Friday, December 31, 2010

Blasphemy, Religious Right and Aasia Bibi

Upright Opinion

December 31, 2010

Blasphemy, Religious Right and Aasia Bibi

By Saeed Qureshi

Jamiatul Ulma-i- Islam( JUI) and Jamaat-i-Islami ( JI) joined by other religious combines have, of late, arrogated themselves the exclusive right to defend Islam in a country which they grudgingly opposed tooth and nail when it was being created. Even, Otherwise JUI and JI are doctrinally sworn adversaries and would tear each other into bits and pieces if given a free hand. The blasphemy law prohibits defiling of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) by any gestures or actions and it should be like that. The only stumbling snag is how to apply it judiciouly so that it does not look discriminatory and a handy tool for revenge.

The Christians, Hindus or Jews or believers of other non-Islamic religions or denominations may not have deep or even perfunctory knowledge about the teachings of Islam because they grow up in their own religious environment that imparts to them only their faith. So an uneducated woman like Aasia Bibi from a remote village would not know how sanctified the holy book Quran is or how exalted the personage of prophet of Islam is for Muslims. A Christian and Hindu may inadvertently say something, exude such gestures or commit such acts that are decreed by the Muslim religious clerics as blasphemy and sacrilege.

It is possible that he or she may not harbor mala-fide intentions or even awareness that she or he was maligning or profaning the venerated religious personages of Islam. Should such persons not be given a preliminary warning to desist from such behavior and asked to publically profess that they did not mean any sacrilege as they had not information that their actions or utterances would be blasphemous? There is also a possibility that in such sensitive cases, the reporters of the blasphemy can deliberately pass wrong and made-up information to implicate some opponent or else for the fun of it.

Now if false evidence is produced against someone out of sheer vendetta or to settle personal score, then how to sift the falsehood from the truth. The Islamic clerics and priestly class should not close their ears and shut their eyes to the loud cries of the accused that he or she has not done such a sinful thing in the first place and if he committed then he or she was not aware that it was a sacrilege and that such an abominable act would not be repeated.

If the accused repents and pledges not to repeat that reprehensible act then such a person should be forgiven. In simple words if someone has committed such desecration even knowingly and later recants and ask for forgiveness, then in the light of the Islamic principle of tolerance such a person should be pardoned.
The furor that has overtaken Pakistan in the midst of other devastating problems, the entire onus of the religious right of Pakistan has been placed on sentencing a Christian woman Aasia Bibi to death for blasphemy. It demonstrates that barring this incident, the religious leaders some of whom are also political stalwarts accord less or no importance to the incessant incidents of very heinous crimes being committed every moment in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

What about those callous Muslims that target the religious processions and kill their fellow innocent Muslims in mosques and in their worshiping places? Are they not defiling and breaching the Islamic teachings and negating the message of peace given by the messenger of Islam? It is alone a rural, backward woman Aasia that has jeopardized and undermined the whole edifice of Islam prompting the Muslim clergy of Pakistan to be up in arms against her. The amendment proposed in Pakistan’s parliament was aimed at removing the shades of false allegations and to make it foolproof n order to sentence the defilers and blasphemous individuals.

There is no objection if the religious luminaries call for countrywide strikes, agitation and hold rallies against the amendment in the blasphemy laws. But so far why these defenders of Islam have never raised their voice against the ceaseless cases of rape, murders, child molestation, plunder of national exchequer and bad governance. They even don’t blink their eyes over the lewdness of the rulers, the loathsome feudalism, the despicable sardari Nizam, the brazen toadyism of the privileged classes for the foreign masters, the brutal system of tribalism, the savage terrorism, the monsters of unemployment, the unchecked adulteration and shortage of food and medicines, the colossal environmental filth and degradation.

They seldom held rallies against the rampant lawlessness, The bad roads, the ugly traffic, the stifling shortage of power and water, the deformed justice system, the corrupt and incompetent police system, bribery-ridden bureaucracy and similar countless issues that have crippled the progress of Pakistan and driven the people of Pakistan to the brink of miseries and abyss. They don’t highlight the corruption and loot of the ruling cabal and the rip off by the parliamentarians, the army generals, the mercantile classes and self indulgent and greedy politicians.

It is worth recalling that way back in 1977; late ZA Bhutto had to face a similar bizarre and harrowing situation. Then the religious outfits of all shades bandied together under the slogan of Niazm-e-Mustafa. As a result of their tenacious and full throttled campaigning in tandem with the support from the army, the disgruntled politicians, the foreign powers, the Bhutto government fell.

Instead of the promised Niazam-e.Mustafa, an oppressive, bigoted Military dictatorship was imposed on Pakistan, the ruinous consequences of which this hapless country is still suffering from. These religious zealots and Islamic rabble rousers saw in the garb of the ruthless military dictator Ziaul Haq another Salahuddin Ayubi and a Marde Momin (a devout Muslim).

But factually this Mard-e- momin inflicted irreparable harm on the pristine last message of God than any heathen could have done. One should recall that those who launched that movement for revival of a system of Khilafat-I- Rashida were the forerunners of the present lot of JUI and JI. Are these people up to creating a similar mayhem in Pakistan? Are they the sole arbiters of dispensing and dictating Islam to the rest of the population that is more sincere and ardent Muslims than these acrobats? So it seems to be an action replay of 1977 religious movement. These religious stalwarts are spoilers of the stability and peace in Pakistan by using the ploy of religion.

If the government wants to make the blasphemy act more rational and reasonable so that innocent do not suffers because of the wrong, insufficient or trumped up evidence, then these upholders of Islam should rather welcome that. Such an amendment would remove some of the anomalies that render this most sacred and needed law as partisan or extreme. Moderation is the essence of Islam and any interpretation of law should be hammered out collectively by the parliament in consultation with the Islamic ideology Council in order to make it consistent with the real Islamic jurisprudence.

To be a good Muslim, let Islam should rule the minds and hearts of the Muslim faithful. Unfortunately there is uncompromising emphasis on practicing symbols and rituals. There has always remained a wide gulf between what we profess and what we do. Our religious leaders suffer from chronic symptoms of hypocrisy. They have failed to demonstrate themselves as models of Islam by personal pious conduct and strength of character. Allama Iqbal has apportioned a part of his poetry in repudiating and denouncing the Mullah’s Islam which he has termed as a “recipe for division, dissention and chaos among the Muslims.”

Pakistan can neither totally be a theocratic state nor can it be a wholly irreligious society. There should be some meeting point between these two trends and a workable blend so that Pakistan simultaneously adheres to the mandatory Islamic creed and also imbibe and embrace the needs of a modern society. Secularism is not the antithesis of any religion. It merely stands for the religious freedom that we find in many Islamic countries such as in Turkey, Malaysia, Indonesia, UAE and Jordan and Lebanon.

(The writer is a Dallas-based freelance journalist and a former diplomat writing mostly on International Affairs with specific focus on Pakistan and the United States)

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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Lynching of Sialkot Boys

Upright Opinion
December 29, 2010

Lynching of Sialkot Boys

By Saeed Qureshi

If the assassins of two teenage brothers Hafiz Mueez Butt and Hafiz Muneeb Butt, mercilessly lynched and bludgeoned to death by a mob in Sialkot on August 20 this year, are not punished sooner than later then this country named Pakistan is doomed. If the killers are freed or given mild punishment than what they deserve, then this country has no right to stay.

That horror scene of clubbing was not from a movie. It happened before the whole crowd of inhabitants of Sialkot together with the police personnel watching it with cool faces and joyful interest as if some animals were being butchered or enemy combatants were being tortured.

Since then every effort is being bent and every trick is being contrived by the assassins backed by their highly influential and powerful abettors to place this heart wrenching case in a perpetual limbo. And they have succeeded in their nefarious designs as not one single hearing has been fixed for the case to pursue ever since this most heinous crime was committed in broad day light and in full public view.

This case which is self evident as it has been witnessed by the Sialkot spectators on the spot and even the whole country on videos and in media. One cannot find such a gruesome, macabre and spine chilling murder scene even in the ancient Roman coliseums where slaves were thrown before the hungry predators while the public shouted and applauded. Here the humans turned predators and kept beating the boys till they were dead. The callous perpetrators of this brutality, in their unquenching rage and unrelenting revenge, hanged the dead bodies, then dragged them in the streets and finally threw these in front of their house.

Can one believe that such a loathsome incident has happened in 21st century and in a country that was created in the name of Islam and for justice and peace and all good things that Islam ordains? Why is the case not coming before the court for hearing? What other evidence or witnesses the justice system in Pakistan needs to adjudicate as to who committed this ghastly crime? The whole country is a witness, the whole city of Sialkot is a witness, and even the faces of the police personnel supervising the crime are distinctly visible. Then why is the justice not taking its course? Why is there this unpardonable delay in charging the assassins and their abettors and sending them to gallows?

This is not an ordinary murder case. This is neither complicated nor short of evidence for which the police have to mount a search for the murderers. The murderers are seen bludgeoning the boys with heavy sticks and the rest of the macabre scene is recorded in the gadgets. What else the courts and the police want to grab to pursue the case in the court?

Are there no religious Maulvis or Imams or pulpit preachers at least telling their audience that it was against Islamic system of justice to kill anyone all the more in such a savage manner that leaves no shred of doubt in favor of the murderers? If the religious orators from the mosques goad and counsel the worshippers in the mosque five time a day that Islam offer the best justice model in the world, then why not one single voice, protest or demand has come out from these religious zealots for the speedy justice in support of these hapless boys who lost their lives at the prime age.

