Connect with us

#Current Affairs

Towards a Social Justice Platform

There must always be a remedy for wrong and injustice if we only know how to find it.  Ida B. Wells Journalist, suffragette,  and anti-lynching activist   (1862-1931)

Tariq ibn Shihab reported: A man asked the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, “What is the best sacred struggle (jihad)?” The Prophet said, “A word of truth in front of a tyrannical ruler ” (Musnad Aḥmad 18449).

Celebrating Malcolm

We celebrate figures like Malcolm X  who spoke truth to power. Award winning journalist and author, Ta-Nehisi Coates  discusses Malcolm X’s honesty in Between the World and Me (2015). A month before his assassination on New Year’s eve 1964, Malcolm X gave a speech to a delegation of  thirty-seven teenagers from McComb, Mississippi. They had come to New York City on a trip sponsored by the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. Malcolm X offered these words to the youth who were at the heart of Civil Rights struggle:

Support MuslimMatters for Just $2 a Month

MuslimMatters has been a free service to the community since 2007. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

One of the first things I think young people, especially nowadays, should learn is how to see for yourself and listen for yourself and think for yourself.

You’re not supposed to be so blind with patriotism that you can’t face reality. Wrong is wrong, no matter who does it or says it.

I am neither a fanatic nor a dreamer. I am a Black man who loves peace and justice and loves his people.

Power in defense of freedom is greater than power in behalf of tyranny and oppression.

We have to keep in mind at all times that we are not fighting for integration, nor are we fighting for separation. We are fighting for recognition as free humans in this society….

This speech,  now known as the “Advice to the Youth of Mississippi” still speaks to us today. It especially resonates for Muslim Americans who have been marginalized out of civic life.  Muslim American scholars, devotional leaders, and  civil society leaders all wrestle with the question: What is Justice?  When we are speaking about injustice, we must think about what does justice look like. Striving This is important to think about as we are encouraged to enjoin  what is established right in the verse revealed in the Qur’an:

Indeed, Allah orders justice and good conduct and giving to relatives and forbids immorality and bad conduct and oppression. He admonishes you that perhaps you will be reminded. (Qur’an 16:90)

Another verse states:

And let there be [arising] from you a nation inviting to [all that is] good, enjoining what is right and forbidding what is wrong, and those will be the successful. (Quran 3:104)

In Forbidding the Wrong (2003), Michael Cook highlights how even quietist Abu Hanifa (699 — 767 CE) could not deny the political implications during the Umayyad dynasty of enjoining the right and forbidding the wrong (pg. 10). 1400 years later, faith leader Reverend Dr. William J. Barber III calls for a Moral Revival for justice, social change, and movement building . In multifaith organizing, faith leaders bring their deep moral values to bear as they seek to build a multiracial multifaith community. As a faith community, what do Muslims propose to counter the policies and legislation that cause so much suffering?  Many of us have focused on countering dominant narratives and stereotypes by reclaiming our narratives. We counter the collateral damage of domestic and foreign policy with humanitarian aid. But institutionalized Islamophobia has attempted to undermine our attempts at authentic engagement in civil society.

Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X meet March 26, 1964

Like Ida B. Wells a century ago, Muslims American thought leaders are writing about our most enduring social problems. Before the presidential election the  US Council of Muslim Organizations (USCMO) convened to discuss a Muslim platform, leading to a deep discourse amongst Muslimmatters writers. Another important development is that Muslim Americans are beginning to build power through organizing. Mohammad Khan of MPower Change kickstarted an important conversation in the lead up to the election. A group of us, including  Faatimah Knight, Imam Bilal Ansari, Linda Sarsour, Sheikh Hasib Noor, Layla Abdullah-Poulos, Dr. Su’ad Abdul Khabeer, and Imam Johari Abdul-Malik, continued that conversation through email and a shared document.  To help facilitate the process of consensus, I reached out to prominent scholars and leaders to give feedback on the principles using a survey form. It was a truly a collaborative and exciting experience to bring together our mutually agreed upon ideas about what does justice look like. This was especially important, as Muslim Americans are asserting their political will. We are endorsing legislation, running for office, and backing candidates.Together, we developed the following principles as a starting point for articulating Muslim faith inspired social justice principles in how we vote and what groups we align with, based upon shared vision as a community:

We are a people who vote according to our values and principles and draw the strength of our convictions from an Unlimited Source not determined by party affiliation or partisan politics. We are a people who believe that every resident of the United States of America deserves to be treated with dignity and respect and live in their full humanity and dignity. We stand up for truth in the continuum of the struggle in the spirit and legacy of those who came before us. We strive to empower the powerless through allyship and organizing to establish justice with balance.  Utilizing the tools of civil society and participatory democracy to promote public welfare and the general well being of society, we will advocate legislation and representatives who will advance our society in a moral order.

