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EUROPE’S ISLAM ‘PROBLEM’

Monitor News Bureau

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Much of the Islamic world is resource rich, has been under Western domination for most of its modern history, and is struggling to come to terms with a seemingly unjust international system and issues of national identities and nationalism, ethnicity, tribalism, feudalism, social change, political reform and modernisation. This struggle is taking place simultaneously on two fronts — at home and abroad — causing domestic disorder and global tensions.
In most societies, populations living under a Western-oriented but illiberal ruling elite have been seeking justice and self-fulfilment through different, but confused, ways — through democracy, Islam and nationalism. But their struggle has collided with America’s post 9/11 wars, enabling the extremists to hijack the agenda.
Two controversial wars and an ill-defined ‘war on terrorism’ that portrayed the enemy in such abstract terms, and the conflict as a war of ideas, ended up magnifying the enemy and enlarging the scope and meaning of the conflict, making it look like a war against Islam. This sharpened tensions between Islam and the West, boosting the agenda and popularity of extremists both at home and abroad. At home, the political and economic failure of leadership in Islamic societies has ceded ground to the better organised and motivated extremists; abroad, especially in Europe, immigrant communities are falling back on extremists not only as defenders of a faith under siege, but also for protection against injustices, discrimination and intolerance.
The fourth part of a quartet on relations between the West and Muslims post-9/11 focuses on Europe’s interaction with the Muslim world
The Islamic world has many outstanding scholars but arguably no one has studied these issues more comprehensively and done more to explain Islam to the West than Akbar Ahmed. Other scholars have spoken, too, but the breadth and scope of the avenues of expression Ahmed has utilised, such as books, articles, television appearances, lectures across academic institutions and think-tanks and inter faith dialogues, clearly stands out.
His latest book, Journey into Europe: Islam, Immigration and Identity, is the fourth in a quartet of studies on relations between the West and the Muslim world after 9/11, done from four different perspectives. The first, Journey into Islam: The Crisis of Globalisation, examines how people in the Muslim world view the West and what occurred in their societies after 9/11. The second, Journey into America: The Challenge of Islam, is concerned with how people in the United States see Muslims and the place of Islam in American identity. The third volume, The Thistle and the Drone: How America’s War on Terror Became a Global War on Tribal Islam, deals with the perspective of tribal peoples from lands where the US-led war on terror has been conducted.
Journey into Europe, which was also the title of a documentary produced and narrated by Ahmed and based on interviews included in the book, focuses on Europe’s interaction with Islam and how Europeans viewed Islam and Muslims in historical and contemporary terms. The study, based on extensive fieldwork, particularly explores the complex questions of Islam, immigration and identity. Ahmed, with the help of a group of young scholars, spoke with some of Europe’s most influential figures, including presidents and prime ministers, archbishops, chief rabbis, grand muftis, heads of right-wing parties and average Europeans from all walks of life.
The book reveals a fascinating story of Islam’s place in European history and civilisation that is more interwoven and indistinguishable than generally thought, and identifies the misperceptions and the opportunities for Europe and its Muslim communities to normalise their relationship.
Ahmed brings to his work the intellectual rigour of an academic, the insightful understanding of international relations expected of an accomplished diplomat and expert knowledge of modern media. His analysis is thus done from a wide range of perspectives and disciplines, such as anthropology, sociology, political science and history, and the art of communications. That makes him exceptionally qualified to delve into contemporary Muslim societies and discover the underlying causes of tensions that threaten their own stability as well as of their relations with the West.
Much of Europe, according to the book, can be understood through the lens of tribal identity on the basis of blood, lineage and territory that strongly impacts how Europeans view relations with one another and with outside communities. Ahmed terms this as a primordial identity. But there is a pluralistic core of Convivencia (coexistence among different faiths) embodied by the Golden Age of Andalusia, that also lies at the heart of Europe.
In contemporary Europe, primordial identity prevails as there is the refugee crisis, incessant acts of terrorism and cultural clash with Muslim communities. Europe has responded through the rise of right-wing, nationalist political parties. This has widened the rift between the majority population and Muslim communities, enlarging the debate where many Europeans have come to see Islam as a threat to their civilisation.
As the West looks upon Islam as a problem, many Muslims are retaliating by looking at it as a solution. While Muslims struggle to find a place in Europe in the face of increasing intolerance, hate and discrimination, marginalised youth have turned to terrorism. Neither the state nor the communities or religious leaders are taking responsibility to address the root causes of what has happened.
Along with an analysis of what has gone wrong and why, the study features recommendations for promoting integration. Ahmed argues that Islamic communities in Europe need to turn away from primordial identities and instead seek mutual flourishing through a “pluralist identity.”
As for the Europeans, he recommends that to move forward, they must acknowledge the central role Muslims played in shaping European civilisation in many areas such as art, science, architecture, music, food, philosophy and scholarship, and apply to present-day Europe the lessons of Convivencia.
Unprecedented in scope and breadth of enquiry and meticulously detailed, this exploration of Islam in Europe, and the place of Islam in European history and civilisation, is a major contribution to existing scholarship on the subject. Commenting on the book, Noam Chomsky says that in studying the West, Ahmed has reversed the familiar paradigm of the West studying Islam.
The only point of disagreement I have is regarding the recommendation that the Europeans adopt Convivencia. I find it too utopian. It will not work in this media-driven world and era of mass politics where opinion moves faster than knowledge through social media and the internet, and governments have come to live at the level of public opinion. Modern democracy is holding leaderships hostage to electoral politics.
In order to come to power, politicians are marketing issues aggressively with the help of partisan media and special interests. Serious discussion of serious issues has suffered on the one hand because of the distortion, polarisation and politicisation of issues, and on the other by their trivialisation by the entertainment industry that dominates the news channels. In this environment, when truth is hard to find, how can you make an informed choice?
Democracy may have to reinvent itself to produce strong leaderships that can take hard decisions in the larger interest of the society. Only such leaderships may be in a position to adopt Ahmed’s recommendations about coexistence, but we are a long way off from that point in history.
The reviewer is a former ambassador and is adjunct faculty at Georgetown University and Maxwell School of Syracuse University