Where are the human right activists collecting charities day in and day out for relief work which is a handy ploy to raise money for self-enrichment than actually spending it on the needy? Where are the lawyers with a pricking conscience and professional ethics to come out and hold protest rallies and stage sit-ins in support of the parents of the assassinated boys? Where is the honorable judiciary taking cognizance of the delay being deliberately injected to weaken the case and to buy time for the people to forget?

More than the suo motto notices of the superior judiciary about price hikes of commodities and NRO and similar issues, this case is of most urgent nature and therefore merits rapid attention. The superior judiciary should urgently enquire as to why there was so much unpardonable delay in dispensing justice to the killers of two sons of the nation.

I saw today on the television the forlorn, spent up and entirely grieved and innervated mother and father of the deceased boys. They were the pictures of an incessant trauma and immense anguish writ large on their grief stricken faces. They talked more of divine than human justice which was a candid reflection of their utter dejection with the courts in Pakistan. It was even difficult for them to utter words to explain that no one was in a mood to listen to them and talk about the case despite earlier loud commitments. Every two weeks they go to the court and come back without even the preliminary submission of the case by the police.

The president, the Prime minister, and the Law minister of Pakistan bear an equal responsibility with regard to the snail paced progress in this one of the most harrowing and distressing cases of all times. Do they have the morality, the conscience, the sense of responsibility to rise above their party, clan or group affiliations and ask the relevant prosecuting authorities to submit the case before a special court for legal proceedings every day without break till a verdict is handed out?

The verdict would be a simple formality as there are countless witnesses and there cannot be more absolute and irrefutable evidence that what the videos show. The videos cannot be tempered because both the victims and the killers and police abettors are as distinctly visible as to leave no doubt about their loathsome and nefarious identities.

If the residents of Sialkot still go to mosques and claim to be Muslims, they ought to ask for forgiveness for watching this brutal murder with absolute apathy and aloofness? They can redeem their complicity in the crime by storming the local court and pressing the presiding judge to start the legal proceedings without further delay.

(The writer is a Dallas-based freelance journalist and a former diplomat writing mostly on International Affairs with specific focus on Pakistan and the United States)

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Rajab Tayyab Erdoğan-The Intrepid Son of Islam

Upright Opinion
December 27, 2010

Rajab Tayyab Erdoğan-The Intrepid Son of Islam

By Saeed Qureshi

History is made and nations are built by the individuals with extraordinary traits. Some of these qualities are unflinching courage, bounteous talent, sagacity, genius, blotless character and the ability to take right decisions in face of stupendous crises. In Turkey’s context; it was Mustafa Kamal Ataturk who in 1924 created the modern Turkey with secularism as its paramount anchor and armed forces as its defenders.

After 85 years, the pendulum is swinging towards the other side with Prime Minister Rajab Tayyab Erdoğan (in Turkish language it is Recep Tayyip Erdoğan), reinventing Turkey to conform it to the imperatives of the present day world with Islamic identity. Both these heroes represent two ends of the fulcrum but essentially serve the same glorious purpose of turning Turkey into a modern state.

Kamal Ataturk knocked down the orthodox caliphate to replace it with a state based upon modernism and secularism. Erdoğan is engaged in an historic task of embracing Islam with the essentials of the modern societies. As a teenager, this most illustrious icon, revolutionary, progressive, truly Muslim and a popular prime minister of Turkey, sold lemonade and sesame buns on the streets of Istanbul for a living.

Ever since his advent in politics and now as the prime minister of Turkey (since March 2003), Tayyab Urdegan has been waging a multi-dimensional war at home and aboard, in order to bring Turkey into the comity of developed nations, while retaining its Islamic image, spirit and ethos.

Firstly, he has to cope with the Arab nationalism that historically remained averse to Persian and Turkish leadership role of Islam. Precisely for this reason the Sharif of Mecca sided with imperialist British during the First World War, thus paving way for Turkey’s defeat and disintegration. That subversion tore the much-touted and sought after ideal of Islamic unity. Turkey, of late, is being perceived as an Islamic state that can serve as a model for other Islamic states in terms of both development and adherence to religion Islam.

Secondly, Erdoğan has to move away from Israel that it has recognized and for which Turkey has remained under severe censure and ill-will from certain Islamic states. Erdoğan supports an independent state for the Palestinian nation. He has called for Israel’s nuclear facilities to come under IAEA inspection. Erdoğan berates Israel for turning Gaza into a concentration camp for the brutalized and hard-pressed Palestinians.

At the 2009 World Economic Forum conference, Erdoğan lambasted Israeli President Shimon Peres in response to Peres ‘disparaging jargon used against the Palestinians. Erdoğan also chided the moderator for giving more time to the Israeli president and as a protest walked out of the debate. That was a shining moment of triumph for the integrity and honor of Turkey. It also betokened Erdogan’s moral grandeur.

The Turkish Foundation for human Rights and Freedoms and Human Relief (IHH) sent on May 31, 2010 the "Gaza Freedom Flotilla” of six ships carrying humanitarian aid and construction materials to the beleaguered inhabitants of Gaza. For the first time, it was a demonstration of exceptional courage that not only exposed Israel’s brutality but mounted a defiance to break the stifling blockade imposed by Israel on Gaza.

Erdoğan described Israel’s aggressive response as "state terrorism". In his statement issued after the sad incident, he demanded punishment for the Israeli leaders responsible for attacking the flotilla and killing the Turkish citizens. Consequently, the nature of close relations between Israel and Turkey can never be the same. Interestingly it is Israel that would suffer from this strain and breach caused by the Flotilla incident.

He is also locked in a tussle with the Turkish army that had assumed the guardian angel role to preserve and safeguard the legacy of modern Turkey’s founder Kamal Ataturk. The Turkish constitution gives sweeping powers to the army to overthrow any government that it deems was going against the philosophy of Kamal Ataturk.
As a result the multi-party system of democracy in Turkey has remained hostage to the dictates of the army. Besides, Islam as a religion was made subservient to the super-imposition of secularism. While secularism itself is a popular doctrine, it has been monopolized and exploited by the army to keep at bay the orthodox brand of Islam.

It is for the first time in 85 years that Turkish army seems to be losing its overbearing role. The Turkish army staged four coups to overthrow the popularly elected governments. Besides it forced a popularly elected government of Islamic-oriented Prime Minister, Necmettin Erbakan, to step down in June 1997.

Prime Minister Tayyab Erdoğan has swayed the tilt of Turkey from extreme secularism to the moderate Islam. Although himself a great proponent of Islam and even berated by the army high cadres and secularists, prime minister Erdoğan has skillfully managed to bring a viable equilibrium between the creed of Kamal Ataturk and Islam. With the present political set up under AKP, there seems to be a harmonious blend between modernity, secularism and Islamic creed in Turkey.

Although the Turkish army had been issuing threatening statements and hurling warning salvos to the Erdoğan government and his “Justice and Development Party” AKP, it is not in a strident position to dislodge it as the previous military generals have been doing. On the contrary, since July 2008, the army has come under enormous pressure following the detention and interrogation of a hundred military personnel, including several generals for clandestinely conspiring and hatching plans of revolt against the government of Prime Minister Erdoğan.

In February 2010, more than 40 officers were arrested and formally charged with attempting to overthrow the AKP government. They include four admirals, a general and two colonels; some of them retired, including former commanders of the Turkish navy and air force. Yet three days later, the former commanders of the navy and air force were released. These developments reflect that the military's power in Turkey is diminishing.

Another front of fight for Prime Minister Erdoğan is against the obscurantist, the Islamic extremists and even the superior judiciary. The judiciary in Turkey has been supporting the army and creating legal bottlenecks for the Erdogan’s party AKP to contest elections or come into power. The senior Judges have been openly condemning certain decisions of the Erdoğan government.

The most dazzling achievement is the economic miracle that Erdoğan has performed in his country. When Erdoğan took over in March 2003, Turkey owed a debt of $23.5 billion to the IMF. In 2009 it was reduced to $7 billion. Turkey’s debt to the IMF will be completely paid off in 2013. Prime minister has vowed not to obtain further loans from the IMF.

In 2002, the Turkish Central Bank had $26.5 billion in reserves that swelled to $72.5 billion in 2009. During the same period, inflation fell from 34.9% to 5.7%, the lowest in 39 years. The public debt “declined from 74% in 2002 to 39% in 2009.” “The World Bank lauded Prime Minister Erdoğan for the indispensable critical reforms and bringing the economic stability in Turkey.

Prime Minister Erdoğan has introduced and implemented several watershed reforms that aim at extracting Turkey out of a decadent mould of governance and bring it at par with models prevalent in the advanced and developed societies. For instance, in January 2008, the Turkish Parliament passed a law that places complete ban on smoking in most public places.

In April 2006, Erdoğan brought about revolutionary reforms in the social security system by which Turkey’s three social security organization were merged. As a result now the members receive equal health services and retirement benefits.

In foreign affairs’ domain, Turkey has adopted a policy of peace, moderation, normalization, cordiality and mending fences with the age-old rivals. In this regard, Prime Minister Erdoğan government has normalized relations with Greece thus altering the course of history rooted in perpetual antagonism and tension.

Besides, in March 2009, President Abdullah Gull became the first Turkish head of state to visit Iraq after 33 years. Iraq and Turkey signed 48 trade agreements under the aegis of the Iraqi-Turkish Strategic Council based in Baghdad. The accords signed encompass sectors of security, energy, oil, electricity, water, health, trade, environment, transport, housing, construction, agriculture, education, higher education, defense and other nation building projects.

