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British Government’s Meddling with Islam & the Muslim Community

As I’ve mentioned on more than one occasion, I am subscribed to alerts from They Work For You – a free site that allows the public to keep track of parliamentary proceedings. Even so, I will continue to remind you all of this fact, because I think everyone should make use of this amazing service. I am hardly politically astute, but I still choose to keep an ear open for when the British government decides to talk about me (or rather, things dear to me), i.e., Islam and the Muslim community.

Recently, there was a sudden rise in the number of alerts I received, containing my keyword of choice, “Islam”, all because one particular British MP, Ben Wallace (Conservative MP for Lancaster & Wyre, Former Conservative MSP for North East Scotland), has been asking a lot of questions on the subject lately – six questions in just two days. After reading through them, I become somewhat alarmed, as they described a number of initiatives that have the potential to directly affect how Islam is understood and practised in the UK. This includes scholarly efforts to ‘contextualise’ Islam in Britain, and the teaching of Islamic Studies in universities. To add some further context, several of these questions were posed in relation to “Paragraph 9.21 of the UK Strategy for Countering International Terrorism“.

The six questions and answers are presented below.

Question 1 (submitted on the 15th July)

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To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government pursuant to paragraph 9.21 of the UK Strategy for Countering International Terrorism, Cm 7547, what projects his Department is supporting with universities to work with Muslim scholars, leaders and academics on contextualising Islam in Britain; and which universities, scholars and academics are involved.

Answer from Shahid Malik (Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Communities and Local Government; Dewsbury, Labour): Cambridge university, in association with the universities of Exeter and Westminster, have hosted a series of seminars to explore how Islamic theology and Muslim communities might respond to the challenges of living in modern Britain.
The discussions and debates will be captured in a report and published by Cambridge university in autumn this year. The report will feedback the views of participants on the issues discussed.
This project is being independently led by Cambridge university who have included imams, scholars and leaders from a diverse range of backgrounds.

Question 2 (submitted on the 15th July)

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what contribution his Department has made to support the development of citizenship education in mosque schools through the Islam Citizenship Education Project.

Answer from Shahid Malik: The Islam and Citizenship Education (ICE) Project is jointly funded by the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) and the Department for Communities and Local Government. The DCSF awarded a contract, worth £318,652, to the School Development Support Agency (SDSA) running from February 2008 to July 2009 to develop and pilot citizenship lessons for use in mosque schools. The SDSA, working in conjunction with Muslim communities, has successfully delivered this contract. We are currently in the process of tendering for the next stage of the ICE Project to roll out the lessons to mosque schools nationally. Apart from fulfilling their contractual obligations, the SDSA and community-based organisations have made no financial contribution towards the ICE Project.

Question 3 (submitted on the 15th July)

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills pursuant to paragraph 9.21 of the UK Strategy for Countering International Terrorism, Cm 7457, how much of the £1 million which the Higher Education Funding Council for England has committed for work on the gaps in Islamic studies teaching and research has been allocated; and to what projects.

Answer from David Lammy (Minister of State (Higher Education and Intellectual Property), Department for Business, Innovation & Skills; Tottenham, Labour): In June 2007, the Government designated Islamic Studies as a strategically important subject and asked HEFCE to earmark £1 million of its existing funding to develop a programme of work to support this.

To date, HEFCE has allocated:

£100,000 towards commissioning research into Islamic Studies in higher education, building on Dr. Siddiqui’s report on Islam at universities in England, and holding consultation events with the Islamic Studies community at:

http://www.hefce.ac.uk/aboutus/sis/islamic

£850,000 towards the development and implementation of a UK Islamic Studies network to bring the community of UK Islamic Studies scholars closer together. The Higher Education Academy (HEA) and the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) are taking this forward at:

http://www.hefce.ac.uk/aboutus/sis/islamic/network

In the coming year, HEFCE is commissioning a symposium for Islamic Studies scholars across the UK and Europe. Hosted by the British Academy, the symposium will promote the UK as a centre of excellence in Europe for Islamic Studies.

Question 4 (submitted on the 16th July)

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how many Radical Middle Way (a) roadshows and (b) other events have taken place in the UK and overseas since 2007; where they have taken place; what the cost of each has been; what assessment has been made of the outcome of each event; and for what dates future such shows have been scheduled.

Answer from Shahid Malik: From October 2007 to June 2008 the RMW held a total of 34 road show events and a number of other formal and informal meetings with domestic and international scholars and speakers in the following locations:

London; Luton; Leicester; Birmingham; Liverpool; Bradford; Peterborough; Milton Keynes; Woking; and Manchester.

CLG and FCO provided funding of £250,000 to the project in 2007-08 to support the programme of events including support for the RMW website (£12,000) and external evaluation.

From June 2008 to May 2009 the RMW held a total of 48 road show events and a number of formal and informal meetings with domestic and international scholars and speakers in the following locations:

Blackburn; Bradford; Cambridge; London; Birmingham; Peterborough; Hounslow; High Wycombe; Leicester; Manchester; Milton Keynes; Slough; Derby; Bristol; Rochdale.

CLG has provided funding of £350,000 to the project to support the programme of events. This also included support for the RMW website and an external evaluation.

RMW held their first international road show to Sudan in April 2009, reaching an estimated 25,000 people through six large public events. The FCO provided £70,000 to support this road show and the RMW are planning further pilot road shows in Sudan, Indonesia and Pakistan by end October. The pilot phase of the international project will be evaluated by an independent company.

