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Published in the 16-30 June 2005 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

SPECIAL REPORT

Indian Muslim orgs awaken to the Web

By Ayub Khan

The Milli Gazette Online 

In the past one month two major Indian Muslim organizations launched their websites. Several other websites were redesigned to give them a more professional look. Indian Muslim leaders, activists, Ulema and others who have been loath to use the internet are now flashing emails on their tastefully designed visiting cards. All this indicates that the Indian Muslim organizational leadership is finally waking up to the potentialities of the web as an effective communications medium. While these websites leave much to be desired in terms of design and content their very presence is nevertheless significant. Following is a brief analysis of some of them.

All India Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawarat website (www.mushawarat.com) launched in May, 2005 is an epitome of organizational efficiency and accountability. Full text of the constitution, members list, minutes from meetings and current activities are listed. Perhaps a rarity for Muslim organizations it also presents a detailed budget. It is regularly updated with press releases and policy statements. Emails are promptly responded.

The All India Muslim Personal Law Board (www.aimplboard.org) also launched its website this month. A short introduction and history, aims and objectives, text of the constitution, lists of publications and committees are provided. Not all members of the various committees are listed and the details provided on their activities are sketchy.

The site only provides the date and place of the general body and executive committee meetings. The resolutions section lists one line summaries which are sketchy and incoherent. Even though launched after its important meeting at Bhopal the website does not provide information on the Model Nikahnama. AIMPLB can use the site in dispelling the criticism frequently unleashed against it by updating the website regularly with timely, detailed, and coherent policy statements. The model Nikahnama should be posted on the site along with translations in English and other major languages of India. AIMPLB had announced that it will launch a Islah-e-Muashara campaign. Several such announcements were made in the past but nothing much came out of them. The web site can be used to mobilize such campaigns in major urban centers and also keep the people and media aware of its activities. The email listed on the website bounced. 

The Jamaat-e-Islami Hind website (www.jamaateislamihind.org) is probably the best designed of all Muslim organizations in India. It is user friendly and neatly structured.

The site is available in English, Arabic, Urdu and Hindi. History, text of the constitution, organizational and leadership structure, biographies of the current leadership, newsletter is all provided. Its press releases are divided under sections like ‘Present Situation,’ ‘Babri Masjid,’ ‘Kashmir,’ ‘AMU/Jamia Millia,’ etc.
The JIH’s student wing Students Islamic Organization of India website (www.sio-india.org) is updated with frequent postings on activities from district to national level. The leadership interacts with the membership via scheduled chat sessions. It lists its monthly publications in Urdu, Hindi and English but the sections have no content posted as of yet. With a web based automatic translation program the site is also available in French and German. 

Markazi Jamiat Ahle-Hadees Hind (www.ahlehadees.org) has been under construction for quite some time. Most of the information provided is in Urdu and in old Arabic windows font. It’s ‘About Us’ section provides a summary of its history and aims and objectives in English. State wise list of organization functionaries, report from their 2005 convention and the January 2005 of their Urdu newsletter Tarjuman in PDF format are provided. Use of a more user friendly font in the future will be helpful.

Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind’s website (http://jamiatulama.org) has been online for a number of years now. During the Gujarat riots it provided detailed maps, tables, etc of its relief efforts. Of late however the site has become static. It now documents its relief activities in the flood ravaged areas of Assam from last year. It was last updated on January 2004.

Most of the contents have disappeared. Jamiat should reactivate the site as it has launched several significant initiatives including communal meals with Dalits, dialogue with RSS, etc. 

The Raza Academy of Mumbai is an outfit associated with the Barelwi school of thought. It is in the news for organizing demonstrations and issuing press releases on issues of Muslim concern, most recently against the desecration of the Holy Qur’an. Their website (www.razaacademy) provides a list of its activities from 1998-2000, biography of Allamah Ahmed Raza Khan Barelwi, issues relating to Islamic jurisprudence, directory of Madrassas and organizations of Barelwi thought, information on Tsunami relief activities. It also has an English transliteration of an Urdu report on a debate between Deobandi and Barelwi scholars. Its current press releases are posted on the homepage. 

Paracham Party of India (www.parchampartyofindia.org) is currently the only Muslim political party in India which has a web presence. The Indian Union Muslim League ‘s website (http://www.indianunionmuslimleague.com/) has been down for several months now. The Parcham Party’s website is frequently updated. The links to its philosophy and party leadership sections do not work. Even though the Parcham party is yet to make a political breakthrough its website rivals and in some cases excels those of other political parties.
The website of Kul Hind Tanzeem Aimma Masajid (http://imamindia.tripod. com/main/main.html) is an example of how even small organizations can utilize the web using a host of free services to get their message across. This website, updated only once, lists the demands of the Imams regarding their salaries, representations, judgments, schemes, and articles on Madrassas, Wakf Boards, and Personal Law.

Conclusion
Realization of the utility of the web by the Indian Muslim organizations is a welcome development. Regularly updating these websites with original content by the respective organizations can play a major role in informing, educating the public on the burning issues of the day, dispelling wrong notions about Muslims in the media and also in mobilizing collective campaigns online. Most organizations in India have low credibility in the public. This scenario can be corrected by providing details of the activities and fund utilization online. The non-presence of the Indian Union Muslim League and the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen is surprising. The cadre of both organizations has a large presence of workers with technical expertise. They cannot continue to ignore the importance of the internet if they realistically want to be the organizations of the future. 
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