The diplomatic relations between Turkey and Syria have been improved so enormously that in 2004, President Bashar al-Assad paid an official visit to Turkey. It was the first ever visit by a Syrian President in 57 years which renders it historic. Turkey and Syria have inked a free trade agreement, and for lifting the visa restrictions between the two countries. The economy of both the Islamic countries is booming as a result of increase in the cross border trade.

Prime Minister Erdoğan has particularly focused on normalizing relations with Iraqi Kurdistan, a territory that has remained in perpetual conflict with Turkey. Now a Turkish university is set up in Arbil and a Turkish Consulate in Musil. The Kurdish language is being used in all broadcast media and political campaigns. Kurdish names to the cities and towns have been restored.

Armenia and Turkey that were looked upon as inveterate adversaries are now set upon a reconciliation course. Besides taking other confidence building measures, the most remarkable measure was to open the international airspace between Armenia and Turkey in 2005. Turkish government is also rehabilitating churches and other building in Armenia.

Concerning democratic reforms, Erdoğan gave the European Court of Human Rights supremacy over Turkish courts, and also curtailed the powers of the 1991 Anti-Terror Law. He abolished many restrictions placed on freedom of speech and the press. A partial amnesty has been given to many members of the Kurdish terrorist organization PKK that surrendered to the government.

Defining these otherwise impossible measures, Prime Minister Erdoğan said, “We took a courageous step to resolve chronic issues that constitute an obstacle along Turkey’s development, progression and empowerment.”

Turkey’s quest and endeavor, since 1987, to join the European Union has remained an unrealized dream so far. The flurry of reforms that Erdoğan government injected into Turkish body politic and socio-economic sectors were also aimed at fulfilling certain conditions fixed by the EU for Turkey to become is member. But primarily the white Christian Europe is still not in a mood to allow Turkey with an Islamic stamp to join this fold. Erdoğan government has bent over heavily backward to accommodate the conditionalities of European Union.

But in the wake of the bias that runs in the European content against Turkey especially in Germany and France, it is still sitting with its fingers crossed. To accede to the EU, Turkey must first successfully complete negotiations with the European Commission on each of the 35 chapters of EU law which contains some of the unbridgeable bottlenecks for Turkey to overcome.

Although 2013 has been marked as the year for Turkey to become the EU member, yet the prior unanimous assent of all the member states is a must, which seems doubtful.
For his outstanding services and myriad achievements both in promoting peace in the region and transforming the Turkish society, Erdoğan was named by the European Voice Organization "The European for the Year 2004". He is an alluring, articulate and eloquent speaker.

Erdoğan is the recipient of 15 honorary doctorates, three honorary citizenships and 27 multifarious awards, including the “Profile of Courage Award” from the American Jewish Committee.

It was a unique honor for Turkey when Obama after assuming the presidency of United States made his first overseas trip to Turkey in April 2009. That portrays Turkey’s important position on the world stage with Erdoğan as the prime minister.

(Some of the contents and statistics in this article were picked from other sources)

(The writer is a Dallas-based freelance journalist and a former diplomat writing mostly on International Affairs with specific focus on Pakistan and the United States)
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President Obama’s Latest Victories

Upright Opinion
December 25, 2010
President Obama’s Latest Victories
By Saeed Qureshi
In one of his stirring comments made after the Passage of the tough Health Care Bill, president Obama remarked that he always comes from behind and takes a lead. It is akin to a race horse or a sprinter that seems to be trailing behind but in the final moments wins. The month of December has been particularly quite propitious for president Obama as he scored a string of victories that carried bipartisan support and thus look more credible with wider acceptance. These windfall victories appear to be more stunning and impressive as these came on the heels of a dismal defeat in the November elections that he dismayingly yet aptly described as shellacking.

These victories should impart enough confidence to president Obama to move forward and address the pressing items on his election agenda that somehow have not made a tangible headway. Perhaps the most outstanding feature of Obama’s success is his less aggressive or rather mild postures towards the outside world. Unlike his hard-core predecessor G.W. Bush, his image has remained that of a benign and mellowed president of the United States. Despite villainous provocations and name calling bordering on vituperation, he has maintained his dignity and cool and the virtue of not stooping low.

He has been tough with Iran and has been markedly successful in stiffening the sanctions against Iran. Primarily these sanctions are uncalled for because they trample the principle of equality and evenhandedness in inter-state relations. Now it is a common knowledge that it is essentially at the behest of Israel more than America’s own choice that Iran is being pressurized and isolated to force her to either abandon the nuclear program or keep it on a certain dictated level.
But a sovereign country as Iran is, she would not be cowed down as to wind up her advancement in nuclear technology. Although the ideologically and historically Arab adversaries are also behind such a move, it is fundamentally Israel that feels threatened by Iran’s nuclear program.

So in comparison while G.W. Bush invaded Iraq with a massive military incursion under the pretext that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, Obama has desisted from such a dangerous and ruinous move with regard to Iran. Instead, he has been keeping the doors for parleys open while tightening and enhancing the embargoes on Iran. Obama knows that the world at large was disinterested in suffocating and annihilating Iran by sanctions, as such tactics seldom worked to obtain the stipulated results. Amazingly, of late, many American companies have been allowed to resume trade with Iran.

As such Obama would not make the fatal mistake of launching a military assault on Iran while two other similar wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have remained disappointingly inconclusive, draining the American economy and entailing loss of troops. Soothingly, he has stuck to his commitment of recalling troops out of Iraq by the end of 2011, which also enhances his credibility and sprouts his stature.
President Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed a New START treaty in April this year. Its ratification, which had been in doldrums, by the U. S. senate, is being viewed as a significant victory for president Obama. President Obama’s has also been successful in taking Russian along on the question of placing more sanctions on Iran.

President Obama signed three bills within a time frame of three weeks that benefit the American citizens and are to be assessed as great humanitarian accomplishments. The Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010(also known as Obama Tax cuts) with an 858 billion financial outlay was signed into law by Obama on December 17.
Primarily it benefits the affluent classes but in equal measure, it would bring relief to the lower sections of the American society. Had this bill not been approved,( happily by a bipartisan effort) the rich would still be comfortable but students and poor sections would have enormously suffered.
Despite, Republicans’ back down, the senate passed the legislation covering medical costs for rescue workers and first responders who developed health problems following the 9/11 incident. It was an issue that has been hanging fire for almost ten years now and no one dared touch it.

Now keeping in view the pattern of complex and rigid partisanship in American Congress, these achievements are not mean by any yardstick. They are monumental by virtue of being passed with a spirit of non-partisanship, more demonstrated by the hostile Republicans than the Democrats themselves.

One wonders as to why president backed down and put up a low profile on Israel’s refusal to freeze the burgeoning settlements in the occupied lands of Palestine. The Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s defiant behavior was not only presumptuous but exuded an impertinent disregard for the American patronage without which it cannot survive even for a day. Since then the president has neither responded to Netanyahu’s insolence nor spelled out his next strategy to deal with this overly intricate problem. May be he is bidding his time.

Equally, he has not been able to get the Dream Act passed whose passage fell short of five votes. Nevertheless, he has vowed to continue fighting for this most pressing cause as on its approval hinges the future of innumerable young boys and girls, most of them adults, to be lawfully acknowledged as the citizens of the United States.

Hopefully, despite pressure from the war lobbies, he would be able to withdraw American troops from Afghanistan where a counterproductive war entailing financial disaster and loss of troops for no cogent goals, is underway.
For president Obama the challenges are formidable. But the kind of temperament that he has and the inborn intellect and civilized tenacity that he possesses, he might be able to make history and disentangle United States from the oversees wars for the first time in six decades.

(The writer is a Dallas-based freelance journalist and a former diplomat writing mostly on International Affairs with specific focus on Pakistan and the United States)
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Friday, December 24, 2010

United States Army takes a Moral Plunge

Upright Opinion

December 20, 2010

United States Army takes a Moral Plunge
By Saeed Qureshi

America has suffered a steep moral plunge by allowing the gays and the lesbians to openly serve in the U. S. army. The U.S. Senate has struck down the law known as “don’t ask, don’t tell,” enacted during President Clinton era, under which the army rank and file could conceal their sexual orientations. Now the gays and the lesbians with expressed identities would be free to serve in the army without any fear of slur, discrimination, ridicule or affront from anti-gay and lesbians colleagues.

Even for a moron, the union of two males and females as sex partners is incontrovertibly loathsome. It is a colossal moral tragedy of the present enlightened and civilized times when man should have become more refined and virtuous not by way of being religious but in terms of the segregation of sexes for marriage and carnal pleasures.

The Bible, a holy book for the three Abrahamic religions has narrated various episodes that give us an idea that this irksome practice has been in vogue also in ancient times. The guests of Prophet Abraham were the incorrigible homosexuals who were wont of the males than the females although the prophet did his best to prevent them from going ahead with their sinister desire.

The Bible further narrates that the entire population during the time of Prophet Lot was immersed in and fond of homosexuality and such lecherous and filthy persuasions. They were destroyed by divine will when they refused to abandon those morbid evils. The holy book of Muslims Quran condemns this sleazy activity in the most stunning and admonishing words.

There must be an undeniable wisdom and unchangeable and eternal purpose behind the scheme of creation by the creator or the system that is governing the universe. The creation of male and female couples in humans, to animals and to plants must be the inherent immutable code that we can all witness. This principle or code that has got nothing to do with the scientific discoveries propels the progeny and procreation for all living beings that are believed to have soul or breathe.

