Monday, June 11, 2012




Sunday, June 10, 2012

Lyrics: "Teri Mehfil Mein Qismat Aazmaa Kar..."

This song is from the epic 1960 film "Mughal-e-Azam." The film tells the story of Shah Akbar's son Salim (Dilip Kumar) and the court intrigue which follows him and his romance with Anarkali (Madhubala).
This particular song is known in Hindustani classical music as a "jugalbandi." Wikipedia offers the following explanation of the style:
jugalbandi or jugalbandhi (DevanagariजुगलबंधीUrdu: جگلندئ‍) is a performance in Indian classical music that features a duet of two solo musicians. The word jugalbandi means, literally, "entwined twins." The duet can be either vocal or instrumental. What defines jugalbandi is that the two soloists be on an equal footing. While any Indian music performance may feature two musicians, a performance can only be deemed a jugalbandi if it is neither clearly the soloist and nor clearly an accompanist. In jugalbandi, both musicians act as lead players, and a playful competition exists between the two performers.
The "playful competition" is very apparent in this song. Both Anarkali and Bahaar (Nigar Sultana) are seated in Salim's court and present a musical debate on the merits of being in love. Anarkali is optimistic; Bahaar is pessimistic and mocks people in love.


تیری محفل میں قسمت آزما کر ہم بھی دیکھیں گے
तेरी महफ़िल में क़िस्मत आज़मा कर हम भी देखेंगे
In your company, we too shall test fate and see...

گھڑی بھر کو تیرے نزدیک آ کر
घड़ी भर को तेरे नज़दीक आ कर
An entire hour spent with you

ہم بھی دیکھیں گے
हम भी देखेंगे
We too shall see


تیری محفل میں قسمت آزما کر ہم بھی دیکھیں گے
तेरी महफ़िल में किस्मत आजमा कर हम भी देखेंगे
In your company, we too shall test fate and see...

تیرے قدموں پے سر اپنا جھکا کر
तेरे क़दमों पे सर अपना झुका कर
Bowing our heads at your feet

ہم بھی دیکھیں گے
हम भी देखेंगे
We too shall see


بہاریں آج پیغام محبّت لے کے آئی ہے
बहारें आज पैग़ाम ए मुहब्बत ले के आई है
Spring has today brought a message of love

بڑی مدّت میں امیدوں کی کلیاں مسکرائی ہیں
बड़ी मुद्दत में उम्मीदों की कलियाँ मुस्कुराई हैं
In a long time, the blossoms of hope have smiled

غم دل سے ذرا دامن بچا کر ہم بھی دیکھیں گے
ग़म ए दिल से ज़रा दामन बचा कर हम भी देखेंगे
Saving our skirts from a heart's sorrow, we too shall see...


اگر دل غم سے خالی ہو تو جینے کا مزا کیا ہے
अगर दिल ग़म से ख़ाली हो तो जीने का मज़ा क्या है
If the heart is devoid of sorrow, what is life's delight

نہ ہو خون جگر تو اشک پینے کا مزا کیا ہے
न हो ख़ून ए जिगर तो अश्क पिने का मज़ा क्या है
If there is not a bleeding heart, what is the delight of crying tears

محبّت میں ذرا آنسو بہا کر ہم بھی دیکھیں گے
मुहब्बत में ज़रा आंसू बहा कर हम भी देखेंगे
Having cried a few tears in love, we too shall see...


محبّت کرنے والوں کا ہے بس اتنا ہی افسانہ
मुहब्बत करने वालों का है बस इतना ही अफ़साना
This is the sole story of lovers...

تڑپنا چپ کے چپ کے آہ بھرنا گھٹ کے مر جانا
तड़पना चुप के चुप के आह भरना घुट के मर जाना
Quietly distressed, breathing deeply, a drunken death

کسی دن یہ تماشا مسکرا کے ہم بھی دیکھیں گے
किसी दिन यह तमाशा मुस्कुरा के हम भी देखेंगे
Some day, with a smile, we too shall see this spectacle


محبّت ہم نے مانا زندگی برباد کرتی ہے
मुहब्बत हम ने माना ज़िन्दगी बरबाद करती है
We've accepted that love destroys life

یہ کیا کم ہے کہ مر جانے پی دنیا یاد کرتی ہے
यह क्या कम है कि मर जाने पे दुनिया याद करती है
What's wrong if the world only remembers us upon our death

کسی کے عشق میں دنیا لٹا کر ہم بھی دیکھیں گے
किसी के इश्क़ में दुनिया लुटा कर हम भी देखेंगे
Giving up the world when in love with someone, we too shall see

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Facebook Users in Arab Countries

This morning, I came across two infographics by Khaled El Ahmed (@Shusmo) depicting the penetration of the social networking platforms Facebook and Twitter in the Arab countries. The data used in these infographics were gathered from the Arab Social Media Report conducted by the Dubai School of Government. 

This particular study examines the demographics of Facebook usage within the frameworks of the growth rate of users, the gender breakdown, and how individual nations try to regulate access to platforms. In addition, the study considers factors such as income, youth population, and internet freedom. 

The study also looks into the future. What does a large number of young people using social networking platforms mean for cvic engagement, social reform, entrepreneurship, and innovation?

