[sacw] SACW #1 | 5 Jan. 03
Sun, 5 Jan 2003 04:55:08 +0100
South Asia Citizens Wire #1 | 5 January 2003
CRIME AGAINST HUMANITY -- GUJARAT 2002: A report on the
investigations, findings and recommendations of the Concerned
FOREIGN EXCHANGE OF HATE- IDRF and the American Funding of Hindutva
A report on the US-based organization -- the India Development and
Relief Fund (IDRF), which has systematically funded Hindutva
operations in India.
#1. The hydro-politics of conflict (Ishtiaq Ahmed)
#2. Familiarity breeds friendship - Youth Initiative for Peace
conference (Jalees Hazir)
#3. A lawyer has petitioned the Sindh High Court (SHC) to declare
Pakistan a non-theocratic state
#4. Sri Lanka : The peace process - a reality check (N. Ram)
#5. Creation of Hindu 'madrasas' (Rasheed Talib)
The Daily Times
Sunday, January 05, 2003
The hydro-politics of conflict
My contention is that the Kashmir dispute is at bottom a dispute over
water. My firm conviction is that it can only be solved through
increased cooperation between the two states. War is not an option.
Moreover the question of water is part of the overall need for
environmental conservation and development
In recent years, political scientists have put forth the concept of
hydro-politics to capture the type of conflicts which are emerging in
some regions of the world. Water resources are fast depleting because
of the combined impact of population growth, inefficient usage and
technology and expanding consumption life styles that accompany
modernisation and urbanisation.
In South Asia the access to clean tap water for the poorer sections
of society has always been severely limited, but the fact that the
population of South Asia has increased from some 400 million in 1947
to around 1. 4 billion, and this trend is likely to continue for some
time to come, means that we have to quickly do something to arrest,
and if possible, reverse such a trend. In the Indian states of
Gujarat and Rajasthan droughts have become endemic and the situation
in the Pakistani Sindh and Balochistan is not much better. The
situation is not much better elsewhere in the subcontinent.
Both India and Pakistan have invested heavily in the agricultural
sector which forms a major portion of their economies. Some of the
most developed regions of Indian agricultural production and almost
the whole Pakistani agricultural sector are dependent on the waters
from the Indus and the six rivers of Punjab which originate in the
mountains of Kashmir or the adjacent Himalayan range. These rivers
meander into the territories of both the states. Consequently, in the
absence of cooperation and goodwill the state which controls the
upper riparian can draw strategic advantage if it diverts the flow of
water or even denies it to the other. This advantage at present is
enjoyed by India.
The irony is that from the second half of the 19th century the
British began to construct a vast network of water dams, barrages and
irrigation canals on the Indus and its five tributaries in the Punjab
- Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi, Sutlej and Beas rivers. All such schemes,
however, were planned for a united Punjab and a common
administration. It resulted at that time in the creation of the
largest artificial irrigation system in the world. As a result much
of the formerly semi-desert areas of Punjab were converted into rich,
fertile agricultural land. However, when British rule ended in 1947
the Punjab was also divided between India and Pakistan. Such changes
undermined the assumptions on which the irrigation schemes had been
Surprisingly, although tension and hostility between India and
Pakistan over Kashmir was built into the process whereby they gained
independence and resulted in armed skirmishes and wars, both sides
realised that they could not afford to postpone an agreement on water
sharing until the final status of Kashmir was settled. Consequently,
under the auspices of the World Bank the Indus Waters Treaty was
agreed between them in 1960 whereby the waters of the three eastern
rivers - Ravi, Sutlej and Beas - were awarded to India. Pakistan was
allocated water from the western rivers of Indus, Jhelum and Chenab.
The treaty allowed Pakistan to construct a system of replacement
canals to convey water from the western rivers into those areas in
West Pakistan which had previously depended for their irrigation
supplies on water from the eastern rivers.
In subsequent years Pakistan has built the Mangla and Tarbela dams
and several other similar facilities on the waters of Indus, Jhelum
and Chenab. The funding has come from international donors. Similarly
India has been building various dams and barrages on the Ravi, Sutlej
and Beas. As a result the stability of the Indian and Pakistani
economies is dependent upon the status quo over Kashmir not being
disturbed too radically. Recent Pakistani reports suggest that India
has been building the hydro-electric Baghliar project in Jammu on the
Chenab River with a view to diverting water allocated to Pakistan
under the Indus Waters Treaty of 1960. India denies such allegations.
