Saturday, December 22, 2012

Arundhati Roy on Indian rape culture

Arundhati Roy: Why is this crime so clearly such a lot of outrage because it plays into the idea of criminal poor. You know the vegetable vendors, bus driver, gym instructor actually assaulting a middle class girl. Whereas when rape is used as a means of domination by upper caste, by the army or the police. It is actually go unpunished. Not even talked about.

TV Anchor: Is there any chance this kind of big protest lead to genuine change? Will the political class change?
Arudhati Roy: I think it would lead to certain laws perhaps. It may also lead to increased surveillence. But all of that, I will repeat, all of that will protect middle class women. But in other place when we are looking for laws there are laws. But when the Police themselves go and burn down villages and gangrape. I have personally listened to so many testimonies from women who were subjected to such heinous crime. I have heard so many testimonies from eye witnesses that how women were killed.

TV Anchor: This is such a contrast from the image being projected of a modern India by the film industry in Mumbai and by a new Tech India. It makes one feel there are many world competing one another here.
Arundhati Roy: There is one section of film industry which projects bubble gum chewing modern India. There is another section of film industry with rap singers, films porno films where they show bestial violence against women. Celebrating murder and rape.. etc. The idea of 'them' being criminal is.. Poor are projected as...

Urban Young women are vulnerable....

To watch Arundhati Roy Here

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Hitler, Hindutva and Indian elite

My wife teaches French to tenth-grade students at a private school here in Mumbai. During one recent class, she asked these mostly upper-middle-class kids to complete the sentence “J'admire …” with the name of the historical figure they most admired.

To say she was disturbed by the results would be to understate her reaction. Of 25 students in the class, 9 picked Adolf Hitler, making him easily the highest vote-getter in this particular exercise; a certain Mohandas Gandhi was the choice of precisely one student. Discussing the idea of courage with other students once, my wife was startled by the contempt they had for Gandhi. “He was a coward!” they said. And as far back as 2002, the Times of India reported a survey that found that 17 percent of students in elite Indian colleges “favored Adolf Hitler as the kind of leader India ought to have.”

In a place where Gandhi becomes a coward, perhaps Hitler becomes a hero.

Still, why Hitler? “He was a fantastic orator,” said the 10th-grade kids. “He loved his country; he was a great patriot. He gave back to Germany a sense of pride they had lost after the Treaty of Versailles,” they said.

"And what about the millions he murdered?” asked my wife. “Oh, yes, that was bad,” said the kids. “But you know what, some of them were traitors.”

Admiring Hitler for his oratorical skills? Surreal enough. Add to that the easy condemnation of his millions of victims as traitors. Add to that the characterization of this man as a patriot. I mean, in a short dozen years, 

Hitler led Germany through a scarcely believable orgy of blood to utter shame and wholesale destruction. Even the mere thought of calling such a man a patriot profoundly corrupts—is violently antithetical to—the idea of patriotism.

But these are kids, you think, and kids say the darndest things. Except this is no easily written-off experience. The evidence is that Hitler has plenty of admirers in India, plenty of whom are by no means kids.

Consider Mein Kampf, Hitler’s autobiography. Reviled it might be in the much of the world, but Indians buy thousands of copies of it every month. As a recent paper in the journal EPW tells us (PDF), there are over a dozen Indian publishers who have editions of the book on the market. Jaico, for example, printed its 55th edition in 2010, claiming to have sold 100,000 copies in the previous seven years. (Contrast this to the 3,000 copies my own 2009 book, Roadrunner, has sold). In a country where 10,000 copies sold makes a book a bestseller, these are significant numbers.

And the approval goes beyond just sales. Mein Kampf is available for sale on, India’s Amazon. As I write this, 51 customers have rated the book; 35 of those gave it a five-star rating. What’s more, there’s a steady trickle of reports that say it has become a must-read for business-school students; a management guide much like Spencer Johnson’s Who Moved My Cheese or Edward de Bono’s Lateral Thinking. If this undistinguished artist could take an entire country with him, I imagine the reasoning goes, surely his book has some lessons for future captains of industry?

Much of Hitler’s Indian afterlife is the legacy of Bal Thackeray, chief of the Shiv Sena party who died on Nov. 17.
Thackeray freely, openly, and often admitted his admiration for Hitler, his book, the Nazis, and their methods. In 1993, for example, he gave an interview to Time magazine. “There is nothing wrong,” he said then, “if [Indian] Muslims are treated as Jews were in Nazi Germany.”

This interview came only months after the December 1992 and January 1993 riots in Mumbai, which left about a thousand Indians slaughtered, the majority of them Muslim. Thackeray was active right through those weeks, writing editorial after editorial in his party mouthpiece, “Saamna” (“Confrontation”) about how to “treat” Muslims.

On Dec. 9, 1992, for example, his editorial contained these lines: “Pakistan need not cross the borders and attack India. 250 million Muslims in India will stage an armed insurrection. They form one of Pakistan’s seven atomic bombs.”
A month later, on Jan. 8, 1993, there was this: “Muslims of Bhendi Bazar, Null Bazar, Dongri and Pydhonie, the areas [of Mumbai] we call Mini Pakistan … must be shot on the spot.”

There was plenty more too: much of it inspired by the failed artist who became Germany’s führer. After all, only weeks before the riots erupted, Thackeray said this about the führer’s famous autobiography: “If you take Mein Kampf and if you remove the word Jew and put in the word Muslim, that is what I believe in.”

With rhetoric like that, it’s no wonder the streets of my city saw the slaughter of 1992-93. It’s no wonder kids come to admire a mass-murderer, to rationalize away his massacres. It’s no wonder they cling to almost comically superficial ideas of courage and patriotism, in which a megalomaniac’s every ghastly crime is forgotten so long as we can pretend that he “loved” his country.

In his acclaimed 1997 book Hitler’s Willing Executioners, Daniel Goldhagen writes: “Hitler, in possession of great oratorical skills, was the [Nazi] Party’s most forceful public speaker. Like Hitler, the party from its earliest days was devoted to the destruction of … democracy [and to] most especially and relentlessly, anti-Semitism. … The Nazi Party became Hitler’s Party, obsessively anti-Semitic and apocalyptic in its rhetoric about its enemies.”

Do some substitutions in those sentences along the lines Thackeray wanted to do with Mein Kampf. Indeed, what you get is a more than adequate description of … no surprise, Thackeray himself.

