Young Muslims Build a Subculture on an Underground Book

David Ahntholz for The New York Times

Michael Muhammad Knight, the author of “The Taqwacores,” which a college professor has called “The Catcher in the Rye” for young Muslims.

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By CHRISTOPHER MAAG
Published: December 22, 2008

CLEVELAND — Five years ago, young Muslims across the United States began reading and passing along a blurry, photocopied novel called “The Taqwacores,” about imaginary punk rock Muslims in Buffalo.
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David Ahntholz for The New York Times

Noureen DeWulf and Bobby Naderi, both actors, with Jay Verkamp, center, the sound mixer for the film version of Mr. Knight’s novel. The film was shot in Cleveland.

“This book helped me create my identity,” said Naina Syed, 14, a high school freshman in Coventry, Conn.

A Muslim born in Pakistan, Naina said she spent hours on the phone listening to her older sister read the novel to her. “When I finally read the book for myself,” she said, “it was an amazing experience.”

The novel is “The Catcher in the Rye” for young Muslims, said Carl W. Ernst, a professor of Islamic studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Springing from the imagination of Michael Muhammad Knight, it inspired disaffected young Muslims in the United States to form real Muslim punk bands and build their own subculture.

Now the underground success of Muslim punk has resulted in a low-budget independent film based on the book.

A group of punk artists living in a communal house in Cleveland called the Tower of Treason offered the house as the set for the movie. The crumbling streets and boarded-up storefronts of their neighborhood resemble parts of Buffalo. Filming took place in October, and the movie will be released next year, said Eyad Zahra, the director.

“To see these characters that used to live only inside my head out here walking around, and to think of all these kids living out parts of the book, it’s totally surreal,” Mr. Muhammad Knight, 31, said as he roamed the movie set.

As part of the set, a Muslim punk rock musician, Marwan Kamel, 23, painted “Osama McDonald,” a figure with Osama bin Laden’s face atop Ronald McDonald’s body. Mr. Kamel said the painting was a protest against imperialism by American corporations and against Wahhabism, the strictest form of Islam.

Noureen DeWulf, 24, an actress who plays a rocker in the movie, defended the film’s message.

“I’m a Muslim and I’m 100-percent American,” Ms. DeWulf said, “so I can criticize my faith and my country. Rebellion? Punk? This is totally American.”

The novel’s title combines “taqwa,” the Arabic word for “piety,” with “hardcore,” used to describe many genres of angry Western music.

For many young American Muslims, stigmatized by their peers after the Sept. 11 attacks but repelled by both the Bush administration’s reaction to the attacks and the rigid conservatism of many Muslim leaders, the novel became a blueprint for their lives.

“Reading the book was totally liberating for me,” said Areej Zufari, 34, a Muslim and a humanities professor at Valencia Community College in Orlando, Fla.

Ms. Zufari said she had listened to punk music growing up in Arkansas and found “The Taqwacores” four years ago.

“Here was someone as frustrated with Islam as me,” she said, “and he expressed it using bands I love, like the Dead Kennedys. It all came together.”

The novel’s Muslim characters include Rabeya, a riot girl who plays guitar onstage wearing a burqa and leads a group of men and women in prayer. There is also Fasiq, a pot-smoking skater, and Jehangir, a drunk.

Such acts — playing Western music, women leading prayer, men and women praying together, drinking, smoking — are considered haram, or forbidden, by millions of Muslims.

Mr. Muhammad Knight was born an Irish Catholic in upstate New York and converted to Islam as a teenager. He studied at a mosque in Pakistan but became disillusioned with Islam after learning about the sectarian battles after the death of Muhammad.

He said he wrote “The Taqwacores” to mend the rift between his being an observant Muslim and an angry American youth. He found validation in the life of Muhammad, who instructed people to ignore their leaders, destroy their petty deities and follow only Allah.

After reading the novel, many Muslims e-mailed Mr. Muhammad Knight, asking for directions to the next Muslim punk show. Told that no such bands existed, some of them created their own, with names like Vote Hezbollah and Secret Trial Five.

One band, the Kominas, wrote a song called “Suicide Bomb the Gap,” which became Muslim punk rock’s first anthem.

“As Muslims, we’re not being honest if we criticize the United States without first criticizing ourselves,” said Mr. Kamel, 23, who grew up in a Syrian family in Chicago. He is lead singer of the band al-Thawra, “the Revolution” in Arabic.

For many young American Muslims, the merger of Islam and rebellion resonated.

Hanan Arzay, 15, is a daughter of Muslim immigrants from Morocco who lives in East Islip, N.Y. In the months after the Sept. 11 attacks, pedestrians threw eggs and coffee cups at the van that transported her to a Muslim school, she said, and one person threw a wine bottle, shattering the van’s window.

At school, her Koran teacher threw chalk at her for requesting literal translations of the holy book, Ms. Arzay said. After she was expelled from two Muslim schools, her uncle gave her “The Taqwacores.”

“This book is my lifeline,” Ms. Arzay said. “It saved my faith.”
More Articles in US » A version of this article appeared in print on December 23, 2008, on page A16 of the New York edition.

Gaza's grim reaper

Israel always manages to commit its worst deeds when no one else is looking.

By Paul J. Balles

While Americans concentrate on the cost of rescuing the U.S. financial system, and Europeans worry about how the worldwide financial crisis will affect them, Israel blithely, with U.S. government and European community approval, deprives Gaza’s entire civilian population of food, medicine and clean drinking water.

When pushed to explain their behaviour, they claim self-defence. Defence against whom? More than 50 per cent of the population in Gaza is comprised of children under the age of 15. Few people outside of Gaza even notice this slow genocide.

Israel always manages to commit its worst deeds when no one else is looking. If they happen to be caught, they blame it on the Palestinians – on a few resistance fighters lobbing rockets into Israel in retaliation for a broken cease-fire. To the Israeli, the actions of a few violent Palestinians are justifiable cause for genocide of the entire Palestinian population in Gaza.

Joe Mowrey writes:

As conditions in the Gaza Strip approach a catastrophic level of deprivation, the world media, and in particular the U.S. media, remain largely silent. The United Nations, whose truckloads of food and medical supplies continue to be denied entry into Gaza by Israel, appears to be one of the few international voices of dissent concerning the collective punishment of 1.5 million human beings.

As soon as someone takes notice of what Mowrey is talking about, the Israelis open the gates to allow a smattering of fuel or food into Gaza. Ironically, Khaled Meshaal has noted even Arab and Islamic regimes have remained silent about the tragedy resulting from the “criminal blockade” of Gaza.

Andrea Becker, head of advocacy for Medical Aid for Palestinians, has written about how the blockade has affected the hospitals and medical facilities. These are hardly resistance fighters:

…a child on life support doesn’t have the oxygen of a mechanical ventilator. A nurse on a neo-natal ward rushes between patients, battling the random schedule of power cuts. A hospital worker tries to keep a few kidney dialysis machines from breaking down, by farming spare parts from those that already have. The surgeon operates without a bulb in the surgery lamp, across from the anaesthetist who can no longer prevent patient pain.

The hospital administrator updates lists of essential drugs and medical supplies that have run out, which vaccines from medical fridges are now unusable because they can’t be kept cold, and which procedures must be cancelled altogether. The ambulance driver decides whether to respond to an emergency call, based on dwindling petrol in the tank.

Joe Mowrey reflects on the most bitter irony of all:

Has the sense of exclusivity and entitlement created by the Zionist experiment in Israel become so great that people there no longer see themselves in the mirror of their own history? The irony of Jews … denying food to hundreds of thousands of children in order, allegedly, to insure their own security, is breathtaking. Who could ever have imagined such a thing?

