Category Archives: Arts, Culture & Entertainment

Good Samaritans with an abiding passion for books

Kochi, KERALA :

Two teachers set precedent by promoting reading habit among students

Kochi :

The tale of Totto-Chan, a girl who has come to symbolise unorthodox learning, is among the best-selling books published by NBT in Malayalam. Translated by poet and film-maker Anwar Ali, the book has been flying off the shelves like no other.

But besides the big purchasers, there are dedicated souls like Ramanunni, a retired teacher from Palakkad who set up a non-profit book selling venture. He has also played a key role in popularising books among school students and teachers.

T.N. Gopalakrishnan Nair
T.N. Gopalakrishnan Nair

Another compulsive book promoter is T.N. Gopalakrishnan Nair, a resident of Kallara near Koothattukulam, who retired as a government high school Malayalam teacher in 1994. “He comes with an autorickshaw to ship books for sales exhibitions,” says NBT assistant editor Rubin D’Cruz. “Considering that NBT books are heavily subsidised, leave alone profit, he ends up spending money from his own pocket in popularising these books.” Sure enough, Mr. Nair’s tryst with books began back in the 1980s during his association with the Kerala Sastra Sahitya Parishad. He saw before his eyes his son becoming a bookworm and excelling in studies and co-curricular activities alike. “This brought me closer to books big time. Subsequently, I found myself sourcing rare volumes for parents and teachers alike and began to extensively travel between Thiruvananthapuram and Kozhikode for books which were in short supply those days,” he says. Over time, Mr. Nair carved a niche for himself by single-handedly organising book exhibitions, which grew in scale with publishers, NGOs, schools, and like-minded individuals coming on board.

Recuperating from a medical condition, Mr. Nair is concerned about not being able to host a few exhibitions he had promised at schools in Kottayam this month.

“I should be active, hopefully from the second week of August, and I have committed book exhibitions at three spaces already. I have enough books with me now to hold five such. Fortunately, there is an auto driver who helps me out in transporting books,” says Mr. Nair.

source: http://www.thehindu.com / The Hindu / Home> News> Cities> Kochi / by Special Correspondent / July 09th, 2017

Palmyra of the Deccan

Vijayapura (formerly BIJAPUR ) , KARNATAKA :

A view of Gagan Mahal in Vijayapura.
A view of Gagan Mahal in Vijayapura.

The Adil Shahis made Bijapur (now Vijayapura) a city ahead of its time in terms of infrastructure development and security. This well-planned city had two fortifications, one around the principal Adil Shahi administrative and residential buildings, and a larger one around the rest of the city. Both were roughly circular and had moats and several gateways. To further strengthen the defence of the city walls, the Adil Shahis built many bastions and about 96 gigantic cannons were placed on them. Only a dozen of these canons exist today. Most of them are placed in the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) museum housed in the Nagaad Khana in front of Gol Gumbaz and some of them still sit atop the surviving bastions.

First line of defence

The fortifications have crumbled due to neglect and the moats are overgrown with thorny shrubs and in some places, they are filled with sewage and garbage. The only gateway that the citadel still has is on the south. This was the principal gateway into the citadel but now wears an abandoned look. Just inside this once splendid gateway are the remains of guardrooms constructed entirely of pillars from Hindu temples mostly belonging to the Vijayanagara period.

One of the surviving bastions is the Sharza Burj or Lion Bastion which is also the largest bastion in the city. It is famous for housing the cannon Malik-i-Maidan or Lord of the Plains, which was a war trophy won after the defeat of the Vijayanagara Empire at the Battle of Talikota. The cannon is made from a special alloy and can fire not only cannon balls but also metal slugs and copper coins.

Nearby is Haidar Burj which is the highest gun platform in Vijayapura and is a very conspicuous solitary structure.

It is also called the Upri or Upli Burj by the locals. It was built in 1583 by Haidar Khan, a general during the reigns of Ali Adil Shah I and Ibrahim Adil Shah II. A spiral stairway leads to the top which houses two long cannons. The tower was most probably customised for the guns which needed to be fired from a height so that they can have a long range.

The Adil Shahis wanted to transform their capital city to match the Mughal cities in the North by building imposing courtly structures, gardens, wells, waterways and granaries. While most of the structures have fallen to ruin, some have been converted to government offices and only a handful are open to tourists. The Gagan Mahal was built by Ali Adil Shah I as a palace and an audience hall. Only its structural skeleton remains today. A short walk from the Gagan Mahal is the Sath Manzil (Seven Pavillions) or Haft Manzil built by Ibrahim II as a pleasure pavilion. Only a few storeys survive now and there is no way to go inside. Just opposite this is Jal Mahal or Water Pavilion that has been decorated exquisitely and is crowned by a dome. It is set in the middle of a square pool which is now dry and filled with garbage. Again, there is no way to go inside.

