New Delhi: In the crane crash accident at the Grand Mosque in Mecca in Saudi Arabia, nine more Indian Haj pilgrims have died, taking the toll to 11 so far, the external affairs ministry said on Sunday.
Vikas Swarup, ministry spokesperson tweeted – “after opening of mortuary on Sunday evening, officials working with relatives have confirmed that nine more Indians have unfortunately died” in the accident.
He said the Indian mission in Jeddah was extending all possible assistance to the families of the 11 deceased pilgrims to complete the formalities in Mecca.
Indian officials in Mecca were continuing to provide assistance to the 19 injured Indian pilgrims, he added.
The ministry released a list of nine dead pilgrims — Mohd Hanif, Tabassum, Hassan Kharaj, Zafar Sheikh, Zakira Begum, Mohd Abdul Khadar, Fatima Begum, Shameem Bano, Khader Bee.
In Hyderabad, Telangana State Haj Committee’s special officer S.A. Shukoor told IANS that a couple, namely Abdul Khader (38) and his wife Fatima Begum (32), hailing from Krishna district in coastal Andhra Pradesh had died. They were among the nine Indian pilgrims who were identified in the mortuary.
The number of dead in the crane crash has gone up to 111 so far, while 331 people are injured.
The ministry statement revealed that the Indian mission has published its 24/7 helpline — 00966125458000, 00966125496000 — and toll free number 8002477786 for pilgrims within Saudi Arabia.
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)
Whenever the Indian women’s ice hockey team take the rink for a match against their opponents, they face the usual challenges that come with being a minnow in the way that their opposition is invariably made of a set of players more experienced than them and possess the skill and ability that comes with it.
Once they get off it, however, they face a different set of challenges. These come with the fact that there is simply a lack of awareness about the sport that they play in the country.
Ice isn’t usually the first thing that comes to mind when one says the word ‘Hockey’ in India. The sport exists in a number of different forms around the world but in most countries, including and especially India, hockey refers to ‘field hockey.’ However, such is the size and diversity in conditions that most facts cannot be universal across the length and breadth of the country and this is the case for ice hockey.
“In India it is the mecca for ice hockey,” says Noor Jahan, talking about her hometown Leh in Ladakh. “In winters, those who are not playing, they come to cheer us. We just tell them some match is happening and even if it is happening on a (frozen) pond, you will see people climbing on top of trees and rooftops and its crowded. It is fun to play there and we have a lot of local fan following there,” she told IANS on the sidelines of an event for US-based athletics brand Under Armour.
Noor Jahan is the goaltender — which is the ice hockey term for goalkeeper — of the Indian team which is composed entirely of girls from her hometown.
“We have this pond in my village and I used to borrow my brother’s skates and skate on it during winters. When I learnt to do that I joined the Ladakh Winter Sports Club. They call volunteers from abroad to come and teach kids over there and that’s how we learnt the sport. If it wasn’t for the tournaments that they were organising or the camps they were holding, we wouldn’t have been able to get here so the local clubs there have made a lot of contribution,” she said.
In their formative years, the players used to make do with homemade equipment and cricket gear for protection. The team played their first matches only in 2016 and lost their first four matches. A year later, they managed to finish fourth in the IIHF Challenge Cup of Asia. Noor Jahan says that there are players from other states of the country now starting to take up the sport.
“A lot of people from other states are also joining in. There is talent coming in from Maharashtra, Telangana and Shimla. The nationals usually happen in Ladakh so when they come for that, trials happen at that time. Although on a very small scale, the sport is growing,” she said.
The average age of the team is 23 and they cannot yet depend upon their sport for a stable source of income. “I am an art conservator at the National Museum Institute in Delhi and I am also finishing my Ph. D. there. Most players are students who are finishing their school and their graduation. Two senior players who started playing with me teach roller skating in a school in Ladakh. There are a few who are working also and those who are not are in schools and colleges,” she said.
“Where we come from is very remote. Some of us are from the town but there are also those who are from the border areas. Conditions are pretty harsh there but everyone is managing somehow.”
Their story has attracted international eyeballs. In 2018, Canadian four time-Olympic ice hockey gold medallist Hayley Wickenheiser got the team to join a coaching programme in Canada and take part in WickFest, an annual festival she started in 2010 aimed at showcasing women’s hockey. They also got to see a game from the National Hockey League (NHL), the premier ice hockey league in North America.
“She saw a Youtube video of us and decided to come to Ladakh with (former Stanley Cup winner) Andrew Ference. They supported us with some equipment and invited us to play at the WickFest. We went there and not only did we play there, we were exposed to their hockey world. We also went to see an NHL game,” she said.
A project that is very much in its nascent stages, the team’s challenges start with getting recognised by the Indian Olympic Association and the Sports Ministry. The Ice Hockey Association of India (IHAI) has been a member of the International Ice Hockey Federation since 1989 but it has still not got the status of a National Sports Federation (NSF). For now it is recognised as a National Sports Promoting Organisation (NSPO).
“The most important thing we need is infrastructure. Apart from that we need to get recognition. The association right now is a NSPO not NSF and if we become the latter then it helps with funding. Infrastructure will then come with that and we can then play as a proper national team,” she said.
For now however, the players have set their eyes on an invitational tournament they will be playing in Chinese Taipei from November 4 to 9. They are training at iSKATE, an ice rink in Gurugram.
“We practice here everyday but before that in summers we used to train individually and in groups. We will be facing Australia there and we have never faced them before. Chinese Taipei will be fielding their senior as well as their under-18 team. There are also Philippines who like us are new to the sport,” she said. (IANS)
Eid Al Salwaawi, 69, paints murals of the rituals of the haj pilgrimage on the walls of a house in Cairo’s Sayeda Zainab neighbourhood. Sometimes he volunteers to paint scenes that celebrate the haj and religious stories and lessons, other times he is paid.
Every year, Muslims travel from around the world to the city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia to complete the haj, one of the five pillars of their faith. This year’s haj will conclude on Sunday.
Salwaawi said the haj scenes he saw on the walls of houses in his home village as a child in northern Aswan captured his imagination. “So I draw camel caravans and soldiers wearing traditional hats guarding them,” he said. He uses simple tools like a handmade palm frond brush and a mixture of paint, vinegar, rosewater, gum Arabic and glue.
One mural depicts women as they embark on the pilgrimage, dressed in bright colours, another shows a caravan carrying the tapestry that covers the Kaaba, the holiest site in Islam.
It was built by the Prophet Abraham (Ibrahim), with the help of his son, Ishmael. (Ismail). Salwaawi adorns his works with prayers and Koranic verses. Each mural takes him between two and three hours to finish. (VOA)