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MARCH 2001

MONTHLY    *    Vol 15-03 No:171    *   MARCH 2001 / ZIL-HIJJA 1421H
  email: editor@islamicvoice.com

FEATURES


Idiot Box Bashing
Tussle for Muslim Votes in West Bengal
Muslim Industry Faces: Chinese Invasion


Idiot Box Bashing

By breaking their TV sets in public in Mumbai and Gujarat, the Muslims are targeting the medium while the culprit is the polluting message

M. H. Lakdawala

THE mass frenzy against the influence of Television is gradually spreading amongst the Muslim community. It started with individual family shunning the idiot box. The first incident of entire housing society making bonfire of TV sets was reported in Momin Colony at Jogeshwari in Mumbai, two years ago.

Tariq Sorathia of the said colony who also smashed his TV two years ago said, “I agree that the TV is an important medium of information. But the stuff dished out by it today is having an adverse impact on impressionable minds of our young generation”, he added, “Moreover our culture, ethos and the religious identity is at stake with soaps and serials promoting adultery, selfishness and other vices. Hundreds of TV sets were similarly smashed in Taloja, near New Mumbai a couple of months ago. Their contention was that TV was spreading evil. Amir Shah who was amongst the first in Taloja to discard the TV argues that, like alcohol which has a few advantages and many side effects, TV, as of today, offers only few advantages but promotes slew of vices in the society. Amir’s elder son Rehan, a mechanical engineer, doesn’t agree with his father’s view. He argues that TV is a medium, a tool. “It depends for what purpose it is used for. The need is for an effective use of the medium for promoting values and disseminating information”, he said. “Shunning the medium is like throwing baby with the bath water.”

Concurring M. A. Naik, Director, Islamvision.org said: “In this world of stiff competition, I cannot deprive my children of an important source of information. “Definitely utmost care and consistent counselling is a must. Parents should always discuss with their children contents of the TV programmes and guide them about the useful and harmful effects of others”, he said.

Reports of TV sets being destroyed have also come in from Surat where another 400 sets were destroyed in a similar fashion. TV smashing frenzy has spread to Kalupur and Dariapur areas of Ahmedabad where youths brought the TV sets on the road and destroyed them in full public view last month. In Panch Kuva, 22 Muslims brought out their TV sets and destroyed them at one go just a few days back. Mufti Imtiaz of Khajuri Mosque in the Dhaigarwad area in his Friday sermons identified the TV as the root cause of the earthquakes in Gujarat and proclaimed that it’s role in poisoning of minds had angered the Almighty. Amir Shah of Taloja opines that violence depicted on TV is having an adverse impact on our children. “I was shocked by the violent reactions of my two sons when they play games like cricket or carrom”, he said. “My youngest son Ajaz is addicted to Television. I can feel the violent tendencies in his nature, which is correlated with the violence shown on the TV.”

They use the Quranic similes with regard to liquor for their TV bashing saying it may have certain benefits but its harmful effects outweigh their benefits

The ongoing debate on media violence scaled new highs in the US last month when several film studios like MGM and Warner Bros reportedly used the Super Bowl, a widely watched family sports event on TV, aggressively to market campaigns for some of their violence-laden new releases. Psychiatrists say that exposure to media violence can, at best, be one of the critical factors contributing to youth aggression. Notes Harish Shetty, president of the Bombay Psychiatric Society, “Apart from media, the child is influenced by his environment and immediate social atmosphere. These factors together contribute to the aggressive behaviour that kids may exhibit later during their youth.’’ Shetty suggests that the damage caused due to media violence can actually be negated. “Today’s kids are subject to a process of alienation whereby they get desensitised to violence. If they can be made to connect with their immediate environment, they will grow up with less aggression. “Moreover,’’ he adds, “Close parental monitoring of the children’s media consumption can also act as a preventive measure.’’

