Archive for the ‘ Muslims ’ Category

Pakistan and India- The Love-Hate Relationship of Two Brothers

By Manzer Munir for Pakistanis for Peace

Since the bitter partition that resulted in the creation of Pakistan and India in 1947, and three subsequent wars with each other, not to mention countless near incidents, the two neighbors have not had an easy relationship, to say the least.

However, mixed in with fear and hatred towards each other is a fascination and affinity to the arch rival on the other side of the Line of Control. In fact, one could say that the two have a love-hate relationship with each other. The recent wedding of Pakistani cricketer Shoaib Malik to Indian tennis sensation Sania Mirza is an indication to the amount of interest and hype given to the couple in media from both sides of the border, making them instantly one of the hottest and most talked about young couples in this Bollywood and glamour obsessed culture.

In Pakistani schools, children are taught very little if anything at all about Pakistan’s pre-Islamic history. Instead the children are told of the glories of the Muslim Caliphate from the time of the prophet Mohammed and then the grand rule of the Moguls of India with the construction of immortal buildings like the Taj Mahal in Agra, or the Badshahi Masjid and the Shalimar Gardens in Lahore, all three built on the Islamic style of architecture. Not very much emphasis is given to the great contributions that the people of present day Pakistan made as Hindus for centuries prior to the arrival of Islam in the subcontinent.

Criticisms abound by Muslims that in India, Muslim contributions to modern India are down played or not explored in the manner they are deserved. However, In Pakistan it is well documented those Pakistani textbooks not only do not teach about Hindu history and achievements, they actually teach hatred against India and Hindus. There is an underlying culture of hate and inequality based on religious grounds that permeates in the society despite Islam teaching respect for all religions and faiths. It’s as if thinking of someone as a polytheist makes them less equal as a human.

The mindset becomes that these non believers are infidels and this somehow makes it easy to dehumanize them or in some way think them to be inferior to you as a human being. Even the current terrorism situation in Pakistan has its roots in this culture of hate and to some level a dehumanization of people of other faiths, especially non-Abrahamic like Hinduism or Buddhism. To not recognize that ancient Indian/Hindu history is also the history of Pakistan does a great injustice to the shared history of one of the most ancient of cultures.

The natural history of this region shows that the origins of the Indian/Pakistani civilization go back to the end of the last Ice Age, more than 10,000 years ago, making this one of the oldest civilizations of the ancient world. This area of the world is a place which gave the world not only Hinduism, but also Buddhism, Sikhism, Jainism, and other religions and has been a source of spiritual inspiration since the earliest of times. But maybe even more important than the contributions in the field of religion are the ancient civilization’s gifts to science and medicine.

Albert Einstein once said “We owe a lot to the Indians, who taught us how to count, without which no worthwhile scientific discovery could have been made.” Indeed, Indian civilization is credited with the creation of the decimal number system, the binary numbering system, negative number, the origins of algebra, and even the all important concept mathematically of zero came from ancient Indian mathematicians.

Archaeologically, India has the most extensive and continuous record of all ancient civilizations, much more than Egypt, Sumeria or Mesopotamia of the same time periods. The ruins in Mohenjo-Daro and Taxila in modern day Pakistan point to the fact that there was a very advanced civilization present here and even the beginnings of one of the early urban settlements of the ancient world as they were remarkably constructed, considering its antiquity. Taxila is also the site of what is believed to be the first university or school of higher learning in the ancient world.

Also the ancient Vedic literature is the largest in the ancient world and contains thousands upon thousands of pages dwarfing what little has been successfully preserved by the rest of the world. This literature contains profound spiritual concepts, skills in mathematics, astronomy and medicine. Sanskrit is the mother of all European languages and Ayurveda is the earliest school of medicine known to man.

Indian culture not only gave the world the game of chess, but was also was a place where some of the earliest innovations in the fields of surgery and advanced dentistry were developed as there is evidence of complex dental procedures being performed in the Indus valley some 8,000 years ago!

