Connect with us

Opinion

Cracks in the framework

The Kashmir Monitor

Published

🕒

on

IST

By Neera Chandhoke

The Government of India has reportedly suppressed its own data on current employment, or rather job loss, in the country. It has, thereby, compromised the autonomy and the standing of the National Statistical Commission. This is the latest instalment in the rather sordid story of institutional decay in India, overseen by the leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). This is not to suggest that previous governments did not undermine institutions. The internal Emergency imposed on the country from 1975 to 1977 initiated the process. The government tried to tame bureaucrats as well as the highest court in the land. Postings and appointments were manipulated to suit the ruling dispensation. The BJP government has, however, earned the dubious distinction of sabotaging the autonomy of several political institutions in rapid succession.

Institutional decay occasions worry because it affects ordinary citizens in disastrous ways. All governments, even those which have been democratically elected, betray an inexorable will to power. Expectedly, expansion of government power violates constitutional rights to freedom, equality and justice. The only way citizens can be protected against any arbitrary and unlawful exercise of power is by limiting the power of government. Liberal democrats, always sceptical of state power, have tried to contain dramatic surges of power by charting out of constitutions and institutional design. Institutions, as the embodiment of formal and informal rules, assure citizens that the government exercises power according to some norms that enable as well as regulate state capacity.

 

This makes for good political sense when we remember that most human activity is structured by systems of rules — take the intricate and rule-bound game of chess or cricket. Relationships, households, the economy, society, the games we play and do not play take place and develop within the framework of rules. Human beings are social, but we cannot be social unless we know what is expected of us, and what we should do or not do. Without rules that govern relationships — for example, the norm that friendship is based on trust— we will not know what is worthwhile and what is not, what is preferable and what should be avoided, and what is appropriate and what is expedient.

The Canadian political philosopher Charles Taylor has argued in his famous work, Sources of the Self (1989), that institutions embody ‘strong evaluations’. We learn to discriminate between right and wrong, better and worse, and higher and lower. These evaluations are not judged subjectively by our own desires or impulses.
Institutions, which stand independently of us, give us standards that allow us to evaluate. Following Taylor, we can rightly wonder why political power should be exercised, implemented and executed without rules. Assertions of political power adversely affect our interests and our projects. We should be in a position to judge when this power is exercised fairly or unfairly. Rules in a democracy assure us that justice is synonymous with fairness.

Moreover, rules make our worlds predictable. We know what the boundaries of the freedom of expression are, we know that if the police arrests us tomorrow, we have the right to appoint a lawyer and appeal to the judiciary. Without institutions and rules our life would be chancy, unpredictable and fickle. We would inhabit a space empty of certainties, expectations, aspirations and evaluations.

In a democracy, individuals are governed by institutions, and not by men. If we do not live in an institutional universe, we will be at the mercy of capricious individuals. Democrats would rather be administered by a system of rules we can scrutinise and evaluate. Of course, rules can be, and are, unfair. But at least we can struggle against rules. We do not have to commit murders to get the ruling dispensation out of power. We might have to carry out a thousand peaceful demonstrations, approach the courts, lobby our legislative representatives, engage in civil disobedience, or withhold our vote. In a world stamped by the decline of institutions and the exercise of arbitrary power, the only way to dislodge a government is through violence.

The present government has tampered with institutions by appointing its own people to positions of authority, and by using the Enforcement Directorate, Income Tax authorities, the Central Bureau of Investigation and the police as bulldozers to flatten out any site of opposition. In civil society, human rights organisations have been pulverised by blockage of funds, raids and arrests. The shameful way in which human rights activists have been incarcerated without a shred of evidence testifies to the subversion of the rule of law. The ultimate aim of government action is to dismantle institutions, and the delicate relationship of checks and balances among them. This bodes ill for democracy.

