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BY SAEED NAQVI
In the early 70s, Indian missions in West Asia received a curt directive from South Block: do not issue visas to applicants travelling to attend the international conference (Ijtema) of the Tablighi Jamaat, Missionaries for purification of Muslims, at their Markaz (centre) in New Delhi. There were Arab applicants, of course, but also some from the West, including the US.
There are missions and missions: some follow instructions others are more precocious and make inquiries. The subject came up for discussion over drinks and discreet, diplomatic dinners. Some of the western diplomats did not hide their anxiety. The exponential growth of a little known religious, but totally apolitical organization across 150 countries, with a membership of 150 to 250 million caused raised eyebrows. The TJ was different from any other Islamic group: it did not seek to convert non Muslims. It was not the Islamic version of the Salvation Army. It only sought to bring its flock more in the line with the teaching of Prophet Mohammad.
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This dour, dark, vision of puritanism would have seemed a distant dream. But the hundreds of millions of dedicated foot soldiers across the globe keeping the flock on the straight and narrow, a sort of double distillation of faith, made them out to be an enormously successful organization with extraordinary reach.
The 70s were a period of great contestation between the West and the Muslim world. In Egypt, Nasser had made way for Anwar Sadat in 1970, who eventually turned up in Israel in 1977; Black September; war between Jordanians and Palestinians in 1970-71; Yom Kippur war of 1973 leading to Arab quadrupling of oil prices.
In the midst of so much conflict, the ant-like precise movements of Tablighi Jamaat attracted western notice and for a good reason. At a time when the West was trying to pull the Muslim world out of narrow Islamism, laying out North Tehran under the Shah as worthy of emulation, the TJ was weaning Muslims away from modernism into deadly, pious practices. And they were doing it successfully.
Pressure must have been brought to bear on South Block. Which explains the instructions to the Indian missions in the Muslim world to deny visas to luminaries headed for the Markaz at New Delhi’s Nizamuddin.
The address of the Markaz leads to an unhappy mix up. One of the great Indians of all time, the 13th century Sufi Saint of the Chisti Silsila, or lineage, Hazrat Nizamuddin Aulia, had his khanqah or abode in the area. Nearby was his favourite disciple, the multitalented genius, Amir Khusro, poet, musicologist, jurist, statesman and soldier. Their shrines, around which the colony evolved bearing the great guru’s name, became the centre of what is celebrated as India’s syncretic culture.
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That the Nizamuddin shrine should be overshadowed by the Markaz, a six story structure with a capacity to house 10,000 Tablighi volunteers is an aesthetic affront. It also misleads the world which sees the address, “Markaz, Nizamuddin” as same or similar entities. Now that the Markaz has been cleared for fumigation for the mess the TJ have foolishly left behind, there is a case for the centre to be moved to a suitable location.
The Jamaat was founded in 1927 just when there were reverberations across North India after the British moved from Kolkata to New Delhi in 1911. In 1930, Lutyens Delhi was inaugurated. The British, who had taken power from Muslims, were now in close proximity to Maulana Mohammad Ilyas of Khandal, near Meerut. The Maulana started his mission to secure his flock against the blandishments of modernism. The target area for Maulana Ilyas’ mission were the Meos of Mewat, spread over Haryana, Rajasthan and a portion of Western UP.
Even though the Meos were converted to Islam in the 16th century, they obstinately held onto their Hindu culture. Not too long ago, night long recitations of their exclusive Mahabharat called Pandun ka kada were common. Meos claimed descent from characters in the Mahabharat. All Hindu festivals — Holi, Diwali, Dussehra were mandatory. My friend, Ramzan Chaudhary, a lawyer and chairman of the All India Mewat Association, remembers his father as a professional singer of Holi and Mewati Mahabharat. His grandmother wore a “Ghaghra” and performed Govardhan puja — all taboo in Maulana Ilyas’ book.
The Maulana must have been an organizational genius. Today, in each one of the 1,500 or so villages in Mewat is a Tablighi Jamaat Markaz. The number of volunteers is simply staggering.
Two things can therefore be said about the Jamaat. No violence or “Jehadi” activity can be traced to them. Also, they are simply not interested in proselytizing non Muslims.
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They are saving the saved. Indeed, they are the Muslim variant of humourless Calvinism, exactly the sort of self appointed religious constabulary whom Urdu poets describe as Sheikh, Zahid, Mohtasib, Waiz — in brief, an interfering bore.
A puritan, said H.L. Mencken, is someone who is always worried that someone, somewhere may be having fun. In the TJ book the way Bangladesh celebrates Poila Baisakh on April 14 is all “shirk” fit for damnation. Assam, Tripura, West Bengal, Bangladesh, in brief, people of Bengali heritage celebrate Poila (which means pehla or first) in the same way, quite irrespective of religious belief. In fact, in my experience, celebrations in Bangladesh are by far the most spectacular. Women in the celebrated Dhaka sarees apply a bindi on the forehead of any woman guest who enters the house.
Parks are filled with men and women singing Rabindra Sangeet and Nazrul geeti. While Tagore’s songs are secular, Qazi Nazrul Islam’s geets are charged with Tandav, Shakti, Kali, Durga. At this Maulana’s group would throw a fit.
The present leader of the group, Maulana Saad Kandhalvi’s stupidities during the corona crisis, compounded by police and administrative negligence, call for an independent inquiry. Baying for Muslim blood as some channels seem to suggest is in rank bad taste. (IANS)
NEW DELHI - India Navy sending four ships for exercises and port visits with the Philippines, Vietnam, Singapore, Indonesia and Australia to strengthen cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region, its navy said Wednesday, as China's maritime power grows in the area.
