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Sunday, February 28, 2010

Indian American for Texas State legislature

http://muslimmedianetwork.com/mmn/windows-live-pictures/MasarratAliRunsasTexasDemocrat_FA7F/masarratali1.jpgCongratulations Massarat
 
Mike Ghouse
 
Masarrat Ali Runs as Texas Democrat

 Son of a poor tailor is Democratic candidate in Texas elections

An Indian-American is standing in American state-level elections. No big deal, it's happened before. The elections are in Texas. Not much of a big deal either. Texas has politicians from immigrant families.

Now consider this: The Indian-American is Masarrat Ali, a biotechnologist-entrepreneur and a first-generation immigrant, son of a tailor from the village of Jhansi, UP, the eldest of nine siblings, all who got their first schooling in a run-down establishment that used to be part of Rani of Jhanshi's kotwali. When you add to this the fact that Ali is the first Indian-American and the first Muslim to get a party ticket in Texan elections, then his case becomes special.

Masarrat Ali is the Democratic candidate for District No. 122 (in San Antonio) for the Texan House of Representatives (the lower house). San Antonio is no backwater—the second largest city in Texas and the seventh largest in the US. Ali's rival for the Democratic ticket for District No. 122 was Art A. Hall. But on January 15, Hall dropped out and endorsed Ali's candidature. The elections are in November and Ali has a tough job. District 122 in San Antonio, Texas has been held by Republicans for 18 years. Texas is a Republican-leaning state and Ali is a newcomer to politics. But, as Ali says, "If Obama could happen, why not Massarat? His (Obama's) victory has given hope to all minorities."

Win or lose, though, Ali's is already a remarkable story.

It started in Jhansi, in the Bundelkhand region of UP, then as now, a place development has passed by. Ali was born to a tailor, Haji Maqbool Ali. Ali Senior says he used to stitch suits for "commissioners, collectors and ministers". But the money wasn't enough for his large family of nine children, of whom Masarrat was the eldest. They lived in a narrow lane crowded with old houses. The neighbourhood is called Gandhigarh Tapra. "It was a typical mohalla with little sense of education. It was full of eighth-class fails. The highest qualification there was high-school-fail," Masarrat said.

The lane is still the same. But Ali's house has changed — a well-constructed, three-storey building, marble floors, modular kitchen and modern furniture. "The house got renovated just a couple of months back," said Ali's mother Rasheedan Ali.

The school Masarrat attended—the Urdu-medium Wakf Board-run Islamia primary school —is just a stone's throw from his house. "During my days, it had no chairs, no electricity, no bathrooms and just two-three teachers who never cared," Ali recollects.

Today, it's almost the same — a decrepit building whose plaster is peeling off and whose wall has 'I love you' scribbled on it at many places and posters of local politicians pasted on it. The school is on a single floor and the building that houses it was a kotwali during the time of Rani Laxmi Bai, according to Ali's younger brother Zaheer , a local businessman. "When Masarrat was a kid, there was no power supply for homes in Jhansi," the father recalled. "He would study with a lantern. Though he loved studying, he had no career ambition. When you are busy just trying to survive, there's little time to think about lofty things such as ambition," Ali recollects.

But the father—who also attended the Islamia school and didn't study further —made sure that his children at least aspired to get an education that would make them fit for white-collar jobs. So, he didn't let them mingle with other children in the neighbourhood; they had enough siblings to play with at home. "Without his efforts, I would have been lost in the galis of Jhansi today," says Masarrat. But the father takes no credit. "Sab Allah Miyan ka diya hua hai. It's god's gift," he said.

Ali's education progressed from the Islamia school to the Hindi-medium Government Intermediate College and then Aligarh Muslim University. Everything Masarrat did after graduation, Masters in Biochemistry from Aligarh in 1977, PhD from the Central Drug Research Institute, Lucknow, in 1981, post-doctoral fellowships at the University of Paris, France (where he was research assistant professor till 1984), the Louisiana State Medical University in New Orleans and Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, (together, he spent 10 years there) was on scholarship.

The tailor's eldest son set the example for his younger sons — one is an MBA, the other is an IT professional and a couple others are graduates and running local businesses in Jhansi such as a pharmaceutical distributorship and a ladies' clothes store. His daughters are either high-schoolers or intermediate-pass, which according to Ali, is "a great achievement" as women in his family had previously never attended school.

Masarrat Ali traded academics for entrepreneurship after he moved to his current residence, San Antonio, in 1993. That year, while he was doing his research on breast cancer at the University of Texas Health Science Center, his thesis supervisor, also an Indian, told him that research published only in papers or journals was "meaninglss". That prompted Ali to do a "crazy" thing. He quit his comfortable job as an assistant professor, and started the Alpha Diagnostics International (ADI). ADI sells biotechnology laboratory equipment. Ali says it's a success. ADI has a centre in San Antonio and one in Shanghai. How much is he worth? Ali won't get into specifics.

And how did politics happen? Always a Democrat voter, in 2004, Ali was among those who founded the Texas Muslim Democrat Caucus, a body that, Ali says, voices Muslim political concerns within the Democrat party and also works to get Texan Muslims to register as voters. Masarrat is currently the Caucus's vice-president. His ambition is to convert the caucus into a national affair and it has now been rechristened as American Muslim Democrat Caucus. San Antonio has 30,000 Muslims and Texas, about 5 lakhs.

Convincing Muslims in Texas to be politically active is tough, Ali says. Muslims from India are more willing, he says. Those from the Middle-East are the most reluctant. Two years ago, Ali was elected Precinct Chair for District 122, which required grassroots working like getting in touch with the voters and organizing them. The candidacy followed from that. Ali's father, who visits his son in Texas every year, doesn't have any particular views about his son's political goals. But Ali Senior says, he "likes the Americans he met". "My beard, my kurta-pajama, my topi don't seem to be a problem when I am there," he says.

~~~~

MF Hussain, final thoughts

MF Hussain

The real issue is, how do we deal with things we don't like?

I am proud of our democracy; we are willing to debate the issue in a civil manner. Even those who have the tendency to shut others up, do indeed see the value in a dialogue. We are not Talibans, we are a civil society.

Purely from an Indian context; from a Hindu Point of view as well as the Muslim point of view the paintings are offensive. Given that I would suggest that those painting be put out of circulation and let Hussain live his life freely again, and take up on his own, the challenge of painting something that would create harmony in the society.

Now the other items for us to ponder.

Hussain’s paintings are not acceptable to Muslims. We abhor those paintings. Islam prohibits him from painting any picture, let alone nude pictures. Islam also forbids one to make mockery of other faiths. Hussain has violated both. I am not defending Hussain at all.

If he were to be in Afghanistan, Iran or Saudi Arabia, he would have been killed. As a nation, do we want us to be like Afghanistan?

Most Muslims including me were against banning Rushdie's book, we wrote against it and spoke against it. I appealed to the fanatic binge among Muslims to ignore the cartoons, instead I had asked them to pray that goodwill prevails, and several mosques have done that. We severely criticized those few Muslims who harassed Taslima Nasreen, and urged them to have an intellectual debate with her, we not only condemned those guys in Hyderabad who mauled her, but asked the Government of Andhra to file charges against them.

Why does he not paint Maryam and Fatima? Because that is not the tradition, one visit to Khajuraho and other places you’ll figure out our tradtions real quick. Artists choose their own subjects, no one is going to tell them what to paint, then he would not be an artist, artists and ego go together and we have to value that if we want art to survive.