The Jewish Studies Global Directory of Holocaust Museums lists 61 memorial sites, including four in Israel and 24 in the United States. Reminders to the world? But not to Israelis? Not to Jews in America? Is it conceivable that Jews who remember the Holocaust only recognize genocide when they are the victims?

Rabbi Meir Hirsh, Neturei Karta Palestine, provides an answer:

How long will Jewish and non-Jewish leaders who claim the mantle of civilization and morality remain silent in the face of the ongoing state terrorism practised by the Zionist state against the Palestinian People, most visibly today in Gaza, where the Zionists believe they can starve the Palestinians into submission in violation of all tenets of international law, all religious values in general, including the values of the Jewish faith?

— Paul J. Balles is a retired American university professor and freelance writer who has lived in the Middle East for many years. For more information, see pballes.com. This article appeared in Redress Information & Analysis.

Source: Middle East Online

How to TackleTerrorism

How to TackleTerrorism

By Maulana Wahiduddin Khan (tr. Yoginder Sikand)

Terrorism is an international menace. Everyone condemns it but the question is: How to cope with terrorism?

I would like to give the answer to this question in brief.

First of all, we have to define what is terrorism. In Islam, only one kind of war is permissible, that is defensive war. This holds true only when the war becomes a necessity. In Islam, war is justified only by the law of necessity and not under normal laws.When there is an armed aggression from outside, the state is allowed to go to war in its defense – that too with some conditions. As far as non-government agencies are concerned, they are not allowed to go to war. No excuse whatsoever is permissible in this regard.

It does not mean that non-governmental individuals or organizations have no contribution to make. They have a lot of work to do in the fields other than the political field. But they will strictly have to adhere to peaceful means. For example, they can educate people, in both formal and informal aspects. They can inculcate the spirit of harmonious living among people. They can inculcate the spirit of constructive work etc.

The Genesis of Violence

Violence begins from the mind. So is the case of terrorism. Terrorism begins from the mind. Terrorism is nothing but the culmination of negative thinking. Hence, any effort to remove terrorism must begin from the minds of people. We have to re-engineer people’s minds on positive lines. We have to make them understand that peaceful action is far more effective than violent action.

Turning Negativity into Positivity

Our society is based on the principle of free competition – it is this competitive state of affairs that creates what are called problems. There are clashes of interest between different segments of society. But this situation is not an unwanted situation. This situation is good for society provided people learn the art of management of differences, rather than the art of eliminating differences. Failure of people management of differences leads to violence and war. Instead of this, when people are able to successfully manage differences; it results in peace in the society.

It is this formula that is given in the Quran in these words:  ‘Peace is the best’. (4:128)

It means that in the face of differences, the conciliatory approach is better than the confrontational approach. Muslim Sufis have adopted this formula, which they call: Sulh-e-kul. It means ‘Peace with all’. This is the only successful formula for establishing a better society.

No Extremism

There is a verse in the Quran: ‘Don’t be extremist in your religion’. (4: 171) The Prophet of Islam has said: ‘Refrain yourself from extremism, it is highly disastrous for you’.  Extremism leads to negative thinking, negative thinking leads to violence and violence leads to armed confrontation.

So-Called ‘Islamization’ of Terrorism

Some Muslim extremists justify their violent actions by saying that ‘Yes, we are involved in terrorism but we terrorize unjust people, just like the police. The police terrorizes criminals and we terrorize those people who are enemies of truth’.
These kinds of statements are nothing but so-called ‘Islamization’ of terrorism by uttering some seemingly beautiful words. This argument is based on a fallacy, that is, a wrong comparison. The police are an authorized body of a state. What the police are doing it is doing by legal authority. But these extremists or their self-styled organizations are not an authoritative body in this sense. As a matter of principle, these elements have no right to use arms; no excuse whatsoever gives them the justification to terrorize people. They have only one option: that is to persuade people by peaceful means, without using any arms or causing anyone harm.

Terror Attacks at Mumbai

The terror attack at Mumbai on November 26, 2008 should serve as an eye-opener for us all. It is a general belief that such terror attacks by Muslim youths are directly inspired by the teachings of the Quran. But the Muslim terrorist, who was captured alive at the time of the Mumbai attacks, had a different story to tell. He told in detail how they were prepared for that task. He explained to the interrogators that they were trained in some special camps for a long period of time. During this training period, apart from being trained on the use of arms, they were given ideological lessons constantly. They never said that they were advised to study the Quran. Instead, he told the interrogators that they were shown video films. In these films, they were made to watch bloody communal riots and to hear the speeches of some extremist Hindu leaders. What were these films? These films were based on selective news items or some exceptional items. In these films, the makers tried to generalize the exception. These youths underwent a brainwashing process by these sensitive video films.

For example, they were shown the demolition of the Babri Mosque in Ayodhya on December 6, 1992. This single incident greatly provoked their sentiments. But the fact is that apart from the Babri Mosque, there are numerous other mosques that are fully under Muslim control in India. According to one estimate, there are more than half a million mosques in India. Approximately the same number of Islamic, madrassas – big and small – also exist throughout the country. But these mosques and madrassas were not included in the video films that were shown to those Muslims terrorists. If these Muslim youths were also shown these functional mosques and madrasas, then certainly they would have had a different mindset. This kind of training was quite against the spirit of Islam.

The tragedy of the Babri Mosque and the communal riots shown to them was not a one-sided act. It was the result of an action and reaction process and Hindus and Muslims were both involved in this unwanted process. The blame for these bloody incidents goes to both the communities — Muslims and Non-Muslims. These video films showed only one side of the story and not the complete picture of the incident.

Unaware of Quranic Teachings

If these Muslim youths were asked to read the Quran at the time of their training, then surely they would have found this verse of the Quran which forbids killings of innocent people. This Quranic verse says that: ‘Whoever killed one single innocent human being should be looked upon as though he had killed all mankind (5:32).  If these Muslim youths were aware of these Quranic teachings, it would not have been possible for them to kill innocent men and women in terror attacks.

Then there is a very relevant tradition of the Prophet of Islam. He said:  God grants to rifq (peace) what he does not grant to unf (violence).  (Abu Dawud, Sunan, 4/255) This Prophetic teaching tells us that the better way to achieve all objectives is the peaceful method and not the violent method.  If these Muslim youths would have been aware of this Prophetic teaching, they would certainly have adopted this peaceful method instead of the violent gun-culture to achieve their objective.

The Target of these Muslim Terrorists

Recently it was disclosed in an article written by the Pakistani ambassador to the USA, Mr. Hussain Haqqani, that Muslim terrorist groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba have a dangerous political plan in mind. Their thinking is that all the areas on the globe that were once under the Muslim rule, like the Ottoman empire or the Mughal empire or the Moorish empire, are Muslims by right. According to them, Non-Muslim nations have unjustly captured these areas. They are usurpers. It is now their right to re-capture all these Muslim areas and establish Muslim rule over these lands once again.

According to them, the recent terrorism is a justified war, aimed at achieving what they regard as their rightful objectives.

This kind of ideology is very dangerous. It is a permanent threat to world peace. Simply condemnation or counter-attack is not enough to eliminate this ideology. It requires a counter-ideology. We have to convince these people that political rule is not a hereditary right of any community or nation. Moreover, now we are living in the age of democracy. Democracy means a power-sharing system. Now every group has the right to share power in a democratic way. The hereditary concept mentioned above is nothing but a kind of anachronism, which is not tenable at all. Now we are living under the United Nations Organizations. All the nations of the world are members of this International body. Only that kind of political norm is acceptable that is just according to the United Nations’ Charter and the above kind of hereditary concept is certainly quite against the UNO’s accepted principles.

What Can be Done?

