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Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Pakistani Mango Reigns Supreme


India is a great nation. A billion Indians on the most fertile patch of land on our planet know a thing or two about flavour, spice and the harvest. Unfortunately, they know nothing about the excellence of the Pakistani Mango. I feel sorry for them.

Anwar Ratol - The best mango in the world.

I grew up on mangoes. Anwar Ratol was our family favourite. Every summer, crates of Anwar Ratol mangoes were purchased almost on a weekly basis. In the sweltering heat of mid-summer Punjab, our father would get buckets of iced water and pour into it dozens and dozens of greenish, gold tinged mangoes. We helped in the ritual; picking bits of husk from the sticky resin that perfectly ripe mangoes ooze from the bud.  We would wait a little, just enough for the mangoes to get deliciously cold.

Eating Anwar Ratols is a competitive pursuit. You don’t eat them; You gulp them after mushing the pulp with your thumbs and sucking the rich, flavoursome chunky nectar from the stalk end of the fruit.  You dress for the occasion too. It must be the kurta that needs to go to the wash the same afternoon. Sleeves must be rolled up and you must be seated on the cool floor as close to the bucket as possible. You carry on until there are no more mangoes. Then you calm your stomach with a nice glass of ‘kachi lassi’ - an ounce of milk watered down to repel the heat of the greatest fruit on earth.

Then you sleep.

We were also treated with the whole range of mango varieties throughout the summer. Our kitchen and the fridge remained fragrant with mangoes for the summer holidays. Monsoons brought the best crop to the shops and a good chunk of our food budget would go to the fruit sellers.

Sindhri - A gift from the mighty Indus river


Pakistani mangoes are the greatest fruit on earth. There is no doubt about it. We prepare for our thermometer bursting, electricity deprived summers by consoling ourselves in the hope of mangoes.

I know that some Indian friends are under this illusion that Indian mangoes are better. I have no doubt that their home grown fruit is more appealing for them. Had they ever tasted the Anwar Ratol ripened in the humid, unbearable heat of southern Punjab, they would change their mind.  They have never been invited to a mango party which happens under some trees by the canal. They never tried the mango Ice-cream frozen by rolling the barrels for hours by hand on the streets and plentiful scoops of it presented with chunks of mangoes freshly sliced over it. They have never stopped in a busy night market in urban Faisalabad, ogled at the golden Dueshri and Malda bobbing among the ice-cubes in a glass tank of a roadside vendor, and ordered a few kilos to share with your friends. The vendor also presents you with the watery sweet milk remedy in the end. That is on the house, usually.


To not know the earthy fragrance of a sweet Sindhri and the irresistible, bursting with a bouquet of flavours Chaunsa is one of the greatest misfortunes akin to not visiting Lahore or disliking cricket while being an Indian.



I have nothing against Indian cultivars. They seem to be adequate for the Indian palate. I also accept the fact that Pakistan is part of the Indian subcontinent, so nothing which claims to be a product of biology can ever be inherently purely Pakistani. We are all Indians.
But with the creation of Pakistan, we had effectively firewalled a few things for our great nation. The best mangoes, fast bowlers, fried breakfasts, classical singers, pop musicians, dictatorships, good TV dramas and bad films etc etc. I can carry on.  Did I say mangoes? The humble Indian mango was allowed to thrive by our nation of talented horticulturists, and fertile sandy soil planes of Sindh and Punjab. Saplings of top quality cultivars were nurtured with love and affection. A mango farmer in Sindh cries over his flood or wind ravaged mango plants as if a beloved family member died. The harsh summer season in the planes of the mighty river Sindh has given an evolutionary edge to the Pakistani mango which is apparent in its manifold qualities. Pakistan has been an evolutionary hot spot for a few choicest things. Islamists, mystery spinners, con men, mangoes!