~~~-

Those paintings were offensive and need to be dealt with in a civil manner to the good of the society at large. We have to respect the laws we have on the books, they are made with a purpose of good for the society at large.

~~~-

GIVEN THE INDIAN CONTEXT, DO WE UNDERSTAND THAT;

1. Those paintings are offensive in our contemporary culture
2. Regardless of our religions, those paintings are distasteful
3. Freedom comes with responsibility to society at large
4. Artists do not select their subjects to hate any one
5. The artist did not have mal-intention when he painted it
6. The artists* to abstain from painting what offends society
7. That the artist has the freedom to apologize or not.
8. That the artist has the right to live safely in India
9. That the painting be ignored and not published

THE LARGER QUESTIONS:
1. Regulate freedom of expression, all expression?
2. Should we regulate what artists cannot do?
3. Should we regulate what films cannot be produced?
4. Should we regulate what speeches cannot be made?
5. Should we regulate what cannot be published?
6. Should we have democracy as our system of governance?
7. Should we agree that we should have differing opinions?

FINAL THOUGHTS

Freedom should be our ultimate goal; the market will work itself out.

On the one hand, let them paint cartoons, nude pictures, or whatever they wish, and let’s not ban them, instead grade them like we do with the movies. Had those Muslims not made a fuss with the cartoons, the issue would have died down. There was a thrill seeking by the painters and those agitators both in that instance, however in the case of Hussain, he has been painting these pictures for a long time and was not doing to hurt anyone, he was just doing what was appreciated by his clientele, mainly people of Hindu faith. Unless someone can prove that he was doing to hurt anyone he remains an artist with his own passion.

I do not like those paintings, they are offensive to me. My reverence for Mother Sita does not allow me to see those paintings. It is not Islamic either, and Muslims did not ask him to paint his subjects. He is an artist, and as a society, we need to determine what kind of society we want to be and we need to address the question of freedom.

From a Hindu Point of view as well as the Muslim point of view the paintings are offensive and for the time being need to be kept out of circulation. The more fuss is made, the greater the offense. Given that I would suggest that those painting be put out of circulation and let Hussain live his life freely again, and take up the challenge of painting something that would create harmony in the society.

Mike Ghouse

Mallika Sarabhai to Amitabh Bachchan


Modi does not care about people and he found his partner in Amitabh. All Amitabh cares is money, throw him some, he will chew it. Sad to see him go down in the history. That is his choosing.

Mike Ghouse
~~~~~~
My dear Bachchanji,

Greetings from a Gujarati.

You are indeed a fine actor. You are an intelligent man and a shrewd businessman. But should I believe in your endorsements?

Let’s take a brief look at what you proclaim you believe in (albeit for huge sums of money). BPL, ICICI, Parker and Luxor pens,Maruti Versa, Cadbury chocolates. Nerolac paints. Dabur, Emami, Eveready, Sahara City Homes, D’damas, Binani Cement and Reliance.

And now Gujarat.

I wonder how you decide what to endorse. Is your house built with Binani Cement? Do you really like Cadbury’s chocolates or do you have to resort to Dabar’s hajmola (whose efficacy you have earlier checked) after eating them? And having endorsed two pens, one very upmarket and one rather down, which one do you use? Have you, except perhaps for the shooting of the ad, ever driven or been driven in a Versa? Do you know whether the Nerolac paint in your home ( you do use it don’t you?) has lead in it that can poison you slowly as it does so many people? Or are the decisions entirely monetary?

It has been reported that no direct fee will be paid to you for being my Brand Ambassador. So, with no monetary decision to guide you, how did you decide to say yes? Did you check on the state of the State? I doubt it, for the decision and the announcement came from one single meeting. And I somehow doubt that you have been following the news on Gujarat closely.

So, as a Gujarati, permit me to introduce my State to you.

Everyone knows of our vibrancy, of the billions and trillions pouring into our State through the two yearly jamborees called Vibrant Gujarat. But did you know that by the government’s own admission no more than 23% of these have actually moved beyond the MOU stage? That while huge subsidies are being granted to our richest business houses, over 75000 small and medium businesses have shut down rendering one million more people jobless?

You know of Gujarat’s fast paced growth and the FDI pouring in, you have no doubt seen pictures of the Czars of the business world lining up to pour money to develop us. To develop whom? Did you know that our poor are getting poorer? That while the all India reduction in poverty between ’93 and 2005 is 8.5%, in Gujarat it is a mere 2.8%? That we have entire farmer families committing suicide, not just the male head of the household?

You have heard of how some mealy mouthed NGO types have been blocking the progress of the Narmada project, how the government has prevailed, and water is pouring down every thirsty mouth and every bit of thirsty land. But did you know that in the 49 years since it was started, and in spite of the Rs.29,000 crores spent on it, only 29% of the work is complete?

That the construction is so poor (lots of sand added to the you- know- which cement perhaps) that over the last 9 years there have been 308 breaches, ruining lakhs of farmers whose fields were flooded, ruining the poorest salt farmers whose salt was washed away? That whereas in 1999, 4743 of Gujarat’s villages were without drinking water, within two years that figure had gone up to 11,390 villages ? (I can not even begin to project those figures for today – but do know that the figure has gone up dramatically rather than down.)

With our CM, hailed as the CEO of Gujarat, we have once again achieved number one status – in indebtedness. In 2001 the State debt was Rs.14000 crores. This was before the State became a multinational company. Today it stands at Rs.1,05,000 crores. And to service this debt we pay a whopping Rs7000 crores a year, 25% of our annual budget.

Meanwhile our spending on education is down, no new public hospitals for the poor are being built, fishermen are going a begging as the seas turn turgid with effluents, more mothers die at birth per thousand than in the rest of India, and our general performance on the Human Development Index is nearly the first – from the bottom. One rape a day, 17 cases of violence against women, and , over the last ten years, 8802 suicides and 18152 “accidental “ deaths of women are officially reported. You can imagine the real figures.

You have said that you are our Ambassador because we have Somnath and Gandhi. Somnath was built for people. Gandhiji was a man of the people. Do the people of this State matter to you? If they do, perhaps your decision will be different. I hope you will read this letter and decide.

In warmth and friendship,

Mallika

HAPPY HOLI

A few years ago, my son, daughter and I were drenched in Holi colors at the Hindu Temple festivities and driving home. At the stop light, the people in cars on either side looked scared, stared at us and took off screeching on the green light... then it dawned on us that we looked red (bloody), green, yellow and mellow.... ...

Wow, Happy Holi!

This festival breaks the barriers between people, between adults and children, family members and friends, and opens up to each other. My kids thoroughly enjoyed throwing the colors in liquid and dust forms on me, they loved it. I would also call it friendship festival as it removes inhibitions. The picture below reflects that sentiments - all colors coming together to create oneness, thus the phrase Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam; the whole world is one famly. Similar expressions are staple in every faith.

Holi is celebrated at the end of the winter season on the last full moon day of the lunar month Phalguna which usually falls in the later part of February or March.

In Vrindavan and Mathura, where Lord Krishna grew up, the festival is celebrated for 16 days. Krishna is believed to have complained to his mother about the contrast between his dark skin complexion and Radha's fair skin complexion. Krishna's mother decided to apply colour to Radha's face. The celebrations officially usher in spring, the celebrated season of love.

Holi is a festival of radiance in the universe. During this festival, different waves of radiance traverse the universe, thereby creating various colors that nourish and complement the function of respective elements in the atmosphere.

For the last 15 years, I have been writing about every festival on the earth, have done a weekly Radio program called "festival of the world" and shared about each festival. Make it simple enough that most people can get the essence of it. For Hindus there is lot more depth and meaning to it, but for the non-Hindus the world over, this gives them an idea about the festival. It is part of the Pluralism education, so we all can know each other and learn to enjoy each other with our own uniqueness.

