Not Your Hindustani Musalman

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A Muslim poet has written a poem that supposedly explains that there are all kinds of Muslims in India and it is not fair to see them through a narrow stereotypical lens as is often the case. They belong to different sects, different professions and they have different outlook towards life. I believe the poet has done a commendable job in expressing his views in a manner that is soothing to the ears. The poet is also gentle in his mannerisms and he comes across as a very decent human being.

From the contents of the poem it is clear that this poem is addressed to Hindus. You don’t need to convince Muslims that they are just as diverse as the wider Indian community. They know it already. They live in that diversity. This poem is an appeal to Hindus who have developed selective amnesia towards the existence of Muslims in India. The poem appeals to them that they should try and expand the horizons of their perception so they stop seeing Muslims from their narrow stereotypical lenses.

Like everything else this poem also exists in a context. India is going through a phase where crude religious nationalism is at its peak. Minority Muslims are expected to behave in way that conforms with the new standards being set for them by Hindu nationalists who are now in power. A good Muslim is a thankful Muslim, a good Muslim does not conform with the ideals of his faith but with the ideals set by the majoritarian forces.

In this context  this poem appears to present a picture where a typical Indian Muslim believes that Mandir and other places of worship are just as holy as his own place of worship. Of course everyone would love that sentiment. It is a good feeling to see people accept every faith as their own. But is this picture anywhere close to reality? No it isn’t. A typical Indian Muslim, like almost every other Muslim in the world believes that idol worship is among the greatest of sins.  However a statistically negligible minority of Muslims may be worshiping idols in a Mandir, there may even be this diversity among Muslims but it is so rare that it is statistically negligible.

And the same applies for Muslims who consume alcohol. While you may have come across “many” Muslims in your elite circles who drink, compared to the total number of Muslims in India such Muslims make a tiny, statistically negligible minority.

The main concern with the poem is that fact that it highlights those kinds of Muslims that are a tiny minority, probably because such Muslims are more acceptable to Hindus, while ignoring the typical Indian Muslims who reject any form of idol worship and never consume alcohol. A more generous interpretation of the poem could be that the poet only wants to talk about exceptional Muslims so the exceptions automatically prove the rule. But given the context and era in which this poem is written, this poem comes across as an attempt to redefine Indian Muslim in a way that is more acceptable to Hindus.

Citizenship is a non negotiable concept. A person cant be stateless. A person has to belong. It is the most fundamental right. Even the worst criminals in the world have a country to which they belong. They don’t become stateless on account of their criminal behavior. While this may not be the intent of the poet, this poem inadvertently ends up defining an Indian Muslim. Any Muslim who does not fit into this narrow definition is not a Hindustani. What is the identify of such a Muslim? Are they not Hindustani Muslims?

Indian Muslims have lived in India forever. They are not Arabs. Indian Muslims have been living on the Indian land for just as long as anyone else. Before Hindus knew Muslims as Muslims they knew them as their own brothers and sisters. Why should there be a need to explain to Hindus the nature of Muslim society? If after 1400 years of existence of Islam in India, a Muslim feels the need to explain to a Hindu something as basic as existence of diversity among Indian Muslims then it is reasonable to assume that Hindu India has isolated itself from India’s Muslim minority.

Some people like the poem because they saw it as a definition of a Good Muslim, others liked it because they saw it as an attempt by the poet to reach out to the Hindu community. What is a poem worth if it does not speak in multitudes. That said, how many people would have liked the poem if it had highlighted some uncomfortable facts about the treatment of Muslims in India? Very few. Sociopolitical poetry should drag us out of our comfort zones so we start looking at the world in a way that is more just and fair.

Here is a another poem. This poem wont make any headlines. But this will make you think about the Hindustani Muslim.

Not your Hindustani Musalman
By Abul Kalam Azad

Urine settles on the pores
Of my detained tongue
As Azaan sneaks in through the holes
Under the prison walls

I am the Muslim
Whose clock freezes
Under piles of terror charges,
Whose ears go numb
With echoes from third-degree chambers

My bones are fodder
To the bricks of Dadri,
My foetus is the crown
On the spears of Gujarat,
My palms are the raised pillows
To the bent heads of Hashimpura

I am the Muslim
Whose breath hangs
On a black wire
Curling like a snake
Around the loudspeakers
Of neighborhood temples

My feet never touched the lips of Ganga
for I was eating beef with the Asuras’,
My eyes never read the Gita
for they kept looking for the thumbs of Ekalavyas’

I am the Muslim
Whose fist raises
When untouchable fingers break
Between the Manusmriti’s pages

My lover goes missing
Among the thickets of corpses
Without names or stories
Under the womb of Jhelum

I am the Muslim
Whose window sills carry
The scent of gunpowder
Fom occupied nights

Three headed flags
Thrust their saffron fangs
Upon my lips
To mimic its anthems

I am the Muslim
Who shakes in fright
Clutching his beard
When a stranger bombs
Faraway planets

I am the tenant
Every owner evicts

I am the refugee
Every border rejects

I am not your Hindustani Musalman,
For it’s a door I am forced to knock,
The one that is never opened

I am not your Hindustani Musalman,
For I am killed
For not being one

I am not your Hindustani Musalman
I am not your Hindustani Musalman

 

 

The ‘Muslim Troll Mob’ That Wasn’t

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It is said that religion and politics should not be discussed at the dinner table. Both topics generate a lot of heat without producing much light. There is no reason to believe that social media would be any different while discussing these topics.  Go ahead and write something on the principles of religion or write something about politics, while most people will engage with you within the limits of decency some would cross those limits and indulge in a phenomenon called trolling.