A mango farm in Sindh - Tando Allahyar

Compared to the Pakistani mango, the Indian mango is mediocre at best in taste and flavour. Like an Indian batsman, it only gets high scores in home conditions and is ridiculously overrated by its adoring fans. I have been forced to try the Indian mango once or twice.  Alphonso, the so-called ‘king of mangoes’ is mostly skin. Not impressed! Kesar, the other famous variety, looks good, but barely tastes like a mango. Sweetness aside, both mangoes provided ample fibres to floss ones teeth while eating them. 



Our Indian neighbours are lucky to have proper democracy, first dibs at most of our shared history, a definite sense of identity, batsmen and a booming economy. But with partition, us Pakistanis got the frail economy, a constitutional crisis In every decade, Urdu humour and the best mangoes.
Chaman's mango Ice cream. One of the best!



In addition to a robust mango based summer sub-culture, mango parties, the mango Ice-cream and millions of tons of mango produce every year from Sindh and Punjab, mangoes also helped rid us of our worst dictator. Our diplomacy, both domestic and international relies heavily on the greatness of our mango. We are a nation indebted to the mango. And we wish to share this gift with the world. That is why our mango is distributed far and wide.
 
The Indian mango has its place in the world market. That is in the canned goods isle, next to the Bombay mix and Tilde basmati rice.


King of the canned goods isle
 


It is not all lost for the Indians. After all, Anwar Ratol was a migrant from India. They can definitely have some pride in its heritage. Also, they still have the best coconuts and papaya fruit.  Why not settle on that? Leave Pakistani mangoes at their rightful place. Top of the World!

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Criticizing Islam



Ahmadi Muslims are at the forefront of the fight against radicalization.
Image Courtesy The Guardian Website

In his article in the Times entitled ‘Stand up for the right to criticize Islam’ Matt Ridley writes that there is a spectrum of religious beliefs, from spiritual to the violent extreme.  Ridley, himself a humanist, is skeptical even of the power of a moderate form of religion to bring about social justice and peace.
Ridley takes issue with PM May’s statement that terrorist acts are a ‘perversion of the great faith of Islam’. He thinks that Khalid Masood was follower of a version of Islam (not a perversion) and we must accept that as a fact. The religion of Islam must be criticized for its faults.
He then cites the oppression of women, homosexuals and suppression of science by religions (primarily Islam) to prove that religion has nothing good to offer to the society, and such practises do not deserve any respect.
I agree wholeheartedly. Well said Mr. Ridley!  If this is Islam, then I, a practicing Muslim myself will stand with you and criticize it.
But the question is; to whom should we address this criticism? God?  Prophet Muhammad? Saudi Royals? Irani Ayatollahs? Your neighbour who happens to be a Muslim?
I personally would address it to the clerics who have for generations misrepresented the scriptures, providing various violent political movements with religious sanctions to commit atrocities. As I am a Muslim who reads and understands the Quran, I will also take a position based on knowledge, not prejudice.  I know for a fact that this violent interpretation represents a fictitious faith born out of malice, human misery and selfish desires of the clergy. It is not Islam.
Mr. Ridley himself agrees.  He says, ‘The one thing they (terrorists) have in common is that they had been radicalized by religious preachers claiming to interpret the Koran.’
As my criticism has a clear target, Ridley like many others has erred in finding the right language, tone or even logic to address the issue of Islamist violent extremism.  In many cases, there is a deliberate attempt to obfuscate the facts in favour of a deeply cynical and malevolent narrative against Islam.
This is largely due to their lack of knowledge about Islam and partly due to the traditional European indoctrination against Islam. Islam has always been a ‘pretend’ religion which had nothing new to offer to the world as Pope Benedict let slip a few years ago. All the classical European historic texts take the standard stance that Prophet Muhammad was an impostor, and Muslims were a conquering force which threatened Europe for centuries. That reptilian fear reflex has been embedded so deep in the European psyche that even the atheist scholars of today can’t help this knee jerk reaction.
Take for example Mr. Ridley mentioning over 400 acid attacks in Britain. He thinks that it has something to do with sharia-enabled men disfiguring women all across the country.  The fact is that this heinous practice was a British invention, exported to other parts of the world, including the Indian subcontinent.  Most victims come from Colombia and India. But unfortunately, people have associated it with Islam. Was this an easy mistake to make? Perhaps you will think twice before calling FGM an Islamic practice. Or perhaps not!
 It is more convenient to support bigotry with fake facts these days. What about those 400 or so acid attack victims you may ask? These were mostly gang related incidents and majority of them were men. Acid attacks and FGM, just like terrorism, have nothing to do with Islam. It is all about politics, sexual and territorial, as well as that of identity. 
When it comes to people seeking the license to mock religions and their founders, Islam becomes the obvious focus of attention.  People are being killed around the Islamic world for criticizing Islam. This is also another gross perversion of Islamic teachings. It is the clerics who perpetuate these ideas, and there is no evidence, none whatsoever in the Quran to support such barbaric acts. I, like millions of my Ahmadiyya Muslim brothers and sisters around the world, criticize these clerics and their followers with proofs, arguments and with grace.  For us, Islam is free from all blame just as the God that we worship and the Prophet (Peace be upon Him) that we love and follow.
My sincere advice to Mr. Ridley and his fellow commentators is to join us in our 125 year old campaign to reform Muslims by understanding Islam and initiating a dialogue with those we disagree. Ridicule, fake facts and divisive Islamophobic propaganda is not the solution.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Mufti Hanif Qureshi, The Singing Hate Preacher Visits Luton

