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Update#2: MM’s 2008 Presidential Elections Post-Mortem: Yes We Can, Insha’Allah

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Updated#2 (Nadim’s input)- The following is the MM’s team thoughts and views on the Elections. After my intro, don’t miss the pieces by Yasir Qadhi, Yaser Birjas, Navaid Aziz, Abdul Nasir, others – Amad

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Comments CLOSED. Time to focus on what the Shayookh said, instead of arguing.

My fellow Muslims, especially my fellow American Muslims, Assalam Alaikum.

We are now passing from election hype to a surreal sense of what just happened in American history– a black man with none of the “required pedigree” taking over the leadership for the most powerful nation in the world. We all know that Obama really had no “business” running for the Presidency as a viable candidate, let alone winning it. But he did, and he nailed a slogan that will go down in history as one of the most genius political creations ever, “Yes, we can”.

What happened on November 4, 2008 will be discussed, argued, and deciphered for ages. The pundits and academics will make a living out of this election for decades to come. So, this “citizen-journalist” won’t bore you much more with more of the same. Rather, I want to take you through a quick journey of politics on MM:

Political discussions on MM have brought out the worst and best among us. We saw the entire spectrum of Muslims commenting on these grounds, from those who wanted Muslims in the West to live as if they were really not living here (i.e. completely divorcing themselves from society), to those who cannot have enough of the American dream, soaking it up as if they were given the keys to Jerusalem.

After we got past the voting-blocK, we heard from both sides of the McCain and Obama camps, truly an opportunity for Muslims to grow beyond sloganeering, and looking at the issues.

I know there are many of you who would prefer an apolitical Islam-only MM, and I respect your desire for that. At the same time, there are many others, including me, who have found this political awakening of sort quite rewarding; what we believe is our own little way of contributing to the Ummah in the West. So, I want to take this opportunity to apologize to the first group for the high-dose of politics over the last few weeks, and want to thank the second group for the encouragement and the support for MM-politics.

A few final thoughts before I leave you with the words of those whose opinions far outweigh mine, in both value and quality.

As I left for work in the morning, my feelings of happiness were all relative: relative to what could have been had it not been Obama. I know that the “Muslim” mistake with Bush in 2000 has been rubbed in at every opportunity. But as Muslims, we learn from our mistakes; we don’t stop trying. And perhaps this is a mistake again, wallahu ‘alam, but I would rather try and make a mistake, than not try at all.

And so, I leave you with two words regarding Obama: cautious optimism. Obama’s choice for Chief of Staff has served well to emphasize the need for caution, and for tempered expectations. Studies in human psychology have shown that a sense of loss is much harder to take than a sense of gain, e.g. losing money that you possessed feels much worse than not gaining the same amount that you were expecting to receive.

I urge you to not put political participation behind you, not to leave it for a short sprint every 4 years. If we continue to depend on political chicken-feed every presidential elections, then we will never get to a point where the politicians will actually start paying attention to us. I cannot but emphasize the importance of involvement in local politics, the city councils, the civic clubs, the school boards, and so on. This is where things happen, and where we can make a difference, and where we can go in with the motto:

“Yes, we can insha’Allah (God-willing)”

And then perhaps by the next election, we will also be able to say,

“Yes, we did mash’Allah (God willed it)”

May Allah forgive me for all my errors.

Your brother, Amad S.

Enough of me, time for the REAL deal…

Yasir Qadhi tells us not to be guilty of hope [Jump to his piece]:

How much more so, then, are we deserving of feeling hope and optimism, when a candidate who WILL directly affect our lives and the lives of millions of people across the world has been elected.

Navaid Aziz, watching from up above (Canada that is), is pleasantly surprised [Jump to his piece]:

Besides all of the hype involved, it was nice to see that American Muslims seem to have a genuine concern for their country and its well being

Yaser Birjas shares a short, but deep thought [Jump to his piece]:

Many people such as Martin Luther King died dreaming for something even less than that, and now here I am living to see some history in the making.

Abdul Nasir Jangda is relieved [Jump to his piece]:

NO MORE SARAH PALIN! Well at least not for a couple of years.

IbnAbeeOmar shares a more interesting story, his struggles between a mother’s order to vote, and a desire not to [Jump to his piece]:

She [mom] said go, the lines are short. I said ok, I’ll see, I have some work to do. A few minutes later she called again.

SaqibSaab, a true Chicagoan at heart, revels in Obama’s ascension, though he treads with caution [Jump to his piece]:

For one, they should’ve had the starting lineup intro for the Chicago Bulls play, with an all-star Chicago “starting lineup”. Oprah, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Kanye West, Michael Jordan, and finally, the man of the hour, Barack Obama.

Abu Bakr doesn’t buy the hype [Jump to his piece]:

I believe in the principle of voting in order to avert the greater of two evils, however I chose not to vote in this election.

Neither does Ahmad Al-Farsi [Jump to his piece]:

I was more afraid of, if I voted for him, thereby endorsing him, and he went off and killed many more Muslims in Afghanistan or Pakistan or elsewhere, that I would feel quite accountable for having voted for him. So, Alhamdulillah, I decided to protest the election by not voting.

Tariq Ahmed (AbuAbdullah-the Houstonian) takes a more philosophical approach [Jump to his piece]:

Take note of the moment in history. As Rome turned the tide against Persia, so America has reached a milestone in its continuing epilogue to the end of slavery in these lands.

Siraaj Muhammad mixes up the optimism and the caution perfectly [Jump to his piece]:

Obama’s victory over McCain last night was an emotional one on many levels. There is now hope at the end of the dark tunnel that was George Bush’s presidency these past eight years

Nadim reminds us to be realistic [Jump to his piece]:

Let’s be realistic, in politics, nothing is what it seems. America has a new leader, but can the winner change the rules of the game?

And finally, here’s a special short one-liner from the other Canadian, AnonyMouse (who also tells us that she checked the news on Obama after brushing her teeth and before breakfast, which is a big deal) :

My summary: Everyone is way too excited, and we’re all going to be disappointed no matter who’s elected… The End :D

signed Zainab bint Younus

Yes, “AnonyMouse” is anonymous no longer. Is this bigger news than Obama winning or what??

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YASIR QADHI

Indeed, all praise is due to Allah, and may peace and salutations be upon the prophets of Allah.

When the Muslims were in Makkah, there was a major war raging in a nearby land; a war that was, relative to its time, of cataclysmic proportion. It was being fought out between the only two super-powers of the era. And even though the Muslims themselves had nothing at stake in that war, even though any win or loss to either side would cause no immediate change in their lives, the Muslims were emotionally attached to one side against the other. Their spirits, their hopes, their optimism, all centered on the army of Heraclius, the emperor of Rome, as he fought against Khusrau Parvez, the King of Sassanid Persia. These early Muslims felt an affinity for the Christian Heraclius as he fought against the fire-worshiping Zoroastrians. So, when the news came that Heraclius had been defeated, the Muslims were in fact dejected, and the pagans of Makkah boasted to the Muslims that their ‘team’ had lost. It was at this occasion that Allah revealed the first few verses of Surah al-Rum, which gave them the optimistic prophecy that even though Heraclius had lost this battle, he would win a future one, in a few years. Many years later, the Prophet wrote a letter to Heraclius, and Heraclius heard the message of Islam. While respectful of it, he did not convert. Throughout this entire time, the Muslims were not reproached or reprimanded for their feelings of hope towards Heraclius and the Roman Empire.

How much more so, then, are we deserving of feeling hope and optimism, when a candidate who WILL directly affect our lives and the lives of millions of people across the world has been elected. For those who wish to make Muslims even feel guilty for this hope, I say that our religion is a religion of optimism and a religion of reality. We should feel optimistic, at all times, and take the best from every situation. And between the two candidates that were running for the highest office in the most powerful country in the world today, it was clear in the eyes of many, which of these two was more inclined to peace, and which was more inclined to war. It was clear who was able to inspire with hope and optimism, and who was more inclined to inspire through fear and hatred of ‘the other’. It was clear who had more intelligence and common sense, and who could not even think clearly enough to choose a qualified running mate.

Make no mistake about it, though. Barack Obama is no messiah, and, as an American political leader, he will inevitably do things that will enrage people around the world, and yes, sometimes even us. But looking at the alternative, in my opinion and the opinion of many in the know, the message was clear: he was the better candidate overall, at this time and place, for Muslims, for America, for the world. And if it so turns out that those who voted for Barack Obama were wrong, well, they can say, in full conscience and with no fear of reprimand, ‘O Allah, this is what was apparent to us when we chose, and only You knew the future and what it held.’

Indeed, we thank Allah who will judge us for the sincerity of our intentions rather than the unintended consequences of our actions.

