THE ONLY BI-LINGUAL AND BI-WEEKLY NEWSPAPER OF THE MUSLIM COMMUNITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA, CANADA

Volume 17 Issue 453- Safar 21, 1439 AH November 10, 2017

 
 
 
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:: Articles & News
::Groups launch legal challenge of Quebec’s face veil ban

Canadian human rights and civil liberty groups have launched a constitutional challenge of a recent law that bans face coverings in the province of Quebec, a measure they argue violates the rights of Muslim women who wear a full face covering. The National Council of Canadian Muslims and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association filed a lawsuit in Quebec Superior Court against parts of the law, known as Bill 62, on Tuesday. The lawsuit is asking the court to order a stay to block the law’s implementation across the province. Warda Naili, a Muslim woman in Quebec who wears a niqab, a full face covering which usually leaves the area around the eyes uncovered, is named in the legal challenge. “It’s a big thing. It’s stressful, it’s scary, but at the same time, it’s essential that it gets done because this law must be suspended,” Naili, whose legal name is Marie-Michelle Lacoste, told Al Jazeera over the phone from Montreal. She said she agreed to put her name forward because Bill 62 is “unconstitutional” and “unacceptable”. “A lot of women would like to do it, but they’re scared,” Naili said. “Someone had to do it.” Quebec’s Minister of Justice, Stephanie Vallee, defended the law on Tuesday, saying it was “justified in the free and democratic society that is Quebec”. “The debate will take place in front of the courts,” Vallee told reporters. Bill 62, which was passed last month in the Quebec legislature, forces public employees to uncover their faces when administering services. Members of the public are also obliged to uncover their faces to receive services, including in municipalities across the province and on public transportation. Quebec has justified the law as part of a long-standing effort to enshrine “religious neutrality” into law in the French-speaking province. Last month, Vallee said the law was about being able to identify people. “These are common-sense rules that will apply,” she said. But critics and civil rights groups say it unfairly targets Muslim women who wear the niqab. “This bill is not neutral whatsoever and it has nothing to do with state religious neutrality,” said Razia Hamidi, the Montreal representative of the National Council of Canadian Muslims. Hamidi told Al Jazeera that Bill 62 is “discriminatory” and violates the rights of Muslim women under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms. “They hold these religious beliefs and have the constitutional right to do so,” Hamidi added. Public protests against Bill 62 have taken place across Montreal in recent weeks, including demonstrators who have taken public transit, or lined up along a popular bus route, while covering their faces. As it stands, Muslim women will have to unveil their faces when boarding public buses or metros and during the delivery of public services, including during a doctor’s visit or in a classroom. A few dozen Muslim women are believed to wear a full face veil in the province. “This bill doesn’t further state neutrality; it undermines it, by targeting some of the most vulnerable,” said Cara Zwible, the acting general counsel at the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, during a press conference on Tuesday morning. “We believe that people in Canada have basic rights to religious freedom, equality and the liberty to move around society and go about our daily lives without unreasonable and unnecessary intrusions from the state,” Zwible said. Naili said she hoped the legal challenge would suspend Bill 62’s implementation across the province. “This law is an injustice,” she said. “It sends the message to intolerant people that they have a right to be intolerant.” Source: Al-Jazeera

