamas [in Palestine] that are fighting for liberty that should not be called terrorists; fighting an occupation is not terrorism.

Obama is talking about improving relations with the Muslim World: with Iran, Syria and Sudan.

We want him to specify what policies he will implement for improving relations with Sudan, for example, over Darfur.

We know the US has influence in the region. They must address all the elements involved in the Darfur conflict and not blame one side.

They put pressure on the Sudanese government but ignore the other factors involved like the rebel groups, neighboring countries and foreign influence.

We want him to spell out that he realizes the complexities of Darfur.

Adi Guno Editor in a media company, Jakarta

President Obama is very famous here. Many Indonesians know him because he had spent four years in Jakarta when he was in primary school. I hope there is psychological feeling between Obama and Indonesians. I don’t think he would neglect that he had been living among Indonesian Muslims here and I hope it can encourage him to pay favor with Muslims in making policies. So, we Muslims put hopes on his shoulder.

Although he is the leader of the superpower country, Obama is only one element of a big system. He alone could not change the American mindset toward Muslim world. So, I am a bit pessimistic that his upcoming speech in Cairo can immediately transform the way Americans think about Islam.

As a Muslim, I just want America and other western countries to fully understand Islam – not partially. Don’t blame Muslims for every terrorist incident. We wish better live and harmony among the world’s Muslim communities. Please stop dictating other countries and nations while you do what you do not want others to do. America must stop implementing double standards in the name of national interests. You must apply universal principle in dealing with other countries or nations.

Ahmed Hassan Billow, 24 Local resident of Wajir town, Kenya

he Muslim worlds’ image has been tainted by the western nations over the past few decades; I believe Obama should address it so as to forge peace in the world.

There has been a negative perception by the western people majority of who believe or see Islam as a volatile religion when of course it is not. Take for example the issue about terrorism which is most often linked with the Muslim world. This should not be the case any more. Islam is a peaceful religion and it should be respected. And not every western leader who opens his mouth talks about terrorism and Islam.

It is the high time Obama to address the raging conflict between Israelis and the Palestinians; the Americans have been in support of Israelis who are every maiming innocent civilian. Obama should address the American stand on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the US seriousness in ending one of the longest middle-eastern crises. This means the Muslim world believes that the US is not serious about this crisis and president Obama should clarify this to the Muslim populations across the globe.

IslamOnline.net June 3 2009

Monday, June 01, 2009

A Tribute to Kamala Suraiyya

Kamala Das Suraiyya: My strength is my honesty

“Where ever I go, it becomes my home”, Kamala Das Suraiyya, the world renowned-poetess and writer had said in an interview in 2004. The cemetery of Palayam’s Jama Masjid – where she is scheduled to be buried at 8 am today with State honours – will be her new “home” now. She breathed her last in Pune’s Jehangir hospital early on Sunday morning.

Kamala Suraiyya was born in Palghat, Kerala in 1934. She was a woman of integrity and honesty, who had a penchant for writing. She would write for hours after finishing household chores.
“There was only the kitchen table where I would cut vegetables, and after all the plates and things were cleared, I would sit there and start typing,”
she is reported to have said.

Her conversion to Islam in 1999 opened Pandora’s Box. She earned lot of enemies and had to bear criticism. She was bitterly criticised even in literary circles. She remained steadfast in her new-found Faith and retorted back,
“No one came home when I was a Hindu. Islam brought me friends and love. Several poor women and children come to me, they love me and I reciprocate their affections.”
In 2002, a documentary called Malayalathinde Madhavikutty was made on Kamala Suraiyya but fundamentalists threatened the producer and theatre owners of dire consequences if they release the documentary.

Some of her poems generated controversy but Suraiyya stood firm. In one of her poems she wrote,

“If love is a flower, lust is its fragrance. Without love, where is lust and without lust, can life be created?”
When asked about her “controversial” writings, she once said,

“My strength is my honesty. I tell it like it is, I don’t pretend to be saintly. Perhaps that’s why my house gets filled with so many young people. They feel I am speaking the truth because I never hide anything.”
In 2004, responding to her detractors, she said,

“They want me to go to a place of worship and wait for death to arrive. But I’m not ready for death so early. I’m not tired of life. I may have done a lot, but there’s so much left to do. It worries people that I am not frustrated.”
Kamala Suraiyya knew Arabic as well as Urdu. She wrote a prayer book in Arabic in 2002 which was released in Qatar.
“This is the first Arabic prayer book written by a woman.”
She had said then. She learned Urdu because it suited her poetry. “I even learned Urdu, which I think suits my poetry well”, she has said.

Kamala Suraiyya has been the Poetry editor of the Illustrated Weekly of India and editor of Poet magazine. She won many awards including Kent Award for Asian English writing, Vayalar Award for literature. Not many would know that she was nominated for the Nobel Prize for literature in 1984. In 2002, Kerala government conferred Kamala Suraiyya with Ezhuthachan Award recognizing her outstanding contributions to the language and literary world. A Canadian movie company made a film on her. It was about Kamala Suraiyya, the writer, the poetess and her experiences with Islam. Every time renowned linguist and intellectual Noam Chomsky visited India, he made a point to meet Kamala Suraiyya.

Suraiyya was a poet with a philanthropic heart. She ran a charity trust called Lok Seva. She was also patron of Raksha School for children with multiple disorders. As a staunch supporter of purdah, she donned a black burqa.

Kamala Suriyya loved gold jewellery. She used to wear 18 smooth gold bangles on each arm.
“I am keeping them as my gifts to my grand-daughters!”
She once joked.

As a patient of diabetic neuropathy and respiratory disorder, her eyesight almost failed after 2004 but yet she used to dictate poetry.

In the last five years, Suraiyya changed a lot. From a fighter woman, she became a woman of affection. She has said that the only climate she can live in was that of an ocean of friendship and affection.
“If I see someone approaching my house and see criticism and mockery in the tension of their jaw, I refuse to let them in. Time is so rare. I wouldn’t like to waste it on people who don’t love me.”