Though this article still paints Muslims in victimhood mode, overall, it breaks the pattern and puts blame squarely on Muslims.
The Muslim Rage and Hypocrisy
Can you believe it? A Chinese–made shoe is holding hostage a population of over 1.4 million in Srinagar. It began in Central Kashmir’s Magam area. On 28 November, someone saw a white sports shoe with the name of the last Caliph (Hazrat Ali) printed on it. A close examination of the shoe, however, threw up a hint of mischief: on the right-side of the toe, the name ‘Ali’ was hand-written with a black marker and didn’t look like a company mark. Soon, men, children and women gathered on the streets. Protests ensued. The shoe was held high in the procession while the demonstrators called for an end to “hurting” Muslim “sensibilities.”
Even before the crowd from this protest had returned home, a new mob gathered around 30 kilometers away at Srinagar’s Zadibal-Nowhatta neighbourhood where Shia and Sunni communities live together but their union is often marred by frictions from time to time. For years, youngsters of this area have been stone-pelting the armed forces for atrocities and the clampdown on Azadi-demanding protests, but today they were stone pelting each other’s houses, breaking windowpanes and disfiguring fence walls. Some people say pro-India PDP’s Shia leader had spoken against the first three Caliphs of Islam during his Moharram speech (a few days before the shoe-incident) that angered the majority Sunni population. Others say the Shia youth wanted to enforce a strike in the Sunni area of Nowhatta which was resisted by the shopkeepers triggering stone pelting between the other communities. The result: the police and the paramilitary CRPF are enforcing a curfew for several days now; seizing some youth in nocturnal raids, and even the parents of those running away to escape the Khakis. Ghulam Qadir Sheikh, the father of a youth who was detained in one such raid, says he was dealt with like a hardcore criminal in the police station. Adding to the absurd chaos, Kashmir’s Divisional Commissioner Asghar Samoon, as quoted in the local media, explained that he had recommended in the past too that parents of minors (allegedly involved in stone pelting) must be punished. Meanwhile representatives of around 30 religious bodies (both Sunni and Shi’ites) are now trying to calm the angry communities.
A friend jokingly says if this is what a single Chinese shoe can do, imagine the magnitude of global unrest if the whole of China were unleashed on the world.
Ruptures between Shi’ites and Sunnis aren’t new. They had developed immediately after the Prophet Muhammad’s death in 632 AD. There was no agreement on his immediate successor. Sunnis recognise the first four Caliphs (Abu Bakr, Umar Farooq, Usman Ghani and lastly, Ali Murtaza) as his rightful successors; the Shi’ites believes the prophet nominated his son-in-law, Ali. Since then, sentiments over the matter continued to boil right through to the modern times, sometime pushing countries to the verge of civil war. But in the case of Kashmir, Shi’ites and Sunnis rarely have such turbulent history. There is a greater realisation among many regarding who will actually benefit from such a sectarian fight which I’ve already mentioned in my previous blog post.
Such protests, however, also throw up questions (so far avoided and unanswered too). Was this shoe-protest a justifiable rage? How will a violent protest in Srinagar force the shoe-manufacturer (in case it’s established that a mischief was played at the manufacturing level) in China to stop such production. Or how will it force some individual or a group not to play this malafide act again? They must be already giggling somewhere after having successfully triggered clashes in Srinagar over a shoe.
This incident also reminds me of the June 2010 anti-West and anti-India protest in Kashmir. Young men in hundreds in the same neighbourhood carried a blue underwear on a wooden stick, after spotting on it, a sketch of a building which looked like the Al-Aqsa Mosque of Palestine. Without any thorough examination, the underwear enraged them. Soon they blamed the West for “hurting Muslim sensibilities” and clashed with the police and the CRPF. The under wear protest soon faded after it was established that it never carried images of any Islamic worship place. The blue underwear flouted as a placard had in fact sketches of buildings that resembled London’s Big Ben and Saint Paul’s Cathedral and several other places.
This year, during the ‘Innocence of Muslims’ protests, I was in Kashmir. The entire valley was angry. I was on my way to Poonch (researching for a story about a strange disabling disease that has become a scourge in the border district) when my car was stopped by some protesting youth in Shopian district. It took me, my cameraman friend, Abhijit Dutta and the driver, Tanveer Ahmad almost half-an-hour to convince them that the media should be allowed to cover such protests and there were similar other protests in other areas too which our team was supposed to cover. Abhijit took some pictures of sloganeering youth before Tanveer accelerated the car. In such situations, lying to the police, the CRPF or protesters is often best to save one’s skin.