::Paradise Papers: CRA to investigate new evidence of tax evasion
The Canada Revenue Agency says it won’t hesitate to investigate new evidence of offshore tax evasion in the wake of a second massive leak of tax haven financial records. The leak of some 13.4 million records, dubbed the Paradise Papers, lifts another veil on the often murky ways in which the wealthy – including more than 3,000 Canadian individuals and entities – stash their money in offshore accounts to avoid paying taxes. Among the names that pop up in the records with some connection to offshore accounts are former Canadian prime ministers Brian Mulroney, Paul Martin and Jean Chretien, the Queen, U.S. commerce secretary Wilbur Ross, and the past and current chief fundraisers for the federal Liberal party. Neither the CRA nor any court has determined the Canadians did anything wrong. Offshore accounts are used by wealthy individuals and corporations around the world as a perfectly legal way to reduce their tax burden, although the anonymity provided to account holders has also led to associations with tax evasion, money laundering and organized crime. The Paradise Papers were obtained by German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, including CBC/Radio Canada and the Toronto Star which published details on Sunday. The media outlets did not disclose how they acquired the documents, which consist primarily of client records of offshore law firm Appleby, as well as some records from offshore corporate services firms Estera and Asiaciti Trust. In an apparent attempt to pre-empt the news reports, the CRA issued a statement last Friday, detailing the agency’s efforts to crack down on tax evasion and tax avoidance, which intensified following the first huge leak of tax-haven records, known as the Panama Papers, in April 2016. The agency said it’s invested $1 billion to tackle the problem and currently has more than 990 audits and more than 42 criminal investigations underway related to offshore tax havens. As a result of audits over the last two years, the CRA said it identified some $25 billion in unpaid taxes, interest and penalties. And last year, it levied more than $44 million in penalties on tax advisers who facilitated non-compliance with Canadian tax laws. The agency said it’s also working closely with 36 other countries in the Joint International Taskforce on Shared Intelligence and Collaboration on more effective ways to detect and deal with tax evasion and avoidance. Evidently anticipating Sunday’s release of the Paradise Papers, the CRA promised to do more should new details of questionable practices emerge. “In the event that further details come to light, CRA will not hesitate to investigate and take further action as warranted,” the agency said. “The government of Canada will continue to work with the provinces and territories, as well as other tax administrations and all other partners, to ensure a tax system that works for Canadians. In addition, the CRA will continue to build on its capacity to detect and crack down on tax cheats and ensure that those who choose to break the law face the consequences and are held accountable for their actions.” A spokesman for National Revenue Minister Diane Lebouthillier, said on Sunday that “the CRA is reviewing links to Canadian entities and will take appropriate action in regards to the Paradise Papers.” Tax avoidance measures involving offshore trusts are legal, provided that the trust is genuinely managed offshore and that Canadian taxes are paid on any Canadian contributions. According to the Toronto Star and CBC/Radio Canada, the records suggest that Stephen Bronfman and his family’s Montreal-based investment company, Claridge Inc., were linked to an offshore trust in the Cayman Islands that may have used questionable means to avoid paying millions in taxes. Bronfman is a close friend of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who tapped him in 2013 to fill the role of revenue chair – effectively, the chief fundraiser – for the federal Liberal party. The offshore trust also involved former chief Liberal fundraiser and senator Leo Kolber and his son, Jonathan Kolber. William Brock, a lawyer for Bronfman and Jonathan Kolber, denied any impropriety, telling the CBC that his clients “have always acted properly and ethically, including fully complying with all applicable laws.” Any suggestion of “false documentation, fraud, ‘disguised’ conduct, tax evasion or similar conduct is false,” Brock added. The Prime Minister’s Office referred questions about Bronfman to the Liberal party. Party spokesman Braeden Caley said Bronfman’s role is strictly a volunteer position devoted to fundraising, “not policy decisions.” The revenue chair is a “non-voting position” on the party’s national board, Caley added. Conservative leader Andrew Scheer issued a statement on Sunday accusing Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of failing to crack down on “tax avoidance schemes used by his wealthy friends.” “Justin Trudeau’s well-connected Liberal friends get away with paying less, and you pay more. There is nothing fair about that,” the statement said.
Source: McLean’s


::Surrey tops list of best place to invest in real estate in BC

Surrey - A new report released today ranks Surrey as the best place for real estate investment in British Columbia. The report entitled Top 10 Towns and Cities – British Columbia, is produced by the Real Estate Investment Network (REIN) an independent research and analysis firm that has been producing reports on housing markets across Canada for 25 years.
“I am pleased that Surrey takes the top spot, but I am also not surprised when you factor in Surrey’s planned growth and close proximity to critical trade and transportation routes,” said Mayor Linda Hepner. “As a City Council, we have worked hard to create a business friendly climate that will attract a diverse economy, while balancing the demand for a broad spectrum of viable housing options for our residents.”
The study looks at 36 economic and market factors, and identifies B.C. real estate markets that are best positioned to outperform over the next five years.
B.C. cities ranked in order of potential for housing market strength over the coming five-year period:
1.Surrey
2.Abbotsford
3.New Westminster
4.Victoria
5.Kamloops
6.Kelowna
7.Chilliwack
8.The Tri-Cities of Coquitlam,
Port Coquitlam and Port Moody
9.Burnaby
10.Vancouver
By: Oliver Lum
Media inquiries:

::Why Paradise Papers matter: they lift the veil for regulators to peek in
A trove of 13.4 million corporate records, primarily from Bermuda firm Appleby, as well as from Singapore-based Asiaciti Trust and corporate registries maintained by governments in 19 secrecy jurisdictions, often referred to as “tax paradises”.
Written by Jay Mazoomdaar
A trove of 13.4 million corporate records, primarily from Bermuda firm Appleby, as well as from Singapore-based Asiaciti Trust and corporate registries maintained by governments in 19 secrecy jurisdictions, often referred to as “tax paradises”.
The leaks — which constitute the most detailed revelations ever of such records — were obtained by the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, and shared with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ). As a partner of ICIJ, The Indian Express investigated all documents that had an India connection.
How are Paradise Papers different from Offshore Leaks (2013), Swiss Leaks (2015) and Panama Papers (2016)?
Like the three major global financial leaks in the past (all investigated by The Indian Express) Paradise Papers also reveal tracks of veiled offshore financial activities. Like Mossack Fonseca (of Panama Papers, 2016), Appleby helps set up companies and bank accounts overseas, provides nominee office-bearers, and facilitates bank loans or transfer of shares, in multiple secrecy jurisdictions.
But unlike in the previous leaks, the latest revelations are more about mega corporates than individual players and how they took advantage of and, in many cases, misused offshore jurisdictions.
What do the Paradise Papers show?
They reveal offshore footprints of some of India’s major corporate players as well as of a few high-value individuals — the astounding scale of incorporating shell overseas companies to various ends. Internal communications show how a majority of these companies with offshore residency were wholly controlled from India.
Appleby itself red-flagged round tripping on occasion by questioning if offshore funds meant for investing in India were sourced from India. There are instances of assets of Indian companies being used to guarantee loans raised by offshore companies without disclosing it to Indian regulators. Changing ownership of offshore companies to actually change the ownership of shares held by them in Indian companies without paying taxes in India turns out to be another common malpractice.
Is it illegal to set up offshore companies?
Not necessarily. India has double-taxation avoidance agreements (DTAAs) with several countries with lower tax rates than its own, and companies — overseas corporate bodies (OCBs) — incorporated in such countries can use their tax residency certificates (TRC) to enjoy the tax benefits available legally.
So what is the excitement about?
The revelations help regulators overcome the obstacle of secrecy. After the Panama Papers, for example, regulators everywhere were able to investigate several instances of financial malpractices hidden in the records of Mossack Fonseca. The sheer size of the Paradise Papers trove, and the corporate-centric leads they provide, mark a big step forward.
Normally, a company is entitled to arrange its financial affairs in whichever way it wishes to reduce its tax liability. Merely the fact that the motive for a particular transaction is to avoid tax does not invalidate the transaction unless the law of the land specifically says so. There is a corporate army engaged in imaginative bookkeeping to discover and exploit legal loopholes and evade tax under the corporate veil.
The burden of justification is always on regulators who are not encouraged to fish for motive or evidence of suspected wrongdoing. According to the Westminster principle, if a document or transaction is genuine, courts or the regulator cannot go behind it to look for any supposed underlying substance.
Only if a fraud is established can a court or regulator pierce the corporate structure, since fraud unravels everything — even a law, if it is a stumbling block — because no legislature intends to guard fraud. In such cases, the principle of lifting the corporate veil or the doctrine of (economic) substance over (legal) form can be applied.
The Paradise Papers are a treasure trove of such leads and evidence. For example, in its bouquet of services, Appleby provides proxy directors for companies set up in tax havens. These directors, either persons or shell companies, obviously have no real authority to decide the fate of the millions of dollars they move on the directions of their clients — holding companies or beneficiaries, or their representatives. Most often, these directors are no more than puppets.
Many offshore companies, the Papers reveal, are “sham” entities engaged in tax evasion/avoidance, manipulation of the market, money laundering, round tripping (taking untaxed money out of the country through inflated invoices and then bringing it back as investment), parking black money, bribing, etc. Such insight into corporate ingenuity allows regulators to step in, besides strengthening the case for better laws and global tax reforms.


::Paradise Papers: The biggest names caught up in the leak so far

By:Will Martin
LONDON The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists published the latest of its investigations into the financial affairs of the rich and famous, detailing how some of the world’s wealthiest and most powerful people legally hide their cash offshore.
The latest installment — which follows on from 2015’s Panama Papers — has been dubbed the “Paradise Papers” and consists more than 13 million documents, obtained mostly from law firm Appleby, a leading adviser on offshore affairs.
No wrongdoing is being alleged by the ICIJ: “There are legitimate uses for offshore companies and trusts. We do not intend to suggest or imply that any people, companies or other entities included in the ICIJ Offshore Leaks Database have broken the law or otherwise acted improperly.”
Business Insider scanned the first set of papers released by the ICIJ — it will release more as the week goes on — for newsworthy or prominent individuals in the world of celebrity and politics. Here are some of the most interesting people named so far.
The Queen
The most striking name in the latest leak is that of Her Majesty The Queen. The Duchy of Lancaster, which provides the Queen with an income and deals with the investments for her £500 million private estate, is shown to have invested as much as £10 million offshore in funds based in the Cayman Islands and Bermuda.
“Our investment strategy is based on advice and recommendation from our investment consultants and appropriate asset allocation,” Chris Adcock, the CFO of the Duchy said in a statement given to the BBC.
“The Duchy has only invested in highly regarded private equity funds following a strong recommendation from our investment consultants.”
The Queen is not personally involved in any of the investments.
Madonna
Pop star Madonna is named in the Paradise Papers as having been a shareholder in a medical supply company in Bermuda. The company was registered in 1997 and shuttered in 2013, the papers show.
Amitabh Bachchan
Bachchan, one of the most recognisable names in India’s enormous Bollywood film industry, is named in the Paradise Papers as having been a “shareholder of a digital media company incorporated in Bermuda in 2002,” according to newspaper the Indian Express.
“Till the introduction of the Liberalised Remittance Scheme in 2004, all investments abroad made by resident Indians required prior approval of the Reserve Bank of India. It’s not clear if the shareholding was disclosed to RBI,” the paper writes.
Names of several Pakistanis, former prime minister Shaukat Aziz among them, have surfaced in the new database of documents, Paradise Papers, released by the International Consortium of Journalists Sunday night.
The Paradise Papers reveal data of over 25,000 companies spanning 180 countries, from 1950 to 2016.
Around 381 investigative journalists from 67 countries worked extensively to bring facts about the Paradise Papers before the people. Senior News reporter and ICIJ member Umar Cheema was also part of the team which unearthed the Paradise Papers.
The leak, which includes 13.4 million documents, comprises a major part of documents leaked from company ‘Appleby’. The documents were obtained from two companies in Singapore and Bermuda by a German newspaper and shared with the ICIJ.
Former PM Shaukat Aziz
Aziz was an employee of Citibank before becoming Pakistan’s finance minister and then prime minister in General (retd) Pervez Musharraf’s government.
He was one of the shareholders and directors of Bahamas-registered Cititrust Limited from 1997 to 1999, along with other executives of the bank.
In 1999, Aziz was appointed finance minister and created the Antarctic Trust. The Antarctic Trust’s beneficiaries include Aziz’s wife, their children and granddaughte
Source: businessinsider.com/ & Geo News

 