Reservoirs & stepwells

Water was and is a precious resource for Vijayapura and the Adil Shahis built a complex hydraulic system to bring water from distant sources into the city and supplemented this with reservoirs and stepwells. Only a few stepwells and reservoirs survive today and the system of aqueducts and horizontal wells are lost. The Taj Baoli is the biggest stepwell in Vijayapura and was built by Malik Sandal, a Persian architect, in honour of Taj Sultana, the wife of Ibrahim Adil Shah II. Sadly the well, its gateway and the gallery around it are in a very bad state. It won’t survive for long if no action is taken immediately.

Another well-known stepwell present here is the Chand Baoli. The stepwell was built by Ali Adil Shah I in honour of his wife Chand Bibi and it served as the model for Taj Baoli. Chand Bibi is best known for courageously defending Ahmednagar and Bijapur against the attacks of the Mughal Emperor Akbar. She was the regent of both Ahmednagar and Bijapur and was known to be a good warrior, musician, linguist and artist. The structure is now completely cordoned off from the public. One can only see it through the grill gate.

Present-day Vijayapura would have benefited if the administration had preserved the hydraulic system of the Adil Shahis and used the many stepwells and reservoirs instead of letting them turn into garbage dumps. Waking up to this, the Minister for Water Resources, M B Patil announced in April that starting with Taj Baoli, around 20 wells in Vijayapura will be rejuvenated at the cost of Rs 4.25 crore. As a part of the rejuvenation process, the dirty water present in the wells is being pumped out, the garbage is being removed, and the well is being desilted. Additionally, there are plans to repair the structures around them. When fresh water accumulates, it will be pumped and stored in tanks, from which people can collect water for domestic purposes apart from drinking. This will ease the water scarcity the city is facing to a certain extent.

Unless people surrounding these monuments understand their historical importance and realise that a clean baoli can help face water scarcity, all efforts to revive the heritage structures will be futile.

source: http://www.deccanherald.com / Deccan Herald / Home> Supplements> Spectrum / by Rijutha Jagannathan / July 04th, 2017

An 800-Year-Old Piece of Indian Heritage in Jerusalem

JERUSALEM :

The Ansari family in front of their house in Jerusalem. (Photo Courtesy: Facebook/The Indian Hospice)
The Ansari family in front of their house in Jerusalem. (Photo Courtesy: Facebook/The Indian Hospice)

 

Did you know that there is a corner of Jerusalem that has a distinct Indian stamp to it and its various residents wear their Indian origin like a medal?

Next to the Al-Aqsa mosque in the city there is the Indian Hospice in Jerusalem. The hospice is managed by the Ansari family and has a centuries-old connect to India.

The Indian Hospice in Jerusalem. (Photo Courtesy: Facebook/The Indian Hospice)
The Indian Hospice in Jerusalem. (Photo Courtesy: Facebook/The Indian Hospice)

Indian pilgrims to the “holy city” of Jerusalem, can stay at the ‘Indian Hospice’ and pay homage to the Indian Sufi saint Baba Faridudding of Shakar Ganj, who visited the place 800 years ago.

Seen here, celebrated Indian chef Samjeev Kapoor at the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem. (Photo Courtesy: Facebook/The Indian Hospice)
Seen here, celebrated Indian chef Samjeev Kapoor at the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem. (Photo Courtesy: Facebook/The Indian Hospice)

The Indian Connection Through Baba Farid

The year is 1200, a little over a decade after the armies of Saladin had forced the Christian Crusaders out of Jerusalem. And an Indian Sufi saint from Punjab named Baba Fariduddin of Shakar Ganj travels to the war torn city.

The victory of Saladin against the Crusaders. Balian of Ibelin surrendering the city of Jerusalem to Saladin, from Les Passages faits Outremer par les Français contre les Turcs et autres Sarrasins et Maures outremarins, c. 1490. (Photo Courtesy: Wikipedia)
The victory of Saladin against the Crusaders. Balian of Ibelin surrendering the city of Jerusalem to Saladin, from Les Passages faits Outremer par les Français contre les Turcs et autres Sarrasins et Maures outremarins, c. 1490. (Photo Courtesy: Wikipedia)

 

Sufi saint Baba Farid (Photo Courtesy: Seeker of Sacred Knowledge)
Sufi saint Baba Farid (Photo Courtesy: Seeker of Sacred Knowledge)

It is said that Baba Farid swept the stone floors around al-Aqsa mosque as a mark of devotion. He is also known to have taken up fasting in the silence of a cave nearby.

