FaithWorld

from India Insight:

No anti-Muslim ideology in party – BJP’s Anurag Thakur

Many people see Anurag Thakur, 39, as the youthful face of the Bharatiya Janata Party, the main opposition to the Congress party-led government and the party of prime ministerial hopeful Narendra Modi. He is the son of the former chief minister of Himachal Pradesh, and was named one of the World Economic Forum’s global young leaders this year.

In an interview with Reuters, Thakur spoke about Modi’s popularity as well as criticisms levelled against him. He also spoke about internal problems at the BJP, the party’s perceptions among Muslims, Congress PM contender Rahul Gandhi and more.

Here are excerpts from an interview:

Q: The BJP has attacked Congress over many issues - price rise and corruption being the biggest. Do you think these problems will be solved if Narendra Modi comes to power?
A: Today, when the country wants someone who has experience, and can deliver, 65 percent people of the country want Modi as the PM. During NDA regime, there was hardly any price rise. There were no charges of corruption against Atal Bihari Vajpayee and his government colleagues.

Q: But the BJP chief at the time, Bangaru Laxman, faced corruption charges.
A: I think that issue has been taken care of by the judiciary. Now he is no more with us, I don’t want to question about that.

Q: Why do you think young people will vote for Modi and not for Rahul Gandhi, who is often pegged as a youth icon?
A: Youth is upset with the Congress. They know if the country has to survive, there should be a change in government. Rahul Gandhi can’t be a youth icon only if the Congress projects him like that. People have to decide. You have to make your way into the hearts of youth, and Modi stays there. Gandhi has failed to ask any question (in Parliament) in last five years, his attendance is only 40 percent, and he has participated in only two debates.

Tunisian secularists nervous over slow change, concerned about Islamists

(Protests in Tunis July 7, 2011 after Islamists attacked a cinema to protest a controversial film called "Neither God nor master"/Zoubeir Souissi)

Secularists hope Tunisia’s gradual approach for moving to an open political system from a police state will help box in Islamists but it has created a political and security vacuum that could end up helping them. Tunisians forced out president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali via street protests in December and January, and over 90 political parties have sprung up in the newly freed public space.

Secular parties, policy-makers and Western powers are preparing for a future where the leading Islamist party Ennahda, driven abroad and underground by Ben Ali, is a key force in the North African country but working out how to limit its impact.

U.S. shifts to closer contact with Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood

(U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at a news conference in Budapest June 30, 2011/Bernadett Szabo)

The United States will resume limited contacts with Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton confirmed on Thursday, saying it was in Washington’s interests to deal with parties committed to non-violent politics. While Clinton portrayed the administration’s decision as a continuation of an earlier policy, it reflects a subtle shift in that U.S. officials will be able to deal directly with officials of the Islamist movement who are not members of parliament.

The move, first reported by Reuters on Wednesday, is likely to upset Israel and its U.S. supporters who have deep misgivings about the Brotherhood, a group founded in 1928 that seeks to promote its conservative vision of Islam in society. Under president Hosni Mubarak, a key U.S. ally, the Brotherhood was formally banned, but since the ousting of the secular former general by a popular uprising in February, the Islamists are seen as a major force in forthcoming elections.

U.S. to resume formal Muslim Brotherhood contacts, official says

(The skyline of Washington DCl, May 22, 2009/Larry Downing)

The United States has decided to resume formal contacts with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, a senior U.S. official said, in a step that reflects the Islamist group’s growing political weight but that is almost certain to upset Israel and its U.S. backers.  “The political landscape in Egypt has changed, and is changing,” said the senior official, who spokeon Wednesday on condition of anonymity. “It is in our interests to engage with all of the parties that are competing for parliament or the presidency.”

The official sought to portray the shift as a subtle evolution rather than a dramatic change in Washington’s stance toward the Brotherhood, a group founded in 1928 that seeks to promote its conservative vision of Islam in society. Under the previous policy, U.S. diplomats were allowed to deal with Brotherhood members of parliament who had won seats as independents — a diplomatic fiction that allowed them to keep lines of communication open.

Where U.S. diplomats previously dealt only with group members in their role as parliamentarians, a policy the official said had been in place since 2006, they will now deal directly with low-level Brotherhood party officials.

