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

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Religions and their Followers - a reply

-- Nasir Khan

Mr. Woodward, I hope you don't misunderstand me when I write this as a freethinking humanist. I know that religions have caused much bloodshed and misery in human history. But religions have no real content. It is the followers of a religion who give meaning or importance to what their religion is and what it is not.

Religions have been a powerful factor in human history which the rulers used for their political domination and the servility of their subjects. That role is still there and is used by present-day rulers as it suits them, except for the countries where State and Religion are separated.

The second point in this context I would like to make is that religion is an idea often based on some dogmas. Such dogmas become essential parts of a religion that people interpret and sometimes come up with varying interpretations, leading to inter-religious conflicts. Such things have been the cause of much blood-shedding in Christianity and Islam, etc. Anyone who has read the histories of these religions knows that.

Religion and its followers are not the same. That should be easy for us to see. For instance, a group of fanatic followers may misuse their religion. In fact, such things have happened in all recorded history. If they use it to justify the killing of other people for some reason by using the name and cover of religion, who can stop them? None, in my view.

Religion as a collection of ideas does not impose itself upon humans; humans do that. Vicious people will use it as they want. But humane and noble people who want to use their religion for doing some good work are also free to do that. Such conflicting uses of religion are not a secret. We have to understand that in this world there are believers of religions. As long as they do not leave their religions, no one should force them to do so.

In that case, my attitude towards these people is simply this: As long as they do not harm others and use their religions as their personal beliefs, then we should respect them. They are our fellow human beings and they use the freedom to choose and practise their religion. But as a humanist, I should not abuse and dehumanize them. Instead, we who are freethinking people should work systematically to bring information to these people in a manner that they don't feel threatened. You know how people react when they feel their beliefs and valuable things in life are under threat. Before we can teach others, we have to learn ourselves to carry on our work.

Saturday, March 07, 2020

The Sunni-Shia division in Islam

The following brief account may help some curious readers about the Sunni-Shia divide in Islam that also affects political affairs in the Middle Eastern region.

Remarks on the Sunni-Shia division in Islam

-- Nasir Khan

The division of Islam into Shia and Sunni branches from the mid-seventh century was more due to the political factors than with the fundamentals of the faith because they were the same for all people including the power elites. Obviously, two rivals engaged in a struggle to gain the upper hand in a political race cannot win unless they strike some compromise and avoid the conflict. This was possible between the rival claimants, Ali bin Abi Taleb and Muwaiya bin Abi Sufyan, but did not happen in the early phase of the growing polarization that was taking place in the Muslim community.

One puritan group, the Kharijites, saw the developments with apprehension for the new faith and the Muslim community, which by now was large and was rapidly spreading in many regions of the world. The Kharijite solution to stem the tide of power-politics that was damaging the new nation was a radical one: liquidate the rival claimants to the Caliphate and save the faith and the Caliphate. Despite what they did, the problem did not vanish.

Now the Sunni and Shia forms of thought about the office of the Caliph started to diverge. Afterward, even the theological differences started to grow. Inevitably, the Sunni and Shia doctrinal differences became more pronounced and the different schools of jurisprudence put their stamp on the growing disparity between the two groups. Therefore, what started as a political factor eventually developed into two rival sects within Islam.

What sort of relationship emerged between the two branches when Islam became a world religion and Islamic Empire grew in size and power can be briefly put this way: The Sunni Islam became dominant but Shias were not victimized. The relationships were mostly cordial and one of toleration and mutual respect.

The intolerance towards Shia and the victimization of Shias in countries like Pakistan in these times is a tragic story of a faith that has been hijacked by some fanatic ignorant people in the name of their brand of 'puritan' theology. But these criminals and assassins are a right-wing fringe element within Pakistan. The great majority of ordinary Sunni Muslims has nothing against Shia Muslims and vice versa. Both of them look upon each other as brothers and accept each other's right to follow Islam according to their traditions and customs.