Hanif Qureshi gets top billing for a May 2016 event in Ghousia Mosque, Luton


It appears that Luton’s Ghousia mosque has no intention of dissociating itself from extremist clerics from Pakistan. Their latest crowd-puller is Mufti Hanif Qureshi . Despite objections raised in the house of Parliament on allowing him entry into the country, Qureshi’s appearance at various events in Luton went ahead as planned in 2016.
 
Qureshi is quite an entertainer.  He would have pulled a decent sized crowd in Hyde Park's speakers corner back in the day.  Like most clerics, he has the gift of the gob, but he belongs to a more talented variety. He is a rabble-rouser, a fire and brimstone preacher who craves for controversy.
 
In Pakistan, his home country, Qureshi’s sermons and speeches are very well-attended. He shouts and screams into the microphone, breaks frequently into the traditional song-prose style of preaching  and puntuates his speech with devotional songs. He gets the crowd going. He keeps them engaged and enraged in equal measure.
 
It is widely believed in Pakistan that his one such performance in Rawalpindi caused a high profile murder. The murderer was Mumtaz Qadri, who heard him speak at his local mosque. The victim was Salman Taseer, an outspoken liberal governor of the Punjab province and the topic of that particular speech.
 
Qureshi, like most other Sunni clerics in Pakistan have vowed to carry on with their mission of maintaining the death penalty for blasphemy an absolute law in Pakistan.  Not only that, such preachers frequently condone vigilante acts against perceived blasphemers and against anyone trying to defend the accused.
 
Qureshi’s performance  on the occasion of the ‘Khatm-e-Nabuwwat Conference’ in 2015 is worth noting here. It is an annual event marking the anniversary of the declaration of Ahmadis as non-Muslim in the Pakistani constitution.  Many mosques around the UK hold similar events every year. Most have guest speakers like Mufti Qureshi from Pakistan.

 


He starts his speech in sober fashion but  warms up very quickly. On what could be the equivalent of 0-60 mph in 3 seconds in oratory, he escalates from rather sombre invocation of prayers to full-blown death to apostates vitriol within minutes.
 
The crowd, already admiring his verbosity and his singing voice are fully engaged; chanting and singing with him and responding to his rhetorical questions. They respond with a childish zeal.
 
He isn’t happy at the energy levels. He tells them that blasphemers are watching them closely. He knows that the mosque was probably questioned about the purpose of his visit. He tells them that they must show how passionate they are about the honour of the Prophet. Realizing that not condemning blasphemers loudly enough could also be blasphemy, the crowd goes crazy.
 