Journey into Europe:
Islam, Immigration and
Identity
By Akbar Ahmed
Brookings Institution
Press, US
ISBN: 978-0815727583
592pp.

 
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Opinion

SRO 202 against the basic rights of employees

Monitor News Bureau

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By Bhat Zaieem

The youth of J&K have consistently raised the voices against the anti-youth job policy in vogue for the last four years. But it seems, no one in the administration is bothered to even listen to their genuine concern. The youth of J&K have always suffered due to the absurd and unjustifiable policies of J&K government. A similar iniquitous policy was framed in June 2015 by then PDP-BJP Government which has adversely affected the dignity, honour and social setup of employees recruited under it. SRO 202 is a gross injustice to employees who are facing the brunt of such policies while government has absolutely no satisfactory reason to issue such orders.

The scene of the policy is that a candidate selected for a government service will get only basic pay for the first five years of his or her service. They will be devoid of their right of getting different allowances during this period. Also, they will not be entitled to New Pension Scheme (NPS) benefits for the timeframe.

 

It is most unfortunate that the youth who have doctorate, post graduate and professional degrees are petted against such policies as a reward to the hard work of their academic career spanning over 20 years. Such employees get selected through JKPSC and JKSSB where the the success rate is just 2-5%.

Making the policy selective for non-gazetted cadre posts and certain gazetted posts shows its unequal behaviour, absurdness and nonsensicalness. Some government institutes like Jammu & Kashmir High Court, Kashmir University are not enforcing any rule of the SRO 202. There is no uniformity at all. But irony is that rich are made richer and poor poorer. They just doubled the salary of MLAs at the same time to ensure maximum turnout for themselves and leaving the issue of working staff brooding over the shelf.

Leaving the efficient youth in trouble for their sake is no less than a turmoil. And I remember when the candidates would frequently pressurise the government to scrap the policy, they would utterly eulogise that it was meant to curb the financial crunch in J&K and where not you already acknowledged with the terms and conditions of your job. Such imprudent and hypocritical character of policy makers was always disheartening besides taking  off their belief on democratic institutions.

The policy has inflicted vigour of corruption and nepotism in the minds of new employees. The mark of disloyalty with their service will touch new heights and they do have a solid reason for it and that is ignorance of the government. When they are not treated with equal pay as their old counterparts, the have started the other mediums of earning on the same table. ‘Right to Equality’ has been shattered deeply. The Supreme Court judgment ‘Equal Pay for Equal Work’ has been rendered meaningless with negligible application here. In short this policy has been a bruise over the policies of the governance. Moreover, according to the rules of this ordinance any recruitment made under it must be completed within a period of three months and appointment order to be issued within 15 days from the date of issuance of selection list. The government posts are supposed to be filled on fast-track basis. But they failed here too as almost all the selections done under this policy took more than one and half years on average to complete and appointment orders also were issued accordingly with same sluggish speed and took two to three months for formal appointment orders for all the advertisements.

Coming to the financial burden, it is very meagre almost negligible with respect to total financial implications of J&K. Till now merely ten thousand appointments have been made under this policy. With implementation of seventh pay commission, the difference in salary between SRO 202 employees and their Non SRO 202 counterparts has been severely reduced and is ranging between four thousand and six thousand. So increasing these few thousand rupees for some ten thousand employees has very less financial implications for the government.

