Islam and Peace:Muslims must speak in one voice against extremism

An article courtesy  TOI, of  17 March.

It is very very rare to see such frank opinions on extremists, root cause for extremism, especially when linked to a religion with more than its share of violence and man made tragedies.

Even brave souls like MJ Akbar have not been so forthright in in voicing their opinions.

We wish those who should read it, do so, and introspect.

Ed:

Build The Peace Consensus

Muslims must speak in one voice against extremism

Sadia Dehlvi 

The trail of terror continues with cricketers as the latest target. The Mumbai and Lahore attacks, public executions and the murder of over a thousand civilians in the Swat valley by Taliban-style terrorists are horrifying examples of atrocities committed by militant groups thriving on political Islam.

Global Muslim communities urgently need to condemn the agenda of political Islam that distorts religious scriptures to legitimise violence. This ideology of Islamism is threatening to replace a moderate and spiritual Islam, leading to the destruction of many societies and, in particular, oppression of women and minorities.

Muslims have a moral responsibility to engage in the social, political and economic development of the societies they live in. Global Muslim societies would do well to imitate the exceptional efforts of Indian clerics in denouncing terrorism and delinking it with Islam. Sincere moral outrage needs to be expressed at Taliban atrocities in Afghanistan and Pakistan, political kidnappings and assassinations, militancy in Kashmir, Shia-Sunni killings in Iraq and Pakistan, fatwas condoning suicide bombings in the Israel-Palestine conflict and other atrocities affecting innocent lives.

Muslims require an international consensus on combating extremism. Our credibility is lost when we express selective outrage, as in the aftermath of the Danish cartoons controversy.

Political Islam draws its lifeblood from the ideology of fighting the oppressor, but has clearly become the oppressor itself. Though some Islamist groups have renounced violence, accepted the principles of democracy and marginally improved their stand on women and minority rights, they remain socially conservative.

In Jordan, the Islamist party does not support the rights of women to file for divorce. In Kuwait, the Islamists fought against the right of women to vote. In Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood will not allow a woman or a person from a minority community to become head of state. Unfortunately, militant Islamist groups thrive in the political vacuum created by oppressive regimes in most Islamic countries.

Muslims must stop blaming the problem of extremism on catastrophic policies of foreign countries. For, two wrongs simply do not make a right. It is primarily a Muslim problem, threatening both Muslim and non-Muslim societies. We need to acknowledge that there is a problem of theology when extremists talk of going straight to heaven after taking innocent lives.

The roots of all modern militant Islamic movements can be traced to one man, Abdul Wahab from Nejd in the Arabian Peninsula. He set out to ‘purify’ Islam, believing that Muslims had drifted away from true religion. Wahab’s followers destroyed many sacred sites that he
considered linked to idolatry. Attacking the arts for being frivolous and dangerous, Wahab sanctioned the rape, murder and plunder of those who refused to follow his injunctions. He was considered a heretic by most, for Mecca and Medina were then centres of contemplative Islam, inhabited by Sufis from all over the world.

In 1774-75, Wahab negotiated a deal with the then nomadic tribe of Saud, forebears of the current royal family, in exchange for support to their quest for political domination. Most Saudis reject the name Wahhabi; they either call themselves Muwahuddin — Unitarians — or Salafi, referring to salaf, the venerated companions of the Prophet. In this blinkered view, no other version of religious truth can exist.

This new face of Islam has nothing to do with Sufis, music, poetry, miracles or the countless devotional customs of Muslim cultures across the world.

Under the patronage of Saudi Arabia, Wahhabism went from strength to strength. Abul Ala Mawdudi, a journalist who translated the Quran outside the classical paradigms, propagated the Wahhabi ideology. He founded the political party Jamaat-e-Islami in Pakistan, making jihad central to Islamic discourse. Addressing non-Muslims as infidels, he grouped Muslims into ‘partial’ and ‘true’ Muslims. Mawdudi’s ideas of Islam as a revolutionary doctrine to take over governments and overturn the whole universal order deeply influenced Syed Qutub of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.

