Archive for the ‘Religion’ Category

Less Known Temples of Kerala – 3: Thirunavaya, Trippadam, Hanuman Kshetram

The three temples  are near one another and can be comfortably covered within two hours.   (between kottakkal & kuttipuram on Mangalore  – Cochin rd ‘ 19 km from kadampuza ).

Ed visited these temples in June 2011.

PS: Roads in Kerala have innumerable turns , bends , forks, and junctions. Of course there are no sign boards where you need them. However people are helpful enough.

Thirunavaya : Nava Mukunda

Vishnu Kshetram on the banks of Bharatha Puza.

It is approximately 19 Km from Kadampuza. On the bank of the river steps have been built and maintained for convienence of pilgrims. Pitru Karma and kria ceremonies are conducted here, and many who are unable to go to Kashi or Gaya come here. You will also see many ladies performing ‘ tarpanam’, an unusual site, as normally it is the men folk who perform these ceremonies.

Navamunkuda Temple, believed to be constructed by Nava yogis on the right bank of Bharathapuzha, is an important Vishnu temple of Kerala. Pitru Tharpanam is a ritual, held here on the day of Amavasi in Karkidaka (July).  Balikarma is offered by people in their wet clothes, after a dip in the river, for the salvation of sins and to appease the manes.

There is a seperate sanctum for Lakshmi. The story goes; when Adi Sankara visited this spot he found that people of the area were arrogant on account of the vast wealth they possessed.  He saw that the reason was living in the vicinity of the idol of Laksmi whose right hand with an open palm facing downwards was below the hip  level. This ensured that any one who prayed to her was showered with wealth, deserving or not. So Adi Sankara prayed to the mother goddess to revert to her normal abhaya hasta, which she did. This ensured that undeserving persons did not get wealth.

Across the Bharatha puza is a temple for Brahma. However there are no boats or bridge to cross over for a darshan of Brahma.

Trippadam ;

Trikanangode ; Siva Ksehtram; Markandeya Moksha Sthalam

Markandeya was destined to live for only 16 years. When he found his parents sad and unhappy on the last day of life on earth he went to Trikanangode , the abode of Paramasivan, for help. He was chased by Yama dhootas and fled towards the shrine. The AAL in front of the temple split and gave way and allowed him to pass.

Markandeya entered the temple premises and in to the sanctum sanctorum and embraced the the Linga and prayed. The Yama dhootas could not enter the area and went to complain to Yama who himself came on the scene and summoned the young lad to come out.  When Markandeya refused Yama who by then had grown angry and frustrated bloated as he was with the power he wielded over all beings, threw the the pasak kayaru at the boy. The noose wrapped around the boy and the the Linga. When Yama pulled the pasam the Siva Linga was displaced and out came Lord Siva himself , angered by the the action of yama who had dared to take away the life of his bhakta.

It is said he covered the distance to Yama in three steps, and slew him with his trisulam. Then he went to the temple pond and washed away the stains . There is a temple at the original site and the three small temples depicting the three steps taken by Siva, near the present  main temple.

The main pujas in this temple are : Japa of Mritunjaya Mantram’, Uma Maheswara Puja ‘& Maha Rudra Yagna

Rama Temple at Althiyoor

(12 Km from Tirur)

It is a temple for Rama but over a period of time Hanuman has gained  pradhanam. There is a separate enclosure for Lakshmana.

Here one will find a strange looking Hanuman idol, with hands folded and head tilted as if listening carefully. The sthala puranam Rama spoke to Hanuman personally and in confidence and gave him some special signs by which he could identify himself to Sita  as the special dhoota of Rama. He related to Hanuman incidents not known even to Lakshmana, who was standing at a distance. Hanuman with folded hands is listening carefully to Rama. The sight of Hanuman with folded hands and attentive demeanour cannot but bring tears in to ones eyes.

 

There’s a full moon over India and Gandhi lives again…

Source: http://www.thehindu.com/op/2010/06/20/stories/2010062050041800.htm

__________

There has been a lot of discussion in the media about Gandhian methods and their efficacy. There have also been references to Gandhiji’s fads and quirks — especially his ideas about sex and continence.