Simply disagreeing with someone is not trolling. Defamation, vilification, attacks on sexual orientation, threat of violence or trying to get the person sacked from the job may all classify as trolling behavior.

Normally when we are discussing religion or politics on a public forum we expect some harsh reactions. We expect some trolls. We block them and move on. But there are occasions when the trolls arrive in organized groups. They want to shut you down. They want to drown your voice. Your social media timeline is filled with hundreds if not thousands of messages attacking you in the most vicious ways. It is not humanly possible to block each individual troll. They are just too many. This is called a troll mob.

People are generally sympathetic towards those who are victims of troll mob attack. It also gives an impression to the supporters that the person must be doing something right to get such a reaction from the trolls. Also new followers join in solidarity. So not everything ends in negativity after a troll mob attack.

On Twitter everything is verifiable. You cannot claim you were a victim of a troll mob attack unless there are hundreds if not thousands of tweets mentioning you with nasty comments. One simple search with your handle name can tell if you were a victim of a troll mob attack.

Now coming to the crux of the story, I write this because there is a handle called ‘Muslim Voices India’ that has been propped up by some individuals to talk about Muslim issues. I believe some of these individuals are amazing people, others not so much. This handle is based on the curator model. Every few weeks they get someone to curate the handle. They talk about religion and naturally they get all kinds of reactions.  A simple Twitter search will tell you that people (mostly Muslims) have been generally quite decent in engaging with the curators of the handle.

This time things got a bit nasty. There was one troll with a Muslim name (most probably a Muslim) who got annoyed with what the curator had to say. This guy indulged in trolling. I don’t exactly know what he has said but let us assume he said some nasty things. Other Muslims confronted him and he deactivated his account. There was just one troll. I cant say this for sure but this one troll is supposed to have engaged with some online troll army (unrelated to any Muslim group) to get the curator’s account suspended via mass reporting.

Today I have 27,000 followers on twitter, I am not the most liked guy for my inability to be economical with the truth.  I have been told that people have tried to get my account suspended but so far I am in luck that it has not happened. It is hard to tell why they suspended Muslim Voices handle.

Now the act of one individual was marketed by some people with malicious intent as a “Muslim Troll Mob”. Not just any troll mob, it was described as a ‘Muslim Troll Mob’ by the editor of an online news portal called Two Circles Net. This portal, ironically, is dedicated for highlighting Muslim issues, apparently.

I ran a detailed Twitter search but found no evidence of a  ‘Muslim Troll Mob’ attack. You can run your own search if you like. By and large most people were engaging with the curator in a very decent way. So I decided to ask the curator myself if she could point me to some of the hundreds and thousand of tweets from the ‘Muslim Troll Mob’. She got very annoyed and blocked me. Maybe she saw me as a part of the “Muslim Troll Mob”. Sadly I wont ever know.

Now this is not the first time people associated with this handle ran with the “savage uncivilized Muslim” stereotype by using an act of an individual. With another curator exactly one troll commented about the sleeveless dress that the respected curator was wearing in her DP (Display Picture). Well they got what they wanted. The “Savage uncivilized Muslim”. Comment after comment were made by various handles highlighting the issue. It is as if they are not here to make a conversation but here to find these trolls that they can skillfully use to paint the entire community as savage uncivilized beasts.

The curator of Muslim Voices India took the effort to scan the entire Twitter time line of this one troll to find vile content posted days ago, which she then quoted in her blog. I apologize for reproducing this content here but in the interest of explaining their intent this is necessary. She ignored all the great experience she had while interacting with hundreds of Muslims who supported her and wrote a blog on this!

From the curator’s blog:

I blocked one filthy account criticising the @MuslimVoicesIN account and having several tweets on his timeline along the lines of “I will put my hand in your sister’s vagina…”

…..

Note:I am taking her word for this because even this could not be verified independently.

So after painstakingly reading the entire twitter time line of this one troll, after dedicating an entire blog to the issue the curator had this to tell me when I confronted her with the fact that there was no ‘Muslim Troll Mob’

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But it did not stop there. How can vilification of Muslims be complete without linking them to terrorism? While this fictional ‘Muslim Troll Mob’ attack was being discussed ad nauseum between these “enlightened reformers”, one came up with this tweet:

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Vilification of Muslims confirms fears of the majority community, it has buyers, so much so that some TV channels in India invite a Canadian Pakistani to badmouth Indian Muslims. There is a growing market for this type of hate. The easiest way to increase your follower count is to vilify Muslims. When Muslims confront such views it is then portrayed as evidence of their inability to take criticism. Vilification is not criticism and Muslims are well within their rights to speak against the attempts to vilify them or paint them wild savages who wont understand the so called progressive thought process.