Now the question is what can be done in such an alarming situation? What is the practical solution to the present state of affairs? I think that there are two parts to this solution. In every country, there are stern laws to curb violence and terrorism. Governmental agencies must enforce all these laws. They must punish all those elements who are involved in such heinous acts. But another part of the solution pertains to the re-engineering of peoples’ minds. This task must be undertaken by the agencies that are non-governmental in their operations. It is completely a peaceful task. Re-engineering of people’s minds can be achieved only through education and positive training. This includes what I call as counter-ideology. The required peaceful result can be achieved only through the combined efforts of these two agencies — Governments and social reformers and activists.
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Maulana Wahiduddin Khan is a Delhi-based Islamic scholar.  For more details, see http://www.cpsglobal.org

The Hidden Holocaust: Our Civilizational Crisis – Part 1: The Holocaust in History

The Hidden Holocaust: Our Civilizational Crisis – Part 1: The Holocaust in History

by Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed

Part 1: The Holocaust in History

1. “Hidden Holocaust”

As we are all aware, the term “Holocaust” is traditionally used to refer to the “systematic, bureaucratic state-sponsored persecution and murder of approximately six million Jews by the Nazi regime”, during the Second World War. The word “Holocaust” is a Greek word, which means “sacrifice by fire.” It conveys an event, the scale and horror of which, transformed the course of world history. Moreover, it’s often seen as a crime against humanity that is unparalleled and unique.

This, we cannot dispute. The Nazi Holocaust was, indeed, a uniquely horrific genocide, whose enormity and systematic character is barely imaginable, designed to exterminate wholly the Jewish people, physically, socially, culturally, from the face of the Earth.

But what then, do we mean by a “hidden holocaust”? This term conveys the reality of a campaign of global homicide, murder, whose scale and enormity is such that one feels that the word “holocaust” does, certainly loosely speaking, apply. It is “hidden”, in the sense that, although experienced by millions of people around the world both historically and today, it remains invisible, officially unacknowledged.

This “hidden holocaust”, is escalating, accelerating, intensifying; according to all expert projections from the social and physical sciences, it may culminate in the extinction of the human species, unless we take immediate drastic action, now.

2. “Civilizational Crisis”

We often hear the word “civilization”. It’s often been used to explain the dynamics of the “War on Terror”, as a clash between two civilizations, the advanced, developed and progressive civilization of the West, and the backward, reactionary civilization of Islam.

As is well known, the man who first formulated this idea as an academic theory of international relations was the Harvard professor and US government adviser, Samuel Huntington.

In early 2007, then Prime Minister Tony Blair described the War on Terror as “a clash not between civilizations”, but rather “about civilization.” The War on Terror is, he proclaimed, a continuation of “the age-old battle between progress and reaction, between those who embrace the modern world and those who reject its existence.” [“A Battle for Global Values”, Foreign Affairs (January/February 2007)]

But the “hidden holocaust” is not an aberration from our advanced civilization that represents the peak of human development, requiring only some reforms. Rather, the “hidden holocaust” is integral to the very structure, values and activities of our civilization. It is part and parcel of the “global values” of the international political and economic order that underpins industrial civilization. And unless we attempt to transform the nature of our civilization, we will all perish in a holocaust of our own making.

3. The Genocidal Conception of Civilization

The hidden holocaust associated with our modern civilization, began at the beginning of modern civilization itself.

The origins of modern civilization can be found partly in the pivotal voyages for European colonial expansion and trade from the 15th century to the 19th centuries. Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Dutch, English and other explorers ventured out from their home countries in search of new wealth and new land in all corners of the globe. They went to the continents of America, Africa and Asia and set up colonies and trading outposts.

Colonists and settlers had all sorts of intentions. Some of them had capital, and were simply looking for new investment opportunities. Others were trying to escape lives of hardship at home to make new lives for themselves with a fresh start by settling in the colonies. Others wanted to deliver the message of Christianity to native populations. Almost all of them saw themselves as part of the inevitable historical momentum of progress, bringing the fruits of European civilization to backward peoples.

Whatever the intentions, European expansion involved massive, systematic violence. Violence of all kinds. Wholesale massacres, forced labour camps, disease, malnutrition due to the imposed conditions of economic deprivation, mass suicides due to depression and cultural alienation. As Irving Louis Horowitz argues, for example, “the conduct of classic colonialism was invariably linked with genocide.” [Genocide: State Power and Mass Murder, (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction, 1976), p. 19-20.] Below we review some salient examples.

4. American Holocaust

Starting from 1492, when Christopher Columbus is said to have discovered the Americas, the deadly conquest commenced. The complex civilizations of native Americans, over the next few centuries, were devastated. British historian Mark Cocker has reviewed reliable estimates of the death toll:

“[E]leven million indigenous Americans lost their lives in the eighty years following the Spanish invasion of Mexico. In the Andean Empire of the Incas the figure was more than eight million. In Brazil, the Portuguese conquest saw Indian numbers dwindle from a pre-Columbian total of almost 2,500,000 to just 225,000. And to the north of Mexico… Native Americans declined from an original population of more than 800,000 by the end of the nineteenth century. For the whole of the Americas some historians have put the total losses as high as one hundred million.” [Mark Cocker, Rivers of Blood, Rivers of Gold: Europe’s Conquest of Indigenous Peoples (New York: Grove Press, 1998), p. 5]

Although the majority of these deaths occurred due to the impact of European diseases, disease alone does not explain the variations of death toll rates in different parts of the Americas. The key factors in which diseases operated were ultimately the kinds of repressive colonial social formations imposed on natives by European invaders, consisting of different matrices of forced labour regimes in mines and plantations, mass enslavement for personal domestic use of colonists, religious and cultural dislocation, and so on.

As David Stannard concludes in his extensive study of the genocide, which he describes as an “American Holocaust”, these factors accelerated and intensified the mere impact of disease. He further describes the colonists’ strategic thinking:

“At the dawn of the fifteenth century, Spanish conquistadors and priests presented the Indians they encountered with a choice: either give up your religion and culture and land and independence, swearing allegiance ‘as vassals’ to the Catholic Church and the Spanish Crown, or suffer ‘all the mischief and damage’ that the European invaders choose to inflict upon you.” [David Stannard, American Holocaust: The Conquest of the New World (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993), p. 255]

This binary choice, put to the Native Americans five centuries ago, bears an unnerving resemblance to the rhetoric underpinning the “War on Terror” today, “you are either with us or against us.”

5. African Holocaust

In Africa, the slave trade contributed substantially to the protracted deaths of vast numbers of people. While slave structures had already existed locally, it certainly did not exist on the vast scale it adopted in the course of European interventions. English, French, Dutch, Spanish, Danes, and Portuguese slave-traders started out by raiding villages off the West African coast. The transatlantic slave trade, lasting from the 1450s to the 1860s, consisted of “a series of exchanges of captives reaching from the interior of sub-Saharan Africa to final purchasers in the Americas.” An observer at the time, British journalist Edward Morel wrote: “For a hundred years slaves in Barbados were mutilated, tortured, gibbeted alive and left to starve to death, burnt alive, flung into coppers of boiling sugar, whipped to death.” [The Black Man’s Burden: The White Man in Africa from the Fifteenth Century to World War I (New York: Modern Reader, 1969)]

From the 16th to 19th centuries, the total death toll among African slaves being in transhipment to America alone was as high as 2 million. Although the many millions who died “in capture and in transit to the Orient or Middle East” is unknown, among the slaves “kept in Africa some 4,000,000 may have died.” Overall, in five centuries between nearly 17,000,000 – and by some calculations perhaps over 65,000,000 – Africans were killed in the transatlantic slave trade. [R. J. Rummel, Death by Government (New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction Publishers, 1994)].