My contention is that the Kashmir dispute is at bottom a dispute over
water. My firm conviction is that it can only be solved through
increased cooperation between the two states. War is not an option.
Moreover the question of water is part of the overall need for
environmental conservation and development. Recently the Pakistani
environmental scientist Dr Saleem H Ali at Vermont University, USA,
has suggested the idea of a Peace Park in Kashmir. According to him,
Kashmir is an environmentally sensitive region which both sides
should have an interest in protecting. By using environment as a
neutral issue one could potentially bring the parties together.
Amazingly, Air Marshal Nanda Cariappa of the Indian Air Force (he was
shot down in Pakistan during the 1965 war and was treated with
special regard by Field Marshal Ayub Khan because his father and the
Field Marshal had served together in the British Indian army) has
come up with a very similar idea. He narrows his idea to a
"trans-boundary peace park" in the Siachen area. According to him
this would preserve for posterity the most spectacular mountain
region in the world. Such policy would defuse armed confrontation and
many lives would be saved. Billions of rupees would then be available
for the development needs of both the countries. It is obvious that
the schemes put forward by Dr Ali and Air Marshall Cariappa would
require a settlement of the Kashmir dispute. However, if it is
approached in the spirit of cooperation, a solution can be found
which satisfies all genuine concerns and aspirations.
It should be noted that the concept of "peace parks" goes back 70
years; there are now 169 such parks in 113 countries. Some of them
were conceived specifically with the intention of furnishing a
peaceful solution to conflicts or potential conflicts. Among some
such examples are the peace parks between La Costa Rica and Nicaragua
and another between Ecuador and Peru. Greece and Turkey share one on
either side of the Evros River. Hopefully one day Turkey, Syria and
Iraq would move in such a direction, and when a just and fair peace
treaty between the independent states of Israel and Palestine has
been agreed upon, the hydro-politics of conflict will give way to
peaceful sharing of water symbolised by peace parks.
The author is an associate professor of Political Science at
Stockholm University. He is the author of two books
The News on Sunday
5 January 2002
Familiarity breeds friendship
While it is obvious that events like the Youth Initiative for Peace
conference are positive, the question is: Shouldn't the efforts be
directed at pushing governments in each country towards
reconciliation at the state level?
By Jalees Hazir
The Youth Initiative for Peace conference of students from SAARC
countries in Lahore was something pleasant. More than fifty students
gathered in a camp for nine days and, among other creative and
entertaining activities, helped each other reconstruct the
conflicting national histories as taught in each country's schools.
What was heartening to see was the remarkable friendship among the
participants even after dialoguing such contentious issues.
Picture this: It is a day before the closing but the young
participants from Dhaka have a flight to catch. The venue is HRCP
auditorium where the students have convened for a presentation by
Salima Hashmi. After the question answer session, an announcement
informs the Bangladeshi students that it is time for them to leave.
Everyone gathers around the departing friends for a send-off warm
enough to sweep even a cynic off his feet, complete with real tears
and bear hugs.
A couple of days ago, the group had discussed contending views on the
creation of Bangladesh, a thorny issue between the country and
Pakistan. The camp also discussed divergent perspectives on the
Kashmir dispute, the refugee problem between Nepal and Bhutan, and a
lot of stuff that divides the peoples of this region, making peace a
more challenging task. Interestingly, all this talk led to
understanding rather than hostility. And the organisers, hosts and
facilitators of the conference can be credited for creating an
environment conducive to mutual reconciliation.
Other than these discussions focusing on each country's history and
how they conflict with interpretations across immediate borders, the
students spent their time with accomplished artists. Madeeha Gauhar
of Ajoka Theatre talked to them about her stage plays and workshops
and how her work is geared towards bringing awareness and social
change. She shared her experience of performing in other countries of
the region and working with similar groups in India and Bangladesh,
and put together a short skit with the involvement of the
Bangladesh's celebrated photographer, Shahidul Alam, talked about
issues in photography and Pakistani painter Salima Hashmi showed
slides of young artists grappling with socially relevant issues. She
also talked about her experience of working on a project with other
South Asian artists. Also included in the program were music composer
Arshad Mehmud, and Keith Fitzgerald, a consultant on conflict
management. At the end of each day, the students thrashed out
concrete projects that they resolved to take up on their return to
their home countries.
