Thursday, March 30, 2017

Mehdi Hasan on Terrorism - Religion Isn’t a Crucial Factor in Attacks

Mehdi Hasan is an accomplished journalist and debater. Here below is his article on an important subject of our time when the criminal activities are mistakenly equated with religion of the  perpetrators.
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What do you think of when you hear the word “terrorist”? Big beards and brown skins? Turban-wearing Muslim migrants from the Middle East? Refugees maybe?
Yet according to a report from the New America Foundation, “every jihadist who conducted a lethal attack inside the United States since 9/11 was a citizen or legal resident.” A recent study in Britain, which last week endured its worst terrorist atrocity since 2005, revealed that more than two out of three “Islamism-inspired” terrorist offenses were carried out by individuals “who were either born or raised in the UK.”
The common stereotype of the Middle Eastern, Muslim-born terrorist is not just lazy and inaccurate, but easy fodder for the anti-immigrant, anti-Islam far right. Consider the swift reaction of White House official Sebastian Gorka to the horrific terror attack in London last week. “The war is real,” he told Fox News while the bodies of the victims were still warm, “and that’s why executive orders like President Trump’s travel moratorium are so important.”
Sorry, what? The 52-year-old perpetrator of the London attack, Khalid Masood, was born and brought up in the UK and would not have been affected in the slightest by a travel ban on Muslims from the Middle East. He was neither a refugee nor an immigrant. He was not of Middle Eastern origin either, and he was not even a Muslim for the vast majority of his life. Born to a white mother and black father as Adrian Elms, and raised as Adrian Ajao, he is believed to have converted to Islam in prison in 2003 and had a well-documented history of criminality prior to mowing down innocent pedestrians on Westminster Bridge, and stabbing a police officer outside the Houses of Parliament, last Thursday afternoon.
Does it sound like I am trying to excuse or exculpate Islam and Muslims from responsibility for his heinous crime? You bet I am. And why shouldn’t I?
After all, was the Islamic faith at fault for Ajao’s first conviction, for criminal damage, in 1983 when he was aged 18? Was it the Prophet Muhammad who instructed him to deal drugs in his teens? Was it the Quran that inspired the drunken Ajao to slash a man across the face in 2000, leaving him needing more than 20 stitches? Was Ajao engaged in jihad when he stabbed a man in the nose in 2003, leaving him in need of cosmetic surgery?
No, no, no and no. Later, as Khalid Masood, he may have been radicalized by violent Islamists in a UK prison or by Salafi jihadists while visiting Saudi Arabia — we simply do not know and may never know — but what we can be sure of is that his violent tendencies and anti-social behavior long predated his conversion to Islam, “radical” or otherwise. As even the conservative British academic, and Christian blogger, Adrian Hilton conceded, “Adrian Elms was a violent Christian before he became Muslim terrorist Khalid Masood… Islam didn’t make him an evil bastard; he was already a nasty piece of work.”
As with other Muslim converts who have turned to terror, such as Canadian Aaron Driver and Texan John Georgelas, as well as the born-again types, such as the Kouachi brothers in Paris and the Tsarnaev brothers in Boston, a distorted, simplistic and politicized form of Islam may have provided Masood with a ready-made justification for his violence, but I doubt it was the main motivation. While politicians and pundits obsess over the role played by political ideology — Islamism — or religious faith — Islam — they conveniently if irresponsibly avert their gaze from other, perhaps more crucial factors. There is the role of social networks and family ties; issues of identity and belonging; a sense of persecution; mental illness; socio-economic grievances; moral outrage over conflict and torture; a craving for glory and purpose, action and adventure. These have proved to be much better predictors of terrorist tendencies than religion and, specifically, religiosity.
Don’t take my (Muslim) word for it. In 2008, a leaked report by researchers for MI5, Britain’s domestic intelligence agency, found that “far from being religious zealots, a large number of those involved in terrorism do not practise their faith regularly,” according to the Guardian’s Alan Travis, who obtained, revealed and reported on the classified document, which is based on “hundreds of case studies” by the security service.
“They are mostly British nationals, not illegal immigrants and, far from being Islamist fundamentalists, most are religious novices,” wrote Travis, after reading the report, adding: “Very few have been brought up in strongly religious households, and there is a higher than average proportion of converts. Some are involved in drug-taking, drinking alcohol and visiting prostitutes.”
Sound familiar?
And the report had this as a kicker: “MI5 says there is evidence that a well-established religious identity actually protects against violent radicalisation.”
Over the past decade since the MI5 research was first leaked, more and more studies have challenged the conventional and lazy wisdom on the role of religion in the radicalization process. In recent years, I have spoken with a range of leading experts — anthropologist Scott Atran, psychiatrist Marc Sageman, historian Lydia Wilson — all of whom have interviewed “jihadi” terrorists, from the battlefields of Iraq to the prison cells of the United States, and all of whom agree that faith, Islamic or otherwise, is not the key driver of this latest wave of global terror.
“Terrorism is really political violence, first and foremost,” Sageman told me last year. Atran, when I interviewed him for my Al Jazeera English show in 2015, said, “If you dialogue with these people, if you look at how they actually move into ‘jihad’ … there is very little discussion of religion.”
Yet every major terrorist attack in the West is followed by a very public “discussion of religion.” How Islamic is ISIS? Does Islam require a reformation? Do Muslims pose a threat to liberal values? Should Western countries ban immigration from Muslim-majority countries?
In fact, these days, members of the ‘Blame Islam’ crowd don’t even try and hide their evident glee when a terrorist attack occurs. They assume that the attacker’s Muslim name in and of itself is a vindication of their anti-Muslim bigotry. Their claim that “Islam is the problem” has now gone mainstream: it has a committed supporter in the White House, if not in Downing Street. The absence of clear and empirical evidence for their spurious theory of radicalization does not seem to bother them in the slightest. That most terrorists are “religious novices” and a “diverse collection of individuals, fitting no single demographic profile, nor do they all follow a typical pathway to violent extremism,” to quote MI5, is ignored or downplayed.
What was it Einstein once joked? “If the facts don’t fit the theory, change the facts.” Or deploy “alternative” ones, maybe. Such an approach makes sense if your aim is to demonize Islam and Muslims, no matter the cost. But if your aim is to prevent the next attack, this excessive focus on faith, on belief, on ideology — in defiance of the evidence and the experts — is a dangerous distraction. The terrorists may want to try and legitimize their violence by cynically appealing to Islamic motifs or doctrines, but there is no reason the rest of us should help them do it.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Rwanda Indicts French Generals for 1994 Genocide