Yes, it’s no wonder. Thackeray too was revered as an orator. Cremated, on Nov. 18, as a patriot.
Dilip D'Souza in The Daily Beast Here

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

I can't hug my Ferrari forever..! : Dr Richard Teo

Consultant surgeon Richard Teo in Singapore who was 40 years old passed away on the 18th of October due to a lung cancer. He had reached success and had become a billionaire by following the vision that happiness is in the hands of money. He had been working as a popular cosmetic surgeon in his final days, earning huge sums of money.

Yet he had become very disappointed after knowing the disease he had been inflicted with. When, he realized that he was left with a short period of time then, he decided to serve the people during that short period of time. He finally mentioned that: “I can’t be holding on to my Ferrari all my life.” Few days before his death, he  addressed medical students and shared his experience which is very popular in the internet these days. Few lines extracted from his speech are as below:

“I am a product of the modern society. I was able to adapt to the modern world since my childhood days. I come from a middle class family. I was constantly told that happiness could be reached by success and that success is all money. Thus, I was very competent since my childhood. I wanted to go to the best school and I wanted to be the best. I won awards, medals and became the first at everything. You may be aware that becoming an eye surgeon is a very popular field. I went after that and I was also selected in this field. I have won an award for using laser to cure problems related to the eye. I got two patent licenses as well. One was on using medical equipment and the other was for using laser but I didn’t earn any money. So as soon as I finished, I decided that it was enough.
I realized that private medical practice will help me to earn a lot of money and my interest shifted to cosmetic surgery as it was very popular in the world. I stopped my practice on the way and started a private clinic for cosmetic surgery. 
Unfortunately, people don’t pay respect to their family doctor. Instead they respect popular doctors. People who are reluctant to pay S $20 are ready to pay thousands and ten thousands to beautify themselves. So I decided to become a cosmetic surgeon instead of being regular doctor. Accordingly, the business reached utmost success. At first the clients had to wait for a week to get an appointment, later they had to wait for months. I had work on a full time basis. People were so interested on improving their physique. It was such a flourishing business. Then I hired another doctor, gradually the number of doctors increased and seven doctors to work under me. We earned about a million dollars during the first year. Yet that wasn't enough for me as I was crazy about money. I worked in Indonesia to serve the richest Indonesians. 

Missing Salah (Prayer) Intentionally

Nothing we can do is worse than missing Salah. Check this out:

A woman came to Prophet Musa and said, "I committed a grave sin. Please pray to Allah that He forgives me."
Prophet Musa: "What did you do?"
Woman: "I committed fornication and later gave birth to a boy whom I killed."
Prophet Musa: "Go away from here, you wicked woman, lest a fire from Heaven destroys us all because of your sin!"

The woman left broken-hearted. Then Angel Jibril descended and asked, "O Musa, why have you turned away a repentant woman? Have you not found anyone worse than her?"
Prophet Musa: "Who can be worse than her?"
Angel Jibril: "The one who abandons salah intentionally and persistently."

[Al-Kaba'ir, Adh-Dhahabi, Book of Missing Salah]

Monday, November 12, 2012

Who Milks This Cow?

Nearly two thousand people died in the Bhagalpur riots. Many more were rendered homeless. Although Muslims were less than 20 per cent of the population, they constituted more than 70 per cent of those who had been killed or displaced. We visited a once-flourishing village of Muslim weavers, or julahas, whose homes and looms had been totally destroyed by a mob of Hindus. The survivors were being taken care of by a prosperous Muslim weaver in Bhagalpur town, who had laid out tents in his garden. Other refugees were being provided food and shelter by a Muslim religious organisation. Of government work in the resettlement and rehabilitation of the refugees there was not a sign.

I was shaken to see that my fellow Hindus would willingly partake of such savagery, and that my government would take no responsibility for the victims. Till then, the politics of religion had no place in my scholarly work or writing. My principal field of research was the environment. I had just published a book on the social history of the Himalayan forests, and had written scholarly essays on environmental conflicts in Asia and North America. However, I was now provoked to write an essay on the Bhagalpur riots for the Sunday Observer.

Ramachandra Guha in Outlook Here

Saturday, November 10, 2012

The story of our Fathers

IN the heart of Berlin this summer I walked on stage at the Babylon Theater and began telling stories.

I was nervous. I’m a practicing Muslim, and I didn’t know how a German audience would react to an awkward, hairy brown kid.

I talked. I talked about my life, and how as a child I’d bring home a report card with a 95 percent on it, and my father would say, “Why isn’t this 100 percent? If you weren’t slacking off, you’d have 100 percent.”

An old story, perhaps, but one that gets laughs.

It still drives me nuts because he still does it.

I did a TV interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour after I had launched “30 Mosques in 30 Days” — a blog on which a friend and I chronicled the Muslims we met during a road trip to all 50 states. My dad e-mailed me afterwards: “Very good, I’m proud of you. But why didn’t you wear a tie? Your haircut already makes you look like a drug dealer, at least look like a drug dealer that knows how to dress.”

My dad is 67 years old, in worsening health. He refuses to retire, despite how hard my four brothers and I try to get him to relax. I have a younger brother in college still, and my father fiercely insists that he be the one who provides for him. “My eyes might not work anymore, but my hands still do, right?” he tells me. “So I’m going to work.”

My father, as remarkable a man as he is to me, has a story shared by millions of immigrants the world over who fled poverty, dictatorships and other horrid living conditions to make better lives for their children.
The U.S. Census Bureau reported in May that for the first time, most of the children born in the United States are members of a minority group. What does that mean? Simple: More and more people are coming to America to work hard because they love their families the way my dad loves mine. So why are we still “minorities”?

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Maryam Jameelah : 'With an eyeful of Madina's dust'

“You have to read these”, my friend compelled me, giving me a couple of yellowed, printed-long-ago sort of books. That gave me my first glimpse into the fascinating life and inspiring works of Maryam Jameelah.

Born as Margaret Marcus into an American Jewish family who cared little for religion and were active believers in the American Way, it was curious how that little girl refused to fit into that life and culture and came to realize it wasn’t the glittering American Dream, after all. She sought answers and found herself interested in the exotic and oriental. Young Maggie Marcus’s fascination with oriental cultures led her to meet many New York Arabs and Muslims, from where she was introduced to Islam.

At a relatively young age, Maryam began to study and to read up on Islam and Muslim culture. She found in Islam what the society around her lacked and never could give her. She found herself heartily in agreement. From then on, there was no going back. After her reversion to Islam in 1961, it became clear to her that New York couldn’t be her home any more. The odds were too many.

Soon after, Maryam began regularly corresponding with Muslim leaders and scholars throughout the world including Maulana Maudoodi, in whose ideas she found a close kinship. At his invitation, Maryam shortly moved to Pakistan and settled in Lahore. Here, she lives with her husband, four children and the extended family members, spending her days reading and writing regularly for the Muslim World Book Review on a wide range of issues and subjects related to Islam and the West, and the resurgence of Islam.

