Interference in religious matters of Muslims

The intelligence agencies with special reference to IB (Intelligence Bureau), alleged that innocent Muslims are being targetted at the behest of Rashtriya Swyamsevak Sangh, (RSS), in pursuance of the saffron agenda.UMNO working with mindset of RSS and Pass is trap along the way Umno and Pas leaders  are not Islamists. Anyone who has recited the Kalima and vows  and claim to be follower of Islam but indulge in anti-human action, are not Islamists. As it is, the orgy of condemnation by top Umno leaders based on a deliberately distorted report by Utusan Malaysia of what Lembah Pantai MP Nurul Izzah Anwar actually said is a despicable act  and consider it an act of cowardice, that has not been looked upon kindly by all decent-minded Malaysians.Religion has been hijacked for too long.To Nurul Izzah, we say be strong. and never cease to beg for His mercy. Like all the other cases, the issue will be back to haunt your tormentors.  . Also, has it ever occurred to you that there are many non-believers who actually understand religion than those who professed to be religious?DAP is now Islamic kaffirs and not zimmis and with comments like these, are we in Malaysia or Saudi Arabia? The Islamic Renaissance Front (IRF) is doing a great job in highlighting the merits of Islam and holding its stand.

Given that the central focus of the forum was the discussion of what constitutes an Islamic state and what does not; it is indeed strange that the core idea of controversy was related to a well-known and accepted verse in the Quran.
Is not bribery and corruption more of an Islamic issue in any state of being than to debate one’s personal faith and position on spiritual matters? To me, that is where the rubber meets the road.

Umno ans Pas leaders would do well to join in an intelligent discourse – whether agreeable or disagreeable – over the points made in this article. says Kim Quek:

The important thing is that they must demonstrate they possess the intellect to engage in a debate based on reason and logic.Umno has fallen into the same pit that befell some of the People of the Book, a sorry state, which has been well-documented in the Quran. This is a classic case of mixing religion with politics, such as mixing the former with the sole intention of scoring political points.If they are incapable of rational thinking, how can they expect us to re-elect them into power again?

Referring to the Barisan government interference in religious matters of Muslim

Muslims’ personal law i.e. the family law of ‘Shariat’, is an integral part of faith in Islam religion. Therefore, the Muslims be assured that there will be no interference in their religion Islam and attempts will be made to away with the interference which had taken place.

“In our country we feel that the stability of present democratic and cultural polarity structure is at stake and it is imperative and duty of every citizen and every community and group living in Malaysia to inculcate the sentiments of truly upholding the principles of secular character of the state’s cultural plurality and duty towards country. For this purpose every effort should be made to keep all those trends and tendencies under leash which aim to destroy the secular character and cultural plurality of our nation.

“For this it is necessary that every group and community should feel that those things which are dearer to their lives are safe, preserved and protected. The first and foremost thing in this regard is religion. As far as Muslims are concerned they feel and there is reason for this feeling that there is interference from the state and its organs in the matter of religion”,

the media’s role in today’s world has become controversial as it has transgressed the bounds of rightful path and lost objectivity and often indulges in sensationalising of news items. The media should be objective, impartial and unbiased while reporting certain events or incidents giving space to all parties which may be affected by it. When a person apologises, it is usually out of remorse for a mistake or offensive behaviour committed inadvertently. To me, it does not make sense to apologise if the offensive behaviour was done deliberately.

We should not cheapen or denigrate the act of apology. The newspapers must explain how the “mistake” was committed in the first place.

Was there evil intention and a deliberate attempt to hurt the character or endanger the lives of others? If there was, they must pay despite the apology.


The media’s role in Malaysia has become controversial as it has transgressed the bounds of rightful path and lost objectivity and often indulges in sensationalising of news items. The media should be objective, impartial and unbiased while reporting certain events or incidents giving space to all parties which may be affected by it. that media cares two hoots when the lacunae, misinformation and misreporting are pointed out in its reports and does feel its responsibility to rectify it by publishing the news affecting the Muslim community at large.That’s Utusan Malaysia and New Straits Times for you. Lies, lies and more lies, that’s what they do best.If only the imans and ulamas of this country do the same, but it will take another life time. The damage is already done.Malaysia would do well if the level of debate could be held at this high level. The religious and political authorities should stop treating Malaysians like idiots and admit what everyone clearly knows.

The law’s intention is not to compel the Malays to accept Islam, but an attempt to consolidate them into one controllable voting block. Compelling someone to a ‘belief’ is an oxymoron. Persecuting a good woman for simply quoting the Quran is pathetic.


By Dr. Malik Munip@

The debate on the nature of Malaysia’s identity—whether it is a secular or an Islamic state—is mired in confusion. The confusion firstly is of a semantic nature—a lack of clarity on what defines a secular or an Islamic state. The second confusion is about the extent of any entity’s authority—be it former Premiers, The Alliance Memorandum or the Reid Commission–in deciding the debate. This article will discuss the second confusion first.

