FaithWorld

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Comparing Pakistan’s Islamists to India’s Maoists

chhattisgarhOne of the more controversial arguments doing the rounds is the question of whether you can compare Pakistan's Islamist militants to Maoist insurgents in India. Both claim to champion the cause of social justice and have been able to exploit local grievances against poor governance to win support, and both use violence against the state to try to achieve their aims.

The differences are obvious:  the Islamist militants come from the religious right; the Maoists from the far-left. In Pakistan, the militants have become powerful enough to strike at the heart of the country's major cities. In India, the Maoists remain largely confined to the country's interiors, although their influence is spreading through large parts of its rural hinterland.

In Pakistan, the military initially nurtured Islamist militants to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan - with U.S. and Saudi support - and later to fight India in Kashmir. In India, the Maoist movement has grown organically from its origins as a local 1967 uprising by communists over a land dispute in the village of  Naxalbari in West Bengal, from where its followers derive their name as Naxalites.

In Pakistan, the question of whether support for Islamist militants is underpinned by local grievances over social injustice is highly contentious.  Many in Pakistan dismiss the Pakistani Taliban as right-wing ideologues, fired up by an alien religious philosophy imported from the Middle East by al Qaeda, and joined by a motley crew of criminals and thugs bent on the pursuit of pursuit of power and money.

bows and arrowsIn India, even those who oppose the Maoists' violent methods acknowledge that poverty and the alienation of its rural poor - especially among the indigenous tribal people - have contributed to their appeal.  (I have rarely been so powerfully struck by the desolation of hunger than on a trip some years ago to Chhattisgarh, the heartland of the Maoist revolt.  It is a state where deep in the forests you find children with the protruding bellies and vacant eyes of the seriously malnourished, whose fathers use bows-and-arrows to catch animals (see pix).  It also has vast mineral resources which villagers hope might one day make them rich, and which Maoists argue will be exploited by international mining companies.)

from India Insight:

India’s 26/11 – religion no bar

A year ago, after the three-day siege of Mumbai ended and people took to the streets with candles and banners, a group of young Muslim men, carrying a hand-written poster, walked quietly with the surging crowds.

Seeing them, people began to clap spontaneously, applauding their assertion that Islam was a religion of peace, and not terrorism.

Since then, people in Mumbai, which has witnessed some of the worst communal riots in the country in the past, have come together in their grief, crossing barriers erected by politicians in the name of religion.

Indian report raps politicians over Ayodhya mosque destruction

babri1A government-backed inquiry has accused several of India’s top opposition politicians of having a role in the destruction of an ancient mosque in 1992 that triggered some of the country’s worst religious riots. (Photo: Muslim at New Delhi protest, 6 Dec 2005/B Mathur)

The report has sparked political protests from opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which finds itself in even more trouble as it struggles to emerge from internal feuding after an election defeat in May.

Hindu mobs demolished the 16-century Babri Mosque in the north Indian town of Ayodhya, claiming it stood on the birthplace of their god-king Rama. Riots between Hindus and Muslims left hundreds dead across India.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Pakistan’s Lashkar-e-Taiba and the power of religion

Following up on earlier posts here and here about Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), I've been looking closely at the arrest in Chicago on anti-terrorism charges of two men linked to LeT and accused of plotting attacks in Denmark.

Analysts say the Chicago case demonstrates the global reach of the militant group and its ability to plot attacks in India and around the world. The court documents submitted by U.S. authorities also allege that Lashkar-e-Taiba had suggested that attacks on India be given priority over the planned attack in Denmark, highlighting the threat still posed by the group one year after Mumbai.

As discussed in this factbox, analysts cite several reasons for Pakistan's reluctance to dismantle Lashkar-e-Taiba. These include its role in Kashmir and in India-Pakistan rivalry, and popular support for the humanitarian work of its Jamaat ud-Dawa sister organisation. They also cite an unwillingness to create a new enemy right now when Pakistan is already fighting the Pakistani Taliban in Waziristan and facing a wave of reprisal attacks in its cities. Lashkar-e-Taiba is the only Pakistani militant group which is not believed to have been involved in attacking targets within Pakistan itself.

