Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Supreme Court disapproves Haj subsidy, to be eliminated within 10 years

The Supreme Court today struck down the government's policy of giving subsidies to Haj pilgrims and directed that it be progressively "eliminated" within a period of 10 years.

"We hold that this policy is best done away with," a bench of justices Altamas Kabir and Ranjana Prakash Desai held.

The bench also directed the government to reduce to two the number of its representatives in the Prime Minister's goodwill delegation.

It said it will look into the functioning of Haj Committee of India and it process for selecting people for Haj pilgrimage.

The apex court was hearing an appeal filed by the Centre challenging a Bombay High Court judgement which had directed the Ministry of External Affairs to allow certain private operators to handle 800 of the 11,000 pilgrims earmarked under the VIP quota subsidised by the government.

The bench while hearing the plea of the Centre had expanded the purview of the plea and decided to look into the legality of the government's policy on granting subsidies to Haj pilgrims.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Robert Fisk: Arab Spring has washed the region's appalling racism out of the news

The Long View: Migrant workers from the subcontinent often live eight to a room in slums – even in oil-rich Kuwait

How many tracts, books, documentaries, speeches and doctoral theses have been written and produced about Islamophobia? How many denunciations have been made against the Sarkozys and the Le Pens and the Wilders for their anti-immigration (for which, read largely anti-Muslim) policies or – let us go down far darker paths – against the plague of Breivik-style racism?

The problem with all this is that Muslim societies – or shall we whittle this down to Middle Eastern societies? – are allowed to appear squeaky-clean in the face of such trash, and innocent of any racism themselves.

A health warning, therefore, to all Arab readers of this column: you may not like this week's rant from yours truly. Because I fear very much that the video of Alem Dechasa's recent torment in Beirut is all too typical of the treatment meted out to foreign domestic workers across the Arab world (there are 200,000 in Lebanon alone).

Many hundreds of thousands have now seen the footage of 33-year-old Ms Dechasa being abused and humiliated and pushed into a taxi by Ali Mahfouz, the Lebanese agent who brought her to Lebanon as a domestic worker. Ms Dechasa was transported to hospital where she was placed in the psychiatric wing and where, on 14 March, she hanged herself. She was a mother of two and could not stand the thought of being deported back to her native Ethiopia. That may not have been the only reason for her mental agony.

Lebanese women protested in the centre of Beirut, the UN protested, everyone protested. Ali Mahfouz has been formally accused of contributing to her death. But that's it.

The Syrian revolt, the Bahraini revolution, the Arab Awakening, have simply washed Alem Dechasa's tragedy out of the news. How many readers know – for example – that not long before Ms Dechasa's death, a Bengali domestic worker was raped by a policeman guarding her at a courthouse in the south Lebanese town of Nabatieh, after she had been caught fleeing an allegedly abusive employer?

As the Lebanese journalist Anne-Marie El-Hage has eloquently written, Ms Dechasa belonged to "those who submit in silence to the injustice of a Lebanese system that ignores their human rights, a system which literally closes its eyes to conditions of hiring and work often close to slavery". All too true.

How well I recall the Sri Lankan girl who turned up in Commodore Street at the height of the Israeli siege and shelling of West Beirut in 1982, pleading for help and protection. Like tens of thousands of other domestic workers from the sub-continent, her passport had been taken from her the moment she began her work as a domestic "slave" in the city; and her employers had then fled abroad to safety – taking the girl's passport with them so she could not leave herself. She was rescued by a hotel proprietor when he discovered that local taxi drivers were offering her a "bed" in their vehicles in return for sex.

Everyone who lives in Lebanon or Jordan or Egypt or Syria, for that matter, or – especially – the Gulf, is well aware of this outrage, albeit cloaked in a pious silence by the politicians and prelates and businessmen of these societies.

In Cairo, I once remarked to the Egyptian hosts at a dinner on the awful scars on the face of the young woman serving food to us. I was ostracised for the rest of the meal and – thankfully – never invited again.

Arab societies are dependent on servants. Twenty-five per cent of Lebanese families have a live-in migrant worker, according to Professor Ray Jureidini of the Lebanese American University in Beirut. They are essential not only for the social lives of their employers (housework and caring for children) but for the broader Lebanese economy.

Yet in the Arab Gulf, the treatment of migrant labour – male as well as female – has long been a scandal. Men from the subcontinent often live eight to a room in slums – even in the billionaires' paradise of Kuwait – and are consistently harassed, treated as third-class citizens, and arrested on the meanest of charges.

Saudi Arabia long ago fell into the habit of chopping off the heads of migrant workers who were accused of assault or murder or drug-running, after trials that bore no relation to international justice. In 1993, for example, a Christian Filipino woman accused of killing her employer and his family was dragged into a public square in Dammam and forced to kneel on the ground where her executioner pulled her scarf from her head before decapitating her with a sword.

Then there was 19-year old Sithi Farouq, a Sri Lankan housemaid accused of killing her employer's four-year-old daughter in 1994. She claimed her employer's aunt had accidentally killed the girl. On 13 April, 1995, she was led from her prison cell in the United Arab Emirates to stand in a courtyard in a white abaya gown, crying uncontrollably, before a nine-man firing squad which shot her down. It was her 20th birthday. God's mercy, enshrined in the first words of the Koran, could not be extended to her, it seems, in her hour of need.

Source: http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/fisk/robert-fisk-arab-spring-has-washed-the-regions-appalling-racism-out-of-the-news-7718707.html

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Pakistan Hindus, mercilessly killed, forcibly converted to Islam

When Pakistan came into existence in 1947, 24 per cent of the population were Hindus. And now look at the percentage of Hindus in Pakistan, just below two per cent. What happened to the rest?

by Bharati Krishna

The plight of Hindus living in Pakistan and Bangladesh is not an issue to the world, in particular India. They have been ruthlessly killed or converted to Islam in these religious nations. The remaining Hindu population in these countries have no human rights and they are considered as second-class citizens. Since the formation of these two Islamic republics, the Hindus living there have been terrorized and subjected to forcible conversions.

When Pakistan came into existence in 1947, 24 per cent of the population were Hindus. And now look at the percentage of Hindus in Pakistan, just below two per cent. What happened to the rest? Majority of them have been mercilessly killed by the Islamic fanatics and the rest forcibly converted to Islam.

The same happened in the case of Bangladeshi Hindus. The percentage of Hindu population in Bangladesh in 1947 (then East Pakistan) was numbered at 31. But with course of time it has been declined and stationed at nine per cent now. Massive religious conversion and ruthless murders of the Hindus were the reasons for this decline. 

When the world asks about the human rights violations of many other groups in various countries, it never asks what happened to those Hindus in Pakistan. The so-called secular government of India have not bothered about the serious issue so far. 

During the period 1970-1971 over two million Hindus are reported to have been killed in East Pakistan, now known as Bangladesh. Activists point out that numerous Hindu women were kidnapped and raped during this period.

“Hindus suffer constant threats to their lives, security and property in Pakistan and Bangladesh. Many Hindu temples have been despoiled and wiped out there. There are regular reports of illegal encroachments on Hindu temples and lands, looting of Hindu property, discrimination, persecution, molestation and abduction of Hindu girls,” says a Muslim activist who fights against the atrocities of Hindus in Pakistan.

Dr Sabyasachi Ghosh-Dastidar in his book, Empire’s Last Casualty: Indian Subcontinent’s vanishing Hindu & other Minorities, points out that over three million Hindus have been killed in the process of Islamisation in the area now known as Bangladesh (formerly East Pakistan) since India was partitioned in 1947. This loss of three million lives remains suppressed from the world.

The sad thing is that, the so-called secular media which cry for all unwanted things have been silent spectators of this ethnic cleansing. And the Indian government also does nothing regarding this even though the country has the moral responsibility to protect the Hindus. Actually denying human rights to Hindus infringes UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948, but what to do when these rights are reserved only for a few.

Source: http://www.theviewspost.com/story.php?id=193

Thursday, May 3, 2012

29 Somali MUSLIMS indicted for kidnapping, raping, and selling underage white girls IN TENNESSEE & OTHER U.S. STATES

The indictment said three MUSLIM gangs called the Somali Outlaws, the Somali Mafia and the Lady Outlaws were forcing teenage girls into prostitution and operated in St. Paul, Minneapolis; Columbus, and Nashville.

CLEVELAND A federal trial involving more than two dozen defendants accused in a sex trafficking ring run by Somali MUSLIM gangs is being complicated by cultural issues within the Somali MUSLIM refugee communities in Minnesota and Tennessee. Defense attorneys argued that the defendants, many of whom are refugees from Somalia, were juveniles at the time the alleged crimes occurred.
After selecting a jury last month, the trial was delayed last week when prosecutors turned over thousands of documents and audio recordings from the investigation to defense attorneys on the eve of trial. Both defense attorneys and federal prosecutors have repeatedly declined to comment about the case. (Of course not, when it’s about Muslims, mum’s the word)
The indictment, which was originally unsealed in 2010 and amended by a superseding indictment in 2011, says the defendants, many of them from the Somali MUSLIM immigrant communities in Minneapolis and Nashville, were members or associates of the three gangs. Four unidentified victims, some of who were under the age of 14, are listed in the indictment.

