AMU signs MoU with Dutch varsity for academic exchange

By News Desk,

New Delhi: Aligarh Muslim University has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the INHolland University of Amsterdam for the exchange of students and academic staff between the two Universities along with joint activities in the area of course development, student internships and higher research.

The MoU was signed when a high power delegation of INHolland University visited AMU to explore the prospects of joint activities in the field of educational and cultural research and training. The visiting delegation comprised of Mr. Cor de Raadt, Dean Faculty of Education, Mrs. Rimke van der Veer, Assistant of Dean, Faculty of Theology, Mr. Rasit Bal, Head of the Department of Islamic Studies, Maulana Mohammed Taheer Wagid Hosain, Imam and Lecturer (Representative of Indian native Muslims) and Aehmed Nazir Khan Joemnan, Member of the Supervisory Road Mosques, Representative of Indian Mosques in Netherlands.

Prof. Saud Alam Qasmi interacting with a delegation of Nederland

“The memorandum of understanding aimed at providing opportunity to the students of both the universities to learn each other’s language, culture, religion and the sociology of home and host countries and to encourage exchange programme between the two universities,” said Dr Rahat Abrar, PRO, AMU.

Prof. Saud Alam Qasmi, Dean, Faculty of Theology interacted with the delegation and signed the Memorandum of Understanding on behalf of the AMU. Prof. Abul Kalam Qasmi, Department of Urdu, Dr. Shakeel Samdani, Coordinator, General Education Centre and Dr. Tauqueer Alam Falahi also remained present in the interactive session. Dr. Shakeel Samdani discussed various aspects of cultural exchange between the two universities.

AMU Vice Chancellor Prof. P. K. Abdul Azis with the members of delegation of Nederland

Later the delegation met with the AMU Vice Chancellor Prof. P. K. Abdul Azis and discussed with him the areas of interest that the two universities may jointly explore for higher learning and research.

Islamic monotheism is not under threat

A Faizur Rahman
First Published : 11 Nov 2009 11:41:00 PM IST
Last Updated : 11 Nov 2009 02:05:10 PM IST

In his article How did it turn unsafe? (TNIE, November 9) S Gurumurthy wants to know “what is so special about Islamic monotheism that singing Vande Mataram minimises the importance of only the Islamic God and not the gods of other monotheistic faiths?” He wonders why Muslims should feel threatened when Christians and Sikhs are not opposed to the song.

Before we proceed further, a glance at the recent history of this controversy would be in order. It started in 2006 when the then HRD minister Arjun Singh called for the singing of Vande Mataram in schools across India on September 7 that year to mark its centenary. Although he later clarified that singing would be voluntary, the BJP went ahead and issued its own fatwa asking all the states ruled by it to make the singing of the song compulsory in all schools, including madrasas.

It was as a legitimate reaction to this extra-constitutional attitude that Deoband issued a fatwa against singing the national song, not because Islamic monotheism became suddenly ‘unsafe’ from Vande Mataram. A few days ago RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat in an interview said all Indians must sing this song. Gurumurthy’s feigned ignorance of the circumstances that led to the Deoband fatwa stands exposed.

He is also wrong in his assertion that the Shiromoni Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee in 2007 ordered Vande Mataram sung in its schools. Indeed, the SGPC asked its schools not to sing the song as it went against their religion. SGPC chief Avtar Singh Makkar, quoted by Gurumurthy, said; “Vande Mataram will not be sung in SGPC-run schools. It’s a conspiracy to extend communalism throughout the nation.”

What Makkar later expressed was only his inability to prevent Sikhs from singing the song. There seems to be no record of his praising the song as claimed by Gurumurthy.

Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee president Harvindar Singh Sarna said on September 6, 2006; “Vande Mataram would not be sung in the DSGMC-run educational institutions tomorrow on its first centenary as it is against the tenets, principles and philosophy of Sikhism.” He also said that it had been rejected by veteran Akali leaders Baba Kharak Singh and Master Tara Singh during the freedom struggle.

On September 8, 2008, the Punjab Newsline reported that Sikh and Christian institutions boycotted the singing of Vande Mataram in Punjab.

In quoting Fr Cyprian Kullu, Gurumurthy reproduced only a part of his statement. In the other part Kullu censured the Hindu extremists saying, “It is ironic that Muslim clerics issued fatwas that singing the song would be an act of desecration. But equally ridiculous is the stand of some Hindu organisations describing as anti-national those who refuse to sing the song. This is a frivolous thing. India is a democratic country and democracy reveres individual freedoms.”

