Updates

Articles

Articles posted by Radical Socialist on various issues.

Tool-Down strike at Haldia Dock Complex

Tool-Down strike at Haldia Dock Complex

Workers at Haldia Dock Complex of Kolkata Port Trust staged a successful tool-down strike on August 3, 2011 from 2 pm - 6 pm. This action by more than 2,000 workers brought the port operations to a stand-still. The workers organised under the banner of Haldia Dock Complex Contrators' Sramik Union are protesting against the illegal termination of 60 workers of the Haldia Dock Complex (P & E Division) who were working last five years at Berth No 10 Rubber Tyred Yard Gantry Cranes (RTYGC).

The 60 workers have been working for the last 5 years. These jobs are of regular and permanent nature of work . They are recruited by port and put under the contractors. There has been changes of contractors, twice in the last 5 years but these workers have continued to be in work under successive contractors. They were employed in the container yard for loading and unloading of containers.

The contract of the previous contractor terminated on June 30, 2011 and on July 1, 2011 Land- Marine Equipment Services Private Limited from Mumbai assumed charge of the Operation & Maintenance of four Rubber Tyred Yard Gantry Cranes, at Container Parking Yard of Haldia Dock Complex. Immediately they terminated all 60 workers of the RTYGC. This is illegal under Contract Labour (Regulation & Abolition) Act, 1970 and Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 . The work is currently being managed by 15 workers brought from outside.

The 60 workers have started a sit-in-demonstration at the gate since their termination. The port authorities moved to the office of Regional Labour Commissioner (Central) to settle the matter. After a conciliation meeting on July 20, 2011 the Additional Labour Commissioner strongly expressed that these workers cannot be terminated and they must be reinstated within 7 days. The representative of the port authority in fact expressed his satisfaction at the performance of the 60 workers. The port authorities as the principal employer are still to implement the advices of the ALC.

A bilateral meeting took place on July 18, between the union and Land- Marine Equipment Services Private Limited in the presence of the local Member of Parliament where it was mutually decided that all workers would be taken back. However, the contor has violated the above decision. The principal employer, i.e. The port authorities have remained silent on the issue.

The workers of the Haldia Dock Complex are prepared to launch further struggles for their demands which might lead to an indefinite strike if their demands are not met within that time. There might be attacks on them from the contractor, the port authorities, the administration, police, local politicians and their goons. Already there have been instances of threats and intimidation against the workers during the tool-down strike.

We count on your support and solidarity to make this struggle successful.

Please send press statements in solidarity with the struggle. Letters to the Chairman of Kolkata Port Trust, M L Meena, Fax:(91-33) 2230-4901, e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , Dy. Chairman, HDC, Kolkata Port Trust Manish Jain Fax: (91-03224) 264877 & (91-033) 2230-5438 e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. & This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Additional letters and faxes to the Minister of Shipping, G K Vasan,  Fax: +91 11 2335 6709, Mukul Roy, MoS, Fax: +91 11 2373 0084 and the Secretary, K Mohandas, Fax: +91 11 2371 6656.

The Tragedy in Norway : Learning from Muslim Fundamentalists

The Tragedy in Norway: Learning from Muslim Fundamentalists

 

By: Farooq Tariq

 

32 years old Norwegian, Anders Behring Breivik, who killed 92 on 22ndJuly 2011 in Oslo has used similar techniques in bomb blast and shooting of the children from his most hatred enemy, the Muslim fundamentalist. He did not rest on one attack but planned two actions to maximize the damage. While the Norwegian police was busy in handling the aftermath of the bomb blast scenario in the afternoon, he was able to shoot the youth at a summer camp for over 90 minutes without any resistance.

The technique of two attacks, one to divert the attention and second to maximize the damage is been successfully used by Muslim fundamentalists in Pakistan on several occasions.

In a similar action, two back-to-back suicide bombings and a cracker blast killed 40 people and injured over 175 inside the crowded shrine of Data Gunj Bukhsh a year before on 2nd July 2010 in Lahore. However, in Norway, the planning of Anders Behring Breivik was much better and more calculated than his counter parts in Pakistan. There have been several similar actions carried out in Pakistan where not one, but two actions were planned.

Anders Behring Breivik who had held several positions in one of Norway’s biggest political parties, the Right-wing Progress Party, from 1999 to 2007 was described as a “right-wing fundamentalist Christian” by Norwegian police. He had close links with the Pakistani community in Oslo at one time in his life, it is now revealed.

“A few years ago… I had different priorities in life,” he wrote in a series of messages obtained exclusively by The Washington Times, he said that his “best friend for many years (in my childhood) was a Pakistani. He resented everything about Norway and Norwegians (me being the exception). I have known a lot of Muslims over the years which triggered my interest for Islam. Anders Behring Breivik was full of hate against Islam and Marxism.

 He wanted to teach lesson to Labour Party, (it renamed Labour Party from Norwegian Labour Party in 2011) who had soft attitude towards Muslims.

 The Labour Party is a social-democratic political party in Norway. It is the senior partner in the current Norwegian government as part of the Red-Green Coalition, and its leader, Jens Stoltenberg, is the current Prime Minister of Norway. His office on the 20 floor was severely damaged in the Friday bomb blast in which over 6 tons of fertilizer was used.

 The party was founded in 1887 in Arendal and first ran in elections to the Parliament of Norway in 1894. It entered Parliament in 1904 after the 1903 election, and steadily increased its vote until 1927, when it became the largest party.

 During the 2009 general elections, seven parties are represented in parliament: the Labour Party (64 representatives), the Progress Party (41) the party of Anders Behring Breivik, the killer, the Conservative (30), the Socialist Left Party (11), the Centre Party (11), the Christian Democratic Party (10) and the Liberal Party (2).

 The tragic action shows that “Islamophobia” is reaching to an extreme and adopting similar actions of Muslim fundamentalists. The indulgent attitude of the main stream right wing conservative politicians and courts has not helped to cool down the emotion of the extreme sections of the Christian religious fundamentalists. Earlier this year, the acquittal of Right-wing Dutch politician Geert Wilders of charges of inciting hatred against Muslims by an Amsterdam court indicates that Islamophobia is on the rise in the West and is promoting extreme groups to go further.

 Islamophobia refers to unfounded fear of and hostility towards Islam. Such fear and hostility leads to discriminations against Muslims, exclusion of Muslims from mainstream political or social process, stereotyping, the presumption of guilt by association, and finally hate crimes.

 On Saturday night, a video emerged in which the killer, posing with weapons, appears to set out his motivation for the attacks, calling for the eradication of Islam and Marxism from Europe.

 

A keen body builder and gun enthusiast Anders Behring Breivik, writing on the internet, he cited his hatred for Muslims and enthusiasm for the English Defence League. On the social networking site Twitter Breivik posted a quote on July 17 by the English philosopher John Stuart Mill:“One person with a belief is equal to the force of 100,000 who have only interests.”

 Anders Behring Breivik used the material as Muslim fundamentalists in Pakistan would use for bomb blasts. It emerged that he had run a farming business and only 10 weeks ago had bought six tons of artificial fertilizer, which he is believed to have used to make the car bomb that was detonated in Oslo’s political district.

 It is interesting to look into his mindset that was building gradually over the years. On “Fear of Islam Taking Over Oslo” he blogged: “There are political forces in Oslo who want mass-subsidised and low-cost 'Islam-blocks' in Oslo West for 'better integration'... If this ever becomes the case, most of Oslo West will move to Bærum (and most will eventually follow).

 He believes that the number of Muslims in Western Europe is “reaching critical mass” and that “there is a core of Cultural Communist elites in Western Europe who really want to destroy Western civilization, European traditions, national solidarity and Christianity.” But he believes an impending economic meltdown will generate armed grassroots resistance in Europe. He spelled out his beliefs in what he saw as the threats to the European identity posed by radical Muslims and multiculturalists.

 He once again referred to Pakistan and particularly NW Pakistan (North West Pakistan) in one of message. “The Muslim ‘ghettofication process’ on the east side of my city is pretty radical. Most of these Muslims are religiously conservative non-educated individuals from NW Pakistan and Somalia which makes it even more challenging. The only positive aspect I guess is that they live in their own enclave (parallel society) with little to no interaction with Norwegian society.”

 “The biggest challenge in all of this is that people don't have a clue what Islam is,” he wrote “The key is therefore to propagate the truth about Islam.

 He is against multi cultural society. His attack was mainly against the Prime Minister's party. One attack was in the city centre which damaged the Prime Minister's office, Norway's largest newspapers VG's head office and some other buildings nearby were damaged as a result of the explosion. The second attack was an island Utøya which is just outside of Oslo. That island is a political icon of Norway. Youth wing to the Labour Party, AUF, had their annual summer camp there and around 700 youths attended. On Saturday, may be first time in history of Norway, all cinemas, restaurants and clubs were closed in Oslo. It is irony that the only media speculated without any investigation that it is an action by Muslim was a Muslim main stream media, the Al Jazeera, who said it was Muslims who were behind the attacks.

 One of the known writer and actor of Norway, Toni Usman wrote the following after the incident,

 “Fundamentalists do not have distinctive features such as facial appearance, skin colour or religion. It can be anyone person(s) and can choose to attack anywhere.

Norwegian democracy is unique in that the Prime Minister along with other Ministers can go about their daily lives without security by their side. Norway’s King can travel by public transport without anyone batting an eyelid and it is this democracy which is under attack.  All public places such as clubs, restaurants etc are closed. Parliament House is surrounded by military soldiers. Oslo city centre looks like a war zone. After these attacks Norway will never be the same again. So much emotional trauma has been caused and nothing can compare to this. Everyone is in deep shock. In peaceful Norway, nobody could even think that a Norwegian Christian extremist nationalist would be able to perform an act which is in the same category as international terrorism”.

 Labour Party Pakistan expresses its solidarity with the families of the deceased in particular and with the people of Norway in general. Now, the religious fundamentalists are learning from each other and it is making the lives of the people in the advance countries more miserable and leading to an uncertain future.

The progressive forces of the under develop countries and develop countries have to forge more close association than what it has been seen in the past. It has to take decisive political actions against the rise of the neo fascist and an alliance of all the progressive forces must be one of the main strategies. There has to be a concrete programme to fight religious fundamentalism. It has to combine an immediate dealing with the terrorist attacks and curbing the activities of the fascist forces from their strongholds along with an overall plan of action in economic, political and social fields.

 The forces of religious fundamentalism organize on an international basis. A fight against them has to be organized at that same level. The Americans’ "war on terror" is fueling more religious fundamentalism. It is seen as a war on Muslims. The occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan by the imperialist forces is providing the religious fanatics a political justification for their terrorist activities.   Clearly occupation must end. The campaign against religious fundamentalism must be part and parcel of an anti-globalization campaign by all progressive forces. We must oppose both occupation and religious fundamentalism.


Farooq Tariq
spokesperson 
Labour Party Pakistan

Rajarhat: Accumulation by Dispossession?

Rajarhat: Accumulation by Dispossession?

Suhit K. Sen


The Rajarhat story is fundamentally a story of displacement, loss of livelihoods and ecological degradation brought about by the Left Front government in cahoots with a real estate mafia allied with business interests. So what’s new? There is something new about the story of the building of a new township in Rajarhat and that is what this piece will focus on.


Some background would help sharpen the contours of my argument. It would be fair to say that there has been an intensification of struggles over land in the past five years or so – or to be more exact, struggles of a particular kind. Over this period, in public debates, centred on the media or not, the land question has come to mean the rights of ‘peasants’ to their land as against the claims of the state exercising its right of ‘eminent domain’. This has mainly been the case since the enactment of the special economic zone (SEZ) law and consequently the clearance of huge industrial projects for which oftentimes the agencies of the state have stepped in to acquire land under the guise of ‘public purpose’ only to hand it over to private entrepreneurs. That is to say, when land has been acquired for ‘public purpose’ to facilitate the pursuit of private profit. This is in contradistinction to earlier understandings of the land question, when it signified the contending claims of various social classes – landlords, rich peasants, middle peasants, small and marginal peasants, sharecroppers, agricultural labourers – over the land and its produce.


In the wake of this development, there have been a spate of popular movements against such land acquisition countrywide and even the judiciary, which played a conservative role in the protection of private property in the first two decades or so after independence to frustrate state policy designed to redistribute land and other agrarian resources, has stepped in to define the notion of public purpose more rigorously. The Supreme Court ruled, for instance, in one case that land acquired in the name of public purpose could not be given away to private players for the pursuit of private profit. A string of anti-acquisition, anti-SEZ movements have been mobilized countrywide in the past few years – against POSCO, the Tata project in Kalinganagar, the Vedanta project in the Niyamgiri hills, all in Orissa; against the Reliance SEZ in Maharashtra; and the Adani project in Gujarat.


I would argue, in the Bengal context, that it was this countrywide ferment that provided the charge which made the Singur and Nandigram agitations so successful. But that is not the major point. What is germane is that over a decade before this wave of anti-acquisition movements had galvanized significant sections of the peasantry as well as activists and political groups, the conceptualization of the new town in Rajarhat had started, as well as notification and acquisition of land – in terms of intent about eight times more in extent than in Singur – and there was barely a murmur of protest in the public arena. It was only activists on the ground and those who stood to lose their lands and livelihoods who waged a losing battle against the forced acquisition of land. By now we have a rough idea why this happened: briefly the opposition was co-opted, the media complaisant and elite opinion ignorant of what was going on. These need not detain us here for now.


What we do need to begin with when we look at the Rajarhat story is something curious. At no point during the conceptualization of the new township project was it considered to be primarily an industrial/commercial hub. On the contrary, it was clearly conceived of as a residential space that would take the pressure of habitation off Kolkata – more than 50 per cent of the land that was to make up the new town was allocated for residential use; just over 10 per cent was for industrial/commercial use. There was no rhetoric about creating employment opportunities in the early days; it was much later, in fact well after the SEZ Act was passed, that some noises were made about employment-generation and skill-impartation for the dispossessed and, as we know, that was mostly pie in the sky. In other words, implicit in the design of the new town project was the unashamed proposition that one group of people were to be deracinated, denied access to the resources they had earlier enjoyed, stripped off their livelihoods, so that another, mostly affluent, set of people could be provided habitation in a ‘green’ and sylvan setting, in well-appointed gated settings with access to a luxurious, hi-tech lifestyle. That this utopia was to turn into a dystopian, shambolic nightmare is another matter.


In its own defence, the Left Front government, of course, argued that the area – well over 3,000 hectares – that had been acquired was low-lying, low-yield land, much of which was not under cultivation, the not-so-subtle implication being, of course, that the loss caused was minimal by way of gainful livelihoods. We shall for the moment not go at any length into the implications of this argument, which, briefly, is that there is nothing much wrong with depriving people of their livelihoods merely because they yield meagre returns, without making sure that they are rehabilitated with livelihoods that yield plentiful returns. In point of fact, the area acquired, and its environs supported a large number of people with a variety of agricultural or agriculture-related activities – paddy and vegetable cultivation, horticulture and pisciculture, or fishing in general, not to speak of household industry or trade and other services related to agriculture. I shall not go into statistics related to yields and extent of cultivation, apart from pointing out that claims made by local cultivators and activists, corroborated by independent studies (one, for instance, conducted by the Indian Statistical Institute) bear out the fact that yields were much higher than claimed by the government – I am implying that this was in no way an agricultural economy in total decline.


It must be admitted, however, that from the data relating to agrarian stratification it does appear that the vast majority of the people were agricultural labourers and a vast majority of owner-cultivators were small and marginal farmers, with a smattering of middle peasants and almost no big peasants in the picture (we shall revert to this point). In other words, this seemed to have been a broad-based agricultural economy that operated mostly at a subsistence level, but was meshed with the market in that it supplied some amount of vegetables and fish to Kolkata. This also implies, logically, that the Rajarhat area contained a sustainable agrarian economy that provided livelihoods to a large number of people and that the new township project destroyed it depriving over 100,000 people of livelihoods and access to resources. The government’s claims were patently false.


The new township project didn’t just destroy livelihoods; it also destroyed the environment. Replying to accusations that it had indeed destroyed a wetland area, made in several forums, including the Calcutta High Court, the state government iterated and reiterated that area acquired was not notified as a wetland. Simultaneously, it claimed that it was going to create more water bodies than it would fill, on its way to creating an environmental-friendly city with vast areas of open, leafy swathes of territory, apart from the increased water bodies of course. To begin with, however, it has to be pointed out that whether it was notified as a wetland or not, it is abundantly clear that it did partake of the character of a wetland in no uncertain manner. If it was not notified, that must be put be down as an act of criminal irresponsibility on the part of the government in the first place. That being as it might, whatever the government’s claims, it is quite clear that the environment in the Rajarhat area has been despoiled on a massive scale, with the unconscionable filling up of huge amounts of water bodies and low-lying areas and the felling of a large number of trees. It is quite clear that the Left Front government consistently failed to understand a simple point that in these days of heightened environmental consciousness even school children appreciate: that Kolkata and its environs is located in a terrain that slopes downwards from the Hooghly in the west to the East Kolkata wetlands in the east and that the indiscriminate urbanization of the wetlands will not only destroy a fragile ecosystem and the biodiversity it supports – which has happened – but also destroy the natural drainage of the area leading ultimately to phenomena like water logging and suchlike, which too has already happened. It is a matter of the greatest irony that the new town itself, in the absence of a proper sewerage and drainage system is inundated every monsoon along with other northeastern suburbs of Kolkata.


