Monday 30 April 2018

Karachi becoming a killing field for newborn girls

Edhi Foundation has found 355 such dead infants from the garbage dumps across the country in 2017; 99 percent of them were identified girls. And Karachi has topped in this notorious ranking with 180 cases in 2017. As many as 72 dead girls have been buried in the first four months of this year by Edhi Foundation alone in the metropolitan city. The given data is just tip of the iceberg as Edhi foundation maintains the data of those cities where it provides services.
Chhipa Welfare Foundation, another NGO, came across 93 cases in Karachi where newborn girls were killed; around 70 babies in 2017 and 23 in this year.
“Though people abandon these innocent souls but as a welfare organization we cannot. We give them a proper burial and perform other rituals for these babies. After completing the hospital and police formalities, we burry them in our own graveyard. The burial and other rituals cost us around Rs 2,000 per child. I wonder how poor can a person be that he/she cannot afford Rs 2000 to give a proper burial to their child,” commented Shahid Mehmood spokesperson of Chhipa Welfare Organization.
In many major cities of Pakistan, Edhi foundation installed ‘Jhoolas’ (baby cradles) so that the people should leave unwanted children there instead of killing them. The number of such sites is in hundreds across the country but this initiative received little success. One of the reasons for the lack of response to such ‘Jhoolas’ is wrath of religious leadership which believe this will promote illegitimacy. Although Edhi foundation claims they are getting positive response from people but their data is contradictory to this claim. According to Kazmi, the foundation received only 14 unwanted children in 2017, who were alive. Interestingly, 12 out of 14 were girls whereas the remaining two boys were physically unfit.
According to a police official in Additional Inspector General (AIG) Karachi office, Neelum Colony Karachi located near Clifton is one of the slum area of the metropolitan city. Majority of the inhabitant of this colony are living below the poverty line and are illiterate. Incidents of infanticide are occurring in those areas where people have no access to even basic necessities and Neelum Colony is one such area, brief an official in the AIG Karachi office.
Though police term poverty and illiteracy as root cause of infanticide but Edhi foundation’s office bearer has different views about it. According to Mr. Kazmi, in majority of cases infanticide is occurring due to out of wedlock births. Normally, people kill girls if they are born out of wedlock as this is consider a stigma. However if the baby is a boy the family try to protect him. “We have seen so many horrible incidents. One such incident which still I remember despite passage of more than a decade is the stoning of a new born baby who was found outside mosque”, says Mr. Kazmi.
“A few people found a baby at the door step of a mosque in Karachi and they handed the baby over to the prayer leader. The cleric decried that this is an illegitimate baby therefore he should be stoned. Resultantly the baby was stoned to death. I tried to register a case against the cleric but nothing happened”, narrated Kazmi.
The ratio of infanticide is high in the South Asian region. Particularly, the trend of killing girls is rising. The South Asia is well known for having more preference for sons than daughters. According to a study carried out by Oxford Institute of Population Ageing, University of Oxford, over the past two decades, son preference has become more strongly associated with the practice of continuing to bear children until couples have achieved their desired number of sons and daughters in Pakistan.

Friday 27 April 2018

The Real Instinct Lurking Behind the Kathua Horror

The rapes at Unnao and Kathua have shaken most of us. And yet it needs to be said that the Kathua rape falls in an entirely different category. The abduction, brutalisation, multiple rape and finally murder of the eight-year-old girl was an act of communal or ethnic ‘cleansing’. It was done with an intent to rid Kathua of the presence of the Muslim Bakarwal community. That it was done on “behalf of the nation” was clear when we saw the tiranga being waved to cover the crime, led by people who are known as officers of the court.
Rapes of children in this country are not a rarity. We have heard of even eight-month-old babies being brutalised by men. So it is not the age of the victim alone that should shake us. Nor indeed the manner of the rape. Humans have the capacity to imagine novel depravities. Newer forms of horrors can be and have been invented and executed.

