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Obama’s Advisor – Sonal Shah: Questions Surround Her VHP Involvement

Abu Reem

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While we await action by Muslim and Sikh organizations (here is one report I found on a Sikh channel), it seems that the ICF (Indian Christian Forum) has started the press on Obama and this was reported in Sify (pasted below).

If Muslims can forge a coalition with Sikh, Christian and mainstream Hindu organizations for this specific purpose, it will definitely be enough heat for Obama to reconsider. If nothing else, it puts Sonal on alert that people are watching very closely and that she should not even think of inviting Modi (the Gujarat Chief Minister complicit in the Gujarat Massacres of 2002).

The bottomline: Sonal is from a family that is deeply involved with VHP. She herself has been involved in VHP activities.  But is this sufficient to indict her as an extremist?

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Sepiamutiny doesn’t think so, and it has posted a defense of Sonal (SM is usually relatively objective). The SM article also denounces the counterpunch article by Vijay Prashad, for being “Palinsh”. Also note that Sonal was not a VHP coordinator (as in a national coordinator), but rather a coordinator for earthquake relief. I could not find anything that she said on record, which Muslims or any non-Hindus would find offensive. So, this raises some difficult questions about guilt-by-association.

Of course if a person was from a Muslim family deeply involved with some extremist Islamic entity, that would immediately kill the nomination/advisory role, no questions asked (remember Obama’s short-lived “Muslim adviser“?). But at the same time, we cannot employ the same techniques used for Muslim exclusion, to push for the exclusion of others. What’s wrong for us is wrong for others. Guilt by association is not acceptable to indict someone.

While these questions persist, it is in Sonal’s interest to come out and disown VHP, denounce violence against minorities in India, and clearly affirm that she would never consider inviting the butcher, Narendra Modi. I think if she does this, then we cannot hold our family’s involvement in VHP against her. And I do think it is only fair to ask her for such an announcement considering her family background and her own involvement in VHP activities (albeit for social work).

The press release from ICFalso has included several links. But those links had no silver bullets there either.

———————

For Immediate Press release!
631-796-0064

Indian Christian Forum (ICF) an umbrella organization for Indian American Christians in US that promotes human rights and religious freedom in India expresses its grave concern to President-elect Obama on the appointment of Sonal Shah as a member of his transition team.

As U.S. residents and citizens, our community values freedom of conscience and freedom of association especially dealing with people’s own countries of origin or their ancestry. However, we strongly feel that this appointment may send a wrong signal to India and its citizens and to the Indian American community in particular as regards the values of freedom and justice we uphold in this great country. Although we feel that no one should be pre-judged on their association, Ms. Sonal Shah’s background creates tremendous uneasiness among freedom loving people in our community that overwhelmingly voted for President-elect Obama.

According to Mr. Thomas T. Oommen, President of ICF ‘While Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) also known as World Hindu Council is currently engaged in killing innocent people and ethnically cleansing Christians from Khandamal District in Orissa, India, it is quite ironic that one of their own past National Coordinators is assuming an important role in the new administration which promised a new emphasis on Human Rights’ referring to Ms. Shah’s appointment to the transition team. “To date, Ms. Shah and the organization she represented, VHPA (Vishwa Hindu Parishad America) have not once publicly condemned the VHP’s violent activities against minorities in India whether it was Gujarat pogrom in 2002 or anti-Christian violence in Orissa in December 2007 or the ongoing violence that started in August 2008”

Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council) justifies violence against Christians blaming them on conversions. Yet, the real reason behind their actions may be to maintain a caste-based society where people belonging to the lower castes are treated less than human (untouchability – hidden apartheid). Dalits and backward castes are continued to be denied their basic rights as guaranteed by the constitution of India and the upper castes aligned with VHP are engaged in a massive effort to undermine any progress for this downtrodden groups. ICF would like to point out that a segment of the Indian community in U.S. is closely aligned with VHP and their extremist philosophy and we urge the new Administration to mandate a thorough vetting process to weed out these elements who do not share the true American values of human rights, freedom of conscience and justice for all.

It is that of common knowledge that the parent organization of these extremist groups, RSS (Rashtriya Sevak Samaj) was responsible for the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi who is revered by President-elect Obama.

It should also be noted that the USCIRF (United States Commission on International Religious Freedom) has condemned the violence against Christians in India by Hindu extremists and called on the United States State Department to urge India to take decisive action against the VHP and its affiliates.

Therefore, ICF kindly request the new transition team to reevaluate its decision on this appointment and take appropriate and necessary action.

References:

  • Sonal Shah’s disparaging remarks about USA made at the gathering of youth organized by the militant organization
    http://www.hssus.org/content/view/35/2/
  • RSS family
    http://www.deccanherald.com/Content/Nov112008/scroll20081111100142.asp?section=updatenews
  • Sonal Shah link for Modi visa
    http://www.khabrein.info/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=18…
  • Sonal’s Dad Ramesh Shah celebrating Modi victory in Houston
    http://www.theindia nstar.com/ index.php? udn=2008-01-04&usn=2&urn=1&upn=319
    http://gaboworld.blogspot.com/2006/12/indicorps.html
  • IDRF report of funding by NRI sanghi supporters are produced by this group
    http://www.stopfundinghate.org/resources/Saff$/Jan-Feb2005.htm

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Abu Reem is one of the founders of MuslimMatters, Inc. His identity is shaped by his religion (Islam), place of birth (Pakistan), and nationality (American). By education, he is a ChemE, topped off with an MBA from Wharton. He has been involved with Texas Dawah, Clear Lake Islamic Center and MSA. His interests include politics, cricket, and media interactions. Career-wise, Abu Reem is in management in the oil & gas industry (but one who still appreciates the "green revolution").