But in Iraq under President G.W. Bush American invaders and occupiers of the land fanned the sectarian divide, resulting in the bloodshed of Iraqis. The suppression of the Shias in Saudi Arabia is also a manifestation of how the Wahabbi rulers impose their morbid religious cult in violation of the fundamental principle of the freedom of religion which is followed in the civilized world.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Nasir Khan: Israel Pushing US to War with Iran


Nasir Khan: Israel Pushing US to War with Iran

Nasir Khan: Israel Pushing US to War with Iran
TEHRAN (FNA)- Nasir Khan, historian and peace activist, says Donald Trump, the US President, issued the assassination order of Lieutenant General Soleimani under the influence of Netanyahu’s allies working in his Administration.
In an exclusive interview with FNA, Nasir Khan said, “[Netanyahu] had people like Secretary of State Pompeo and former National Security Advisor Bolton doing their work for him.”

“Netanyahu has used all the ploys. He has played a key role in pushing Trump to unilaterally retreat from the international nuclear agreement with Iran, and has done all to influence Trump to attack Iran”, he added.

Nasir Khan, Ph.D. Philosophy, is a historian and political analyst. He has authored several books and written numerous articles on international politics, socialism, religion and human rights.

Below is the full text of the interview:

Q: How do you see Lieutenant General Soleimani's role in the fight against Daesh, also known as ISIL or ISIS?

A: The emergence of Daesh was primarily due to the general instability caused by the US war of aggression on Iraq in 2003. The systemic destruction of Iraq, its army and infrastructure had created a complicated and confusing situation in and around Iraq. As a result, Daesh was able to expand in Iraq and Syria, where a disastrous civil war had started. The Syrian forces had lost large areas to Daesh.

General Soleimani as a bold military strategist played a pivotal role in defeating Daesh in Iraq and Syria. For instance, his role in breaking the siege of Amirli in 2014, liberating Jurf Al-Sakhr and planning the operation to take Tikrit in Iraq in 2015 from Daesh are memorable. In 2013, he coordinated the military plans with the militias and Hezbollah fighters and captured Qusayr, a town on the Syria-Lebanon border. In 2015, Russian military intervention on the side of President Assad was decisive, but it was Soleimani who had masterminded the ground support to fight against the Syrian rebels.

Q: Why do you think the US targeted Lieutenant General Soleimani, who played a major, active role in defeating Daesh?

A: First, after the defeat of Daesh the US saw Soleimani as an able military strategist of Iran, who had the potential to become a serious obstacle to the US imperial designs on Iran. Therefore, according to US imperial outlook, Soleimani’s death will make the US goals in the region easier. Secondly, both Israel and the US had coordinated their plans to assassinate him. He was perceived as a threat to the interests of the two close allies in the region.

Trump was impeached and Israeli PM Netanyahu was indicted last year. Trump and Netanyahu aim to win elections this year. The two will present the killing of Soleimani as a trophy to the electorate of America and Israel. Netanyahu knows how easy it is for him to influence American political establishment, the US Congress and American voters. Thus Trump has a big supporting ally in Netanyahu to win the election again. To our dismay, major international hegemons help each other in such devious ways.

Q: During his presidential campaigns, Trump claimed he would prevent further wars. What has pushed him in the last three years to the brink of a new war?

A: Netanyahu has used all the ploys. He has played a key role in pushing Trump to unilaterally retreat from the international nuclear agreement with Iran, and has done all to influence Trump to attack Iran. In this, he had people like Secretary of State Pompeo and former National Security Advisor Bolton doing their work for him.

To our surprise, Trump resisted any such military solution last year. He stopped only just ‘ten minutes to go’ before his order to attack Iran was carried out. He sacked war hawk Bolton. But all that political scenario has now changed with the assassination of General Soleimani. Trump has prepared the groundwork for a war on Iran that can lead to catastrophic consequences for the region and the world. The only person who benefits from such a conflict will be Netanyahu who is fighting for his political survival. The lives of people have no meaning for him if he can have his way.


Saturday, December 28, 2019

Women of India - Poem by Badri Raina

Indian poet and writer Badri Raina praises the women of India who are in the forefront of the ongoing protests and political struggle against the brutal Hindutva regime of PM Modi.
Women of India

By Badri Raina
ZNet, December 27, 2019

Sitting out the chilling night
At Shaheen Bagh, you lead
India’s second struggle for freedom,
shaming men who would come
But are held back by fright.

Women of India, your resolve
Against tyranny once made,
Brooks no politic retreat.
Firm in mind, you are firm
On your freezing feet.

