• At-Tabligh's Rooms in Kitab Fadha'il A'mal by Maulana Muhammad Ilyas


    Friday, July 14, 2006

    Countering social discrimination

    By Zoya Hasan

    The exclusion of the creamy layer is of the essence as it provides a way out of purely group-based categories of reservation. It is the most effective way of meeting the demands of social justice and inclusive education by giving benefits to the most deserving.

    HIGHER EDUCATION has grown enormously since Independence — from 25 to 348 universities and 700 to 17,625 colleges. From the 1970s onwards, there has been an escalating demand for higher education, professional and technical education in particular, especially for engineering and medical colleges, and management schools. But ironically in sharp contrast to the spiralling growth and demand, six decades after Independence the opportunities for admission to these institutions are still largely monopolised by a small privileged section of society. This points to the persistence of social discrimination. Students from middle classes and forward castes traditionally associated with more education — making up about 20 per cent of the population — dominate higher education.

    The effectiveness of reservation as an instrument to rectify this imbalance might be a matter of debate. But there is no denying that the Government is well within its rights to provide reservation up to 50 per cent of the total number of seats in government and aided institutions. The Constitution provides for additional reservation for the socially and educationally backward groups. The reservation for Other Backward Classes, much like the reservation policy for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, is premised on the understanding that in a regime of formal equality and open competition, members of a previously victimised group burdened by accumulated disabilities and disadvantages, will not be able to compete, and will, in fact, fall further behind. Preferential treatment can remedy these inequities. This is the rationale behind the concept of reservation for backward classes. The Supreme Court has also categorically upheld this upper limit of 50 per cent for reservation, in Indira Sawhney vs. the Union of India.
    Though there is a deliberate effort to target Union Minister for Human Resource Development Arjun Singh, suggesting that he was behind the pushing of quotas solely for the political benefit of the Congress party, we need to keep in mind that the decision was taken by the political class as a whole and the 103rd constitutional amendment was unanimously passed. Besides, a decision of such significance could only have been possible with the knowledge and support of the Congress leadership and the United Progressive Alliance.

    As it has turned out, the UPA Coordination Committee has rightly decided to go ahead with its inclination to widen the scope of the reservation policy, despite the pressure of the agitations and protests. It has now announced that it will implement the 27 per cent OBC reservation in Central educational institutions in 2007. In implementing and working out the modalities of the quota scheme, we need to address three critical issues that form the crux of the argument against reservation. The first issue is a basic question as to whether reservation is indeed the best way of rectifying inequities. The second is the issue of whether quotas and academic excellence are fundamentally incompatible, as is suggested in some quarters. Finally, the point as to whether the OBCs are affluent and therefore do not deserve reservation.

    Almost everybody who is opposed to quotas claims to favour affirmative action. Starting from different vantage points, quotas and affirmative action converge strikingly in many ways, both are mechanisms of preferential treatment to facilitate inclusion of disadvantaged groups. The principal difference is that quotas are constitutionally mandated, while affirmative action may not be. Given the persistence of social discrimination, the question that must be posed should not be confined to the limited point as to whether preferential treatment must be in the form of quotas or affirmative action of a broader scope. Rather, the question should be: would alternative measures produce the same outcomes that mandatory quotas produce?

    While reservation might not be the best or the only method of correcting longstanding discrimination, however, it is one of the more workable and feasible mechanisms for increasing access of disadvantaged groups to higher education; chiefly because it is transparent, enforceable, and easy to monitor. In the hysteria generated by the protests, we must not forget that the Indian reservation policy has been quite effective and has produced positive outcomes.

    For example, the proportion of Scheduled Caste students in the seven Indian Institutes of Technology (2003-02 to 2003-04) is about 9 per cent, which is below their allocated quota of 15 per cent but even this would have been hard to achieve in the absence of quotas. The proportion of OBC graduates, on the other hand, is a mere 8.6 per cent. So far, with the exception of a few institutions, such as the Jawaharlal Nehru University, which has designed an admission policy that gives additional points for social and regional backwardness helping to increase the OBC student intake to roughly 20 per cent of the student population, there is very little evidence of voluntary schemes of affirmative action in other institutions of higher learning. The fact that very few institutions have introduced voluntary measures of affirmative action for the disadvantaged sections and the continuation of the anti-quota protests despite the announcement of an increase in the number of seats in Central educational institutions leads one to the conclusion that the real issue is not affirmative action per se but hostility to any policy intervention that sets out to empower the underprivileged and dilute the monopoly of the privileged in education. That is why we need reservation for different groups in higher education because the nature of Indian society ensures that without such measures, social discrimination and exclusion will persist and be strengthened.

    The second argument is that quotas militate against academic excellence and will lead to further deterioration of academic standards. This flawed theory is contradicted by the experience of American universities and the south Indian experience. As has been pointed out in the ongoing debate, the experience of affirmative action in American universities has been extremely positive with no dilution of academic standards. Likewise, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, and Kerala have had high levels of quotas for decades with no evident decline in standards as compared to north Indian universities. In fact, it is widely accepted throughout the world that diversity makes educational institutions more interesting, and, therefore, adds quality to education.

    The third point that troubles the anti-reservationists is the issue of economic status and determining who is eligible for reservation. Given the political momentum behind the policy of reservation for the OBCs, a shift to an economic criterion is unlikely; yet, the current controversy over OBC reservation placed the economic criteria on the political centre stage once again. There are two factors here. One is the social composition of the OBCs and, the second, the definition of the creamy layer. As distinct from the SCs and the STs, we must recognise that there is internal differentiation and intra-group inequality among the OBCs. The Supreme Court in the Indira Sawhney vs. the Union of India case addressed how economic factors should figure in the definition of backwardness, which means that the government must find ways to disqualify the more advantaged individuals in these classes and help the truly backward.
    Although reservation for the OBCs is necessary, the Government should ensure that it does not reproduce inequalities within groups that reservation seeks to remedy between groups. The creamy layer rules presume that there are individuals within the group who have the economic and political clout to overcome discrimination and hence it is important to exclude them. But the rules should allow for a situation in which a group continues to be an OBC but individuals within that group are excluded. In India, both economic and caste criteria are difficult to apply because of the large informal economy, and the obfuscation of the economic criteria on account of corruption. But whatever the difficulties, we need to evolve criteria that should exclude the affluent in the OBC communities who have access to jobs and higher education. Creamy layer rules should be more complex than a simple economic cut-off; it should include a wide variety of considerations relating to employment, property, jobs, schooling, and access to higher education.
    Two major conclusions emerge: The application of creamy layer rules although complicated and contentious permits the Government to consider a combination of factors, both group and individual, both caste and class, in the definition of backwardness. Secondly, the exclusion of the creamy layer is of the essence as it provides a way out of purely group-based categories of reservation. It is the most effective way of meeting the demands of social justice and inclusive education by giving benefits to the most deserving. To allow the undeserving to benefit from reservation is to deny protection to those who deserve to be protected.