Maulana Maudoodi had once called Maryam Jameelah ‘a tropical sapling planted in the Arctic.’ Reading through the details in the biographies my friend had lent me, there was so much that truly moved one. What inspired me was how a young mind, with no Islamic influence around, grew to develop such a seasoned vision of Islam, such courage to enable her to resist all the tempting glamour of developed society. Her search was honest and it rested only after having achieved that which alone fulfilled. Masha Allah!

After her arrival in Pakistan, Maryam had to grapple with a totally different lifestyle and cultural milieu. She reminisces of the linguistic barrier, the climate she was totally unsuited to, the large family structure and the hygiene conditions. It could hardly be called ‘home’ for a young New Yorker. However, this cultural ‘leap’ Maryam Jameelah had undertaken was in fact also a ‘leap of faith’, making her amazingly resilient.

Some of the most beautiful passages in Maryam Jameelah’s biography which taught me much were about how the young New York girl seeks and appreciates the beauty in the simple ways of Muslim culture. For her, eating out of a common earthenware dish is beautiful for the warm sharing it involes; walking barefoot on a dirt floor and making ablution out of a clay pot are the simple, natural pleasures of life, the rare delights of the unsophisticated simplicity_ uncorrupted by materialism and artifice_ that is essential to Islam. She warms up to the largesse, generosity, hospitality of values engendered by Islam.

The flies, the heat, the dirt, the discomfort and inconveniences fail to bring low the indomitable spirit. Surely, the eyes beholding so much beauty in something a ‘Westernised’ mind would sneer at must be beautiful_ ‘wearing in the eyes the dust of Madina’, as Iqbal would have said.

Getting a fuller view of Maryam Jameelah, I ended up reading several of her works on Islam and the West, which were certainly deeply insightful, incisively critical_ the product of an analytical mind and a passionate heart. It was around then that my friend called up, and in high pitched tones of excitement, told me of a rare discovery: she had actually traced Maryam Jameelah to her home! She had simply followed the publishers’ address given at the back of one of her books_ printed back in the 70s, and praying ardently that they hadn’t shifted since then, actually sought out the place!

Next Saturday evening we were both threading our way through the streets of Sant Nagar_ not to forget stopping at the florist’s on the way to get a bouquet of ‘Nargis’_ decidedly ‘Nargis’_ we had to be as ‘oriental’ as would suit the occasion.On the way, observing the narrow, bumpy and dusty streets and the barefooted children playing around, I thought I could feel that beauty Maryam had sought in there too. This was so removed from the urbanized quarters_ an island within a monstrosity of ‘development.’ The car halted before an old house much like the ones around. We brightened up when a bright, cheerful and warm face appeared_ Moon Apa’s, who had facilitated the visit. She made us feel welcomed- rather, at home. I think I understood how Maryam Jameelah had so effortlessly managed to say ‘I belong.’

To my left, I saw a huge courtyard which immediately aroused the feeling of ‘dejavu’_ it clicked… I remembered a page from Maryam Jameelah’s biography… suddenly, the room filled up with gaily dressed women from the 70s laying out traditional sweetmeat dishes to welcome their guest from New York who had chosen to live among her companions in faith…

We said our Maghrib prayers in the drawing room where we were waiting adjacent to Maryam Apa’s room. Folding up the prayer mat, my heart thumping wildly, I couldn’t keep from looking at the dear old profile etched across the open window, at the head of silvery-white hair draped in a white dupatta’ (scarf), lowered on the prayer mat in sajdah. I felt the unspeakable blessdness of the moment filling up my veins. Some things just cannot be expressed…

Most of what we heard Maryam Apa say, we had already read in her books. But to see it come alive in the full-throated voice which had in it the energy and vitality of her rich heart; to see that ‘undying flame’ of the unbeaten spirit in the fine old eyes, and the deep-seated gratitude and thankfulness for the life she has lived was an experience unsurpassable. She brightened up sharing memories of the past, shyly smiling like a little girl, her beady eyes twinkling even though she was frail and volatile with age, exhausted and not very mobile any more.

Since she settled in Lahore, Maryam Jameelah has been a prolific writer. Her work reflects a deep, incisive and analytical understanding of Western culture and civilization. Being an ‘insider’, and not having lived in a colonial or postcolonial set up, she digs deep into the very foundations of American society and with a rare, refreshing vision and raw honesty, exposes it down to its bare bones. She feels intensely its spiritual bankruptcy and the toll materialism has taken on the life of the average American, reducing life to a struggle for material prosperity and comfort, no more.

However, the deeper questions remain unanswered, unresolved, and the inner self unsatiated:

It is this distressing evolutionary process that has today made America a slave of machines. The supremacy of the USA is accepted all over the world and its hand is seen in everything that happens anywhere. No country, Muslim or non-Mulsim, is altogether free from its control and domination. Today America has enslaved the world with its way of life but it has itself become the slave of machines. It is a prisoner of its lifestyle, of material progress, factories, laboratories and of fancy goods and gadgets. Man here has got so completely cast in the technological mould of life that his ideas and emotions have also become mechanical. The properties of rock and iron have entered into his soul. He has become narrow and selfish, cold and unfeeling. There is no warmth in his heart; no moisture in his eyes. This is the reality I have sadly observed during my stay in America.(As quoted by Maryam Jameelah in ‘The Resurgence of Islam and Liberation from our Colonial Yoke).
It is this dissatisfaction and disappointment with the deceptive sheen of the Western humanistic tradition and all it could ever offer that makes Maryam Jameelah embark on a search for meaningful life true to the purpose we are sent with, in tune with the ebb and flow of nature, imbued with simplicity and spirituality. She finds this fulfilment in Islam and Muslim culture, and this is where the seeker in her finds the anchor to hold on to. They say, ‘beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder’. The vision that rejected the emptiness of the culture of materialism and narcissism finds out the beauty of the ‘Muslim’ Way of Life:

The remedy for the problems of the modern world is the adoption of absolute transcendental values. The fallacy that everything must change with changing times makes life devoid of meaning and purpose since there is nothing of permanent worth. It is responsible for our ‘throw-away’ culture which considers everything disposable. The relativity of values is responsible for the unprecedented epidemic of vulgarity and obscenity in the mass media, of arts and entertainments, the generation gap, widespread alcohol and drug addiction and suicide as a leading cause of death. If everything must change with the changing times, human dignity and the nobility of character are almost impossible to achieve since these are based upon permanence and stability in the moral order.
Modern man desperately needs a Supreme Authority for reference to distinguish between what is good and what is evil, what is right and what is wrong, what is beautiful and what is ugly. This does not mean totalitarian dictatorship but the Rule of Law in the highest sense. Only the Divine Law of the Shariah is impartial and just; where ruler and ruled, rich and poor, young and old, celebrities and ordinary anonymous folk are equally subjected to its jurisdiction… the authority of the Shariah proceeds from Almighty Allah. Thus it is feared, esteemed, loved and obeyed simultaneously. It combines the internal sanctions of fear of Allah and His retribution in the Hereafter with severe but just punishments for violation of that law on which the health of the individual and society depend.
Her belief in Islam as the panacea and the absolute Good is powerful and authentic:

The call of Islam to modern man is the call to stability and inward peace. A society based on the precepts of fear and reverence for the Divine Law will not be troubled with crime, violence and lawlessness.…Individually, Islam would bring a direction, meaning and purpose to life which materialistic cultures cannot provide; an inward serenity and peace even in the midst of external frustrations and adversity… the ugliness of our environment would be supplanted by beauty…” (Islam and Modern Man)
Again, being originally an outsider, she does not take the ways of Islam dully as a habit but delights in its refreshing distinction from the materialism and artifice she has known and come to detest. Observing the contrast directly, closely and first hand, Maryam Jameelah’s later works show a seasoned understanding of the inner dynamics that make post-Enlightenment secular-liberal Western society what it is and the influences_ direct and indirect_ it exercises on what it calls the ‘developing’ predominantly Muslim world. She studies and presents an analysis of Western philosophy and traces its evolution till the point where a secular, capitalist-materialist social structure was realized. She analyzes the motives and methods of Western imperialism, colonial rule and the state of perpetual neo-colonialism the Muslim world labours under. She is bitterly critical of modernist Muslims who believe that in the Westernization and ‘modernization’ of Islam lies its hope for survival and progress:
The earliest modernizers in the Muslim world were dismayed by the contrast between the material backwardness of the Muslims and the dazzling energy and concrete accomplishments of Europe. They thought that if only the Muslims could imbibe modern knowledge through modern education, their people would become just as strong, progressive and prosperous.
Some, like Jamaluddin Afghani and Shaikh Muhammad Abduh sincerely believed that this was the proper road to Islamic revival in its call to modern man. The leaders of the Muslim countries accepted this advice without question. More than a century has passed since then but although all Muslim countries have adopted the Western s7stem as their own, they remain poor, weak, backward…
Yet the Orientalists and the modernizers insist that the Muslims are weak because they are not Westernized thoroughly enough and prescribe another dose of the same harmful diet. Those who merely imitate and not create, those who are always passive receptors instead of active givers are defeated in the inevitable course of events because their initial position is one of failure. The call of Islam to modern man can succeed only if it proceeds from a position of strength, independence and self-confidence.

Why is Westernization so attractive to the Muslims as it is for everyone else? It is irresistible because it is easy. Contemporary civilization is based upon self-indulgence while that of Islam requires sacrifice, altruism, discipline, self-control and endurance which are difficult. But self-indulgence leads to decadence and decline while the opposite qualities, which Islam demands, lead to superior strength, unity and virtue. If practiced in its right spirit, Islam leads to social integration. Self-indulgent materialism leads to social disintegration an ultimately collective suicide…
The times in which Maryam Jameelah’s writing is placed, the 1960s to 80s were when the groundwork for contemporary politics was being laid taking shape. Her analysis and observations therefore, help one understand the roots and implications of contemporary socio-political issues. Her work bears striking relevance to current-day dilemmas and issues_ certainly the vision of an eye gifted with foresight.

Although placed in times when the Muslim world was ravaged by modernist post-Kemalist reform movements like President Nasser’s in Egypt, Maryam Jameelah’s work is set apart, shunning all such influences, safely cocooned in her firm fidelity to the fundamental sources of Islam and her sensitive appreciation of Islamic tradition. She passionately defends this ignored treasure, showing it to the world in its unclouded, natural splendour. She believes in the eternal dynamism of Islamic tradition, its eternal relevance as a means to establish a viable egalitarian, peaceful, just and welfare-oriented society in the present day, modelled on the insights provided by the first Muslim community in Madina. She pleads her case convincingly and passionately:
“It is often asserted by orientalists that the values and ideals of traditional Islamic civilization have no relevance, even for Muslims today because, like all non-European cultures, it was the product of an antiquated tradition of the pre-scientific age. They assert that only secularity is relevant to modernity, to change, to continual technological innovations, and their social consequences. Since the genuine Muslim is a traditional man, he can therefore have nothing of relevance to contribute to the daily life of the modern man. But despite the drastic environmental transformation brought about by modern technology, the basic human drives and needs remain unchanged. Therefore modern man is just as thirsty for the spiritual sustenance which alone gives life its meaning, direction and purpose as was his ancestors, even if he is not consciously aware of it.
It is the purpose of those who call modern man to Islam to awaken him to the urgent intensity of these needs, not only for the individual but for the whole of human society. Unfortunately, there remains another great obstacle in the path of a modern appreciation of Islam. Islamic civilization was not only remote from modernity in the technological sense; it seems even more remote from the modern mind in its moral ideals, which cannot be appreciated by the secular man or even regarded by him as desirable. The spiritual ideals of Islam can be understood only by truly God-fearing people, who yearn for God’s mercy and salvation in the Hereafter.
Those who wish to call modern man to Islam must make him understand and appreciate such virtue which is utterly foreign and incomprehensible to the materialist. By an effective presentation of the profound richness of Islamic culture as an historical acuality in the life of the Muslims until the recent past, he must make the modern man appalled by the spiritual poverty in which he must live and long for a better life not limited to this world.” (Islam and Modern Man)
In the context of the contemporary dilemmas of achieving ‘liberation’, ‘pluralism’, ‘enlightened moderation’ outside of Islam and remoulding Muslim societies to toe the Western line and achieve the Western ideal of Secular-liberalism, Maryam Jameelah’s works have perhaps a relevance more than ever before.

While Muslims debate which ‘brand’ of Islam be adopted to appease the imperious demands of Western imperialism; while we concoct the smothering labels of ‘extremist’, ‘secular’, ‘modernist’, ,moderate’, ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative’ and seek an identity alien to our real, true essence, we need to rediscover the beauty and quiet superiority of the pristine ‘Muslim’ way as lived by the Prophet (S) of Islam and the earliest generation; we need to make that legacy speak to us again of our problems and dilemmas and provide a way forward.