The development contravenes the spirit of the freedom struggle. As far back as the 1928 Motilal Nehru constitutional draft, the leadership of the national movement opted for constitutionalism to abridge unpredictable use of power, and grant basic rights to citizens. On November 4, 1948, B.R. Ambedkar, responding to criticism of the draft Constitution in the Constituent Assembly, clarified that the Constitution provided but a framework for future governments. But: “If things go wrong under the new Constitution, the reason will not be that we have a bad constitution. What we will have to say is that Man was vile.” The Indian Constitution established major political institutions, Parliament, executive and the judiciary, laid out the relationship between them, provided for judicial review, and codified political and civil rights. The constitutional framework does not provide thick or substantive conceptions of how we shall think, and in what we shall believe. It provides us with a thin framework that guarantees constitutional morality, or respect for the Constitution as the basis of political life.

Today the ruling party wants to legislate a thick conception of the good. We are instructed to worship the nation, respect the cow, glorify the coercive arm of the state, and listen on bended knees to leaders. Frankly the discourse is reminiscent of the naïve, and often crude, nationalist scripts authored and acted out by the film star Manoj Kumar in the 1960s. We can avoid watching his films without fear of harassment, but we cannot defy the government without being abused and subjected to violence of the pen and tongue.

The government arrests civil society activists who engage with policy, and vigilante groups attack individuals who dare transport cattle, legitimately, from one part of India to another. Immediately the sympathies of the police and magistrates, some sections of the media and public opinion swing towards the perpetrator, not the victim. The leaders of our ruling dispensation seem to have no respect for the rule of law, nor for the rules that regulate speech in public spaces.

Ultimately institutionalised power that is subject to regulation, and that can withstand the scrutiny of the political public, is meant to protect citizens.

Unfortunately, in the India of today institutions are used to protect the ruling class, and its sins of omission and commission. The people who rule us should know that when the relationship between citizens and the state is governed not by institutions but by individuals, politics takes to the streets. And then a thousand revolts happen. We pay heavily for institutional decline.


The Kashmir Monitor is the fastest growing newspaper as well as digitial platform covering news from all angles.

Advertisement
Loading...
Comments

Opinion

Muslims want KPs Back

Avatar

Published

on

By Deepika Bhan

There is a growing wish in Kashmir for Kashmiri Pandits to return. I am a Kashmiri Pandit, and let me tell you why I believe so.

Early this week, I, and a group of over 200 devotees, were slowly winding our way up the Hari Parbat hill in Srinagar, to pray at the ancient temple of the Mother Goddess, Sharika Devi. The lush green forest of the hill and the cool breeze ensured we did not lose our breath. Suddenly, a car came to a halt in front of us and a man in his fifties jumped out. His expression was one of amazement and I could sense his happiness. He said he couldn’t believe his eyes, seeing so many Kashmiri Pandits on that road. We watched in silence as he raised his hands in prayer, saying he wished all of us could live together, just the way we used to before the onslaught of terrorism in the Valley.

 

As we moved up to the top, faces showed up from the neat rows of houses on either side of the road. Some waived at us, some stood in wonderment, a joyous old woman wanted us to have tea with her and another wanted to give us water. It was quite an amazing scene. Most of us were in tears, we could not believe this response in the downtown area of the city, which is said to a hub of the separatist movement.

Being victims of terrorism, Kashmiri Pandits have been living as refugees in various parts of the country for the past 30 years. Around five lakh families were forced to flee their homes in Kashmir during 1989-1990, when terrorism first struck the Valley. Thirty years later, the scene seems to be changing. A majority of Kashmiri Muslims want the Kashmiri Pandits to return.

This year, Mata KheerBhawani temple mela witnessed the largest congregation of Kashmiri Pandits. All the top political leaders of the Valley made a bee line to the temple in their effort to reach out to the community — former Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah, state Congress chief Ghulam Ahmad Mir, J&K Peoples Movement leader Shah Faesal, and many other local Muslim leaders. Even the maverick MLA Engineer Rashid, who often raises pro-separatist slogans, joined the prayers with Kashmiri Pandits in the temple. This time, his tone was different and he asked the community to return.