Link: http://mikeghouseforindia.blogspot.com/2010/02/happy-holi.html

Mike Ghouse is a thinker, writer, speaker, optimist and an activist of Pluralism, Interfaith, Co-existence, Peace, Islam and India. He is a frequent guest at the TV, radio and print media offering pluralistic solutions to issues of the day. His work is reflected at three websites and 22 Blogs listed at http://www.mikeghouse.net/

###

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Muslim Condemn beheading of Sikhs by Taliban

PRESS RELEASE

Muslims Condemn beheading of Sikhs by the Talibans

Dallas, Texas, February 24, 2010.

In behalf of the World Muslim Congress and Muslims in general, we strongly condemn the Talibans for killing two members of the Sikh community in Pakistan. Jaspal Singh and Mohan Singh, who were beheaded for not converting to Islam. Continued: http://worldmuslimcongress.blogspot.com/2010/02/muslim-condemn-beheading-of-sikhs-by.html
~~~~

Amitabh Bachchan; an open letter

Be Your Father’s Son - By Najid Hussain ( Courtesy - Tehelka )
AN OPEN LETTER TO AMITABH BACHCHAN

Main hoon unkey saath, rakhte jo seedhi apni reedh... (I am with those who keep their spine straight) FROM MADHUSHALA BY HARIVANSH RAI BACHCHAN

Dear Amitabh,

I remember the day in 1982, when the news of your serious injury on the sets of Coolie broke. It said you may not survive. The country was shocked. Millions cried. Special prayers for your good health and long life were offered in temples, mosques, churches and gurdwaras. I joined the prayers for your health and long life.

The writings of your father, the late Shri Harivansh Rai Bachchan, had a great influence on me. From early childhood, I have read his poetry and prose that combined Kabir, Keats, Tagore, Omar Khayyam and Shakespeare into artful construction of ideas with deep reflections. Kya bhooloon kya yaad karoon made me stand up and speak the truth — without fear, or favour — however difficult or awkward it may be. Inspired by his writings and fully subscribed to his views, admiration and love for you was natural.

Natural is also my shock and dismay at your acceptance of the offer from Narendra Modi of Gujarat to be his brand ambassador.

I want to think that you don’t know much about Modi. And so, I must tell you what Modi is and what he has done in Gujarat, which has invited global condemnation, international sanctions and even calls for his arrest.

On February 28, Zakiya Jafri will relive the agony of witnessing the brutal massacre of her husband, former Congress MP Ahsan Jafri, and scores of other women and children in her house. On that fateful day, as the crowd chanting Jai Shri Ram started gathering around her society in Ahmedabad, waving swords, trishuls and torches, and frightened people from the neighborhood started pouring into her house seeking protection, Ahsan saheb asked her to go upstairs to the bedroom and stay there until called. From upstairs, Zakiya Jafri could not see what was going on downstairs in her house, but from the unruly crowd outside shouting ‘jalao (burn)’, ‘kaato (cut)’, ‘maaro (kill)’, the cries of women and children from inside, and heat from the walls of her bedroom, she could guess what was taking place and was fearful of what was to come. The immoral dance of brutality, cries, fires, and more cries, continued for three hours. Three hours later, police arrived. As the survivors were taken down and out of the house, which was still smouldering, Zakiya saw, for the first time, several corpses burning inside her house. Mutilated body parts burning outside her house. Little bodies of children floating in her water tank, who having been set afire may have jumped into the tank. She saw one blue rubber slipper — the one Jafri saheb always wore in his office — lying outside. It was soaked with blood. The other one was missing.

Eight years have passed. Zakiya’s memory of that day does not fade — the day when the world she had built, brick by brick, with a lifetime of hard work, full of aspirations, dreams and love was ruthlessly and deliberately destroyed before her own eyes. The most important person of her life, to whom she had completely dedicated her life, loved, adored and revered, and like any traditional Indian woman, could not imagine life without — had been brutally killed. She was shattered. Her deep shiny eyes, full of sparkle and love, went lifeless.

There were 2,000 similar stories that month in Gujarat.

‘YOU CAN STAND IN YOUR FATHER’S SHOES AND SET AN EXAMPLE BY TURNING DOWN MODI’S OFFER’

Modi, as the Chief Minister of Gujarat, presided over and orchestrated that massacre of innocent Muslims in his state, which is widely regarded as a genocide. Modi’s culpability and crime has been well established. Although, to date, he has succeeded in circumventing the legal system, the law is slowly closing in on him. Modi and 61 others, which include Cabinet colleagues, policemen and civil servants, are under criminal investigation by the Special Investigation Team (SIT) specifically constituted by the Supreme Court of India for their role in the mass murder and criminal conspiracy.

You may ask why Modi did this. We are told that the burning by a few Muslims of the Sabarmati Express coach carrying kar sevaks was the reason. But many believe that was just an excuse. Investigations led by the Centre concluded that the fire in the coach was accidental. However, regardless of the truth, can there be any justification for killing innocents en masse? In the minds that are touched by Harivansh Rai Bachchan, killing innocents is never right.

The Gujarat massacre of 2002 was not an act of war in which “collateral damage” of innocent lives occurred. Instead, it was a well-planned operation to systematically target, kill and destroy members of a particular community — the Muslims of Gujarat.

The subsequent speeches of Modi, spewing venom and hatred against Muslims, are on public record. Although Modi would like us to believe he is a Hindu, neither his ideology nor his actions fit our values or Hindu philosophy. Instead, his profile matches that of an extremist and a religious bigot. Noted social scientist Ashis Nandy, who had interviewed Modi long before he became the Chief Minister of Gujarat, had concluded that Modi was a textbook case of a fascist.

You have very effectively played the roles of JCP Dev Pratap Singh and Subhash Nagre — two diametrically opposite characters — one filled with humanity and the other totally devoid of it — for the silver screen. But bringing that change of characters in your real life would be a tragic mistake. A transformation from Dev to Sarkar, if and when complete, would change Harivansh Rai Bachchan’s legacy — from that of a Mahatma to Modi.

Historically, religions have killed more people than all other unnatural causes combined. In his epic poem Madhushala, Harivansh Rai Bachchan asks us to rise above the narrow definition of religions. However much fascists and fanatics dress sectarianism as patriotism, we know your father would never have approved the spilling of innocent blood.

At a time when in their pursuit of profit most business tycoons, including Ratan Tata, are disregarding Modi’s crimes against humanity, if not feigning ignorance about them, in your father’s footsteps you can choose to stand by declining Modi’s offer to be his brand ambassador. You can set an example and a Harivanshrai legacy — a legacy that he and the generations after us can be proud of.

Dale E Turner says: “We are born with our eyes closed and our mouths open and we spend our whole lives trying to reverse that mistake of nature.” Your father opened our eyes. Yours too. Zakiya Jafri and I pray they never close.

(The writer is the son-in-law of late MP Ahsan Jafri who was killed in mob violence in Ahmedabad)
~~ ~

Thursday, February 25, 2010

MF Hussain, India's Picasso

See the update on Saturday, at the bottom

I am agonized over the controversy MF Hussain the artist has generated. I am particularly disappointed with the intellectuals among us, who have not stepped up to allay the sense of hate and divisive politics emerging out of the disucssions all over India and here including the face book.

MF Hussain is a painter, like any other painter or a sculptor in the world who excells on nude pictures or sculptures. We Indians do not have an appetite for that, and personally, I don't care to appreciate nudity, particularly of the persona of the people we revere and honor, like Mother Sita.

Please do not assume that Mother Sita is not revered by Muslims, she is an example of what a good partner and devout wife is all about. As a Muslim I honor her and quote her exemplary life, like most Muslims do, Urdu Poetry abundantly exemplies her devotion. It is a dream of every man to have a partner and a wife like Sita, who did not cross the Lakshman's Rekha. She is beyond Religion like most great souls.

Hussain is a painter and finds expression in that form of art, he could have been a Hindu, Jain, Buddhist, Sikh, Jew, Christian, Atheist or whatever, and in this case he happens to be a Muslim. Artists are free people, he did not paint to make any one angry, he did what the Indians have always done and sculpted for thousands of years as evidenced in Khajuraho and other temples, indeed we are the teachers of the art of love making, we gave Kamasutra to the world.

Hussain did not paint those pics to please Muslims, nor was that an Islamic thing to do. Neither was he commissioned by Muslims to paint, he did that for his own, like every other artist out there and there are thousands of them. As a matter of fact, Islam forbids paintings of pictures.

Please do not make this a Hindu Muslim thing, it is not. This is about an artist and his limits. It does not make any sense to bring religion into this.

Those among us, who hate him, have doubled the value of his paintings and those who appreciate his work have certainly contributed towards his rise.

America became a great nation by inviting people to become her Citizens and gave them opportunities that India did not, and Qatar has offered her Citizenship, India should keep him in India with all the honor and dignity he deserves and brings to India. May be we should honor him and ask him to honor us by not painting the pictures of revered figures.

Rushdie became international with the ban and the protests against his book. Indeed, the small segment of Muslims made him a big author. Now the small segment of Hindu protests and negative writings will make Hussain a luminary.

Remember, he is an artist and a patriot. No one in any nations history has yielded to pressures, they would rather die, than succumb to pressures. In which case more artists will come on the plane and paint more of the pictures that you and I don't like.

Ignoring is the right thing to do, but breeding hate is not.

www.MikeghouseforIndia.net

Mike Ghouse is a thinker, writer, speaker, optimist and an activist of Pluralism, Interfaith, Co-existence, Peace, Islam and India. He is a frequent guest at the TV, radio and print media offering pluralistic solutions to issues of the day. His work is reflected at three websites and 22 Blogs listed at http://www.mikeghouse.net/

~ ~ ~

References:

http://www.mfhussain.com/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M._F._Husain
http://www.dailypioneer.com/238558/Husain-conferred-Qatar-nationality.html
http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/h/mf_husain/index.html

