NEWS BULLETIN

Please read the piece about Peter King - serious actions against Muslim Bashing

Friday, July 31, 2015

Capital Punishment - Why Yakub Memon's hanging should have been telecast live

I am pleased to share my thoughts about Capital punishment and the deliberate killing of the criminal Yakub Memon, as this has become the most talked about death penalty in the nation. 

I have been opposed to Capital punishment from the early 80’s, however, I have slipped twice since then; first when I heard about a guy who raped my friends’ daughter, and a Houston woman who killed 7 of her children for claiming insurance. All other times, I have stood firmly with the idea that the society cannot act like outrageous beasts and we cannot deliberately kill an individual no matter what caused him to be a killer.

In a democracy, civility goes hand in hand. If everything is just in a society all goes well, but when injustice occurs directly, indirectly or remotely, bad things multiply in the society, and it will take time to restore dharma – the righteousness. Justice and Fairness are the pillars of any society; a good system ensures trust, prosperity and peace for all.

Who do you blame when some punk shoots the cashier at a 7/11 for a few bucks? His parents, his community or his situation? What if that man or woman was raised where you and I were raised? Is society responsible for creating such a monster? Should we punish that monster? Will that end more monsters?

Of course the state shamelessly kills its criminals either through a lethal injection as in Texas or chopping the head off in public as in Saudi Arabia. Both acts are disgusting and barbaric. In the early 80’s I was appalled with an Indian judge who was visiting,  his unflinching take on death penalty was just plain shocking, I thought being a judge, he would have debated, hesitated or would have reservations… NONE Whatsoever!

I have written quite a lot on the topic, but the following paragraph expressed my sentiments very well. “Today, the Indian state has shown itself to be no better than Tiger Memon. Tiger planned the bombings in retaliation to the terrible violence against Muslims that followed in the wake of Babri Masjid demolition. We have terminated his brother's life to extract vengeance for the blasts.

Tiger's act was a reaction of a hotheaded criminal; we sent his brother to the gallows after keeping him in jail for 22 years - what could be more cynical and cold-hearted than that. What ends of justice does that serve now? Are we safer from his judicial elimination? How have we shown ourselves to be different from those we condemn? “

I am citing a beautiful example, which you will find them in all societies. This by no way exonerates any society; criminals are in every group of people.  Hazrat Umar once commuted an order to cut the hands of a thief as a punishment. He discovered that the man stole the food to feed his children. Umar took the blame on the society for creating such a desperate situation for individuals to resort to such a thing.  I hope we all start thinking what is just instead of blindly applying the laws. We the Americans are no exception to that.

The following column is a compelling article to read.

Mike is a speaker, thinker, writer, pluralist,  TV-Radio commentator and a human rights activist committed to building cohesive societies and offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day. His info in 63 links at MikeGhouse.net and writings at TheGhouseDiary.com
# # #

Why Yakub Memon's hanging should have been telecast live
Courtesy of Catch News. com


MANISHA SETHI@catchnews

The verdict

  • Supreme Court's late night hearing on Yakub Memon's punishment was a charade
  • It was a way of projecting that we give a fair trial "even to a terrorist"

The double standards

  • While we celebrate Yakub's execution, we are asked to forget the 1992 Mumbai riots
  • We speak of "closure" for blast victims but ask riot victims to "move on"

The bloodlust

  • On television, there were grotesque blow-by-blow accounts of the run-up to the execution
  • Given our vicarious pleasure, his hanging should have been public, preferably telecast live


Till the end, till the very last minute possible, the charade of due process was played out. Three judges who had rejected Yakub Memon's petition in the day deliberated upon his lawyers' plea once again till early morning. Some were irked by what they saw as Memon's delaying tactics - as though a condemned man should go gently into the night, without fuss, abandoning the human instinct for self-preservation. Others gushed at the greatness of our judicial system. The Supreme Court by constituting a bench in the middle of the night had displayed extraordinary accommodation towards Memon. What further proof did we need that we give a fair trial "even to terrorists"?