Long after he went back to India, Muslims from the sub-continent who passed Jerusalem on their way to Mecca stopped at this spot in memory of Baba Farid. It became a sort of temporary residence for the pilgrims.

Ansaris Deputed To Care For Baba Farid’s Legacy

In early 1920s, Jerusalem’s Supreme Muslim Council requested the leaders of the Khilafat Movement of British-ruled India to nominate someone to care for the hospice. The Khilafat leaders honoured the request of the Supreme Council then headed by Arab nationalist Mohammed Amin Al-Husseini. That is how in 1924 Sheikh Nazir Hasan Ansari – who was also part of the Khilafat Movement – was chosen to go to Jerusalem to take charge of the hospice.

Sheikh Nazir Hasan Ansari (Photo Courtesy: Facebook/The Indian Hospice)
Sheikh Nazir Hasan Ansari (Photo Courtesy: Facebook/The Indian Hospice)

 

Sheikh Munir Ansari who now heads the place, seen here as a boy. (Photo Courtesy: Facebook/The Indian Hospice)
Sheikh Munir Ansari who now heads the place, seen here as a boy. (Photo Courtesy: Facebook/The Indian Hospice)

His son Sheikh Munir Ansari now heads the place. The two have during their respective years as administrator of the hospice, persuaded the rulers of several Indian Muslim states, including Hyderabad, to make contributions for the upkeep of the hospice. Munir’s son Nazeer proudly explains the glorious history of the place.

Not only pilgrims, but Indians from all walks of life who visit Israel like to meet the Ansaris. They are amazed by the way the Ansaris care for that piece of India in the land of Arab-Jewish confluence. Past visitors include famous journalists, presidents, Indian politicians, celebrities and commoners.

The Ansaris have been gracious hosts to many Indian journalists. Seen in this picture, among other journalists is Suhasini Haider of The Hindu. (Photo Courtesy: Facebook/The Indian Hospice)
The Ansaris have been gracious hosts to many Indian journalists. Seen in this picture, among other journalists is Suhasini Haider of The Hindu. (Photo Courtesy: Facebook/The Indian Hospice)

 

Union HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar at The Indian Hospice. (Photo Courtesy: Facebook/The Indian Hospice)
Union HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar at The Indian Hospice. (Photo Courtesy: Facebook/The Indian Hospice)

 

President Pranab Mukherjee too visited The Indian Hospice in Jerusalem. (Photo Courtesy: Facebook/The Indian Hospice)
President Pranab Mukherjee too visited The Indian Hospice in Jerusalem. (Photo Courtesy: Facebook/The Indian Hospice)

The Ansaris value the responsibility that comes with the inheritance of the heritage. Their FB page says:

Maintaining and protecting an Indian institution in Jerusalem’s old city is no easy task. But Sheikh Munir has accomplished the impossible with delicate diplomacy and extreme tact.

The Indian Hospice

The Ansaris on a visit to India. (Photo Courtesy: Facebook/The Indian Hospice)
The Ansaris on a visit to India. (Photo Courtesy: Facebook/The Indian Hospice)

The Ansari family has been a steady presence in Jerusalem ever since and they all still carry Indian passports.

source: http://www.thequint.com / The Quint / Home> News Videos / by Kirti Phadtatre Pandey / July o4th,2017

 

Balancing the act

Hyderabad, TELANGANA :

It’s indeed possible for sports personalities to workout, while fasting for Ramadan.

Shaik Khalid
Shaik Khalid

Is it possible to stay fit, while fasting for 30 consecutive days, and train as hard as any other day, during the holy month of Ramadan?

Yes, there are people from the sports fraternity in the city who are balancing their religious sentiments and fitness with equal élan. “The month of Ramadan started as usual with me fasting with my family members. But, now that I am travelling from China to India to attend a coaching camp, I will have to see my schedule and then decide if I can fast or not. I am keeping an open mind, if I can I will or else not,” says 18-year-old Shaik Jafreen, who had represented India and won various International Deaf Tennis Championships. She is now prepping up for her next big assignment — the Deaf Olympics — to be held in Turkey in July.

Syeda Falak
Syeda Falak

Syeda Falak (popularly known as the Golden Girl of Hyderabad) who has created a name for herself in Karate globally, says, “Usually I alternate the time of training and fasting during Ramadan. Either I workout before breaking the fast, that is early morning, or after breaking the fast with a few dates. It’s not advisable to work out after eating a lot as you will fall sick for sure. So, it is better to munch on some dates and finish a light workout and then eat properly.”