A face of impish delight smiles
Upon you.
Tucked in his lungi, he seems to know
That you will defeat the guiles
Of the day’s defrauders,
As you did of colonial marauders.

Those that worship the armed goddess
In the plush confines of temples
Now confront her in the flesh.
Looking at your sentient courage,
My defiant soul leaps out
Of my old age.

To declare to my beleaguered nation
That the republic is safe
In your incandescent passion
Against a state of things where
Laws may accommodate
Subliminal hate.
Indian women shout slogans during a protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act in the city of Guwahati on Saturday. | AP

Saturday, December 21, 2019

A comment on PM Modi's Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019

-- Nasir Khan

Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 (CAB) goes against the fundamental principle of secularism in the Indian Constitution and democratic and non-sectarian values. There is no place of religious discrimination in a secular society that has the followers of many religions.

If people started discriminating against others on the basis of their religions then that will lead to social and political chaos in the whole of India.

The Hindutva fascists are creating conditions where they can set the militant Hindu mobs against Indian Muslims. That will lead to massacres and violence. This is a very dangerous and ill-chosen political course by the Chief of Hindutva forces who is the Prime minister of India now.

Sunday, December 08, 2019

The power of Hindutva fascism in India

--  Nasir Khan
In 1992, a large Hindutva fascist mob led by some extremist right-wing parties demolished the 15th-century Babri Mosque in Ayodhya in full glare of publicity. One month later, Dr Shamsul Islam, an Indian academic, visited the site of the demolished mosque and the city of Ayodhya. He wrote his article based on what he saw and heard from the Muslim victims of large-scale pillage and destruction of their homes and properties in the city of Ayodhya by the anti-Muslim Hindutva militants and Hindu zealots.
In view of the Indian Supreme Court's verdict on 9 October this year, Dr Shamsul Islam has added his views on secularism in Indian state and society to his 1992 article. The highest court of the country had made an unprecedented travesty of justice and the rule of law.
The author's eye-view account helps us to understand the events in India where the Hindutva fascists with the help of some prominent politicians, police and civil authorities went on a rampage of the Ayodhya city where Muslims lived. The atrocities and barbarity of the Hindutva militants against the Muslim population of the city are horrifying.
The information given by the author is also important for political observers, writers and human rights activists to analyse the dangers of the extremist ideology of militant Hindutva, which is directed mainly against Indian Muslims, but it also extends to Christians, Dalits and other ethnic groups.
Now in the latest twist of events came the Supreme Court of India's verdict on the case relating to the site of the Babri Mosque. The verdict delivered on 9 October has stunned and shocked many people around the world. The age-old principles of the impartiality and non-sectarianism in applying laws of the land were thrown to the wind exactly as the Hindutva fascists wanted. The demands of the Muslim community for justice in a long-drawn judicial struggle for over 27 years for the site of the razed mosque were ignored.
In fact, the Supreme Court did as the Hindutva fascists wanted. The court also took the extraordinary step by ordering the central government to prepare a plan within three months for building a temple of Rama, a mythological Hindu king revered as a Hindu god by many Hindus on the site of the razed Babri Mosque. Thus the facade of Indian democracy, secularism and rule of law became vacuous words, while the power of the Hindutva received the full judicial backing by the highest court of India.
 What criminals could not achieve on December 6, 1992, is legitimized by Court

Babri masjid

What criminals could not achieve on December 6, 1992, is legitimized by Court

Shamsul Islam
{Dr. Shamsul Islam, Political Science professor at Delhi University (retired).}
The author visited Ayodhya one month after the demolition of Babri mosque by the RSS/Shiv Sena/BJP cadres. It presented a picture of carnage, devastation, criminal participation of the Indian State in it but also underlining of the fact that secularism was not dead in Ayodhya. But today, on the 27th anniversary of the demolition of the Babri mosque I am not so sure, specially after the Supreme Court judgment on November 9, 2019, handing over mosque site to those who had razed the mosque. The moral of the story is that whatever criminals could not achieve on December 6, 1992, is legitimized by the highest court of justice of India.

The short report is being produced in full, courtesy to The Sunday Times of India.

Shamsul Islam
December 6, 2019
{Dr. Shamsul Islam, Political Science professor at Delhi University (retired).}
Date: Jan 17, 1993

Publication Name: The Sunday Times of India, Delhi.