A few notes taken directly from the study:
  • On a global level, the UAE is the top Arab country in terms of Facebook penetration as percentage of the population. It is also among the top 10 in the world, with a Facebook penetration rate of 45%
  • GCC countries dominate the top five Arab FB users as percentage of population, with Lebanon being the only exception.
  • With around 4.7 million Facebook users, Egypt constitutes about 22% of total users in the Arab region.
  • Youth (between the ages of 15 and 29) make up 75% of Facebook users in the Arab region.
  • Gender breakdown of Facebook users indicates an average 2:1 ratio of male to female users in the Arab region, compared to almost 1:1 globally
  • Lebanon is the most gender-balanced of the Arab countries, followed closely by Bahrain, Jordan and Tunisia, while at the other end of the spectrum Facebook users in Somalia and Yemen are overwhelmingly male 
  • The UAE is the most balanced in terms of adult and youthful Facebook users, while countries such as Somalia, Palestine and Morocco have a predominantly youthful Facebook user population
  • Interestingly, a few Arab countries (Djibouti, Iraq) actually have more Facebook users than Internet users, indicating that many Facebook users in these countries rely on mobile access
  • Internet freedom does not seem to affect Facebook penetration in the Arab region. Some countries with lower scores (i.e., more pervasive filtering) have relatively high Facebook penetration. This could be due to the creativity of the youth population in finding ways to bypass filters and censors.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Still Shouting in the Dark #Bahrain

While I followed the anti-government protests closely at their onset, I, like many, became tired of attending countless lectures by professors and guest speakers in Ann Arbor. However, I think the success of Egypt's ability to televise a presidential debate, hold legitimate elections, and the suspense of this month's run-off elections -- has rekindled the interest of many who follow Middle Eastern affairs. When we know that an end is possible -- inshallah --, it becomes worthy to understand the means.

As I found myself more active on Twitter this week, I've noticed many tweets about the continuing situation in Bahrain. I was very interested particularly in the Bahraini protests, because they challenge the reasoning that the wealthy GCC nations have no need to reform their governments, since they are materially content.

At its onset, the Bahraini effort was intent on equality for the Shi'a majority living under the reign of Sunni King Hamad. However, the government was relentless in its approach to the civil uprising centered in Pearl Roundabout. The result was a nation under "martial law."

Better than my words, the Al Jazeera documentary "Bahrain: Shouting in the Dark" provides an excellent testimony to this desperate time.

One aspect of this documentary that I found exceptionally provoking was the manner in which the government used the momentum of social media against the protestors. The government aggregated photos available on platforms such as Facebook and used its sources to identify individuals participating in "illegal protests." These individuals were later jailed or killed.

But why am I writing this post today? Even though King Hamad commissioned an independent inquiry  into the happenings, he does not seem to abide by any of the findings. The commission found that the government itself was guilty of human rights violations and various types of torture. The commission also stated that the roots of the uprisings were not from Iran -- which the government accuses of rallying Shi'as in Bahrain as treasonous puppets of the Iranian regime.

Throughout the week, I've been following the tweets of @angryarabiya and @MaryamAlKhawaja (of Bahrain Center for Human Rights). I keep coming across a myriad of accounts of arrests and teargas used on protesters. In particular, I read of a number of children under the age of 16 being arrested for taking part in protests.
As I needed to find out more about this resurfacing of the political crackdown in Bahrain, I checked Al Jazeera hoping to find a story about Bahrain hidden in some corner -- but it was a headline story!
So what does this mean? While the world is busy with election anxiety in Egypt and Assad's daily efforts to transform Syria into a big slaughterhouse -- Bahrainis are still shouting in the dark. No one is holding the King accountable, for there is too much at risk. The Bahraini monarchy's relationship with their fellow Sunnis in Saudi Arabia is close as we saw KSA sent tanks to Bahrain last March. In effect, this creates two camps from a geopolitical perspective -- one centered around Saudi Arabia, the other around Iran.

However, USA Today reports on the United States' attempts to persuade King Hamad to appease Shi'a demands, without stepping on the toes of the Saudis:
Bahrain's rulers have crucial support from neighboring Saudi Arabia, but are under pressure from their U.S. allies to reopen dialogue with Shiite opposition factions. A new government initiative for talks is expected to be announced next week. But main Shiite groups have already signaled that negotiations are futile unless the ruling dynasty agrees to give up its near total control of government affairs in the strategic island, which is home to the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet.
Finally, Shi'as in Bahrain want to make clear that being Shi'a does not mean association with Iran. Similarly, not all Sunnis see their country as another province of Saudi Arabia. Rather, by protesting they are more intently expressing their desires to participate in the civil culture of their own nation.
"No to the unification of the GCC; Yes to the unification of the opposition powers!"
"Bahrain is not for sale!"

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Lyrics: "Satyamev Jayate" Title Song

Here is my transliteration and translation of the title song Aamir Khan's "Satyamev Jayate" which I previously have written about. It is not clear exactly who the lyrics are addressing -- it could be a lover, God, one's country, etc. In any case, the original lyrics in Hindi are so beautiful, with extensive metaphors throughout. I tried the best to convey this imagery in English -- but it's difficult!

Note: read column-wise, not row-wise!

तेरा रंग ऐसा चढ़ गया
Your color has spread

कोई और रंग न चढ़ सके
Such that no other color may

तेरा नाम सीने पे लिखा
I wrote your name on my chest

हर कोई आँखें पढ़ सकें
Such that every eye may read it

है जुनून है जुनून है
This is obsessive passion

तेरे इश्क का यह जुनून है
This is passion for your love

रग रग में इश्क तेरा दौड़ता
Your love runs through my veins

यह बावरा सा खून है
This is eccentric, crazy blood

तू ने ही सिखाया सचाइयों का मतलब
Only you have taught me the meaning of truth

तेरे पास आके जाना मैं ने ज़िन्दगी का मक़सद
Having come close to you, I've realized life's intent