The indictment accuses the gangs of finding and recruiting young girls for the purpose of prostitution in exchange for money and drugs between 2000 and 2010.
Out of the 30 individuals listed in the indictment, only 14 are going to trial this month in Nashville on charges of conspiracy to commit sexual trafficking of children by force, fraud or coercion and charges related to the sexual trafficking. Many of the individuals have remained in federal custody since their arrests in 2010.

Smith has been working with Jane Doe #2 in the case and said testifying against other Somali MUSLIMS will be very difficult for the victim, but she wants to have her voice heard. ”In the case of Jane Doe #2, she, as a minor, would typically be in a closed court, but she wants to have her story known and she wants to speak in public,” Smith said.

Many, but not all the defendants, are described as refugees who came to the United States as young children. Police have relied on immigration paperwork to determine their ages, but defense attorneys have argued in court that information in those documents are routinely incorrect due to cultural and language issues. (No, it is because Muslims lie. Period)

Courts in Minnesota, the state with the largest Somali MUSLIM population in the U.S., have seen similar issues in cases where defendants or victims are Somali MUSLIMS.

“When you are dealing with an  inbred community, especially whose native language is not English, people are going to worry about the ramifications of testifying in court against community members,” Scott said. “The Somali MUSLIM community is a very insular community in Minnesota — everybody knows everybody (and most everybody is married to their own family members)

Courtesy: http://patriotsforamerica.ning.com/forum/topic/show?id=2734278%3ATopic%3A353800&xgs=1&xg_source=msg_share_topic

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Pakistani Hindus in Jodhpur don’t want to go back

A group of nine Pakistani Hindus, who have migrated to India and reached Jodhpur on Friday, became part of a large number of Pakistani Hindus living in Jodhpur without Indian citizenship.

‘’We will not go back at any cost, we fear for our lives and safety in Pakistan,” said Arjun, who moved to India from Sindh with eight of his family members. The process of Hindu minority members migrating to India has been continuing for years and every week the Thar Express brings several Pakistan Hindus to India.

There are over 5,000 such Pakistani Hindus residing in Jodhpur, said a senior police officer.
According to police sources, since January to March 2012, 333 Pakistani Hindus came to Jodhpur and only 132 returned to Paksitan. The rest decided to renounce their Pakistani citizenship and stay permanently in India.

The Seemant Lok Sangthan (SLS), however, claimed over 7,000 such Pakistani Hindus have been living in Jodhpur and its neighbouring districts in the desert region.

“We are raising our voice to grant these Paksitani Hindus citizenship of India. The last time India granted its citizenship to 13,000 Pakistani Hindus was in 2005, but after that no such move has made since,” said SLS president Hindu Singh Sodha, who is spearheading a campaign for Pakistani Hindus. The Hindu Pakistanis said for minority groups, life in Pakistan is worse than death. The 35-year-old Tija Bai came only two weeks ago to India with her six children. But her husband was not lucky enough to get a visa. “We have no option except to move to India,” said Tija.

Most of the Hindus who migrated from Pakistan belong to the lower strata of society, including dalits or tribal Bheels.

“After the rise of radial Islamic groups, Pakistani Hindus made a beeline to migrate to India or they face forced conversion and kidnapping,” Mr Sodha said.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Buddhists, Hindus, Jains & Sikhs Combine for 1st White House Conference for Social Justice

Hindu American Seva Charities (HASC) again made history, co-hosting with The White House Office of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Agencies and the White House Office of Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships an historic conference, Community Building in the 21st Century with Strengthened Dharmic Faith-Based Institutions for the Dharmic (defined as ,Buddhist, Hindu, Jain, Sikh) Religious Leaders. HASC partnered with many Buddhist, Hindu, Jain and Sikh organizations, including the Council of Hindu Temples, Federation of Jain Associations of North America, Soka Gakkai International-USA Buddhist Association and others to create a coalition that can reach deliver collaborative solutions and services to benefit the communities around us while promoting better understanding of our beliefs, cultures and values.