Secular or Islamic State: Premier vs. Premier

Though Malaysian Prime Ministers are vested with a whole battery of executive authority, nonetheless, they do not have the power to determine the identity of a country merely by making an announcement either way. Indeed, if we think about it, even an individual’s identity cannot be determined by a pronouncement—a person doesn’t become a Muslim, a Christian, an apostate or any identity along the ‘faith- atheist’ spectrum simply due to a declaration. To have meaning and force, the declaration must correspond with the individual’s belief and practice. So if by itself a declaration cannot determine the religious identity of an individual, can it determine the identity of a state?

Nonetheless, many people attribute Malaysia identity as either Islamic or Secular, by citing the positions of previous Prime Ministers on the subject. Hence to shore up their claim, the proponents of a secular state will often draw on the statements of Tunku Abdul Rahman and Tun Hussien Onn.

In this regard an often cited statement (but not the only example) used to represent the position of the former Premiers would be from a February 1983 Star report where the Tunku said “The country has a multi-racial population with various beliefs. Malaysia must continue as a secular State with Islam as the official religion”.

Another issue also reported Tun Hussein support for the Bapa Kemerdekaan, “The nation can still be functional as a secular state with Islam as the official religion.”

Unsurprisingly those that argue that Malaysia is already an Islamic State  wouldn’t cite the first and third Premiers. Instead they would quote Tun Mahathir’s following statement in September 2001 to support their position: “UMNO wishes to state clearly that Malaysia is an Islamic nation. This is based on the opinion of ulamaks who had clarified what constituted as Islamic country…. ” .

But with all due respects, there are limits in determining the nature of a country’s identity by simple reference to a Prime Ministerial declaration. After all, if Malaysia already possesses many of the features that define a secular state, then her secular nature doesn’t change just because a Prime Minister says otherwise. And vice versa—if Malaysia has many attributes of an Islamic state, or a feature that disqualifies her from being a secular state, then it won’t be a secular State regardless of how many previous and future Prime Ministers states to the contrary.

So although they are Prime Ministers, nonetheless, their statements, in and by themselves do not automatically determine the nature of Malaysia’s identity. At best their statements would be a description of Malaysia’s pre-existing identity. And like most descriptions, it would be valid only in so far it is accurate.

The Alliance Memoranda vs. The Reid Commission

Of course, in articulating their positions, participants in the debate don’t limit themselves to Prime Ministerial declarations—references to legal authorities and legal documents will also be part of the argumentative arsenal. In this regard none comes with higher prestige than the Federal Constitution and its drafters, the Reid Commission.  So with respect to whether Malaysia is an Islamic or a secular state, let’s sink our teeth into what the Federal Constitution and the Reid Commission have to say on the matter.

In the Federal Constitution, both terms, Islamic State or Secular State does not appear. Nonetheless, Article 3 of the Federal Constitution states that Islam is the religion of the Federation. This provision has often been cited to support the claim that Malaysia is an Islamic State or at least not a secular one.

Yet, many who claim to have read the Reid Report find this argument unconvincing; they maintain that the Commission stated that any provision in the proposed Constitution providing for Islam as the state religion will not invalidate the position of the Federation as a secular state.

Strictly speaking, this portrayal of the Reid Commission’s position is incorrect. In respect to Islam being made a state religion, the Commission did not commit itself to that position. As historian Joseph Fernando wrote in his book ‘The Making of the Malayan Constitution’: “In respect of religion, the Commission decided not to make any provision relating to an official religion for the Federation although the Alliance had proposed that Islam should be made the official religion”.

In fact it was the Alliance and not the Reid Commission that wanted a declaration for Islam to be made the State Religion. And similarly, it was the Alliance that made the claim that such a declaration would not negate the position of the federation as a secular state. What the Reid Commission did was to acknowledge (see paragraph 169 of its report) that the Alliance wanted to insert such a provision; they themselves were reluctant to commit to it (with the exception of one member, Justice Hamid).

Be that as it may, even if was the Alliance and not the Reid Commission that made the claim that having a state religion would not negate Malaya’s status as a secular state, nonetheless, shouldn’t such a claim prove beyond doubt,  that Malaysia is a secular State? After all, the Alliance played a crucial role in the constitution-making process—before, during and after the Reid Commission’s drafting. Additionally, they were the primary characters involved in securing Independence; hence, if the Founding Fathers claim that the country is a secular State, then it must be binding right? Not quite.

Firstly, none of them were recognized authorities on the inter-related issue of secular states and secularism, or its relationship to religion and Islamic States.

It should be noted that the issue of an Islamic State has theological dimensions, yet none of them were theologians. And on the issue of a secular State, the problem was that they never defined properly what a secular state is; they just claimed that having Islam as the religion of the Federation doesn’t annul its status as a secular state. Within the context of such statements, their conception of a secular state seems to be a conception by negation—conceiving it by what it is not, rather than what it is. Such a conception is not convincing.