The key facilitator for the camp, Michael Shanks, moderated the
discussions and ensured that a positive spirit permeated the whole
exercise. It was obvious by the tearful parting speeches and hugs he
received that he'd done a good job and earned love and respect from
the whole gang. Ragni Kidwai also received much appreciation for her
leading role in launching YIP and putting together the conference.
The Youth Initiative for Peace can be traced back to a similar
peace-building conference in Singapore last year, attended by twenty
students from Pakistan and twenty from India. On their return, the
enthused delegates from Pakistan, students from leading educational
institutions of Karachi and Lahore, decided to form YIP as a way of
carrying forward the Singapore experience. As they set out to plan
for this conference, they found encouragement and guidance from
Michael Shanks and Keith Fitzgerald, two key people in the Singapore
conference. And in Lahore, their initiative found logistical support
from Shirkat Gah, ASR and HRCP, making their dream into a reality.
Such initiatives are useful for peace building at various levels.
Walking the short distance from Shirkat Gah, where the camp was
housed, to the auditorium for the presentation, Nudrat from
Bangladesh told me that though it's her first trip to Pakistan, she
has family living in Lahore so she did not have the kind of
apprehensions others had about the place. Most of the other students
I talked with admitted to having mixed feelings about coming to
Pakistan because of the negative information fed to them through the
media. They said their impression had completely changed after the
visit. Familiarity, after all, most of the time does not breed
Unfortunately, people from countries included in SAARC, Bangladesh,
Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, are in so
many ways strangers to each other in spite of being so close
geographically. There is little contact, interaction or exchange
among them, and this just strengthens the negative stereotypes about
each other. At the state level, many of these countries are embroiled
in disputes and conflicts. The way in which the official and
non-official media cover these contentious issues only reinforces
While it is obvious that events like the YIP conference are positive,
familiarising the future leaders with each other and developing trust
and understanding among them, the question is: Does the situation
call for something more momentous that could make a difference today?
And taking the argument further, how effective are these people to
people contacts against the backdrop of state governments dragging
their feet towards peace? Shouldn't the efforts be directed at
pushing governments in each country towards reconciliation at the
I put this question to Imtiaz Alam who is the secretary general of
South Asian Free Media Association and has been at the forefront of
building bridges of cooperation and understanding among media persons
from the region. In his opinion, while it is crucial that the
governments sort out the contentious issues between them, any
sluggishness on that front should not slow down efforts at the
non-governmental level. He feels that whether it is the youth, media
persons, artists or simple tourists, the people of the region have
much to gain from direct interaction. Such contact, structured and
informal, generates a momentum towards peace that has a force of its
This was confirmed by what I witnessed during the couple of days I
spent with the students at the YIP conference. The tearful goodbyes,
the promises to stay in touch and to visit each other's countries and
the bonhomie among them, were touching to say the least. More
significantly, this spirit of goodwill was built on not only fun and
games but also a reconciliation of differences and a belief in a
common future. Also remarkable was the resolve among the students to
contribute positively to their societies
There is no dialogue on whether there should be peace among the
countries of this region -- even hawks don't prescribe perpetual war.
The problem facing the proponents of peace is how to bring it about,
how to get rid of the burden of our past and move together into the
future with trust and friendship. The youth conference was a solid
step in that direction.
The Daily Times
SHC asked to declare Pakistan non-theocratic
By Farhan Reza
KARACHI: A lawyer asked the Sindh High Court (SHC) to declare
Pakistan a non-theocratic state on Saturday.
In a petition to the court Sohail Hameed cited the president, prime
minister, interior minister and Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal leaders
Maulana Fazlur Rehman and Qazi Hussain Ahmed as respondents. He
argued that any act of the president or prime minister on the
"instigations" of the MMA leaders to make Pakistan a theocracy would
be without lawful authority.