University of Essex sociologist Robin Blackburn has demonstrated convincingly the centrality of capitalism to the growth of new world slavery, arguing that the profits of slavery accumulated in the “triangular trade” between Europe, Africa and America contributed fundamentally to Britain’s industrialization. For instance, the profits from triangular trade for 1770 would have provided from 20.9 to 55 per cent of Britain’s gross fixed capital formation. [Robin Blackburn, The Making of New World Slavery: From the Baroque to the Modern, 1492-1800 (London: Verso), p. 572.] The question of capital formation, however, is only part of the story. The trans-atlantic slave trade was an indispensable motor in an emerging capitalist world system under the mantle of the British empire. The mechanization of cotton textiles, originally produced in American plantations manned by African slaves, was overwhelmingly the driving force in British industrialization. [CK Harley and NFR Crafts, “Cotton Textiles and Industrial Output Growth”, Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (1994, no. 420)]

6. Indian Holocaust

In his landmark study, Late Victorian Holocausts: El Niño Famines and the Making of the Third World (London: Verso, 2001), historian Mike Davis shows how British imperial policy systematically converted droughts in South Asia and South Africa into foreseeable but preventable deadly famines.

In India, between 5.5 and 12 million people died in an artificially-induced famine, although millions of tonnes of grains were in commercial circulation. Rice and wheat production had been above average for the previous three years, but most of the surplus had been exported to England. “Londoners were in effect eating India’s bread.” Under “free market” rules, between 1877 and 1878, grain merchants exported a record 6.4 million hundredweight of wheat to Europe while millions of Indian poor starved to death.

Crucially, Davis argues that these people died “not outside the modern world system, but in the very process of being forcibly incorporated into its economic and political structures. They died in the golden age of liberal capitalism; many were murdered by the application of utilitarian free trade principles.”

7. Division of the World

This violence was, therefore, not merely accidental to the European imperial project. It was integral, systematic, as a solution to the problem of native resistance.

Between about 1870 and 1914, European imperial policies received a new lease of life, resulting in the intense scramble for control over eastern Asian and African territories. Almost the entire world was divided up under the formal or informal political rule of Britain, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, the USA, and Japan. Between themselves, in Africa for instance they acquired 30 new colonies and 110 million subjects. African resistance was brutally crushed. Consider, for example, the 1904 uprising of the Hereros, a tribe in southwest Africa, against German occupation. The German response was to drive all 24,000 of them into the desert to starve to death; others who surrendered were worked to death in forced labour camps. [Thomas Pakenham, The Scramble for Africa: White Man’s Conquest of the Dark Continent, 1876-1912 (London: Random House, 1991).]

During this period, we can already see drastic inequalities in the international system. By 1880, the per capita income in the developed countries was approximately double that of the ‘Third World’. By 1913, it was three times higher, and by 1950, five times higher. Similarly, the per capita share of GNP in the industrialized countries of the developed core was in 1830 already twice that of the Third World, becoming seven times as high by 1913. [E. J. Hobsbawm, The Age of Empire, 1875-1914 (London: Abacus, 1987), p. 15]

In summary, for five hundred years, hundreds of millions of indigenous peoples were slaughtered, decimated, deported, enslaved, starved, exterminated, impoverished, and forcibly assimilated into an emerging world system dominated by Western Europe. This was how the global values and politico-economic structures of our civilization came into being. Globalization… the bloody legacy of a 500-year killing machine.

Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed is the author of The London Bombings: An Independent Inquiry (Overlook, 2006) and The War on Truth: 9/11, Disinformation and the Anatomy of Terrorism (Olive Branch, 2005), among other books. He teaches international relations at the University of Sussex, and directs the Institute for Policy Research & Development in London. Visit Nafeez’s website The Institute for Policy Research and Development http://www.iprd.org.uk/

Institutionalized Contempt for Islam, How Do We Tackle It: A Riposte Dr. Robert D. Crane

Institutionalized Contempt for Islam, How Do We Tackle It: A Riposte

by Dr. Robert D. Crane

A riposte is a fencer’s quick return thrust following a parry.  In this vein, I want to reply to Jafar Siddiqui’s concern about the growing professionalism in the Islamophobic industry and the lack of an effective Muslim response.  His question is “how do we tackle it?” He does not know, and neither do I, but that is no reason for despondency.  As long as we are asking questions, we are still alive, and that, given present circumstances, is encouraging.

There are many answers, most of them inadequate.  They range from denying that the problem is growing, all the way to joining a Sufi order so that we don’t have to worry about it.  Or we can become terrorists, which is worse than useless.  These ways are the easy ways out of the quandry.

And then there are the effective ways that are more difficult and require a lot of sabr or patience.  Perhaps the most difficult in the short-term is merely to be a good Muslim and a good American, which are two sides of the same coin.  Over the very long term, the most effective strategies are to educate the younger generation with vision so that they can enter academia and help change entire paradigms of thought, or join and found think tanks in order to shape political agendas, or even prepare for a career in politics in order to work proactively from an interfaith perspective on specific policy issues unrelated to Muslims as a group or Islam as a religion.

A few Muslims may be called to complete the original American Revolution or start a second one by joining the American Revolutionary Party, which I co-founded two years ago as one of the two drafters of its constitution.  We are not interested (yet) in running anybody for political office (though I understand that we are registered in the State of Washington for this purpose).  Instead we would like to support those within either of the two major parties who talk about real change but have nothing of substance to offer.  Check out http://www.americanrevolutionaryparty.us.

Jafar is concerned about how easy it is to raise a million dollars to build a mosque but how impossible it is to get support for effective, namely, competitive organizations, to influence the premises of policy, which is where all policy originates.  It is easy simply to assert that those with the larger perspective of grand strategy will never get funding from Muslims for our higher, divinely-inspired calling, and that fund-raising must target what Muslims and Arabs want, which perhaps means nothing beyond one’s own nose.  Only Jews have learned to combine inward focus with an outward focus on selling larger strategic perspective both to their funders and to the enlightened and universal self-interest of policy-makers generally.

We should never become defensive because that is a guaranteed strategy for defeat.  One function of Islamophobes, whether by design or not, is to distract Muslims from contributing to society by forcing them to focus on defending themselves.  Nasir Shamsi was adamant that my book for the Center for Understanding Islam should not attack or even mention any Islamophobes, because this would distract from the positive message of the book.  Ali Chaudry came to agree with him, and I did too about a year ago, so we dropped the book in 2007 as counter-productive since half of it was on defending Islam.

The same applies to the two books that I wrote in 2005 and 2006, which were largely negative on U.S. foreign policy and were rejected by the funders for the same reason, quite correctly so.

The problem is that people under attack, like Muslims, want to counter-attack defensively and get so hung up on this that they become irrelevant in the world.  Even worse, however, would be to do nothing, which was the result after the attack by the Mongols seven hundred years ago and by the European imperialists a couple of centuries ago.  Ironically, even America in recent years after 9/11 has copied the Muslims by going into a terrorized funk, despite the NeoCon’s fraudulent front of calling for freedom and democracy, with the result that America now seems to be declining toward the level of universal irrelevancy.

One can learn general strategy even as a child on the playground.  People who are confident in themselves can ignore attacks on the basis of the old ditty for children, “Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” My mother taught me this when kids used to yell at me and some beat me up.  She had me take lessons in martial arts and I immediately found that standing up to a bully immediately reduces him to a blowhard totally discredited among his own followers.  This works almost as well even when one challenges the bully to a fight and loses.  More importantly, I found that to ignore verbal attacks has the same effect and that this is the first step toward leadership.  This works on the playground and might even have universal applicability.

Of course, one can overdo this, as I did when I countered some disciplinary action by the principal by organizing a strike by all the boys.  We simply took off and spent the day exploring the forests of Belmont Hill, which I knew well in the western exurbs of Boston.  Of course, the police found me at home that evening and threatened to lock me up in prison.  My parents knew this was not serious, but I did not, so it successfully deterred me from future such leadership experiments.