I would like to end this piece with two questions – one specific and one of a more general nature. First, why did the state government find it so easy to steamroller resistance on its way to building the new town? Was the reason purely conjunctural in the sense that there was no political opposition, little media coverage and public awareness, or were there some deeper structural reasons? The answer one suspects is a bit of both. But then what were the structural causes for the relative failure of resistance. One can only conjecture. But it probably would not be too far-fetched to advance the following hypothesis. As we have seen, Rajarhat’s agrarian population consisted largely of agricultural workers, who obviously had a stake in the local economy but no formal claim to the most important resource – land. Of the rest of the population, most people involved in agriculture were small and marginal farmers. At a political economy level, this seems to suggest that this would give them a greater stake in resisting because the amount of money they would get for their land would hardly sustain them for any length of time. At another level, it could well be the case that since there were a large number of small and marginal farmers to organize, who had limited wherewithal to survive the combined attack of the state and its mafia allies, the resistance could not be cogently organized.


Second, in what larger political theoretic frame should we try to locate Rajarhat? Two influential frameworks have been proposed for looking at Bengal politics, especially under Left Front rule. One is Partha Chatterjee’s idea of political society, which looks at the negotiations outside the formal political process through which rights and entitlements are distributed or garnered by social groups. The second is Dwaipayan Bhattacharya’s idea of party society, which proposes that resources, including social and political power, are distributed through party channels as parties insinuate themselves into society and society itself becomes polarized along party lines generating a competitive scramble for these resources. Neither of these, clearly, applies to the Rajarhat case in which there was, in fact, a polar opposite of negotiation and where a cross-party consensus in part killed any scope for resistance (or negotiation, for that matter). A third model has been proposed, which suggests that we try to look at Rajarhat as a case of ‘primitive accumulation’ where extra-economic power wielded by the state in conjunction with business interests and their paid thugs pulled off the expropriation of the peasants and the appropriation of their land by private entrepreneurs through the good offices of the state. This framework explains the Rajarhat more cogently, with a caveat. I am uncomfortable with the use of the idea of ‘primitive accumulation’ because in my reading it has connotations that go beyond the mere use of extra-economic muscle to make accumulation possible. If we substitute it with the idea of accumulation by dispossession, which has more limited ramifications, I think we have a frame of reference, at least to begin with.

Support International Viewpoint’s work!

Support International Viewpoint’s work!

International Viewpoint

 

Six years after its launch as an online magazine at the time of the Indian Ocean Tsunami in January 2005, International Viewpoint has once again shown its value in being able to bring to its readers timely coverage of major world events, from the point of view of those whose voices are not heard in the mass media. Thanks to a strengthened IV team we have been able to do so more in pace with the rhythm of events. At the same time we have kept up strong coverage of the economic crisis, particularly on the question of is impact and our responses in Europe.

From the movements in Tunisia and Egypt leading the Arab spring, from the population of north-east Japan suffering in the aftermath of the tsunami and the Fukushima nuclear disaster, from the indignad@s of Madrid, Barcelona and Athens, International Viewpoint has published documents, reports and analysis from those involved directly and those extending solidarity to these movements.

We have also been able to publish more material outside the monthly magazine itself – in particular in our debate section where we have carried extensive material on the question of Libya – and also extended our book reviews section. In the latter case, we would like to particularly encourage our readers to send us contributions – of whatever length they choose – on any books or indeed films or music they think may be of interest to other readers.

We have also recently been able to resume the service of producing a pdf of the monthly magazine sent out to those who have subscribed to our mailing list - and in some months have also produced supplementary dossiers on particular subjects. We would very much welcome feedback as to how much these are useful to you and particularly whether you produce and distribute multiple copies of the paper magazine. We know this was the case in a number of countries of the south when the magazine first became on-line only, but wonder whether the extension of the internet has changed this subsequently. A further or alternative service would be a monthly digest with live links to the articles. Would this be a useful addition or replacement?

We are able to do all this thanks to the activists on the spot and our other contributors who take the time to send us material, but we have to turn it into articles and post them on our website. This work relies on a team of volunteers – recently strengthened by new members, which explains our renewed activity! But it does involve costs – for translation, for the website, and for the IV team to meet together occasionally to review our work and plan for the future.

Readers have in the past been generous with their donations to International Viewpoint, helping us upgrade our technical capacity. We hope that despite the economic crisis which is affecting all of us, you will be able to make a new effort to help International Viewpoint so that we can continue and extend our work.

Make a donation.

International Viewpoint is the English-language publication of the Fourth International. It is published under the auspices of the Bureau. Signed articles do not necessarily represent editorial opinion.

The ulama and the rights of women

The ulama and the rights of women

If woman is just an appendage and a ward of men, then she cannot be held accountable for her sins as a fully realized human being and thus not subject to divine judgment

In my textual encounters, and now sadly Youtube encounters, with the Ulama and their explanations of women’s rights in Islam, I have noticed some interesting interpretive practices that, in my view, tend to privilege a phallocentric view of the Muslim sacred.

Almost all of these “scholars” believe that the message of the Qur’an is hidden behind the words, and if, somehow, one knew enough Arabic, one could, so to speak, interpret the mind of God. In this process of interpretation, one is led to believe that the scholar is just disinterestedly extracting the hidden meaning in an objective encounter with the text. Sadly, these practices go counter to Islam’s own traditions of hermeneutics of the text and the postlinguisitc turn aspects of textual interpretation. What this objective retrieval of meaning assumes, then, is that, somehow, in this encounter with the text, the reader can leave his own subjectivity—and its attendant biases—behind and find out the true hidden meaning of the sacred text.

Those of us involved in the workings of literary theory are painfully aware that all acts of reading are highly contaminated and never really unmotivated. A text comes into being at the moment a reader reads it: interpretation, therefore, is an agential act, an act that involves the act of reading and interpretation by a reading subject.

This reading subject—or the subject of reading—also, we are told, brings his own “biases and prejudices” to the act of reading. The meaning thus construed is a combination of what is offered in a text and how that is filtered through the reader’s own preexisting attitudes toward the act of interpretation. That is why, Stanley Fish, a leading Reader response critic in the US, can explain the range of differences in interpretations of same text by different readers. According to Fish, the variety of interpretation occurs because the readers belong to a certain “interpretive community” and bring to the act of reading the practices privileged and normalized by their particular interpretative community.

So, when our Ulama read and interpret the gender roles in the Qur’an, a part of their interpretation comes from the words on the page but a large part of it also resides in their own preexisting biases as male gendered subjects in a Muslim society.

Almost all the major Ulama in Pakistan go to Surah Al-Nisa to expound their theories of inherent gender inequality as inscribed by the Qur’an. The most cited ayah is verse 34, a fragment of which is often cited: Arrijaal-o Qawwameea Alan-nisa. I will explain my point with specific reference to one particular interpretation of it by late Doctor Israr Ahmed, who, by the way, prided himself on his mastery of Arabic and often derided his opponents for their lack of understanding of the subtleties of Arabic language.

Doctor Israr translates this thusly: “Men are rulers over women” or as he would say it in his flawless Urdu, mard aurat per hakim hain. Now, those of us who are familiar with Arabic know that this is a gross reduction of the polysemy of the word Qawwaam. And it is this reduction that is crucial here, for it is made possible by what the interpreter hopes to privilege in the act of interpreting the text: a certain specific, hierarchical meaning of gendered roles in the Muslim society. This interpretation is crucial to Doctor Israr’s argument, for only then can he posit that women cannot be rulers, and not even members of parliament. I am not sure if he later revised his position, but I am just using his interpretation as one specific type of male-centric interpretation.

Now, even the official copy of the Qur’an produced by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia [the so-called Wahabis] gives a more fluid translation of the verse and the noun that Doctor Israr translates as “Haakim-Rulers.” The official English translation of the verse in the Saudi-produced translation is as follows:

“Men are the protectors

And maintainers of women . . .”

Furthermore, the translators of the Saudi version also provide a footnote to this particular sign/word in the ayah: “Qawwaam: one who stands firm in another’s business, protects his interests, and looks after his affairs. . .” (219).

Incidentally, the copy of the Qur’an that I am citing from was given to me as the “officially accepted” translation by the local leader of Doctor Israr’s organization in Quetta in 1994. So, while Doc. Israr himself was explaining the word Qawwaam as rulers, the official translation being provided by his organization was giving us a completely different reading of the term. Now, we all know that interpretation is always practiced within its prehistory along with other past and present translations of the scared. In fact, an important role of a scholar is to position his or herself within the larger debates on a certain topic. But, sadly, we are not so lucky in this regard when it comes to our Ulama. Most of our Ulama offer their interpretations of the sacred as original and originary, as if no work had been done before them. When Doctor Israr offers his interpretations of the sacred, it is with this sadly misplaced hubris: one is led to believe that the text had laid dormant for fourteen hundred years, until someone such as Doctor Israr came along and opened it up for us and decided its meaning by eliminating all insipient and obvious polysemous traces of the text.

There is however, a different interpretation of this particular Surah and the specific ayah very close to our time and space: namely in the work of Maulana Mumtaz Ali, who in 1898 published a book called Haqooq Al Niswan, The Rights of Women [Those interested in further exploration of this book can download it at http://archive.org].

