The Asian Age – ‘Untenable’: SC Sabarimala verdict allowing women of all ages challenged

The petition was filed by the National Ayyappa Devotee Association.

New Delhi – India, 08 October 2018. A review petition was filed in the Supreme Court on Monday challenging the earlier verdict of the apex court which allowed women of all ages to enter the Sabarimala temple.

The plea filed by president of National Ayyappa Devotees Association, Shylaja Vijayan, said the September 28 judgment which had allowed entry of women of all ages in the hill-top shrine is “absolutely untenable and irrational, if not perverse”.

On 28 September 2018, the five judge constitution bench of the Supreme Court lifted ban on women of all ages from entering the Kerala temple.

Soon after the verdict, some groups started protesting. The agitation gained momentum after the LDF government made it clear that it would not go in for a review of the apex court verdict.

The representatives of Sabarimala temple’s chief priest are skipping a meeting convened by Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Monday to discuss the court’s verdict amid mounting protests.

Devotees of Lord Ayyappa protested in Chennai on Sunday, demanding the retaining of the age-old tradition of the temple.

A rally ‘Ayyappa Nama Japa Yatra’ was also held on Sunday at Delhi’s Jantar Mantar where Lord Ayappa’s devotees protested against the top court ruling.

Earlier, women of the menstrual age, between 10 to 50 years, were restricted from entering the temple premises.
It is believed that the residing deity of the temple, Lord Ayyappa, is considered to be a celibate.

As the long dead Lord Ayyappa was a celibate, women between 10 to 50 years could not enter the mandir.
Does that make sense ? Of course it makes no sense.
Man in Blue – Sikh gathering at Bargari outshines SAD and Congress rallies

Sikh24 Editors

Chandigarh – Panjab – India, 07 October 2018. Thousands of Sikh masses from all over the Punjab today participated in the “Insaaf March” taken out by Sukhpal Khaira led rebel AAP faction from Kotkapura to Bargari seeking punishment to sacrilege culprits.

The huge participation of Punjab masses in this march outshines the rallies held by SAD (Badal) and Congress to divert attention of Punjab masses from sacrilege issue.

Starting from the grain market of Kotkapura, the “Insaaf March” concluded at grain market of Bargari where the Sarbat Khalsa appointed acting Akal Takht Jathedar Bhai Dhian Singh Mand is sitting on strike since June 1 seeking punishment for sacrilege culprits.

Most of the participants were wearing black turbans and scarfs while the others had tied black ribbons on turbans to protest against the failure of Congress led Punjab government in bringing the sacrilege culprits to justice.

Sikh24 has learnt that police cops of six districts were deployed in Kotkapura and Bargari to avoid any “untoward” incident.

Addressing the gathering, Sarbat Khalsa appointed Takht Jathedars Bhai Dhian Singh Mand and Baba Baljit Singh Daduwal said that the Congress and SAD (Badal) were playing friendly politics on sacrilege issue.

Taking on the Captain Amarinder Singh led Punjab government, they questioned that why the Punjab government is hesitating in arresting the sacrilege culprits.

SAD (Amritsar) president Simranjit Singh Mann, Rebel AAP legislator Sukhpal Singh Khaira, LIP’s legislator Simarjit Singh Bains, UAD’s S Gurdeep Singh Bathinda, Satnam Singh Manawa, Dal Khalsa president Harpal Singh Cheema, Bhai Narain Singh Chaura etc. were prominent among the present Sikh leaders at this occasion.

Gent: Henri Pirennelaan – Bernheimlaan – Oude Brusselseweg – F Burvenichstraat

Henri Pirennelaan
01 September 2018

E17 and the Antwerp railway line

01 September 2018

Is dit een kasteel ?

Oude Brusselseweg / Bernheimlaan

Oude Brusselseweg
01 September 2018

Nog een kasteel ?

F Burvenichstraat
01 September 2018

Gentbrugge Greens

De Ledebirds

To see all my pictures:

More Belgian pictures to be published
Harjinder Singh
Man in Blue – The religious pockets in New South Wales public schools

Pallavi Singhal

New South Wales – Australia, 07 October 2018. There is a proportionally high number of Mormon students in schools in western Sydney and Sikh students are concentrated in the Hills Shire.

Of the 1400 Jewish students in NSW public schools, nearly 1050 attend just four schools, Bellevue Hill Public School, Killara High School, Rose Bay Public School and Rose Bay Secondary College, according to the latest data from the NSW Department of Education, which reveals pockets of particular religions throughout the state.

The highest concentration of students who were enrolled as Jehovah’s Witnesses is in Tweed in northern NSW and there is also a proportionally high number of students prescribing to the faith in the Sydney suburb of Warringah and NSW’s South Coast.

Remy Low, a lecturer at the University of Sydney’s school of education and social work, said the concentration of particular religious groups in some areas is “unsurprising” but has implications for individual school policies.

“That would be the case given the patterns of migration and how those religions map on to certain migrant groups,” Dr Low said.

