Muslim Radicalization Hearings: A Political Spectacle That Perpetuates Prejudice Kashmir movement not an Islamic campaign

By Pervez Bari

Dr. SAR Geelani
Bhopal: A panel discussion on –“Kashmir Imbroglio: Need for Peace and Settlement” was organised by the Aligarh Muslim University Students’ Union, (AMUSU), at the Kennedy Auditorium in AMU premises on Tuesday (March 15, 2011).
A Press release said that starting the discussion Dr. S. A. R. Geelani, who was falsely implicated in the case of terrorism but later released due to his non-involvement in terrorism, spoke at length on the issue of Kashmir by focusing on two major issues—disinformation campaign and human rights violations. He said that the Kashmirmovement is not an Islamic campaign but for securing the rights of the people. It is neither against the Hindus nor against the country but for justice. He lamented on Indian media for giving a wrong picture of the situation and giving a communal colour. He cited various incidents in which people suffered humiliations and deaths. He said that the government is not sincere about integrating the people and urged the government to resolve the issue.
Mr. V. V. Rao, known Maoist social activist, criticised the forces of globalisation, imperialist forces and the government for ignoring the causes of the poor, weak and the suppressed people. He said that he has a great sympathy for the people for seeking justice and democratic rights.
Prof. Shaikh Shaukat Hussain from Kashmir gave the historical accounts of the issue. He said that Kashmir is in the midst of the nuclear powers—India, Pakistanand China and the territories of Kashmir are occupied by China and Pakistan. He said that the government should engage Pakistan and the Kashmiri leaders for resolving the issue.
Dr. Arshi Khan, Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science at AMU, said that the constitutional framework, the nature of Indian democracy and the social composition of the country empower all of us to raise questions over the incidents of violations of human rights and the problems in Kashmir. He said thatIndia is not only a democracy but also federal with the world’s largest constitution which necessitates our serious concerns over this issue. He said that secessionism is the maximalist demand of the Kashmiris while there are other moderate demands for ‘self-rule’ and autonomy for Kashmir, the release stated.
Dr. Khan said that the Kashmir problem is the result of the violation of federalism under which the constitutional rights of the state have been violated. He talked about the problem of over-centralisation, centrist approach and encroachment over Article 370 have complicated the issue. He said that the Constitution of India has guaranteed the special status of Jammu and Kashmir but there have been series of legal interferences by the Union Government which usurped the autonomous character of the state. He said that over 260 Articles of the Constitution have been applied by the Centre which eroded the federal character in Centre’s relations withKashmir.
He said that the most dangerous aspect of the political culture is the rise and expansion of the fascist and Hindutva forces which have created prejudices against the Muslims resulting in ignoring the settlement of the Kashmir problem. As a result, Indian democracy has turned into majoritarian and ethno-democracy, cultural nationalism and nation-state which defy the purpose of federalism. He referred to the State Autonomy Committee Report of 2000 adopted by the J & K Legislative Assembly and the Justice Saghir Committee Report of 2009 over the Working Committee set up by the Prime Minister of India during the Round-table Conference which need to be addressed by the Central Government. It is good to note that the PM has recently said to have realised the grievances of the people during his recent visit to Srinagar, said the release.
The President of the AMUSU at the end urged using wisdom for establishing peace and securing democratic rights of the people.
Meanwhile, at the outset, the Honorary Secretary of the AMUSU Mr. Amir Qutub in his opening remarks said that the AMU has been the most important platform to raise genuine concern for peace, justice and rights not only for the Muslims but also for very weaker sections. It has always raised concerns for the Muslims all over the world wherever injustice occurred, the release added.