It is not a disputed fact that there is widespread anti Muslim sentiment on social media in India. Some Muslims are trying to ride on this sentiment by peddling stereotypes that have been created by the majoritarian forces. Backward, savage, wild, angry and stupid. This is how they want to define Muslims. There can be no other reason why they would use the act of few individuals to malign the name of an entire community that is normally very good on social media.

They wont stop. They will continue with their efforts to vilify Muslims. But it is now up to us to take a stand against this bigotry. Let us expose them for what they are. They are populist manipulators. All they want is a good name for themselves at the cost of the community. Let them have their good name with Islamophobes but let us take a pledge that we will make everyone around us aware about their designs. We will use whatever media we have at our disposal to make people aware of what they are up to. We will not give them the chance to malign the whole community. Not one person should be allowed to troll them.

Good Muslim, Bad Muslim And The Liberal Jamaat

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I write this blog as a response to an article written by Anand Ranganathan in relation to a recent incident where a wife of Muslim cricketer was hounded by conservative Muslims for publishing a picture on social media while dressed in “unIslamic clothing”.

On the hypocrisy of the Muslim Liberal

The argument made by Ranganathan is this: Those who trolled Shami for posting a picture with his wife are Good Muslims because they were only “following the orders of the Quran”. Those Muslims who confronted the trolls were Bad Muslims because they were going against the prescriptions of the Quran. Ranganathan goes ahead and posts few verses from the Quran that prescribe a modest dress code for believing women. Ranganathan accuses the liberal Muslim of either trying to hide the “bad verses” from the Quran or trying to hide behind the excuse of bad interpretation when there is not much room for interpreting an obvious verse in a different way.

I broadly agree with Rangnathan that liberal Muslims try to misrepresent Quranic teachings or try their best to fit it into the morality prescribed by the liberal world view. It does not stop there, a liberal Muslim is so protective of his hypocrisy that anyone confronting his world view with the more obvious interpretation of the Quran will be quickly declared an Islamist, literalist or an Islamophobe depending on the situation. On this count Ranganathan has rightly called out the duplicity and hypocrisy of the liberal Muslim. More on this in the closing section.

On selective reading of the Quran

Selective reading of the Quran is not limited to liberals. Even the most conservative Muslims have used this technique to present their world view as the Quranic world view. For example the concept of abrogation of Quranic verses is well established among traditionalists. Other Muslims disagree.

And selective reading of the Quran is not only limited to Muslims, it is widely used by critics of Islam including Ranganathan. While Quran prescribes a modest dress code for believing men and women it also warns against public shaming of individuals.

Those who love (to see) scandal published broadcast among the Believers, will have a grievous Penalty in this life and in the Hereafter: Allah knows, and ye know not. Quran 24:19

If a reasonable person like Ranganathan reads the Quran in its entirety, as per his own prescription, he will come to a conclusion that public shaming of individuals as done to Shami and his wife goes against the prescription of the Quran. However Ranganathan is absolutely right when he points to the fact that a modest dress code is prescribed by the Quran itself. Liberal Muslims should accept this fact instead of trying to give it a liberal spin.

On the survival of Islam

The second important point made by Ranganathan is rather curious. He argues that for Islam to survive it needs the cushioning of the liberal Muslim (Bad Muslim) who shields Islam from condemnation by misrepresenting Islam as a liberal religion.

Islam is one of the most successful ideologies in the world. Western condemnation of Islam is not recent. The criticism of Islam is as old as Islam itself. Today every fourth person in the world identifies as a Muslim. By 2050 some estimates say that every third person in the world would identify as a Muslim.

So far no Muslim society has witnessed any major exodus of Muslims from Islam. A religion that survived Mongol invasions, relentless crusades, Communist era bans, Kemalism and the uninterrupted Western and Liberal obsession would need the cover of some hypocrites to guarantee its survival?

Islam is an independent ecosystem which is likely to survive irrespective of what liberals think about it. If History is anything to go by then Islam will outlast liberalism itself. Turkey is a good example. Kemalism is dead. Eighteenth century luminaries like Voltaire were scathing in their condemnation of Islam. Are there more Muslims in the twenty first century or less?  This idea that survival of Islam relies on the craftiness of hypocrite liberal Muslims is rather amusing to say the least.

That said, the argument about Islam’s resilience is not an argument for Islam being the truth, rather it is just an argument about its resilience. It is what it is.

On Zakir Naik

Going further Ranganathan presents Zakir Naik as the true Muslim who makes liberal Muslims uncomfortable because he honestly presents Islam as it is. Let us examine this argument. Naik has argued against Instant Triple Talaq and he has argued for mosque entry for women. Ironically Zakir Naik is arguing for many things that liberals argue for. Like any other Muslim, sometimes Naik gets it right, sometimes he gets it wrong. Even Ranganathan got it wrong when he claimed that stoning is punishment prescribed in the Quran.

There is not a single verse in the Quran that prescribes stoning as a punishment for anything. Yet Zakir Naik argued in favor of the punishment. There is not a single verse in the Quran that prescribes death penalty for apostasy. Yet Zakir Naik once argued for it but later corrected his view.