48 Comments

48 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Ali

    November 12, 2008 at 8:35 AM

    Jazakallahu Khairan for the post, I was thinking of compiling an article and sending it to MM, alhamdhulillah, Amad you are pro-active and fast…. inshaAllah we will continue to watch her and see how it goes….

  2. Avatar

    Suhail

    November 12, 2008 at 11:58 AM

    Sonal Shah heads Ekal Vidyalya which is related to the VHP program.

    “She was an active member of the VHPA, the U. S. branch of the most virulently fascistic outfit within India.Till 2001, Shah was the National Coordinator of the VHPA.” Is this guilt by association. No she was with VHP which is the most venomous organization I have seen in India. These people are thugs with no respect for human dignity.

    • Avatar

      ramesh

      October 4, 2010 at 8:37 AM

      Mr.Suhail,
      As you are independent to join any Islamic Organisation, Sonal Shah has liberty to associate with VHPA. Your comments about VHP are not worthy to be discussed or analysed as your views are biased/ hatered towards one community (Hindu)
      My request is to look good things about person or organisation but not of few bad elements.Don’t hate human being but his behaviour/habits.Any individual is created by God and he represents God/Allah/Ishwar/Parmatama.
      So my request to you is not create negativity in you and others as it affects your as well as others health.Look into good qualities of others even if he does not belong to your religion and adopt it and accept it.
      God helps you to love human being and give SADBUDHI.

  3. Avatar

    Suhail

    November 12, 2008 at 12:03 PM

    Even if she worked for social work with VHP it is all a hoax. I will tell you why? There are tons of organizations in US who do social work in India. Why did she chose VHP when the same organization is linked to so many innocent deaths? Have you met any VHP member? I have seen so many in India and none of them have any compassion for muslims and any other minority. If they get a chance they will eradicate the muslims from India and then will come the christians.

    Even if she joined VHP for social work I would never trust her because of the simple fact that she chose VHP over all other social programs that goes on in India which are not linked to hindu right and that too the most extremist of them.

  4. Amad

    Amad

    November 12, 2008 at 12:08 PM

    Suhail, seems she coordinated the earthquake relief, as I mentioned in the post.

    The author of the sepiamutiny post indicates that he received emails of support for her allegedly from Muslims. Of course, this is not sufficient proof for saying that she believes in communal harmony. Her official statement though, link by MR, seems to be a good step towards resolving some of the questions, though one wonders about what to believe, considering how much she has to lose if she didn’t give those statements.

    Its a tough one, and I just don’t know enough yet to make a strong case against her. I think I would go with whatever the official Indian Muslim/Christian/Sikh groups come up, as a position on her, because they would ostensibly know much more than me.

    Also I would defer more to Manas (who sent me the ICF press release) and other Indian commentators, since they are closer to this issue than me. My own goal in the post was to lay out the issue as it matters to Muslims, and to be as objective as possible.

    W/s

  5. Avatar

    abu abdAllah, the Houstonian

    November 12, 2008 at 1:28 PM

    bismillah. i see similarities between the vilification of our own Shaykh Yasir and the campaign to discredit this woman.

    Shaykh Yasir very thoughtfully discusses in his article “GPU ‘08 with Yasir Qadhi: When Islamophobia Meets Perceived Anti-Semitism” how comments he made when he was much younger and much less rigorous (i mean each of those as respectfully as possible, Yasir :) ) in vetting information from the internet have been dug up and used against him now.

    when the controversy finally was brought to his attention, he wrote a thoughtful response that also acknowledged what his mistakes had been. but those who sought to profit from ignoring what he wrote ignored even the opportunity to speak to him face to face.

    here we have another person who may have demonstrated poor judgment when she was younger. and whose career seems to indicate a break from that path. now let’s look at the statement ascribed to Sonal Shah: (Copied from: http://www.sepiamutiny.com/sepia/archives/005510.html#comment220819)

    As an Indian-American who has lived in this country since the age of four, serving on the Obama-Biden transition team is a unique privilege for me. A presidential transition is always a time of excitement and, in some cases, of rumors and unfounded gossip. I’d like to set to rest a few baseless and silly reports that have been circulating on the Internet.

    First, my personal politics have nothing in common with the views espoused by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), or any such organization. I’ve never been involved in Indian politics, and never intend to do so.

    Second, I’ve always condemned any politics of division, of ethnic or religious hatred, of violence and intimidation as a political tool. Some factually inaccurate internet rumors have attempted to link me to Hindu Nationalist groups through a variety of tenuous connections: Relief work I’m proud to have helped coordinate following the Gujarati earthquake of 2001, or cultural and religious affiliations of some of my family members, or apolitical humanitarian work I’ve been privileged to do as a founder of the NGO Indicorps and as the Director of Global Development for Google.org.

    Finally, I do not subscribe to the views of such Hindu nationalist groups, and never have. Ridiculous tactics of guilt by association have been decisively repudiated by the American people. I am delighted with what the victory on November 4 says about my country, and about our place in the world. I look forward to serving our President-elect in this time of transition.

    maybe some people would like to know why her 2001 relief work was through that specific organization. assuming the specific organization is that important, i am more interested in news-reports and contemporaneous reviews of the charitable work itself: how many people did it help? was there religious animus or other prejudice displayed by that relief work?

    unless credible proof is offered that indicates her own work was carried out with hatred towards Muslims, her current statement deserves a lot of credit (though her tone is not as commendable as Shaykh Yasir’s):

    she’s a member of the most watched transition team in history. she will likely be tapped for some position in the new administration. and she has repudiated radical Hindu nationalists.

    how have her comments been received by those groups? i’d also be interested to know more about that.

    in the meantime, i remember when after 9-11 so many Muslims were afraid to make any contribution of money or other support to Muslim charities. as an ummah we were paralyzed by the fear of guilt by association. and much good that should have been done was left aside. and yet too many of us are willing to attack others in just the same way, and again, ostensibly for charitable work.

