30 January, 2009

Madrasa certificates on a par with those issued by the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE)

The Hindu, 21st January, 2009

NEW DELHI: In a bid to mainstream madrasa education, the government has decided to place madrasa certificates on a par with those issued by the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) and affiliates of the Council of Board of School Education in India (COBSE).

This was announced here on Tuesday by Union Minister for Human Resource Development Arjun Singh while inaugurating the annual conference of the State Minorities Commissions.

As for the contentious issue of setting up a Central Madrassa Board, the Minister said it was still under consideration.

Mr. Singh said he had approved the recommendations of the CBSE and the COBSE to provide Madrasa certification equivalence with other school education boards. This decision, he added, would make pass-outs from madrasas eligible for jobs under the government of India.

Most State education boards and the Council for The Indian School Certificate Examinations are members of the COBSE, which is a voluntary association of school education boards from across the country.

Addressing the gathering, Vice-President Hamid Ansari said the government should consider equipping the National Commission for Minorities with the instrumentality of investigation of the type given to the National Human Rights Commission and the Scheduled Castes Commission. Likewise, he suggested that the option of legislation similar to the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 should be explored for minorities.

16 January, 2009

Marad carnage: 62 people get life sentence

Times of India, 16th January, 2009

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: A special court in Kerala's Kozhikode district on Thursday sentenced 62 people to life imprisonment for the communal killing of nine people in coastal village of Marad more than five years ago.

On May 2, 2003, nine people eight fishermen and one of the attackers were killed in Marad. The attackers came from the sea under the cover of night, hacked the fishermen who were sleeping on the beach and escaped.

Additional sessions judge (special court) Babu Mathew P Joseph also sentenced one person Abdul Latheef, who was the secretary of the local Juma Masjid committee to five years' imprisonment for misusing a place of worship. The judge said the case didn't fall under the category of rarest of rare crime, hence life sentence was the most appropriate.

The court had on December 27, 2008, convicted 63 of the 139 accused in the case.

Though a one-man judicial commission hinted at an international conspiracy behind the incident, the prosecution couldn't prove this in court. Although the commission headed by district judge Thomas P Joseph recommended a CBI probe into the matter, political interference ensured that this didn't happen. The panel had hinted at the role of some Muslim League leaders in the carnage.

The panel said police botched the case and planted fake leads. The then state government headed by A K Antony had refused to order a CBI probe. The Left, then in the Opposition, didn't favour a CBI inquiry either.

Terming Antony's refusal to hand over the case to the CBI as "unjustified'', it said, "The failure of the Crime Branch CID to investigate into the larger conspiracy involving other forces, source of all weapons and the source of the large funding in the planning and execution of the massacre at Marad beach on May 2, 2003 is quite suspicious and disturbing.''

According to the prosecution, the massacre was a revenge for the 2002 violence in Marad in which three Muslims and two Hindus were killed over a minor altercation.

The commission blamed some bureacrats and politicians for their alleged role in the communal carnage. It especially pointed at the role of the then district collector T O Sooraj. He had taken control of the Marad Juma Masjid soon after the clashes following information that some of the accused were hiding there. Police recovered a huge cache of arms from the mosque. The collector allegedly allowed Muslim League MP E Ahmed, now MoS for external affairs, to enter the mosque.

Also Visit: Marad Hindu Massacre

09 January, 2009

A vaccine against terrorism - inter-faith harmony

by M. Rajaque Rahman

One thing for which the world would like to forget 2008 is the rise of fanaticism and religious terrorism. Though the world has lived with terror for years, it became more pronounced in 2008 with acts of terror linked to religion or belief system. The perpetrators of the Mumbai carnage targeted Jews for their faith.

It's a tragedy that religion, which has been the source of superior virtues such as honesty, love, compassion, justice and peace, is being used as a motivation to spread terror and kill innocents.

Though motives and reasons vary from attack to attack, religious terrorism runs on the fuel derived from a misplaced belief that 'my way is the only way' and it's God's ordained duty to take up arms against those who have gone astray.

What can prevent fanaticism and religious terrorism in the New Year? Fortunately, there is light at the end of the tunnel as religious leaders are coming out against terrorism and pushing for inter-faith harmony.

In November, over 6,000 Muslim clerics gathered in Hyderabad to denounce religious terrorism and tell the world that there is no place for extremism in Islam. Earlier, the orthodox Islamic seminary Darul Uloom at Deoband issued a fatwa against terrorism. More importantly, leaders from other religions were roped in for the Hyderabad meeting of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind. A positive signal to unitedly fight terrorism is being sent to the larger community.

Taking the call for inter-faith harmony a step further, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar of Art of Living, who was chief guest at the gathering of the most influential body of Muslim clerics in India, offered to work with them to isolate fanatical elements abetting terrorism.

A month later, over 500 imams and rabbis gathered in far away Paris for the 3rd World Congress of Imams and Rabbis for Peace where they searched for ways to resolve differences between Islam and Judaism, the main cause of violence and conflict in the Middle East.

These events may not immediately make religious fanatics desist from doing what they are doing in the name of religion. Yet they represent a serious attempt to find an alternative solution to religious terrorism.

While religion seeks to bring uniformity in a multi-faceted world, the goal of spirituality is to celebrate the diversity. To save the world from this pitfall of religion, the time has come to spiritualise religion.

One of the most notable aspects of contemporary spirituality has been its accent on educating people to a proper understanding of religion.

This is vital as the wrong understanding of the verses of scripture has caused upheaval and is used to justify narrow-mindedness. Religious terror arises when someone reduces his or her identity to a single affiliation based on a religion and a sense of victimisation.

The events of the last few years have shown that stringent laws and rules of society can go only so far in containing fanaticism in a society that loses spiritual values. The approach of offering spirituality as the only sensible response to terrorism addresses the problem at its roots.

Terrorism stems from wrong ideas and the struggle against it should be fought on the level of ideas. It's essential that people's consciences against terror are enlisted as a vital arsenal in the fight against it. For this, a mass spiritual awakening is imperative.

Spirituality nourishes the human values of compassion, love, caring, sharing and acceptance and honours the values found in all religions. This explains why spiritually-evolved people have never been at odds.

The time has come for people of all faiths to unite against terror and educate people against misinterpretation and misuse of religion. This can happen only when people are made to realise that God loves variety and diversity and that many different schools of thought exist in this world. This can happen only when people remember that truth is multi-dimensional.

(M. Rajaque Rahman is a volunteer at the Art of Living Foundation and can be reached at rajaque@gmail.com)