By Shamsul Islam
A visit to Ayodhya, more than a month after the December 6
tragedy, reminds one of the hunted city. It is a city under siege by
paramilitary forces. They are on high alert. What is to be guarded now? Nobody
knows. The deep wounds of carnage and plunder are still visible.

The walls of Ayodhya are still covered with sectarian war
cries in Hindi, Telugu, Marathi, etc. The claims of the champions of
Hindutva,  that the police and military
are with them are still engraved on the walls of the city-mocking the secular

You have to be in Ayodhya to realize that the tragedy was
far more than the demolition off a mosque. Away from Ayodhya, the only
dimension off the tragedy which we heard related to the demolition of a
structure of bricks and mud. We overlooked the human tragedy, the human carnage
and plunder caused by zealots of Dharma. Ayodhya symbolizes the fact that human
flesh is the cheapest commodity around.

While moving towards Ayodhya, you chance upon a refugee camp
just on the outskirts of the holy cit. It is being run at Badu Bua ki Masjid
(Old Aunt’s mosque), which houses an orphanage too. More than 1500 refugee,
males, females and children of all age groups are packed like sardines here. A
similar number of refuges have been sheltered in Quresh nursery camp in
Fazibad. Most of them are wage-earners, petty shopkeepers, vendors, cycle
repair walls, rickshaw-pullers and their dependents. They are being fed and
clothed through community donations. The state was gracious enough to donate
130 blankets.

Soul chilling: The stories of barbaric destruction and
sadistic killings are should-chilling. Everything which belonged to
approximately 4500 inhabitants belonging to the minority community in Ayodhya
was singled out to be burnt. The vandals at work had minute details of such
properties, assets and religious place. They were very methodical in destroying

Incidentally, the crusaders of Hindutva did not even spare a
“good Musalman” by the name of Husni Vilaiti Haider. Son of the big zamindar of
Ayodhya, he had led delegation of Muslims to Murli Manohar Joshi offering
themselves for kar seva some weeks back. He had also donated a large chunk of
land to the VHP trust for Ram Mandir. But these credentials did not apparently
wash. Hundreds of refugees are ready to vouch for the bitter truth that the
provincial police force was not a silent spectator. They actively joined the
kar sevak. The policy control room of Ayodhya was taken over by kar sevaks on
December 4 itself, they allege. The wireless sets were at their disposal.

Local Help: However, it is really heartening to know from
the terror-stricken refugees that local residents of Ayodhya were not involved
in any of these barbaric deads. In fact, dozens of local Hindus took all kinds
of risks to save Muslim neighbors.  Many
refugees acknowledge the help of one Yadav Pahalwan of Mohalla Shikhana. But by
December 3, most of such “bad elements” had been neutralized by kar sevaks
through threats, bashing and social boycott. Yadav Pehlwan was also taught a
lesson. He was attacked and injured.

You enter Ayodhya. Though day curfew was relaxed a couple of
days back, nobody seems to be around. After going around quite a few damaged
monuments, shops and houses, one comes across a big house, near from the
demolished Babri Masjid, which seems to have been “bombarded”. All walls
standing almost infact while all roofs have fallen. You prepare to take snaps.
Suddenly you see a middle aged women searching for something in the rubbles.
You are told that it was once here home.

Part of it was destroyed on December 5, on the 6th evening
it was plundered and on the forenoon of the 7th it was blasted with the help
off petrol bombs and chemicals.

The tasks was accomplished by the same group which was seen
demolishing the Babri Masjid the day before. It was led by a bearded chap who
used to command the group through a whistle. She also recounts that on December
7 she and her family members were rescued by the Hindu CRPF officer who hid
them in truck and took them to safety in Faizabad. She returned with her
teenage son to Ayodhya only on the 29th December and was the first family to do

She is bewildered at the turn of events. But she is sure of
one thing – “Whatever may be hardships, we shall stay here. Let us see for how
long Congress and BJP keep on playing this game. We shall not leave. It is our
motherland. It is our home. Why should we go? It is not somebody’s freedom. It
is belongs to others, it belongs to us also. We were born here, we have lived
here and we will die here.”

There are others too who are returning to the heap of rubble
that had been their home, and that will hopefully be their home again.

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