Category Archives: World Opinion

How An Act Of Kindness By An Indian-Origin Muslim Helped A Man To Become Top Jurist In South Africa

SOUTH AFRICA :

An Indian-origin shopkeeper based in South Africa became an overnight sensation after the new deputy chief justice recalled his generosity over four decades ago when he was looking for a loan to fund his studies.

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Suleman Bux, 76, who at that time ran a small general store in Ixopo town, had forgotten about the young man with whom he had struck a deal to be a good student by giving him groceries for his family so that they could save what they would have spent on this for his studies.

Judge Raymond Zondo, 57, who has been recently appointed as the Deputy Chief Justice of the Constitutional Court, recalled how he had sceptically approached Bux when he started his studies in 1981, unsure of whether he or anyone else would give a loan to a 20-year-old man.

Zondo approached Bux, without telling his family and helped him with groceries for his family.

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Reunion after over 30 years, Judge Raymond Zondo & Suleman Bux 😀 Absolutely love this..Faith In Humanity Restored😎@KhayaZondo73 –  ✌🙏

Zondo’s emotional video at his installation to the second highest judicial post in the country recently went viral as he recalled Bux’s influence on his life, expressing a desire to meet him again after the fasting month of Ramadan was over.

Zondo met with Bux and his extended family to thank him personally. Bux shrugged off the huge media attention.

“He gave me a very nice watch, which was very generous. I was moved by the gesture,” Bux told local media, adding that he had not expected the issue to have received as much attention as it did.

After he began earning, Zondo tried to repay Bux but the shopkeeper, who is still running a wholesale store, told Zondo to rather finance some other young students.

“I helped him because it was the right thing to do. As a Muslim, helping others is important, but you do it because you want to, not because you want recognition and for everyone to know,” Bux added.

source: http://www.indiatimes.com / Indiatimes.com / Home> News> India / IndiaTimes / July 11th, 2017

22nd Asian Athletics C’ship: India’s Muhammed Anas grabs gold

Nilamel (Kollam District) KERALA :

MdAnasMPOs11jul2017

India’s Muhammed Anas won a Gold and Rajiv Arokia took a Silver in Men’s 400m event at the 22nd Asian Athletics Championship here.

“I am very happy, this medal win will further motivate us,” Anas said, after achieving the feat.

Indian sprinter Dutee Chand won Bronze medal in 100m Women’s finals, while Nirmala Sheoran won gold in women’s 400m.

Tejinder Pal won Silver in shot put category.

India’s Ajay Kumar Saroj won gold in Men’s 1500m event, while P.U. Chitra won gold in women’s 1500m event.

Unfortunately, Indian sprinter Amiya Mallick got disqualified from the 100m men’s semi-final for a false start.

The Asian Championships winner gets automatic berth for the World Championships to be held in 22ndWorld Championships

-ANI

source: http://www.catchnews.com / Catch News / Home> Other Sports News / by News Agencies / ANI / July 08th, 2017

Chronicler of the mundane: Ranjith Kally documenting Indians in the anti-apartheid movement

SOUTH AFRICA :

Born into a family of ‘coolie Indians’, Ranjith Kally was important in documenting the role of Indians in the anti-apartheid movement

Monty Naicker, Nelson Mandela, and Yusuf Dadoo at the Treason Trial, Pretoria, 1958.
Monty Naicker, Nelson Mandela, and Yusuf Dadoo at the Treason Trial, Pretoria, 1958.

For most Indians with some awareness of the history of South Africa, India’s connection with the country begins and ends with Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. As Nelson Mandela famously put it, India sent Mohandas to South Africa and received a ‘Mahatma’.

If the province of Natal was one of several places around the globe where the epic of Indian indentured labour was writ large, South Africa was nearly distinct as the site of an unusual and inspiring solidarity between black people and Indians in the equally epic struggle against racial oppression. Photojournalist Ranjith Kally, who died at the age of 91 in Johannesburg this June, was the great chronicler of both Indian life in Natal and the resistance to apartheid.

Kally was born near Durban in 1925 into a family of ‘coolie Indians’. His grandfather worked on a sugar plantation; his father, likewise, left for the fields early every morning. As was common in his generation, Kally was educated only up to Class VI. He worked in a shoe factory for 15 years and stumbled upon a Kodak Postcard camera at a rummage sale. In 1956, Kally procured a job as a photographer with Drum, a magazine that had been launched to give expression to the lives of black and coloured people.

