Thursday, July 23, 2020

The goals of Hindutva fascists in India

-- Nasir Khan
In the following article, Indian author A.G. Noorani gives a brief account of the politics of Hindutva in India. Many people are not aware that Hindutva is not the same as Hinduism. Hinduism is an ancient religion that evolved in India, but Hindutva is an extremist religious-nationalist ideology that is opposed to the idea of a democratic India, based upon the principle of secularism, equality of all its citizens, irrespective of their religion, creed and caste.
Hindutva rejects the ideas of such equality of all its citizens but, instead, aims at transforming India into a Hindu polity - Hindu Rashtra - where only Hindus will be supreme. In such a state, 200 million Muslims and 30 million Christians will be made second-class citizens.
Hindutva as an extremist nationalist ideology uses the cover of Hinduism to justify atrocities against Muslims, Christians and Dalits. It founders and mentors have copied and developed further the authoritarian and military model of fascism that was practised by Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler.
Since 2014, the BJP government had power in India under the premiership of Narendra Modi, who has the notorious record of being an ardent anti-Muslim and anti-Pakistan leader for decades. After BJP's sweeping electoral success in May last year, the Modi regime started implementing the political programme of Hindutva fascists. After imposing direct Indian rule over Jammu and Kashmir, his party led the terrorist campaign against Muslims in Delhi, where Hindu militants and gangsters plundered the shops owned by Muslims and then torched their homes and properties. They killed over 50 Muslims in Delhi alone. All this took place under PM Modi's nose. That was Hindutva in action.'


 Why We Need to Know and Understand Hindutva – A G Noorani


Members of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh take part in the daily morning drill.
Members of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh take part in the daily morning drill.

Hindutva is the ideology of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. The election manifesto of the Bharatiya Janata Party — the party in power and political front of the RSS — has sworn by it since 1996. What is more, Hindutva provides ample warning for what is in store for the future of India’s democracy and secularism. It splits the nation into ‘us’ and ‘them’, and discards Indian nationalism in favor of Hindu nationalism


[dropcap]H[/dropcap]INDUTVA sums up the ideology that moved champions of Hindu nationalism for decades before Partition. In 1923, V.D. Savarkar coined the term in his essay, Hindutva: Who is a Hindu? As an atheist, he took pains to emphasize that Hindutva was not synonymous with Hinduism. It is important to understand the term, in all its nuances, because of its past and present significance.
Hindutva is the ideology of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. The election manifesto of the Bharatiya Janata Party — the party in power and political front of the RSS — has sworn by it since 1996. What is more, Hindutva provides ample warning for what is in store for the future of India’s democracy and secularism. It splits the nation into ‘us’ and ‘them’, and discards Indian nationalism in favor of Hindu nationalism.

Savarkar wrote, “… Hindutva is not identical with what is vaguely indicated by the term Hinduism. By an ‘ism’ it is generally meant a theory or a code more or less based on spiritual or religious dogma or system. But when we attempt to investigate the essential significance of Hindutva we do not primarily — and certainly not mainly — concern ourselves with any particular theocratic or religious dogma or creed”. His concern was politics; the political mobilization of Hindus into one nation.
If not religion, what, then, is the basis for the divide? With crystal clarity, he wrote, “To every Hindu … this Sindhusthan is at once a pitribhu and a punyabhu — fatherland and a holy land. That is why in the case of some of our … countrymen, who had originally been forcibly converted to a non-Hindu religion and who consequently have inherited along with Hindus, a common fatherland and a greater part of the wealth of a common culture — language, law, customs, folklore and history — are not and cannot be recognized as Hindus.

For though Hindusthan to them is fatherland as to any other Hindu yet it is not to them a holy land too. Their holy land is far off in Arabia or Palestine. Their mythology and god-men, ideas and heroes are not the children of this soil. Consequently their name and their outlook smack of a foreign origin”.

Modern hatreds are supported by ancient (real or not) wrongs.

The divide cannot be bridged except by obeying Hindutva’s demand for conversion to Hinduism. Savarkar exhorted, “Ye, who by race, by blood, by culture, by nationality possess almost all the essentials of Hindutva and had been forcibly snatched out of our ancestral home by the hand of violence — ye, have only to render wholehearted love to our common mother and recognise her not only as fatherland (Pitribhu) but even as a holy land (Punyabhu), and ye would be most welcome to the Hindu fold”.

Gandhi’s assassination put paid to Savarkar’s ambitions, but the RSS picked up the baton. Its supremo, M S Golwalkar, drew inspiration from Hindutva and coined its synonym, ‘cultural nationalism’, in contrast to ‘territorial nationalism’ in his book, A Bunch of Thoughts (1968). Everyone born within the territory of India is not a nationalist; the nation is defined by a common ‘culture’ (read: religion).