It is indeed an historic moment for this country, when a black leader, with the middle name of Hussein, the son of an African visitor to this land, raised far away from the bastions of political power, can actually win the highest office. It is an historic moment, and I am proud to have witnessed it. But the election yesterday was not about supporting the persona of Barack Obama as much as it was about the scathing indictment of the previous administration. When people voted yesterday, they voted not for Barack, but against the current administration. Obama did not win because he was Obama, but rather because he was for change. And to me, that is huge reason to be optimistic about this country.

There is much good in America, and we need to channel that good and help it overcome the bad. Keep in mind that while Obama won a resounding victory in the electoral votes, he only had a slight lead in the popular vote (52% to Obama, 46 % to McCain). And while it is overly simplistic and wrong to claim that all those who voted for McCain were supportive of the current administration’s policies, it is not an exaggeration to state that a fairly large percentage of them would be averse to the positive vision of change that Obama claims to want. And that is a scary thought, one that sobers us up the reality, and shows us that there is a lot of work to do ahead.

As an American, I cannot help but feel a sense of joy, a sense of optimism for the future, and the work ahead for all of us. And as a Muslim, I sincerely pray that Allah wants good for this country, and that He places people in power that will bring about that good through them, and through all of us. The Obama campaign might have stopped now, but our campaign as Muslims, in spreading the truth and calling for justice, never stops as long as we remain in this world.

In this moment of elated happiness, when the nation itself seems swept away with the raw emotion of victory, let us remember that true victory is one’s spiritual victory in winning the pleasure of Allah. Let us keep in mind that leaders come and go, nations rise and fall, and one day, after having witnessed much happiness and sorrow, we too shall depart, leaving this world with only our deeds to show.

May Allah make us all beacons of light, calling people to the truth, and being a shining example for others to follow.

Yasir Qadhi
New Haven, CT
Nov 5th, 2008

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NAVAID AZIZ

One of the more appealing Muslim authored articles I stumbled upon during the whole election fiasco was the article written by Br. Zaid Shakir entitled: “Vote for me and I’ll set you free“. Not wanting to focus so much on the content of the article, it basically summarized all the things that the up and coming president would need to say, and more importantly do, to get the affairs of the country in order. What I would like to focus on is the title of the article itself, and how it relates the mindset of the average Muslim American voter.

Now, Br. Shakir may have not necessarily been thinking about the frame of mind of the average Muslim American voter when he wrote the article, but I believe the title is nonetheless very applicable. After having observed all the debates and discussion surrounding the two respective candidates one thing that definitely stuck out, like a sore thumb, was how Muslims actually believed that it was this up and coming president that would change their lives, and basically “set them free.” Now such sentiments are not only understandable, but perhaps also expected after GW Bush’s eight years in power that have left the country in shambles. Amongst all of those sentiments the greater picture faded away and perhaps was even lost. What is that greater picture? You need not look further than the American dollar bill: “In God we trust”. Yes, with a new president comes great hope and possibly great change, but at the end of the day nothing happens except by the will and power of the almighty. So why is it we witnessed debates about which candidate we should vote for, and heard khutbahs about why we need to be more politically aware, yet nowhere in those lengthy sermons and debates did anyone mention putting our trust in Allah and supplicating that He grant victory to the one that will be the most beneficial for Islam and the Muslims in America. The president is just a means. God is the one that controls your fate.

“Over all those endowed with knowledge is the All-Knowing” (12:76)

Not wanting to be a total cynic, I was pleasantly surprised at the interest that Muslim Americans showed during these elections. Besides all of the hype involved, it was nice to see that American Muslims seem to have a genuine concern for their country and its well being. It is such glimpses of hope that allow me to believe that American Muslims will one day unite under a centralized opinion and use that united voice to fight for justice, human rights, and a rectification of domestic and foreign policy. When one is living in a land of democracy, it is only foolish not to make the best of it when one can, while never forgetting that there is no replacement or second to the sharee’ah of Allah.

“And who is better in judgment than Allah for a people who have firm Faith.” (5:50)

May Allah rectify the affairs of Muslims in America and everywhere else, and return this Ummah to the honor and respect it once had.

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YASER BIRJAS

I truly felt more republican on some issues than democrat but couldn’t imagine McCain-Palin in the White House. The only thing that struck me while I was watching both McCain and Obama’s speeches, that I was watching a truly historical event. Many people such as Martin Luther King died dreaming for something even less than that, and now here I am living to see some history in the making.

How positive or negative the impact of this in the future was not really an issue to me at that moment. The issue was to believe that with hard and sensible work, with enduring prejudice and all kind of stereotypes things by the will of Allah can happen. Silence or negativity during those difficult moments of our time were definitely not an option.

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ABDUL NASIR JANGDA

This was a very interesting and important election for many reasons that have been elaborated upon. I found this election to be of special interest to me, primarily due to the thumping the republican party received both locally here in North Texas and of course nationally. We have been suffering locally, nationally, and even worldwide on the republican watch. So it was nice to see them deal with the consequences of their actions and policies.

NO MORE SARAH PALIN! Well at least not for a couple of years. She’s saying she wants to run for president. Looks like Tina Fey doesn’t have to worry about a job. :)

Another point that struck me was how far the African American community has been able to come in half a century, despite all the challenges and adversity they faced. It was fascinating to see how things have developed.

Lastly in deciding whether or not to participate in the voting process, we should remember to be respectful towards each other and treat others the way you would like to be treated.

Allah knows best.

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IBN ABEE OMAR

I have perhaps one of the most interesting journeys of the 2008 election (of the MM staff maybe anyways). I have struggled to some extent with where I stand on voting, ultimately deciding that I was not going to partake in the election. My only reason for participating would be with the premise of choosing which candidate would be better for the Muslim Ummah – if such a conclusion could be reached. While debating the issue of who was really the lesser evil, I could not decide. I feel Obama is better for America, but I don’t know that it translates into who is necessarily best for Muslims everywhere. And while I understand the arguments of those opposing voting on Islamic grounds, I also personally feel that those allowing it in our situation – using the tools available to you to better your situation until you have a better alternative – have the more compelling argument.

While trying to come to grips with who was better for the Muslims, my gut told me Obama was. I could not help shake my guilty conscience though, that still gnaws at me from 8 years ago. If you recall, back then the “Muslim thing to do” was to vote for Bush. I did my civic duty as a Muslim and made sure I voted for him. I have regretted it every day since.

I learned that while it’s important to be involved in society, I concluded that voting didn’t need to be one of the ways – legitimate an option for us it may be. I realized that I simply could not identify the lesser of two evils simply based on campaigning and empty stances on canned issues, especially when despite Obama’s anti-war stance he is still anti-Palestine. Therefore, I decided to abstain from voting in this election, as I did in the previous election.

Then, in the span of 30 minutes, everything got turned upside down. Parents have a tendency to do that. My mom, of all people, called me while I was working asking me if I had voted. I said no. She said go, the lines are short. I said ok, I’ll see, I have some work to do. A few minutes later she called again. I again made some excuse. Then she called a third time, and I said I would see about it after going to the Masjid – except this time she got frustrated and said to go ahead and go now and not to miss out.

I am now in what you might call a predicament, a conundrum of sorts. She’s not ordering me with something I consider to be blatantly haram, and having an argument with my parents about voting is not my idea of a nice evening at home. So I said khayr, I will obey my mother and go out and vote. Birr al-walidayn overrides an issue of ijtihad such as this in my mind (I have a tendency to create fatwa situations in real life that others would never even think of hypothetically).

The story doesn’t end there. I walk in and feel uncomfortable just being there. I made a quick du’a, something along the lines of being guided to whatever was going to be best for me in my affairs. I go to the table, whip out my registration card, and hand it to them. My registration card is from around 1999-2000 (wow I feel old). My name is not in their list. The address on my card was from when I lived at home and was going to college. No problem they said, they’d find where I could go vote and started checking my previous address. That didn’t help much because in the last 5 years I have moved probably 4 times, including a 2 year stint in another state. And that’s what got me. My registration expired while I was in the other state, and the post office is not allowed to forward mail for voter registration, so I never received my renewal notice. My ‘civic duty’ when I moved back to my present state would have been to re-register as a resident of the state and be eligible to vote. So I re-registered, but I was not allowed to vote today. So Alhamdulillah, I made my mom happy, and I feel at ease for not voting for someone that I might regret later.

As I write this, Obama looks like a run-away winner. I’m happy that he won as opposed to McCain, but what I have learned from 2000 is not to get too excited. Make dua’ for the Ummah, it’s much more important. I pray that Allah (swt) makes our affairs easy here, puts barakah in our dawah efforts, makes it easy for us to combat the negativity spread about us here, and saves the Muslims from the disasters we have seen abroad in the past 8 years.

