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Saturday, January 29, 2011

Zakir Naik to address Oxford Union by satellite

Muslim scholar to take part in discussion with debating society despite exclusion order imposed by Theresa May in June

Theresa May
Theresa May cited Zakir Naik’s assertion that 'all Muslims should be terrorists' as grounds for the ban, comments Naik said were taken out of context. Photograph: Rui Vieira/PA
An Indian Muslim scholar who is banned from entering Britain is to address the Oxford Union via satellite link, in a direct challenge to the home secretary, Theresa May.
Zakir Naik, who was placed under an exclusion order last summer, has been invited by the debating society to take part in a discussion in two weeks' time on the theme of religious tolerance.
The invitation has angered May and could provide an awkward dilemma for the Conservative party. The former shadow home secretary Chris Grayling promised to ban the use of satellite technology to broadcast the views of excluded Islamist preachers based abroad.
Naik, who founded the global satellite channel Peace TV, was the first Muslim preacher to be banned by the coalition government when he was stopped from entering the country in June.
The Mumbai-based television evangelist was invited weeks ago to take part in the debate with academics and students. Thames Valley police have been advising the union on how to conduct the meeting.
Naik told the Guardian he was delighted by the invitation. "This gives me the perfect opportunity to show the British people my true views rather than the distorted and false grounds cited by the home secretary," he said.
He has argued that he is a moderate and is currently involved in an appeal court action to have the order lifted.
Peace TV has a huge following in the Muslim districts of Mumbai, Naik's native city. Naik has been named as the third most popular spiritual guru in India.
In a letter highlighting the reasons for his exclusion, May quoted Naik's assertion that "all Muslims should be terrorists" as one example of his unreasonable behaviour. He claims the statement was taken out of context and that he was referring about the right to "terrorise" thieves.
Another passage quoted by the home secretary is said to come from a 2006 lecture, in which Naik said of Osama bin Laden: "If he is fighting the enemies of Islam, I am for him." Naik claims the lecture was given in 1998, before the September 11 attacks.
Naik, who has also been accused of holding antisemitic and sexist views, claims to be "non-violent and an enemy of extremism".
His ban provoked a row in Whitehall over whether it was right to exclude Islamic preachers who pledged to help the government halt the spread of violent ideologies. In October, court papers revealed that Charles Farr, director general of the office for security and counter-terrorism, backed Naik's fight to stay in Britain. One of Farr's senior officials, Sabin Khan, was suspended from duty for criticising the exclusion as a "huge error of judgment".
The Oxford Union is regarded as one of the most prestigious debating chambers in the world and was once described by Harold Macmillan as "the last bastion of free speech in the western world". Founded in 1823, it has played host to the likes of US presidents Reagan, Nixon and Carter, the Dalai Lama, Mother Teresa and the Queen.
A spokesman for the union said Naik should be allowed to speak because of his influence in the debate on Islamic fundamentalism.
"The Oxford Union exists to discuss and debate ideas, even those considered unorthodox or controversial by society at large. Members of the union will be given the opportunity to challenge Dr Naik on any aspect of his views.
"Dr Naik will be speaking via video link, rather than appearing in person. We have no desire to challenge Dr Naik's ban on entry to the UK. However, we do wish to give our members the chance to discuss and challenge his views on terrorism and the Home Office's recent decision to ban him," he said.
In opposition, David Cameron was highly critical of Labour's failure to ban hardline preachers. After a number of news stories highlighted the way banned preachers were circumventing the law, he and the opposition pledged to stop it.
In a speech delivered to a US audience in December 2009, Chris Grayling, the then shadow home secretary, promised to stop banned preachers from circumventing exclusion orders by broadcasting their words by satellite link or video.
"We have seen numerous examples of banned preachers propagating their views to British audiences by video or audio link from the countries where they now live. If we are in government, we will take further steps to outlaw such activity – and to prosecute those who organise the propagation of banned ideologies via video and satellite links in public places," he said in a speech, which is still on the party's website.
The Conservative MP Patrick Mercer, former chairman of the Commons counter-terrorism committee, called for the government to halt the broadcast. "The coalition government should pursue this with vigour. Naik is a subversive pest and his words not be allowed to reach the vulnerable and the impressionable," he said.
The Home Office said: "The government makes no apologies for refusing people access to the UK if we believe they represent a threat to our society. Coming here is a privilege that we refuse to extend to those who seek to subvert our shared values."