Apart from the act itself, it is the brazen and cunning support for the criminals which was displayed on the streets of Jammu under the cover of the national flag which should lead us to pause and question how as a society we have reached this point. The lawyers proved that the rapists were not alone in this ritual of the rape and murder of a little Muslim girl. I know some people will object to my describing the girl as Muslim. Let us call her a child and the rapists merely as rapists. But was she not raped and killed for being a Muslim? Was it not done to scare all the Bakarwal (Muslims) families away from Kathua?
It was the tri-colour dance on the streets of Jammu which was the most disgusting. But that should not have surprised us either. Look at the cunning calculations that lay behind what the lawyers were asking for: besides demanding the case to be transferred to the CBI from the crime branch of the police of the Jammu and Kashmir, they also demanded that Rohingyas be evicted from the area and that the policy regarding the use of tribal land be scrapped.

All three demands have a common element: demonisation of Muslims. The cleverness behind the demand of a CBI investigation cannot be missed. The crime branch of the state police had put together a coherent account of the act and was going to file a chargesheet. The idea was to block the move and allow a respite for the criminals. The CBI, being what it is nowadays, would have slowed down the investigation and would also have given an excuse for the government that a higher agency was looking into the crime, for have not we been demanding time and again for cases to be transferred from the state investigative agencies to the central body? That breathing space would then have been used to mobilise support for the perpetrators among the Hindus of Jammu.
Where did this overconfidence of ‘nationalist’ politics, displayed in Jammu, come from? How and why did lawyers, politicians and others feel emboldened to block the police from filing the chargesheet, take out a procession and give a call for a bandh? Why did they feel assured of popular support? Were they only the most vocal, articulate ones from a community the rapists and their supporters were trying to mobilise in their anti-Muslim campaign?

We have forgotten that a jhanki (tableau) lauding the hacking and murder of Mohammad Afrazul by Shambhulal Regar was taken out in a  Ramnavami procession at Jodhpur. The organisers of the procession feigned ignorance – nobody was ready to take responsibility for the bizarre aesthetic demonstration of support of a vile act. We did not ask how a tableau could be smuggled into a procession? The criminality of it was soon forgotten. We need to recall that substantial support did and does exist for the murderer Shambhulal at Rajsamand. People argue that since “love jihad” is real, what Shambhulal did has a justification, his purpose was right.
Long before the defence for the rapists and killers of Kathua and Shambhulal, Gujarat had witnessed a most macabre yatra centred around the defence of the mass murders and rapes that were part of the genocidal violence against Muslims in 2002. The then chief minister of Gujarat, Narendra Modi, had undertaken this yatra in the name of the glory of Gujarat. He asked his audience if they believed in the stories of looting and burning of houses, of children being killed and women being raped. He blasted the opposition for telling the world that Gujarat was full of looters , murdered and rapists. In his public meetings he, in his sinister style, lobbed the question before his people: Did murders take place? Did rapes take place? Did killings take place? And he coaxed the audience to deny all of it. The Hindus of Gujarat are still in denial of the rapes and murders of Muslims; and if they are truthful to themselves, they have an explanation – or even justification – for the horrific acts
We know that Kausar Bi was abducted, raped and murdered. The investigative agencies told us that this was done in the knowledge and under the watch of the then home minister of Gujarat, Amit Shah. He now leads the party which rules India, after having secured a discharge from the trial court that the CBI refused to appeal. Kausar Bi’s murder and the murder of her husband, Sohrabuddin, was justified by the then chief minister in the name of fighting terrorism.
A similar campaign of denial of violence, which included looting, destroying of properties of Muslims, murders and rapes, was witnessed in Muzaffarnagar. We see women in Kathua sitting on a dharna against the police action in the rape and murder case and we are taken back to the scenes of hordes of women coming out to prevent police from entering their villages to arrest their sons, brothers and husbands who were accused in these acts of violence. We saw the body of an accused being wrapped in the tiranga in Dadri where Akhlaq was lynched after being dragged out of his home.
How can we also forget the murderous assault by the lawyers of Delhi on Kanhaiya Kumar? Are they not brothers-in-arms of the agitating lawyers of Jammu? Before expressing its annoyance at the act of the lawyers of Jammu, the Supreme Court should have asked itself why it decided that the case of assault against Kanhaiya should not be pursued. Why did it say that let the buried be buried?  
Rapes should worry us. The rape of a helpless child is most reprehensible. But more disturbing is   the fact that the perpetrators and their supporters pass off such acts as ‘nationalism’. We write off the seriousness of each act of violence against Muslims and Christians by comparing it with the enormity of the crimes committed by Hitler. But as Jairus Banaji has pointed out, there is a serial element in the episodes of such violence as all of them essentially spring from a genocidal impulse. So what we have since the recrudescence of communal violence against Muslims in 1961 is the serial impact of that impulse. We think that the incidents are isolated but we need to realise that they are merely episodes of a serial.