The government must come to the rescue of the career of faithful and hardworking employees and the removal of this policy is the only way out. Both students and impacted employees expect that Lieutenant Governor GC Murmu who is talking much of corruption, transparency and equal opportunities for all will come to their rescue.

The author is a teacher in Department of Education and can be reached at [email protected]

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Opinion

Let education be never hampered

Monitor News Bureau

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By Abid Hussain Rather

As it is said education leads us from darkness to light and nowadays right to elementary education is fundamental right of every human being. Educational standard of a nation depicts its developmental level. When we have a look at the history we see that only those civilizations were able to progress where knowledge was given first priority and those civilizations where other things dominated to knowledge vanished within the corridors of time. It is the education which moulds the behavior of man, the social animal and makes him superior to the other creatures in the universe. It is said that educational institutes are more sacred to religious places because these educational institutes lead us to the religious places and teach us how to pray. If a nation wants to develop and progress it should always try to create and maintain an atmosphere which is most conducive for education and education system should always be given the first priority. Educational processes and educational institutes should be spared and always kept away from the dirty games of politics and other likely things.

Our valley, though famously known as paradise on earth, has always seen political and climatic instability which have turned this paradise into hell and made the lives of people miserable here. Keeping the climatic instability aside which is natural in cause and on which we human beings have no control, the political instability in Kashmir is now a big name world over. Whatever the reasons for this instability may be, undoubtedly it has hit each and every corner of our life and spared no one. Whether it may be socio-cultural, economic, or any other sector, this political trauma has caused big losses in every sector of the valley. Among all it is the educational sector which has been most affected by the political instability of the valley.  We can somehow repair the economic losses caused due to the unstable conditions of the valley. We can put our extra efforts and can work in off times to repair the loss.  But we can’t regain the losses to the education system, because a student can’t regain his academic year. Career building of our youth is a pre planned process in which each and everyday counts. Closing of educational institutions for one day means too much which can be understood only by  developed nations. But here in our valley due to bandhs and curfews, our schools and colleges remain closed for months, and we and our government seem to be least concerned about this matter. Looking at the past many years, we can aptly say that these uprisings occur concurrently at the peak academic session of the year and our educational institutes remain closed for months, which adversely affect the studies. It is not wrong to say that now our educational institutes have just become examination conducting centres without any teaching-learning process and students are just promoted to next classes with zero quality. Sometimes the political atmosphere of the valley becomes so unfavourable that conducting of classwork becomes a day dream for months and even conducting of the annual examinations becomes hard and impossible. In such situations most of the academic courses in the valley become time consuming and causes mental stress on our young generation.

 

Last year after the abrogation of Article 35A on August 5, the whole valley was put under siege, curfew was imposed in the valley for a long period and along with other government offices all the educational institutes remained close for many months. Though the whole valley became standstill and the normal life became paralysed, I think it was the education system which suffered the most. Though it was ‘Kashmir bandh’ for months, shopkeepers used to keep their shops open in the early morning hours and in the late evening hours.  No doubt their business was affected, but they somehow compensated it. Some of the shopkeepers misused the abnormal situation of the valley and sold their goods at higher rates as in some regions of the valley rice was sold at the rate of Rs. 3500 per quintal by private dealers which was earlier sold below Rs 2500. Government employees got their salaries without attending their duties as their offices remains closed. Even though some employees used to attend offices, it was only for the purpose of marking their attendance. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that even some people enjoyed this unstable situation of the valley. Though all the sectors suffered partially, it was the student community which suffered the most. They couldn’t attend even a single class for months and their loss was the biggest. They became wanderers of the valley. Funniest thing to see was that at the end of the session the students in lower classes were provided with question papers and were asked to solve them at home and then bring them back to school in order to get promoted to next classes. It was beyond the understanding of common masses what was the fun of all that process.

Currently we are unable to understand the loss which our education system suffers from the political unrest in our valley. Its jolts will be felt in the near future when our nation will have only quantitative literates but without quality. Then there will be no way to repair the damage. It is high time for all of us to understand this grave issue. We should try our best to create a favourable atmosphere for education in our valley and as far as possible we should try to spare our educational institutes from this political instability. Our young generation has enough potential to be our future scholars, doctors, engineers and scientists. This potential shouldn’t be marred by political unrest of the valley rather it should be sculpted in best possible way by our educational institutes for the betterment of our nation.

