Interpreting Reality

Where and how do I begin? To speak from the heart, yet not reveal the grief, confusion and anxiety that it is filled with. Grief at the rapidly deteriorating situation all over the world where human life seems to have lost all value. Confusion as to why this sudden (or is it sudden at all?) collapse of all that I grew up holding valuable and precious? And anxiety, not for myself as much as for the human race in general and Muslims in particular. I have been troubled by all the killing and destruction of life that has been happening in the past few years with increase only in one thing – its rapidity and magnitude. But it was the massacre in the café in Dhaka which forced me to try to write something to clarify my own thinking and share some thoughts with those who would like to respond. If you would like to share in the reflection and add your own, I will be most grateful.

The situation globally is as follows:

1. As my friend Biju Abdul Qadir defined the situation: “In my understanding, there are two scenarios playing out almost all over the globe, in general, and in the ‘Muslim’ world, in particular. One is the very clear and present injustice being perpetrated through the physical invasion, occupation and devastation of ‘Muslim’ countries for the greater interests of the power-and-arms lobbies within certain governments, thus leading to extremism and calls for blind vengeance among the thousands so traumatized.
The other possible scenario is the devilish execution of an insidious strategy of setting up bogeymen organizations and individuals projected as Islamic forces but which do everything – spectacularly and horrifyingly – against the spirit of Islam, so that, ultimately, the negative tarnishing of Islam and ‘Muslims’ happen effectively, with little blame on the real plotters and script-writers behind the scenes. In both these scenarios – whether the open, or the hidden, one – the loser is the ‘Muslim’ nation.”

2. Blatant dichotomy that the Western world applies to itself (read ‘White’) versus the rest of the world (read ‘non-white’) where it supports the opposite of the principles it holds sacred and inviolable in its own society. Take freedom, human dignity, human rights, sanctity of human life, child care and protection, justice, equity and compassion – and you will find that Western powers support the opposite in all those places where they have an economic interest. Western countries support, fund and supply the worst dictators and totalitarian rulers with all that they need to keep their populations enslaved and turn a blind eye to the torture, violation of human rights, unlawful imprisonment and killings that those rulers do, all the while claiming the high moral ground of being ‘global policemen’ to ensure justice.

The daily reports of Israeli troops using pregnant women for target practice, imprisoning children without reason, legalized torture of political and war prisoners; proxy wars fought in Muslim lands at the expense of the lives and hopes of local people; drone killings legitimizing murder by using remote control technology; Rohingas being slaughtered without pause, the list is endless. Muslims see this as a global conspiracy to annihilate them and wipe Islam off the face of the earth. This leads to a siege mentality and a sense of helplessness and desperation. The thundering silence of Western leaders in the face of all of the above, especially when compared with their frenzy when a white person is killed by alleged ‘Islamic militants’; is a study in hypocrisy. As a friend said to me on the deaths of Mohammed Ali and Abdul Sattar Eidhi, “Whenever a great Muslim dies, he is anything but a Muslim. But whenever a Muslim kills, he is nothing but a Muslim.”

The latest is the revelation (as if it was a secret) of the Chilcot Report that the Iraq War was a fabrication of lies led by the Bush-Blair combine which resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Muslims, looting of an entire country and destruction of their nation. Question is, what is going to happen to those who are now seen for what they are i.e. murderers and bandits of the worst kind, responsible for genocide of an entire population of innocent people. A rather humorous analysis of it is here

The report itself is on the internet and you are welcome to read it. If some action is taken on this report and Bush and Blair are impeached, then it will restore some trust in global justice. As it is cynicism far outweighs hope and that is very dangerous. The key question to ask is what every Muslim asks daily, ‘What if the situation had been reversed and it was Iraq which had invaded Europe and America?’ How would the world have reacted? Are lies alright for white people and not alright for non-white? Sorry to keep talking about skin color but that is the reality of the world. 

3. The Muslim world demographically has a very young population which has all the same aspirational goals, attractions and hopes that any average Western youth aspires to but without the ability to reach them because they are living under conditions that prevent them; thereby condemning them to a fate of poverty and deprivation. Add to this the fact that Muslims (and all people with a mind and a conscience) are very angry at the rapidly tightening grip of the Military-Industrial Complex (read Western countries) on their lands and resources either directly through military occupation (Palestine, Iraq & Afghanistan) or through proxy rulers (too many to list) and at the blatant disregard for loss of Muslim lives. Not only that but the fact that in films like American Sniper, killing Muslims is celebrated; can only be viewed as crass and hugely provocative to put it politely. The extremist statements of people like Trump in America and similar myopic leaders in other countries adds to the anger.

A young population that is unemployed, poor, has time on its hands, has access to global media, has nothing to lose and is very angry – is a combination that is more dangerous than sitting on a powder keg with the fuse lit. Alienation born out of poverty and dearth of choices, that a vast majority of Muslim youth faces in almost every country that they live in; is their reality. 