Shaik Jafreen
Shaik Jafreen

For Syeda, a proper diet and rest is of importance, as workout sessions during Ramadan can tire people out easily. Agreeing with her is Shaik Khalid, the General Secretary of Telangana Association of Mixed Martial Arts (TAMMA) and a coach for many aspiring fighters.  He says, “During these 30 days, our training schedule changes. We don’t train during the day, and instead, do it from 10 pm to midnight. But again, following a proper diet is very important in our field and to recover from the effects of fasting, we eat a lot of dates and fruits and only then train.”

source: http://www.deccanchronicle.com / Deccan Chronicle / Home> Lifestyle, Viral and Trending / by Reshmi Chakravorty, Deccan Chronicle / June 02nd, 2017

From Fergana to Delhi

NEW DELHI :

BaburMPOs18jun2017

A Babur-focussed Uzbeki cultural project is using a common heritage to create a dialogue.

In July 1501, the great-great-greatgrandson of Timur (Tamerlane), Zahiruddin Muhammad Babur — the founder of Mughal empire — left his home in Fergana Valley in present day Uzbekistan. Five hundred years on, the Uzebki government is tracing his journey to India and his Indian connections as part of Cultural Legacy of Uzbekistan in Art Collections of the World project which began last year.

An effort to piece together the country’s history, researchers are connecting with international museums documenting the antiquity and artifacts connected to them. Till date, the Uzebki government has released 10 volumes and several short films on the cultural legacy of Uzbekistan with the help of information from leading museums in Russia, North America and Australia. “What they are doing is a first. They are not raising a dispute or demanding return of any antiquity. Instead, they are taking a holistic approach — using the common heritage to create a dialogue instead of stoking controversy,” says independent commentator Shashtri Ramachandaran, who participated in a two-day congress on the study organised by the Uzbek government.

An average Indian will be more familiar with United Kingdom, having followed their parliamentary and administrative methods or would be familiar with the cultural milieu of the United States, having developed an appetite for American TV shows. But barring academics, few are aware of the shared heritage between India and Uzbekistan that spans across centuries. A team of researchers from Uzebkistan visited the National Museum this April to piece together this lost history. “Their aim is to document material related to the Mughal era primarily. Once they present a formal proposal which is vetted by the Ministry of External Affairs and Ministry of Culture, they can start documenting work,” said Dr BR Mani, Director General, National Museum, who met with the Uzbekistan’s Ambassador last week to discuss the project.

The Uzbeki interest in the founder of the Mughal dynasty comes at a curious time, given that Babur’s successor Aurangzeb’s name was removed unceremoniously off Delhi’s roads for being an “invader”. Union Minister V K Singh even suggested that his grandfather Akbar should meet with a similar fate. In February this year, the BJP-led government in Rajasthan backed a proposal to rewrite history taught at the university level to attest that Rajput warrior-king Maharana Pratap won the Battle of Haldighati against Akbar’s Mughal army led by general Man Singh, despite historical evidence suggesting otherwise. In the same vein, RSS ideologue Indresh Kumar recently suggested that Babur and his army general Mir Baqi should be tried in court for destroying Ram Mandir in Ayodhya.

History suggests that Babur lived in India for only four years and died at the age of 47 in 1530 after successfully ousting Ibrahim Lodhi (in the Battle of Panipat in 1526). But his legacy lived on. The Babri Masjid demolition in December 1992 triggered the campaign to decry the Mughals as invaders. “Labeling the Mughals as “invaders” is bogus, historically. But Hindu nationalists do not use this label as a historical claim,” says Professor Audrey Truscke, who received severe backlash over her recent book Aurangzeb: the Man and the Myth. She adds that maligning Mughals is only a means to fuel “anti-Muslim sentiment in the present”. “It is a shameful business, especially at a time when vigilante violence against Muslims is on the rise,” she adds.

Babur was not Indian, even less an Uzbeki. He tried at least thrice to win Samarkhand but failed. “Babur took Samarkand one last time with help from the Safavids of Persia in 1513. However, as he had to publicly acknowledge his support for Qizilbash Shiism, his subjects turned against him,” explains Professor Ali Anooshahr from the History Department of the University of California.

During his time in India, Babur influenced architecture, culture, warfare and even introduced Indians to the sweet melons of Fergana. When Babur reached India, he was disappointed that the only fruit available was mango. It is said that he personally monitored planting of watermelons and musk melons. “In Babarnama, Babur writes about the apricots and pomegranates of Marghilan, fruit trees of Isfara, the melons of Bukhara, and the apples of Samarkand. He also recalled with pleasure, the various flowing rivers and brooks in that region,” adds Prof Anooshahr.

