HOME | ABOUT US | Speaker | Americans Together | Videos | www.CenterforPluralism.com | Please note that the blog posts include my own articles plus selected articles critical to India's cohesive functioning. My articles are exclusively published at www.TheGhouseDiary.com You can send an email to: MikeGhouseforIndia@gmail.com

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Ban Burqa?

We the Indians need to speak up against the extremists amongst us. No one should impose his or her ideas onto others, violation of it must be severely punished under civil laws with no mention of religion, if we do, it feeds the extreme elements of the political parties who want to garner support from the few extremists left in India.India should go to the maximum to uphold law, if we let this gain momentum, it would be difficult to contain.

No one should be above the law. At this time, I am drowned with several issues, I wish we could take this up for the benefit of all Indians.

Mike Ghouse

India should go to the maximum to uphold law, if we let this gain momentum, it would be difficult to contain.

Mike Ghouse

ABVP imposes ban on wearing burkhas in rural college in Karnataka

Sudipto Mondal/The Hindu, Tuesday, 03 March 2009 - 03:41:49 IST

PANJA VILLAGE/SULLIA TALUK: Muslim girls of the Government Composite Pre-University College here have been banned from wearing burkhas by local Hindutva outfits and the Bharatiya Janata Party-affiliated Akhil Bharathiya Vidyarthi Parishad.

According to Lakshmisha Gobbalathadka, the self-proclaimed architect of the ban, the idea was first proposed to the college authorities at his behest by a few students affiliated to the ABVP in early January this year.

“Four of my boys spoke to the college principal and demanded that Muslim girls be banned from wearing burkhas in classrooms,” said Mr. Gobbalathadka, who is also the district convener of a fringe outfit called Hindu Jagarana Vedike.

“We agreed immediately. We did not want any trouble,” said a college official. But soon the demands began to grow. Emboldened by the support the boys received from a section of students, they went on to extend the ban to the entire 28-acre campus.

Once the ban was formalised by the college authorities, a groups of boys took it upon themselves to impose it. “Every day, the boys sit at the tea stall near the college gate. If we take even one step into the college gate with the burkha on, they start scolding us,” said a 16-year-old class 10 student.

Violence on campus

Meanwhile, another controversy broke out on the campus after the ABVP alleged that a Muslim boy had made a proposal of marriage to a Hindu girl. “Our boys beat up the Muslim boy on February 28,” claimed Mr. Gobbalathadka. At the college's development committee meeting on January 29, a large group of students, led by Mr. Gobbalathadka, barged in demanding that Muslim girls stop wearing the burkha even on their way to and from the college. The demand created a furore dividing committee members, according to college principal, Balasubramaniam. Soon, hundreds of activists entered the venue and physically attacked Muslim committee members and Hindus who opposed their demands. Following the incident, Mr. Gobbalathadka and his followers were arrested and remanded in judicial custody.

Growing support

“Many others have been inspired by the success we have had here. Soon, this campaign will spread to all government colleges in the region,” Mr. Gobbalathadka told The Hindu, and added that the garment would soon be banned from public spaces in the entire village of Panja.

Panja gram panchayat president Rafique, who sustained injuries during the January 29 violence, said: “Some may feel that the burkha is a symbol of oppression of women. Even if that is true, a resistance to the garment should come from within the community. How can we tolerate somebody using force to ban the burkha?”

Reacting to the issue, Deputy Director of Public Instruction C. Chame Gowda told The Hindu, “The college authorities might have agreed to the ban under pressure. But there is no law that prevents the burkha. Everybody has the right to practice their religious beliefs as long as it does not inconvenience others.”

Deputy Commissioner V. Ponnuraj expressed concern over the developments and said he was still inquiring into the issue. “The rule of law and the Constitution will prevail,” he said.

Nun's Memoirs rock the church

I hope the Church takes a quick action against the individuals involved in it, and take the appropriate action. It should be kept out of the purview of the religion, it is the action of the individual, whether he is religious or not, that needs to be reviewed. Individuals make mistakes, not the religion. We must hold individuals accountable no matter who it is, but not his or her religion. Labeling religion is an escape, justice must be met if we want societies where law is respected for the safety and security of each member of the society.

A man possessed with sex, needs religion to calm him down, he is a bad guy, because he did not get the religion. Had he learned his religion, no matter what it is, he is less likely to make that mistake. Our mistake as a society is we take the God men for granted... we should look to them as individuals.

Mike Ghouse


Sunday, Mar. 01, 2009
A Former Nun's Memoirs Rock India's Catholic Church
By Madhur Singh

After 26 years as a nun, Jesme Raphael gave up her robes and walked out of the Congregation of the Mother of Carmel, the Catholic order in Kerala, India, that had been her home for three decades. Two years later, Raphael, now 53, has come out with her memoirs, Amen: An Autobiography of a Nun, cataloging lurid details of bullying, sexual abuse and homosexuality in the oldest Catholic women's order in the idyllic coastal state in southern India. Shocking as it is, the book is only the latest in a long series of accusations and scandals afflicting the Catholic Church in the state with the largest population of Christians in India.