“It’s clearly the case for Jewish students in Sydney’s eastern suburbs because of communities that have historically migrated to that region.

“It’s also the case for Latter Day Saints [Mormon] students, a lot of whom come from Pacific Islander backgrounds and there are large communities in western Sydney.”

Certain schools also have a relatively wide diversity of students from some of the smaller religions represented in NSW government schools, with fewer than 2500 adherents.

Westfields Sports High School, for example, has about 63 Mormon students, 41 Serbian Orthodox students and six Baptist students.

Dr Low said responding to specific enrolment trends is important at the school level.

“Principals and executives do have a lot of say on a school-by-school basis,” he said.

“I think schools can have policies that are flexible … one of the benefits of [a concentrated population] is that a school can have a clearly articulated policy to make sure the students are catered to.

“We should train and equip teachers to be better at responding to school diversity and how to work with it effectively so all students have a chance at a broader education.”

The department currently has special religious providers for Catholic, Christian, Hindu, Islamic, Jewish, Buddhist, Orthodox, Sikh and Baha’i faiths.

Dr Low said that while scripture policies remain in place, the department should be catering for the wider demographic of students.

However, NSW Education Minister Rob Stokes said that it would not be appropriate for him to seek out providers of other faiths to provide education in government schools.

“It might work better the other way … I’d be very happy if I get an approach to find those resources [needed to apply to become an SRE provider],” Mr Stokes told a budget estimates hearing on Friday.

A spokesman for the department said: ”NSW public schools welcome students of all backgrounds and expect all students to be respectful and fully inclusive of their peers.

“NSW public schools are committed to providing opportunities that enable all students to achieve equitable education and social outcomes in a culturally diverse society.”

Christianity remains the dominant religion in NSW public schools, with about 45 per cent of students prescribing to the faith.

However, the proportion of students with no religion has skyrocketed in recent years, with nearly 43 per cent of students not listing any religion on their enrolment form this year.

Parents have spoken out against the department’s policy that no educational activities take place during the 30 minutes to one hour that schools are required to set aside every week for scripture classes, saying students opting out “should be allowed to complete their regular schoolwork”.

Dawn – General Ziaul Haq: The man to answer for a lot that went wrong with Pakistan

Haseeb Asif

Op/Ed, 08 October 2018. It is now generally agreed upon by most people that Ziaul Haq’s martial law changed Pakistan’s destiny for the worst. Most, but not all. A friend’s mother cried when Zia died because he prayed five times a day and was from the Arain clan, like her.

In Saba Imtiaz’s 2014 novel, Karachi, You’re Killing Me!, her protagonist quips: “If there is ever anything you can count on at Pakistani cultural events, it’s that Zia, dead for longer than most people can remember, can still be blamed for everything.” I share her scepticism.

I don’t believe in the Great Man Theory of history. I don’t believe individuals can single-handedly reshape the fate of millions. I believe great upheavals are caused by institutional and structural pressures and individuals only respond within a limited number of rationalised choices.

Whether Zia was there or not, there was going to be a conflict in Afghanistan between two opposing superpowers with assorted Saudi interests thrown in; the Iranian Revolution was going to happen anyway and bring sectarian violence in its wake; Pakistan’s third martial law was well in the making before he imposed it.

Military dictatorships in Pakistan have a certain sense of fatalism about them. Habib Jalib, the people’s poet jailed multiple times by Zia for penning verses against his rule, once wrote: “Virsay mein humay yeh gham hai mila, iss gham ko naya kya likhna? (We’ve inherited this sad state of affairs, why write this sadness as something new?)”.

Zia’s greatest legacy is said to be Islamisation but it had already taken root with the passage of the Objectives Resolution in 1949. The Council of Islamic Ideology, too, had been set up in 1962 by Ayub Khan. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s economic socialism had very clear Islamic overtones.

His efforts to unite Muslim countries were his major foreign policy initiatives. It was his 1973 Constitution that made Islamic Studies compulsory in schools. In 1974, Ahmadis were declared non-Muslims. In 1977, a federal law prohibited the sale of alcohol to Muslims.

Even our nuclear programme was deemed to be making an Islamic bomb. The anti-Bhutto movement of 1977, too, used the demand for Nizam-e-Mustafa (the system of the Prophet of Islam) to replace Bhutto’s social democracy. All that was before Zia came along.

This historical determinism, however, does not absolve him of his tyranny and the havoc he wreaked on the Constitution, democracy and political parties. Things could have been different with another tyrant. To start with, there was nothing certain about Zia’s rise to the top.

Bhutto bypassed seven senior lieutenant generals to make him army chief because he was deemed to be the most disinterested in politics. But as we now know, the army acts as an institution regardless of the individual heading it.

Consider the circumstances: the United States was not happy with Bhutto over the nuclear programme; the landed and industrial elite were not happy with Bhutto over land reforms and nationalisation; the army was not happy with Bhutto as per declassified American documents.

All this encouraged Zia to carry out his premeditated coup d’état that turned into a coup de grâce for democracy in Pakistan.