    (The writer is Professor, Centre for Political Studies, School of Social Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.)

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    The perils of dissent in U.S. universities

    By Hamid Ansari

    The quest for sanity should begin by undoing thought-control devices such as the Campus Watch in American universities.

    FIRST IT was Harvard and the disowning of the John Mearscheimer-Stephen Walt monograph on "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy." Now it is Yale and the denial of a tenure professorship to Juan Cole. Both send the unmistakable message that the `Campus Watch' programme of the neo-con circles is being pursued with deadly intent. It brings to mind Harold Laski's 1948 book, American Democracy.

    Professor Cole is professor of Middle Eastern and South Asian history at Michigan University. He is a known authority on Shia Islam in Iraq, Iran, the Gulf, and South Asia and is fluent in Arabic, Persian, and Urdu. His `Informed Comment' is a daily blog on Iraq since 2002. His comments are based on deep knowledge, hard facts, and careful assessments; occasionally they are pungent. His fondness for India is evident from the picture of the Taj Mahal on his website.
    The story of the current controversy is revealed in the June 2 issue of the Jewish Week. Yale University set up a search committee earlier this year to look for a qualified scholar to teach modern Middle East. It suggested Prof. Cole's name. In two separate votes last month, Yale's history and sociology departments approved the selection and sent it for endorsement to the Tenure Committee consisting of about six senior-most professors of the University. The latter, in what has been described as a `highly usual' move, turned down the recommendation.

    According to the Jewish Week report, the move was prompted by Professor Cole's views on U.S. policy in Iraq and on the Israeli policy in the West Bank: "When Cole's potential hiring became publicly known, several of his detractors including the American Enterprise Institute's Michael Rubin and Washington Times columnist Joel Mowbray, took various steps to protest the decision. They wrote op-ed pieces in various publications and Mowbray went as far as to send a letter to a dozen of Yale's major donors, many of whom are Jewish, urging them to call the university and protest Cole's hiring."

    The latter move had the desired effect: "Several faculty members said they had heard that at least four major Jewish donors... have contacted officials at the university urging that Cole's appointment be denied."

    As on such occasions, academic reasons have been cited for the decision. Professor Cole's scholarship, it is alleged, is focussed on the 18th and 19th centuries; he lacks collegiality and is combative; his politics, it is conceded, "may have played a role."

    The Iraq blog may be combative but happens to be factually correct. The changed public mood on Iraq, in any case, may not help make this a good enough excuse today. Israeli policies, however, are an altogether different matter.

    In August 2004, Professor Cole wrote that many of the Bush neo-conservatives are "pro-Likud individuals" who wish "to use the Pentagon as Israel's Gurkha regiment, fighting elective wars on behalf of Tel Aviv." His detractors see this as condemnation of the American Jewish community. Professor Cole denies this categorically and refuses to equate the Likud with Israel and with Jews.

    The Cole episode, like the earlier one at Harvard, is indicative of a mindset that has dominated considerable segments of American opinion since 9/11. Last year, Professor Tariq Ramadan of Geneva was denied a visa to take up a tenure appointment.

    Anatol Lieven, the author of America Right or Wrong: An Anatomy of American Nationalism, has sought to analyse this "chauvinistic and bellicose nationalism" and attributes it to two of America's requirements: guaranteed supplies of oil from West Asia and the attachment to Israel.

    The quest for primacy and unipolarity is a related factor. Andrew Bachevich drew attention to it last year in his book The New American Militarism: How Americans are Seduced by War. He reminded his readers of George Washington's valedictory address and advice to fellow citizens to be wary of "those overgrown military establishments which, under any form of government, are inauspicious to liberty, and which are to be regarded as particularly hostile to republican liberty."

    Mr. Bachevich digs out another gem of a remark, as relevant today as it was in 1795 when written by James Madison: "Of all the enemies of public liberty, war is perhaps the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies. From these proceed debts and taxes. And armies, debts and taxes are known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few... No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare."

    The pasture of stupidity, wrote the historian Ibn Khaldun, is unwholesome for mankind and "the evil of falsehood is to be fought with enlightened speculation." Perhaps the quest for sanity would begin by undoing thought-control devices such as the Campus Watch and abandoning the undesirable quest of political correctness. [The Hindu, Tuesday, Jun 13, 2006]

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    The U.S. and the strategy for freedom

    By Hamid Ansari

    A remarkable feature of U.S. perceptions of West Asia is an inability or unwillingness to acknowledge linkages.

    IT WAS proclaimed with fanfare, accompanied by comprehensive packaging, G-8 support, and high pressure salesmanship. Arab governments were apprehensive, Arab conservatives suspicious, Arab liberals hopeful. An overt exercise at external pressure to bring about internal change in a whole region was watched in awe by the world.

    An Arab assessment, two years later, has been made this week by Abdul Bari Atwan, the much respected editor of the Al Quds Al Arabi daily published from London. Recent U.S. action in relation to Libya (resumption of diplomatic relations), Egypt (welcoming Gamal Mubarak in Washington) and Palestine (starving Hamas into submission), he writes, has undermined altogether the credibility of the initiative.

    Mr. Atwan's comment is pin-pointed: "The American administration is using democracy and neo-liberal Arab as a pressure card on Arab dictatorships which it has supported and the violations of which it has disregarded for the past 50 years to achieve three main goals: the first is maintaining Israel's position as a regional superpower and normalising relations with it; the second is keeping the oil flowing and stopping any regional force that threatens America's dominance over its pipelines, reserves and sources; and the third is fighting terror and by terror it means Islamic fundamentalist terror, and keeping any moderate or extremist Islamic movement from coming to power if it does not accept America's plan in the region."
    As a result of this policy of starvation, support for dictatorships, and human rights violations, says Mr. Atwan, "extremism is growing, the world has become less safe and Al-Qaeda is getting stronger by the day and its ideology is spreading."

    He hints that more Al-Qaedas would emerge "if American missiles were to be directed at Iran."
    The frustration, and apprehension, in the Arab world is evident and has not been drowned in the massive inflow of enhanced oil revenue and hyper-activity in regional stock markets.
    Other commentators take a benign view and consider the present situation as a lull during which the lessons of the first phase of the reform process are being digested by the public and the regimes.

    Mr. Atwan's assessment of the U.S. confirms earlier readings. In October 2005, the holder of the Anwar Sadat Chair at the University of Maryland, Shibley Telhami, and Zorby International had conducted an opinion poll in six Arab countries — Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE. Over 60 per cent believed that democracy promotion was not the real U.S objective.