The RMW project is subject to an independent external evaluation following each phase. Communities and Local Government are currently in the process of determining the future direction of this particular work stream in its domestic context.

Question 5 (submitted on the 16th July)

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what support his Department is giving to the independent Mosques and Imams National Advisory Board to raise standards in mosques; what objectives have been set for such standards; and how much his Department has budgeted for such support activities.

Answer from Shahid Malik: The Department for Communities and Local Government provided support to the independent Mosques and Imams National Advisory Board (MINAB). MINAB are a community-led organisation and we supported them to develop standards for mosques, which were widely consulted on and piloted. In addition, we supported the development of their operational plan and their first Annual General Meeting.

We allocated the following sums to MINAB: £75,600 in 2007-08; £116,000 in 2008-09; and £58,000 between April and June 2009.

Further information about MINAB, including their five standards, can be found on their website:

www.minab.org.uk

[Note from author: how “independent” are MINAB if they are receiving money from the government?]

Question 6 (submitted on the 16th July)

To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families

(1) what contribution his Department has made to the development of citizenship education in mosque schools through the Islam Citizenship Education Project;

(2) what financial contribution (a) the Schools Development Support Agency and (b) community-based organisations have made to the development of citizenship education in mosque schools.

Answer from Diana Johnson (Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Children, Schools and Families; Kingston upon Hull North, Labour): The Islam and Citizenship Education (ICE) Project is jointly funded by the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) and the Department for Communities and Local Government. We awarded a contract, worth £318,652, to the School Development Support Agency (SDSA) running from February 2008 to July 2009 to develop and pilot citizenship lessons for use in mosque schools. The SDSA, working in conjunction with Muslim communities, has successfully delivered this contract. We are currently in the process of tendering for the next stage of the ICE Project to roll out the lessons to mosque schools nationally. Apart from fulfilling their contractual obligations, the SDSA and community-based organisations have made no financial contribution towards the ICE Project.

As you can see, the British government’s interest in the Muslim Ummah does not stop at foreign policy; there is a whole strategy in place, that includes the religion of Islam, itself.

The questioner, Ben Wallace, is a member of the Counter-Terrorism Bill Committee; his expertise stems from his counter-terrorism experience in the Northern Ireland conflict. In this article written soon after the 7/7 bombings, he states that he does not believe that restrictive laws, such as detention without trial, are effective in preventing terrorism; he much prefer that the government focus on local communities:

Terrorists need their local communities like we need oxygen. They need cover, logistical support, meeting places and safe houses. Every contact they make leaves a trace. Every action they take leaves a clue. The law enforcement agencies need those traces and only local communities are in a position to spot them. From communities comes tip offs, informers and peer pressure. I was always amazed by how many tip offs we received from the Republican communities in Belfast.

They wanted a united Ireland but they didn’t want terrorism. It wasn’t always that way. When in 1971 the Government introduced internment (detention without trial) to Northern Ireland they indirectly helped revive a flagging IRA and set the scene for another 25 years of bloodshed. The Republican communities felt picked on, under siege and did what came naturally – they turned in on themselves and trusted no one from outside. We must not repeat that mistake today.

There is another way. We can engage with the Religious leadership of Islam, we can encourage more recruits into the Army and Police force from the Muslim communities and we can develop such strong links that people are happy to come forward with information.

During his two day flurry of questioning, the MP for Lancaster & Wyre made it clear that he wanted to know how the government is engaging with local Muslim communities and their “religious leadership”, purely from the perspective of counter-terrorism – not from a concern over the welfare of Muslim constituents. Fortunately, Ben Wallace’s curiosity has served to highlight just how much money the British government is throwing at the ‘Muslim problem’.

I understand that we have an issue with ‘home-grown terrorism’, and that it is in everyone’s interest to work together towards an equitable solution. In this respect, I believe that the government engaging with the Muslim community is a good idea, even if they do think our kids need citizenship lessons – whatever that means.

However, what I find highly erroneous is the government’s decision to meddle with Islam itself, by influencing both how it is taught and interpreted. Clearly, their motivation is not to bring Muslims closer to God, or even to justice – it’s all in the name of ‘counter-terrorism’.

Well, newsflash, Westminster: we are no strangers to politicians and rulers interfering with our belief system for their own personal gains – Muslim governments have been doing it in vain for centuries. Certainly, non-Muslim interference is even less tolerable. Please realise that separation of Church and State goes both ways, and stick to secular politics. You’ll find that your Muslim citizens will be much more cooperative that way.

In the mean time, I remind my fellow British Muslims that knowledge is power: sign up to They Work for You, today. If anything, I hope this article highlights how important it is for ordinary individuals to keep abreast of governmental activity, for the sake of one’s family, community, and most importantly, our beloved faith.

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Dr Mehzabeen b. Ibrahim joined MuslimMatters as a blogger in late 2007 under the handle 'iMuslim', whilst still a struggling grad student. Since then, she has attained a PhD in Molecular Biology and a subsequent Masters in Bioinformatics, and now works as a specialist in this field for a well-known British, medical charity, masha'Allah. Somewhere in between she found the time to get married, alhamdulillah. She likes to dabble in photo and videography, a sample of which can be found on her personal blog: iMuslim.tv.

32 Comments

32 Comments

  1. Pingback: British Government’s Meddling with Islam & the Muslim Community | iMuslim.tv

  2. Avatar

    amad@

    August 5, 2009 at 10:23 AM

    Interesting stuff on the funding of Radical Middle Way by the government. So, it isn’t just the Quite-lame (otherwise known as Quilliam) Foundation that is in bed with the govt??