I am not entirely sure why Ranganathan presented Zakir Naik as the example of the “good Muslim”. If following the Quran makes one a good Muslim as Ranganathan argues then what Zakir Naik says is irrelevant because the scale of goodness or badness of a Muslim is the Quran.

On Punishment for Adultery

Ranganathan has pointed to the severe punishment  prescribed in the Quran for cheating on the spouse. Modern India has punishment for adultery enshrined in the law. There are at least sixteen states in the US where you can land in jail for cheating on your spouse. Even from the liberal perspective cheating on spouse cannot be prescribed as a good value. But should there be severe punishment for cheating on the spouse? The societies that put a high premium on the value of family structure would say yes, the societies that do not put a high value on family structure would say no.

The moral scale of a society varies all across the world. That said, you will rarely hear of a Muslim man or a woman getting lashes for adultery. Either Muslims make very loyal partners due to fear of punishment or this punishment is not very common. I cant say for sure.

From the point of view of the liberal Sharia, Ranganathan is right in criticizing a severe punishment for adultery as a liberal society does not put a very high premium on family structure. A liberal society favors individualism over group values.

On The Way Out

From what I understood after reading a rather confusing last part of the the article, a good Muslim is in fact a bad human being. Because a good Muslim lacks empathy, kindness, remorse and reconciliation. This is strange because all the verses of the Quran (except one) start with the declaration of compassion and mercy as Godly qualities. There are many verses in the Quran that declare forgiveness as a Godly quality. Quran says that forgiveness is better than retribution. Quran emphasizes on the need to be patient. As per Quran only remorse and repentance from bad deeds can get your sins forgiven. And then there is a special emphasis on kindness. In fact to be kind is called true righteousness. More than any ritual, Quran says that it is important to be kind.

It is not righteousness that ye turn your faces Towards east or West; but it is righteousness- to believe in Allah and the Last Day, and the Angels, and the Book, and the Messengers; to spend of your substance, out of love for Him, for your kin, for orphans, for the needy, for the wayfarer, for those who ask, and for the ransom of slaves; to be steadfast in prayer, and practice regular charity; to fulfill the contracts which ye have made; and to be firm and patient, in pain (or suffering) and adversity, and throughout all periods of panic. Such are the people of truth, the Allah fearing – 2:177

Charity is one of the fundamental pillars of Islam. So I don’t quite understand how a good Muslim would necessarily be a bad human being. Yes there are parts of the Quran that would be extremely troubling for a liberal. Islam is not a pacifist religion. In certain narrow conditions it prescribes war and violence. In other conditions it prescribes tolerance, compassion and equity with non believers. Islam also leans towards patriarchy, another fact that would be very troubling for a liberal.

It is also not necessary for Muslims to follow every harsh diktat mentioned in the Quran. And it does not make them a bad Muslims. For example, millions of Hindus have worked in Muslim countries over several decades and none of them were charged Jizya. Forget about Jizya they were not even charged taxes that are normally charged in India and Western countries.

Is Islam a good religion or a bad religion is for an individual to decide. I do not believe that Islam is an inherently evil religion or that a follower of Islam can only necessarily be a bad human being.

Is a liberal Muslim an Islamophobe?

Ranganathan argues that a liberal Muslim is in fact an Islamophobe who fears Islam and is afraid to discuss Quran in its entirety. I believe that is not the case. A liberal Muslim is more scared of the Liberal Jamaat and its judgemental character than being scared of the Quran.

One could argue that the Liberal Jamaat is just as intolerant or dogmatic as the religious Jamaat. Some Muslims find it extremely difficult to be accepted by their liberal peers while being Muslim. These Muslims try their best to force-fit Islam into the liberal world view because if they don’t then their intolerant liberal peers will label them as Islamist. As Ranganathan’s article argues, A good Muslim is in fact a bad human being. In such conditions I would not judge liberal Muslim too harshly because they are just trying to survive in an extremely intolerant society.

 

 

 

 

Where does India stand as compared to countries with Muslim majority?

Annoyed by the regressive attitude of some Indians, the Savarna Liberal thundered “Do we want to become like Saudi Arabia?” This has become a liberal tradition. Pick a random Muslim country and present it as the worst case scenario. India is supposed to guard its higher values so it does not turn into a hell hole like some random Islamic country. In this blog I will try and see where Muslim countries stand as compared India which is of course a country with a progressive and liberal outlook.

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Female Parliamentarians of Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia’s male to female ratio at birth is same as that of United States, Australia, Norway or UK. India’s male to female ratio is among the worst in the world. Only two other countries have done worse than India. There are 50 million fewer females in India as compared to males. This skewed ratio is a result rampant female foeticide. The biggest female genocide in the history of humanity is happening in India. But let us ignore this for a while and pretend that India is significantly better than any random Muslim country.

India is the only country in the world where half of its population does not have access to toilets. The first known toilets were built in 2800 BC. In few weeks we will be in 2017 AD. Just by this measure India becomes the most socially backward society in the world. All major Muslim countries have been able to provide toilets to their citizens. Recently Bangladesh declared that it has ended open defecation. But perhaps there may be other things that make India significantly better than Muslim countries?