Thursday, January 27, 2011

World Muslim population doubling, report projects

By Richard Allen Greene, CNN
World Muslim population doubling, report projects
Twenty years ago, the world had about 1.1 billion Muslims. Twenty years from now, it will have about twice as many - and they'll represent more than a quarter of all people on earth, according to a new study released Thursday.
That's a rise from less than 20 percent in 1990.
Pakistan will overtake Indonesia as home of the largest number of Muslims, as its population pushes over 256 million, the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Lifeprojects.
The number of Muslims in the United States will more than double, to 6.2 million, it anticipates.
Afghanistan's population will nearly double, to about 50.5 million, making it home to the ninth largest Muslim population in the world.
Israel will become nearly a quarter Muslim. The Palestinian territories have one of the highest growth rates in the world.
Fractious Nigeria, where Christian-Muslim violence has left thousands dead in the past decade, will become a Muslim-majority country by 2030, the Pew Forum projects.
And two western European countries - France and Belgium - will become more than 10 percent Muslim. Sweden will hover just below that level, at 9.9 percent.
Iran, on the other hand, will see very slow growth. Iranian women have among the fewest children of anyone in the Muslim world. They use birth control at exactly the same rate as American women, 73 percent.
The Muslim share of the global population will rise primarily because of their relatively high birth rate, the large number of Muslims of childbearing age, and an increase in life expectancy in Muslim-majority countries, according to the report, "The Future of the Global Muslim Population."
Conversion will play relatively little part in the increase, the report anticipates. It says little data is available on conversion, but what little there is suggests Islam loses as many adherents via conversion as it gains.
Pakistan's rapid growth - adding an estimated 70 million people in 20  years - could create "a potentially lethal cocktail,"  said Ghaffar Hussain of  the Quilliam Foundation, which calls itself and anti-extremism think tank and  does work in Pakistan.
"Pakistan is an unstable country, there are literally hundreds of  jihadist groups," he said.
And the government is not doing much to slow population growth, unlike in nearby Bangladesh, he said.
"In Bangladesh they have tax incentives not to have large families.  Pakistan doesn't have that strategy - they're not even talking about it," said  Hussain.
"More effort should be made to finding some solutions, especially in the  border region with Afghanistan," he advised.
Governments in Europe, meanwhile, should do more to explain the value of  immigration, he argued.
Muslim growth there "is coming from the first generation having large  families" and will slow down, he predicted.
But the large new Muslim populations are not always welcome, he said.
"A lot of European countries don't tell their people we need immigration  for (economic reasons)," he said, adding that government also should do more to  help new immigrants assimilate.
European government need "some sort of strategy of what to do when people  come. Integration has been managed very badly," he said.
The key phrase in the Pew Forum report is "growing but slowing," says  Alan Cooperman, associate director of the think tank.
The increase in the last 20 years is greater than what we expect in the next 20 years," he said. Muslim population growth "is a line that's flattening out. They're increasing, but they're getting closer to the norm, the average."
In other words, Muslims are coming into line with global trends toward fewer children per woman and an aging population. But, the report points out, because of the existing Muslim "youth bulge," or unusually high percentage of young people, Muslim population growth has a certain momentum that will take decades to come into line with world averages - if it ever does.
The Pew report, more than a year in the making, is part of an ambitious attempt by the think tank to calculate the number of adherents to each of the world's major religions. The Islam report comes first, and a Christian project is in the works.
They started with Muslims, Cooperman said, because they are "the largest group for which data was lacking, and we saw public interest in knowing more."
Despite the rapid growth of Islam, Christianity seems set to remain the biggest religion in the world for the next 20 years. There are currently more than 2 billion Christians - 30 to 35 percent of the global population - making it very unlikely that there will be fewer than 2.2 billion Christians in 2030.
"There is nothing in these numbers to indicate that in 2030 there would be more Muslims that Christians," Cooperman said.
In fact, both Christianity and Islam could be growing, both in absolute terms and as a percentage of the whole, he pointed out.
"We don't want people to jump to the conclusion that if Islam is growing, everyone else is shrinking," he said. "Christianity and Islam could both be growing at the expense of other religions."
Sub-Saharan Africa is a case in point, he said.
"Tremendous numbers are being added in sub-Saharan Africa, but... Christianity and Islam are both growing rapidly. There is not a change in the overall proportions of Muslims to Christians."
He's aware that the report has policy implication, but insists that the purpose of the Pew Forum is simply to provide unbiased data.
"It's not our role to say what should be done," Cooperman said.
What they're aiming to do, one of the project's leader said, is to make sure there's reliable information available.
"There has been a lot of speculation about the growth of the Muslim population around the world, and many of those who speculate don't have good data," said Brian Grim, a senior researcher at the Pew Forum.
For example, the report undermines the notion that Europe is heading toward having any country with a Muslim majority. The continent will be about 8 percent Muslim in 2030, it projects.
"The data that we have isn't pointing in the direction of 'Eurabia' at all," Grim said.
"The Muslim population is growing and slowing. Instead of a runaway train, it's trending with the general global population," he said.
Cooperman hopes that information will help make for more intelligent discussions, he said: "In the midst of heated debate and speculation, we think that solid, reliable, empirical estimates are valuable."

