What if Rajiv Gandhi hadn’t unlocked the Babri Masjid in 1986?

This article first appeared in the online version of the newsmagazine
‘Outlook India’ (issue dt. 23 August 2004) at the URL
http://outlookindia.com/full.asp?fodname=20040823&fname=UCol+Koenraad&sid=1

In 1985, Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi gave in to Muslim pressure in the Shah Bano affair. Overruling a secular court�s decision that the repudiated wife Shah Bano was entitled to alimony from her ex-husband, he enacted a law abolishing the alimony provision in conformity with the Shari�a. Since India, unlike secular states, already had religion-based Civil Codes, this concession merely brought the minor matter of alimony under the purview of the prevailing arrangement. More importantly, it prevented riots.

Only months later, Gandhi restored the balance by giving the Hindus something as well: he ordered the locks on the Ram Janmabhoomi Babri Masjid in Ayodhya removed. Until then, a priest had been permitted to perform puja once a year for the idols installed there in 1949. Now, all Hindus were given access to what they consider as the birthplace of Rama, the prince posthumously deified as an incarnation of Vishnu.

Fundamentally, this decision didn�t alter the Ayodhya equation. Architecturally, the building was and remained a mosque, while functionally, it had been and continued to be a Hindu temple. That is why in my opinion, not taking this decision wouldn�t have changed the Ayodhya developments except in their timing. The different players, their strategies and goals, and their resolve to pursue these, all remained the same. The Babri Masjid Action Committee and the Vishva Hindu Parishad would have gone about their �business� just the same.

However, the VHP would have been forced to continue pushing the rather petty demand for removing the locks, rather than move on to the more ambitious and more mobilizing next step of planning the construction of a new temple. Most probably, the BJP would likewise have reaped smaller dividends from such a campaign. In 1989, it might not have jumped as high as 86 seats. Conversely, Congress might not have lost the North-Indian Muslim vote to the Janata Dal. In 1989, it could have remained just strong enough to cobble together a coalition rather than leave the initiative to the unwholesome and unstable Janata-BJP-Communist combine. So, at the level of party politics, Rajiv Gandhi�s decision may have made a big difference. Continue reading “What if Rajiv Gandhi hadn’t unlocked the Babri Masjid in 1986?”

Islam’s Path East: China

One of Islam’s main entry points into China was the Pearl River port of Quanzhou.

The majority of China’s Muslims are Turkic peoples living in the vast Xinjiang region of northwest China. The rest are mainly Hui – either descendants of Chinese converts to Islam or the offspring of Chinese intermarriages with Muslim immigrants whose appearance is distinctly Chinese. They live in sizeable communities in the former Silk Road oases of western and central China, in the southern province of Yunnan, and in the industrial cities and ports of the east. 

Contacts between Muslims and Chinese began very early. Arab merchants traded in silk even before the advent of Islam, and tradition has it that the new religion was brought to their port-city trading colonies by Muslim missionaries in the seventh century.

In 755, a contingent of 4000 soldiers, mostly Muslim Turks, was sent by the Abbasid caliph Abu Jafar al-Mansur to help the Chinese emperor Su Tsung quell a revolt by one of his military commanders, An LuShan. Following the recapture of the imperial capital, Ch’angan (today’s Xian), these soldiers settled in China, married Chinese wives and founded inland Muslim colonies similar to those established by the traders on the coast. 

Islam made its first real inroads into what is now western China in the middle of the 10th century, with the conversion of Sultan Sutuq Bughrakhan of Kashgar and his subsequent conquest of the Silk Road oases of Yarkand and Khotan in southwest Xinjiang. 

During the Song Dynasty (960 – 1279), China experienced spectacular economic growth. This stimulated expansion of the Muslim mercantile communities – particularly in Ch’ang – an, the eastern terminus of the Silk Roads, and in the port cities of Quanzhou and Guangzhou, where Muslims largely governed the internal affairs of their own neighborhoods, building mosques and appointing qadis to adjudicate according to Islamic law.

But although some Chinese merchants involved in international trade did become Muslims, other converts were few, and Islam in China was confined largely to Muslim immigrants and their descendants. Until, that is, the Mongol invasion overthrew the Song Dynasty and ushered in what Chinese Muslims regard as the “golden age” of Islam in China. Continue reading “Islam’s Path East: China”

Muslims challenge Christians’ use of Cordoba mosque

 

Europe Features

By Sinikka Tarvainen Jan 3, 2007, 8:29 GMT

‘; var PageContent= ‘Cordoba/Madrid – Few buildings are as emblematic of Europe\’s Muslim past as the Great Mosque in Cordoba.

\nThe southern Spanish city was once the capital of Moorish Spain, where the mosque was promoted as the third Islamic pilgrimage site after the Kaaba of Mecca and the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem.