At the museum, the Uzbeki experts are particularly interested in manuscripts of the Holy Quran, scribed in Uzbekistan, which were presented to the Mughal emperors, as is evident from the royal seals on the cover page. Also of interest are 15 illustrated folios of the Baburnama. He wrote his autobiography in Chagatai language, the spoken language of the Andija-Timurids. It was during the reign of Akbar that the work was completely translated in Persian. According to Prof Anooshahr, the most comprehensive copy of the original is the Hyderabad manuscript. “Although I do not know where exactly that copy is located right now,” he adds.

The Uzbeki researchers are now looking at sources beyond the National Museum. “It is gratifying to realize that the culture of such a great country is connected with ours. We are planning to publish a couple of albums in India, depending on the results of our work,” said Professor Andrey Zybkin, the Uzbeki project coordinator.

Few sites of the Babur era have stood the test of time. Some of them include, West Delhi’s Babur era mosque, the Babri Masjid and Ram Bagh in Agra. But it is not just the Mughal era that is of interest. India and Uzbekistan go as far back as the Kushan Dynasty. The Kushan Empire, spanning an area of 37 lakh kilometres, extended from Bihar to southern Uzbekistan. It was an era when the Indian sub-continent saw extraordinary exchange of art and ideas. “At present we do not have first-hand information on the Kushan period artifacts found in Uzbekistan. It will be interesting to see how the pottery, social behaviour and culture changed from Fergana valley to Mathura,” Dr Mani added.

Apart from the Mughals and Kushans, there are other points of convergence between the two nations. Gujaratis had close trade ties with Uzbekis, so did Parsis and Armenian Christians. Professor A K Pasha from JNU explains that somewhere this search for their history is part of a “resurgence of old identity”. “For years, the Uzbeki culture was subjugated and overpowered by Russians. The Islamic feeling is growing which is why they want to resurrect their old identity,” explains Pasha.

source: http://www.mumbaimirror.indiatimes.com / Mumbai Mirror / Home> Others> Sunday Read / by Sobhana K Nair, Mumbai Mirror / June 18th, 2017

Ramadan on the North Dakota Prairie – Forging an American-Muslim Experience

Hyderabad, TELANGANA / North Dakota, USA :

The author, his wife and three children circa late 1970s in North Dakota.
The author, his wife and three children circa late 1970s in North Dakota.

This is Day 22 of the 2017 #30Days30Writers Ramadan series – June 17, 2017

by Syed Husain

It was in the summer of 1976, following my post-doctoral assignment at Stanford Research Institute in California, I was offered a faculty position at University of North Dakota, School of Medicine. Although it was a tempting offer, leaving San Francisco and moving to Grand Forks with three small children was a difficult thing to consider.

Recalling the Persian proverb, “Mulk-e-Khuda Tang Neest, Pa-e-mera Lung Neest” (The Kingdom of God has no limits and no broken legs do I have to limit my travel), I decided to accept this offer – though I knew a Muslim community to draw on for support in North Dakota would be virtually nil.

A leap of faith indeed, but as a Muslim, I had a firm belief in my Creator and my destiny.

As we started our journey across the country, it was full of amusement and excitement. We only had ourselves to rely on – myself, my wife, and my three children, ages seven, four and one. The passage through Yosemite with tall redwoods, the majestic Grand Tetons, the enchanting Yellowstone National Park, the amazing Mount Rushmore and the Badlands was an experience to behold.

Finally, we arrived in the small college town of Grand Forks. And, we found the people of this land of Aurora Borealis, sun-dogs, snow and tumble-weed to be friendly, hospitable and compassionate.

After settling in the faculty housing, my priority was to find out how many Muslims, including students, were on campus. As the Ramadan was approaching, I wondered if they had facilities to pray and observe Ramadan. Surprisingly, I found only one another Muslim faculty and a handful of students with no place to worship. Later, I located four more families in a radius of fifty miles from Grand Forks that became the “core group” of Muslims in the area.

In this isolation, as Ramadan arrived, we made frantic calls to Chicago, Montreal, Minneapolis and Winnipeg to confirm the sighting of the moon. To determine the duration of fast and follow the fiqh ruling, we decided to follow the times in Winnipeg, the closest city with a sizable Muslim population. Those were long days — we were fasting for 19 hours a day with the sun setting around 9:45 p.m.

The University had appointed me as Muslim Faculty Adviser, and I was able to get space in the student union for our Jummah prayers and iftars. This small community had no provision for halal meat and no place to buy spices and other ingredients to prepare our food. A good Samaritan in the community located a farmer, who helped us sacrifice a heifer or a black angus.

This farmer became the source our halal meat supply for the rest of our stay (15 years) in North Dakota. Families would share the meat and drive to Winnipeg or as far as Chicago to get condiments and other supplies. The spouses in this small core group got together and started preparing meals, iftar and sahoor for their families and for students as well on weekends. We began to feel the baraka (blessings) of Ramadan in this newly formed community.