    What does this say about RMW? Or does it? I mean just receiving govt funding doesn’t automatically disqualify an organization from being beneficial and sincere, but it does put it under greater scrutiny.

    Does anyone have thoughts on RMW-Govt associations and whether the Quilliam-type “everyone else is radical” issues have plagued the output of RMW?

    • Avatar

      Mehedi Islam

      August 6, 2009 at 4:33 AM

      Something thats been in my mind for sometime. Thanks

    • Avatar

      iMuslim

      August 7, 2009 at 1:20 PM

      I’ve written to sister Fareena (the sister who kindly invited me to the Divan 2.0 event), asking for her insight, because I am sure these are questions that she, and her husband, have had to answer on a frequent basis.

  3. Avatar

    London Muslim

    August 5, 2009 at 10:56 AM

    any reason why you omit to mention perhaps the obvious that the Minister responding to some of the questions is a Muslim who replaced a Muslim (Shahid Malik replacing Sadiq Khan)

    My point is Muslims have been involved in the formulation of UK Govt policy which as far as I’m concerned is healthy.

    What would be even more healthy is more Muslims being actively involved in politics, influencing policy at the outset rather than reacting to “goverment activity” eg Iraq, Afghanistan etc when its to late.

    Policy is formulated by a small clique of think thanks, special advisers, influential lobbyists, Big business which currently are Muslim no go areas.

    Oops correction one recent example of a change in British govt policy was when the Serious Fraud Office considered investigating the BAE Arms deals involving kickbacks to the Saudi Royal family. The Saudi’s in a classic case of self preservation forced Blair to stop the SFO inquiry.

    • Avatar

      iMuslim

      August 5, 2009 at 3:52 PM

      Muslims in government aren’t beyond ‘towing the line’. As I said at the end of my article, Muslim governments (and therefore Muslim government officials) have employed similar tactics in the past, and continue to do so.

      I do agree that more Muslims need to get involved in policy making. But when it comes to Islam itself, should government money and influence be part of the equation? Scholars have always been encouraged to be as independent as possible, either taking money from the community whom they serve, or through their own enterprise.

  4. Avatar

    mpacuk

    August 5, 2009 at 11:34 AM

    We need politically intelligent Muslims – NOW!!

    Freedom through politics – Muslim Public Affairs Committee – http://www.mpacuk.org

  5. Avatar

    MR

    August 5, 2009 at 12:20 PM

    UK Muslims can now say that their tax dollars are being spent on Muslims, literally.

    • Avatar

      iMuslim

      August 5, 2009 at 4:02 PM

      {ba doom tish} << voice-only percussion. ;)

  6. Avatar

    MUA

    August 5, 2009 at 12:23 PM

    JazakAllahu kheir to the person who posted this. I clicked on the HEFCE links above and there is a lot of material to go through. I perused some of the material, and although I think we all knew Islamic Studies is a “strategically important subject” to Western (and Eastern) governments, these documents provide us with good insight as to some of the planning involved. Obviously this is another attempt to assimilate Muslims and Islamic discourse. The recent rise of Muslim colleges in the UK and the US by well-known Muslims definitely embodies some of the policy paper observations and recommendations. And although I am a huge advocate of creating Muslim academic institutes, but it must be on our terms since this is an area subject to strategic manipulation. I am now not sure if that is the case with the current attempts to create these types of insitutes. It’s is our duty to first figure out the full extent to what is going on and following the money trail; certainly there are people who are trying to shape the destiny of Muslims.

    • Avatar

      iMuslim

      August 5, 2009 at 4:01 PM

      That’s my point. Who are the people trying to shape our destiny, and for what purpose? If it’s to make us better Muslims, then alhamdulillah. But if it’s to take the ‘teeth’ out of Islam, in order that we become more compliant to government rule, then no thank you.

      • Avatar

        MUA

        August 5, 2009 at 4:28 PM

        iMuslim, I think you’re incorrectly framing the discussion. “To make us better Muslims” can be achieved according to those in authority (in ruling and some in positions of relgious authority) by assimilating and/or integrating Muslims in the societies they live in by engendering a sense of nationalism of the host country in which they become “British Muslims” and practice “British Islam.” And anything in the sources of Islam (Quran and Ahadith) that conflicts with this paradigm must be softly reinterpreted or marginalized to sap it of it’s value. This is domestication 101, before the imperialist powers used these tools in the countries they occupied now they must use it on their foreign citizens. Let’s not be so naive to think they’re doing this to make us better Muslims. Instead let’s research their plans, understand their approach, and question whether some Muslims may, intentionally or unintentionally, be instruments of their policy and strategy.

        • Avatar

          iMuslim

          August 5, 2009 at 5:21 PM

          I’m not being naive, else I wouldn’t question such interference to begin with. :)

  7. Avatar

    Dawud

    August 5, 2009 at 2:07 PM

    While I’m happy to investigate whether funding is being directed at swaying the opinions of muslims or for studying the opinions of muslims, and we should be cautious about government support or initiatives that undermine the integrity and autonomy of our ulema, it would be delusional to think that this is new anywhere in the world. Many scholars, including ibn Taymiyyah, identified the decline of Islamic governance as occuring when the Sultan appointed the chief Qadi, rather than a body of consultative ‘ulema. Name a ‘muslim country’ where the judiciary/Islamic Shari’ah courts are not interfered with by the ‘powers that be’ and that the sincere guidance of the Qur’an and Sunnah is followed for the sake of Allah alone. And please, nobody suggest that Saudi Arabia, Iran or Afghanistan are models to be emulated, rather than criticized.