    It was, instead, oil (76 per cent), promotion of Israel (68 per cent), domination (63 per cent) and weakening of the Muslim world (59 per cent). Seventy per cent viewed Israel as the greatest threat to them followed by the U.S. (63 per cent), and Iran (6 per cent). Sixty per cent felt that pressure on Iran should cease even though 43 per cent shared the view that Iran is trying to develop nuclear weapons. A more recent phenomenon is Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's popularity on the Arab street.

    American views are considerably at variance. Two basic questions have been repeatedly addressed: does democracy promotion serve U.S. interests? If so, how should such a policy be implemented? The answer in 2006 (unlike 2003-2004) is that democracy cannot be imposed from outside and that American interest is better served by gradual and calibrated change whose pace would be determined by the regimes themselves. Promotion, in an activist sense, seems to have been put aside.

    Those who believed to the contrary thus feel betrayed.

    A remarkable feature of U.S. perceptions of West Asia is an inability or unwillingness to acknowledge linkages.

    A good example of this is a bland assertion by a Council for Foreign Relations Task Force: "The United States should support democratic reform in the Middle East whether or not there is progress towards peace, as well as support progress towards peace whether or not there is significant democratic reform." A close examination of the track record would show that neither is viewed as relevant to the larger American purpose.

    The retreat from the agenda of 2003 was forced upon by the Iraq misadventure. The Bush-Blair partnership has finally, albeit grudgingly, conceded that mistakes were made, that Abu Ghraib happened, that the Marines massacred innocent civilians, that resistance exists and was underestimated. The fallacy of the primary impulse, a conspiracy to invade and destroy Iraq, is yet to be acknowledged.

    Even friends are distancing themselves. A remark attributed to Abraham Foxman of the anti-Defamation League is noteworthy: "We are basically telling the president: we appreciate (your pledge to defend Israel), we welcome it. But hey, because there is this debate about Iraq, where people are trying to put the blame on us, may be you shouldn't say it that often or that loud. Within the Jewish community there is a real sense of `thank you but no thank you.'"

    Would a changing situation propel the U.S. administration to take the Israel-Palestine question more realistically and tell Israel that peace, and permanent borders, need to be negotiated with the Palestinians, not with the U.S.? This one act, leading to freedom from occupation, fear, and anarchy, would do more to promote freedom, peace, democracy and a better image of America than all the half-baked initiatives put together. [The Hindu, Friday, Jun 02, 2006]

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    Alternative approaches to West Asian crises

    By Hamid Ansari

    Given the linkages, prioritisation would need to be eschewed in favour of parallel and simultaneous progress on Palestine, Iraq, and Iran.

    IT COMMENCED in Iran 100 years back, in 1906. The demand was for an adalat-khaneh (house of justice). Within months, an elected majlis was in place. A year later the Anglo-Russian entente divided Iran into a Russian and a British sphere of influence, leaving a small area in the middle as neutral territory. The Iranians, wrote the historian Nikki Keddie, "were neither consulted on the agreement nor informed of the terms."

    In 1904, Najib Azuri launched in Paris the Ligue de la Patrie Arabe with the declared objective of freeing Syria and Iraq from Ottoman rule. The stirrings of Arab nationalism during the First World War got enmeshed in imperial intrigues pertaining to the war effort. The commitments made in the Hussein-McMahon correspondence of 1915-1916 were rescinded in the Sykes-Picot Agreement of May 1916; the latter, when made public by revolutionary Russia, was sought to be dismissed as a "figment of malicious Bolshevik imagination."

    In both instances, and in many more, the West Asian memory of encounters with the West is of the latter's arrogance, duplicity, perfidy, and occupation. Historical records sustain it. The visible symbols today are Palestine, Iraq, and Iran. In each case, the Western recipe is prescriptive but incapable of successful imposition; in every instance the local response, despite a severe imbalance of forces, is rejection. Has this contributed to stability?

    The experience of the Occupied Territories in Palestine since 1967 and of Iraq since 2003 sustains the validity of Rousseau's judgment that "the strongest man is never strong enough to be always the master." Similarly, Iran has shown that foreign pressure brings forth impulses of resistance that are out of the ordinary.

    Clearly, the grand designs for the `Middle East' have failed to fructify. 9/11 compelled a re-think, but the premises were faulty and the conclusions fallacious. Forgotten in the process was Hans Morgenthau's dictum that successful statecraft depends on choosing "between one set of principles divorced from political reality and another set of principles derived from political reality."

    It was argued in 2003 that the change of regime in Iraq and grafting of democracy would create conditions for the solution of the Palestinian-Israeli problem and the implementation of the Quartet Road Map. The same argument is now being used for Iran. The three are thus perceived to be links in a chain. Can they not, therefore, be considered for a package solution? Would such an approach offer a more promising solution than the discredited regime-change option?

    Perhaps a beginning can be made by revisiting the basic premises. These relate to the belief that (a) access to Persian Gulf oil necessitates political control over sources of supply; (b) the neo-patriarchal West Asian systems of governance, dependent on external support for regime security, are prone to manipulation to ensure delivery; (c) the `radical' regimes in the area — Iran and Syria — can be isolated, and done away with; (d) public opinion in the region, despite occasional outbursts, can be ignored; (e) Israel must be allowed to create new ground realities to define its boundaries and its requirement of security premised on ensuring its dominance; and (f) sleek packaging and smart salesmanship can make the region `appreciate' what is good for it, if this does not happen, crude pressure or force may be necessary.

    Each premise is disputatious. Together, they have delivered neither security nor stability. A
    quest for alternatives is thus unavoidable. Given the linkages, prioritisation would need to be eschewed in favour of parallel and simultaneous progress on three tracks.

    In Palestine, and even without the attributes of full statehood, Palestinians have proved the democracy argument. A people discriminating enough to make a democratic choice certainly deserve to be independent and free of foreign occupation. The Quartet Road Map was delayed and destroyed by Ariel Sharon. The International Court of Justice categorically ruled against the construction of the Wall on land under occupation. Incrementally the argument, moral as well as practical, is tilting against Israel. The impasse can be broken through the acceptance of the unofficial Geneva Accord jointly produced in October 2003 by a group of Israeli and Palestinian public figures.

    The Accord was well received globally and in Israel though not by the Likud Government. It is based on the premise that "peace requires the transition from the logic of war and confrontation to the logic of peace and cooperation." It builds upon all the existing agreements, proposes that the permanent border between Israel and Palestine be based on "the June 4th 1967 line with reciprocal modification on a 1:1 basis" indicated in a map attached to the document. The parties would reject and condemn "terrorism and violence in all its forms" and shall proclaim laws to prevent incitement to irredentism, racism, terrorism, and violence. They would work together with the international community to build a secure and stable `Middle East' "free from weapons of mass destruction, both conventional and non-conventional." The uniqueness of Jerusalem is recognised and practical, acceptable arrangements suggested. Even the contentious question of refugees is acknowledged and addressed by accepting the principle of compensation and offering options for the choice of Permanent Place of Residence that would not override Israel's sovereignty. Each of these would be implemented with the help of different sets of multilateral arrangements.

