Introduction to KashmirForum.org Blog

I launched the website and the Blog after having spoken to government officials, political analysts and security experts specializing in South Asian affairs from three continents. The feedback was uniformly consistent. The bottom line is that when Kashmiris are suffering and the world has its own set of priorities, we need to find ways to help each other. We must be realistic, go beyond polemics and demagoguery, and propose innovative ideas that will bring peace, justice and prosperity in all of Jammu and Kashmir.

The author had two reasons to create this blog. First, it was to address the question that was being asked repeatedly, especially, by journalists and other observers in the U.S., U.K., and Canada, inquiring whether the Kashmiri society was concerned about social, cultural and environmental challenges in the valley given that only political upheaval and violence were reported or highlighted by media.

Second, the author has covered the entire spectrum of societal issues and challenges facing Kashmiri people over an 8-year period with the exception of politics given that politics gets all the exposure at the expense of REAL CHALLENGES that will likely result in irreversible degradation in the quality of life and the standard of living for future generations of Kashmiris to come.

The author stopped adding additional material to the Blog once it was felt that most, if not all, concerns, challenges and issues facing the Kashmiri society are cataloged in the Blog. There are over 1900 entries in the Blog and most commentaries include short biographical sketches of authors to bring readers close to the essence of Kashmir. Unfortunately, the 8-year assessment also indicates that neither Kashmiri civil society, nor intellectuals or political leadership have any inclination or enthusiasm in pursuing issues that do not coincide with their vested political agendas. What it means for the future of Kashmiri children and their children is unfathomable. But the evidence is all laid out.

This Blog is a reality check on Kashmir. It is a historical record of how Kashmir lost its way.

Vijay Sazawal, Ph.D.
www.kashmirforum.org

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Moment for Introspection

Rashid believes that recent religious conversions in Kashmir were not coerced and reflect a growing malaise in the society as a whole

Need For an Inward Look

Rashid Ahmad (Kashmir Monitor)

A video posted on social networking website Facebook has become the subject of hot talk in Kashmir these days. The video shows a group of young Kashmiri Muslim boys and girls converting to Christianity. In the 8-minute video, religious sermons of Christian belief are being recited and the converts are taking a dip in an artificial pond to adopt the new faith. Chief Priest CM Khanna is shown leading the conversion process.

The issue is viewed with serious concern in the valley. Kashmir’s grand Mufti Moulana Bashiruddin has summoned Khanna to explain his position before the “Supreme Court of Islamic Shariat”. In the first place chief priest ignored Mufti’s “warrant”. Mufti Bashir issued a fresh ‘warrant’ to Khanna to appear before his court on November 12.

Syed Ali Shah Geelani has also raised his voice against Christian missionaries in Kashmir for “luring na├»ve Muslim boys and girls with money and other incentives to convert to Christianity”.

As the issue is assuming serious overtones, police has registered an FIR under sections 153-A, 295 and 186 of the Ranbir Penal Code to arrest the situation going out of hands. The case has been registered on the basis of allegations that Christian missionaries in Kashmir were encouraging conversions. It is likely to arrest a pastor whose name figured in Grand Mufti’s court.

It is genuinely a matter of great concern that needs immediate attention. But I don’t see any merit in the allegations that this is “forced” conversion. It (video) from all angles looked a voluntary gathering, and the converts appeared to be volunteering for the new faith. So the onus completely lies on us. To accuse and abuse others is simply to shirk responsibility. Christian missionaries are doing what they are supposed to do. They are great servants of their cause and faith.

It should have been the mission of Muslims to reach out to the non-Muslims with the message of Islam. It, in fact, is the fundamental duty of one and all Muslims. “Thus have We made of you an Ummah justly balanced, that ye might be witnesses over the nations, and the Messenger a witness over yourselves’ (2:143). Islamic scholars and commentators of Quran say that this position of standing witness before all mankind on behalf of God amounts to being invested with the leadership of mankind, which in itself is a great honour and a heavy responsibility. Muslims are expected to be able to make known, both in word and deed, the meaning of godliness and righteousness.

To protect and project Islamic faith is not the responsibility of individuals only.

It is rather societal obligation of the overall Muslim community, which, in fact, begins from the home. Parents have the primary responsibility to inculcate Islamic faith and values in their children. In a family it could be a father, mother and other elders that are role models for the younger members. Teachers, religious scholars, Muftis and imams come next. The society in general comes only later.

This is a grim reality that our young boys and girls do find role models neither in their homes nor in mosques or at any other religious chamber and teaching centre.

They know the Grand Mufti, who, on one day, issued fatwa against chief minister Ghulam Nabi Azad to seek repentance (perform Touba) over his remarks on Gandhi’s philosophy (Azad had said Islam secures the hereafter, the Gandhian philosophy of truth and non-violence was apt for success in the contemporary world) but, the next day, they saw the Grand Mufti attending Azad’s Eid Millan without performing the Touba Grand Mufti had asked for.

Again some time later, we heard Grand Mufti banging on the gates of the Prime Minister’s residence to seek audience with him. Dr Manmohan Singh, as reports suggested then, did not find Mufti Sahab worth of spending some minutes with him. He instead asked his advisor to attend the Mufti.

It is a sad irony that religion is not a belief but a profession for most of our Muftis, Imams, Khateeb’s, pirs, scholars and politicians. They practice or follow it only to a level where they can earn their daily livelihood from it. They have opened different counters and put Islam virtually on sale.

I have heard of dozens of parents, who changed their faith, just to get admission for their wards in missionary schools. They follow a pattern. Months before the start of the admission process they begin to visit Church and missionary centres, build connections with the clergy, follow their religious practices and finally seek admissions into their faith. The only aim of reneging Islamic faith is to get admission for their wards in the schools run by the clergy. Children brought up in this atmosphere can be vulnerable to any rather all kinds of temptations.

The video showing conversion is, in fact, a reflection of what we are. We are fickle-minded people, whose faith dither at every charm. Worldly gains are the only attraction for all we do and believe in.Money matters us most. Our social status and caste considerations are determined by our economic position. I know (in fact all of us know) several people who are poor, being cursed as low strata in the society (though Islam strictly rejects caste considerations) for having a particular caste. But at the same time people of the same caste with high economic status are respected as “greats and nobles’.

I know a person who divorced his wife to get married to another woman whose father (in a newspaper advertisement) had promised to pay a particular amount of cash to a person who would marry his daughter.

Some people may call it as “exceptions”. But in a society like ours, it is exceptions that attract attention and make impression like the conversion issue. Generalities do always get ignored.

I do not mean to denigrate and belittle anyone. This is overall picture of our society as a whole. We need to do, both, retrospection and introspection individually as also collectively. The basic fault solely lies with us. Blaming others is simply to run away from the responsibility.

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