On the just-reopened Mughal Road, we were soon negotiating curves in the mighty Pir Panjal Mountains that separate Kashmir valley from Poonch and Rajouri districts. I asked Tanveer how one should react to the anti-Islam film, the condemnation call by pro-India mainstream parties and strike call by pro-Azadi groups.
“If I won’t earn Rs 100 or 200 today, how will it hurt the United States, the film maker or Obama. Or, how will it decrease my love towards Prophet Muhammad and Islam both,” he replied. “Not people, the response should come from the 52 Islamic states. Let the core states like Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, or Turkey and others expel US’ Ambassadors as a mark of protest or let the Gulf countries stop exporting oil. The West will come down to its knees. But it needs gurda (guts) which they don’t have.”
Tanveer was right. First Muslims must abandon protesting on vague things like the shoe or underwear. On films like Nakoula Basseley’s anti-Islam film or other issues, there is a greater need to channelise this rage in a manner that registers the full magnitude of hurt felt by Muslims by such actions. Also the present forms of random, uncoordinated and thoughtless protests, like the one we saw in Kashmir, further negates the Muslim cause, divides the community and in fact weakens the merit of a genuine protest.
For some time, like diplomats, Dutta, Tanveer and I pondered in the moving car over what could be the genuine response of Islamic block if Muslim sensibilities are hurt instead of burning down public property and stone pelting moving cars. What we thought could be these:
1. Diplomatic– Expel and call back Ambassador from the country which the Islamic countries feel has hurt the sentiments of Muslims
2. Economic – Stop oil imports for a month until that country takes strong action
3. Military – Organise a military alliance like NATO and issue a joint press statement by the commander in chiefs of this alliance condemning the event
4. Criminal – Put the specific person responsible on an international Islamic watch list so that if and when he travels through or into any Islamic country he can be nabbed/deported
and finally the most important,
5. Intellectual Response – A creative, intellectual response as well that contextualises the above response in terms of a meta-narrative (without coming off as conspiracy theorists).
Tanveer, who at the end repeated his previous one-liner, however, undermined all the joint efforts. “It needs gurda (guts) which they (the Islamic nations) don’t have.”
Apart from gurda (guts), sometimes there has been an element of hypocrisy and ignorance among Muslims as well. Imagine a scenario where an American F-16 blasts a Muslim holy site in Pakistan or an Israeli bulldozer razes an age-old shrine in occupied Palestine. What would be the Muslim response? I am sure it will be similar to the previous responses. Protesters across the Muslim world will occupy streets, some will try to march towards US or Israeli embassies and police will fire at them to quell the protests. There will be killings and loss of property. Strikes and clampdowns. And that’s it. But has anyone ever thought about why Muslims are often enraged when the “West” is seen as mocking them, but equally indifferent when Muslim Countries blast shrines, raze historic sites and bring down holy places that are connected with Muslims’ identity.
By no means should this piece be seen as advocating stupid violence like the one we saw in Kashmir, but have Muslims ever launched a genuine indignation against the razing of house where prophet Muhammad was born on which a library stands now. Where was the Muslim rage when the house of Khadija (Muhammad’s first wife) where Muhammad received some of the first revelations of the Quran) was replaced with a public toilet block and Dar-al-Arqam, the first Islamic school, where Muhammad taught was levelled for construction? Did it not deserve a response when Jannat-ul-Baqi, a large cemetery where tombs of several of the prophet’s wives, daughters, sons and as many as six grandsons and Shiite saints were once located were bulldozed and levelled? In both Mecca and Medina (the birth place of Islam), Saudi Arabia has, according to many reports, already bulldozed over 90% of the Islamic monuments (during the past 20 years) dating back to around 1400 years. In their place, five star hotels, parking lots and shopping malls are coming up. Saudi authorities often use the excuse that the expansion is necessary to accommodate the increasing number of Muslim pilgrims. But why can’t the hotels and malls be constructed outside the historic interior of Mecca thus preserving both Islamic identity and the monuments? At a place where Paris Hilton can open a luxury bag shop, (in Mecca Mall) why can’t the old shrines and monuments co-exist?