In short, since the Alliance were not experts on the issue of Secular States, secularism or its relationship to Islam and not exact in conveying what they meant, does it make sense for us to elevate their claim (that having a state religion doesn’t negate Malaya as a Secular State) as being the final authority on the matter?

Indeed according to the Joseph Fernando, there is evidence that in private, even the Reid Commission were not convince by the Alliance claim—to them, it was a contradiction. And for those who have some exposure to the literature on secular states and secularism, this shouldn’t be surprising. Why? Because the Alliance’s position just doesn’t correspond with the accepted understanding of what constitutes a secular state. And that is the point: if a statement or description doesn’t match up with the reality then regardless of the social standing of the entity making the statement, it cannot be authoritative.

So in determining whether Malaysia is a secular state or otherwise, instead of citing what former Premiers or the Reid Commission or the Alliance Memoranda says on the matter, it would be more pertinent to ask: What defines a secular state? And does the statement of the Alliance Memoranda and those that echo it, tally with such a definition?

What is a Secular State? The Acid Test

The literature on the subject of secular states and secularism is vast; as such there exist various interpretations. Nonetheless, there is a general consensus that the foundation of a secular state is the principle that state and religion must be separate. Consequently, a secular state will have, among others, the following characteristics:  the state must be neutral towards religion; the state cannot give religion a privilege position in the public arena; the state’s coercive powers and resources cannot be utilised in the service of any religion; the State should not privilege a religion or its adherents over another; the state should not privilege religion over irreligion; the state should not permit religion to be a requirement of public office; and the state should not  interfere with the affairs of religion and vice- versa.

Now by having Article 3 of the Federal Constitution, obviously Malaysia is not neutral towards religion. It gives Islam a privileged status over other religions. Nonetheless, if Article 3 was the only Islamic feature in the Constitution, perhaps the claim by the Alliance that having a State Religion doesn’t imply a non-secular state can still be defended. But let’s have a peek at other Articles of the Federal Constitution.

Through Article 11(4), missionary work amongst Muslims can be controlled and restricted. Yet there are no laws restricting missionary work to adherents of other faiths. Then there’s Article 12(2). This article has far reaching consequences; it empowers the Federation and the states to establish or maintain Islamic institutions or provide assistance in that process. It also sanctions them to do same with regards to providing instruction in the religion of Islam. In pursuant of those purposes, it also authorises the use of public funds.

Both the above Articles violate the principles of a secular state on multiple scores. And these two Articles are not the only one; there exist other Articles that do the same. For instance, Malays are entitled to wear the cloak of Article 153, but professing Islam is a requirement of being Malay under the Federal Constitution.  But let’s cast our view beyond the Federal Constitution to the State Constitutions whereby the Islamic features are even more pronounced.

Many State Constitutions require the State Secretary to be a person who professes Islam.  In those States the default legal requirement for the position of the Menteri Besar is also a person who professes Islam. And the state religion of most of the States that make up the Federation is Islam. In these States, not only is neutrality towards Islam not practice, but unlike the federal position of Prime Minister, religion is made a requirement of the public offices of the Menteri Besar and State Secretary. And beyond the formal structure of the constitution, there are other characteristics that these states have which are at odds with the essence of a secular state. With a name like Terengganu Darul Iman for example, is it realistic to expect otherwise? And does Kelantan under Nik Aziz seem like a secular state to you? But it is not the scope of this article to elaborate.


So to recapitulate the question: Is Malaysia a secular state? Well, by the characteristics that define a secular state then Malaysia by definition is not a secular state; it violates the principle attributes of a secular state on multiple fronts. Breaches to the tenants of a secular state are not the exception; it is almost the rule. In Malaysia, religion is not separated from the state but entrenched, empowered, enforced, expressed and elevated.

Hence, does this mean Malaysia is an Islamic State? My answer is: I don’t know; I have no idea what a universally accepted Islamic state in the contemporary world looks like. But it does mean Malaysia disqualifies from being a secular state.

Dr Malik Munip taught history at University of Malaya for two decades, and was also a former Member of Parliament for Muar.