    As for the RMW, I know the sincerity of those involved, the difficulties under which they’ve worked and that the scholars who have participated have never agreed to change the message of the Qur’an or the Sunnah for the sake of the British government. Indeed, Hamza Yusuf may be more diplomatic in his speech and not call openly for the lynching of the American or Sudanese president these days, as has been well-noted, but if anyone wants to say that the speeches of recent RMW events such as “From Anger to Action” are dictated to the scholars participating by the Foreign Office hasn’t been listening.

    Do you wish Imam Sudais to get the same treatment (as he is already via the British media), or the scholars who serve at the pleasure of the Saudi family? Do remember that two gulf wars took place with the concession of the Saudi ulema, and with the acquiescence of a lot of international muslim leaders – of which the RMW scholars remain innocent. If you want to talk about blood on the hands of scholars, then the tables could easily be turned, and almost every scholar in the middle east could be accused by the words of Imam Ali: “Silence is complicity.”

    Fear Allah in your statements about the scholars, as “the flesh of the ulema is poisoned.”

    • Amad

      Amad

      August 5, 2009 at 11:58 PM

      Dawud, I am not sure who you are directly responding to, but I don’t think anyone here has claimed that RMW is “bad” or downplaying any of its efforts.

      In fact, since I made the comment about RMW, I will repeat it:

      I mean just receiving govt funding doesn’t automatically disqualify an organization from being beneficial and sincere, but it does put it under greater scrutiny.

      And you have essentially said the same thing in your comment: being funded isn’t automatically a bad thing, and that you have to be more cautious about such organizations.

      Also, while I see your analogy with Muslim govt scholars, I think it is not directly applicable. It is one thing for Muslim governments to provide funding for Islamic institutions through awqafs (endowments), a tradition that has been with our Ummah from ages, it is quite another for non-Muslim governments to support Islamic organizations. It’s not like the British government wants to pay for dawah and the muezzin? Hence, the intent and the goals become doubly important. And that’s all I am saying… it puts such organizations “under greater scrutiny”.

      Our iMuslim participated in RMW’s forum recently, so MM or I (as an individual) aren’t making any judgments about the organization. At least, until such a time that evidence of “Quilliam-type” activities appear :)

      w/s

      • Avatar

        Usman Akhtar

        August 7, 2009 at 12:15 PM

        I’m not saying anything bad about RMW, but I think we can all agree that money from outside the ummah that supports Muslim activities can really pollute things.

        I agree that RMW isn’t necessarily working for British Intelligence, but from the history of the world, it is financial support that corrupts things. Whether it is political institution, education, military campaigns, and yes religious institutions as well.

        The wealth we use to help our Ummah must be purified, and come from within the Ummah, we need to be more independent. How sad is it that we can’t support our on activities, and need the help of non-muslims and their financial support to continue, it leaves a huge window to corruption and compromise.

  8. Avatar

    Iftikhar

    August 5, 2009 at 2:44 PM

    Children from minority groups, especially the Muslims, are exposed to the pressure of racism, multiculturalism and bullying. They suffer academically, culturally and linguistically: a high proportion of children of Pakistani and Bangladeshi origin are leaving British schools with low grades or no qualification.

    In the 1980s, the Muslim community in Britain started to set up Muslim schools. The first was the London School of Islamics which I established and which operating from 1981-86. Now there are 133 schools educating approximately 5% Muslim pupils. Very few schools are state funded.

    The needs and demands of Muslim children can be met only through Muslim schools, but education is an expensive business and the Muslim community does not have the resources to set up schools for each and every child, and only eight Muslim schools have achieved grant maintained status.

    This leaves a majority of children from Muslim families with no choice but to attend state schools. There are hundreds of state schools where Muslim pupils are in majority. In my opinion, all such schools may be designated as Muslim community schools with bilingual Muslim teachers as role models.

    Prince Charles, while visiting the first grant maintained Muslim school in north London, said that the pupils would be the future ambassadors of Islam. But what about thousands of others, who attend state schools deemed to be “sink schools”?

    The time has come for the Muslim community – in the form of Islamic charities and trusts – to manage and run those state schools where Muslim pupils are in the majority. The Department for Education would be responsible for funding, inspection and maintenance.

    The management would be in the hands of educated professional Muslims. The teaching of Arabic, Islamic studies, Urdu and other community languages by qualified Muslim teachers would help the pupils to develop an Islamic identity, which is crucial for mental, emotional and personality development.

    In the east London borough of Newham, there are at least 10 state schools where Muslim pupils are in the majority.

    The television newscaster Sir Trevor McDonald is a champion of introducing foreign modern languages even at primary level in schools in Britain. The Muslim community would like to see Arabic, Urdu and other community languages introduced at nursery, primary and secondary schools along with European languages so that Muslim pupils have these options.

    In education, there should be a choice and at present it is denied to the Muslim community. In the late 80s and early 90s, when I floated the idea of Muslim community schools, I was declared a “school hijacker” by an editorial in the Newham Recorder newspaper in east London.

    This clearly shows that the British media does not believe in choice and diversity in the field of education and has no respect for those who are different.