Who will pay for injustice done to these nine men?

ASHISH KHETAN exposes the elaborate and cynical charade of the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad to implicate a bunch of Muslim men in terrorist strikes aimed at members of their own community
BRIBED WITNESSES. Coerced statements. Deceit. These are elements of the shocking story of how the police built a case against nine Muslim men, accusing them of planting the four powerful bombs that tore through the communally sensitive town of Malegaon in central Maharashtra on 8 September 2006, killing 37 Muslims and injuring hundreds.
Hindutva extremist leader Swami Asimananda confessed before a magistrate that a group of RSS pracharaks were behind the terrorist attacks on Malegaon, the Samjhauta Express, Ajmer Sharif and Mecca Masjid (In the Words of a Zealot, TEHELKA, 15 January).
If it was a Hindutva terror plot, as it seems from Asimananda’s testimony, why were 12 other persons charged with the crime? Nine of them have been in jail for more than four years, while the other three have disappeared fearing police brutality, abandoning their homes and families.

A resident of Meera Road, Mumbai, he is in Arthur Road Jail

ABRAR AHMED MOMIN, 33Disinherited by his father, he gave false testimony for money

SALMAN FARSI, 38 This resident of Gowanti, Mumbai is now in judicial custody
From Islampura in Malegaon, he was nabbed on 6 November 2006

MOHD ZAHID ANSARIHe has spent the last four years in judicial custody in Mumbai

NOORUL HUDA, 27 He was under surveillance two months prior to the blasts

A resident of Malegaon, he is languishing in Arthur Road Jail

SHABBIR AHMED MASIULLA, 40A former SIMI member, he was in prison when the blasts occurred