Maryam Jameelah, in throwing overboard the naive presumptions she was socialized into, prejudices she inherited and wholeheartedly choosing to live by the way of Islam  with pride and passion, has a lot to teach us as we still grope in the darkness for an identity.

Maryam Sakeenah in Defiance Here and Here

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Expat Ride: A book on Gulf NRIs

For long, the Middle East, which is commonly termed as 'Gulf', has been considered an El Dorado for Indians. The first wave of prosperity came in many parts of India, particularly, in South India, when lakhs of Indians got jobs in Middle East in 70s and 80s.

It is a fact that despite 5-7 million Indians working in Gulf countries, there is not enough focus in India on either their contribution to our economy or their problems.

For the record, the number of Indians in West Asian countries is at least four times the number of NRIs in America. Mohammed Saifuddin's book Expat Ride sheds light on the issues pertaining to Indians in Gulf.

Contrary to the belief that every person who goes to Gulf, manages to make moolah, it tells us how large number of people fail to save adequate money.

The semi-skilled workers face pathetic conditions, work hard by spending more hours in duty but don't get as much return for their efforts. From facing extreme weather and psychological issues due to living away from families, the book tells a lot about the situation on the ground.

The book tells us about challenges faced by expatriates in getting good education to their children. That they have to pay exorbitant fees to get admission in colleges in India and the quota initiated by AB Vajpayee-led BJP government remains limited to just a few educational institutions in India.

Saifuddin also touches the issue of taxes apart from exploitation by money-lenders and depression among Indians working in the region. As many as 70% of those who commit suicide in Dubai, are Indians! This is a shocker for everybody.

The author suggests that India should conduct surveys and take more steps to redress the issues of expatriate community. Another myth is busted in the book. Muslims are not favoured in Gulf countries. In fact, in key positions non-Muslims outnumber Muslims.

The number of Muslims among powerful Indians in GCC countries is just 18%. There are other serious issues like problems faced in repatriation of dead bodies to India.

These things need to be taken up on priority. It is true that Indian newspapers and Television channels seldom pay attention to these important aspects which affect a large number of people.

But when it comes to sudden disappearance or crime against an NRI in America or Britain, our media forgets all sense of proportion and lap it up, showing it for hours.

But there is no such interest visible in Gulf. This is despite the enormous regular contribution in terms of remittances--sending money back home on regular basis, that runs millions of households in India.

Saifuddin, who hails from Hyderabad, has over the years penned articles for portal. The book comprises these articles. One hopes that the book would draw the attention of policy makers towards Indian expatriates in the GCC countries--United Arab Emirates (UAE), Saudi Arabic, Oman, Qatar, Kuwait and Bahrain.
By Indscribe in AnIndianMuslim. Here and Here

Sunday, October 28, 2012

How do we treat Islam in our life: S J Habeebullah

A comprehensive book on marriage in Islam

There are many books on the Islamic religion and many more on the institution of marriage. Sheikh Muhammed Karakunnu wrote a book in Malayalam where he combined the two. It is this book on matrimony which K.M. Muhammed has translated into Tamil. It is more or less a textbook with instructions on the various aspects of marriage based on the tenets of Islam and Hadees (sayings of the Prophet).

Quoting heavily from the Holy Book, the author exhorts youth to get married. He deals with the pitfalls of bachelorhood in the second chapter where he cautions those who are not married, to observe fasts to resist evil thoughts and temptation. Marriage is aimed to regulate human life, he believes.

From choosing the bride to the rituals, the writer says that if a man intends to marry a woman after having conducted enquiries, he may take a look at her preferably without her knowledge. This is because in the event of his not liking her, her feelings should not be hurt. He cannot meet her alone. Most of the Islamic scholars opine that he can look only at her face and forearm.

It is the girl who has to decide on her alliance, and her consent for marriage is imperative. If however the marriage takes place without her consent, she has the right to cancel it.

Solemnising a Muslim marriage is simple. Of the two parties, one expresses consent and satisfaction for the alliance known as ‘Ejab’ while the other party conveys acceptance or ‘Khabool’. In the presence of two witnesses, the bride’s father or guardian gives away the girl. Once the groom conveys his acceptance, the marriage agreement stands completed. Supplication for the well-being of the newly weds follows and then the feast.

Explaining the concept of Meher, the author says it is gift to the bride from the groom and a portion of it should be paid at the time of the Nikkah (marriage). Islam prohibits wasteful expenditure during weddings.

The content is packaged in good prose and coherent language that is practical and contemporary. There is a sense of purpose and passion throughout, and the book is a comprehensive and exhaustive study.
MOB Habib in The Hindu Here and Here

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Drop the Prefix, I’m Just Muslim

What kind of Muslim are you?  The question seems odd, but for those who seek to divide and conquer Islam, the answer has become increasingly important.  Even more disturbing are the labels we assign ourselves.

In our families few of us can say we’ve never disagreed with our siblings.  But when a family member makes a mistake—even a big one—or has a view we don’t agree with, even fewer of us decide to divorce that family and change our name.  Today, the same is not true of our Muslim family. Today, we’re no longer just ‘Muslim.’  We’re ‘progressives,’ ‘Islamists,’ ‘traditionalists,’ ‘salafis,’ ‘indigenous,’ and ‘immigrant.’ And each group has become so alienated from the other, that we’ve almost forgotten that we share a common creed.

While real differences do exist within our ummah, something very serious has gone wrong. Within the fold of Islam, differences are not only tolerated—they’re encouraged as a mercy from God.  But as soon as we label and marginalize any who disagree with us, our downfall begins.  Once we accept and internalize these labels as our main source of identity, the result is disastrous.  As a result, we create our own camps, attend only our own gatherings and conferences; soon enough, we’re talking only to those who agree with us.  Dialogue within the ummah disappears, our differences become only more polarized and our views become more extreme.  Before long, we stop caring about what happens to the ‘other’ group of Muslims around the world, as we amputate limbs from the unified body our prophet taught us we were.  The ‘other’ (who happen to still be our brothers) become so foreign—even despised—that we no longer wish to be referred by the same family name, and even join our enemies against them.

Suddenly those differences, that were once a mercy, become a curse–and a weapon to defeat Islam.  Our enemies “summon one another to attack [us] as people, while eating, invite others to share their food.” (Abu Dawud)

On March 18, 2004 RAND, the influential U.S. think tank, released a report to help ‘civilize’ Islam by effacing it and remaking it in the image of Western secularism. In the report, Civil Democratic Islam: Partners, Resources, Strategies, Cheryl Benard writes, “Modernism, not traditionalism, is what worked for the West. This included the necessity to depart from, modify, and selectively ignore elements of the original religious doctrine.”