The Indian ships will spend more than two months in the region, the navy said in a statement.
Commander Vivek Madhwal, the Indian navy spokesman, said four ships will take part.
The ships will also participate in a multilateral exercise, MALABAR-21, along with the Japanese, Australian and U.S. navies, the statement said.
It said the exercises will enhance coordination with friendly countries, based on common maritime interests and a commitment to freedom of navigation.
"Besides regular port calls, the task group will operate in conjunction with friendly navies to build military relations and develop interoperability in the conduct of maritime operations," the statement said.
The U.S., India, Japan and Australia are part of the Quad regional alliance created in response to China's growing economic and military strength. Washington has long viewed New Delhi as a key partner in efforts to blunt increasing Chinese assertiveness in the Indo-Pacific region.
India is also in a continuing standoff with China over their disputed border in the eastern Ladakh region. The countries have stationed tens of thousands of soldiers backed by artillery, tanks and fighter jets along their de facto border, called the Line of Actual Control.
Last year, 20 Indian troops died in a clash with Chinese soldiers involving clubs, stones and fists in a portion of the disputed border. China said it lost four soldiers.(VOA/HP)
The UK government on Thursday announced that it will move India from the red to the amber list on Sunday, in the country's latest update to the 'Red-Amber-Green' traffic light ratings for arrivals into England amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
This means the visit visas for the UK from India are open, in addition to other long-term visas that have remained open. But travellers from India arriving in England can complete a 10-day quarantine at home or in the place they are staying (not mandatorily quarantine in a managed hotel).
The UK government also announced that arrivals from France to England will no longer need to quarantine if they are fully vaccinated. The step aligns France with the rest of the amber list now that the proportion of beta variant cases has fallen, where those who are fully vaccinated with a vaccine authorised and administered in the UK, the US or Europe do not need to quarantine when arriving in England.
This move also simplifies the system to three categories, as well as the green watch list to give travellers notice where green status is at risk.
To continue cautiously reopening international travel, Austria, Germany, Slovenia, Slovakia, Latvia, Romania and Norway will be added to the government's green list, having demonstrated they posed a low risk to UK public health.
Besides India, Bahrain, Qatar and the UAE will also be moved from the red to the amber list, as the situation in these countries has improved.
The data for all countries will be kept under review and the government will not hesitate to take action where a country's epidemiological picture changes, a statement by the UK government said.
Following an assessment of the latest data, Georgia, La Reunion, Mayotte and Mexico will be added to the red list as they present a high public health risk to the UK from known variants of concern, known high-risk variants under investigation or as a result of very high in-country or territory prevalence of Covid-19.
Arrivals from Spain and all its islands are advised to use a PCR test as their pre-departure test wherever possible, as a precaution against the increased prevalence of the virus and variants in the country.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: "We are committed to opening up international travel safely, taking advantage of the gains we've made through our successful vaccination programme, helping connect families, friends and businesses around the world.
"While we must continue to be cautious, today's changes reopen a range of different holiday destinations across the globe, which is good news for both the sector and travelling public."
Since February, anyone who arrives in the UK from a red list country has been required by law to book a stay in a managed quarantine facility for 10 days.
In order to ensure taxpayers are not subsidising the costs of staying in these facilities, which have gone up, the cost will increase from August 12. Alternative payment arrangements remain available to those who genuinely cannot afford to pay and rates remain the same for children up to 12.(IANS/HP)
A Hindu temple in Pakistan's Punjab province was reportedly vandalized by hundreds of people after a nine-year-old Hindu boy, who allegedly urinated at a local seminary, received bail, a media report said on Thursday.
According to the Dawn news report, the incident took place on Wednesday in Bhong town, about 60 km from Rahim Yar Khan city.
Besides the vandalization, the mob also blocked the Sukkur-Multan Motorway (M-5), the report added.
Citing sources, Dawn news said that a case was registered against the minor on July 24 based on a complaint filed by a cleric, Hafiz Muhammad Ibrahim, of the Darul Uloom Arabia Taleemul Quran.
The sources said that "some Hindu elders did tender an apology to the seminary administration saying the accused was a minor and mentally challenged".
But, when a lower court granted him bail a few days ago, some people incited the public in the town on Wednesday and got all shops there closed in protest, the report quoted the sources as further saying.
A video clip showing people wielding clubs and rods storming the temple and smashing its glass doors, windows, lights, and damaging the ceiling fans went viral on social media.
In response, one Twitter user said: "Ganesh Temple, village Bhong in Rahim Yar Khan, Punjab has been ravaged. Another day, another attack on Hindus in Pakistan."
Another said: "Yesterday, the mob ran amok at Temple over minor boy issue who allegedly urinated, the boy said to be mentally handicapped. Hindu community made an apology for the boy — a case registered against the nine-year-old boy. Those vandalized temples, no FIR registered against them."
District police spokesman Ahmed Nawaz Cheema said Rangers had been deployed in the troubled area and the situation was under control.
A small town close to the River Indus and Sindh-Punjab border, Bhong houses a number of gold traders who originally hail from Ghotki and Dehrki (Sindh), according to the Dawn news report.
A ruling PTI member representing the minority said he had been in touch with the local Hindu community and influential Rais family of Bhong since the issue surfaced.