MOHD ALI ALAM, 41 Another SIMI member, he is now in judicial custody in Thane Jail
The police records accessed by TEHELKA show that two key accused — Noorul Huda and Shabbir Masiulla — were under constant police surveillance for at least a couple of months before the 2006 Malegaon blasts. Masiulla , who has been depicted as the mastermind, was actually in prison when the blasts took place.
The TEHELKA follow-up also shows that the conduct of the Special Task Force of the Central Bureau of Investigation, which took over the Malegaon probe from the Maharashtra Police in February 2007, has been highly malicious.
TEHELKA has also discovered that neither the Maharashtra Anit-Terrorism Squad (ATS) nor the CBI recorded the statements of any of the crucial witnesses — friends, relatives and neighbours of the alleged bombers — who could have provided alibis for the accused.
The ATS built its bogus case primarily on the basis of police interrogations, which all the accused have retracted since then. So it invoked the draconian Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA), under which police confessions are admissible in court. This effectively shut off the bail option for four years.
The ATS investigation was done under the supervision of the then ATS chief KP Raghuvanshi. When contacted by TEHELKA, Raghuvanshi put the onus on the CBI. “The case is now with the CBI. Only last year they had filed a supplementary chargesheet. You please check with the CBI,” said Raghuvanshi.
A senior CBI officer speaking on condition of anonymity told TEHELKA that it was very mischievous on the part of the ATS to book Malegaon terror suspects under MCOCA. “The ATS had obtained legally admissible confessions under MCOCA. Also they had claimed of finding traces of RDX in a suspect’s premises. It was very difficult for us to nullify their investigation until we had found a new track of investigation,” said the officer.
Whatever the reasons for the trap that was set by the police, this is a chilling story of malafide intent and elaborately cynical charades that shames the criminal justice system of our country and the lofty ideals of justice that it is meant to champion.
JANNATUNISSA, WIFE of key accused Abrar Ahmed Momin, on whose alleged testimony the Maharashtra ATS built its case, reveals a damning story of allurement and intimidation.
Momin had been disinherited by his father from the family businesses and properties and was thus hard-pressed for money. His wife says he turned approver for a hefty bribe paid by the ATS. The ATS had allegedly told Momin that the court would release him and he could then make a new beginning with the money given by the authorities.
Momin made a confession (which he later retracted) implicating himself and 11 other Muslims of Maharashtra. Nine of them are from Malegaon.
Breaking her silence on the ‘deal’ between her husband and the ATS, Jannatunissa said that for over three months after the 9 September 2006 blasts, the cops kept the couple locked up in different safe houses in Nashik and Indore.
Besides the trail of coerced confessions and manufactured evidence, the case is full of absurd theories
Documents available with TEHELKA show that the ATS had tapped Momin’s mobile number for two months before he was shown as arrested. But in a malafide attempt to subvert the truth, the ATS did not obtain his call records that could have established his location during the period when, as Jannatunissa claims, Momin was in police detention in Nashik and Indore.
In an affidavit filed on 18 April 2009, Momin not only retracted the so-called confession, he also gave details of his and his wife’s detention. Until now, the CBI has not checked out the allegations of coercion and bribery.
The correspondence between Vodafone and the CBI available with TEHELKA shows that the CBI did not even try to obtain Momin’s call records until January 2010. By then it was too late, as the phone company is not required by law to maintain call data records for more than a year,
After being repeatedly rapped by the Bombay High Court for its failure to carry out any credible investigation into the 2006 Malegaon case, the CBI in a desperate and face-saving measure filed a supplementary chargesheet in the second week of February 2010. The only new ‘evidence’ in this was the correspondence between the ATS and the state Home Department seeking permission to tap Momin’s phone.
Vulnerable and alone Noorul Huda’s mother Hamida Bano and wife Samira field the press
Sitting in her brother’s dingy one-room shanty where she now stays in Killa Mohalla, 30-year-old Jannatunissa breaks down every few minutes while talking about her hardships and her husband’s prolonged imprisonment.
“We were married for over seven years but I could not bear a child,” says Jannatunissa. “My father-in-law wanted my husband to remarry. When he resisted, my in-laws threw us out of the house and family business. With the help of my relatives and friends we built a one-room house in Bage Mahmood, Sangmeshwar (a locality in Malegaon). While he worked as an electrician, I used to run a small grocery shop from the house. Then the blasts happened. It was a Friday. My husband had gone to pray in the neighbourhood mosque, which is at least four km from the Hamidya mosque where the terror attack took place. Since we are followers of the Ahle Hadis sect, our prayers are held 15 minutes before those of other Muslim sects. My husband returned after the completing the prayers and said something is wrong as he could hear the explosions. He immediately left to check.”
In a clear move to deny Momin all verifiable and credible alibis, neither the ATS nor the CBI recorded the statements of all those who saw him at the mosque. He has been shown as one of the planters of the bomb that went off in the crowded Muslim neighbourhood of Mushawarat Chowk.
“For those three months while we were in Indore and Nashik, the policemen in plain clothes would regularly drop in. I felt good because there was never any shortage of money. My husband would not tell me much. He would only say that we would soon have more money than his father,” said Jannatunissa.
The couple were brought to Mumbai on 16 December 2006. The same day, Momin was shown as arrested. Five days later, the ruling Congress-NCP alliance, facing the ire of the Muslim community for the anti-Muslim prejudice and high-handedness exhibited by its police, announced that case would be transferred to the CBI.
The same day, in what smacks of a conspiracy, the ATS quietly filed the chargesheet against the nine arrested Muslims in a MCOCA court. On 30 December, the ATS said Momin had turned approver.