I was attending a workshop in Kuala Lumpur. It was ostensibly about how to run a business and earn more money. The programme was interspersed with music and short experiential exercises. At one such session, the trainer played the famous American singer John Denver’s song ‘It’s About Time’, which began with the lines “There’s a full moon over India and Gandhi lives again/ Who’s to say you have to lose for someone else to win?”

The inspiration behind this song was Denver’s visit to India in the 1980s to pay respects to his spiritual guru Swami Muktananda as also his chance encounter with the members of the film fraternity who were on board and were going to Delhi to launch the film ‘Gandhi’. As the plane neared Delhi, Denver looked out of the window and saw the full moon in its pristine glory shining over India. The song writer in Denver was overwhelmed that nature conspired to make him empathise with the humanity at large through the prodding of a great soul, Gandhiji.

The powerful words of the song, coupled with Denver’s mellifluous singing, cast a spell on the participants who had gathered from different corners of the world. Joining hands and forming a circle of 500-plus, they sang in unison — “Who’s to say you have to lose for someone else to win?”

Gandhiji taught us this truth in so many ways. He was the master of non-violent communication that led to win-win situations. He was against class war because it had the seeds of violence in it and the potential for hate on the part of those who lose. He suggested that the rich act as trustees of their wealth and see to it that the last man gets a decent life before enjoying what they have in excess. Though a lawyer, he did not support litigation. Rather, he promoted out-of-court amicable settlements. He propagated ‘heart unity’ to solve the communal question.

The communal divide was sought to be closed by understanding each other’s religion better and accommodating one another. The crux of his campaign against untouchability was directed towards the heart of those who practised the evil because even if one is convinced that one is doing the wrong, it takes a long time to emotionally accept that and change one’s behaviour.

Gandhiji ruled out violence because it denigrated the practitioner; it was irreversible and, therefore, not to be practised by fallible human beings; because once practised, its threshold would increase with every successive attempt; also, it overlooked the fact that every human being is capable of love. Besides, violence did not lead to the resolution of conflicts because it always led to a win-lose situation — “For the first is just the last one when you play a deadly game. It is about time we find out it is all of us or none” (Denver).

He tellingly conveys Gandhiji’s thoughts when he croons —“There’s a man who is my brother, I just don’t know his name/ But I know his home and family because we know we feel the same/ And it hurts me when he is hungry and when his children cry/ I too am a father, and the little one is mine.” When Gandhiji felt sad over the London bombings during the Second World War he was echoing these very sentiments. It is ‘about time’ we recognised the truth of Gandhiji’s words and act on them.

 

“Conditional Charity” : Javed Anand takes on Zakir Naik

Source: http://www.indianexpress.com/news/a-conditional-charity/543351/

The disgraceful conduct of a UK-based Muslim charity with the victim-survivors of the 2002 communal carnage in Gujarat could have been ignored as an isolated, if highly deplorable act. Sadly, this is no isolated incident. If anything, it is but the latest manifestation of a malignancy common to many Muslim outfits, in India and internationally.

For those who missed the news in the November 15 edition of this paper, here is the gist. A UK-based NRI charity named Muslim Relief Organisation (MRO) had built a colony in Detral village in Bharuch district to rehabilitate the victim-survivors of Gujarat’s state-sponsored carnage (2002). Even in charity, it seems, conditions apply.

The MRO has now issued an ultimatum to the Muslims it had helped rehabilitate: Shariah-compliant beards are a must. No rubbing shoulders with fellow Muslims in the village mosque, namaaz only in the special (sectarian) mosque we have built. Banish TV sets from your homes, all music is prohibited. Follow the “Shariah rules” or out you go of the homes we built. For you.
It can’t be an easy choice for Detral’s Muslims who, dispossessed by Hindu extremists seven years earlier, now face a second dispossession: by co-believers this time. My salaams to those village folks who at great cost to themselves have chosen freedom over capitulation to mean despots masquerading as custodians of Islam! A Google search doesn’t tell us much about the MRO or its broader ideological affiliation. But it’s easy to see where they are coming from.

The Detral ignominy is no isolated incident. Last year, televangelist Dr Zakir Naik’s flush-with-petro-dollars Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) launched a scholarship scheme for Muslim students. That you might think is a good idea. But here again, conditions apply. Before all else, the aspiring candidates must pass the “Islam test”. Since IRF is the screening body, it is reasonable to assume that the would-be grantee must match-up to the sponsor’s brand of an intolerant Islam. So here is free tuition to future aspirants on IRF’s ‘model answers’ to frequently asked questions:

Is it OK for Indian Muslims to sing Vande Mataram?