सत्यमेव सत्यमेव सत्वय्मेव जयते
"Satyamev Jayate" -- Truth alone triumphs

सचा है प्यार तेरा
You're love is true

सत्यमेव जयते
Truth alone triumphs

तेरे नूर के दस्तूर में
In the tradition of your divine light

न हो सलवटें न हो सीखन रहें
There are no wrinkles; there exist no creases

मेरी कोशिशें तो है बस यहीं
My efforts are only such that

रहें खुशबूएं  गुलशन रहे
The fragrances and rose gardens live on

तेरी ज़ुल्फ़ सुलझाने चला
I went to disentangle your tresses

तेरे और पास आने चला
I started to come close to you

जहां कोई सुर न हो बेसुरा
Where no melody can lack harmony

वह गीत मैं गाने चला
I began to sing that song

तेरा रंग ऐसा चढ़ गया
Your color has spread

था नशा जो भी और बढ़ गया
Such that the existing intoxication increased

तेरी बारिशों का करम है यह
These are showers of your benevolence

मैं निखर गया मैं संवर गया
I became cleansed; I reformed

जैसा भी हूँ अपना मुझे
How ever I am, make me yours

मुझे यह नहीं है बोलना
I must not have to speak this

क़ाबिल तेरे मैं बन सकूं
I shall become worthy of you

मुझे द्वार ऐसा खोलना
Just open such a door for me

सांसों की इस रफ़्तार को
This speed of breath

धड़कन के इस त्यौहार को
This festival of heartbeats

हर जीत को हर हार को
Each victory, each defeat

ख़ुद अपने इस संसार को
Even my entire world

बदलूँगा मैं...तेरे लिए
I will change it all...just for you!

मुझे ख़ुद को भी है टटोलना
I must also examine myself

कहीं है कमी तो है बोलना
If there is something lacking, I must admit to it

कहीं दागें हैं तो छुपाएं क्यों
Somewhere there are stains and scars, so why hide them

हम सच से नज़रें हटाएं क्यों
Why should we turn a blind eye from the truth?

ख़ुद को बदलना है अगर
If I must change

बदलूँगा मैं तेरे लिए
I will change just for you

शोलों पे चलना है अगर
If I must walk on flames

चल दूंगा मैं तेरे लिए
I will walk just for you

मेरे खून की हर बूंद में
In each drop of my blood

संकल्प हो तेरा प्यार का
Is a vow of my love for you

काटो मुझे तो तू बहे
When cut, you shall flow out

हो सुर्ख रंग हर धार का
Red shall be the color of each stream

Monday, June 4, 2012

كيف قررت دراسة العربية؟

كيف قررت دراسة العربية؟
بقلم نكهل نندگم

لماذا قررت دراسة العربية؟ في الحقيقة هذا السؤال ممتاز. من البداية ما كانت هناك ايّ علاقة بيني وبين هذه اللغة. لم اختر العربية بسبب اصل عائلتي مثل بعض الطلاب في صفي ولم اختر العربية بسبب اشتراكي في الجيش مثل مجموعة اخرى. فما كان سبب اهتمامي بهذه اللغة وثقافتها؟ هذا السؤال ممتع جدا خاصةً لانّ العربية هي لغة معروفة في الدنيا كلها بسبب صعوباتها – يعني قرار دراسة اللغة العربية ليس مثل قرار دراسة الفرنسية او الاسبانية. بالنسة للغة العربية هي لغة غير معروفة للامريكيين. فكيف سوف نستعمل هذه اللغة وكيف سوف نقرب عن ثقافتها. هذه الاسئلة ليست سهلة بضبط ولكن هي مهمة جدا في نظر الطلاب الجدد. فبعد سنتين في صفوف العربية في جامعة مشيغان اريد ان احكي لكم قصتي

من كل اللغات الموجودة في العالم لماذا اخترت العربية؟ بدأت ان اهتم باللغة العربية في المرحلة الثانوية. كانت عطلة الشتاء عندما تعلمت عن الموسيقى العربية الشعبية. في الحقيقة الاستمع الى هذا النوع من الموسيقى غيّر حياتي. اوّلاً استكشاف هذا الموسيقى غيّر افكاري عن الشرق الاوسط والعرب. في الغرب نظن انّ كل العرب محافظون ودينيون ونظن على خطأ انّ كل العرب مسلمون ايضا. فتعلمت كيف افكارنا عن الشرق الاوسط غير صحيحة

في هذه السنوات كنت ادرس لغات اخرى ايضا. درست الفرنسية في مدرسة واشتريت كتابا وبدأت ان ادرس اللغة الهندية والأردو جنبا الى جنب. استمتعت بدراسة هذه اللغات لأنّها لغات الافلام الهندية. تعلمت انّ هناك علاقة قريبة بين مفردات موجودة في هذه اللغات والكلمات العربية والفارسية. فكانت هذا اللحظة الالى فكرت ان ادرس اكثر عن اللغات في الشرق الاوسط

في هذا الزمان كانت الولايات المتحدة مشغولة في حربين وكنت اسكن في مدينة محافظة بالنسبة للسياسة ومسيحية شديدا بالنسبة للدين. وفي رايي ما عرفوا كثيرا عن الثقافات المختلفة في الدنيا. كانوا يعتقدون انّ كل عرب او كل مسلم خطير وعنيف. لذلك اردت ان اغيّر وجهة نظرهم. اردت ان اقدم لهم صورة مختلفة الشرق الاوسط. عندما قدمت لأصدقاء كليبات اغاني العربية استغربت الاغلبية. ربما هذه الكليبات كانت غريبة لأنّها كانت على العكس من ما يشاهد الامريكيون في الاخبار او على العكس من ما يسمع الامريكيون في خطبة الرئيس الامريكي. فأهم شيء بالنسبة لهذا سوء الفهم هو ليس ان كل الامريكيين يكرهون العرب، ولكن في رايي ليست لهم فرصة ان يفهموا حقيقة ثقافة واجتماع العرب بطريقة مناسبة

لذلك انا فعلا مبسوط ان اتعلم دراسة اللغة والثقافة العربية في برنامج فلاگشب. مع مساعدة هذا البرنامج من السهل ان نقرب من العالم العربي وصوته. مثلاً التقينا اشخاص مؤثرين مثل توكل كرمان وهالة البدري وزهور كرام وبثينة كامل حتى يمكننا الآن ان نتعلم من مصادر الاخبار. فدراسة اللغة العربية تعطينا وصول المعلومات المهمة من اصلها ونصبح مستعدين ان نقرر بين الحقيقة والكذبة. اخيرا في رأيي هذه القوة اللغوية هي قوة كبيرة ومن اللازم ان نستفيد منها لنحقق مقاصدنا 

مع استاذة توكل كرمان --  حاصلة على جائزة نوبل للسلام ٢٠١١

Friday, June 1, 2012

"Mera kalma hai tu, Azaan hai..."