I see the media turning its attention to the new victims, the Bakarwals in this case. We read about their way of living and the way they think. Poems are already being written as elegies to the raped and murdered child. All this is fine and the sentiment behind it should be respected. But we need to take a hard look at ourselves. We need to shift our gaze. We need to look at the politics of rape, murder and violence against the Muslims and Christians of this country which has been legitimised by politicians through their incessant propaganda. We need to ask our pundits how they could see hope in a person who has perfected the politics of hatred against Muslims and Christians into an art and who never misses an opportunity to inject this venom in the body polity of this country. Why are we overawed by him?

The eight-year-old child in Kathua is the latest addition to the long list of girls and women – named and unnamed – who have been raped, brutalised and killed for being Muslim. This fact should not be blurred. She was not raped and killed because she was a child. The fact of the rape is important but more important than that is the politics behind this rape and murder. So it is not merely the manner and method employed to crush a fragile life that we need to discuss. That is what we see the media doing. There is a perverse pleasure in doing that. Let us not allow ourselves to be swallowed by that.
Let us not restrict ourselves to the demand of justice for the victim. She is beyond that. It is now time for the people of the country to decide how long they will remain under the spell of fake nationalists.


Wednesday 25 April 2018

Three Kansas men convicted over mass 'slaughter' plot targeting Muslims

Three members of a Kansas militia with a hatred of Muslim immigrants have been found guilty of plotting to blow up a mosque and apartment complex that housed Somali refugees in order to “wake people up”.
A federal jury in Wichita convicted Patrick Stein, Gavin Wright and Curtis Allen on charges of conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction and conspiracy against civil rights.
Wright was also convicted of lying to the FBI. The men, who pleaded not guilty, face up to life in prison when they are sentenced on 27 June.
Their plot developed against a backdrop of anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim rhetoric as Donald Trump’s presidential campaign intensified ahead of the November 2016 election.
According to prosecutors, the group decided to detonate explosive-filled vehicles at corners of an apartment complex with many Somali residents.

Saturday 21 April 2018

Interesting video series on Muslim Scientists

  • Alhazen or Alhacen or ibn al-Haytham (965–1039 CE) - Episode 1, 2 & 3
  • Alpharabius or Al-Farabi or Abū Naṣr Muḥammad ibn Muḥammad Al Fārābī (872 - 950 CE) - Episode 4 & 5
  • Avicenna or Ibn Sini or Abū ʿAlī al-Ḥusayn ibn ʿAbd Allāh ibn Sīnā (980 - 1037 CE) - Episode 6, 7, 8, 9 & 10
  • Al-Biruni or Abū Rayḥān Muḥammad ibn Aḥmad Al-Bīrūnī (973 - 1048 CE) - Episode 11, 12, 13, 14 & 15
  • Ibn Al Bitar or Ibn al-Bayṭār or Ḍiyāʾ Al-Dīn Abū Muḥammad ʿAbdllāh Ibn Aḥmad al-Mālaqī (1197 - 1248 CE) - Episode 16, 17 & 18
  • Abu Bakr Al Razi or Abū Bakr Muhammad ibn Zakariyyā al-Rāzī (854–925 CE) - Episode 19, 20 & 21
  • Al Khwarizmi or Algoritmi or Muḥammad ibn Mūsā al-Khwārizmī (780 - 850 CE) - Episode 22, 23 & 24
  • Ibn al-Nafis or Ala-al-din abu Al-Hassan Ali ibn Abi-Hazm al-Qarshi al-Dimashqi (1213 - 1288 CE) - Episode 25, 26 & 27
  • Jabir ibn Hayyan or Geber or Abu Mūsā Jābir ibn Hayyān (721 - 815 CE) - Episode 29, 29 & 30

Wednesday 18 April 2018

In the Israel/Palestine conflict, is Israel guilty of genocide against the Palestinians?