The nine arrests by the ATS have left in their wake a heart-rending story of destitution and misfortune
Thus any remaining hopes of a fair probe were scuttled when the ATS presented the CBI with a fait accompli.
BESIDES THIS trail of coerced confessions and manufactured evidence, the ATS case is also full of untenable and absurd theories.
In a curious stretch of imagination, a Malegaon Muslim named Shabbir Masiulla, who was arrested by the Mumbai crime branch on 11 August 2006, on charges of planning to attack Ganesh Visarjan processions in Mumbai, and who was in a Mumbai jail when the Malegaon blasts happened, was shown as the mastermind of the blasts (FIR No 1106/2006 registered at DCB CID Unit-7, Ghatkopar Mumbai).
The ATS claimed that in the last week of July 2006, Masiulla along with other accused had assembled the bombs and kept them in his factory godown in Malegaon from where he ran his business of assembling inverters and batteries. He allegedly planned to bomb the Muslim religious places of Malegaon on the occasion of Shab-e-barat, a religious festival that was scheduled on 8 September that year.
According to this patently untenable police theory, 28 days after his arrest, as per the plan laid out by Masiulla, his associates — among them Momin — exploded these bombs in a mosque, a cemetery and a crowded Muslim neighbourhood, killing 31 and injuring over 300.
If one were to believe the incredulous theory put out by the ATS, not only did Masiulla conceal information about the impending blasts even as he was subjected to sustained and torturous interrogation sessions by the Mumbai Crime Branch, his arrest did not deter his associates from going ahead with the alleged terror plot.
Then, instead of absconding after Masiulla’s arrest, they went about their lives for more than a month, without any fear that Masiulla would spill the beans or that the police might raid the godown and recover the bombs.
In a further stretch of imagination, the Ghatkopar Crime Branch FIR alleged that Masiulla had taken training in handling arms and explosives in May-August 2003 at a terror camp in Pakistan and was planning terror attacks on the occasion of Hindu festivals. The moot question is then why the Mumbai Crime Branch, which clearly considered him a dangerous terrorist, didn’t carry out a search of his residential and business premises including his godown when they arrested him from his Malegaon residence on 11 August.
After obtaining Masiulla’s police confession on 21 November 2006, the ATS dug up his godown on 10 December 2006 and brought back a sample of the soil. Later, it claimed that the forensic analysis revealed traces of RDX in the seized sample.
EACH OF the nine spurious arrests made by the ATS in the Malegaon case has also left in its wake a heart-rending story of destitution and misfortune.
In a narrow, squalid bylane of Jafar Nagar, one of the many sprawling slums in Malegaon, is the matchbox size house — built with bricks and sheets of tin — of 27-year-old Huda, who has been languishing in the jail for more than four years
Against all odds Shabbir Masiulla’s wife and kids after the arrest that changed their lives
Though it’s a Sunday, only Huda’s mother, his wife, sisters and a sister-in-law are home. His father and brothers are at work at the power looms where they work as daily wagers. “After working for over 14 hours a day, seven days a week, my husband and two sons collectively pull in a paltry sum of Rs. 5,000-5,500 per month,” says 50-year-old Hamida Bano.
Huda is the third in a family of nine. “Another son who was working at a watch repair shop recently lost his job. He was sacked because he was doing graduation and found it hard to give 14 hours at the shop along with his studies. But I am determined to educate my two younger ones. My youngest one is doing mechanical engineering from a Nashik college,” she says.
After TEHELKA’s exposé that the 2006 Malegaon blasts was carried out by a team of RSS pracharaks and not Muslims, the local Malegaon media has been thronging the houses of the accused for sound bytes.
Huda’s wife Samira Bano, 24, refused to say much when a local television journalist turned up. “I would only tell Allah about my misery. I don’t have any faith in the media or in the courts,” she said.
Huda and Samira Bano were married in May 2006. In the same month, Huda was booked under chapter proceedings — a law under which people suspected of breach of peace are booked and then released on a bond. After the 11 July Mumbai serial train blasts, Huda was again picked up and released after a few days of interrogation. This shows that Huda was under constant watch of the police. On 8 November 2006, Huda was again arrested by the police, just five months after his marriage.
He was first arrested not on the charges of Malegaon blasts but in a case registered under the provisions of Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) in which the Malegaon Police alleged that Huda was a member of the banned Muslim radical outfit Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) and that communally provocative literature had been seized from his house.
The records of court proceedings available with TEHELKA show that on 10 November, the Malegaon Police approached a local magistrate seeking permission to subject Huda to narco-analysis and brain mapping tests. The magistrate finally did not allow it, but even as the hearing was pending, the Malegaon Police took Huda to the State Forensic Laboratory, Bengaluru, and carried out the tests anyway. Dr S Malini’s report dated 12 October 2006 says that Huda knew about the blasts.
The Maharashtra cops have earned notoriety for torturing and wrongly implicating Muslim youth
The same doctor had conducted these tests on over half-a-dozen Muslim men from Hyderabad including Abdul Kaleem (whose good behaviour inspired Swami Asimananda to confess) and had shown them involved in the Mecca Masjid case. CBI sleuths found those reports unreliable and fabricated.
AFTER TEHELKA published Swami Asimananda’s confession, the MCOCA court ordered the CBI to reinvestigate the 2006 Malegaon case. This is poised to split open not only the extent of the Hindutva terror network but also the insidious underbelly of the Maharashtra Police, which has earned notoriety over the past few years for torturing and wrongly implicating a slew of Muslim youth on trumped up terror charges.
The renewed probe will involve not only prosecuting the Hindutva extremists who carried out the blasts but also identifying and prosecuting the ATS cops guilty of alluring witnesses and faking evidence.
This will be the first step of reparation owed to the nine Muslims of Malegaon and their devastated families.