  6. Avatar

    Suhail

    November 12, 2008 at 3:50 PM

    My dear brother that group VHP is not some fringe group and she is no Yasir Qadhi. VHP is the most venomous hindu right group in India responsible for killing 100s of muslims and christians. The specific organization is very important and if Sonal Shah has any involvement with them than it is indeed a problem for Indian muslims.

  7. Amad

    Amad

    November 12, 2008 at 5:11 PM

    I understand Suhail… that is why I am struggling with this bit.

    My gut instinct tells me that were this person a son of an Al-Qaida supporter or a supporter of say Al-Aqsa Brigades (and to me VHP is worse than any militant group in Palestine because at least the latter have a legitimate grievance), there would no ifs and buts, and the person would be OUT. But here this person was actively engaged with the organization, albeit in a charity role, but then we would not make that distinction were the person involved with a terrorist outfit that was Muslim.

    On the other hand, I feel that were this person a Muslim, whose dad say was an active member of Hamas, and if the person himself/herself was part of some charity relief for Palestine (under Hamas’s banner), wouldn’t we argue against the person’s removal? And again I think VHP is much worse than Hamas, but in the eyes of most Americans, the opposite is true.

    So, in some sense, I am a bit torn on this one.

  8. Avatar

    abu abdAllah, the Houstonian

    November 12, 2008 at 5:27 PM

    bismillah.

    …if Sonal Shah has any involvement with them than it is indeed a problem for Indian muslims.

    suhail, the casual use of guilt-by-association by Muslims undermines our opposition to the practice by others.

    Shaykh Dr. Ali al-Timimi had dinner with a group of brothers in Virginia — that’s all he did, had dinner with some Muslims who respected his knowledge of Islam. but that group was under intense scrutiny — and although it was only natural that so soon after 9-11 that dinner conversation would be full of fear for the future of Islam and Muslims in America — that one dinner was enough association for the US to draw all manner of evil inferences, and to imprison the Shaykh on a life+ sentence.

    maybe you think that is the only case of guilt-by-association that affects Muslims. look at the people locked up in Guantanamo Bay without any shred of evidence — most were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. because of the fear of guilt-by-association many Muslims refuse to even admit knowing people like Dr. Aafia Siddiqui.

    you offer guilt-by-association. (and some would support that charge with “guilt-by-not-speaking-out” — another favorite of non-Muslims against Muslims.) i have looked hard for proof. all i can find are proofs in her favor: that the earthquake and her relief work preceded Godhra by one year. that Indicorps bills itself as non-partisan and non-religious, and appears to do the kind of work that Barack Obama would love to encourage more Americans to do here. so to sum up my other posts in this and related threads: show me a hard piece of evidence that instead of relief work, Sonal Shah was actually involved in hateful acts against Muslims. show me a direct connection to the massacres. show me an article she wrote. show me a letter soliciting donations for any of her charitable work in which she attacks Muslims. show me proof.

    i pray that Muslims will think about how much hypocrisy there is in using guilt-by-association when we know it is an evil smear, a tactic which has done so much injustice to Muslims.

  9. ibnabeeomar

    ibnabeeomar

    November 12, 2008 at 6:13 PM

    the difference though, is that afia siddiqui and ali timimi weren’t known to be actively involved with an actual group engaged in any of those activities directly.

    if she was involved in relief work (even if thats the limit) – its still with an organization that is known to have massacred muslims, i think its fair to raise questions about it at the least.

    i do understand with not running wild with accusations, but i don’t feel the afia/ali timimi comparison’s are necessarily the same here.

  10. Avatar

    abu abdAllah, the Houstonian

    November 12, 2008 at 6:31 PM

    bismillah. let me take the conversation in a tangent for a few moments:

    imagine if the Obama transition team considered adding to its ranks a Muslim. why would that sound so strange? why would it immediately be “newsworthy” all over the world and not just in South Asia?

    because of guilt by association.

    “what’s wrong with being a Muslim?” legally, nothing, so far… (that might change, too, if Bush is able in the next few weeks to give law enforcement enough leeway to legally maintain files on anyone for any reason, even if the person was cleared of any suspicion of criminal activity)

    purse the tangent a little further — assume nothing else has changed, but that the Obama transition team showed itself to have a solid-steel backbone and actually had hired a Muslim. one that says “la ilaha illAllah,” and seems to say it with sincerity. prays five times a day, fasts in Ramadan, pays zakat, has made Hajj, and even pronounces “as salamu alaykum” well. (i’m gonna be real happy if that has happened)

    will you condemn her if she works with Sonal Shah without spitting on her all the time? “sorry, i got a bad lissssppp…”

    will you condemn her if she shakes hands with Barack Obama? or if her hairstyle becomes popular?

  11. ibnabeeomar

    ibnabeeomar

    November 12, 2008 at 6:36 PM

    Allahu Alam – i refuse to get led down a road of cross examination by a lawyer! :)

    i see your point, but i think theres something to be said for raising the question the other way – even if it be unfair in some sense. maybe we have to agree to disagree on that one :)

  12. Avatar

    abu abdAllah, the Houstonian

    November 12, 2008 at 6:46 PM

    bismillah. sorry i missed your post, ibnabeeomar :)

    the difference though, is that afia siddiqui and ali timimi weren’t known to be actively involved with an actual group engaged in any of those activities directly.

    you do realize that the US government argues otherwise on almost every point you make there? that in Shaykh Dr. Al-Timimi’s case, the US Attorney convinced a finder-of-fact to decide otherwise — because pretty much all of those points would be relevant to proving conspiracy? sure, the case was bogus. sure, the case was predicated on and supported by unrealistic fears. but that does nothing to diminish the evil of guilt-by-association as a tactic. we should be opposed to its use, period.

    if she was involved in relief work (even if thats the limit) – its still with an organization that is known to have massacred muslims, i think its fair to raise questions about it at the least.

    most of the time when people are merely raising questions, they are smearing the person they are talking about.

    according to your logic, at the very least the government was justified at the start of its investigation and witch-hunt of Shaykh Dr. Al-Timimi — after all, it just started out with someone raising questions.