\nDeclared a United Nations World Heritage Site in 1984, the stunning mosque pays tribute to the architectural and artistic achievements of Muslim Spain, which also shone as a beacon of science and scholarship in 10th-century Europe.

\nCordoba residents still often call the building \’mezquita\’ (mosque), though it has in fact been used as a cathedral since the 13th century when Christian troops conquered the city from the Moors.

\nA mysterious dim light typical of Catholic churches now surrounds the forest of pillars ending in red-and-white-striped arches, which has been compared to a Muslim tent in the desert.

\nA Catholic altar, a choir stall and chapels have been erected inside, mingling with Islamic features such as the mihrab or prayer niche.

\nSo who does the building, with a prayer hall measuring 23,400 square metres, belong to?

\nIs it the heritage of Arab-Berber-Spanish Moors, who ruled large parts of Spain for some 800 years and for whom emir Abd ar-Rahman I started building it in the 8th century?

\nOr does it belong to Christians, who completed their Reconquest of Spain from the Moors in 1492 and whose King Charles V financed the mosque\’s definitive conversion into a cathedral in the 16th century?

\nUntil recently, few Spaniards questioned the Catholic Church\’s exclusive use of the building, but the arrival of some 800,000 mainly Moroccan Muslim immigrants over the recent years has raised new questions about the sanctuary.

\nThousands of Spaniards have also reclaimed their Muslim roots, converting to Islam in cities such as Granada, once a Moorish stronghold.

\nMansur Escudero, a convert who heads Spain\’s Islamic Board, prayed in front of the mosque recently to claim Muslims\’ right to use it for prayer.

\nThe board has written to Pope Benedict XVI, proposing that the mosque be turned into an ecumenic temple where Christians, Muslims and representatives of other religions could pray together and \’bury past confrontations.\’

\nIt has sent a similar letter to Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero.

\nSpain\’s Islamic organizations have distanced themselves from Osama bin Laden\’s call on Muslims to \’reclaim Al-Andalus,\’ the traditional name for Moorish Spain.

\nThey condemned the 2004 Madrid train bombings, staged mainly by Moroccan Islamists, which killed 191 people.

\nThe mosque, a building with an \’enormous symbolic power,\’ could show the way for a \’universal spirituality,\’ Audalla Conget, secretary of the Islamic Board, told the Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa in a telephone interview.

\n\’Spain could be the key that opens the door to peace,\’ he says, recalling the Moorish period when Christians, Muslims and Jews lived in a relative harmony.

\nAfter the Reconquest, however, Spanish identity was largely based on a militant brand of Catholicism as a sign of differentiation from Islam.

\nIt is only recently that Spaniards have begun toning down traditions which could be offensive to Muslims, for instance removing a statue of Saint James \’the Moorslayer\’ from Santiago de Compostela cathedral.

\nSome villages have modified traditional plays or spectacles in which \’Christians\’ kill \’Moors.\’

\nRicardo Blazquez, the head of Spain\’s Episcopal Conference, initially showed sympathy towards the idea of Muslims praying at the Cordoba mosque, but the conference quickly issued a statement saying he had not authorized any Islamic prayers at the cathedral.

\nCordoba bishop Juan Jose Asenjo rejected the Islamic Board\’s request, saying joint use of the temple would confuse believers and promote religious indifference.

\nThe Vatican has rejected earlier petitions by Muslims to pray at the Cordoba mosque, but Conget was hopeful that Benedict XVI would have a more favourable attitude.

\nThe Cordoba bishop\’s negative answer contrasts with \’interesting gestures\’ by the pope, such as praying at an Istanbul mosque, he said.

\nA spokeswoman at the Cordoba bishop\’s office declined to comment, saying the office had \’nothing to add\’ to what the bishop said earlier.

\n© 2007 dpa – Deutsche Presse-Agentur‘; PrintArticle();//–>

Cordoba/Madrid – Few buildings are as emblematic of Europe’s Muslim past as the Great Mosque in Cordoba.

The southern Spanish city was once the capital of Moorish Spain, where the mosque was promoted as the third Islamic pilgrimage site after the Kaaba of Mecca and the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem.

Declared a United Nations World Heritage Site in 1984, the stunning mosque pays tribute to the architectural and artistic achievements of Muslim Spain, which also shone as a beacon of science and scholarship in 10th-century Europe.

Cordoba residents still often call the building ‘mezquita’ (mosque), though it has in fact been used as a cathedral since the 13th century when Christian troops conquered the city from the Moors.

A mysterious dim light typical of Catholic churches now surrounds the forest of pillars ending in red-and-white-striped arches, which has been compared to a Muslim tent in the desert.