Our Platform

Our platform is Constitutional, consistent with our values as Muslim Americans, promotes the economic well-being of all residents, and works towards the sustainability of our society for generations to come. Drawing our Faith and Constitutional values, we aim to promote these values:

  •  Establishing Justice and Balance

    Truly establishing justice and equality for all, by addressing the inequalities in the criminal system that disproportionately affect black, brown, indigenous and poor white people. We will advocate for the decriminalization of mental illness, substance disorders, and homelessness. We will advocate for fostering and supporting non-carceral solutions that have shown to be effective, such as restorative justice and other forms of intervention that are lead by community members rather than law enforcement. We will advocate for increased substance abuse and mental health services, gun control to reduce the proliferation of guns and violence, and the overall decriminalization of poor communities and communities of color.

  •  Safeguarding the Sanctity of Life

    We respect the inviolability of life, that healthcare is a fundamental human right,importance of the preserving the quality of life, and uphold:

    • That health is the state of physical, mental, and social well-being, not only absence of illness and disease. That every person has the right to healthcare that is easily accessible, affordable and respects their dignity. All residents have a right to equal access to health care in a universal, transparent, and equitable healthcare system that allows residents to buy into the Affordable Care Act exchanges, regardless of immigration status.  
    • That we must rectify the social, environmental, and economic conditions that lead to health disparities among marginalized groups
    • That we must preserve and promote women’s health and children’s healthcare so that they may reach their full health and fundamental potential
    • That we must address unjust foreign policies that undermine our moral standing as a Nation due to warmongering
    • That we must address domestic issues such as militarization of our police force and use of deadly force against communities of color, poor people, and the mentally ill.
  • Protecting Freedom of Conscience and Religion

    We are committed to freedom religion and conscience for all and the ending of religious bigotry and policies that discriminate against or target people for their perceived religion or ethnic identity. We support drafting legislation that ends racial profiling by federal, state, and local law enforcement officials and the censuring of legislators who build their political platforms on anti-Muslim bigotry, racism, xenophobia, and Islamophobia. We respect voting rights, women’s rights, labor rights, immigrant rights and the fundamental principle of equal protection under the law.

  • Fostering Intellectual Development

    We nurture individual intellectual and cultural development and the acquiring of meaningful trade skills through educational opportunities. We advocate for early childhood education beginning and equal access to quality K-12 public school and removing economic barriers to higher education by securing equitable funding. We advocate for opportunity and affordable college education and are against predatory lending practices that put millions of students in debt. We recognize the importance of diversity and inclusion as well as a culturally-relevant approach to learning that appreciates the multiple perspectives.

  • Promoting Economic Justice and Equity

    We endorse economic initiatives that aim to build an economy that works for all people. We advocate for living wages and value the protection of workers from exploitation and the loss of their rights. We support fair housing and connect homeownership to opportunity; such as mortgage interest to offered by private entities as equity partners and promote economic development in low-income areas. We appreciate the importance of establishing the fair redistribution of wealth with equitable tax codes that do not favor the wealthy over the poor. We encourage fair and equitable international trade agreements that reflect these values outside the US as well.

