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A doctor’s ‘jihad’ to popularize birth control among Assam’s Muslims

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By NewsGram staff writer

Talks about birth control were once a taboo for Muslims, particularly the uneducated Muslims living in remote areas of Assam. This has changed largely due to Ilias Ali, a professor of surgery at the Gauhati Medical College and Hospital, who had launched a kind of ‘jihad’ (holy war) against the misconceptions about birth control and has thus far carried out a staggering 48,000 vasectomies on Muslim males.

Now, Muslim males with two or more children are voluntarily coming out in large numbers to get sterilized and help control the population.

“Muslims, particularly the uneducated ones, are opposed to birth control. It is not only in Assam but in many other parts of India as well. They believe children are the blessings of Allah and all births take place as per his wish. They consider it a sin to go against the wishes of Allah,” Ali, who conducted his first No Scalpel Vasectomy (NSV) also known as ‘keyhole vasectomy’ in Assam in 2008, told IANS.

NSV is one of the most popular techniques to conduct vasectomy through a single puncture in the scrotum which requires no suturing or stitches. It causes less pain and fewer post operative complications.

Ali went to China for being trained in NSV by Li Shunqiang, who had invented the procedure in the mid-1970s. However, it was introduced in India only in the mid-1990s.

“I have realized that there is ignorance among the people, particularly among the uneducated Muslims over this. The Holy Quran has been misinterpreted by some and the people have taken it to be true due to their being illiterate,” he said while explaining that, in fact, Islam is perhaps the only religion which talks of family limitation methods.

“There is a mention about ‘azol’ in the Holy Book, which means coitus interruptus (ejaculation outside vagina). During the time of Prophet, some of his companions tried to reduce the chances of conception and pregnancy by practising azol. The Prophet was aware of this,” Ali said adding that this method became widespread during the Prophet’s lifetime.

“I have been using this and other references from the Holy Book to explain to the people that birth control is not against Islam,” he said.

One of Assam’s best-known surgeons, Ali further added that he often refers to Chapter 46, Verse 15 of the Quran which says “Wa hamluhu wa fisaluhu salasuna sahran”, which means there should be a gap of 30 months between a child’s birth and his or her weaning.

“Since lactation is understood to act as a natural contraceptive for a mother, this implies that there should be a gap of two-and-a-half years between two children,” said Ali.

“It is incumbent upon fellow Muslims to arrest the spiralling population and preserve the environment. The population growth rate among the Muslims, particularly among the non-indigenous Muslims living in the riverine sandbars, is comparatively higher than other communities in Assam. The shrinking land availability due to the population growth is a matter of concern,” he said, adding that his efforts have shown results over the years.

Ali said that the total fertility rate (TFR) among the Muslims in Dhubri district, where the number of non-Indigenous Muslims is greater, have come down over the years – from 2.7 percent before 2007 to 2.6 percent at present.

“We believe that the population growth will stabilize when the TFR comes down to 2.1 percent. Our target is to achieve this by 2019,” he added.

For Ali, this success has come after much pain. He had to risk his life for trying to popularize sterilization among the Muslims. In 2009, an Islamic organization issued fatwa against Ali and his programmes were boycotted for being un-Islamic.

“I had received several threats in those days. My meetings and NSV camps were boycotted and some organization issued fatwa against me. My family was threatened if I continue my mission. But I do not blame anyone for this. I am happy that I have been able to break the jinx and popularize NSV,” he said.

“Of late, the marginalized sections of the Muslim community have realized that a well planned family is the key to prosperity and progress. That is why they have extended their support to our programme,” he added.

Hasan Ali, a resident of Dhubri district who underwent NSV at a camp organized by Ali in 2009 said, “We have two children. I was first hesitant to accept what doctor sahib was trying to convince us in our village. However, he mentioned about the Holy Quran and explained to us that Prophet Mohammed was not averse to family planning. I decided to undergo NSV and now I encourage my friends to also do so.”

Educationist and associate professor of North Eastern Hill University (NEHU) Dwijen Sarma termed Ali’s efforts as path breaking. “I had the opportunity of meeting Dr Ilias Ali during a programme and he explained how he works among the rural uneducated Muslims encouraging them for birth control,” said Sarma.

“It was a herculean task to convince Muslims in remote areas to go for birth control. However, Dr. Ali has succeeded in his mission and I am sure he will achieve his target of bringing down the TFR to 2.1 percent,” he added.

(With inputs from IANS)

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All you Need to Know About the Protests in India Over Citizenship Law

India's Citizenship Law Leading to Rise in Hate Crimes, Experts Warn

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Citizenship law
A demonstrator attends a protest against riots following clashes between people demonstrating for and against a new citizenship law in New Delhi. VOA

By Niala Mohammad

Protests in India over the Citizenship Amendment Act, a law Muslims claim discriminates against them, led to violent sectarian clashes in Delhi last week, killing dozens of Muslims and Hindus. This is a breaking news.

Experts warn the controversial law, passed by India’s ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party in December 2019, is taking India to a point of no return, marked by a major shift away from the country’s secular and religiously tolerant system. The bill could further widen the gap between Hindus and minority Muslims in the country, leading to a dangerous escalation in communal violence, they said.