Indian villagers see rare sea turtle as incarnation of God

turtle (Photo: Sea turtle hatchlings make their way to sea in Orissa, 26 April 2008/Sanjib Mukherjee)

Hundreds of poor Hindu villagers in Orissa state in eastern India have refused to hand over a rare sea turtle to authorities, saying it is an incarnation of God. Villagers chanting hymns and carrying garlands, bowls of rice and fruits are pouring in from remote villages to a temple in Kendrapara, a coastal district in Orissa.

Policemen have struggled to control the gathering and have failed to persuade the villagers to give up the sea turtle. “We have asked the villagers to hand it over as it is illegal to confine a turtle, but they are refusing,” said P.K. Behera, a senior government wildlife official.

The turtle is protected in India and anyone found keeping one without permission can be jailed for a year or more and fined. The Indian Coast Guard is patrolling offshore to protect the turtles from fishing trawlers that trap turtles in their fishing nets.

October a busy month for Indian religious festivals

October is a busy month for Indian religious festivals in India. Here are Reuters videos from three of them.

Diwali, the five-day festival of lights, was celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs and Jains across the country with fireworks and prayers. It marks the return of Lord Raama to his kingdom Ayodhya after defeating Ravana, the ruler of Lanka, in the ancient epic Ramayana.

The three-day Chhath Puja, an ancient Hindu festival dedicated to Surya, the chief solar deity, concluded on Sunday with thousands of devotees offering prayers to Sun God across India. Most devotees are married women praying for their families.

from India Insight:

Are Muslims of troubled Kashmir treated unfairly by Indians?

Parvez Rasool, a Kashmiri cricketer, was briefly detained in Bangalore on suspicion of carrying explosives, an incident which triggered anger in the Muslim-dominated Kashmir valley.

This is not an isolated case.

Earlier actor and model Tariq Dar, a Kashmiri Muslim, was mistakenly imprisoned in New Delhi for weeks for having terror links. But Dar was later found innocent.

Delhi University lecturer S.A.R. Geelani, a Kashmiri, was even awarded the death sentence in connection with the 2001 Parliament attack case, but was later released.

Pew maps the Muslim world

The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life just released a demographic study of the Muslim world it says is “the largest project of its kind to date.” Click here http://pewforum.org/docs/?DocID=450 to see the report ”Mapping the Global Muslim Population: A Report on the Size and Distribution of the World’s Muslim Population.”

SAUDI/PILGRIMAGE-ECONOMY/

The report drew on data from 232 countries and territories and involved Pew researchers working with nearly 50 demographers and social scientists around the world. It is certainly a useful reference for anyone interested in the Islamic world. (PHOTO: Hundreds of thousands of Muslims pray inside the Grand Mosque in Mecca Sept. 15, 2009. REUTERS/Susan Baahil)

Among its highlights:

from India Insight:

Are displaced Kashmiri Hindus returning to their homeland?

Tens of thousands of Kashmiri Hindus, locally known as Pandits, fled their ancestral homes in droves 20 years ago after a bloody rebellion broke out against New Delhi’s rule in India's only Muslim-majority state.

Now encouraged by the sharp decline in rebel violence across the Himalayan region, authorities have formally launched plans to help Pandits return home.

Will Pandits, who say they "live in exile in different parts of their own country" return to their homeland in Kashmir where two decades of violence has left nothing untouched and brought misery to the scenic region, its people and its once easy-going society?

Hindus and Muslims worship side-by-side in Uttar Pradesh

News stories about Hindu-Muslim relations in India usually stress strains between followers of the two faiths. Here’s a short Reuters video from our partner ANI on Hindus and Muslims worshipping side by side in a temple and a mazar (mausoleum) in Uttar Pradesh state: