Voters should be paid for their votes
Where the best workable solution offered by an enterprising economist, to do justice to any poverty alleviation programme in India, will be to shower currency notes to the villagers from a helicopter, Election Commission wants to haul two election candidates, both from opposition parties to show cause why both of them should be prosecuted for offering a single lousy currency note of possibly a hundred rupees to two poor women of the poverty stricken Bihar state. That, when the world already believes how block votes have been routinely cornered through block payment of lump sum bribes to the block contractors, who sell votes to the highest bidder.
Democracy will not suffer, if an institutionalized method could be devised to pay all voters a percentage of per capita national income, right across voting boxes. At least, their votes will then have some material value.
GHULAM MUHAMMED, Mumbai –
THE BEST THING ABOUT CHRISTMAS
I can always tell when I am about to get into trouble, because words are coming out of my mouth or off my typewriter. I got into a little bit of trouble with my Thanksgiving article when I alluded to the importance of the ethical and humane treatment of animals by saying that it may be more halal (permitted) to eat a pig killed quickly and (supposedly) painlessly with a gunshot to the head than to eat a turkey that had suffered a torturous electrocution. Of course there are many health reasons -both known and possibly some unknown- that pork is forbidden, so my hyperbole (exaggerated claim) was taken more seriously than I intended. To help people forget that slip, I offer this even more offensive article. I'm joking! -- at least I hope I'm joking. I don't intentionally offend people; it just happens. Well, heck.
Raised in the foothills of North Carolina, I have been a Muslim only five years now, and my perspectives are bound to reflect the Americana thinking of a country lifestyle that includes creasy greens and cornbread, raccoons in the chicken feed, firewood to be split, and Santa Claus in a plaid shirt. Yes, Santa still visits here even though Christmas morning begins with my husband's announcing the adhan (call to prayer). I've been told that "Christmas is
un-Islamic," but it's not un-Islamic at my house where people of various faiths accumulate for Christmas dinner and a message from the
Qur'an. Sometimes even strangers show up unexpectedly, but I always have extra goody bags (with treats and small gifts) so that everyone receives a Christmas present. After a halal dinner, we gather in the living room for prayer and to share poems, Scripture, songs, and even skits. This is the only time that our visitors ever hear Scriptures from the
Qur'an, including the story of Mary and Jesus (peace upon them). Visitors not only hear the
Qur'an, but we pass the Book around and the guests participate in reading aloud.
Those whose childhood memories do not include the traditions of Christmas may not understand the American obsessions surrounding the holiday. Whether one enjoys old fashioned customs in the country or the dazzle of shimmering, city lights and bustling sidewalks, Christmas offers unique opportunities with family and friends, fun and excitement, charity and good deeds, tidings of peace and joy, homemade fudge, and unmatched festivities. Most people have many warm Christmas memories, so, just for kicks, here is a holiday `tail' from my mental scrapbook:
My daughter Tana saw a wind-up critter she wanted. To me it looked like a ferret, but the box said, `weasel.' Tom (my husband) thought it just looked like a tail with a ball on the end of it.
Later, when Tom was going out, I whispered for him to get the critter for a
stocking-stuffer. Imagine the fit I took when he came back with a goofy toucan instead. I asked, "What made you get that goofy toucan?" "Because," he explained, "the sales lady didn't have a parrot." "Why would you get a parrot if she had one? You were supposed to get a weasel!" "You never said `weasel,'" he argued. "You told me to get a parrot." I continued complaining and finally said, "I can't understand why you'd drag home that goofy toucan when Tana wanted that stupid tail that looked like a ferret." Wait. Ferret. Parrot. The problem became clear.
The next day Tom went back to the store, and this is what he said to the sales lady: "I'm returning this toucan because my wife told me to get a `ferret,' but I thought she said `parrot,' and she had a fit when I came home with this goofy toucan instead of a weasel, and all I really want is a tail with a ball on the end of it." During the stunned silence that gripped the store, Tom glanced around to see that, not only the sales lady, but also all the customers, were staring at him with glazed eyes and dropped jaws. Finally Tom came home with the weasel, or ferret, or whatever it was, but by then Tana had decided she'd rather have the weird gorilla thing. :D
From my point of view, there seems to be three types of Christmases, and I think Muslims can find creative ways to perform dawa
(witnessing) and good deeds in all three. The first type of Christmas is the religious, Christian holiday.