By Tareq Oubrou
Why does the public expression of Islam pose a problem – not just in France, but all over Europe? Yesterday, it was the construction of minarets in Switzerland; the day before, it was the headscarf. Today, it is the demand for halal (permissible according to Islamic law) meat in canteens and banned street prayers that have fuelled a sense of exclusion and led to tensions within French society.
It’s in this context that a new report on Islam in the Arab majority French suburbs was published in October. Titled “Suburbs of the Republic”, this report by Gilles Kepel, a French political analyst specialising in Islam and the contemporary Arab world, comes a few months before the French presidential election, and confronts both politicians and Muslims with reciprocal responsibilities.
”Suburbs of the Republic”, which addresses some of the issues regarding Muslim integration in France since the 1980s, notes that there has been a strengthening of religious feeling in poorer districts. This increased religiosity in the suburbs is partly due to insensitivity and negligence on the part of political and public authorities. Because of the isolating social housing policy upheld by both leftist and rightist governments for decades, for example, Muslims immigrants have often had to live in homogenous communities, rather than in diverse ones.
When it comes to the failure of education in these parts of the country (more than 50 per cent of students in these suburbs do not obtain an advanced degree), who is responsible? For obvious reasons, Kepel highlights education as a major challenge in his main conclusion, which is directed at the government.
These socio-economic issues are bound to have a negative impact on Muslims dealing with their identity, leading them to feel that being Muslim might equal exclusion from French society. But this phenomenon is not unique to matters of religious identity; it is also an issue of being part of an underprivileged social class. Kepel explains that “this assertion of identity should not be understood too literally; it is also another way of asking to integrate in society, not necessarily to reject it.”
In no way does this absolve French Muslims of their responsibility. In fact, addressing the other side of the problem falls to religious, intellectual or cultural Muslim leaders themselves. This recent eruption of the public expression of Muslim faith has been sudden, often chaotic, identity-based and at times reactive. The majority of Muslim leaders have yet to realise the level of concern this has triggered in secular societies, such as France’s.
One thing is certain: everyone agrees on the values of the French republic. The issues under question are strictly of a technical and ethical nature. I propose two principles that might help us, within existing laws, to find viable ethical-technical solutions. Discourse ethics is a concept coined by German sociologist and philosopher Jürgen Habermas, for whom mutual understanding is the product of debate and discussion. Additionally, reasonable accommodation, a legal concept invented by Canadians to allow accommodations when possible in order to avoid discriminating against minorities, could also offer a general framework for the resolution of this major social issue of integration.
Take the example of Muslims praying on the street. The street prayer ban in September made media headlines. The solution to this problem involving the perceived takeover of public space is incredibly simple and can be addressed through the Canadian principle of reasonable accommodation. Namely, since Friday prayers are fairly short a mayor could, for example, rent out a room to those observing it for a few hours, pending the purchase of their own facility.
In the absence of any other solution, and to accommodate the needs of the faithful, a Muslim congregation could also conduct two or three prayer services every Friday, instead of just one in which people spill over onto the street. This canonical option is indeed possible.
With a modicum of goodwill and common sense, a solution can always be found, provided ideology, politics and fanaticism don’t mix. The key is a desire to live together in respect and fraternity – the national motto of France.
A team of French and Indian scholars go past the stereotype of the ‘ghettoised’ Muslim and visit 10 Indian cities to document the various patterns in which Muslims gather together in a particular locality
By Christophe Jaffrelot
Indian Muslims entertain a peculiar relation to cities. Historically, many of the subcontinent’s cities—when they have not been colonial creations (like Bombay or Calcutta)—have a Muslim origin, as their names often suggest: Lucknow, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, Agra, Aligarh, Ahmednagar, Aurangabad, Allahabad, Bhopal…the list is long. Even Delhi, though not founded by Muslims, has been transformed by first the Delhi Sultanate and then the Mughal Empire. This legacy comes from the traditional affinities Islamic civilisation has had with urbanity following its Medina utopia. But it also stems from the larger political role bequeathed to Muslims after they came to power in India in the medieval period and beyond. As rulers, they had to live in the power centre that was the city. While the emperors stayed in Delhi or Agra, the nawabs, nizams and begums established smaller cities that are, today, often state capitals. Along with the rulers came the service gentry and the artisans who worked for the kings and their courtiers—three groups among whom Muslims were over-represented.
Today, and largely because of this historical legacy, Muslims constitute the most urbanised community in India—with the exclusion of the Parsis and the Jews. While India’s urbanisation rate, according to the 2001 census, is below 28 per cent, 35.7 per cent of its Muslims live in towns and cities. The gap had been even larger in earlier decades. Interestingly, more than 50 per cent of Indian Muslims live in towns and cities in seven states (whose urbanisation rate is in the range of 20-45 per cent): Tamil Nadu (73 per cent), Maharashtra (70 per cent), Madhya Pradesh (63.5 per cent), Chhattisgarh (63 per cent), Karnataka (59 per cent), Gujarat (59 per cent) and Andhra Pradesh (58 per cent).
If Muslims are more numerous than any other community in cities—that they have often built or fully refurbished—they are also on the verge of marginalisation in most of them. Theirs is the only community (barring the Sikhs) where the proportion of poor is greater amongst the urban population than in the rural one. Thirty-seven per cent of urban Muslims live below the poverty line against 27 per cent of rural Muslims—as opposed to, respectively, 22 and 28 per cent among Hindus. This state of affairs shares congruence with some of the findings of the Sachar Committee, which showed (among other things) that only eight per cent of urban Muslims were integrated into the formal sector whereas the national average was 21 per cent for city-dwellers. In towns and cities, Muslims make a (usually very modest) living as artisans (mechanics and weavers, among others) or peddlers. They are not as constituent a component of the salariat as are other communities.
The decline of the Indian Muslims harks back to the British Raj (when they ceded their power and when Persian and Urdu lost their statuses as languages of the court) and, subsequently, to the abolition of the princely states (Hyderabad, Bhopal, among others) besides Partition, which mangled the community. The rise of Hindu nationalism in the 1980s-90s also contributed to the marginalisation of the community, and not just in socio-economic terms—the representation of Muslims among local businessmen and lawyers is on the decline almost everywhere—but also in spatial terms.
Communal violence and ghettoisation
In preparation for a book I co-edited with Laurent Gayer this year, Muslims in Indian Cities: Trajectories of Marginalisation, a team of 12 Indian and French researchers analysed the situation of the Muslim populations of 10 Indian cities: Ahmedabad, Aligarh, Bangalore, Calicut, Cuttack, Delhi, Hyderabad, Jaipur, Lucknow and Mumbai. This analysis was not limited solely among the local elite groups (businessmen, politicians, lawyers…), nor limited in geographical terms. While this ethnographic and statistical exercise by and large vindicated the assessment of the Sachar report insofar as the socio-economic decline of Muslims is concerned, the responses received to our question “Where do Muslims live?” are more nuanced.
Many of the elderly we interviewed emphasised the past composite culture of their city in evocative and emotional terms: they kept using formulae such as mili juli/mushtarka/ganga-jamuni tehzeeb. Their nostalgia was, for the most part, misplaced since Indian cities have always been structured along ethnic lines. Neither caste groups nor religious communities traditionally mixed in the same building—or even in the same lane. One of the reasons for this (self-)segregation was deeply rooted in their food habits (and taboos).