First, there was nothing unprecedented about a late night sitting of the Supreme Court. In 2014, Chief Justice HL Dattu stayed Surinder Koli's imminent hanging through a late night order after his lawyers woke him up at 1 am.
Second, though Yakub's death warrant was issued before he had exhausted his legal rights - a clear violation of the 'procedure established by law' to precede a death sentence - the Supreme Court finally upheld it, both in the day, as well as in the dramatic early morning hearing.
But, more importantly, we would do well to remember that Yakub was tried and convicted under TADA, a law that was allowed to lapse less than a year after his return to India.
In May 1995 - as the Mumbai blasts trial was proceeding in the TADA court - the Parliament decided not to grant extension to this law. The law was not renewed because it militated against every shred of the values and principles embodied in our Constitution.
Burgeoning evidence of rank prejudice in its application, its rampant use as an instrument for witch-hunting and vendetta, forced us to acknowledge that such a law could not have a place in a democracy.
However, cases such as Memon's, already filed under TADA, continued as though the draconian law was still in existence.
So let us disabuse ourselves of the notion that law - objective, blind, undiscriminating law has spoken.
Today, the Indian state has shown itself to be no better than Tiger Memon. Tiger planned the bombings in retaliation to the terrible violence against Muslims that followed in the wake of Babri Masjid demolition. We have terminated his brother's life to extract vengeance for the blasts.
Tiger's act was a reaction of a hotheaded criminal; we sent his brother to the gallows after keeping him in jail for 22 years - what could be more cynical and cold-hearted than that. What ends of justice does that serve now? Are we safer from his judicial elimination? How have we shown ourselves to be different from those we condemn?
Yakub was tried and convicted under TADA, a law that lapsed less than a year after his return to India
The sanctimonious bile of media commentators asks us not to think of the Muslim victims of 1992 riots or the Srikrishna Commission Report, to forget that only three people were ever convicted for the anti-Muslim violence, one of whom, the Shiv Sena MLA Madhukar Sarpotdar did not serve a single day of his one-year sentence.
To raise the question of selective justice is to 'politicise' Yakub's hanging, which has after all, gone through all the legal motions.
Only the deliberately blind will fail to see that there are two parallel worlds of law: one affords 'closure', the other urges you to 'move on'; one, which grants last minute clemency and reprieve, the other, determined to sacrifice a life.
Law will take its own course surely, but the course it charts will be strikingly different in different cases.
And then there are our lynch mobs. On television, there was a grotesque, almost orgasmic obsession with the "last hours of Yakub Memon".
Blow by blow accounts - graphically and dramatically rendered - of how Yakub would be given a new set of clothes, how he would be provided with a copy of the Quran, what breakfast he might be offered, were aired non stop.
In one, an officer who had been on the investigating team of the 26/11 attacks, excitedly showed how Yakub's hands would be tied at the back when he takes his last walk - from his cell to the phansi yard.
Have we plumbed the depths of our moral abyss? Perhaps not. But it's still possible to.
Why did they execute Yakub inside the walls of the jail? His hanging should have been public, preferably telecast live. The keepers of our collective conscience should have cheered as Yakub walked to the gallows, his hands tied at the back. We could have swooned and thrown stones and bottles at him as the hangman covered his face with a hood.
We could all have held our breath as his neck snapped, and then broken into a raucous cry as his body turned limp. Surely, in such a carnivalesque celebration of death, we would have deepened our sense of justice, our faith in the processes of law, and in the fairness of our democracy.
Why stop at vicarious pleasures. Let us degrade and debase ourselves completely.
The views expressed are personal and do not necessarily reflect of the organisation.

Contemporary no way to look at history - Tribune Interviews Dr. Nyla Ali Khan

Think out of the box - contemporary no way to look at history.

Republished at: http://worldmuslimcongress.blogspot.com/2015/07/contemporary-no-way-to-look-at-history.html


Azhar Qadri of Tribune talks to Nyla Ali Khan, writer and granddaughter of Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah

Courtesy of Tribune India



The granddaughter of National Conference founder Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, Nyla Ali Khan has authored several books, including The Life of a Kashmiri Woman — on her grandmother Begum Akbar Jehan, whose death anniversary falls on July 11. She is a visiting professor at the University of Oklahoma, USA.
What concerns you the most when you say that the “mauled versions of history are cunningly making their way into mainstream Indian, Pakistani and international political discourses”?
When we read about the political history of Kashmir, about the turbulence and turmoil since 1989, quite a few scholars, analysts and activists have documented the human rights violations and written about the undemocratic processes that occurred in the state over the past several decades... they have written about the institutionalisation of corruption and how institutions in Jammu and Kashmir became dysfunctional over the years. But what I see in a lot of those works of history is the version of statist Indian as well as Pakistani political thought, and when I read other versions which are unofficial or which are not as statist, I do not see a recognition of the very strong Kashmiri nationalist movement, the inception of which was made in 1931. 
We might have ideological differences and a lot of us tend to view history through the subjective lens of contemporary politics, but that is where we go wrong. We can do justice to at least our own history by contextualising events.
You referred to 1931 (agitation against monarchical rule) as a nationalist event, but what qualifies it to be a nationalist event since it was triggered by a man who was not Kashmiri (Qadeer Khan)?
The fact that political players bridged the ideological divide to come together, they recognised that the movement that will bring their people — Muslims of Kashmir valley — out of the misery of illiteracy, poverty and political disenfranchisement would have to be a people’s movement. It could not be led by an outsider. We need to recognise that in 1947 and 1948, the leaps that Jammu and Kashmir made in establishing democratic processes and institutions were not made in any other part of the subcontinent.
When the movement began in 1931, it was for the enfranchisement of the Muslims of Kashmir valley and that was the reason that Molvi Yousuf Shah and Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah came together and people of their ilk supported them. So it was to voice the aspirations of the repressed, particularly the peasantry. That is how I see it as a nationalist movement. It was a movement that initially relied on religious discourse and was later transformed because that religious idiom was a very powerful motivating and unifying force. It was deployed very effectively to give legitimacy to a political movement.
With so many narratives, whose version of history is correct or nearer to reality? And how will it be decided whose version is true?
This is a very difficult thing for me to do because I, like you, look at things from a unique vantage point. I look at things from a particular position but I, unlike a lot of other people, recognise that this  gives me certain biases and prejudices. I study the politics of Sheikh Abdullah and I continue to do that, it is a work in progress. I admire his politics, his personality. I admire the unifying force that he became at a time when our state was fragmented. I admire him for the primacy which he gave to Kashmiri identity…  it is at this stage that there came a time when Kashmiri people learned to take pride in themselves, their cultural identity. 
They became a political force to be reckoned with, to be recognised. Recently I did some work on the Quit Kashmir Movement. There was a time when Sheikh Abdullah was seen as a rebel against the state. Every society and individual is dynamic and no political player remains the same throughout. No political player’s identity remains static.
As an academician, how do you see Sheikh Abdullah? Was he a nationalist, or someone who sought refuge in religion using the podium of shrines for his own politics?
Using the podium of shrines to mobilise people — that has been done the world over. Religious institutions have been used in detrimental ways but also to create positive identity politics for mobilising people to recognise their own political rights and to fight for it. Sheikh Abdullah was one politician in South Asia who was able to employ the religious idiom very successfully to mobilise the people to recognise that they were people who were entitled to privileges and rights.
In The Life of a Kashmiri Woman, the protagonist is your maternal grandmother Begum Akbar Jehan. Was her influence instrumental at any point in time in shaping the future of the region?
She was born into a very privileged family, she was half-Austrian … so my grandmother straddled two cultural paradigms and she was a very religious woman.
In 1932, she made the very difficult choice because Sheikh Abdullah then was a young man, a rebel who was trying to make his presence felt. So, she made the difficult decision of marrying someone whose future was unpredictable and unstable... but throughout the 1930s, while he was rebelling against the monarchy, and in 1950s and 1960s when he was a political prisoner of the Government of India, she stood by him. In 1955, when Mirza Afzal Beg created the Plebiscite Front, Begum Akbar Jehan was its unofficial member. Activists of that period will tell you how stifling the atmosphere was, particularly for her and her children.
Between the two extremes of being the ‘Lion of Kashmir’ and a villainous character, as his detractors describe him, where does Sheikh Abdullah stand for you?
As a granddaughter, I have the greatest respect for him. He suffered tremendously at the political and personal level. He was betrayed by his very close colleagues and comrades and he suffered because of their betrayals and I include Jawaharlal Nehru in that... people who had sworn to protect the people of Kashmir.
As an academic, I would say he was a paradox. Sheikh Abdullah was a Kashmiri nationalist, he did not identify himself as an Indian nationalist or as a Pakistani nationalist. He did not toe the line of either Indian nationalism or Pakistani nationalism, which is what his detractors would have us believe… he gave primacy to the aspirations of his own people and to their political evolution. There was a point in time when he was betrayed by the nation-state of Pakistan as well. In the early 1970s, when he was negotiating with the political players of both nation-states, he was told categorically by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto that after the creation of Bangladesh in 1971 and after India had established its military supremacy, Pakistan was not in a position or would not be in a position for the next few decades to do anything at all for the people of Kashmir, and he should take whatever decision he could to save and retrieve whatever little autonomy he could at that time. 
The problem in the several analyses of Sheikh Abdullah is that even his detractors unwittingly place him on a pedestal and view him as an individual who could have changed the political and historical tide of Kashmir all by himself.
Do you remember Sheikh Abdullah as a sad man?
When he died in 1982, I was 10. But I had the privilege of spending a lot of time with my maternal grandparents and I remember vividly that a couple of days before he died, my mother and I were with him. There was a lot of sloganeering going on outside the house. One of the slogans was Zinde Thavun Abdullah (Keep Alive, Abdullah). He could not hear very well and he asked my mother what they are saying. She said, “They are praying for your long life.” He said, “Why, what have I done for them?” So I don’t think he was a content man. He was a sad man.
How would Sheikh Abdullah have reacted in 1989 (when militancy erupted)?
He had no desire and made no attempt to endanger the lives of the people of this place and jeopardise the lives of our younger generations. He was not a trigger-happy politician. He was a man who was in the trenches with his people. If he made a political demand, he would make sure that was followed by his presence in the trenches with his political activists. So I don’t agree he would have been a gun-toting politician, but I think he would have voiced the demand for self-determination, absolutely.
Being a chronicler and part of the Sheikh family, how do you manage that thin line of impartiality?
I am not the chronicler of the Sheikh family. That is a reductive reading of my work. The reason I chose to work on my grandmother is because there is a historical value in revisiting and challenging the historical narratives about the political actors of pre and post-1947 Jammu and Kashmir.  A few people label me as an apologist of the National Conference and some as an ideologue probably, which is interesting. This is not what I am.
Why did the National Conference suffer its worst defeat in the elections of 2014?
The antagonism toward NC manifested by both state actors and non-state actors and the increasing vulnerability of the organisation’s cadre was terribly damaging, and its status as the upholder of regional aspirations and an adversary of the centrist policies of the Government of India was greatly undermined. Several combinations and permutations didn’t bode well for the political well-being of either the political organisation or the state, which hadn’t been engineered either by Begum Akbar Jehan or by the surviving members of Sheikh Abdullah’s loyal contingent. The cementing of these alliances were apocalyptic events, portending, as future events showed, the disintegration of regional aspirations.
What is the future role of NC with PDP gaining strength in Kashmir and BJP sweeping Jammu?
It will be a force to reckon with if its grassroots cadre is strengthened and educated and well-informed young blood is infused and promoted. The connect between the top  leadership and its mass base needs to be re-established in view of changing regional, political and socio-economic aspirations. No organisation, let alone a political organisation of repute and responsibility, can continue to survive with deadwood.