Yes– absolutely.
The other day I wrote a short piece on why the Bible does not command us to blindly stand with the modern state of Israel, and one of the points I made is that Israel is guilty of genocide. There were no shortage of internet commenters who objected to my use of this word and felt it was over the top. However, I stand by my assertion that Israel is guilty of genocide, so allow me to expand upon that.
I believe the main reason many push back on the idea that Israel is guilty of genocide is because of a lack of understanding of the full nuance of the word, and what genocide can look like in a modern context. While rounding up people for mass executions would be obvious evidence of genocide, the reality is that genocide can take place in ways that are more subtle– making it palatable for the masses, and even seem justified at times.
Some scholars have referred to the Israel/Palestine conflict as “incremental genocide” and I would agree with that term. Instead of an overt, blatant attempt to eradicate a people group, incremental genocide involves actions and policies that are designed to slowly erode, break up, and destroy a specific population. Think for example of early American history and the genocide of Native Americans. While it wasn’t always mass killings, genocide occurred by military conflict, expanding land holdings, resettlements, and creating conditions that were destructive for the indigenous population. While it took many years to complete, and while it took many forms, what early Americans did to the indigenous people of North America was nothing short of genocide.
The same holds true for Israel.
The legal definition of genocide includes the following:
“Acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group such as:
(a)        Killing members of the group;
(b)        Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c)        Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.”
While A and B are both elements we find present in Israel’s approach to Palestinians, the key aspect of genocide being waged by Israel is found in C: the deliberate infliction of conditions that in part or as a whole will destroy a people group. Arab Christians and Muslims known as Palestinians have been undoubtedly the target of Israel and a desire to eradicate them from the land.
When Israel was created it resulted in an instant crisis for the Christians and Muslims who had lived together quite peacefully for hundreds and hundreds of years. Even today there are somewhere around 3.5 to 4 million Palestinian refugees who wish to have the right to return to their homes and land– a request that will never be granted by Israel.
For those who remain in Palestinian territory, they might as well be living in a massive open-air prison, because they live under the occupation of a foreign army. Children are routinely tear gassed on the way to school. Imports are severely restricted, with even basics like water being tightly controlled. Their rights of passage are severely curtailed– families have been broken up and people have died at military checkpoints because they were delayed or denied passage to access critical medical care.
To top it all off, what little land Palestinians have left is under systematic erosion by Israeli policy. Illegal Israeli settlements continue to crop up in Palestinian territory, in violation of international law. These illegal settlements, in addition to literally confiscating land from indigenous people, often bring violence to the Palestinians who live there. Even just a brief youtube search will bring up countless examples of women and children being assaulted by illegal settlers, or examples like Palestinian farms being attacked and destroyed at harvest time.
Let’s not be dishonest in the ultimate goal here: it is to rid the land of Palestinians.
Capture their land. Develop policies to evict them from their houses. Send in settlers and soldiers to colonize what land they still have. Refuse to let refugees back. Make them miserable under military rule. Limit their access to basic, life-sustaining resources.
The goal? Be not deceived: this is ethnic cleansing.
Do the Palestinians ever fight back and use violence? Yes, of course. This is equally wrong. It is also highly ineffective because it plays right into the hands of Israel, who uses this as an excuse to respond with utterly overwhelming military violence, such as arresting and incarcerating children accused of throwing rocks, or wiping out entire communities in the name of self-defense, such has been seen in Gaza.
So here’s where we’re at: Many of the indigenous people were displaced upon the creation of the modern state of Israel, and the number of displaced people has continued to grow. They are refugees who live in poverty and painful conditions at refugee camps. Israel has systematically expanded its borders to functionally capture more and more land that belonged to Palestinians. Of what’s left, Palestinians have to suffer under a brutal military occupation where so many aspects of life are restricted or deprived. To top it all off, Israel continues to expand illegal settlements into Palestinian territory, further creating conditions designed to break up and destroy the will of Palestinians to even exist.
That folks, is genocide. It is incremental, slow-motion genocide. If the international community continues to turn a blind eye, it will do nothing short of ensure the complete destruction and or displacement of the Palestinian people.
Is calling this genocide over the top? No, it’s not. It’s genocide. Legally. Morally. It’s genocide.
It’s just happening in slow motion, so the world doesn’t see it.
(And it’s being done by the people we’re told are God’s favorite, so we don’t even want to see it.
Read more at 