::Iqbal Day: Pakistan to celebrate 140th birthday of national poet on 9 Nov

The nation celebrated the 140th birth anniversary of national poet Allama Muhammad Iqbal on November 9 with traditional zeal and fervor across the country.
In line with media reports, special prayers will be held in the mosques for the peace, national integrity, prosperity and development of the country. Iqbal Manzil’s caretaker said that the main birthday cake cutting ceremony would be held at the Iqbal Manzil where people from all walks of life will participate and the students of different schools and colleges and their teachers will visit the Iqbal Manzil where Kalaam-e-Iqbal and speech contests will be held.
Iqbal was born on 9 November 1877 in Sialkot within the Punjab Province of British India (now in Pakistan). His grandparents were Kashmiri Pandits, Brahmins of the Sapru clan from Kashmir who converted to Islam.In the 19th century, when the Sikh Empire was conquering Kashmir, his grandfather’s family migrated to Punjab. Iqbal often mentioned and commemorated his Kashmiri lineage in his writings. Iqbal’s father, Sheikh Noor Muhammad (died 1930), was a tailor, not formally educated but a religious man.[18][19] Iqbal’s mother Imam Bibi was evidently a Sialkoti Punjabi. Iqbal’s mother Imam Bibi, a local Punjabi Muslim, was described as a polite and humble woman who helped the poor and her neighbours with their problems. She died on 9 November 1914 in Sialkot.[16][20] Iqbal loved his mother, and on her death he expressed his feelings of pathos in a poetic form elegy. Who would wait for me anxiously in my native place?Who would display restlessness if my letter fails to arrive?
I will visit thy grave with this complaint:
Who will now think of me in midnight prayers? All thy life thy love served me with devotion—When I became fit to serve thee, thou hast departed. After suffering for months from his illness, Iqbal died in Lahore on 21 April 1938.[8][12] His tomb is located in Hazuri Bagh, the enclosed garden between the entrance of the Badshahi Mosque and the Lahore Fort, and official guards are provided by the Government of Pakistan.
Iqbal, Jinnah and concept of Pakistan
Ideologically separated from Congress Muslim leaders, Iqbal had also been disillusioned with the politicians of the Muslim League owing to the factional conflict that plagued the League in the 1920s. Discontent with factional leaders like Muhammad Shafi and Fazl-ur-Rahman, Iqbal came to believe that only Jinnah was a political leader capable of preserving unity and fulfilling the League’s objectives of Muslim political empowerment. Building a strong, personal correspondence with Jinnah, Iqbal was an influential force in convincing Jinnah to end his self-imposed exile in London, return to India and take charge of the League. Iqbal firmly believed that Jinnah was the only leader capable of drawing Indian Muslims to the League and maintaining party unity before the British and the Congress:
I know you are a busy man but I do hope you won’t mind my writing to you often, as you are the only Muslim in India today to whom the community has right to look up for safe guidance through the storm which is coming to North-West India and, perhaps, to the whole of India.[36]
While Iqbal espoused the idea of Muslim-majority provinces in 1930, Jinnah would continue to hold talks with the Congress through the decade and only officially embraced the goal of Pakistan in 1940. Some historians postulate that Jinnah always remained hopeful for an agreement with the Congress and never fully desired the partition of India.[37] Iqbal’s close correspondence with Jinnah is speculated by some historians as having been responsible for Jinnah’s embrace of the idea of Pakistan. Iqbal elucidated to Jinnah his vision of a separate Muslim state in a letter sent on 21 June 1937:h BBC Urdu, alleged that Shahzadi had once told her family that she had been “forcibly taken away by security agencies”, detained for four hours and questioned about Hamid.
The disappearance of Shahzadi hit headlines once again in 2016 when her brother, Saddam Hussain, committed suicide in March that year. His elder brother, Salman, had told Dawn that the teenage boy was emotionally attached to his missing sister and very much disturbed by her mysterious disappearance. Source: Dawn.com

::Jinnah’s only daughter Dina Wadia passes away

Dina Wadia, daughter of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, passed away on Thursday at the age of 98.
Dina Wadia was the daughter and only child of the founder of Pakistan, Muhammad Ali Jinnah and his wife Rattanbai Petit. Her mother was a member of two of the elite class families of Bombay, the Petit–Tata family.
Born: August 15, 1919, London, United Kingdom
Died: November 2, 2017
Nationality: British
Spouse: Neville Wadia (m. 1931–1996)
Children: Nusli Wadia
Grandchildren: Ness, Jehangir Wadia
Dina was the only child of Jinnah and his wife Rattanbai Petit. She was born on 15th August, 1919.
Dina is survived by her son Nusli Wadia.Her paternal grandparents were from Gujarat, who moved to Karachi for business in the mid 1870s, where her father, Jinnah, was born.
She last visited Pakistan in 2004 during a landmark cricket series between Pakistan and India on the invitation of former president General (retd.) Pervez Musharraf. She considered cricket diplomacy to be an enthralling dimension.
Wadia had never visited Pakistan since her father’s funeral in September 1948. Source:Wikipedia
::A case for promulgating ethics education in Pakistani schools
By:Anika Khan
Enter a school in Pakistan and often, you see wall displays communicating messages about good character and values. But when you look at the curriculum of most schools you discover a void: ethics as a subject is missing from classrooms.
In 2007, an ethics syllabus was introduced in the National Curriculum for non-Muslim students as an alternative to Islamiyat. Ten years later, very few public or private schools actually offer ethics so hardly any Muslim and few non-Muslim students have access to ethics education.
In fact, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa online school curriculum no longer includes an ethics syllabus, while the Punjab Textbook Board’s curriculum includes ethics as an alternative to Islamiyat for non-Muslim students, an approach that in itself is debatable.
The slow process of incorporating ethics into schools makes it clear that ethics comes low on our list of educational priorities. A recent article in Dawn referred to the kind of ethical problems that can arise because of the lack of exposure to ethics education in medical colleges.
This becomes an even more pressing issue in the context of school education where young students are faced with ethical dilemmas not only in the physical world, but with unprecedented problems related to cyberbullying, appropriate boundaries of interaction on social media and the violation of privacy.
While government curriculums do make (half-hearted) attempts to incorporate ethical values into some subjects, the style is often didactic and the content is limited. A secondary problem is the way in which ethical content is actually taught to students.
In most Pakistani schools, Islamiyat classes are supposed to deliver lessons that build character and teach ethical values. In actuality, the teaching of religion is fraught with the same kind of pedagogical problems that affect our teaching of other subjects which is based on rote learning and discourages enquiry and critical reflection.
A pilot study conducted by me in a local school showed that teachers of Islamiyat, with perfectly good intentions, focused more on teaching factual information and religious rituals and paid far less attention to the ethical values that characterise Islam, such as courage, wisdom, temperance, compassion and, above all, justice.
While this was a limited study, it is likely that the teaching of religion across the country similarly lacks a focus on ethical content.
Some educators have argued that religion does not have to be part of the discussion on ethics in Pakistan, but I find this viewpoint myopic. Religion is important to most Pakistanis as the medium through which they make sense of life.
My experiences in teaching ethics to students and working with teachers in Pakistan has shown that religion often enters discussions spontaneously because it is the lens through which children and teachers will often view a problem to understand the right or wrong of it......... Source: Dawm News