“The CAA has fostered both pro and anti-CAA protests, with the state and the ruling party offering a measure of support in favor of the former. The atmosphere in Delhi, which has seen sustained protests for weeks, has become exceptionally polarized on religious grounds,” Milan Vaishnav, an India expert at Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told VOA.

Vaishnav said the Muslim population in India has felt increasingly marginalized over the years as the country’s political landscape was overrun by Hindutva, a hard-line Hindu ideology fostered by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Citizenship law
Supporters of India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party shout slogans during a rally in support of a new citizenship law, in Kolkata, India. VOA

“Hindutva is, quite literally, ‘Hindu-ness.’ It is shorthand for the BJP’s Hindu nationalist agenda in that the party is premised on the notion that India is culturally a Hindu nation,” Vaishnav said.

There are an estimated 200 million Muslims in India. Considered a minority community, Muslims say the December citizenship law targets them by granting citizenship to non-Muslim immigrants from neighboring countries.

The CAA law gives fast-tracked citizenship to undocumented migrants from the “Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi or Christian communities from neighboring Afghanistan, Bangladesh or Pakistan, who entered into India on or before the 31st day of December, 2014,” the law states. Indian officials say Muslim immigrants are excluded from the law because they constitute a majority in all the countries listed in the CAA.

Clashes between Hindu mobs chanting “Jai Shri Ram” (Hail Lord Ram) and mostly Muslim anti-CAA protesters left at least 46 people dead. Hundreds more were injured during the fighting as schools, businesses, properties and places of worship were torched.

Deadly riots

Babbu, a Muslim auto driver, was one of the 46 victims of the riots. His brother Pappu told VOA that Babbu was out working when a Hindu mob surrounded his rickshaw.

Citizenship law
All India Youth League activists burn an effigy of Indian Minister of Home Affairs Amit Shah during a protest against India’s new citizenship law and Shah’s presence at a political rally in Kolkata. VOA

“I got a call from someone telling me that they saw my brother being beaten by a mob. When I reached to where he was, I found him lying on a cart severely injured. I rushed him to the hospital. He died this morning,” Pappu told VOA.

Videos and images of mosques being vandalized and Muslims being beaten by Hindu mobs have circulated on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, causing international concerns about the safety of Muslims in India.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi last week called for calm, urging both sides to end days of violent clashes.

“Peace and harmony are central to our ethos. I appeal to my sisters and brothers of Delhi to maintain peace and brotherhood at all times. It is important that there calm and normalcy is restored at the earliest,” Modi said in a tweet responding to riots in the capital city of more than 18 million people.

However, the opposition party, Indian National Congress, is holding the BJP responsible for the violence, and has called on Home Minister Amit Shah to resign for instigating sectarian divide in India.

“There is a conspiracy behind the violence; [the] country also saw this during Delhi elections. Many BJP leaders made inciting comments creating an atmosphere of fear and hatred,” opposition leader Sonia Gandhi said, speaking of February local legislative election in Delhi in which the BJP suffered a major loss to Aam Aadmi Party.

Muqtedar Khan, a professor of Islamic political philosophy at the University of Delaware and India expert at the Center for Global Policy, told VOA that policies endorsed by the current government are seen by many Indians as divisive and destructive to centuries-old communal bonds in the country.

“This has been an extremely egregious and atrocious display of communal politics from police and leaders. And it has put the fear of God in the Muslim minority. … They are living in terror,” Khan said. He added the Hindutva movement was comparable to radical Islamic movements that want to establish their own state with Sharia laws.

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Demonstrators shout slogans during a protest against a new citizenship law, in Ahmedabad, India. VOA

Hindutva

The term Hindutva, or the essence of Hinduism, was coined in the 1920s by Hindu nationalist Vinayak Damodar Savarkar and adopted by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). RSS is a hard-line Hindu organization closely affiliated with Modi and the BJP.

“RSS is not like ISIS and the BJP is certainly not like al-Qaida. They may be like the Muslim Brotherhood or the Freedom and Justice Party [in Egypt].” Khan told VOA, using an acronym for the Islamic State group.

He warned that further isolation of the Muslim minority could be exploited by jihadist groups like IS to recruit members of the community.

Last week, pro-IS outlet al-Qitaal Media Center reportedly launched a publication titled “Voice of Hind,” calling on Indian Muslims to join the group. The publication said there was no place for nationalism in Islam and that Indian Muslims had to join “the caliphate” in response to the violence again them.

Abhijit Iyer Mitra, a senior analyst at the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies in New Delhi, the outbreak of the Hindu-Muslim violence cannot be exclusively blamed on the CAA law. He stated the Indian government over the years has introduced several social reforms seen by Muslims as targeting their religious practices.

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“In addition to the salience of Hindutva, the BJP’s agenda has also been to sharpen substance through progressive social legislation,” Mitra said.

Indian Muslims have protested several decisions by the BJP government, including the cattle purchase and sale ban, Muslim instant divorce or “triple talaq” ban, the National Register of Citizens (NRC), and the revoking of article 370 in Kashmir coupled with an internet shutdown in the region. (VOA)