Like other unnatural pursuits, this sexual perversion of humans, cuts across the natural urges and desires ingrained in the scheme of things. As such by allowing, the same sex union for pleasure making and satiating sexual desires is not only a revolt against the nature but also a rejection of the moral values that are universally acknowledged. For such societies that try to alter the course of nature, and cross the moral barriers, the reprisals are bound to take place. The violation of moral underpinnings that are set either by the society or by divine invisible code of conduct, takes its toll sooner or later.

The breaking of established moral codes such as permitting same sex marriages and acknowledging the legal rights of gays and lesbians, does not sit well with the majority of the people in a society. Underneath everyone, even the gays and lesbians consider it as a social, moral, and religious vice that cannot be condoned nor justified. If it were not so then the gays and lesbians should not have remained moral pariahs and outcasts in various societies.

This lot of humanity themselves suffer from an acute and persistent sense of shame and a guilty conscience. And precisely for this reason, the repeal of DADT provides a legal cover to such wayward individuals to not feel rejected, hated or despised by their detractors in the army.

Army’s job is to fight, whether by a morally upright person or a degenerated individual who does not believe or practice the natural gender divide between the two opposite sexes or who is a rapist or a murderer.

With the repeal of the DADT, the gays and the lesbians would be immune from open slander and disparagement. However because their sexual orientation would stand open, the hate and aversion towards them by their fellow personnel would be of the same level or rather more intense, albeit confined to the hearts and minds.

The impact of this odious piece of legislation upon the young men and women in the society who plan career in the army would be very ruinous. Until now, many among them would not adopt a gay or lesbian way of life, under the fear that they could be victimized in the army in various means.

They would be looked down upon and despised by their conservative colleagues and therefore, the service for them as gays or lesbians would not be tension -free. They knew that their presence in the army would not be an easy undertaking. Now under the latest law they can enter into a relationship of gay and lesbian and still serve in the army without a moral hang-up and without any fear of diatribe or vitriol or bad looks, from their peers.

No society has even been rigidly without homosexuals, the child abusers, the gays, and the lesbians. In the same vein, no society, howsoever, chaste could root out entirely the depravity of its people who of molest. We are aware of the myriad stories of the Christian priests who indulged in heinous crimes of committing adultery with the helpless and innocent students and even worshippers. If a priest or clergy can violate his code of ethics and savagely break the religious and divine barriers then others with the same mindset are less to blame.

This clearance or legal permission for the morally pervert human beings to serve in the army cannot be hailed as a breakthrough for the establishment of equality between the genders. Merely for the fact that someone was ready, to fight does not absolve him or her from the moral monstrosity covered by a legal or constitutional caveat.

And this is not a question of freedom or fundamental rights. In my mind, a lesbian or a gay is a heinous delinquent as the people who indulge in other moral and social breaches. I would rather plead for an intensive and vigorous campaign in all societies for the moral violators such as lesbians, homosexuals, and gays to reform their lives and come to the level of a common person who views such activities as the bane of decency and piety. Piety is not a fantasy that some would deny or challenge its existence.

What is moral restraint? Moral restraint is to curb the tendencies that are treated and viewed by the society as repugnant and abhorrent. If it s a question of allowing the gays and lesbians to break the laws of nature then those people who want to walk nude in the streets should also be allowed to enjoy their freedom. By that weird logic, let everyone have liberty to live nude or without clothes. The society ought not break the established social and moral barriers under the spurious plea that these collide with the fundamental rights and spur discrimination.

(The writer is a Dallas-based freelance journalist and a former diplomat writing mostly on International Affairs with specific focus on Pakistan and the United States)
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The Tragedy of Karbala and Shia Symbolism

Upright Opinion
December 17, 2010
The Tragedy of Karbala and Shia Symbolism
By Saeed Qureshi

The troops of second Ummyad caliph Yazid son of Muawiyah waylaid and mercilessly massacred (Oct. 680 A. D.), Hazrat Hussain and 72 of his family members and devotees at Karbala, some 60 miles from Baghdad. Hazart Hussain was the younger grandson of the prophet of Islam Hazrat Muhammad (pbuh). The women and children who survived the massacre, were made prisoners and transported to Yazid's court in Damascus.
The Shia branch of Islam mourns this tragic episode every year, with the demonstration and expression of utmost grief and profound lamentation during the first ten days of Muharram: the first lunar month of the Muslims.

Some of the rituals of this sorrow-drenched legacy of mourning and bereavement are the self- beating of chests and the cutting of body with razors and bunch of small sharp knives. Besides, taking out mourning processions with elegy lyrics sung with deep pathos, overflowing passions and loud sobbing is part of the somber religious ceremonies.

Visibly, there is an overly display of symbols that are attributed to the noble martyrs, slain at the desert of Karbala. A profusely decorated horse is the symbol of the ride of Hazrat Imam Hussain. The casket (as if a dead boy is in it for burial) draped with flower petals and green and black sheets is taken out in a procession around which the mourners beat their chests.

Other symbols are the standard (flag) with images of the hand of one of the brothers of Hussain, Hazrat Abbas on top. His hands were cut off by the hostile troops when Hazrat Abbas tried to take water from the river Euphrates. The parchments with slogans, the cradle of infant Asghar, the youngest son of Hussain killed with a dart; the skin water carrier and similar symbols are exhibited. The devotees venerate these by either touching them or respectfully gesticulating and saluting at them in the air as if to draw divine benediction.

The miniature mausoleums, the tomb shrines of imam Hussain and other Karbala martyrs are carried in the crowded processions as mark of great devotion and spiritual cadence, engulfed in boundless grief. Similar other relics that relate to the Karbala tragedy are demonstrated during the mourning period.

The Shia sect of Islam is distinct from the Sunnis by virtue of certain divergent elements of faith. The paramount cleavage is on the legitimacy or otherwise of the four successors of Prophet Muhammad. The Shias discard the first thee caliphs as usurpers. They believe that the fourth caliph Hazrat Ali the son in law and cousin brother of the prophet was the rightful successor as caliph.

They contend that true Khilafat (Islamic chieftainship) which they term as Imamate comes through the blood descent of the prophet and thus Hazrat Ali was the only and legitimate successor of the prophet. They claim that Hazrat Ali was not only nominated by Prophet Muhammad as his successor but was also divinely protected from sins and was infallible. Shias also have an abiding faith that Hazrat Ali is the incarnate manifestation of God. According to Shia faith, Ali’s divinity is shared by his two sons Hasan and Hussain. This theological conflict over succession had its spillover in Iraq between Imam Hussain and his powerful adversary Yazid.

My main idea is not to recount or emphasize the unbridgeable schism in creed between the Shias and the other denominations of Islam. What I want to highlight is the aspect that in observing the ritual of mourning of the Karbala episode, the Shias believers use the symbols excessively and so vividly. Normally Islam is against the symbolism like idols and deifying the material objects as the Hindus do. Islam believes in monotheism, which means believe in a one God with all his powers and attributes. However, Islam does not allow making the image of God, of the prophets or of the holy figures. That is why when prophet of Islam entered Mecca after defeating the infidels, his first act was to clear the Khana Kaaba from the idols that the pagan Arabs used to worship.

When the second caliph of Islam Hazrat Omar kissed the black stone (Hajre-Aswad), he did so by exclaiming, “O black stone I know that you are nothing but a stone but I am kissing you because the prophet of Islam did so”.

Someone must tutor and rather provide me more knowledge over the profusion of symbolism that we can witness during the tradition of mourning by the Shia Muslims. Is it permissible by Islam to venerate a horse and touch it in order to draw blessing from the animal's body? Is it also within the precincts of Islam to show the images of hands, shrines and tombs by making their miniature designs that are also touched as a token of respect to get grace and pleasure of the holy people with whom these are related? Are the models of shrines that are taken out and displayed during the chest beating in highly charged processions conform to Islam?

Many other sects in Islam also have a plethora of symbols by which these are identified. One of the sects uses green turbans and loud hymns in religious congregations. They send their salutations and sermons of loyalty and devotion to the departed saints and mystics by literally addressing them in a chorus and sort of carols after prayers, as if they were alive and were listening to their invocations and supplications. Their dress, the use of excessive fragrance, the loud shrieks, the shrines, the graves of the deceased holy persons are revered by their devotees as symbols of divinity and mystic candor.

The tradition of soliciting help from shamans, mystics, priests, mediums, and religious elders is being practiced even in the modern age of rationalism and scientific discoveries. The gullible and the credulous go to the saints and soothsayers for redemption, for forgiveness of their sins, attainment of mundane pleasures, rescue from the jealous and evil eyes, for a progeny and security from real or perceived dangers and enemies. This too is a kind of symbolism of God in certain human beings who are believed to possess the divine powers. I am not aware as to how these practices fit into body of the Islamic teachings that negate help and succor from forces other than God almighty.