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SAQIBSAAB

As a Chicagoan, it was something else to see Obama take the victory right in my own home city. I knew people who went to Grant Park for his victory speech and even saw some Muslims I knew on TV. This election and the events that led up to it were truly something else. On a humorous note, my wife and I jokingly kinda wished they would’ve increased the “Chicagoness” of the celebration. How so? For one, they should’ve had the starting lineup intro for the Chicago Bulls play, with an all-star Chicago “starting lineup”. Oprah, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Kanye West, Michael Jordan, and finally, the man of the hour, Barack Obama. The bench would consist of Common, Derick Rose, Roger Ebert, Mike Ditka, Al Bundy, Bill Murray, Lupe Fiasco, the Perfect Strangers, Steve Urkel, Christian Bale as Batman from The Dark Knight, okay now I’m just getting carried away.

As a recent college graduate looking for a job in a recession, I’m both relieved the republican party of McCain lost and the democratic Obama team took the stage. As Imam Suhaib said, Obama’s more about socializing the benefits for the masses, not privatizing them. I personally like Obama’s constant focus on the middle to lower class of America and not on supposed plumbers making $250,000+ a year.

As a Muslim, I have two feelings. Firstly, I’m relieved McCain and Sarah Palin weren’t elected. Besides the fact that Palin is a walking embodiment of epic fail, their campaign carried a lot of blatant much anti-Muslim baggage. I’m glad the likes of Gayle Quinnell, the McCain supporter that didn’t trust Obama because he was “an Arab,” won’t have any more say in things than they deserve.

The other feeling I have is of concern for all Muslims in their support for Barack Obama. Most Muslims I know voted and supported Obama, either on the basis of his superior domestic policies or the negative characteristics of McCain and his ilk. Obama’s the candidate who explicitly stated supporting the closing of Guantanamo Bay. That, amongst other reasons, is why we can consider him a lesser of two evils. However, I really advise us Muslims to take Obama’s victory with a grain of salt.

Obama has stated he wants to send forces into Pakistan, as well as increase focus in Afghanistan. This is very worrisome for me as a Muslim, because with the way US Foreign policy goes, invading primarily Muslim lands has been nothing short of disastrous.

So while we may get excited and get somewhat emotional of having the candidate we voted for win, I want to remind everyone that Barack Obama is not perfect. He is not a savior or Mehdi for us, and he is not our avenue for sole trust in all affairs. He’s a human being, and a politician at that. Therefore, he is going to make mistakes. Better to believe this now, and remember it when conflicts between the US’ interests come between ours, especially on a foreign level.

We ask Allah protect us and bring us justice.

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ABU BAKR IBN NASIR

I believe in the principle of voting in order to avert the greater of two evils, however I chose not to vote in this election. The following are my concerns about Obama:

  1. It seems he will be continuing the war in Iraq for the foreseeable future.
  2. He is pro-Israel.
  3. He is indicated his readiness to expand the Afghanistan war into Pakistan.
  4. On the domestic front, he approved the Patriot Act.

I would honestly like to believe that with a Democratic Congress and President, there will be an improvement on the civil rights front, but the Democratic Party has been complicit in the gross civil rights violations of the Bush Administration.

I hope I am wrong and that the two wars come to an end soon, but I think that the ongoing economic troubles in the US and the tenacity of the military insurgencies in Afghanistan and Iraq will have more to do with it than the election of Obama.

I think if the economic troubles continue to grow, the government will be under more and more pressure from the public to end the war. This would be a dilemma however for Muslims in America because the public will also be more receptive to anti-Muslim demagoguery of the sort that has already been seen in many European countries.

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AHMAD AL-FARSI

For a while before the election, I was seriously contemplating voting for Obama, simply because I was quite scared of what McCain would do to the Muslim world, were he to be elected. However, as days got closer to the election, I began to think to myself that, in spite of his rhetoric, Obama probably would not be that different from the status quo. Sure, he said he wants to end the war in Iraq (and I’m not sure if I even trusted him on this one), but he said that in conjunction with saying that he will re-double the military effort in Afghanistan, which implies North Pakistan as well. In addition, hearing Joe Biden’s excessive drooling over Israel, and Obama’s approval (and many times outright praise himself), made me think that basically, although we might see SOME slight improvements under Obama, things would basically stay the same.

At the end of the day, I was not really 100% convinced that Obama would be the lesser evil… maybe 50% sure, but not sure enough to give my endorsement… and I was more afraid of, if I voted for him, thereby endorsing him, and he went off and killed many more Muslims in Afghanistan or Pakistan or elsewhere, that I would feel quite accountable for having voted for him. So, Alhamdulillah, I decided to protest the election by not voting. To those who would criticize my action as “inaction,” I remind that in many countries, people purposely do not vote as a way of voicing their disapproval of the system, and as a way of showing that whoever is elected does not hold the support of the people. Sure, that lack of support did not occur from Americans this election cycle (as people came out in record numbers), but it occurs from the individual, Ahmad AlFarsi, who refused to show his support for either candidate. I think if Ron Paul, or someone who held his non-interventionist views on foreign policy, were running, I would have voted for that candidate.

Although I did not vote, as I did not wish to give my official endorsement, I was closely following the results of the election, still hoping that McCain would lose. I don’t have a TV, so I followed on CNN.com. I saw Pennsylvania go Obama, then Ohio, and saw that he had 207 votes without counting any of the west coast states, so at that point I knew he had it in the bag. When CNN officially announced that Obama won, despite my serious doubts about him, I couldn’t help but feel happy… if for no other reason, then simply because a presidency by a man named Barack Hussein Obama, who has three very foreign sounding, and two Arabic names, would mean that no matter how racist or prejudiced other Americans wanted to be, they would have to swallow the fact that their president has the middle name Hussein and has close family ties to Muslims, and that his name doesn’t sound white or European in the least bit. That in and of itself, is seen by me as form of progress in this country, and it’s a true, “in your face” to all the racist rednecks that still live here. Of course, I’m still hoping that the ultra-right wingers were correct, and that Obama has been a closet Muslim this whole time… who knows, Insha’Allah, on inauguration day, maybe he will pick up the mic, and begin his speech with “Inna al-hamdalillaah, nahmaduhu wa nasta’eenuhu wa nastaghfiruh…” :) too bad that’s not happening … unless we start giving him some serious dawah starting now… get his half-brother Malik Obama in on this, Insha’Allah :)

As a side note, I do have one criticism of Muslim groups that have been advocating Muslim voting. I believe that at times it is being done in such a way that an average Muslim who knows little about his religion will be misled into thinking that secular democracy is legitimate from an Islamic point of view. We should be able to advocate voting, while still mentioning the disclaimer that we do not believe that secular democracy is Islamically-legitimate form of government for Muslims; rather, we are only picking the lesser evil. wa Allahu a’lam.

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T. AHMED

Innalhamdolillah. There is no deity worthy of worship other than Allah. The Lord of Abraham and Isaac. The Lord of Moses and Jesus. The Lord of Muhammad and of every human being. May prayers and blessing be on all the Prophets of Allah.

Indeed Allah is the One Who Rewards, and He is the One Who Advances and the One Who Delays. And Allah does no injustice, ever, to anyone. Allah has taught us in the Qur’an that the wakeels of those who defy Him, the ones in whom the ingrates place their trust, are false idols. While Allah is the One on Whom believers rely. But more than that, Allah is our Mawla, the One Who Can Act on our behalf, while the disbelievers who call on other than Him, have no one to answer them. Yet Allah answers the prayers of anyone who calls on the Lord alone.

The Prophet salallahu alahi wasalam taught us that no one knows what future Allah has Decreed for him until he witnesses it, so a person must strive all the time for what is good and place his trust in Allah. That is tawakkul, that is reliance on Allah: striving combined with trust. Verily, the Prophet taught the truth, Alhamdulillah.

So there is no people on earth who should believe more than Muslims that righteous works will be rewarded. And there is no people on earth who should be more steadfast in good works than the Muslims. So how is it that we are a people who constantly say what cannot be done? We have become a people in need of a reminder.

Allah does not disdain to use even a mosquito as an example. And He has used mighty nations who were in Kufr as examples to all the Muslims, and I remind you now of the Surah revealed about the Romans. How Allah told of the loss that Byzantine Rome was suffering against the armies of the Persian Empire. The example is important for us for many reasons: the Muslims were disheartened at the plight of the Romans because the Muslims loved the Christians who also worshipped Allah. And the idolaters of Makkah who persecuted the Muslims were glad for the Persians who were also engaged in shirk, taking false deities besides Allah.

