Paush 1, 2065 Vik Samvat, Yugabda 5110: December 16, 2008

1. FESTIVAL: Lohri, is celebrated every year on 13th of January. It is a festival to worship fire. Lohri Festival is celebrated with great pomp in North India. At this time Earth starts moving towards the sun marking the auspicious period of Uttarayan. First Lohri is very important for the newly wed and the new born babies as it marks fertility. At night, people gather around the bonfire and throw til, puffed rice & popcorns into the flames of the bonfire. Prayers are offered to the bonfire seeking abundance & prosperity. People make merry by dancing & singing traditional folk songs.
2. CENTRAL TERROR AGENCY, TOUGHER LAWS: The UPA government has cleared a central terror agency - christened National Investigating Agency (NIA) - and tightened the relevant laws to allow wiretaps being used as evidence, in camera trials and fast track special courts to deal with terror cases.
The Union cabinet has defined the powers of the NIA. The Agency would be free to take up terror-related crimes on its own across states without getting special permission from states. Drug trafficking and counterfeit currency have been clubbed together with terrorism as designated “scheduled crimes” that can be dealt by the NIA.
The Union Cabinet also cleared significant changes to the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), including setting up of fast track courts for speedy trial of terror-related cases.
3. INDIGENOUS FAITH AND CULTURAL SOCIETY OF ARUNACHAL PRADESH: Youth Festival 2008, an exemplary show of strength, vitality and cultural richness of indigenous belief and culture, was held at Pasigahat in East Siang Dist. of Arunchal Pradesh on November 29. 3995 delegates from every nook and corner of 16 districts of AP and Dhemaji and Majuli areas of Assam exhibited the gracious colourful cultural heritage of the state.
There were exhibition stalls of indigenous attires, beads and costumes along with the technological achievements in the field of defence, Communication and Railway by DRDO, BSNL, and North East Frontier Railway respectively.
The Festival demanded strong and effective steps from state Government to preserve the eternal and indigenous art and culture and also urged to declare the 31st December, the Indigenous Faith Day, as officially gazetted holiday through out the state. His Excellency Lt. General(Retd)Governor JJ Singh inagurated the Festival while Poojya Sri Sri Ravi Shankar made the valedictory function glorious.
4. HSS (UK) RESOLUTION ON MUMBAI TERRORIST ATTACK: The Pratinidhi Sabha – Council of Representatives of Hindu Swayam Sevak Sangh (UK) - has taken a serious note of terrorist attacks in Mumbai and strongly condemned this heinous act against humanity which yet again clearly points to a seemingly deep conspiracy to destabilise Bharat. It is quite clear from the reports that terrorists had come by sea route to Mumbai from beyond the borders of Bharat, were well armed with sophisticated weapons and were fully prepared to fight a prolonged battle.
HSS has commended the superb efforts of Bharatiya Security Forces who displayed their wisdom and valour in their careful handling of this most sensitive and dangerous situation.
5. CANDLELIGHT VIGIL IN NAPERVILLE, IL, USA: FISI (Friends of India Society International) organised a candlelight vigil in Naperville, IL on 7th December at the backdrop of recent terrorists attack in Mumbai. 300 people attended the event.
Mr.Atri, India's consul general told the audience the attackers would be brought to justice. "The perpetrators of these crimes attacked a free society which lives in peace and harmony. We are confident such hate will never succeed in dividing our society." he said.
6. LCA TEJAS SUCESSFULLY COMPLETES HIGH ALTITUDE TRIALS: Bharat's indigenous Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas has achieved a major milestone when its prototype vehicle PV-3 landed at Leh on December 13 in the high-altitude Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir.
The event is seen as significant on many counts as Leh airfield is situated at an altitude of 10,600 feet and is one of the highest airfields in the world with a temperature variation ranging from plus 5 degree Celsius to minus 20 degree Celsius.
The objective of the current phase of flight trials at Leh was to expose the on-board systems to the extreme low temperatures while making an assessment of the aircraft performance in the rarefied atmospheric conditions, DRDO officials said.