When my sister Toy worked third shift in the hosiery mill, her crew had planned a Christmas supper the last work night before the holiday. When time came, everyone headed for the break room except an employee who had just started working there a couple days before. Toy approached and invited her to the supper. "How do you know it's the right day?" the woman spat. Toy answered, "I know it's tonight because it's been posted on the bulletin board for the last three weeks." The woman, a Jehovah's Witness, huffed impatiently. "I mean how do you know Christmas is on the right day?" "I'm not asking you to change your religion," Toy answered. "I'm just inviting you to come eat." The Jehovah's Witness refused the invitation and ate her sack lunch alone.
There was another recently hired employee that night -a Muslim man. He not only contributed to the covered dish supper, he had also participated in the name-drawing for exchanging small gifts. He was a recent immigrant, and this was his first experience with Christmas. The Muslim expressed joy during the communion of dining, and he shared with the Christian and Jewish group his Islamic belief in the Gospel.
So, who was the best representative of his or her religion?
I've read that the date of December 25th was chosen in order to coincide with the already-celebrated birthday of
Mithras, the Roman god and guardian of imperial troops. To me, however, it seems of no consequence what affected people's decisions hundreds of years ago; what matters is what people do today and what is in their hearts and minds. Whether it's the "right day" or not, the miracle of Jesus' birth is commemorated, and the best thing about Christmas is that Muslims have this once-a-year opportunity to reach out to Christians and others about the truth of Islam as it relates to Jesus (peace upon him). Many people are led into a religious lifestyle because of their belief in Jesus; it makes perfect sense that such belief continues leading them into the better religious life that Islam offers. Why should we squander a golden opportunity just because it's not on the "right day" or because it's not an Islamic holiday? Mosques, Islamic organizations, and individual Muslims can find creative ways to invite non-Muslims to meet Jesus as an Islamic figure, and the spirit of Jesus may lead some of them to accept Islam and receive the "double mercy" promised in Surah 57: 28.
Besides, it's really a good thing that Christmas comes to us during the winter -the time when people are most in need of warm shelters, hot food, coats and gloves, and laughter and cheer (as winter is said to be psychologically more depressing than other seasons). Because of the Christian belief that Jesus is God's gift to humanity, the emulation of giving is an important part of the holiday. Not only are gifts exchanged among friends and family, but also gifts and services are provided for strangers. Without the focus on charity during December, many individuals and families in America would be left out in the cold. Muslims can witness for Islam by volunteering to help with charitable projects sponsored by businesses and organizations. The best thing about Christmas is that the needy can be helped as the image of Islam gets a boost when others see Muslims involved in "the Christmas spirit" (the spirit of giving).
There is also the secular Christmas that includes the extravagant commercialism associated with the holiday. The day after Thanksgiving is called "black Friday" because storeowners can begin making more entries in black ink instead of red in their accounting books. It has been estimated that the average Christmas shopper will spend $700 this year between black Friday and Christmas Eve.
Zowee! The real Santa Claus would probably be shocked at how his good deeds have been exploited for the purpose of reaping sales.