Fasting was difficult, but we managed and grew closer as a family (and as a married couple) in doing so. When we finally made it to iftar time around 9:45 p.m. and broke our fast, my wife and I (we were the only ones fasting in our family in the ‘70s) were grateful. Our children would beg us to take them to McDonald’s for ice cream after we prayed Maghreb and ate dinner, around 10:30 p.m. at night, but it was hard to get the energy to do so.

The nights we rallied and took them were very special to all of us – small treats that meant so much to our children and to us.

The summer season in North Dakota is short, sweet and very precious. It was amazing to see farmers busy harvesting crops under floodlights into the wee hours of the night. Our neighborhood on the outskirts of Grand Forks bordered a large farming field. The rumbling noise of trucks hauling beetroot and sunflower seeds were a reminder to us to get up for our sahoor.

I recalled my childhood days back in Hyderabad, India, when at sahoor time hawkers pass through Muslim neighborhoods singing local folklore, breaking the quiet of the night as these trucks did and reminding the community that sahoor time was soon to end.

Our children (and the daughter of one other Muslim family in town) were the only Muslim students in their schools. The school authorities were kind, compassionate and understanding. They were cognizant of the Islamic principles and provided our children with a private bathing facility and a place to worship. This was back in the 1980s in an educational community that probably had never seen or interacted with Muslim kids before.

Alhamdulillah, this conducive, inclusive and inter-faith understanding of the teachers and the school district authorities nurtured a healthy, positive civic atmosphere and a sense of belonging for our children. Our children use to wait eagerly for the arrival of Ramadan and for the celebration of two Eids.

These occasions were a real source of joy to these few host Muslim families and their children and to the small group of students. We celebrated Eids in a church, in an International Students’ Home on campus and in our homes.

This was our Little Mosque on the Prairie much before the celebrated television show.

This was our forging of an American-Muslim experience in a community that sometimes didn’t understand us, but developed friendships and deep relationships with us based on love, kindness and mutual respect.

In our sojourn of 15 years (1976-1991) in North Dakota, we also saw swings in the population of Muslim students and in the community due to graduations, termination of University of North Dakota’s Pilot Training programs with Gulf Airlines and Saudi Arabian Airlines and faculty transfers/retirements. In recent years, the economy of North Dakota has improved greatly due to oil exploration in Williston Basin.

The city of Fargo (one of the largest cities in North Dakota, about an hour away from Grand Forks) has seen a sizeable number of Muslim immigrants arriving. The city of Grand Forks also has its share and has seen a surge in new arrivals. We wish them all a Happy Ramadan and Eid Mubarak.

Syed Husain, Ph.D. is a retired professor of Pharmacology at the School of Medicine, University of North Dakota and a retired Scientific Review Administrator at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, MD. He now has eight grandchildren forging their own American-Muslim experience.

source:  http://www.patheos.com / Patheos / Home> altmuslim / by Syed Asif, Guest Contributor / June 17th, 2017

Muslims keep alive Kolkata’s Jewish schools, stores and traditions

Kolkata, WEST BENGAL :

Muslim girls, some in the burqa and some in the regular uniforms, leave the Jewish Girls School in Calcutta.
Muslim girls, some in the burqa and some in the regular uniforms, leave the Jewish Girls School in Calcutta.

Editor’s Note : Anik Basu is a Kolkata-based independent journalist.

Kolkata, India (CNN) :

When Mitana Alexander bid goodbye to Kolkata’s Jewish Girls School in 1975, she was its last Jewish student. The bulk of the others were Muslims.