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Sunday, January 23, 2011

Earth 'to get second sun' as supernova turns night into day

Last updated at 5:53 PM on 22nd January 2011

The cosmic phenomenon will happen when one of the brightest stars in the night sky explodes into a supernova.
And, according to a report yesterday, the most stunning light show in the planet’s history could happen as soon as this year.
Cosmic phenomenon: The earth could soon have two suns when one of the brightest stars in the night sky explodes into a supernova
Cosmic phenomenon: The Earth could soon see two suns - just like Luke Skywalker saw on Tatooine in the Star Wars film (pictured)
Earth will undoubtedly have a front row seat when the dying red supergiant star Betelgeuse finally blows itself into oblivion.
The explosion will be so bright that even though the star in the Orion constellation is 640 light-years away, it will still turn night into day and appear like there are two suns in the sky for a few weeks.
The only real debate is over exactly when it will happen.
In stellar terms, Betelgeuse is predicted to crash and burn in the very near future. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to rush out and buy sunglasses.
Brad Carter, Senior Lecturer of Physics at the University of Southern Queensland in Australia, claimed yesterday that the galactic blast could happen before 2012 – or any time over the next million years.
‘This old star is running out of fuel in its centre,’ Dr Carter told te Austalian website
‘This fuel keeps Betelgeuse shining and supported. When this fuel runs out the star will literally collapse in upon itself and it will do so very quickly.
‘This is the final hurrah for the star. It goes bang, it explodes, it lights up - we’ll have incredible brightness for a brief period of time for a couple of weeks and then over the coming months it begins to fade and then eventually it will be very hard to see at all,’ he added.
Look out: Betelgeuse, which is in the Orion constellation, is set to blow itself into oblivion - which will give the effect of two suns in the sky for us on Earth
Look out: Betelgeuse, which is in the Orion constellation, is set to blow itself into oblivion - which will give the effect of two suns in the sky for us on Earth
The Internet is abuzz with doomsday theories linking the supernova to the Mayan calendar’s prediction of an Armageddon in 2012, fuelled by the association of the word ‘Betelgeuse’ with the devil.
But experts claimed that even if the big bang is looming, it will still happen way too far from Earth to do us any harm.
‘When a star goes bang, the first we will observe of it is a rain of tiny particles called nuetrinos,’ said Dr Carter.
‘They will flood through the Earth and bizarrely enough, even though the supernova we see visually will light up the night sky, 99% of the energy in the supernova is released in these particles that will come through our bodies and through the Earth with absolutely no harm whatsoever.’ 
When it happens, the Betelgeuse supernova will almost certainly be the most dramatic ever seen.
It is the ninth brightest star in the night sky and the second brightest in the constellation of Orion, outshining its neighbour Rigel – or Beta Orionis – only very rarely.
It’s distinct orange-red colour makes it easy to spot in the night sky.
If it was at the centre of our solar system, its surface would extend past the asteroid belt, wholly engulfing Mercury, Venus, Mars and the Earth.

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Friday, January 14, 2011

'All Hindus are not terrorists but most terrorists in India belong to the Sangh Parivar'

Terrorism is not a Muslim monopoly


‘‘All Muslims may not be terrorists, but all terrorists are Muslims.’’ This comment , frequently heard after the Mumbai bomb blasts implies that terrorism is a Muslim specialty, if not a monopoly. The facts are very different.