Only 12% of seats are held by women in the Indian parliament. Pakistan, Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Somalia all have a higher proportion of seats held by women in their parliaments as compared to India. On UN’s gender index India is behind all major Muslim countries including Bangladesh and Pakistan.  A child born in India is far more likely to be malnourished than a child born in Democratic Republic of Congo, Zimbabwe or Somalia.

Iran, Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh, Indonesia all have better literacy rate for females as compared to India.  In spite of being the most conservative countries, Saudi Arabia and Iran have achieved cent percent literacy among females. While India has a seen a massive 10% decline in female workforce participation in the past decade Saudi Arabia is seeing a record increase. A recent report on honor killings in India has documented an 800 percent rise in such cases.So not only are these countries better for women today, these countries are continuously improving as India regresses.

Bangladesh is the only major Muslim majority country in the world that has a worse record on child marriage as compared to India. Even in India a girl born in a Hindu family is more likely to become a child bride as compared to a girl born in a Muslim family.

Now let us have a look at some other issues like capital punishment. India is a progressive country that applies capital punishment in the rarest of the rare case but a barbaric country like Saudi Arabia regularly beheads people for crimes and dissent. It appears we finally found an issue on which India is better than Saudi Arabia. But wait, India has killed 11,820 people in police custody in five years. These people are often killed as a result of extreme torture inside lockups. Hardly any police officer is brought to justice for these killings. In fact in some cases policemen have been rewarded for killing people in fake encounters. It is safe to assume that Indian state carries out these murders as a matter of policy.

Saudi Arabia and some other Muslim countries have blasphemy laws. Surely India can’t be as regressive as Muslim countries.  India is a free society where freedom of expression is a protected value. However I am not sure why India regularly jails people for “hurting religious sentiments”. A Muslim cleric was arrested and beaten in court for a mild criticism of a Hindu festival. A Muslim preacher is facing charge of promoting enmity between communities because in his opinion Mecca is holier than Amritsar.

There is a constant pressure on minorities in India to adopt a Uniform Civil Code which is simply a euphemism for Uniform Hindu Code (like beef ban). Pakistan, Bangladesh and Indonesia allow customary laws for their Hindu population without continuously hounding them for reforms or trying to impose Sharia over them. Pakistan, Bangladesh and Indonesia have taken tough measures against Islamist extremism with a number of Islamist extremists either killed in army action or hanged after due process. India has never hanged a Hindu terrorist since Godse. Even the most dreaded Hindu terrorist Maya Kodnani is out on bail even after getting convicted in the murder of 96 men, women and children. Indian jails are full of Muslim, Dalits and tribals. The brutalization of minorities in India is among the worst in the world outside of war zones.

In most parts of India beef is banned because of a Hindu religious law that gives a holy status to the cow. People who are arrested on the charges of eating or selling beef are either tortured in jails or are simple killed by Hindu militias. In most parts of the Muslim world there is no restriction on minorities if they want to consume alcohol or pork. Some Muslim farmers in Morocco supply pigs to the European market. Malaysia is famous for its pork delicacies. There are pork shops in UAE. There are only a handful of Muslim countries that ban pork and alcohol for non Muslims. Perhaps only Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) is an arm of US department of State that performs security assessments of cities overseas. Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and UAE all fall under the low risk category while  Indian cities like Delhi and Bombay are classified as Medium risk cities with a cautionary note about sexual attacks on women.

For a moment let us ignore all this and focus on the real issue of Saudis exporting extremism to countries like India. In a special investigation conducted by NDTV on the foreign funding of Madrasas (Islamic Schools) it was revealed that Saudi Arabia only contributed Rs 4.5 Cr since 2013. A good part of this is sent by Indian Muslims working in Saudi Arabia but let us ignore that for the sake of argument. India has a population of around 170 million Muslims. So Saudi Arabia is investing $ 0.001 per Muslim per year in India to spread their version of Islam. Either this is the best return on investment ever recorded or savarna liberals don’t know what they are talking about.

But please don’t be disappointed after reading this. Let us be happy thinking that women still can’t drive in Saudi Arabia. 99% of women in India don’t have access to a car while 100% women in Saudi Arabia can’t drive a car. This should be considered the sole point on which we can say with utmost confidence that India is far better place than Saudi Arabia to be a woman.

All the facts mentioned in this blog are easily verifiable.This of course does not mean that Muslim majority countries are Utopias, far from it. There is a lot of progress to be made on gender justice, women empowerment and education. Progressive Muslims in these Muslim countries are working on these issues and perhaps that is the reason they don’t get the time to obsess with Hinduism or India. They are too busy fixing their own society to be bothered about others. Hope Savarna Liberals stop sniffing the cocaine of superiority complex and start working towards the betterment of India and Hindu society.

Abby

rainbow-islamHe is not the typical Kifaya topi lungi clad Muslim they show on the TV. He is educated, smart and intelligent. His friends call him Abby, they often say he does not even look like a Muslim. Abby bounces the compliment back with a cheeky smile and a wink. Abby maintains a social media presence and he comes across as person who is well versed with politics and current affairs. Abby is a firm believer in anything and everything that is seen as progressive by his liberal mates.