~~~
Updated, Saturday, February 27, 2010

Hussain’s topic has come to a beautiful conclusion now;
Here were the last few comments to munch on:
~~~~~
Mike Ghouse # 93
By the way, his paintings are not acceptable to Muslims at all including me. We abhor those paintings, I want you to understand that clearly, Islam prohibits him from painting any picture, let alone nude pictures. Islam also forbids one to make mockery of other faiths. Hussain has violated both. I am not defending Hussain at all.

If he were to be in Afghanistan, Iran or Saudi Arabia, he would have been killed. As a nation, do we want us to be like Afghanistan? Indeed, the whole issue is about how do we deal with things we don't like. ...

Most Muslims including me were against banning Rushdie's book, we wrote against it and spoke against it. I appealed to the fanatic binge among Muslims to ignore the cartoons, instead I had asked them to pray that goodwill prevails, and several mosques have done that.

Bhaskar Jyotish
~ ~~ ~
Dear Mike ji,
Thanks for confirming this. I know very well that No Good Muslim would assert this.

Now let me talk to you genuinely from my heart. I have been talking all the while of shooting and pelting this chap with stones. But had I had the authority, I would not have put him under any legislative law or under any act initially, but taken few prominent citizens with whom he could co-relate to, and discussed it out with him personally, as to why he was doing and indulging in all this. What was the great idea, and what is the consequence of this, which is nothing but spreading hate, creating communal tensions, because the man on the road does not have time for talking, they understand only two words- Hindu and Muslim, and not beyond this.... And I know I would have convinced him to see the dreadful consequences, and managed to turn his mind from doing what he was, towards more constructive type of creations which could spread instead communal harmony. This man has not been tapped actually, the right way. If it was possible for me to meet him, I would have turned him a No.1 favourite by turning his mind as above.... ...


The second option of law, and the third option of punishment does not need to be used in my case, for I know what artists are made of, and know which chords to be touched and where. About his painting nudity, I have no problem, that's his choice as long as he does not use subjects as under question, for his paintings.

Thank you ...
regards,
Bhaskar.
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
PRIOR COMMENTS

NOTE # 90

- Dear Bhaskar and very dear Kamlesh

COULD WE AGREE THAT:

1. Those paintings are offensive in our contemporary culture

2. Regardless of our religions, paintings are distasteful

3. Freedom comes with responsibility to society at large

4. Artists do not select their subjects to hate any one

5. The artist did not have mal-intention when he painted it

6. The artists* to abstain from painting what offends society

7. That the artist has the freedom to apologize or not.

8. That the artist has the right to live safely in India

9. That the issue is purely cultural

0. That the painting be ignored and not published



\And we can add a few more things that would be acceptable to public at large and subject to debates

AS A SOCIETY SHOULD WE:

1. Regulate freedom of expression, all expression?

2. Should we regulate what artists cannot do?

3. Should we regulate what films cannot be produced?

4. Should we regulate what speeches cannot be made?

5. Should we regulate what cannot be published?

6. Should we have democracy as our system of governance?

7. Should we agree that we should have differing opinions?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~`

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Program at SMU to explore Texas Holocaust and Genocide Commission

I am glad to see the comments from Mr. Kaul,  and thank God, we were able to include all human failures and tragedies in our program on January 24th. I invite every one to join to nights program at SMU and learn a different perspective.  www.HolocuastandGenocides.com  

Program at SMU to explore Texas Holocaust and Genocide Commission

4:05 PM Thu, Feb 18, 2010 |  |  Yahoo! Buzz
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http://religionblog.dallasnews.com/archives/2010/02/program-at-smu-to-explore-texa.html


The release below gives details on a fast-approaching program at Southern Methodist University:

On Tuesday evening (Feb. 23) at 7 p.m. at SMU's Hughes-Trigg Theater in the Hughes-Trigg Student Center (http://smu.edu/maps/flash/) , the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance (www.dallasholocaustmuseum.org) is hosting a special program exploring the role of the newly-established Texas Holocaust and Genocide Commission.

The program is free and open to the public, and complimentary valet parking is provided.

The Commission was established during the last session of the Legislature and signed into law last summer. State Sen. Florence Shapiro (R-Plano) and State Sen. Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) co-sponsored the bill creating the commission, which was passed unanimously.

Texas is the nation's 13th state to establish a commission or council devoted to Holocaust and genocide education. By law, the commission--considered the most important development in Holocaust education in Texas in years--is to help preserve information and experiences of the Holocaust and other genocide events. The commission will also work with organizations, agencies, museums, survivors and liberators to provide information and experiences and to coordinate memorial events in the state.

The SMU program will explore the commission's purpose in a Q&A format moderated by Texas Tribune Editor Evan Smith, formerly president and editor-in-chief of Texas Monthly. The panelists include Senator Shapiro; Peter Berkowitz, a Houston business executive who chairs the commission; Amy Fisher-Smith, an associate professor of psychology at University of Dallas, and a Holocaust educator; and Elliott Dlin, Museum Director of the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance.

Texas is home to several hundred Holocaust survivors, and a few are expected to attend the event, co-sponsored by the Memnosyne Foundation (http://memnosynefoundation.org/) and the SMU Human Rights Program (http://smu.edu/humanrights/)



Comments

I am glad to see our state passed the bill to recognize Holocaust and Genocides. I hope Dallasites will take the time to attend the program and learn and reflect upon the terrible things that we humans have inflicted upon each other.

The Jewish community has borne the suffering of the Holocaust for over sixty years; it is time for us to share it. No community should bear the suffering alone; we all have to stand up, and be there for each other.

Thank God the awareness is increasing; from one event in 2006 by the American Muslims, it has grown to three events this year; the III Annual Reflections on Holocaust and Genocides on 24th, the Gay and Lesbian commeration on 27th and now this event by the Holocaust Museusm in collobration with the Memnosyne Foundation.
Holocaust was a major human tragedy and a failure of humanity.

And perhaps the first time in our history that we acknowledged the genocides of the indigenous Americans and Native peoples of Americas in a public forum along with other tragedies.

I want to applaud the people of Dallas for attending the event. They were Atheists, Bahai, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jain, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, Wicca, Zoroastrians and from sevral ethnicities and nationalities.

It was an educational program, where 7 speakers reflected on 7 topics for 7 minutes each. Then 7 commentators made comments about 7 different situations. The topics ranged from the Holocaust to Genocides, massacres and tragedies.