  • Sustaining the Environment and Maintaining the Rights of Posterity

     We encourage working towards environmental and climate justice at the intersections of environmental degradation and the racial, economic and social inequities it perpetuates. We support community-led solutions led by Indigenous People and the poor who are most adversely affected by environmental crisis. We demand that our government abides by its treaties with sovereign Nations/Native Americans, to protect their land and water rights. We champion the implementation and extension of smart pollution and efficiency standards and investing in clean energy, infrastructure and innovation. We support environmental safety through responsible energy production. With our interconnected world, our environmental justice and climate justice at home and abroad. We advocate for abiding by and establishing international protections for the environment and vulnerable populations

What is our vision for a multifaith multiracial society? In a 2015 training, Rami Nashishibi and Shemar Hemphill of  Inner City Action Muslim Network (IMAN) asked us to envision a world that could be. In many ways, these policy principles try to move us to creating a world we want to see. Some people may feel that these principles are not radical enough. Others, are concerned that the principles may create openings for alignment with communities who do not share Islamic moral values. We have to struggle to articulate who we are as a community, our shared definition of self, our foundational faith values, that we bring to the table in uplifting all people.

We must be part of the remedy to our society’s most enduring problems and we can find it in our collective visioning. I invite others to join in this important conversation and become part of the solution.

 

Support Our Dawah for Just $2 a Month

MuslimMatters has been a free service to the community since 2007. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

Margari Aziza Hill is co-founder and Programming Director of Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative (MuslimARC), assistant editor at AltM, co-founder of Muslims Make it Plain, and columnist at MuslimMatters. She is on the Advisory Council of Islam, Social Justice & Interreligious Engagement Program at the Union Theological Seminary and winner of the 2015 MPAC Change Maker Award. She has nearly a decade of teaching experiences at all levels from elementary, secondary, college level, to adult education. She earned her master’s in History of the Middle East and Islamic Africa from Stanford University in 2006. Her research includes colonial surveillance in Northern Nigeria, anti-colonial resistance among West Africans in Sudan during the early 20th century, and race in Muslim communities. She is also a freelance writer with articles published in Time, SISTERS, Islamic Monthly, Al Jazeera English, Virtual Mosque (formerly Suhaibwebb.com), and Spice Digest. She has given talks and lectures in various universities and Muslim communities.

13 Comments

13 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Amin

    April 3, 2017 at 1:55 PM

    Well written article, however, I would like to make a few comments.

    While this article mentions how to be principled in seeking social justice, it would also be principled to make it clear on “What not to do when seeking social justice”. Many muslim activists out there have collaborated with many groups that oppose many principles of Islam. We need to understand that fighting for social justice as Muslims is a means to an end, not an end in itself! We are seeking God’s acceptance.

    It was nice that there was a discussion with scholars, however, these discussions need to be available to public. Activists and scholars need to discuss things publicly for other muslims to understand and learn because many youngsters out there DO follow activists blindly in the name of “Fighting for social justice”, without understanding what is right and wrong.

    I might sound a little passive but I think our community needs to invest more teaching in “avoiding wrong” because we have broken many boundaries of Islam in the name of being “activists”.

    These are important points because activists are currently considered the prominent representers of Islam, more than scholars even. Whether they chose so or not, that is what non-muslims see in social media and media in general.

    May Allah accept all our deeds and grant us Jannah.

    Wa Salam

    • Avatar

      Kyle Ismail

      April 3, 2017 at 2:58 PM

      Brilliant job and very well thought out. Some details could be added or changed but generally something that Muslims could be proud to stand on. Perhaps you’ll address this in your third installment, but one thing that Muslims could uniquely bring to public discourse is how activists can invest in themselves to care for themselves and those around them and preserve good character and longevity in the struggle. Jazaks

  2. Margari Hill

    Margari Hill

    April 3, 2017 at 2:45 PM

    Salam Alaikum Amin,

    I respectfully disagree. There has been plenty of articles written on this platform on what we shouldn’t be doing. Can you think of one thing that folks SHOULD be doing? And if folks are inclined to create more forums and write more articles about what we shouldn’t be doing, let them do that. I gotta keep it moving.

    Also, what principles are we against? Do we not work with Christians to feed the hungry and provide for orphans because theologically the Trinity violates towhead? Do we not work to end violence against women with an atheist group because they reject Allah? Do we not work with someone to end gang violence because they imbibe in alcohol and eat chicharrones? For those of us who are trying to be part of the solution, these online musings make it difficult to operate.

    There seems to be conflation of media representation and social media and real work that has impact in local communities. And we know that media is all smoke and mirrors and entertainment. Let’s get to work in our communities and make a difference. And scholars, intellectuals, organizers, and social workers let’s move this conversation forward to real action.