As another friend, Khadeeja, put it, ‘The Dhaka killings were, according to media reports, perpetrated by youth from affluent backgrounds.  They went to posh international schools. While economic poverty is a lurking phantom that feeds the cycle of desperation and resulting violence, there is also another kind of poverty among young Muslims be they from affluent or non-affluent families- a poverty of hope that they can change the world.   As a result, what we see is an insular way of thinking because of fear/hatred of the Other, of being ridiculed about their idea of Self by their own fellow ‘secular’ Muslims.   This kind of insularity or perhaps even victim mentality in thought adds fuel to the fire of helplessness.’

4. Take away everything from a person and you have just created the most dangerous creature on earth – one who has nothing left to lose. A feeling of ‘nothing to lose’ has nothing to do with the material possessions that a person may have. People from affluent backgrounds are as prone to this as those who have little. So also hope; it resides in the heart and has to do with the individual’s faith in his future. That is what has happened to a large section of Muslim youth. They seem to have fallen into despair. They have aspirations like everyone else but the means of fulfilling those dreams are denied to them either because they are too poor to get the skill training or because of discrimination (official and unofficial) which shuts the doors for those who have gained skills with great sacrifice and determination. So like a lot of African American youth, they are footloose and susceptible to anything that gives them the illusion of empowerment and recognition. This is where recruitment for all kinds of things, from drug dealing to petty and more serious crime to religious extremism comes in. And they fall into the laps of the recruiters and the vicious cycle starts.

So there you have it. That is the problem definition. The challenge therefore is also twofold: 
1. Dealing with global aggression, invasion, demonization, blatant injustice and discrimination and the psychological impact it creates
2. Dealing with the helplessness, lack of self-esteem, lack of opportunity and the negative impact of free time and loneliness

Life is a precious gift only for the one who has the means (not only money) to enjoy it. For those born in circumstances where life is a burden (material or psychological), it is not a gift but something that must be borne willy-nilly. For some of them (very few perhaps) the chance of a moment of glory, of power, where those they envied, cringe before them and are at their mercy; is a moment for which they are glad to give up a life that is in any case worthless and meaningless in their eyes. They are not afraid to die because to live means nothing to them. They have nothing to lose. Thanks to their circumstances they have suffered (real to them) indignity all their lives. They have carried resentment in their hearts against those who poured that indignity on them; the ‘haves’ of society and the establishment which they blame for their fate. And so when someone offers them a chance to hit back, they take it. That is what’s happening today. People are hitting out blindly, out of frustration, without thinking of the effect of their actions. Disastrous.

So here is my proposal for a solution:

1. Dealing with the effects of global aggression:

I recall going to a Vipasana (Yoga) academy in Bangalore many years ago to learn a relaxation technique called Shavasana. As I was in the class I overheard a conversation between the teacher and a middle aged man who was also in the class.

Man, ‘I have a problem with acidity. I like to eat chilly and fried things and every time I eat them; I suffer all night with high acidity. Is there a Yoga technique that can help me?’

Yoga teacher, ‘Yes. Stop eating chilly and fried things.’

It is really as simple as that. If we, the people of the world, are really tired of dying and losing our lives and livelihoods, then we have to get up and say, ‘Stop this shit.’ As long as we keep electing leaders who are subservient to the war machine; weapons manufacturers, oil companies, banks, rapacious business people, we will remain condemned to die. We have to elect leaders who commit to shutting down weapons companies, commit to alternate energy and environmental protection, who commit to spending on education, food and public health instead of on amassing weapons of mass destruction. The solution is simple and clear. To implement it will not be easy as we have given up our freedom and have made ourselves enslaved to immoral political leaders and their handlers – the 1% of the world who run the world because we allowed it. I know some of you are going to say, ‘This is not practical.’ But I invite you to reflect that having 1% owning 75% of the world’s resources and deciding the fate of the 99% is even less practical. But it is happening, right? And it is happening because you and I allowed it. So take it back, if you don’t like what is going on. 
We’re seeing a sudden surge of dictatorial fascistic leaders around the globe. People give the example of good governance as Singapore, or Malaysia under Mahatir, or India under Indira Gandhi by saying that the national leader was a CEO. My point is that yes, they were great CEO’s and that’s precisely what was wrong with them and their style. The fault of the rest of us was that we accepted this situation without understanding what was behind it and were happy that the trains ran on time in exchange for our freedoms which were quietly taken away.