 

Human Rights in Islam: key thoughts

Glad to read this article on Human rights, it is long but worth reading.  thanks Ruby.
Mike
------

Ruby Amatulla


The awareness about human rights during the last few hundred years has brought about major changes in the world. However, the Quran, many centuries earlier, laid down the basis of these rights.  

A Western thinker, Robert Briffault, asserts that humanity is indebted to the Quran for its progresses. He says, “The ideas that inspired the French Revolution and the Declaration of Rights that guided the framing of the American Constitution and inflamed the struggle for independence in the Latin American countries [and elsewhere] were not inventions of the West. They find their ultimate inspiration and source in the Holy Koran.”

Thomas Jefferson, who wrote the American ‘Declaration of Independence’, kept the Quran in his library. When the library was burned down once, he ordered another copy of the Book. More than two hundred years later the first Muslim congressman, Keith Ellison, took the oath of the office on Jefferson’s Quran

Briffault concurs with scholars such as Thomas Carlyle, Goethe, Margoliouth and many others in their assertions that the Scripture contains seminal ideas about human life and society that are comprehensive and very progressive.   

George Bernard Shaw says: "'The future religion of the educated, cultured and enlightened people will be Islam. "

                             ********************
The right of a person is generally denoted as ‘haqq’ in the Quran. The concept of ‘haqq’ is pervasive. Whatever is rightfully due to a person is ‘haqq’. These rights are scattered all over the Quran; some are laid down in straight forward ways but others – more fundamental or inherent rights that a person can claim just by being a human being – are implied but with paramount importance.

The main thrust of Islam is to establish justice and a just society on earth. The goal is peace [one of the meaning of Islam is peace]. The Scripture implies that peace cannot be attained without justice; and justice prevails only when rights are upheld. The Quran expounds that any violation or undermining of a right constitutes an injustice. 