Abby has just finished work, it was a busy day but Abby knows how to handle work pressure. Negotiating his way through the busy metro traffic Abby arrives at home and throws himself on the couch. Time for catching up with some news.  Disaster! There has been an attack on a gay pub in Orlando Florida. Every news channel is running ticker updating the news of this gruesome slaughter. Twenty people have been killed. Abby is nervous. But why would Abby be nervous about an event that is taking place half way round the world? After all mass shootings are a regular occurrence in the US.

Fifty killed! This is no ordinary incident. Abby is not religious man but still he makes a prayer “Oh God, Oh God, please, please let this not be another Muslim involved in this act of shame”, Abby whispers.  It is almost like when Abby was anxiously waiting to know about his results in the HSC exam, his future depended on it.

Abby knows the drill, he has done this many times before but still he is nervous. It is a never a pleasant experience. Abby switches off the TV and tries to forget about the whole issue. But Abby’s phone is beeping in ever increasing frequency.  Abby figures it out, his liberal friends are tweeting and posting on Facebook, this can only mean one thing. Abby’s fear has come true. The shooter is indeed confirmed as person with Muslim name. Abby takes a deep breath and gets mentally prepared for what is to come.

Abby changes his display Picture on social media to LGBT flag. There should be no confusion about where he stands. His friends are proud of him. He is that rare model Muslim that his friends once believed can never exist. Abby knows he has to be careful. An enthusiastic display of protest can be seen as an attempt to hide is homophobic Muslim existence but not Re-Tweeting his liberal friend’s tweets can also create an impression that he may just be another Muslim who is not worthy to be in the sanctimonious liberal circle.

It was a tough night, Sanghis on Twitter showered abuses on Abby while his liberal friends passionately discussed Islamic theology. Is it the Quran or are the Hadits to blame? Is it this verse or is it that verse that inspired the shooter? Abby, the enlightened soul is visibly uncomfortable; he knows his liberal friends have gently placed him in the box of the accused while they deliberate over Islamic theology. Poor Abby, he has not been exposed to such a high dose of theology even in the month of Ramadan! Or is it Ramazan instead? Anyway!

Abby has gone through this before but it never gets easier. It was a difficult night but he was more scared of the next day.  Casual office conversations discussing the sad news coming from Orlando.  “Abby! What do you think will be the impact of this attack on the US elections” asks one elderly figure in a thick Indian accent. “I am not following the US election but I think this will help Trump” replies Abby. “That is not good news for you is it Abby?” says the elderly man sneeringly.

Abby knew this was never going to be an easy day. Abby quietly buries his head in the papers pretending to focus on work. His liberal friend notices the discomfort and decides to step in. “Fancy as smoke Abby?” he asks, “sure why not?” says Abby and they both head of the designated smoking area.

Abby’s liberal friend is wise. He knows what Abby is going trough so he decides to switch the focus to something light. “What is your opinion about Triple Talaq Abby? “asks the liberal friend who has a passion for reforming Islam and Muslims. Abby is not sure how to respond. Abby is not even married. Last time when Abby found a girlfriend he spent most of his time convincing her how he was not the typical Muslim. Abby broke up some time later. Apparently the conversations were not going anywhere.

In his solitude Abby often wonders why. Why is he held responsible for the act of a person who he did not even know existed before he saw the news on that fateful day just like anyone else.  He was just as appalled and saddened by the loss of so many lives.  A guy born and brought up in the US by his parents who migrated from Afghanistan, a guy who has a history of personal problems, a guy who legally bought guns in US, a guy that Abby has no relation with other than the fact that Abby is also among 1.6 billion Muslims and the guy who carried out this despicable act also identified himself as a part of 1.6 billion Muslims.

Abby is hoping the news cycle will die down soon. But Abby is also prepared to be put in the box of accused once again for something he has no connection with. He loves his liberal friends.

Quran and the common criticism of Islam

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While there is a lot of criticism of Islam available online there are some controversial issues that get more attention than others. In this blog I try to understand those controversial issues from the Quranic perspective. This article is not a testimony of what Islam and Muslims are, nor is this an attempt to present an apologia for the atrocities committed in the name of Islam or in the name of Mohammed, the prophet of Islam.

Apostasy

There is no verse in the Quran that says that people who quit Islam should be punished or harmed. There are verses in the Quran that say there is no compulsion in matters of religion (2:256). Then Quran goes further to make a case against forcing religion on people. “If your God had willed he would have created everyone a believer, will you then force religion on people?” it asks (10:99). So the “Islamic” problem of punishment for apostasy has an Islamic solution.

Blasphemy

There is no concept of punishment for blasphemy in the Quran. On the contrary Quran says Muslims should disassociate with people who mock their faith so they don’t become like those who indulge in such acts (4:140). Then Quran goes further and stops Muslims from mocking the religious leaders and gods of other faiths. (6:108)

Child Marriage

Quran prescribes marriage between adults who have a sound mind. Quran also forbids from marrying women against their will. (4:6)

Divorce

Quran prescribes a long negotiated settlement between the husband and the wife after appointing one lawyer for the man and one lawyer for the woman. (4:35)

Polygamy

Quran allows polygamy recommends monogamy (4:3 and 4:129). There was no way earlier tribes could have survived without the concept of polygamy when a large proportion of men died in wars. Polygamy allowed widows and their children another chance to become a part of family as family was the most important unit of tribal culture.