    The Iraq story was told early enough by the Rumsfeld Memorandum of October 16, 2003: "we lack metrics to know if we are winning or losing the global war on terror ... the cost-benefit ratio is against us." Thirty months on, the grimness of the picture is public knowledge. Nevertheless political games, rather than sagacity and commonsense, still seem to prevail.

    Discussions with Iran are essential but not sufficient. All other neighbours of Iraq need to be involved in a cooperative endeavour to guarantee Iraq's territorial integrity. They, in turn,
    would seek assurances about Iraq's political set-up. In a plural society, equity is an essential ingredient of a democratic framework; a tyranny of the majority will not lead to stability. It is late but perhaps not too late to initiate a cooperative exercise.

    Other correctives are essential in Iraq. The second chamber provided for in Article 69 of the Constitution has yet to be instituted. Distortions reflected in Articles 108 and 109 relating to oil and gas resources do not auger well for equity and stability. No matter how humiliating, a timetable for withdrawal of coalition forces and the closure of U.S. bases there is essential to bring down the temperature of a significant section of the insurgency.

    The third link in the chain is Iran, dubbed the most serious strategic problem for the United States. Iranian defaults notwithstanding, the argument that Teheran should prove that it does not have a weapons programme while years of inspections by the IAEA have yet to prove that it does have one, is fatuous. Ambassador Negroponte was tentativeness personified recently in his comment: "our assessment at the moment is that even though we believe that Iran is determined to acquire or obtain a nuclear weapon, that we believe it is still a number of years off before they are likely to have enough fissile material to assemble into or put into a nuclear weapon, perhaps into the next decade."

    More specific were the operative words of his statement: "There is concern about the new leadership in Iran." A report in the Financial Times on April 21 said the current diplomatic effort was to slow down the Iranian nuclear programme "while more `robust' efforts continue towards the ultimate solution of regime change."

    Taking the Iranian case to the Security Council, and reported plans to bomb Iranian facilities using tactical nuclear weapons, are thus aimed at unnerving and destabilising the system. This is unlikely to happen, given Iran's nationalist fervour; even anti-regime elements abroad have cautioned against the effort to create another Ahmad Chalabi!

    Most experts on Iran agree that Teheran's quest is security, not necessarily security through nuclear weapons that have yet to be acquired. This security can be provided through a serious dialogue on four crucial subjects: Iraq, Persian Gulf security, a settlement of the Palestinian-Israeli question, and Iran's role in the global energy market (and its quest for energy-related technology and investments). They share the perception that exclusion of Iran from any of these would have negative implications.

    Iran's nuclear question can be resolved in a wider framework. Iran, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and other Gulf Cooperation Council states support a nuclear weapon and weapons of mass destruction-free zone in West Asia. A reconciliation between the Arab states and Israel, in terms of the Arab League Resolution of March 2002 and subsequent to an Israeli-Palestinian accord, would add impetus to the move.

    The choice is clear: a continuation of the three conflicts or an alternative paradigm of cooperative security. Would Morgenthau's theorem show the way? [The Hindu, Monday, May 01, 2006 ]

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    A summit for global security and stability

    By Jacques Chirac

    We must seize the opportunities of globalisation in this extraordinary period of growth while correcting its unacceptable social and ecological excesses.

    AT THE G8 Summit in St Petersburg, the first chaired by Russia, I will present four goals: to refocus the rich and the emerging countries on the imperative of addressing global warming; convince them of the urgent need for new funding to overcome poverty and pandemics; support Africa at a time when it is beginning to recover; and combat terrorism as well as the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, particularly by dealing with the Iranian and North Korean issues. Indeed, we must seize the opportunities of globalisation in this extraordinary period of global growth that is transforming the future of mankind, while correcting its unacceptable social and ecological excesses.

    For France, the raison d'être of the G8, an informal forum for dialogue, is to prepare joint responses to our shared challenges. The G8's method, based on personal contacts between leaders, is to seek consensus in a spirit of shared responsibility. This is why it has opened up to emerging countries such as India, China, Brazil, and Mexico, without which we can no longer address any major global issues, and to the representatives of poor countries.

    Energy must not be a political instrument. In this phase of rapid economic growth, we must deal with it in the framework of a global partnership for sustainable development. If we continue on our current course, increased consumption of fossil fuels will be disastrous for the environment and climate.

    In St Petersburg, I would like us to find ways to improve the functioning of the oil and gas markets, promote dialogue between producers, consumers and transit countries, accelerate the transition towards the post-oil era and help emerging countries to plan ecologically responsible growth.

    We must strongly promote renewable and alternative energies — including nuclear energy, ensuring we have the strictest safety and non-proliferation guarantees — and energy-saving policies. Each of our countries should set ambitious national goals in these areas by the end of this year.

    Global threats require global responses. We shall not solve the problem of global warming if we each go our own way or increase the number of unilateral or partial solutions. This is particularly true for global warming. I am concerned at the weakening of the international regime for climate change. We must reverse this trend. Here, the seven G8 members party to the Kyoto Protocol have a particular responsibility. They must set an example by respecting their commitments, as Europe and France are doing. It is up to them to show the way forward for the post-2012 period. We seek an ambitious agreement commensurate with the threat posed to humanity, one committing all the G8 countries, including the United States, as well as emerging countries.

    The current ecological crisis demands effective and coordinated global responses. I will call upon my counterparts to commit to the rapid establishment of a United Nations Environment Organisation.

    Every year AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria cause over five million deaths, the vast majority in Africa, and plunge hundreds of thousands of orphans into poverty and violence. We can overcome these diseases. The G8 is committed to this and must keep its promises: universal access to AIDS treatments by 2010, compliance with the WTO agreement on generics, and funding for the Global Fund to which France is to allocate {euro}300 million in 2007 to fight these pandemics.

    We need new sources of financing to fight poverty, taking advantage of the exceptional growth in global wealth. France, with other countries, has introduced a solidarity contribution on airline tickets, with the revenue going, through UNITAID, to purchasing medicines. This is a first experiment. It will have to be extended, for example, to finance education for all, a universal priority. I would like to convince the other G8 countries of the effectiveness of this modern approach.

    To fight pandemics we must strengthen health systems in the South. In Europe, health insurance was designed a century ago when incomes were comparable to current levels in Africa. This was a determining factor for social and economic progress. In St Petersburg, I will propose an initiative to help create such systems in poor countries.