Here below is an article by Thomas C. Mountain.
Late in 2016 the Rwandan Government indicted several senior French Army Generals for crimes against humanity including genocide for their role in the 1994 Rwandan holocaust.
The Rwandan case against the French Generals is based on the French having instigated and trained the Interhamwe para-military Hutu militia that was responsible for most of the killings of the minority Tutsi tribe and its supporters. This most inconvenient of facts is admitted to by the French media who are still trying to shrug off blame for the French crimes in Rwanda and deny any “smoking gun” exists.
This latest in a long series of Rwandan government exposés of the French Military and Foreign Ministry’s role in the 1994 mass murder(some 800,000 by most accounts) provides that very “smoking gun”, for the well documented French Military role in the very existence of the Interhamwe death squads in undeniable.
Who is going to believe that after creating, training and paying the salaries of the leadership, the French had no idea the Interhamwe ethnic death squads were going to carry out what they were broadcasting so rabidly? It goes further, for the evidence shows the French were actually behind the mass murder in just another storm of massacre and mayhem that typifies neo colonial French Africa.
All one has to do is view the excellent three-part series on Aljazeera “The French African Connection” to hear first-hand senior French Intelligence agents matter of factly describe coup d’etas and mass murder they directed in the years before the Rwandan genocide throughout neo-colonial French Africa. After watching the series tell me you still don’t believe the French were capable of the crimes committed in Rwanda in 1994?
Earlier in 2016 news broke about the French role in suppressing the anti-neo-colonial rebellion that broke out in Cameroon in the 1970s where over 10,000 Cameroonian’s were murdered by the Cameroon Army directed by French officers. All to maintain French control of their former “colonies” and continue the super exploitation of African resources that is critical to maintaining the high standards of living the French people have come to expect.
The French military is still very active in enforcing neo-colonialism in French Africa, with contingents and or training operations in Mali, Central African Republic, Congo, Djibouti and Cote d’Ivoire. France has been at the forefront in demanding military intervention in Burundi by the UN, offering military forces for a potential occupation. French neo colonialism remains a potent force of reaction in Africa today and recognizing the French role in the Rwandan genocide in 1994 can play a vital role in helping the world understand this thorn in the side of the African peoples fight for independence, social equality and justice. Rwanda indicting French Generals for genocide is a good start.

Nigerian students attacked in India

Under Modi's rule in India, the life of anyone who is not a Hindu has worsened. Minority Muslims and Christians are the worst victims. Many of the  Indian states have banned the slaughter of cow, thus putting many Muslim families in financial trouble since they depend on trade and selling beef in the market. Hindutvadi extremist fascists want to turn India into a state for the Hindus only where minorities won't have any right.
Even the foreign students and workers are not safe in Hindu India. Five Nigerian students were attacked on Monday by crowds, while another was beaten by a mob inside a shopping mall.
To read the news, click here.

Indian security forces kill civilians in Kashmir


The Kashmiris are suffering under Indian occupation in the IOK. The once scenic place, called the heaven on earth, has now become a war zone, where the life of ordinary Kashmiris has become unbearable. Indian security forces kill anyone suspected as a rebel or asking for freedom for the people of Kashmir.
At least three civilians have been killed during protests in India-administered Kashmir after police targeted a home where a suspected rebel was holed up.
About 28 people were also injured in Tuesday's demonstration that followed a gun battle at the home in the southern town of Chadoora, where the suspected fighter was killed, police and witnesses said.
To read the news, click here.

Hardline Hindu priest a handful for Modi in heartland Indian state

There is little doubt that communalism has become the order of the day in India. More and more she is showing that it is Hindu India and not secular India where everyone could have the same right.

The Uttar Pradesh, the largest state in India, has elected a firebrand Hindu fascist - more commonly called here Hindu nationalist - who not too long ago had a simple message against the minority Muslims - "If they (Muslims) convert one Hindu girl, we will convert 100 Muslim girls ... if they kill one Hindu, we will also kill 100 Muslims."
To read the full text of the news, click here.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Zaid Jilani on media - Trump vs. Bush

Trump Insults the Media, but Bush Bullied and Defanged It to Sell the Iraq War, writes Zaid Jilani. His article can be read by clicking here.

Do Muslims Commit Most U.S. Terrorist Attacks? Nope, not even close

Here below is part of an article by .

The Global Terrorism Database at the University of Maryland, which catalogs information on over 150,000 incidents since 1970, defines terrorism as an "intentional act of violence or threat of violence by a non-state actor" that meets at least two of three criteria. First, that it be "aimed at attaining a political, economic, religious, or social goal." Second, that there is "evidence of an intention to coerce, intimidate, or convey some other message to a larger audience (or audiences) other than the immediate victims." And finally, that it be "outside the precepts of International Humanitarian Law."
The Georgia State researchers report that the database catalogs 110 terrorist attacks in the U.S. over the most recent five-year span period in the database. (Globally, there were more than 57,000 terrorist attacks during that period.) In some cases, the media tended to report several attacks perpetrated by the same people as a single combined story; following their lead, the researchers reduce the number to 89 attacks.
They then set out to answer four different questions: Would an attack receive more coverage if the perpetrators were Muslim, if they were arrested, if they aimed at government employees or facilities, or if it resulted in a high number of deaths?
From a series of searches at LexisNexis and CNN.com, Kearns and her colleagues gathered a dataset of 2,413 relevant news articles. If each attack had received equal media attention, they would have garnered an average of 27 news articles apiece. Interestingly, 24 of the attacks listed in the GTD did not receive any reports in the news sources they probed. For example, a cursory Nexis search failed to turn up any news stories about a 2011 arson attack on townhouses under construction in Grand Rapids, Michigan. An internet search by me did find several local news reports that cited a threatening letter warning residents to leave the neighborhood: "This attack was not isolated, nor will it be the last. We are not peaceful. We are not willing to negotiate." The GTD reports so far that no one has been apprehended for the attack.
For those five years, the researchers found, Muslims carried out only 11 out of the 89 attacks, yet those attacks received 44 percent of the media coverage. (Meanwhile, 18 attacks actually targeted Muslims in America. The Boston marathon bombing generated 474 news reports, amounting to 20 percent of the media terrorism coverage during the period analyzed. Overall, the authors report, "The average attack with a Muslim perpetrator is covered in 90.8 articles. Attacks with a Muslim, foreign-born perpetrator are covered in 192.8 articles on average. Compare this with other attacks, which received an average of 18.1 articles."
Some non-Muslims did get intense coverage. Wade Michael Page, who killed six people in an attack on a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, generated 92 articles, or 3.8 percent of the dataset. Dylann Roof's murder of nine black churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina, inspired 179 articles, or 7.4 percent. Robert Dear's slaying of three people at a Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs led to 204 articles, or 8.5 percent. Still, "Controlling for target type, fatalities, and being arrested, attacks by Muslim perpetrators received, on average, 449% more coverage than other attacks."
No doubt this greater media focus on Muslim perpetrators has badly skewed the public's—and Trump's—impressions about the sources of terrorist attacks in the U.S. On the other hand, the Georgia State researchers do not acknowledge an important difference between the purveyors of jihadist ideology and domestic racists like Page and Roof. ISIS and Al Qaeda are adroit publicists who have leveraged their relatively few attacks into successfully instilling a sense of terror into many Americans.
The Georgia State researchers conclude: "By covering terrorist attacks by Muslims dramatically more than other incidents, media frame this type of event as more prevalent. Based on these findings, it is no wonder that Americans are so fearful of radical Islamic terrorism. Reality shows, however, that these fears are misplaced."
Such fears are indeed misplaced. Your risk of being killed in a jihadist terror attack in the last 15 years amounted to roughly 1 in 2,640,000. Even if you stretch the period back to include 9/11, the risk would still just have been 1 in 110,000. Your lifetime risk of dying in a lightning strike is 1 in 161,000, and your chance of being killed in a motor vehicle crash is 1 in 114. Given that our government has already squandered more than $500 billion on homeland security, while encroaching on our liberties, it is vital that Americans keep the threat of terrorism in perspective. This new study is one small step in that direction.

The full article can be seen by clicking here.

Monday, March 27, 2017

US Airstrikes Killed Nearly 300 Civilians in Mosul

While Pentagon statements on them insisted everyone killed was an ISIS fighters, mounting evidence suggests US airstrikes against the city of Mosul have killed nearly 300 civilians, with attacks just last week burying over 150 people under the rubble of residential buildings in the city’s west.
To read the full text of the news report, click here.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

International court awards reparation for war crimes

The Hague, Netherlands // The International Criminal Court on Friday awarded reparations to victims of war crimes for the first time since it was founded 15 years ago.
To read the news, click here.