7. WE’LL HAVE OWN SETUP TO COUNTER TERROR -- TATA: Expressing lack of faith in the system to protect his property, Ratan Tata, chairman of Tata Sons, whose group owns the Taj chain of hotels, said on December 16 that he was planning to set up his own; anti-terror mechanism to protect his group’s employees, guests and assets.
“We have decided that we will now look at anti-terrorism or protection of our assets and our people ourselves and we will try to create a deterrent. We will not try to create heroes who will engage with the enemy but to try and find as many invisible forms of deterring this, containing them or thwarting their efforts. That’s what we are engaged in doing and we will seek external expertise to help us set it up,” Tata said.
8. PAK FAILED TO KEEP PROMISE ON LeT ELIMINATION -- POWELL: Former US Secretary of State Colin Powell, who was the Chairman Chief of Staff of the US forces, has said that Islamabad had not honoured its promise to eliminate Lashkar-e-Toiba and felt that Washington could no longer “wink and nod'” on the presence of terrorist groups in Pakistan.
“They promised (after the attack on Bharatiya Parliament in 2001). And they went about saying, see they (terrorists) are not there any more,” Powell remarked, saying the group, suspected to have masterminded the Mumbai carnage, “changed names and changed form.” “They (Pakistan) have to take them on. And if they don't, then you will have these incidents over time, and the situation will remain unstable,” he said.
9. FATWA ON YOGA IS NOT BINDING: MALAYSIAN COUNCIL: With several Muslims expressing resentment over a decree which declared Yoga as 'haram' for them, Malaysia's National Fatwa Council has said the edicts issued by it were only "views" and are "not binding" on any state.
Some Malaysian states like Sarawak had banned Yoga while several others such as Malacca and Johor are contemplating to make the practice out-of-bound for Muslims after the council said it was 'haram' (forbidden) for the followers of Islam.
Dr Abdul Shukor Husin, Chairman of the Fatwa Council, said "What the council presented before the enforcement is considered 'pandangan' (views) after the council held dialogues. The view only becomes a fatwa (edict) once the state governments decide to gazette it," Husin explained.
The ruling was received with shock by several Muslim Yoga practitioners in this country who felt that their health had benefited by the ancient physical exercises.Yoga is very popular in this multi-ethnic country where many Malay Muslims, ethnic Bharatiya Hindus, Christians and Chinese attend Yoga classes.
Husin said it was "a matter of wisdom" how issues should be managed. "We realise it is impossible to please everyone (with fatwa)," he added.
10. CHOUHAN SWORN IN AS MADHYA PRADESH CM: Shivraj Singh Chouhan was sworn-in as the 29th chief minister of Madhya Pradesh on Dec 12 before a massive gathering of enthusiastic BJP workers. At the Jambooree Maidan Grounds on the outskirts of Bhopal with a capacity of five-lakh, brimming with BJP supporters, Chouhan was administered the oath by governor Balram Jakhar. Sadhus, sants, Christian priests, Muslim 'maulvis' and Sikh granthis - all religious heads - were present on the dais. Other victorious chief Ministers including Dr. Raman Singh of Chattisgarh, Sheila Dikshit from Delhi and Ashok Gehlot from Rajasthan also were sworn in as Chief Minister this week.
11. HOUSE ON FIRE: Speaking in Parliament on December 11, external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee questioned Pakistan's tactic of placing the leaders of terrorist outfits under house arrest. Hafiz Mohammed Saeed, the chief of Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) a front organisation for the Lashkar-e-Taiba has been put under house arrest by the Pakistani government after the United Nations banned the JuD.
Mukherjee suggested that by placing the leaders of terrorist organisations under house arrest and not in judicial or police custody, Pakistan was showing a lack of intent in tackling terror. House arrest a kind of preventive detention is something that the Pakistani government routinely employs to silence critics. During the Musharraf regime, judges, lawyers, human rights activists and journalists were regularly put under house arrest.
But how effective is that going to be against terrorists? Very little if we are to go by the past. After the 2001 attack on Bharatiya Parliament, which was also the work of the LeT, the Pakistan government in 2002 banned the organisation.