Also, Gurumurthy omitted mentioning the views of the author of our National Anthem, Rabindranath Tagore. In a letter to Subhash Chandra Bose in 1937, he wrote: “…. no Mussulman (Muslim), Christians and Arya Samajis can be expected patriotically to worship the ten-handed deity as ‘Swadesh’ (the nation)…The novel Anandamath is a work of literature, and so the song is appropriate in it. But Parliament is a place of union for all religious groups, and there the song cannot be appropriate. When Bengali Mussulmans show signs of stubborn fanaticism, we regard these as intolerable. When we too copy them and make unreasonable demands, it will be self-defeating.” (Letter 314, Selected Letters of Rabindranath Tagore, edited by K Datta and A Robinson, Cambridge University Press)

Therefore, it is not the question of the ‘Islamic God’ being ‘minimised’ by singing Vande Mataram. The Deoband fatwa should be seen as a kind of democratic protest, a refusal by the patriotic Muslim minority of India to be browbeaten by the Hindutva brigade (which does not enjoy the support of the majority of the Hindus) into surrendering their religious freedom. The Muslim position is more legal than theological. They have neither ridiculed Vande Mataram nor condemned it. They only want Hindus to respect their religious sentiments. Had Gurumurthy waited a day before publishing his article he would have had the benefit of the counsel of one of our top legal brains, Soli Sorabjee. In his Soliloquies ‘Contaminated mindset is genesis of bombers’ (TNIE, November 9), Sorabjee writes, “The legal position is that Muslims who because of their conscientious religious belief refuse to sing Vande Mataram cannot be forced to do so nor can they be penalised for their abstention. What is the rationale of the Supreme Court judgment? In the words of celebrated Justice Chinnappa Reddy: “Our tradition teaches tolerance; our philosophy preaches tolerance; our constitution practises tolerance; let us not dilute it”.”

It has become a sort of tradition for Gurumurthy to malign Islam at the slightest provocation. Obviously he is not aware that Swami Vivekananda, the greatest proponent of Advaita Vedanta (non-dualism) after Adi Sankara, tried to bring about reconciliation between Hinduism and Islamic monotheism which coincides with the non-dualism of Advaita.

On June 10, 1898, in a letter written from Almora to his friend Mohammed Sarfaraz Hussain Vivekananda proclaimed; “I am firmly persuaded that without the help of practical Islam, theories of Vedantism, however fine and wonderful they may be, are entirely valueless to the vast mass of mankind”… “For our own motherland a junction of the two great systems, Hinduism and Islam — Vedanta brain and Islam body — is the only hope. I see in my mind’s eye the future perfect India rising out of this chaos and strife, glorious and invincible, with Vedanta brain and Islam body.” (Letters of Swami Vivekananda, Advaita Ashrama, page 379-380). Is Gurumurthy listening?

Marine reservist attacked Greek priest he mistook for terrorist

By Alexandra Zayas and Demorris A. Lee, Times Staff Writers
In Print: Wednesday, November 11, 2009

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Jasen BruceGreek Orthodox priest Alexios Marakis, visiting from Massachusetts, is loaded into an ambulance in Tampa Monday evening after police say he was attacked by a Marine reservist.
Jasen Bruce

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TAMPA — Marine reservist Jasen Bruce was getting clothes out of the trunk of his car Monday evening when a bearded man in a robe approached him.

That man, a Greek Orthodox priest named Father Alexios Marakis, speaks little English and was lost, police said. He wanted directions.

What the priest got instead, police say, was a tire iron to the head. Then he was chased for three blocks and pinned to the ground — as the Marine kept a 911 operator on the phone, saying he had captured a terrorist.

Police say Bruce offered several reasons to explain his actions:

The man tried to rob him.

The man grabbed Bruce’s crotch and made an overt sexual advance in perfect English.

The man yelled “Allahu Akbar,” Arabic for “God is great,” the same words some witnesses said the Fort Hood shooting suspect uttered last week.

“That’s what they tell you right before they blow you up,” police say Bruce told them.

Bruce ended up in jail, accused of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon. He was released Tuesday on $7,500 bail. Marakis ended up at the hospital with stitches. He told the police he didn’t want to press charges, espousing biblical forgiveness.

But Tuesday, Bruce wasn’t saying sorry.

• • •

The two men are a year apart in age, and a world apart in life experiences.

Father Michael Eaccarino of St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Tarpon Springs says Marakis, 29, entered a Greek monastery as a teenager and became a priest nine years ago. He is studying theology at Holy Cross, a Greek Orthodox school in Massachusetts, and traveled to Tarpon Springs two months ago to work on his master’s thesis. He has taken a vow of celibacy.

Eaccarino says the visiting priest got lost Monday after ministering to the elderly in a nursing home.

Jasen Bruce, 28, enlisted as a reserve Marine as a teenager, was discharged honorably when he finished his contract, and enlisted again this March. He has never been deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan, a Marine Corps spokesman said. He got married last month in full dress uniform.

Bruce is a sales manager for APS Pharmacy in Palm Harbor. His blog entries tout the benefits of increasing testosterone and human growth hormones. He was charged with misdemeanor battery in 2007 for hopping over the bed of a tow truck and shoving its driver. He pleaded no contest.

Online photo galleries depict him flexing big muscles wearing little clothing.

An exterior surveillance video of Tuesday’s chase captured the two men in motion, said Tampa Police Department spokeswoman Laura McElroy:

“You see a very short, small man running, and an enormous, large muscular man chasing after him.”

