Wednesday, July 21, 2010

[Debate] Freedon of Speech vs Mawdudi Book Ban - Exchange with Mohammad Asghar - Part 3

Dear Asghar,

Many thanks for your mail which has given me food for thoughts.
It is not as if its the first time in my life that I have come across the points you make - nor will it conceivably be the last - however being an agnostic, and forgive my impertinence, my position is : I neither believe nor disbelieve any of it.
Down in rural Bangladesh far away from the pretensions of 'enlightened discourses' of either Mullahs or well meaning liberals such as us, being witness to many all night 'Kobi Lorais' (Bards Duel) in the company of 'half-literate or illiterate' sHADHU, sANYASIS and Fakirs in the many sHONGO's that I have attended - has me convinced that all of us here are possibly on the first steps in the ladder of a very steep learning kerb regretabbly gone askew. I believe there is no end to learning or sharing knowledge.
With the cautionary warning signalled by someone on this thread as to the futility of 'engaging' you ( that never can be the intention of a simple and ignorant bAUL such as myself) given your years of study of the kO'RAN and Hadith - you do have reasons (valid or otherwise is debatable) to stand by your convictions and I congratulate you for your bold stance.
As stated earlier, most unfortunately in my belief system we believe in cultural cohesion and not conflicts, accultaration not accusations, assimilation not division, fomenting bonds and not being fractious and above all - believe in absolving and not in absolutism.
Seizing on what Roy has to say "All cultures are not equal; some really do offer more to satisfy human aspirations. " - I urge everybody here to fall back and take some time out to study our 'native culture' and the many folk philosophers and sAGEs who have relentlessly fought against all forms of tyranny for centuries with varying degrees of success - to seek answers which may be eluding us. I plead that there must have been very good and justifiable reasons for the UNESCO to proclaim in 2005 Baul Music : A Masterpieces of Oral and Intangible Heritage of 'Humanity' - I say - in Bengal on the quiet, and over centuries a highly sophisticated and developed culture has evolved and is already in place that may provide some answers if not all. Whilst it may fail in uniting us - it surely will succeed in providing directions to the way forward, perhaps unity in diversity?
The world as such and many of us living in the comforts of concrete jungles - have chosen to ignore them - or given our tokenistic or cursory appreciation - but our efforts to broaden our horizon will not be complete until all avenues have been explored - if indeed pEACE is our avowed intention and end of tyranny our ultimate goal.
Merely harping back and forth on what our immidiate 'books of intelligent knowledge' has on offer and has sadly warped our thought process - versus the open source of extelligent wisdom available, which intrinsically and forcefully is the stimuli provided to mankind by mother nature - is possibly the simplistic and uncomplicated way of putting things across and in perspective. Having said that : It is very easy to be complicated, but very hard to be simple - and I choose the harder option.
Since we believe in nothing more 'gODLY' than the human sOUL - our emphasis is Man. The '7th hEAVEN' or other such fictional places do not necessarily have to be UP in the sky. For all practical purposes it could well be in the body that houses our sOUL - as 'dEHO tOTTYO' (or enquiry into the body) teaches us. To imagine that bAULs knew more about the human body, limbs, veins, bones and arteries with accuracy - centuries before Gray's Anatomy came about - in itself is a prime indicator of that we may be possessing and thinking of 'high value' or have tagged it as 'value added' is extremely limited - and there are much much more out there up on offer - without our knowing. Religions, scriptures etc are really trivial issues as far as the bAULs are concerned - and my apologies if I am sounding 'supremacist'!
Thanks you once again. I stand informed by your views - if not illumined.
Leaving you with a quote from sHAIJI:
"Aponarey je apni chena/Jarey boley uposhona
Knowing thyself is the ultimate worship
Lalon boley gyani jona, shey pai tar deeshey
Lalon says only the enlightened among you, finds him in his pursuit
Bol khyapa khujish karey/ desh bideshey?
O excitable - who do you yearn for outside your own being?"
Kind regards and jOI gURU /\
London, 21st July 2010