The defensive and reactive mentality is always a loser.  It spells the end of every civilization.  In the Year 2008 election, the Republicans’ lost dignity by retreating defensively with the message “I’m not as bad as you think I am” and by stooping in desperation to the level of gutter politics.  This contrasted with Obama’s efforts to avoid this and focus on the positive, which was the major psychological reason the Democrats won, even though neither party had much to offer in the way of “change.” The Republicans could not even convince themselves that they had anything fundamental to offer other then existential fear, whereas Barack Obama was Reaganesque in calling for the best in America, even though the Democrats could not agree among themselves on what this might be.

Institutionalized contempt for Islam and Muslims?  We cannot ignore it, but it deserves only one thing: contempt.  And so do the desperate Muslims who deserve contempt because they have no faith in themselves or in Islam or in any religion and instead worship themselves by resorting to totally useless and terribly immoral acts of terrorism.  We should respond by offering the wisdom of Islam and cooperation with every other world religion in pursuing peace, prosperity, and freedom through the classical or traditionalist Islamic paradigm of compassionate and faith-based justice, buttressed by specific implementing policies of both institutional and substantive change.

Many Muslims are experiencing burnout, as do also 90% of the terrorists, from working defensively in what seems like a losing effort.  Our highest political concern should be not what will happen to Muslims but what will happen to America and the world, because focusing on ourselves does not adequately address our responsibility as Muslims to change the world fi sabil Allah wherever we live.

Unfortunately, in thirty years or so of full-time Muslim activism my message has been understood by many in the silent majority but by few among the Muslim activists.  The major reason for this is that generally the funders cannot think big enough.  Jawad Khaki understood what I was talking about and wanted to fund me a few years ago but only if he would not be the sole or even major funder.  There was no response at all in the Seattle community, which was more interested in countering specific attacks on Islam and Muslims.  This is essential, and CAIR is doing an incredibly good job at this (which is why it is so well funded), but such defensive tactics without a grand strategy are only buying time without addressing the real challenge of changing the governing global paradigm in both foreign and domestic policy from stability through power to peace, prosperity, and freedom through justice.

America’s dysfunctional global strategists in the Washington think-tanks are trying merely to survive in the face of global chaos by pursuing the status quo with all of its injustices.  Since this is inherently impossible, we have reverted to the law of the jungle, which is a losing proposition because we are battling others who like us not only are at the top of the food chain but can outlast us.

Islam will always be and so will Muslims, bi ithni Allah.  Our major concern should not be merely for ourselves.  Our ultimate goal should not be merely to survive as Muslims but to fulfill our amana from Allah as stewards of creation to pursue peace, prosperity, and freedom through transcendent and compassionate justice for every person and every community in the world (and perhaps throughout the cosmos).  This is our real identity, so our task, in sha’a Allah, is to become what we are.  If Muslims cannot help lead America in this quest from chaos to cosmos on earth, then there may be no future for human civilization.  Islam is indeed the answer, but that is easier said than done.  To be emotionally despondent is human, but to be discouraged from seeking answers and from taking action is un-Islamic.

As I reminded the reader at the end of my book, Shaping the Future: Challenge and Response, published more than a decade ago, if we think we are the only answer to a problem, then we are denying Allah.  In Surah al Baqara 2:243, 249, 251, we read, “Did you not turn by vision to those who abandoned their homes for fear of death, though they numbered in the thousands?  Allah said to them, ‘Die!’ … But those who were convinced that they must meet Allah said, ‘How often, by Allah’s will, has a small force vanquished a big one?  Allah is with those who steadfastly persevere.’ … And if Allah did not check one group of people by another, the earth would indeed be full of mischief, but Allah is full of bounty to all the worlds.” And in Surah al Tauba 9:40-41, we have the revelation, “Unless you go forth, He will punish you with a grievous penalty and put others in your place. … For Allah is exalted in Might and Wise.  Go forth, whether with equipped lightly or heavily, and strive and struggle with your goods and your persons in the cause of Allah.  This is best if only you knew.”

Again and again we read in the Qur’an, “Allah creates what He wills.  When He has decreed a plan, He but says, ‘be,’ and it is.” Surah Ali Imran 3:47, Surah al Nahl 16:40, and Surah Miryam 19:35, “Kun fa yakun.”

“And [the unbelievers] plotted and planned, and Allah too planned, and the best of planners is Allah” Surah Ali Imran 3:54, Surah al Anfal 8:30, and Surah al Ra’d 13:42.  And again in Surah Ali Imran 3:26: “Say, ‘O Allah! Lord of Power, You give power to whom You please, and you strip off power from whom You please.  You endow with honor whom You please, and You bring low whom you please.  In Your hand is all good. Verily over all things You have power.”

Since we are nearing the Feast of Christmas, we should take to heart the wisdom of Sister Lydia Griffin, an editor of ICNA’s The Message, expressed in its special December 1993 issue entitled The Crescent and the Cross, referring to a dialogue between Islam and the Vatican similar to the one flowering today: “Is this the time when true understanding is born, the realization that the power of the One message of the One God is so strong in resurgence, now that the world needs it so badly, that it can finally unite those so long separated by human fortresses and matchstick towers.  Barrier built on a mortar of illusion and fog.”

The strategy called for in the book on Shaping the Future is not “peaceful coexistence” through tolerance, which is defensive and self-defeating, or even acceptance of diversity through a higher level understanding through “peaceful engagement,” but rather is action in solidarity to overcome the barriers to cooperation in the pursuit of truth and justice.  The most profound sentence perhaps in the entire Qur’an is the admonition, wa tama’at kalimatu Rabika sidqan wa ‘adlan, “And the Word of your Lord is fulfilled and perfected in truth and in justice” Surah al An’am 6:115.

The true power of faith-based reconciliation and faith-based cooperation in the pursuit of transcendent justice , which is the very definition of the traditionalist movement that gave birth to the Great American Experiment, does not lie in think-tanks created to wage mimetic warfare at an intellectual level, or in lobbying organizations designed to penetrate the existing power structure, even though they are essential for success.  Real success in tackling institutionalized contempt of Islam can come only from reliance by large organized communities of people on the power of God.

TURKEY: Ataturk's grave, head scarves and the call to prayer

Atatuk_mausoleum

Walking along Mostafa Kemal Ataturk’s mausoleum is like visiting a reproduction of an ancient temple. Though it is a burial site in a country with an absolute Muslim majority, no trace or engraving of Islam can be found. On the contrary, the creators of this spacious grave seemed to have no interest in recognizing religion, choosing instead symbols belonging to the Hittite civilization that flourished before Islam reached Anatolia.

The mausoleum for the nation’s first president appears as evidence that Ataturk and the Kemalists founders of the Turkish state wiped Islam from public space to build a capital dedicated to secularism. But history has a way of repeating itself, and if Ataturk were alive today, he might be shocked at the images and sounds drifting just beyond the stone columns of his resting place.

Across this canonical cemetery, the call for prayers echoes in Arabic five times a day, attesting to the ceaseless battle between Ataturk’s secular heirs and rising Islamists. I felt as if I were back in my native Cairo, not in a country seeking entry to the European Union. While walking downtown, I spotted posters and pictures of Ataturk hanging on public buildings and displayed by street vendors. Yet, I was also struck by the high number of veiled women and store windows featuring modern Islamic fashion.

lIslamic_fashion

As part of his determination to distance his new republic from centuries of Ottoman Islamic heritage, Ataturk moved the capital from Istanbul, the base of the most extravagant mosques and Islamic monuments, to Ankara, a small trading town under the Ottomans. The new capital became a stronghold of secular republicans. However, with an Islamic mayor in the mid-1990s, Ankara went through a change of heart.