Among Genocides, Massacres and other tragedies we reflected upon the Indigenous American people such as the Mayans, the Toltecs and the massacres of the Native people right here in Dallas, we touched upon Darfur, Polpot, Congo, Armenia, Rwanda, Falun Dafa, Burma, Tibet, Bosnia, India, Gaza and the transatlantic slave trade. Through these representative events, our goal was to reflect upon every human tragedy. The words do not describe the sufferings of people in full, we have to work with the limited choice of words, but have a big heart to feel the pain and suffering of every human being, not just my people or my tribe, but every one. Let there be one negative energy of suffering that we are part of, together we can work on getting out of it.

There is a shameless cruelty in us, either we shy away or some times refuse to acknowledge the sufferings of others, worrying that it will devalue our own or some how it amounts to infidelity to our own cause, and shame on us for justifying massacres that the victims deserved it or they asked for it.

We learned a few simple things that we can do to prevent such tragedies. It was a purposeful event to learn, acknowledge and reflect upon the terrible things that we humans have inflicted upon each other. We also learned that our safety hinges on the safety of all others around us.

We learned to see each other with dignity, and honor the otherness of other. Gatherings such as this offer hope and opportunity for a secure and a safer world.

Of the several acknowledgements, a few notable ones are;

1. other peoples suffering is as legitimate as ours;
2. some one related to us through faith, ethnicity, land mass or race has been a butcher too,
3. it takes courage to see ourselves as perpetrators, while it is easy to ourselves as victims;
4. we can see the light at the end of the tunnel when politics is stripped;
5. we can value others suffering without lessening our own;
6. the overriding desire to highlight my own gets softened, when we value others pain;
7. the sense of responsibility for creating a better world was present in us.

It is an initiative of American Muslims striving to build responsible civic societies. The event was organized by the Foundation for Pluralism, where co-existence is our value. We appreciate the sponsorship by the Center for Spiritual Living, all the three are Dallas based Organizations.

And to every community that has endured holocaust, genocides, massacres, bombs, annihilation, land mines, hunger, rape, torture, occupation and inhuman brutality, the least we can do in the process of healing is to acknowledge every one's pain in one room, as one people. We have to teach tolerance and acceptance.

We have begun the process of coming together as one people, to stand with you, we are indeed one world and one humanity, and caring for each other brings safety and peace to all of us. I cannot be safe if the people around me are not, and I will not have peace if people around me don't. It is in my interest to seek a peaceful world for one and all.

A full day conference is planned for Wednesday, January 26, 2011 to discuss every human tragedy, please submit a thoroughly researched 500 word abstract about the event you'd like to discuss to -HolocaustandGenocides@gmail.com

Mike Ghouse, Chair
Holocaust and Genocides
www.holocaustandGenocides.com

 

Good to hear about this fantastic initiative!

 

Indeed, more education and information about these tragedies is of utmost importance. Without such, the possibility that these horrific events can occur again is real. I hope that along with the history, a great deal of attention is placed on what allowed these events to occur, mainly, that people watched and did nothing. When we see people being persecuted, when we see people denied basic human rights, we must raise our voices and say "no!" The mantra associated with The Holocaust is "Never Again", yet to be true to the to the call, requires first that we even know about what happened, and second, that each of us take responsibility for our role.
I applaud these educational and participatory events, I encourage all to attend, and to speak out and speak up, for these atrocities still occur in our world today.
Len Ellis
Dallas Peace Center

 

Yes, we will attend. Sikhs are those who suffered because of religious and ethnic hatred. They like to join all to make it sure that the hatred is transformed into understanding of the human suffering all over the world. The idea of sharing the suffering of the world is a powerful one to move the world where such atrocities are never inflicted on any human being, and if and when it ever happens again, it may be shared by all.
Harbans Lal,
DFW Sikhs for Interfaith Understanding

 

As a Kashmiri Hindu, I applaud the mention of our plight at the reflection program on January 24, no one cares about our issue, it was a relief to see them mention it.

 

It is our duty, a moral obligation to acknolwedge the pain and suffering of all people. There is a shameless cruelty in us, either we shy away or some times refuse to acknowledge the sufferings of others, worrying that it will devalue our own or some how it amounts to infidelity to our own cause.

We all have to learn to see eye to eye, face to face, some one related to us via land mass, faith or race was a butcher, it does not mean, you and I are. We have to bring about a change by simply being human - feeling the pain of other no matter who it is, that is what makes us human.

We are looking forward to All day conference in January 2011 to acknowlege every human suffering, whether they are technically genocide or not. LIfe is precious and must be valued.

Mike Ghouse, Chair
Holocaust and Genocides
Dallas, Texas
www.HolocaustandGenocides.com


Saturday, February 20, 2010

Why should a Muslim have to wear his nationalism on his sleeve?”

The article below, "Why should a Muslim have to wear his nationalism on his sleeve?" prompted me to write the following.

The British taught us an ugly lesson; divide and rule.

Some of us still live in that slavish fear that we have to continuously divide Indians to remain in control of our own lives.



A few individuals dupe the masses against one Indian or the other; this is truly born out of a false fear that that someone's progress means their own extinction. Many a American Indians can grasp the idea that a few "falsely frightened" white folks are worried sick with the "invasion" of the Mexican Americans that their culture is not going to be the same. Indeed, when our numbers grow, the resentment may turn to us, the Indians.



America belongs to every one of us; Irish American, Vietnamese American, Egyptian Americans, Israeli Americans, Indian Americans or Hindu American, Jewish American, Muslim Americans, Sikh Americans or Jain Americans. Similarly India belongs to every Indian of every faith, tradition color, height or weight. It is criminal to think one Indian is less than the other. It is this criminal mind set that is dangerous to India's unity and progress.



It is this criminal mind set that is dividing India, chasing other Indians out of one city or the other. We need to condemn these minds, India belongs to every Indian, and every inch of India belongs to me, as much as to you.



The Muslims in India are as patriotic as Indian American in America, and those Indian Americans who are not patriotic to this nation, ascribe the same values to the Muslims in India.



The Indians, who really care about India, will work on building bridges, to make India good for every one of her citizens and drop the idea of denigrating a fellow Indian. As Indians, we should all come together to create a better India.



India is our home, and every one of the 1.1 Billion Indians are a part of the family, we have to feel the pain of each other and be there for each other. How many of us are willing to say, I am an American and I respect every American and, how many of us are willing to say, I am an Indian, I believe in the Unity of India, and every Indian is Indian to me, nothing less nothing more. I am willing to stand up for one India.



I will shout that loud and clear, will you?

Express it at: http://mikeghouseforindia.blogspot.com/2010/02/why-should-muslim-have-to-wear-his.html#comments



Jai Hind



Mike Ghouse for India
~~~~
Why should a Muslim have to wear his nationalism on his sleeve?


http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Why-should-a-Muslim-have-to-wear-his-nationalism-on-his-sleeve-/articleshow/5594848.cms

Najeeb Jung,


TOI Crest, Feb 20, 2010, 11.25am IST

The writer, who is vice chancellor of Jamia Millia Islamia University, with his students.