Every time anyone protested the State-Corporation reacted like its business model; put down revolts mercilessly; interpreting dissent as treason and punishing it accordingly. That’s why I don’t see Brexit, Arab Sprung (not a typo) and similar things as winds of change but as incipient rebellions which will be crushed. Sorry for the jaundiced opinion but I don’t like to fool myself or anyone else. The Arab Spring is a case in point. Those who want change will have to do a lot more than marching in the streets. Today the biggest crime is not what The Empire commits daily, openly and blatantly but to criticize the Empire. The saddest/funniest thing is to see this new morality being enforced; not by agents of the Empire but by stupid little slave leaders who don’t even realize what they’re doing. The victims are enforcing their own victimization. How convenient for the oppressors…you get what you want without the bad name that should go with oppression.

As it stands that means, supporting leaders like Justin Trudeau, Angela Merkel, Jeremy Corbyn, Arvind Kejriwal and other such people who appear to have kept out of the net of global capitalism. It means also holding leaders accountable. The Chilcot Report is a good test to see if there’s any change in standards in the offing. If there isn’t we mustn’t lose hope. Just try harder. It is a life and death issue in a very literal sense. Ours and our children’s. And we will be held responsible by history.

2. Dealing with alienation and despair

The second problem: Dealing with the effects of global injustice; alienation and despair; is really rooted in the first i.e. removal of injustice. If that is done the second one will go away by itself. But unless that is done, it can’t really be solved. So what I am about to outline is really a symptomatic cure to the systemic cancer that we are plagued with; the greed of those who already own 75% of global assets. I submit to you that this is not a problem of Muslims alone, but a problem that faces 99% of the world – because it is the 1% which is the cause of the problem. The Muslims simply happen to be on the front, suffering on behalf of the rest of the world. I submit to you that if the world doesn’t come together to establish justice and put an end to the global military-industrial complex and the economics of weapons manufacture and dealing, every single one of us will succumb to this cancer. The model of the 1% enslaving the 99% can’t be sustained. Indeed, why should it be?

What is the solution? Give them something to lose. I believe this has to be done in two ways, simultaneously:

1. Vocational training and entrepreneurial development leading to self-employment.
2. Ideological dialogue to refute the extremist philosophy that is being projected as Islam.

Eradicating Poverty – the most Critical Need of the Hour

A vibrant middle class is essential to the health of any economy and a measure of it. The bigger the middle class the bigger the market for goods and services and more money flows into the economy and is available for public services like healthcare, education, transport and so on. Contrary to the myth of trickle down, money doesn’t flow down from the superrich or from global multinational corporations into local economies. The superrich don’t use local services, live in ivory tower isolation and are generally unaffected by local conditions as they are surrounded by cordons of insulation. Multinational corporations are answerable to their shareholders who don’t live in local communities and so they don’t care what happens in local economies. Many don’t even employ local people, except in menial jobs because locals may not have the education and skills that they need. 

So skill development is the key to poverty eradication. For this we need to:
1. Set up vocational training centers in every local school. Every child must mandatorily learn some marketable skill, whether or not he/she uses it later. Working with your hands, working with tools, creating things, fixing broken machinery and such activities are very therapeutic and inspirational. There is enough flex in the timetables of our curriculum to permit this and if there isn’t then that time must be created. Every child must graduate with a marketable skill. The vocational centers can become self-funded by selling their products and services to local communities with the education being provided free of cost. That way you will provide employment to local artisans as well as pay for the facility. The infrastructure already exists in the form of the school building. And if necessary vocational training can also be done after hours when the school has let off.

2. Children must also be taught the basics of entrepreneurship in an easy application oriented way covering the following topics:

  • Writing a business plan
  • Budgeting – P&L accounting
  • Risk taking
  • Team Building
  • Selling skills

3. Institute special prizes for entrepreneurial initiatives in key areas like poverty eradication, alternate energy, education, food production, transportation, health management and other high need areas. Prizes must take into account, innovativeness, social consciousness, creativity.

4. Set up a Venture Capital Fund to provide prospective entrepreneurs with interest free loans. These must be given after a rigorous selection process of examining business plans and ensuring that they have a high likelihood of success. The capital for this fund can come from major multinational companies as part of their CSR. I know this is being done by some progressive CEO’s but it must be hugely boosted. I believe that the way to do that is by creating a full-fledged Venture Capital Fund that is available to all aspiring entrepreneurs. Business CEO’s will recognize the value of such a fund and will fully support it. Invite them to sit on the Board and run it.

5. Pair new entrepreneurs with established businessmen and women who can coach and mentor them. This will break the economic/social barriers which have taken the place of feudal barriers of old but have the same negative effects. Wealthy people must see how the poor live. It touches the heart. It makes us human and above all, grateful for what we have and the desire to share it with others.

Ideological support

It is a given today that there are people on the internet, who are spreading hatred and recommending all kinds of violence in the name of Islam. It is a redundant discussion in my mind about whether these are false flag operations or genuinely misguided Muslims who are spreading this message. The fact remains that they are spreading this message and there are some Muslim youth who are attracted to the message enough to wreak havoc. 