    Muslim schools, in spite of meager resources, have excelled to a further extent this year, with two schools achieving 100% A-C grades for five or more GCSEs. They beat well resourced state and independent schools in Birmingham and Hackney.

    Muslim schools are doing better because a majority of the teachers are Muslim. The pupils are not exposed to the pressures of racism, multiculturalism and bullying.
    Iftikhar Ahmad
    London School of Islamics Trust
    http://www.londonschoolofislamics.org.uk

  9. Avatar

    Hafiz

    August 6, 2009 at 12:58 AM

    salaam aleikum,

    rather interesting article and comments. Just had a few questions:

    1. the so-called “Muslim” MPs that were briefed and were briefing Ben Wallace, were they any of the same that were named/shamed here:

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/mps-expenses/5502358/MPs-expenses-Shahid-Malik-unable-to-produce-receipts-or-rental-agreement.html

    http://www.birminghammail.net/news/top-stories/2009/07/17/1-500-signature-petition-calls-for-perry-barr-mp-khalid-mahmood-to-quit-97319-24176050/

    2. Would any of their supposed defenders please comment on this post:

    UK Muslim MP’s what good have they achieved?

    3. I fail to see what difference, if any, there exists between the self styled “Radical” Middle Way and the Quilliam Foundation. Ed Husain claims that he has spoken with the leadership of the RMW, as well as Abdul Hakim Murad/TJ Winter and came away further convinced to go ahead with founding Quilliam. Further on numerous occassions he has justified his acts and words by claiming that the RMW is fully in support of him. It must also be mentioned that BOTH the RMW and Quilliam were flown to Egypt to push the British govt. agenda there, it was well covered here:

    http://traditionalislamism.wordpress.com/2008/07/16/ed-on-holiday-in-egypt/

    Lastly, how does all of the above relate to this:

    Imam Ghazali, that great intellectual of Islamic history, has given excellent advice in his masterpiece, Ihya Ulum al-Deen.

    Shun those ulama who go to the courts of the rulers. Go and learn from those who shun the rulers.

  10. Avatar

    Abdullah

    August 6, 2009 at 11:49 PM

    For some reason the British government is using RMW to become involved in Indonesia. Why, I don’t know as there is no ‘extremism threat’ to Britain from Indonesia! RMW has set up a group called ArusDamai (which I translate as Peace Stream) as seen from it’s links page:

    http://www.arusdamai.com/

    “Radical Middle Way is a London-based Islamic organisation, who is the parent organisation for ArusDamai.”

    RMW also has job vacencies abroad, including Indonesia (as well as Pakistan and Sudan):

    http://www.radicalmiddleway.co.uk/news.php?id=1&art=55

    Also, I have noticed that for some reason, QF is active in Syria (as well as Pakistan).

    Can anyone figure out what the British government is up to outside the UK, through RMW and QF?

  11. Pingback: British Government’s Meddling with Islam & the Muslim Community | MuslimMatters.org « euraktiva

  12. Avatar

    iMuslim

    August 7, 2009 at 2:01 PM

    I just saw this event advertised last night. Good timing, eh? :)

    Campusalam.org & The City Circle present:

    STRINGS ATTACHED? GOVERNMENT FUNDING AND THE MUSLIM COMMUNITY

    With Sister Humera Khan (An-Nisa), Abdal Haq Baker (Brixton Mosque and Street Project): Daud Abdullah, MCB, Mohammed Ali, Islam Channel and Arun Kundnani, Institute of Race Relations

    Date: Wednesday 19th August 2009
    Time: 6:30pm – 8:30 p.m. (Doors open at 6:15)
    Venue: 45 Crawford Place, Abrar House, London W1H 4LP

    It’s high time for an informed and honest discussion on the money being ploughed into the Muslim community by the Government, particularly under the controversial ‘Preventing Violent Extremism’ (PVE) agenda. This event will critically examine the impact of funding on the government’s relationship with the Muslim community, and its influence on Muslim civil society in the UK.

    Using the original Campusalam format of a Student Jury, a panel of informed students will grill a group of ‘Expert Witnesses’ on their expertise in the issues at hand. After hearing testimony, the student jury will then deliberate and reach a verdict together. The audience will also have an opportunity to question the expert witnesses and express their views. Join us in exploring these crucial questions for the community on civil society, political independence, what constitutes ‘grass roots’, and working with the ‘Establishment’.

    Spaces are limited hence please register online: http://www.campusalam.org

    All welcome and free entrance

    For more information please contact:
    Tel: 07810560124 / 07903259913
    Website: http://www.campusalam.org

  13. Avatar

    Dawud

    September 6, 2009 at 10:38 PM

    a follow-up question: if British funding or support makes an organization questionable, shouldn’t one be concerned that the entire state of Saudi Arabia exists because of British support to abdul-Aziz al-Sa’ud during the first World War, delivered by the British spy William Shakespear? And American aid thereafter? Quite a few ‘Muslim country’ regimes exist now only due to American and British financial and military support – Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and arguably Pakistan… and one might point out that they’re all doing far worse things, such as torture, murder, etc on behalf of the American and British regimes (there was a suggestion back in 2004 from Saudi Arabia that Saudi, Jordan and the UAE would take all the prisoners from Abu Ghraib, Gitmo and other CIA ‘black sites’ – I gather under the logic that if anyone should get their hands bloody from torturing Arabs and Muslims, it should be Arabs and Muslims doing the torturing)…