We owe the young Muslim our trust, due process and the benefit of the doubt — so that when the horror of something like Pune happens, he can spontaneously share the revulsion of his fellow citizens without the insidious taint of guilt by association, writes Najeeb Jung.

Sixty-three years ago as Nehru spoke of India's tryst with destiny, millions of Muslims rejected the Two-Nation theory and made their choice to stay in the motherland. India was their "madare watan" and India it was where they would live and die. When people questioned their integrity and commitment to the nation and suggested they were fifth columnists, they bore the calumny patiently.

The '50s and '60s were difficult years marred by a sequence of riots where often enough Muslims were at the receiving end. Even the pluralist Nehru's commitment to a secular politics wasn't enough to curb the police's tendency to visit retribution disproportionately on Muslims in the wake of a riot. Misled by the platitudes and promises of the political elite, Muslims remained a community bereft of leaders. But a quarter of a century after partition, attitudes changed. Young Muslim boys and girls left behind the sense of alienation and exclusion that had beleaguered their parents. The partition of Pakistan in 1971 and the foundation of Bangladesh was a landmark event that gave this new generation of Muslims the strength to speak in a more modern, secular voice and to stand up for their rights, their place in the Indian republic.

Today, despite sectarian tragedies like the razing of the Babri Masjid or the Gujarat pogrom, the young Muslim is very much part of the system. He has a confident sense of shared citizenship and wants to exercise his rights. What upsets him is the tired rhetoric of "Muslim alienation", the condescending op-eds encouraging him to merge himself into "mainstream" society, to contribute to Indian's burgeoning economy which seem to assume that he has spent his life in a backwater or another planet. He is tired of being stereotyped. He is a regular guy, who works for a living, thinks the same thoughts and nurses the same ambitions as the great Indian middle class that the world is justly celebrating. And so like Faiz he wonders: "Iss raah pe jo sab pe guzarti hai who guzri Tanhan pase zindaan kabhi ruswa sare bazaar Garje hain bahut sheikh sar-egosha-e-mimbar Kadke hain bahut ahle hakam bar sare darbar" (I go through all that one goes through while on this path At times alone in jail, sometime defamed in the bazaar The sheikh denounces me from the pulpit And the ruler lashes out at me in his durbar).

I work at a remarkable university where young boys and girls and grown men and women who truly represent India's diversity, give the lie to these divisive stereotypes. They hang out together, eat and drink together, see movies together and party together. Their thought processes, their aspirations are shared. They dress alike, they want similar jobs, they look for love and laughter, new friends, wider horizons. Like young people everywhere,they want to move on.

So when the horrors of Mumbai and Pune occur, and he hears the same cliches - Muslim alienation, local Muslims supporting Pakistani terrorists, the disgruntlement in Muslim youth after 9/11 and so on - he's gripped by that depressing deja vu. Once again Muslim men and women will be asked to wear their nationalism on their sleeves, be more vehement in their criticism of Pakistan than their non-Muslim fellows, to demonstrate their credentials as citizens.

If this patriotic Muslim citizen were to point out that in the aftermath of the Mecca Masjid blasts in Hyderabad, scores of young Muslim boys were yanked out of their homes, then either to be released after weeks of torture when there was no evidence to hold them or to disappear without trace, some columnist or pundit would comment on the defensiveness of the Muslim middle-class, or muse that educated Muslims were in denial. A single' encounter' in Batla House, New Delhi, located in a Muslim majority area is enough to put 'Muslim society' on notice and a sophisticated modern central university, with an unmatched nationalist lineage under a cloud. The alleged complicity of a serving army officer in a terrorist plot didn't lead people to conclude that the army or 'Hindu society' was violent or disaffected; it would be useful if the same benefit of the doubt were extended to those of this republic's citizens who happen to be Muslim.

But here's the thing: young Muslims understand the piquant situation they are in. After all, there is truth to the charge that an earlier generation of Muslims asked for a separate homeland and got it. They know they belong to a proselytising religion; they are aware of the flourishing myth that Islam gives no quarter to 'kafirs'. They know that Islam is misunderstood by non-Muslims and often misinterpreted by their co-religionists. They're self-conscious about the controversy regarding Muslim polygamy, the stereotypes about jihad, the promised hooris in heaven, the hideous penal practices of certain 'Muslim' states, the barbaric instances of inhuman behaviour by the likes of Mullah Omar in Afghanistan, the blasphemous justification of such behaviour by invoking the Nizam-i-Mustafa.

He knows that the violence practised by extremists makes the task of explaining Muslim belief and practice hard. With suicide bombers in the headlines, who cares to know that suicide is forbidden in Islam? Verse 195, The Cow, and verses 29-30,the Women, clearly state: "And spend of your substance in the cause of Allah, and make not your own hands contribute to your destruction; But do good." Every Muslim theologian will tell you that suicides are haram. Who wants to know that in practice having more than one wife is impossible because the conditions laid down for marrying again are so exacting, when people see manifestly imperfect Muslim men marrying again. Which non-Muslim will feel the resonance of Islam's assertion that all men are equal, when he or she can see Muslim states where Muslims are more equal than others, and Muslim men more equal than women?

The young Muslim in India is aware of all this. He struggles with regressive interpretations of his faith in his own life and he is completely integrated into the socio-economic fabric of India. Years ago, a friend in the IPS, Rashid Khan produced a film called the Seventh Man. His hypothesis was that every seventh man in Calcutta was a Muslim. But he was so integrated into Calcutta that his efforts and energy moved the economic wheels of the great city.While he was not rich, he worked at jobs without which the city would be dysfunctional : as a baker, a weaver, a barber, a butcher. Today's young Muslim has greater ambitions than that. He wants to start a business, be an engineer, do an MBA. He anxiously awaits campus recruitment, he crams for the UPSC exams and dreams of the civil services. Others want to be judges, lawyers, dentists and doctors, some want to be active politicians.

Each one of them is aware of the numerous handicaps he faces, the hurdles, the prejudices he is likely to encounter, the shortcomings in his own community, its inherent backwardness, poverty, lack of modern education, lack of a youthful leadership. And yet he wants to overcome all this and be part of this great nation that his parents chose to stay behind in, to be share in the promise Nehru held out on the midnight of 15 August 1947: he wants to be part of this nation's tryst with destiny. What we owe him is trust, due process and the benefit of the doubt: so that when the horror of something like Pune happens, he can spontaneously share the revulsion of his fellow citizens without the insidious taint of guilt by association.