And in that surah, Allah uplifted the Muslims with the foretelling of a Roman victory in the years to come. That bears highlighting, too, Allah uplifted the Muslims with a Promise of victory for the Christian empire.

So, I pray that Allah will accept my joy for America on the occasion of the outcome of its Presidential Election.

In electing a black man, the son of a black Kenyan Muslim and a white Kansan Christian, America has done something good. Something on the scale of the defeat of Persia by Rome. And all Muslims should take note, and take heart.

Take note of the accomplishment. A man whom other black politicians had judged as brash for wanting to seek the office he has now won, did not constantly seek out reasons for failure. He sought out the means to succeed. Did he call out to Allah, perhaps by other names such as “God”? I do not know, and only Allah Knows. And I do not want any of the rights of Allah, among them Allah’s Sovereign Right as Lord of All Creation to dispense sustenance, victory, and acclaim to Whomever He Wills. Verily Allah Does as He Pleases, and for me is only to accept His Will with humility.

Take note of the moment in history. As Rome turned the tide against Persia, so America has reached a milestone in its continuing epilogue to the end of slavery in these lands. America was torn apart by a Civil War largely over chattel slavery, which in America had become the most vile incarnation of slavery in history. Before the Civil War, the Supreme Court of the United States in Dred Scott v. Sanford would declare that slaves were not people. And a president from Illinois would emancipate all the slaves. And one hundred years after that president was assassinated, an iconic black preacher would be assassinated for continuing to dream of racial equality in America. We are now some 400 years after the first Africans were brought to Colonial America, and a descendant of their free cousins in Kenya has been elected President of the United States because he and millions of Americans never gave up hope.

Take heart. For Allah has given us an example of His willingness to reward the persistence of hope, and our hope is in Allah. As Muslims, we must never forget the lessons of our Lord. And we must always strive to do what is good. Take heart from the victory of this nation over its own worst demons, and commit yourselves as I do myself to increasing justice for Muslims and all peoples in every corner of the world.

And always, always remember, with the Mercy of Allah, yes, we can.

__________________________________

SIRAAJ MUHAMMAD

When I began watching the primary debates what seems like ages ago, I made two picks, one for the Democrats and one for the Republicans – I believed this race would be between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, the two most telegenic and oratorically formidable candidates in the race, not to mention strongly competent on the issues facing the nation.

What I did not anticipate were the obstacles both candidates would face about their backgrounds and positions, nor did I properly estimate John McCain’s resilience and wider appeal to moderates as I had thrown him in with the rest of the neo-cons due to his position on the Iraq War. Obama persevered and Romney fell, while McCain found new life away from what is often called “The Base”.

Obama’s victory over McCain last night was an emotional one on many levels. There is now hope at the end of the dark tunnel that was George Bush’s presidency these past eight years. A non-caucasion was finally president, and one could not help but feel emotional watching so many black americans in tears.

Listening to McCain’s concession speech, I thought to myself, had this man speaking now been the one running the race throughout, respectfully and dignified, rather than the gnashing at the teeth campaign reminiscient of George Bush’s Rove run campaigns, he most likely would have faired better and perhaps even won.

And Obama’s speech…that was one for the books (and youtube replays). It struck the right chord at a time when people are so desparately in need to believe that whatever challenges they face now, they have an opportunity to rise to the occasion and do and be better than they had been these past 40 odd years.

One final note of caution – though I’m sure you’ll have read many posts already on being wary of Obama, I would additionally add that Muslims now more than ever have to be vigilant of their interests domestically and globally. The Muslim community supported Bush precisely because it viewed Clinton and his actions in the way we are now viewing Bush (Iraq sanctions, Afghanistan sanctions, etc). The democrats are now the majority in the House, the Senate, and of course, they run the White House as well. My experience has been thus far that it is always good to have a balance between the two parties rather than an imbalance, otherwise, the government abuse runs rampant, and we do not want Muslims to be one of the casualties as a result of that.

__________________________________

NADIM

Obama has turned a page in the American history. He was able to get people united around a central simple idea: yes, we can change the world, if we want to. Above all the debates of ideas and political readiness, Obama has embodied the power of the will. However, let’s not fool ourselves by the euphory of the moment. The first Afro-American President in the history must also have taken some positions against his owns, change some of his ideals, work with the dark side to be where he is today. Let’s be realistic, in politics, nothing is what it seems. America has a new leader, but can the winner change the rules of the game? I doubt…

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In The Name of God: A Communal Rupture Sowed By Communal Legacy

At one point of time, there used to be a mosque in Ayodhya. It stood tall and lofty for 470 long years, until a mob of extremist Hindu fanatics came at it with axes and pickets and razed it to the ground. Stemming from the popular belief that it was the birthplace of the mythological figure of the warrior Hindu god called Ram, the act was carried out for the future construction of a temple devoted to him, and one that had to be erected at the same spot where the 16th century mosque had existed for so long. 

“All we need for the betterment of life is Lord Ram, and there is no survival without Lord Ram”.

The supporters of the Ram Janmabhoomi cause kept reiterating this loud and clear in Anand Patwardhan’s documentary film Ram ke Naam (In The Name of God), that still serves as the single-most myth busting source centred round the whole dispute. But this very claim itself is based on partial accounts that stem from loose historicity, as depicted in the footage.

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On December 22 1949, Lord Ram was said to have appeared in the dream of a priest in Ayodhya, who along with a few other men installed an idol of the god inside the mosque in the dead of night. The film tracked down one of the priests who had participated in the plan, and identified him as Mahant Ramsevak Das Shastri. He claimed that the erstwhile district magistrate K.K. Nayar was also an organiser of this act and had ensured that Shastri and the others accused were released on bail. Although generally identified as the first breach of communal trust that gradually gave rise to the whole dispute, in truth, this religious fundamentalism has its roots running deeper than most of us fully grasp or acknowledge. 

Even at present, about a dozen places in India and Nepal claim to be the potential birthplace of Ram and there is no consensus among Hindu scholars and historians regarding the same. Ayodhya has been housing many Ram temples since the 19th century, and incidentally, quite a lot of them had claimed to be the birthplace of Lord Ram at one point of time or the other. After the construction of the Babri Masjid in 1528 by the Mughal emperor Babur, historic records show that the first instance of communal riots in the area was not before 1855. Sunni Muslims clashed with Bairai Hindus in the area claiming that the temple of Hanumangarhi (for the Hindu mythological figure Lord Hanuman) was built where once stood an already demolished mosque. Nawab Wajid Ali, the then ruler of Ayodhya promptly intervened and made peace, but not before the incident caught the attention of the colonial overlords. This took place just two years prior to the Great Revolt of 1857. It was the first known pan-Indian unified struggle for independence, and one that was founded upon the Hindu-Muslim unity which had been turning into a growing threat for the ruling East India Company. And of all the temples claiming to be the holy birthplace of Lord Ram, the British chose a mosque having Mughal origins to be the designated one for spreading the rumour that Babur had constructed it after destroying what was once a temple housing Lord Ram’s original birthplace. 

As this notion started gaining momentum, the British installed a fence on the premise, which led to an arrangement that had the Muslims praying inside the inner court and the Hindus being allowed to use the outer courtyard. This communal understanding and secular practice went on and in peace till 1949, until the breach orchestrated by Nayar occurred. 

The 1949 breach then led to communal rifts, which was followed by the mosque being sealed. This marked the beginning of how those in power have been manipulating the masses for centuries, either for ensuring a vote bank, or being mostly fueled by a blind sense of religious fanaticism that made them feel empowered over other religions. 

Repeated petitions were filed to open the locks and allow namaz inside the mosque. While the inner court was kept out of bounds, puja was allowed to be carried out in the outer courtyard. As many as four suits were filed between 1950 and 1961 asking for the restoration of the Muslims’ right to pray, none of which were heeded. Twenty years later, the Sunni Waqf Board finally filed a suit for complete possession of the site, and the one which turned out to be the final blow. Hindu groups in turn formed a committee to protect their rights, and the plan to construct the Ram temple was spearheaded, causing the Ram Janmabhoomi movement gaining momentum like never before, with erstwhile Bharatiya Janata Party (B.J.P.) member L. K. Advani giving leadership to the same. 

It was no less than a “political game”, according to the court appointed priest Laldas, who was charged with tending to the Ram idol after the mosque was sealed. During his tenure from 1983 to 1992, he was known to have been critically vocal against the whole Ram Janmabhoomi movement and the premeditated conspiracy that was growing around Babri at that time. He was removed from service 9 months prior to the demolition act and was found to be shot dead a year later under mysterious circumstances. 