Tuesday 17 April 2018

Israel accused of indiscriminate phosphorus use in Gaza

White phosphorus burns in contact with oxygen and causes deep burns when it touches human skin, sometimes reaching to the bone. The weapon is not illegal itself and can be used to provide a smokescreen on the battlefield or as an incendiary weapon against a military target. However, its use is regulated even by customary international law. It must be used in a way that distinguishes between combatants and civilians and cannot be used to target civilians.
Most of the Israeli military's white phosphorus in Gaza was fired in 155mm artillery shells, each containing 116 wedges soaked with the chemical.
In January, the Guardian found one such shell still smoking several days after it was fired, outside the home of the Abu Halima family in Atatra. One white phosphorous shell hit the house directly, killing a father and four of his children. His wife was severely burnt. Human Rights Watch also reported the same case.
Human Rights Watch found 24 spent white phosphorus shells in Gaza, all from the same batch made in a US ammunition factory in 1989 by Thiokol Aerospace. Other shells were photographed during the war with markings showing they were made in the Pine Bluff Arsenal, also in America, in 1991.
Human Rights Watch said the Israeli military often used the weapon even in areas where there were no Israeli troops on the ground, which it said, "strongly suggests that the IDF [Israel Defence Forces] was not using the munition for its obscurant qualities but rather for its incendiary effect".
The group said it found no evidence that Hamas fighters used Palestinian civilians as human shields - a key Israeli claim - in the area at the time of the attacks it researched.

Monday 16 April 2018

'Mr President, grant mercy to my daughter who was tortured into a false murder confession'

Dear Mr President,
I’m a poor man. I don’t have much. But what I do have is a daughter. Kanizan is my only child. Even when she could talk, she wouldn’t speak much.
She was a timid child, who never talked back. She would do as she was told, and never say no. She would cry easily, as fragile as her little wrists.
Because Kanizan was so delicate, she was very attached to her mother, often seeking shelter in her arms. She looked just like her mother, the same complexion, the same round face.
But this comfort was taken away from her all too quickly. My wife died very suddenly, leaving Kanizan and me completely alone in the world.
I was a farmer, but money had become tough. What little I had eventually turned to nothing. Luckily, I still had Kanizan.
She used to help me around the house but when she saw how difficult it had become to put food on the table, she told me she wanted to work. I hesitated at first. I had been unable to put Kanizan in school. What would she do?
Kanizan began working as a housemaid for a rich, landowning family. She was little more than a child herself.
It is no wonder that she quickly befriended the very children she was charged with taking care of, the children of Muhammad Khan.
Their mother would often admonish her for not being more responsible with them, considering she would play with them more.
She began contributing what little she could. It was not much, but it was a helping hand. I could not be more grateful for this lifeline.
But Sir, this did not last.
The murder took place not too far from where we lived in Kamaliya. I will never forget the way Muhammad Khan screamed when he saw his wife and children murdered.
Muhammad Khan and his family had been involved in a property dispute that had started to get uglier by the day. The police had asked him at the scene of the crime if he had any enemies. He had named four of them, all his cousins. The police registered a case against them.
They were in jail for about two days. Bail is easy to come by when money is not a concern.
One night, Kanizan and I were about to have dinner when there was a knock on our door. Our village elder, Allah Yar, was at the door. He looked solemn, but determined.
He told me that people had started to talk, that someone had to be punished. He looked at Kanizan, who was sitting in the corner of the room.
Allah Yar looked me in the eye, put his hand on his heart, and said, “I swear by the Quran, I know your daughter is innocent, but let me take her to the police station.” They’ll question her, and she’ll be home in the morning, he promised.
She never came back.
Kanizan had played with those children, loved them, cared for them. She would tell me all about them. When she heard of their killing, she was utterly distraught. Naively, she thought she would be helping the police find their killer. She agreed to go.
Allah Yar took her to the police station, and left her there. Kanizan was 16 years old. The police recorded her age as 25.
My nephew lived very close to the police station. He trembles when he tells me of what he heard they did to her.
Women in our village, never interact with men outside of our immediate family. But Kanizan spent nights trapped in a jail cell with strangers. When I went to see her, they didn't let me meet her.
They hung her from a fan with ropes thicker than her tiny wrists, beating her small frame with all their might. They let mice loose in her pants, which they tied from the ankles so that they could not escape. Kanizan had been terrified of mice her whole life.
They electrocuted her repeatedly. I can only hope that she fainted during this ordeal. This is how I comfort myself as a father, forcing myself to believe that my daughter was not conscious during this abuse.
When they had broken her, they forced her to sign a confession. It’s not difficult to see how her mind gave up on her.
I didn’t have the money to go see her for her trial. I did not even know that she had been sentenced to death until much later. I borrowed money from everywhere. Whenever I would have enough, I would try to find my way to her.
But every time I met her, Kanizan was a little bit less. Soon after, her mental state began to deteriorate. Even the jailers were concerned, so much so that, in 2006, she was transferred to the Punjab Institute of Mental Health.
Today I'm told she hears voices, trembles, can’t clothe or feed herself. The hospital wrote a letter in 2015 to the Superintendent of Lahore Central Jail saying she was not fit to be executed.
Mr President, my daughter hasn’t said a word for years. She is terrified, and cries all the time, and needs me and her family to take care of her. She is an unwell woman who does not belong on death row.
I'm a poor man. I can’t do anything in return. But I humbly beg you to find it in your heart to grant mercy to a poor woman who has spent almost her life in jail. Her silence shouldn’t silence what you can do for her.
I know that if this letter reaches you, your good heart will follow.
Yours Humbly,
Sher Muhammad