Now apprehensions are also growing over the expansion of Masjid an-Nabawi that will see the demolition of three of the world’s oldest mosques that hold the tombs of Prophet Mohammad, and his closest companions, Abu Bakr and Umar. At a cost of US $6 billion, the construction will raze holy sites as old as the seventh century.
So instead of stupid protests over a vague China-made shoe or someone’s underwear, the rage should be directed at something real. Many Muslims usually label people of other faith as ‘infidel blasphemers’ when a verse of the Quran appears on a skating board or a page from the Quran is brunt, but when the sacred and holy sites are razed in the Islamic states, the word ‘blasphemy’ disappears and the silence becomes remarkable.
Author: Mohammad Umar BabaBaba Umar’s career started with The Indian Express in Srinagar where he reported on the South Asia earthquake of 2005. In the following years, he wrote features for Kashmir’s first online news magazine Kashmir Newz and in 2008 he joined Rising Kashmir as a senior reporter where he covered 2008-09-10 civil unrest. Baba specializes in producing stories mostly on Kashmir conflict and water disputes in India. Baba joined Tehelka in 2010 and the next year saw him winning ICRC (Geneva)-Press Institute of India (PII) award for his news report on victims of armed conflict in Kashmir.
By Japan K Pathak, 24 October, 2011
While Haj yatra is on and 6,000 Haj yatris are in process to leave for Haj from Ahmedabad airport, following details about Haj yatra and central government’s spending on Haj yatra are interesting. In this article, there’s also a comparison between the figures of central government’s spending for Haj yatra and for Kailash Mansarovar yatra.
In March 2011, in reply to a question asked by Lok Sabha member Shri Setti Raju alias Devappa Anna about budgetary provisions made and utilized by the Government on pilgrimage to Haj, Kailash Mansarovar and other religious places during the last three years and the current year, central External affairs minister Paramjit Kaur Gulshan replied: “The Government of India makes exhaustive arrangements to facilitate the pilgrims going to Saudi Arabia through the Haj Committee of India and facilitates provision of accommodation and other logistical support for them.”
She further said, “Doctors, Nurses and other paramedical staff, Coordinators, Assistant Haj Officers, Haj Assistants and Khadim-ul-Hujjaj are sent from India on short-term deputation to Saudi Arabia. A hospital in Makkah and branch offices – cum – dispensaries in Makkah and Madina are set up for Haj pilgrims.”
She added, “the Haj Committee of India is providing to the pilgrims information regarding confirmation of their seats, travel documents, transportation, etc. For Haj-2010, two more embarkation points viz Bhopal and Goa were added to the already existing 19 embarkation points spread across the country. With effect from Haj – 2010, seats are being allotted on confirmed basis to those applicants who have been rejected continuously for last three years in Qurrah.It is the constant endeavor of the Government to keep making improvements in the arrangements made for the Haj pilgrims and provide them with better facilities after taking into account the feedback received from all concerned.”
The minister gave following detail about central government’s expenses for Haj.
Expenditure on Haj
|2007-08||Rs. 27 .01 crores||Rs. 32.30 crore|
|2008-09||Rs. 34. 56 crores||Rs. 32.82 crore|
|2009-10||Rs. 37.82 crores||Rs. 30.49 crore|
|2010-11 (till February 2011)||Rs. 41.89 crores||Rs. 28.86 crore|
However the figures presented above do not cover the subsidy expenses.
The detail of subsidy figures is actually available from another answer given to Lok Sabha MP Radhey Mohan Singh, by minister of overseas Indian affairs and civil aviation Shri Vayalar Ravi on 9 March, 2011.
The minister stated: “Ministry of Civil Aviation makes arrangements for air travel of pilgrims proceeding for Haj through Haj Committee of India. For Haj 2008 and 2009, each adult pilgrim paid Rs.12000/- as fare and Rs.16000/- for Haj 2010 for Haj Charter Flight. The balance cost of operating Haj Charter Flights was borne by the Government. State-wise figures of cost are not maintained. The provisional total cost (including Service Tax) and per pilgrim cost borne by the Government for last three years is as under”
Year – 2007 – Total Cost borne by Government Rs. 476.74 crore. Per pilgrim cost Rs. 43,340
Year – 2008 – Total Cost borne by Government Rs. 894.77 crore. Per pilgrim cost Rs. 73,526
Year – 2009 – Total Cost borne by Government Rs. 689.91 crore. Per pilgrim cost Rs. 57,430
The minister added that for Haj 2010, the Government has so far(means till March 2011) released an amount of Rs.580/- crores towards cost of travel of 1,26,191 pilgrims.