  13. Avatar

    abu abdAllah, the Houstonian

    November 12, 2008 at 6:47 PM

    Allahu Alam – i refuse to get led down a road of cross examination by a lawyer! :)

    bismillah. please no crosses here. :)

  14. Avatar

    Suhail

    November 12, 2008 at 7:04 PM

    http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/Will_Obamas_top_aide_give_Modi_visa_power/articleshow/3690558.cms

    Here is an article in Times of india a renowned newspaper about Sonal Shah take as you will. Secondly i am not idiciting here to be a VHP cadre. I am saying that she has worked with them. She didnt have one dinner with them but was a National Coordinator for VHP for god sakes. There are many Indian social organization in US without ties to VHP. Why did she became a national coordinator for VHP? Why didnt she joined other organizations which were doing the exact same work she was doing.

    I am not putting guilt on her based just on association. She held a post in the VHP organization. What post Afia or Ali al timmi hold in Al Qaeda? There is enough reason to doubt her.

  15. Avatar

    Suhail

    November 12, 2008 at 7:10 PM

    Secondly VHP is not just notorious after Godhra. You are telling me that VHP came to forefront after Godhra. They were there long before Godhra. They were the main culprit in the demolition of Babri Masjid and they were the chief force behind the massacare of the muslims after the demolition. They were involved in killing a christian priest and his sons burning them alive in Orissa. They had there hands full with blood of innocents long before Godhra.

    So when Sonal Shah became the National Coordinator VHP already had his hand deep in blood. You also have to read about the relief work by the VHP done duting the gujarat earthquake. There is still an inquiry going on in India about excluding muslims from the relief efforts. The VHP cadres where only distributing the relief materials to the people of Gujarat who were hindus and muslims were denied.

    • Avatar

      asha

      December 3, 2010 at 10:18 PM

      If you how hindus are treated in pakistan and bangladesh, this very little abuse. Do you know there were 25% hindus during partition in pakistan and there are less than 1 % now. Why should we breed you muslims in our land ???

      • Avatar

        Mehdi Sheikh

        December 3, 2010 at 10:28 PM

        I can’t speak for pakistan who never really had any kind of political stability since 1947, but do not lump Bangladesh in with them in any kind of abuse of HIndus. HIndus In Bangladesh suffer virtually no abuse and that goes for almost all other religious groups as well. The only group who have recently under gone issues were the Qadiyaanis. Hindus not only are fully functional in the business community and are even the dominant group in many ities but also hold power positions in the government too.

        And what do you mean “your land”? what you know as India today would still be a rag tag bunch of City states fighting with each other if it weren’t for the Mughals and then even more thanks to the Brits. You don’t even speak a common language if it weren’t for English.

  16. Avatar

    aboo

    November 12, 2008 at 7:12 PM

    this is a slap in the face of those Muslims who voted for obama

  17. Avatar

    abu abdAllah, the Houstonian

    November 12, 2008 at 8:10 PM

    innalhamdolillah. bismillah.

    Secondly VHP is not just notorious after Godhra…

    suhail, are you going to read me the riot act? are you going to try to characterize my comments as somehow downplaying the bigotry of right-wing-Hindu-fundamentalists? do you think anything i wrote warrants such a (mis-)characterization?

    if any of the work of the inquiry into distribution of disaster aid has uncovered culpability of this woman, show it. it will be important to bring that to light.

    here would be some facts worth investigating: was she there in India during the distribution of earthquake relief? if she was there, then in what capacity (did she have any oversight)? if she was there, was she in an area that she should plausibly have witnessed discrimination? if she was there, and if in a capacity to prevent discrimination, or if in a place where discrimination took place and she witnessed it, how much time elapsed before she left the organization?

    but short of facts that tie her to blameworthiness, we’re just chasing each other around the same tree. either we disagree over whether this is an instance of guilt-by-association, or we disagree over whether some guilt-by-association is appropriate. witnessing that guilt-by-association, if tolerated, becomes the excuse for gross injustices as in the example of cases like Shaykh Dr. al-Timimi, i choose to argue against guilt-by-association in every case. i see any defense of guilt-by-association as inevitably excusing and facilitating such prosecutions.

    if we are qualified to be judges, then too we should judge a person by his or her deeds and intentions. not knowing her intentions, we should constrain ourselves to deeds. not being the most qualified of judges, for that would be Allah, we should be humble when we sit in judgment.

  18. Avatar

    Suhail

    November 13, 2008 at 11:08 AM

    So basically on deeds joining VHP for disaster relief is not blameworthy when there are so many other organizations working on the same thing? Why didn’t she joined those organization?

  19. Avatar

    Ahmad AlFarsi

    November 13, 2008 at 12:34 PM

    Look everyone, let’s allow Obama to keep Rahm and Shah, and use that as a playing card to advocate that he should pick up a Hamas member as part of his cabinet, to influence him towards their agenda. Why do we always have to be haters ;)

  20. Avatar

    Suhail

    November 13, 2008 at 12:54 PM

    Brother Abdullah you said that her work with VHP was one year before godhra and I was telling you that the bloodshed by VHP is being done way before Godhra. I was not putting anything on you. I was telling you that it does not matter if she was a national coordinator before Godhra but she was with VHP knowing full well what VHP represents. That is not something you can discount.