Model answer: Forget Muslims, even Hindus must follow the Vedas and refrain from such sinful act. (Rigveda, page…, para…, mantra…; the IRF is pretty good at playing the memory game).

Why can’t non-Muslims practice their faith in Saudi Arabia?

Model answer: Simple, stupid! Islam is the only true religion. How can sinful ways of worship be allowed in the land of the only true religion?

Were the Taliban justified in demolishing the Bamiyan Buddhas?

Model answer: But of course! Since there were no Buddhists in Afghanistan and the territory belonged to the Afghans, they were right in destroying their own property. (How did Buddhists disappear from Afghanistan? Don’t act smart!)

Co-education?

Model answer: Un-Islamic.

Burqa for women?

Model answer: It’s a symbol of women’s dignity while their participation in the Olympics, alongside men, symbolises degradation of women.

How to promote peace in the world?

Model answer: Through a 24/7 ‘Peace TV Channel’ and mega-budget ‘International Islamic Peace Conferences’ in Mumbai, London, Tokyo. Message: “My dear Hindu, Christian, Jews and the rest of you, brothers and sisters, Peace be upon you! We are here to prove with reason and logic how ignorant you are, clueless about your own faith and guilty of the greatest sin: idol worship. Convert to Islam for “Global Unity and Peace”.

(No Islam, no peace? At an estimated expenditure of rupees one crore per convert, IRF’s must be the most cost-inefficient model in the conversion business).

The Sachar Committee’s report convincingly establishes the fact of institutionalised discrimination against Muslims in our ‘infidel’ state? But the Muslim Relief Organisation, the IRF and their types do a much better inside job in discriminating: between Muslims (good) and Muslims (bad) in Islam’s name. It’s a discrimination that’s inevitable when faith is converted into a totalitarian ideology.

“There is no compulsion in religion” (“La ikraaha fiddeen”), says the Quran. “Diversity of opinion in my ummah is a blessing from Allah,” said the Prophet. For the despots of Islam, however, not only is Islam the only true religion, “their Islam” is the only “true Islam”. No space for doubt, no question of choice.

For sensible scholars of Islam, the Shariah is only a problem-solving methodology for those who seek to unravel the Divine Intent with the help of the Quran, teachings of Prophet Mohammed (Ahadith and Sunnah), consensual approach (ijma) and critical reasoning (ijtehad). But when a methodology (Marxist or Islamic) is elevated to the status of Law — frozen in time, all fresh approaches outlawed — you cannot but end up with a totalitarian ideology that by its own internal logic must aspire to the establishment of a totalitarian state (Marxist or Islamic).

It may seem like an ugly utopia for you and me. But to the hopelessly indoctrinated, a school in Mumbai, a village of bruised and battered Muslims in Gujarat, the Swat valley in Pakistan, a country named Afghanistan, or any social space big or small will do as a laboratory for the pursuit of their totalitarian fantasy.

Fortunately for the world and for the ummah itself, when given a chance to express themselves, the vast majority of Muslims — Indonesian, Malaysian, Bangladesh, Pakistani — continue to deliver a resounding ‘No’ to the enemies of freedom and choice. But beware of the dangers of the malevolent, modern-day messiahs. Unlike the poor maulvi sahib from a Muslim mohalla, this seemingly sophisticated lot comes draped in suit and tie, speaks fluent English, swears faith in “reason and logic”, quotes from the Vedas and the Bible as comfortably as from the Quran, oozes cash and promotes disharmony and discord in the name of peace. Don’t take them lightly for many among the new generation of otherwise well-educated but theologically ignorant Muslims assume this out-of-date medievalism to mean ‘Modern Islam’.

The writer is co-editor, ‘Communalism Combat’ and general secretary ‘Muslims for Secular Democracy’.

 

A madrasa in mind

An article by Javed Anand, co-editor at “Communalism Combat” and General Secretary, Muslims for Secular Democracy. The article talks about the medieval mindset of the Deoband, and its hardline interpretation of the Quran, leading to keeping India’s muslims in clutches of ignorance, and away from the true message of the Quran. This we feel, has a direct relationship with poverty, as well as fanaticism.