Qureshi isn’t too impressed. But he must press on to more urgent matters.
His formula is simple. Its all the hits and no new material. Blasphemy, apostasy, wars, beheadings and pulling out blasphemous tongues etc. He acknowledges his hosts a couple of times and tells the crowd that UK has laws but thankfully Pakistan also has laws, much better laws - like the death penalty for blasphemy.
 
Then he goes on to another tirade about blasphemy.  His choice of words is careful. He avoids using explicitly violent language, but he implies violence through his interpretation of historic events. He relies on the audience’s misinformation about history to hint that violence against Ahmadis will be a heroic deed.  
 
He tells the crowd that Ahmadis are ‘Murtad’ (apostates) and tells them that apostates were murdered in the olden days. He glorifies it. He sings about it. He tells them that hundreds of early Muslim (i.e, Sahaba, the companions of the Prophet) gave their lives in fighting the Riddah wars. (Factually this version is incorrect. ‘Riddah wars’ is a misnomer. These were wars against a rebellion against the state).
He tells the crowd that according to the Quran, Ahmadis are Murtad and they are the ones opposing the apostates, i.e., the good guys who should follow in the footsteps of the esteemed ‘Sahaba’.  
 
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to do the algebra and come to the conclusion that Ahmadis are liable to death.  But Qureshi doesn’t say that. He tells them that apostates were murdered by strangulation by the heroic good Muslims. He urges the crowd to challenge the Ahmadis with full force. He has obviously been told not to incite violence by the organizers, but he can’t help himself. It is all tongue in cheek.  It is lightweight stuff compared to his performances in Pakistan.
He then turns his attack to the founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community. He is abusive, vulgar, slanderous and obscene; all of which are considered valuable assets for a sectarian preacher in Pakistan.  The crowd readily consumes the filth and responds to the presumed blasphemies of Ahmadis with gasps of shock and horror. He finishes his performance by asking the crowd to declare the Ahmadis as blasphemers. He laments the fact that they can’t do anything in the UK.  He doesn’t recommend any actions for the crowd apart from hating the Ahmadis and teach their children at home that Ahmadis are Kafir.
 
Since the murder of Asad Shah in Glasgow, it has become painfully clear that hate preachers wield too much influence in the UK. Amongst the many fans of Tanveer Ahmed, the murderer, the most prominent one appears to be none other than the talented Mufti Qureshi.   The Ghousia Mosque in Luton has not only hosted a hate preacher, it has allowed him to incite violence and hatred against the Ahmadis.  The sad reality is that for most Pakistani immigrant communities, these Barelvi firebrands offer a sordid entertainment which feeds their religious bigotries and makes them feel pious. 
 
The next Mumtaz Qadri or Tanveer Ahmed could be getting his murderous motivation from these speeches.  The government response to the parliamentary question regarding this imported  hate preacher was inadequate, and evidently, ineffective.  This has to stop!

Friday, August 5, 2016

Thanks but no thanks Mr. Murray

Douglas Murray - Image from bbc website


In the aftermath of the horrendous and barbaric attacks in France in recent weeks, many Muslims turned out in their numbers to attend church services across France and Italy. This made headlines.

Muslims attending Mass in Rome. Image from Massimo Percossi—EPA


Not known for his impartiality or balanced opinion, Douglas Murray has issued what appears to be a deeply cynical take on these news stories.

He has a theory. A conspiracy theory.

He thinks that there is a media conspiracy to push a positive, feel-good story about Muslims soon after the horrors of the latest ISIS inspired episode have been covered on a 24/7 loop by all news channels. He also seems to imply that somehow Ahmadi Muslims, a small sect founded in 19th century India and rejected by the mainstream Muslims are in on this conspiracy.

I don’t exactly know what compels news outlets to crave for a 'positive Muslim story'.

In this Orwellian dystopia, as Murray imagines it to be, is it for the sake of the sanity of a society at the brink of mental breakdown? Or is it the ratings? Keeping the hit counts growing and message boards and phone lines busy with anguished contributors trying to make sense of things in line with their personal worldviews? It could be a deliberate attempt to engineer public opinion – to keep it just left of the fascist scale, but enough to keep the white working-class scared with a slight tinge of hope to keep them going with their daily lives?
These are mainstream Sunni Muslims.
 