Egypt’s Brotherhood faces sterner critics, internal rifts

(Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohammed Badie in Cairo, April 30, 2011/Mohamed Abd El Ghany)

In the weeks after Hosni Mubarak was ousted, Egyptian television channels revelled in their new freedoms by giving airtime to the formerly banned Muslim Brotherhood, offering them an open platform to speak.  Members of the Brotherhood, Egypt’s best organised political group, are still regular guests. But the tone has changed. Soft-ball questioning has given way to rigorous interrogation about their plans and criticism of their public statements.

“You are not the guardians of the faith alone. No one gave you such a power,” writer Khaled Montasser told one Brotherhood member and former member of parliament, Sobhi Saleh.

Egypt’s Islamists explore electoral deal with liberals

(Mohamed Mursi, head of the Muslim Brotherhood's newly formed Justice and Freedom Party, gestures during an interview with Reuters in Cairo, May 28, 2011/Mohamed Abd El-Ghany)

Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood is exploring an alliance with 17 liberal and other parties that could lead to electoral cooperation, in an apparent move to allay liberal concerns about the Islamist group’s goals.

The Brotherhood, Egypt’s most organised political force, is widely seen as best prepared for the September parliamentary election as many secular parties struggle to get ready for the first free vote since President Hosni Mubarak’s overthrow.

Vague agenda fuels doubts over real aims of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood

(The Sphinx at the great pyramids on the outskirts of Cairo, February 25, 2011/Amr Abdallah Dalsh)

Few things better sum up Egypt’s uncharted future than the vague policy platform of the Muslim Brotherhood, a long-repressed Islamist movement poised to become a decisive force in mainstream politics. With the country’s military rulers reluctant to push through major reforms without a popular mandate, all eyes are on the emerging political class set free by the overthrow in February of veteran leader Hosni Mubarak.

None is likely to mobilise as much grassroots support as the Brotherhood, which has won the sympathy of millions of poor Egyptians by railing against venal politicians and campaigning for an Islamic state free of corruption. But with parliamentary elections looming, the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice party has sketched only the broadest outline of a manifesto. A pledge to do nothing that might harm Egypt’s floundering economy has barely reassured nervous investors.

Egypt’s divided Muslim Brotherhood expels presidential hopeful

(Supporters at the new headquarter of the newly-formed Muslim Brotherhood Party during a news conference in Cairo, April 30, 2011/Mohamed Abd El Ghany)

Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood has expelled a senior member for saying he would run for president in defiance of the group’s decision not to seek the post vacant since the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak in February.

The Brotherhood announced in April that its newly formed “Freedom and Justice” party would contest up to half the seats in a parliamentary election in September but would not field a candidate for the presidency to avoid dominating power. But Abdel Moneim Abul Futuh said in May he would run as an independent in a presidential vote expected to take place before the end of the year as an independent.

Losers all around in French Muslim council election

(Mohamed Moussaoui (4th R), President of the French Muslim council, speaks to the media after a meeting at the prime minister's office in Paris April 26, 2010. UOIF leader Fouad Alaoui is second from the right in the light suit//Gonzalo Fuentes)

 

Even the winner risks ending up among the losers in France’s Muslim council election on Sunday as the organisation meant to represent Islam here is torn apart by rivalries, boycotts and bitter attacks. Incumbent Mohammed Moussaoui will be returned as head of the French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM), but a boycott by the two rival Muslim federations competing with his Rally of French Muslims (RMF) group makes the victory a hollow one.

The campaign has also fuelled the ethnic tensions crippling French Islam, which is split among factions backed by Algeria, Morocco and Turkey and others who oppose any meddling from the Muslim countries that they or their forefathers left behind.

As Turkey votes, concern this time focuses on democracy, not theocracy

(A view shows buildings plastered with Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's election campaign posters, as a ferry leaves Eminonu pier in Istanbul June 10, 2011/Murad Sezer)

The last time Turks voted in a general election in 2007, opponents feared the socially conservative ruling party was turning Turkey into an Iran-style Islamic state. With voters on Sunday expected to keep Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s AK Party in office for a third straight term, critics and some analysts now worry about that less but fear that the future course of democracy may be at stake.

A rising power with a vibrant, free economy and a U.S. ally that aspires to join the European Union, Turkey is held up as an example of marrying Islam and democracy and has been an oasis of stability in a region convulsed by “Arab Spring” uprisings. AK has also overseen the most stable and prosperous period of Turkey’s history with market-friendly reforms, and begun membership talks with the EU while opening new markets in Asia, the Middle East and Africa.