FaithWorld

Hindu and Muslim Bollywood stars urge calm before Indian mosque verdict

priyanka002It’s a sign of how explosive the Ayodhya mosque verdict in India could be that several Hindu and Muslim film stars in Bollywood have issued a public appeal for calm once the decision is announced. As we’ve posted here on FaithWorld, an Indian court is due to announce on Thursday whether Hindus or Muslims own land around the Babri mosque, which Hindu nationalists demolished in 1992. The Hindu-Muslim riots that followed killed some 2,000 people. (Image: Priyanka Chopra in screengrab from ANI/Reuters video)

Bollywood, the Bombay (now Mumbai)-based Hindi-language film industry, walks a tightrope in making mass-audience films in what may be the most religiously diverse country in the world. Some of the most popular Bollywood stars are Muslim, although the majority of viewers are Hindu (Muslims make up 13% of the Indian population). Like the actors and actresses in this appeal, many of them publicly work, play and love (see here) across the religious divide. But tensions like those after the Ayodhya mosque riots — including riots in Mumbai itself — have left their scars. Some Muslim writers (see here and here) say suspicion of Muslims is a recurring theme in Bollywood films.

farhanIn the video below, the stars mostly speak in Hindi sprinkled with occasional English words. That’s nothing unusual and can be useful as well. For example, when actress and former Miss World Priyanka Chopra says (at 00:48) that “in our country all religions have been living together for so long…”, she uses the English word “religion.” That was a neutral alternative to local words she might have used with either a Hindu (dharma) or Muslim (din) background. (Image: Screengrab of Farhan Akhtar from ANI/Reuters video)

The other speaker, actor-director Farhan Akhtar, urged the media not to “sensationalise” the news of the verdict and switched to English for the rest of his message.

Ranbir Kapoor, Ajay Devgan, Farhan Akhtar, Zayed Khan, Anil Kapoor and Priyanka Chopra cooperated with Mumbai Police for the appeal, delivered last Thursday evening when the verdict was originally expected the following day. The national release of  “Anjaana, Anjaani,” a romantic film starring Ranbir Kapoor and Priyanka Chopra, has been put off until Oct. 1 to avoid opening during any tensions.

Indian court to rule on Ayodhya mosque row on Thursday

ayodhyaAn Indian court will rule on Thursday whether Hindus or Muslims own land around a demolished mosque in northern India, a judgment haunted by memories of 1992 riots that killed some 2,000 people.

Those riots were some of the country’s worst religious violence since Partition in 1947 and a verdict on the case may spark more disturbances between India’s majority Hindus and minority Muslims. (Photo: Hindu militants demolish the disputed mosque in Ayodhya, December 6, 1992/Sunil Malhotra)

The case over the 16th century Babri mosque in northern Uttar Pradesh state’s Ayodhya town is one of the biggest security challenges in India this year, along with a Maoist insurgency and a Kashmiri separatist rebellion, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has said.

Indian Supreme Court orders Ayodhya mosque verdict postponed

ayodhya 2 (Photo: Rapid Action Forces personnel patrol in Ayodhya, September 22, 2010/Adnan Abidi)

The Indian Supreme Court on Thursday ordered the Allahabad High Court to delay a potentially explosive verdict on whether Hindus or Muslims own land around the Babri mosque in Ayodhya.

The Supreme Court’s decision on Thursday came after an appeal to the stay on the judgment, saying the matter could be settled out of court. The Supreme Court will meet on Sept. 28 to decide on the appeal and commentators said the date of the actual verdict by the high court — originally due on Friday — was now unclear.

The central government has been on alert for any fallout from the verdict, appealing for calm. It banned public meetings in the state and stopped all bulk mobile text messages since they could be used to spread rumours and plan riots.

India bans bulk text messages before Ayodhya mosque verdict

ayodhya 1 (Photo: Indian policemen patrol in Ayodhya, September 23, 2010/Adnan Abidi)

India has banned bulk mobile text messaging for three days to prevent the spreading of rumours and religious extremism as authorities prepare for a potentially explosive court verdict between Muslims and Hindus.

A high court will rule on Friday whether Hindus or Muslims own land around a demolished mosque in northern India, a judgment haunted by memories of 1992 riots, when some 2000 were killed. It was one of the worst outbreaks communal violence since the partition in 1947.

The government statement gave no reasons for the order, but a senior security official with knowledge of the order cited security reasons before the court verdict.

Ghost of Hindu-Muslim riots haunts upcoming Babri mosque verdict in India

ayodhyaA court will rule on Friday whether Hindus or Muslims own land around the demolished Babri mosque in Ayodhya, a judgement haunted by memories of a 1992 riot, some of the country’s worst violence since the partition.