What happened in Dhaka was not done by an army. It was done by a few people and rocked the world. That is the aim of the anarchist. Hit soft targets that are almost impossible to defend and create disruption in society to further their own aims of regime change. Society’s reaction; be it police brutality, media hysteria or racist and fascist statements by politicians are all blessings for the recruiter as they only help to reinforce the anti-establishment message that he wants to convey and enhance the feeling of being persecuted that the potential recruits feel. The situation therefore needs extreme maturity, patience, fortitude and wisdom to handle. Like the economic strategy, this must also be seen as a long term investment. Changing hearts is a notoriously difficult thing to do. Ideological conflicts are the worst and most difficult to resolve, but resolve we must. Our lives, quite literally depend on it. I suggest the following steps:

Restore confidence in Government and in the Justice System

I won’t go into the reasons why this is perhaps at an all-time low. The reasons are clear to everyone who has eyes and ears and a mind that can think. I want to focus on what we can do to change that situation. And change it we must, if we want to achieve anything at a national or international level. We can’t influence people who don’t trust us and so trust must be built. We must decriminalize legitimate dissent. Else, we risk having the bottled-up anger and frustration unleashed through violent means. When governments suppress legitimate forms of political dissent often violently, they risk radicalization and people resorting to violence for their voices to be heard. We have seen many examples of this all over the Middle East in the recent past.

Enforce Transparency in all law enforcement

To correct this situation transparency is essential. Follow due process and be transparent and treat people with dignity. I won’t describe what happens today when someone (especially a Muslim) is arrested on suspicion and his family go to the police station to enquire. I know that those who will read this are fully aware of what happens. The problem is what this has done to the image of the police in particular and of the justice system in general. People have lost hope in both. Radicalization starts with this and is fed by every incident where justice is perverted and denied by those who have authority. Transparency is essential. Justice must be seen to be done.

I propose that when someone is to be arrested on suspicion, there must be enough incriminating evidence before the arrest warrant is issued. Then this evidence must be shown to the family of the individual and his lawyers and credible members of his community so that it becomes clear to everyone that the person being arrested is indeed guilty. The fact remains and must be recognized that thanks to social stigma and irresponsible reporting, a person who is arrested is already tried and condemned before he reaches a court of law. So even when he is found to be innocent, his life is effectively destroyed. He loses his job, he and his family face a social boycott and sometimes have to move to a different town. All this not because he was guilty at all, but because the police made a mistake. Having others suffer because of your mistakes is not justice, is it? Transparency is key to restoring confidence. Involving the public through good communication is essential to good policing, especially in fighting terrorist activity. 

Believe me, we the people are even more interested in fighting terrorist activity for the simple reason that we die when it happens. So involve people and don’t treat them like potential criminals. Muslims know what is happening in their community far better than any policeman can ever know and will gladly help in preventing and solving crime if they are taken into confidence, are trusted and treated with dignity. All three are sadly missing in police public interaction at a grassroots level. Our police have become used to behaving in a highhanded, arrogant manner because they can get away with it. People suffer in silence because they have no alternative. But trust is destroyed, which is our current situation. This must be built with great patience and wisdom.

Police – Public Communication & Sensitization

The police have become used to being the coercive arm of government. While this role may always be there, the primary role of the police officer should be as a partner of the public in keeping them safe. The two roles can’t happen simultaneously. So we need to choose. If police public partnership works, coercion will become unnecessary except in exceptional circumstances which will be understood by all concerned. Communication is key for this to happen. 

For a start as a test of my claim that police officers maintain an intimidating distance from the people which discourages participation here is a checklist that you can give to the SHO of any Police Station to fill out. The results will be enlightening, I hope and encourage the seniors to do something about this by presenting an example of behavior. Juniors usually imitate seniors and we have plenty of examples to show of pompous seniors who won’t even answer a phone, let alone talk politely to a civilian. So send this checklist to all SHO’s and see what they say:

1. How many prominent local people do you know personally?
2. How many of them without political affiliation and from minorities or Dalits?
3. How many of them do you visit socially at least once a year?
4. Do you invite them to any function at the PS – e.g. Independence Day flag hoisting? 
5. If not, why not?
6. Do you participate, even if by simply wishing, in any festival not your own?
7. If not, why not?
8. Do you visit any schools, hospitals, NGO’s, places of worship in your area?
9. If not, why not?

You can add any more questions as you wish but I believe the results will be the same. Police don’t have a relationship with the public because they don’t want to. If Indian Police really want to be partners with the public, then they have to define who they are and what their role is. You can’t run with the hare and hunt with the hounds. You have to decide where you belong and act accordingly.