The political leaders may have had their motives or agenda, but the mela was also thronged by many young Kashmiri Muslim boys and girls. Some of them had volunteered to help in the mela, some were curious to see the religious function of the community about which they had only heard from their parents, never seen.

Farah Urusha, Nusrat, Zahid, Sahid, Irshad and Zubeer are students from the Central university of Kashmir. I met the group while I was doing Parikrama of the temple. My conversation with them revealed this: “We have come to see you people. We want to see this part of Kashmiri culture about which we have heard a lot.”

The students admitted that they were unaware of the circumstances that forced the community to flee their homes. They were shocked to hear some horrifying stories of murder, kidnapping and brutal gang rapes committed against some members of the minority community in 1990.

At the end of our conversation, they just had this to say: “You all come back to your homeland and our youngsters will find ways to get you back.” The group of students was categorical about one thing — that Kashmiriyat can survive only when its minority community, the Kashmiri Pandits, return to their roots. They vowed that they will sensitise their peers about the community’s feelings.

June 12 saw a transporters’ strike in the Valley. There were no taxis available and I thought it would be impossible to reach the main Srinagar city. To my surprise, a 22-year-old samaritan, a total stranger, offered to help us. Shakeel drove us in his own car and I requested him to take us to one of the revered mosques in the Valley, Maqdoom Sahib. Having come from the Mata KheerBhawani temple, we had chandan and sindoor pasted on our foreheads.

As we climbed up the stairs of the mosque, we could notice a lot of eyes staring at us. Some smiled and some gave a wondering look. The Imam of the mosque met us. He gave us prasad and some holy water to drink. He assured us that the Valley was safe for all of us and we should come back. We left the mosque in a state of contentment.

We also came to know that Hurriyat chairman Mirwaiz Omar Farooq had issued a statement on the same day, calling for the return of the minority community to Kashmir. An hour later, as we reached our destination in the city, we heard TV channels blazing the news of the terror attack in south Kashmir, in which five CRPF jawans were martyred and two terrorists killed. The channels had experts and leaders sitting across and fighting a kind of pitched battle, creating a din that gave a very frightening picture of Kashmir.

Shakeel just smiled as he noisily sipped the tea with us. He said, “Switch the TV off and you will find peace. Kashmir is not burning and no one likes violence here. But things can change if all of you return.”

He did not have any answer to the question as to how would our return change things in Kashmir.

I don’t have the answer to this either. But one thing is for sure; today the sentiment is growing all across the Valley that Kashmiri Pandits should come back.

(Courtesy: tiranganews.in)

Continue Reading

Opinion

Establishment of Quranic State by the Prophet

Avatar

Published

on

By Mansoor Alam

As we know, after the migration, the Prophet (PBUH) and his small band of companions were helpless refugees in Medina. But the Quraysh did not leave them alone even there. They kept on attacking them with the largest army they could muster. These refugees were weak; and the local converts to Islam were also not that powerful either. The Prophet (PBUH) and companions were living among them as helpless refugees facing covert machinations inside Medina as well as overt external threats from Quraysh. Under this hostile and challenging situation, creating a Quranic State in Medina by the Prophet (PBUH) and his companions was no less than a miracle as acknowledged even by non-Muslim scholars (e.g., Lamartine – Histoire de la Turquie, Paris 1854, Vol. II, pp. 276-77).

History shows that Arabs did not have any concept of state or government. They led a tribal life. Under these conditions creating a state based on Quran’s system of collective consultation principle (42:38) where every human was respected (17:70), was not just unique in Arabia but even in the entire world at that time – where although states and governments were there but they were all autocratic and dictatorial. Even now, when social, economic, and political conditions have advanced much further, there is no state or government like the one the Prophet (PBUH) established in Medina. Even in this day and age nations are not able to grasp: what was the kind of government that the Prophet (PBUH) established in Medina where there was no ruler per se – whether an individual or group or a parliament. Allah was the sole ruler of that government but He is completely invisible and does not come in front. So, how He could rule? He rules through His Book, the Quran. The Quran is His constitution and He rules through His laws contained in His Book revealed to humankind. He does not allow any human or group of humans to interfere in His rule of law (6:57; 12:40). Allah did not allow even the Prophets to rule over people (3:79). Every human is equal before Allah’s laws. Even the Prophet (PBUH) did not have authority to rule over people (88:22). He also obeyed Allah’s orders (that he enforced in Medina) as everyone else (6:163; 39:12).