The Book says God has made all human beings His representatives or vicegerents [‘khalifa’] on earth [2:30, 6:165, 27:62 ]. Therefore all God’s ‘khalifa’ are equal on earth. Each person can claim the honor and dignity the position ‘khalifa of God’ commands. God is one and all human beings are His creation and servants. In these respects in Islam all human beings are equal before God, therefore, they should be equal before law, society and humanity.  The right to equality is fundamental in Islam

It is implied in the Quran that this status of ‘khalifa’ is awarded to humans not arbitrarily but because God has enormously empowered them and made them capable of sensing truth and discerning right from wrong.

Different verses shed light on different aspects of the enormity of this endowment to humans.  Prostration is exclusively reserved for God. However after creating Adam, the prototype of humans, God commanded all the angels to prostrate before Adam and thus gave a God-like status to humans. The Quran proclaims, “Indeed, We have conferred dignity on all children of Adam (as their birth-right).” (17:70).

What is the nature of endowment that make a human God-like? The Quran alludes that God has given humans “fitratulla” [fitra means nature] or a God given ‘nature’ or God’s nature or true nature. Then the Book proclaims that the one ever-true religion [al-Din al-Hanif] for mankind is to comply with this ‘nature’ [Quran 30:30]. Any deviation from this nature amounts to injustice, the bigger the deviation the higher the derailment.

Different verses in different places of the Scripture provides glimpses of this endowment “Fitratullah”: it consists of the faculty of reason and conscience, the intuitive and spiritual capacities, the inherent knowledge or wisdom God granted humans, and may be much more. Most of all this enormous capacity enables one to sense truth. By virtue of this empowerment God has granted humans the right to free will. The idea of the ‘Day of Judgment’ and man’s accountability to God rests on the legitimacy that God has granted humans the right to liberty. Therefore the right to equality and liberty are the fundamental rights of a human being.

Next, the right to life comes from the idea that God blows His own Spirit into a human being at the time of creation [15:29] thereby making a life sacrosanct. Killing a human being is prohibited except in the way of justice and/or fighting war against the spread of massive injustices and oppression. The Book expounds that tumult and oppression are worse than killing as these lead to extreme injustices, inhuman sufferings and a degrading state. The Quran defines ‘crime against humanity’ in terms of killing one innocent human being [5:32]. The Scripture proclaims that if one innocent human being is killed, it is as if entire humanity is killed, and if one life is saved as if entire humanity is saved. This indeed is a higher standard than the one the International Criminal Court [ICC] could come up with fourteen centuries later.

The right to life, liberty, equality, dignity, own and dispose properties, privacy, etc are people’s inherent rights as per the Quran, rights any human being can claim irrespective of his/her religion, race, etc. Protecting and preserving these rights are also the foundation of a modern democratic system.

The thinkers of the European Enlightenment period and later the Founders of the American Revolution who laid down the framework of modern democracy realized that in order to establish a stable progressive society the government must preserve, protect and defend these rights for all citizens. A good governance then is one in which the people holds the ultimate power  and the government obtains its legitimacy to rule from the very people it rules and that the government so formed remains limited in its power.  A constitution that lays down the framework of a republic with separation of power, proper checks and balances and a system of periodic elections to elect people’ representatives to govern can help attain these objectives.

Fourteen centuries ago, the Charter of Medina [Sahifat al-Medina], the very first constitution written in history, ensured these rights of people in the very first community Prophet Muhammad [pbuh] established in Medina. The system was a federal democratic system in which people of different creed – Muslims, Jews and Pagans – formed a single community ensuring safety and security of life, equal rights, freedom of religion, lifestyle and expression, etc. of all people of the community irrespective of their differences. The Modern day scholars wonder at the similarities between the Charter of Median and the American Constitution that was drafted eleven centuries later. They increasingly discover historical connections for these amazing similarities between the two important historic documents, however that is beyond the scope of this writing.

There are different categories of rights in Islam. Besides the inherent rights, there are  specific rights in Islam as to a person’s birth into a family such as inheritance rights and a person’s position in the family such as spousal rights, the position with respect to other people in a group with common cause such as fraternal rights, the rights of neighbors, rights of a member of a community or citizen’s rights,  etc. Still there are rights that arise due to efforts and activities such as workers’ rights, trade-partner’s rights, other rights such as the right to presumption of innocence until proven guilty, etc.