Irfan Engineer on the Ayodhya Dispute

History and Nature of the Ayodhya Dispute
By Irfan Engineer
In a surprise development, the Supreme Court on 21st March 2017 urged the rival parties in the Ram Janamabhoomi – Babri Masjid (RJBM) case to negotiate and resolve the dispute in a spirit of give and take. The Chief Justice of India offered himself to be a mediator should both the parties agreed. The observations came on application of Subramanian Swamy seeking urgent hearing of the appeal against the order of Allahabad High Court dated 30th September 2010 in the RJBM title suit. Subramanian Swamy, a BJP leader, has no locus standi in the case and he is not a party in the Appeal. Yet the Supreme Court exercised its discretion and even asked the BJP leader to talk to all parties to the case and bring them to negotiating table.
It is not clear whether Swamy was prompted by the Prime Minister but the application seems to be made in the background of massive victory of the BJP in UP Assembly elections. Though the mandate was primarily sought for development – or sab ka saath, sab ka vikas, the BJP might have seen this as most opportune moment to push the construction of Ram Temple on the site where Babri Masji once stood for 464 years before it was unlawfully demolished. The parties to the Appeal before the Supreme Court did not feel the need to move the Court for urgent hearing of the case. Many other cases are pending before the Apex Court and which may be of real urgent nature. What persuaded the Court to spend its valuable time on this contentious case wherein one party to the case is in stronger position in the prevailing scenario while the other is more defensive and feeling diffident will be for the Court to satisfy itself. Litigants defending Babri Masjid title are naturally feeling extremely vulnerable and in a very weak position. Not agreeing to settle on the terms desired by the litigants who already have 2/3rds of the land in dispute according to the judgment of the Allahabad High Court and are seeking the entire land would endanger the security of the community at worst and open to charge of being intransigent at best. Several attempts were made to arrive at negotiated settlement and all of them failed.
One attempt was made by the Shankaracharya and religious leaders from Muslim community. Muslim religious leaders gave favourable statements and nod at the initiative. They were hopeful of the initiative leading to an amicable settlement with the spirit of give and take. However, the Sangh Parivar which felt that a settlement would be reached without them being involved opposed the initiative. Statements were planted in the media that Shankaracharya was a devotee of Shiv rather than Lord Ram. Shankaracharya withdrew from the initiative and the settlement did not materialize. The inhabitants of Ayodhya would have long settled the issue in the spirit of give and take had the dispute been left to them. The Head Priest of Hanumangarh, the largest temple in Ayodhya, Mahant Gyandas has organized iftaars for Muslims inside his temple and repaired Mosque situated on the land owned by his temple with their funds. Muslims have invited Mahant Gyandas, inside their mosques. Such was the amicable relations between Hindus and Muslims of Ayodhya during the peak of Ram temple agitation. The agitators were mobilized from outside.
The priest of Ram Janmabhoomi Temple – Mahant Lal Das too opposed the VHP-BJP led Ram Janmabhoomi movement. Mahant Lal Das was assassinated and his assassins have remained a mystery. The final attempt to settle the issue was made by Hashim Ansari, the oldest litigant in the dispute, a simple man living in hut. Hashim Ansari died a few months ago after the Judgment of the Allahabad High Court. He was disillusioned with the Judgement and wanted to settle the issue. Hashim Ansari and the rival litigant Mahant Ramchandra Das Paramhans of the Ram Janamabhoomi Nyas were good friends and remained so till the Mahant died in 2003. Hashim Ansari told this author that they would not only eat from the same plate, they would also travel in the same vehicle to and fro Lucknow Bench of Allahabad High Court where the title suit was being heard. Had it been left to the people of Ayodhya, they would have in all likelihood resolved the dispute in the spirit of give and take. The inhabitants of Ayodhya enjoy the bonds of brotherhood and sisterhood and were vary of Sangh Parivar’s mobilization for construction of Ram Janambhoomi Temple as it disturbed peace of the town for days and they would lose their livelihood. The earlier negotiations failed primarily due to intransigence of the Sangh Parivar for whom the issue was more of a political weapon which they would pull out during elections rather than issue of faith.
If negotiations are held today, those defending the title of Waqf Board would be under extreme political and social pressure to give up whatever little they have got from the judgement of the Allahabad High Court. Whereas Nirmohi Akhada and Ram Lalla, who have got 2/3rds of the land parcel would be negotiating for the rest of the 1/3rd of the land with the political might of the State and Centre backing them. Does the Supreme Court want a “settlement” between hugely unequal parties or justice in accordance with the law? One of the legal doctrine is “he who wants justice should approach the courts come with clean hands” Those who mobilized and demolished the Babri Mosque cannot be said to have approached the court with clean hands. A demand to construct a protective roof against the vagaries of nature on the chabutra outside the Mosque but within the precincts in the year 1885 enlarged to demanding the entire Mosque land and construction of Ram Janmabhoomi Temple on it not on the basis of law of the land, but on the basis of faith. While the claims did not succeed with the British Colonial government, it is the secular state that progressively gave in to the demands of manipulated faith of the cultural and political elite claiming to represent the entire majority community. The Allahabad High Court too ruled on the basis of unproven faith rather than on the basis of law of adverse possession.
From Ram Chabutra to claim over Babri Masji: failure of Justice
Let us examine this story. There are no two opinions that in the year 1528 a mosque was built by Mir Baqi, one of the Governors of the Mughal Emperor Babar. The Sangh Parivar maintains that this mosque was built after destroying a Ramjanmabhoomi temple, which existed on the land whereas the Muslim political leaders as well as most reputed historians of integrity insist that there is no credible proof that there was any Ramjanmabhoomi temple.
The District Gazetteer of 1905 notes that till 1855, Hindus and Muslims prayed in the same premises that is now contentious Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid site. After 1857 rebellion, an outer enclosure was put in front of the mosque and the Hindus who were forbidden access to the inner yard raised an outer platform (chabutra). The first signs of the dispute sometime in 1861 appear too close after the 1857 rebellion to warrant such a conclusion. A British officer who was officiating as a Commissioner and Settlement Officer, Faizabad, in 1861 wrote a book A Historical Sketch of Fyzabad Tehsil Including the Former Capital Ayodhya and Fyzabad. The book was based on what he found was "locally affirmed" and his own surmises - Ayodhya must at least have possessed a fine temple in the Janmasthan. The dispute was initially only regarding Chabutra adjoining the Babri Masjid. He further wrote: "It seems that in 1528 Babar visited Ayodhya and under his orders this ancient temple was destroyed". There is slender evidence to conclude that Babar ever passed Ayodhya.
Hindu priests wanted a temple constructed on the Chabutra to be able to conduct their worship without vagaries of weather, as Chabutra was an open platform.
In the year 1885, one Mahant Raghubar Dass, claiming himself to be the Mahant of Janam Asthan had filed a suit on 19-1-1885 in the Court of Sub-Judge Faizabad, Pandit Hari Kishan (Suit No. 61/280 of 1885). It was alleged in the said Suit that Chabutra of Janam Asthan was a platform of 21 feet towards East and West and 17 feet towards North and South. It was further alleged in the said Suit that as there was no building over it and the Mahant and other priests had to face grave vagaries of the weather. The Mahant therefore wanted permission to construct a temple over the said Chabutra of 21 X 17 feet, which had been prohibited by the Deputy Commissioner of Faizabad. The Suit 61/280 of 1885 was dismissed on 24-12-1885 by Pandit Hari Kishan, Sub-Judge of Faizabad. Relying upon the site plan prepared by Gopal Sahai, the Learned Sub-Judge observed:
"The entrance to the enclosure is under a gateway on which appears the superscription of "Allah". Immediately on the left is the platform or chabutra of masonary occupied by the Hindus. On this is a small superstructure of wood in the form of a tent. This chabutra is said to indicate the birthplace of Ram Chander. …
"… in between the mosque and Chabutra, there is a wall…and it is clear that there are separate boundaries between the mosque and Chabutra and this fact is also supported by the fact that there is boundary line built by the Government before the rent dispute".
It was further observed that if temple was allowed to be constructed on the Chabutra at such a place, then there would be sound of bells of the temple and sankh, when both Hindus and Muslims passed from the same way. If permission was given to Hindus for constructing temple then one day or the other there would be rioting and thousands of people would be killed. Thus, the learned Sub-Judge opined that awarding permission to construct the temple at this juncture is to lay the foundation of riot and murder, hence in view of the policy and also in view of justice the reliefs claimed should not be granted. The Sub-Judge also rejected the reliefs sought on the ground of adverse possession and observed that:
"It is most unfortunate that a masjid should have been built on the land specially held sacred by the Hindus. But as that occurred 356 years ago, it is too late now to remedy the grievance. All that can be done is to maintain the parties in status quo."
The Appeal of Mahant Raghubar Dass against the judgement of the Learned Sub-Judge before the District Judge of Faizabad and the Judicial Commissioner, W. Young (Civil appeal No. 27 of 1886) was also dismissed. In his judgement dated November 1, 1886 observed:
"This spot is situated within the precinct of the grounds surrounding a mosque erected some 350 years age owing to the bigotry and tyranny of the emperor who purposely chose this holy spot, according to Hindu legend as the site of his mosque. The Hindus seem to have got very limited rights of access to certain spots within the precinct adjoining the mosques and they have for a series of years been persistently trying to increase those rights and to erect buildings on two spots in the enclosure namely (1) Sita ki rasoi (kitchen of Sita) and (2) Ram Chander ki Janmabhoomi (birthplace of Lord Rama)… I am further of the opinion that the civil courts have properly dismissed the plaintiff's claim."
Two things are to be noted here. The suit as well as the Appeal was rejected on grounds of adverse possession. The dispute was about the Chabutra situated in the precinct on which a building was sought to be erected and never the mosque itself. As set out in the judgement, certain elements from the Hindu community tried to persistently increase their rights - in the second and third round to the entire mosque itself. Even though the reliefs prayed for were not granted, the judgement tried not to antagonise the Hindu Community entirely by mentioning the atrocities of the tyrannical and bigot emperors (from whose tyrannical rule the colonial rulers claim to have "liberated" the sub-continent). It is not clear on what supporting evidence did the judges observe that the tyrannical Mughal Emperor out of bigotry demolished a temple 350 years ago to build a mosque in his name. Thus in spite of the judgements, the Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid controversy remained very much alive.
In 1934 riots, which were triggered off by the slaughter of a cow in the village of Shahjahanpur near Ayodhya, riotous mobs demolished part of the wall surrounding the mosque and damaged the domes. However, the mosque was restored at the cost of the Government.
Till 22nd December1949, Muslims offered namaz in the Babri Masjid. However, on the night of 22nd December 1949, idols of Bhagwan shri Ramchandra were surreptitiously smuggled and installed inside the mosque. Constable Mata Prasad at Ayodhya Police Station reported the incident next day morning and the District Magistrate K.K. Nayar sent the following message to the Chief Minister and Chief Secretary by radiogram:
"A few Hindus entered Babri Masjid at night when the masjid was deserted and installed a deity there, DM and SP and force at spot. Situation under control, Police picket of 15 persons was on duty at night but did not apparently act."
K. K. Nayar, who later contested elections on the then Jan Sangh ticket, wrote in his diary:
"The crowd made a most determined attempt to force entry. The lock was broken and policemen rushed off their legs. All of us, officers and men, somehow pushed the crowd back and held the gate. The gate was secured and locked with a powerful lock brought from outside and the police force was strengthened."
Nayar also wrote to the Chief Secretary that in grave risk of large-scale riots it would not be desirable to attempt the removal of the idols through governmental agency. He also advised against stopping bhog and aarti but advised that the present pujari should be changed. Markandey Singh, Magistrate, First Class, and Additional City Magistrate, Faizabad-cumAyodhya after being "fully satisfied from information received from police sources and from other credible sources that a dispute between Hindus and Muslims of Ayodhya over the question rights of proprietorship and worship in the building claimed variously as Babri Masjid and Janmabhoomi Mandir, Mohalla Ram Kot, within the local limits of my jurisdiction, is likely to lead to a breach of peace," ordered the attachment of the "said buildings" under Section 145 CrPC and appointed Priya Dutt Ram, Chairman, Municipal Board, Faizabad-cum-Ayodhya, as receiver to arrange for the care of the property in dispute on December 29, 1949.
Then a civil suit number 2 of 1950 was filed on January 16, 1950 by Gopal Singh Visharad in the court of the civil judge, Faizabad, praying for a declaration that he is entitled to worship and visit without obstruction or disturbance Shri Bhagwan Ram Chandra and others installed in the Janmabhoomi and a perpetual injunction restraining the defendants from removing these idols. Amongst the eight defendants were five Muslims and the state of Uttar Pradesh, the Deputy Commissioner and the Police Superintendent of Faizabad.
The civil judge N.N. Chadha, granted an interim injunction on 16/1/1950 allowing puja and darshan though the rights were in dispute. The Order was later modified on 19/1/1950 as follows:
"The parties are hereby restrained by means of the temporary injunction to refrain from removing the idols in question from the site in dispute and from interfering with the puja etc. as at present carried on."
In addition to the above suit, three more suits relating to disputes over receivership and waqf were filed during the intervening period. The Nirmohi Akhara also staked its claim for ownership of the disputed land.
A lawyer of Ayodhya, Umesh Chandra Pandey quietly moved an application on 25/1/86 in the Court of Sadar Munsif, Hari Shakar Dubey seeking directions restraining the respondents from imposing any sort of restrictions or hurdles in the darshan and puja, etc. of Lord Rama and others in the Janambhoomi offered by him and other members of the Hindu community. The Application was in regular Suit no. 2 of 1950. The Munsif refused to pass orders on the ground that the file of the leading case along with which the above suit was consolidated was requisitioned in the High Court. Umesh Chandra had no locus standi in the above suit, and had not even impleaded all the defendants in the suit as party respondents in the application. Umesh Chandra filed an appeal against the order of the Munsif before the District Judge, Faizabad, K.M. Pandey on 31/1/86. The district judge rejected the application of the Mohammed Hashim to be impleaded as a party in the appeal. The District Judge recorded the statements of District Magistrate, Indu Kumar Pandey and Senior Superintendent of Police, Karma Vir Singh to the effect that:
"…it is not necessary to keep the locks at the gates for the purpose of maintaining law and order or the safety of the idols. This appears to be an unnecessary irritant to the applicant and other members of the community. There does not appear o be any necessity to create an artificial barrier between the idol and the devotees. It appears that the opposite parties have remained a prisoner of indecision for the last 35 years. Somebody in his wisdom thought fit to put locks at the gates at any point of time and nobody since then has seen whether there is any necessity to retain locks or not".
The District judge then observed:
"after having heard the parties it is clear that the members of the other community, namely the Muslims, are not going to be affected by any stretch of imagination if the locks of the gates were opened and the idols inside the premises are allowed to be seen and worshipped by the pilgrims and devotees. It is undisputed that the premises are presently in the court's possession and that for the last 35 years Hindus have had an unrestricted right or worship as a result of the court's order of 1950 and 1951. If the Hindus are offering prayers and worshipping the idols, though in a restricted way for the last 35 years, then the heavens are not going to fall if the locks of the gates are removed. The district magistrate has stated before me today that the members of the Muslim community are not allowed to offer any prayers at the disputed site. They are not allowed to go there. … If this is the state of affairs then there is no occasion for any law and order problem arising as a result of the removal of the locks. It is absolutely an affair inside the premises. There is no justification for retaining locks after the positive statements of the district magistrate and the SSP Faizabad that the law and order situation can be very well kept under control by other means as well and for that end it is not necessary to keep the locks on these gates."
The appeal allowed and the respondents - district magistrate, the city magistrate and the police superintendent of Faizabad were directed to open the locks forthwith and not to impose any restrictions or cause hurdle in the darshan and puja, etc. of the applicant and other members of the community in general. With the order of the District Judge, the site, which was in the register of waqf as a mosque for over over 400 years as a mosque was converted into a de facto temple. The procedure adopted by the district judge of recording the statement of the District Magistrate and the Senior Superintendent of the Police was very unusual to the say the least. Application of Umesh Chandra Pandey was incompetent as he was not a party in the suit. The suit itself was not pending. Gopal Singh Visharad, the Plaintiff in the Regular Suit No. 2 of 1950 had died years ago and no substitution had been made in his place and as such the suit had automatically abated. Such an order could not be passed altering the situation after 36 years.  Also, contrary to the general procedure and practice was the fact that the District Judge rejected the application of the Muslims who were originally party to the suit to be impleaded as a party. The District Judge had no basis to conclude that Muslims would not be adversely affected and that too without hearing the applicants to be impleaded as a party. The District Judge in effect adjudicated the rights of the contending parties without hearing all the parties to the suit on a very narrow and negative ground that there would not be any law and order problem if the locks were removed. The adjudication was not on strength of respective claims and the case of the parties, as all the parties concerned and the strength of their claims were not heard were not heard at all. Law and order problem is never a consideration while adjudicating rights of the party. If the courts adjudicate rights of the parties to litigation on consideration of law and order, what we will have is not rule of law but rule of might. The background in which the judgement was delivered will not be out of place here. The SSP and the DM would not have given the statement about their confidence in being able to maintain law and order, without approval of the State and Central Government. The Rajiv Gandhi Government was on the one hand trying to appease the Muslim Fundamentalists on the issue of Sahabano and intended legislation for denial of maintenance to divorced Muslim women under S. 125 of Cr.P.C. On the other hand, the Government was also trying to appease the Hindu community by getting the locks of Ramjanambhumi-Babri Masjid opened for darshan and puja.
Supreme Court Judgement in Ayodhya case.