Rehan Merchant, a timber merchant, is straightforward. He said, “Islam forbids watching TV, hence I have no TV in my house, neither I allow my childrens to watch them at the neighbour’s house.” Rubina Akhtar, a school teacher who disagrees, said, “there is no blanket ban on watching TV in Islam. In fact it can be an important medium in propagating Islam and removing the misconception regarding it from the minds of our fellow countrymen.” Arif Khan, product manager with a multinational opines that entertainment is now becoming a neccessity of the current generation. “In the name of Islam you cannot stop the young generation from watching TV. The need of the hour is providing them with clean, socially relevant and informative and entertainment programmes. For that substantial investment and inclination is required from the Muslim community to counter what is being shown on TV in the name of entertainment,” he pointed out. Dr. Shabana Kasu discarded TV for a different reason. “The growing trend of using TV to experience the joy and sorrow of family relationships points to a vacuum in our lives created by the lack of emotional connectivity,” she observed. In olden days we used to interact a lot as a family. But today instead of discussing each other’s problems, views and interests, we watch TV. Even discussion, if any is related to the fictional characters of the various soaps.”

Dr .Anjali Chabria, a social psychiatrist, puts it plainly.”There’s no hiding the attraction TV holds and the decline of interpersonal relations within families as a result of that. In fact, people have taken to the idea of nuclear families or living by themselves.” Dr. Harish Shetty opines that it’s a consequent hazard of the present fast paced era. Lesser interpersonal communication and even lesser intimacy pushes them to search other channels to experience basal emotions like love, hate, power and heartbreak.”

While this debate goes on, Islamic Voice in a random survey in a Muslim managed college in Mumbai inquired whether the young generation is really interested in a debate. Out of 153 respondents only two students were interested discussing the adverse impact of TV. Only five students said they did not have TV sets in thier residence, but three out of them watched TV either at their friends or neighbour’s house. All of them except one agreed that TV claims a substantial portion of their time. 

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West Bengal

Tussle for Muslim Votes

As Mamata and Marxists vie for Muslim votes, carrots are being dangled before the community

Hasnain Imam in Kolkata

THE smell of elections is all around the state of West Bengal. For the two principal parties involved, the ruling CPI(M)-led Left Front and the BJP-TMC alliance, the battle lines have already been drawn. For the BJP-TMC coalition this is a make or break election. The leader of the TMC Ms. Mamata Banerjee knows that a defeat at the hustings would spell disaster for her party which will be in fear of disintegration. For the Marxists a repeat of their formidable feat against the biggest danger to their rule will enhance their prestige not only in the state but would also send positive signals to vacillating outfits towards a possible Third Front headed by the veteran comrade Jyoti Basu at the centre if a possibility of an alternative were to emerge against the Vajpayee Government.

Never were stakes so high for the rivals in the state. This which probably explains the newfound acceptability of both the TMC and the CPI(M) of the Muslim identity in Bengal. Constituting officially around 23 per cent of the state’s population the Muslims are the biggest factor of determining elections in favour of a political party. For over two decades the Left Front have managed to secure around 46 per cent of the Muslims votes in its favour which is equal to the percentage it secures among the total electorate. The remaining of the opposition votes accounting to over half of the voting percentage gets badly divided. This time around, however, with the political possibility of the grand alliance or ‘mahajot’ against the ruling CPI(M) the division of opposition votes is unlikely to take place. Thus Muslim votes, as a ‘block’ in favour of any party becomes the deciding factor.

No party can afford to ignore the 23 per cent block of Muslim votes. But all fight shy of conceding Muslims demand for reservations in job

So one should not be surprised if Bengal election get enslaved around issues dominating Muslims situation. This would not be because of any newfound appreciation of Muslim problems but merely a consequence of realpolitik. An analysis of the two parties vis-a-vis their relation with the state’s 23 per cent of the population will point to things likely to unfold in the coming days.