Sensitivity Training for the Police

One of the first courses I taught at the SVP National Police Academy was for IPS Probationers of the 1991 batch on Police Public Sensitization. This was a course mandated at the time by the Home Ministry and I believe it was one of the best initiatives of government which must be reinstated. A nation can’t progress when it lives in a state of war with its own people. There are over 200 million Muslims in India who are all good, law abiding and peaceful citizens who love their country and are committed to its wellbeing to which their own wellbeing is attached. Sadly, they have been put into the insulting position of having to declare this over and over again and yet not be believed. Especially in officialdom, the police usually being its first encounter, they are viewed with suspicion – guilty until proven innocent – though there is no evidence that this is the case. Committing crimes is not the copyright of any community. Crime must be treated as crime. Not as proof of collective evil of any community. Fairness is the foundation of justice. It is therefore essential to educate the police about Islam’s fundamental beliefs and tenets so that they are not susceptible to propaganda that Islam is somehow the cause of violence. They must also be trained in behaving with sensitivity and in treating the civilian population as partners in solving crime. Bridges must be built and policemen and women need to be trained in how to do this. If anyone is in doubt about this, let him go incognito to a police station disguised as an ordinary Muslim father of a son arrested on suspicion and experience the fun. The dignity of the individual must always be respected.

The law can’t be upheld by those who break the law. Police must uphold the law in letter and spirit and the use of torture and so-called 3rd degree methods must be outlawed and their perpetrators punished. It is good to remember that our legal system doesn’t permit these reprehensible methods in any case. But the police have become so accustomed to using them that it may sound strange to some to remind them that their actions as policemen are illegal.
Finally, the media and press leaders must also be educated in this because ‘trial by media’ which is another name of character assassination has become the norm. Media anchors and writers believe that they can say whatever they want, hiding behind terms like ‘alleged’, ‘reported’, ‘believed’ and proceed to destroy the life of someone just because it helps them to get good TRP ratings or sell a few rags. This is despicable and shameless. Journalism has lost its position as the conscience of civil society and its defender, just to make a little money. It is high time that journalists are reminded of their respected position so that they understand the need to regain it. The media is the last defence of the innocent civilian. If the media persecutes that person for the sake of cheap popularity, then it is a case of Jab manjhi nayya duboye usay kaun bachaye? मांझी जो नाव डुबोये उसे कौन बचाये 

Imam Development Program

The influence of the local Imam is huge. He is seen as a confidant who has knowledge of Islam and so is often listened to with great attention. Sadly, many if not most Imams are not trained to lead. Their knowledge is restricted to a very small section of Islam and the Imam does not have the perspective or tools to interpret current events or to guide his congregation. He can’t admit that openly as he needs to maintain his aura of being knowledgeable to retain his job. 

The challenge is to handle this with great empathy, sensitivity and understanding, working with mainstream scholars who the Muslim community trusts. You have to first win over these scholars and then make them the ambassadors for this program. There is a huge suspicion among Muslims for anything that seems to come from government, police, foreign agencies etc. All born out of their own bitter experience in the past. To win them over will not be easy but without that nothing can be achieved. Scholars will be very wary of associating with any program that the government runs for fear of losing their own credibility with their constituencies. To try to force them would be suicidal. What we need is a lot of patience, perseverance and genuine sincerity which I am sure will help them to see the value of the Imam Development Program. 

I suggest using the Minorities Commission or a respected NGO as the front for this program as they have better credibility and to do it without fanfare and flashbulbs. It is necessary to handle this with great care because if it loses credibility with the community then nobody will enroll and nothing can be achieved. We can’t force this.
Create an Imam Development Program (must be funded) free for students over a duration of 3 – 6 month part-time course covering the following areas:

1. Understanding current events (no propaganda – just honest appraisal)
2. How to make the masjid a window into the Muslim life & culture
3. Cross cultural sensitivity, interfaith dialogue, community service
4. Refuting the message of the extremist from the Islamic ideological angle
5. Answering questions about current challenges in an Islamic context
6. Counseling skills
7. Public speaking skills

Finally, we have to answer the question for the potential student – the Imam who we hope will come to this program – WiiFM? What’s in it for me? The reason I say this is because in India at least (my guess is this will be the same more or less, elsewhere), Imams are paid very poorly by the masjid where they serve. Most congregations have little money and so they pay the Imam what they can and he makes up the balance by giving private tuitions, teaching children to read the Qur’an. 