This is what police say happened at 6:35 p.m. Monday:

The priest’s GPS gave him the wrong directions, leading him off Interstate 275 and into downtown Tampa. He followed a line of cars into a garage at the Seaport Channelside condominium to ask for help.

He found Bruce, whose back was turned, bending over the trunk of his car, and he tapped his shoulder before saying, in broken English, “please” and “help.”

That’s when Bruce reached for the tire iron. Police say that by the end of the chase, he had hit the priest four times.

Hours after his release from Orient Road Jail on Tuesday, Bruce stood silently as his attorney, Jeff Brown, told his version:

The bearded man wearing a robe and sandals was clearly trespassing in the garage. In a sudden move, the stranger made a verbal sexual advance and grabbed Bruce’s genitals. The Marine defended himself. And immediately, he called 911 as he chased him.

Brown said the police initially called the Marine a “hero” and said the priest was “mentally ill.”

He called the police’s account “one-sided” and said the department should investigate a sergeant he said made derogatory comments about the Marine’s military background.

Police said that sergeant is, himself, a veteran. They say that the priest was disoriented when they found him at the corner of Madison and Meridian avenues, but a translator at Tampa General Hospital helped him communicate. And that the GPS corroborates the priest’s story.

When police arrived at Bruce’s apartment at 1:30 a.m., before they had mentioned charges, he had already called an attorney.

Television news stations showed the priest’s photo on Tuesday and mentioned what the Marine said he did. If the priest had watched, he wouldn’t have understood it.

He’d spent the day in great spirits, his fellow priest said. His main worry was that he inconvenienced the others who had to care for him. Then, a man named Jerry Theophilopoulos got in touch with him. He’s a lawyer, speaks Greek and served as a former board member of the church. The lawyer said he told the priest what the Marine said. Marakis was stunned. His eyes grew wide. He said it was a lie.

Times researcher John Martin and staff writer Jamal Thalji contributed to this report.

[Last modified: Nov 11, 2009 11:22 AM]

Clinic Apologizes for Telling Muslim Doctor She Can’t Wear Headscarf

Monday, November 02, 2009

DALLAS  —  A suburban Dallas medical clinic has apologized to a Muslim doctor for telling her during a job interview that she would not be allowed to wear her headscarf while at work.

Dr. Hena Zaki of Plano said Friday that she was shocked when officials at CareNow, which operates 22 clinics in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, told her in person and later by e-mail that a no-hat policy extended to her hijab.

Zaki had been on a tour of a CareNow clinic in Allen, Texas, two weeks ago when she said the regional medical director told her he didn’t want her to be surprised about the policy during orientation.

“He interrupted the interview and said he didn’t want me to take this the wrong way,” Zaki said. “Like an FYI.”

Zaki demanded an apology and a change in CareNow’s policies to accommodate expressions of religious belief — “whether it be a turban or facial hair.”

On Friday, CareNow President Tim Miller told the Associated Press: “I would apologize for any misunderstanding, definitely … but I don’t really feel like there is anything that we did that is wrong and our policy is wrong.”

The next day, as reported by MyFoxDallas/Fort Worth, Miller wrote in a statement:

“We apologize to Dr. Zaki for the misunderstanding. We will clarify our policy, and will continue our ongoing sensitivity training.”

“Care Now has made religious accommodations for employees in the past,” he said, adding that the company is interested in “sitting down with Dr. Zaki and discussing a job.”

CareNow says it does not discriminate on the basis of race, sex, religion or national origin when making employment decisions. The Civil Rights Act requires companies to make accommodations for employees’ religious beliefs.

Zaki, who’s searching for her first job after recently finishing her residency at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, has worn her headscarf since age 14 and said other places she’s worked have not had a problem with it.

“It’s not a hat,” she said. “It’s not sports memorabilia.”

Click here for more from MyFoxDallas/Fort Worth.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

US clinic denies Muslim doctor right to wear hijab

Sun, 01 Nov 2009 03:12:22 GMT

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Dr. Hena Zaki

medical clinic in Dallas, Texas has sparked controversy after saying a
Muslim doctor applying for a job cannot wear her headscarf if hired.

Dr. Hena Zaki of Plano, Texas said Friday that she was shocked to
find a no-hat policy at the CareNow clinic extended to her hijab.

“He interrupted the interview and said he didn’t want me ‘to take this the wrong way,'” Zaki said. “Like an FYI.”

The 29-year-old doctor has called for an apology and a change in CareNow’s policy.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations has criticized the no-hijab policy, calling it “a blatant violation” of federal law.

“It’s obvious it’s a blatant violation,” said the council’s civil
rights manager, Khadija Athman. “It’s a very straightforward case of
religious accommodation. I cannot see any undue hardship on the part of
the employer to accommodate to wear a head scarf.”

CareNow Chairman Tim Miller, however, has refused to apologize,
saying in a statement that there is nothing wrong with the policy,
which, according to him, ‘does not discriminate on the basis of race,
sex, religion, or national origin’.