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Thursday, December 11, 2008

Indian Muslims Mark a Somber Eid

Ahsaan Qureshi is right, it was not a festival to celebrate, it was gloomy all over.

The moderates make up over 95% of any group, be it Muslims, Hindus, Christians, Sikhs, Jains, Buddishts, Jews or any one and usually their focus is two square meals, family, schooling and health. Thank God they are speaking up now. With their involvment the extremist find themselves less and less space from them to crawl.

Mike Ghouse
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In India, Muslims Mark a Somber Eid
Celebrations Subdued After Mumbai Siege

By Emily Wax
Washington Post Foreign Service
Wednesday, December 10, 2008; A18

MUMBAI, Dec. 9 -- Ahsaan Qureshi, one of India's most popular comics,
usually hosts a posh party to mark the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha.
His wife gets her hands decorated with red swirls of henna. His
children dress in their swankiest clothes, eating sweets and setting
off firecrackers late into the night. Family friends come over and
dine on vats of biryani, an Indian version of jambalaya.

But after a series of coordinated attacks late last month across
Mumbai, India's financial capital and largest city, Qureshi, 45, like
many of the country's 140 million Muslims, held a much more subdued
Eid on Tuesday, mainly out of respect for those who died in the
three-day siege.

"There is no glitz and glamour this year," said Qureshi, who was a
star on the "Great Indian Laughter Challenge" stand-up show and has
been featured in several Indian films. "I speak for many Muslims when
I say we are all in a great deal of pain. It's not a happy Eid."

From the ancient walled city of Jaipur in the northwest to the streets
of Kolkata in the east, India's Muslims have held somber vigils to
show their solidarity in condemning the attacks.

This week, leaders of the All India Organization of Imams of Mosques
asked Muslims to wear black bands on their shoulders as a symbol of
loyalty to their homeland. Muslim groups in Mumbai, meanwhile, have
brought tea and cookies to many of the victims still recuperating at
the city's hospitals. "Long live Mother India" and "Our country's
enemies are our enemies," one group of young Muslim students called
out during an Eid candlelight gathering to protest the attacks.

The displays of solidarity come amid fresh fears of sectarian strife
between India's Muslim and Hindu communities. Communal riots have
plagued Mumbai before, particularly in December 1992 and January 1993,
when hundreds of people died. Riots in the western state of Gujarat in
2002 left more than 1,000 Muslims and Hindus dead in the worst display
of sectarian violence since the bloody partition of the Indian
subcontinent in 1947. In recent months, a series of deadly bombings
have been linked to either Muslim or Hindu extremists.

Indian Muslims -- who represent about 10 percent of the country's
population -- are by and large eager to separate themselves from the
alleged Islamist extremists who carried out last month's Mumbai
attacks. They are also quick to point out that a third of the 171
victims were Muslim.

"Muslims in India are a suspect and separate minority," said Vivek
Kumar, a sociology professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New
Delhi. "Islam is a huge part of India's history, its architecture.
But, of course, Muslims are deeply rattled now. They fear they will be
branded Pakistani."

Muslims around the world usually celebrate Eid by slaughtering sheep,
goats and cows to commemorate the prophet Abraham's willingness to
sacrifice his son, Ismail, on God's command. This year, Muslim leaders
asked that no cows be killed out of respect for the Hindu belief that
cattle are sacred. Muslim leaders have also refused to allow the
bodies of the nine fighters killed in the attacks to be buried in
Islamic cemeteries. In sermons and in street demonstrations, Muslims
have said they, too, want tougher laws and a stepped-up fight against
terrorist attacks.

"We are calling for justice in Pakistan just as much as anyone," said
Abbasali Jannati, 33, a Muslim home designer, who spent a recent
afternoon walking through the Colaba neighborhood, the location of
many of the attacks.

In Gujarat, six years after the sectarian violence, Muslims remain
angry and aggrieved. Many who lost their homes in the riots are now
living in India's largest Muslim ghetto. The violence erupted after 59
Hindus were burned to death on a train as they returned home from a
pilgrimage. At the time, Muslim extremists were blamed for the fire.
But the cause of the blaze remains in dispute, and one government
panel has said it was an accident.

At mosques in Gujarat on Tuesday, worshipers observed a moment of
silence, said Chiraag Sheik, a Muslim social activist.

Muslims in India tend to be poorer than their Hindu neighbors. Some
Muslims complained this week that they were having trouble renting
houses, and others said they were being watched closely when entering
businesses.

Near an Islamic prayer cap store and in front of a popular mosque in
Mumbai, friends gathered in a narrow alleyway after prayers to console
Mohammed Rafique, 45, who had been at the landmark Taj Mahal Palace &
Tower hotel, the scene of much of the carnage.

"We all have felt the horror," said Rafique, a driver, who was inside
the hotel to help organize a wedding party. "I just hope my Hindu
brethren don't blame us. We have suffered greatly, too."

Special correspondent Pragya Krishna in New Delhi contributed to this report.

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