Golwalkar wrote, “… here was already a full-fledged ancient nation of the Hindus and the various communities which were living in the country were here either as guests, the Jews and Parsis, or as invaders, the Muslims and Christians. They never faced the question how all such heterogeneous groups could be called as children of the soil merely because, by an accident, they happened to reside in common territory under the rule of a common enemy … The theories of territorial nationalism and of common danger, which formed the basis for our concept of nation, had deprived us of the positive and inspiring content of our real Hindu nationhood …”

This explains the RSS’ ghar wapsi (‘return to your home’) campaign, simply a repeat of the past shuddhi (‘purification’) movement. Nothing has changed; an unbroken ideological thread binds Savarkar’s Hindutva, Golwalkar’s ‘cultural nationalism’ and the RSS-BJP policies today. On Sept 24, 1990, BJP president L K Advani launched “a crusade in defense of Hindutva”, which culminated in the demolition of Babri Masjid, in his presence, on Dec 6, 1992.

Since 1996, the BJP’s election manifestos for Lok Sabha elections pledge to espouse Hindutva in these terms: “The cultural nationalism of India … is the core of Hindutva.” This explains the Modi government’s systematic purge of educational and cultural institutions. It is a quarrel with history. As scholars Susanne and Lloyd Rudolph remarked, modern hatreds are supported by ancient, remembered wrongs, whether real or imagined. The RSS-BJP combine rejects the concept of composite culture that Jawaharlal Nehru and others propounded.–Courtesy Dawn

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Islamists control educational system in Pakistan

 --- Nasir Khan

Pakistani physicist Dr. Hoodbhoy's dismissal proves once again that there is no place for any enlightened academic or scientist in Pakistan who does not follow the official line of the horrid ignorance that is imposed in the name of Islam. The Islamist right-wingers have the final say what is to be taught in the educational institutions. 
Thus ignorant people have a decisive voice in shaping the educational policies of the educational institutions. They decide what a teacher of science or other subjects should say and not say. We have heard and witnessed over the decades that Pakistani ruling elites and exploiters of Islam proclaiming time and again that in Pakistan everything taught should be according to the teachings of the Quran. But the irony is that these people even don't know this basic fact that the Quran is a sacred book of Muslims, not a guide or manual on physics, chemistry, geology, history, geography or cosmology, etc.

Religion vs. Reason

File photo of Dr. Pervez Hoodbhoy. Attila Kisbenedek—AFP
Dr. Pervez Hoodbhoy’s dismissal from Lahore’s FCC University is a win for irrationality
Professor Dr. Pervez Amirali Hoodbhoy, currently teaching physics and math at Lahore’s Forman Christian College University, has been informed that his contract will not be renewed in 2021. The same week, Punjab Governor Chaudhry Mohammad Sarwar announced that all universities of the province would be required to teach the holy Quran as a compulsory subject, with students allowed to graduate only after the course has been completed.

Hoodbhoy, born in 1950, is a Ph.D. in nuclear physics; he objects to acts of state and society against reason. His book Islam and Science: Religious Orthodoxy and the Battle for Rationality explains the source of his trouble with the ideological state of Pakistan. It is not that he hates religion; he objects to acts of irrationality in the name of religion. The two scientists he most admires, Ramanujan and Abdus Salam, were deeply religious.

He protested, however, when Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer’s own police guard murdered the politician after Taseer defended a Christian woman accused of insulting Islam’s Prophet under Pakistan’s draconian anti-blasphemy law. Having lived under General Ziaul Haq’s Islamic martial law, he was put off by a 1987 conference on “scientific miracles” in which Muslim scientists mixed religious miracle with scientific discovery. Pakistani scientists, encouraged by a funding of Rs. 6,600,000 (half provided by Saudi Arabia), flew off the handle and talked rubbish about science and demeaned the divine writ of the Quran.

Pakistan’s chief scientist, Salim Mehmud, tried to give himself a leg-up by making a hash of the theory of relativity after linking it with the “mairaj” (ascension) of Islam’s Prophet. Another scientist, lucratively employed at The Holy Quran Research Foundation, proposed that taming “jinns could solve the country’s energy-related problems” as the creatures are made of fire. Many others, lured by the limelight, delivered of themselves gems of medieval gibberish in the name of Islamic science.
Hoodbhoy has examined the roots of these ridiculous attitudes among Muslim scientists and come up with a well-researched book about the maltreatment of the scientific principle in Muslim societies. He asked Nobel Prize laureate Abdus Salam to write its preface because the professor had already made a plaintive appeal to the Muslim world to spend money on scientific advancement instead of “conquering” science through dogma.