Sher Muhammad died in 2016. Kanizan continues to languish on death row, despite her diagnosis, strong evidence of innocence, and nearly 29 years behind bars.

Wednesday 11 April 2018

An Activist Filmmaker Tackles Patriarchy in Pakistan

“No girls in our family go to coed schools,” he told her, but eventually she wore him down. She is the eldest of six children, five girls and one boy; her brother is the youngest. “My father was always on the elusive chase for a son,” she said. Her parents believed that girls should be educated and permitted to work, but they were also strict. Until Sharmeen left for college, she had to be home by nightfall.

Her maternal grandparents moved from India to Karachi shortly after Partition, inspired by Jinnah’s democratic vision. Her father’s parents migrated from India to Bangladesh, which was then East Pakistan, in 1947, and then, in 1971, during the Bangladesh Liberation War, fled to Karachi. Her grandfather worked for a shipping company. Sharmeen’s father, Sheikh Obaid, began a textile firm, and the family lived in a spacious house in Defence, a wealthy enclave for the élite. Sheikh, who died in 2010, was a loud, warm man with a ribald sense of humor, and he and Sharmeen’s mother, Saba, frequently hosted business guests. Sharmeen and her siblings were accustomed to sitting down to dinners with buyers from Europe, Asia, and North America, and the family accompanied him on trips to the United States. Sharmeen grew up swimming at her parents’ sports club and competing in tennis tournaments. On Sundays, if her father was not travelling, the family drove around the city to try new eateries.

One morning, as a driver took Sharmeen to school, they stopped at a traffic light, and a young girl pressed herself against the window, begging for money. “She had the most beautiful eyes, and wispy hair in front and a little bit of dirt on her,” Obaid-Chinoy recalled. “Her hand was just stretched. She didn’t ever say anything.” For the first time, Sharmeen realized that the comforts she had always taken for granted were uncommon in Karachi. “I was sort of an angry child,” she told me. “I asked my parents a lot of questions about things I saw around me and things that I read.”

At home, she grew increasingly upset about the place of women in society. “I would often hear from my extended family, ‘So-and-So couldn’t finish her studies and was married off,’ ” she said. A girl in her neighborhood play group was engaged at sixteen and had a child less than two years later. “I realized that we accept things for women because that’s just the way they are,” Obaid-Chinoy said. “It made me question what my rights are, and what I will be ‘allowed’ to do. And that became such a troubled word for me. Why should I be ‘allowed’ to do something? Shouldn’t it just be taken for granted that I would be studying, or going to work?” One afternoon in the family’s kitchen, a female relative told Saba that she was unlucky to have so many girls. Obaid-Chinoy retorted that her mother was actually very lucky; her mother quickly removed her from the room. Obaid-Chinoy’s classmate and friend Masoomeh Hilal recalled, “If anyone messed with us, she would be the first one to stick up for her friends. And she was extremely focussed. If there was something she wanted to do, she would find a way to do it.”