The petitioner also prayed, among other things, that the president
and prime minister impose governor's rule in the NWFP to avoid the
"extremist steps" of its MMA government. The lawyer stated that the
NWFP assembly had acted against the ideology of Pakistan by passing a
resolution that Friday should be a holiday. Mr Hameed maintained
Pakistan was not a theocracy and the government should take steps to
restrain those who intend to make it otherwise. He said the MMA was
inciting Pakistan to obstruct the US war against terrorism, adding
that the country should not heed the MMA and safeguard its own
Volume 20 - Issue 01, January 04 - 17, 2003
SRI LANKA : The peace process - a reality check
The perception of a political breakthrough in the Sri Lankan peace
process is seen to be misplaced if reality testing, which addresses
six hard questions, is undertaken.
THERE is a widespread international perception that the peace process
in Sri Lanka has made significant headway over the past few months
and that, in the latest Oslo round of talks (December 2-5, 2002),
there has been a `breakthrough' towards an enduring political
settlement of the island's two-decade-old armed conflict. If the
perception of a breakthrough were accurate, there would be reason to
cheer on what would be a remarkable triumph of hope over horrendous
experience. We would then need radically to revise our assessment of
what used to be regarded as an intractable conflict or `crisis',
which defied a negotiated solution in the short as well as medium
terms. We would also then need to recognise that the time frames and
agendas indicated by the authors of the exercise - who promised `a
step at a time' and a multi-stage and long drawn out talking process
- have been overtaken by events and got dramatically telescoped.
Is the perception of such a breakthrough accurate?
A recent visit to Sri Lanka, a close reading of the relevant texts
and developments, and some critical reflection enabled me to attempt
some reality testing of the perception. In psychology and
psychoanalysis, reality testing is the technique of objective
evaluation of an emotion or thought against real life, as a faculty
present in normal individuals but defective in some psychotics. Here
the reality check is against the perception that, with a breakthrough
achieved in the latest round of talks in Oslo (as evidenced by an
official statement made by the Norwegian government on December 5,
2002), the gulf separating the two parties to a horrendous conflict
has been bridged in a manner and at a speed nobody could have
anticipated. Asking the relevant hard questions opens the door to the
The core of the Norwegian government's statement was the formulation
that "responding to a proposal by the leadership of the Liberation
Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), the parties agreed to explore a
solution founded on the principle of internal self-determination in
areas of historical habitation of the Tamil-speaking peoples, based
on a federal structure within a united Sri Lanka.'' On the face of
it, this was a statement of intent and endeavour, vague in its
contours and not amounting to any kind of commitment.
Nevertheless, superficial media coverage could plausibly report a
breakthrough since the terms "the principle of internal
self-determination,'' "federal structure,'' and "within a united Sri
Lanka'' were strung together in one sentence and there was no
explicit reference to the LTTE's secessionist goal of "Tamil Eelam.''
International media reports and G.L. Peiris, a senior Minister and
the Sri Lankan government's chief negotiator, went so far as to claim
that the LTTE had abandoned the goal of Eelam.
The Norwegian government's statement also highlighted recognition by
the parties that "progress on political issues must be supported by
the continued consolidation of the Ceasefire Agreement'' and outlined
some new concrete measures to "facilitate further de-escalation and
to improve normalcy.'' Peiris declared, at the press conference at
the end of the Oslo talks, that the peace process was
"irreversible,'' adding "it is a commitment to peace. There is not
going to be war.'' Anton S. Balasingham, the LTTE's chief negotiator,
contributed his bit to the euphoria: "I totally agree with what
Professor Peiris said.''
Let us review, on a strictly factual basis, the major developments
relevant to the perception of a breakthrough.
FULL TEXT AT: http://www.flonnet.com/fl2001/stories/20030117003602600.htm
Creation of Hindu 'madrasas'
by Rasheed Talib
(Text of a talk on "Saffronization of Indian Education" given at the
YMCA, New Delhi in September 2002)
I am neither an educationist nor an expert on Hindutva. But in the
course of writing a book on Islam and Modernity, I have come across
problems faced by Islam in its extremist manifestation, popularly
termed fundamentalism - which in a sense justifies my speaking on the
subject on the `saffronization of education` here today. The
justification may not be immediately apparent. So, let me explain.