Source: http://www.indianexpress.com/news/a-madrasa-in-mind/527403/2
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To those who might have concluded from media reports that Indian Muslims are not interested in the HRD ministry’s proposed bill to give madrasa students access to subjects like mathematics, science and maybe English, here’s some Breaking News: a significant section of Muslims, including maulanas and maulvi sahibs, are very keen. But the number of “Ayes” is difficult to assess because in this respect at least Muslims are more like Hindus than Christians: there is a great deal of decentralisation and there is no universally accepted hierarchy among the ulema even within the same sect.

We also have another problem on hand. Even in the ranks of the interested there are many who have serious issues with the draft bill — the Central Madrasa Board Bill 2008 — currently in circulation. This is because it does not adequately address legitimate concerns about autonomy, non-interference and corrupt babus.

Responding to strong objections raised by several delegates present at the October 3 all-party meeting in New Delhi, HRD Minister Kapil Sibal gave a categorical assurance that if the Muslims do not want it, there will be no central madrasa board. The assurance, paradoxically, has the pro-board maulanas really worried. Their fear is that for the lack of a well-conceived draft, what in principle is a most welcome idea might be prematurely buried. This column, however, is not concerned with offering advice on how to revise the draft. Rather, the intention is to address the objections of that section of the ulema who will continue to object no matter how satisfactory the revised bill.

Though they are not the only ones, in the forefront of the opposition to the idea of a board is the Darul-uloom Deoband, arguably India’s largest and most influential madrasa. Deoband’s objections were well encapsulated in the inaugural address of its rector, Maulana Marghub ur-Rahman, at a massive all-India meeting of the ulema convened in late 2008. For reasons of space, of the many anti-arguments, let’s deal with the two most important ones:

The conspiracy argument: The Government of India is trying to please its Western masters who have hatched a “sinister conspiracy” to dilute or destroy the Islamic character of madrasas through a variety of strategies. The “madrasa modernisation” call is but a part of this devious game-plan. Why should the Western powers, the US particularly, be targeting madrasas?

Because madrasas have historically been “a major hurdle in their expansionist and imperialist designs”.

Comment: Interesting! But then, what was Deoband doing when in the ’80s innumerable madrasas in Pakistan and Afghanistan that proclaimed Deoband-lineage ganged up with “American imperialists” (in addition to Pakistan’s General Zia-ul-Haq and the Saudi regime) to transform what would have been a legitimate war of national liberation against the occupying Soviet forces into a “Holy War” (Islamic Jihad?) against the Evil Empire? There is more to be said on the subject but leave that to another day.

The hypocrisy argument: The Sachar Committee reports that only 4 per cent Muslim children go to a madrasa for education, the remaining 96 per cent depend on secular education. Why doesn’t the government concentrate on the education of the 96 per cent instead of losing sleep over the future of 4 per cent?

Comment: Good point. How our secular UPA government responds to this is its business. But I for one have a serious Islamic objection to raise against this compartmentalised method of learning.

You might have heard of Mohammed Marmaduke Pickthall, who converted to Islam and whose English translation of the Quran is considered to be among the most authentic by Muslims. In a 1924 public lecture in India, bemoaning all the damage the sub-continent’s ulema had done to Islam in Allah’s name, he recalled a tradition of Prophet Mohammed: “To acquire knowledge is the sacred duty of every Muslim (male) and Muslimah (female)”.

Reminding his Muslim audience that in Islam “all knowledge is

sacred”, he added: “Islam teaches us that the man with the widest knowledge and experience of life is the man best qualified to expound religious truths to resolve the problems which arise among Muslims in connection with the practice of religion. I deny the right of men with limited knowledge and outlook to exclusive interpretation. I deny their conclusions and I also deny their premises”.

Lest you dismiss his words as the ranting of a neo-convert ignoramus, please recall that in the heydays of Islam, a Muslim from Baghdad, Bokhara, Cairo, Damascus, Samarkand and elsewhere learnt his theology in the same madrasa (educational institution, literally) where he was also taught science and mathematics, logic, philosophy and mysticism, music, literature and architecture.