But the old-timers had a point in the sense that cities formed mosaics in which different communities cohabited in the same neighbourhoods. In the old cities—which were also known as the walled cities—next to a Brahmin or a Jain lane, one could find a Pathan mohalla. Similarly, on the periphery of these urban cores—especially after industrialisation resulted in the creation of new suburbs—low-caste Muslims and Dalits used to coexist in separate, but adjacent settlements. Many of them had a shared culture as part of the labour movement, especially in the cities where unions had fostered a labour culture. Ahmedabad is a case in point: in addition to the mosaic of ‘pols’ (lanes) of the walled city, the ‘challis’ (the dense rows of one room-houses) of the ‘Manchester of India’ developed along these lines in the first decades of the 20th century.
This pattern of erosion is put into practice today in many places—and ghettoisation has been the end-result in some extreme cases. And here, we need to formulate a new definition for ghettoisation because the word tends to be used in a rather loose manner today. We must reserve it for designating the gathering together of members of a community (in this case, the Muslims) irrespective of their other social markers (class/caste or ethnic origin, for instance) in a locality insulated from the rest of the city (be it at its centre or at the periphery) where state services (roads, schools, hospitals…) are not maintained properly—if at all present.
The main factor of ghettoisation is communal violence. In riots, the most common targets are isolated pockets of the ‘other’ community. Therefore, the minority (whatever its religion) tends to move to safer neighbourhoods where co-religionists are already in large numbers. These safe havens can be in the walled cities—like in Hyderabad, Jaipur or Bhopal—or on the periphery—as with Mumbai or Ahmedabad. In that case, Muslims are often uprooted and dislodged from the city centres. Again, Ahmedabad best illustrates this point. In spite of its rather modest size, compared to Mumbai, for instance, Ahmedabad is the city where Hindu-Muslim violence has been the more devastating over the last six decades. Every 10 years or so, a major access of violence occurs (1969, 1985, 1992, 2002…). After each bout, some Muslims from the walled city and the industrial belt have moved in large numbers to the periphery, and more especially to Juhapura. Here is a ghetto of about four lakh where middle-class people (ias, ips and IFS cadres, lawyers, businessmen) have joined slum-dwellers for the sake of safety. The state has neglected this locality to such an extent that no bus service connects Juhapura to the city. Simultaneously, the Hindus who used to live here have left and those who live in the neighbouring localities have built walls.
While walls separating communities are making an appearance everywhere in the world—including in West Asia—few cities (Belfast is a notorious exception) have resorted to such lines of demarcation. Ahmedabad is the only one we found in India. But in many places, railway lines and roads are used as almost invisible borders between India and what is locally known, sometimes, as “little Pakistans”.
Muslims = Victims?
The combination of spatial concentration and socio-economic decline has resulted in the making of specific kinds of “Muslim constituencies” in many Indian cities. In the old cities of erstwhile princely state capitals, where Muslims represent a large share of the voters—Hyderabad, Bhopal, Lucknow—local parties (the mim in Hyderabad, for instance) and the Congress indulge in emotional politics without paying much attention to the effective upliftment of the Muslims. They project themselves as the defenders of the waqf properties more than they promote education. That way, the local voters are bound to remain in the need of local saviours. The Congress and the mim are very good at playing this brand of clientelism which makes the ghettoised Muslims victims…of other Muslims!
Similarly, ghettoised Muslims are not victims but actors when the making of Muslim enclaves is due to their quest of cultural homogeneity. Lower-middle-class neighbourhoods—like in Zakir Nagar in Delhi—sometimes develop along these lines. They do not result only from discrimination, but also from self-segregation on the part of families eager to offer to their children an atmosphere free from Hindu influences likely to “corrupt” them.
Ghettoisation can also be a blessing in disguise. In Ahmedabad, the 2002 pogrom led middle-class people to go to Juhapura, where they took new initiatives that benefited the old, poorer inhabitants—including some slum-dwellers. Not only somewhat better roads were developed, but private hospitals and schools were created. This last initiative met rising expectations of the poor whose hunger for education was even more acute than elsewhere in India. If the relief colonies had been created for the victims of the pogrom by Islamic NGOs, which kept telling their “beneficiaries” that they had been punished for not being “good enough Muslims”—and which built mosques before anything else almost—most of the refugees do not indulge in guilt feeling any more but believe in modern education. Some of the new Juhapura schools are so “modern” indeed that their Islamic nature is completely obliterated. Some of them have even adopted Hindu names….
The paradoxical, positive impact of ghettoisation suggests that the real victims among the Muslims are not those who live in ghettoes, but those who live in slums within cities where the Muslim middle class can afford not to go to the ghetto, like in Mumbai and Aligarh. In Mumbai, the Muslim middle class has been shaken by the riots of 1992-93 and is affected by discrimination, but is more resilient than its Ahmedabadi cousin. As a result, there are more Muslim slums—like Shivaji Nagar—than Muslim ghettoes. In Aligarh, the Muslim university professors (and employees) represent such a critical mass that they form an enclave by themselves and do not mix (not even interact!) with the inhabitants of the Muslim slums (including Shah Jamal).
In addition to these socio-economic divisions along lines of caste and class, there are other factors of fragmentation within the Muslims. In Lucknow, Shias and Sunnis are locked in historical rivalries—which have to do with unequal access to power and economic resources again, and this fracture translates in the making of additional forms of spatial self-segregation. In Gujarat, a similar sectarian cleavage has resulted in the insulation of the Bohras from the other Muslims. In fact, the Bohras—trading communities who converted lately from Hinduism—do not wish to share the pain of the Sunnis and sometimes even do not give “Islam” as their religion to the census enumerators. Some of the leaders of the community have decided to make peace with Narendra Modi and are as close to the BJP as many Shias of Lucknow.
Marginalisation is not the order of the day for Muslims of all Indian cities. Their situation is better in the south and the east than in the west and the north. The case studies conducted in Calicut, Bangalore and Cuttack (and presented in the book mentioned above) show that mixity resists trends of (self-) segregation. Such contrasts are the products of history: in the south, Islam was introduced by Arab merchants along commercial routes in a quietist manner and Muslims felt (and were seen to be) as much Dravidian as the Hindus did. In Kerala, they also benefited from the Gulf connection that partly explains their relative affluence.
But the Muslims from Kerala are not the only ones to benefit from Gulf remittance money. In fact, in almost each and every city mentioned above, including Bhopal, Jaipur, Lucknow and, of course, Mumbai and Hyderabad, large numbers of Muslim families have expatriate members working in that part of the world. This external resource plays a major role in keeping them afloat. But the new, emerging (if not embryonic) middle class which is developing among the Muslims in the cities elsewhere is hopeful that other opportunities will materialise in India itself thanks to liberalisation. They not only expect more international trade from the economic reforms, but also more jobs. Usually, weaker sections—including the Dalits—long for a stronger public sector. The Muslims (who do not get the benefit of reservations) have no nostalgia for the Nehruvian pattern because the State has discriminated against them more than against any other community—as evident from the figures of the Sachar Committee reports which show, for instance, that non-OBC Muslims represent 2.7 per cent of the psus’ personnel and 4.5 per cent of the railways, when the Hindu OBCs are respectively 8.3 and 9.3 per cent.
Whether the private sector will do better in this respect remains to be seen. The Muslims who invest in education have great expectations that may remain dead letter. In the process, they may learn to downplay their Islamic identity like some of the best schools of Juhapura or some of the Muslim localities which have adopted the name of Shivaji (in Bangalore and Hyderabad) in order to conceal their Muslim character. Whatever the result, these moves already suggest that even if ghettoisation is not as bad as it sounds, Indian multiculturalism is in danger.
There is much at stake there. Most of SIMI’s cadre—including the few, radical ones who created, apparently, the Indian Mujahideen—were educated Muslims. To alienate those who invested in education in order to be part of the brighter part of urban India may result in the making of “reluctant fundamentalists”, to use the title of a recent book.
[Christophe Jaffrelot is the co-editor of Muslims in Indian Cities: Trajectories of Marginalisation, to be published soon in India by HarperCollins.]