Chronicling a struggle

Kally’s first photographs of anti-apartheid figures would be taken in the late 1950s. One of his favourite subjects was Monty Naicker, an Indian who trained as a doctor before turning to political activism. At a break during Pretoria’s Treason Trial in 1958, Kally captured Naicker with a young Mandela and the venerable communist leader Yusuf Dadoo in the background. Kally’s many photographs of Fatima Meer, another titanic figure in the anti-apartheid struggle, furnish insights both into how women assumed political roles in the public sphere and the little-discussed role of South African Indian Muslims in shaping secular narratives of freedom.

MeersMPOs11jul2017

In one photograph, taken in the early 60s, Kally seated Meer’s daughters, Shamin, Shehnaaz and Rashid, around their buoyant-looking mother in Durban’s Botanical Gardens. The photograph was intended for Ismail, Meer’s husband, who was then in detention, as a keepsake of his family. There is no hint here of anxiety, fear, or the oppressiveness of racial terror. But Meer was also godmother to Nelson and Winnie Mandela’s children, giving them a home and hope at a time of despair.

Kally knew better than most that the story of the anti-apartheid struggle was not only one, or even mainly, of ‘great’ figures. In a rigidly racist society, the occasions for transgression were many and the outcome generally was painful for those animated by the desire for equality and social justice. The anti-miscegenation laws were severe, but, as one of Kally’s most stunning photographs shows, this did not prevent Syrub Singh and the dazzling Rose Bloom (seen emerging from a court hearing) from joining hands in matrimony.

Courting the everyday

What is striking in Kally’s large and still largely unknown body of work is his attentiveness to the quotidian life of Indians in and around Durban. Close to half a century after the end of the indentured system, the greater majority of Indians still lived below the bread line. In one photograph, an Indian woman scrubs dishes outside a group of shacks; a very young girl, clutching a toddler, stands by her side. Kally closely observed young Indian boys and girls working in the cane fields.

His 1957 photograph, ‘Children Gotta Work’, is illustrative of not only Kally’s approach to the grittiness of Indian life in Natal but of the self-reflexivity in much of his work. Four Indian children, some unmistakably teenagers, are on their way to work in the fields. Shovels are flung across their shoulders; two of them firmly grasp lunch boxes in their hands. They walk barefooted in the morning light. The photograph resonates with pictures of Partition, but there are also shades of the historic march of Indian miners from Natal to the Transvaal in 1913. Workers on the move, the daily walk, the look of determination: all this is part of the ensemble.

I didn’t know Kally well enough to say whether he was a man of sunny optimism, but his photographs nevertheless suggest an eye for the whimsical and a zest for life. The whimsical touch is nowhere better captured than in his photograph of a boy with a large tortoise on his head.

The wide grin on the boy’s face reveals the unmistakable fun he is having in ferrying his slow-moving companion. The boldest expression of this element of joie de vivre in Kally’s work is a photograph called ‘The Big Bump’. Two men, both amply endowed at the waist, are rubbing against each other. Each man seems to be saying, ‘My tummy is larger than yours, and all the better for it.’ Kally’s camera paves the way for understanding the extraordinariness of the ordinary.

That is not an inconsiderable gift.

Professor of History at UCLA, the author has the distinction of being listed among the 101 Most Dangerous Professors in America.

source: http://www.thehindu.com / The Hindu / Home> Society> Spotlight – History & Culture / by Vinay Lal / July 08th, 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

 

Aligarh Muslim University: a great seat of learning

Aligarh, UTTAR PRADESH :

Sir Syed Ahmad Khan dedicated his life for the Hindu-Muslim unity in the country and worked all his life for the educational upliftment of the community and for the strengthening of a pluralistic society of a modern India. He stressed on making education a medium to transform people into good human beings.

The Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) represents the secular Ganga-Jamuna culture and the AMU community is committed to preserve this identity of this great seat of learning. Sir Syed avoided too much emphasis on religious subjects in his writings, focusing instead on promoting modern education.