Anyone who is familiar with the Indian entertainment industry will undoubtedly notice the popularity of Sufi-inspired music and settings within Hindi films. And especially to me, as an enthusiast of both Islamic societies around the world and of secular Indian society, the intersection of Islam and the secular institution of "Bollywood" interests me a great deal.

But what's new about this? Absolutely nothing. Urdu and Sufi-inspired art made its way into the Indian entertainment industry since before Independence. Many lyricists, musicians, singers, and actors were Muslim. Moreover, figures like Mughal-e-Azam's cast of Madhubala and Dilip Kumar were originally from Peshawar. At the time of Partition, much of the Muslim talent in the industry decided to remain in India, and some even adopted Hindu names when Hindu-Muslim riots enveloped the region.

But this is a completely divergent - though important - story.

If nothing is new about the participation of Islamic influences in the industry...why am I writing this post? I'm writing this in response to a song  which isn't exemplary or iconic in any manner, but it illustrates the spark in my mind with relevance to this topic.

The song is "Rab Ka Shukrana" from the film Jannat 2. And from this song, I want to highlight a set of lines from the chorus:

तू ही अब मेरा दीन है, इमान है 
تو ہی اب میرا دیں ہے، ایمان ہے 
You are my religion, you are my faith

रब का शुक्राना 
رب کا شکرانہ 
Thanks to God

मेरा कलमा है तू, अज़ान है 
میرا کلمہ ہے تو، اذان ہے 
You are my kalma, you are my azaan

रब का शुक्राना
رب کا شکرانہ 
Thanks to God

So what's special about these lines? In my opinion, four words -- deen, imaan, kalma, azaan. It's normal to hear rich Urdu metaphors in Bollywood songs, but these seemed very direct to me. For example, kalma refers to the Islamic testimony that 'there is no God but Allah and that Muhammad is his messenger'. Also, the azaan is the famous (sometimes infamous) Muslim call to prayer. 

With such strong Islamic imagery presented in such a sultry song (reference the video) -- one would expect Deobandis or Salafis somewhere in world to have announced a fatwa for likening such sacred concepts to such worldly contexts. It happened with Atif Aslam's "Tere Liye" when the word "khudaaii" was misunderstood to mean "God." It also occurred with AR Rahman's "Chaiyya Chaiyya" when some interpreted the line "PaaoN ke neeche jannat hogi" as slandering the Muslim notion of heaven.

But with "Rab Ka Shukrana" I could only find one lonely voice of protest under the title 'Shirk in Jannat 2 song. 'Shirk' refers to the condemned notion of idolatry and polytheism in Islam.
I was just listening the song Rab ka shukrana .. . i highlighted blasphemous lyrics in the song "rab ka shukrana". i strictly condemn this blasphemous song, it was kind of distorting our beloved religion islam . this pathetic song was sung by a hindu singer mohit chuhan . he and all the crew included in making this song were not suppose to hurt sentiment of billions of muslims . . it should be banned . This film is named as jannat 2 . I just hope that all the Muslims around the world will endorse me. I want all of you to listen this song before posting a comment. Thanks
The fact that neither conservative Muslims, nor right-wing Hindutva parties (like the Shiv Sena) are more opposed to the presence of Islamic rhetoric (or its misappropriation) on the big screen is very encouraging. Perhaps there is greater understanding in society, but I strongly doubt it. I think, at the moment, India's troublemakers have realized that there are more important issues to address as their constituents are protesting the increase in prices and the decrease in the value of the Indian Rupee. 

As for the atheist in me...I couldn't care less about what's idolatry and what's not. It's good music, it's poetry. 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Lyrics: "Tu Hindu Banega Na Musalman Banega"

तू हिन्दू बनेगा न मुसलमान बनेगा
تو ہندو بنےگا نہ مسلمان بنےگا
You'll become neither Hindu nor Muslim

इंसान की औलाद है इंसान बनेगा
انسان کی اولاد ہے انسان بنےگا
You are the child of a human; you'll become a human
(as opposed to being labeled as Hindu or Muslim)

अच्छा है अभी तक तेरा कुछ नाम नहीं है
اچھا  ہے ابھی تک تیرا کچھ نام نہیں ہے
Good that 'til now you have no name

तुझको किसी मज़हब से कोई काम नहीं है
تجھ کو کسی مذہب سے کوئی کام نہیں ہے
You have no dealing with any religion

जिस इल्म ने इंसानों को तक़सीम किया है
جس علم نے انسانوں کو تقسیم کیا ہے
The knowledge which has divided humans

उस इल्म का  तुझ पर कोई इलज़ाम नहीं है
اس علم کا تجھ پر کوئی الزام نہیں ہے
That knowledge will not burden you
(with accusations)

तू बदले हुए वक़्त की पहचान बनेगा
تو بدلے ہوئے وقت کی پہچان بنےگا
You will be the face of the changing times

इंसान की औलाद है इंसान बनेगा
انسان کی اولاد ہے انسان بنےگا
You are the child of a human; you'll become a human

मालिक ने हर इंसान को इंसान बनाया
مالک نے ہر انسان کو انسان بنایا
God made each a human

हम ने उसे हिन्दू या मुसलमान बनाया
ہم نے اسے ہندو یا مسلمان بنایا
We made each a Hindu or a Muslim

क़ुदरत ने तो बख्शी थी हमें एक ही धरती
قدرت نے تو بخشی تھی ہمیں ایک ہی دھرتی
Nature allocated one earth to us

हम ने कहीं भारत कहीं ईरान बनाया
ہم نے کہیں بھارت کہیں ایران بنایا  
Whereas we have created India and Iran