The celebrated American author Mark Twain once famously said of India that “India is the cradle of the human race, the birthplace of human speech, the mother of history, the grandmother of legend, and the great grandmother of tradition. Our most valuable and most constructive materials in the history of man are treasured up in India only.” And not so long ago, in a statement made by China’s former ambassador to the US, Hu Shih stated that “India conquered and dominated China culturally for 20 centuries without ever having to send a single soldier across her border.” This is further validated by the fact that the Indian civilization is considered unique in that it never invaded any country in the last 10,000 years of its history!

By denying its centuries old Hindu/Indian ancestry and history, modern day Pakistan is willfully abandoning its participation and hand in some of the greatest contributions made by one civilization to mankind. Not teaching children the importance of the pre-Islamic history and beginnings of what is now Pakistan is actually a disservice to its people. Also, since the ancestors of all Pakistanis were at some point or another Indian Hindus, disrespecting Hinduism and pre-Islamic Indian culture in essence disrespects one’s own ancestors!

Pakistan can learn a great deal from its ancient brother in the fields of democracy, constitutional freedoms, economic empowerment and technological advancements. A culture of hate has only bred more hate that has now begun to consume internally a nation that has for too long wearily looked outside to its larger neighbor as its chief enemy, instead of as a brother.

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Pakistani Makes History as Nation’s First Winter Olympian

By Manzer Munir

Vancouver, Canada- On Tuesday February 23, 2010, Pakistan will field its very first entry into its very first Winter Olympics. While the nation has won three gold, three silver and four bronze medals in its history at the Olympics since becoming a nation in 1947, this is the first time Pakistan will field an athlete for the Vancouver Olympics in Canada. The sole member of Pakistan’s Winter Olympics team is a 24 year old Pakistani skier by the name of Mohammad Abbas. He was the first Pakistani to qualify for a Winter Olympic event and will participate in the Alpine Skiing in the Giant Slalom category.

Mohammad Abbas hails from Pakistan’s northern Nalthar valley near Gilgit, Balistan and the now troubled beautiful Swat valley of Pakistan. For years very popular with the British and since with affluent Pakistanis, this picturesque and scenic area of Pakistan is nestled at the foothills of the Himalayas and receives a good amount of snow fall in the winter months. There are not many ski hills in hot weather Pakistan, but there is one in the Nalthar valley where Abbas grew up as one of the local boys. He grew up in a small village near the ski slopes.

When the idea of creating a ski team first developed, all the candidates were local children. Unfortunately out of the original 9 hopefuls, only Abbas qualified for the Vancouver games. “I started skating in 1995 using homemade wooden skates, which is how all the children in our village used to learn. We didn’t have ski boots so we tied our feet to the skis with traditional woolen foot bindings. It was pretty precarious so we had to get our balance right,” he said.

For Abbas, it has been a long and at times arduous 15 year journey since 1995 when he first took interest in skiing at the age of 9 in his village near the ski slopes of Pakistan’s Nalthar valley watching Pakistani and foreign tourists skiing spurned young Abbas and many of his cousins to take up the sport. In a cricket mad country, not very many people pick up skiing. Very few people in Pakistan can afford ski equipment and also only a very small portion of the country gets snow, so it is a surprise that the nation is even fielding an athlete at the Winter Olympics.

Sitting in the Olympics athletes village in Vancouver, Abbas admits that he does not have the camaraderie or the support of Olympic teammates that most other nations participants share, and he was concerned that he may feel a bit lonely representing his country by himself at such a big stage. But the boy from Nalthar valley was greeted with great enthusiasm and support by the rather large Pakistani Canadian community of British Columbia. “The support from my fellow countrymen has really helped me deal with the lack of teammates,” said Abbas.

Abbas said that he “achieved his ambition through hard work” and hopes he has inspired other Pakistani athletes to take up the challenge and aim for future Winter Olympic games. He also realized that his chances of bringing home Pakistan’s first Winter Olympic gold are very small but he said he wants to finish the race in an “honorable manner and make his country proud.”

Although not expected to medal, he is considered the fastest of the first time entrants to compete in the Giant Slalom that is scheduled to take place at Tuesday. It is perhaps an accomplishment to have finally fielded a Winter Olympics team, but for Pakistan it is also a moral victory to have a young man represent the country from the same troubled yet beautiful valley that has been now for months fighting for its life from Taliban insurgents. He represents not just Pakistan’s Olympic hopes, but the spirit of the people of the area to make the best of their situation and rise above the adversity of their daily struggles in a very beautiful part of the world that has also long been known as the “Switzerland of Pakistan.”