    I mean, the logic is sound, no? Or is it fair to question a group like RMW, whose members I know personally, and haven’t gotten rich off gov’t funding (AbdurRahman Malik and Fareena Alam live in council housing blocks in East London, off the infamous ‘Brick Lane’) and all the scholars who’ve participated are known for their criticism of Western foreign policy – whereas one can easily point to all the scholars from Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt who have openly changed their statements and fatwas based on decrees from Washington, London and Tel Aviv…

  14. Avatar

    Khalid

    September 6, 2009 at 10:59 PM

    All one has to do is read the RAND report put out by the neo-conservatives in the U.S. to realize that kufr states at war with Islam and Muslims funding indigenous Muslim groups is not something that is innocent, done by coincedence or by accident, but all part of a coherent design. Since there was/is extensive collaboration by the security and intelligence services of the U.S. and UK (both with armed forces currently killing Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan) I don’t consider it accidental that the two would borrow strategies from each other:

    1. RAND, Civil Democratic Islam, Partners, Resources, & Strategies

    2. State sponsored Sufism

    3. Hearts, Minds, & Dollars: America is spending millions to change the very face of Islam

    Whether political/media whores in the community can somehow make a living and justify taking this money in the name of “dawah” is a wholly different subject.

  15. Avatar

    Saarim

    September 7, 2009 at 3:19 PM

    Dawud, your analogies are farcical to say the least and typical of the selective criticism that many Sufis engage in. You say that the shuyookh involved in the Radical Middle Way haven’t been compromised and that there are no strings attached. Then, are these shuyookh willing to publicly condemn to British role in the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq and their funding of the Quillam Foundation, a group which calls for a secularist “Islaam”? Do they agree with the policy of the Radical Middle Way which calls for a “moderate Islaam” to please the kuffar? You said that all of their shuyookh are known for their criticism of Western foreign policy. Where are these criticisms and have they criticised the British role? Many of these criticisms I have seen from these shuyookh have been very mild. Some of them are more prone to attacking “Wahabis” then attacking Western foreign policy such as Abdul-Hakim Murad. Don’t you Sufis also like to used the term “Petro-Islaam”, yet, what do you call the shuyookh who participate in the Radical Middle Way? You mentioned the treachery of the Saudi government in it’s colloboration with the British, which should be condemned from an Islaamic standpoint, but many of the Sufis who love to mention this, are totally silent on the treachery of Sharif Hussein who also was a British stooge or the Jordanian government which has a history of colloboration from its inception with the Zionists, British and Americans. Also, I might add that the Rasheed tribe(many of whom were “Wahabi” even though they were political opponents of Aal-Sa’ud) fought on the side of the Ottomans. You also fail to distinguish between the ulama and shuyookh in Saudi Arabia and the government as many of the ulama and shuyookh oppose the actions of the Saudi government and there are many Salafi shuyookh who have strongly criticsed the foreign policy of the Saudi government. Many of the Sufis who like to cite this are brazenly hypocritical on this point as they like to engage in selective criticism on this regard as many of their shuyookh are silent on the treacherous foreign policy of their countries. An example of this is Ali al-Jifri who is backed by the Emirati government which also colloborates with the Americans and which awarded the war criminal, Tommy Franks, a medal. Has Jifri spoken out against this? Why do you also single out the Saudi goverment as there are other governments in the Muslim world who are just as treacherous? Can you also name the scholars who have changed their statements and fatwas based upon decrees from Washington, London and Tel Aviv?

    • Avatar

      dawud

      September 8, 2009 at 1:10 PM

      I could try to reply to the slanders present above (‘you Sufis’ & ‘brazenly hypocritical’) but given MuslimMatters policy on slander and their desire to respond remove it, I’ll just trust their protocol…

      really though, I must have touched a nerve – you spare all of one sentence to acknowledge that the state of Saudi Arabia was established with the help of the British and maintained by the Americans, which would seem to imply (by your reasoning, vis Habib Ali al-Jifri) that anyone who accepted the support of that government should be judged by association.

      as for the al-Rasheeds and others, while I can understand the desire to loosen Ottoman rule, I think that the Arab nations as a whole have not improved themselves under their believed ‘independence’ – as one Arab once told me about the Ottomans: “they took the wealth of our lands, to build mosques and monuments for themselves while they kept our people poor and ignorant” – does that description remind you of anyone as much as the tyrants who currently rule the Arab countries, and what great efforts are Arab muslims making to remedy the ignorance and poverty that mire their lands?

      as for RMW, I do believe they should have made their funding clear from the beginning, but don’t believe their values are compromised, as I’ve already argued above. I’ve made my own personal arguments about funding directly to the organizers of RMW and Shahid Malik of the FCO, but also recognize that the muslim community in Britain neither could (help with visas) nor is likely to (preferring prestige projects like domes and minarets) fund anything like the RMW.

      However, if one compares it to anything like the al-Haramain or other Saudi projects, RMW pales into insignificance – and if one says that taking money from a government involved in haram makes all one’s actions questionable, wouldn’t that also apply to any scholar who took from the wealth of the Saudis, the Egyptians and the Jordanians? (or any other ‘Muslim/Islamic country’ for that matter)

      as for citing a scholar/fatwa that was altered upon decree from Washington, London and Tel Aviv: Gulf War I & 2, the fatwa that all Palestine was ‘dar al-harb’ and Palestinians had to make hijra (to where?)… just as a start

      • Avatar

        iMuslim

        September 9, 2009 at 9:08 AM

        I agree, Sarim’s language is not appropriate for this forum. But it, and your own response brother Dawud, highlights an issue that perhaps is more important than how government funding may skew the output of a dawah organization – and please note, that by government, I mean any group that places politics and power, over Islam, truth and justice – and that is, how government interference will automatically cause division in the community that is being called to, even if the dawah itself is intact.