As we know, the AMU is an academic institution of international importance offering more than 300 courses in both traditional and modern branches of education. Academic excellence and cultural ethos of AMU needs to be projected and propagated worldwide more effectively in a positive way. In the fast changing technological world, the role of media has become very important in disseminating the information to have a maximum reach.The supreme interest of Sir Syed’s life was education in its widest sense. He wanted to create a scientific temperament among the Muslims and to make the modern knowledge of science available to them. He championed the cause of modern education at a time when all the Indians in general and Indian Muslims in particular considered it a sin to get modern education and that too through English language. He began establishing schools, at Muradabad in 1858 and Ghazipur in 1863.

A more ambitious undertaking was the foundation of the Scientific Society, which published translations of many educational texts and issued a bilingual journal in Urdu and English. It was for the use of all citizens; they were jointly operated by the Hindus and Muslims. In the late 1860s, there occurred some developments that were challenges to his activities.

In 1867, he was transferred to Varanasi, a city on the Ganga with great religious significance for Hindus. At about the same time, a movement started in the city to replace Urdu, the language spoken by the Muslims, with Hindi. This movement and the attempts to substitute Hindi for Urdu publications of the Scientific Society convinced Syed that he should do something.

Thus during a visit to England (1869-70), he prepared plans for a great educational institution — a “Muslim Cambridge.” On his return, he set up a committee for the purpose and also started an influential journal, Tahzib al-Akhlaq (Social Reform), for the uplift and reforms of the Muslims. A Muslim school was established at Aligarh in May 1875, and after his retirement in 1876, Sir Syed dedicated himself to make it a college.

To carry the legacy of the great reformer, the AMU has got a dynamic and intellectual person as vice chancellor in the form of Prof Tariq Mansoor, who had been associated with the university for more than three decades. Mansoor has been the principal of the J N Medical College since 2013. He had been the secretary of the University Games Committee for about seven years.

Besides being the president of the Association of Surgeons, he has been a member of the Medical Council of India (MCI) since 2015 and that of the AMU Executive Council for 12 years. Mansoor is a recipient of the senior surgical award from the Association of Surgeons of India. He is also given credit for the overall development of Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College. He served as an advisor in the Union Public Service Commission and as an assessor for the MCI.

Mansoor, in his vision, posted on the University’s website clearly stated that he will implement “Sir Syed’s vision of imparting modern education and will be focusing on “preparing students to qualify in competitive exams for central services, armed forces, IITs, IIMs and leading industries. We will also aim to produce top professionals in medicine, engineering, law, management, sciences and humanities”.

Appeal to alumniIt is unique and very positive to have a team of highly intellectual and academicians of repute to run the University. It is important for the progress of an academic institution that it should run by the academicians of high repute.

In an open letter to the AMU alumni who are holding important positions in different organisations worldwide, the vice chancellor has made an appeal to them to contribute both academically and financially.

To me, this is a very good move and initiative that will certainly help the students in getting employment in national and international market. Alumni support will also help in developing the infrastructural facilities of high standard as we have seen the contribution by Frank Islam, an AMU alumnus based in the US.The way newly appointed vice chancellor has taken the initiatives so far clearly shows his vision and plan for the betterment of the university. However, it would be more interesting to see his efforts in days to come. His biggest challenge would be maintaining the law and order situation in the campus. His long association with AMU would certainly be helpful in understanding the dynamics of the campus and in maintaining the law and order situation.

However, I would suggest that the VC should have an IPS officer on deputation basis as proctor of the University with power to handle the law and order situation independently. Another issue he may face would be regionalism and groupism in the campus but I am happy to mention that he already stated clearly in his vision that he will eliminate factionalism and groupism from the campus. It is high time for the AMU community to support the vice chancellor in making the University as one of the best in the country.

(The writer, a linguist, teaches at Washington University in St Louis, USA)

source: http://www.deccanherald.com / Deccan Herald / Home> Panorama / by M.J. Warsi / July 03rd, 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

Carving out a space for himself

Pallapatti / Chennai , TAMIL NADU :

(From left) Zahid Husain, Alhaj A. Mohammed Ashraf, Mohamed Rifath Shaarook Raaj and Amanullah Shah | Photo Credit: special arrangement
(From left) Zahid Husain, Alhaj A. Mohammed Ashraf, Mohamed Rifath Shaarook Raaj and Amanullah Shah | Photo Credit: special arrangement

Mohamed Rifath has just joined a physics undergraduate course at New College, but his classmates and teachers are seeing him as a star scientist. Read on and find out why

Can you imagine a fresher receiving a rousing welcome at his college, on the day of joining? When Mohamed Rifath Shaarook Raaj recently joined the B.Sc Physics stream of New College, he was being accorded a reception befitting a celebrity. Not only that, the secretary and correspondent of the college, A. Mohammed Ashraf, had waived off his fee for the undergraduate course, and also promised that the college would take care of his education till he completed his Ph.D.