You adore Imam Ghazali; consider his to be among the most respected names in the field of Islamic theology. But do you teach in your madarsas what Imam Ghazali did: “He who has never doubted is not a true believer”, or that every ayat (verse) of the Quran can be interpreted in 60,000 ways? Do you tell them ever that this highly learned Imam believed that Allah has prescribed two basic texts for the ummah: one, the Quran, the other is His “open book”, otherwise known as the Universe/ Cosmos. And that the Quran itself repeatedly asserts that to even begin to fathom Divine Intent, in addition to imaan (faith) you need aql (intellect) and ilm (reasoning).

A rounded education for the 4 per cent is critical, for it is they from whom the 96 per cent learn their Islam. Because of the compartmentalised, fragmented, insular and sectarian nature of his education, the Maulvi Sahib’s ignorance of the world he inhabits is tragic — and the Mr Muslim’s knowledge of Islam pathetic.

But of course, Muslims must be part of the battle against the neo-cons, the neo-colonialists, the uncritical Westophiles and the diehard Islamophobes. The good news is that there is a growing tribe of Muslim men and women who are engaged in this battle for hearts and minds and I can rattle off a long list of names. Sadly, or maybe not, almost all of them occupy distinguished positions in the top universities of the West. They are proud of their Islam which is different from yours and the West is listening with interest and respect. A pity not one of them will find a place in any madrasa or university in the Islamic world.

To end, more Breaking News: A fortnight ago, Saudi King Abdullah cut the ribbon opening the gates of a multi-billion dollar, co-educational, postgraduate university. A fatwa on Deoband’s website declares this to be strictly “unlawful”.

On October 8, the Grand Mufti of Egypt and head of Al-Azhar university, Sheikh Mohammed Syed Tantawi, issued a fatwa against the niqab. (Ideally, says a Deoband fatwa, even a woman’s eyes should not be seen.) Strict instructions have been issued that no woman draped in a head-to-toe burqa will now be permitted to enter the university or any of its affiliated institutions. Al-Azhar, among the oldest madrasas in the Islamic world, is also “old-fashioned”: it seems to treat all knowledge as sacred.

 

Annai Vailankanni Besant Nagar :Our Lady of Good Health Church

FES

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FESTIVAL TIME: The faithful converged at the Annai Vailankanni Our Lady of Good Health Church in Besant Nagar for the annual fest. It is held as part of the birthday celebrations of Mother Mary. The celebrations began at the church on Saturday with the hoisting of flag. The annual fest begins with a 9-day Novena to the Mother on August 29 every year and culminates on September 8th, the birthday of Mother Mary

 

KEEPING TRADITION ALIVE

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Puri Rath Yatra festival 2009 June 24/.

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KEEPING TRADITION ALIVE:

A priest at Uttaradi Mutt in Basavanagudi performs ‘Mudra Dharane’ on the occasion of Prathama Ekadash

Pilgrims get their foreheads marked with a ‘tilak’ on

Aashadi Ekadashi at Pundhalik temple in Vitthalwadi on Friday

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Easter : Christa Purana still moves faithful to tears

Christa Purana still moves faithful to tears

Ashley D’Mello | TNN


Mumbai: Avelino Rejoice Dhakul, 81, never fails to bring tears to people’s eyes when he renders the Passion of Christ from the Christa Purana, describing scenes from the crucifixion at the Good Friday service at St Francis Xavier Church, Vile Parle.

Dhakul, who has been singing solo for the last 25 years, is keen that others should step up to carry on the torch, but he says sadly, “I have no luck so far.’’

Singing of verses from the Christa Purana, which is written in the old Marathi script, is a looked-forward to ritual during the season of Lent in some of the old churches of suburban Mumbai, although the last three decades have seen a slow fading of this tradition.
Lent, commemorates 40 days of fasting and abstinence, before the death of Christ on Good Friday. The singing involves a mournful incantation of the verses, which detail the life and death of Christ. This is done during the Passu ceremony when the body of Christ is lowered from the cross for veneration by the congregation.

The Christa Purana is part of the religious and cultural tradition of Catholics in Mumbai, Goa and Mangalore. Written by an English Jesuit missionary, Thomas Stevens, who studied at Oxford and settled in Goa in the 17th century, the writing follows the Hindu puranic style and is regarded as an epic.