The decade of 1980 will be remembered as a bloody decade with communal clashes all over the country as the issue of Ramjanambhumi was politicised and nationalised by the Sangh Parivar. The Ramjanambhumi, which had hitherto remained a dispute between some elements from both communities in Ayodhya, was taken to every nook and corner in most cities and even rural areas all over the country. The demand for which the mobilisation was aimed was to open the lock of the Babri Masjid and permit puja and darshan. After the lock was opened, the next demand was handing over the entire site for construction of Ramjanmabhumi Temple and shifting of the mosque outside panchkoshi parikrama. Legally, it was difficult to achieve this fete without the intervention of the courts and the state. The issue of title of the property, which is the main legal issue involved in the dispute pending in the courts operates against the protagonist of Ramjanmabhumi temple. For right to worship cannot be claimed as an easement on somebody else's property. So far as law is concerned, faith and belief, or even proof of place of birth of Bhagwan Ramchandra is also not a relevant issue to decide the title and / or grant right to worship. Agitational mobilisation by the Sangh Parivar was to pressurise the state and the courts to act and the pressure did work.
First the UP State acquired the place surrounding the place in the name of providing certain facilities to the pilgrims, the site on which Rajiv Gandhi laid foundation stone of the Ramjanmabhumi on in November 1990. Babri Masjid was then demolished on 6.12.92 by mobs mobilised by the Sangh Parivar. The Courts as well as the state allowed the mob to assemble in the naïve belief that the Mosque will not be touched. Then the Union Government issued ordinance named 'Acquisition of Certain Area at Ayodhya Ordinance' on 7.1.93 for acquisition of 67.703 acres of land, including the site of Babri Masjid. The Ordinance was later replaced by an Act. The Union Government also made a Special Reference under Article 143(1) of the Constitution of India to the Supreme Court for the opinion of the Court on:
"Whether a Hindu temple or any Hindu religious structure existed prior to the construction of the Ram Janma Bhumi - Babri Masjid (including the premises of the inner and outer courtyards of such structure) in the area on which the structure stood".
The reference itself was slanted in favour of the majority community. The Court was called upon to give its opinion whether any Hindu religious structure existed prior to construction of Ram Janma Bhumi - Babri Masjid. ... The structure that stood was certainly not "Ramjanma Bhumi" but Babri Masjid admittedly constructed by Mir Baqi. The only contention of the protagonist of Ramjanma Bhumi Temple being that the same was after demolition of Janam Asthan Temple. Secondly, no time frame was prescribed for examination of existence of Ram Janma Bhumi - Babri Masjid. If the referendum had been answered in positive, the Union Government would have been compelled to hand over the entire site on which Babri Masjid stood to the Hindu litigants or a trust or association. The Supreme Court however rejected the reference as superfluous.
The five judge Constitutional Bench of the Supreme Court was also called upon adjudicate on the validity of the Acquisition Act in Ismail Faruqui Vs. Union of India (1994 (6) SCC 360). The Judgement delivered by Justice Verma on behalf of the majority held the Act as a whole to be valid, striking down only Section 4 (3) of the Acquisition Act on the ground that extinction of judicial remedy for resolution of the dispute without providing any alternative dispute resolution forum amounts to negation of rule of law. The Section 4 (3) is as follows:
"If, on the commencement of this Act, any suit, appeal or other proceeding in respect of the right, title and interest relating to any property which has vested in the Central Government under Section 3, is pending before any court, tribunal or other authority, the same shall abate."
Even while holding Section 4 (3) to be void and unconstitutional, the majority Judgement upheld the Constitutional validity of the rest of the provisions of the Act, including that of Section 3 by virtue of which, right title and interest of the 67.703 acres of land area, including the site of Babri Masjid stood transferred and vested in the hands of the Central Government. The minority Judgement delivered by Justice Bharucha delivering judgement on behalf of himself and Justice Ahmedi held that the section 3, 4 and 8 are unconstitutional.
The majority Judgement held that the land of even mosque can be compulsorily acquired by the state and it stood on the same footing as that of other places of worship. While there can be no quarrel with that, the effect of compulsory acquisition could not be lost in the case at hand. The minority judgement held that secularism is absolute and
"the state may not treat religions differently on the ground that public order required it. … When adherents of the religion of the majority of Indian citizens make a claim upon and assail the place of worship of another religion and, by dint of numbers, create conditions that are conducive to public disorder, it is the constitutional obligation of the State to protect that place of worship and to preserve public order, using for the purpose such means and forces of law and order as are required. It is impermissible under the provisions of the Constitution for the State to acquire that place of worship to reserve public order. To condone the acquisition of a place of worship in such circumstances is to efface the principle of secularism from the Constitution…"
Section 7 of the Acquisition Act is slanted in favour of the Hindu community as section 7 (2) required maintenance status-quo as prevailed before 7-1-93, which would mean that idols must be retained where they were before 7-1-93 and puja as carried on as before. Section 7 would entail idol would remain and puja continue for an indefinite period.
The Ayodhya Judgement thus struck down only section 4 (3) of the Acquisition Act as per the majority Judgement and as a result of striking down Section 4 (3) all the Suits pending before the High Court revived and the High Court is now hearing the suit day to day. The minority Judgement, however, held that the Acquisition Act vested a whole bundle of rights in the Central Government, including that of the disputed site. According to Section 6 of the Acquisition Act, the Central Government was enabling provision and the Central Government could further transfer whole bundle of right and property to any authority or a body or a trust on terms and conditions that the Central Government might think fit to impose. Those terms and conditions are not specified in the Act, nor is there any indication in that behalf available. The majority Judgement however held that after the pending dispute was adjudicated, the Central Government would hand over the disputed site in accordance with the adjudication to appropriate authority, trust or body. In the event the adjudication is in favour of litigants from minority community, would the Central Government with any political party in power have the political courage to hand over the disputed site to a body, authority or trust of minority community to reconstruct the demolished mosque? That remains to be seen.
Conclusions
To summarise, admittedly, Babri Masjid was built by Mir Baqi in the year 1528 and is noted in the waqf register of Sunni Central Board of Waqf. In 1885 and 1886, the claim of the Hindu litigants was only on the Chabutra as they wanted to construct a structure to protect the devotees from the vagaries of the weather and no more. On the strength of adverse possession, the courts dealing with the dispute during the colonial period rejected the prayers of the Hindu litigants to construct any structure even on the Chabutra. The prayers were rejected even though the courts held (it is not known on what evidence) that the Masjid was built on land held sacred by the Hindus but that occurred 356 years ago on the same spot. After independence, the Hindu litigants adopted incremental approach, slowly enlarging their rights and claims with combination of surreptitious acts, agitational mobilisation and repeated applications to the court. Surreptitious acts when no legal claim left on their side. Another round of litigation on threat of agitational mobilisation. The claims were based not on the strength of title to the property but on their right to unhindered and unrestricted worship. After the idols were smuggled inside the Mosque, there was another round of litigation, which virtually ignored the title and turned the court into a receiver of the property giving the Hindus increasing access to the property as and by way of right to worship, while the Muslim community was denied the access in spite of the fact that the property was a waqf property. After the locks were opened in 1986 on the ground that there would be no problem maintaining law and order if the locks are open, the Hindu nationalist forces were emboldened even more. As they were mobilising their forces and indulging into hate propaganda, the State remained a mute bystander refusing to act and take preventive measures for maintenance of law and order. Even the courts when they had the opportunity did not act decisively and the hoodlums of Hindu supremacist forces were allowed to assemble in large numbers, ultimately resulting in demolition of Babri Mosque and construction of a make shift temple. The Courts as well as the executive rewarded those who demolished the Mosque by legitimising the "rights" acquired by force in the name of maintaining status - quo and maintaining law and order. The Central Govt. acquired the disputed site and the surrounding areas under the Acquisition Act, thus depriving the Muslim litigants of their defence or claim of adverse possession to the disputed site. The Supreme Court majority Judgement legitimised the acquisition by state in the name of maintaining public order. The litigants from the minority community, we feel, are fighting a losing battle - not because their claim to the title of the disputed site is weak or defective, but because they cannot match the power of the Hindu supremacist forces in creating law and order problem, which is material in influencing the decision making in our country. The Hindu supremacist forces have enlarged their rights and claims from Chabutra to worship on the disputed site not because of their legitimate claim but by threatening not to obey the orders of the Court in matters of "faith".
Let us pray that the Supreme Court won’t be swayed by the might of the parties and faith but will do justice focussed on Constitution and law of the country.