  21. Avatar

    mulsimah

    November 13, 2008 at 1:31 PM

    salaam

    its not guilt by association unfortunately, its guilt by participation. check out his new article from counterpunch. It turns out you are not the only one who has questioned him about it.
    http://www.counterpunch.org/prashad11132008.html

  22. Avatar

    Saad

    November 13, 2008 at 2:39 PM

    salaam aleikum,

    leaving aside the dubious associations of Sonal Shah, nobody has mentioned the fact that this is only the SECOND appointee with Muslim blood on their hands. Rahm ISRAEL Emanuel is the son of an admitted zionist terrorist group member (Irgun) that terrorized and dispossessed Muslims of their homes in Palestine so as to enable Israelis to come in and take them.

    S

  23. Avatar

    Qas

    November 13, 2008 at 3:03 PM

    Rahm ISRAEL Emanuel is the son of an admitted zionist terrorist group member (Irgun) that terrorized and dispossessed Muslims of their homes in Palestine so as to enable Israelis to come in and take them.

    ..and Barak HUSSEIN Obama is his president for God sake.

  24. Avatar

    Suhail

    November 13, 2008 at 3:53 PM

    So what if he is president. The people he is appointing gives the idea about how he thinks and what his administration would be. Bush was much critical of Israel when he won but check out what happened afterwards. That was because of the people close to him like Cheney and Co.

    I am right about the fact that Sonal Shah cannot be trusted. Vijay Prashad is right about his indictment of Sonal Shah. She was a VHP member till 2003. Why did she speak at a RSS conference? Why she is doing so much for Ekal Vidyalaya which is coordinated by a VHP member check that timesofindia article.

  25. Avatar

    mulsimah

    November 13, 2008 at 7:17 PM

    good news: Emanuel Apologizes for Father’s ‘Arab’ Comments
    http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/11/13/arab-american-group-decries-emanuels-fathers-smear/

  26. Amad

    Amad

    November 13, 2008 at 7:22 PM

    Very good Mulsimah. Though I find it interesting that “Obama’s campaign declined to address the issue”. It’s over Obama, you got it, now start being everyone’s president(-elect)! Remember Khalidi was also Arab, and he was/is your friend.

  27. Avatar

    Ahmad AlFarsi

    November 13, 2008 at 11:04 PM

    Amad, he’s thinking about 2012. Usually you have to wait for the 2nd term for a president to stop pandering to the crowd… unfortunately…

  28. Avatar

    James Ryan

    November 14, 2008 at 12:37 AM

    This is crazy. Thousands of “missionary” groups (paid by Christians in America or Muslims in the Middle East) constantly disparage Hindus in India and call for conversion — which is an insulting way of saying “We think you are less than us because you don’t have THE TRUTH.” Christians are in the majority in two hundred countries in the world, Muslims in another 150 or whatever. AND yet, Hindus in India who have harbored all religions for centuries (how many Hindus are there in Pakistan and Bangadesh? ); how often do Christians and Muslims disparage Hindus in India AND AMERICA. And yet, someone who has a link to a group that does a lot of stuff, like earthquake relief, gets lambasted. I am a keen student of South Asia and the likes of Vijay Prashad and Martha Nussbaum and these councils of Christians and Muslims do not have the guts to look in the mirror of their own traditions but yet have the audacity to brand Hindus as this and that. It is not just the VHP that is under attack (they are an excuse) but rather there is a desire to convert the heathen Hindus or make them lose all self-esteem by constantly villifying them. I am surprised Muslims tolerate this since they are the most villified by the (albeit REAL) terrorist actions of some who call themselves Muslim.

  29. Avatar

    Ahmad AlFarsi

    November 14, 2008 at 8:34 AM

    James, what on earth are you talking about?! Whether or not Muslims think Hindus will go to hell, and whether or not Hindus think Muslims will go to hell, or who tries to convert who to the other’s religion, has absolutely NOTHING to do with the enormous amounts of violence propagated by parties like the VHP.

    You are conflating the issues here by bringing up theological differences and thereby trying to downplay the violence on the side of the extremist groups like the VHP.

    As for Muslims, yes we believe in Salvific Exclusivity, and we are not ashamed to mention that, but again, that has nothing to do with the topic at hand… I think it is really crazy how people try to conflate things!

  30. Amad

    Amad

    November 14, 2008 at 10:56 AM

    VHP that is under attack (they are an excuse) but rather there is a desire to convert the heathen Hindus or make them lose all self-esteem by constantly villifying them. I am surprised Muslims tolerate this since they are the most villified by the (albeit REAL) terrorist actions of some who call themselves Muslim.

    “James”, you would have a reasonable case in point, if what you are saying had anything to do with the post. In fact, review the following quote from my post:

    If Muslims can forge a coalition with Sikh, Christian and mainstream Hindu organizations for this specific purpose, it will definitely be enough heat for Obama to reconsider.

    Mainstream Hindus, i.e. still Hindus. I think this sentence answers all your doubts. This isn’t about Hindus (I thought Vijay was hindu too?) at all. Rather, it is about a virulent form of Hinduism, a form that is inflicting fear and violence in India. Did you see the video I posted in this post? Notice how these extremists sound really foolish, but people actually take their BS to heart. And I can understand it for uneducated, poor masses. But how can educated people stand for such vitriolic discourse that occurs in VHP?

    Also, you mentioned how Muslims can tolerate this villification. It depends on whether the villification is deserved. Of VHP, it is. Similarly, you’ll find in these very pages of MM, where we speak out against Muslim extremists too. So, whether it is VHP, Al-Qaida, Kach, etc., its not the religious affiliation that prevents us from speaking out against radicalism.

    Hope this answers some of your concerns.