The case over the 16th century Babri mosque in Uttar Pradesh is one of the biggest security challenges in India this year, along with a Maoist insurgency and a Kashmiri separatist rebellion, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has said. (Photo: Hindu militants demolish the disputed mosque in Ayodhya, December 6, 1992/Sunil Malhotra)

The verdict could prove a major political quandary for the government led by the Congress Party, a left-of-centre party with secular roots. A verdict in favour of the Hindus would force the government to uphold the verdict, making it unpopular with Muslims, a key vote bloc. A ruling for the Muslims would mean the government would have to push Hindu groups out of the site, a political minefield.

President Karzai votes for female Hindu candidate in Afghan election: sources

karzaiAfghan President Hamid Karzai chose a female, Hindu candidate when he voted in Saturday’s parliamentary election, two palace officials close to him said. Just two Hindu candidates were on the list of about 600 vying for parliamentary seats in the Afghan capital. Karzai’s choice could annoy supporters in deeply conservative, Muslim Afghanistan. (Photo: President Karzai casts his vote in Kabul September 18, 2010/Andrew Biraj)

His backers include powerful ex-warlords who were fielding their own candidates and religious conservatives who are opposed to female politicians and unlikely to be happy Karzai is backing a non-Muslim.

“It was Anar Kali Honaryar,” one palace official told Reuters, giving the name of a female activist who largely relied on Muslim supporters during her campaigning.

Malaysia fines Muslims for brandishing cow’s head in Hindu temple protest

MALAYSIA-POLITICS/TENSIONS (Photo: Protesters stomp on cow’s head, 28 Aug 2009/Samsul Said)

A Malaysian court has sentenced a Muslim to a week in jail and fined 11 others for a brandishing a cow’s head during a protest against the construction of a Hindu temple.

Critics said the light sentences on Tuesday may further strain race relations between Muslims, who make up the majority of the country’s 28 million population, and minority Hindus and Christians who complain of discrimination.

“Going ahead, this will become a political issue for the country’s minorities and further reinforce their unhappiness,” said James Chin, a politics professor at Monash University in Kuala Lumpur.

Hindu party BJP wants beef ban at 2010 Commonwealth Games in India

gamesThe Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the main opposition party in the Indian parliament, wants to ban beef from the menu at this year’s Commonwealth Games in New Dehli on Oct. 3-14 to showcase the country’s “cultural values and age-old traditions”.

The cow is worshipped in India and and a majority of Hindus do not eat beef. The slaughter of cattle is also banned in several states. (Photo: The New Delhi Commonwealth Games 2010 mascot in New Delhi, October 3, 2009/Parth Sanyal)

Rajnath Singh, a senior member of the BJP, demanded the ban in a letter to the organising committee of the  Games, the DNA newspaper reported on Thursday.  “Cow is considered sacred in India. This thought has been integral to our cultural ethos for ages,” the paper quoted from the former BJP president’s letter.

Afghan Hindus and Sikhs grapple with uncertain future

kabul view (Photo: Kabul, December 30, 2009/Marko Djurica)

They thrived long before the arrival of Islam in the seventh century and for a long time dominated the country’s economy, but Sikh and Hindu Afghans now find themselves struggling for survival.

“We have no shelter, no land and no authority,” says Awtar Singh, a senator and the only non-Muslim voice in Afghanistan’s parliament. “No one in the government listens to us, but we have to be patient, because we have no other options,” says the 47-year-old Sikh.

In a brief idyll in 1992, after the fall of the Moscow backed-government but before civil war erupted, there were around 200,000 Hindus and Sikhs in Afghanistan compared with around just a few thousand today.

In season of optimism, Kashmiri Hindus dream of returning home

kashmirTwo decades after they were forced to flee Kashmir, thousands of Hindu Pandits seek to return to their ancestral homeland, their hopes lifted by a fall in Islamist rebel attacks against New Delhi’s rule. (Photo: Kashmiri Pandits perform prayers during an annual Hindu festival at a shrine in Khirbhawani, June 19, 2010/Danish Ismail)

Exiled Pandits gathered Saturday by the green chinar trees and sparkling streams at the Khirbhawani shrine for an annual festival, chanting hymns to the goddess of peace who is the deity in this holy spot 30 km east of Srinagar.

“My motherland is regaining its peace and beauty, I can feel it. I feel the time has come to return and live here with Muslim brethren,” 52-year-old Ravinder Sadhu, a migrant who lives with his family in the western Indian city of Pune, told Reuters.