UN launch investigation on the Rohingyas of Myanmar

The top United Nations human rights body has agreed to send a fact-finding mission to investigate allegations of Burmese security forces killing, raping and torturing Rohingya Muslims.
In a move bound to put pressure on State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi's government, the 47-member UN Human Rights Council approved a resolution, without holding a vote, to “dispatch urgently” the crew to the war-torn Asian country.
The motion, brought by the European Union and countries including the US, called for “ensuring full accountability for perpetrators and justice for victims”.
A UN report issued last month, based on interviews with 220 Rohingya among 75,000 who have fled to Bangladesh since October, accused Burma’s security forces of having committed mass killings and gang rapes in a campaign that “very likely” amounts to crimes again humanity and possibly ethnic cleansing.
To read the full text of the news, click here.

Press statement from ARU and ERC on Rohingyas of Myanmar

March 24, 2017 (#AE0317)

PRESS STATEMENT

Arakan Rohingya Union and The European Rohingya Council Welcome the Adoption of the UN Human Rights Council Resolution on Myanmar

The United Nations Human Rights Council has agreed to send an international fact-finding mission to investigate widespread allegations of killings, rape, and torture by Myanmar armed forces against Rohingya ethnic minority in Arakan/Rakhine state.
Arakan Rohingya Union (ARU) and the European Rohingya Council (ERC) warmly welcome the HRC Resolution calling for sending an international fact-finding mission to Arakan to investigate crimes against humanity committed by the Government of Myanmar armed forces (combinations of army, BGP personnel, and township police) accompanied by local government officials.
Myanmar ambassador Htin Lynn, speaking before the decision was taken by consensus, rejected the move as “not acceptable”. Myanmar’s national commission had just interviewed alleged victims who fled to Bangladesh and would issue its findings by August, he said. ARU and ERC express serious concerns about the integrity of the investigation in Arakan launched by the Government of Myanmar. There is no legitimacy of such an investigation by the Government of Myanmar as the process is not transparent and it has already demonstrated partiality during the interview with several witnesses.
The U.N. report issued earlier is fully credible based on interviews with 220 Rohingya among 75,000 who have fled to Bangladesh since October. The report has provided details of how Myanmar’s security forces have committed mass killings, and gang rapes of Rohingya in a campaign that is amounts to crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing.
Myanmar’s Lynn, referring to the resolution, said: “Such kind of action is not acceptable to Myanmar as it not in harmony with the situation on the ground and our national circumstances. Let the Myanmar people choose the best and the most effective course of action to address the challenges in Myanmar”.
Rohingya people welcome this “landmark decision” by the 47-member forum. However, it is regretting that it is not tantamount to not a full international Commission of Inquiry, but it is a significant step in right direction.
ARU and ERC call on the Government of Myanmar to abandon its common practice of defiance at the international stage, cooperate with the UN, and allow the international fact-finding mission to Arakan.
ARU and ERC demand the Government of Myanmar to stop the persecution policy against Rohingya people, stop the ill-devised verification (NVC) campaign, restore the full citizenship of Rohingya ethnic minority through reinstating their National Registration Certificate (NRC), permanently cease all the basic human right violations against Rohingya, and repatriate all the IDPs from camps in Arakan and refugees from camps in South and Southeast Asia to their original homes in Arakan state.
For further information, please contact:
Dr. Wakar Uddin                                                                 Dr. Hla Kyaw
Director General, Arakan Rohingya Union                   Chairman, European Rohingya Council
+1 814 777 4498; dg.aru@ar-union.org                        +31 652 358 202; chairman@theerc.eu

Arakan Rohingya Union, a global Rohingya umbrella organization representing 61 Rohingya organizations worldwide, was formed under the patronage of the OIC Secretary General (38th OIC-CFM Resolution No.4/37-MM) as a united Rohingya coordinated council to reclaim the rights of Rohingya people in their homeland. Arakan Rohingya Union is registered in the United States and recognized by the 57 member states of OIC as the official representative organization of the Rohingya people. European Rohingya Council, an umbrella organization in Europe, is a partner organization of Arakan Rohingya Union.