These groups have been motivated by political upheavals and the rejection of traditional scholars. Syed Qutub’s brother happened to be among the teachers of Osama bin Laden.

The extremism now found in Mecca and Medina, the heartland of Islam, is the Wahhabi ideology that the Saudis have spent millions in promoting through their outreach programmes. There is no tolerance for Shias, Sunni Sufis or other Muslim traditions, leave alone non-Muslims.

Unfortunately, there is no collective Muslim protest against the Saudi regime for bulldozing graveyards, destroying the cultural and religious heritage of the holy cities, imposing a certain segregation of the sexes inside the Prophet’s mosque at Medina, radical sermons or distribution of radical literature outside Saudi mosques, many of them issuing calls for death to whoever they view as infidels or innovators of Islam.

The problem of Muslim extremism began in the Muslim world and the responsibility of resolving it lies with us.

The inability to present Islam as a peaceful religion is a collective failure of global Muslim communities. We could begin by increasing the decibel in condemning violence and sectarianism and standing up for women’s rights.

We should stop demonising the ‘other’ as infidels and show increased support for democratic movements in Muslim countries. It is time for the devout, silent and peace-loving Muslim majority to speak for Islam.

Let our voices be louder than the radical voices claiming to represent us.


The writer is a Delhi-based commentator.

Sadia Dehlvi is a renowned Delhi based media person. She is a prominent face on prime time television debates dealing with the issues of Muslim communities.

A well-known columnist and writer, Dehlvi is frequently published in frontline Urdu, Hindi and English newspapers and magazines. She has been the editor of Bano, a popular woman’s journal in the Urdu language with the Shama group of Publications. Dehlvi has produced and scripted a number of documentaries and television programs.

For over thirty years Sadia Dehlvi has engaged in voicing concern on issues regarding heritage, culture, women and Muslim communities. She is currently working on a book on Delhi’s Sufi history. Her surname ‘Dehlvi” means someone from Delhi reflecting her family’s long association with Delhi

Top French honour for Pondy Sanskrit scholar


new-picture-3

Top French honour for Pondy Sanskrit scholar

Bosco Dominique | TNN

BIRTHDAY GIFT: S Sambanda Sivacharyar, Sanskrit scholar and research assistant of French Institute of Pondicherry

Puducherry: He has been working more than 10 hours a day for the past five decades, collecting palm leaf manuscripts in different scripts from various parts of country and categorising them after researching their content.

On his 83rd birthday, S Sambanda Sivacharyar, Sanskrit scholar and research assistant at the French Institute of Pondicherry (IFP), got the pleasant news that he had been selected by the French government for one of the oldest and prestigious civil awards ‘Ordre des Palmes Académiques’ for his contributions to the study of the languages, texts, history and cultures of the Indian subcontinent.

The scholar, who joined IFP in 1969, extensively collected and studied Saiva manuscripts on palm leaves under the guidance of pandit N R Bhatt. He was instrumental in publishing critical editions of the Saivagamas, one of the 28 main texts (agamas) of Saivasiddantha (philosophy and scriptures of the Saivas), tracing the historical evolution of its doctrines and the Saiva ritual system dating back several centuries.

He is currently in charge of the upcoming edition of Suksmagama of the IFP, which has one of the richest collections of palm leaf manuscripts on Saivasiddhanta.

The institute’s palm leaf manuscript collections have been included in UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register.

The researcher said palm leaf manuscripts available in the institute were in several scripts including Tamil, Grantha, Telugu, Malayalam, Tigalari, Sarada, Nadinagiri and Newari.

His work primarily focussed on cataloguing the manuscripts based on their contents and transliterating the contents from one script to another, Grantha to Devanagiri script, for instance, enabling present generation researchers to access and understand ancient contents.

“IFP has about 8,000 bundles of palm leaf manuscripts mostly on Saivasiddhanta followed by grammar, palmistry and Thevaram in various scripts. We have categorised a little more than 25% of our collection and brought out several publications on Saivasiddhanta. transliterating the contents from ancient scripts to Devanagiri script,” Sambanda Sivachariar told TOI. He said in ancient times, Tamil-speaking people used Grantha script to write Sanskrit and most of the manuscripts on religious text were written in Grantha.