That year, Saeed was put under house arrest and several other LeT members were also arrested. But the LeT continued to operate as Jamaat-ud-Dawa. Within a year, Saeed was released along with the other arrested LeT members. To overcome the stigma of heading a banned group, Saeed became a leader of the JuD. The JuD continued the work of recruiting and training young men for terrorist activities. And in this, elements in the Pakistan army and ISI aided them.
There is no reason to believe the same won't happen again. It is apparent that the Pakistan government is handling the LeT with kid gloves. Just before the police surrounded his house in Lahore, Hafeez was allowed to hold a press conference where he said his organisation wouldn't accept "any decision taken under Indian pressure". To minimise domestic reaction, the Pakistan government announced the decision to ban JuD on television at midnight. And according to reports, the JuD school and medical clinic were still operating despite the ban.
The Pakistan government seems to be going through the motions of cracking down on terror under acute international pressure. But Pakistan needs to realise that its very existence is under threat from terrorists and radical Islamists. There are reports in Pakistani newspapers of a possible takeover of Peshawar by the Taliban. For its own sake, the Pakistan government has to do much more than token gestures such as house arrests of terrorist leaders. If it doesn't, there is a very real chance of the country breaking up. -- Times of India, Editorial, 13 Dec 2008.
12. NETAJI’S DEATH MYSTERY MUST BE UNVEILED — K. S. SUDARSHAN: RSS Sarsanghachalak KS Sudarshan stressed the need to unveil the mystery of death of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose in an air-crash in August 1945. He was releasing a Hindi book, Bhagwanji Se Netaji Tak, in New Delhi on December 5. The book was published by Subhas Chandra Bose Rashtriya Vichar Kendra and was written by Shakti Singh. The book mainly highlights the life of Gumnami Baba of Ayodhya who was said to be Netaji and died a few years back. Senior BJP leader Dr.Murli Manohar Joshi also spoke at this occasion. Scores of intellectuals of Delhi including RSS Prant Sanghachalak Ramesh Prakash and former Director General of UP Police Shri Prakash Singh were present. Shri Sudarshan said the suspicion developed in the minds of people about the death of Netaji must be cleared. He alleged that majority of the governments, even after the departure of Britishers from Bharat, tried to ensure that truth about Netaji remains a mystery. He said the government has no evidence to prove that Netaji died in the air-crash.
13. DIWALI FOOD DRIVE CONDUTED BY MIDWEST SAMBHAG, USA: "Serving the poor is the true service to the God". During 2008 Diwali 4 shakhas in Midwest Sambhag - Abhimanyu shakha at Shaumburg, Bloomington shakha, Eagen shakha and Shree Ram shakha, Indianapolis took up food drive to bring into reality this age old adage from our Hindu scriptures. Although all the shakhas took up this initiative independently, the common thread that seemed to be running through them was the urge to something for the society in which they live. It was a matter of great satisfaction and a spiritual experience to the karyakartas of each of these shakha. As one of the karyakartas said “You cannot measure the satisfaction found in helping people who are in need. On the occasion of Diwali this year, we found the true meaning of being a Hindu, spreading light".
14. HINDU TECHNIQUE OF MASSAGING BABIES REACHES CHILE: The year was 1976. A Hindu woman called Shantala caressed and massaged her newborn while the French doctor Frederick Leboyer recorded a video in Santiago, Chile. She performed a technique which has been passed from generation to generation in Bharat, but to the doctor, it was entirely new.
Such was his amazement that he wrote a book on the subject and spread the technique he named “Shantala massage” in honor of that mother. Today, more than 30 years after their “discovery,” these techniques are being used daily in Chile, specifically in the kindergartens in the region of Valparaiso.
15. OUTRAGE IN KUALA LUMPUR OVER DEMOLITION OF HINDU SHRINE: The Malaysian Indian Congress has expressed anger over the Kuala Lumpur City Hall''s (DBKL) decision to demolish a 15-year-old Hindu shrine in Taman Desa, Seputeh. DBKL issued a notice indicating the actions it would take, but the message was pasted on the shrine''''s wall and not handed over to the management.
16. REVIEW BABUS AFTER 20 YRS, SACK IF UNFIT’: The second Administrative Reforms Commission (ARC) headed by M. Veerappa Moily in its latest report has recommended that non-performing bureaucrats should be booted out after 20 years of service and the upper age limit to sit for the civil services examination be reduced from 30 to 25 years.