A right comes with the responsibility in Islam. The responsibility necessitates exercising discretion and maintaining moderation and balance to avoid conflict and social instability. Freedom of expression is a fundamental right in Islam however the faith does not condone the misuse of this right to arouse hatred, prejudices, and phobias and the abuse of this right to humiliate and disgrace others [49:11,12]. These kinds of misuses and abuses are tolerated in the West in the name of freedom of expression.

Some times some individual rights need to have some limitations for the sake of establishing a healthy society. In the West, however, individual rights are given paramount importance and the collective rights of a society often are ignored or marginalized. As a result, in the name of individual rights excessive greed, materialism, promiscuity, etc. are pursued to the degrees at which the societies tend to become unfair and dysfunctional.

Islam advocates social justice, sharing wealth with the needy and poor, shun excessive materialism, extravagances and live relatively simple. People can become better off or wealthy through rightful means but they should share their wealth with the poor and pay Zakat or the ‘purifying dues’. The poor have a right [haqq] on the wealth of the better off or rich people. All these reasonable restraints are meant to promote and sustain healthy set of values for a society to become stable, peaceful and progressive.

Therefore whenever there is a conflict between an individual right and the collective right of a society Islam advocates striking a balance. As individual rights cannot disregard the collective rights of a society, the collective rights cannot trample individual rights.
Islam grants complete freedom in matters of faith [Quran 2:256]. More than hundred prominent scholars and Imams of our time and some organizations have vehemently disagreed with the assessment that apostasy is punishable by death in Islam. To the contrary They believe there is no worldly punishment for apostasy in Islam. [please see their comments in http://apostasyandislam.blogspot.com/ ]

Women are given equal status with respect to all inherent rights and most other rights except inheritance. In cases of inheritance there are some differences. However, taking all the financial matters into consideration woman and man are at par with each other. Women have the right to own and dispose properties as they wish. They have complete freedom in exercising their rights.

Facing injustices and oppression the people or a group has the collective right to be united and fight to stop rampant violations of rights and justices. Believers are commanded to establish justice. Therefore they have the right and responsibility to struggle to establish justice, peacefully and/or with arms. This is called Jihad in Islam. There are a lot of misconceptions about Jihad both among non-Muslims as well as among Muslims in the world today.

Islam has given paramount importance on peaceful Jihad against wrong and injustices. Believers must exhaust all peaceful and diplomatic means before using their right to take up arms. Patience, perseverance and consistency are advocated in peaceful Jihad. However, if all peaceful efforts – such as dialogue, diplomacy, negotiation, warning even threats -- fail to bring about the change, it is believers’ rights to fight against tumult and oppression.
Facing injustices and oppression Islam does not allow indifference or looking the other way. Everyone has the right to defend his/her rights or fight for it. The struggle must be relentless and forceful until justice and fairness prevails.
     
Many major movements of our time that led the world a bit closer to justice and fairness were founded on the values and principles of human rights such as the civil rights, workers rights, immigrants’ rights, women’s liberation, collective bargaining, and most importantly liberation movements in many countries. In essence they address a person’s right to liberty, equality, and dignity.

Our world as we see today largely has been shaped by these fundamental concepts of human rights that the Quran laid down a long time ago.  The whole world, in spite of being imperfect and troublesome, has been slowly gravitating towards human rights, fairness and justice, the acceptance of diversity and tolerance [2:148, 5:48], and universalism that the Quran propounded more than fourteen centuries ago.

The most unfortunate thing is that the Muslim world is not at the forefront of this Jihad to establish human rights as there are rampant violations of these rights in many Muslim majority societies. Hundreds of years of false indoctrination and misplaced priorities have robbed the lights from the ideas expounded by “fitratullah” and “khalifa” in the Quran. 
They fail to recognize, among many other issues, that since all human beings -- irrespective of race, religion, gender, etc.-- are  representatives [khalifa] of God, the sovereignty of a people collectively then represents the Sovereignty of God.  There is no clash between these two ideas of sovereignty: one is temporal and limited and the other is eternal and unlimited. 

This can change and it must change. This necessitates a real enlightened process of education, dialogue, patience and perseverance. In essence it needs the peaceful Jihad of the enlightened people in a society. It requires the vigilance and efforts of the thinking people of a society to help arouse the awareness and the commitment of a people that will become the vanguard of a system to help protect their rights and their values, Prejudices, ignorance, fanaticism, extremism, hatred, power-hunger, greed, etc. that violate or compromise rights of people also obstruct justice and hinder peace in the world.