Link: http://mikeghouseforindia.blogspot.com/2010/02/why-should-muslim-have-to-wear-his.html
~~~


Gandhi Statue in Dallas will be a reality soon!

Gandhi Statue in Dallas will be a reality soon!

As a follower of Mahatma Gandhi, this is one of the most beautiful news of the year to me.  Hats off to all those who put in time and effort into this.
 
Mr. Prasad Thotakura's leadership with Indian American Friendship Council to make this a reality must be appreciated and Mr. Akram Syed's leadership in establishing the Gandhi Walk in Dallas must be appreciated. We also appreciate Mr. Sante Chary and a few others who have made similar efforts, and I am pleased to have committed to work with him.
 
Now, we need to adopt Gandhi's principles of inclusiveness and pluralism and I will make an effort to share his Quotes as often as I can with our Dallas Indians Group.
 
Press release from Prasad is appended below
 
Jai Hind,
 
 

 
Greetings! Indian American Friendship Council (IAFC) is pleased to 
inform you that City of Dallas has allotted a prime spot in the heart 
of Dallas city off of Marilla street (North side of the Dallas 
Convention Center, walking distance from the City Hall) to install 
Mahatma Gandhi Statue. Please review an appeal from IAFC to Indian 
American communities letter on next page for more details and spread 
this exciting news among your family, friends and members of your 
organization.

IAFC, along with IANT, are planning to call for community 
organizations meeting in the first week of March to discuss further on 
this project.

Please email me whether you are the authorized contact person of your 
organization to receive further information. If you are not, please 
email us the contact information of the right person. We are in the 
process of updating DFW area India related organizations and your 
information will be helpful for us to update our records.

Please feel free to contact me or Prasad Thotakura if you have any questions.

Thank you and Jai Hind
Harshika Bhatt
Co-Chair, Community organization Council
IANT
972-462-1383 (H)
469-223-2522 (C)

2.0 : Letter from IAFC

Indian American Friendship Council (IAFC)
(Non-profit, non-religious, non-partisan organization)
Tax ID# 95-4822891; P.O. Box 610865, Dallas, TX 75267
February 13, 2010

Subject: Installation of Statue of ?Mahatma Gandhi? in downtown Dallas, TX.

Greetings! Indian American Friendship Council (IAFC) has been pursuing 
the City of Dallas to install Mahatma Gandhi statue for a quite some 
time. We are very excited to inform you that finally we got the 
approval from the city. We sincerely thank Dallas City administration 
for taking initiative in realizing the long cherished dream of more 
than 100,000 Indian-Americans who live in the greater Dallas metro 
area. On request of IAFC, Dallas City has allocated a very prime spot 
on north side of the Dallas Convention Center on Marilla St. (few 
yards away from the Dallas City Hall) in the heart of the City. We are 
pleased to inform you that IAFC has already allocated $10,000 to make 
a 9 foot Bronze Statue in India and be shipped to Dallas.

We invite all India related organizations, professionals, businesses, 
entrepreneurs, women, youth and senior citizens to be part of this 
historical movement and project. Our plan is to get Mahatma Gandhi 
Statue be installed by August 15th, 2010. We are planning for a 
community organizations meeting in March to give a briefing on the 
project. We will email you details once the meeting date is confirmed. 
We request not more than two representatives from your organizations 
attend this important meeting.

It will be a greatest gift to all peace-loving Indians and Americans 
alike as well as putting the proud name of Dallas on the map of 
important cities that recognized the life and sacrifices made by 
Mahatma Gandhi who won India?s freedom from Colonial rule in 1947. 
Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948),?an icon for Peace & non-violence has been 
a role model for millions across the Globe,?including our President 
Barrack Obama.

We seek your indulgence in supporting the cause in realizing this 
dream. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions. We 
look forward for your favorable reply,

Best Regards,

Prasad Thotakura, General Secretary & Board of Directors of IAFC
(M) 817-300-4747; prasadthotakura@gmail.com

The power of Bollywood

American Champion ice dancers Davis & White skating to Bollywood tunes,
Enjoy it.....
 

India giving us stiff competition: Obama

 
WASHINGTON: For the second time in two days, President Barack Obama has said the US is facing stiff competition from India and cannot succeed if the country continues to produce more scientists and engineers than America.

"I said this during the State of the Union (address), I repeated it today in Henderson in my town hall: Other countries are not playing for second. They're playing for first," he told the Las Vegas-Area Chambers of Commerce and the
Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority on Friday. "Why is it that every other country was promoting its tourist industry and America was not doing enough for its own?" Obama asked. "That's just one example of the competition that we're facing on everything," he said. "If China's producing 40 high-speed rail lines and we're producing one, we're not going to have the infrastructure of the future," Obama said. "If India or South Korea are producing more scientists and engineers than we are, we will not succeed," said the US President in his Las Vegas speech.

This was for the second time in two days Obama told people to gear up as countries like India,
China and Germany were marching ahead in various fields, including clean energy technologies. "So I hope that all of us — Democrats, Republicans, public servants and leaders in the business community — can keep alive a sense of seriousness, a sense of common purpose," Obama said.

The President said there was a need to bring people together and build consensus around reforms. "Because we know that the country that out-educates us today is going to out-compete us tomorrow. And we don't want that future for our young people. We're not going to sentence them to a lifetime of lower wages and unfulfilled dreams."

Under Indonesia’s Surface, an Intricate Quilt of Faiths

I am pleased to see Indonesia Highlighting and restoring the Hindu Temple, they are indeed following Islam, which forbids one to desecrate a place of worship. I commend Suwarsono Muhammad for this initiative, it is time we live the will of God; Co-existence and harmony with life and matter.
 
Mike Ghouse
 
February 18, 2010
Yogyakarta Journal

Under Indonesia's Surface, an Intricate Quilt of Faiths
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/18/world/asia/18indo.html 

YOGYAKARTA, Indonesia — As if on cue, the two Buddhist monks in saffron robes appeared one late afternoon recently, seemingly out of nowhere, to complete the picture of Indonesia's religious past and present.

The visitors stood at the edge of a large fenced-off pit where a ninth-century Hindu temple had recently been unearthed here on the campus of the Islamic University of Indonesia. On the other side of the pit, where a mosque's large dome rose in the backdrop, the muezzin would soon call the faithful to the sunset prayer.

The discovery of the nearly intact Hindu temple was a reminder of the long religious trajectory of the country that now has the world's largest Muslim population. In few places on earth have three major religions intermixed with such intensity and proximity as in Indonesia's island of Java. If the sultan of Yogyakarta's palace lies at the heart of this city, Java's spiritual center, the world's largest Buddhist monument, Borobudur, and one of its largest Hindu temples, Prambanan, stand in its outskirts.

 

About 90 percent of Indonesians are now Muslim, with only pockets of Buddhists and Hindus left. But Hinduism and Buddhism, Java's dominant religions for a much longer period, permeate the society and contribute to Indonesia's traditionally moderate form of Islam.

For more than a decade, proponents of a more orthodox version of Islam have gained ground in Indonesia. More women are wearing head scarves and more Indonesians are adopting Arabic-style religious rituals as fundamentalists press for a purge of pre-Islamic values and ceremonies. But Indonesia's traditional Islam provides a counterpoint.

"This is Indonesia," said Suwarsono Muhammad, an official at the Islamic University. "In the long history of Indonesia, we have proven that different religions can live peacefully."

In that spirit, Mr. Muhammad said, the university planned to showcase the Hindu temple prominently in front of a library to be built around it, in the shape of a half-circle.

It all began last August when the private university decided to build the library, "the symbol of knowledge of our religion," next to the mosque, Mr. Muhammad said. In the two decades the university had occupied its 79-acre campus outside Yogyakarta, no temple had ever been found. But chances were high that they were around. Most of the nearby villages had the same prefix in their names: candi, meaning temple.

By Dec. 11, a construction crew had already removed nearly seven feet of earth. But the soil proved unstable, and the crew decided to dig 20 inches deeper. A backhoe then struck something unusually hard.