But it was not the steady influx of Muslim girls in the preceding two decades that moved Alexander’s parents to take her out of the school, she says.
They were worried because she was last remaining occupant of a Jews-only dormitory, as most Jewish girls they had known had migrated to Israkel, America or Europe “with their folks.”
“They (school authorities) had to retain a matron just for me,” recalls Alexander, now aged 50. “I would be alone in the dormitory at night and my parents started panicking. Muslims had nothing to do with my leaving.”
Author-scholar Jael Silliman, whose children are settled in the US, says development in India and the outside world in the 1940s-50s led to an exodus of Jews from Calcutta.
Author-scholar Jael Silliman, whose children are settled in the US, says development in India and the outside world in the 1940s-50s led to an exodus of Jews from Calcutta.
Distinctly Kolkata
The swelling ranks of Muslim girls in the Jewish school offer a glimpse into the deep ties between Kolkata’s Muslim and once-thriving Jewish community.
More than 1,200 of the nearly 1,400 students are Muslims, as is the school’s vice principal and half the faculty.
The change began in the 1950s, when there were not enough Jewish families needing an institution set up specifically to instil Jewish values.
As Jewish enrollment petered out, the authorities decided to admit children of other faiths. The biggest response came from the Muslims of nearby areas.
Aileen Jo Cohen (foreground) and Mitana Alexander talk to Muslim caretakers at one of Calcutta's three synagogues.
Aileen Jo Cohen (foreground) and Mitana Alexander talk to Muslim caretakers at one of Calcutta’s three synagogues.
Today, there is very little “Jewish” about the school, save for perhaps its name, the Star of David on the school gates, the school uniform and notebooks, and portraits of Jewish patrons on the walls.
Authorities have made available a “changing room” for Muslim girls whose parents frown upon their stepping out in public in school skirts.
These students leave home in the burqa, change into their uniforms once in school, and put on the burqa when leaving. “Our parents don’t like it if we bare our legs,” says senior student Zara Ahmed, 17.
“The school has come to symbolize Jewish-Muslim harmony in Kolkata,” says managing trustee Aileen “Jo” Cohen.
The harmony is visible elsewhere too; the city’s three synagogues — the smallest of which boasts of more chairs in its prayer hall than there are Jews in Kolkata — are looked after by Muslim caretakers.
Muslims also help with the dressing of bodies for Jewish burials and outside the Magen David Synagogue, Muslim bangle sellers wearing the topi (the Muslim prayer cap), have set up kiosks on the bustling footpath.
“The close ties and positive working relationships between Muslims and Jews are deeply rooted in the local context of Kolkata,” says Jael Silliman, 62, a city-born Jewish scholar and author, and a former Associate Professor of Women’s Studies at the University of Iowa.
Exiting Kolkata
The first Jew to arrive in Kolkata, on August 4, 1798, was Shalom Ha-Cohen. A native of Aleppo, Syria, Shalom was initially the court jeweler to a Muslim prince in northern India.
Shalom’s prosperity attracted other Jews from West Asia. According to community records, the population of Jews “of Arabic disposition” expanded to 600 by the 1830s. That number stood at around 4,000 when India gained independence from British rule in 1947.
However, soon after the community started emigrating en mass, beginning the end of a 200-year association with the city.
“A combination of national and global events in the ’40s and ’50s led to a very rapid dissolution of the community,” says Silliman, whose two daughters settled in the US.
With India’s independence, British settlers began returning to England, Israel came into being in May 1948, and the fledgling Indian government’s Socialist policies were perceived as not being conducive to business.
Muslim workers at the 115-year-old Nahoum's confectionary, founded and owned by Jews, in downtown Calcutta.
Muslim workers at the 115-year-old Nahoum’s confectionary, founded and owned by Jews, in downtown Calcutta.
 Today, the number of Jews in Kolkata stands at 22, the middle-aged Alexander being probably the youngest.
And it is left to the likes of the Jewish Girls School Vice-Principal Abeda Razeq to keep those ties alive.
Her father’s best friend at college was a Jew, whose family runs the 115-year-old confectionary store Nahoum’s, and their friendship, which continued beyond college, first exposed Razeq to Jewish culture.
The two families exchanged gift hampers during their respective festivals and Razeq learnt of the similarities and differences between kosher and halal cuisine.
She even helped out at Nahoum’s at Easter and Christmas: a Muslim girl at a Jewish bakery wrapping cakes during Christian festivals in a predominantly Hindu city.
The Nahoum family has shrunk to just one member now, who spends much of his time abroad, and the workers — many of them Muslims — run the show.
Razeq did her dissertation on Kolkata’s unique Jewish-Muslim relationship, and wishes she had the time to complete her doctorate on it.
“It’s a rich subject,” she says.
source: http://www.edition.cnn.com / CNN / Home> Region> Asia / by Anik Basu / June 16th, 2017

Saqib Saleem learns Kathak for Fathers’ Day special short film, Aamad

NEW DELHI / Mumbai, MAHARASHTRA :

Saqib Saleem practices Kathak for his upcoming short film on Fathers’ Day.
Saqib Saleem practices Kathak for his upcoming short film on Fathers’ Day.

Saqib Saleem is working on a short film that will be released on the occasion of Fathers’ Day this Sunday. The actor has learnt Kathak for the project. 

Bollywood actor Saqib Saleem, who was recently seen alongside Huma Qureshi in Dobaara: See Your Evil, is now learning Kathak, a classical Indian dance form for his next project.