The minister also added: “out of the total airfare, a nominal amount of fare is collected from the Haj pilgrims to make Haj Yatra more affordable. The pilgrims are carried from/to 21 embarkation points in India. This year, except from Srinagar and Patna which had technical constraints, the pilgrims were carried by direct flights. Specific provisions like facilities to be provided to pilgrims before and after boarding of flights, on cancellation/delay of flights, baggage etc. are provided in the MOU signed with the airlines. Assistance of various kinds are also made available during their stay in Saudi Arabia.”
This clearly means that while government spent Rs 73,526 for Haj yatra of each Indian Muslim(in 2008) selected by Haj committee, that Muslim individual on Haj on his own had to spend only Rs 16,000!!
In October 7 this year the Union cabinet approved the following for the Haj 2011 operations:
i) Number of Haj Pilgrims to be covered under the Government subsidy scheme for Haj 2011 to be facilited by the Haj Committee of India is 1,25,000.
ii) Fare to be charged from each of the pilgrims for Haj 2011 is Rs.16,000.
iii) Haj flights would be operated from 21 embarkation points during Haj 2011.
iv) Ex-post facto approval has been given for increasing the number of pilgrims to 1,26,191 for Haj 2010.
A related press release said: “Ministry of Civil Aviation is entrusted with the responsibility of making air travel arrangements for Haj pilgrims proceeding for Haj through the Haj Committee of India. For Haj 2011, Ministry of Civil Aviation has selected the airlines for undertaking Haj Charter flights through sealed tender process. Since only designated airlines of India and Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) are permitted to carry Haj pilgrims from India to Saudi Arabia, the designated airlines of both the countries were issued the tender notice, Saudi Arabian Airlines and National Air Services (NAS), the two designated airlines of Saudi Arabia emerged L1 for 13 and 8 embarkation points respectively. MoUs have been signed with these airlines for carrying the Haj Pilgrims. The pilgrims would be carried from India to Jeddah/Madina during 29.9.2011 and 31.10.2011 and from Jeddah/Madina to India during 10.11.2011 and 10.12.2011.”
The release further stated: “the number of Haj pilgrims going through the Haj Committee of India is decided by the Ministry of External Affairs which is the nodal Ministry for Haj matters. The cost of air travel of pilgrims undertaking Haj through Haj Committee of India is borne partly by the pilgrims and partly subsidized by the Government of India. The cost/fare to be charged from pilgrims is decided by the Cabinet and collected by the Haj Committee of India and paid to the Government/airlines and the balance cost is borne by the Government, for which a budgetary provision is made in the annual budget of Ministry of Civil Aviation. The number of pilgrims to be covered under this scheme and the number of embarkation points in India from which these pilgrims would board the flights is also decided by the Cabinet every year.”
And spending for Kailash Mansarovar yatra
Now coming back to Lok Sabha MP Shri Setti Raju alias Devappa Anna’s question about Kailash Mansarovar yatra. Following is the table of central government’s expenses for Kailash Mansarovar yatra.
|2007-08||Rs. 97 lakhs||Rs. 97 lakhs|
|2008-09||Rs. 46 lakhs||Rs. 43 lakhs|
|2009-10||Rs. 71 lakhs||Rs. 69 lakhs|
|2010-11||Rs. 95 lakhs||Rs. 93.50 lakhs|
The minister while giving reply about Kailash Mansarovar yatra and central government’s spending for it stated: Government of India has constantly been improving the facilities in India for the Kailash Manasarovar Yatra. Government of India has also been regularly interacting with the Government of China for improvement of facilities in China at the holy sites of Mount Kailash and Manasarovar Lake.
This entire piece of article shows that while for Kailash Mansarovar yatra, the government of India spends less than one crore per year, the same government spends 28-30 crore for Haj yatris as other than subsidy expenses and 476-690 crore as subsidy every year! What a person on ground gets from this has to be checked. If Rs 16,000 is just one-way, then Haji pays Rs 32,000 for air fare, but even then the govt spends upto Rs 73,000 for that pilgrim on air fare. Another thing is that govt should have spine to stop funding yatras whether it is Kailash Mansarovar or Haj. Question has already been raised in parliament time and again that why Sikhs are not funded for their Pakistan yatra and Christians for their middle east pilgrim tour!