Ruby Amatulla is the Executive Director of "Muslims for Peace, Justice and Progress" [www.mpjp.org] based in the USA and the Secretary General of "Women for Good Governance" based in Bangladesh. She is a writer promoting inclusive politics and power-sharing as the necessary tools for an integrated society. She is the editor of Home | Consult Quran Her writings have been published regularly in the Daily Star and in many other reputable newspapers in other countries.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Ramadan's Universalism for Jews, Christians, Hindus and others

This article tracks the general purpose of religion and how each religion can appeal to people of different faiths.  Religions and festivities came into being to bring people together and not divide them. Here we explore Ramadan, two of the major festivals of Muslims.

 
Whether you are an Atheist, Baha’i, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jain, Jewish, Native American, Pagan, Shinto, Sikh, Wicca, and Zoroastrian or from any other tradition, you may feel a sense of connection with the spirit of Ramadan.


 God is a word for the cause that creates, sustains and recycles this universe, and belongs to all that exists and is not the exclusive dominion of anyone.  No matter how and what name you call upon him – he (she or it) cannot be a different causer for each one of us.  

The physical aspect of human journey from the sperm and an egg stage through the death is programmed precisely. The formula is same for all of humanity;    and there is no such thing as a Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu or other gene.

Regardless of what is being said about origins in terms of evolution, creation or the big bang, the undeniable fact is our existence, and we have to figure out how to live with each other.

When the universe came into being, two main products of the process were Matter and Life.

While the matter is programmed to be in self-balance and functions precisely for which it is designed, like the Sun, Jupiter, Earth or the Moon playing its part, the (human) life on the other hand was not programmed; we were given complete freedom, guidance and intelligence to create our own balance for survival.

A balanced society is where every one of us functions cohesively in small parcels of this big World Wide Web.  It is sustained by respecting the otherness of others and accepting the God given uniqueness of each one of us. If we mess with the web, we mess with ourselves ultimately.  If we mess with the environmental balance we will pay for it, just as we bear the loss of health if we mess with what we eat, drink and smoke. There is a consequence for imbalance.

Birth of Religion

We lose the balance if we don’t trust and lie to each other, rob the other, and not keep the promises we make to fellow beings.   This is when religion appears; it is the love of the creator for his creation, just as a mother loves her children –someone among us will rise and restore that balance.  Didn’t Moses, Krishna, Buddha, Jesus, Muhammad and other masters restore the righteousness and balance in the society?  I hope you can relate with this thought in your own scriptures and legends.

An identical spiritual wisdom emerges in different parts of the world simultaneously; the greatest example would be how a mother figures out what to do with her crying baby in the jungles of Amazon or the high society in London. 

Indeed, beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, and as a corollary I would say, faith is in the heart of the believer, and every religion is dear to its believer.  

Religion is about love for fellow beings, a majority of us in every religion get that right but for a few, who keep messing up the cohesiveness of the society. Those few are not an identifiable group, but the infraction in each one of us when we become biased towards the others.  Religion is never the problem; it is the individuals who don’t get their religion right are the problem.

Ramadan and you.

From the moment we are born to the last rites of our life, and every moment in between is laden with rituals, even though some of us may deny it. Whether we go to the gym, eat, sleep, wear clothes, drive or talk on the phone, we follow rituals.

Rituals signify the milestones of our daily life. Every significant moment of the day is a ritual. It is an unwritten way of measuring our progression, a memory pattern to bring discipline to our actions.

Discipline is necessary to do things on time, manage personal relationships, drive to a destination or keep within budget. The result of disciplined behavior is worthwhile for most people. When we are joyous, whether we are a theist or not, we have to express that sentiment, otherwise a sense of incompleteness lingers in our hearts.

The spiritual masters have captured the human gravity towards rituals and have molded it with the art and science of self-discipline in their respective religions. The noble purpose of each one of them was to bring a balance in our lives and a balance with our environment.
Every faith is composed of a set of unique rituals to bring discipline and peace to human life. Fasting is one of the five key rituals that Muslims around the world observe.

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar and is generally observed with a ritual precision; it is an annual training or a refresher. It requires one to abstain from food, drink, intimacy, ill-will, ill-talk, ill-actions and other temptations from dawn to dusk, every day for a month. One has to rise above his or her baser desires. Islam gifts this month to its followers to inculcate discipline to bring moderation to their daily lives. Twenty five hundred years ago, Buddha, the enlightened one taught that human suffering is caused by unrestrained desire to possess and had recommended a middle path, and the same recommendation was made by Prophet Muhammad fourteen hundred years ago.