Saqib is working on a short film titled Aamad, where he plays the character of a Kathak dancer.
SaqibSalim02MPOs17jun2017
Though it was very challenging for him, the actor took it in his own stride and put together a genuine effort to learn the dance form from professional Kathak guru and actress Ishita Sharma.
Aamad is about a father who is a Kathak dancer and how his son is embarrassed of his father’s art. The plot explores how they build their relation over a period of time and overcome their personal apprehensions and start a new friendship.
source: http://www.hindustantimes.com / Hindustan Times / Home> Entertainment> Bollywood / HT Correspondent – Hindustan Times / June 16th, 2017

Kerala mosque to deliver only one azaan over loudspeaker to fight noise pollution

Vazhakkad, Malappuram District, KERALA :

According to an agreement ironed out by some Kerala mosque committees, the use of loudspeakers for all other religious purposes will be stopped. (Burhaan Kinu/HT File Photo)
According to an agreement ironed out by some Kerala mosque committees, the use of loudspeakers for all other religious purposes will be stopped. (Burhaan Kinu/HT File Photo)

The Valiya Juma Masjid will deliver only one azaan in place of five and 17 mosques in Vazhakkad will repeat without speakers.

A prominent mosque in the Muslim-majority Malappuram district in Kerala has set an example by curbing noise pollution during the holy month of Ramzan.

Valiya Juma Masjid, the biggest in Vazhakkad area, has decided that only a single ‘azaan’, the Islamic call to prayer, will be delivered from the mosque and 17 other small mosques dotting the area will only repeat it without any noise.

Taking a cue from the grand mosque, other mosque or mahal committees are also planning to follow it. There are seven mosques run by various denominations in Vazhakkad and 10 others in the village areas.

According to an agreement ironed out by these mosque committees, the use of loudspeakers for all other religious purposes will also be stopped.

“Initially many opposed the idea but later came around. Nearby schools and hospitals often complained about the indiscriminate use of loudspeakers,” TP Abdul Aziz, president of the mahal council, said.

The council has also constituted a five-member panel to unify the timings of the azaan. It will also consult the chief qazi of Kozhikode, who wields enough influence among community members.

Many NGOs, social bodies and residents of the area have lauded the latest initiative.

“Valiya Juma Masjid has set an example. It will go a long way in curbing the mindless use of ear-splitting speakers. Now, political parties will have to follow suit,” Mohamed Koya, a trader in the area, said.

In 2015, the supremo of the Muslim League Sayed Hyderali Thangal requested all mosque committees to restrict the use of loudspeakers to check noise pollution and respect the sentiments of other communities.

The district was in the news earlier this month after the Shree Narasimhamoorthy Temple in Punnathala threw a sumptuous vegetarian Iftar for Muslims in the area, who helped renovate the centuries-old shrine.

source: http://www.hindustantimes.com / Hindustan Times / Home> India / by Ramesh Babu K C, Hindustan Times, New Delhi / June 14th, 2017

A collection worth bowing to

Chennai , TAMIL NADU :

Going strong: Y. Abdul Rasul has been collecting stamps since he was 10 years old.
Going strong: Y. Abdul Rasul has been collecting stamps since he was 10 years old.

Abdul Rasul’s trove of 5,915 mosque stamps sets a world record

Y. Abdul Rasul was one of many philatelists collecting whatever stamps came his way, till a chance meeting with Viswanatha Iyer, another philatelist, in 2005 paved the way for his entry into the Guinness Book of Records.

“He gave me his collection and advised me to focus on the theme of mosques and it has paid rich dividends,” recalls Mr. Rasul, a 41-year-old IT professional who has entered the Guinness Book of Records for the largest collection of 5,915 stamps featuring mosques.

The oldest stamp in his possession was released by the Afghanistan government in 1892. Mr. Rasul also has a rare stamp with inverted centre — printed upside down — released in Somalia in 1902. “Normally these stamps are immediately withdrawn. A few people, however, are able to get them and I obtained one,” said Mr. Rasul, who began collecting stamps when he was 10 years old.

Both his grandfather G. Abdul Rasul and father R. Yusuf were ex-servicemen. His grandfather saw action against the Japanese in the Second World War.

“When my father was working in the Middle East, he would write letters and I started collecting the stamps,” recalled Mr. Rasul who has stamps from 95 countries, many displayed on his interactive site www.mosquestamps.com.

Besides Viswanatha Iyer, who had a huge collection of stamps from Travancore, Balakrishna Das, president of the South Indian Philately Association, and Abdul Azeez, a Varanasi-based philatelist, also played a major role in Mr. Rasul achieving his feat.

Saudi Arabia and other Islamic countries release special stamps to mark the annual Haj pilgrimage and these stamps form a section of Mr. Rasul’s collection.

source: http://www.thehindu.com / The Hindu / Home> News> States> Tamil Nadu / by B. Kolappan / Chennai – June 12th, 2017