In the course of my research on Islam, I have realized that there are
interesting parallels between on the one hand the Hindu
fundamentalist`s attempt to reorient the syllabi and courses of our
school system so as to make it reflect a respect for ancient Indian
culture and learning, and on the other the academic situation that
prevails in Pakistan with the support it officially gives to the
`madrasa` system of education.
In much of my talk this morning, I shall place before you these
parallels, these comparisons, deadpan and with as little comment as
possible, leaving you to judge where our country might be headed -
not perhaps in the immediate future, because it takes a while to
dismantle the edifice we have inherited from the Nehruvian secular
era, with its emphasis on developing a scientific temper, but in the
not-so-distant future should the ideologues of Hindutva prevail in
imposing their ill-conceived educational agenda.
Before I turn to this, my major theme of the day, let me make a
couple of preliminary points. I would like to say first and foremost
that religion here is not the issue. And yet, in a sense it is. I
find the following extract from a letter published in the London
daily, the Guardian, particularly significant. The anonymous
"As long as mankind remains in thrall to outdated beliefs in 'gods',
there is no chance of peace on earth. All religions profess peace and
love - yet they have been responsible for most of the bloodshed
throughout the ages. Religions are relics of the dark ages. They
foster hatred, enmity and bigotry and have no place in a modern,
We may not all agree with so sweeping a conclusion. But I would argue
that the writer is at least partially right. Religion in the sense of
a spiritual anchor is something that many in the modern world seem
staunchly to yearn for, particularly in the developing countries
unable to solve their bread-and-butter problems. But the kind of
religion we yearn for is religion with an unfailing emphasis on
social harmony between peoples.
This yearning for a return to old-fashioned religion is not
surprising, given the materialist traumas of modernity. And, of
course, there is an ethical dimension to religion besides the
divisive one. But it is the use of religion for political purposes,
particularly for narrow electoral ends, which the anonymous letter
writer seems to have had in mind in reaching his nihilistic
There is another important point we need to note. The political abuse
of religion is a temptation to which all major faiths have at some
time or other succumbed. History is witness to this fact - as much in
the case of Judaism, as in that of Christianity and Islam. Hinduism
was thus far thought to be a grand exception. But what we are
witnessing in our still-largely secular country today is that this
essentially non-dogmatic - and by and large tolerant faith, tolerant
that is, in matters of creed, but highly oppressive and
discriminating in the caste apartheid rampantly practised in it - is
about to go down the same slippery slope.
So much for my introductory remarks. Now for the parallels between
the Pakistani madrasa system and our federal minister Dr Murli
Manohar Joshi`s vision of Hindutva-oriented education. If his
confused efforts succeed, I fear we will end up duplicating the
Pakistani educational experience here through the fostering of a
madrasa mindset among our people at the very basic level of mass
schooling. I would particularly like to stress here that the cause -
a religion-based education - and the consequence - the development of
closed minds - are not as removed from each other as might appear at
Dr Joshi`s agenda, as I see it, has two clear objectives:
- One, to rewrite our textbooks in such a manner that we give equal
emphasis, on the one hand, to well-documented facts of history and,
on the other, to myths from our glorious past, making no distinction
between the two so that myth and fact become ultimately part of a
seamless whole; and,
- Two, to expose our students to the 'scientific' achievements of the
past without submitting them to the scrutiny of reasoned discourse
that has been the hallmark of science since it was liberated from the
clutches of medieval superstition in the 14th/15th centuries.
I now turn to the similarities between Dr Joshi`s efforts to reorient
the history and science courses and textbooks in our governmental
schools and the academic climate, not to forget the mindsets, that
generally prevails among Pakistan`s professional elite and
prestigious scientific establishments as a result of its reliance at
very the basic level of education on the madrasa system.
Let me begin this segment by drawing your attention to an interesting
article that appeared in the New York Times three months ago and in
which the writer, one Somini Sengupta, described a boys' school run
by the RSS (a `Hindu madrasa` so to speak) just outside Delhi.
