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Politics over the Constitution

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By Neera Chandhoke

Though the phrase “history is written by the victors” is attributed to Winston Churchill, the origins of the catchphrase are lost in the mists of time. Professional historians scoff at the idea, for they wish to write for, and on behalf of, the subaltern. But political parties, which come to power with a majority, take the axiom very seriously indeed. Take the members of the Bharatiya Janata Party and their ideological backbone, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). Though it engages in double-speak, clearly the right wing intends to rewrite the history of India and of the Constitution, if not today, then tomorrow.
Union Minister Anantkumar Hegde apologised to Parliament for his remark last December that the BJP had come to power to change the Constitution, but he did state as much. The chairman of the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, the right-winger, Ram Bahadur Rai, said so to a news magazine in June 2016. There is no indication that they and other leaders have changed their mind. The RSS did not participate at all in the history of our freedom struggle which culminated in the making of a Constitution. Therefore, the erasure of history is a must. The right wing is tiresomely predictable, and anyone can foresee that the first casualty of the exercise will be secularism. The second will be democracy.
The proposal for change appears quite senseless. The Indian Constitution is large and unwieldy but it is considered to be one of the finest in the world. The authors of the constitutional draft, especially B.N Rau and Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, were known for their mastery of comparative law, history, politics, sociology and the literary idiom. More importantly, the Constitution was the outcome of two major movements in Indian history that shaped each other. One was the series of colonial laws enacted to govern India; notably the Government of India Act, 1935. The second was the freedom struggle that brought together large numbers of Indians in a spectacular anti-imperialist and nationalist project. The historical struggle generated imaginations, aspirations and ideals that were indisputably democratic.
As early as 1928, an All-Parties Conference established on May 19 a committee chaired by Motilal Nehru to consider and determine a future constitution for India. Among noteworthy recommendations of the committee was an integrated list of social, economic and political rights, minority rights, and universal adult franchise. The Motilal Nehru Report dismissed the idea that non-literacy could pose a problem for universal adult franchise. “Political experience can only be acquired by active participation in political institutions and does not entirely depend on literacy.” The report deeply inspired the Constituent Assembly, which met in the wake of momentous movements for Independence in the 1940s. Introducing the resolution on the aims and objectives of the Constitution in the Constituent Assembly on December 13, 1946, Jawaharlal Nehru acknowledged that the strength of the people was behind the Assembly. He committed that ‘we’ shall go as far as the people, not any party or group, but the people as a whole shall wish us to go.
The Assembly also met in the shadow of tremendous violence sparked off by Partition. Despite major destruction of lives and property, the makers of the Constitution continued to hold fast to the values of the freedom struggle: democracy, fundamental rights, minority rights, limited government, rule of law, and an independent judiciary. That is why the Indian Constitution has held a fractious body politic together, when country after country in the post-colonial world has fallen prey to authoritarianism. It has enthused us; it has enabled us to make the transition from subject to citizen. There is cause for celebration.
Not all Indians rejoiced. The Constitution was finalised on November 26, 1949. On November 30, 1949, the mouthpiece of the RSS, the Organiser, lamented that the Constitution does not mention unique constitutional developments in ancient Bharat: Manu’s laws written much before the laws of Lycurgus of Sparta or Solon of Persia (sic). The organisation disdained the national flag and berated the Constitution. It articulated intense desire to chart a new constitution when in power. Today the organisation and its party are in power, and we hear open threats that the Constitution of India, which gives us our identity, and that acts as a focal point for loyalties and democracy, shall be written over.
Of course, constitutions can be changed if they prove wanting. But there must be good reasons for doing so. Rewriting a Constitution to obliterate a history that records the non-participation of the religious right in the making of democratic constitutionalism, is hardly reason enough. In any case what would a constitution that reflects ancient Indian culture look like? Dr. Ambedkar had warned in 1948 that no democratic constitution can be modelled on the Hindu tradition of state and village panchayats. What is the village he asked, but a sink of localism, a den of ignorance, narrow-mindedness and communalism? Before it begins to speak of constitutionalising the soul of India, the religious right should recollect that this soul is deeply fractured by the indelible tracks of caste and gender.
The Indian Constitution also gave voice to democratic aspirations in the Preamble. The Constitution is a normative document, but the values it espouses are universal and ‘thin’. They do not reflect the belief system of one section of the population even if it is in a majority. Nor do these values dismiss the value systems of minority groups. The religious right, however, intends to move to a thick conception of the good: this is what we should believe, this is what we should do.
Dr. Ambedkar had cautioned against precisely this when he spoke in the Constituent Assembly on November 4, 1948. Citing Grote, the historian of Greece, Dr. Ambedkar talked of constitutional morality. This is best realised when citizens do not worship but revere the Constitution. It is realised when citizens possess freedom and rights. And it can be realised because the Constitution provides a framework to accommodate rival points of view as well as mechanisms for reconciliation. Only then will the Constitution be as sacred to our opponents as to ourselves. Only a thin conception of the good in the Constitution can hold a plural and diverse people together.
But constitutional morality, warned Dr. Ambedkar, has to be cultivated. Our people have yet to learn it, for democracy is only a top-dressing on an Indian soil which is essentially undemocratic. His words proved prescient. It is the institutionalisation of constitutional democracy that has changed the way Indians think of themselves in relation to each other, and in relation to the state. The Constitution has managed to inculcate democratic sensibilities and spark yearnings for more democracy, not less.
Those who would change the Constitution should reflect on Dr. Ambedkar’s words in the Constituent Assembly. On December 17, 1946, he reminded the Assembly that power is one thing, wisdom is quite another thing. When deciding the destiny of nations, dignities of people, dignities of leaders and dignities of parties ought to count for nothing. The destiny of the country should count for everything.
(The Hindu)