When I was little, my older brother tried to tell me that Santa Claus was not real. I would not be convinced, however, that an elfish, jolly, little man in a red suit did not come down the chimney, eat the cookies I left for him, and fill my dirty sock with fruits, candy, jacks, and crayons. Exasperated, my brother resorted to a higher authority. At our old homestead, either of two resources settled all disputes. One was the family Bible [the Qur'an had not yet been revealed -at least not to us]; the other was a big, red, A-Z encyclopedia that Mama had gotten with savings stamps from the grocery store. Whatever was in the Bible or in the red book was considered fact -end of discussion. "Go get the red book," my brother Jimmy ordered. He looked up "Santa Claus" and confidently began to read out loud, but Jimmy soon became flustered as he read of "Sinter
Klass," originally from Turkey, who showed his love for children by making wooden toys and leaving them in the children's shoes outside their dwellings on Christmas Eve. Because of Santa's legendary testimony, "the Santa Claus spirit" became a simile for the spirit of giving at
Where I live, there are many Jews who witness in the spirit of Santa Claus. At one restaurant owned by a Jew, the owner closes for business on Christmas Day but cooks a traditional, holiday dinner for disadvantaged families. A synagogue collects toys, and a Jewish man dresses like Santa and gives toys to the poor children visiting the restaurant. Other Jews voluntarily cover for Christian employees who would otherwise have to work on Christmas Day. Some Jews, as well as Christians, help elderly and handicapped people with Christmas shopping, and also purchase gifts for families whose possessions, including Christmas presents, suddenly vanish in house fires or burglaries. If Jews, who regard Jesus as just another Jewish martyr during Roman oppression, can reflect the goodness of Christ through such impressive mitzvot (good deeds), certainly Muslims can do at least as much. The best thing about Christmas is that there are so many opportunities to show the world that Santa Claus was really a Muslim at heart.
The best Christmas is the one of a universal, interfaith connection. Christmas is not only a Christian holiday, it is an American holiday in which wishes of global peace and prosperity ring in the air. It is a time of good will that transcends all races, religions, and cultures. When Irving Berlin was asked how he, a Jew, could write the song "White Christmas," he answered, "I can because I can write as an American." American Muslims also can join in a silent hymn traveling to Allah (blessed is He) from the hearts of all peace-loving Americans during this festive season.
It may seem hypocritical for Americans to be celebrating a day of joy, peace, and good will while our government leaders seem hell- bent on destroying the world, but we citizens are no longer an integral part of a government "of the people, for the people, and by the people," and we must latch onto whatever resources are available to counteract a government out of control. From the exploitation and genocide of Native American Indians to the indiscriminate atomic bombing at the end of WW2 to the `punitive war' waged against Iraqi civilians, the United States writes its own continuing saga of terrorist activities. Whether or not any given war is justified, we must never keep silent about the senseless acts of injustice and oppression accompanied with the punitive war (the war within the war, the purpose of which is to break the morale of civilians until they become accepting of whatever their fate). Hope and faith are powerful weapons of mass preservation, and the best thing about Christmas is that it affords a special time for all Americans to unite our energies into one living sonnet of love with the purpose of affecting a world in distress. When my son Duston ("Dusty") was eight years old, our family attended a Christmas Eve party. The party was festive, but the atmosphere was secular. Late in the evening, the host and hostess invited us to see a century-old, log house that they had just restored after bringing it, piece-by-piece, from the mountains where it was about to be destroyed for road construction. The guests were talking and laughing loudly as we all admired the detailed restoration and antique furnishings. Dusty asked the hostess if he could offer a song in honor of those long-ago inhabitants whose laughter was remembered only by the silent logs now embracing a wholly different generation. Everyone grew quiet, and as I wondered from where came that angelic voice, Dusty gave the most inspiring rendition of "Silent Night" that anyone there had ever heard. Long after the song was finished, silence kept its hold on the treasure of the moment as people wiped tears from their eyes. The song had suddenly reminded them that Jesus, as indicated in the
Qur'an, is "a sign" and "a mercy" for humanity (Surah 19: 21). The best thing about Christmas is that it gives us pause to reflect upon the amazing bounty of Allah's love shown to us through all the divine messengers including Muhammed the Seal of the Prophets (peace!).
My friend Debra refers to Christmas songs as "infectious." I hope some of them are -well, maybe not
"Gran'maw got run over by a reindeer," but here are a few lines (from different Christmas songs) with which we should like to infect the world: ".Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.. I pray that every lonely soul will be fed and warmed and that not a single child will be harmed.. God is not dead, nor doth He sleep.. Peace and love will come to all if we just follow the Light.. There would be no more lives torn apart, and wars would never start, and time would heal all hearts.."