Saba, a quiet, intelligent woman, had wanted to be a journalist, but she married at seventeen and stayed home to care for the children. When Sharmeen was fourteen, Saba suggested that she channel her outrage into writing for local newspapers. Saba’s uncle, who worked as a journalist at the News, encouraged Sharmeen to write opinion pieces about the rights of girls to go to school and of citizens to vote; later, she wrote investigative pieces for the newspaper Dawn. Obaid-Chinoy recalled one article about a government office that sold passports to Afghan refugees, and another about students who smoked weed—a taboo subject that shocked the parents. Obaid-Chinoy’s most memorable story was about the sons of wealthy feudal lords at schools in Karachi who ran a bullying ring: they went to parties with guns and, if they weren’t allowed inside, fired them into the air. They would beat up students, tear their clothes, drive them around for hours, and shave their heads before releasing them. “I went undercover and named and shamed them,” Obaid-Chinoy said. The morning the article came out, her father shouted for her to come downstairs. Her family’s name, interspersed with profanities, had been spray-painted across their front gate and down the street for blocks, presumably by the boys she had written about. Obaid-Chinoy was energized. Her father, she recalled, told her, “Amplify that voice. Speak the truth, and I will stand with you."


Tuesday 10 April 2018

The Imam Who Saved Not Just Asansol, But Perhaps India From Burning

Imam Imadadul Rashidi’s voice was matter of fact when contacted by The Citizen, as if what he had done was what any one would do. Asansol was in the grip of violence threatened by a tornado as the Muslims started gathering to retaliate against the violence triggered by Ram Navami processions. Why? Because the Imam’s 16 year old son had been brutally beaten to death by a communal mob, and the news of the incident had spread like wildfire across the town.

The crowds gathered, with now the police and the state government aware of their own helplessness, when the Imam addressed a congregation of thousands at the funeral prayers of his son Sibtullah Rashidi who had just appeared for teh Class X Board examinations. With his son’s body lying before him, the Imam pleaded for peace in a short address that had the entire crowd in tears, with all then dispersing for their respective homes.

As he told The Citizen this morning, all he said was, “my child has lived the life that Allah ordained for him. Now please ensure that no one else’s child is killed, that there is peace and amity. If you love him, and me, do not turn to violence, but keep peace.”

Asked how difficult a statement this was Imam Rashidi said quietly, “ no it was not, it was clear to me that my child had died, there was nothing we could do about that, and it was thus my duty to ensure no other child died, no house was torched, no family bereaved.” He said he was responding to the anger in “my” Asansol, where people were bent on taking revenge. “I knew I had to stop this, I knew this was necessary for harmony in my shahr (town) and in my country” he said.

“I knew my child has lived the life Allah had marked for him, I pleaded with the people not to kill anyone else’s child, “ he said. The Imam made it clear to the congregation that “if you do not listen to me I will leave Asansol and go away.” He said he was firm about that, as he could not bear the thought of more violence and bloodshed.

The Imam said that he told the people exactly what he believed. “Islam is a religion of peace and amity, it does not preach violence and revenge,” he said. Asked what he would like to convey to the country where communal harmony is currently under stress, he said, “ I would only say please do all you can to ensure there is peace and unity. And no one is able to break that.”


Wednesday 4 April 2018

Muslim women left to 'shop' for an imam when they need a religious divorce

Absolutely disgraceful: Every women should have the 'Isma' clause in the marriage contract. 
Recalling the day her Islamic divorce was finalized, Olivia says she was ecstatic.
"It was almost like having a noose around your neck, and (I was) just relieved that somebody doesn’t have that power over you, and you’re out of such a hostile situation," she said.
Olivia, who asked not to be identified by her real name, separated from her husband after six years of marriage and divorced him in civil court, but when he refused to grant her a religious divorce, she traveled across the country for four years, meeting with imams in different cities asking for a divorce. 
"I went to 10 imams," said the Dearborn, Mich., woman, showing off a permanent scar on her left palm from a glass cut from an altercation with her ex-husband. 
Olivia shared stories of abuse with imams, including the time she was whacked in the head repeatedly with a key. "I had a concussion. He knocked me upside my head. You know those thick keys, like a Toyota key, the thick ones, he just bashed it into my head about 10 times," she said. 
She eventually got a religious divorce, but not from an imam. Olivia’s husband finally agreed to divorce her, after he saw that she was serious about another man and was going to get married to him civilly, even if she didn’t get her religious divorce. 
Olivia is now happily re-married and has been separated from her ex-husband for 13 years. 
Many marriages are both a religious and a civil ceremony. And while a religious official in the United States can bring someone into both a civil and religious marriage, it's not so easy with a divorce. A civil divorce can only be initiated by the courts, which don't do anything about religious divorce. 
In the Muslim community, a religious marriage is recognized with an Islamic marriage contract; therefore a divorce must be carried out by a religious institution and through a clergy members.
To many women, Islamic divorce can be more important than a civil divorce. It allows them to feel divorced in the eyes of God, seen as a religious obligation. 
Even non-religious women may need an Islamic divorce to update their marital status in predominantly Muslim countries, which might follow the religious verdict. A woman, if she wants to get remarried and register her new marriage in a largely Islamic country, needs to be religiously divorced. 
Not all women have difficulty getting an Islamic divorce. Of course, religious divorce is also an issue outside the Muslim community. 
But Olivia’s story is not unique. Muslim women whose husbands refuse to divorce them religiously have one alternative: They must find an imam to grant them a religious divorce. The process, which can take years and involve traveling to meet with imams across the country, is what author Julie McFarlane calls "imam shopping." 
McFarlane is a professor of law at the University of Ontario and says she receives emails from across the country from Muslim women who experience difficulty getting an Islamic divorce. "I tell them to go imam shopping," McFarlane said. 