In this book, Maulana Mumtaz Ali provides a line-by-line refutation of all metaphysical and logical claims about women’s inequality. He also accomplishes this by privileging a more nuanced and apt reading of the word Qawwaam. I provide a brief citation below in my translation:

The most convincing Qur’anic proof of that they offer [in favor of male superiority] is ayah 34 from Surah Alnisa. They translate it thusly: “Men are rulers over women.” . . . Qawwaam is a ‘saturated’ signifier: the person who is too busy in arranging and organizing the affairs of a business [karobaar] is considered Qawwaam. . . As men have to earn to provide for women, they are therefore in the role of Qawwameen. (17)

This, of course, is a very rough translation and does not provide the whole range of discussion that Maulana Ali mobilizes to make a case for women’s equality. Also important to note is that his interpretations has huge socio-political consequences. By opening a rhetorical space for women to enter the public sphere, Mumtaz Ali is able to foster and support the women’s education movement as a result of which the Muslim women of India enter the public sphere, access education, and eventually become active members of the Indian society.

In opposition to this, Doctor Israr’s interpretation is an attempt at reinscribing the figure of the woman back into the private sphere. In fact, in another of his lectures he insists that he is not opposed to women performing productive labor as long as “they are provided work in the privacy of their homes.”[1] This of course is a perfect recipe for the exploitation of women at the hands of international capital, which, by the way, relies quite heavily on these forms of privatized feminine labor.

Thus, while one scholar's interpretation creates a liberatory space for women and enables us to create a more equal and just society, another scholar wants us to accept the preexisting gender inequalities as natural and divinely sanctioned. In both these cases the meaning of the text is not simply drawn from the text but is rather construed through the “prejudices” and “expectations” that the reader/ scholar brings to the sacred text.

So, in a nutshell, what I am suggesting is that we as readers of sacred texts should read them with a deeper and more expansive knowledge of prior interpretations and we should also understand that all acts of interpretation have the politics of the reader/scholar pre-inscribed in the act of reading itself.

That women are neither ontologically inferior nor tools within the male instrumental logic is an obvious statement of fact to me. And not because I live in the west and have lost touch with my roots (whatever that means), but because the whole system of Islamic justice will fall apart if women did not posses an equal ontological status to men. For is she is less than man and was created for his pleasure then the rules of justice cannot apply to her similarly as they apply to men. The rules of justice presuppose a uniform level of agency: that is why we do not punish those who are physically forced into crime through fear of violence. So, if woman is incapable of deeper thought, or total agency, then all her actions and crimes must be treated as those of someone not in control of her senses, or as someone lacking basic intelligence of a fully realized human being: this would render all acts by women as harmless and beyond the reach of law under rules of incompetency.

Also, in that other world, if woman is just an appendage and a ward of men, then she cannot be held accountable for her sins as a fully realized human being and thus not subject to divine judgment. It is only when the Muslim scholars accept female personhood as equal to man that they can justify and stabilize the Islamic system of corporeal and spiritual law, or else the entire edifice of Shariah is built on a shaky and unsound foundation.

End Notes:

[1] I am citing these quotes from memory. Readers can find Dr. Israr’s writings on this website dedicated to his life and work: http://www.drisrarahmed.com/.

Author of Constructing Pakistan (Oxford UP, 2010) Masood Ashraf Raja is an Assistant Professor of Postcolonial Literature and Theory at the University of North Texas, United States and the editor of Pakistaniaat: A Journal of Pakistan Studies. His critical essays have been published in journals including South Asian Review, Digest of Middle East Studies, Caribbean Studies, Muslim Public Affairs Journal, and Mosaic. He is currently working on his second book, entitled Secular Fundamentalism: Poetics of Incitement and the Muslim Sacred.

Public Meeting on 15 July

RADICAL-POSTER

21st Century Socialism and the Left in West Bengal

Students' Hall (opposite College Square)
15 July: 5 PM onwards


Speakers:

Sobhanlal Dutta Gupta
Ratan Khasnobis
Ushasie Chakraborty
Kunal Chattopadhyay

Appeal for Solidarity by Leftwing Environmental Activists

We have received the appeal, reproduced below, from Comrade Rohit Prajapati, a member of Radical Socialist in Gujarat, and a veteran trade unionist and environmental activist. For further details on Prajapati and his co-signatory, Swati Desai, both members of Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti, an environmentalist activist group of Gujarat, see Class Struggle and Environmental Activism, by Kunal Chattopadhyay.

We will publish further material on the campaign by Prajapati and others, as well as on the offenive of the ruling class. The attack on PSS is evidence that when environmental activism is transformed from a bourgeois issue like shifting slums out of big cities in the name of urban beautification, or petty bourgeois issues where the individual is asked to take responsibility for cleaning up the environment fouled by the ruling class, to a class struggle issue, rulers become vicious. We call for all India and  international solidarity with PSS and the comrades under attack.


Radical Socialist

  • A defamation case, worth of Rs. 25 Crores have been filed against ‘The Times of India’ and Rohit Prajapati by Vapi Industries Association (VIA) and United Phosphorus Limited (UPL) and Avik Pharmaceutical Ltd.
  • We are determined to fight these legal and other battles which we may have to face in the coming days and for that we need your full support – through legal aid, political campaign, and perhaps financial contribution if we appeal for it.
Dear All
Vapi Industries Association (VIA), United Phosphorus Limited (UPL), and Avik Pharmaceutical Ltd. have filed a defamation case, worth of Rs. 25 Crores against ‘The Times of India’ and Rohit Prajapati in the Vapi Court, District Valsad, Gujarat with reference to ‘News Item’ appeared in ‘The Times of India’ on 5thJune 2010 [Vapi: caught in a toxic chokehold, The Times of India, 4th June 2010 http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2010-06-05/pollution/28278983_1_cpcb-comprehensive-environmental-pollution-index-gpcb]. 

The VIA states in their case “It is submitted that Shri Jairam had in fact visited Vapi, Gujarat.  He had not only praised Vapi but said that other industrial estates should learn from Vapi. He declared Vapi pollution free.  The same was reported in Times of India dated 8th July; 2010. […] The statements made in the said defamatory article is not only baseless but also malicious and made with malafide intentions. […] The statement made “VIA and CETP has failed to regulate its members”, is false. Recently officers of CPCB had visited CETP Vapi and have found that there is remarkable improvement in the COD and BOD in CETP plant. […] The Plaintiffs say and submit that the Defendant have made defamatory imputations and innuendos against VIA and others which in the eyes of right thinking people, particularly the industrial community and the general public of Vapi. […] By the letter dated 1st Dec, 2010 one Sajid Malik of Ventura Securities Ltd. inter-alia stated that there are serious allegations against the plaintiff in the edition dated 7thJune, 2010 titled “Vapi Caught in Toxic Chokehold” the also said that such article can harm the industrial Development of Vapi. It has not only defamed VIA and industries of Vapi but has also reduced its image. […] By his email dated 21st April, 2011 Shri Ajit Premnath, Chief operating officer of U.P.L., Europe addressed to Nirmala Lobo of Uniphos company stated that he had offered 50 M.T. of cyper Methrin Technical to his customer in Europe and he lost the order as his competitors produced a copy of article published in Times of India about Vapi.”

Further they stated in their case “The Plaintiffs further submit that this Hon'ble Court be pleased to order and decree the Defendants to forthwith carry an article/clarification on the front page of the Times of India circulating in all over India clarifying that the Plaintiffs are not responsible for any pollution. […] For the purpose of court fees and jurisdiction the plaintiff values it's claim in the suit at Rs. 25 crores and has paid the maximum court fee of Rs. 75,000/- accordingly. […] The Plaintiffs say and submit that in the facts and circumstances mentioned hereinabove it is absolutely necessary and in the interest of justice that the Defendants and/or the agents and servants be restrained by an order of perpetual injunction of this Hon’ble Court from publishing and/or issuing and/or inserting any articles and/or making libelous and/or defamatory statements and/or indulging in the defamatory campaign against the Plaintiffs of any of the plaintiff which may or which is likely to directly or indirectly injure the reputation and goodwill of the similar kind though disguised in another form […] That the defendants be jointly and/or severally ordered and decreed to pay to the plaintiff No. 1 a sum of Rs. 15 crores and to plaintiff No. 2 Rs. 8 crores and to plaintiff No. 3 Rs. 2 crores with interest thereon at the rate of eighteen percent per annum from the date of filing of the suit till payment and/or realization.”

It is an open secret that most of the ‘Common Effluent Treatment Plants’ of Gujarat are not able to meet the ‘State Pollution Control Board’ norms since long and all most all the news paper have reported about this not once but number of times in detail.

As many of you are aware, attempts to force industry to adhere to environmental norms, and attempts to create norms, have been viewed with deep hatred by industry and government alike. 

The first hearing of the case is on 20th July 2011. 

Probably this is the beginning of the “action” and many more such legal and “other action” may come in coming days from others also. 

We are determined to fight these legal and other battles which we may have to face in the coming days and for that we need your full support – through legal aid, political campaign, and perhaps financial contribution if we appeal for it. 

Rohit Prajapati          Swati Desai
Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti

Subcategories