But Murray's conspiracy theory is more fantastic than that. He thinks that the media and the marginalized Ahmadiyya Muslims are in-fact masquerading these feel-good stories to keep the public dis-informed about the irredeemable evils of the Islamic religion; to hoodwink them into believing in the so-called ‘religion or peace’ narrative so that they can sleep walk into a Europe ruled by Sharia law with mosques at every street corner.

Murray's latest post is a masterpiece of shameless obfuscation of plain facts. French and Italian Muslims attending Mass to show solidarity with Christians was not an engineered story. It was plain to see from the news coverage that Muslims belonging to various groups, sects and organizations were represented at many churches, including the Ahmadiyya Muslims who appear to have attended a church event with their famous banner stating Love for All, Hatred for None.  

Ahmadi Muslims pay their respects outside a Church. Image courtesy JACKY NAEGELENREUTERS

Murray doesn’t want to believe that mainstream Islam has any redeeming features and in his recent posts has highlighted that only the marginalized, persecuted and rejected Ahmadiyya sect is the only source of positive news stories about Islam.

As an Ahmadi Muslim, I couldn’t disagree more.  It is true that Ahmadi Muslims have been at the forefront of this battle against bigotry of extremist Islamophobes as well as the militant Islamists. But there are Muslim groups in the western world, representing the mainstream Sunni and Shia sects who do respond to such tragedies with gestures of solidarity and goodwill. They may be small in numbers now, but this is a good sign of things to come.

For example, in France, the call to solidarity was led by CFCM, the French equivalent of the MCB. The BBC news story, of which Murray is so critical, shows a number of photographs with Imams belonging to mainly Sunni sects clearly.

I know the garbs, headdresses and other distinctive features of Sunni Imams, something of which Murray may not be cognizant. If I was commenting on various Islamic sects and there validity in the public discourse, I would take care to find out more about their distinctive features. White round hats, conical Qaraqul caps, long gowns, long beards, short beards, black turbans; you can distinguish between various denominations if you know what you are looking at. And if you see all of these turbans, gowns and beards in a news story, from across the European continent, it is not a media conspiracy, but a true show of humanity and solidarity.

Ahmadi Muslims are only a tiny minority in France and it appears that they did attend a service. They would have attended regardless of CFCM appeal, but that is beside the point.

Murray says that Ahmadiyya efforts in reaching out to the wider European community are meaningless as they are shunned and dismissed by the rest. Nothing could be further from the truth.

They say that mimicry is the best form of flattery. You can see that mainstream Muslim sects are adopting the Ahmadiyya ways of dialogue and social intercourse which has been missing in the past.

In Britain, more and more progressive Imams are visible in the media and are challenging the orthodox positions on many subjects. It is also true that the traditionalists and literalists still hold sway in most communities, especially the ghettoized ones. But you can’t ignore the fact that Ahmadiyya Muslims have paved way to some reform in the Muslim communities across Europe.

Not long ago, hardly any cleric in any of the Sunni or Shia mosques in Europe would have dared to denounce the violent interpretation of Jihad. Ahmadis have been branded as ‘deniers of Jihad’ by the orthodoxy since their sect was founded in 1889.  It was because their interpretation of the Quranic verses differed from the misguided political definition of Jihad. To them Jihad is not an armed rebellion, but a struggle, a long and personal journey to find God.
Hazrat Khalifatul Masih V, Mirza Masroor Ahamd. A champion for peace and Caliph of the Ahmadiya Muslim Community.

I am happy to see that those clerics and Imams who traditionally reject the Ahmadiyya message of reform are accepting this very same definition. They may be hesitant to admit to it, but they are reforming themselves, very slowly.