So he goes from house to house and teaches for 45 – 60 minutes per class. All these have to be scheduled around the five daily prayers where the Imam is mandatorily required to be in the masjid as well as his student’s school hours. So he leads a very stressful life. For him to take time out to attend a course is very tough, maybe even impossible especially if he doesn’t see any financial benefit accruing from it. It will be necessary to give the candidates a stipend and to try to keep the course as near and accessible to them as possible and where they have to travel, give them a travel allowance. A certificate from the government, Department of Education or some such department will be an added attraction.
Establish Justice

Discrimination against Muslims must end. Punish criminals, but first establish the crime. Unlawful arrest, torture and imprisonment without due process which have all become routine must end and those indulging in them must be punished. Crime must be dealt with according to the law. Police action has traditionally been so unjust and biased that the police have lost all credibility. Nobody believes what the police say and view every police initiative with suspicion. Well intentioned police officers with integrity who want to genuinely do good must be prepared to face suspicion and rejection because of the sins of their predecessors until they win the confidence of local people. The life and property of a Muslim is not less valuable than that of a non-Muslim. Muslims have lost hope in the justice system. They don’t believe they will ever get justice. They have plenty to evidence to support their belief. This must be refuted by acting against those who participated in killing Muslims or harming them in any way. Muslims are also human. Killing them is called murder. And murder is a crime, no matter who commits it. If a Muslim commits it, hang him. But if someone kills a Muslim, hang him also. Unless justice is seen to be done, trust can’t be built. Transparency is critical. 

All criminals must be punished but only criminals must be punished. 

It is as simple as that. Give people a door to legal redressal and they will not take the law into their own hands. Help criminals believe that they can’t get away with their crimes because of their caste, tribe or political affiliation. That is the meaning of justice. One law for everyone irrespective of who he or she is. This will restore confidence and go a very long way to wean people away from extremist ideology. Take away the reason for resentment. Take away his desperation. Take away his hopelessness and despair. Or be prepared for them to burst into flames, consuming all those around them. 

It is essential that governments don’t officially support those (especially Muslims) who criticize Islam, mock the Prophetﷺ or mock religious scholars. If this is not done, then anything run by the government will be rejected. Suspicion is a hurdle that will have to be surmounted in any case for any government funded program and can only be done by winning the confidence of scholars that people trust. That can only be done if there is genuine respect. Acting cannot be sustained and trust lost can never be regained. People are entitled to their opinions and if someone wants to criticize Islam they are welcome to do so but governments must be neutral. That way people don’t feel persecuted. Equality means equal protection. 

This is our choice. Our time is running out. We must act. We must act in concert because this concerns us all. We are all in it together.

And proclaim the Grace of your Rabb

وَأَمَّا بِنِعْمَةِ رَبِّكَ فَحَدِّثْ
Duha: 93: 11. And proclaim the Grace of your Rabb

Yesterday we (in Hyderabad, India) had a massive storm with a 100 mph gale and heavy rain. 67 electric transformers burst all over the city. Trees were uprooted and fell across streets, blocking them and causing massive traffic jams. A huge unipole crashed and smashed three cars. We had no power for 12 hours and it is a herculean task that the electricity department did with great success in restoring it despite the damage and destruction to transformers, power lines and poles.

Where I live, we have a courtyard which has (had) a perspex canopy, bolted onto a steel frame, grouted into the concrete of the courtyard terrace. The wind ripped it off its moorings and deposited it at the other end of the terrace. Mercifully it crashed against a concrete pillar and stayed on our terrace.  Here is what it looks like now.

Near where the canopy fell is (was) a 5000 litre water tank which was filled to capacity at the time of the storm. That means it weighed 5 metric tonnes. This is what it looks like after the gale caught it:

In our flat, two floors below this we have an open balcony on one side. In the center of it is a Frangipani tree which is really two trees in one big brass pot, which I have been nursing for 6 years trying to get it to flower. But nothing happened until I was about to go to South Africa in April when it started showing some signs of life. Until then it had literally 10-12 leaves and not a single flower. When I returned in May, it was lush with leaves and bunches of white and red flowers. I was delighted that all the effort had finally paid off and we had this lovely tree on the balcony. Here is the photo I took after I returned.

Also on the same balcony we had some unwanted guests – a Feral pigeon mother with her two little chicks. Unwanted because pigeons are a menace in Hyderabad, aggressive, messy as hell and noisy and belligerent to boot. But being urbanized as they are, they take advantage of our absence and build their nest in our balcony and procreate. So when we returned we were greeted with the messiest of nests – just a few dry leaves strewn around – and the ugliest of babies you can imagine – pigeon chicks. Pigeons are the world’s worst nest builders. A pigeon nest is a joke if it is on someone else’s balcony and a never ending aggravation if it is on yours. The mess of dry leaves surrounded by pigeon poop is disgusting to put it politely. But this one had these two chicks in it, so much as I was tempted to chuck the whole lot into the garbage, I resisted and they were with us last night.

Then the gale hit us. As you can see, it ripped out a steel frame grouted into concrete and tore apart a water tank as if it were made of paper. 