Fear and Mistrust of Muslims and Islam is Widespread

(Yes, this is Singer Bono from U2 in case you were wondering)

Dear Group,

Below is a response that I wrote after receiving a message from a Christian minister I thought I knew after sending  him an email to join Pakistanis for Peace on Facebook.  I don’t have his original message but he stated that Muslims are instructed by the Quran to “kill the infidels”, called Mohammad (pbuh) a “blood warrior”, said the Islam was a violent religion and Jesus is the one true Lord.

It was nice to see an email from you but I have to admit I was a little disappointed in the message.  This group is not a “Muslim” group.  Yes it is for Pakistan and yes the majority of Pakistanis are Muslim, however, the focus of this group is to promote peace in a region of the world where there is little.  These people simply want their home to be peaceful so they can send their children to school or go to the market without being blown to pieces!!  I would support a group that was promoting this in any region of the world regardless of the religion of its people or the politics of their government.  I would join Japanese for Peace, Finns for Peace, Mexicans for Peace, etc.  When the message is for peace, why would anyone NOT support the cause?

I too have read parts of the Quran along with commentary regarding it.  I own more than one copy in order to get more than one perspective.  I’ve also read material on the Sunna and the Hadiths (most people outside of Islam don’t even know what those are).  I’ve been to more than one mosque in the Orlando area and have been to countless lectures regarding Islam and the Middle East.  (I graduated with minors in Religion AND the Middle Eastern studies.)  The reason I selected those topics was because I want to educate myself in order to educate others about the misconceptions of the Middle East and of the Muslims worldwide.  You are not the first person to say these things and I’m sure you will not be the last. 

Yes there are things in the Quran that are violent but there are peaceful things as well.  The Muslim mission is not to kill all of the infidels.  All of the suicide bombers we hear about are all going to hell according to the laws of their own religion!!  Suicide in Islam is haram, or sinful.  The acts of these extremists are killing innocent people AND other Muslims so they will punished on the Day of Judgment (yes Islam has this too).  Also, Muslims are required to respect Jews and Christians because they are people of the book.  Did you know that Jesus is mentioned in the Quran more than their own prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him)?  Most people don’t know that that.  Most people don’t even know that Jesus is part of Islam. 

As far as Mohammed (pbuh) is concerned, yes he fought but he did for his religion….wouldn’t you?  Would you not kill or be killed for your lord and your God?  Yes there are extremists within Islam but you can find extremist in EVERY religion….even in Christianity.  The Crusades were for the sake of God.  Convert or be killed and many were killed.  Many people don’t know that in the Ottoman Empire, which was Islamic, some leaders were not concerned with people converting to Islam.  Why?  If the people were not Muslim, they would pay a higher tax.  The Empire receives more money and the citizen worship however the please.  Does that not seem like a much more reasonable solution rather then murdering those who don’t worship as you do?  Let’s not forget, Hitler was a Christian.  Some KKK groups are Christians too and if you’re a Jew, black, Latino, Arab, gay, etc, they want you dead.  That’s not very Christian like but I would never condemn all Christians based on the behavior of a few extremists. 

The issue these days a simple lack of knowledge.  We listen to what we hear on the News and take it as gospel.  This is very dangerous.  Watch this video and you’ll understand were I’m coming from.

This should have NEVER happened! I have no underlining motive here do to the fact I do not practice Christianity OR Islam.  I just have a message of peace.  I encourage you to take another look at the religion with more of an open mind.  If you would like, I can give you the name and number of an Imam in the area that can answer questions for you and give you an endless amount of material and resources to investigate on your own.   Also, seeing that you are a religious leader within your own community, I ask that you support and promote peace as much as possible.  Peace should not be a luxury, enjoyed by only a few.  Everyone has the right to live peaceful regardless of where they live, what they look like, what language they speak or who (or what) they worship. 