Shopping around for a divorce

When an Islamic woman wants a religious divorce, she typically can’t get one unless her husband agrees to divorce her. 
There’s a double standard, because when a man wants a religious divorce he doesn’t need the consent of his wife or an imam. If a husband won’t divorce his wife, imams have the authority to grant the woman a divorce anyway, but only if there’s good reason. 
Under Islamic Law, imams can grant divorces for reasons such as alcohol addiction, gambling, drug abuse, impotence and homosexuality, among other factors. 
Imam Ali S. Ali, Director of Muslim Family Services in Detroit, says there are two main reasons men won’t divorce their wives. The first is they want to punish the woman and get revenge. The second is the man’s pride. "She rejected him, and he feels ashamed. He feels rejected," Ali said. 

The power of "Isma" 

It is important to note that women wouldn’t experience any difficulty getting an Islamic divorce, if they exercised the powers granted to them under Islamic law. One such power is the woman’s right to uncontested divorce, known as the "Isma." 
Before a Muslim woman is married, she can place a provision in her Islamic marriage contract, asking for the "Isma." Under it, she can initiate a divorce at any time, without the consent of her husband or the approval of an imam. 
"It’s not the religion. It’s the culture," said Melinda, another woman who didn’t want to use her real name. "Muslim men are not allowed to lay a hand on a woman. They are supposed to treat her like a queen. It’s a very good religion, and the Holy Quran gives women a lot of rights. It says to treat women good and with respect, but they don’t do that."
Melinda, who’s from Dearborn Heights, used the "Isma" when she remarried her ex-husband, because the first time they divorced, it was difficult to get an Islamic divorce, and she didn’t want to go through the process again.
But Women have to specifically ask for the "Isma."
"It’s not easy. The imams don’t give you a divorce right away, and you have to go and explain and, even if you have many reasons, they still want to give the guy, the man, the upper hand. If you go and say that my husband is hitting me. He mistreated me; they would say you have to be patient. They would say that’s not an excuse," she said. 
According to Melinda, her husband was controlling, in addition to being physically and verbally abusive. She wasn’t allowed to wear pants, or eyeliner. 
He promised he would change, but never did, and when she went to divorce him the second time around, she had no problems and didn’t need approval from an imam or her husband, because she had the "Isma."
"I told him many times I wanted a divorce, but the way some men treat women who are from other countries; they think that you are weak, that you can’t make decisions or go and find a life by yourself," Melinda, who’s from Lebanon said.
Melinda says if it weren’t for the "Isma," the second time around, she would still be married to him, because he would have never divorced her. "I wrote in the contract of the marriage that I can divorce him anytime I want," she said. But not all women are able to get the "Isma." It needs the approval of the husband, who must also sign the contract. 
Mona Fadallah, a divorce attorney, who practices family law in Canton, Mich., says "Isma" is typically frowned upon and not accepted among very conservative families.
"This will not work in the situation where the families are more in control of the marriage. The more traditional families will not go for it," Fadallah said. "I feel like if you exercised it, there would be no Islamic divorce issues." 
Melinda says, in the culture, "Isma" is viewed as shameful, and puts the man down. 
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