    • Avatar

      Amin

      April 3, 2017 at 3:53 PM

      We Alekom Alsalam,

      JAK for your reply.
      I apologize for not making it clear. When I said collaborating with other parties that we don’t agree with, I was referring specifically to joining movements that might have un-islamic causes. I agree with collaborating for good purposes, as long as Islamic principles are maintained. I agree in working for good causes of course. I am involved in community work myself.

      My whole point is, it is tricky working in the scope of social justice nowadays, just for the fact that it encompasses now more than just helping those in need. There is fitna in everything that might sound good. That is why I mentioned scholars and social justice activists need to have a public discussion; Just for the sake of understanding what can go wrong while being involved in this sort of work and how to interact with things that might be challenging. Many scholars have wrote on it online, but I think a face-to-face public discussion is warranted.

      • Margari Hill

        Margari Hill

        April 3, 2017 at 7:47 PM

        I live in a world that bridges both worlds, as my husband is an imam and we regularly talk with scholars and community leaders. Following the death of Muhammad Ali, I was on some national calls where prominent scholars called for a principled policy platform. Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened. Instead, we still are reactionary in our policy making. I’m inviting those scholars to take the lead in this work. The attempt is to be proactive, rather than focus on what goes wrong. That of course should be teased out. As a convener of difficult discussions, Really, we are lacking in creative visioning for our community. I invite you to vision what does freedom look like. What are the values, if lived out, would bring about the life we are intended to live?

  3. Avatar

    Ahmad B.

    April 3, 2017 at 5:17 PM

    Assalamu ‘alaikum,

    Thank you, sister, for this thoughtful article. I think it is a good sign that scholars and activists are working together to try to forge a platform and a language for us to strive for justice as Muslims in current society. I believe that this is an ongoing process that will take some time to get just right. I think it is important for all sides to be patient with each other and open to hearing others’ perspectives. This goes for scholars, but also for some of the activists, who sometimes seem to have a knee-jerk reaction to anything religious value or principle that goes against a particular leftist/liberal narrative. This in itself is perhaps partly a result of the fact that we have yet to forge a compelling, independent justice narrative of our own, which leaves social justice activists not much of a choice at the current time. This only increases, in my mind, the urgency of the need for us to develop a principled voice that takes Islamic values seriously. Such values often coincide with what typical SJWs fight for in today’s society, but sometimes conflict with it as well.

    Of course we wouldn’t refuse to work with a Christian or even atheist group *for the purpose of* fighting hunger, since their beliefs have no bearing on the action at hand. Their theological dispute with Muslims is a separate issue, while we all happen to converge on the need to fight hunger.

    But as far as potential conflicts, let’s stop beating around the bush. Everyone knows the elephant in the room that we’ve all come to tiptoe around: namely, groups that push radical ideologies and policies with regard to issues surrounding gender, sexuality, family, and related issues. We may work *alongside* an LGBT or a feminist group to fight poverty or racial injustice, but that does not authorize us to violate Islamic principles in fighting *for* any aspect of their own agenda that conflicts with Islamic values. Unfortunately, this happens to be a great deal of the LGBT agenda–like the radical redefinition of family, the separation of sex from reproduction, natural parenting and lineage from family, and a host of other things which directly undermine the overall goals and values of Islam, encapsulated in the maqasid al-shari’a. You quoted in your article verses in which Allah exhorts us to “call to the good and forbid the evil” and to call to uprightness, ihsan, etc. We have no choice but to understand and define these terms according to revelation, not according to the opinions and beliefs of current liberal-leaning or secular groups in our society.

    The principles you quote judiciously avoid including “LGBT equality” and other such loaded rhetoric, and also speak in general terms about “women’s rights” without, for example, tying this to a specifically pro-choice stance (which is again problematic from an Islamic moral and ethical viewpoint). At least one person whom you mention by name, however, has taken a public stance against pro-life groups and identified “justice,” generically understood, as entailing alignment with “pro-choice” movements.