    First, there is nothing new about terrorism. In 1881, anarchists killed the Russian Tsar Alexander II and 21 bystanders. In 1901, anarchists killed US President McKinley as well as King Humbert I of Italy. World War I started in 1914 when anarchists killed Archduke Ferdinand of Austria. These terrorist attacks were not Muslim.

    Terrorism is generally defined as the killing of civilians for political reasons. Going by this definition, the British Raj referred to Bhagat Singh, Chandrashekhar Azad and many other Indian freedom fighters as terrorists. These were Hindu and Sikh rather than Muslim.

    Guerrilla fighters from Mao Zedong to Ho Chi Minh and Fidel Castro killed civilians during their revolutionary campaigns. They too were called terrorists until they triumphed. Nothing Muslim about them.

    In Palestine, after World War II, Jewish groups (the Haganah, Irgun and Stern Gang) fought for the creation of a Jewish state, bombing hotels and installations and killing civilians. The British, who then governed Palestine, rightly called these Jewish groups terrorists. Many of these terrorists later became leaders of independent Israel — Moshe Dayan, Yitzhak Rabin, Menachem Begin, Ariel Sharon. Ironically, these former terrorists then lambasted terrorism, applying this label only to Arabs fighting for the very same nationhood that the Jews had fought for earlier.

    In Germany in 1968-92, the Baader-Meinhoff Gang killed dozens, including the head of Treuhand, the German privatisation agency. In Italy, the Red Brigades kidnapped and killed Aldo Moro, former prime minister.

    The Japanese Red Army was an Asian version of this. Japan was also the home of Aum Shinrikyo, a Buddhist cult that tried to kill thousands in the Tokyo metro system using nerve gas in 1995.

    In Europe, the Irish Republican Army has been a Catholic terrorist organisation for almost a century. Spain and France face a terrorist challenge from ETA, the Basque terrorist organisation.

    Africa is ravaged by so much civil war and internal strife that few people even bother to check which groups can be labelled terrorist. They stretch across the continent. Possibly the most notorious is the

Lord’s Salvation Army in Uganda, a Christian outfit that uses children as warriors.

    In Sri Lanka, the Tamil Tigers have long constituted one of the most vicious and formidable terrorist groups in the world. They were the first to train children as terrorists. They happen to be Hindus. Suicide bombing is widely associated with Muslim Palestinians and Iraqis, but the Tamil Tigers were the first to use this tactic on a large scale. One such suicide bomber assassinated Rajiv Gandhi in 1991.

    In India, the militants in Kashmir are Muslim. But they are only one of several militant groups. The Punjab militants, led by Bhindranwale, were Sikhs. The United Liberation Front of Assam is a Hindu terrorist group that targets Muslims rather than the other way round. Tripura has witnessed the rise and fall of several terrorist groups, and so have Bodo strongholds in Assam. Christian Mizos mounted an insurrection for decades, and Christian Nagas are still heading militant groups.

    But most important of all are the Maoist terrorist groups that now exist in no less than 150 out of India’s 600 districts. They have attacked police stations, and killed and razed entire villages that oppose them. These are secular terrorists (like the Baader Meinhof Gang or Red Brigades). In terms of membership and area controlled, secular terrorists are far ahead of Muslim terrorists.

    In sum, terrorism is certainly not a Muslim monopoly. There are or have been terrorist groups among Christians, Jews, Hindus, Sikhs, and even Buddhists. Secular terrorists (anarchists, Maoists) have been the biggest killers.

    Why then is there such a widespread impression that most or all terrorist groups are Muslim? I see two reasons. First, the Indian elite keenly follows the western media, and the West feels under attack from Islamic groups. Catholic Irish terrorists have killed far more people in Britain than Muslims, yet the subway bombings in London and Madrid are what Europeans remember today. The Baader Meinhof Gang, IRA and Red Brigades no longer pose much of a threat, but after 9/11 Americans and Europeans fear that they could be hit anywhere anytime. So they focus attention on Islamic militancy. They pay little notice to other forms of terrorism in Africa, Sri Lanka or India: these pose no threat to the West.

    Within India, Maoists pose a far greater threat than Muslim militants in 150 districts, one-third of India’s area. But major cities feel threatened only by Muslim groups. So the national elite and media focus overwhelmingly on Muslim terrorism. The elite are hardly aware that this is an elite phenomenon.