Myanmar rejects UN probe of alleged abuses of Rohingya


The government of Myanmar has rebuffed the United Nations decision to probe into alleged human rights violations in the country’s western Rakhine State, according to official media reports on Saturday.
The UN Human Rights Council on Friday decided to send an international fact-finding mission to the southeast Asian country to establish "the facts and circumstances" of the alleged "violations by military and security forces, and abuses" against Rohingya Muslims in particular. 
The state-run newspapers on Saturday published a statement of the Foreign Ministry saying the establishment of the mission would do more to inflame, rather than resolve the issues at this time.
"Myanmar has dissociated itself from the resolution as a whole," the statement said, adding the decision was not in accord with the "complex and challenging" situation on the ground and the national circumstances.
The government also said it would set out a clear action plan for the prompt implementation of the interim recommendations made by the former UN chief Kofi Annan-led Advisory Commission on Rakhine State last week.
The UN and international rights groups have been calling on the Myanmar government for a credible international investigation, saying rights violations against the Rohingya Muslims in northern part of Rakhine may amount to crimes against humanity. 
Human Rights Watch deputy Asian director, Phil Robertson, said it was broadly understood that the grave rights violations in Rakhine State were primarily about the conduct of the military, and not the civilian government led by State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi, as the international community and the UN recognized that the current constitution placed control of security situations solely in the hands of the military.
"For this reason, the civilian government should stand aside and let the international investigators do their work to reveal what Myanmar’s security forces have been doing," he told Anadolu Agency on Saturday.
"However, if Aung San Suu Kyi and her government seek to block the investigation, then they should recognize that in the eyes of the international community, they will become part of the proble," he added.
A number of attacks on police stations rocked the Rakhine State on Oct. 9, 2016, triggering a draconian law enforcement response that caused the deaths of dozens and led to tens of thousands of people fleeing the country in fear.

Rohingya advocacy groups claim that not dozens but hundreds of Rohingya -- described by the UN as among the most persecuted groups worldwide -- were killed in the military operations in an area which has been closed to aid agencies and independent journalists.
Following the growing international pressure, Myanmar established an investigation commission led by Vice President Myint Swe, a former army general, in early December. 
Phil Robertson said the commission lacked credibility as its methodology failed to protect the witnesses or victims, and its members were stacked with current or former government officials who were there to "cover up" what happened, not expose it. 
"No one believes the Myanmar government when they say that their
national investigation commissions are independent," he said.

Nilanjana Bhowmick's article - Meet the militant monk spreading Islamophobia in India

On Monday, Amnesty International released an unusual statement asking the new chief minister of India’s largest state to publicly retract his anti-Muslim statements. The last such statement by the human rights organization directed at a popularly elected leader was aimed at President Trump.
Amnesty’s statement came after hard-line Hindu monk Yogi Adityanath took power last week in Uttar Pradesh, a state with a population of 200 million. (For reference, Brazil’s population is 200.4 million). As the largest state in India, Uttar Pradesh has great sway over national politics. It is also a volatile state, where in 1992 deadly riots over a disputed temple killed more than 2,000 people.
December will mark 25 years since a Hindu mob, led by the pro-Hindutva group Vishwa Hindu Parishad and its associates, including the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, had destroyed the historic Babri mosque in the temple town of Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh in order to build a temple dedicated to the Hindu god Rama. The Hindus claim the mosque was built on the rubble of a temple during the Mughal era. This year also marks 25 years that the BJP has been promising to build a Rama temple on the site. And the overwhelming win of the BJP in Uttar Pradesh — where only caste-based regional parties have been known to prosper — along with the appointment of Adityanath is indication enough that many of India’s lower classes have decided the time is now right to usher in their idea of change, and not the change that has traditionally been the prerogative and privilege of the elite and the middle classes.Adityanath is a controversial and deeply divisive figure for his militant, misogynistic and anti-Muslim rhetoric. He has been a vociferous supporter of a campaign called Love Jihad, ostensibly to stop Muslim youths from marrying Hindu women, claiming, without evidence backing this up, that the intention was to convert them to Islam. His supporters have called for digging up Muslim women from their graves and raping them. In 2015, he said that if he was given the chance, he would install idols of Hindu gods in every mosque. In an undated video uploaded in 2014, he said, “If [Muslims] take one Hindu girl, we’ll take 100 Muslim girls. If they kill one Hindu, we’ll kill 100 Muslims.”

It also points at rising Islamophobia in India, aided and abetted by the far right and the elephant in the room ever since the unexpected win of Narendra Modi in the 2014 national elections. Adityanath’s anointment as the chief minister of a state that has been a hotbed of communal tension for more than two decades suggests that this Islamophobia is taking deeper roots. Last year a mob lynched a Muslim man in a town called Dadri in Uttar Pradesh for allegedly slaughtering a cow, which Hindus consider sacred. Adityanath, who along with his supporters, worships the cow as the great matriarch, said the family of the man should face criminal charges. Leading up to the election, in the interior of Uttar Pradesh, Adityanath reportedly promised people a Muslim-free India, if the Hindus forgot their caste and class bias and voted on the basis of religion for the BJP. And it seemed to have worked.
The similarities between Modi and Adityanath are also pretty striking. Both of them are deeply polarizing figures in Indian politics. Modi’s alleged involvement in riots in the western Indian state of Gujarat in 2002 — although no court of law ever indicted him — had made him a pariah in national politics as well as within his own party. Adityanath, too, is reportedly unpopular within the party. And yet, the masses seem to love both because both Modi and Adityanath have been able to position themselves as custodians of the two most engaging symbols of Hinduism — the cow and the Ayodhya temple — which they managed to convince the masses are seemingly under threat from Muslim forces. The Ayodhya temple issue has been like the coal mine fires in Jharia, not visible but constantly burning just under the surface. The cow is fast becoming a national obsession, too. Adityanath’s new website, in fact, is running a poll on whether cow slaughter should be punished severely; 98 percent of respondents think it should be.
Modi’s development promises have been on the backburner for a while now. The much-criticized demonetization exercise, too, had shaken his fan base. Adityanath is the Hindutva card he might have been saving for just such a rainy day.
Religion, Marx said, was the common man’s opium. It can’t be truer in India than right now.
The original posting of Bhowmick's piece can be seen by clicking here.

Professor Matthew Davies's YouTube videos

A friend of mine recently sent me a YouTube video link to a 3-part lecture by Professor Matthew R. Davies on "Understanding Islam". You can view the series by clicking here, here and here. I recommend this lecture series to any non-Muslim who is interested in the  subject. As a knowledgeable Christian, who teaches religion, Mr. Davies did an excellent job in discussing the faith of some 1.7 billion Muslims in the world.

During the Q&A, Professor Davies was asked a question about grace in the Qur'an. The questioner was told by some Christians that the word 'grace' does not appear in the Qur'an. I am glad that Mr. Davies was able to correct the misconception on this subject.

The Qur'an was revealed to Prophet Muhammad (S) in the early 7th century, C.E., in piecemeal over a period of 23 years in Arabia in  the language of the Arabs, i.e., Arabic. Obviously, it would be foolish to expect the English word 'grace' within the Qur'an. So, what is meant in the Q&A is the Arabic equivalent of the English word 'grace'.

There are at least two Arabic words that convey the meaning of grace - these are rahmah and fadl.

The Qur'an starts with the phrase: Bismillahir Rahmaneer Raheem, meaning: In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.
This exact phrase appears 114 times in the Qur'an - 113 of which are in the beginning of 113 surahs (chapters) of the Qur'an. [See also the discussion here on the subject by Adnan Majid.] As to the word 'rahmah' this phrase appears 151 times in the 147 verses in the Qur'an (outside the beginning phrase). See Muhammad Habib Shakir's translation for checking this out.