US braces for Sandy ‘super storm’

The extremity of Sandy was stunning enough that global warming was suddenly forced out of the closet [Reuters]
In the fall of 1948, Harry Truman barnstormed the country by train, repeatedly bashing a “do-nothing Congress”, and so snatched victory from the jaws of defeat in that year’s presidential campaign. This year, neither presidential candidate focused on blasting a do-nothing Congress or, in Obama’s case, “Republican obstructionism”, demanding that the voters give them a legislative body that would mean an actual mandate for change.We now know the results of such a campaign and, after all the tumult and the nation’s first $6bn election, they couldn’t be more familiar. Only days later, you can watch a remarkably recognisable cast of characters from the re-elected president and Speaker of the House John Boehner to the massed pundits of the mainstream media picking up the pages of a well-thumbed script.Will it be bipartisanship or the fiscal cliff? Are we going to raise new revenues via tax reform or raise tax rates for the wealthiest Americans? Will the president make up with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu or not? Will it be war or something less with Iran? And so on and so forth. It’s the moment the phrase deja vu all over again was made for.When a new Chinese dynasty came to power, it was said that it had received “the mandate of heaven”. We’ve just passed through an election campaign that, while the noisiest in memory, was enveloped in the deepest of silenceson issues that truly matter for the American future.Out of it, a “mandate” has indeed been bestowed not just on Barack Obama, but on Washington, where a Republican House of Representatives, far less triumphant but no less fully in the saddle than the president, faces media reports that its moment is past, that its members are part of ”the biggest loser demographic of the election”, and that its party – lacking the support of young peoplesingle women, those with no religious affiliationHispanics,African Americans and Asian Americans – is heading for the trash barrel of history. 