Written by Pakistanis for Peace Facebook group member Alicia for www.PakistanisforPeace.com

Alicia Koutsoulieris

President of Amnesty International at the University of Central Florida

Akoutsoulieris@aol.com

Iranian Protests for Democracy is a Cry for Freedom Across the Muslim World

Tehran, Iran- Demonstrations in Iran continue a little over a week after the mass protests the occurred throughout Iran on the Shiite festival of Ashura as protestors defy the government’s crackdown on dissent. It appears that for the first time since the Iranian Revolution of 1979, the regime of Iran is appearing weakened. Despite the brutal violence used by government soldiers and militiamen, the Iranian people are brazenly standing up and are demanding the end of the supreme rule of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and establishment of a democratic nation where freedom and rights of the Iranian people are respected.

For far too long the current regime has used violence and intimidation to quell revolt. However since the disputed election of last year, the majority of Iranian citizens want an end to theocratic rule. The government must sense the tide turning against them as the popular revolt is gathering steam and gaining strength. Overseas, the Iranian communities around the world are standing in support with their brothers and sisters in Iran and demanding an end to suppression and tyranny also and asking governments around the world for support of this movement by instituting embargos and sanctions on the Iranian government.

The situation is bleak in many Muslim countries around the world when it comes to prudent and competent government. If one takes a look at the Arabian Gulf region we have kingdoms such as Saudi Arabia and Jordan, Bahrain, UAE, etc. There is not a great deal of individual and civil liberties as they are normally afforded in the western world. Freedom of speech, religion and right to protest is simply outlawed in most of these countries. If one takes a look at countries like Egypt, Libya, Syria, and until recently Iraq, are all countries where there are dictatorships akin to monarchies where power is held for generations as is the case with Muammar Al-Gaddafi or it is passed on to a family member as was the case with Bashar Al-Assad of Syria. Pakistan too is a country that of its 62 years of modern history, over half have been ruled by dictatorships robbing the people of a robust democratic system as is one that flourishes in neighboring India.

Far too often, in many Muslim countries around the world, governments and individuals in power are robbing the coffers of their national treasuries for their own greed and simultaneously either brutally cracking down on human rights and dissent or neglecting their responsibilities all together and therefore not providing basic services, infrastructure, and security.

It is not as if democracy is in theory in any ways in conflict with Islam, rather, Islam’s set of norms and ideals that emphasize the equality of people, the accountability of leaders to community, and the respect of diversity and other faiths, is fully compatible with democracy. Yet time after time, Muslim countries are finding themselves under repressive, corrupt and  inept leadership that has no problem using  vote rigging, violence, brutality and intimidation to remain in power.

The Iranian uprising and protests currently underway in Iran should inspire Muslims in other countries to demand better governance, more accountability, and freedoms from their leaders. A country that does not have the participation of all it citizens in all fields of endeavor is not going to advance aggressively as it should. Many citizens of Iran and Iranians around the world are hoping that the repressive regime in Tehran is overthrown by the brave protesters there. One would hope that eventually this starts a chain reaction throughout the Muslim world where repressive, authoritarian and harmful governments are holding back the progress of nations. Thomas Jefferson said it best  when he stated that “A bill of rights is what the people are entitled to against every government on earth, general or particular, and what no just government should refuse, or rest on inferences.”

Reported by Manzer Munir for http://www.PakistanisforPeace.com

Pat Robertson’s anti-Islam remarks put new Virginia Governor-elect McDonnell in a tough spot

Virginia Beach, Virginia USA- Rev Pat Robertson is coming under fire by Virginia Muslims and others nationally including several Christian and Jewish organizations regarding his recent comments about Islam when discussing the Fort Hood tragedy on his Tv show, The 700 Club. Robertson stated on his show that Islam is “not a religion” but a “violent political system” and that those who practice it should be treated like members of a communist or fascist party. It’s a violent political system bent on the overthrow of the governments of the world and world domination. “

Robertson has been preaching since at least 1960 when in that year he established the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) in Virginia Beach, Virginia. The CBN is now seen in 180 countries and broadcast in 71 languages. According to Wikipedia, “Robertson founded CBN University in 1977 on CBN’s Virginia Beach campus. It was renamed Regent University in 1989. Robertson serves as its chancellor. He is also founder and president of the American Center for Law and Justice, a public interest law firm that defends Christians whose First Amendment rights have allegedly been violated. The law firm, headquartered in the same building that houses Regent’s law school, focuses on “pro-family, pro-liberty and pro-life” cases nationwide. Robertson is also an advocate of Christian dominionism – the idea that Christians have a right to rule.”