    This is very problematic from an Islamic point of view, and we need to have a discussion about that, and learn to forge a narrative on justice that allows us to throw our weight with full force behind truly just causes (Islamically understood), without seeming hypocritical when we withhold support from causes that violate Islamic principles. Unless we are successful in plunging the depths of our tradition to articulate the real categories and language in terms of which we should conceive of and speak about justice (al-‘adl) as Muslims, it will be very difficult to avoid exchanging our worldview and principles for another not of our own making that comes from sources that are antithetical to religion. Many other religious denominations have fallen into this trap, and we must learn from their mistakes so that the same doesn’t happen to us (though the Prophet, saas, did say that never would the previous communities–Christians and Jews–go down a lizard hole except that some among his umma would follow them right down it).

    Wallahu waliyyu t-tawfiq.

    Wassalam,
    Ahmad B.

    • Margari Hill

      Margari Hill

      April 3, 2017 at 7:40 PM

      Thank you for your input Ahmad, unfortunately the comments have reified the view that the we’re more concerned with proscribing sexuality and reproduction rather than articulating what does social justice look like. Let us take the issue around Pro-Choice. I named a number of people and I’m not aware of any of their positions around reproductive health. Omar Suleiman wrote a nuanced article on debates around abortion, “Is Islam pro-life, pro-choice, or both depending on the circumstances? And what implications does the answer to this question have for current political discourse? This essay seeks to offer a comprehensive look at how classical and contemporary Muslim jurists have dealt with the subject in accordance with evolving methods, circumstances, and debates surrounding the topics of contraception and abortion. https://yaqeeninstitute.org/omar-suleiman/islam-and-the-abortion-debate/
      I’d love to see more nuanced discussions like this.

      It is still important to articulate what are women’s rights to reproductive health, what are rights over her body as inalienable rights? Depending on what school of law, what can a woman do? Do we shut down funding to organizations that provide services to poor women? Do we use Maslaha in determining to not defund service providers that may provide abortion services? What is our ethical responsibility?

      Ultimately, I do not like certain frameworks such as conservative or progressive, pro choice or pro life, or the crass pragmatism of aligning with a movement that doesn’t speak to our faith values. But also, what happens when we are afraid to discuss and discuss what social justice looks like, one that is faithfully rooted and speaks to realities of our families, neighbors, communities?

      • Avatar

        Ahmad B.

        April 3, 2017 at 8:46 PM

        Assalamu ‘alaikum Sr. Margari,

        Thank you for your considered response. I agree wholeheartedly that we should not use labels like “liberal,” “conservative,” “right,” “left,” etc. to describe ourselves or Islam, as these labels all have specific, yet constantly changing, meanings that the deen should not be boxed into.

        I appreciate the nuance of the article you cite on abortion. If you read carefully, however, it is clear that the overwhelming position of our scholars, while not as categorical in its absolute opposition to all abortion as the current Catholic church, have nevertheless come down far to the “right” on this issue than those who typically consider themselves “pro-choice” in today’s society. There’s no question it’s murder after 120 days, but even *prior to* 40 days, the most liberal views only allow it for very pressing reasons, from which is *explicitly excluded* the fear of poverty or not being able to provide for the child. The article mentions physical or mental inability to raise the child. Does that mean clinical insanity and actual physical incapacity, or something lesser? The article doesn’t say, so further research would be needed. Between 40 and 120 days, the article mentions as the only possible excuses rape or “extreme fetal deformity incompatible with life.”

        I searched for statistics regarding the reasons women in the U.S. give for obtaining abortions. Here is what I found:

        “This report reviews available statistics regarding reasons given for obtaining abortions in the United States, including surveys by the Alan Guttmacher Institute and data from seven state health/statistics agencies that report relevant statistics (Arizona, Florida, Louisiana, Minnesota, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Utah). The official data imply that AGI claims regarding “hard case” abortions are inflated by roughly a factor of three. Actual percentage of U.S. abortions in “hard cases” are estimated as follows: in cases of rape, 0.3%; in cases of incest, 0.03%; in cases of risk to maternal life, 0.1%; in cases of risk to maternal health, 0.8%; and in cases of fetal health issues, 0.5%. About 98.3% of abortions in the United States are elective, including socio-economic reasons or for birth control. This includes perhaps 30% for primarily economic reasons and possibly 0.1% each for sex selection and selective reduction of multifetal pregnancies.”