Hoodbhoy tells us that scientific facts are contingent on reality. They are empirically proven but subject to change upon further discovery. In his view, it is wrong to link the eternal truth of Islam to this evolving understanding of natural phenomena. Science relies on observation and logic whose predictability is not destroyed by the new understanding of quantum physics. For a believer, it is important to separate divine knowledge from empirical fact, but this separation should not impinge on the ferocious Islamic polemic against secularism.

Science in Islam was destroyed because it was never applied enough to involve the common man. Kings often employed scientists, but they were at times killed after the death of their patron. Al-Kindi was lashed 50 times in front of an illiterate approving crowd; Al-Razi was hit on the head with his own book on rationalism till he lost his eyesight; Ibn Sina’s entire life was spent running away from one prince after the other for fear of being killed for heresy; Ibn Khaldun, the great social scientist discovered by the West, was condemned by Taha Hussain as a non-believer pretending to be a Muslim.

In his book, Hoodbhoy quotes Syed Ameer Ali on Islamic thinkers who thought the scientific method anti-Islamic: Al-Ashari, Ibn Hanbal, Al-Ghazali and Ibn Taymiyya. He examines the case made by leading Asharite Imam Ghazali against the study of logic and mathematics and thinks that this was to become the greatest intellectual hurdle against the learning of science. He criticizes contemporary Islamic scholar Hussein Nasr for blaming the sciences for the misdirection of the Muslim mind. His critique of Ziauddin Sardar for introducing the polemic of secularism into the sciences is balanced and fair.

Hoodbhoy steps beyond the pale of anti-scientism in today’s new intellectual trend when he gives statistics about the poverty of science learning in the Muslim world. The gap between India and Pakistan is significant because it goes beyond the argument of population ratios. One has to helplessly concede that where Muslims control societies, the one branch of knowledge that becomes neglected is the sciences. Prof Salam’s advocacy of the pure sciences becomes meaningful when one realizes that professional disciplines far outstrip the disciplines that teach science.

Hoodbhoy is not the only dissenting voice to have been dismissed from the echelons of academia in recent weeks. Author Mohammad Hanif posted on Twitter that he, too, had been let go from Karachi’s Habib University. Similarly, Prof. Ammar Ali Jan, also affiliated with FCCU, has also claimed on the social network that he had been released as visiting faculty over his public activism that was making the varsity “controversial.”

Pervez Hoodbhoy’s book has diagnosed what is happening to the Muslim mind toward the end of the 20th century. This mind is not only producing strange reactions to the sciences in general; it is also trying to tackle the question of governance without separating the state from religious belief. The new coercive order spreading over Muslim society is not political but intellectual. The tragic fact however is that this experiment is too late in the day and quite redundant in the light of what the institution of the state has gone through in Islam’s own history and in other civilizations.

Sunday, June 07, 2020

The Media Has Conveniently Forgotten George W. Bush's Many Atrocities

  • bush 9-11 guantanamo torture war

Former president George W. Bush has returned to the spotlight to give moral guidance to America in these troubled times. In a statement released on Tuesday, Bush announced that he was “anguished” by the “brutal suffocation” of George Floyd and declared that “lasting peace in our communities requires truly equal justice. The rule of law ultimately depends on the fairness and legitimacy of the legal system. And achieving justice for all is the duty of all.”
Bush’s declaration was greeted with thunderous applause by the usual suspects who portray him as the virtuous Republican in contrast to Trump. While the media portrays Bush’s pious piffle as a visionary triumph of principle, Americans need to vividly recall the lies and atrocities that permeated his eight years as president.

In an October 2017 speech in a “national forum on liberty” at the George W. Bush Institute in New York City, Bush bemoaned that “Our politics seems more vulnerable to conspiracy theories and outright fabrication.” Coming from Bush, this had as much credibility as former president Bill Clinton bewailing the decline of chastity.

