Archive for September 18th, 2010

Pakistan’s Strange Response Towards Indian Aid offer

by Omer Farooq Khan for The Times of India

The worst floods in Pakistan’s history provided a good opportunity for both the South Asian nations to come closer. Accepting Indian aid offers half-heartedly and that too after US insistence, Pakistan has given an impression that it is convinced that its policy on India cannot change.

Pakistan’s initial response to the Indian offer of five million dollars was a positive one but then it was unsure how to respond. It took several days for Pakistan to finally accept the offer, saying that the aid had to come through the UN. Now, a total of $25 million Indian assistance for flood relief efforts in Pakistan has to be spent by the UN.

Pakistan’s foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi had said that the delay was due to the sensitivities involved in the relationship with India. Even, a section of policymakers, conspiracy theorists in media and some India-centric elements within the Pakistani establishment blamed India for opening floodgates of its dam to inundate Pakistan’s cities and towns. While building public opinion, they did not care that their contention was technically wrong. The fact is that the rivers that caused destruction in Pakistan do not originate in India.

Some defence analysts argue that Pakistan’s strange response towards India’s aid offer was meant not to get obliged. “Pakistan reacted politically towards Indian humanitarian gesture. The destruction is so colossal that petty politics must be avoided. Pakistan asks for help and when it is offered by a neighbour, its ego comes its way. The main hurdle was that Pakistan did not want to be obliged,” argues defence analyst General Talat Masood.

Kamran Shafi, Dawn’s columnist says that Indian-centric approach within the security establishment and intelligence agencies was the main predicament that the government accepted Indian offer half heartedly. “Values and wisdom demand that politics must be kept aside at time of tragedy. Pakistan needed to have warmly welcomed neighbour’s goodwill gesture.”

India and Pakistan have made major efforts in recent months to build confidence in their relations, which were badly strained by the Mumbai 2008 terror attacks that India blamed on militants from Pakistan. If Indian civil society, volunteers and NGO’s were allowed to do relief work in the flood affected areas, this could have been an ideal confidence building measure in the relations of the two countries.

Certainly, it would have served the spirit of Thimphu where Pakistani PM Yusuf Raza Gilani and his Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh tasked their top diplomats to create CBMs. An opportunity is still not lost if governments, media and civil societies in both the countries come forward and create enough space to use this calamity into an opportunity.

-Editor’s Note for Pakistanis for Peace- The writer is spot on with his analysis of Pakistan’s aid offer from India. During times of a humanitarian crisis of biblical proportions, its political response was petty and irresponsible to its citizens. Furthermore, half heartedly accepting several days after the response does little to build on the goodwill. Either accept it right away with gratitude (our advice) or reject it outright. It did neither and so was ineffective in either cause. The politicians of Pakistan continue to show their incompetence by ineffectively managing the affairs of the country both domestically and internationally.

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God Bless Islam with Courageous Leadership

By Ebrahim Moosa for Religion Dispatches

As Muslim Americans and millions around the world celebrate the end of Ramadan 2010 what will they pray for? What was the spiritual harvest of the month of fasting, prayer, deep reflection, and discipline? Given the growing hostility directed towards Muslims in the United States and the horrible deeds perpetrated by persons aligned to Islam on 9/11 and elsewhere in the world, I for my part, will be making two prayers.

The first is to urge Muslims to affirm their solidarity with all of humanity. The words of this prayer come from a tradition of the Prophet Muhammad. It reads:

Oh Allah, Lord (Rabb) of all things. I testify that You alone are the Lord of the world, Lord of all things… I testify that all servants of God are one family… Make me and my family truthful to you in every moment of life in this world and the next. Oh powerful and generous one, hear and respond to my prayers…

My second prayer is that God bless Islam with a religious leadership that has a modicum of Solomonic wisdom and tons of moral courage.

Why these two prayers? I think many Muslims have forgotten the message of humanism and solidarity with all creation that are the cornerstones of Islam. All servants of God are part of a single family, the Prophet Muhammad taught. So how can faiths be at war, if only to serve earthly gods? Many of our religious leaders have forgotten that our theologies, teachings, and practices were means to serve a transcendent Creator; not for idolatrous ends. Many of the most prominent Muslim religious and moral authorities the world over—clergy, intellectuals, scholars, politicians—have, through silence and inaction, invited a plague of craven violence on a number of Muslim societies. In a manner of speaking, in many places, the asylum is in charge of the mosque. Religious leaders are more interested in cowing to public adulation through demagoguery than in showing courage and exhorting people to piety and sanity.

Check if the sermon in the`Id al-Fitr (End of Fasting) sermon at your mosque hinted at the cowardly acts of al-Qaeda who killed thousands on September 11 and elsewhere. Or if deeds of the Somalian Shabab who killed dozens of Ugandans watching a soccer World Cup match in the suburbs of Kampala caused outrage. Has anyone been able to keep track of the death toll inflicted in Pakistan by Taliban suicide bombers, who most recently killed more than 60 people in Quetta because they were Shi’a? Did anyone even notice that a radical Muslim group in India chopped off the hand of a Catholic professor in the state of Kerala in July for apparently offending the image of the Prophet Muhammad in an exam questionnaire?

`Id is a day of celebration with family and friends. But it is unconscionable if Muslims do not think seriously and act in unison about the deep moral crises afflicting our communities here and abroad. To think critically is not to bow to the hate of the Islamophobes, it is a sign of strength and faith. Those who claim that there are no “moderate” Muslim voices denouncing acts of violence committed by Muslims are wrong, and yes, there are many good things happening in Muslim societies that do not make the headlines. Yet it is delusional to think that the evil masquerading as faith does not erode the belief and values each Muslim.

To Muslim Americans I say, next time you wonder why young men like the Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad become entangled in conspiracies to commit acts of violence in this country and abroad please ask the following questions: What is the qualification of the imam at your mosque? Is he enriched by the best of American and Islamic culture, in tune with his environment, or is he preaching a theology no longer even appropriate for people in Iran, Egypt, or Pakistan? Does he teach the tradition creatively and help people think imaginatively? Or does he focus on impieties and promote the virtues of paraphernalia like the dress code and the mandatory length of facial hairs? If the imam is as wise as the religious leader in the Canadian sitcom Little Mosque on the Prairie, it will be a huge step up.

Mosque committees share their burden of responsibility too. Often they appoint preachers by applying the lowest and cheapest standard; theological diversity is frequently absent and enlightened thinking is considered too challenging and burdensome for them to contemplate. Will the smart Muslims in America and around the world stand up and be counted?

-Originally printed on Sep 9, 2010 for Religion Dispatches. Ebrahim Moosa is a professor of Islamic Studies at Duke University and an author of several books on Islam.

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