    The world remains under threat from avian flu. To prevent and, if necessary, react to a human pandemic, we must intensify preparations by strengthening health monitoring resources and accelerating the release of the $2 billion in aid pledged by the international community.

    As I do every year, I shall impress on my G8 colleagues the imperative of a partnership with Africa. Things are moving forward: progress in peace, democracy, and growth, currently over 5 per cent a year. Solidarity with Africa is a moral obligation. It is also clearly in the interest of Europe and the rest of the world, given demographic trends. With a future of dignity, young people in Africa will be diverted from the temptation of violence and extremism and have an alternative to immigration. The Euro-African partnership decided this week at the Rabat Conference to work together on this issue of common concern.

    The Summit will also deal with security issues. Iran's nuclear ambitions are a cause for concern. Europe, with the support of Russia, the United States, and China, has taken the diplomatic approach. We have made a generous offer to Iran, which respects its right to civilian nuclear energy provided it complies with its commitments to non-proliferation.

    I would like Iran's leaders to accept our outstretched hand for Iran's sake and for peace and stability worldwide. The St Petersburg Summit will send them a message of unity and steadfastness.

    Finally, this first G8 Summit chaired by Russia, the result of a process begun in 1996 on France's initiative, has symbolic importance. Responding to President Putin's invitation means putting aside out-of-date Cold War arguments and moving towards a future together based on peace and cooperation. It means recognising Russia's progress and its place in Europe. Hosting the G8 in St Petersburg also commits Russia, since a common future implies shared values: democracy, the rule of law, human rights, freedom — everything which contributes to progress and dignity for mankind.

    (The writer is President of France.) [The Hindu, Thursday, Jul 13, 2006]

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    Domestic imperatives in Iran's foreign policy

    By: Hamid Ansari

    A new exercise in consensus building is under way. The purpose is to present a unified approach and deny the interlocutor space to exploit internal disagreements.

    IRAN'S HISTORICAL memory is riveted on foreign interference. The Constitution of the Islamic Republic and the Testament of Imam Khomeini are prescriptive on this score. So are the pronouncements of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and virtually every strand of domestic opinion. Foreign policy moves are thus scrutinised minutely and put to the litmus test of interference and dependency.

    Other elements of behaviour pattern also come into play. One need not share Curzon's attribution of "scientific imposture" to analyse a thought process historically focussed on philosophies of dualism of good and evil, of exoteric and esoteric, of zaher and baten (external manifestation and internal reality). The public discourse in Iran has seen manifestations of each of these in recent weeks.

    Nor is the domestic scene free of contentions and pressures. In what can be interpreted as serious and purposeful bickering in the ranks of the clergy, Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani was heckled at a research institute in Qum and left without completing his speech. Elsewhere, trouble has been reported from the Azeri, Arab, and Baluch segments of the public. Its seriousness is contested. In Khuzistan, some dissidents were executed. In Sistan-Baluchistan, the Jundullah leader Abdol-Malek Regi gained publicity in May when he released some government officials it had kidnapped earlier. The cartoons considered derogatory by the Azeris were a manifestation of Persian chauvinism of older vintage. The Azeris remain well represented in the power structure of the Islamic republic. The much publicised June 12 protest by women demanding equal rights in marriage, divorce, and custody of children signalled gender awareness but remains confined to a fringe group.

    The expectation in some quarters is that these, along with human right issues, could be instrumental in enhancing `democratic' pressure and lead to regime change. Teheran, however, views this differently, as signalling the need for reinforcing solidarity in the face of evident external interference.

    Nor are the moves all defensive. A new and bold privatisation plan has been announced this week in the name of the Supreme Leader. Under this, about 80 per cent of the government's stakes in industrial units, banking, media, transportation, and mineral sectors are to be divested. These would not cover the oil, defence industry, and some banking and civil aviation units. The test of the new approach, obviously linked to WTO admission, would lie in implementation. The pockets of resistance would be many.

    While substantive reactions are yet to emerge, the complexity of gestures is suggestive of a game plan. There is a studied procrastination of response to the 5+1 package of June 6. In the meantime, President Ahmadinejad has attended the SCO summit at Beijing and the African summit at Banjul, Iran and Saudi Arabia have communicated about Muslim solidarity (spelt out by Iran's former Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati as "exchange of opinions and views between these two major Shia and Sunni countries" to neutralise moves by extremist elements), and the Saudis have publicly cautioned against the use of force against Iran and its disastrous impact on oil prices.

    In a move not unrelated to the larger issue, Deputy Oil Minister Mohammad Hadi Nejad Hosseinian dropped on July 1 a broad hint on the Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline stressing that the available quantities of gas could either be sold to India-Pakistan or to Europe, but no to both. The remark is relevant because of the delays in pipeline talks and also because of the post-Ukraine European moves to seek alternatives to reduce dependence on Russian supplies.
    A new Foreign Policy Advisory Council has been created through a formal decree because the Supreme Leader "sensed a deficiency of lack of strategy in foreign relations" and in the implementation of policy decisions. This five-member body is headed by former Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi and includes Mr. Velayati and former Defence Minister Ali Shamkhani. Mr. Velayati is Ayatollah Khamenei's principal foreign policy adviser. The council's five-year tenure would outlast that of the President. Its creation carries multiple signals, substantive and procedural.

    A new exercise at consensus building, led by the Supreme Leader himself, is under way. At a critical juncture in the history of modern Iran, the purpose is to present a unified approach and deny to the interlocutor space to exploit internal disagreements. Another, typically Iranian, purpose may be to diffuse the actual locus of decision-making and keep the interlocutor guessing.

    The tenor of initial pronouncements is to be noted. President Ahmadinejad set the date of response in mid-August. The Iranian response, said one official, would be general rather than specific, would be for talks but not with preconditions, and suspension of uranium enrichment would be out of question. Could then a dignified solution be sought through "a technical break" to allow negotiations to start? Saud Al-Faisal's visit to Teheran and chief negotiator Ali Larijani's visits to Cairo and Algiers could not be purposeless. Nor is Oman's low profile diplomacy to be ignored.

    By the end of June, the first reactions were spelt out. "We do not negotiate with anybody on achieving and exploiting nuclear technology," said Ayatollah Khamenei. "But if they recognise our nuclear rights, we are ready to negotiate about controls, supervisions and international guarantees." Mr. Velayati amplified it: "Iran will certainly not suspend uranium enrichment; this is a definite and constant policy and no one would be prepared to step down from it." He stressed the centrality of Iran to West Asia, and of the latter to the world. Both the Supreme Leader and his foreign policy adviser also signalled a disinterest in negotiations with the Americans.