Most media coverage of Bush nowadays either ignores the falsehoods he used to take America to war in Iraq or portrays him as a good man who received incorrect information. But Bush was lying from the get-go on Iraq and was determined to drag the nation into another Middle East war. From January 2003 onwards, Bush constantly portrayed the US as an innocent victim of Saddam Hussein’s imminent aggression and repeatedly claimed that war was being “forced upon us.” That was never the case. As the Center for Public Integrity reported, Bush made "232 false statements about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and another 28 false statements about Iraq’s links to Al Qaeda." As the lies by which he sold the Iraq War unraveled, Bush resorted to vilifying critics as traitors in a 2006 speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
Bush’s lies led to the killing of more than four thousand American troops and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians. But since those folks are dead and gone anyhow, the media instead lauds Bush’s selection to be in a Kennedy Center art show displaying his borderline primitive oil paintings.
In February 2018, Bush was paid lavishly to give a prodemocracy speech in the United Arab Emirates, ruled by a notorious Arab dictatorship. He proclaimed: “Our democracy is only as good as people trust the results.” He openly fretted about Russian “meddling” in the 2016 US election.
But when he was president, Bush acted as if the United States were entitled to intervene in any foreign election he pleased. He boasted in 2005 that his administration had budgeted almost $5 billion “for programs to support democratic change around the world,” much of which was spent on tampering with foreign vote totals. When Iraq held elections in 2005, Bush approved a massive covert aid program for pro-American Iraqi parties. The Bush administration spent over $65 million to boost their favored candidate in the 2004 Ukraine election. Yet, with boundless hypocrisy, Bush proclaimed that “any (Ukrainian) election…ought to be free from any foreign influence.” US government-financed organizations helped spur coups in Venezuela in 2002 and Haiti in 2004. Both of those nations, along with Ukraine, remain political train wrecks.
In that October 2017 New York speech, Bush proclaimed: “No democracy pretends to be a tyranny.” But ravaging the Constitution was apparently part of his job description when he was president. Shortly after 9-11, Bush turned back the clock to before 1215 (when the Magna Carta was signed), formally suspending habeas corpus and claiming a prerogative to imprison indefinitely anyone he labeled a terrorist suspect. In 2002, Justice Department lawyers informed Bush that the president was entitled to violate the law during wartime—and the war on terror was expected to continue indefinitely. In 2004, Bush White House counsel Alberto Gonzales formally asserted a “commander-in-chief override power” entitling presidents to ignore the Bill of Rights.
 Under Bush, the US government embraced barbaric practices which did more to destroy America’s moral credibility than all of Trump’s tweets combined. Bush’s “enhanced interrogation” regime included endless high-volume repetition of a Meow Mix cat food commercial at Guantanamo, head slapping, waterboarding, exposure to frigid temperatures, and manacling for many hours in stress positions. After the Supreme Court rebuffed some of Bush’s power grabs in 2006, he pushed through Congress a bill that retroactively legalized torture—one of the worst legislative disgraces since the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. During his years in the White House, Bush perennially denied that he had approved torture. But in 2010, during an author tour to promote his new memoir, he bragged about approving waterboarding for terrorist suspects.
Is Bush nominating himself to be the nation’s racial healer? When he was president, Bush inflicted more financial ruin on blacks than any president since Woodrow Wilson (who brought Jim Crow barbarities to the federal government). Bush trumpeted his plans to close the gap between black and white homeownership rates and promised in 2002 to “use the mighty muscle of the federal government” to solve the problem. Bush was determined to end the bias against people who wanted to buy a home but had no money. Congress passed Bush’s American Dream Downpayment Act in 2003, authorizing federal handouts to first-time homebuyers of up to $10,000 or 6 percent of the home’s purchase price. Bush also swayed Congress to permit the Federal Housing Administration to make no–down payment loans to low-income Americans. Bush proclaimed: “Core American values of individuality, thrift, responsibility, and self-reliance are embodied in homeownership.” In Bush’s eyes, self-reliance was so wonderful that the government should subsidize it. And it didn’t matter whether recipients were creditworthy, because politicians meant well. Bush’s 2004 reelection campaign trumpeted his down payment giveaways, a shining example of “compassionate conservatism.”
Thanks in large part to his policies, minority households saw the fastest growth in homeownership leading up to the 2007 recession. The housing collapse ravaged the net worth of black and Hispanic households. “The implosion of the subprime lending market has left a scar on the finances of black Americans—one that not only has wiped out a generation of economic progress but could leave them at a financial disadvantage for decades,” the Washington Post reported in 2012. The median net worth for Hispanic households declined by 66 percent between 2005 and 2009. That devastation was aptly described in a 2017 federal appeals court dissenting opinion as “wrecking ball benevolence” (quoting a 2004 Barron’s op-ed I wrote). But almost none of the media coverage of the ex-president reminds people of the economic carnage of this Bush vote-buying binge.
It is possible to condemn police brutality and, even more importantly, the evil laws and judicial doctrines that enable police to tyrannize other Americans without any help from a demagogic ex-president who ravaged our rights, liberties, and peace. As I commented in an August 2003 USA Today op-ed, “Whether Bush and his appointees will be held personally liable for their [Iraq War] falsehoods is a grave test for American democracy.” The revival of Bush’s reputation vivifies how our political media system failed that test. As long as George Bush doesn’t turn himself in for committing war crimes, all of his talk about “achieving justice for all” is rubbish.