The report said the first review at 14 years would primarily serve the purpose of intimating the public servant about his or her strengths and shortcomings, while the second review at 20 years would mainly serve to assess the fitness of the officer for continuation of service. The report was submitted to the Prime Minister last month and was made public on Dec 12. The Moily-chaired panel has also favoured introduction of a formal degree course in public policy and management in the higher education curriculum for candidates seeking a career in civil services.
17. HOW MOHAMMED AJMAL AMIR KASAB WILL BE TRIED: 12 cases have been filed against Mohammed Ajmal Amir Kasab, the lone terrorist who was arrested in connection with the 26/11 attacks. Sections applied: murder, attempt to murder, waging war against the country, criminal conspiracy under the Indian Penal Code and other provisions of the Arms Act, Explosives Act.
14 days: Minimum remand period in each case that the police can seek.
168 days: Maxium period Kasab may have to spend in police custody.
90 days: Period within which the Mumbai Crime Branch has to file a chargesheet in each case, once he is sent to judicial custody.
18. YOGA FOR ALL SCHOOL-CHILDREN: Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss said he wants to push all school-going children to learn yoga, in the hope that it can reduce the prevalence of diseases such as diabetes and hypertension in years to come.
“There should be extensive scientific deliberations on yoga. And today I blatantly put that yoga reduces diabetes, yoga reduces hypertension, yoga reduces stress,” Anbumani Ramadoss told a regional diabetes summit in Chennai in southern Bharat. “I am going to make yoga mandatory for all school-going children in Bharat (from) the coming year.”
19. RASTRAPATIJI FOR ENSURING WELFARE OF ARTISANS, WEAVERS: Rashtrapati Smt. Pratibha Patil has said the Government should frame policies and programmes for ensuring welfare of handloom and handicraft artisans who have contributed in preserving and promoting Bharat’s heritage.
“I would like to suggest that the Government could bring in certain policies and programmes, which apart from addressing the developmental needs should also address welfare concerns of artisans and weavers,” Patil said, after conferring National Awards for Marster Craftpersons and Weavers and Shil Guru Awards on December 15.
The handloom and handicraft sectors provide a livelihood to more than 12 million people who need Government support. “The Government could, therefore, look at how to broaden the existing marketing infrastructure in the country, so that products have a continuous demand throughout the year,” the Rashtrapati said.
20. CHINA PROMOTING JIHADIS TO WAGE WAR AGAINST BHARAT: It has been revealed that Communist China was supporting Jihadi organisations in Pakistan who wage their ‘HOLY WAR’ against Bharat.
Three attempts to ban Jamaat-ud-Dawa, the frontal organisation of the Pakistan-based terror outfit LeT, in the UN Security Council were blocked by China in the past.
Communist China which encourages Jihad against Bharat through Pakistan and Bangladesh and promote Maoist terrorism through Nepal is in reality the main enemy we should tackle.
21. TIME TO 'RIGHT' THEM! : Human rights is much talked about in these times of terror attacks. 10 December is marked as the 'Human Rights Day'. The universal human right of living peacefully with equal rights is being promoted now throughout the world.
In Bharat the fundamental rights enshrined in the constitution are The Right to Equality, The Right to Freedom, The Right to Freedom of Religion, The Right against Exploitation, cultural and Educational Rights and The Right to Constitutional Remedies.
While the intention of the Constituent Assembly in including the above-said 'rights' in the Constitution was noble, the last sixty years of practice and implementation have led to a situation where certain clauses need to be questioned and certain amendments have to be made using the 'Right to Constitutional Remedies'.
For instance, the 'Right to Freedom of Religion' enshrined in the Constitution has proved to be 'discriminatory' in nature against the majority community, as evidenced by the turn of events over the last sixty years. While the majority community's freedom of religion has been restricted in almost all the fields from education & educational institutions to practice and places of worship, the minority communities are awarded full freedom in all the fields. They misuse the freedom to propagate, and indulge in conversions leading to unrest in the society.