    The Iranians remain alert to score points. An invitation by some EU parliamentarians to the MKO leader Maryam Rajavi was used by Mr. Larijani on July 5 to cancel, on security grounds, his visit to Brussels for talks with EU foreign and security policy chief Javier Solana. Immediately thereafter, he accepted from the latter ("to show goodwill") a dinner invitation for July 7!

    Some conclusions, albeit tentative, tend to emerge. They relate to the politics, purpose, procedure, and content of discussions. Both sides now concede the need for talks. Beyond this, perceptions diverge.

    The U.S. (a) retains a formal insistence on compliance — suspension of enrichment — before discussions; (b) may wish to defer regime change for the moment in return for a change in the behaviour of the regime; (c) may attempt to use the signal for talks as a means of pressure on the regime to cause internal dissensions; (d) is unwilling to rule out the military option; (e) is not willing to talk about security guarantees; and (f) is patient in the face of initial Iranian reactions but wants its range of options to be registered.

    The EU, supportive of the U.S. on enrichment, is anxious for progress in talks, is apprehensive of the consequences of a breakdown, is willing to concede some ground on Iranian concerns on security, wants Security Council pressure to be incremental and reversible, wants to maintain international consensus, is ambivalent on the military option of the Americans. The Russians and the Chinese have substantial economic and strategic stakes in Iran, oppose military action, are hesitant on economic sanctions, do not wish Iran to progress to the level of nuclear weaponry, want Iran to be included in the general security framework for the Persian Gulf-Caucasus-Central Asia regions, do not wish to have this question make an adverse impact on their relations with the U.S.

    Arab reaction
    Contradictory emotions characterise the Arab world. In the wake of Iraq, public sentiment is supportive of Iran's defiant posture and of its claim to acquire technology. The GCC states, apprehensive of Iran's size and potential, do not relish the prospect of a nuclear neighbour across the Persian Gulf and want the sub-region declared a nuclear weapon free zone. Further away, however, countries like Egypt, Syria and other members of the Arab League wish to use the opportunity to focus on Israel's nuclear weapons and lead the debate towards a WMD-free West Asia.

    From Iran's viewpoint, the situation presents opportunities for manoeuvre. Having strengthened its domestic support base on nationalist fervour, and used the nuclear issue to propel America to the negotiating table, its effort now would be to develop an approach that mixes obstinacy with flexibility to retain the focus on the strategic objective to use the nuclear talks for (a) a wider dialogue; (b) seeking recognition of its security interests in the region and — by implication — legitimacy; (c) signalling inflexibility on the enrichment question to exploit its full potential till an "acceptable" package is offered. The fractured international consensus would assist the process. So would the unravelling situation in Iraq. So would its centrality to the Persian Gulf-Caspian basins and its proven oil and gas reserves.

    A total American success on Iran would have a decisive impact on the geopolitics of West and Central Asia and on the strategic interests of Russia and China. A total failure would do likewise. Given the stakes and the uncertainties, would the powers play for a draw? Would Iran assist such an outcome? [The Hindu, Wednesday, Jul 12, 2006 ]

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    Saturday, December 31, 2005

    Minority rights and responsibilities

    By Iqbal A. Ansari

    Muslims are not enjoying any `privilege' denied to others. However, the concerns raised in Parliament, during the debate on the Constitution (104th) Amendment Bill, on the reservation issue need to be addressed. One way could be to conduct a performance audit of minority educational institutions.

    MINORITY EDUCATIONAL institutions have been exempted from the purview of the Constitution (104th) Amendment Act that enables the state, under Article 15(5), to provide reservation of seats in unaided educational institutions for socially and educationally backward classes or Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. This legislative measure seeks to harmonise the claims of citizens' right to freedom with the obligation of the state to fulfil the promise of social justice to weaker sections. Does the exemption amount to privileging minority status? The right of the unaided minority institutions not to be subjected to any regulatory measures, other than those aimed at promoting the educational standards of the institution and the interests of the community concerned, has been judicially upheld right from the Kerala opinion (AIR1958CS956) to the T.M.A. Pai Foundation judgment of the Supreme Court and in the subsequent clarifying judgments.

    It is the lack of proper understanding of the legal philosophy guiding these firm directions of the judiciary that makes sections of the intellectual and political class in the country view such exclusion as minority appeasement.

    The vulnerability of the minorities arising from their inadequate share in power and decision-making, and disadvantages caused by widespread discrimination and intolerance against them (and not necessarily any educational backwardness) requires special constitutional and legal provisions to enable them to secure effective equality along with preserving their distinct identity. The necessity of such special measures for the minorities to ensure substantive equality to them has been recognised by all international instruments on minorities.

    The rights under Article 30 should not be taken as an affirmative measure on a par with the provisions under Article 15. The two stand on different footings. It also needs to be taken into account that social situations of minorities and majorities not only differ from country to country, but also from one minority to another within a country such as India. The Parsis, for example, are an affluent microscopic minority, who do not face any problem of discrimination or exclusion. Christians, except Dalit sections among them, are educationally advanced and are not uniformly subjected to discrimination.

    The Sikhs have lately been facing problems of identity, but have the advantage of their bulk constituting a majority in one State. They are again not routinely subjected to discrimination.
    Unique case

    The case of Muslims as a minority is unique. Large sections of the power-wielding majority generally treat them as a suspect community held responsible for the perceived wrongs of history, including Partition.

    The over-blown projection of identity issues of Urdu with its `foreign' script and Muslim personal Law, which is supposed to be causing `alarming' increase in their population, provide further justification for their exclusion, even periodic demonisation, and open boycott.
    Coupled with this reality is the fact that the bulk of present day Indian Muslims are of indigenous Scheduled Caste and Other Backward Class origin, whose social occupational structure has continued to perpetuate their educational backwardness.

    The National Policy on Education (NPE) 1986, recognised Muslims along with neo-Buddhists as being educationally most backward on an all-India basis, and included in the Programme of Action a whole range of schemes for their educational uplift. Most of it, however, remained unimplemented for lack of a conducive political-bureaucratic climate, especially in the States, as well as for lack of financial backing, and doubts about the legal validity of community-specific measures.

    This non-implementation did not become a significant public issue, in spite of the V.P. Singh Government's effort to highlight the gap between the successive Congress Governments' promises and performance for Muslims, largely because of the preoccupation of the Muslim elite during the period with the Mandir-Masjid issue.

    The decade following the Ayodhya debacle has witnessed Muslim urge for education as an instrument of development. But their experience of the earlier four decades had been one of bureaucratic obstruction in getting recognition and aid for their institutions and uncertainty of preferential admission of Muslim students under the pretext of secularism. The professional educational institutions recently started by Muslims, along with other minorities, have been facing problems of recognition, affiliation, and government-management share of quota.

