Islamic Voice A Monthly English Magazine

Ramadan 1424 H
November 2003
Volume 16-11 No : 203
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Book Review


No Minor Threat to Peace
Significance of the Beard

No Minor Threat to Peace

Status of Minorities in South Asia
By Dr. Naveen Mishra and Sudhir Kumar Singh
AuthorsPress, E-35/103 Laxmi Nagar
Delhi-110092
Pages: 305,
Price: Rs. 600

No nation is ethnically pure. But nation-states striving to practise national puritanism, tend to either gloss over, discriminate against or violate human rights of the minorities. Conflicts involving minorities have, therefore, been on the rise with the rise of the nation-states. It has been a source of violence in the world today despite so much talk of a global village.

The question of minorities is therefore directly related to peace. All through the last century, the concern for minorities has engaged the attention of the nations and slowly the concept of ensuring human rights and concern for their rights as a group and preservation of their identity has occupied centre-stage.

Though some kind of law ensuring religious equalities had begun to be put on national statutes invariably everywhere around 1830s, after the Second World War, these concerns led to more definitive action on the universal level. Even prior to this, the League of Nations had taken upon itself to see that the International treaties incorporated such rights and set up mechanism to carry out their execution.

In 1947, the UN Commission of Human Rights set up a special Sub-commission on the Prevention of Discrimination and the Protection of Minorities. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 1966 stands as the only post-war Human Rights document which carried specific mention of special rights of the minorities. All through these legal fora, the definition of 'minorities' proved to be quite nettlesome. However, Prof. Capotorti of the Sub-commission offered the following definition which came to be regarded as a standard one. It said: "A minorities (sic) is a group numerically inferior to the rest of the population of a state, in a non-dominant position, whose members being nationals of the state possess ethnic, religious or linguistic characteristic differing from those of the rest of the population and show, if any, implicitly, a sense of solidarity, directed towards preserving their culture, traditions, religions or language."

But all these efforts on the international level have not percolated down to regional groupings such as SAARC, ASEAN, ESCAP etc. In the seven states of South Asia, namely, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and the Maldives, the question of minority rights has outgrown national frontiers due to the linguistic and religious diversity of populations, fractious history of nation-states and pluralism of the legal system. Far from harmonizing these differences, these states have betrayed a tendency to exploit mutual internal discontent owing to the unsettled question of minority rights within their constitutional framework. Be it the 1971 Indo-Pak war over birth of Bangladesh, insurgency in Sri Lanka over 'Eelam' for ethnic Tamils or the turmoil in Jammu and Kashmir and the India's North-East, all have something to do with the rights of minorities and the neighbouring country's interventionist or irredentist ambitions.

Status of Minorities in South Asia by Dr. Naveen Mishra and Sudheer Kumar Singh is an attempt to impart a holistic perspective to the problem of minorities in the seven nations bristling with countless conflicts. Be it Muslims or Christians in India, Hindus in Bangladesh or Pakistan or Tamils or Burghers in Sri Lanka, discrimination and insecurity forms the core of concerns and existence of minorities. The study by the two authors etches to relief the varying sources. In case of Pakistan and Bangladesh, the pressure from Muslim fundamentalist has led to laws that are violative of basic human rights of minorities. Enemy Property Order of East Pakistan continued on the statutes of Bangladesh under the new name of Vested Property Act despite the latter declaring itself a secular state. Non-Muslims have been at the receiving end under Anti-Blasphemy laws in both Pakistan and Bangladesh. Hudood Ordinance in Pakistan and TADA and POTA in India have either religious bias or their selective application leads to suppression of minorities. Relentless Hindutva campaign leading to demolition of Babri Masjid in Ayodhya has proved to be a bane of secularism in India. Bloodletting in the so-called Hindu-Muslim riots has undermined the human rights of Indian Muslims.

Besides, there have been common features all through these states. Fundamentalist forces have resorted to increasing use of religion in political struggle. While in some cases, this may be to counter the Western influences such as permissiveness, immodesty etc in public life, there has been a discernible attempt to strip the minorities of whatever privileges they enjoy or to decimate their economic and political power. Closer identification of nationhood with the dominant religion too has proved to deter integration of minorities with the nations carved out of what was once a singular civilizational entity in the subcontinent.