  31. Avatar

    Suhail

    November 14, 2008 at 11:25 AM

    Who is branding Hindus as this and that here ? We are not talking about Hindus in particular but an organization which promotes violence just for the sake of revenge which is RSS and VHP. Have you ever lived in India? Most of the hindus are moderate and do not affiliate themselves with groups like VHP and RSS.

    How much do you know about VHP, Bajrang Dal to make a comment about them?

  32. Avatar

    Manas Shaikh

    November 14, 2008 at 12:23 PM

    Sorry to pitch in so late. I somehow missed this post.

    I think we are making false comparisons because we have been through false accusations.

    Let’s consider this at it’s own merit.

    She comes from a family deeply entrenched in Hindutva ideology. Her organization, Indicorps receives funds from IDRF, she was involved with Ekal Vidyalaya, and above all, she was involved with VHP-A for three years.

    There are plenty of other organizations she could have worked with. How could she not have known the teachings and traditions of VHP or other Sangh outfit where she grew up among them? She was 33 when she joined the organization. If she didn’t develop ability to make judgments by then, she wouldn’t be where she was in Goldman Sachs.

    Look, people, she never ever condemned the Gujarat violences until now. Isn’t it too self-serving to do that now? And see how VHP members are coming in her defense saying she never was with them much. Doesn’t that sound interesting to you?

    Her brother refused to condemn the Gujarat incidents even in private conversations. Does that mean something? Let’s quote Prashad:

    Sonal Shah’s statement is gratifying, but unpersuasive. The VHP’s Shyam Tiwari recently said, “Sonal was a member of the VHP of America at the time of the [2001 Kutch, Gujarat] earthquake. Her membership has expired.” This was eight years after the 1993 Gujarat riots, when the VHP had an active, and ghastly role. Ms. Shah was 33 years old then. Her parents were active in Hindutva organizations. How could she not have known of their role, and the controversy surrounding them? She was not from an apolitical household, but an activist one. I brought up her parents only to suggest that she cannot claim now that she was ignorant of the VHP’s role in India. She must have known. And yet she participated in its activities. There were a host of other agencies that raised money for the earthquake survivors. All the earthquake survivors: credible media reports showed that the money raised by the VHP did not go to Muslim survivors, only Hindu ones (for example, “Communalizing Relief: VHP seizes earthquake opportunity,” Statesman, Kolkata, 12 February 2001 and Vijay Dutt, “Discrimination in Distribution of Relief against Dalits in Gujarat Causes Concern,” Hindustan Times, 27 February 2001). This is hardly an act of charity.

    The VHP says Ms. Shah left the organization in 2001. Three events from 2004 bear mention:

    (1) Ms. Shah delivered a keynote address at the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh young conference. The HSS is the U. S. branch of the RSS. The University of Chicago’s Martha Nussbaum describes the RSS as “possibly the most successful fascist movement in any contemporary democracy.” The RSS “guru” (teacher) M. S. Golwalkar wrote glowingly about Nazi “race pride,” and called it a “good lesson for us in Hindusthan to learn and profit by.”

    (2) Ms. Shah delivered a keynote address at an Ekal Vidyalaya conference in Florida. The Ekal Vidyalaya’s are schools set up in tribal areas. The RSS’s Chief of Service work, Premchand Goel, said that the RSS and the VHP run “thousands of Ekal Vidyalayas.” One Ekal Vidyalaya teacher, Mohan Lal, told Frontline reporter, T. K. Rajalakshmi, “We go for the RSS shakha [branch] meetings regularly. The teachers are selected only if they subscribe to the RSS way of thought.”

    (3) On her behalf, her brother Anand Shah received an award from the Gujarat government in the presence of Chief Minister Narendra Modi. When Mr. Modi became Chief Minister of the State in 2001 was the first RSS pracharak (volunteer) to be in the position. The RSS celebrated its victory. Human Rights Watch’s 2002 report calls attention to the way the RSS and Mr. Modi have used Gujarat as “Hindutva’s laboratory,” stacking the higher administration with RSS-VHP cadre. No Muslim police officer has a field posting. As Frontline reporter Praveen Swami wrote at the time, “Chief Minister Narendra Modi has become something of a hero for many Hindus because he presided over the pogrom.”

    At none of these events did Ms. Shah or her brother raise their voices for the broken hearts and bodies, the survivors and victims of the 2002 pogrom in Gujarat. By 2004, even mainstream human rights organizations and media outlets had recognized that the Gujarat riots were state-engineered, and that their author was Narendra Modi. In 2005, the U. S. government refused to allow Mr. Modi a visa on these grounds. And yet, Ms. Shah received an award given by Mr. Modi. The novelist Amitav Ghosh refused to be considered for the Commonwealth Prize in 2001 because it commemorated imperialism. That is a sign of sound moral judgment. To have taken an award from a man who conducted a pogrom is a sign of moral turpitude.

    It is a dark cold day if high expectations are to be dashed by such convoluted ethics.

    http://www.counterpunch.org/prashad11132008.html

  33. Avatar

    Suhail

    November 14, 2008 at 1:31 PM

    Yup it is not that RSS and VHP are 5 years old party. These organizations where there before Indian Independence and did the same thing that they are doing today that is sowing hatred. How could any Indian not know about RSS and VHP? Go in India and ask a school kid and they will tell you who they are.

  34. Avatar

    Shaik Ubaid

    November 14, 2008 at 4:05 PM

    This press statement by prominent Indian Muslims received wide coverage. Muslims have already formed a broad based coalition with other communities under the banner of Coalition Against Genocide (www.coalitionagainstgenocide.org)
    Thank you for your good work.

    PRESS RELEASE
    November 10, 2008
    Contact number
    516-567-0783

    Prominent Indian American leaders, many of whom supporters of President elect Obama, have expressed alarm over the inclusion of Sonal Shah in the Obama transition team.