Ms. Mamata Banerjee understands her predicament. She is riding on the BJP’s tail (yes not on their back) fully conscious of the advice of her one time mentor and ex- chief minister Sidhartha Shanker Roy that she can never think of ruling the state minus the support of the minority. Thus she declares that her alliance with the BJP and her participation at the Centre enables her to pull the string whenever the BJP tries to force its own hegemonistic agenda. She is cleverly carving out her identity as a secular darban (sentry) of the Vajpayee government who has the power to stop any person she dislike even if they are called in by the owner of the house. She has nodded to the proposal of reservation for Muslims in the state government in case she comes to power at the Writers Building, the administrative headquarters of Bengal. Among her promises include things for the state minorities as has never been promised to them after Independence. She openly acknowledges that the Muslims have been left behind and things have to be done for them. But all her promises has only one rider. The Muslims need to vote for her brushing aside her ‘strategic alliance’ with the BJP if they were to improve their conditions.

Mamata Banerjee is though wooing Muslim with some alluring promises, would like them to learn to put up with her alliance with the BJP

Always slow to react to caste or community issues, Left Front is cautiously monitoring the situation. After the initial comparison of the demand for Muslim reservation to communalism the party leadership has decided to play safe. They have instead argued that changes be first made within the Constitution and Mamata should initiate such a move if she was really interested. In this the party seems to be blissfully oblivious of the fact that Muslims in Kerala (with every alternate government in the state being formed by the Marxists) have been accorded 12 per cent reservations in state jobs and educational places. Fully aware of the nuances of electoral politics, the CPI(M) has decided to slowly create a minority-friendly image without spelling it out as loudly as Ms. Banerjee. The new C. M. Mr. Buddhadev Bhattacharya has recently unveiled his government plans of constructing a minority housing complex at Rajarhat while admitting the acute housing problems faced by the community. With Mr. Saifuddin Chowdhury quitting the CPI(M), the loss of a Muslim communist leader is being sought to be filled by the young Rajya Sabha M.P. Md. Salim. Salim is also the chairman of the state’s Minority Development and Finance Corporation. He is leaving no stone unturned to make the corporation as viable as possible. He can be seen today in various functions organised by the Muslims like Iftar parties etc, and even sharing dais with rival Muslim leaders belonging to other parties. Interestingly, Salim was last seen with politburo member Comrade Biman Basu sharing dais with religious leaders in a rally organised by the local unit of Jamait ul Ulema Hind at Kolkata this February.

Muslims as a community remain among the most backwards in West Bengal. Facts such as literacy and their share percentage in public employment (around 2 per cent) and the fact that their concentration is more in rural areas than urban speak for themselves. One can only hope that the creation of a new political space in the state which has forced parties to concentrate on Muslim problems as an electoral compulsion will help in creating a public opinion of the status of the Muslims of West Bengal.

Otherwise it is a tall task for the community suffering from loss of nerves to plunge into the political space that is created and become claimants to state power with its identity as a community.  

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Muslim Industry Faces: Chinese Invasion

The Chinese goods pose threat to the makers of consumer goods in traditional Muslim pockets of India

M. H. Lakdawala

“The Chinese are coming” has acquired for Indian businessmen the kind of connotation that “the Martians have landed” had for a whole generation of Americans fed on Hollywood’s pet mania of the times.

The Chinese are coming, On their bicycles, with kitchenware, textiles, electronic items, furniture, toys, cosmetics, footwear and accessories. They are arriving in hordes, with virtually all kinds of consumer goods that have a mass market in India. Their prices are amazingly low, making it an invasion, which is giving Indian industry the jitters.

Especially hard hit are the trading communities like Muslim, Jains, Sikh etc. The impact has been often to the detriment of our people. Indian toys, locks and crockery in the small-scale sector have been wiped out. Now the textile sector is feeling the heat; profit margins have thinned dangerously and many units are on the verge of closure. The classic example is Bhiwandi textile looms in Thane district in Maharashtra, which are on the verge of extinction.

Firoz Khan, a leading textile trader in Mumbai who used to procure 100 per cent of his requirement from Bhiwandi looms now imports 85 per cent from China.When I get better quality at lower price it makes business sense to opt for the China made textile” he said. The Chinese goods have been undermining Indian industry in some of the key sectors such as batteries, textiles, electronics, steel, chemicals, coke and coal, silk, pharmaceuticals and fertilizers.