        As you say, RMW is doing a good job in their efforts to aid the British Muslim community. So then the question for the masses becomes: are you simply going to reject them out of suspicion of their patrons? And that’s immediately where the split comes.

        One group will say “yes”, and rightly so, because of warnings in the Qur’an and Sunnah about taking non-Muslims as allies and benefactors, for all the reasons we have already discussed: it jeopardises the purity of the message.

        The second group will say “no”, and I think rightly so, because in the end, suspicion is haram in many cases, and we must judge people on their fruits, not just hearsay.

        And that’s when the labels are brought out: ‘Sufis’, ‘Salafis’, ‘Wahabbis’, ‘Moderates’, ‘Progressives’, ‘Radicals’, ‘Extremists’… and so on. If you’re not with us, you’re against us: but who is “us”?

        So there you have it: the poison in the well is not necessarily the corruption of dawah, as alhamdulillah, Allah has promised to preserve this deen, so if ever the da’ees dare pollute the message, He will replace them with better. Rather, it is the division of the community, through warranted suspicion; and hasn’t “divide and conquer” always been one of the best political and military stratagems to date?

  16. Avatar

    abdullah

    September 9, 2009 at 4:39 AM

    salaam aleikum,

    this should not be turned into another round of sectarian partisanship, but rather serve as a discussion for the realization that:

    1. ANY funding of Muslim groups by a state (be it Muslim/Non-Muslim) is something that
    a. creates a cycle of dependency — you skew your actions to ensure funding
    b. politically compromises you — you become aware of red lines that you cannot and should not cross
    so as to not jeapordize funding. Your message becomes compromised.

    2. As far as some masjids and groups defending taking money from Saudi Arabia vs. the employers/managers of the Saudis — the UK — BOTH are wrong. Neither state is functioning according to Islam and both have and continue to exercise hostility to Muslims when Islam runs counter to their political and commercial interests.

    3. As for RMW:

    a. ” The Radical Middle Way initiative has received funding totalling £350,000, of which £250,000 was provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and £100,000 by Home Office.”

    source: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200607/cmhansrd/cm061204/text/61204w0034.htm

    An open attempt at blackmail of the RMW was done by none other than one of the Quilliam Munafiqs who supported the Israeli bombardment of Gaza (Muslims should condemn Hamas NOT Israel) and who advocates removing hijab:

    Here he is openly urging the cutting of funding for RMW for associating with other groups which the govt. doesn’t like:

    The RMW admits to being ‘primarily funded’ by at least two separate government departments and is then supporting a group who would rather replace our liberal democracy with a puritanical Islamist theocracy? That doesn’t strike me as the most effective way to spend taxpayer’s money.”

    source: http://www.hurryupharry.org/2008/08/07/the-radical-middle-way-attacks-quilliam-endorses-hizb-ut-tahrir/

    a. Shiraz should know having fleeced 1 Million pounds from British taxpayers for Quilliam Foundation with ZERO achievements to date.
    b. Muslim institutions and “scholars” if they claim to represent and speak for the community should be funded by local Muslims IN the community.
    c. You cannot condemn “petrodollar wahabbis” for being promoted by the Saudi govt. while you in turn are being promoted and funded by the EMPLOYERS of these same Saudis — the UK and US.
    d. You cannot oppose controversial political legislation in regards to Muslims/Islam in the UK and still maintain your independence while doing so:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2009/feb/17/counterterrorism-strategy-muslims

    because the govt. can and will cut your funding (as Shiraz is openly advocating them to do so) if you show any hesitation in supporting them. There are numerous ayats in the Quran which describe how kuffar will never accept Muslims even if they compromise their deen, it behooves one engaged in taking funds from others to reflect upon this.

  17. Avatar

    Saarim

    September 9, 2009 at 5:42 PM

    Dawud, I prefer that when someone responds to me, that they have some knowledge of current affairs. I am willing to spare many sentences in condemning the Saudi government’s foreign policy and I already told you that many Salafi ulama and shuyookh have condemned the Saudi government’s foreign policy and it’s colloboration with the enemies of Islaam. I mentioned the Rasheed tribe previously, but I will also mention Salafi ulama like Shaykh Haamid al-Faqi and Shaykh Ahmad Shakir of Egypt who were strongly against British colonialism. Many of the Sufis who love to bring this up are totally silent on the treacheries of Sharif Hussein and the Jordanian government(which is beloved by many Sufis) and this is a clear example of their selective criticism and brazen hypocrisy on this point. Why don’t you also mention that the Jordanian government was backed and founded by the British government?! Many of the ulama and shuyookh( even the ones who are close to the government) in Saudi Arabia don’t agree with every action of the Saudi government even if they are backed by the Saudi government. That doesn’t mean there aren’t Saudi ulama who always toe the government line and these shuyookh should be criticised.

    The reason I criticise the RMW and the shuyookh who participate is because that there are strings attached even if you are unwilling to acknowledge this point. The goal of the RMW is to promote a “moderate Islaam”. Do you honestly think that the British government has the best interests of Muslims at mind? It’s one thing to take money for example, for health care from the British government. It’s a whole other equation to take money to promote a “moderate Islaam” to suit the desires of the British government. If as you say, that these shuyookh aren’t compromised or that there are no strings attached, are they willing to condemn the British role in the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq or it’s sponsoring of groups like the Quillam Foundation? If these shuyookh are willing to do this, then they might be excused, but I haven’t seen this from them.