According to a hadith (teaching), Muhammed (peace!) said, "The son of Mary will surely come down as a fair judge." Many people hope for the Messianic Age at which time Christ (Messiah) will come to judge the nations and rid governments of corruption. Even those who do not accept a literal return of Jesus can hope for a metaphoric return in which the true Gospel replaces invented doctrines. People of all religions of Light -particularly the Abrahamic religions-- must work together as we focus on our consonant values of faith, hope, charity, honesty, wisdom, and good will until the world enters a spiritual and intellectual renaissance that propels us ever closer to being ready to receive the Messianic Age of justice and righteousness.
The best thing about Christmas is that it keeps the hope of world peace alive. I'm just a simple, country gal, but the hope of world peace sure sounds Islamic to me.
Linda "iLham" Barto
INDIA’S COMING OF AGE, POST-TSUNAMI
Within hours of Aceh tsunami hitting the coasts of nations around Indian Ocean, the first to face the world with a reassuring message of relief and rehabilitation, was not Bush, Blair,
Putin, Koizumi or Hu Jintao. It was India’s Prime Minister Manmohan
Singh. While Bush came out with a $15 million, a measly amount in comparison to $3.6 billion for Florida tornado disaster that took 116 lives, and offered aid to India towards relief, India found it convenient as well as appropriate to decline the offer and assured of its full capacity to cope with the disaster, at least as far as Indian shores were concerned. Gone were the days, when the first port of call for all heads of Indian government was either the US or the UN, whenever any big calamities hit its people. That newly acquired confidence will not go unnoticed by the rest of the world. India has come of age, and as befits a nation aspiring to be counted on the highest seats of world governance, India had taken the first step to project itself as a self-sufficient and responsible nation that could take care of its people without having to go around the world with a begging ball.
The next, step for India, will be, no doubt, to look beyond its borders and treat all such natural tragedies as common concern of all the people of the world. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has come out of that centuries old Brahmanical taboo that ghettoized India to its own shores. In today’s globalized world, India under the new leadership, has confidently and promptly acquired the new accoutrements that perfectly suit the native ethos of a people humane enough to populate this vast continent of a nation, without any reference to ideologies of religion, caste, region, race and languages. Let all such ideologies compete to fit the criteria of being the best suited to India’s coming of age and its humanitarian contribution to the peace and well-being of the world.
GHULAM MUHAMMED, Mumbai –
A FLY IN THE OINTMENT
Bush proposes, God disposes. The second among the US shooting gallery of evil empires, starting with Soviet Russia, was none other than the Shiite Iran.
Rumsfeld visited Iraq and met Saddam in a famous picture that shows the historical complicity of the US defense establishment to court Saddam to bring a regime change in Iran, through a proxy war.
Eight long years and hundreds and thousands of Iraqis and Iranians dead, did not accomplish US goals in Iran. Iran is now progressed to become a potential nuclear threat to US and its protégé Israel.
US invasion of Iraq, was to give US a more pliable regime in Iraq, to undertake a lesser category of regime change by using Iraq, its people, its armed forces and its staging post to once again try a first degree regime change through direct invasion of Iran.
That goal seems to have been botched as the much touted democratic rule that US is promising to Iraqi people and the doubting world, with the never factored possibility that the majority in any democratic result, would bring in a Shia majority rule in Iraq, and would strengthen Shia ties between any new Iraqi regime and the brotherly Shia Iran.
As the dire prospects of a new axis of evil appears to be developing with Iraq too joining the cavalcade, US planners are rushing to new tactics to introduce new spanners in the works, in the classis strategies of ‘divide and rule’.
It is anybody’s guess how far the new Shia dominated government will be handicapped by US stranglehold on all its lifelines. But the prospects of a new factor --- unplanned, unintended, unexpected --- is bound to further mess up the clean frontlines drawn up by Rumsfeld and
GHULAM MUHAMMED, Mumbai –
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