“The use of Grantha to write Sanskrit declined subsequently in the last century and Devanagiri became a widely popular script for Sanskrit,” he said.

Born on January 6, 1927 in a family of temple priests, Sambandan learnt temple rites at the tender age of seven from his father and the Vedas from eminent scholars before joining the Ahobila Math Sanskrit Padashala, Madurantakam. He studied at Raja’ College, Thiruvaiyaru and Mylapore Sanskrit College.

Before joining the IFP, he worked at the manuscript library of Theosophical Society and the Government Manuscript Library, Chennai and was also closely associated with the Saraswathi Mahal Library, Thanjavur, Thiruvanandapuram Manuscripts Library and Mysore Oriental Research Library in 1950s.

He has to his credit the establishment of a printing press with Grantha and Devanagiri scripts and printed and published many books on Agamas. Presently, he is editing an almanac, ‘Thiru Koil Anushtana Vakya Panchangam’ for the past 15 years and running a publishing company, which comes out with books on temple rituals.
bosco.dominique@timesgroup.com

Losing Temper

Mr Watwani has sent this mesage

Make sure you read all the way down to the last sentence. (Most importantly the last sentence)

There once was a little boy who had a bad

temper.

His Father gave him a bag of nails

and told him that every time he lost his

temper, he must hammer a nail into the back

of the fence.

The first day the boy had

driven 37 nails into the fence. Over the next

few weeks, as he learned to control his

anger, the number of nails hammered daily

gradually dwindled down.  He discovered

it was easier to hold his temper than to


drive those nails into the fence.

Finally the ! day came when the boy didn’t


lose his temper at all. He told his father

about it and the father suggested that the

boy now pull out one nail for each day that he

was able to hold

his temper.

The days passed and the young boy was finally

able to tell his father that all the nails

were gone. The father took his son by the

hand and led him to the fence He said, “You

have done well, my son, but look at the

holes in the fence. The fence will never be

the same. When you say things in anger,

they leave a scar just like this one.  You can put

a knife in a man and draw it out.

It won’t matter how many times you say “I’m

sorry”, the wound is still there.  A verbal

wound is as bad as a physical one.

Friends are very rare jewels, indeed. They

make you smile and encourage you to succeed.

They lend an ear, they share words of praise

and they always want to open their hearts to us.”

It’ s National Friendship Week. Show your

friends how much you care. Send this to

everyone you consider a FRIEND, even if

it mean s sending it back to the person who

sent it to you. If it comes back to you,

then you’ll know you have a circle of friends.

YOU ARE MY FRIEND AND I AM HONORED!

Now send this to every friend you have!!

And to your family

Please forgive me if I have ever left a hole.

Aurangzeb :: The worst thing to happen to the “Idea of India”

There is serious evidence, on going through the Quran, that its ‘as it is’ and ‘non-contextual’ (of that period and situation) interpretation can, and evidently has, led to complete intolerance of Islam over other faiths and people following those faiths. This is a certainly one of the most important causes of terrorism globally.

*There is no other true way*

One key point that comes out during discussions with orthodox muslims is the fact that they believe there can be no other true interpretation of God, and the purpose of life, than the one they have as has been offered by Muhammad. Everyone else is wrong, they say, and there is no room for Self-inquiry, with the possibility of this leading to new answers. Answers are all laid out already – and simply need to be followed.

While a lot of other religions and intra-religious faiths within hinduism as well, take such a hard stance to spiritual pursuits of other people, the trouble arises when this difference in world-views (or God-views) reaches the point of intolerance of the other, and precipitates as aggression and violence.

This has been the case in both Islam and Christianity, and from what I know, in the Jewish faith as well. This has happened in the past with some of India’s Hindu kings as well, who were completely intolerant to Buddhism and Buddhists, and ordered their persecution. However, stories of such kings found doing circles in Srilankan and Tibetan Buddhist monks “seems to be” (and I welcome my readers to help me correct my knowledge of history) at best exaggerated.