 

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Opinion

While the Dust is settling in New Zealand

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By SPAHIC OMER

While the dust is settling in the aftermath of shootings at two mosques in New Zealand, some rather bigger and more consequential truths and dimensions start emerging. Undoubtedly, the killed brothers and sisters are global heroes. They are also martyrs and Jannah (Paradise)-bound (Insha’Allah we most sincerely hope and pray for them).

Whereas the murderer will spend the rest of his miserable life in jail languishing therein (given that New Zealand since 1961 does not have the death penalty for murder), will die smaller and less significant than when he was born, and, ultimately, is Jahannam(Hell)-bound. Truly, the victims have been given a new and far better life, and so, have been in a certain way set free, while the killer and his agenda have perished as soon as they came to the fore of reality and started rearing their ugly heads.

 

What matters at the end of the day is to live and die with honour and dignity, irrespective of circumstances. What lies between and around those parameters is part of a bigger and to us incomprehensible ontological picture.

In the meantime, virtually the whole world – regardless of the level of many individuals’ and groups’ honesty, or otherwise – is propagating what the true Islam is and who the true Muslims are. In reality, everyone is promoting and preaching Islam, one way or another: from mosques and parliaments, to coffee-shops, homes and media. Debates about Islam, Muslims, the Qur’an, the Prophet (pbuh) and mosques continue – and will for a long time – unabated.

The situation is rivalled perhaps only by what transpired after 9/11.

The phenomenon is positively contributing to silencing the isolated pockets of perpetual hate, bigotry and bona fide terror, and is extinguishing the fading flames of their meaning, purpose and appeal. Despite the tragic and regrettable side of the events, the opportunity that such events presented should be leveraged and sustained. It is not always that most of the world is favourably disposed to the affairs of Islam and Muslims. Overtures are being received from all sides including such as were hardly imaginable before.

By making the most of the presented opportunities, the innocent lives would not be seen as lost in vain. The losses will thus become yet more meaningful as well as impactful. The victims’ rewards will also be greatly amplified thereby.

Hence, Muslims should become braver and more proactive in convincing the world as to who exactly they are, what their Islam is, and what they are living for and how. They should go on the offensive, rather than being perennially on the defensive. There should be no more place for excessive apologetic tendencies.

Such a strategy did not bring much sense, nor benefit, to anybody: neither to Muslims in advancing their Islamic civilizational cause, nor to non-Muslims in coming to terms with the same. Muslims should not unduly worry or be afraid, for a truthful person on an extraordinary mission fears nobody and nothing. Indeed, nothing but truth, light, and clarity of existential mission and purpose are identifiable with courage and gallantry, just as falsehood, darkness, and evil are identifiable with cowardice and its associates. Hence, the New Zealand murderer thought he was brave and would become a hero if he killed innocent and unarmed civilians (worshipers).

However, that is exactly what his victims are, and he, on the other hand, has already become a symbol of gutlessness, idiocy, and villainy. He is furthermore met with universal condemnation, disgust, and cursing for his cruel, inhumane, and barbarous acts that targeted defenceless and harmless civilians.

Moreover, Muslims have nothing to be ashamed of, nor hide. On the contrary, they have everything to cherish, be proud of, and share with the world. Muslims always were, and thus should remain, chief protagonists in generating universal civilizational and cultural goodness and beauty. Muslims should use the unfortunate New Zealand episode and its aftermath to come closer to one another and get united at all levels of their ummatic (collective) existence.

There is no political, social, or sectarian issue that can supersede in importance the above. Everything must be in the service of the former.

Why must Muslims wait for tragic events, such as this one, to come out together as one? Why don’t they do so as soon as possible as a sign of a drastic paradigm shift, whereby many future yet more tragic events could be thwarted, or at least significantly mitigated? Once united, Muslims’ performances in such critical fields as education, politics, economic development, science and technology, as a consequence, would dramatically improve as well. They will not then have to harangue the world on how Islam is the religion of truth, peace, progress, enlightenment and justice. Such will be embodied in concrete deeds, policies, and civilizational initiatives and achievements, and will be there for all to see and benefit from.

It goes without saying that Muslim unity and the unity of their ontological mission and purpose denote a precursor, yet a cause, of any remarkable civilizational consciousness and growth of theirs. The relationship between the two realms is causal, the former always being the cause and the latter the effect. Even though the whole world is sympathetic now, if Muslims do not take the matter into their own hands – and by the scruff of the neck – the sentiment will quickly cool down and subside, and we will be back to square one. Nobody will help Muslims if they do not help themselves. The roles of others can only be secondary in nature, playing second fiddle to what Muslims actually do. Likewise, nobody will respect Muslims unless they respect themselves. That is the root cause of all good – and evil – associated with Muslims.

Muslim civilizational destiny ought to be their own and nobody else’s business and concern. It is therefore only them who is answerable to the Almighty for it.

And as a bit of not-so-coincidental symbolism, since the New Zealand tragedy took place in mosques, it might be just appropriate that a Muslim change of fortune should start exactly in relation to the mosque as a concept and sensory reality. Reviving the mosque institution as a community development center and as a symbol as well as locus of Islam’s and Muslims’ spiritual and physical being will definitely go a long way in successfully charting future development courses not only in the Muslim world, but also elsewhere. Mosques should be turned into sources of and facilities for practicing and disseminating the authentic truth, peace, harmony, equality, and justice. They should be beacons of hope, optimism, cooperation, tolerance, and dialogue. Especially in the West, mosques and the infinite universe of messages and values that they typify, should be promoted via most appropriate means and channels as much to non-Muslims as Muslims. That way, there will be no better, friendlier, and more effective ways of da’wah (inviting people to Islam). Nobody will be able to accuse anyone of proselytizing, or any other perceived wrongdoing. Rather, the efforts will regularly be praised and encouraged by all relevant parties. For the sake of fostering peace, harmony and dialogue, to Muslims through the mosque phenomenon, the sky is surely the limit. That could likewise be a reason why the New Zealand criminal targeted precisely mosques and the day, occasion as well as the time synonymous with mosques’ dynamism and multidimensionality.

And finally, Muslims must actualize and live up to the implications of the Qur’anic archetype according to which only believers and everything they epitomize will in the end be successful, despite numerous trials and challenges along the way. On the other hand, the opponents of truth, oppressors of all kinds and criminals, and everything they characterize, will in the end fail and be dire losers, notwithstanding some ostensible temporary triumphs along the way.

What matters most is a true happy ending primarily in the metaphysical sense of the word, and that life does not turn out to be merely nihilistic, hedonistic, and anticlimactic an affair.

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Opinion

The Roots of the Christchurch Massacre

The Kashmir Monitor

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By WAJAHAT ALI

For Muslims, Friday Prayer is like Sunday Mass for Christians. It’s the day of community prayer. We travel to our local mosques, our religious sanctuary. Our families gather in the early afternoon to pray as a community. Kids run through the halls as the imam recites the Quran in Arabic. We eat together and mingle outside.

This week, as those of us in the United States attend Friday Prayer, the Muslims in Christchurch, New Zealand, are preparing for funerals.

 

People around the world are praying for the dead in Christchurch after terrorist attacks at two mosques. The authorities say a 28-year-old Australian walked into two mosques with assault rifles and killed at least 49 people. New Zealand’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, called it “an extraordinary and unprecedented act of violence.”

Thoughts and prayers are not enough. These attacks are the latest manifestation of a growing and globalized ideology of white nationalism that must be addressed at its source — which includes the mainstream politicians and media personalities who nurture, promote and excuse it.