Mr. Murray should be happy too. But unfortunately he has chosen to believe in a bigoted view of history. He sees Islam and the message of the Quran as the problem. While he praises the Ahmadiyya Muslims, he ignores the fact that Ahmadis do believe in the Quran as the literal word of God and they do believe that Muhammad, the Prophet was a perfect exemplar for all of mankind.

Mr. Murray, please don’t use Ahmadi shoulders to shoot your Islamophobic gun. We are doing fine without your support.

And if you so wish to find out what an Ahmadi Imam looks like, come visit us at the Jalsa Salana UK,  12-14th  August. It is our 50th annual convention in the UK with over 30,000 guests anticipated to attend for three days.  There will be many Ahmadi Imams in attendance from all around the world, including a contingent from France who will be happy to educate you about Islam and the Ahmadiyya reform efforts.
 
Over 30,000 Ahmadi Muslims attend #JalsaUK at Alton, Hampshire.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Saturday, April 9, 2016

Muslim Council of Britain - The Islamist Big Brother


Muslim Council of Britain has many affiliates. Shia, Sunni, Wahabi, Salafi, progressives as well as orthodox; the council does seem to strive to represent the interests of British Muslims.

We can safely assume that theological differences among various sects are put aside while dealing with key issues which affect all Muslims alike. i.e., Islamophobia, community tensions, discrimination at workplace, mosque applications getting refused on flimsy grounds etc.

It doesn't matter to the council for example if a shia  muslim holds a theologically distinct position regarding the superiority of Imams over the Prophets, a belief which is fiercely contested by the Sunnis. But why should it matter?

Your local council, or a fiery UKIP candidate, or your boss don't need to know these intricacies while judging you to be a person of concern around the place. Your beard, hijab or the need to go for prayer breaks will be sufficient to provoke prejudice against you.

Similarly, it doesn't matter for the MCB if a certain proportion of their membership is barelvi sub-sect of sunni Islam. Barelvi's tend to be more devotional towards the saints and sufis of the past and their present day successors. They find it much easier to prostrate themselves before their holy men and indulge in mystical music and dancing. An observant barelvi will spend much of his life in certain social and religious practices which are shunned by the wahabi/salafi sect of Islam. Wahabi/Salafi Muslims are strict monotheists. To them, barelvis are 'Mushrik', polytheists. The act of 'shirk' is enough to condemn a person to eternal hell!

Both wahabis and barelvis are proud members of the MCB, and why shouldn't they be? As it doesn't matter to the local residents to protest against a mosque project if it is going to be a barelvi or a wahabi mosque. We all look and sound the same to them, right?

Why should then the MCB go out of its way to say that Ahmadis cannot be called Muslims?
According to their statement the MCB feels that muslims are unduly pressurized to refer to Ahmadis as muslims.

In my experience, it is infact the ordinary mainstream Muslims who are being pressurized unduly to boycott Ahmadis and consider them non-Muslims. Most of my muslim friends consider me a muslim like themselves. But if some of them unfortunately cross paths with a takfiri Mullah, they change their views. Not all of them, but some of them. And when I confront them about their views their standard reply is that 'I am not expert in such things, but the Maulvi knows much more than I do.'

A famous slogan goes 'whoever doesn't believe them to be kafir is a kafir himsef'.

Hate filled pamphlets called for the boycott of Ahmadis are common sight in the UK threse days.
We should sympathize with those poor souls who are being held hostage by the enemies of freedom of belief and expression. The MCB is playing big brother for UK muslims, just like its proud affiliate, the Majlis Tahaffuz Khatme Nabuwwat, AMTKN, a well funded organization which is responsible for Ahmadi persecution worldwide.

Imam Ibrahim Mogra of the MCB, a polite and well-spoken muslim faith leader, spent an hour on the BBC Asian Network trying to explain to the audience what it is that gives him and the MCB the right to say such an absurd thing.

Imam Ibrahim Mogra. Image courtesy ukasian.com
Mogra cites the two fundamentals of Islam, 1) Belief in Allah as the only God and 2) Belief in Muhammad as the final messenger of God.