(The author teaches Geography at GDC, Kulgam. He can be reached at [email protected])

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Opinion

Understanding Drug Addiction

Monitor News Bureau

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By Faizaan Bashir

The need of the hour is to understand what drives youth to drugs. Understanding and avoiding the reasons is far crucial than treating the actual addiction.

“There was a time when ‘divine signs’ were seen in children, but now, it’s like a complete obverse of it,” whimpered a very old, frizzled and pale man in a tone of despair. Watching through the window, the man enjoined upon me for having a disheartening view of two of his younger children puffing weed. So much so, their style of talking and bodily movements would quiver with each passing second. Wherefore, I was able to squueze out the memories of my teen when I too had grown the victim of these life-abrading habits. The clutches of this trap, as far as I could remember, had gripped me to the hilt. None could prevent me from doing so – almost none. It was as if the permanent seal of drugs had been tacked to my heart and mind. For the most part, a person is tend to ‘considerably’ think about crucial and critical aspects of life, but the whole self of mine was in a state of utter freeze just by its disgrace & medically proven-pernicious effects.

 

Anyway, it’s sure, many questions must be doing rounds inside your mind, and it should be so: What is it that drives a normal being into these destructive physical activities? Why is it that these life-hollowing drugs the more a man becomes addictive to, wouldn’t probably do away from us? Even after, having felt its repurcusions, why is not he able to take control over himself, or left himself uttering “I were to have stopped it that time and this time while dying in self-pity!?” Or is there some kind of mystery that lies with the drug-ridden? The answer to all these hardly-contemplated-over-questions is that: of all the drug-addicts, more than 70 percent of its populace have already been suffering from depression, stress, anxiety and many other psychological disorders that seem too difficult to put up with. So, in order to give to the mind a ceaseless rush of dopamine, a chemical in our brain responsible for mood boosting- or giving a temporary feeling of relief, consuming drugs becomes the fitting choice.

There are different drugs available to be sold and each of them has its own features. The way cannabis can give momentary a sigh of relief, couldn’t probably cigarettes do and the continuous cycle of consuming one over other becomes the nasty priority! Drugs are the cruelest killers disguising as relief and mood boosters. A sign of stress is indicative of mind demanding something to get the relaxation from; and here the depressed folk becomes an easy prey to drugs – finding it as swifter working alternative than anything else could be doing! When a man has a huge stress over something, to put in this way, he is bound to consuming the substance having mammoth influential features. So that, the temporary relief from the mess could be achieved; but, that is where a man starts to grow addictive.

Drugs, cruelest killers, have a plethora of dreadful effects on our lives. It’s been found that taking drugs reduces oxygen level in our viens, therby affecting our heart. Others (experts in morphology) would say that it alters the inner structure of mind, thus giving rise to to the life-snatching pshychological disorders – and then one grows paranoid. Many fears take up his mind and tend to neglect the society. She becomes socially bereft! Some would even – for the inability in dealing with people – consume drugs thereof in secret. Substatial number of them are seeing no way to reclaim their lives, thus adding only to the woes and life becoming sheer predicament.

Having refrained from taking these silent killers, I can say that those that are used to devouring or snuffing or whatever ways they take them in should at least check the status of thier lives. They should ask themselves what is it that prompts them to become the easy victim of drugs. Anaylysing the root causes would do plenty in helping one recover from the predicament. If there is any kind of stress or depression or strain, as the major causes remain so at most of the times, despite the fact we don’t comprehend it at the moment, self-control, meditation etc should be considered, wholeheartedly, instead; or even if one is most glued with these drugs, reduce the quantity of it each time. Wait for the due course. Rise to the occasion and stay away from these killing stuff.

It is noteworthy to mention that those who, fortunately, have not become the victim of these killers, must pay no heed to it ever, for once it has been consumed, one fails to understand what to do and what not. The need of the hour is to aware the unawares regarding the downsides – trap – of taking drugs. We must impart in our education sysyem the whole conept of drugs as to how it affects the health and pshychology; and, most importantly, how to waive off our uneasiness at times by mental excersises to keep us calm, secured from the lure of drugs.

There is an urgent need to start a campaign, protest against those dealers and smugglars who dispose of different kinds of drugs whether in manifest or secret to the mentally disturbed victims. The adminstration ought to put more effors in busting such elements. At the same time, instead of penalizing the drug takers, they should be given counselling sessions to squeeze out the things that prompt them to take these drugs. Furthermore, parents must keep a vigil eye on thier children: from where they are coming, who are they friends with, why are they coming late, what has been done to the pocket-money are the questions which every parent must pose on their children. Talking freely with your children is an another thing which is needed to reduce any strain taking up their minds.

We will have to do these things for the sake of our people in general. Our children, who are our future generations, in particular. 

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