A Catholic altar, a choir stall and chapels have been erected inside, mingling with Islamic features such as the mihrab or prayer niche. Continue reading “Muslims challenge Christians’ use of Cordoba mosque”

Muslims in Spain

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Written by http://www.euro-islam.info
Wednesday, 26 April 2006

Demographics

 

Spain’s interaction with the Muslim world extends back to the 9th century and Islamic expansion into Europe. Most Muslims were expelled in 1492, although there is strong evidence that some did remain behind and publicly proclaimed Catholicism but privately practiced Islam. This tendency faded over time, and the Muslim presence in Spain disappeared until the 1960s.

 

 

 

Initially, many Moroccans entered the tourist industry on the Mediterranean coast. They were primarily undocumented and transient, often attempting to get into France. The profile of these Moroccans began to shift, and they began to come from the Spanish protectorate area in northern Morocco, and settle in Catalonia.

 

As countries further north of Spain began controlling immigration more tightly, many immigrants began settling in Spain so that by the late 1970s it is estimated there were 100,000 Moroccans in Barcelona.

 

Since the 1980s most of the growth of the Muslim population has been due to family reunification. Current estimates put the Muslim population of Spain at 500,000, predominantly Moroccan.

 

Other points of origin include Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq whose citizens came as students and entrepreneurs. By 1977 these numbers expanded to include Palestinian refugees, and in 1979 Iranian refugees. While socially important, demographically their impact is minimal.

 

An important group of Muslims in the country is composed not of migrants, but of converts. In the 1970s there seems to have been a marked increase in the number of Spaniards accepting Islam. Various theories have been put forward as to why this might be the case, including the need to recover an authentic Spanish identity by look back at the period of Muslim rule. The result has been that in the mid-1990s converts had founded over half the Muslim groups. Current estimates place their numbers at 6,000 individuals.

 

Labor Market

 

Muslim immigrants tend to be employed in the lower sectors of the economy, such as service and labor.

 

Education

 

The OECD collects data on education from various statistical agencies within the country, the majority of which comes from census data from the year 2000. The OECD classifies educational achievement using the International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED): ISCED 0/1/2: Less than upper secondary; ISCED 3/4: Upper secondary and post-secondary non-tertiary; ISCED 5A: “Academic” tertiary; ISCED 5B: “Vocational” tertiary; ISCED 6: Advanced research programs. 0-2 are considered low, 3-4 as medium, and 5 and above are considered high. This data is not reported by religion, but does have country of origin as reported by the respondent. It is thus possible to construct an approximate picture of the educational achievement of the population in the country with ancestry from predominately Muslim countries. One significant problem is that some countries, such as India and Nigeria, have large Muslim populations but the immigrant population cannot be readily classified as predominately Muslim or non-Muslim. As such, the educational data is split by predominately Muslim origin, predominately non-Muslim origin, and a separate category for those whom classification would not seem justified. Proportions are for all reported data, individuals with no reported ancestry or education are excluded.

 

High

Medium

Low

Muslim

11%

13%

76%

Non-Muslim

20%

17%

63%

Indeterminate

17%

20%

63%

 


 

State and Church

 

In Spain, although special treatment of any religious organization is considered illegal, the state does have agreements with the Vatican that give the Catholic Church unique rights. Some, but not all, have been extended to Islam and other faiths, although these religions do not receive state funding through the tax system. Despite the legal status of Islam, recognized in 1992, there have been di Continue reading “Muslims in Spain”

Islam’s Claim on Spain

The white minaret of the new Great Mosque of Granada doesn’t overshadow a nearby church but is nonetheless a testament to Spanish Muslims’ pride in their history in “Al Andalus,” the region of southern Spain now known as Andalusia

GRANADA, Spain – Across a valley of fragrant cedars and orange trees, worshipers at the pristine Great Mosque of Granada look out at the Alhambra, the 700-year-old citadel and monument to the heyday of Islamic glory.

Granada’s Muslims chose the hilltop location precisely with the view, and its unmistakable symbolism, in mind.

It took them more than 20 years to build the mosque, the first erected here in half a millennium, after they conquered the objections of city leaders and agreed, ultimately, to keep the minaret shorter than the steeple on the Catholic Iglesia de San Nicolas next door.

Cloistered nuns on the other side of the mosque added a few feet to the wall enclosing their convent, as if to say they wanted neither to be seen nor to see.

Many of Spain’s Muslims long for an Islamic revival to reclaim their legendary history, and inaugurating the Great Mosque last year was the most visible gesture. But horrific bombings by Muslim extremists that killed nearly 200 people in Madrid on March 11 have forced Spain’s Muslims and non-Muslims to reassess their relationship, and turned historical assumptions on their head.

“We are a people trying to return to our roots,” said Anwar Gonzalez, 34, a Granada native who converted to Islam 17 years ago. “But it’s a bad time to be a Muslim.”

Spain has a long, rich and complex history interwoven with the Muslim and Arab world, from its position as the center of Islamic Europe in the last millennium to today’s confrontation with a vast influx of Muslim immigrants. Continue reading “Islam’s Claim on Spain”