In order to “depart from, modify, and selectively ignore” elements of Islam, Benard suggests a simple strategy: label, divide, control.  After labeling each group of Muslims, she suggests pitting one group against each other.  Among other strategies, Benard suggests “encourag[ing] disagreements between traditionalists and fundamentalists,” and “discourag[ing] alliances between traditionalists and fundamentalists.”

By succeeding at this division and supporting the ‘Modernist’/ ‘Progressive’ Muslims, Bernard hopes to invent a ‘civil democratic’ Islam that is less backwards and problematic.  More specifically, she hopes to create an Islam that will surrender itself to the hegemony of the Neo Conservative Agenda.

So if the first step to deforming Islam is to exploit the labels that exist, let’s say: “Thanks, but no thanks.” God tells us: “And hold firmly to the rope of Allah all together and do not become divided” (Qur’an,3:103).  So although we really appreciate this effort to ‘civilize’ us and our religion—we’ll have to pass. You only reform something that’s corrupt or outdated. And you only fix something that’s broken.

And while it’s nice of you to want to call us ‘modern’ or ‘moderate,’ we’ll do without the redundancy. Islam is by definition moderate, so the more strictly we adhere to its fundamentals—the more moderate we’ll be. And Islam is by nature timeless and universal, so if we’re truly Islamic—we’ll always be modern.

We’re not ‘Progressives’; we’re not ‘Conservatives.’  We’re not ‘neo-Salafi’; we’re not ‘Sufi’; We’re not ‘Islamists’; we’re not ‘Modernists’. We’re not ‘Traditionalists’; we’re not ‘Wahabis.’  We’re not ‘Immigrants’ and we’re not ‘Indigenous.’ Thanks, but we’ll do without your prefix.

We’re just Muslim.

Also published at Infocus News.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Prophet of Islam and a feature film

It is the maiden attempt by V S Mohammed Ameen, a young lad with a dream and passion to form a just, God-fearing, loving society.

It is a fitting reply to the dirty film (The Innocence of Muslims) which evoked massive upsurge throughout the world. Peaceful demonstrations were held in more than 800 cities and more than 50 brothers and sisters lost their lives in police shootings.

It is a just 14 minute feature film. The story is simple.
Ganesan a fruit vendor starts his day with parking his cycle ladden with fruits in front of a Madrasa. Suddenly he gets the news that his only son has met with an accident. Ganesan instantly abandons his fruits and cycle and rushes to his home.

On his way he gets the news that his son is okay. He returns with lots of apprehensions about his shop, fruits which he left unattended in a hurry. Thoughts and fears continue to creep in his mind. 'Somebody might have stolen my bicycle', he murmurs himself. 'The students might have eaten out all of my fruits', he fears. 'What to do for my livelihood, I should not have left it unattended' fearful thoughts bombard his beleagured soul. And with mixed feelings of joy, fear, sadnes he rushes back to the place where he left his 'shop' unattended. He felt happy because nothing serious happened to his son. He was afraid of losing all his fruits, bicycles. The thought of the loss of his 'shop' made him sad.

With these thoughts in his mind he returns the place. To his astonishment he sees his bicycle, fruits safe. Moreover he sees the students taking fruits and placing five rupee, ten rupee notes in the basket itself. He was simply perplexed.

Out of curiosity he asks a student. 'Why didn't you simply take away the fruit? What made you to place the money in the no man's shop?'. The student replies, 'Even if the shopkeeper or nobody is here, Allah is there Who watches us'.

Ganesan was dumbfounded by the reply. Who told you so? he asks. 'Muhammad the mercy to mankind has taught us this lesson'.

Then the student takes him to his teacher. The teacher welcomes him and explains the life and teachings of the Prophet of Islam.

Rest of the story could be seen in this 14 minute feature film.
It is aptly  titled as Oru thuli kadal (One drop of Ocean).


India doesn't need FDI in retail to grow : Joseph Stiglitz

Inequality is bad for economy, democracy and society. Much of the inequality in the US arises out of rent-seeking -monopoly, exploitive practices by banks and corporate exploitation of public resources. In the Indian context, you will call it corruption but we call it corruption American-style, where you give away natural resources below market prices. India is doing it now but America has a long history of doing this.
There is a clear association between inequality and instability. People at the top don't spend too much, they save a lot but people at the bottom spend everything. So you redistribute income from the bottom to the top and demand goes down. That makes an economy weak. That is what happened in the US. We would have had a weaker economy, but the Feds stepped in by creating a bubble that created more demand to offset the demand that was going down. Of course, creating a bubble was creating instability.
The advocates of FDI have probably put too much emphasis on it. India is in a different position than a small, developing country. You have a large pool of entrepreneurs. They are globally savvy, have access to global technology and they have a lot of wealth. So, if there were large returns to large-scale supermarkets, the domestic industry would have supplied it. Not having access to FDI is not an impediment in India. Wal-Mart is able to procure many goods at lower prices than others because of the huge buying power they have and will use that power to bring Chinese goods to India to displace Indian production. So the worry is not so much about the displacement of the small retail store but displacement further down the supply chain. 
Joseph Stiglitz in The Times of India Here

Life, surprises and the Prophet of Islam

Life is always full of surprises, twists and turns.
It is God who shapes our lives. It is He who directs us.
The Prophet of Islam used to pray: "Oh God! Bless me with sudden, instant pleasant surprises and happiness. Protect me from sudden, instant unpleasant, tragic happenings and accidents"

திடீர் திருப்பங்களையும் ஆச்சரியங்களையும் கொண்டதுதான் வாழ்க்கை. நம்முடைய வாழ்வையும் செயல்களையும் இயக்குவது இறைவனே. கண்காணிப்பவனும் அவனே. ஆட்சியாளனும் அவனே. அண்ணல் நபிகளார்(ஸல்) பிரார்த்தித்து வந்தார்: "என் இறைவனே! திடீர் சந்தோஷங்களையும் இனிய ஆச்சர்யங்களையும் எனக்கு அருள்வாயாக. திடீர் திருப்பங்களிளிருந்தும் ஆபத்துகளிலிருந்தும் விபத்துகளிளிருந்தும் என்னைக் காப்பாற்றுவாயாக. "

Friday, October 19, 2012

Four steps to rule the world : Quranic Style

The Four steps shown by the Quran to rule the world.
1. Criticize the Ideas (Afkar par tanqeed)
2. Change the Values (Aqdar ki tabdeeli)
3. Encounter the Issues
4. Transform the existing system.
Listen to the brilliant analysis by Br Ameenul Hasan. Jazakallah, Khalil Zuhair for uploading it in youtube



Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Superiority of the First Ten Days of Dhul-Hijjah

Superiority of the First Ten Days of Dhul-Hijjah

All praise is due to Allah, Lord of the Worlds. May peace and blessings be upon the Chief of the Messengers, Muhammad.
Indeed it is a great favour and blessing from Allah that He has made for His righteous servants periods of time within which they can increase in good deeds to attain great rewards and one of these opportunistic periods is the first ten days of Dhul-Hijjah (the final month of the Islamic Calendar, in which the Hajj is performed).