(The writer is a Dallas-based freelance journalist and a former diplomat writing mostly on International Affairs with specific focus on Pakistan and the United States)
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Support MQM for a Revolution

Upright Opinion
December, 12, 2010
Support MQM for a Revolution
By Saeed Qureshi
Thoroughly atoned and having lived in exile for 20 years now, the MQM chief, Altaf Hussain seems to be a metamorphosed person. Now he speaks for the integrity, unity, and sovereignty of Pakistan. He has been issuing clarion calls one after another, for the reconstruction of Pakistan and cornering and curbing such elements who are antagonistic towards the well- being of the masses and that of the country.
Let us deliberate today upon a prickly subject. I strongly urge you to vote for Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) for an epoch-making change of the repulsive status quo and for structural transformation that the people of Pakistan have been yearning since August 14, 1947. Everyone is aware what this date means to the free citizens of Pakistan.
Following the end in 1857 of the Mughal Empire confined to a few miles around the Royal Fort of Delhi (Shahi Qila) and Chandni Chowk, the Muslims of the sub-continent looked like a lost Diaspora facing two inveterate and bloodthirsty enemies. The Mughal empire lasting from 1526 to 1857 was a paradise-like and extravagant pastime for the Mughal invaders who were Muslims in names and lecherous in their practical lives. Such immoral dynasties were destined to crumble eventually.
The die was finally cast when trigger-happy white bandits of Royal British army, in tandem with the local soldiers roamed blissfully in the streets of Delhi and engaged for days in a spree of shooting and hanging the Muslims at the nearest tree. That was one of those gruesome tragedies in the human history when nature or divine forces look at humans with complete indifference and prefer not to intercede.
That bloody chapter was closed with complete sway of the British colonialism over the entire India. For 90 years, both Hindus and Muslims entered into a phase of struggle waged for freedom from the Yoke of British imperialism. That day finally ascended on the horizon of the subcontinent. Two separate independent states for Muslims and the other for the predominant Hindu population emerged on the map of the earth. I must add hastily that this independence was genuine and not like the one that the people have had during a thousand years of Muslim rulers in India.
The new state of Pakistan is not a dynasty built or erected by an invader or snatched by one militarily powerful conqueror from another weak Muslim potentate. Even Muslims or any other race could not be treated as free under those dynastic dispensations. Those were the times when there was a supreme master called a king or monarch and the people, irrespective of their religions, were named as subjects. The concept of fundamental rights was forlon and not yet born. The dynastic or monarchical outfits were the products of those eras. The concept of democracy was alien to the rest of the world barring United Kingdom and beyond in the United States of America.
The civil and human rights were inherent in the formation of the two newborn states of India and Pakistan. Pakistan in comparison to India could be defined as a sham democracy from the inception but still democracy it has been. This country being run with fits and starts and alternating between alloyed democracy and pure dictatorship is a thousand times better than the polygamist Muslims and non- Muslim rulers of the past, who were mostly titular under the British umbrella. As rulers, they were not different from their imperialist masters except in pigment and color of their skin.
Let me not stretch this historical narrative too far because I would like to enter into a dialogue with you on voting for the MQM in the next elections. I would spell out my reasons in a short while. The MQM is a liberal, progressive, and secular party. In the past, it could be portrayed an ethnically fanatic organization but not religiously. It is a grassroot party with cadres drawn from the middle and lower middle classes. Now here is a straight question whose answer we all know. Who suffered unspeakably and atrociously in the wake of the partition of the subcontinent? The answer is: the refugees who crossed a sea of blood and fire; cut down, and slaughtered in countless numbers by Sikh and Hindu brigands while moving towards Pakistan.
Do you remember the way the Sikhs and Hindu savages tore into pieces even the babies in the wombs of mothers. Their only sin was that they opted to live in a new country indentified by Islam and the rebirth of a Muslim nation in the sub-continent. This monumental sacrifice alone entitles the Mohajars from India to be treated as heroes and the vanguards of independence. Their supreme sacrifices and unspeakable sufferings, for a sublime cause should be scribed with golden words in the annals of the Sub-Continent. That was their destiny by choice and this noble choice must always be upheld and adored.
In earlier years after its formation, the MQM was branded as an ethnic and parochial outfit that was exclusively focused on the issues concerning the Mohajars community. There was also a phase when a long drawn war of vendettas and target killing between MQM and their rival groups including the secret agencies was rife. It had a litany of charges against it, including inter-alia, generating income through kidnapping for ransom, extortion of money from non-Mohajar shopkeepers and businesses. It was also accused of numerous killings, bombings, and assassinations in the city of Karachi. During those tumultuous periods, it was alleged that the MQM has turned against a united Pakistan. It was further insinuated that it was planning to cut off a part of Sindh province to be rejoined with India.
There might be some truth in these allegations. However, let us also concede that MQM in its early formative stages was fighting for its survival and identity. Thus, there was collateral damage between MQM and those braced against it. However, much water has flown down the rivers and MQM has been recast as a Muttahida Qaumi Movement that refurbishes its national character and broader image.
It is no more talking about Karachi or Mohajars but for Pakistan’s downtrodden and impoverished people. Its branches are interspersed from the heights of Gilgit to Peshawar and Baluchistan. Now its agenda is about Pakistan and not for Karachi or their narrow ethnic interests. The tone and tenor of Altaf Hussain’s overseas discourses and that of other leaders exude a somberness, and broader vision that encompasses the entire Pakistan.
Altaf Hussain and MQM leadership now adopts a mild and toned- down reaction to the scathing attacks from other political contenders. They profess logic, a kind of sagacity and statesmanship thus diluting their past image of hardliners. They now articulate the difference between the right and wrong causes. Despite being a coalition partner at the center and in Karachi province, they even oppose vehemently the erratic and such foul decisions of the sitting government, that patently go against the betterment of the people of Pakistan.
They have thrown up an open and unreserved pledge to stamp out, the morbid scourge of feudalism, the abominable patriarchal system (Sardari Nizam), the rapacious capitalism, the plunderers of the national wealth and corrupt and scandalous individuals in and out of government. No other party has so unequivocally declared a thumping crusade against these evils.
In short, they are beckoning for an earth-shaking revolution as had happened in France in 1789-1799. That revolution became the harbinger of a chain of pro-people universal transformations and momentous changes against the monarchy, the aristocracy, the privileged people, the church and exploitative and comprador classes. The world moved towards equality, justice, democracy and flowering of human rights for the fallen people in every society.
Altaf Hussain’s call for a French style revolution is different in context from other such clamors by so many leaders in Pakistan. And he might be able to make a difference. He is a born revolutionary and is a person who does not look back when making and implementing decisions. Look at what they have done in Karachi. The Karachi’s civic life has undergone a radical change for the better. They have widened the roads, build under and overhead bridges, organized the messy traffic, cleared the pockets from the land grabbers, removed encroachments, and gave a new, decent look to this largest metropolis of Pakistan.
MQM talks of the middle and lower sections of society and vehemently opposes the elite and aristocratic classes. MQM is up against the greedy, exploitative, and oppressive power wielders. Now it combats with the land grabbers, the ruthless sugar and power mafias fleecing the public, enriching themselves and snatching from the people even their square meal.
MQM has relentlessly taken the government to task for raising the power tariff and sugar, gas and petrol prices. It did not spare ministers, the parliamentarians, and the business blackmailers, for spiking the prices by hoarding the sugar and other necessities of life. It is in the forefront for the relief and rehabilitation of the hugely devastated and uprooted population during the summer floods. Of late, it has rejected the levying of RGST (reformed general sales tax) and flood tax. It has been loudly accusing the rich classes and members of parliament for not paying taxes and instead putting additional burden on the already hard-pressed people of Pakistan.
Altaf Hussain has called for justice, national honor, integrity and adoption of such policies that, instead of borrowing money from predatory lenders, can lead to self-reliance.MQM has chalked out a comprehensive agenda for national development and nationwide campaign against the feudal domination. They call for a long march against the anti-people forces.
The biggest assets of the MQM are its totally dedicated and committed workforce and army of volunteers who don’t hesitate in laying down their lives on the call of their leader. One can see the mammoth crowds in Karachi and elsewhere, listening with rapt attention and deep sense of loyalty and abiding esteem, to the telephonic address of their leader from London. Its slogan of patriotism and abolishing feudalism, Sardari system, and big landlords is getting popular and a sentiment of support for MQM is pulsating among the people in all the four provinces. The MQM’s tilt towards India has become a non- issue as other forces would not allow this to happen nor would MQM ever harbor such a notion.
MQM is unmistakably cognizant of the stark fact that their future is inextricably linked with Pakistan. They have to live and die in Pakistan. They cannot go back to India nor can they carve out a piece of land within Pakistan. They opted for Pakistan and have to sustain and work for its stability and existence. They have to perceive themselves as locals and not refugees. Their coming generations would not know that their ancestors were migrants or refugees. That is perhaps the underlying reason behind the removal of word Mohajar and replace it with Muttahida and that is far-sighted decision.
But how would MQM come to terms with the Pakistan army that is always a robust stakeholder for the solidarity and integrity of Pakistan and having remote control in politics? The misgivings that might be simmering even feebly between MQM and the army should be removed. This is the most pressing and foremost task for the MQM leadership to address. Since the top army brass too have large land holdings as well as the parliamentarians; the burial of feudalism would need a Herculean endeavor, and a colossal crusade that could be only mustered if MQM emerges as a majority party in the assembly.
It will have to take along also other parties if it cannot attain a majority status. Or else it could form an alliance with such parties that are in favor of erasing elite culture and feudalism. How that can be made possible is anybody guess. But if the people of Pakistan genuinely believe in MQM’s revolutionary agenda aimed at turning Pakistan into a great country, then they must vote for this party.
If a change through ballot cannot be brought about then MQM is ready for the alternate course. As stated in the foregoing, it wants a cataclysmic shake-up like the French Revolution in Pakistan. For that phenomenal undertaking, the people will have to be mobilized. Are the people ready to heed the thumping call of Altaf Hussain for a bloody revolution, destroy the prevailing odious soci-political and economic system?
Upon the accomplishment of that first phase, depends the onerous task of building a new egalitarian, democratic, prosperous, liberal, and stable Pakistan? If that miracle happens then the new Pakistan would be resplendent with a civil society, human rights, good governance and would be free from the exploitation and loot of few rapacious individuals and classes.
History tells us that once in while the unusual and extremist individuals changed the course of history and attained visibly impossible feats. Altaf Hussain might prove to be one such person. Just ponder what the founder of Pakistan Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah told his guest R. G. Casey, the governor of Bengal in Karachi in March 1948? Jinnah said, “Don’t decry fanatics. If I had not been a fanatic there would have never been Pakistan!”
(The writer is a Dallas-based freelance journalist and a former diplomat writing mostly on International Affairs with specific focus on Pakistan and the United States)