Shortly after Islamists won Ankara’s mayorship, the capital’s logo was changed from a Hittite pre-Islamic symbol to the Kocatepe mosque. The influence of Islam became more pronounced, most notably by the wearing of head scarves, when the Justice and Development Party (AK) rose to national power in 2002.

Ankara_old_log

“Of course the coming of AK party to power and especially the second term opened the gate to the veil issue and because of that probably more and more shops of Islamic fashion opened,” said Alev Cinar, Assistant Professor of Political Science at Ankara’s Bilkent University, who authored a book on the battle between Turkish Islamists and secularists over the public space.

Badei, a housewife living in Ankara, seconds Cinar, affirming that rise of the AK party encouraged many women in the capital to take the veil. “The party played a great role in improving the status of veiled women. Now, the veil is not considered as the president, prime minister as well as many parliamentarians have veiled wives. Veiled women are encouraged to go out now as there is less discrimination against them,” she said.

“The veil is no more restricted to lower classes, the Islamic fashion has flourished over the last three or four years. All brands have special departments for veiled women now,” she added.

Nevertheless, one should not assume that the secular class has fallen into the oblivion or the entire capital is following the same path. Ankara’s expanding western suburbs have become the new niches for Westernized secular upper classes.

— Noha El-Hennawy in Ankara

Rumours or reality? Palestinian Christians in Gaza

Just over a week ago the Jerusalem Post published an article about the persecution of Palestinian Christians in Gaza, saying that a big proportion are trying to emigrate and leave the Hamas-controlled Palestinian territory. The newspaper said that the issue was underreported by the Western media, but some people in the Gaza Strip are saying that this so-called ‘issue’ is simply not true. MENASSAT spoke with Palestinians in Gaza to investigate this further.

By OLFAT HADDAD
gaza churches

Palestinian Christians celebrating Easter. ©AFP

Gaza, December 19, 2008 (MENASSAT) The Jerusalem Post published an article about a Palestinian Christian exodus out of Gaza claiming that the small Christian community were victims of “a systematic campaign of persecution” that they said “is taking place in the Gaza Strip, and to a lesser extent in the West Bank.”

But when MENASSAT’s correspondent in Palestine explored this further, she found that the 3,600 Christians in Gaza are not being displaced en masse and that those who do want to emigrate share the same reasons as the rest of the besieged population – a lack of opportunity in the Strip due to the Israeli siege and occupation.

The Jerusalem Post article said that the persecution of Christians is being perpetrated by a number of Islamic groups and referred to it as, “Part of a larger process of Islamization taking place in Palestinian society.”

Fadi Bandali, a Christian living in the Gaza Strip, spoke with MENASSAT and said that the stories written in the media about the small minority in Gaza are not true. “The Christians here are not suffering under anyone in particular. On the contrary all Christians live here without fear and we practice our rituals freely without anyone interfering.”

“Christians in Gaza do not think about leaving the Strip for the reasons stated in the media. Those who do think about emigrating think about it for the same reasons most other young people do – because of the embargo, the bad economic situation and lack of job opportunities.”

According to a poll released last week by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, 40% of people in the Gaza wish to leave.

Bandali told MENASSAT that the Jerusalem Post article could be an attempt to weaken the relationship between Christians and Muslims in Palestine.

“There are a lot of people who are trying to disrupt the relationship between Christians and Muslims in Gaza. Despite the events that happened against Christians in Gaza before, the relationship did not deteriorate. In fact, it’s at its best.

He said that the Christians have not faced any problems with Hamas’ government in the Gaza Strip, who have been in control of the region for one year and a half.

“There is constant communication between us and Hamas and there is no interference by the party, not in our daily rituals and certainly not in our religious practices.”

Christians are afraid to admit harassment

The Jerusalem Post also quoted an article by the columnist Abd Al-Nasser Al-Najjar of the Palestinian daily Al-Ayyam. In his article Najjar wrote about Christian-owned properties in the West Bank, specifically in Bethlehem, Ramallah and al-Bireh, that are being confiscated by high-ranking people, including military personnel and powerful families.

During a phone call with Al-Najjar, the journalist told MENASSAT that the Christians of Gaza are getting harassed but they cannot admit it because they are a minority in the region.

He also said that Christians in the Arab World, including Palestine, are suffering from a lot of harassment but no one is speaking out because of fear. He refers to an article he wrote on this subject, which “was quoted or republished by more than 600 media outlets”.

Najjar is now working on an article about Christians leaving the Strip but says he does not have enough information to publish it yet. “I hear a lot about what happens behind the scenes in Gaza but I don’t want to talk about it until I have real evidence. I don’t want things to get more severe, like the case in Egypt where there is already a strong sectarian divide.”

It’s simply an economical emigration

On the other hand, Father Manuel Musallem, the head of Gaza’s Latin Church said that the mass Christian emigration doesn’t exist at all.

“The issue of some Christians leaving Palestine is not a phenomenon because it’s only normal that some people leave due to the economic situation that the Gaza Strip is going through because of the embargo.”

When asked if he is afraid to say that this emigration is politically motivated, Father Musallem strongly denied any fear of speaking out. He said that the Christian-Muslim relations are excellent and refuses to call the few departures of Christians from the Strip a political emigration. “It is simply an economical emigration.”

He told MENASSAT that two schools in Gaza, Deir Latin and the Holy Family School have more than 1,100 Muslim children attending. “They study all the courses and we even teach them Islam. Some of them are even the children of officials in Hamas or the Islamic jihad.”

Seasons of hope: Travel takes fear out of foreign ways

By Rick Steves

(Tribune Media Services) — If all you know about Islam is Gaddafi, Khomeini, Saddam, and Osama bin Laden, it’s no wonder you see a threat. I balance my take on Islam by traveling to (and learning about) mainstream countries such as Turkey — a moderate Islamic nation with a determination to face the West without giving up its culture.

Istanbul, Turkey’s largest city, is thriving. The big news of late is the new tunnel they’re digging under the Bosporus. It will give a million commuters in the Asian suburbs an easy train link to their places of work on the European side. This tunnel is emblematic of modern Turkey’s commitment to connecting east and west.

It’s in this environment that, as a guide, I like to introduce my tour members to Turkish culture and Islam. Turkey is a secular nation (practicing the separation of mosque and state), but examples of how the people’s faith permeates society are plentiful.

Driving into the modern high-rise suburbs of this city, I passed an old shepherd whose small flock was enjoying some grass in a freeway cloverleaf, surrounded by the sprawl of 10 million people. In the midst of all that modernity, he seemed a courageously timeless figure — raising sheep to be sacrificed for an upcoming Muslim festival.

When it comes to experiencing Islam, I like to travel during Ramadan. This holy month, when Muslim people refrain from eating during daylight hours, is set by the lunar Islamic calendar (lately it’s been mostly in September). The fasting is intended to turn the heart away from the world and toward God. By allowing people of all classes to feel hunger pangs, it also encourages generosity toward the less fortunate. For many Muslim families, Ramadan concludes with acts of charity and gift-giving.
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* In Depth: Rick Steves’ Europe

During this holy month in Istanbul, no-name neighborhood mosques literally overflow at prayer time. Yet a tourist unfamiliar with Islam might not notice that practicing Muslims are not eating or even drinking.

If you visit during Ramadan, you’ll wake to the call to prayer and the sounds of a convivial meal just before dawn. The sun rises and the daylong fast begins. Then, at about 7 p.m., food comes out, and the nightly festival begins. Mohammad broke his fast with a dried date or olive — and that remains the most common fast-breaker. Saying, “Allah kabul etsin” (may God accept our fast today), the staff at a restaurant welcomed me to photograph them and then offered to share.