The Arabic word 'fadl' - appears 105 times in 95 verses of the Qur'an. One can find the citations in the link here. Here are some examples:
"Then you turned back after that; so were it not for the grace (fadl) of Allah and His mercy (rahmah) on you, you would certainly have been among the losers. "  (سورة البقرة, Al-Baqara, Chapter #2, Verse #64)

"Those who disbelieve from among the followers of the Book do not like, nor do the polytheists, that the good should be sent down to you from your Lord, and Allah chooses especially whom He pleases for His mercy, and Allah is the Lord of mighty grace."  (سورة البقرة, Al-Baqara, Chapter #2, Verse #105)

"Say: Surely grace is in the hand of Allah, He gives it to whom He pleases; and Allah is Ample-giving, Knowing."  (سورة آل عمران, Aal-i-Imraan, Chapter #3, Verse #73)

"He specially chooses for His mercy whom He pleases; and Allah is the Lord of mighty grace."  (سورة آل عمران, Aal-i-Imraan, Chapter #3, Verse #74)

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Travel Paranoia

How paranoid can one become? Consider the latest laptop ban.

Last Tuesday, the U.S. and U.K. banned people flying from much of the Middle East and North Africa from carrying laptops, tablets and other large electronic devices in the airplane cabin because of concerns about terrorism. While the ban notice states this is not a public regulation but it does request that the Middle Eastern airlines comply within 96 hours of its release, on Tuesday at 3 a.m. Eastern time. Correspondingly, for any airline refusing to obey the order, the U.S. is prepared to work with the FAA to take certificates away to prevent the airline from flying into the United States.

Laptops are being seen as a security threat, especially following a 2016 explosion. A Daallo Airlines flight, originating from Mogadishu, Somalia, had a laptop bomb explode in midair, causing a hole in the side of its fuselage. That bomber was killed, and luckily all the passengers and crew were secure as the plane landed safely.

The nine affected airlines are Egyptair, Emirates Airline, Etihad Airways, Kuwait Airways, Qatar Airways, Royal Air Maroc, Royal Jordanian Airlines, Saudi Arabian Airlines and Turkish Airlines and their affected airports for flights to the U.S. include Cairo, Egypt; Dubai and Abu Dhabi, UAE; Istanbul, Turkey; Doha, Qatar; Amman, Jordan; Kuwait City; Casablanca, Morocco; and Jeddah and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.  Any device bigger than a smartphone must be checked now into the luggage hold. They operate about 50 flights a day to the US from 10 airports in the mainly Muslim countries, including major hubs such as Dubai and Istanbul.

The UK restrictions apply to six countries affecting all flights out of Egypt, Turkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and Lebanon. The latter two countries -- Tunisia and Lebanon – are not on the U.S. list.

The U.S. officials said intelligence "indicates terrorist groups continue to target commercial aviation" by "smuggling explosive devices in various consumer items." The officials declined to provide specific information on the threat or why these airports were selected.

This policy is the last of the insane policies adopted by some of the western countries to supposedly lessen the threat from perceived terrorism from Muslim majority countries. Forgotten in this context is -- common sense. It does not take an Einstein to realize that if a terrorist were to attack (including blowing himself up) to cause maximum casualty, places like airports (esp. around the security checks), train stations and malls are easy venues for them. And what makes the European airports more secure than those airports in the Muslim world? Did not Ata, one of the 9/11 event makers, come from Germany?

The latest ban on laptops raised some concerns. Naureen Shah, senior director of campaigns at Amnesty International USA, said the ban for flights from majority-Muslim countries “could be yet more bigotry disguised as policy.”

“This could be the latest in what looks set to be a long line of discriminatory measures deployed by the Trump administration against Muslims around the world,” Shah said. “Muslims are once again left in the dark as the U.S administration piles up bans and restrictions against them.”

The British ban applies to any device, including smartphones, larger than 16cm (6.3in) long, 9.3cm (3.7in) wide or 1.5cm (0.6in) deep. However, most phones will be smaller than the limit.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has urged the US and UK to lift the bans as soon as possible.

A twitter remark by Slate directly called out the president, “Trump’s misguided, xenophobic laptop ban is a middle finger to business travelers.”

Aviation experts say the ban could hit airline profits as risks include a fall in passenger numbers, decreasing customer satisfaction and higher costs linked to screening baggage.

If there are concerns about laptops on board being used as explosives, they said, those same risks could exist in checked baggage. Furthermore, many smartphones, which are not banned, have the same capabilities as larger devices.

“It’s weird, because it doesn’t match a conventional threat model,” said Nicholas Weaver, researcher at the International Computer Science Institute at the University of California, Berkeley. “If you assume the attacker is interested in turning a laptop into a bomb, it would work just as well in the cargo hold. If you’re worried about hacking, a [smartphone] is a computer.”

Bruce Schneier, a US security technologist, said the US rules constituted an onerous travel restriction. “From a technological perspective, nothing has changed between the last dozen years and today,” he said. “That is, there are no new technological breakthroughs that make this threat any more serious today.

“And there is certainly nothing technological that would limit this newfound threat to a handful of Middle Eastern airlines.”

Paul Schwartz, professor at the University of California, Berkeley law school, noted that the 9/11 hijackers had a cell in Hamburg, Germany. “One potential problem with this approach where you single out countries is that you ignore the extent to which the terrorist threat is kind of state-less,” he said. “The terrorists have cells throughout the entire world.”

Mustafa Akyol, a senior visiting fellow at the Freedom Project at Wellesley College, Massachusetts, said the US ban “has something to do with Islamophobia, in the sense of bias and discrimination against all Muslims. Because instead of tracing dangerous individuals, it treats certain Muslim-majority nations as a threat to the US.

“On the other hand, it will be interesting to see how the Turkish government will respond to this decision. So far, Ankara has treated President Trump’s take on Muslims very leniently, to the level of passionately supporting Trump against American liberals. Maybe now they can wake up a bit and realize that Trump’s take on Muslims can be a real problem.”

Yesterday I was flying from Louisville. Before approaching the security gate I removed my belt and emptied out my pockets, which were scanned by the X-ray machine. And yet, I was stopped by a TSA agent after I had gone through the body scan. I don’t know if the latest travel policy had induced him to ask me if my neck was sore. It was a weird question that I never faced in all these years of my frequent flying inside the USA. When I replied that my neck was fine. He asked if he could pat my neck area. When I said, yes, he could, he asked if he could also check the inside collar of my shirt. I said, go ahead. What a wastage of people’s time!

As the latest parliament attack in London has demonstrated once again if a nihilist terrorist wants to commit his crime he need not buy an expensive airplane ticket and a laptop computer to board a flight; he can commit his evil in his own turf rather cheaply.

I wonder what those million-dollar X-ray machines are doing there inside the airports if these can’t do the intended job rightly, thus requiring rechecks by TSA agents! When would the imprudent officers in the TSA realize that they are simply wasting time of every passenger, let alone wasting the tax-payers’ money with such useless checks?

Just consider the fact that because of the lengthy security checks at the airports most air travelers waste at least an extra hour. Most of the commuters on weekdays travel for business reasons who earn no less than $50 per hour.

Per the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (http://www.transtats.bts.gov/), a total of 631,939,829 passengers boarded domestic flights in the United States in the year 2010.  This averages to 1.73 million passengers flying per day. I am sure this figure is much higher today. It can be safely said that the business commuters waste a minimum of a million hours every day because of the security checks, costing the USA at least $50 million daily. Thus, billions of dollars are wasted annually inside the USA for such long security checks.

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing when it makes no sense. What is required from the Homeland Security Agency is to rethink their failed policy rather than going paranoid and making everyone’s life miserable.

Would sanity set in when it seems so short in supply in Trump’s America?