Introduction to 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.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Challenging Growing Wahabism in Kashmir

Two (of the many) recent commentaries written by valley journalists to condemn the growing unKashmiri culture in the valley. Mehmood's is generous to label its perpetuators as "compulsive representatives of Islam"

(Mr. Mehmood-ur-Rashid, 40, was born in Srinagar. He graduated from the Amar Singh College, Srinagar. He has been active in journalism for over ten years, and currently works at the Greater Kashmir (GK), having worked in the past at the Rising Kashmir as the Features Editor. The columnist is presently the GK Magazine Editor.)

It Hurts Deep

The person of ‘Grand Mufti’ and his latest fatwa represent the trivialities of present day Kashmir. They can at best produce the revulsive cacophony in the studios of Indian TV channels. And Indian TV channels are the handmaiden of Indian state when it comes to Kashmir. That is the reason why the fatwa of a person who hardly matters to Kashmir’s religious landscape becomes such a grand debate, in fact a ‘national issue’, as one of the wonderful news-actors so fumingly puts it. It is an outright insult for a well-meaning person to engage with such a non- sense; even condemning it would mean contributing to silly. Then why write this column?

My reason for writing this column is deeply personal. I, as a member of the Muslim community, as a part of Muslim civilization, as an ordinary student of Quran, and like millions sharing an emotional bond with the Prophet of Mercy and Knowledge (S.A.W), am deeply hurt when my prophet’s name is invoked in an undesirable context. When Islam gets associated with ignorance and coercion I feel an agonizing twitch in my heart. I could not sleep the whole night when Asiya Andrabi made it look like as if my Prophet – the prophet of Knowledge, Freedom and Mercy (S.A.W) – wanted the group of three little girls to be chased away so mercilessly. I thought my heart was about to explode when my Prophet was portrayed as someone who actually wanted these three little girls to be denounced, the way they were denounced by those who denounced them. Whatever little I know of my religion and my prophet, my heart says that in the kind of an atmosphere created by unknown facebookers, male-moralists, decree-makers, and all the “compulsive representatives of Islam”, the only refuge would be the mercy of my prophet(S.A.W). And this mercy doesn’t exclude those three little girls either.

Music and Islam may be an academic engagement but Prophet and Mercy is not. The two are inseparable, inalienable and indisputable. Misfortune has struck us in the form of unscrupulous brokers of religion, and the “compulsive representatives of Islam”, who so menacingly have barged into the territory of Islam leaving Knowledge, Mercy, Ethics, and Freedom in a state of mourning. My prophet (S.A.W) had nurtured these values with his blood and tears. Seeing the compound of my beloved prophet vandalized this way, I cry in pain. Not for any political or academic reasons, but for this personal pain, I yell out condemnation for those who – knowingly or otherwise – become the reason for people to believe that Islam sands in the way of human freedom or the expressions of art.

Leave aside ‘Grand Mufti’, he hardly matters. But the “compulsive representatives of Islam” is a concern. And what do we mean by that. Just some days back I spent a whole night with some of my friends discussing things that so effortlessly invoke interest in Kashmir. I logged onto to Youtube and opened a video. I had heard the speech earlier as well, and thought fit for the occasion to replay it. This was Ahmed Javed speaking on the topic Nifaz-e-Shariat: Kya, Kiwn aur Kysai (Establishing Sharaiah: What, Why and How), in a function organized by Late Dr Israr Ahmed’s Tanzeem-e-Islami. A brilliant mind equipped with an indescribable command over language, and a harming articulation, Ahmed Javed explains how law, even if it is Islamic, is essentially coercion, if it doesn’t turn into an individual and collective value. To Ahmed Javed, the person of Prophet (S.A.W) is the locale where law becomes ethics and that is why Islam is nothing but the conduct of prophet – Mizaje Rasool (S.A.W). And then he goes on to say that the display of coercion and terror in the name of Islam has nothing to do with Mizaje Rasool. I have never seen Ahmed Javed turn so emotional as when he says that “In the name of establishing Shariah, the way aggressive conduct is nurtured, hardheartedness is displayed, and a lower form of mind is imposed, I shall be committing treason against the Apostle of Allah if I don’t reject it with all the force at my disposal.” He then goes on to identify the forces that he calls as “the compulsive representatives of Islam”, and hammers home the point how they are singularly damaging the image of Islam, and how they are committing disrespect towards the Prophet of Allah – Muhammad - May Peace Be Upon Him. An unending shower of peace from Almighty on our Prophet, the prophet of Mercy, Knowledge and Freedom (S.A.W). He is the Prophet of us all, and our little girls are a part us and no one has the right to negotiate compulsively their relationship with the Prophet (S.A.W). Our little girls have the ability to discover their relationship with the Prophet of Mercy (S.A.W), and no Mufti’s domain it is to broker that relationship.