While the temples and worshipping places of the majority community come under the control of governments, the same is not the case with minority communities. Similarly the pilgrimages of minorities get State's support through subsidies and other benefits, while there is no such facility for majority community (the point is, a secular State should not fund both). In the educational sector, minority communities enjoy the full freedom to establish and run their educational institutions according to their fancy, the same is restricted for the majority. The fact that the Church has the largest land holdings, second only to the government, says it all!
Unfortunately in Bharat, the 'human right' is seen through 'secular' prism. The NGOs and other Human Rights Organisations (HROs) in Bharat indulge in covert anti-Bharat operations using the health and education sectors. Here again the freedom of religion and the cultural & educational rights are clubbed together and blatantly misused.
Another dangerous aspect with regards to the 'human rights' in Bharat is the consistent attempts by the NGOs and HROs to take the cause of anti-social elements like naxalites, Maoists and anti-national elements like terrorists. These organisations have never bothered about the human rights of victims of terror and naxal menace.
When the State has a separate 'National Minority Commission', there is no such facility for the majority community. Even the so-called National Human Rights Commission has never bothered about the victims belonging to majority community. When 'inhuman' terrorists like Madhani and Afzal Guru have advocates of human rights fighting for their rights, the rights of Hindu religious leaders and Army officers incarcerated in prisons have been totally ignored by the State.
With so many discrepancies in the laws of fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution discriminating against the majority community without any freedom of equality, there is no point in observing the 'Human Rights Day'. The need of the hour is to make the necessary amendments in the Constitution, so that, all people are equally treated as 'Indians' for a peaceful coexistence.
Editorial 10/12/2008
22. OBAMA PRAISES AKSHAYA PATRA FOR ITS NOBLE WORK: US president elect Barack Obama has praised the charitable work of Akshaya Patra, considered the world's largest non-governmental organisation (NGO) working for the uplift of the underprivileged, describing it as a model not only for Bharat but also for other nations as well.
"It has an imaginative approach that has the potential to serve as a model for other countries," Mr Obama said.
His remarks came in a letter he wrote to Akshaya Patra's US president Madhu Sridhar. The Karnataka-based organisation serves five other states in Bharat where about a million underprivileged children at 5,600 schools are served free vegetarian meals daily.
23. HSS VARGA 2008 IN MAURITIUS: The Hindu Swayamsewak Sangh of Mauritius held its Varga 2008 at DAV College, Morcellement Saint Andre in the north of the country from November 28, to December 04, 2008. Some 118 participants, 93 swayamsewaks and 25 sevikas aged 10 to 23 from 17 villages attended the camp. Pracharak Sandip Paithankar from Vishwa Vibhag Bharat guided the varga.
During the Varga, the day started with morning sandhya, subhashit and thought of the day followed by two hour sanghsthan sharirik; samta, yogasan, vyayam, yog, khel, danda, niyudha, yogchap, ghosh and sanchalan in seven different groups. Sandip Paithankar and the shikshakas made their utmost effort ot make the Varga a real success. In varga charcha, the participants were divided in four groups. Topics like; Hindu Swayamsewak Sangh, the identity of a Swayamsewak, model shakhas, the role of karyavaha, mukhya shikshakas, dhwaj pramukh, the significance of bhagwa dhwaj and the meaning of the prayer were imparted to them.
Besides Sandipji, Sanghchalak Ragoonath Deeal, Shri Satyadeo Peerthum ji - president of the Arya Sabha, Mauritius guided the shiksharthis.
24. NORTH AMERICAN HINDUS CALL FOR A NEW DIALOGUE ON TERRORISM: Members of the Hindu community of North America came together to perform a Shanti Homam (ceremony of peace) to pray for peace for the affected families and also for the world. The Shanti Homam at the DFW Hindu Temple, Irving, Texas attracted members of over 30 Hindu organizations living in the DFW metro area. Members of the Jewish and Islamic faiths were also present at the ceremony where prayers for world peace and solace for the affected families were offered, in Sanskrit language in a traditional Vedic ritual. Similar Homam ceremonies were also offered in many cities in United States of America, Canada, Australia and around the world. "We come together to look into the eyes of terror and say we stand together as one people of the world in support of humanity - not in despair or hopelessness, but rather in love, strength, resolve, and peace for the present and the future" says Ranna Jani, President of the DFW Hindu Temple, Irving, Texas.