He says that because Ahmadis do not believe in the finality of the Prophethood of Muhammad and they hold a distinctly unislamic belief in another prophet after him, therefore they cannot be Muslims.

A number of Ahmadi callers to the show refuted the Imam's assertions by stating that almost all muslims are awaiting another prophet to arrive any day now, hence his stance is not only illogical but against the commonly agreed doctrine of the majority of Muslims.

I could go into more details on this fine and nuanced theological debate, but it should be sufficient to say that Ahmadi Muslims believe in a messiah, namely Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian who claimed to have fulfilled the prophecy regarding the awaited prophet. Others however believe that Jesus who is in heavens will descend on a minaret in Damascus and conduct a worldwide holy war against all non-believers.

My point is that whereas shia belief challenges the fundamental concept of prophethood of sunni Islam, and whereas the barelvi practices clearly contravene the fundamental idea of the oneness of God as held by the non-barelvis, both these groups are muslim in the eyes of the MCB. Ahmadi Muslims do not hold any beliefs that cannot be interpreted from the words of Quran and the sayings of the Prophet. Then why display such malice against a persecuted, peaceful minority? 

I know the answer, and it is time that you know it too.

Ahamdiyya Islam has challenged the orthodox establishment in Islamic countries for over a hundred years. Whether it is the concept of violent jihad or the place of science in the muslim society, women's rights or interfaith relations, rejection of political Islamism or the use of modern methods to defend Islam against the missionary onslaught in the colonial days; Ahmadiyya Islam has been winning hearts and minds all around the world. And this does not sit right with the orthodoxy.

The early opponnets of Ahmadiyya Islam were great scholars in their own right. They still hold revered status among the orthodox Muslims today, but most of them accepted the Ahmadi Islam as a part of Muslim polity. They may have declared them 'kafir' in a theological sense, but they did not dare deny them their identity.

It is only when in 1974 Pakistan a Saudi backed conglomerate of mosque and Parliament took the ill-fated step of enforcing jealousy and hatred as a law. Yes, such laws exist. They were jealous of the advances the Ahmadis had made in all spheres of life in Pakistan and abroad. Statesmen, businessmen, scientists, military heroes, diplomats and economists, Ahamdis had proven their true value to the nation and the Muslim world as a whole. In fact, most new converts to Islam were because of the Ahmadiyya missionary work around the world.

After causing hundreds of targetted killings in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Indonesia, when the same jealousy and hatred spills over to the UK with the scholars and Imams of Pakistani and Bangladeshi origin, people like Asad Shah get murdered in Glasgow.

And the same hatred and jealousy is the cause of such statements to be made which reek of complicity and guilt.

Ahmadi Muslims do not need a certificate of approval of their faith. But as a political entity, Muslims who self-identify as Muslims must stand united, regardless of theological differences. If MCB is failing thousands of Muslims in this country like this, I am happy to join any other council which does what it says on its label.


Sunday, April 3, 2016

Bill Maher and 'that' Pew survey


Bill Maher is a well-known TV personality in USA. He is a touring comedian who hosts a regular late-night talk show on HBO. He is a left-wing liberal and is a devout atheist. He loves to berate religion and conservatives in his shows and finds little in common with people of faith. In recent months, Maher has turned his most acerbic wit to criticize Islam.
Maher (center) had a heated argument on his HO show with Ben Affleck (left) on his negative remarks about Islam
 (image courtesy LA times)
 
His jokes fall flat as I can see through his ignorance of my religion. His opinions are informed by certain Islamophobes who think that they know all there is to know about Islam. They see the Islamic world in turmoil, suicide attacks on the innocent civilians all around the world and a constant stream of negative headlines and deduce that there must be something wrong with the religion.
Maher cites a pew survey very regularly to prove his point. The survey does seem to show some worrying results. In Egypt, 86% of Muslims believe that apostates should be killed. This is also Bill Maher’s favourite statistic.
Pew Survey (2013) 86% of Egyptians think that punishment of apostasy should be death
 