    These leaders belonging to high profile groups such as Coalition Against Genocide (www.coalitionagainstgenocide.org), Indian American Coalition for Pluralism and Non Resident Indians for a Secular and Harmonious India have been holding informal discussions after disturbing news reports regarding Ms. Shah’s affiliations started appearing in the mainstream media.

    There are disturbing news reports that Ms. Shah had close association with VHP (World Hindu Council) that had openly supported the persecution and pogroms against the Christian and Muslim minorities of India. Recently world leaders such as the Pope and President Bush have condemned the pogroms against the Christian Community in the states of Orissa and Karnataka. The moderate leaders of the Indian American community have decided to ask Ms. Shah to clarify her position about VHP and its mother organization the RSS that was linked to the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi who is revered by the President elect Obama.

    The Leaders of these pro-democracy and pro-pluralism segments of the Indian Diaspora have wowed to increase their efforts to educate the American politicians and business leaders about the attempts by the Hindu ultra-nationalist Hindutva movement, that is modeled after the Italian Fascist Party of the 1920’s and who profess admiration for Hitler’s genocidal policies, to infiltrate the power centers of the US society by giving big donations and through volunteer work.

    The Coalition Against Genocide was instrumental in getting the diplomatic visa of Hindutva supremo Narendra Modi revoked in 2005. According to some news reports Mr. Modi’s supporters may now try to gain influence with the Obama administration to get this ban revoked. But the Coalition leaders such as Dr. Shaik Ubaid and Saeed Patel have expressed confidence that President elect Obama who have wowed to make Human Rights a cornerstone of his foreign policy as expressed by him in the debate when he was asked about US- Columbian relations will not rescind the ban on Mr. Modi. President elect Barrack Obama is a principled man and will apply the same standards when it comes to relations with India, said Dr. Ubaid who was the founding national Coordinator of the Coalition Against Genocide.

    “We urge the Indian Diaspora leadership to be vigilant so as not to allow those Indian Americans who belong to extremist and ultranationalist outfits to infiltrate the power center of the American Society, said Saeed Patel who is the national Coordinator of NRI-SAHI. “It is not the fault of the President elect or his inner circle but our failure because we have not moved fast enough to educate them about VHP and its attempts to gain influence in the US,” declared Saeed Patel.

    REFERENCES:
    Vijay Prashad: Obama’s Indian
    The Many Faces of Sonal Shah. Obama’s Indian. By VIJAY PRASHAD. Barack Obama has appointed John Podesta to run his transition. During the lean years of the …http://www.counterpunch.org/prashad11072008.html

    Obama team member has Sangh links- Hindustan Times…
    Nov 8, 2008 … Make HindustanTimes my homepage|Sitemap …. One Indian-American, Sonal Shah, is a member of the advisory board, reports Pramit Pal …
    http://www.hindustantimes.com/Redir.aspx?ID=c92bdef7-a366-47df-bf51-daae396caeec&ParentID=605b2306-ae1e-4ee5-aa46-801b95617539&SectionName=

    NRI groups ask Sonal Shah to clarify VHP links

    Nov 13, 2008 … Dr. Shaik Ubaid, the founding national Coordinator of the Coalition Against Genocide,

    hoped that with Sonal Shah in the inner circle of …

    http://www.expressbuzz.com/edition/story.aspx?Title=NRI... – 81k – Similar pages

    http://www.expressbuzz.com/edition/story.aspx?Title=NRI+groups+ask+Sonal+Shah+to+clarify+VHP+links&artid=UL/O4QeIo4o=&SectionID=oH

    SKVfNWYm0=&MainSectionID=oHSKVfNWYm0=&SEO=Sonal+Shah,+Barack+Obama,+VHP&

    SectionName=VfE7I/Vl8os=

    Obama Indian aide’s VHP links spark debate
    Rohit Bhan, Nidhi Razdan
    Thursday, November 13, 2008, (Ahmedabad, New Delhi)
    http://www.ndtv.com/convergence/ndtv/story.aspx?id=NEWEN20080072437&ch=11/13/2008%207:38:00%20PM

  35. Avatar

    reema

    November 20, 2008 at 3:10 AM

    so are we doing something on sonal issue or just writing comments and blogs??

  36. Avatar

    Manas Shaikh

    November 20, 2008 at 4:59 AM

    Finally we’ve got proof. No association business. Sonal Shah went with her father to Swami Omkaranand to ask support for VHP.

    http://www.khabrein.info/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=18574&Itemid=58

    However, the same Dainik Jagran issue carries another statement by Swami Omnkaranand, a disciple of Jagadguru Swami Swarupanand, the anti-RSS Shankaracharya of Dwarika and Badrinath. While condemning Saadhvi Pragya Singh and the serving and ex-army officers accused in the Malegaon blasts, Omkaranand has branded `Hindu terrorists’ as irreligious (adharmik) non-Hindus. When asked about Sonal Shah, Swami Omkaranand said that he “did not know much about Sonal Shah—but he knew Ramesh Shah, her father”. When quizzed further, Omkaranand said that “Ramesh Shah had tried to seek an appointment with the Dwarika Shankaracharya—if I remember correctly he was accompanied by his daughter and her name was Sonal Shah. The Dwarika Shankaracharya met them—and the daughter and the father both requested the Shankaracharya to support the VHP. Then the Shankaracharya got angry—he lashed out at them and narrated an incident wherein he (the Shankaracharya) had a debate with Golwalkar, the RSS leader. The argument was about the status of Lord Ram—Golwalkar was saying that he did not consider Ram to be a God, only a Mahapurush; then the Shankaracharya replied that this is what Ravana used to say—so now in which category is Golwalkar who calls himself a true representative of Hindu interests, has gone on to stand?”

