Islamic Voice A Monthly English Magazine
Jamadiul-Akhir / Rajab 1423 H
September 2002
Volume 15-09 No:189

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Opinion


We are squandering our Heritage
Islam in Mexico


We are squandering our Heritage

Both the Hindus and the Muslims would need to understand that
peace would be an attainable reality if only they realised that distinctions between them are man-made.

By P.M. Vijendra Rao

Mistrust has found a new home in the hearts of Muslims and Hindus since February 27, 2002, the day when savages masquerading as true representatives of these two faiths began their Satanic dance. The redeeming feature of the sordid episode is that a pre-ponderant majority of the civil society has rightly condemned the acts of barbarity that Gujarat has been witness to. These are the people in whose hands India’s secular character will remain safe. This however does not allow any smugness on part of these advocates of harmony and peace. The challenge is to: rebuild trust, thereby restoring peace and rebuild the economy, a process that should go hand in hand with the rehabilitation of the carnage victims. How do we go about achieving this: First of all, we must all join hands and underplay the mistrust, without glossing over the fact that there is mistrust between the two communities. Suspicion arises out of insecurity, and insecurity stems from inequality - perceived or real. Yes, it is true that the colonialists divided us to rule us. Tragedy is that 55 years after we were left to manage ourselves, we find that we are still divided.

Division rules us, not diversity. Disunity because of heterogeneity is threatening to be our new credo. We seem to be unmindful of the danger of losing an unparalleled heritage. A heritage that ought to set an example to the rest of the world, is being squandered away. If we allowed the British to dominate and divide us then, we are doing the same with the United States, now. Divided India is still not allowed to live in peace. In September 1991, when L.K. Advani began his Rath Yatra, he addressed a press conference in Mysore. I was dressed in sherwani and seated prominently in the front row among the journalists. I asked a certain question and it was evident that in giving the reply he did, Advani was guided by his impression that I was a Muslim - thanks to my attire. Later on the same day, at a public meeting at Town Hall, I was seated in the last row of the makeshift press enclosure, separated as I was only by two widely spaced rows of poles, from some BJP activists, seated behind me. An announcement was made that the national anthem would be sung. But what began to be sung was vande mataram.

It was in protest against this distortion, and not out of any disrespect, that three of us journalists did not rise from our seats. This prompted some of those seated behind us to ask me: ‘Which paper do you represent?’ I asked them what was the matter. Don’t you know that you must stand up in respect when the national anthem is rendered, one of them asked me rather menacingly. I silenced him by saying that I need not take lessons in patriotism from him. Deccan Herald, where I then worked, front-paged my story narrating this episode. Swapan Das Gupta, presently an editor at India Today, caustically said in his column for Independent, that the Deccan Herald correspondent had displayed his “boorishness”. What he did not know was that I had dressed like a Muslim and that was how the BJP men targeted only me for questioning. Leaving alone my two colleagues, who also did not stand up when the ‘national anthem’ was sung. Their contention, even if one concedes it, was not so much that disrespect had been shown to a national symbol, as a Muslim had shown the disrespect.

A few months ago, sometime in October perhaps, I was mildly teased one evening by some youngsters, who called me ‘saabi’, as I was walking on the sidewalk. Reason: my dress, sherwani, again. Add to it, the post-September 11, tendency to equate all Muslims with terrorists. Closer home, every time my young nephew does some mischief, my father sources it to his keeping wrong company. My nephew’s best friend is a Muslim. Post-Gujarat I asked a Muslim woman how she felt about the carnage. Insecure? Her reply: ‘Why should I? This is my country’.

Both the Hindus and the Muslims would need to understand that peace would not be an elusive goal, but an attainable reality if only the ordinary folks realised that distinctions between them are man-made and are perpetually sought to be taken advantage of by shortsighted, selfish leaders. There has been any number of exemplary examples of the two communities having rushed to each other’s rescue and help in moments of need. Why not show the same camaraderie and bonhomie even otherwise. It is such a disturbing thought that peace is defined as absence of violence, not as presence of love in our hearts. It is not out of place here to talk about the Indo-Pak situation. I have known at least one Muslim friend who has stopped interacting with his relatives in Pakistan for fear of being looked at suspiciously by the police. But, one can understand that the problem is far more serious than being looked at with suspicion.

The plight of the Hindus across the border cannot be different. If enlightened leadership can bring peace between the two communities within India, there is no reason why a similar change in both our countries cannot bring lasting peace between us. We first have to identify the dirty game played by Uncle Sam-America. Pakistan and India showed the world how woefully lacking in self-respect they were by rushing to pander to the whims of Uncle Sam - unasked. They acted like waiters in a semi-posh restaurant who salivate for tips from an affluent foreign customer. Couldn’t these two poverty-stricken Asian neighbours have acquitted themselves honourably? No, it calls for statesmanship. Where do we have statesmen - there or here?