Dear Mr. Haque,
Thanks for your response. I have noted your comment very carefully. In it, you wrote:
"I believe when it comes to Islam - the language of the kO'RAN and what it ideally means as also the context in which the verses were revealed is possibly the cause for much of the misunderstanding."
In my understanding, the language of the Quran, if we consider its messages in the context and space of the seventh century Arabia, is not a problem. The Quran was revealed, if it was at all revealed by a deity, who lives somewhere in the seventh sky (sic), was for a particular time and place.
If you read read verse 7 of chapter 42 of the Quran, you will find out that the Quran was revealed in Arabic for the people of Mecca and its neighborhood. The Arabic spoken of in this and other verses is the same Arabic, which the people of Quraish spoke.
It is like the languages of the people of Chittagong and Sylhet of Bangladesh. They speak Bengali but it is a dialect of their own. Same is the case with the Quran's Arabic; though mostly a local dialect of the Quraish, but it was understood by the rest of the people of the Arabian peninsula.
Today, this dialect is on the verge of extinction for, it is no more taught, or spoken even in the present-day Saudi Arabia!
The problem with the Quran's language arose after the Bedouin Arabs began invading other countries and imposed Islam on the conquered people. Since most of the conquered people spoke no Arabic, the Quran needed translation into various languages when the question of "interpretation" also surfaced. Before all of the above happened, the Quran was as clear to the people of the Arabian peninsula as the rays of sun!!
As far as the "context" of the Quran's messages is concerned, such a thought is anathema to the Muslims of the world, though it is a fact that each verse has a context and that if certain things had not taken place in the lifetime of Muhammad, most of its verses would not have been revealed to him by Allah.
Accepting this fact will nullify the claim that the Quran was written down by Allah on a tablet prior to the creation of the universe and preserved it (the Quran) with Him in order to prevent it from being corrupted by evil elements, like the Jinns. What today's corrupted Torah and Injeel (Bible) contain are the small portions of the celestial Quran, hence the derailment of the Jews and Christians from the true path of Allah.
In order to keep Muslims on His true path, Allah revealed to Muhammad the whole of the original Quran, which means that the Quran, which is in Allah's custody, is written in Arabic, a language, which only a small number of people, i.e. the Quraish of Mecca, spoke.
Despite the fact that Islam and the Quran were intended only for the people of Mecca and its neighborhood, Muslims are now claiming that they are for the entire humanity and, keeping the Quran's words in mind, they proclaim that Islam is the only religion that should be followed by all humans, if they wish to enter heaven on the Day of Judgment. All the non-believers in Islam will burn forever in the fire of hell.
In a nutshell, the problems that Muslims, and for that matter Islam, faces today emanated from Muslims' attempt to impose Islam on all humans on earth. They have been inspired to do so by Allah Himself: He has clearly stated in the Quran that the only religion that is acceptable to Him is Islam and that the earth belongs to the Muslims and also that Muslims must strive (Jihad in Arabic) with all their might to convert the non-Muslims to Islam; recover Allah's land from their possession and if they refuse to do either of both the things, the non-Muslims must either be killed and take over all of their possessions, including their women, who must become their sex slaves, or forced to live as a second class citizens, with total submission to the Muslims, together with paying protection tax to their Muslim masters (see the Quran; 9:29).
Any suggestions on how to nullify the above beliefs and the requirements of Allah in order to make our earth a peaceful habitat for all humans?
Mohammad Asghar

[Debate] Freedom of Speech vs Mawdudi Book ban- Exchange with Mohammad Asghar - Part 2

Dear Asghar,
Thanks again for your kind words.
I believe when it comes to Islam - the language of the kO'RAN and what it ideally means as also the context in which the verses were revealed is possibly the cause for much of the misunderstanding. Fakir Lalon sHAH therefore went into to the root of the Arabic words and its many meanings of the book in his explanations which are indeed worthy of a thorough read and estimation. True he is not well known even in Bangladesh - but for over 200 years his work has survived although there were many fatwas issued to have them banned then - as even today his teaching is considered deviant or heretic by Mullahs as well as some 'progressive intellectuals'. However in my 22 years association with the bAULs all I can say - Fakir Lalon sHAH has left me enriched in his mAREFOTI discourses.
I request you and those that may be interested to visit my Blog - and feel free to use any materials for their research and understanding. My own research in expansion on the book 'bAULIANA - Worshipping the gREAT gOD in MAN' is yet ongoing - with more materials which I will add and go for the 2nd print (reprint) later in the year.
Please do send me mails on separate/personal thread should you require any clarification.
Kind regards
London, 20th July 2010
Dear Mr. Haque,

I thank you for your note.

As you have pointed out, all religious scriptures are replete with messages of violence and killing. Therefore, I do not defend any of them; to me, all of them are the same, but they vary in "degree" of commandment to violence and "demands" put on their adherents to carry out the Divine's Will.

I talk about Islam because I am a former Muslim and the indoctrination with which I grew up still remains in my mind. I also talk about the Quran because it is claimed to be an error-free book, loaded with compassionate and peace-inspiring messages. Upon reading this book closely, I find both the claims to be false, hence my frequent discourse on this book!

I wish I could also be a Baul and follow the teachings of Lalon Shah, even though his messages are largely confined to the Indian sub-continent and they are hardly paid attention to by its people. I also wish if his messages could be transmitted to those Muslims and the non-Muslims alike, who inhabit the entire earth, thus ensuring peace for ourselves as well as for our posterity.