Witnessing the breaking of the fast was like watching children waiting for the recess bell — and fun to catch on film. Throughout my Ramadan visit, every time I watched the end of the fast, people offered to share their food. At this particular restaurant I said no, but they set me up anyway — figs, lentil soup, bread, Coke, and baklava. I thought the Coke was a bit odd … but they said it’s not considered American anymore. It’s truly global.

Like Ramadan, prayer is a pillar of the Islamic faith. Tourists in Istanbul hear the call to prayer five times a day. According to tradition, as the sun prepares to rise, an imam stares at his arm. When he can tell a gray hair from a black one, it’s time to call his parish to the Morning Prayer. While the quality and warble varies, across the land the Arabic words of the call are exactly the same, starting with: “God is great.”

They say tiny mosques can’t afford a real musician, so the imam himself does the singing — not always top quality. Big mosques have a trained professional singer. Anyone can hear the qualitative difference. To the unfamiliar ear, the call to prayer sounds like coyotes howling in a cacophony. I hear it as a beautiful form of praise that sweeps across the globe — from Malaysia across Pakistan, Arabia, and Turkey to Morocco and then to America — like a stadium wave, undulating exactly as fast as the earth turns.

My time in Muslim places like Turkey, with the cozy feeling that comes with Ramadan (just as it comes with Christmas where I live), reminds me how travel takes the fear out of foreign ways.

I am a Christian who wants to believe we can live peacefully with Islam. Perhaps I am just naive, but one thing is clear to me. Things I learn about Islam in the United States fill me with fear and anger. Things I learn about Islam in Muslim countries fill me with hope

Gujarat 2002 (Naroda Patya Massacre)

Ninety-seven bodies had inquest panchnamas filed, a legal procedure under which the police, in the presence of two socalled “independent” witnesses, or panchas, physically verify the place from which the bodies were recovered and the nature of injuries on them and record their findings in writing. Thus, by their own records, the police recovered at least 97 bodies from Naroda Patiya. But, shockingly postmortems were performed on only 58. Of the bodies recovered from Naroda Gaon, autopsies were not carried out on two. Apart from providing irrefutable evidence of the scale of the barbarity perpetrated that day, the autopsies, if done honestly, could have established the time of death, which would have given a fair indication of the total duration of the slaughter. These reports could have been a strong piece of evidence in court. But this is exactly what the police did not want.

 Crucial evidence destroyed: The scene of a crime gives an investigating agency its most critical pieces of evidence. In Naroda Patiya and Naroda Gaon, the accused had left behind a trail that the police set out to systematically obliterate. The pit in which a large number of people were burnt alive was not even examined — no samples were taken of the soil, of the traces of human tissue or of the remains of burnt fuel. On the contrary, the pit does not even figure in the police version of the massacre. The dying declarations of as many as seven victims were not recorded; two of them died on March 11 after prolonged treatment, but no explanation is forthcoming in the chargesheet of why their statements were not recorded.

 BJP MLA exonerated: Naroda massacre survivors had named local BJP MLA Mayaben Kodnani as having incited the murderous mob. However, at the time of filing the chargesheet for the carnage, the police dropped her name from the list of the accused, claiming that they had failed to find any evidence against her. But Richard had much to say about the role she had played. Richard and his co-accused Prakash Rathod said that Mayaben patrolled the streets of Naroda Patiya throughout the day, urging the rioters to kill more Muslims.

 Destruction of Noorani Masjid not investigated: In its records of what it found at the scene of the offence, the police mention the presence of an oil tanker, manufactured by Ashok Leyland, near the Noorani Masjid, with its rear in contact with the wall of the mosque. Its front number plate was intact and read GT-1T 7384. But the tanker was not seized. The Road Transport Office was not contacted to determine its ownership. No samples of its contents were taken for forensic examination. In fact, it is still a mystery as to how a tanker of this size managed to “sneak in” so close to the Noorani Masjid, a place where there were over 12 police personnel on “constant vigil”.

Photo: Cherian Thomas

 No proceedings against absconding prime accused: Many main accused went absconding after the police was forced to register an FIR against them. Babu Bajrangi, Kishan Korani, Prakash Rathod and Suresh Richard, for instance, were arrested three months after the FIR was issued. Bipin Panchal was arrested after a year and a half. But the police did not follow any of the usual procedures used when an accused absconds, such as pasting notices outside the accused’s house declaring him an absconder, confiscating his properties, etc.

 Not one confession recorded: Those arrested for the Naroda Patiya and Naroda Gaon massacres were taken in on remand — a period the court grants to the police to take an accused into custody for interrogation. But the remand and interrogation were a farce. Not one confession has been annexed to the chargesheets filed in either of the Naroda massacres.

 Just one weapon recovered: Barring one sword recovered from Bipin Panchal in 2004, the police have not recovered any other weapon either from the scene of the crime or from any other accused. The survivors, however, had testified that their attackers, including the accused, were heavily armed with an assortment of weapons — knives, swords, trishuls, gas cylinders and firearms. In an instance where as many as 105 people, according to the police’s own admission, were butchered, the failure to recover any
weapon used in the massacre speaks volumes for the quality of the investigation carried out. In fact, the owner of a gas agency had given a written statement that 20-odd persons with a Maruti van had landed up at his godown on the day of the carnage and had looted a large number of gas cylinders. The agency owner said his watchman had been present when the incident took place. But neither was the statement of the watchman recorded, nor was any attempt made to identify those involved in the looting or to track down the vehicle used in the crime.

 Not one accused sent for scientific examination: Since not a single statement of any of the accused was recorded under Section 164 of the Criminal Procedure Code, it would indicate that the police failed to elicit any information by conventional interrogation methods. The next step would have been to subject the accused to scientific examinations like a polygraph test or narcoanalysis or brain mapping. The police, however, initiated no efforts in this direction.

 No mention made of rapes: Three chargesheets apiece were filed in the Naroda Gaon and Naroda Patiya massacres. However, despite the testimonies of dozens of survivors who had reported that women were raped, not a single instance of rape was recorded. At least one post-mortem indicated a possible case of sexual assault, yet no investigations in this direction were carried out. (It should be noted that since autopsies on 41 bodies were not carried out, there is no ascertaining how many of them were women’s and whether they bore marks of sexual assault.)

 Mobile phone recovered from the spot not examined: On the day of the massacre, a survivor named Mirja Hussain Biwi Moherble recovered a mobile phone near her residence in Naroda Patiya. It had been inadvertently dropped by one of the accused, and was handed over to the police. On enquiry, Additional Commissioner of Police, Crime Branch, AK Surolia found that it belonged to one Ashok Sindhi, an accused in the massacre. Surolia launched a massive investigation and started collecting the call records of Babu Bajrangi and other accused, including Sindhi (Letters from Surolia addressed to telecom companies asking for phone records are with TEHELKA.

We also have handwritten notes by him in which he observed that he believed Bajrangi “to be behind all this”.) But before the investigation could go any further, Surolia was transferred. Once he was gone, the police stopped looking into Sindhi’s phone records. In the three chargesheets filed in the Naroda Patiya massacre, no mention has been made of any cellphone belonging to an accused being recovered from the scene of the crime.

 Mobile phone records of the accused not made part of the chargesheet: After the case was transferred to the Crime Branch of the Ahmedabad Police, the then DCP Rahul Sharma proceeded to collect the mobile phone call records of all the accused. But, a few weeks into the probe, he was unceremoniously taken off it and the case was handed over to Deputy Commissioner of Police DG Vanzara. Sharma, however, managed to make a copy of all the call records and produced it before the Nanavati-Shah Commission. These call records are a piece of strong corroborative evidence establishing not only how all the accused were making frantic calls to each other while the Naroda massacre was in progress, but also that they were present at the spot. Call records have not been included as evidence in the chargesheets.