Female Genital Mutilation

There is absolutely nothing in the Quran that sanctions female genital mutilation. FGM is mainly practiced in some African countries both by Muslims and non Muslims. There is nothing in the Quran that sanctions this practice.

Circumcision

There is nothing in the Quran that sanctions male circumcision. Circumcision for males comes from an ancient Jewish practice that Muslims adopted. Today both Jews and Muslims follow this practice. So it may not be in the Quran but since Jews practice it and since it is not prohibited in the Quran then it means that circumcision can be considered as a practice sanctioned by Islam.

Female infanticide

Quran explicitly forbids female infanticide.(17:31, 81:8-9)

Violence against non believers

Quran asks Muslims to be fully equitable towards those non believers who peacefully live with Muslims (60:8). Quran allows Muslims to form marriage bonds with Christians and Jews (5:5). The idea that Quran has a general sanction to fight or kill non believers is baseless. Quran sanctions Muslims to fight those who threaten their nation state. This is a common modern law. If you try to challenge Indian state then Indian state will fight against you. If you try to fight any state in the modern world the state will fight against you. So Quran sanctions a just war and says that hostilities must cease when the enemy offers peace. Quran forbids killing of innocents saying that killing one innocent is like killing entire humanity (5:32).

Jizya (Tax on non believers)

Since Quran says that Zakat (charity) is compulsory on Muslims (9:60,2:177) it recommends that Jizya could be collected from non Muslims. Millions of Hindus have worked in the middle east, forget about paying Jizya they are not even required to pay any tax. Since Zakat is not being charged by the state there is no point of imposing Jizya either. So why cant Zakat be charged from non Muslims? For the simple reason that Zakat is a Islamic ritual while Jizya is tax imposed by the state hence imposing Zakat on non Muslims would be forcing an aspect of Islam on non believers. This is not permissible.

Slavery

Quran says freeing slaves from bondage is true righteousness (2:177,9:60,5:89). During those days there was no concept of nation providing security, it was the responsibility of the tribes and clans to guarantee security of the people. The people who lost the war were taken captives and then they were kept as slaves forever.Tribes guaranteed security to the captives in return for their services.

Quran allowed marriage between captives and victors (4:25). The eventual aim was to free all captives after war.  The earliest converts to Islam like Bilal were African slaves freed by Mohammed. In fact Quran bans trading in usury (3:130) because the unending cycle of interest eventually resulted in slavery. People borrowed money from the loan sharks and when they could not return the interest they were forced to become bonded labor. Mohammed banned this in the seventh century. India banned the practice of bonded labor in 1976.

Niqab

There is no verse in the Quran that asks Muslim women to cover their face, however there is a verse that prescribes covering of head and bosom (24:31). Quran also prescribes men to dress modestly (33:35). Also asks people not to walk with arrogance and pride (17:37). Also asks people not to eat more than what is required (20:81,7:31). Basically ask Muslims to be moderate in whatever they do.

Alcohol and Gambling

Quran prohibits Muslims from consuming alcohol and playing game of chance.(2:219-220)

Diversity

Quran does not give racial or cultural superiority to Arabs. Quran acknowledges cultural diversity in the world and asks people to learn from each other (49:13).

Science

While Quran endorses the concept of past miracles it definitely puts an end to the concept of miracles (6:109). There is nothing in the Quran that asks Muslims to do something that would harm their well being. In fact Quran even allows Muslims to eat pork in times of peril (2:173). Quran asks Muslims to go and explore the world (29:20). So there is nothing as such in the Quran that stops Muslims from exploring Science. In fact early Islam had many Muslim scientists.

72 Virgins

There is no verse in the Quran that talks about 72 virgins.

Stoning

There is no verse in the Quran that prescribes stoning as a punishment for any crime.

 

The Intermediaries

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Model of an ancient Jerusalem Temple

Matthew 21:12-13

Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves.

“It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.’

Jerusalem

Irrespective of the popular narrative, Jesus was not a pacifist. He was strongly against the clergy and the way they used the name of God for commercial gains. The temples were in control of the clergy. Architecturally the temples had a layered structure with the inner most part (sanctum sanctorum) only accessible to the clergy symbolizing an important aspect of religion; You cannot reach gods unless you go through people who have access to gods.

The clergy determined how the sacrifices were to be made in the Temple and they determined the amount of money that will have to be spent to please the gods. Of course all the material offerings eventually belonged to the clergy. A modest compensation for helping people connect with god.

Outside the temples there were flourishing businesses selling items that were required to please the gods. The temple was essential to sustain those businesses and the temple itself became an essential part of the economy. Clergy used the temple and the fear of gods to convince people that parting away with their wealth in the form of sacrifices would please the gods which would in turn solve their health and wealth related issues.