The 300 students of the school, she wrote, belonged mostly to dalit
or tribal children from Madhya Pradesh and the Northeast whom the
Hindutva brigade wanted to see saved from Christian conversions.
Some of the inmates are orphans and therefore housed, fed and clothed
free of charge, furnishing captive groups of young scholars to whom
the RSS - the Rashtriya Swayam Seva Sangh, the ideological parent of
the BJP - could administer its ideological indoctrination.
Incidentally, these schools, called `shishu mandirs`, and other
primary and secondary schools run by the RSS through its educational
charity, the Vidya Bharati, are generously funded by Hindu
non-resident Indians from abroad.
According to Ms Sengupta, there are today some 20,000 such low-cost
schools serving 2.4 million children across the country. And about
1000 such new schools are added each decade - a growth rate that
would be the envy of other educational charities.
Apart from the standard educational syllabus, there is emphasis here
on building the bodies of the boys with rigorous insistence on
physical exercise and yoga - with due importance to the chanting of
Hindu prayers in Sanskrit. So far so good - and quite unexceptional.
But what of the education administered to these young minds? I can do
no better than paraphrase the content of Ms Sengupta`s reportage:
- The students - she says - are taught to give up their meat-eating
ways and to become vegetarians: unobjectionable again as
vegetarianism may well be the wave of the future.
- But, as part of the extra-curricular routine, the students are
'regaled' (her word not mine) with tales of brave Hindu warriors and
saints, besides being encouraged to participate in quizzes in which
questions and answers focus on the 'ravages' wrought by Muslim rule
in India with particular reference to Emperor Babur`s alleged role in
the demolition of the Hindu temple at Ayodhya - the source, you will
recall, of the violent communal strife of the 1980s caused by the
demolition of Babur's mosque. (Incidentally, I have often wondered
since whether this deed, as an act of religious vandalism with the
additional cost of the loss of innocent lives, can be characterized
as different from the destruction of the Bamiyan Buddha statues by
Taliban fanatics in Afghanistan 20 years later?).
- The students are taught further that Lord Rama was born precisely
"888,000 years ago". The source for this `fact`? Why of course the
Hindu texts of astrology!
Ms Sengupta ends her description of the activities of these schools
with a pointed question: Critics may well ask, she observes, whether
such schools are not in fact `madrasas of the Hindu right`?
So much for what a foreign correspondent observed of the existing
schools run for the children of the poor by the RSS, conveying to all
who wish to listen that 'the saffronization of education' is not just
coming; it is already here - albeit limited at present to a largely
ignored segment of the population but one which includes vast numbers
of the poor who cannot afford the costs of private schools.
Let me now turn to an indigenous and secular response to Dr Joshi`s
`saffronized` system. A husband-and-wife team of Nehru University
historians, Professors Mridula and Aditya Mukherjee, have put
together a compilation of articles and comments appearing in our
newspapers during the peak of the controversy.
In their introduction, the Mukherjees deal with the case made out by
the saffron camp against the secular historians who are
contemptuously labelled "the children of Marx, Macaulay and Madrasa"
and "the enemies of Indianization". In support of their criticism
against the RSS` band of historians, they cite the following
tendencies from textbooks now routinely prescribed in the Vidya
- Mythological religious figures are treated as though they are
characters from history and silly conclusions are drawn such as one
claiming that Emperor Ashoka`s advocacy of `ahimsa` spread "the cult
of cowardice in India" - whatever that may mean.
- A-historical judgements are perpetrated such as the one reached by
Prof Oak of notorious memory that Delhi`s Qutub Minar was built by
the Hindu king Samudragupta, not the Muslim king of the slave
dynasty, Qutubuddin Aibak. Or that the Taj Mahal is a medieval Indian
temple, not the `monument of love` created by emperor Shahjahan.
- It is, however, the following conclusion - from the history of our
own times - which takes the cake: India`s `freedom struggle`,
according to these historians, was not so much a movement for
independence from the British as a religious war against the Muslims.