        If these statistics are even anywhere near accurate, it is clear that the Islamically justified abortions (if they were carried out prior to 40 days or between 40-120 days, respectively) constitute a tiny fraction of all abortions performed in the United States. Rape, maternal health, maternal life, and fetal life *together* amount to only 1.7% (!) of the cases. The remaining 98.3% are for reasons that even the most “lenient” scholars in our tradition would have considered illegitimate, meaning that almost all of the actual abortions performed in the United States constitute prohibited feticide from an Islamic perspective.

        The Omar Suleiman article mentions that “only 3%” of Planned Parenthood’s services in 2009 were “terminations” (a euphemism) and that PP performed “only” 332,000 (!) abortions in that one year. If the statistics available are accurate, then even if we assume the *best case* scenario (i.e., assuming that the small number of legitimate abortions performed actually fell within the 40- and 120-day time limits), that still leaves 326,356 instances of *illegitimate* (i.e., morally impermissible) pregnancy terminations (with a mere 5,644–1.7%–being Islamically legitimate, *in the best case scenario*).

        So as long as we can agree that the quasi-totality of abortions that occur in this country are, in fact, forbidden by Allah and constitute the unjustified taking of a developing human life, then we can have a conversation about the remaining 1.7%. Being “pro-life” in the current political atmosphere, however, has nothing to do with protecting the 1.7% of legitimate abortions, but protecting the “right” to the other 98%, which we consider to be illegitimate and immoral.

        What does this mean for our public posture on the issue? Well, if we take a posture that actually aligns with our values, principles, and God-given morals, we would certainly have to stand against laws that allow abortions that are morally illegitimate in a whopping 98% of the cases. If we say, “This is not our issue. Lakum dinukum wa liya din,” then perhaps we wouldn’t put anti-abortion activism on the top of our list of moral crusades, but I still would find actual *support* of abortion, as well as open alignment with pro-abortion groups–particularly for the explicit *purpose* of preserving and expanding current liberal abortion laws–very difficult to reconcile with Islam and, by extension, what our position should be as a community if we are actually guided by our Islamic values. Wallahu a’lam.

        In any case, I do appreciate the discussion and agree that we need to have conversations like this much more frequently and much more openly.

        Wassalam,
        Ahmad B.

        • Margari Hill

          Margari Hill

          April 3, 2017 at 9:08 PM

          Salam alaikum Ahmad,
          While I appreciate your sentiment, something about 722 words writing mostly about prohibition of abortion, rather than engaging in the central argument of my article which was 1839 words in total and just over 1000 of my own writing. I ask for “We must be part of the remedy to our society’s most enduring problems and we can find it in our collective visioning. I invite others to join in this important conversation and become part of the solution.” Only one paragraph was in a creative exercise of what are women’s rights. I’d like to see more engagement in a deeper level. Critiquing is finding the merits and weaknesses of an argument. It can also be building off of it and providing an alternative platform. I invite you to that.

  4. Avatar

    Amin

    April 3, 2017 at 9:17 PM

    JAK sister. Br. Ahmed actually explained what I was trying to say. The discussion I think that should take place is specifically for these issues that the brother mentioned. I am glad that you mentioned that it is wrong to be pragmatic.

    Social justice, as I was trying to say earlier is not only about helping our communities, it became a wider scope, it is more about marching for reproductive rights, ect. It’s funny we talk about helping others, but in fact, social justice now is more about how to become selfish and protest for personal benefits. This is really the reality of social justice nowadays. So, indeed, we need to actually establish what social justice means for muslims and what exactly are our objectives to attain it. I think many muslims agree that we need to engage in the community to bring about positive change and to help people. However, the sad reality is: Muslims are going through a hard time spiritually, even more with the current climate. Islamic education is extremely important nowadays to understand where to draw the lines, when to collaborate and when to not.

    The issue does not lie only in stances like reproductive health and sexuality. These might be the only issues visible to us, but these stances come from a completely liberal point of view, and liberalism clashes with Islam in its core foundations. There was a new study done that indicated that muslim youth are the most politically liberal community in USA. The endorsement of liberalism has major ramifications for your deen. Unfortunately, when talking about a bigger scale of social justice organizations, politics plays a major role.