The crack the backhoe left on the temple wall would become the main sign of damage on what experts say could be the best-preserved ancient monument found in Java.

Researchers from the government's Archaeological Office in Yogyakarta headed to the campus the next day, excavated for 35 days and eventually unearthed two 1,100-year-old small temples. In the main temple, 20 feet by 20 feet, a perfectly preserved statue of Ganesha, the elephant-headed deity, sat next to a linga, the symbol of worship for the god Shiva, and a yoni, the symbol of worship for the goddess Shakti.

In the adjacent secondary temple, about 20 feet by 13 feet, researchers exhumed another linga and yoni, as well as two altars and a statue of Nandi, the sacred bull that carried Shiva.

"The temples are not so big, but they have features that we haven't found in Indonesia before," Herni Pramastuti, who runs the Archaeological Office, said, pointing to the rectangle-shaped temple, the existence of two sets of linga and yoni, and the presence of two altars.

Researchers surmised that the temples were preserved in pristine condition because they were buried in a volcanic eruption a century after they were built. The lava from Mount Merapi, about 7.5 miles to the north, is believed to have filled a nearby river before flowing over the temples, minimizing damage.

Indung Panca Putra, a researcher at the Archaeological Office, said the temples' walls and statues contained refined details not found in the dozen small Hindu and Buddhist temples discovered in this area.

Officials moved the most valuable artifact, the statue of Ganesha, to the Archaeological Office. For further protection against thieves, workers erected a fence on the campus, and guards limited access inside.

The two Buddhist monks, though, had had no trouble getting inside. They had traveled from their monastery, about an hour away by car, to visit.

"These are our ancestors, so we have a sense of belonging," said one monk, Dhammiko.

Historians believe that Hinduism spread in Java in the fifth century, followed three centuries later by Buddhism. Kingdoms hewing to both Hindu and Buddhist beliefs flourished in Java before they were eclipsed by Islam in the 15th century.

But Islam itself incorporated beliefs and ceremonies from the other two religions. Just as some unearthed temples in east Java have a Hindu upper half and a Buddhist lower half, some early mosques had roofs in the shape of Hindu temples, said Timbul Haryono, a professor of archaeology at Gadjah Mada University here and an expert on Hinduism in Southeast Asia. Early mosques faced not in Mecca's direction, but west or east in the manner of Hindu temples.

"Things didn't change all of a sudden," Mr. Haryono said. "Islam was adopted through a process of acculturation."

In Indonesia's arts, like the wayang shadow puppetry that dramatizes Hindu epics, or in people's private lives, traces of the earlier religions survive, he said. Food, flowers and incense still accompany many funerals for Muslims, in keeping with Hindu and Buddhist traditions.

"Hinduism was Indonesia's main religion for 1,000 years," he said, "so its influence is still strong."

Law abiding Mumabaikers, in praise of a film star

In praise of a film star who has seen off the violent mob running India's commercial capital

Feb 18th 2010 | From The Economist print edition

Illustration by M. Morgenstern

LAW-ABIDING Mumbaikars, as residents of India's tinsel-town are known, celebrated the release of Bollywood's latest offering with gusto this week. The film, "My name is Khan", depicts the fictional trials of Rizwan Khan, an Indian Muslim with Asperger's syndrome, living in California. Shortly after September 11th 2001 Mr Khan's six-year-old son is lynched in a racist reprisal. This leads him to track down President George Bush and tell him: "My name is Khan and I am not a terrorist."

Despite mixed reviews, the film generated $18m in ticket sales in its first three days, doubling the previous record for an Indian film. That was also despite a slow start in Mumbai. Of 63 cinemas due to release the film on February 12th only 13 did so. They were deterred, for that day only, by threats from a gangsterish political party, Shiv Sena, which controls the city's municipal council and is the main opposition in the state of Maharashtra. A Hindu-nationalist outfit, and champion of Maharashtra's Marathi speakers, Shiv Sena had a grudge against the film's leading man, Shah Rukh Khan, one of Bollywood's biggest stars. Mr Khan, a Muslim, and a co-owner of a cricket team, the Kolkata Knight Riders, had offended Shiv Sena's leader, Bal Thackeray, by speaking up for some Pakistani cricketers disgracefully excluded from the Indian Premier League. Unless Mr Khan apologised, Mr Thackeray swore to disrupt the film's release.

That should have been enough to make Mr Khan grovel. With an army of ethnic-Maratha hooligans, known as Shiv Sainiks, at his disposal, Mr Thackeray has terrorised Mumbai's teeming streets for four decades. Non-Maratha migrants, Muslims and foreign cricketers, Pakistani and Australian, have all been targets of his tirades. His followers have been implicated in hundreds of murders, notably in a 1993 anti-Muslim pogrom. Yet Mr Thackeray has hardly been censured. The Congress party, which rules Maharashtra and heads the national coalition government, is loth to upset him. So are Mumbai's tycoons and film stars. But Mr Khan refused to bend the knee. Then the state government, for once, swore to keep order. And Mr Thackeray backed down.

This excellent turn of events, however, invited a question: how is it that liberal, secular India has suffered Mr Thackeray and his thugs for so long? One reason is an abiding sensitivity towards language-based agitations—after a spate, in the 1950s, that posed the greatest threat to India's survival. It led to a reorganisation of the state's provinces into linguistically more homogeneous units: including, in 1960, the creation of mainly Marathi-speaking Maharashtra. Opposed by India's then prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, the arrangement has proved remarkably effective. Yet Nehru's fear that the reorganisation would harden regionalist sentiments has also been partly justified.

Mr Thackeray, who founded his party in 1966, began by attacking poor south-Indian migrants to Bombay, as Mumbai was then called. Never mind that Mumbai was barely a Maratha city at all. Almost a third of its population was non-Maratha then; over half is today. Its wealth was created largely by Gujarati, Rajasthani and Parsee traders.

India's democracy has spawned many opportunist outfits of the Shiv Sena type, fermenters of ethnic, religious or caste-based grievance. But it is also in part self-correcting. No communal interest is big enough to secure state-level or national power. To forge alliances extremists have to moderate. For Mr Thackeray, this meant softening his pro-Maratha oratory; but, alas, not the anti-Muslim slant he shared with his main ally, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). During the 1990s the two parties won power in Maharashtra—which allowed Mr Thackeray to rename Bombay—and, as part of a broader coalition, in Delhi.

Yet their Hinduist scheme now looks stunted: the BJP and Shiv Sena have lost successive state-level and general elections. A firebrand nephew of Mr Thackeray has meanwhile formed a breakaway party, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS). In response, Shiv Sena has resumed its pro-Maratha attack. Mr Thackeray has thundered against India's greatest cricketer, Sachin Tendulkar, a Mumbaikar who says he's Indian first, and its richest man, Mukesh Ambani, who says Mumbai is for all. But this cannot disguise Shiv Sena's slide. Congress has hastened it, partly by turning a blind eye to the crimes of the MNS, which, by splitting the Shiv Sena's vote, helped Congress win the most recent state election. This reflects badly on India's ruling party but is in fact grimly consistent with its long reluctance to enforce the law against Shiv Sena—a big reason for the impunity Mr Thackeray has enjoyed.

My name is Gandhi and I am a future prime minister

Prone to communal conniption, India needs enlightened leadership, which Congress has often failed to provide. Instead of defending India's liberal traditions against the chauvinists, it has tended to copy them. In Maharashtra, for example, it has adopted a less rabid brand of nativism than Shiv Sena's. In neighbouring Gujarat, torn by Hindu-Muslim strife, it has preached "soft Hindutva", a milder version of the BJP's hate-filled creed.

So a recent visit to Mumbai by Rahul Gandhi, Nehru's great-grandson and Congress's next leader, was significant. He had spoken up for Mumbai's battered migrants, prompting the Shiv Sainiks to threaten protests. Yet, unabashed, he came and took a train-ride through the city. For some who dream of Congress improving under Mr Gandhi, this was promising.

But it could not deny Shah Rukh Khan the spotlight. A likeable superstar, he has a record of fighting liberal causes. After Pakistani terrorists ravaged Mumbai in 2008, he sought to avert an anti-Muslim backlash. He is close to Congress, and said to be mulling a political career. Unusually in India, which has a history of venal, useless actor-politicians, that might not be a bad thing.