The excellence of these ten days have been mentioned in the Qur'an and the Sunnah.
1. Allah says in the Qur'an:
"By the dawn and by the ten nights … " [Al-Qur'an 89:1-2]
Ibn Kathir said that "the ten nights" referred to here are the ten days of Dhul-Hijjah, and this opinion was also held by Ibn Abbas, Ibn az-Zubair, Mujahid and others.
2. The Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, said:
"There are no deeds as excellent as those done in these ten days." They (the companions listening) said, "Not even Jihad?" He, peace be upon him, said, "No, not even Jihad except a man who goes forth endangering his life and wealth and does not return with anything."[Recorded by Imam al-Bukhari]
3. Allah says:
" … and remember the name of Allah in the appointed days." [Al-Qur'an 2:203]
Ibn Abbas and Ibn Kathir said this means in the ten days of Dhul-Hijjah.
4. The Messenger of Allah, upon whom be peace, said:
"There are no other days that are as great as these in the sight of Allah, the Most Sublime. Nor are there any deeds more beloved to Allah then those that are done in these ten days. So increase in tahlil (to say la illaha illallah), takbir (to say allahu akbar) and tahmid (to say alhumdulillah)." [Reported by at-Tabarani in al-Mu'jum al-Kabir]
5. With regards to the noble companion Sa'id bin Jubair, when the days of Dhul-Hijjah began he would strive to increase in good actions with great intensity until he was unable to increase anymore. [Reported by ad-Darimi]
6. Ibn Hajar says in Fath al-Bari:
"The most apparent reason for the ten days of Dhul-Hijjah being distinguished in excellence is due to the assembly of the greatest acts of worship in this period, i.e. salawat (prayers), siyam (fasting), sadaqah (charity) and the Hajj (pilgrimage). In no other periods do these great deeds combine."


1. Prayer - It is highly recommended to perform the obligatory acts at their prescribed times (as early as possible) and to increase oneself in the superogatory acts, for indeed, this is what brings a person closer to their Lord. The Messenger of Allah, upon whom be peace, said:
"Upon you is to increase in your prostration to Allah, for verily you do not prostrate to Allah with even one prostration, except that He raises you in degrees and decreases your sins because of it." [Reported by Muslim]
2. Fasting - This has been mentioned as one of the acts of righteousness where Hanbada ibn Khalid reports on the authority of his wife who reports that some of the wives of the Prophet, peace be upon him, said, "The Prophet, upon whom be peace, would fast on the ninth of Dhul-Hijjah, the day of Ashura and three days in every month." [Recorded by Ahmad, Abu Dawud, an-Nisa'i and others]
Imam an-Nawawi said that fasting in these ten days is extremely recommended.
3. Saying allahu akbarla illaha illallah and alhamdulillah - It is found in the aforementioned narration of Ibn 'Umar:
"So increase yourselves in saying la illaha illallah, allahu akbar and alhamdulillah."
Imam al-Bukhari, may Allah have mercy on him, said:
"Ibn 'Umar and Abu Hurayrah, may Allah be pleased with them both, used to go out to the markets in the ten days saying the takbircausing the people to follow them in this action."
He also said:
"'Umar ibn al-Khattab used to say the takbir in his mimbar in Mina, whereupon the people of the mosque hearing 'Umar, would start to say the takbir as would the people in the markets until the whole of Mina was locked in glorifying Allah."
Ibn 'Umar used to say the takbir in Mina during these ten days and after prayers, whilst on his bed, in his tent, in his gathering and whilst walking. What is recommended is to say the takbir aloud due to the fact that 'Umar ibn al-Khattab, his son and Abu Hurayrah used to do likewise, may Allah be pleased with them all.
Strive with us O Muslims in reviving this sunnah that has become lost in these times and it was almost forgotten, even amongst the people of righteousness and goodness all of which is unfortunately in opposition to what the best of generations were upon (preserving and maintaining the superogatory acts).
There are a number of ways of making takbir that have been narrated by the companions and their followers and from these ways is the following:
  • Allahu akbar, allahu akbar, allahu akbar kabirun.
  • Allahu akbar, allahu akbar, la ilaha illallah, wallahu akbar, wallahu akbar, wa lillahil hamd.
  • Allahu akbar, allahu akbar, allahu akbar, la ilaha illallah, wallahu akbar, allahu akbar wa lillahil hamd.
4. Fasting on the day of 'Arafah - Fasting has been affirmed on the day of 'Arafah, where it has been confirmed from the Prophet, peace be upon him, that he said regarding fasting on the day of 'Arafah:
"Be content with the fact that Allah will expiate for you your sins for the year before (the day of 'Arafah) and the year after (the day of 'Arafah)." [Reported by Muslim]
However, whoever is at 'Arafah as a pilgrim then fasting is not expected of him, as the Prophet, peace be upon him, stopped at 'Arafah to eat.
May the peace of Allah be upon his Prophet, the family of the Prophet and all of his companions.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

The Challenges faced by Tayyip Erdogan

Turkish democracy has gone through various phases, some good, some really bad. It has been characterized by military coups, political infighting, instability, weak coalition governments, corruption, mismanagement and economic crises. Strong unity governments have generally worked better for democratic reforms, political stability and economic development in Turkey as in elsewhere. The AK Party governments under Erdoğan over the last decade have made Turkey a better and stronger country.

But no democracy is viable through party politics only. Society at large needs to take ownership. Erdoğan’s strong leadership has built new confidence among political elites as well as ordinary citizens about the nature of the political system in Turkey: no more military coups, no more corrupt politicians, no more unlawful state practices, and no more mismanagement. A democratic, stable and prosperous Turkey is a good thing also for regional peace and stability.

The AK Party’s challenges over the next few years will come not from the top down, but from the bottom up. Opposition parties are too weak to challenge the AK Party. Even the main opposition Republican People’s Party’s (CHP) new-found activism under Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu is not enough to shake up Erdoğan and his government. The CHP, while struggling hard, is yet to overcome decades of statism, politics of tutelage and ideological elitism.