जो तोड़ दे हर बांध वह तूफ़ान बनेगा
جو توڑ دے ہر باندھ وہ طوفان بنےگا
The one who breaks each lock will become a storm

इंसान की औलाद है इंसान बनेगा
انسان کی اولاد ہے انسان بنےگا
You are the child of a human; you'll become a human

नफ़रत जो सिखाए वह धर्म तेरा नहीं है
نفرت جو سکھاے وہ دھرم تیرا نہیں ہے
The religion that teaches hatred is not yours

इंसान को जो रौंदे वह क़दम तेरा नहीं है
انسان کو جو روندے وہ قدم تیرا نہیں ہے
The step/foot that tramples humanity is not yours

क़ुरआन न हो जिस में वह मंदिर नहीं है तेरा
قرآن نہ ہو جس میں مندر نہیں ہے تیرا
The temple without a Qur'an is not your temple

गीता न हो जिस में वह हरम तेरा नहीं है
گیتا نہ ہو جس میں وہ حرم تیرا نہیں ہے
The mosque without a Gita is not your mosque

तू अमन का और सुलह का अरमान बनेगा
تو امن اور صلح کا ارمان بنےگا
You will become hope for peace and reconciliation

इंसान की औलाद है इंसान बनेगा
انسان کی اولاد ہے انسان بنےگا
You are the child of a human; you'll become a human

ये दीन के ताजर ये वतन बेचने वाले
یے دین کے تاجر یے وطن بیچنے والے
These traders of religion; these who sell the country

इंसानों की लाशों के कफ़न बेचने वाले
انسانوں کی لاشوں کے کفن بیچنے والے
These who sell the shroud off of corpses

ये महलों में बैठे हुए क़ातिल ये लुटेरे
یے مہلوں میں بیٹھے ہوے قاتل یے لٹیرے
These murderers and thieves sitting in palaces

काँटों के एवज रूह ए चमन बेचने वाले
کانٹوں کے ایوز روحِ چمن بیچنے والے
These who sell thorns instead of flowers

तू इन के लिए मौत का ऐलान बनेगा
تو ان کے لئے موت کا اعلان بنےگا
You will become their death knell

इंसान की औलाद है इंसान बनेगा
انسان کی اولاد ہے انسان بنےگا
You are the child of a human; you'll become a human

Lyricist: Sahir Ludhianvi
Transcription & Translation by Nikhil Nandigam

Saturday, May 12, 2012

"Truth Alone Triumphs"

This afternoon, I finally had the opportunity to watch the first episode of Aamir Khan's hyped television show -- Satyamev Jayate. With the release of the show's theme song and its popularity, I was very interested in finding out more about the show's agenda. Would it be a travel show, and entertainment talk show? Would it be placed aside as another of the many reality shows?
My answer is that it is a combination of all three, and it is what India needs. Firstly, the objective of the show is to highlight societal issues which are often swept under the rug by upper-middle class urban Indians -- Indians who will likely form the audience of this program. Secondly, this program targets issues which well-off urban Indians believe do not affect them at all. 

In previous posts from India last summer, I discussed the existence of two Indias: 
In my opinion, there are two Indias: the “modern India” that is publicized in the West and the “establishment India” that actually runs the nation. One generates money for the nation, and the other swallows money from the nation. People would like to believe that they live in the former, when in all actuality, they live in the latter. The privileged want to stay far from this “establishment,” while the average Indian drowns in the madness.
 The first episode which can be seen on Youtube courtesy of StarPlus focuses on female feticide in India. This refers to the sex-selective abortion of unborn girls in India. So what is different in the way that Satyamev Jayate covers this topic? Haven't we already seen documentaries and news broadcasts on the topic? I would like to highlight two significant ways in which I think this program will be more effective in sticking with its audience and roping in the attention of the upper-middle class urban population. This is the sector of the population that needs to be convinced of social injustices as they are the only sector of society with a certain amount of wealth and numbers. This cannot be said of the extremely wealthy and of the average or poor Indian.

That said, Satyamev Jayate takes the correct approach to addressing a topic such as female feticide. It's angle is somewhere between the usual types of programming Indians are accustomed to: a news broadcast and a serial. SJ avoids the sensationalism of Indian broadcast journalism and it also brings its subjects closer to the audience rather than isolating them in a condescending manner.

At this point, SJ accomplishes what pure journalism mostly cannot. Aamir is able to bring his subjects -- in this case mothers forced unknowingly into an abortion -- into the spotlight where they feel safe to speak out against their circumstances, and clearly tell their stories. SJ is respectful to its subjects and it is committed to alleviating these injustices. In this episode, Aamir says he will personally write a letter to the government of Rajasthan to quicken efforts for court hearings for the victims. From this first episode, Satyamev Jayate makes it clear that it is not trying to drop by, tell a heart-wrenching story, and retreat -- the word badlaav (change) was often used. Aamir is in it for the long run.

The angle of Satyamev Jayate also avoids the melodramatic mess of the average serial. Aamir could have easily gone this route to present societal injustice. It would have been easy and familiar. Thankfully, he did not. Serials create a sense of distance and fantasy between the audience and the characters. Rather, Aamir takes a key feature from serial culture and implements it appropriately into SJ -- that is, story. The witnesses tell their stories -- given no other context. That's the first part of the show.  The stories bring the audience into Aamir's mindset. The audience, at hearing the stories, are teary-eyed, but they still see themselves as separate, as part of "modern India" and removed from these injustices.
Next, Aamir pulls the audience off of its pedestal -- and this is the second reason why I feel SJ will be very effective. It bridges the gap between the two Indias. When the camera asks urbanites about female feticide -- three words emerge:

"GaaoN" -- village
"Anparh" -- illiterate
"Ghariib"-- poor

From here, a researcher asserts that this practice did not start with the poor, or rural, or illiterate folk. And that today, it is practiced by many people of reputable careers and families. Aamir even interviews a doctor who herself was forced into an abortion by her husband. This shatters the glass wall between the two Indias.