Although Ramadan is popularly known in the west for its culinary delicacies and fancy iftars (ceremonial breaking of fast at sun down), the spirit and intent of Ramadan lies in a human transformation in a month-long inner spiritual journey of finding oneself in tune with spirituality.

Hindus can see that transformation in nine days of fasting during Navaratri, the Jains in 8-10 days of fasting during Paryushana, Christians during 40 days of lent, Jews for 7 days around Yom Kippur….likewise you find fasting is a way of life in most traditions.

God has no need for the hunger or thirst of someone who hurts others, violates their dignity or usurps their rights, said Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). The fasting of the stomach must be matched by the fasting of the limbs. The eyes, ears, tongue, hands and feet all have their respective fasts to undergo. The tongue's temptations, for example -- lies, backbiting, slander, vulgarity and senseless argumentation -- must be challenged and curbed to maintain the integrity of the fast.

Consciousness of behavior and vigilance over action are the most profound dimensions of fasting: the fasting of the heart focuses on the attachment to the divine. That is when Ramadan really becomes a source of peace and solace, just as Christmas or Dussera goes beyond the rituals to bring forth kindness, charity and caring.

True fasting is self-purification; and from this comes a rich inner life that bring about values such as justice, generosity, patience, kindness, forgiveness, mercy and empathy -- values that are indispensable for the success of the community.

Knowing about hunger is different from knowing hunger. Empathy is not an intellectual equation; it is a human experience. Our hardness of heart often springs from our distance from the human condition of others. The poor, sick, disenfranchised, oppressed -- we rarely walk a mile in their shoes, not even a few steps. "Rest assured," cautioned one teacher, "if you do not taste what it feels like to be hungry, you will not care for those who are."

Ramadan will come and go with such stealth that we cannot but be reminded of our mortality. What is it that we value and why? Habits, customs, even obsessive behavior like smoking can be curtailed with relative ease in the face of a higher calling.


For fasting to be truly universal, its benefits must extend beyond the fraternal ties of Muslims and must extend to forging a common humanity with others. Fasting is meant to impart a sense of what it means to be truly human, and its universality is reflected by its observance in Baha’i, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jain, Jewish, Sikh, Zoroastrian and other faiths. More about Ramadan at www.Ramadanexclusive.com

What can you do?
Unless we connect with fellow humans, and unless they can relate with us,  our faith, philosophy and traditions, we will remain disconnected with the society. 

This article is about understanding and developing a sense of shared destiny of humanity to create cohesive societies where no human has to feel alienated from others. It is based on Quran's wisdom in 49:13.

You may disagree with a few premises, and I invite you to counter them, so together we can develop better understanding to live and let others live. 

I hope you'd would like this, and if you do,  please share it with your Non-Muslim and Muslim friends. We at America Together Foundation are committed to finding solutions through patience, kindness and education. Our goal is to learn about each other and work on mitigating conflicts and nurturing goodwill. 

I hope you want the good message to reach out to a maximum number of people, particularly non-Muslims, that's who we focus on. 

The article is published in several news papers:
  1. Op-Ed News - Ramadan for Christians, Jews, Hindus and others http://www.opednews.com/articles/Ramadan-for-Christians-Je-by-Mike-Ghouse-ATHEIST_Bahai_Buddhist_Christian-Universalism-150716-714.html
  2. Counter Currents - Interfaith Ramadan,  The Essence...  http://www.countercurrents.org/ghouse160715.htm
  3. Saddahaq - Interfaith science of Ramadan traceable in your faith  https://www.saddahaq.com/interfaith-science-of-ramadan-the-essence-may-be-traceable-in-your-faith

God willing, it will be published in Huffington Post, Arab Daily News and several other sites across the world.  Alhamdu Lillah, the media has been good to us and we will continue to populate the article on the internet.
We need to continue this work and need your support.  We need to raise $60k thru December, all supporters will be listed on the website www. AmericansTogether.org

Please donate generously for this non-profit 501 (c) Organization
http://americatogetherfoundation.com/donate/ 

Let the spirit of Ramadan develop an understanding and respect for each one of God’s creation – that is all of us. Ramadan Mubarak!
Mike is a speaker, thinker, writer, pluralist and a human rights activist committed to building cohesive societies and offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day.   Info in 63 links at MikeGhouse.net and writings atTheGhouseDiary.com