From a statistical point of view the survey has some merits. With a considerable sample size and a good geographic spread, this survey goes to some lengths to understand the socioeconomic profile of the target demographic. 
From my reading, I can see some flaws in how the data is being presented. For example, when it comes to the controversial topics like the stoning to death of adulterers or apostates, the data is presented as if it represents the views of the same population who responded to the prior questions. The caption on the graph does explain that it represents the answers from only the subset of people who stated that sharia law must be the law of the land.  If recalculated, 86% turns into 63%; still a very high percentage. Who would like to live in a place where more than half of its population is so bigoted? I wouldn’t.
Lets look at some more variables to understand this data. My stance is that indeed Muslims around the world are invariably influenced by the rigid interpretation of Islam exported from Saudi Arabia, but the situation is not as bad as portrayed by the survey.  It is partly due to the fact that the questions were over-simplified and we cannot rule out extreme response bias due to the nature of the survey and the current environment.
Countries scoring very high in the survey for violence and prejudice have been in a state of socio-economic upheaval for a long time. Add to that failing political system, mistrust of the politicians and a constant dose of counter-narrative from the Islamist camp and you are bound to get such poll results.  A survey recently found out that almost 20% of Trump supporters think that slavery should not have been abolished.
This is far more alarming than a politically disenfranchised Egyptian or Pakistani wishing for an ideological state which can never exist.
Results from central Asia, Turkey and most African countries show Muslims to be tolerant and accepting of other faiths. Countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Malaysia are among those showing high numbers in markers for intolerance.
These countries are also very diverse in their ethnic mix, urban and rural make-up of religious groups and how the current political establishment may be impacting the opinions of the common people. Also, if the surveyors had gone to the major urban centers like Lahore, Rawalpindi, Dhaka, Jakarta etc., they may have found highly opinionated responders who are not representative of the opinions found in the wider population.
It is not unlikely that a large proportion of people living in economically deprived areas would hold rather extreme political views. The prevailing political system would dictate how much of that is translated into a real change. Mr. Trump’s disenfranchised white, working class supporters prove that point.
The religion of Islam is undergoing a crisis since the past two centuries. It is the same crisis that the Western world went though and came out of it without a faith. Some say it is a good thing. I disagree.
Some western liberals believe that this problem can be solved by listening to lapsed or ex-Muslims who hold  opinions not to dissimilar to many Islamophobes. I hear them speak about discarding certain verses from the Quran or even accepting the hate filled criticisms of modern orientalists with open hearts.  
 
Ayan Hirsi Ali, an ex-Muslim and Maher's favourite Islamophobe (image: Salon.com)
 

It may get them some airtime on an HBO talk show but it means nothing to 1.6 billion Muslims, majority of whom struggle for their daily bread.
In the same survey, a majority of Egyptians and Pakistanis thought their country's economy was in a bad state. Similarly, most responders across the board were dissatisfied with the general state of affairs their country.
To such people religion offers the justice that they deserve in the afterlife. This notion of Sharia law which their local cleric has taught them is nothing but an alternative political system to end all injustice.
The survey also establishes that many Muslims believe that Sharia is a Divinely revealed law with no room for interpretation. They also believe that according to the same law apostate should be killed and adulterers should be stoned to death. 
I see not a single verse in the Quran to support either punishment. In this discrepancy lies the answer to all involved; liberals, lapsed or ex-Muslim intellectuals, Islamophobes and most importantly, the practicing Muslims.  
Intellectual thought in mainstream Islam has been frozen in time and opportunist elements from within and without want to keep it that way. This intellectual leap which would allow Muslims to embrace modernity can only be made through economic welfare and education, both of which impossible without peace.
Modernity does not mean discarding of the fundamental Islamic tenets. It means that educated Muslims will be able to read and understand the Quran themselves, they will be empowered to challenge the clergy, run their own democratic governments,  and cause a peaceful revolution which will be in the best interest of all.  
In the meantime, Bill Maher should worry more about a fascist regime which is about to take over his own country.

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