    Given the historical, political, and sociological dimensions of the Muslim educational situation, the Supreme Court's ruling in the T.M.A. Pai Foundation case upholding the right of minorities to preferentially admit students of the community without any limitation in unaided institutions and without the rigid ceiling of 50 per cent in aided institutions should receive ungrudging universal social-political support.

    While endorsing such `magnanimity,' it needs to be kept in view that Muslims, though the largest minority, have so far not been the major beneficiaries of Article 30(1)'s scheme of minority empowerment. Any minority educational survey will reveal this reality.

    The fact that their largest educational institution, the Aligarh Muslim University, has been denied the rights available to minorities under Article 30, especially the right to preferentially admit students of the community, should convince all honest observers of the educational scene that Muslims are not being appeased and that they are not enjoying any `privilege' denied to others.

    On the contrary, their now increasing urge for secular education needs universal support, as a measure of their modernisation and integration.

    Addressing criticism

    However, the concerns raised during the debate in Parliament on the Constitution Amendment Bill to provide reservation for socially and educationally backward classes of citizens, are genuine and need to be addressed. One set of criticisms relates to abuse of the right by members of religious and linguistic minorities simply for profiteering. The other rightly points out that at least the weaker sections among minorities, especially Muslims and Christians of Dalit and OBC origin, should get the benefit of reservation in unaided minority educational institutions. There is no justification for either minting money in the name of minority rights, or monopolising now-expanding educational opportunities under Article 30(1) by the already advanced and affluent sections among minorities.

    It requires audit of the performance of all religious and linguistic minority institutions, to ascertain the extent, nature and modalities of profiteering and to find out which minorities and sections of minorities have benefited from the empowerment under Article 30(1).

    The findings may indicate that though many minority educational institutions are rendering service to all communities, like most Christian and some Muslim and Sikh institutions, they have no uniform policy of any special provision for admission of their own weaker sections. There soon may arise a need to reserve a quota for Dalits and OBCs among minorities in aided as well as unaided minority educational institutions under law. There is also a strong case for extending the benefit of reservation to all citizens of Dalit origin including Christians and Muslims — as are available to Dalits following indigenous religions.

    Regarding the admission of non-minority students of any class including Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, it must be clearly borne in mind that imposition of any fixed quota for un-aided as well as aided minority educational institutions will not be valid legally or socially. However minorities must realise that social engineering for national integration, as well as the agenda of social justice, both require admitting a fair mix of students from all communities, sections and classes.

    The law only prohibits imposition of any fixed quota for any category other than minority. It does not come in the way of a minority autonomously developing policy for preferentially admitting students on the basis of class and the community to fulfil the obligation of integration and social justice in their own free domain.

    On the same grounds, the demand of under-represented minorities, such as Muslims, for provision of preferential admission in State educational institutions, though without fixing any fixed quota under law, deserves consideration.

    (The writer is a retired professor of the Aligarh Muslim University.) [This article taken from THE HINDU, December 31, 2005]

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    Friday, December 23, 2005

    Being A Muslim In His Ownland

    By Zamhasari Jamil

    Being a Muslim in his ownland have a special mark. M Yusuf Khan, an Indian Muslim who served Indian Air Force talks to The Pioneer, Friday, 23 December 2005. Full story is included here entitled:

    The malady of misinterpretation

    The problem with Islam today is that everyone else seems to know Quran better than Muslims themselves, says M Yusuf Khan. How do you feel to be a Muslim in India? Were you discriminated against, while you served in the Indian Air Force? Do you believe Muslims can get justice from the judiciary in this country? How did you feel when Gujarat was burning? Will you join the BJP if offered an election ticket? These and some more questions were posed to me by a journalist not from across the border, but a home-grown one. Adding insult to the injury was her patronising remark: "I understand, sometimes it is difficult to tell the truth." It was clear that she had certain presumptions and would believe what fits into that ambit.

    The dialogue took me back to 1971 when the war appeared imminent in the wake of the developments in what was then East Pakistan. We were in war readiness when a very dear friend and a colleague from the south, who continues to be a good friend, said to me: "How will you feel fighting a country that shares your religious faith?" I was obviously shocked and even hurt by the question.

    But soon I realised that he did not mean to doubt my loyalty. It was a pure case of naïve curiosity overtaking his sense of political correctness, a phrase that was rarely used those days. He had not meant any offence but realised that his question had the potential of damaging our friendship, and he literally bit his tongue off for the indiscretion he had committed.

    I decided not be offended by the poser, since I knew the intention. In a way, his question had already been answered way back, when I was waiting to join the IAF, by Maulana Aslam, a faculty of Madrasa Diniya, Ghazipur, and a frequent visitor to our household. He had said that, according to the teachings of Islam, it was your religious duty to fight for your country regardless of what faith the aggressor espoused. My interviewer looked surprised at my discloser and made notes.

    The other embarrassing episode occurred at the IAF Selection Board, Dehra Dun, while appearing at the interview. We were going through the round of informal introductions. As soon as I mentioned my name, an aspirant, Kriplani, from Lucknow blurted out: "Do they take Muslims in the Air Force?" Before I could gather my wits, all other candidates, almost a dozen of them, pounced on him. Do I have to say that not a single one of them was a Muslim? Poor Kriplani was red in the face and kept reassuring that he meant no offence.

    I believed him, as many of my Muslim well-wishers too had expressed similar views before the interview. They were sure that I was wasting my time, as I would never be selected because of my religion. Kriplani and I both got selected; the former, however, could not make the grade as a pilot and became a navigator. I passed out as a fighter pilot and I did fight the 1971 war. So much for the prejudices.

    Events like Gujarat or Godhra are extremely tragic and deserve to be condemned and abhorred. My feeling about such riots is no different from that of any rational human being. Who started it and who finished is totally irrelevant. The killing and arson cannot be justified under any pretext. Did not some one in authority say that riots can be stopped within 24 hours, if the administration wants? I believe him and that is why I feel so sad to see places like Mau burning under a communal frenzy for days before even a semblance of normalcy is restored. These riots are a blot on a civilised nation. And, if their genesis lies in the history and geography, so be it. We cannot carry the baggage of past prejudices forever, to the detriment of our future.

    Coming back to the judiciary, it is preposterous to insinuate that the judicial system holds bias against a community. The higher courts have time and again shown that they practice and believe in fair play, unlike the impression people carry about law and order enforcement department, etc. It was just a few years ago that a ban was sought on the Quran in Kolkata High Court. The court was quick to dismiss the mischievous case with the promptness it deserved.
    "The trouble with Islam is," and I am not quoting the book by Ms Irshad Manji, a Canada-based writer and a non-conformist but a retired Muslim Air Vice Marshal of the IAF, "That everyone else seems to know Islam better than Muslims themselves." Mr Praveen Togadia seems to know Islam better than any scholar of Islam, who may have spent his lifetime studying theology. Likewise, Mr Arun Shourie considers himself an authority on the subject by reading translated versions of Quran and quoting selected verses to confuse those unfamiliar with text preceding or following them.