My first thought was, ‘There goes my Frangipani and the lovely flowers. And goodbye little pigeon chicks.’ I was sure that there was no way that they could survive the gale and rain. They would be blown away, washed away or simply die of fright with the explosive thunder and lightning that turned night into day. There was nothing the pigeon mother could do except to save herself and so she slid into a gap between our folding balcony doors sandwiched between the glass and mosquito mesh. There she must have prayed to her Rabb for the safety of her brood. I could do nothing for her or her brood. I dared not go near where she was for fear that she would try to fly away in that gale which would surely have killed her. And I dared not open the balcony door to go onto the balcony to try to protect the chicks because the house would have filled with water. As it was, the balcony was like a lake, flooded with water.

The gale and rain eventually ended and when I could go out I went out and what did I see?

Here is what the pigeon chicks and their nest looked like: Everything dry. Not even a dry leaf blown away. Chicks safe and sound and that corner of the balcony dry, while everything else was flooded.

As for the tree, well, I will let the pictures speak for themselves. I have posted the picture of the tree I took on May 5 when I returned from South Africa. 

Here is what it looked like today after the storm:

You will notice that the lower bunch has more flowers in this photo than in the earlier one above as this was taken today, May 21, after the storm while the one above was taken on May 5 as I mentioned. Nothing happened to the tree or flowers.

Tawakkul is to still trust in Allahﷻ and that He can protect you when everything around you says the opposite. That is what I believe the pigeon mother did. And it is the result of her dua that her chicks and my tree were both safe.

I am sharing this to share my joy and sense of wonder at what I saw yesterday. Steel, hard moulded plastic grouted in concrete ripped away. Dry leaves, little chicks and flowers, intact.

وَمَا تَشَاؤُونَ إِلَّا أَن يَشَاء اللَّهُ إِنَّ اللَّهَ كَانَ عَلِيمًا حَكِيمًا 
Insaan 76: 30. But you cannot will, unless Allah wills. Verily, Allah is Ever All-Knowing, All-Wise.

Marrying for josh, not hosh


I want to get married to this man in my university who says that the best thing for him is to get married to get out of the temptations that surround him. He is still a student on scholarship and has no income or career. What is your advice?


جزاك اللهُ خيراً  for your question.

My advice is that you learn to eat grass. If you marry someone without an income, that is what you will need to be able to do at some point.

Sorry to be rude – but as George Bernard Shaw said, ‘You must never be afraid to offend people because that is the only time that they listen.’ I hope you are offended and can wake up from the hormone induced dream that you are in before it turns into a nightmare.

For a man to be suitable to marry, you must look for three things:

  1. How is his Deen?


-Is he on the Shari’ah and Sunnah?


-Is he particular about avoiding the doubtful things?


-How are his manners? Not to you – but to all around him.


-Is he argumentative and combative about everything? Is he an auto-refuter?


-Is he kind and considerate to those weaker than him? Does he thank the waiter and the doorman?


-Is there a smile on his face or a frown? Does he have a sense of humor?


-Is he smart? Does he read more than comics? Can you have a serious, sensible conversation with him?


-Is his brain bigger than his biceps? (If he proposed to you without an income, I seriously doubt that it is)


-Is his language that of inclusion or exclusion – looking down on others who he considers as not so good Muslims as himself?


-Does he praise more or criticize more? Is he forgiving of others or eager to expose their faults?


-How particular is he about avoiding Haraam (Sorry to point out, but if he was having conversations with you without a Mahram, he and you were already indulging in Haraam)?


  1. Can he support himself?


-How? Not dreams and smooth talk – but actual nuts and bolts. Here and now?


-Has he completed his education? How much longer will that take?


-Will his family support this marriage of yours until he can get a job (lousy situation to be in but better than eating grass)?


-What is his profession and how soon can he get a job?


-What kind of income does he have today and what can he look forward to?


-Is that enough to support you and your family?


-Believe me, today you may think that you can live on love and sunshine, but I doubt that you can pay your rent with sunshine. Neither will sunshine buy you bread – that’s why I said that you may like to start eating grass because that is free and maybe you can even hire your services out as a walking lawn mower and make some money as well.


  1. How compatible are you with each other and each other’s families?


-That means that you wake up and ask some basic questions like what do they eat?


-Where do they come from? Country and culture. Not race. I have seen marriages between Africans and African Americans break up in six months because Africans and African Americans are two different cultures, even though racially they are the same. Race doesn’t matter. Culture does. Difference is not bad. Incompatibility is. And many a time, difference translates as incompatibility.


-What is the relationship and expectation from the parents in law?


-How do they live? Are they from a multi-marriage culture where your husband-to-be who can’t resist temptations today will once again not be able to resist temptations and will take unto himself another wife; and perhaps another. So how will you take to that?


-What kind of financial background do your husband’s family come from? Is there too much of a disparity?


My mother used to say, ‘To patch a tear in a muslin garment you don’t use gold brocade.’


Finally of all the dumb reasons to marry is to ‘stay out of temptation’. I know I have just put myself in line for the Fatawa of all my ‘strong’ brothers who will strike me down with this and that Daleel. But before that, let me say to you, my dear sister, in plain words; What he is saying in effect is that he needs a legal means for sex. And you are that means.