 

But the Prophet (PBUH) was feeling some emptiness in his heart and was looking towards the heavens and praying to Allah about fulfilling his certain inner wish. What was the wish that was making the Prophet (PBUH) silently pray to Allah again and again? Well, the Prophet (PBUH) was in Medina but the Kaaba was in Mecca under the custody of Quraysh. Although Kaaba as such is a small cube shape structure built very modestly, but it is the dominant symbol of Islam. It stands as a powerful symbol for the Universal Charter of the Quranic system of life. Moreover, Allah has called it “My House (2:125).” In modern terminology as the Central Capital of the Quranic government, it represents its ideal, its mission, and its vision.

The Quran says about Kaaba:

Lo! the first Sanctuary appointed for mankind was that at Becca, a blessed place, a guidance to the peoples (3:96)

The first House ever selected for the entire humankind was in Makkah. It was from this place that humanity was destined to get the guideline and the fundamental Law which would ensure stability and nourishment for all. Ibrahim (PBUH) and Ismail (PBUH) built this small cubical house. Its extraordinary importance can be judged by the fact that Allah the Almighty, the Creator of the entire Universe, calls it as “My House” (2:125). So, how could Prophet (PBUH) feel okay if this Allah’s House was under the control of the enemies of Islam, the Quraysh? Whatever thing Allah calls His own belongs to the entire humanity. Therefore, Kaaba – being Allah’s House belongs to humanity as whole.

The Quran wants to build universal brotherhood of entire humankind based solely on humanity. This can only be done by breaking down all barriers – no matter what the basis and justification of those barriers are – that separate human beings from human beings. This universal brotherhood of humankind must have a symbol to represent it, and that symbol is Kaaba. This is the position of Kaaba in the world in the eyes of the Quran, i.e., in the eyes of Islam. Its importance in today’s terminology is that when we say Washington then this does not mean a city but it means the political center of the country’s ideological underpinnings. So, Kaaba stands for the ideology of the system representing the universal brotherhood of humankind. That is why Muslims are required to make Kaaba as the center of focus of their life:

Turn your face towards Kaaba wherever you may be, and make it the focus of your life in harmony with the universal values and principles that it stands for.

It is important to note that when we hear the statement “Washington says this,” then it does not mean a city but the system of life that it stands for. In the same way when we say that our Qibla is Kaaba then it means that our locus of life revolves around the system of life the Quran proclaims as Deen, whose perceptible symbol is the Kaaba.

Deen is a collective system of life that covers socioeconomic, political, and all aspects of individual as well as collective life. Fourteen hundred years ago, the Quran gave a collective system of life based on clear concepts and ideology of life of universal welfare of humankind, and a visible symbol (Kaaba or Qibla) to represent this ideology of life; and asked its adherents to remain focused towards the mission and goal represented by Kaaba no matter where they were on earth. The Quran asked its adherents to establish a nation-state and its governance based on this universal ideology represented by Kaaba as its physical symbol.

This was the position of Kaaba in Deen. But when Deen turned into Madhab then Kaaba became a symbol of religious rituals. For example, before every prayer every Muslim makes an intention to pray by saying: “my face is facing towards Kaaba.” This has become now the goal of Kaaba – just as a ritual to recite that our face is towards it during prayer. Muslims are very particular and meticulous to make sure that the mosques face exactly toward Kaaba. Muslims in millions of Mosques throughout the world physically face towards Kaaba but their hearts and souls are not united in the obedience to the Laws of Allah for which Kaaba stands for as a symbol. Rituals and words remain but their meaning and essence have disappeared. There are hundreds of Muslim nations and governments in the world. Each one has its own rules and laws for governance. Some of them are even fighting and killing each other. But when they stand for prayer they all face Kaaba!