25. BABA RAMDEV PAYS TRIBUTE TO SLAIN COPS: As tribute to the cops who gave up their lives to protect several others in the 26/11 attack on Mumbai, Baba Ramdev's Patanjali Yogpeeth has given Rs 5 lakh each to the families of the 18 security personnel who died fighting the terrorists.
Baba Ramdev presented the cheques to the families of the slain cops in an event in New Dellhi on Dec. 15, 2008.
He said that the donation was a token of condolence and to tell the victims of militancy that the country is with them in their hour of grief.
In a separate incident, thousands of girl students in Coimbatore held a candle light vigil in remembrance of the victims of 26/11.
26. IN MELTDOWN, 2 BIG BPO DEALS CHEER BHARAT: Outsourcing fights back and lives to see another day. While everybody was rushing to write off the industry in the wake of Barack Obama's election and the global economic slowdown, two major outsourcing deals in the hospitality and the pharma sectors have been signed which should bring hope and cheer for the Bharatiya BPO sector.
The world's premier hotel company, Chicago-based Global Hyatt Corporation, has outsourced part of its financial and accounting transaction services to Bharat's Genpact. The Hyatt agreement is a trend-setting move in the hospitality industry and follows in the footsteps of other global banking and insurance giants who outsourced a large part of their processes to Bharat's BPO sector to save costs.
In the other major deal, the $30-billion global pharma giant AstraZeneca has outsourced its end-to-end maintenance services for a variety of corporate services (such as human relations, finance) to Bangalore-based Infosys. While the values of the two deals have not been disclosed yet, both envisage increasing the scope of the work over time.
27. SHRI VISHWA NIKETAN: Visitors: Shri Jai Prakash Goel from Hong Kong; Shri Radheshyam Dwivedi, Smt. & Shri Babulal Gupta from USA; Shri Bharatbhai Shah & Shri Vinoo Wadher from UK; Shri Yogeshwar Dikshit from Singapore; Shri Rabindra Gosh from Bangladesh; Shri Niyanta Deshpande from Japan.
28. FOOD FOR THOUGHT: Burn down the forest of ignorance with the fire of the conviction. ‘I am the one, and Pure Conciousness’, be free from grief and be happy. You are that Conciousness, Bliss: Supreme Bliss, in and upon which this universe appears superimposed, like a snake on a rope. Live Happily. -Ashtavakra Samhita I.9.10
Reshma Patil
Have karma, so no problem,’’ said the Chinese businessman with rudraksha beads on his wrist, flipping open his Apple MacBook to show this correspondent photographs of his product: the Bhagavada Gita in Chinese. Five thousand copies have sold since last year, for 58 yuan (about Rs 400) per copy.
So thirty-something entrepreneurs like Li Jian Lin alias Lohitaksa in Sanskrit, have an expanding Bharat-China yoga outsourcing business on hand. “Many Chinese are now rich, but unhappy. They want religion,’’ said Lohitaksa at Starbucks.
“The Chinese believe in one life, so they are stressed out trying to achieve everything,’’ he said.
“I teach them karma and Vedic culture.’’
When Lohitaksa was Jian Lin in 1992, he bought a Chinese Bhagavada Gita in Hong Kong. “My spiritual questions became clear,’’ he said. “I believed Lord Krishna’s teachings and turned vegetarian.’’ His mother, upset over his vegetarianism, made him cook his meals. Today she shuns meat too.
He started learning yoga from shows on China Central Television over a decade ago, until a meeting in Xian with an Indian ‘guruji’ from the International Society for Krishna Consciousness transformed his life.
He’s planning a July opening for a yoga institute in Beijing with courses on the Bhagavada Gita and Management.
The writer is China Corresponent in Beijing, Hindustan Times, December 12, 2008.
Post-Mumbai terror strikes, most of the talk has been about improved security and ways of hitting terror camps within Pakistan. But we often forget
that the battle against terror must be won in the mind too. It is in this context that the unequivocal condemnation of the Mumbai terror by prominent imams in Delhi and Mumbai is important. And well before the Mumbai carnage happened, a gathering of some 6,000 Islamic clerics in Hyderabad endorsed a fatwa against terror issued by the influential Deoband seminary.
What effect, you might ask, would the Deoband fatwa and the imams have on those who inflict terror in the name of Islam? Possibly not much. Those who have been indoctrinated into taking up arms in the name of martyrdom and a place in paradise would probably continue doing terrible deeds.
But the actions of the clerics are not academic exercises either. By identifying the terror attacks as "un-Islamic", the clerics undermine the religious legitimacy that the terrorists seek to bring to their violent acts.
In a larger context, the proclamations by the clerics and the Deoband school are very much a part of the process of interpretation of Islamic law and canons, which have been going on since centuries. It's a common error to regard Islamic law as unchanging and cast in stone. Though the Quran, the sunna (the practice of the Prophet) and the hadiths (sayings of the Prophet) are the primary sources of Islamic law, there is also a place for ijma (consensus), qiyas (analogical thinking) and ijtihad (systematic original thinking).
Ever since Islam was founded, change has been a part of the religion. And this continues to be so. Just a few weeks ago, lawyers, religious scholars, judges, journalists and activists gathered at Salzburg a not-so-unlikely place considering the Ottomans had once reached the gates of Vienna to debate and discuss if there was a common ground between Islamic and international law. There were no simple answers at the Salzburg Global Seminar but the consensus was that in many areas Islamic law was compatible with international law and covenants such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The gatherings in Hyderabad or Salzburg must be seen in this context of reinterpreting tenets of Islam, perhaps the most controversial being jihad. Jihad which in Arabic means "righteous struggle" or "striving" can be looked at in several ways. There are many Islamic scholars who believe that the greater jihad is the inner or spiritual struggle. These interpretations, of course, cut no ice with the terror groups such as the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) or the "army of the pure" which orchestrated the Mumbai terror.
It is no secret that jihadi terrorism has emanated from radical and backward-looking strains of Islam such as Wahhabism and Salafism. It's also no secret that the dominance of these hardline ideologies can be traced to Saudi backing and money.
This has resulted in the mushrooming of mosques and madrassas across the world that preach an ideology of hate. LeT is known to have received Saudi funds and, of course, Pakistani patronage. Undoubtedly there are some in India who are also receptive to this ideology.
This is where Islamic clerics figures of authority for many Muslims could play a crucial role. If they interpret Islam as being patently against terror and violence, it is bound to have an effect on believers. And if the majority of Muslims subscribe to that view, it makes it that much more difficult for the purveyors of terror to gain acceptability.
A long-term solution to countering the ideology of hate must involve liberal interpretations of Islam. India, and indeed South Asia, could be one of the poles of this transformation. It is often forgotten that nearly half of the world's Muslims live in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. And contrary to what many people think, an overwhelming majority of ordinary Muslims in South Asia we must not, of course, confuse them with governments reject the ideologies of hate and violence. That's why international relations scholar Vali Nasr said during a recent visit to India that South Asia "matters to the Muslim world in real terms much more than the Arab world".
There could be other poles for the reinterpretation of Islam. Turkey, where the AKP party has won elections for the second time running, could provide a testing ground for a confluence of Islam and secular ideologies. The AKP leader and Turkish PM, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has on more than one occasion affirmed his faith in secularism even while arguing for more freedom for Muslims. Indonesia, the largest Muslim nation but also a multi-religious one, could be another pole. Recent reports suggest that the government is serious about cracking down on radical groups such as the Jemaah Islamiah.
And Muslim groups, including the Indonesian Ulemas' Council, have said that the three men recently executed for the 2002 Bali bombings must not be treated as martyrs. These are encouraging signs.
It is a truism that terror has no religion. But when that terror emanates from a twisted interpretation of religion, we must acknowledge it instead of justifying it by referring to Kashmir or atrocities against Muslims as some prominent commentators have done.
This is precisely the sort of logic employed by LeT ideologues. Such bigots and their followers have no place in civilised society. But they cannot be countered by force alone; their militant ideologies have to be thoroughly discredited. This is where India's 150 million Muslims and clerics could play a significant role. -- The Times of India, December 9, 2008