Last, I feel sorry for Jam’at-e-Islami. Jam’at-e-Islami of Syed Maududi, and in Kashmir, of S’ad-ud-Din. Syed Maududi and S’ad-ud-Din are not just an academic enquiry or a political anxiety for me, they are a part of my emotional being. On seeing this organization come to this pass, I feel hurt. Putting its weight in favour of wily brokers of religion, and contributing to a merciless presentation of Islam I whisper to myself, in a state of disbelief - this can’t be Jama’t e Islami.

Demonizing Kashmiris

Zafar Meraj (Editor-in-chief and Publisher, Kashmir Monitor)

The controversial rock band, while winding up its operations, has literally rocked Kashmir as the issue involving its existence or not, was grossly misused by all and sundry to demean and defame the people of this unfortunate piece of land who otherwise feel very proud of their highly rich cultural heritage. Besides many things, one question that is begging for an answer is as to who were the people that threatened the all girl band? Was it part of the usual games that vested interests in Kashmir have been playing to demonize the people only because they dared to raise their voice against the ill treatment meted out to them by successive regimes? Was it, for that matter, yet another attempt to malign people especially Kashmiri Muslims and to create a sharp divide among different sects and beliefs?

Music and poetry have for centuries been deeply connected with our culture and rich heritage and we have not only some great musicians to our credit but we have the privilege of having introduced some new instruments of music that are now being played worldwide.And also, our culture, our heritage, was never a la male affair but our womenfolk took was actively associated with it and their association was always welcomed. This is not today’s story but dates back to several centuries when the much talked about empowerment of women was not even dreamt by the forefathers of those who now call themselves the torch bearers of ‘civilised society’. The history of Kashmir, that dates back to over 5, 000 years,is witness that women played an important and at times more than equal role in all the spheres of life in Kashmir. When it comes to music, Kashmir has produced legendary women singers, from Malika Pukhraj to Mehmeet Mehmood. And who can forget the luminaries like Habba Khatoon, Arin Maal and Lalded. Women like Raj Begum, Naseem Akhter, Zoon Begum, Aashah Koul, Shamim Dev, Kailash Mehra….. the list is very long…. have earned global name and fame not only for their persons but also to the land they belong to. None raised any finger when these stalwarts would demonstrate their skills and enthrall the listeners and instead they were accorded all the respect and reverence that they really deserved.

In this back ground making an issue of some so called ‘threats’ from some unknown, faceless quarters to the all girl rock band does not make any sense at all. Even as the culture of rock music is something that does not go along with our rich and highly valued cultural heritage, the same has been there for a long time and even the vultures of the so called new cultural order admit that the band had been playing here for quite some time and even taken part in contests. Does not it strengthen the belief that someone for some reason is playing the mischief and in the name of ‘saving culture from fundamentalists’, some people want to demonize our society, our people at large? If that is not the case where does the religion come in when we talk about music?

For God’s sake, where does the ‘sufiana’ tradition come when you talk about playing rock band, a completely westernized affair? Why bring Islam all the time when you talk something about Kashmir, something that does not suit your interests? Irony is that these so called cultural vultures are always keen to find some occasion to malign Islam and Muslims both. And sad part off the story is that some people amongst us, for their petty personal interests are ever ready to feed those whose only job is to malign and defame Kashmir and its people. New theories are brought out; new words are coined, to divide people of Kashmir on the basis of their beliefs. A new term ‘Sufi Islam’ is the latest in this regard which has become a useful stick for everyone to beat the Kashmiri. And who are the people who are running this campaign that goes against our rich ethos, some opportunist bureaucrats who after having ‘earned’ enough, want to become ‘mujawirs’: some paid mullahs who have been trapped by these vested interests and used as ladders. Why does not someone tell these ‘thekaydars’ that there is and only one Islam and that this cannot be categorized as Sufi, Barelvi, Deobandi or Wahabi. And those who do this are in fact the real enemies of Islam and deserve to be shown their place.

Tail piece:
Before issuing ‘fatwa’ against the rock band, could the so called grand Mufti have and his cohorts a look at the local TV channels where young girls are shown dancing to the tunes of Wahab Khar, Ahmad Batwari, Shamas Faqir and other great poets?

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