If the gunman’s 74-page manifesto and social media posts are to be believed, he was inspired by a thriving online ideological structure that recruits and radicalizes mostly men to save “Western civilization” from a foreign “invasion.”

We’ve seen this before. The gunman’s justifications for his act of terrorism were similar to those in the 1,500-page manifesto that the Norwegian Anders Breivik posted before he killed 77 people in 2011. Mr. Breivik wanted to punish Europe for its multiculturalism and welcome of Muslim immigrants. His manifesto and attacks are said to have inspired the white nationalist Christopher Hasson, who was recently arrested on charges of stockpiling weapons with the desire to commit mass murder, especially against Muslims.

If the idea that Muslims are a threat sounds familiar, it’s in part because it was used by President Trump to argue for a wall to protect America from a “caravan” of Central American migrants seeking asylum. He asserted that “Middle Easterners” were in the caravan, a claim he admitted he could not back up. During a summer trip to England, Mr. Trump warned that Britain was losing its “culture” and that immigration had “changed the fabric of Europe — and unless you act very quickly, it’s never going to be what it was.”

Arguing for his travel ban aimed at mostly Muslim countries, Mr. Trump said, “I think Islam hates us,” lied about seeing Muslims celebrate the Sept. 11 attacks, and retweeted a fringe anti-Muslim group’s fake videos of Muslim refugees committing violence. No wonder the Christchurch manifesto praised Mr. Trump as “as a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose.”

It’s clear that the dangers of white nationalism aren’t limited to the United States. This attack is a reminder that this dangerous ideology also threatens immigrant communities worldwide, and that it’s fuelled by leaders around the world.

Australia, where the gunman is said to be from, has plenty of its own anti-Muslim, xenophobic rhetoric.

In 2015, a movement called Reclaim Australia organized protests against the “enforcing of Shariah law in Australia” and “the teaching of Islam in government schools.” The Conversation reported that placards displayed by the group at a rally read “Islam is an enemy of the West.” A key policy goal of the far-right political party Australian Liberty Alliance is to “stop the Islamization of Australia.” Its website warns, “Islam is not merely a religion, it is a totalitarian ideology with global aspirations.”

While Australia’s prime minister, Scott Morrison, described the suspect as “an extremist, right-wing, violent terrorist,” an Australian senator, Fraser Anning, responded to the Christchurch attack by blaming “the immigration program which allowed Muslim fanatics to migrate to New Zealand in the first place.”

It seems the senator shares similar sentiments with mass murderers.

In his manifesto, the gunman, who referred to himself as a “regular white man,” wrote that he was carrying out the attack to “directly reduce immigration rates to European lands by intimidating and physically removing the invaders themselves.”

The manifesto reveals an obsession with white supremacy, discussing the Battle of Vienna in 1683, which is glorified by white nationalists and Mr. Breivik as the critical moment when Europe staved off the Ottoman Empire’s advance and protected itself from Islam. Text scrawled on the gunman’s weapons appears to refer to military battles such as the 1189 Siege of Acre, a victory for the Christian Crusaders seeking to retake Jerusalem from Muslims. He mentioned Alexandre Bissonnette, who shot and killed six people in a Quebec mosque in 2017 and was a known white nationalist with anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim resentment.

His ideas — and their sources and supporters — were familiar to me. As a researcher for the Center for American Progress Action Fund’s 2011 investigation “Fear Inc.: The Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America,” I connected fringe anti-Muslim conspiracies — such as the made-up threat of Shariah law in America — to the funding sources, think tanks, media personalities, grass-roots groups and politicians who created and promoted them.

These entities have worked together to reinforce the message that Muslims Americans are inherently radical and represent a “demographic time bomb” that will overtake the white population. Mr. Breivik repeatedly cited these groups and people, many of them now closely linked to the Trump administration. Although they should not be blamed for Mr. Breivik’s violence, Marc Sageman, a former C.I.A. officer and a consultant on terrorism, said Mr. Breivik nonetheless emerges from the same ideological network.

Among white nationalists’ major motivators is “the great replacement” conspiracy theory. They fear that Jews, blacks and Muslims will replace white people and eventually subordinate them. Jews are often viewed as the diabolical head of the cabal, the nerve center, who use their infinite wealth and power to reduce and weaken the white man.