He has been in controversy before when he made disparaging remarks about Islam the religion versus the extremists who claim to be of that faith. The issue has incensed Muslims in Virginia and across the United States as well as prominent members of Christian and Jewish faiths as well as several Democrats on the Hill.

Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA) issued this strong statement condemning Robertson: “ When a prominent Virginian chooses to engage in hate-filled rhetoric that divides us and has the potential to fuel real discord in our polity, leaders cannot remain silent. That is why I am calling on Mr. Robertson to apologize to my constituents – Muslim and non-Muslim – for the hurt he has caused and the damage he has done. It is a week overdue.”

To add fuel to the fire and cause further embarrassment in other conservative quarters, Virginia’s new Republican Governor-elect Bob McDonnell, who has previously studied as a law student at Robertson’s university and was also given thousands of dollars as donations by Robertson, was asked about Robertson’s disturbing remarks towards ALL Muslims. Asked if he thought the comments by the preacher were “appropriate.” While stressing that he wants “people of all faiths” to part of his administration, McDonnell refused to condemn Robertson specifically, citing the First Amendment. “You know, I’ve got probably 15,000 donors to the campaign, and I can’t stand to defend or support every comment that every donor might make. I think people are entitled under the First Amendment to express whatever opinions they may have.”

In response to this dangerous stupidity, on November 16 Mark Pelavin, Director of the Commission on Interreligious Affairs of Reform Judaism and Associate Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, sent a letter to Reverend Pat Robertson, asking him to retract his comments.

The letter states:

“Dear Rev. Robertson,

“On behalf of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, representing the largest stream of American Jewry in North America, I write to express our outrage at the remarks pertaining to Islam that you made on “The 700 Club” on November 9, 2009.

“When speaking about this month’s tragic shooting at Ft. Hood, you referred to the alleged shooter’s religion, saying, “Islam … [is not] a religion, it’s a political system, a violent political system, bent on the overthrow of the governments of the world and world domination, that is the ultimate aim…and I think we should treat it as such and treat its adherents as such as we would members of the communist party or members of some Fascist group.”

“We understand and share your concern about Muslim extremists. Too often, they have blasphemed their own faith, just as extremist Jews and extremist Christians have done. The danger posed by those who resort to violence in the name of religion is real, and it does seem to have been a significant part of the story at Fort Hood. But, of course, that is not what you said.

“Rather you made the outrageous and bigoted claim that Islam itself is the problem – and, in doing so, you denigrated the faith of some 1.5 billion people.

“How disappointing to see a religious leader stoop to this level, attempting to delegitimize one of the world’s great faiths based on the actions of someone who perverts its teachings. Do you not have any Muslim friends? Have you no Muslim colleagues? Have you never met a peaceful Muslim, someone with whom you might find common ground? If not, how sad. If so, how do you reconcile their life with your claim that Islam is “a violent political system” and “not a religion”?

“One of the advantages of having your own television program is the opportunity to revisit statements you have made. I sincerely hope you will do so in this case. ”

McDonnell attended law school at what was then called CBN University, the Virginia Beach school founded by Robertson and named after the Christian Broadcasting Network, whose studios share the campus. After the school changed its name to Regent University, McDonnell served on the board of trustees for eight years and last year spoke at its law school graduation. Robertson’s ever increasingly alarming remarks against Islam are not new, what is very disturbing to generalize the faith of Islam and a religion of over a billion people buy the actions of a few such as Major Hasan in the Ft Hood attacks. How can an entire religion, a fellow Abrahamic faith (along with Christianity and Judaism) be reduced to a non-religion status by a prominent Baptist minister and Tv personality and also not have an incoming governor of a state bordering Washington DC rebuke these irresponsible comments?

What is most troubling is that the incoming Governor of a major state such as Virginia is not as of yet disavowing Pat Robertson’s anti-Islam comments. One can only hope that the Governor elect has enough sense to know that he needs to have the support of the approximately 200,000 to 230,000 Muslim population of Virginia and the surrounding area when his re-election comes around again in four years.

Reported by Manzer Munir for www.PakistanisforPeace.com

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