James Bovard is the author of ten books, including 2012’s Public Policy Hooligan, and 2006’s Attention Deficit Democracy. He has written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Playboy, Washington Post, and many other publications.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Not the One but the Many - poem by Badri Raina

Introductory remarks: In his poems and articles, Badri Raina often reflects upon the social and political conditions in his native land, India. He knows how Hinduva's fascist nationalists have hijacked the secular direction of the Indian polity which accorded full recognition to ethnoreligious diversity of the state after the end of the British colonial rule in 1947. 
Many left-wing people also became convinced that India's constitution will protect the minorities of India under an independent judiciary. But such hopes were shattered when the Hindutva emerged as a dominating force that had broad support in the Hindu population. 
Badri Raina's new poem is a reflection of his long-held views and struggles. However, the ideas he advances in this poem are also applicable to many countries where morbid rightists use the cover of religion and populist demagoguery to further their sectarian objectives.
--Nasir Khan

Not the One but the Many

By Badri Raina, ZNet, May 24, 2020
One swallow does not a summer make,
Nor one race or caste a nation;
And no nation, however exceptional,
Tantamounts to creation.
What cruelties we perpetrate
To make one size fit all,
When various are our expressions,
And multifarious Nature’s call.
Think what calamity would ensue
If birds were just one bird,
And flowers all of a single hue,
And all humans just a herd.
God gave us variety,
We seek a domination
Of the syllables that fell to us
As universal conversation,
The bird that sings a different tune,
And wears a different plume
We see as threat to our clime,–
An estrangement and doom.
The brain, one thought, would evolve
To embrace abundance;
Alas our blinkers are fortified
The more we advance.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Where is Keir Starmer leading the British Labour Party?

--- Nasir Khan

Keir Starmer is playing political games to gain electoral support from the large British Indian community to further his political career. To this end, he has chosen to side with the ultra-rightist Hindutva regime of PM Modi.

On 5 August 2019, Modi set aside the constitutional guarantees of the semi-autonomous status to the State of Jammu & Kashmir which the Indian rulers had given to this state after the Partition of India in 1947. When Modi's PJP won a large electoral majority in the Indian national elections in May last year, he set in motion a total blockade of Jammu & Kashmir to impose direct Indian rule there. That was in flagrant violations of the eh UN resolutions and also the guarantees that Indian rulers had given to Kashmiris in 1947.

However, the people of Kashmir never compromised their demands and their national right to self-determination. Their movement for freedom from the Indian rule became an open revolt in 1989. Since then, Inda has done all to crush by its military power the freedom movement of the people of Kashmir, who are mostly Muslims. Indian army has killed over one hundred thousand Kashmiris.

At a time, when the colonised people of Kashmir need the support and solidarity of all freedom-loving people, trade unions and labour organizations, the direction taken by Keir Starmer is the opposite of what a Labour leader should have done.
The steps taken by the British Muslims are fair and must be a reminder to this Labour leader that his policy to appease the Hindu voters is downright opportunistic and degrading. He is pushing the Labour Party in a direction that will make it look like an extended arm of Isareli Zionists and Hindutva fascists.

Ordinary working-class people have been the backbone of the Labour Party. We who have stood by the Labour Party, as I have done for over half-a-century, are deeply anguished to see Keir Starmer turning a blind eye to what the ordinary members of the Labour Party have stood for. It is high time that such people raise their voice collectively and also stand with people who oppose Starmer's political overtures to the brutal oppressors of Kashmir and also Palestine.

Over 100 mosques threaten to boycott Labour over Kashmir

Keir Starmer
Over 100 British mosques and Islamic centres have signed a letter to Labour leader Keir Starmer saying they would support a call for Muslims to abstain from voting for Labour unless it supports Kashmir’s right to self-determination.
The letter came after Starmer described the Kashmir dispute as a “bilateral issue” between India and Pakistan after a meeting with an Indian lobby group at the end of last month.
Starmer’s comments caused outrage among Muslims and eventually led to several Labour Muslim MPs reiterating their support for Kashmiri rights.
The Labour leader has since said that the party’s position on Kashmir has not changed and that it recognises previous UN resolutions on the rights of the Kashmiri people.
Here is the letter from the mosques in full:
We, the undersigned members of the Muslim community living in the UK (many of whom have families in South Asia), are writing to express our utter shock at the contents of your letter in which you clearly express unflinching support for the Indian Government’s position on Kashmir.
This, at a time when the very same Indian Government is engaging in anti-Muslim rhetoric and failing to protect the Indian Muslim community from populist violence, and enacting laws that will potentially render 40 million Muslim citizens in India stateless, which as you well know contravenes international law.
Muslim coronavirus patients are being turned away from hospitals. Kashmir itself has been in lockdown for more than eight months now. India, under the premiership of Narendra Modi, is stepping away from being one of the world’s largest democracies and hurtling instead towards becoming a fascist-led authoritarian state where minorities, Muslims and others, no longer feel safe or protected. It is the members of this very same hate-fuelled ideology who assassinated Mahatma Gandhi.
We wish to remind you that Kashmir is not a bilateral issue, evidenced by the 11 UN Security Council Resolutions which declare Kashmir a disputed territory and that the people of Kashmir have the right to self-determination, something which was enshrined in India’s constitution under Article 370. The meeting at the Security Council last year on 16th August 2019 is further evidence that this is not just a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan.
It is one of the world’s oldest unresolved territorial conflicts that has the potential to lead India and Pakistan into a devastating nuclear war which would have global repercussions. You have not only completely disregarded the international element of the conflict but have also pointedly ignored the Labour Party’s own resolution, voted in at the 2019 conference, which states:
“[We] accept that Kashmir is a disputed territory and the people of Kashmir should be given the right to self-determination in accordance with UN resolutions. The Labour Party to stand with the Kashmiri people fighting against occupation, this is vital as we stand for social justice and ethical foreign policy.”
It would seem to us that holding foreign governments to account over their discriminatory policies and human rights abuses does not seem to be a foreign policy goal under your leadership. As a former barrister, you will clearly be aware of the seriousness of India’s violation of UN resolutions. In addition, you, as the new leader of the Labour Party ought to shoulder greater responsibility on this issue given that the partition which led to this conflict was overseen by a Labour government at the time.
Indian occupation forces in Kashmir
It seems to us that there is an ingrained view that the British Muslim vote has and always will be a secure one for the Labour Party, to be taken for granted with little consideration of the issues and concerns which matter to us as British Muslim communities. In view of the concerns raised above, we strongly urge you to reconsider the party’s position.
We hereby state in no uncertain terms that should you fail to modify your position on the issue of Kashmir and by extension, the plight and oppression of the large Indian Muslim minority within India, then we will consider the Labour Party to have simply taken advantage of the Muslim community.
We will, therefore, have no option but to support a call for the Muslim community to abstain from voting for Labour at all upcoming elections. We hope that this will not be necessary and that the Labour Party will continue to stand against human rights abuses wherever they may be. We urge you not to underestimate the strength of our feeling on this issue.
Yours sincerely,
Federation of Redbridge Muslim Organisations (FORMO) – 17 organisations
Hazrat Sultan Bahu Trust – 22 centres
Indian Muslim Federation UK
Muslim Association of Kent – 20 organisations
South East London & Kent Council of Mosques (SELKOM) – 7 organisations
Waltham Forest Council of Mosques (WFCOM) – 9 organisations
Al-Hira Masjid Newham
Academy of Inspiration
Al Ansar Masjid
Al-Emaan Centre (Keston Mosque)
Al Madina Mosque Barking
Al Noor Foundation
Anjuman-e-Islamia Newham
Apex Trust
Association of Muslim Lawyers
Attiq Malik on behalf of Liberty Law
Barking Muslim Social and Cultural Society
Brent Central Mosque
BWA Muslim Cultural Centre (New Cross Mosque)
Chingford Islamic Society
Gardens of Peace Muslim Cemetery
Finsbury Park Mosque
Ghosia Masjid WFIA (Lea Bridge Road Mosque)
Great Barr Muslim Foundation Birmingham
Harrow Central Mosque
Hounslow Jamia Masjid
IG-Soc (“Connecting Muslims in Redbridge”)
Ilford Islamic Centre (Albert Road)
Ilford Muslim Society (Balfour Road)
International Business and Professional Corporation,
Redbridge Jamia Masjid and Islamic Centre (JMIC)
Stoke Poges Lane Masjid
Kent Muslim Welfare Association (Gillingham Mosque)
Lewisham Islamic Centre
Leyton Jamia Masjid MCT
Leytonstone Masjid Majlis-e-Ulama-e-Shia-Europe
Masjid Abu Bakr
Masjid Al Humera Newham
Masjid-e-Owais-e-Qarni (Belgrave Road)
Masjid-e-Quba Newham
Masjid-e-Tauheed Manor Park
Masjid Falah
Masjid Tawhid
Muslimah Sports Association
Muslim Public Affairs Committee (MPAC)
Neasden Mosque & Islamic Centre
Newbury Park Mosque
Newham Community Project
Newham North Islamic Association
North West Kent Muslim Association (Crayford Mosque)
Pakistan Welfare Association (PWA) Slough
Qur’ani Murkuz Trust (South Woodford Mosque) Redbridge Islamic Centre (Redbridge and Gants Hill) Redbridge Talks
Seven Kings Muslim Educational Trust
Shirley Muslim Association
Sri Lankan Diaspora UK
Tehreek-e-Kashmir UK, London
The Mosque & Islamic Centre of Brent
Ujala Foundation Slough
UKIM Masjid Ibrahim and Islamic Centre Newham

Saturday, April 11, 2020

An Open Lettter to the Leader of the Labour Party in the UK

Dr Ian Wellens, a member of the Labour Party in the UK, has written a candid letter to his party leader Sir Keir Starmer, in which he has expressed his profound suspicions about the direction Keir is steering the party because he is a Zionist.
This letter needs the attention of all members and supporters of the Labour Party, labour organisations and political activists who oppose racism, colonial oppression and stand for the national rights of the people of Palestine whose suffering at the hands of Israeli colonisers has no end in sight.