In October, Robert Bowers walked into the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh and killed 11 Jewish worshipers. He posted on the right-wing social network Gab that the Jewish refugee resettlement agency HIAS “likes to bring invaders in that kill our people” and “I can’t sit by and watch my people get slaughtered.” He also re-shared a post about punishing “filthy evil Jews” for bringing “filthy evil Muslims into the country.” This echoed the anti-Semitic conspiracy theory that Jewish billionaire George Soros funded the migrant “caravan” — a lie that was promoted by President Trump and other prominent conservatives.

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Opinion

Massacre in Christchurch Mosques

The Kashmir Monitor

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By ASLAM ABDULLAH


In what the Prime Minister of New Zealand described the darkest day in the history of the country, and the worst terrorist attack in the country so far 49 Muslims belonging to different nationalities and ethnic groups praying together in mosques were massacred by white supremacist terrorists. The Queen of Commonwealth, Pope and many other world leaders have sent notes of sympathy to the government.

This is what we know so far:

 

A white supremacist entered a mosque on Deans Avenue, Christchurch where Muslims had gathered to pray. He was carrying a semi-automatic weapon. He opened fire indiscriminately as there were so many targets busy praying. He was streaming the attack live. Another white supremacist entered a mosque in Linwood.

49 Muslims are dead as of now. 41 at the Central mosque, 7 at Linwood mosque and one in Christchurch hospital. 48 people have been admitted to the hospital with gunshot wounds as of now. Others have been sent to medical centers. The terrorist has been charged and would appear in the Christchurch District Court on Saturday morning.

He was arrested in a city street in a car with explosives and more guns inside. The terrorist described himself as 28-year old Australian Brenton Tarrant. The terrorists were not on the watch list of police either in Australia or New Zealand.

Tarrant had issued a manifesto glorifying white supremacy and had asked the people of the US and Europe to oust immigrants and build a pure white society. Police arrested four people initially, three including Tarrant are in custody. The fourth person was not related to the events, police said.

There was a chaotic scene at Christchurch hospital that has only 12 operating theatres in use for people requiring multiple surgeries. Families of the victims and others came to hospitals and at the mosques looking for their loved ones.

Families have shown up at the hospital and at the Deans Ave cordon seeking news of family members. The police have set up a missing people’s register. Witnesses have given detailed accounts of the horror of their co-coreligionists being killed. Victim support has launched an official fund to support the families of the victims.

Leaders from around the world have condemned this terrorist act. Pope Francis has denounced the “senseless acts of violence” in the Christchurch mosque shootings and said he was praying for the Muslim community and all New Zealanders.

In a telegram of condolences Friday, Francis offered his solidarity and prayers to the injured and those who are mourning lost loved ones and noted that it was a particularly difficult time for security and emergency personnel.

He said he was “deeply saddened to learn of the injury and loss of life caused by the senseless acts of violence at two mosques in Christchurch, and he assures all New Zealanders, and in particular the Muslim community, of his heartfelt solidarity in the wake of these attacks.”

The message sent by the Vatican secretary of state ended by saying, “Commending those who have died to the loving mercy of Almighty God, Pope Francis invokes the divine blessings of comfort and strength upon the nation.”

Meanwhile, Muslim civil rights and advocacy organizations in the USA have issued press releases mourning the deaths of more than 40 worshipers gunned down in terror attacks on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, during prayers on Friday, and condemned the apparent anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant hate that motivated the attacks and urged mosques in the United States and worldwide to step up security measures.

The white supremacist author of the manifesto called himself a supporter of President Donald Trump, who he sees “as a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose.”

There has been an unprecedented spike in bigotry targeting American Muslims, immigrants, and members of other minority groups since the election of Donald Trump as president and has repeatedly expressed concern about Islamophobic, white supremacist and racist Trump administration policies and appointments.

Mosques and other Islamic institutions should take measures to protect the safety of people visiting places of worship. This is applicable to all institutions, regardless of the organizational mission. (See: What to do during an active shooting)

The white supremacist terrorist issued a 73 page manifesto justifying his massacre. In this he praised President Donald Trump. The manifesto published in a question and answer form asked the following:

“Were/are you a supporter of Donald Trump? The response: Sure, as a symbol of renewed white identify and common purpose? As a policymaker and leader? Dear God no.”

The manifesto has been removed from the website. The terrorist in 73 pages talked about American conservative commentator Candace Owens and says, “Yes the person that had influenced me above all is Candace Owens. Each time she spoke I was stunned by her insights and her own views helped me further and further into the belief of violence over weakness. Thus, I will have to disavow some of her beliefs, the extreme actions she calls for are too much even for my tastes.”

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