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Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Enigma of Harvard Admissions

Upright Opinion
The Enigma of Harvard Admissions
By Saeed Qureshi
Editor Diplomatic Times

It is the lifetime wish of every high caliber, intellectually and academically outstanding student to be admitted in the universally celebrated learning institution known as the Harvard University. During the admissions season, there is always a beeline of the desirous applicants to enter this most illustrious educational center.
Even if one remains intellectually and academically on a low level afterwards, the very suffix of Harvard tagged with the name of a passed-out graduate carries an envy and esteem that is most gratifying for the bearer of this singular honor. The world Harvard carries an aura and prestige and a dignified feeling of magnificence for the graduates that is to be invaluable in terms of worldly honor and fame.
Yet admission into this unique and inimitable house of knowledge is simply asking or reaching for the moon. This metaphor was merely used to exemplify the tediousness and uphill undertaking of being accepted as a student in this outstanding institution. Harvard is like an ocean of knowledge and only a few hundred buckets are allowed to be taken out of this every year.
Frankly, the legacy and tradition of this glorious institution appears to be to dishearten countless and exhilarate a few. The profusion of despondency, frustration, and even rage that sprouts out of the refusals is more devastating than a bombshell. It turns to be a lingering paranoid and prolonged acute sense of deprivation that haunts and boggles the minds of the dropped applicants for quite some time, if not for ever.
I am not privy to or aware of the intricacies of the admissions system that is followed to pick a few candidates and reject the rest. Yet I have a meager knowledge of how some times the watertight straitjackets of admission procedures are set aside to accommodate those who can offer hefty donations for the institution.
I do not claim the veracity of such information, yet I have no mechanism at my disposal to debunk this loud thinking either. This, in no way, should be construed as an attempt to caste an aspersion on the fair and transparent system followed in finalizing the lists of the successful applicants. The task is certainly daunting, excessively arduous and even overly sensitive and delicate.
For instance, this year, in the faculty of Public Administration and International Development, around 700 applications were received and merely 70-80 applicants were chosen. I may plead that every student, in his own right, must be a brilliant scholar and must have fulfilled the pre-requisite qualifications for admissions. However, those 600 or so unsuccessful applicants must be quite impatient to find out what was wrong with their applications, which like others, must have been supported by all the necessary referrals and attachments. The job of the selectors must be extensively hard to skim the cream out of milk already brimming with abundant scholasticism, intellect, intelligence, and talent.
The perfunctory information that I was provided about the preliminary process is to divide applications to the faculty professors each with a set of 20 applications. Their preliminary selection, after thorough sifting and pre-screening, is forwarded to the Dean of Admissions. Thereafter, it is the Dean whose job is to compile the final lists and notify the results to both the successful and unsuccessful candidates.
A case in point is that of my daughter who applied three times and each time she had to cut a sorry figure for not being taken in. She seems to be perpetually undergoing the acute pangs of despondency, utter awe, and utmost feelings of loss and deprivation. Each year she improved her application in consultation with the Harvard’s Director in the admission office, solicit her valuable advice how to apply, what to attach and what inputs to furnish. In order to fill in the gap of undertaking a humanitarian work in the field, she travelled all the way to Philippines to work with an NGO in the remote slum areas of that country.
With a humanitarian outlook, during her college education and afterwards, she had been robustly instrumental, in working towards uplifting the environment and improving the pitiable lives of the slum dwellers in Pakistan. Although, such an experience or background was optional, yet she did not want to leave any loopholes with a view to avoiding the remotest chance of rejection. I would not figure out as to why she remained unqualified for the successive third year.
Now human beings are prone to making mistakes and suffer from faulty judgments. A benign examiner or professor may take a lenient view of the application even if; it would be lacking some essential ingredients. A harsh one may reject all or take only those that correspond to his peculiar mindset. Otherwise, all applications are flawlessly prepared by the candidates. My point is that the selection of the candidates with absolute accuracy and objectivity is always relative.
I must deeply admire and sincerely eulogize the worthy President of the Harvard University, Madam Drew Gilpin Faust for her very touching, gracious and kind response to our letter. She shared our pain, frustration and trauma with very consoling words. I had made a plea in my letter to consider my daughter to fill in the seat of a candidate who may not show up to join the institution.
Also very affectionately, she forwarded my letter to the Dean of Admissions of that particular faculty. I also wrote a separate letter to the Dean making the same request. I kept calling the worthy Dean for days together to know about the fate of our request in either affirmative or otherwise that we would have commendably and thankfully accepted any way.
Every time a subordinate told us, Dean is not in the office. Well if someone like a highly placed official as Dean is, may not like to talk to someone over the phone, one could still have the option to respond to our letter either verbally or in writing as was done by the esteemed President.
That non-response remains like a slab on our chest. It makes me wonder if Deans of such distinguished institutions could be too fastidious or bureaucratic as to remain non-responsive even if the request may look frivolous. A return call would constitute a customary courtesy that is expected of the exalted persons in pinnacle positions.
As mentioned above, the admissions in institutions of academic excellence such as Oxford, Cambridge, Berkeley, and Harvard have always been the most sought after goals of both talented and mediocre among the students. However, what criterions are adopted to sift the best from the others is not divulged to the unsuccessful candidates. In a glaring example where ancestral or social background supersedes and overtakes the talent and merit is reflective in the direct selection of the young son of one of the former prime ministers of Pakistan, in Oxford. Good connections make lot of difference.
His mother, the illustrious prime minister when she was a student, was also admitted in Oxford because her father was the prime minister also. A prestigious position, effective links, and hefty donations do make one qualify to realize the most coveted dream of a student. As such, the privileged classes stand to benefit on the strength of their wealth and status. This practice might be undercutting the efforts to choose the most deserving by virtue of their brilliant standing in academics and necessary fieldwork.
I would dare suggest that the system of admissions in such high profile and most competitive educational universities and colleges be made more transparent and open. Besides, the number of admissions should be progressively increased with the march of time. Finally, returning applicants should be accorded preference over the first- time applicants.
(The writer is a Dallas-based freelance journalist and a former diplomat writing mostly on International Affairs with specific focus on Pakistan and the United States)

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America should choose between Wars or Economy

December 4, 2010

By Saeed Qureshi

Overseas wars are the bane of American Economy. America’s plummeting economy can be revived or put on an even keel if the overseas wars are wound up. The bulk of funds thus saved can be utilized domestically on creating jobs, modernizing the decaying highway infrastructure, sprucing up the education, expanding health care benefits, giving sufficient student loans and on similar productive projects.

These aimless wars should not have been started at first. Nor can these be won, no matter how long waged. The beneficiaries of these costly wars are multinational companies, the corporate magnates, and special interest groups that are backed and supported by the public representatives in both the House of Representatives and the Senate.

Even if someone one like president Obama wants to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the vested interests and war lobbyists would make every efforts and pull every string to oppose and keep these in perpetuation. President Obama whose firm commitment and loud public pledge was to terminate the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is now having second thoughts and there is every possibility that he would renege upon his earlier stance.

The Republicans are laughing in their sleeves to see a Democrat and a black president cornered and debilitated to such an extent that now he has become oblivious of his agenda for change and seems to be kow-towing the Republicans. The Republicans who have scored an upper hand in the senate exude a definitive confidence to browbeat any move by the democratic dispensation that does not serve their ulterior motives of securing the interests of the corporate classes and wealthiest segments of the American society.

The latest bipartisan approach heralded and trumpeted by both president Obama and the top Republican leadership to retain the Bush tax cuts, is nothing but a docile compromise by the sitting administration to keep the things going as these are. The bipartisanship would be floated and sustained at the Republicans’ terms and not of the Democrats. With ham-handed, flexible, and wavering approach towards the grave and daunting national issues, there is a remote possibility that Democrats can retain their majority also in the house. There seems to be faint hope or slim chance for Obama to win the second term, unless he can throw up a revolutionary strategy for energizing the innervating economy and create jobs.

For reviving the sluggish economy, the most pressing issue for the incumbent American administration is to create abundant job opportunities and progressively bring down the soaring graph of unemployment. The greatest frustration and disillusionment and people’s disaffection for any government emanate when people have no or meager income. President Obama despite his charisma and popularity is caught up in the web of multiplicity of problems that he knows not how to tackle. He wasted his pretty two years on the passage of the healthcare reform while giving scant attention to other yawning challenges.

Nevertheless, he can salvage the American nation from this morass, if he picks up a new resolve and goes ahead defiantly, with the implementation of his pristine election agenda premised upon refurbishing the deteriorating economy and winding up the meaningless yet economically burdensome distant wars. While he can go whole- hog to straighten the faltering economy, he should make it succinctly clear to the Americans that it was a legacy from the previous administration and he was in no way responsible for its making.

The tax cuts policy that was initiated by President George Bush is counterproductive as it favors the rich and affluent classes and the top corporate sectors. It does not benefit the lower and the middle classes in a resounding manner. The bailouts and stimuli are cosmetic measures and cannot cure the deeply ailing economy. So a gubernatorial strategy has to be mounted that goes a long way until the sick economy starts breathing and convalescing again.

There is no question of vanity or prestige involved if America retracts from both Iraq and Afghanistan without winning those wars. These wars were neither moral nor provoked. Eversince, thrown into this quagmire, America has achieved nothing save losing American precious soldiers and dollars. These wars can be ended, the way these were started.