Rifath, 18 years old, is the Lead Scientist of Space Kidz India (SKI), a Chennai-based organisation promoting students’ research in science and working towards making science accessible to students. Rifath is part of a team that has designed a satellite, which is expected to be launched into space on 21 June, 2017 from the NASA Wallops Space Flight Facility, Virginia, at no cost.

Major Zahid Husain, principal of the college, said that fellow students should emulate this young scientist and that it was a great honour for the college to enrol him. The student scientist has not only taken the local educationalists by storm but even the judges and directors of Colorado Space Grans Consortium were awe-struck by his experiment. Thus his satellite (supported by his team-mates) is planned to be launched into space on June 21, 2017 from NASA Wallops Space Flight Felicity, Virginia at no cost.

“NASA and I doodle Learning Inc. conducted a space challenge called ‘Cubes in Space’. Students have to design an experimental satellite which will help develop space technology. The best-designed satellite will get a sub-orbital space flight to real space on a NASA Rocket. Being a member of the NASA Kids Club, I learnt about this challenge and decided to design together with my team, an experimental satellite that will fit inside a 4cm cube and weigh 64 grams with +/- 1 gram limit (neither high nor less since it may affect the centre of gravity). Apart from creating just a payload, we wanted to design, build and launch a full satellite within a 4cm cube with a mass of 64 grams,” he explains.

Rifath, who hails from Pallapatti in Tamil Nadu, completed his schooling from Crescent Matriculation School, scoring 62.5% in the higher secondary board exams, and wants to emulate former President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam.

“It all started when I was chided for making paper rockets; so I was determined to make a real one. I participated in the first edition of Young Scientist-2013 conducted by Space Kidz India and met its director Srimathy. I participated till the third edition of Young Scientist, even though I didn’t win but she noticed my talent. Then, I joined the organisation. My initial project with SKI was making a balloon-satellite with NSLV (Near Space Launch Vehicle) which was a huge success and we got into the Limca Book of Records and became the first private company in India to launch an NSLV. After launching a balloon-satellite to near space (>40km altitude), we wanted to send a satellite or a spacecraft to true Space (>100km where the Karman line and official true space starts). At first, we concentrated on the standard one unit 10cm cube satellite of 1kg mass but as we proceeded, we realised the cost would be too high. As students we were strapped for money and therefore, reduced the size and mass of the Cube satellites (Cube Satellite itself is a Nano satellite but we wanted to reduce the size further).

“At first, we wanted to create something similar to Kicksats but they are not true satellites but just a postcard sized PCB with non-customisable electronics, which cannot work, without a big mother satellite — in other words, it’s just a Space toy. But we always wanted to create an independent full-fledged fully-customisable, scalable, low-cost satellite with new technology. Initially we designed a 125gram, 5cm cube satellite which is 1/8th of a standard cube satellite which will also reduce the cost of the launch. But later, due to NASA’s challenge guidelines we built a 3.8cm independent cube satellite. Previously, a 5cm cube satellite was the smallest satellite, but now we are about to break that record and it’s also going to be the first 3D-printed satellite to be launched into space.

“Here, we are only talking about sub-orbital spaceflight in which our satellite will go into space on a rocket, do the research and land again on surface/ocean in a capsule, so the students can get back their satellite, research more and create a better space system which can be used in orbital and interplanetary missions. Our aim is not to just send a Cube satellite, built from Off-the-shelf components previously available in space market, and launch that into space. Our invention is to create a new space platform. We are also creating a space platform where our future scientists can develop their own payloads, and, for example, we can use this kind of Femto satellite constellations as Ham Radio reflectors which we can use in disaster-like situations when all other communications may fail.

We may face solar flares which may destroy satellites outside earth’s magnetosphere (36,000 km altitude). In situations like these, these Femto satellites can be a backup; they can be quickly launched and protected by an artificial magnetosphere, since they are very small. This satellite is fully 3D-printed, other than electronics.”

source: http://www.thehindu.com / The Hindu / Home> News> Cities> Chennai / by M.O. Badsha / June 16th, 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