"All the brothers here send you greetings. Greet one another with a holy kiss [1 Corinthians 16:20]," Raphael quotes a priest as telling her, after she confronted him with allegations that "he kissed almost everyone who went for one-on-one meetings." In other episodes, she tells of a coerced lesbian encounter, being forced to strip in front of a naked priest who then masturbated and being accused of mental instability after she complained to her superiors.

Since the book's release on Jan. 30, publishers DC Books have already sold all 3,000 copies, and a reprint has been ordered. The Catholic Church is miffed. "There is no dearth of antireligion people in Kerala society," said Stephen Alathara, deputy secretary of the Kerala Catholic Bishops Council. "They are using this for their antisocial, antichurch activities." In 1957 Kerala voted in the world's first democratically elected communist government, and it has been under communist rule since the last state elections in 2006.

A spokesman for the Syro-Malabar order of the Catholic Church, Father Paul Thelakkat, said Raphael's allegations stem from "some wounded feelings," which Raphael should have raised with the church instead of "maligning the life of religious nuns." He added that Raphael's allegations are "not especially serious." "The church never claims there's no sin within the church," he said. "We're not angels — we're human beings of flesh and blood — so some omissions and failures can happen. But the church is perennially on a path of renewal and reformation. We're trying to deal with these problems and such allegations."

There has been no shortage of them in recent months. On Feb. 11, Sister Josephine, a nun in the Daughters of Mary congregation in Trivandrum, Kerala's state capital, was found dead in her room in an apparent suicide. Members of the congregation said the 38-year-old nun had been under treatment for depression. After news of the incident spread, a crowd gathered around the house and shouted slogans alleging that harassment had led Sister Josephine to kill herself. The police had to intervene, and an inquiry into the case was later ordered. Six months earlier, on Aug. 11 of last year, 23-year-old Sister Anoopa Mary had been found hanging in her room in St. Mary's Convent in Kollam, north of the capital. In what was purportedly her suicide note, she had said she could no longer withstand the senior nuns' harassment. Her father, a cook in the local bishop's house, charged that sexual exploitation had led his daughter to take her life. The convent has denied the allegations, though a court investigation is still ongoing.

Recently, there have been expulsions and other disciplinary action in response to other cases of misconduct within the church in Kerala. In June last year, a nun in a Christian hospital was expelled after a video of her having sex with a driver was circulated over mobile phones and the Internet. In October, Pope Benedict XVI suspended a bishop in the coastal city of Cochin after his adoption of a 26-year-old woman as his daughter raised questions. The bishop has denied any wrongdoing and said he adopted the woman out of fatherly love. But the church took him off all duties and instituted an inquiry..

"Such problems have been there in almost all convents [in Kerala]," says Joseph Pulikunnel, a veteran Syrian Catholic social reformer who editsOsanna, a magazine aimed at Kerala's Catholic community. "The convents are closed to the public. We don't know what is happening inside." He says India's Catholic Church, which accounts for 70% of all denominations among India's 25 million Christians, owns vast properties across the country, including over 30,000 educational institutions and 6,000 hospitals. In Kerala, the Church runs 60% of the private educational institutes. The state's near 100% literacy — a singular case in a country where the average adult literacy rate is just about 60% — is thanks largely to the church's zealous missionary activity. Yet critics claim this gives the church a high degree of political and economic power. Church-reform activists also say the affairs of the Catholic Church — to which 60% of Kerala's Christians belong — should be brought more directly under the control of Indian authorities to make its workings more transparent. As of now, church affairs are under the stewardship of the Pope.

In recent months, the church has been more forthcoming about the problems it faces. Sathyadeepam, Kerala's Catholic weekly, released a report in January that said almost 20% of the region's nuns — the church says there are about 45,000 — feel "insecure or unaccepted" in their convents. Cases of nuns speaking up like Raphael are still rare, but there may be an avalanche building up due to the changing social scene. Earlier, girls from disadvantaged families embraced the vows, finding that life in a convent, while hard, saved them from the worst of deprivation. But once in an order, they found it difficult to complain or leave. "They simply had nowhere to go," says Pulikunnel. "If they quit the convent, they'd be thrown out penniless, and their families wouldn't take them back."

But times have changed. Churches around the world have been coming to grips with legacies of quiet abuse, and Indian society, too, has evolved. There is no longer a stigma attached to giving up the robes and returning to the laity.. There are plenty of well-paying jobs — nursing has proven particularly attractive for Kerala women, as it is seen as a passport to a foreign post and big bucks — and many youngsters are not up for a lifetime of celibacy and a religious vocation. And though figures have not been collated, activists claim a steady decline in the number of young people taking the vows or, like Raphael, renouncing them altogether.

But to stem the rot that has set in, the church will first have to admit the real nature and extent of the problem. If Alathara's reaction is anything to go by, that candor is a long way off. When asked about the numerous allegations of sexual abuse in the church, he said, "[Alleging sexual abuse] is an old tool of hitting at the ecclesiastical society. It's nothing new. It happened 2,000 years ago too." Father Thelakkat's reaction is somewhat similar. Though he doesn't deny Raphael's allegations, he refuses to acknowledge their seriousness either: "The incidents may be true, but they are isolated cases." Clearly, it's time to connect the dots and see the bigger picture.