“BJP does not believe in Ram, only in hatred…the Hindu Parishad members have never made a single offering or prayed at the temple even once,” he had told Patwardhan during an interview clip in the documentary. 

Surprisingly, none of the subjects that Patwardhan approached in the film knew exactly when Lord Ram was born, or at least even in which century. Not the poor tanner squatting on the ground, not the first year law student brandishing a sword before the march to Ayodhya and not even the saffron clad priest inside the air conditioned Toyota van. But all of them were unwaveringly certain in their belief that Ram’s birthplace was none other than Babri, and how it has been a known fact for many years. 

It was December 6, 1992 that witnessed the right wing mobilisation movement carry out the act of political vandalism quite unparalleled in the modern world, leading to subsequent communal riots, and a massacre which the country has not completely recovered from since. Babri was destroyed. 

Twenty seven years, varying heartbeats, deadly communal violence acts and the loss of about 5,000 odd lives later, the landmark justice on the Ram Janmabhoomi dispute was delivered. 9th November 2019 was a date that meant too much to too many people. It was a day that either meant the end to so many years of rioting, divisibility and cut-throat communalism, or a further tint in the already widening secular fabric of the nation. 

2019 was also the year that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was sworn in for a second term and had implemented a number of administrative decisions that gave BJP’s Hindu supremacist ideology a new momentum and utmost urgency. One of the first things that he did after taking office was revoke the Article 370 of the Indian Constitution on August 5, 2019, which had so far granted the internationally disputed Muslim dominated region of Kashmir a special status independent of Indian jurisdiction. The abrogation allowed Kashmir to be reinvaded by a strong Indian military, annexed to the Indian subcontinent and put under complete curfew with an internet blackout. And exactly one year later, Prime Minister Modi is about to lay the foundation stone for the newly constructed Ram temple in Ayodhya on the site of the demolished mosque on August 5, 2020, as thanks to the landmark verdict on the decades-spanning historic wound that has completely redefined the politics of the country, the forces responsible for the demolition had found themselves in complete legal possession of the land. 

For many blinded by irrational faith and hyper nationalism, the judgement reinstated the inherent vice of fanatic Hindutva ideology in the sense that their religion is all superior, and one that fuels the necessity to construct the Ram temple at the very spot of the Babri Masjid. But to others still believing in the idea of the independent India that awoke at the stroke of the midnight hour on 15th August 1947, the judgement could have very well been a bigger, and more dangerous rupture in the democratic and secular pillars of the country than the actual act of the demolition itself. 

The current chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, who was charged with overseeing the construction of the temple had gone on record as early as 2017 during a pre-election campaign to promise a Ram Mandir

Agar Samajwadi Party jeetegi to Karbala-kabristan banega, jabki Bhajapa ki Sarkar banegi toh Ayodhya mein Ram mandir banega.

30 years ago it was L.K. Advani who had promised that Mandir wahi Banega and today, it is Yogi Adityanath, the third face in line on the saffron political firmament, who is delivering on this promise.

Vikas Pathak, who is a professor at the Asian College of Journalism in Chennai, said that this is Hindutva’s true and unalloyed form, one that was supposedly hidden beneath layers of political exigencies for so many years leading up to this. This claim is further supported by an independent multimedia journalist in Kashmir, who said he feels the same due to the obvious choice of the date of inauguration. Requesting to be anonymous, he expressed his thoughts on how this is more of a planned move than a mere coincidence, and one which gives out a clear message.

The fact that it’s happening on the anniversary of the repeal of Kashmir’s autonomy, accentuates the importance that the Modi government places on its aggressive pursuit of a Hindu nationalist agenda”, also augmented Michael Kugelman in his comment on the matter. He is senior associate of the Wilson Center and the deputy director of its Asia Program. 

Just like Jai Shree Ram, this Mandir agenda too had been normalised into one which sounded like a clarion call for battle. In Patwardhan’s film, an unnamed Congress politician held a campaign where he asked the Vishwa Hindu Parishad that if indeed a Ram temple should be built, why could it not be anywhere else in the city, as Ayodhya is such a large place. 

“I am amazed at this stubbornness that they will build the temple at the very same spot! And that too, only after destroying the mosque… He (Advani) can easily build a temple anywhere in Ayodhya, but please do not insist that this can only be possible by demolishing an existing mosque. I want to promise that the temple will most definitely be built, but the mosque must also remain.”

As we went on to see in the film, and even twenty seven years down the line, it was firmly decided that Mandir wahi banega, and one existing holy site was destroyed to give rise to another. Come November 2019,  the temple plan gets sanctioned by the Supreme Court of India as well, ironically granting the Sunni Waqf board an alternate piece of land to construct their mosque instead.

While the 5-judge bench lay claim to the demolishing act accepting it as a crime, and while they also accepted that the installation of the idols inside the mosque was an act of desecration, it also gave the land over to those who desecrated it at the same time. A judge on the bench had called it “one of the most important cases in the world,” but when the perpetrators of what the Supreme Court has openly identified as a crime find themselves to be the main beneficiaries of the judgement, it brings to question how just the verdict actually is.

Quite bizarrely, the court had declared that while there was some evidence of Hindus worshipping on the disputed site, no such documentary evidence could be found in the case of Muslims until before 1857. 

“The mosque was built in 1528, and the area was under Mughal occupation till 1722. Then it was ruled by Nawabs, and finally annexed by the British in 1856. It must be self-evident that during this entire period of being under Muslim rule, Muslims were offering namaz inside the mosque and not the other way round”, said a Kashmiri student currently studying at Jadavpur University in Kolkata on the condition of anonymity, adding how such a reasoning based on “balance of probabilities” as one of the reasons to give it to the Hindu side is itself one of inequality. 

On the other hand, the judgement also referred to a 574 pages long report published by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) 15 years ago, which claimed that Babri Masjid was not built on vacant land. Reading the unanimous judgement and considering the report valid on the assurance of being scientifically tested, Chief Justice of India, Ranjan Gogoi who was leading the bench said: 

“There was a structure underlying the disputed structure. The underlying structure was not an Islamic structure.”

While the court relied heavily on this ASI report, independent archaeologists who observed the site on behalf of the Sunni Waqf board differed entirely with the ASI findings. While the six month long court ordered investigation did reveal the existence of an underlying structure beneath the mosque, eminent archaeologists Supriya Varma and Jaya Menon believe that the evidence collected on their part do not support the claims made by ASI. 

Their report read: “underneath the Babri, there existed older mosques.” 

They further added that even if the underlying structures were not of Islamic origin, they closely resembled Buddhist stupas at the most, and in no way anything remotely close to a Hindu temple. This particular claim is in turn also supported by the archaeological surveyor Alexander Cunningham, who was the first individual to survey Ayodhya (around 1862-63), and was known for his interest in tracking down and identifying places associated with Buddhism.

Had India as a country boasted of a very robust and strong judicial institution, such an incident would not have been dragged all the way from 1949 to 2019, let alone pave the way to constructing a temple on the disputed land. December 6, 1992 should have been permanently brought an end to it with strict actions being taken against the perpetrators. While the B.J.P. indeed is directly linked to the whole incident, the Congress government led by Rajiv Gandhi allowed the locks to be opened in the 1980s. Following the demolition, the Congress Prime Minister Narsimha Rao allowed them to get away with the violence in 1992. And in 2019, the Supreme Court judges have done the same. 

Ayodhya, for more than a quarter of a century, had been turned into a place of cynical and political revanchism. And thrust between this politics of a loosely manufactured historicity aiming to upend the Republic of secularism by replacing it with a system running on Hindutva ideology, were those that represented what India truly stands for. Of the numerous subjects that Patwardhan interviewed, both Hindus and Muslims, most of them unanimously awaited, and wanted peace. Something that was so easy to understand for someone who lived a simple life of an ironmonger, belonging to the low Bishkarma caste, was at the same time completely unimaginable to those amassing trucks and weapons to demolish the mosque:

“Once it exists, it is wrong to break. If someone tried to break our temple, would we allow it? We’d say go build your mosque elsewhere.”

Zahir Adil, the lead on Save India From Fascism Project of the human rights organization Justice For All also expressed a similar sentiment, saying how he would have actually welcomed it if the temple was not built after illegally destroying a historic mosque. 

“Apart from being a day that RSS criminals are rewarded with a new temple after perpetuating systemic violence in India, 5th August 2020 also goes down in history as the day that the words Jai Shree Ram will be displayed in the iconic Times Square as the Prime Minister will lay the foundation stone for a Ram Temple on the site of the demolished mosque”, informed Masood Rab, spokesperson of Coalition of Americans for Pluralism in India (CAPI). It is one among the coalition of organizations that  have refused to carry forward the programming by the pro-Modi group in Times Square. 