It is no secret that Zia lent heavily on Islam and ulema due to lack of popular support. Some of his concessions to ulema still haunt us to this day. The penal code was amended to add the death penalty as a punishment for blasphemy and increase the scope of what constitutes blasphemy.

In 1979, he promulgated the Hudood Ordinances with punishments such as lashes for adultery. In 1980, he set up the Federal Shariat Court to hear appeals in cases under the Hudood Ordinances. In 1981, he set up a hand-picked consultative body, Majlis-e-Shoora, to act as the federal parliament.

It was packed with ulema nominated by him. He also introduced mandatory zakat deduction from bank accounts, leading Shias to rise in violent protests.

By 1984, he was feeling so confident about the strength of his constituents, comprising ulema, spiritual leaders, business community and the military, that he decided to hold a referendum that asked if people wanted Islamic laws in the country and if their answer was to be yes then that automatically meant that they wanted Zia as the president of Pakistan for the next five years.

Nobody came out to vote. “Marhoomeen shareek huay, sachchai ka chehlum tha (The dead participated, it was the 40th day of mourning for the death of truth),” Jalib said of the level of public participation in it.

In 1985, Zia brought in an elected Majlis-e-Shoora instead. The elections were held on non-party basis after a government-appointed commission declared that political parties were un-Islamic. The members of Majlis-e-Shoora were chosen presumably on the grounds of an election candidate being sadiq (truthful) and ameen (honest).

These requirements were brought in as additions to articles 62 and 63 in the Constitution. The most well-known politician to come out of that exercise, Nawaz Sharif, was disqualified more than three decades later due to his failure to fulfil them.

Another gift of Zia’s era was the radicalisation of Islamabad’s Lal Masjid. Its prayer leader, Muhammad Abdullah, was close to the general before he became close to the Afghan Taliban’s chief Mullah Omar and senior al-Qaeda leaders. It took another military dictator two decades later to uproot the extremist influence from Lal Masjid in a bloody operation in 2007.

In hindsight, though, Islamisation seems more like political expediency than a well-thought-out system. His personal beliefs did not stop him from taking part in the Black September killings of Palestinians in Jordan where he was posted as a brigadier from 1967 to 1970.

When he wanted Bhutto framed for murder he asked Mian Tufail Mohammad, then head of Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), to provide him with four people willing to testify that Bhutto paid them to kill a dissident politician.

He promised Tufail, by one account swearing on the Quran, that these witnesses would be pardoned after Bhutto was hanged. They were hanged immediately after Zia had gotten rid of Bhutto. That is when JI distanced itself from him.

He once had his picture taken as he bicycled to his office from his home, demonstrating an austere and protocol-free way of life. What the press did not show the public (and it could not because of the draconian censorship rules it was subjected to) was that hundreds of security personnel had secured the route before Zia started pedalling his bicycle.

He introduced laws to socially and politically ostracise Ahmadis but then went on to give an official award to Professor Abdus Salam, an Ahmadi of Pakistani origin who had won the Nobel Prize in Physics.

Beyond his religious hypocrisy, his actual enduring legacy is his systematic decimation of parliamentary democracy.

He introduced the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution of Pakistan in 1985 to protect his martial law from judicial review and acquire the power to sack an elected government and legislature on a whim, a power he exercised to dismiss the government of prime minister Muhammed Khan Junejo in 1988.

The same amendment was subsequently used three times in the 1990s to remove democratic governments midway through their tenures.

Zia’s crackdown on political dissidents and journalists resulted in the arrest of thousands of people. Many of them were incarcerated and tortured in the basements of Lahore Fort because the jails were all spilling over.
Public floggings of criminals and political opponents were a routine affair and hangings were often projected widely in the media to scare people into submission.

Zia also banned student unions in 1984, much to the impoverishment of youth engagement with politics in general and political challenge against fascist forms of conservatism in particular.

The effects of this repression were felt throughout the next two decades as political engagement among the urban, educated middle and upper-middle classes started going down and violent groups organised on non-political grounds of religion, sect and linguistic prejudice assumed massive firepower to deadly consequences.

Guns and drugs proliferated in his era. It was the age of Kalashnikovs and heroin. Automatic weapons, originally meant for Afghan mujahideen, were either smuggled into Pakistan or their replicas were produced in factories in tribal areas.

Drugs produced in the border regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan were a major source of funding for the anti-Soviet warriors in Afghanistan. Illegal manufacturing and smuggling of both guns and drugs continue to this day in Pakistan.

Then there were around five million Afghan refugees, many of whom came to settle here permanently. But, then again, the British-era Durand Line that separates the two countries can be blamed for all these problems as much as Zia.

Is he responsible for every ill that plagues Pakistan today? I remain sceptical though I must admit that I did not have to live through his dictatorship.

The writer and journalist graduated from the Lahore University of Management Sciences with a degree in economics.

This article was published in the Herald’s August 2017 issue. To read more subscribe to the Herald in print.