Mohammad Asghar

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

[Debate] Freedom of speech vs Mawdudi Book ban - Exchange with Mohammad Asghar

For Readers: Email from Mohammad Asghar based in Toronto, Canada is appended below in Red.

Dear Asghar,

Thank you for your appreciation of my short note on the Mawdudi books - and like you, I have been following your many articulations on the Net with great interest.

As a practising agnostic I regret not having a huge appetite for religions, rituals, books, special deities, Church, Mosques, Temples, Synagogues etc - or any other place on earth that 'gOD apparently resides'. As a bAUL and an initiate in Fakir Lalon Shah's vision and philosophy, I think the challenges in the days ahead are far too complex for us to fathom at this stage. We may seek a ban on any of the Islamic books and traditions you mention - that probably guides/misguides humanity, but on the essence of faith people quite naturally will continue to be/or remain obscurantist - and having said that - everybody is entitled a faith/belief system no matter how obscure they may be. These beliefs also constitutes freedom of speech/expression and are part of Universal Human Rights.

Much has been said in this forum about 'interpretations' or even 'truth' - when fact is interpretations and truth are only perceptions and perceptions surely cannot be used as a wide brush to denote 'reality'. As the bAUL will tell you 'Onuman kokhoni proman hishab e sharbosto hotey parey na'

The 'reality check' as such- is what our instincts tell us and our instinct very rarely fails us, so it would be a sheer fallacy to say that only kO'RAN sanctions killing and mayhem. If we are to read any or most of the religious scriptures and/or focus specifically on killings - the passages would be endless and even the bUDDHIST scripts are no exception - which again demonstrates that we have made mutual distrust and difference a habit based on our respective supremacist notions of our respective gODs and religions.

Somehow, despite the fact that many of us monotheist strongly reaffirm belief on the omnipotent and omniscient gOD - we think hE is far too weak, frail and incapble to defend hIMSELF - and thus murder is something hE cannot/may not commit - and it has to be man the 'frail and fragile being' who has to do it for hIM to 'appease hIM'? How ironic.

One of the reason why I have reduced my presence on the Net - is the ill feeling it generates, creates, and negates all of us from moving away from our core duty - i.e. to reinforce civility with respect and admiration for each others view, and importantly to concretize our struggle. Intolerance unfortunately has peaked to an all time crescendo (even in this close knit list of well meaning individuals) and for somebody such as me with a bAULs 'cursed sense of simplicity' - time such as now, are meant to read and reflect - and not to react.

Sure enough I have been accused of tactical retreat or even hibernation - but at the end of it all - blood begets blood, violence begets violence and ill feelings leads on to bad blood which as far as I am concerned is worse than murder. I am surely not 'brave' enough like many of you to make this a day in and day out pre-occupation :)

When I met Mahmud Hasan bhai during in his trip to London, I presented him with several books on Fakir Lalon sHAH and he was pleasantly surprised at the level of engagement and natural resistance our heritage has practised and have been successful over centuries.

Without sounding flippant - all that we discuss here with such profound passion - is really nothing new to the bAUL. Its time that we fall back on the gems from Bengals Bhaabbaad to shape the course of our ongoing struggle. Its time some or all of us had a closer look at what is already on offer from our own traditions - and importantly FREE. I wonder if there will be any taker?

Leave you with Fakir Lalon sHAH's words
Bohu Torkey din boye jai
Endless argument leads to wasted days
Biswas e dhon nikotey roi
Belief leads to possesions closest to us
sHIRAJ sHAI dekey bolen Lalon ke
sHIRAJ sHAH extolls Lalon
Koo torker dokan khulish ne ar
Do not open avenues for bickering and arguments
mANUSH gURUr nishtha jar
Trust the gOD in mAN alone
bhobey mANUSH gURUR nishtha jar
The Universal gOD in mAN - seek and repose faith in hIm alone.
Kind regards and jOI gURU to all /\
London, 20th July 2010
Mr. Haque,

I am one of your fans and I read many of your articles. All of them were excellent.
I am pleased to be able to read another great piece from you after a long time. Thanks for taking part in the discussion on the question of banning Maududi's books.

Yes, I agree with you that banning his books is ill-conceived. As you have said, his books will now be more in demand than they were before the ban. But I ask why ban his books, instead of banning or containing the sources from which Maududi derived inspiration for writing his books? Has he cooked up ideas and written them down in his books?

I strongly believe that Maududi relied on the Quran, Hadiths and Sira of the Prophet Muhammad for the materials of his books. He has written nothing that cannot be found in the three above sources of Islamic jurisprudence. Maududi is not at fault for espousing mayhem, hatred and killing of the infidels in his books; the above Islamic sources do.