---Nasir Khan

Dr Ian Wellens writes, "There has been murder, ethnic cleansing, theft of land, property, farms and factories on an epic scale; Palestinians have been beaten, tortured or deliberately crippled; imprisoned without trial; penned into the Gazan ghetto; . . . And yet, Keir, you say that you support Zionism, and not only that: you support it “without qualification”. I find it hard to express how troubling that is."

An open letter to UK Labour leader Keir Starmer


Dear Keir,

congratulations on your victory. I hope you keep the broad policy direction of the last five years and I wish you the very best of luck in bringing Labour to power, after which I hope you will lead the country in the radical new direction we so badly need.

I have to say, however, that I didn’t vote for you. There was a decisive moment for me in the campaign when the Board of Deputies of British Jews presented candidates with ‘Ten Pledges for Labour leadership’. Ostensibly intended to deal with Labour’s ‘antisemitism crisis,’ it was transparently clear to myself and many others that they actually formed part of the ongoing campaign to silence anti-Zionist and pro-Palestininan voices within the party (number 6, for instance, being the pledge to adopt the IHRA definition of antisemitism fully and without caveat– a definition that effectively includes anti-Zionism). Your acceptance of these made my support unthinkable. And on the day your win was announced, the Times Of Israel reminded us that you had previously told Jewish News: “I said it loud and clear – and meant it – that I support Zionism without qualification.” As I considered what your leadership would mean for Labour – and for me as a Party member with a strong connection to the Palestinian issue – it seemed that I was faced with an uncomfortable choice.

My dilemma was brought into focus by a news report from Israel in the Middle East Monitor accompanied by a picture of a house just outside Jerusalem. It is a very striking aerial photograph, showing the house separated from its neighbours by high walls and barbed wire, overseen by security cameras. Access is by a narrow walkway, also closed off. The inhabitants of the house can see nothing of the outside world. It is as if they are prisoners, and – effectively – they are. This grim scene is compounded by the fact that all around the house – on the other side of the walls – is what looks like a comfortable housing estate, complete with swimming pools. You will be unsurprised to hear that the family in the house are Palestinians, whilst the neighbours who caged them in this way are Israelis.

This foto appeared in an article in Middle East Monitor on April 4, titled, “Israel settlement turns Palestinian house into a cage,” and it was captioned, the Gharibs’ house in Beit Ijza, caged by a fence and surrounded by the Israeli settlement of Givon Hahadasha, as seen here in a 2018 satellite image, west of Jerusalem [screen grab from Geomolg]