The RSS, or the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, being the parent organization of the current ruling party in India has its roots in pre-Independence times and were also known for openly supporting Hitler’s Nazi agenda. They were banned as many as four times when India was ruled by the national Congress, but it has now become the de-facto power under BJP rule, with Modi himself being a known RSS member. 

Indian American Muslim leaders, as well as human rights organizations, having categorically denounced this display of religious bigotry has called for a day long protest in the iconic Times Square from 8 AM, asking for this display of vehement arrogance to be stopped. Those like Adil and Dr. Shaik Ubaid (President of the Indian Minorities Advocacy Network) have also expressed concern on how the proponents of this fascist ideology have become so confident that they are celebrating an illegal and bloody act in the middle of Times Square, and for the entire world to see. But others like Kugelman expect, and have pointed out that while there will be messages in Times Square blaring out communal rhetoric, there may also be messages expressing solidarity for Kashmiris.

“It is perhaps fitting, in this globalized era, if the incredibly polarizing Kashmir issue plays out under the bright lights of Times Square”, said Kugelman over a brief electronic conversation, but added how this juxtaposition is also extremely divisive within the country on the whole.

The mandatory in this case seems more like a political campaign trick than anything to do with actual Hinduism, and essentially a symbiotic Displace perpetrated by a fascist government.

It wouldn’t be wrong to say that this could be the rise of divisive Hindu supremacy as never seen before. In all its entirety, the day of August 5, 2020 marks the end of an era and the possible beginning of a new one. It detriments the idea that our founding forefathers had envisioned for the nation, and while we may not like it at the same time, this is essentially a new India that is emerging for everyone to see – one that is a land of strident Hindutva and religious dissonance at the forefront. 

LINK to the documentary: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GMT18TMNQbY

 

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#Current Affairs

The Perennial Siege: Kashmir’s Tense Lockdown Anniversary

A year after the revocation of Article 370—special status of the valley, Kashmir continues to be under security lockdown, intermittent internet restrictions, almost negligible functioning of education system, amid reports of continuous detentions and across-the-board human rights violations.

Two-day curfew has been imposed in Indian-administered Kashmir in anticipation of containing any form of dissent ahead of the 5 August anniversary—the day Indian government stripped Kashmir of its special status. Officials say the curfew is meant to prevent violence by groups planning to observe 5 August as “black day”.

On August 5 2019, the state was split into two federally administered regions and its semi-autonomous status was revoked. The decision to revoke article 370—part of Indian constitution that guaranteed Kashmir special status—an action with potentially devastating consequences for Kashmiri identity and community was met with anger and feeling of betrayal in the region although it was widely welcomed in the rest of the country. In preparation for this, it put Kashmir into a complete lockdown at midnight on Aug. 4, 2019. Eight million Kashmiris were restricted in their homes. In-an-effort to impose a complete communication blockade, internet connections were cut, and phone connections were terminated.

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Everything seems to have come to a halt, and the past experiences have begun to conjure the images of unprecedented violence. Since the revocation or illegal annexation of Kashmir on August 5, the betrayed and besieged population, including me, treated like a prisoner in a forsaken paradise on earth, continue to mourn India’s deceptively organized virulent manifestation of democracy. The fact-finding report, Women’s Voice, counters the state narrative of “return to normalcy,” indicating that 13,000 boys and young men were detained illegally after August 5, including some as young as 14, with some imprisoned for up to 45 days, and with families paying as much as 60,000 rupees ($850) for their release

Kashmiris, however, saw their integration as a threat to the state’s ethnic character, and a milestone on the road to the realization of the BJP’s dream of a fundamentally Hindu nation. Many legal commentators decried the Indian government’s unilateral abrogation as “illegal,” calling it an “unconstitutional deed,” which was “accomplished by deceitful means” (Noorani 2019). 

The Problem oF Kashmir

A brief context of the conflict offers a perspective to understand the problem of Kashmir. “The world is reaping the chaos the British Empire sowed,” Amy Hawkins wrote in Foreign Policy, and “local populace is still paying for the mess the British left behind in Hong Kong and Kashmir.” The anti-colonial uprisings in the Indian subcontinent, China, the Arab world and elsewhere did not result in freedom or democracy for the nations ruled by the British Empire”. In Kashmir, the British left a bleeding wound amid the partition of colonial India. Kashmir in post-partition and to be more succinct, post-1947 emerged as a boiling pot from the cultivation uterus of the two-nation theory.

Since then, Kashmir is known to be the most heavily militarized zones in the world. More than 7 million soldiers have been deployed, as per the reports, to counter what the Indian army itself claims as “cross-border terrorism”. This myth has been busted time and again because of the actions of the Indian government in the last three decades. If there were any doubts earlier, they should have cleared by now. Their real enemy is the Kashmiri people, especially “Kashmiri Muslims”, the hindrance in the way of turning India into a “Hindutva nation” claims Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan in 2019 U.N. general assembly speech.

India’s decision to abolish the state’s nominal autonomy last year is the most far-reaching move in the region in the last 70 years and has been pushed by the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) as a development-focused action to “mainstream” the only Muslim-majority state in the subcontinent. While the government —which justified the shutdown as “preventive” — and the leading Indian media outlets are propagating an image of the region as slowly returning to “normalcy”, the reality on the ground, as documented by the New York Times, is very different. 

Kashmir continues to simmer under the siege.

Post 5—August SiegeAnd  Defiance

This season’s siege is more crushing than ever, possibly the worst since the first one nearly 30 years ago, a stratagem designed carefully to humiliate an entire population. There is also an unwavering manifestation of defiance, as by now the Kashmir street is sufficiently educated politically to not pin its hopes on an infusion of benevolence in the government’s Kashmir policy or any practical outcome from the partial solidarity from the international community. The mass arrests, in thousands, including minors and pellet victims [including a cancer patient] holding 7 million populations under eight hundred thousand jackboots has unveiled the façade of Indian democracy. 

“No government in the world has blocked Internet access as frequently as India. An incredible 213 times in just three years”, reports Time Magazine, “which is far more than Syria, Iran, Turkey, and Egypt together”. And more than half of those shutdowns have been enforced on Kashmir—is that because, questions Abid (PhD scholar, Dept. of political science department, Kashmir University) “of the special (autonomous) status Kashmir “enjoyed” in the larger Indian union? Will they also ban clean air, now that the special status has been erased?” 

Picking out promising adolescents; sometimes old men and even women, they branded them, as with batons and red-hot irons, to forcefully teach them how to behave. Abid Khan, 28, and Idrees, 29 from Shopian district in South Kashmir were raided in the middle of the night, tortured for hours by dozens of army men. Khan says he was dragged out and blindfolded along with his brother, who has learning difficulties, on August 14. “They gave electric shocks to my brother on the road outside our home. I heard him scream painfully,” quoted in AFP story, showing marks on his arms, legs and buttocks. Khan said. “Then they gave me electric shocks again on my genitals and wounds. One of them said ‘I will make you impotent’.” On September 13, Irshad Ahmed, a 12-year-old boy from neighboring Buchpora, Srinagar, suffered a serious head injury. His hospital registration card noted that it was a ‘fire-arm injury’, adding the word “alleged”. Those accompanying him said he had been hit by a cluster of pellets in his head. The bar has been raised so high for all forms of political dissent, and the detentions, numbering in thousands have choked any form of political activity on the ground. What remains still is an unwavering manifestation of the overarching defiance against the government-enforced execution of oppression. 

Pandemic Lockdown- In and Out of Kashmir

Since the world has now entered the sixth month of Covid-19 restrictions. With self-isolation, physical-distancing and e-learning online education, for most populations the robust internet and phone service has still provided a lifeline to let them work and be engaged and entertained. But in the Himalayan territory of Kashmir, the repression and militaristic method in the latest indignity in a 73-year cycle of oppression, militarization and scarcity especially since last year August in Kashmir has intensified: communications were completely cut in August 2019 and were only beginning, even after weeks pandemic broke out. Since March, only 2G is available, and only sporadically. As Waheed Mirza, novelist and political commentator on Kashmir asserts “A military siege is like a chokehold on an entire people”.  

For the world, asserts Arundhati Roy:

“Kashmir and Kashmiris signify as a prototype to learn the craft of surviving under a lockdown. For the former, it is a self-imposed precautionary measure experienced for the first time in the recent history by the world to fight against an unseen disease; as for the latter, it is the endless fight against the continuation of a seven month long enforced siege against their will.”

 This reality soon turned into a buzzword “the world is turning into Kashmir”. Azad Kashmir President Sardar Masood Khan asserted India has been using the “cover of the coronavirus” to “mow down” Kashmiri youth and change the Muslim-majority character of the disputed region.  