The challenge will come from two fronts. The first is from within the party. With Erdoğan no longer the chairman of the party, the AK Party will have to make important adjustments to maintain intra-party peace and stability. This is not impossible as there are many experienced figures in the party, all of whom are loyal to the party’s mission. It is clear that Erdoğan himself will manage the next 2-3 years carefully to leave behind a strong party that will stand on its own.

The second challenge will come from within the support base of AK Party. With no real competitor on the horizon, the AK Party has only itself to compete with. This means performing better in politics in the widest sense of the term: providing better services, expanding the economy, completing multi-billion dollar projects such as fast train and nuclear energy, managing the trade deficit, writing a new constitution, solving the Kurdish issue, overhauling the education system, investing more in research and development, etc.

Will the presidential system make these goals easier to reach? This is what Erdoğan has in mind. It would be simplistic to treat this as Erdoğan’s personal ambition. He has enjoyed so much political success and status and has already left his mark on history that he does not need another title for himself.

The key here is the growing maturity of society as a whole in regards to the basic principles of political governance, participation and sharing. Erdoğan may have the courage and the means to solve the Kurdish issue, but he cannot do it alone without the support of the major political actors and society at large. A new constitution can be written when all segments of the Turkish public embrace it as a sine qua non for a new and better Turkey. The Turkish economy will continue to grow when everyone from the boss to the worker internalizes a strong work ethic.
Ibrahim Kalin in Today's Zaman. Here

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Helping Google Find Sensibility

Regarding the latest attack on the Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, Google has certainly acted as if Muslims do not matter. It has arrogantly refused to remove the offending content from the YouTube site that it owns. The offensive video, the reactions to it and the reactions to reactions have generated lot of heated debates.

Could it have been avoided?
Many have observed that the offensive video remained un-noticed for fifty-five days. Then curiosity traffic increased the hit count from five thousand to five million in a couple of days. Obviously ignoring it would have been a better option. That is true, as far as it goes. In the initial stage the best option was to ignore it. However those who profit from such offensive material also know this. They tried to get negative publicity in Rushdie affair, they tried it now and they will try it again. They will rub it in your face until there is a reaction. And when that happens, just wishing that there had been no reaction is not going to help us solve the problem.

What Makes Google Tick?
The question arises, why Google must rub it in our face? Google would not allow the freedom to insult to its own employees in its offices that it says we must learn to live with. Why? Why can’t it see reason? The answer lies in its very nature. It is a corporation---impersonal and amoral. You cannot plead with it on the basis of morality, decency, or sensibility. It does not understand the language of right and wrong or good and evil. It could not care less about the Prophets. It only cares about its profits. Right and wrong translate into profit and loss in its world. It would enforce a code of behavior and decorum in its offices because that is needed for ensuring productivity. It upholds the exact opposite on its sites because that is good for business. If it can increase its profits by inflicting pain on us it will gladly do that. If it sees that doing so reduces its profits, it will “find” that inflicting pain is wrong and insulting the Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, is immoral.

And it has been very successful.
Last year Google had revenues of nearly $40 billion. Ninety-six percent of these came from ads. And its claim to fame in the advertizing world is that it has revolutionized advertizing by providing targeted ads: Ads that are delivered to each viewer based on the personal preferences and interests of that viewer. Both the AdWords and AdSense programs that it uses are based on information about the users that it gathers and stores through their use of its free services.

It has a huge database about everyone who uses it and it uses that database to generate money. Every time you search for something using it, it learns something about your interests. It knows how to translate that information into hard cash because it can find the right buyers for that information. Every time you click on a Google ad, you are simply sending a check to Google as ad revenues are on a per click basis. It may be a fraction of a cent per click. But trillions of clicks turn into billions of dollars. In other words every time you use it you are financially supporting it and nurturing its arrogance.

It is our clicks that make Google tick.
Therein lies the secret to making it see reason. If most of us stop using Google even for one week, it will see such a huge shrinking of its revenue stream that it would find sensibility and decency faster than its fastest searches. It would immediately stop any and all insulting content if that happened.

Google Ads
A second but related area of our concern should be the otherwise responsible and serious websites that allow Google ads. When a web site agrees to allow Google to display ads on it, it gives them a blank space over which they can write the message they want. Google gets money from the ad sponsors for these directed ads and passes a fraction of that money to the site owner. For that fraction many “Islamic” sites are selling their iman. One can find a site hosting a lecture on Qur’an and Hadith and on the same page a Google ad displays a semi nude picture. Sometimes this blurring of the boundaries of the sacred and the profane is justified by the owners by issuing a disclaimer that they are not responsible for the ads. In most cases even the disclaimer is not there. As an example Pakistani Newspapers like Jang and Ummat frequently have obscene ads consisting of pictures of nude and semi nude women on their sites.

That such scandalous behavior has become acceptable is an indication of the toll that our blind submission to the Internet revolution has taken on us. For thinking people this should be cause for much reflection and soul searching. This calls for a new level of media activism that has been totally missing from the Muslim world. Isn’t it time that someone convinced the owners of such sites to stop allowing such ads?

Is It Futile?
There are those for whom all this talk is futile. In Google they see just an innocent search engine not a cold calculating advertizing giant that is also serving a cultural agenda, about which we may have some concerns. In the Internet and the media revolution they see only wonders.

It is part of a larger malaise in our attitudes about technology that we have been seeing for the past couple of centuries. In the 19th century the British introduced science and technology in the subcontinent through exhibitions for the public. The idea was not to educate but to impress. It was presented as magic. At an exhibition in Calcutta in the early 1800s the visitors were reported to make such comments as “Bap rey bap (Oh My!)…How fantastic.” 

It seems we have not stopped saying “Bap rey bap… How fantastic.”

Once we come out of this spell, we may realize that technology both gives and takes away. And the resulting bargain will be in our favor only if we are actively negotiating with it instead of passively submitting to it. A cell phone magically can connect you to another person on the other part of the globe without any visible link. Yet it also disconnects you from your immediate surroundings. We see that in the horrible acts of insolence when people even in the Haram making tawaf are talking over their cell phones.

Once we determine that technology should be our servant and not our master, our attitudes about it will change dramatically. And so will our attitudes about the technology leaders. We may then realize that Google’s declared goal is to “change the world.” Can anyone in their right mind advocate that we should just be a passive spectator as they go about changing our world?

Of course in the latest episode Google is betting that our love for the convenience it offers is greater than our love for the Prophet and our sense of honor. And not even convenience but only addiction. For there are a dozen search engines like Bing out there that we could use without sacrificing anything.

It is only through our determined individual and collective efforts that we can convince the likes of Google, Facebook, and others to agree to a code of ethics that assures freedom from insults for everyone--- which is the only way to ensure peace in the global village.
Khalid Baig in Albalaqh. Here


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