Yes, I also agree with you that books alone do not drive people to do wrong things and kill people. But the Quran is not an ordinary book. Like the Bible, it is one of the most influential books on earth. To the majority of Muslims, Quran is their life and the Mullahs use its commandments to do things that they would not be doing had there been no demand on them to kill the non-believers in Islam and lay down their lives, while carrying out Allah and His Apostle's Will.

In my opinion, the government of Bangladesh should have banned the Quran, Hadiths and the Sira of the Prophet, if it had wanted to prevent its Muslim citizens from becoming Jihadists.
But does it, or for that reason, any other government in the world has the stomach to take such a drastic action?

I strongly doubt it.

Mohammad Asghar

Monday, July 19, 2010

[Debate] Freedom of speech vs Mawdudi Book ban - Exchange with Roy Brown

Dear Roy,
I have been reading this obviously incendiary thread with interest, and while opinions seems to vary with some not entirely happy with the banning of the book - and your re-think/correction to earlier stance notwithstanding : without getting into the merits or demerits of the Bangladesh Government decision, what does strike me as shocking is the timing of it all. I mean why now? If Mawdudi's book is/was - that very powerful to incite people to violence, how is it that the authorities in Dhaka took a few decades to enact this ban? What was it that caused them to wake up from slumber - or is this delayed trajectory of a wake-up call, a 'feel good exercise at fighting Fun-da-Mentalism' if we may?
My fear is, the ban is part of a larger agenda of covert pro-Jamaat elements within the Government of the day to: on the one hand earn cheap kudos and applause's from us obsessed and so-called 'progressive,secular,liberal' (have I missed out any!) section of the society, and on the other - to co-opt and feed on the Jamaat's intense penchant for megalomania - essentially to be in the news, to be of potent currency - when the reality is, had it not been for our continued failures they would have been by now, consigned to the trash can of history? As I have often argued without luck - more than us-versus-them, WE as a body here are contributing to Jamaat's survival and undue relevance and I can vouch for it that the bigots are having the last laugh all at our expense. Rest assured, we will be kept reactive, restless, listless and divided in the days ahead - period.
Historically anything that is banned generates curiosity and I will not be surprised that Mawdudi's books will hence be the next 'cause celebre reading' in Bangladesh and rest of the world - and that I assure you will not be limited only to the cap and habit wearing Mullahs in Mosques and Madrasas.
In retrospect the rise of the religious ultra-right wing in Bangladesh can be traced back to their demand for banning of Taslima Nasreen books/works - so what we have inherited as a legacy since, is an uneven confrontation when we are expected to fight Jamaat without having done our homework, with our eyes wilfully blindfolded and our wrist leashed firmly behind our back. Add to that our collective ignorance at not recognising the existent potent forces within our heritage, specially those in our folklore culture - that have strongly resisted and have always won for centuries in the struggle against the Shariati/Wahabist/Salafist brand of Islam perpetrated as 'mainstream-Islam' - without much noise, fanfare or media overkill. Designated by the 'educated elite' as a 'marginalised subordinate culture' - enlightened elements there thankfully do not have the luxury to sing/debate their glory in the comfort of their bedroom Net connection! I am therefore constrained to have to point out that all of us by default are making Mawdudi and Jamaat more 'popular' here then they really are. Shadow Boxing?
I strongly disagree that books alone provoke people to be radicalised and leads them to violence. More so often than not, the violent images shown on lopsided and biased TV news, Hollywood/Bollywood movies, serials are the ones that contribute to radicalism - and it is not surprising that many Al-Qaeda detenus post 09/11 have admitted to 'learning tactics from TV'. What may or may not provoke me or you into violence, may or may not on the flip side - guarantee that the next bomb set to explode may or may not be outside our homes or any area we have mentally marked 'safe'. There are no black or white equation on safety and security, no easy answers available, and all we can do is mark time on our own space and hope that our ignominy at being 'X-Ray stripped searched' at airports are mere aberrations and not an intrusion of our privacy - all on the premise that 'it is better to be safe than to be sorry'. Sure we may or may not be carrying hidden weapons - but in all honesty and decency is anybody quite prepared to brandish their 'privates' in public to satiates anybody's misplaced sense of security, simply because we look like, or have one of those queer sounding names - which some of the terrorists usually have?
For now, no one is talking about the damage these X-Ray machines do to our health, our systems - indeed our entire physical being - and for all I care, fatality rates from X-Rays tabulated for a future date - for all practical purposes - may be higher or equal to what the real or imagined terrorist could have possibly inflicted?
In conclusion - more than banning any book, I think it is time we ban our intolerance and collectively call on all Government heads still believing firmly in the Bushonian 'war or terror' to seek redress of their fear psychosis by visiting shrinks!
Kind regards
London, 19th July 2010