The background to this case makes it very clear that the difference in treatment stems entirely from the ethnicity of the house’s inhabitants, and I think that in itself this could constitute evidence for Israel being ‘a racist endeavour’. But I believe it has a greater significance. It seems to me that it symbolises the effect of Zionism on the Palestinians over the last hundred years. The whole point of that ideology, and the state it created, is to distinguish relentlessly between Jews and non-Jews; to privilege the former and discriminate against the latter. The Palestinian family in our example has been singled out for isolation by concrete and razor wire – but discrimination against Palestinians more generally has been, and is, of every type and at every level.
 There has been murder, ethnic cleansing, theft of land, property, farms and factories on an epic scale; Palestinians have been beaten, tortured or deliberately crippled; imprisoned without trial; penned into the Gazan ghetto; denied access to maternity wards, swimming pools or parks; their political parties are never allowed into a ruling coalition; they are prevented from building new houses or extending old ones, and there are huge areas of the country and hundreds of towns where they are simply not allowed to live. And – like the residents of the house in the picture – all this is done to them purely because they are what the Israelis call ‘arabs’ – or to put it another way, because of what they are not. That is: they are not Jews. Our photograph therefore symbolises the fate of the indigenous Palestinian people at the hands of the Zionist-inspired colonisers – both before and after the creation of Israel, under all types of government (and perhaps most of all under the ‘labour’ ones). It dramatises an ethnic discrimination which is in Israel’s DNA, and without which the project would have been pointless. And yet, Keir, you say that you support Zionism, and not only that: you support it “without qualification”. I find it hard to express how troubling that is.
Troubling because it means the leader of my party subscribes to an ideology which was rooted in the racism, colonialism and ethnic nationalism of the nineteenth century in which it was born, and the practical application of which (i.e the creation of Israel) has showed their pernicious influence at every stage. Keir, you say that people have different ideas about what Zionism is. Might I suggest you consult its victims? They will quickly enlighten you, describing a settler-colonial project which – like all the others – was marked by the racist attitudes of Europeans towards indigenous non-European people. They will tell you that the creation of a Jewish state in an overwhelmingly non-Jewish country was illegitimate. And they will describe all the details of the particular version of apartheid which has been developed to ensure that they are quite literally second class citizens.
As a Labour Party member I like to think that my party stands with the oppressed, not the oppressor. That indeed, was one of the reasons why I joined. And at home I dearly wish for the sort of social transformation that a Labour government could bring. But my politics is rooted in values, and chief among these are an opposition to all forms of racism and discrimination, and an insistence on equal rights which I am not prepared to compromise. It is these principles have shaped my attitudes to Palestine/Israel. However, my party now has a leader who has pledged his unqualified support to a country and a system which is utterly at odds with those same values.
There is a further problem. According to Israel’s apologists, saying all this makes me a racist, and from everything you have said both before and after being elected leader, I think it is highly likely that you will agree with them. It is, I must say, a truly Alice In Wonderland situation when Israel’s relentless practice of institutionalised ethnic discrimination is deemed not to be racist … but calling it out is.
So it seems that in the Labour Party I face the prospect of being deemed a racist if I speak my mind on Palestine/Israel. And to be absolutely clear, I believe that the idea of a state ‘for Jews’ is wrong. It is, after all, completely at odds with the principles that are supposed to underpin liberal democracies, and instituting anything of a similar character in Europe would be unthinkable (at least, for anyone except the very far Right). I fail to see why an idea which is anathema in Europe should be endorsed elsewhere. And if the idea was wrong, the choice of an overwhelmingly non-Jewish territory made its realisation inherently unjust. It was bound to be a disaster – and it has been. Unless and until Israel re-constitutes itself into a single state with equal rights for all its inhabitants, I would argue that it should not expect any support from the Labour Party. And whilst I reluctantly accept that there is a long history of pro-Zionism in the party and can accept the idea of Zionists being Party members, my own view is that this as a moral error which is incompatible not just with socialist values but with general liberal-democratic ones as well.

Based on your acceptance of the BoD’s ‘Ten Pledges’, your recent letter to that body and your Times of Israel interview, I suspect that in your mind all of this makes me one of the antisemites who must be ‘torn out’ of the party. That will be the Party’s decision. But I have a choice to make as well. I have to consider whether, under your leadership, the Labour Party will be an appropriate place for someone with my values, and whether it is an institution I can continue to support.

I am therefore looking for reassurance. A good starting point would be an unequivocal statement that members will be free to hold and express anti-Zionist views, that Labour regards such views as legitimate, and that under your leadership the Party will energetically defend the right to freedom of thought and freedom of speech on Palestine/Israel.

I look forward to hearing from you,

Dr Ian Wellens

Monday, March 30, 2020

Two influential poets Ghalib and Iqbal

--- Nasir Khan

Mirza Ghalib (1797 - 1869) and Mohammad Iqbal (1877 - 1938) are two great poets in their own ways. Iqbal is also a politician, a populist, an ideologue of Islam where he expounds Islam along mystical and unclear paths (his 'Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam' being a clear expression of his confused thinking and lack of clarity despite his pedantic English that only few can understand or digest!). But his command of Urdu and Farsi in conveying his poetic message and ideas is impressive. 

His poetry covers many areas and it can't be labelled under any one theme. His revolutionary and progressive ideas are appreciable but his tilt towards religiosity, mysticism and Islamic nationalism in the latter part of his life was a big waste of the intellect of a good man. The Pakistani reactionary political establishment took full advantage of his shoddy Islamist ideology and transformed him into a mullah which he was not! 

In contrast to Iqbal, Ghalib was only a poet and not a politician or messenger of any political revolution. In his verse, he conveyed his sublime ideas in a way unmatched in this language. His word has enriched the Urdu language by his poetic expression and his style of prose (see his letters). If we can extend the area of philosophy to general wisdom, deeper insights in human psychology and human condition then Ghalib stands far higher than Iqbal in such areas. He is a universalist, not bound by faith, creed or ideological nihilism as Iqbal seems to be. Iqbal's origin as a Kashmiri Pandit, about which  I feel happy as being a Kashmiri myself, but that is not decisive when I assess him. I end this piece with a verse of everlasting Ghalib:

Ham kahan ke danaa the, kis hunar main yakta the
Be sababb hua Ghalib, dushman aasman apna

ہم کہاں کے دانا تھے کس ہنر میں یکتا تھے 

  بے سبب ہوا غالبؔ دشمن آسماں اپنا

 Image may contain: 1 person, beard

  Mirza Ghalib