According to news reports on Kashmir, anyone who violates curfew–even those with valid passes allowing them to leave their homes–risks being detained by soldiers or police and possibly beaten. Even doctors, who’ve been celebrated as heroes elsewhere in the world, report being harassed on their way to work in Kashmir, which already suffers an acute lack of medical resources and staff. Limited access to information has also obstructed Kashmir’s coronavirus fight. The region uses 2G internet, an online connection so slow that it is nonexistent elsewhere in the world. Indian authorities have cut online access in Kashmir 55 times since it was restored in March 2020. According to the Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Societies, a local group that documents and litigates human rights abuses “this has delayed doctors’ ability to read emerging treatment guidelines and new research on the disease”.

For some, the repressive methods allude to the fact that the Indian government’s priorities in Kashmir have not been changed by the pandemic. “Any administration that is willing to impose the longest Internet shutdown in history only believes in the right of censorship and surveillance,” says Mishi Choudhary, the legal director at the Software Freedom Law Center, a group that campaigns for Internet freedoms. The period post 5 August 2019 has changed the whole political landscape of the region. This season’s siege is more crushing than ever, possibly the worst since that first one nearly 30 years ago, a stratagem designed carefully to humiliate an entire people. 

Mental health workers say “Kashmir is witnessing an alarming increase in instances of depression, anxiety and psychotic events”.  Doctors Without Borders estimated after surveying 5,600 households in 2015. Nine of 10 have experienced conflict-related traumas. The figures are much higher than in India, according to other surveys.

Education: The Perennial Casualty

Ten months after India unilaterally revoked Kashmir’s autonomy, reports New York Times, “education stands as one of the crisis’s most glaring casualties”. Previously, Kashmiri Valley in particular suffered huge education losses as the students were forcibly kept away from schools and colleges by frequent official curfews and restrictions, shutdowns, incidents of violence and prolonged political unrest stretching for months, the worst of these witnessed in 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2016. “The long school closures in the valley cause major disruptions in young people’s educational and professional development, producing feelings of insecurity, helplessness, and demoralization,” said Haley Duschinski, an anthropologist at Ohio University specializing in Kashmir.

Around 1.5 million Kashmiri students remain out of school. All educational institutions are closed, and most government and private schools are shut—except for few intermittent opening of educational institutions for some weeks, one of the clearest signs of the fear that has gripped Kashmir since the Indian government locked down the disputed territory. Parents in the Kashmir Valley also show this fear that “they are terrified of sending their children out with any exception reaction from the public amid troops deployed everywhere and on the prowl for trouble”. 

“What if the school or a bus carrying children is attacked?” asked Saqib Mushtaq Bhat, a father worried about violence by Indian troops or militants. “What if there are protests and their faces get shot by pellets?’’ Amid only 2G internet services working in the valley, G.N. Var, chairman of Private Schools Association of Jammu and Kashmir (PSAJK) which has 2,200 schools associated with it, termed it ‘denial of right to education’. The research scholars across the valley have equally suffered due to low speed internet and hugely affected the mental stability of people across the spectrum of the society. 

He said, “The restrictions on high speed internet are making it difficult for our students to avail online courses and access information which is vital in their career-building. We see it as a denial of the right to education.”  Reports suggest “no government in the world has blocked Internet access as frequently as India with 55 Internet blackouts in 2019 alone, including the longest in recorded history, 213 days, when Delhi put the valley on lockdown last year August.

Settler Colonialism

So far, anti-insurgency operations have proved equally devastating for Kashmiris amid the pandemic. As of June 30, 229 killings, 107 CASO’s (cordon and search operation), 55 internet shutdowns, 48 properties destroyed in the first half of 2020. Children and women continued to be victims of violence in J&K as 3 children and 2 women were killed in the first half of 2020. India continues to take possession of Kashmir despite being hit ever harder by the pandemic.

With all the constitutional amendments and new laws India has instituted in Kashmir especially since 5 August last year, the Palestinian case is often invoked to find the parallelism of how this sounds like the beginning of settler colonialism. The recent developments that highlight this process are, on the contrary, a further deepening and expansion of a matrix of control characteristic of such a project, duly aided through laws, to ensure the eventual elimination of the native.

The Jammu and Kashmir administration’s order to withdraw a 1971 circular that made it mandatory for the Indian Army, the Border Security Force and the Central Reserve Police Force to obtain a “no objection certificate” to acquire land in the region is also seen as part of a settler colonial project. Not only has the decrees evoked a sharp reaction among locals, which have long feared Delhi’s forceful integration of the restive region with the Indian union, but observers are also accusing Modi’s right-wing dispensation of using the Covid-19 pandemic to advance its Hindu settler colonial enterprise in the region, saying it is a page right out of the Israeli playbook to transform the region’s demographics. United Kingdom-based Kashmiri lawyer Mirza Saaib Bég argues that “J&K’s demography is bound to be altered beyond belief. And at a speed so astonishing that the procedure for issuing a domicile certificate will seem, unfortunately, a quasi-colonial project”.

Around 400 thousand people have been granted domicile certificates in Indian-administered Kashmir till July, 2020 proving right the fears of the beginning of demographic changes in the Muslim-majority Himalayan region. The certificate, a sort of citizenship right, entitles a person to residency and government jobs in the region, which till last year was reserved only for the local population. “The whole purpose of revoking Article 370 was to settle outsiders here and change the demography of the state. Now this provides the modalities and entitles so many categories of Indians whose settlement will be legalised over here.” – Kashmiri law professor and legal scholar Sheikh Showkat Hussain (Al Jazeera, April 1, 2020).

Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden said, “India should take all necessary steps to restore the rights of all the people of Kashmir.” He also asserts “Restrictions on dissent, such as peaceful protests or shutting or slowing down the internet weakens democracy,” in a policy paper posted on his website. Pakistan’s ministry of foreign affairs said in a statement that India’s latest step was a vindication of the country’s “consistent stance that the major intention behind the Indian Government’s illegal and unilateral actions of 5 August 2019 was to change the demographic structure of Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir and turn Kashmiris into a minority in their own land”.

“This has long been part of the RSS-BJP’s ‘Hindutva’ agenda,” the statement added.

An  Indian Consul General in New York, Sandeep Chakraborty’s recent call for the ‘Israel model’ in Kashmir should ring alarm bells for the Muslim world. He flagrantly asserted “I don’t know why we don’t follow it. It has happened in the Middle East. If the Israeli people can do it, we can also do it,” Chakravorty said.

Kashmiris on Twitter were quick to call out Al-Jazeera, accusing them of “promoting settler colonialism”. The social media users were mainly drawing a parallel with expansionist or colonial settlements of Israeli Jews in Palestine or of Han Chinese in Xinjiag to forcibly settle and diffuse indigenous identity.

Tailpiece:

Kashmir is transformed into an open prison where the state works with a self-proscribed impunity to confiscate or mitigate basic universal rights, while the Indian state is trying to entice assimilatory participation of the common people. That territory-wide control by the state and its various institutions is countered through years of survival, persistence and resistance against the state’s operations over Kashmiri lives.

One inevitable fact that successive union governments since India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru have arrogantly with military highhandedness ignored is the political question of Kashmir. The recent political expedition of the Indian government in Kashmir paradigmatically problematized the political destiny of Kashmir and future of Kashmiris. Even in the 21st century globalized world, in the middle of a global pandemic, 8 million people are denied access to education, livelihood, entertainment, and health respite via a medium that has become an essential service for the rest of the world.

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#Current Affairs

Indian Myths Channel Genocide in Kashmir

India is a land and society of myths. More so now than ever before, under the Hindutva-inspired Bharatiya Janata Party government led by the claim of the myth manufacturer Modi: “India is a democracy; it is in our DNA.”

A much talked about myth has been that India is a secular state, and in the light of the post August 5 2019 developments in Kashmir and the Indian mainland, much sighing is being aired that Indian secularism is endangered.

However, the question arises, when was India secular? Was India “secular,” when it invaded Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) on October 26, 1947 on the pretext that a non-Muslim should rule a Muslim-majority state, or was it “secular” when Hyderabad Deccan was invaded and annexed on September 23, 1948 on the pretext that a Muslim could not rule over a Hindu majority?

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Based on a myth about the birthplace of the mythical “Lord Rama,” the 600-year old Babri Mosque was attacked and demolished on December 6, 1992. India’s Supreme Court validated the goon squad’s action on November 9, 2019. Today, the mosque’s attackers rule India.