    So my personal suggestions would be:

    1-Avoid affiliating with any political parties, and create our own political stance. Being independent will allow us to have the freedom to express what our religion is about, and will make our intentions pure when helping our communities.

    2-Creating a sustainable link between Islamic organizations and social justice work. That would help create a dialogue between activists and Imams, and also will be a motive in making our work prophetic and principled.

    • Margari Hill

      Margari Hill

      April 3, 2017 at 10:30 PM

      While important, I wasn’t the one who centered sexuality and reproductive health. But that has been the crux of the issue that you and Ahmad brought up.

      If you re-read the statement it says that we do not based on political party. There were religious scholars who contributed to the platform. I reached out to many more, but few responded to the call to contribute to this phase of the discussion. I invite Muslims scholars to be more engaged with MuslimARC and any of the organizing spaces I’m part of, as our pedagogy is articulated from Islamic principles. It draws on my research on Islamic education, as well as critical pedagogy. I invite Muslim leaders to enter in Faith Based Organizing spaces and be part of important conversations. I understand that folks are busy, but I’ve been in spaces where I am the only one fighting for them. So, I need for folks to be more open and enter a partnership, as this has been extremely hard.

  5. Avatar

    Ahmad B.

    April 5, 2017 at 2:15 PM

    Assalamu ‘alaikum Sister,

    I appreciate your patient and graceful responses. I did not mean to boil questions of social justice down to sexual morality, but only to show where disagreements and misalignments are likely to come up, especially in social justice spaces dominated by left-wing / liberal groups (since you had asked that one brother).

    Having said that, I think a great deal of what such people are striving for is fully compatible with Islamic values, and we should be at the forefront of such efforts, since Allah has commanded us to establish justice and ihsan. The Prophet (saas) was known to have stood for just causes even before revelation, which means we should follow suit.

    However, the Prophet’s (saas) actual mission went far beyond social justice or “reform” in a normal sense, and was based first and foremost on the religious goal of guiding people to the worship of and submission to Allah alone, for the sake of their individual salvation in the akhira. Social justice is a core Islamic value, but Islam cannot be reduced to it. We should ideally avoid conceptualizing of Islam as *nothing but* a call to social justice or speaking of it in those terms.

    The statement you quoted in your piece does a nice job of laying out a social justice platform for Muslims without crossing the line into un-Islamic territory. I think we should throw our collective efforts behind justice causes, excluding much of the sexuality and gender platform of the Left. For this to be viable, however, we have to have a coherent internal discourse around our own positive values regarding, e.g., sexuality, gender, family, etc., so that it is clear to our own community, as well as to others, that we are not primarily *against* x, y, or z, but primarily *for* a, b, and c, which are the true values that Allah has given us and that we are calling people towards (an ethics of chastity, for example, importance of the family, etc.). Of course, we have to actually live and embody these values, otherwise it’s just empty talk or, worse, hypocrisy.

    May Allah give you tawfiq in your work!

    Wassalam,
    Ahmad B.

  6. Avatar

    Wesam

    April 30, 2017 at 12:33 PM

    At AERA with Dr. Indigo Esmonde standing in solidarity with Muslim coleagues. Seven-minute silence during her presentation.
    Thank you!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

#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.

Support MuslimMatters for Just $2 a Month

MuslimMatters has been a free service to the community since 2007. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

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

 

Support Our Dawah for Just $2 a Month

MuslimMatters has been a free service to the community since 2007. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

Continue Reading

#Current Affairs

The Perennial Siege: Kashmir’s Tense Lockdown Anniversary

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

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

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

Support MuslimMatters for Just $2 a Month

MuslimMatters has been a free service to the community since 2007. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

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.

Support Our Dawah for Just $2 a Month

MuslimMatters has been a free service to the community since 2007. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

Continue Reading

#Current Affairs

Indian Myths Channel Genocide in Kashmir

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

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

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

Support MuslimMatters for Just $2 a Month

MuslimMatters has been a free service to the community since 2007. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

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.”

Support Our Dawah for Just $2 a Month

MuslimMatters has been a free service to the community since 2007. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

Continue Reading
.
.

MuslimMatters NewsLetter in Your Inbox

Sign up below to get started

Trending

you're currently offline