The audience is no longer allowed to feel at ease as Amir shows that female feticide not only affects mothers of girls, but that its effects spans across all families. For example, government officials license these doctors, doctors perform these abortions, and young men around India face a shortage of women when it comes to marriage. This imbalance affects all women as there is an increase in kidnappings and gang rape.

From this point onwards, audience expressions are not teary, but they are of shock. And this is the key success of Satyamev Jayate. To force sheltered, well-off Indians to realize that an injustice has been committed, one that no one can run from -- not one that merits sympathy, but one that merits shock and anger and reform.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Jamaat-e-Islaami Hind: Survival by Reform


The beginnings of the Jamaat-e-Islaami and the roots of its pre-Partition ideology can be traced directly to the ideology of Sayyid Abul Ala Mawdudi. As one of the most prolific figures of the twentieth century, Mawdudi was critical in the development of Islam as a potent force in the era of post-British South Asia. Once Independence was won and Partition took place, Mawdudi and his JeI reorganized in Lahore, Pakistan under the name JeI Pakistan, while the organization's Indian counterparts took the name JeI Hind (Moten 180). This paper seeks to examine the ultimate objectives and methods administered by Jamaat-e-Islaami in India – Jamaat-e-Islaami Hind (JIH). The Jamaat is established across South Asia in Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Kashmir. However, India is the only minority-Muslim nation in which it is present. How does JIH trace its evolution from the days of hukuumat-e-ilaahiyah and Mawdudiyat in the 1940s to its formation of a secular political party in 2011? How has JIH negotiated its identity and legitimacy in order to own policy space, especially in a secular nation in which Muslims are a small minority. And how does the secular and largely Hindu-background of the Indian state react to the nation's most prominent Islamist party? To answer these questions, we explore the ideological reforms, policy reforms, and tactical reforms of JIH from the 1940s until today.

Part I: Mawdudi and the Pre-Partition Jamaat-e-Islaami
A clear account of Mawdudi's personal ideology and the creation of Jamaat-e-Islaami in 1941 is critical to understanding how the organization developed into the premier Islamist parties in India and Pakistan. The pre-Partition JeI not only provides us with a foundation for understanding Mawdudi's ultimate wish for the Subcontinent, but it also allows for a contrast between Mawdudi's idealism and the realities of JIH's successes and failures in the past six decades. And moreover, we examine how the eventual realities in India diverge from this pre-Partition idealism.
Mawdudi's approach to Islam was non-traditionalist and greatly a reaction to the “western storm” (Ahmad 50). The resulting ideology was characterized by the existence of two polar opposites – Islam and jaahaliyat. For Mawdudi, jaahaliyat meant everything but the ideology upon which the JeI existed. Participation in secular legislature, secular judiciary, or any advancement of the secular was considered “un-Islamic” (Ahmad 3) The JeI itself propagated the idealist vision of establishing an Islamic caliphate throughout South Asia. This philosophy, hukuumat-e-ilaahiyah (Allah's Reign) was clearly outlined in JeI's first Constitution (Dastuur): sovereignty over this world belonged solely to Allah (Ali). And moreover, it was the duty of the members of JeI to convert the Subcontinent from the “land of unbelief” to the “land of Islam”1 (Ahmad 3). In addition, membership of the original Jamaat was exclusive, a test of ones piety and convergence to Mawdudi's strict philosophies. For example, Mawdudi's refusal to work within any secular framework was not the prevailing stance within the Muslim community (Ahmad 8). Thus, though the essential creed of the Jamaat was as simple as the kalima2 – JeI catered to a particular niche of purists in its pre-Partition history (Ali).
JeI's intolerance for secularism meant that it conflicted directly with Muhammad Ali Jinnah's Muslim League. Rooted in Muslim nationalism, the Muslim League sought the creation of a separate homeland for the Subcontinent's Muslims. Mawdudi saw Western-educated Jinnah's nationalist rhetoric as a threat to his vision of hukuumat-e-ilaahiyah. A nationalist state would not be an Islamic state (Moten 179). Furthermore, Mawdudi's propagation of the “Two State Theory” was a consequence of his beliefs that otherwise, Indian Muslims would be “annihilated and absorbed” into the Hindu majority (Moten 179). Therefore, the only option, in Mawdudi's opinion, was to advocate for “the Muslim community to turn inward” and to revive the notion of dar-ul-Islam (Moten 180). This desire for revivalism served as the Jamaat's raison d'etre from its creation in 1941 until the foundation of independent India and a separate Pakistan in 1947.

Part II: Ideological Reform: From Hukuumat-e-Ilaahiyah to Iqaamat-e-Deen
In 1947, the bloody partitioning of the Subcontinent drew arbitrary lines through India's northwestern and northeastern regions. This led to the establishment of the modern-day Republic of India and the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. In relation to the JeI, the emergence of these two new nations meant a shift in how it could approach its ultimate goal of hukuumat-e-ilaahiyah across South Asia.
In India, the re-organized Jamaat-e-Islaami Hind acknowledged that Mawdudi's original desire to instate an Islamic caliphate across the Subcontinent would be neither achievable, nor practical. Rather, JIH opted for a different Quranic term to describe their goal – iqaamat-e-deen (Ali). JIH's current constitution struggles to provide a confident definition of what this objective entails.
It is very difficult to give an English equivalent of the term 'Iqaamat-e-Deen.' It may, however, be rendered as the 'Establishment, Realization or Pursuit of Religion.' ‘Religion,’ ‘Way of Life,’ or 'System of Belief and Action’ are, however, very imperfect renderings of the word ‘Deen.’ (“The Constitution”)
In spite of the vague nature of the term, one can rationalize JIH's decision to opt for less absolute rhetoric. The Muslim constituency of post-Partition India had been reduced to less than twelve percent of the entire population. And moreover, the community of Muslims still remaining in the nation were widely decentralized. Therefore, a reduction in rhetoric would allow for JIH to enter the policy space in a majority Hindu nation – as pragmatists. However, Irfan Ahmed argues that “the replacement was more terminological than substantive-ideological” (Ahmad 284). And until the 1980s, JIH still believed that through a series of conversions and tactical political maneuvering. an eventual Islamic state would be possible in India (Anand). However, this rhetorical shift away from hukuumat-e-ilaahiyah toward iqaamat-e-deen further extended to JIH allowing its members to participate in Indian general elections in the 1980s. And in April 2011, JIH established its own party, the Welfare Party of India. This party brought together JIH elites and the greater Muslim community, and surprisingly, many Hindus and a Christian priest serve as the Party's office-holders (Anand).