[Pervez Bari is a Journalist based at Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh. He can be contacted at pervezbari@eth.net]

House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Peter King is intent on doing a foolish thing that even former President George W. Bush — himself no slouch in fighting terrorism — consistently refused to do. On Thursday (March 10), King will open the first hearings on the problem of “radicalization” among American Muslims. Ever since 9/11, King has been troubled by what he believes is a failure of American Muslim leaders to combat extremism. “The leadership of the (Muslim) community is not geared to cooperation,” he recently toldPolitico. In 2004, he complained that Islamic fundamentalists control 85 percent of U.S. mosques: “This enemy is living among us,” he said then. Now, he wants to expose the supposed enemy in public. Most experts agree some forms of violent extremism in this country have found inspiration and legitimacy in Islam. Most citizens agree the government, whose primary job is to protect its citizens, has a need to know which communities might be hatching terrorist plots against its citizens and their institutions. Law enforcement, too, must be vigilant — aware of the extent of violent radicalism, informed about its causes and active in combating its worst effects. Congressional hearings can be an important instrument in ensuring the security of the homeland and its citizens. There can be no objection in principle to public discussion of the relationship between religious communities and extremism, including violent extremists within Islam. But King’s hearings are likely to have the opposite effect and undermine that security. They will also demean millions of upstanding American Muslim citizens in the process. Here are the realities:

  • The structure of the hearings indicates that we will be no wiser after the hearings than we were before — either regarding the extent and causes of radicalization, or American Muslims’ response to it. No government or non-government experts on Islam or terrorism are invited, only non-experts. We will have witnessed only a public display of a merely alleged danger. As someone who grew up under the thumb of communist authoritarianism, the hearings smell a bit like a democratic version of the infamous show trials.
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  • At a minimum, the hearings will cast a shadow of suspicion over all American Muslims, both the leaders and the rank-and-file. A 2007 Pew Research Center study found that the vast majority of Muslims in this country are “decidedly American”: they identify with America as a nation and embrace American democratic ideals. Yet against clear and uncontestable facts, many Americans still harbor prejudices against Muslims. The hearings will strengthen this propensity, and may even help bolster what might be described as a “green scare” that’s analogous to the “red scare” of some 60 years ago.
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  • There is no more effective way to radicalize American Muslim youth than for political leaders to make public displays of prejudice against all Muslims. Suspicion will undermine their sense of identification with America and alienate some from both the culture and from politics. Treated as potential enemies, some may be more likely to become actual enemies; the hearings are more likely to produce traitors than to rat them out.

 

In short, the hearings will be a political spectacle, not an instrument of truth finding. They will perpetuate prejudices and perpetrated injustices against Muslim communities and will only serve to undermine our national security. Devout Muslims seem to be a particular concern to King. But in the case of devout Muslims — maybe especially in their case — we can build on common values. “A Common Word,” a widely publicized 1997 document of impeccable and broadly accepted Muslim authority, argues that what binds Muslims to Christians and religious Jews is a shared commitment to love God and neighbor. What’s more, as many great Christian teachers through the centuries have recognized (including the Second Vatican Council’s “Nostra Aetate”), Muslims and Christians worship the same God. True, they understand God somewhat differently, but the similarities in their convictions about God are much greater than are the differences. As a consequence, Muslims share with Christians (and Jews, on this score) a set of fundamental values, including some version of the Golden Rule — a principle that compels you to treat others as you would want to be treated. Reaffirming such common values, and holding each other accountable to them, would do much more to improve Americans’ safety than will the King hearings. Though the hearings may give Chairman King some partisan advantage, they will ultimately diminish his stature as a political leader (as the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations did in the case of Sen. Joe McCarthy). Much worse, the hearings will neither expose wrongdoing nor help rectify a social condition (as the Watergate hearings did), but instead perpetrate a wrongdoing and undermine national security. We as a community of citizens, of all faiths and traditions, believers and non-believers, can do much better than this unjust, dangerous and self-defeating political charade. Miroslav Volf is the author of the new book, ‘Allah: A Christian Response.’ He is the Henry B. Wright Professor of Theology at Yale Divinity School, and the Founding Director of the Yale Center for Faith and Culture.

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