Dhakul states that most youngsters do not want to learn to sing the verses in the Purana. “The singing on Good Friday can sometimes last almost two hours, and most youngsters stay away from such a task,’’ he says. “The interest in singing in Marathi is also not strong any more. Youngsters prefer to sing hymns in English.’’

But for the D’Mello brothers at St Andrew Church in Bandra, Conrad (39) and Anselm (36), who sing, the experience is different. “The tradition of singing the Purana is still strong in our family but it has slowed down in Bandra over the last decades,’’ says Conrad. “We have the puran tradition since my great-grandfather’s time and probably even before that, we sang the puran verses regularly at home when we were growing up in Bandra.’’

Even among the Catholics of Vasai who speak and write in Marathi, the tradition is fading. Bishop Thomas Dabre of Vasai explains why.

“The Purana is no longer popular in Vasai because it is written in old Marathi, which is sometimes difficult to understand. The churches now use modern hymns,’’ he says.
Efforts to revive the epic are under way. Fr Simon Borges of Kurla has helped produce a CD of songs from the puran. The issue has also been taken up by Major Leon Fonseca, executive committee member of the East Indian Association. “We are discussing ways and means of preserving this centuries-old tradition. It should not be allowed to die,’’ he says.

Pune bishop
The bishop of Vasai, Thomas Dabre, has been appointed bishop of Pune by the Vatican. A Marathi scholar and a well-known Catholic theologian, Bishop Dabre is an authority on Indian mysticism and Sant Tukaram. One of his main thrusts has been interreligious dialogue and communal harmony. TNN

 

The Brave Ones:Ummul Khair

Fighting palsy, she learns

the alphabet at 21, graduates at 30

Karthika Gopalakrishnan | TNN 

Chennai: Ummul Khair has made the journey of a lifetime in the last 10 years. Her body is affected by cerebral palsy but it is her mind that the sociology graduate has always relied upon to take her forward — from learning the alphabet at the age of 21 to completing her college education almost a decade later.

“I was at Vidya Sagar when I was five years old but I could not go to school once my family moved to Bangalore. I was at home for nearly 12 years. I watched my cousins study and wanted to be independent as well. I did not want charity,” she said after receiving her degree certificate at the 14th graduation ceremony of MOP Vaishnav College for Women on Sunday.

During a family visit to Chennai, Ummul got in touch with Vidya Sagar founder Poonam Natarajan and that helped her on her way.


“We had looked after her all along and were scared about letting her stay alone.

But Poonam akka convinced us that Ummul could study. We had only thought about making her walk, never about making her study. Today, we are extremely proud of her. When we cry, she gives us courage saying she will study and do well,” said her mother, 65-year-old Umaira Batul, with tears in her eyes.

The family currently resides in Bangalore’s Shivaji Nagar. Umaira’s husband Mohammad Azham Khan (85) used to sew plastic baby sheets with pillows, diapers and clothes for infants. Ummul’s younger brother works at a hotel.

Since she had never enrolled in school, Ummul learnt the alphabet when she was 21 and took three years to clear the class X board exams conducted by the National Institute of Open Schooling. After completing her class XII on a sponsorship at Lady Andal Matriculation Higher Secondary School in Chetpet, she enrolled for a degree in Sociology at MOP Vaishnav College for Women.

“I am lucky to have got the opportunity to study. In all aspects, it has helped me learn. The teachers and students were always supportive. ‘Sari Day’ was one of the most memorable occasions as my classmates even helped me wear a sari. It was a lot of fun,” Ummul recounted.

Along with her internships in college — counselling alcoholics and working with a human rights organisation — her world view was further moulded after a trip to the US in June last year as part of the Global Leadership Programme.

“I participated in everything, even adventure sports where we were suspended 40 feet in the air. There is a lot of accessibility for disabled individuals in the US. I was able to go anywhere I wanted,” she said.

After returning to the city, Ummul went on to finish her course and is now pursuing a course in law at the Tamil Nadu Dr Ambedkar Law College. Hoping to be able to fight for the rights of the disabled in a few years, Ummul was not at all taken aback by the standing ovation she received during Sunday’s graduation ceremony.