By doing so America would be saving huge funds that are now being shoved and burnt in the furnace of wars. The American economy would at once start showing signs of recovery as the liability of foreign war spending turns into saving. With this money, America can set- up and create more industries that would automatically need work force. As such, the high graph of joblessness would start plummeting. That is the viable and genuine strategy by which America can start overcoming its lengthening economic nightmare.

The outsourcing of jobs is another stunning impediment that is devouring the domestic jobs and widening the sphere of unemployment. The American entrepreneurs are investing aboard at the cost of home industry and employment. It is clearly a paradigm that provided jobs to the foreign countries at the cost of the home population. The cheaper goods so produced are pushed in the American markets lending two-fold disadvantage to the Americans.

One that the local products cannot compete with the cheap imports in prices. Secondly, the domestic industrial sectors have gone sluggish and not being expanded to create jobs. If America is keen on importing foreign merchandise such as cars, then it would be in order to raise the import tariff for them so that there is little price variations between the local and foreign imported finished products. The competition should be on the basis of quality.

If outsourcing is, necessary then it should be confined to high technology only and not of producing ordinary consumer items that cater for our one-dollar and consumer super stores. The stark factor about the American economy is that it is like a candle being burnt on both the ends and still futile and mindless efforts and plans are contemplated to keep it intact. It means that while the money is being spent like showers of rains abroad for cheap imports, no meaningful strategy is being hammered out to put life into the dwindling domestic economy.

President Obama has to come out of his complexes if he has any and apply himself aggressively to translate into reality, his promised agenda for change. If he succeeds, he would win the laurels of the American nation. If he cannot deliver befittingly, he will not be held responsible, as the onus would fall on the recalcitrant Republicans and right wing lobbyists who would not like to see a democratic president all the more a black to emerge as a redeemer and bail out the American nation from an abyss, it is plunged into at the moment.

This is a defining juncture for President Obama to make history or else go down as an ordinary head of state who in the beginning spewed out lot of sound and fury but at the end signified nothing. He has two years to prove equal to the mammoth task.

One can be Moral even being Irreligious

Upright Opinion
December 2, 2010
One can be Moral even being Irreligious
By Saeed Qureshi
While I contend that man can be moral and righteous without being religious, I am in no way suggesting, that one should abandon practicing religion. Morality, essentially, is a virtue that is personal and the human beings follow it out of social or personal obligations or volition. Let us put it like this, that even in heathen and secular societies, the people, at the same time, tell lies and speak truth. Truth is a component of virtue that one believes not because of religious compulsions or motivation but because it is a positive social value that is appreciated while its antonym is disliked.
When we are speaking truthfully, we seldom think we are doing so because the religion ordained so, but because this was right and commendable to do so. Same mindset applies to other countless virtues and moral values that we practice in our daily lives.
To be law abiding, to care for others, to be compassionate and considerate, to be kind and humane, to treat aged and children with kindness, not to steal, murder, or rape, are invariably considered as virtues that are cherished and commended equally in the irreligious and the rigidly religious societies.
The religious commandments or injunctions if vigorously and earnestly applied during our social dealings, then of course, we may not err or indulge in immoral and unethical pursuits either by word of mouth or by our actions and deeds. Yet in our daily life and in social interactions, we make a mess of the moral codes ordained by our religions.
Irrespective we believe in Judaism, Christianity, or Islam or any other religion, countless times we lie, swindle, weigh less, adulterate the foods, and charge more. We do not keep our promises. We molest, kidnap, speak rough even use abusive jargons, enter into fratricidal disputes, tamper with out utility services meters, evade or do not pay our tax in full. We solicit jobs through bribery or influential contacts; prefer our relations and friends for jobs or contracts via nude and unabashed nepotism and so on. We seldom think that all these vices and foul activities are forbidden by religions and despised by the society.
Therefore, whether we are religious or not, we demonstrate outward social behavior without keeping in mind all the time that these are do’s or don’ts contained in the religious codes. If we still persist in good behavior as well as bad behavior then certainly we are simultaneously complying and breaching the tenets of the religion. The claim or argument that religion fosters absolute morality would look convincing if we can divide the human race into two clear sections, one being wholly moral because of being religious and the other being entirely immoral because of being irreligious. We know we cannot draw out such clear-cut distinctions.
If morality were entirely exclusive to religions then the human generations existing before the advent of religious eras would have been immoral. In the prehistoric ages when there was no ownership of land or property, the communities would be knit into bonds of fraternity, work together, equitably divide their food and resources, and share each other pains and pleasures. Those generations might be believing in spirits or souls but certainly, they were not the adherents of traditional religions that sprang later.
Even the wicked Pharaoh admonishes Prophet Abraham for falsifying his real relationship with Sara, who was his wife but he faked her as his sister. In this episode, the conduct of the heathen pharaoh looks more moral as compared to the religious apostle Abraham. If we accept the plea or ruse of Abraham as the need of the hour, then we are tainting or bending the inviolable religious canons with regard to the virtue of truth.
The core and purpose of any religion is absolute morality and piety. In addition, it connects the creation, which is human being with the creator, which is an almighty God. In religion, there cannot be any compromise or modifications on the belief in a super human power or God. Nevertheless, when the faith pertains to the affairs of the societies or mutual interactions, the laws and traditions of the religion mingle with the mundane laws of the society and thus the people follow both of these. The Christian Orthodox Church is succumbing to the pressures and imperatives of the modern societies to the extent that it now permits marriages for nuns and priest. Of late, it has conceded to the use of condoms and even gay marriages.
Beyond the cardinal belief in God, the religions flourish and remain vibrant for their customs and rituals, which are vigorously practiced. The faithful relish, cherish, and draw bliss and spiritual elevation by observing these. They feel their bond of obedience with God strengthened and the reverence for the messengers reinforced. The examples are Hindus converging on the river Ganges every year and celebrating various festivals like Holi and Krishna Janmaashtami. Muslims fast and perform pilgrimage, Jews go to Jerusalem and Roman Catholics go to Rome.
Every religion has a pantheon of deities, an array of rituals and an assortment of customs and innumerable taboos and shibboleths. In Christianity, there is a vast plethora of symbols that are dutifully performed during the service. Some of these are use of candles and rosaries, images of saints, chants ,incantations prayer books, incense, holy water, long robes, everlasting light before the alters, serving of bread, the special architecture of the church buildings and so on. As stated above, In Hinduism, there are counltess deities as symbols of various powers, the river Ganges as purifier of sins, the temples, and the sacred books: Vedas, Brahmanas and Upanishads and Puranas.
In Jewish faith, there are countless symbols such as tabernacle, Star of David, the holy books Torah and Talmud, Sabbath, festivals and circumcision and so on. In Islam, the mosque, the minarets, the curved sword, the green color, the holy house of God in Mecca, the sacrifice, the two sacred festivities: one after the fasting and another on the eve of pilgrimage. The list is long. I shall leave other smaller religions that are immersed in a sea of customs and rituals.
Arguably, while these customs and traditions are fervently and zealously followed by all the religions, yet this does not stop them from killing each other and occupying each other’s lands and enslaving them. In history and even in present times, there have been horrendous ethnic cleansings of the adherents of one religion by the followers of the other religion such as between Jews and Christianity and Christianity and Islam, Hindus and Muslims, Jews and Muslims etc.
Both the religious, secular, or irreligious societies profess principles, precepts, and laws that are intrinsically moralistic. However, at the same time morality could be variously interpreted and is relative in case of each society. In permissive yet religious societies as in the West and the Far East, such pastimes as nightlife, clubs, drinking and dancing are integral part of the social life. In dogmatic Islamic countries, these social features are sins to be liable for harsh punishments.
Yet in these glamorous and socially open societies, people respect each other, give charities to the poor and downtrodden, take maximum care of the toddlers and young children, and maintain nursing homes for the old people. They behave politely and respectfully to each other. Any discrimination based on color, ethnicity religion or gender is unlawful. Although, these and similar other values are preached by religions, yet these are manifestly practiced in religiously liberal societies. It means it is the culture or the law that enforces these good traits. That eliminates the difference between being religious and non-religious in order to be socially moral.
The citizens of these religiously tolerant countries obey the traffic rules, seldom taint the food, or tamper with their meters. Their agitations and protests rallies are orderly and peaceful. They maintain environmental cleaniness and respect the rights of their neighbours. They are by and large peacefcul and allow religious freedom for all believers.
These are moral manifestations of such societies, which accord scant or customary regard to religion. Nevertheless, they believe and practice the well-established principles of morality, ethics, and good conduct.
Temperamentally humans when born, possess inbuilt good or bad traits with varying degrees. These traits are not influenced by external factors and remain as the inseparable part of one’s personality till the last breath. These may be suppressed under peculiar conditions or circumstances but can never be eroded or rooted out from the body. As such socially and temperamentally, some people tend to be highly moral, less moral or conversely highly immoral or less immoral. A miser and greedy man can never be generous, a brave person cannot turn coward and a cruel person would be devoid of compassion, a timid would not be outspoken and an introvert not to become an extrovert, et al.
Humans tend to be hypocritical in posing as moral and religious by exhorting others to be good while they would be wicked themselves. The religious clerics, clergy and preachers though preach moral values, do not offer practical examples by their own conduct. They ask others to be frugal and simple, while they themselves gloat in wealth and lead lavish lives.
Such a sermonized morality looks to be sham and a humbug. As morality is ingrained and very personal to an individual, my accent is on social and individual moralities and not political. In politics, morality is nonexistent as the interests of state supersede the moral contours set by religious movements and gospels as well as the traditional social or individual morality.