 US braces for Sandy ‘super storm’

If true, that does sound like a mandate for something, sooner or later – assuming you happen to have years of demographic patience. In the meantime, there will be a lot more talk about how the Republicans need to reorient their party and about a possible “civil war” over its future.

And while we’re at it, bet on one thing: we’re also going to hear a tonne more talk about how much deeply unhappy Americans – the very ones who just reinstalled a government that’s a senatorial blink away from the previous version of the same – really, really want everyone to make nice and work together.

But isn’t it time to cut the BS, turn off those talking heads and ask ourselves: What does election 2012 really mean for us and for this country?

Let’s start with one basic reality: we’ve just experienced a do-nothing election that represents a mandate from a special American kind of hell. (Admittedly, Mitt Romney’s election, which would have put the House of Representatives and Big Energy in the Oval Office, undoubtedly represented a more venal circle of that fiery establishment.)

That, in turn, ensures two different but related outcomes, both little discussed during the campaign: continuing gridlock on almost any issue that truly matters at home and a continuing damn-the-Hellfire-missiles, full-speed-ahead permanent state of war abroad (along with yet more militarisation of the “homeland”).

The only winners – and don’t believe the outcries you’re hearing about sequestration “doom” for the military – are likely to be the national security complex, the Pentagon and in a country where income inequality has long been on the rise, the wealthy. Yes, in the particular circle of hell to which we’re consigned, it’s likely to remain springtime for billionaires and giant weapons manufacturers from 2012 to 2016.

How do we know that gridlock and a permanent state of war are the only two paths open to the people’s representatives, that Washington is quite so constrained? Because we’ve just voted in a near-rerun of the years 2009-2012, which means that the power to make domestic policy (except at the edges) will continue to slowly seep out of the White House, while the power of the president and the national security state to further abridge evaporating liberties at home and make war abroad will only be enhanced.

The result is likely to be stasis for the globe’s last superpower at a moment when much of the world – and the planet itself – is in the process of tumultuous transformation.

Here are things not to expect: a major move to rebuild the country’s tattered infrastructure; the genuine downsizing of the American global military mission; any significant attempt to come to grips with a changing planet and global warming; and the mobilisation of a younger generation that, as Hurricane Sandy showed, is ready to give much and do much to help others in need, but in the next four years will never be called to the colours.

In other words, this country is stuck in a hell of its own making that passes for everyday life at a moment when the world, for better and/or worse, is coming unstuck in all sorts of ways.

Fiddling while the planet burns

The United States remains a big, powerful, wealthy country that is slowly hollowing out, breaking down. Meanwhile, on planet Earth, the global economy is up for grabs. Another meltdown is possible, as the European, Chinese, Japanese and Indian economies all continue to take hits.

Power relations have been changing rapidly, from the rise of Brazil in what was once Washington’s “backyard” to the Chinese miracle (and the military muscle that goes with it). A largely American system that long helped keep the Greater Middle East, the energy heartlands of the globe, under grim, autocratic control is unraveling with unknown consequences.

Above all, from increasingly iceless Arctic waters to ever more extreme weather, rising sea levels and the acidification of the oceans, this planet is undergoing a remarkably rapid transformation based largely on the release into the atmosphere of carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels.