In his opening remarks, Paul Monteiro, Associate Director, White House Office of Public Engagement observed that the Dharmic-American community is interested in all the same issues that everyone is interested in – healthcare, security, education, etc. He encouraged the participants to follow up this conference with action, saying “the real measure of this conference’s success will be in how much more engaged in service the dharmic communities become in the months ahead.”

“In America, our collective faith infrastructures (temples, ashrams, and meditation and yoga studios) are in early stages of development. The Dharmic Americans, mostly post 1964 immigrants, are just becoming part of the mosaic of the pluralistic landscape of America. …As we see it, in America, the seva movement is a tool for social justice, a way to deal with community issues. The eastern Dharmic traditions share many commonalities and have infrastructure gaps. We are trying to understand how can we engage with each other collectively, what are our issues? How can more of us engage with the administration?” said Anju Bhargava of HASC, lead organizer of the event. “We hope this will be the first step in the Dharmic community coming together to explore and identify common ground and building a coalition that will strengthen each other and our nation.”

Asim Mishra, Acting Chief of Staff of Corporation for National Community Service emphasized, “service as a strategy is not service for the sake of service only; it has to be a credible way of solving problems in communities. We need to broaden the reach to address priority issues – economy, education, veterans and disaster relief. Serve America Act makes service a larger part of the national fabric. VISTAs and Americorps, Teach for America are funded through CNCS.”

Senator Harris Wofford, advisor to Martin Luther King and the pioneering force behind the creation of Peace Corps spoke of the profound contribution that Hindu spirituality made to the US Civil Rights movement said, “I am experiencing public happiness at this gathering, to see the pursuit of self-government, ‘Svaraj’ as they would say in India. When I was 12 years old I went to India. In 1938, I saw Gandhi in Mumbai. I started with Kennedy in D.C. and subsequently went to India through the Peace Corps. After college I got a Fullbright scholarship and went with my wife for one year to pursue the ideals of Gandhi—and wrote a book about him [. . . ]I came back and joined the civil rights movement, and brought Gandhi-ism to America [. . .] This room, where the conference is being held, is the Indian Treaty room, where many things have happened – and history can be made here with this Dharmic undertaking. A follower of Gandhi said that the two great idea ideas of the 20th century were from Einstein and Gandhi. Einstein showed how to access tremendous physical energy through splitting the atom; Gandhi taught us how to crack the atom of people power. The diaspora power of India is great.

Ambassador Cahill, former Counsel General in India, stated, “If there is any strong force in the world, it is individuals who are committed, and faith based organizations have particular strength. We as individuals we can do so much, sometimes more than big organizations.”

During a session with Rev. Suzan Johnson Cook, United States Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, concerns were raised about the condition of religious minorities (particularly Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist) in Pakistan and Bangladesh, as well as the plight of Budhists in South-east Asia and Tibet. Dr. Siva Subramanian, HASC Board Member called on the ambassador to bring the US Dharmic community to the table so they can work more closely with her in addressing their concerns.

Other topics of focus for the participants were the serious challenges being faced by Burmese and Bhutanese refugees in America; the networking of dharmic community resources for disaster response and in support of anti-terrorism efforts; the support of religious literacy programs in the public schools and providing much needed support for dharma-based members of the US Armed Forces.

Eskinder Negesh indicated his Office of Refugee Resettlement, has settled 60,000 Burmese and Bhutanese refugees in the past two years. He expressed concern about the high rate of suicide among the Bhutanese refugees and welcomed the Dharmic group to work with him to get to the roots of the issues, just as HASC has assisted with this research on Bhutanese refugees for the past two years.

Homeland Security representatives emphasized that government depends on the communities for help in response and recovery. Dharmic members serve on the Council and DHS expressed an interest in increasing the two-way information sharing in faith based communities, recognizing the importance of protection of places of worship through information sharing. DHS is working together to keep communities safer. Public engagement can be enhanced with the “See something, Say something campaign,” especially with the Dharmic community.

Kenneth Bedell, Policy Advisor, shared the announcement of Together for Tomorrow, a program initiated by the Department of Education and White House Faith OFBNP to re-emphasis the idea that education is not just the responsibility of the teachers, schools or parents, but of the whole community, including the students). Communities can come together using their resources in cooperation with schools, teachers, federal government and parents to address issues. Diversity of religion is important in education as there is the power of diversity. Regarding confusing on the separation of church and state, he clarified that the U.S. constitution does not say that the school has to avoid all talk about religion or sharing of information. The Department of Education cannot dictate curriculum; it encourages the states to develop core curriculum, and the public should provide input. Interfaith groups can make curricula and propose them to the federal government.