The dignitaries on stage rose from their chairs and the students cheered. Unfazed by it all, Ummul exuded confidence. She knew she deserved it.

THE HONOURS: Ummul Khair receives her degree certificate from BS Raghavan, former chief secretary of Tripura. (Below) Students of MOP Vaishnav College For Women take the oath during the convocation at Kamrajar Arangam on Sunday
 

Religion and politics do not make as lethal a mix as Politics and violence

Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Gaffar Khan, Suu Kyi, The Dalai Lama were /are  staunch believers in their religion and examples of politics based on compassion and humane values.

Then there are ‘Secularists”, Stalin, Mao, Jinnah, The US administration with their blend of secularism and politics.

Ed

extracts from TOI

Secularists aren’t saints

Madhu Purnima Kishwar

Congress leaders are understandably the most vociferous in displaying righteous outrage at the unfortunate speech delivered by Varun Gandhi, just as they spare no occasion to castigate Narendra Modi for the Gujarat riots of 2002.

However, their words would have more credibility if they expressed comparable shame at the fact that their party led the way in showing that riots and massacres can be used as means to manipulate vote banks.

Apart from the infamous massacre of Sikhs in 1984, the 1970s and 1980s witnessed a series of communal riots presided over by the Congress party in places like Meerut, Malliana, Jamshedpur, Kanpur, Bhiwandi, Bhagalpur, Ahmedabad and Hyderabad.

The arrest of Congress leader Meghsingh Chaudhary at the instance of the Supreme Court appointed Special Investigative Team for his active participation in the Gulbarga Society massacre in Ahmedabad in 2002 confirms what knowledgeable people in Gujarat have for long alleged — that many Congressmen enthusiastically joined hands with members of the sangh parivar in the anti-Muslim riots of 2002.

Without doubt, serious problems do arise when politicians decide to use select religious symbols and manipulate religious sentiments of people in order to acquire power. However, history is witness to the fact that religion and politics do not make as lethal a mix as do politics and violence.

We would do well to remember that many of the highly venerated political figures of the 20th century have been those who brought the best values of their faith traditions to uplift politics to new moral heights. By contrast, many of those who claimed to be secular and, therefore, treated matters of faith with disdain, caused massive genocides and human suffering.

The US is secular but that has not prevented it from polarising global politics on religious lines.

Stalin did not use a religious justification while carrying out his genocide of the Soviet Union’s peasantry. He did so in the garb of a secular cause, namely, “collectivisation of land” and the uprooting of those he called “kulaks”. Nor did he confine his waves of assassinations and purges to those with religious beliefs. He claimed that he killed people in the name of building a secular and socialist republic.

Jinnah was not religious minded. He too merely used certain religious symbols and Islamic slogans to mobilise Muslims against the Hindus as a political force.

Jinnah’s aim was secular in so far as he acquired political power for himself. Though claiming to defend the political and economic interests of Muslims of the subcontinent, he left behind many more millions of Muslims in India as a mistrusted minority than could be accommodated within the absurd geographical borders of the new ‘Islamic’ state he created for them.

By contrast, Mahatma Gandhi’s politics and world view were rooted in Hindu Sanatan Dharma. Gandhi chose truth and nonviolence as his guiding principles, not any ideology or “ism”. He drew some of his inspiration from the bhakti-Sufi traditions rather than the ideology of modern-day secularism, as defined by the West. That did not prevent him from being a historic global role model of ethical politics.

Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan derived strength from his unshakeable faith in Islam. That did not prevent him from becoming Gandhi’s most valued colleague in promoting the cause of communal harmony and freedom from colonial rule.

Aung San Suu Kyi and the Dalai Lama make no secret of the fact that they draw inspiration from their Buddhist world view.

Martin Luther King drew his strength from Christianity.

It is worth noting that even Marxists and socialists in India have had to deploy the wisdom of men like Kabir, Nanak, Bulleh Shah and Namdev whenever they decide to spread the message of communal harmony as a counter to the divisive agenda of some Hindutvavadis.

All these bhakts and Sufis derived their world view from their deep connection with the Divine who they saw manifested in every living being, rather than through secular education.

In short, despite the inspiration the leaders discussed above took from their religious ideals, they remain outstanding examples of politics based on compassion and humane values.
The writer is a senior fellow at CSDS.

 

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