This is what has remained as far as Kaaba is concerned to Muslims – wherever they are in the world they face towards Kaaba while praying whereas they were supposed to govern their collective life in unison (wherever they may be in the world) by the ideology, the mission, and the goals for which the Kaaba stands for. Allama Iqbal gives a beautiful metaphor to explain this: birds travel hundreds of miles in the sky from their nests without any signposts and signals but wherever they are they always keep in their mind their nesting place and return to it in the evening.

This was what the Muslims were supposed to do. We can understand from this why our Prophet (PBUH) was looking towards the heavens yearning to have Kaaba under the control of the divine system and to be its physical symbol. He had established a state and the divine system in Medina. He was in full control of the Islamic government there. Muslims were obeying Allah through His Book, the Quran. But the Kaaba, the physical symbol of the divine system was under the control of Quraysh.

All those who have Iman on the Quran and Iman in Allah, for them Kaaba must be the locus of their life wherever they are in the world. They must remain focused on the mission of life represented by Kaaba. Now, we can understand the importance of Kaaba in the eyes of the Prophet (PBUH) and why he used to look towards the heavens yearning to have Kaaba under the control of the divine system to represent the Center of ideology of the newly established state of Medina. And Allah promised to Prophet (PBUH) that it will happen. And it did happen.

Hajj became mandatory for Muslims in the ninth year of Hijra. The Mushrikeen Arabs used to consider Kaaba as their religious center and used to perform Hajj. Ibrahim (PBUH) had settled his son Ismael (PBUH) here, and the Quraysh around the Kaaba and in the Hijaz were his descendants. Kaaba was built by Ibrahim (PBUH) and Ismael (PBUH) and it was the center of Arab life even before Islam. They had great respect for Kaaba; and the Quraysh being its custodian were highly revered in the Arab society. Arabs used to perform Hajj and Umrah and used to host special fair for a month during Hajj season. But their Hajj was not what the Quran has prescribed – to renew one’s commitment and faith to sacrifice one’s life for the sake of Islam, i.e., to sacrifice in order to improve the human condition of the world.

Continue Reading

Opinion

The proud Islamic civilization

Avatar

Published

on

By Mustafa Akyol

Should Americans, as part of their school curriculum, learn Arabic numerals?

CivicScience, a Pittsburgh-based research firm, put that question to some 3,200 Americans recently in a poll seemingly about mathematics, but the outcome was a measure of students’ attitudes toward the Arab world. Some 56 percent of the respondents said, “No.” Fifteen percent had no opinion.

 

Those results, which quickly inspired more than 24,000 tweets, might have been sharply different had the pollsters explained what “Arabic numerals” are.

There are 10 of them: 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9.

That fact prompted John Dick, the chief executive of the polling company, to label the finding “the saddest and funniest testament to American bigotry we’ve ever seen in our data.”

Presumably, the Americans who opposed the teaching of Arabic numerals (Republicans in greater proportion than Democrats) lacked the basic knowledge of what they are and also had some aversion to anything described as “Arabic.”

Which is indeed sad and funny — and also a reason to pause and ask a simple question: Why is the world’s most efficient numerical system, also standard in Western civilization, called “Arabic numerals”?

The answer traces to seventh-century India, where the numerical system, which included the revolutionary formulation of zero, was developed. Some two centuries later, it moved to the Muslim world, whose magnificent capital, Baghdad, was then the world’s best city in which to pursue an intellectual career. There, a Persian Muslim scholar named Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi developed a mathematical discipline called al-jabir, which literally means “reunion of broken parts.”