    Your third paragraph is not relevant to our discussion and there are many problems in the Arab world and they should be addressed, but not by parroting the view of MEMRI, which demands that Arabs and Muslims engage in extreme self-criticism and self-flagellation and total deference to their Neo-con agenda, when the same people(Neo-cons, right-wingers, etc)who are demanding this are unwilling to do this themselves and they are well-known for squelching opposition to their agenda. An example of this double standard is mentioned here, http://www.henrymakow.com/000642.html, by a Jewish writer. I didn’t say taking money from governments make all of one’s actions questionable, but taking money specifically when a government has a specific agenda, such as the British government which trying to foster a “moderate” Islaam” under the guise of groups such as the RMW and the Quillam Foundation.

    As for the events you mentioned in your last paragraph, I will address the fatwa of Shaykh al-Albani. This fatwa has long been used by many Sufis in their anti-Salafi propganda and their has been alot of controversy surrounding it and Shaykh Mashoor Salman(one of Albani’s students) has a written a defense of Albani. I believe that the fatwa was wrong but it was just an opinion and it was never implemented. If the Sufis who cite this fatwa are really sincere and care about the Palestinian cause, how come they are totally silent on the Jordanian regime(which is beloved by many Sufis) whose treacherous actions(not just a fatwa) have played a large part in helping and strengthening the Zionist regime from the time of King Abdullah I, whose treachery and colloboration with the Zionists played a large part in the establishment of the Zionist entity in Palestine right up to this day. This selective and sectarian criticism exposes the utter insincerity and brazen hypocrisy of these Sufis who cite this fatwa. I was also say in defense of Albani, that he went to fight the Zionists when they were trying to take over Palestine and that he was no court scholar as he was jailed in Syria because some Sufis incited government against him, under house arrest in Jordan and expelled from Saudi Arabia during the first Gulf War because of his opposition to using American troops. I already mentioned to you that many Salafi shuyookh(inside and outside of Saudi) have and still oppose Saudi foreign policy and they have criticised the Salafi shuyookh who have defended the Saudi regime. Here(in Arabic), http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-i5rBJlslms, is an example of Shaykh al-Albani strongly condemning the Saudi goverment’s decision to use the assistance of American troops in the first Gulf War and I can bring you many more examples like this. Why just focus on the treachery of the Saudi government when there are many treacherous governments in the Muslim world, including governments which are officially Sufi and “traditional” such as Morocco, Jordan, Dubai(where Sufi shuyookh like al-Jifri are silent on the pro-American foreign policy). etc.

    iMuslim, sometimes harshness is called for.

    Abdullah, many of Dawud’s criticisms were sectarian and so I replied in kind. As for sectarian partisanship and how it applies to this discussion, I can say, whatever the faults of the Salafis in the West, they haven’t stooped to the behaviour of some Sufis who have exploited the political climate in the West to incite against the “Wahabis” in the media., though I have no doubt that the majority of Sufis and “traditionals” condemn this behaviour.

  18. Avatar

    Dawud

    September 21, 2009 at 11:57 AM

    ‘Eid mubarek to all;

    I didn’t respond over the past week, as I wanted to devote the end of Ramadan to Allah and not to online arguments; I will only say in response to the slanderous arguments above that I don’t promote government interference in Islamic scholarship, neither in the ‘Muslim’ countries nor in the West. (Also it’s somewhat ridiculous to keep banging on about me supporting Jordan, when I explicitly wrote in the above comment he responded to:

    Quite a few ‘Muslim country’ regimes exist now only due to American and British financial and military support – Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and arguably Pakistan… and one might point out that they’re all doing far worse things, such as torture, murder, etc on behalf of the American and British regimes (there was a suggestion back in 2004 from Saudi Arabia that Saudi, Jordan and the UAE would take all the prisoners from Abu Ghraib, Gitmo and other CIA ‘black sites’ – I gather under the logic that if anyone should get their hands bloody from torturing Arabs and Muslims, it should be Arabs and Muslims doing the torturing).

    I should also note I don’t defend the interference of the governments of Turkey, Egypt, Morocco or Indonesia in the religious affairs of the ulema.

    A good statement of my feelings is actually in the initial post by IMuslim, so take this as a summation:

    I believe that the government engaging with the Muslim community is a good idea, even if they do think our kids need citizenship lessons – whatever that means.

    However, what I find highly erroneous is the government’s decision to meddle with Islam itself, by influencing both how it is taught and interpreted. Clearly, their motivation is not to bring Muslims closer to God, or even to justice – it’s all in the name of ‘counter-terrorism’.

    Well, newsflash, Westminster: we are no strangers to politicians and rulers interfering with our belief system for their own personal gains – Muslim governments have been doing it in vain for centuries. Certainly, non-Muslim interference is even less tolerable. Please realise that separation of Church and State goes both ways, and stick to secular politics.

    +1

  19. Avatar

    Saarim

    September 21, 2009 at 2:27 PM

    Dawud, how are my arguments “slanderous”, especially compared to what you have written previously? I didn’t specifically say that you support the Jordanian regime, but that many Sufis do and I am pretty sure that many Sufi shuyookh won’t approve of your criticism towards it.

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#Current Affairs

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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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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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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