Purpose of this article

I write this to help build religious harmony and tolerance between Islam and Hindusim in India. I will attempt to show reason on why muslims need to with hard look at history, thus needing to soften their stand on Babri Masjid/Ram Janmabhoomi, Kashi Vishwanath and other such key temple complexes which are the central flash-points of conflict currently in India.

The purpose of this article is invite muslim leaders and secular thinkers, to put themselves in the shoes of hindus, and then stand in judgment of their popular sentiment about Babri Masjid and other similar examples. Then

  • an opportunity for dialogue between the two communities can open up, on how to move forward
  • we can say, what was done in the past was shameful and against Islam
  • there will be an opportunity with muslims to soften their stand possibly, leading to voluntary relocation of some of the mosques standing in place of these temples or occupying, whether in use or not
  • a message to the hindus can go – that they need not repeat the same nonsense

Aurangzeb

Aurangzeb, in this discussion, in context of India, stands head and shoulders above all muslim invaders, kings and zealots who came to India plundering its resources, people, temples, lifestyles and destroying its social and spiritual fabric.

Proof of such destruction of Hindu temples across the region

It is often pointed out that no such thing was done by Aurangzeb, and that this version of history is contrived and incorrect to push forward the saffronisation agenda.

I recently came across a blog on Aurangzeb and the mess he created in India. The research done by Francois Gautier on Aurangzeb is based on farhans (original edicts) by Aurangzeb, preserved at the Bikaner Museum in Rajasthan.

His research led to a series of paintings and sketches to visually represent the destruction of hindu temples, their forced and coercive conversions, the brutal dismemberment of his enemies, and imposing strict interpretations of Islam leading to killing of philosophers and ban on music. Here are some links of these exhibits:

Exhibit No. 2: Prince Dara Shukoh translating the Upanishads

Exhibit No. 3: Scene of Captive Dara being paraded in Delhi

Exhibit No. 4: Dara Shukoh’s farcical trial and verdict

Exhibit No. 6: Keshava Rai Temple. “Even to look at a temple is a sin for a Musalman”, Aurangzeb

Exhibit No. 7: Demolition of Kalka’s Temple – I. Siyah Waqa’i- Darbar Regnal Year 10, Rabi I, 23 / 3 September 1667

Exhibit No. 8: Demolition of Kalka Temple II. Siyah Akhbarat-i-Darbar-i-Mu‘alla Julus 10, Rabi II 3 / 12 September 1667

Exhibit No. 9: General Order for the Destruction of Temples. (9th April 1669)

Exhibit No. 11: Demolition of the temple of Viswanath (Banaras). August 1669 A.D.

Exhibit No. 12 i – ii – iii : “During this month of Ramzan (1080 A.H./January-February 1670) ….. the Emperor ….. The reviver of the Faith of the Prophet issued orders for the demolition of the Dehra of Keshava Rai in Mathura. In a short time the destruction of this strong foundation of infidelity was accomplished and on its site a lofty mosque was built. ….. the idols large and small of the temple were brought to Agra and buried under the steps of the mosque of Begum Sahib” (Maasir-i- ‘Alamgiri, 95-96); http://according-to-mughal-records.blogspot.com/2008/06/exhibit-no_6075.html, http://according-to-mughal-records.blogspot.com/2008/06/exhibit-no_4763.html

Exhibit No. 13: Demolition of Keshava Rai temple at Mathura. (13th January – 11th February 1670)

Exhibit No. 14: Demolition of Somnath temple

Exhibit No. 16: Reimposition of Jizyah by Aurangzeb. (2nd April 1679)

Exhibit No. 17: “Burial of Music”. The musicians, wailing and lamenting carry the ‘bier’ of music in Aurangzeb’s presence. “Bury it so deep that no sound or echo of it may rise again”, Aurangzeb, (Muntakhab-al Lubab, p.213)

Exhibit No.19: Aurangzeb orders cart-loads of idols brought from Jodhpur to be cast under the steps of Jama Masjid. (May 1679)

Exhibit No. 20: Demolition of Jagannath Rai (Jagdish Temple), Udaipur and its brave defence. R.Y. 23rd of Aurangzeb’s reign (26th September 1679 – 14th September 1680)