(The writer is a Dallas-based freelance journalist and a former diplomat writing mostly on International Affairs with specific focus on Pakistan and the United States)

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The Hajj Fiasco

Upright Opinion
November 22, 2010
The Hajj Fiasco
By Saeed Qureshi
Pakistan’s minister of Science and Technology Azam Khan Swati should be complimented for openly accusing federal minister for Religious Affairs Hamid Saeed Kazmi for being principally responsible for the predicaments of the Pakistani Hajjis in Mecca. While the Prime Minister Gilani, instead of instituting a timely inquiry into the sordid matter, has instead exhorted both the ministers to desist from exchanging condemnatory statements against each other. It patently appears to be a lowly attempt to sweep the dirt under the carpet instead of throwing it out of the window.
If an enquiry were ordered, it would at least lay bare the people responsible for the alleged financial swindles and the lack of proper arrangements for the pilgrims. Even one of the senators Abdul Rahim Mandukhel described the pitiable plight of the Pakistan pilgrims by saying,”as if they were thrown before the wolves.” He painted a graphic picture of what happened to the utterly helpless pilgrims and the manner they were maltreated with callous disregard.
Hajj is described to be one of the five principal pillars of Islam. It is the wish of every Muslim faithful to fulfill this religious observance if his health and economic status permit. Performance of Hajj has become a costly, hazardous, and rigorous undertaking, as it demands physical exertion and monetary cost that in the present time runs into several lakhs of rupees. The common devout Muslims save the money for this religious odyssey in several ways to travel all the way to the holy land, immerse in that divine and spiritual aura, and undergo that sublime experience to be rejuvenated by way of faith, righteousness, and spirituality. It is an exercise that washes off sins and makes one as pure as a newborn baby.
However, the crooks make use of this sublime mission to extort money out of the pilgrims who remain entirely at the mercy of the tour operators and the custodians of the religious affairs ministries both of Pakistan and of Saudi Arabia. A fundamental question arises as to why every time it happens with the Pakistani pilgrims. This time from the Hajjis a sum of 2000 or so dhirams were additionally charged for some kind of arrangements that were not even undertaken. A large number of Hajjis were exposed to such distress that their performance of this fundamental religious obligation was not up to the mark or did not meet the basic benchmarks of the performance of Hajj.
Not only that a federal minister charged the other minister for this mayhem but Pakistan’s ambassador in Saudi Arabia, Umar Khan Ali Sherzai also held the federal religious minister for mishandling the arrangements for Pakistani Hajjis. There cannot be more authentic voice than the Pakistani ambassador to name some one in this dirty episode of corruption and gross mismanagement. It outrightly betokens exploitation and harassment of the Pakistani pilgrims, some of whom must be aged while others had embarked upon the journey to a foreign country for the first time in their lives. Mr. Sherzai has called for an enquiry by a Supreme Court judicial commission to identify the culprits and to fix responsibilities for this unpardonable mishap. This is a genuine demand and must be honored.
The sitting government in Pakistan seems to be customarily stubborn and unmoved over this colossal dereliction of responsibly on the part of the functionaries of the Ministry of Religious Affairs including the minister. According to reports, the pilgrims were without shelter and toilets and had to walk more than ten miles daily in the absence of transport facilities. On top of this highhandedness, they were forced to pay an additional amount of Rs. 25000 per person. The paltry sum of 250 dirham as recompense is like adding insult to the injury. This should be viewed as a clumsy attempt to beguile and bluff the victims of this most ignoble scam, as it was perpetrated in the holy land of Saudi Arabia.
The afflictions of the returning Hajjis are further compounded by the delayed flights, the misplacement, or loss of their luggage and inhospitable atmosphere at the airports both in Saudi Arabia and in Pakistan. While the Saudi airport authorities take prolonged tormenting time to clear the outgoing pilgrims, in Pakistan the aggrieved pilgrims were baton charged when they tried to speak out the tales of their sufferings. Hajj is becoming a prey to the aggravating mismanagement besides the security paranoid.
The most disgusting and irksome part of this woeful story of the prodigious negligence is that only a director was arrested as a scapegoat. The director general Hajj, the minister, and other affiliates are being treated as the holy cows. This ignoble behavior with the Pakistani Hajjis in the holy land apart, the tendency to spare the villains and catch the vulnerable innocents has once again been demonstrated by the government.
(The writer is a Dallas-based freelance journalist and a former diplomat writing mostly on International Affairs with specific focus on Pakistan and the United States)

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Sacrifice and Brutality to the Animals

Upright Opinion
November 18, 2010
Sacrifice and Brutality to the Animals
By Saeed Qureshi
I was immensely appalled by the gleeful cruelty and sadism exhibited by the Muslims faithful in slaughtering the animals in order to fulfill one of the cardinal religious obligations. The poor, helpless, dumb animal is surrounded by a few sturdy strong muscled individuals. They knock the animal down by twisting and pulling his tail, while the others tie up his legs. Yet the others hold him fast by horns and the rest give the animal a push to fall down on the ground. The animal is tied down to the earth by several people while one of them slits its throat and jugular vein with a saber like knife.
The gory scene gives an impression as if they are dealing with a bloodthirsty enemy and to to avenge on him for the heinous murders that he had committed or for defiling the females of the avenging persons with bloodshot eyes and with the definitive resolve to kill the enemy by inflicting on it the maximum possible torture. Watching the blood flowing out of the body of the animal is also considered as part of the ritual and this it gives a kind of satisfaction to the person offering sacrifice in the name of god.
No one has the faintest idea how much pain the animals must be undergoing. Unfortunately, the animals can neither speak nor have a lawyer to protest or plead against this cruelty.
In the modern societies where animal flesh is voraciously consumed and is an integral part of the food, the animals are not subjected to the agony and callousness that is shown in the Muslim societies.
In Europe and elsewhere the companies dealing with the bulk supply of meat stun the animal with a gun or some instrument and then the body is dissected which is not at all painful to the animals for being unconscious.
When we dig out the history of sacrifice, we know that invariably, the humans have been offering sacrifice of either animals or the humans. In Greek, Roman, Egyptian, and Hindu civilizations, the human sacrifice to the deities and their idols has been in vogue from time immemorial. The Aztecs used to pluck the throbbing heart of their victims and hold it up to the Sun god.

However, the ritual or the religious obligation of sacrifice was first started by Hazrat Abraham (PBUH), the father of the so known Semitic or Abrahamic religions. Prophet Abraham (in Islam it is Ibrahim) made a covenant with God that he would slay his own son after he received the divine commandment to do so.
While he was about to fulfill the divine will, the archangel Gabriel saved the young lad Ismail (Jews and Christians believe it was Isaac or Ishaq) by replacing him with a ram at the nick of the moment. Since this legend is narrated to have happened in the vicinity of Mecca, the Arabs even before the advent of Islam were observing the tradition of Prophet Abraham by sacrificing the animals.
When Islam (610 AC) came through Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), the sacrifice of animals was proclaimed as one of the five pillars of the edifice of Islam. Sacrifice of animals and giving of alms (Zakat) and performing of pilgrimage to Mecca are conditioned to the economic status of a faithful. The other two pillars namely saying prayers five times a day and fasting for full lunar month (Ramadan) are mandatory and there is no escape or substitute for them.
I am curious to know if God’s covenant or conditions to Prophet Abraham to sacrifice the animal was exclusive to him only or was later ordained and decreed for everyone. As far, we know the full-blown complexion, clear-cut and vivid contours, or features of Islam had not been clearly laid out until the proclamation of Islam by Prophet Muhammad.
Did during the intervening period that comes round to over 3000 years( between prophet Abraham and prophet Muhammad) , the successive generations perform this ritual of Abrahamic legacy? During these three millenniums, only Jewish or Christian faiths were practiced.
Here in America the Muslims do offer sacrifice of the animals mostly cows, goats and lambs. But the slaughtering is assigned to the professional meat sellers or certified butchers who buy the animals themselves against the uniformly fixed prices. These professionals slaughter the animals far away from the city in closely watched slaughterhouses or abattoirs. The meat in properly cut into pieces, put in the polythene bags and given to the faithful. All this process is done in a very neat, clean, and organized manner.
This system or procedure can be practiced in Islamic countries also that otherwise make a mess of this very fundamental religious obligation. In every lane and street, park, public place and road the sacrificial animals are tethered for days on end. There is massive disruption of traffic and horrendous pollution of air with all kind of fodder, animal droppings, refuse, and smell. This unhygienic environment phenomenally aggravates and rather assumes unbearable fifthly proportions when after the slaughtering the heaps of offals, intestines, dried blood pools, entrails and other wasted portions of the slaughtered animals are seen scattered everywhere for days together.
The nauseating stench fills the air that does not go soon. These repugnant spectacles present a sheer contrast with unislamic societies where the pristine Islamic ritual is carried out scientifically, so hygienically and in such an organized manner.
If we refuse to learn salutary and positive lessons and useful models from the advanced and civically vigilant societies in other spheres such as good governance, then we should at least follow the systems by which they manage their municipal affairs and keep the environment clean and pollution-free.
In America, the people are so much conscious of clean environment that they do not smoke within their houses even at midnight. I am a witness and a part of this commendable behavior as I live here. They go out of the house and offices for smoking. This also shows the citzens’respect for the law, which ordains to smoke outside in the open.
(The writer is a Dallas-based freelance journalist and a former diplomat writing mostly on International Affairs with specific focus on Pakistan and the United States)

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