Even the national anthem ‘Vande Matram’ is not secular, where Muslims object to its idolatrous aspects. For instance, the fourth stanza, addresses motherland India as, “Thou art Durga, Lady and Queen, with her hands that strike and her swords of sheen, Thou art Lakshmi lotus-throned…”

When a Muslim sings these words, he is forced to equate his country with the Hindu goddesses Durga and Lakshmi, thereby deifying the land of India. This goes against the concept of tawheed (the Absolute Oneness of God), according to which a Muslim cannot supplicate to anyone except God.

The other long-standing myth, which India validated through a presidential fiat last year, is that J&K are its “integral” part – a territory it has occupied since September 1947 with a million-man force. In doing so, it served up another myth: the constitutional relationship between J&K and India.

Subodh Varma (“Some Myths About Article 370, 35A and Kashmir”, Sabrang India August 8, 2019) explains that in the process of effectively scrapping Article 370 of the Constitution through a presidential order supported by a Lok Sabha (lower house) resolution, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its supporters regurgitated a slew of myths, half-truths and sleights of hand that have been part of its parent, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) propaganda for decades. Ironically, many parties and opinion leaders who do not subscribe to the RSS ideology also repeated them, which show how far these myths have traveled. Meanwhile, social media went ballistic with RSS/BJP supporters posting bizarre claims while others started offering land for sale in Kashmir.

Arun Jaitley (d. August 24, 2019), who served as finance minister from 2014 to 2019, had tweeted on August 4, “J&K integration with India took place in October 1947. Article 370 came into force in 1952, Article 35A came in 1954, four and seven years later respectively. How can Articles 370 and 35A be a condition precedent to merger?”

He had sought to prove that Articles 370 and 35A were somehow unrelated to J&K’s “joining” [albeit perforce] the Indian Union implying that they are unnecessary and also that they were the result of some [past] Congress governments’ stupidity.

This is a lie.

On October 26, 1947, India invaded J&K, obliging its ruler, Raja Hari Singh, to sign the Instrument of Accession (IOA); the Dogra ruler’s ancestor having purchased the territory and its citizen from the British. However, this document states that the Indian parliament could only legislate on the state’s defense, external affairs, communications and some ancillary subjects. The agreement’s Clause 5 reads: “The terms of this my Instrument of Accession cannot be varied by any amendment of the Act or of Indian Independence Act unless such amendment is accepted by me by an Instrument supplementary to this Instrument.” Clause 7 says: “Nothing in this Instrument shall be deemed to commit me in any way to acceptance of any future constitution of India or to fetter my discretion to enter into arrangements with the Government of India under any such future constitution.”

Simply stated, it says that many things left pending in the IOA were to be settled later through negotiations. After its invasion, India, which faced the Kashmiri resistance till 1949, finally seeking a UN-negotiated armistice, has yet to lay out the laws and governance mechanism. Accordingly, the UN Security Council adopted successive resolutions call for a plebiscite where the Kashmiris would vote freely to decide their future.

The UN continues to recognize Kashmir as a disputed territory.

The 1947 partition agreed upon by Muslim and Hindu leaders with Britain, the departing colonial ruler, reads that Muslim majority states would merge with Pakistan. Kashmir is a clear case.

To preserve the IOA’s spirit and to reassure the Raja, Article 370 was moved in India’s Constituent Assembly in May 1949, which was voted to be part of the Indian Constitution in October 1949. Consequently, Presidential Orders were issued in 1950, 1952 and 1954 to settle various issues. Jawaharlal Nehru  -India’s first prime minister- and his interior minister Vallabhbhai Patel (d. 1950) were part of these negotiations, which negates the RSS myth that Patel opposed Article 370.

The RSS propped up the full integration bogey to stir up agitation against the land reforms initiated by the Raja-appointed Sheikh Abdullah government. The RSS gave it a communal hue as the landowners were mostly Dogras and Pandits and most peasants were Muslims.

The RSS/BJP propaganda about Article 35A hides the fact that Raja Hari Singh had proclaimed the Hereditary State Subject Order in 1927, which allowed only the state’s residents to own land and to government jobs. The state’s assembly voted to include this order in the J&K Constitution. In keeping with the IOA terms regarding the preservation of rights of state’s residents, Article 35A was added to the Constitution through the Presidential Order of 1954.

Kashmir’s annexation falls under RSS ambition of a pure Hindu India.

The RSS states that J&K, with its “oppressive Muslim-majority character, has been a headache for our country ever since Independence.”

RSS alleges that forces “inimical to Bharat never wanted Kashmir to integrate itself with Bharat …  and in October 1947, these elements conspired with the enemy to defeat every move to save the situation from our [Indian] side.” While, India continues to loudly claim that it was Pakistani tribal fighters and not Kashmiri freedom-fighters who confronted the Indian invading army, RSS claims that it was its fighters who fought alongside Indian troops, adding that if a ceasefire had not been agreed upon, its fighters would have helped completely conquer J&K.

RSS blames the large Muslim presence for J&K being conferred a special status under Article 370, even after its total “accession.”

On December 11, 1991, BJP president Dr. Murli Manohar and Narendra Modi, and also, the now interior minister Amit Shah, led the 15,000 mile “Ekta Yatra” (Unity March) from Kanyakumari -a Tamil Nadu coastal town, the southernmost town in mainland India- which culminated in Srinagar’s Lal Chowk on January 26, 1992 to hoist the Indian flag, signaling that they had “arrived to settle the account.”

RSS claims: “The endless appeasement of the Muslim population, especially in Kashmir, practiced by the successive governments at Delhi, has been the bane of our government’s Kashmir policy. Just as too much mollycoddling and lack of discipline spoil the child, so has been Kashmir, a problem created out of our own folly.” RSS alleges that Pakistan arms militants for armed revolt from within India.

Amit Shah has harped the long-repeated party line that Article 370 is the root cause of spread of terrorism. As a corollary, it is also said that the article was the source of sentimental belief in a separate Kashmir, providing ground to cross-border terrorists to exploit.

However, it is the erosion of Article 370 that has led to increasing disenchantment of Kashmiris and their search for a way out. For instance, Article 370 provided for extending provisions of law to J&K through Presidential Orders, issued after concurrence of the state assembly. However, the 1954 Order has extended almost the entire Constitution to J&K. Out of the 97 entries in the Union List, 94 have been made applicable to the state and out of the 47 entries in the Concurrent List, 26 have been extended to the state. This has largely reduced the state’s powers. Overall, Article 370’s provisions were used at least 45 times to extend Constitution’s provisions to J&K.

Not only have the J&K rights been increasingly restricted, but also the spirit of the section has been violated by simply getting the state government to rubber stamp such extensions.

Also, the J&K Constitution was amended several times using Article 370. For instance, Article 356 was extended removing a similar provision in the J&K Constitution (Article 92), which called for President’s concurrence for imposing President’s rule. Article 370 was used for the extension of President’s rule. Even Article 249 (parliament’s power to make laws on State List entries) was extended to J&K through a recommendation of the governor, bypassing the state legislature.

In the past, Congress governments and later BJP, used these measures to manipulate the politics of the state to install ministries or impose President’s Rule.

Another myth, really a blatant lie, proffered by BJP, is that development was not possible because Article 370 didn’t allow it. Post-August 5, Indian politicians and opinion leaders continue to harp that with the removal of special status, including J&K will now become part of global India. Seriously, how Article 370 stopped any government from providing or encouraging more investment and industry in the state when most provisions of the Constitution, including Union list entries were extended to the state. The Union governments could have undertaken any economic measures or programs they wanted in J&K. In fact, there was nothing except unkempt promises of colossal special packages. No Indian government undertook any economic or political measures that would provide sustainable and long-term benefits to J&K.

Simply, the removal of Article 35A will now free real estate sharks to gobble up properties and use it for setting up private businesses including private schools. It is difficult to believe that private investment will flow into J&K, when an occupied people there are discontented and uncertain.

Indian propagandists in and out of government harp on the myth Articles 370 and 35A, and the arrangements they enshrine, were unique to J&K. In fact, Nagaland, Assam, Manipur, Andhra Pradesh, Sikkim, Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh, and Goa enjoy similar provisions. In other states too, there are laws preventing non-domiciliary persons from owning land.

The Narendra Modi-led central government had, after the revocation of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution, recently announced that people will now be able to buy land in Kashmir. As a result, the 1971 circular, which restricted land acquisition and requisition without a ‘No Objection Certificate (NOC)” from the Home Department, has now been replaced by the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013. And, the displacement of Kashmiris with the replacement of Indians has begun the process of ethnic cleansing, leading to a genocide of the Kashmiri people.

Citizens of India ought not to live by the myth of living in the largest democracy and in greatness but instead should heed to Gandhi, “as human beings, our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world – that is the myth of the atomic age – as in being able to remake ourselves.”

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