Exhibit No. 22: Destruction of sixty-three temples at Chittor. On Monday, the 22nd February /1st Safar, the Emperor went to see Chittor; by his order sixty-three (63) temples of the place were destroyed

Exhibit No. 23: Orders for the destruction of temples on the bank of Maharana’s lake, Udaipur. Siyah Akhbarat-i-Darbar-i-Mu’alla Julus 23, Zilqad 29 / 23rd December 1679

Exhibit No. 24: Orders for the demolition of Jagannath Temple, Orissa. Siyah Akhbarat-i-Darbar-i- Mu‘alla Julus 24, Jamadi I, 23 / 1st June 1681

Exhibit No. 25: Large scale destruction of temples in the environs of Udaipur (January 1680)

Exhibit No. 26: All the temples on the way to be destroyed. Siyah Akhbarat-i-Darbar Julus 25, Ramzan 18 / 21st September 1681

Exhibit No. 27: Demolition of Bindu-Madhav Temple at Banaras. Siyah Akhbarat-i-Darbar-i- Mu‘alla Julus 26, Ramzan 20 / 13 September 1682

Exhibit No. 28: Problem of converting closed temples into mosques in Burhanpur district. Siyaha Akhbarat-i-Darbar-i- Mu‘alla R.Yr. 25, Shawwal 10 / 13th October 1681

Exhibit No. 29: Order for demolition of the temple at Goner (Amber). Siyaha Akhbarat-i-Darbar-i- Mu‘alla Julus (R.Yr.) 24, Rabi I, 17 / 28th March 1686

Exhibit No. 30: Demolition of the Jagdish temple at Goner (Amber) – II. Siyaha Akhbarat-i-Darbar-i- Mu‘alla Julus (R.Yr.) 24, Jamadi I, 5 / 14th May 1686

Exhibit No. 31: Muslims exempted from paying Zakat Siyah. Akhbart-i-Darbar-i- Mu‘alla Julus (R.Yr.) 10, Zilqad 2 / 16th April 1667

Exhibit No. 32: Restriction on atishbazi. Akhbarat-i-Darbar-i- Mu‘alla Julus 10, Shawwal 24 / April 9th 1667

Exhibit No. 33: Musalmans to replace Hindu officials as cure for ineffectiveness of prayers. Siyah Waqai Darbar Julus (R.Yr.) 10, Muharram 18 / 1st July 1667

Exhibit No. 34: Hindu Chowkinavis and Amins of the Haft-chowkis to be replaced by the Musalmans. Akhbarat Dargah-i- Mu‘alla Julus (R.Yr.) 9, Jamadi II, 28 / 15th December 1666

Exhibit No. 39: Aurangzeb orders the execution of Sarmad, a Jewish Armenian Philosopher who accepted Islam but stood for freedom of conscience.

Exhibit No. 40: Large number of conversions by Faujdar, Bithur. Grant of saropas and cash sanctioned by Aurangzeb. Akhbarat-i-Darbar-i- Mu‘alla Julus (R.Yr.) 10, Shawwal 26 / 11th April 1667

Exhibit No. 41: Coercion in Conversion – Case of the chief of Manoharpur. Siyah Akhbarat-i-Darbar-i- Mu‘alla Julus 24, Jamadi I, 7 / 16th May 1681

There is also a history paper written by Rajiv Verma on Destruction of Hindu Temples by Aurangzeb, which provides historical references.

A message to the readers

This is not meant to be a hate article.

This is a result of a dialogue between an orthodox muslim friend who during our series of discussions on Islam and Hindusim, denied that there was any such things done by Aurangzeb. It is such denial which leads to nonacceptance of each other’s anxieties. Gandhi used to say that the ability of hindus and muslims would be determined by the understanding they can have for each others anxieties.

I believe the Hindus have no real scars and have moved on, and moved forward with many things (which is a great thing ofcourse), yet there are some sensitive points in memory like Babri Masjid, which are a result of popular sentiment of people associated with someone who is as dear to the Hindus as Muhammad is to Muslims.

There needs to be movement forward by muslims in showing tolerance and acceptance now.