Other than a few curious Republican comparisons of an American economy under the Democrats to “Greece“, anear obsessive focus on the death of Ambassador J Christopher Stephens and three other Americans in Libya, and various denunciations of China as a currency manipulator, not a single one of these matters came up in any meaningful way in the election campaign.


 Counting the Cost – The cost of climate change

In other words, election 2012 boiled down to little more than a massive case of Washington-style denial. And don’t for a second think that that’s just an artefact of election year artifice.

Take climate change, which like the Arab Spring blasted its way into our unprepared midst in 2011-2012. There was thewildfire season of all seasons in a parching Southwest and West, a devastating drought that still hasn’t fully lifted in the Midwestern breadbasket (or corncob) of the country, and a seemingly endless summer that may make this the hottest year on record for the continental United States.

It was staggering and, if opinion polls are to be believed, noted by increasing numbers of concerned Americans who could literally feel the world changing around them.

And yet none of this made global warming an election issue. Month after month, it was The Great Unmentionable. The silence of emboldened Republicans plugging their drill-baby-drill and lay-those-pipelines policies and of cowed Democrats who convinced themselves that the issue was a no-win zone for the president proved deafening – until the campaign’s last days.

It was then, of course, that Hurricane Sandy, the “Frankenstorm“, swept through my town and devastated New Jersey. It provided the extreme weather coup de grace of 2012. (And yes, there’s little doubt that climate-change-induced rising sea levels contributed to its fury.) Superstorm Sandy also revealed just how unprepared the US infrastructure is for predicted climate-change events.

The extremity of Sandy and its 14-foot storm surge was stunning enough that global warming was suddenly forced out of the closet. It made magazine covers and gubernatorial press conferences.

There was even a last-minute Romney vs Sandy web ad (“Tell Mitt Romney: Climate Change Isn’t a Joke”), and in his victory statement on election night, President Obama did manage to briefly acknowledge the changed post-Sandy moment, saying, “We want our children to live in an America that isn’t… threatened by the destructive power of a warming planet”.

Still, in just about every sense that matters in Washington, real planning for climate change is likely to remain off that table on which all “options” always sit. Expect the president to offer Shell further support for drilling in Arctic waters, expect a new push for the Keystone XL pipeline which will transport some of the “dirtiest” energy from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico, and so on.

Don’t count on anyone doing the obvious: launching the sort of Apollo-style R&D programme that once got us to the moon and might speed the US and the planet toward an alternative energy economy, or investing real money in the sort of mitigation projects for the new weather paradigm that might prevent a coastal city like New York – or even Washington – from turning into an uninhabitable disaster zone in some not so distant future.

Climate science is certainly complex and filled with unknowns. As it happens, many of those unknowns increasingly seem focused on two questions: How extreme and how quickly? It’s suggested that sea levels are already risingfaster than predicted and some recent scientific studies indicate that, by century’s end, the planet’s average temperature could rise by up to eight degreesFahrenheit, an almost unimaginable disaster for humanity.

Whatever the unknowns, certain things are obvious enough. Here, for instance, is a simple reality: any set of attempts,already ongoing, to make North America the “Saudi Arabia” of the 21st century in energy production are guaranteed to be a climate-change disaster. Unfortunately, this election ensures once again that, no matter what the planetary realities or the actual needs of this country, no significant money will flow into alteration or mitigation projects.

Among the truly bizarre aspects of this situation, one stands out: thanks in part to a long-term climate-change-denialcampaignwell-funded by the giant energy companies, the subject has become “political”. The idea that it is a liberal or left-wing “issue”, rather than a global reality that must be dealt with, is now deeply embedded. And yet there may never have been a more basic conservative issue (at least in the older sense of the term): the preserving, above all else, of what is already most valuable in our lives. And what qualifies more for that than the health of the planet on which humanity “grew up”?

The phrase “fiddling while Rome burns” seems to catch something of the essence of this post-election moment – and it has special meaning when the fiddlers turn out to be slipping matches to the arsonists.

Mobilise yourself

Just a week after the election, the Republican Party is already gearing up to produce a new, better-looking, more “diverse”, better-marketed version of itself for the 2014 and 2016 Hispanic and Asian American “markets”. The Democratic Party is no doubt following suit.

In American politics these days, presidential elections last at least four years. The first poll for Iowa 2016 is already out. (Hillary’s way ahead). Elections are the big business, sometimes just about the only significant political business Washington focuses on with any success, aided and abetted by the media. So look forward to the $7bn or $8bn or $9bn elections to come and the ever-greater hoopla surrounding them.

But stop waiting for change, “big” or otherwise, to come from Washington. It won’t. Don’t misunderstand me: as the residents of the Midwestern drought zone and the Jersey shore now know all too well, change is coming, like it or not.

If, however, you want this country to be something other than its instigator and its victim, if you want the US to engage a world of danger (and also of opportunity), you’d better call yourself and your friends and neighbours to the colours. Don’t wait for a Washington focused on its own well-being in 2014 or 2016. Mobilise yourself. It’s time to occupy this country before it’s blown away in a storm.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s