Photo: Cherian Thomas

 No mention made of use of firearms: In the chargesheets, the police have only said that the mob was carrying sharp-edged weapons (of which only one has been recovered so far). The police have ruled out the use of any kind of firearm by the mob. The injury certificates of most of the survivors who were treated for gunshot wounds were not made part of the chargesheets; all the same, clear mentions of gunshot wounds did find their way into four injury certificates annexed with the chargesheets. One postmortem report also attributes the death to a firearm injury. The dimensions of the entry and exit wounds in all five cases show that the wounds were inflicted by small firearms and not by police rifles. In any case, though the police have claimed to have fired 91 rounds to disperse the mob, it is not their case that anyone was injured in police firing. As to how these five people sustained bullet injuries, the entire investigation is silent.

 No identification parades carried out: In the case of both the Naroda massacres, dozens of witnesses have stated that were the accused to be shown to them, they would identify their attackers. Yet, except for Ashok Sindhi, the police did not conduct any identification parades of the accused. The identification parade is of immense importance
in cases of mob violence.

THE INVISIBLE HAND
In the course of their conversations with TEHELKA, numerous accused spoke appreciatively of the role of the police, and named senior Sangh Parivar functionaries, for their role in the carnage, including MoS for Home Gordhan Zadaphia, whom Bajrangi spoke to after the massacre. When so many arms of the government were involved at so many levels, was the man who headed the state also involved?

TEHELKA asked Bajrangi this question. In reply, the Naroda massacres prime accused said that Chief Minister Narendra Modi had visited Naroda twice after the massacre — first, in the evening of the day of the massacre, when he came to the locality but was unable to enter it, and second, on the next day, when he went inside Naroda Patiya. On both visits, Modi had encouraged the murderers, Bajrangi said, and told them that whatever they had done was good and that they should do even more.

Suresh Richard corroborated this account and said that Modi had also visited Chharanagar on the evening of the massacre and garlanded the rioters. Bajrangi said that if Modi had not told the police to stand back, the massacre would never have been possible. But Modi’s support to the rioters did not stop at the facilitation of the killings. Bajrangi said after the Naroda killings, Modi kept him in hiding for more than four months and then stage-managed his arrest. If that was not enough he also brought in a favourable judge to hear Bajrangi’s bail petition and got him out of jail.

Gujarat 2002 contd..

TEHELKA: It is being said the Chharas also committed rapes…

Richard: Now look, one thing is true… bhookhe ghuse to koi na koi to phal khayega, na [when thousands of hungry men go in, they will eat some fruit or the other, no]… Aise bhi, phal ko kuchal ke phek denge [in any case, the fruit is going to be crushed and thrown away]… Look, I’m not telling lies… Mata is before me [gesturing to an image of a deity]… Many Muslim girls were being killed and burnt to death, some men must have helped themselves to the fruit…

TEHELKA:Must have been a couple of rapes…

Richard: Might even have been more… then there were the rest of our brothers, our Hindu brothers, VHP people and RSS people… Anyone could have helped themselves… who wouldn’t, when there’s fruit?… The more you harm them, the less it is… I really hate them… don’t want to spare them… Look, my wife is sitting here but let me say… the fruit was there so it had to be eaten… I ate too… I ate once.

TEHELKA: Just once?

Richard: Just once… then I had to go killing again… [turns to relative Prakash Rathod and talks about the girl he had raped and killed]… the scrap dealer’s daughter Naseemo… Naseemo that juicy plump one… I got on top…

TEHELKA: You got on top of her…

Richard: Yes, properly…

TEHELKA: She didn’t survive, did she?

Richard: No, then I pulped her… Made her into a pickle…

Another victim, 22-year-old Sufiya Bano, was raped and burnt in front of her father. The Civil Hospital, where she was admitted and later died, confirmed the attack on her. When her father, Abdul Majid, a witness who deposed before the Nanavati-Shah Commission, tried to save his daughter, he was brutally seized and held and his beard cut off. Apart from Sufiya Bano, six other members of this family were killed: three boys — Mehmood, Ayub and Hussain; two other girls — Afrin Bano and Shahin Bano; and their mother, Lalibibi. At 22, Sufiya was the eldest of her siblings; seven-year-old Hussain and four-year old Shahin Bano were the youngest.

Police Commissioner PC Pandey came to Naroda Patiya only later that night, at around one. As he surveyed the devastation, he said the place looked worse than even the battlefields of Haldighati. So Bajrangi said.

On the day of the massacre, Richard told TEHELKA, BJP MLA Mayaben Kodnani drove around Naroda, exhorting the rioters to kill as many as they could. Worse yet, Bajrangi revealed that he had been giving VHP general secretary Jaideep Patel a blow-by-blow account of the massacre on his mobile phone. He said he made 11 calls to Patel, providing him the latest death toll each time, until his phone went dead. That evening, Bajrangi says, he also called up then Minister of State for Home Gordhan Zadaphia, and told him how many he had killed and said that it was now up to Zadaphia to keep him out of trouble with the law. He went to bed that night feeling like Maharana Pratap, he says. He didn’t manage to meet Narendra Modi when the Gujarat CM visited the locality that evening. Modi never made it into the interior of Naroda Patiya, says Bajrangi. “Not even God had the power to enter Naroda Patiya that day.”

THE ROLE OF THE POLICE

‘They shouldn’t be allowed to breed. I say this even today, even if they are women or children’-Babu Bajrangi

Bajrangi was emphatic in his claim that the killings would never have been possible had the police not looked the other way. There was only one entrance to Naroda Patiya, he said, “like a housing society”, and there were some 50 policemen posted there. “They could have ripped us apart,” he said. “But, though they saw everything, they kept their eyes and mouths shut.” Richard said that the police fired at Muslims who were under attack. He also said that late that night, after the rioting had died down, some policemen specially told the Chharas to kill Muslims hiding in a ditch.

‘Many Muslim girls were being killed. Some men must have helped themselves to the fruit’-Suresh Richard

THE COVER-UP
TEHELKA in collaboration with advocate Somnath Vatsa of NGO Action Aid — whose Ahmedabad chapter has been fighting for justice for the victims of the 2002 massacre — carried out a threadbare analysis of the police investigation and the chargesheets filed in the Naroda Patiya and Naroda Gaon massacres. We found that far from punishing the guilty, the police were involved in a massive cover-up.

‘Mayaben(a local MLA) patrolled the streets, urging the rioters to kill more Muslims’-Prakash Rathod

 Bodies disposed of to diminish magnitude of crime: Once the massacre was over, the first task before the police was to whittle down the death toll. The larger the number of deaths, the more vociferous the outcry from civil society. As Bajrangi details, the police had the bodies from Naroda Patiya rounded up and dumped at various places across the city. According to Bajrangi, over 200 people had died that day; late that night, then Ahmedabad Police Comissioner PC Pandey came to Naroda and ordered the police to have the bodies removed.

“They were piled up in trucks, it took so many vehicles, some were even stuffed into jeeps.” When the bodies were collected the second time and brought to the Civil Hospital for the post-mortem, they were recorded as being from the area where they were found. In this manner, the police managed to keep the death count down to 105, 97 from Naroda Patiya and eight from Naroda Gaon. The post-mortem records show that even these 105 bodies from Naroda were brought to the hospital piecemeal, with the last few bodies being brought in a full four days after the massacre.

 No autopsies on 41 bodies:With one piece of evidence destroyed, the police moved on to the next stage. The bodies — charred, hacked at, bearing shot wounds, stab marks and marks of rape — could have been strong evidence of a brutal massacre and of the administration’s complicity. They might have served as a potent indication of the fact that this was no spontaneous act of rioting but a systematic pogrom. But the police did not carry out post-mortems on as many as 41 bodies recovered from Naroda Patiya and Naroda Gaon. No explanation has been offered for this act of grave negligence and omission.