(The writer is based in Mysore and
can be reached at vijournorao@yahoo.com)

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Islam in Mexico

For the first time in Mexican history, Islam is being talked about in public

Mosque in Mexico The presence of Muslims in Mexico is hard to trace, though there are many immigrants mainly from Turkey, Lebanon and Syria. A study by Theresa Velcamp, from Georgetown University has shown that approximately 10 per cent of the immigrants of Syrian or Lebanese origin were Muslim. Today the Syrian Lebanese community is one of the richest in Mexico and exceeds 200,000 people. Among them is the richest man in Latin America, Carlos Slim, son of Yusof Salim.

Among this wave of Arab immigrants, Islam has for the most part been removed from their daily lives. There is no proof that Islam was present in any way in Mexico before these waves of Arab immigration. There is one specific exception in a book called "Un hereje y Un Musulman" by Pascual Almazan. The book mentions a story of Yusof bin Alabaz who was one of those expelled by the Christains in Reconquista of Spain and went to Morroco where he was robbed by the Pirates, so he found his way to Mexico in the 16th century. It is reported that Yusof bin Alabaz hated the Christians who obliged his father (who accordingly was from the family of the Prophet Muhammed (Pbuh) to leave Islam and become a Christian. He started corresponding with the Muslim world and received a letter from a Qadi in Morroco encouraging him to be steadfast. It has been reported that he used to try and make everyone in Veracruz, Mexico accept Islam. Islam today is beginning to be noticed and recognised by thousands of Mexicans, including dozens of institutions, universities and governmental bodies. This is due to Allah's grace and a group of organised Muslims who are working hard to raise the honour of Islam.

Mosque in VenzuelaIn September 1995, Muslim Center de Mexico (MCM) was registered as a non- profit organisation. From 1995 to September 2001, MCM managed to establish the five prayers in congregation on a daily basis, the attendance has gradually increased and lots of Mexicans are accepting Islam. The new Muslims are receiving lessons on the fundamentals of Tawheed and the essentials of Fiqh. Monthly meals and weekly gatherings are held at the Center for all the Muslims. Islam, for the first time in Mexican history, is being talked about in public. "Talk Shows on Islam" on Mexican National television, radio programmes. Islamic Book Stands in the International Book Fairs of Mexico City and around the country have been instrumental in the spread of Islam here. MCM has established Islamic Centres in Monterey, Guadalajara, Ciudad Obregon and Chiapas. A clear objective of MCM directives has been to send Mexican Muslims over seas to study Islam and since it's formation it has sent eight male students to study Islam in the Madinah University in Saudi Arabia. The women students are taking up Islamic Studies through correspondence courses. Muslim Center de Mexico has purchased a land in a beautiful lake front area of Mexico, 80 kms from Mexico City and 30 kms from Cuernavaca, which is a big and well known city in Mexico. The purpose of this project is to have a permanent center to teach the rapidly growing Mexican Muslim population. MCM is all set to introduce Islam in the rural areas of Mexico too.

Dawah in Mexico has been a unique experience with a community of Mexican Muslims committed to practising the great favour they received from Allah and sharing this blessing with others. A common scenario in this Dawah is to see a member of a large family accept Islam and gradually see how other members of the same family come to the fold of Islam. Before the opening of the Center, Islam was nearly unknown to the public, today it is a different story. Guadalajara is the third biggest city in Mexico, the story of Islam started when Abu Bakr (one of the fortunate new Muslims who studied in Madinah), visited a book fair at Guadalajara. He found two brothers of Mexican origin, "Omar and Khaled, however Omar was of Algerian origin, he narrates that his grandfather came to Mexico decades ago with his son and his son fell in love with Omar's mother. Offering Namaz on the Road Business was not good, so the grandfather returned leaving his son married to Omar's mother. When Omar was six, his father passed away, he remembered that his father used to pray and it led him to seek Islam. Muslim Center De Mexico receives hundreds of emails and it's web site (www.islam.com.mx) has received over 100,000 visits in a single month. MCM's web site is the most informative site (in accordance to Quran and Sunnah) in Spanish on the World Wide Web. Among the main objectives of MCM is to produce beneficial and sound knowledge in Spanish. MCM has translated dozens of books and over 100 articles on Islamic topics.

(To know more about Islam in Mexico,
click on to www.islam.com.mx)

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