Dr. Sushil Jain, CAPT, U.S. Navy-retd and President, Federation of Jain Associations in North America (JAINA) emphasized the importance of “‘serving those who serve of Dharmic faiths. Temples can prepare care packages for soldiers, help the veterans transition to the community and assist fallen citizens (those who have been incarcerated), as they too deserve our support.” He concluded, “This first Dharma Conference at the White house was amazing. It helped JAINA delegates understand the level of attention and priority President Obama has given in reaching out to minority faith group. We, Buddhists, Hindus, Jains and Sikhs were delighted to hear about various programs and how we can partner with federal agencies in addressing our community needs. We at JAINA are looking forward to our follow-up conference.”

Khyati Jyoshi of Fairley Dickenson University observed that religion is lived through acquisition of knowledge, through ritual and action, seva and transnational ties. But many second generation are disengaged and do not consider themselves religious. Perhaps because they don’t get up at five A.M. to do puja or are not vegetarian. She challenged the immigrant generation adapt and more fully engage the second generation, provide adult religious classes for a generation which is hungry for knowledge and eager to know about their roots.

“This conference marked an expansion and deepening of the dialogue between the administration and the Buddhist, Hindu and Jain and Sikh communities and a recognition of the growing contribution these faiths are making in American society. And I think it got a number of the faith representatives thinking about how they can expand on those contributions,” said Bill Aiken, Public Affairs Director, Soka Gakkai Buddhist Association.

Joshua Stanton of Inter Religious Dialogue said, “The U.S. is the most religiously diverse country since the fall of the Roman Empire – so how do we lead? India has been the most religiously diverse country for millennia. How can we learn from the Dharmic communities? How do we increase positive relationships and make pluralism a reality.”

Bud Heckman, Religions for Peace USA said, “We have a United Nations, why can’t we have a united front of religions working for peace? Today, 76% of America is Christian – by 2050 more than 50% the American public will be non-Christian. So understanding the Dharmic community is important.”

Mark Farr, National Vision of Public Engagement observed, “in the service movement of the U.S. we see, increasingly the crucial facing is the idea of disconnect – faith from business, from family. Individually we are disconnected from each other. The Dharmic traditions (such as yoga and meditation) can teach gentleness, compassion and wholeness to the Western traditions.”

We hope this will be the first step in the Dharmic community, in coming together to explore and identify common ground, unite for social justice and build a coalition to strengthen each other and our nation.

Organizations present in this conference:

Arya Samaj
Ashtanga Yoga Studio and Hindu
Bhartiya Hindu Temple
Bridgewater Venkateswara Temple
Buddhist Churches of America
Buddhist Global Relief
Cambodian Buddhist Temple
Charlotte Hindu Temple
Chua giac Hoang (Vietnamese) Temple
DFW Hindu Temple
Fairleigh Dickenson University
Federation of Jain Associations in North
America (JAINA)
George Washington University
George Washington University
Guruvayur Temple
Hindu Center, Charlotte
Hindu Temple of Atlanta
Hindu Temple of Metropolitan
Hindu temple of St. Louis
Hindu Temple of Virgina
Hindu Temple of Wisconsin
Houston Meenakshi Temple
International Buddhist Center
International Buddhist Committee
International Society of Krishna Consciousness
Kashi Temple
M.A. Math (Amma)
Mahwah Hindu Temple
Malibu Temple
Murugan Temple
Naropa University
Nashville Temple
New England Hindu Temple (Lakshmi
Prison Dharma Network
Sanatan Mandir
SGI-USA, Youth Anti-violence program
Sikh Organization
Soka Gakkai International-USA
Council of Hindu Temples of North
Sri Siva Vishnu Temple, Lanham
Sri Venkataswara Temple of NC ,TIPS,
Tricycle – The Buddhist Review
Tzu Chi Foundation #1
Tzu Chi Foundation #2
Univ of the West Buddhist Chaplain Program
UVCEF/CAACC/HCCLTVikramasila Foundation (Tibetan)
Wat Lao Temple
Won Buddhism – USA
Zen Center for Contemplative (Hospice) Care
Inter-religious Dialogue
National Vision of Public Engagement
Religions for Peace USA
Many Federal Agencies
Organizing Committee:
Anju Bhargava
Siva Subramanian
William Aiken
B.N. Hebbar
Mythili Bachu
Shashikant Sane
Sushil Jain
Manoj Dharamsi
Paramjit Labana