Part III. Policy Reforms under Iqaamat-e-Deen
The decision to shift rhetoric from that of establishing an all-encompassing Islamic caliphate to establishment of increased Islamic consciousness within the existing political institutions has provided the Jamaat in India with many opportunities and successes.
Mawdudi stated that there was “at least sixty percent chance of success” in establishing an Islamic state in India (Ahmad 79). But soon after Independence, JIH realized that the secular state – as well as many Indian Muslims – were turning a blind eye toward the Jamaat. Therefore, JIH had to reconsider its ideology or risk being irrelevant in the Indian policy space. The first of such strategic compromises was the shift to iqaamat-e-deen as the notion of India under Allah's Reign was ridiculed by Muslims and non-Muslims alike (Anand).
Secondly, the Jamaat transitioned from being an institution catering to the strict isolationist principles of Mawdudiyat to one encouraging participation from the masses. This participation came mostly in the form of the electoral and political process. As India underwent its first two general elections in 1952 and 1957, JIH endorsed its members and all Muslims to boycott the polls. In accordance with Mawdudiyat, JIH saw participation in electoral politics as submission to the Indian taghuti nizaam3. However, most Muslims were indifferent to the Jamaat's ideocrats and entered the democratic system as either voters or candidates. These failures in garnering respect from the masses forced JIH to question its restriction of secular civic activity (Anand).
In 1961, JIH's shura deemed that “if the path of elections could be used for the goal of iqaamat-e-din,” partaking in the taghuti nizaam would be admissible. Thus, elections were redefined in JIH policy as a means through which pragmatic Muslims could facilitate the rise of Islam in India. This build-up in policy found its climax in the 1962 general elections. On the eve of the elections, JIH circulated a pamphlet summoning Muslims to participate in the elections. The policy of JIH seems to have taken a complete turn as JIH leadership now portrayed a lack of civil engagement by Indian Muslims as “tantamount to suicide” (Anand).
Furthermore, by the mid-1980s, JIH began allowing its membership to participate in Indian elections – as long as the candidates of their choice were not “clearly against Islam and Muslims” (Anand). In essence, the political organization which had begun as a barrier to the growth of secularism in India had decided to manipulate secular government to meet its own ends. In the face of growing Hindutva rhetoric in the 1980s, JIH further emphasized the importance of secularism in India (Anand). At this point in time, many of the institutionalized phrases Mawdudi had evoked to describe the mission of the Jamaat in South Asia were also being reconsidered. An interview with one Jamaat member expresses the “culture shock” and insecurity some felt about the JIH's evolution:
“How on earth could Islam allow voting for taghut (idolatrous parliamentary system)? When I joined the Jamaat, we were told to eliminate taghut, secularism, democracy... everything against the Quran... We joined for iqaamat-e-din. Now the Jamaat is fighting for iqaamat-e-secular democracy. Do you know about the Forum for Democracy and Communal Harmony?... What is it doing? It is fighting for the glory of secularism and democracy. You have also read Maududi. Tell me what has secularism got to do with Islam? Where is the original ideology?” (Ahmad 213)
This “original ideology” that traditional JIH members nostalgically reflected upon was further lost as JIH even dropped the phrase iqaamat-e-deen from the covers of its publications (Anand). The Jamaat in India was facing difficulty as it negotiated its identity. It was too late to backtrack to the days of Mawdudiyat dominating JIH agenda. And from the early 1990s, Hindu nationalist politics was gaining popularity. The Jamaat needed to reach out to Indian Muslims to create a stronger political presence (Khan).