WTO sanctioned open door policy has flooded Mumbai markets with cheaper Chinese goods. Muslim makers of toys, knives, locks and umbrellas are being ousted of the business. Unemployment threat looms large over Muslim pockets

Chinese have deep pockets, cheap labour, efficient processes and a voracious appetite to gobble up markets. For them, losses in one deal doesn’t matter, because access today will bring super profits tomorrow. This is Chinese strategic thinking against which the myopic Indian industry is wilting.

Take the locks industry, for instance. From Kashmir to Kanyakumari, Chinese locks now hold the sway, pushing away all domestic players except a few big brands like Godrej and Link. Be it Aligarh in Uttar Pradesh or Dindugal in Tamil Nadu. Shabbir Tankiwala, a hardware dealer at Abdul Rehman Street, in Mumbai, said : “We used to sell Indian made locks. Now the demand is for the imported locks mainly from China. “The price difference of 100 per cent is very attractive for us. Hence we pushed the Chinese locks. The worst affected is the small or non-branded locks from Aligarh”, he said.

The Chinese incursion has put paid local business. It’s the same story with porcelain dinner sets, flower vases, coffeepot ashtrays and a large number of items made of bone china. In lingerie, the Chinese have already captured the market. Chinese umbrellas are being imported into Indian ports at 70 cents a piece or about Rs. 30. Under current Customs rules they pay a 44 per cent duty and sell at the wholesale rate of Rs. 45 a piece which in turn gets sold at the pavement at the cost Rs. 50.

“Our basic cost can under no circumstances goes under Rs. 80,” says Syed Majid, an umbrella manufacturer. “We pay the same duty, 44 per cent on our component imports, and we no longer remain competitive.

“ We are traders, we will buy from the cheapest source,” says Salim Qureshi, an umbrella trader. “But what happens to the workers. They’ll starve,” says Majid. He say that putting completely assembled umbrellas and components under the same duty slab will kill assembly here. All the material now comes mostly from China, Taiwan, Korea and the UAE. Shahid Rehman a former manufacturer of umbrellas says that he too now imports all his costlier umbrellas, which he sells as his own brands. “They have massive plants, offer incredible variety and very good finish. That’s great for the costlier Rs. 400 umbrellas. But their costs cannot be very different for the cheaper varieties, “ he says

Stag brand umbrella manufactured by Ibrahim Curim & Co which is a leading brand in West India’s gradually losing out market share to the lot from China. Local markets were flooded with Chinese items like umbrellas, calculators, pencils, leather items, toys, cutlery, chocolates, cigarettes, electronic goods and textiles.

All these items are far cheaper than similar local products. Many of these products are sold by weight in China and brought here by traders. The owners of several small and medium-sized industries have closed their units.

A visit to Mumbai’s famous Null Bazar area gives better idea of the Chinese invasion. The toys shops, which used to stock locally manufactured toys now stock Chinese toys. Shaikh Mumtaz, a trader said till last year we used to get our requirement from the manufacturers in Dharavi (largest slums pocket in Asia). “Now we get our supplies from the importers. The toys are not only of better quality but far cheaper also” he said.

Rauf Patel, a toy manufacturer in Dharavi is on the verge of closing down his unit. “Because of the imported toys no trader is willing to buy our products. As compared to last year, this year I had a decrease of 80 per cent in sales. The survival is at stake. Since last couple of month I am barely managing to pay the workers’ salary. May be I had to close my unit,” he said.

On the opposite side of the road the shops selling knife and scissors tells the same story. The shops are flooded with the goods from China. When this correspondent inquired about Rampur knife only the fourth shop had it. The famous scissors of Meerut were nowhere to be seen.

A large percentage of Muslims are involved in small scale sector manufacturing items currently being imported from China. Equally a large number depends on this small scale sector for trading. As such very few Muslims are involved in large industry - which is unaffected until now there- is an adverse impact on the community’s economy. 

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