::India is wasting energy on pointless sectarian fights
By:AMRIT DHILLON , NEW DELHI
Contributed to The Globe and Mail
You might think that, given the poverty, filth and illiteracy in the country, Indians spend all their time debating how to end those issues.
You’d be wrong.
They prefer to waste their energy on fiddle faddle. After observing recent television and newspaper debates, you begin to think that maybe the country remains a byword for poverty because it just can’t focus its energies on the really pressing problems that deprive Indians of dignity and comfort.
Two debates have dominated public life of late.
The first one is over the Taj Mahal, a symbol of India. A government booklet listing the famous monuments in the state where the Taj Mahal is located omitted to mention it. A cry went up from opponents of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which promotes a Hindu ethos, that the Taj Mahal had been left off the list because it was built by Muslim emperor Shah Jahan.
The government of Uttar Pradesh state later issued a clarification saying the Taj Mahal had been left out because the booklet outlined only new projects, not existing tourist attractions. But it was too late. Heated quarrels had begun. Opponents of the BJP said the Hindu party simply couldn’t stomach a Muslim mausoleum being the symbol of India when India is a Hindu-majority country.
In this inane exchange, some Hindus repeated a hoary and preposterous claim that the Taj Mahal was not a Muslim monument at all and that it was originally a Hindu temple. This claim is popular among some groups of Hindus afflicted by an inferiority complex. Given the praise they lavish on their ancient civilization – claiming that ancient Hindus invented the airplane, cosmetic surgery, and stem-cell technology, no less – it is galling that the symbol of India throughout the world was built by a Muslim.
It left you shaking your head in disbelief. Some BJP politicians have a problem with the Taj Mahal, which has put India on the map, because it’s not a Hindu monument and therefore they have to belittle it.
Worse was to come.
The second debate flared up on Oct. 9 when the Supreme Court imposed a ban on the sale of firecrackers on Diwali. This was to help keep unbelievable pollution levels in the Indian capital down, but some Hindus erupted again. “Why target only Hindu festivals? Why does no one ban the Muslim sacrifice of a goat during Eid?”
In prime-time television debates, seemingly educated Hindus turned a simple health problem (how to keep a lid on pollution) into a sectarian fight. They played the victim, as though they, the majority, are always being picked on. The ban was turned into an attack by the Supreme Court on Hinduism.
Astonishing exchanges occurred, with Hindus saying defiantly that they would, come what may, defy the ban and burst crackers on Diwali. One politician said, “soon they’ll be banning Hindu cremations too because the smoke pollutes the air.”
If a debate on the right to breathe can be turned into a Hindu-Muslim fight, then anything is possible.
Meanwhile, in Kerala, a few Hindu women who have converted to Islam and married Muslim men are being portrayed by Hindu groups as the victims of a “love jihad” waged by Muslim men who have brainwashed them into forsaking their original faith. It’s a “Muslim conspiracy” to lure Hindu women away. Everything these days is a Muslim conspiracy.
Other countries also sometimes expend energies on debates that might seem less-than-essential to outsiders. The recent differences in America over removing Confederate statues because they symbolize white supremacy and U.S. President Donald Trump’s defence of them as “beautiful,” is one example.
But America doesn’t have hundreds of millions of people who don’t have a toilet or a home, or electricity. It doesn’t have the highest number of malnourished children in the world. It doesn’t have slums where the poor are forced to live in rat holes that dehumanize them. India’s problems are vast, urgent and life-and-death. If the energies of those who run the country or those who influence public debate are going to be channelled into trivia (hate-filled trivia at that), its name will remain a synonym for poverty.
Amrit Dhillon is a New Delhi-based writer.


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