Part IV. Tactical Reforms: Organizational Successes of JIH
Jamaat-e-Islaami Hind's pragmatism and willingness to engage the existing Indian political institutions has afforded it the opportunity to position sectors of its supporters in specialized organizations – all working within JIH's framework to oversee and advocate for change. An examination of JIH's issued resolutions shows that the diversity of the fields in which JIH sees itself as a potent influence ranges as widely as the Occupy Wall Street Movement to Palestine to US sanctions again Iran to the threat of a Naxalite takeover of the Indian Republic (“Resolutions”). However, the most important of JIH's associations are domestic and internal to the Muslim community. JIH presence in organizations such as the All India Muslim Personal Law Board and Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawarat ensure that the JIH remains relevant and accessible within Muslim circles (Ahmad 177, 125).
One of the most divisive issues of Indian politics in the 1990s was the Babri Masjid controversy. This issue elevated radical Hindu and Muslim rhetoric in the nation, though one can argue that the issue was one of politicians manipulating the people's sentiment. Hindus believed that the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya sat on top of the location of the birthplace of Rama – a prominent Hindu deity. And Hindutva political rhetoric was shepherding many Hindus into joining a campaign to physically demolish this mosque. In regard to this issue, the Mushawarat created the Babri Masjid Movement Coalition Committee. This Committee, headed by two senior Jamaat leaders, best symbolizes JIH's transition from Islamic rhetoric to rhetoric of secularism and equality. Unlike other Islamic groups also focusing on the issue, JIH at the Committee urged Muslims to seek “peaceful, democratic, and constitutional means” to ensure that justice is preserved and the mosque is not endangered (Ahmad 211).
Although the Ayodhya dispute concluded with the victory of the Hindutva movement and the demolition of the Babri Masjid, the events made a few points painstakingly clear to JIH. Firstly, JIH could not compete on the national stage in a nation with a 85% Hindu majority with a strictly Islamicly appealing platform. JIH could not propagate an identity based clearly on iqaamat-e-deen, let alone hukuumat-e-ilaahiyah. JIH had to appeal to greater values held by Indians across religious, regional, and socioeconomic barriers (Anand). Secondly, the Jamaat could not develop the militant face that many of its contemporaries were developing. Militantism would only alienate JIH from the majority of Muslims and from those Hindus who also felt that the Ayodhya dispute had pasted a fascist face on the Indian Republic (Ahmad 211). Thus, JIH turned towards nationalism and the secular democracy to justify its role in the Indian policy space – a move unthinkable to Mawdudi (Ahmad 213).
This shift toward emphasizing themes of equality, justice, secularism, and nationalism permitted JIH to expand its mission from creating a strictly Islamic society to striving for a society organized around community for all sub-groups. This community-building initiative came in the form of the Forum for Democracy and Communal Amity (FDCA) as well as wings of the JIH which concentrated on issues of specific constituencies (Ahmad 221). Two important wings have been the Girls Islamic Organization (GIO) and the Student Islamic Organization of India (SIO). Other than their basic mission of spreading dawah, these organizations serve as whistle-blowers when they feel that the government is overstepping its rights in the lives of minorities, especially Muslims. One such example in which both the GIO and SIO cooperated in protest was at a college in the southern state of Karnataka. The college had instated a ban against the burqa on its campus and the GIO and SIO had allied with secular student unions on campus to advocate for its repeal (“SIO, GIO”).
This type of activism from JIH and its wings symbolizes the organization's efforts to evolve parallel to the ideology and practical quotidian concerns of its constituency. In its evolution from aiding Hukuumat-e-ilaahiyah to acting as the defender of secular democracy in India, JIH has sought to broaden its appeal in a nation presenting obvious obstacles to any Islamist organization.

Part V. Reactions from the Indian State
As Jamaat-e-Islaami Hind developed from a radical fringe movement of just a few hundred members to a flagship organization attempting to represent the multi-faceted nature of Indian Sunni Muslims, one then naturally wonders how the Indian state responded to this growth in influence and presence of the JIH. In India, JIH was little threat to much larger forces of nationalism; however, JIH itself has evolved to embody these fundamental themes of secularism, democracy, and popular welfare – albeit from a different background. Therefore, as the share of the policy space sought by JIH increasingly overlaps with the those of mainstream parties, the Indian state acts to curb the influence of any Islamicly-linked organization (Abedin).
In analyzing “state reactions” the JIH, it is difficult to assume what constitutes “the state” as India is a fluid democracy with any number of viewpoints characterizing its different branches and its different levels of politics. That said, a relationship of tension between the state and the JIH is especially emphasized during periods of Islamophobia throughout the country or any political instability in the government itself. The Indian state has thus banned JIH twice in its history. The first proscription of JIH occurred from 1975-1977 when Indira Gandhi banned many organizations, including the influential Hindutva RSS and the JIH. The second proscription occurred after the demolition of the Babri Masjid affair when the RSS was banned once again. In regards to the government's decision to ban JIH, Mahtab Alam describes the “Politics of the Ban.” By this, Alam believes that the Indian government is not necessarily forced to ban JIH because of JIH's actions or ideologies. Rather, the proscription of JIH is another unfortunate consequence of Islam as a minority ideology in India (Alam). In these two situations, the government was primarily concerned about the dangerous, threatening actions of the RSS. However, the government felt pressure to ban JIH alongside RSS in order to show impartiality in Hindu-Muslim strife (Abedin). Moreover, these occurrences also demonstrate a conflict within branches of the Indian government as the banning of JIH was later overturned by the judiciary in Jamaat-e-Islaami Hind vs Union of India (“Jamaat-e-Islami Hind”). Both institutions are striving toward different ends – the executive seeks political stability; the judiciary seeks legal consistency.

The journey of Jamaat-e-Islaami Hind from its beginnings in the 1940s and 1950s to its existence today is a product of three stages of reformation: ideological reform, policy reform, and tactical reform. Through these means, the Jamaat has become the symbolic player in the movement of political Islam in India. More interestingly, JIH has managed to become relevant in an environment in which it lacks a magnitude of resources and only a small percentage of the greater population is Muslim. Therefore, JIH has managed to broaden its appeal by compromising on the ideals of Mawdudiyat and embracing the flexibility of the institutions available. This decision comes with its advantages and disadvantages. Traditionalists – such as SIMI4 – lose confidence in the Jamaat and resort to other more extremist Islamist groups (Khan). On the other hand, the Jamaat presents pragmatists – such as GIO and SIO members – with opportunities to engage the system and enact the change they desire. JIH evidently sees the benefits of democratic engagement to be greater than its drawbacks. The organization has launched a political party based on human welfare and secularism and it has designed the “Vision 2016” program to provide access to crucial necessities to India's poor minorities, such as Muslims (“JI Hind”). With a viable future ahead of it, JIH sees itself at the crossroads of many different political identities. It will be fascinating to see whether JIH and its subsidiaries will brand themselves as Islamist, Populist, Communist, or some unique combination of the many choices it has experimented with over the course of its existence. Regardless, the pragmatic approach which JIH embodies will cushion its future. All its eggs are not in a single basket, and Jamaat-e-Islaami Hind is never afraid to redefine its orientation.

1From Dar-ul-Kufr to Dar-ul-Islam
2La illah ila allah wa muhammad rasuul allah – “There is no god but God, and Muhammad is the messenger of God”
3Idolatrous system – in Mawdudiyat, loyalty to any “un-Islamic” institution, such as the secular state, judiciary, government institutions, etc
4Former student wing of JIH which was replaced by SIO after SIMI turned to militantism