Apart from criticizing saffronized scholarship for its multiple
distortions of Indian history, the Mukherjees quote from a statement
made by the then RSS chief, K S Sudarshan, in a party journal, the
Organizer, about the so-called scientific achievements of ancient
India. Accusing the `anti-Hindu Euro-Indian` historians of bias
against `Vedic maths`, Sudarshan went on to claim that our ancients
"knew all about nuclear energy" and that the Sage Bharadwaja and Raja
Bhoj not only described the construction of aeroplanes but discussed
"details like what type of planes would fly at what height, what kind
of problems they might encounter, and how to overcome those problems".
It is time we now turn to the comparable situation in the Pakistani
madrasa system. This comparison is not as far-fetched as it might
seem: I firmly believe that if ever a Hindutva-dominated ethos
prevails in India, it will be at the cost of making our country a
mirror image of Islamic Pakistan.
An eminent Islamicist, Andrew Rippin, has pointed out that at the
turn of the 19th/20th centuries there lived in Egypt a secondary
school teacher, named Tantawi Jawhari. Between the years 1923 and
1935, he wrote a 26-volume work entitled `Jewels in the
interpretation of the Quran` - a book which, he says, was typical of
such writing at the time in the Middle Eastern countries.
One of the two themes Tantawi dwells on with great enthusiasm in
these books is that the Quran contains within it an explanation of
the scientific workings of the world. Allah, he says, would not have
revealed the Quran had he not included in it everything that people
needed to know; science being a necessity of life in the modern
world, it is not surprising to find all of science in the Quran
provided of course the Holy Book is properly understood.
And here`s a story from the Pakistani saga which brings things up to
our times. Many of you may have heard of Dr Pervez Hoodbhoy. He is an
eminent nuclear scientist who held at one time senior teaching and
research appointments concurrently at MIT in the US and at Pakistan`s
prestigious Quaid-e-Azam University.
Dr Hoodbhoy, it may be recalled, was constantly at odds with many
members of his country`s scientific community; however, no government
could afford to dispense with his services because of his usefulness
to their research programmes.
In his slim book, Islam and Science, published by Zed Press in 1991,
Pervez Hoodbhoy bitterly criticizes what passes off as `Islamic
science` in Pakistan. His criticism is aimed in particular at the
obscurantist theories put out by some of his colleagues in its
scientific establishment. I reproduce here some of the sharpest
attacks he makes in the book.
Can there be an Islamic Science, he asks at the head of Chapter 7,
and answers the question thus:
- No there cannot be an Islamic scientific explanation of the
physical world (just as, he goes on to add, a little later, there
cannot be a Marxist or socialist science). Attempts to create such a
civilizational bogey either in the Islamic world or under successive
Communist regimes, he says, not only failed; they were a wasted
- His trenchant remarks on the work of a particularly highly placed
Pakistani scientist are especially noteworthy. The worthy gentleman`s
name (by a strange coincidence) is Dr Safdar Jang Rajput who held the
position of a senior scientist with the country`s Defence Science and
Technology Organization (DESTO).
As Hoodbhoy narrates it, Dr Jang Rajput contributed a paper to an
official journal in which he sought to make a `scientific` case for
the existence of `jinns` (or fiery spirits mentioned in the Quran).
Dr Hoodbhoy`s caustic comments in this learned-journal article are
worth paraphrasing as they appear in the book:
- God made jinns out of fire at the time He made man out of clay [or
so says the Quran]. For Dr Rajput, these fiery spirits are a living
reality and clearly something with which he is deeply preoccupied ...
And the summary of his principal results in `jinnology` is as follows:
"It is highly probable that the origin of jinns is methane gas,
together with other saturated hydro-carbons, because these yield a
smokeless flame upon burning. This conclusion [observes Dr Rajput] is
predicated on the known fact that God made jinns out of fire,
together with the known fact that no jinn emitting smoke has ever
Need one say any more about the Pakistani concept of science or, for
that matter, about Dr Joshi`s vision of education in India?
SACW is an informal, independent & non-profit citizens wire service run by
South Asia Citizens Web (www.mnet.fr/aiindex) since 1996.
To subscribe send a blank message to:
<firstname.lastname@example.org> / To unsubscribe send a blank
message to: <email@example.com>
DISCLAIMER: Opinions expressed in materials carried in the posts do not
necessarily reflect the views of SACW compilers.