    Swami Omkaranand further elaborated that “the Shankacharya asked Ramesh and Sonal Shah to leave the room as he considers the VHP, BJP and the RSS adharmik who have killed innocent Muslims in Ayodhya and Gujarat. Then Ramesh Shah tried offering some money to the Shankaracharya upon which the situation became very ugly and the Shankaracharya Sevaks would have given a sound thrashing to Ramesh Shah if he had not escaped”.

    When did Sonal and Ramesh go to meet the Dwarika Shankaracharya? The reference to Gujarat riots reveals that it was after that event—so if Swami Omkaranand is to be believed, Sonal Shah visited Dwarika to plead for the VHP, after the infamous riots in which thousands of Muslims were massacred and murdered brutally by VHP backed mobs. This proves that Sonal Shah is lying when she says that she had never been a member of the VHP—here she is trying to plead for the VHP with her father. This also casts a long shadow of doubt on the statement issued by the Shah family that they had condemned Gujarat riots.

  37. Avatar

    Manas Shaikh

    November 20, 2008 at 5:01 AM

    reema

    do you have some suggestions?

  38. Avatar

    reema

    November 20, 2008 at 10:40 AM

    we should follow the same strategy that was adopted for modi visa denial Campaign. did you guys work for that Campaign?

  39. Avatar

    Manas Shaikh

    November 20, 2008 at 10:52 AM

    Reema: No, I wasn’t there. But many of the same people are involved this time too.

    A comment went to the spam folder. As that is an important post, I shall repost it.

    However, the same Dainik Jagran issue carries another statement by Swami Omnkaranand, a disciple of Jagadguru Swami Swarupanand, the anti-RSS Shankaracharya of Dwarika and Badrinath. While condemning Saadhvi Pragya Singh and the serving and ex-army officers accused in the Malegaon blasts, Omkaranand has branded `Hindu terrorists’ as irreligious (adharmik) non-Hindus. When asked about Sonal Shah, Swami Omkaranand said that he “did not know much about Sonal Shah—but he knew Ramesh Shah, her father”. When quizzed further, Omkaranand said that “Ramesh Shah had tried to seek an appointment with the Dwarika Shankaracharya—if I remember correctly he was accompanied by his daughter and her name was Sonal Shah. The Dwarika Shankaracharya met them—and the daughter and the father both requested the Shankaracharya to support the VHP. Then the Shankaracharya got angry—he lashed out at them and narrated an incident wherein he (the Shankaracharya) had a debate with Golwalkar, the RSS leader. The argument was about the status of Lord Ram—Golwalkar was saying that he did not consider Ram to be a God, only a Mahapurush; then the Shankaracharya replied that this is what Ravana used to say—so now in which category is Golwalkar who calls himself a true representative of Hindu interests, has gone on to stand?”

    Swami Omkaranand further elaborated that “the Shankacharya asked Ramesh and Sonal Shah to leave the room as he considers the VHP, BJP and the RSS adharmik who have killed innocent Muslims in Ayodhya and Gujarat. Then Ramesh Shah tried offering some money to the Shankaracharya upon which the situation became very ugly and the Shankaracharya Sevaks would have given a sound thrashing to Ramesh Shah if he had not escaped”.

    When did Sonal and Ramesh go to meet the Dwarika Shankaracharya? The reference to Gujarat riots reveals that it was after that event—so if Swami Omkaranand is to be believed, Sonal Shah visited Dwarika to plead for the VHP, after the infamous riots in which thousands of Muslims were massacred and murdered brutally by VHP backed mobs. This proves that Sonal Shah is lying when she says that she had never been a member of the VHP—here she is trying to plead for the VHP with her father. This also casts a long shadow of doubt on the statement issued by the Shah family that they had condemned Gujarat riots.

    This is proof that she was not speaking the truth about her links with VHP.

  40. Avatar

    Manas Shaikh

    November 20, 2008 at 10:53 AM

    Swami Omkaranand said that he “did not know much about Sonal Shah—but he knew Ramesh Shah, her father”. When quizzed further, Omkaranand said that “Ramesh Shah had tried to seek an appointment with the Dwarika Shankaracharya—if I remember correctly he was accompanied by his daughter and her name was Sonal Shah. The Dwarika Shankaracharya met them—and the daughter and the father both requested the Shankaracharya to support the VHP. Then the Shankaracharya got angry—he lashed out at them and narrated an incident wherein he (the Shankaracharya) had a debate with Golwalkar, the RSS leader. The argument was about the status of Lord Ram—Golwalkar was saying that he did not consider Ram to be a God, only a Mahapurush; then the Shankaracharya replied that this is what Ravana used to say—so now in which category is Golwalkar who calls himself a true representative of Hindu interests, has gone on to stand?”

  41. Avatar

    Manas Shaikh

    November 20, 2008 at 10:54 AM

    Many of the same people are said to be involved.

    Please have a look at the link above. That conclusively proves her links.

  42. Avatar

    mulsimah

    November 21, 2008 at 1:10 PM

    YOU CAN START BY GOING TO CHANGE.GOV AND VOICING YOUR STANCE/OPINION AND SPREADING THE WORD AND TELL OTHERS TO DO THE SAME INSHALLAH

  43. Avatar

    Suhail

    November 21, 2008 at 4:26 PM

    What difference is it going to make? They are going to have a staunch zionist in place for Seceratary of state aka Hillary clinton. All the Obama mania among the muslims will wane out quickly.

  44. Avatar

    A

    November 16, 2010 at 2:49 PM

    If Muslims in the US are branded as terrorist for humanitarian work for “terrorist” related organisations, then surely others should be held to the same standards, unless of course “the only terrorists are Muslim” (sic).

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