Friday, August 23, 2013

Rape is a Norm in India

And yet another 23-year-old girl was gang-raped in Bombay, India on August 22.
In 2010, Indian police recorded some 22172 cases of rape against women nationwide, compared with 84767 cases in the United States. While the US leads India in reported rape by a margin of 25 rapes per 100,000 reported cases, India is described as the rape capital of the world for the simple reason of under reporting.
India is a highly sexually perverted society as a child is exposed to sexual abuse from the very childhood. Boys, and girls, as young as five or even under, face constant sexual abuse at the hands of their immediate family members or friends of the family. Hardly anyone complains about them. Once they go to school, they face another round of sexual assault at the hands of their elders. In religious institutions and seminaries, regardless of their religious orientation, the situation is even worst. Not many children living in boarding houses may escape sexual assault sometime during their stay. Once they grow older and go to colleges, sexual assault increases and the victims exposed to it from their childhood feel ashamed to report it or talk about it. Gang rape, date rape, forced consent rape, deceptive rape, half rape, quarter rape are all common.
India is a misogynist society. Women, by and large, are often seemed to be hierarchically inferior to men. They are considered entirely subservient to men: a girl is governed by her father, a married woman by her husband, and a widow by her sons. Women are also depicted as being impure because they menstruate.
Women in classical religious texts are thus often perceived to be inferior beings, yet there are also images of women, for instance, in Hinduism, in the form of various goddesses, that is decidedly more positive. But it is the image of an inferior, submissive and a subservient woman that prevails the popular culture.
You just need to sit in a male-only gathering and listen to the discussion on women. Regardless of the background of the people in the gatherings, women and their sexuality are often subjects of usual vulgar discussions and no one is safe from the eyes of lecherous. No wonder, India strictly followed the practice of veiling women and still follows it in rural areas. Exposure of female flesh is an obvious reason for sexual arousal and masturbation in public is not uncommon even in buses and trains..
Strict laws are needed. But those who apply and implement these laws are men. Religious teachings focusing on the dignity of women are needed, but those claiming to be religious often violate that dignity first. It is a pathetic situation.
Seemingly, the age of the internet has taken the prevailing perversion to a new peak.  Most seem to be influenced by the culture created by pornography. In this situation, women find them totally helpless and at the mercy of perverted men. Many feel intimidated to speak up of the abuses they experience in their daily life. Many are afraid of being blamed. Perhaps, in this situation, those who veil themselves might find safer. But how would anyone guarantee their safety in places like homes, schools or colleges, which are usually considered safe? Perhaps, we need to look at our educational system, at our religious teachings and at our male dominant ethos that prepares the ground for assault and abuses on women and children.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Is Islam the Priority of Muslims?

Is Islam really the priority of Muslims? Is Muslim leadership really concerned about justice? And does the Muslim world really care for human life? Well, these questions can be raised in almost every religious community? Even in a non-religious community, they are valid.
Egypt saw the massacre through gunfire. Then Syria witnessed the killing through chemical weapons. Afghanistan has been witnessing it daily. Iraq is not behind. Israel has been inflicting death and destruction on the Palestinians. Somalia is volatile. Ethiopia and Thailand are experiencing increased violence and in Pakistan, the state and people have killed more citizens than killed by enemies in wars.
If only 10 percent of the revenue and aid money spent in supporting the armies in the Muslim world is spent on raising the standard of living through education, the situation would have been different today. But that is a different story.
If you read the statements of Muslim organizations and leadership you would easily conclude that they are concerned about justice.
If you hear the speeches of Muslim religious leaders, you would conclude they have the strongest and loudest voices in defense of Islam.
And if you talk to Muslim intellectuals you would be amazed at their commitment to human life and dignity.
So why are things not changing? Why are Muslims so ineffective? Why are Muslims so impatient?
The answers are not difficult to find out.
1.      Sincerity is not a good replacement of effective and efficient strategies.
2.      Dedication and commitment are not substitutes for preparations and planning.
3.      Words may stir our souls, but they do not cause change unless we act upon them.
4.      Scattered voices create noises, but voices in unison create a symphony.
1.1 Every Muslim is sincere in his or her understanding of Islam; there is no mechanism to detect an insincere heart. Every judgment is subjective. The only who knows his insincerity in our human world is the one who is insincere. However, we as a community lacks the skills to put our sincerity in their action. We want every Muslim to act in accordance with our understanding of Islam, yet we fail to develop a mechanism and a civil and peaceful method to communicate our viewpoint. We often resort to violence and defeat the very purpose of our sincere thought.
2.1 Muslim organizations want to change the world, their world in countries where they are active. Yet they are not prepared to plan for this change. They are still not clear what kind of society they want to create and how would they create it. They are not clear about an education system that would prepare the people for the future. Moreover, they have not provided skills to their people to transform their rhetoric into reality. They want to build a just society, yet, they often do violate the principles of justice when it comes to people of other religion or minorities, etc. They are selective in their tears.
3.1 Every Muslim organization and leader talks about unity. Yet few are willing to develop strategies to create unity at a practical level. They all are working for the same goal: to find a respectable status for Muslims and they are even doing identical work, yet they are not willing to come together to coordinate and cooperate.
4. Every one of them is saying the same thing and then squabbling over who said it first. They even fail to recognize the simple fact that a 100-watt bulb is much stronger than a zero watt bulb, even though both have their place in mitigating the impact of darkness.
So what needs to be done at least in America where Muslims are least sufferings the excruciating pains, compared with the Muslims all over the world?
a.       Muslim leadership should show more responsibility towards the people it claims to represent. They should develop effective lines of communication among them. They should communicate with each other on a structured and regular basis on issues Muslims are facing in the US and elsewhere.
b.      They should speak with one voice on issues pertaining to justice, human rights, and human dignity even if the voices challenge the behavior of some of the Muslim groups as well. If they have a national and regional board to coordinate their actions, this purpose can easily be achieved.
c.       At the time of any serious crisis anywhere in the Muslim world, they should release a position paper for our elected officials and public opinion makers to inform them of their perspectives and facts on the situation. This again can be coordinated through a centralized board.
d.       Through their coordinated efforts, they should try to educate their public representatives through concerted lobbying in Washington and States depending on the issue itself. For instance, if they are against the US Aid to Israel and Egypt, they should come up with a position paper and share it as a united voice of Muslim Americans with those who run the affairs of the country.
e.       In matters of relief fund raising, they should develop a national strategy to pool their resources to create jobs and opportunities in places where they want to do the relief work.
f.       This cooperation can even be established at the grassroots levels. Each community can create a network among its existing institutions and organizations and coordinate the fund raising events and other program to effectively use the resources.
The Muslim community has the human and material resources. It even has leaders who can move the people to action. It simply needs a mechanism through which its scattered resources can be effectively channelized for the betterment of people. It is achievable, but there is only one major hurdle, a hurdle that has always been there in all times and all situations. It is our own ego. The moment we can subdue it, we can see a different result for us and our world. However, the rhetoric that we hear from everywhere suggests that even those who are asking us to subdue our egos are victims of their own egos.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Egypt is Burning