Jesus witnessed this and in his zeal he overturned the tables of money changers and the benches of those selling doves for sacrifice. He also opened the cattle that ran through the dusty streets of Jerusalem. It was a spectacle.

Egypt

In Egypt there are an estimated seventy million mummified animals. Remnants of a culture where mummified animals were offered to please the gods or to act as intermediaries who took wrapped messages from those alive to those who have passed away. Forensic examination of animal mummies has revealed that these animals were bred in small cages and then were mercilessly killed in the most cruel ways so they can be mummified.

Mummification was big business and an essential part of the Egyptian economy. Only the clergy knew all the right mantras to properly offer the animal mummies to the gods. They too charged a modest sum for their services.

India

The Brahmins in ancient India took it a whole new level. They controlled the temples, they controlled the temple money, and they put themselves on the top of the social hierarchy, restricted others from learning religion and made rules that entitled them to social benefits. The following is an extract from Atharva Ved Book 12 Hymn 5 which explains the duty of giving cows to Brahmins and the sin and danger of withholding the gift.

O Cow, break thou the head of him who wrongs the Brāhmans, criminal, niggard, blasphemer of the Gods. Let Agni burn the spiteful wretch when crushed to death and slain by thee. Rend, rend to bits, rend through and through, scorch and consume and burn to dust,Consume thou, even from the root, the Brāhmans’ tyrant, godlike Cow! That he may go from Yama’s home afar into the worlds of sin. So, Goddess Cow, do thou from him, the Brāhmans’ tyrant, criminal, niggard, blasphemer of the Gods,With hundred-knotted thunderbolt, sharpened and edged with razor-blades,Strike off the shoulders and the head.Snatch thou the hair from off his head, and from his body strip the skin: Tear out his sinews, cause his flesh to fall in pieces from his frame. Crush thou his bones together, strike and beat the marrow out of him. Dislocate all his limbs and joints. From earth let the Carnivorous Agni drive him, let Vayu burn. him from mid-air’s broad region.From heaven let Sūrya drive him and consume him.

Phew!!

This system was successfully challenged by Gautam Buddah. Many of Buddha’s followers were Brahmins who were by their nature fair people and wanted to end this discrimination and exploitation. Buddha did not discriminate between sexes or castes. His message was simple and convincing. This was a direct challenge to the intermediaries.

Mecca

The Quraish tribe of Mecca controlled the access to the temple of the tribes known as the Kaaba. People from distant places visited Mecca to make their offerings to the gods. All these material offerings eventually ended up with the Quraish tribe. Each tribe had their own god housed inside the Kaaba and to enter the Kaaba they had to pass through the house of the leader of Quraish tribe, symbolizing the idea that the Quraish were the intermediaries between the pagan Arabs and their gods. This way the Quraish maintained their influence over the tribes in the region.

The prophet of Islam, Mohammed, was a Quraish, he was supposed to enjoy the benefits that came to his tribe through the gods of the Kaaba. He was not supposed to challenge and destroy everything his ancestors had established by shrewdly using gods to benefit their own tribe.

In every prayer that Muslims offer they renew their pledge of worshiping one God and asking one God for help (Quran 1:5). Mohammed’s God was accessible to every human, Mohammed’s God did not keep sacrifices for himself but wanted people to help their poor relatives, help the orphans, the travellers. Mohammed’s God wanted people to spend money to free slaves from bondage. (Quran 2:177).

And as per Quran, Mohammed did not promise riches to people, nor did he promise that he will get them salvation in afterlife. On the contrary he told them he has no knowledge of the unseen and he does not know his own future. (Quran 7:188)

Mohammed’s God wanted men and women to pray to him as equals. There were no queues or special lines for the special dignitaries. At the time of prayers the rich and the poor, the men and the women, the healthy and the weak all stand in rows as absolute equals and pray.

Dargah (Muslim Shrines)

Dargahs are the antithesis of Islam. Dargahs re-establish the dominant role of the clergy, they re-establish intermediaries, they potentially open up ways for exploitation of gullible masses. As per traditions, when Prophet Mohammed died, his companions destroyed the tree under which he spent time so people don’t convert it into a shrine.

There are no saints, no popes, no Brahmins in Islam. As per Islamic theology, everyone is equally answerable to God for their actions on the day of judgement and no soul will be able to help the other. (Quran 82:19)

The act of declaring someone as a saint violates the fundamental principle of Islam that only God can be the judge of someone’s deeds. To declare someone as saint is direct intrusion into God territory. The people who are buried in these shrines themselves only carried the message of Mohammed, they never asked their tombs to be glorified or turned into places of public interest. This was done by people out of love and respect.

Where do all the donations go? To the Dargah Trust which is managed by Khadims (servants of the tomb). I am sure by now you may have made the connection between various examples I presented from the past and these ‘Intermediaries to the Intermediaries’.

Let us assume that whatever I wrote in this blog is due to my lack of knowledge of Islam. Even then one question remains unanswered. If some good person can hear you from beyond the dead then why is it necessary to go close to that person’s mortal remains? A tomb can be left alone in peace and still a person can seek help of those saints.