    No doubt, there is a small number of people who cannot differentiate between teachings of Islam and the deeds of its confused and, therefore, condemnable followers. But that is another story. To answer the first question of the journalist, without thinking I had said, "I feel privileged to be an Indian Muslim." Since then I have given sufficient thought to the question, and I find my answer remains the same. [The Pioneer, Friday, 23 December 2005]

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    Abdul Kalam: The Great Person

    By: Zamhasari Jamil

    Two years ago, I met Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam, the President of India in his palace Rashtrapati Bhawan, New Delhi. Today, I read The National Herald, New Delhi where quoted that Kalam also influenced by great personalities. The full story taken from The National Herald, New Delhi (Friday, 23 December 2005) is published below.

    Kalam influenced by 17 great personalities

    Hyderabad: President A P J Abdul Kalam, who has made a mark all through his life, considers 17 great personalities as guide posts and role models. Revealing this, Prof Arun K Tiwari, who had written the book ''Guiding Souls: A Dialogue on the purpose of life'' along with Mr Kalam, said the President considered as guide posts his mother, Emperor Ashoka, Caliph Umar, Thiruvallur, Guru Nanak, Abraham Lincoln, Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and M S Subalakshmi.

    The first citizen of the nation was influenced by the Tamil saint Thiruvallur, who considered the head of the state as the life and soul of society, never failing in following duties and with attributes of fearlessness, liberty, wisdom and energy and free from pride, anger and lust, Prof Tiwari said delivering a talk on the book at the B M Birla Science Centre here last night.
    Mr Kalam's role models Aryabhatta, Thomas Alwa Edison, Srinivasan Ramanujam, Sir C V Raman, Satish Dhawan, Varghese Kurien, Kakarla Subba Rao and C N R Rao, who had put to use science for development of the society, he said.

    Working in Rashtrapati Bhavan, Dr Kalam drew so much from great soul of Abraham Lincoln, who was never carried away by criticisms. Once a leader was afraid of criticisms, he ceases to be a leader and becomes a follower of world around him --- officials, friends, media-- and eventually becoming a puppet in show, he said, adding that the President considered Nelson Mandela, who fought against apartheid in South Africa, as great teacher of life.

    According to the President, it was Ashoka, who had first defined state morality and private or individual morality, while Caliph Umar learnt to access nucleus of calm and was able to face pain, sorrow and grief with equanimity.

    Dr Kalam was influenced by Guru Nanak, who proclaimed equality of men in all respects and exposed incongruities and fruitlessness of ritualistic and ascetic practices as also the father of the nation, who was responsible for transformation of the political demand for Indepdence into a nation-wide mass movement that mobilised every class of society against imperialistic forces.

    Of the two great women admired by Dr Kalam, his mother has never initiated a serious conversation with him. His mother as true Indian woman taught what sons and daughters need to survive. How to cook, clean, haul water and stitch. How to be productive, obedient, respectful and above all patient.

    Dr Kalam confided that he woke up for decades listening to the ''Venkateswara Suprabatham'' rendered by late Carnatic vocalist M S Subbalakshmi, a symbol of tradition. [The National Herald, New Delhi]

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    Thursday, December 15, 2005

    Personal Agenda of Riau’s Student

    Zamhasari Jamil, born on Friday, 22 Dzulhijjah 1400 H was awarded a B.A (Hons.) degree in Islamic Studies from the University of Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi in 2004.

    Before leaving home for India in 2001, I was completed my Senior Secondary School at Pondok Pesantren Dar El-Hikmah, Pekanbaru and my Junior High School at MTs. Mu’allimin and my Elementary School at SDN No.024 Rantau Panjang Kiri. The last both still in Kecamatan Kubu, my homevillage in the Province of Riau.

    On 15 August 2002, I was elected as a president of Indonesian Students’ Association in India for period 2002-2003.

    My agenda launched and released below is dedicated to my beloved one who wants to know more about myself personally. The source of answers in the interview is truly based on from the deeply of my heart.

    Here, everyone are welcoming to visit all the corners of my personal blog at www.e-tafakkur.blogspot.com. And then have a nice journey for reading my personal agenda … … …

    What is your idea of perfect happiness?
    I do what I love and I love what I do.

    The most impressive moment of your life?
    My first sight to twin minars of Masjidil Haram and Ka’bah in the bright night of Friday respectively.

    What is your greatest extravagance?
    Books, mostly religious books. Once in my early days in India, I spent about Rs.5.000 (now about Rp.1.000.000) in one day at a bookshop in New Delhi. I also have spent RSA. 814 (about Rp.3.000.000) for books in a bookshop “Maktabah Islami al-Asadi” in Mekkah Al-Mukarromah.

    In one line, describe your self …
    Arrogant, ambitious, humorous and sensitive.

    Your life’s mantra …
    I love and care to whom who has a sense of loving and caring to the childs.

    Your life’s motto …
    I am coming to take on, going back to bring out then being a companion in my life.

    People/things closest to your heart?
    My beloved mom, my dad, my grandmas and my grandfas.

    If you could change one thing about your self, what would that be?
    My Shaggy’s hair and I would like to be more organised and focused.

    If you could change one thing about your family, what would that be?
    To reunite all my families who have separated by our different professions.

    Your ideal woman?
    Someone who is romantique and to whom I can share a good idea, laugh and love.

    Where do you see yourself five years down the line?
    Hopefully, I would be a Ph.D candidate and teaching at university. Have my own home and have a perfect wife.

    Who would you like to be born as next from your wife?
    A normal baby who grows up to become the ‘qari and or qori’ah’ and an intelect person.

    If you have someone’s messege to you and then you want to share, what would that be?
    Once my teacher told me that Imam Syafi’i came and reported to his teacher, Imam Waki’, that Imam Syafi’i facing a hard to memorize. Then Imam Waki’ asked Imam Syafi’i to stop from any kind of sins. Imam Waki’ also reported him that knowledge is a bright light. And the bright light of Almighty Allah will not be given to the sinner.

    If you marooned on a desert island, who or what would you like to have as your companion?
    My family and my ideal woman.

    What is your favourite place and you have ever dreamt to visit?
    Eiffel tower in Paris.

    What is the first thing you do when you get up in the morning?
    Open my eyes, reading a remembrance of getting up and sitting on the bed for a while.

    And the last thing before going to bed?
    Taking ablution, reading a remembrance to sleep and then smile. []

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