The world, in general, has condemned the massacre the brutal Egyptian security forces committed against its own people. Shamelessly, the Egyptian ambassadors around the world have tried to justify the action by saying that the killing was necessary. What else can one expect from those who are paid to defend the killers?
Nothing justifies the killing of peaceful citizens. The barbarism showed by the Egyptian security forces cannot be condoned by any civilized human being. Even beasts show some mercy to their opponents. Without prosecuting those responsible for killing the innocents, the blood of the victims will never dry. Egyptian military and government have lost legitimacy to rule over the country, hence the criminals should be brought to justice under the international court of justice. This is the only way to restore decency and civility in Egyptian politics.
There are individuals and groups who have been trying to diffuse the situation and confuse people by making three specific arguments.
1. If the democracy is restored in Egypt, and Morsi is brought back to power, al-Qaeda will become strong and civil liberties of people will be curtailed
2. The Muslim Brotherhood is responsible for the massacre as they used children and women as a human shield.
3. The Muslim Brotherhood is lying about the number of dead.
Egyptians hard-fought democracy and the will of the people must be respected. Even if the argument that Morsi was not a good administrator and his government was not inclusive, he was still legitimately elected to run the country. Those opposed to him should have used democratic methods to bring him down. They should have campaigned for his recall through the ballot. They did not use it. Rather the opposition leadership conspired with the army to stage a coup. For almost four decades Egyptians were denied civil liberties, yet they managed to overthrow the Mubarak regime. There is no reason to believe that they would not have done the same with Morsi through democratic means. I do believe that Morsi's policies were inept, his style of management was incompetent and his approach to minorities was questionable, yet, the change should have come through the ballot and not through the barrel of the guns. The argument that al-Qaeda was gaining ground in Egypt during Morsi's period is an absurd argument that has no basis in facts. Al-Qaeda is as much an enemy of the Muslim Brotherhood as it is an enemy of the west.
The argument that the Muslim Brotherhood used children and women as the shield is also absurd. Women are as much part of the democratic process as men are. Their presence in the streets in defense of democracy speaks volumes of the change that has taken place in Egypt since the ouster of Mubarak. One cannot expect parents to leave their children unattended at home if they were participating in the campaign to restore democracy. The security forces should have shown extra caution while dealing with the situation. Rather than firing live bullets on unarmed and innocent civilians, they should have left the demonstrators to stay where they were. It is their right to demand justice in a peaceful manner. After all, the army was not dealing with the enemies of the state. It was dealing with its own people who are responsible for its continuity and sustenance. But the beastly manner in which the army acted, it has shown that it has no regard for civil liberties and is treating its own citizens as enemies.
The third argument about the number of dead is even more ridiculous. Every human life is sacred and it must be protected. Even the killing of one person deserves to be mourned. The Egyptian army has revealed its Mubarak era criminal nature and contempt for the sacred by committing a bloodbath and burning down a Masjid.
The people supporting the military should take this as a sign that the security forces will take similar action against anyone who does not toe the line of the army. It is this arrogance of power that has no place in the modern world. But the way to deal with such an element is through the peaceful, non-violent method. The Muslim Brotherhood supporters have every right to organize peaceful, non-violent marches and if they commit any act of violence against anyone, then the security forces and the judiciary have the authority to prosecute them, but deny them the right to voice their views openly and kill innocent people is tyranny and a crime against humanity.