While the status of Indian Muslims has come for exhaustive analysis, the chapter on Hindus in Pakistan suffers from lack of details and data. Case of Hindu minority in Bangladesh is well-focussed and succinct. The discussion on minorities in Pakistan has drifted aimlessly into defining Baluchis, Sindhis and Pashtuns as minorities and Pakistan as seething cauldron under Punjabi domination. This could be described as a serious handicap of this otherwise well-intentioned academic exercise to put the minority problem in South Asia in perspective.

The quality of editing is deplorable. Though some chapters are well-written, others bristle with hundreds of unpardonable grammatical and typographical errors which, one fears, would reduce the value of the book.

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Significance of the Beard

Growing a Beard In the Light of the Quran, Sunnah and Modern Science
By Dr. Gohar Mushtaq Published by Ta-Ha Publishers Ltd, 1, Wynne Road, London SW9 OBB www.taha.co.uk, Email:sales@taha.co.uk

" The person who brings life to my Sunnah is as if he brought me to life." It is precisely this hadith which according to Dr Gohar Mushtaq inspired him to write the book-Growing a Beard-In the Light of the Quran, Sunnah and Modern Science. Born in 1971, Dr Gohar completed his High School Education in Pakistan and moved to the USA for higher studies. He received his Masters in Science degree in Chemistry from Rutgers University (New Jersey) and his PHD degree in Chemistry in 2001 with research specialization in the field of Biochemistry and Biophysical Chemistry.

" The origin of the fountain of Islam is the Quran and the Sunnah. We can see the true picture of Islam if we drink directly from the fountain of Islam. The effeminate practice of shaving the beard has no roots among the Muslims during the time of the Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh) or during the period of his companions or even the generations which followed the companions of the Messenger of Allah. Today the decline of Muslims has reached such an extent that we consider those Muslims backward who allow the growth of their beards. Muslims with beards are made fun of by their fellows and sometimes the label of "fundamentalist" is applied to those who are bearded. There is such a stark contrast between our words and actions that even many of those who recite poetry in praise of the Prophet shave their beards and still claim to love the very face of the Prophet. Today we have forgotten the fundamental message of the Quran: " You have an excellent model in the Messenger of Allah." (Al-Ahzab-33:21)" says Gohar in his introduction.

The first part, the book is packed with hadith quoting the Prophet (Pbuh) on the goodness of growing the beard and the verdicts of the four Imams-Imam Abu Hanifah, Imam ash-Shafi, Imam Malik and Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal on letting the beard to grow. The second part of the book presents scientific research done by social psychologists as well as biologists pertaining to the beard. The third chapter presents the reasons for the rise of the beardless culture among Muslims. The fourth chapter is a compilation of the culture of growing beards among different communities across the world. Chapter five takes the reader through interesting stories and historical facts related to the beard, including Gohar's personal story which goes like this: " When I decided to grow my beard, a Christian lady who happened to be my colleague at the University said to me as a joke: " Do you want to become like Ayatullah Khomeini?" I replied to her with a smile: " No, actually I want to become like Jesus Christ. That is why I have grown a beard. When she heard this reply, she was dumbstruck. She could say nothing further”.

The language of the book is simple and straight and its fine printing makes it all the more easy to complete reading the book in 24 hours flat! The book should be read with a cool and calm mind, rather than getting emotional over many facts, figures and some hard-hitting statements that the author has spelt out like: " Shaytan has victory early in the morning over those Muslims who start their day disobeying the Prophet (Pbuh) by shaving their faces. What can we expect from ourselves in terms of following the Messenger of Allah when we have already lost the first battle against Shaytan in the morning"

Dr Gohar can be reached at gmushtaq2000@yahoo.com or at 29, North Mortimer Avenue,Apartment 3,Elmsford,NY 10523,USA. Ph:914-347-0221

To buy the book Contact
E-mail:sales@taha.co.uk

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