In the early 13th century, an Italian mathematician named Fibonacci, who studied calculation with an Arab master in Muslim North Africa, found the numerals and their decimal system much more practical than the Roman system, and soon popularized them in Europe, where the figures became known as “Arabic numerals.”

Meanwhile, the discipline of al-jabir became “algebra,” and al-Khwarizmi’s name evolved into “algorithm.”

Today, many words in English have Arabic roots; a short list would include admiral, alchemy, alcove, alembic, alkali, almanac, lute, mask, muslin, nadir, sugar, syrup, tariff and zenith. Some scholars think that even the word “check,” which you get from a bank, comes from the Arabic word sakk, which means “written document.” (Its plural, sukuk, is still used in Islamic banking to refer to bonds.)

There is a reason these Western terms have Arabic roots: Between the eighth and 12th centuries, the Muslim world, whose lingua franca was Arabic, was much more creative than Christian Europe, which was then in the late Middle Ages. Muslims were the pioneers in mathematics, geometry, physics, astronomy, biology, medicine, architecture, trade and, most important, philosophy. To be sure, Muslims had inherited these sciences from other cultures, such as the ancient Greeks, Eastern Christians, Jews and Hindus. Still, they advanced those disciplines with their own innovations and transmitted them to Europe.

Why delve so deep into this much-forgotten history? Because there are lessons for both Muslims and non-Muslims.

Among the latter are Western conservatives, who are passionate about protecting the legacy of Western civilization, which they often define as exclusively “Judeo-Christian.” Of course, Western civilization does have a great accomplishment worth preserving: the Enlightenment, which gave us freedom of thought, freedom of religion, the abolition of slavery, equality before the law, and democracy.

Those values should not be sacrificed to the postmodern tribalism called “identity politics.” But Western conservatives retreat to tribalism themselves when they deny the wisdom in, and the contributions of, sources that are not Judeo-Christian. The third great Abrahamic religion, Islam, also had a hand in the making of the modern world, and honouring that legacy would help establish a more constructive dialogue with Muslims.

Of course, we Muslims ourselves have a big question to answer: Why was our civilization once so creative, and why have we lost that golden age?

Some Muslims find a simple answer in piety and the lack thereof, thinking that decline came when Muslims turned “sinful.” Others assume that the early majesty can be traced to mighty leaders, whose reincarnations they hope to see again. Some find solace in conspiracy theories that blame enemies outside and “traitors” within.

Here is a more realistic explanation: The early Islamic civilization was creative because it was open-minded. At least some Muslims had the urge to learn from other civilizations. There was some room for free speech, which was extraordinary for its time. That allowed the work of towering Greek philosophers such as Aristotle to be translated and discussed, theologians of different stripes to speak their minds, and scholars to find independent patronage. From the 12th century onward, however, a more uniform and less rational form of Islam was imposed by despotic caliphs and sultans. So Muslim thought turned insular, repetitive and incurious.

By the 17th century, in Muslim India, Ahmad al-Sirhindi, a prominent scholar also known as Imam Rabbani, was marking the dogmatic turn when he condemned all “philosophers” and their “stupid” disciplines. “Among their codified and systemic sciences is geometry that is totally useless,” he wrote. “The sum of three angles in a triangle is two right angles — what benefit does it have?”

Exactly why this tragic closing of the Muslim mind happened, and how it can be overturned, is the biggest question facing Muslims today. We should not lose more time through denials and blame games.

At the same time, however, others should not make the mistake of judging Islamic civilization by looking at its worst products, many of which are now rampant. It is a great civilization that has made significant contributions to humanity, especially the West.

That is why you dial your phone using “Arabic numerals.” And that is just the tip of a big iceberg of ideas and values shared between Islam and the West.

Continue Reading
Advertisement

Latest News

Subscribe to The Kashmir Monitor via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to The Kashmir Monitor and receive notifications of new stories by email.

Join 1,010,884 other subscribers

Archives

June 2019
M T W T F S S
« May    
 12
3456789
10111213141516
17181920212223
24252627282930
Advertisement