I especially like the one where these (self-professed religious types) say, ‘But Shaikh, I need to fulfill my needs in a Halaal way.’ So I tell him, ‘When you are the father of a daughter of marriageable age, imagine a person like you coming and saying, ‘Can I have your permission to marry your daughter because I want to satisfy my needs in a Halaal way?’ He will most likely have a sole-ful experience with the sole of your boot. He would if I were the father of the girl. Plus, he would need a complete dental replacement job because I would have persuaded him to swallow his teeth.


That is the most insulting thing that you can say to the girl or her parents – please give me your daughter so that I can use her to satisfy my sexual needs. Provided of course that the girl has the intelligence to get insulted. It takes intelligence even to get insulted when you should get insulted, believe me.


I am amazed that you don’t find this the most insulting thing that you have ever heard? Doesn’t that tell you what kind of self-centered, others-can-go-to-hell-as-long-as-I-am-satisfied kind of cretin he is? And you are thinking of marrying him? Which proves that the color of the hair is not an indicator of a vacuum in the head.


I would have more respect for a man who simply says, ‘I find you very attractive and I want to sleep with you.’ That is an honest statement. It is not Halaal and you mustn’t do it, but it is honest. ‘I want to marry you to get out of the temptations that surround me’, means that you are a placebo to take care of what others are doing to him and his hormones. You are not even an individual worth recognizing except as a receptacle for his biological donations. And you don’t find that insulting?


Absolutely insane.


So, what happens when the hormones are not boiling over any longer? He’s not marrying you for yourself. He is marrying you for himself. That is the worst reason to get married to anyone for. Believe me and wake up. Or keep sleeping and find out for yourself when the dream turns into a nightmare. After all nightmares are also dreams.


I will tell you what happens in 9 cases out of 10. When things get too tough and you demand time, attention and money, he will walk away and you will be left holding the baby – quite literally. Then what are you going to do?


Even there he will have a great and holy reason why he must abandon you and will give you stories of how this one and that one sacrificed herself to help her husband to earn Jannah. Believe me, his conscience will be clear and when he gets to wherever he is headed he will find someone else like you to swallow his story about satisfying his needs in a Halaal way. Really you women are so dumb. As I said, I seriously hope that you and all those women who read this get seriously offended and start thinking before you ruin yourselves for some charlatan’s smooth talk.


Wake up and answer this questionnaire and if he comes out on top, by all means marry him. If not suggest to him to take cold showers – maybe he should put his bed in the shower – and you focus on your education.


You came to the university to study. Not to look at boys. He came to study. Not to look at girls. Concentrate on your education. Get a distinction. And go home. And then see what Allahﷻ has in store for you in terms of your Rizq – a husband you can look up to and be proud of. A husband who will be proud of you and treat you like a princess all your life. Not someone to satisfy his sex needs.




I wish you all the best in this world and the next.”

Glossary: Josh (passion), Hosh (intelligence)


In search of peace – Really??

What is required for peace to prevail?
Anything done with a clear intention and according to a system gives value added results.
Take the case of calisthenics – weight lifting – to build strength. And compare it to the most common cause of a strained back and lower back injury – weight lifting. How is it possible that the same thing is beneficial and harmful at the same time?

The answer lies in the way it is done. In the first instance you follow a system and do the actions deliberately with a clear intention under the guidance of an expert, at least initially. In the latter you just grab a weight and lift it – most commonly a heavy piece of luggage in a railway carriage or airport. No system and no deliberately conscious intention.
In his book ‘Talent is Overrated’, Geoff Colvin talks about ‘deliberate practice’ as distinct from ‘distracted practice’ – distracted is my term – but what he means is that simply hitting a thousand golf balls a day will do nothing to improve your swing or take away your slice if it is not done deliberately, consciosly and under expert guidance – meaning according to a system. In the latter case hitting far fewer balls will do more for your swing that hitting a thousand a day.

That is why I say that anything done with a clear intention and according to a system gives value added results.
So how does this apply to peace?
If we are serious about peace we need to answer two questions:

  1. Do we really want peace?
  2. Are we willing to do what it takes to achieve peace?

 Let us look at some data because as they say, ‘Data doesn’t lie.’

Here is a graph showing the return on investment of armament manufacturers.

Between 2001-2011  the defense industry as a whole spent $1.2billion on lobbying and on average  employed nearly 1,000 lobbyists annually – nearly two for every member of Congress.  It contributed $24.4 million to political candidates in the 2011/2012 election cycle alone. A ROI of $22.1 billion on an expense of $15.9 million (Boeing) is astronomical. Impossilbe in any field other than gambling perhaps. But in this industry it is not a gamble. Big question of course is the entire role of lobbyists but we’ll leave that for now.

Here is what the top four defence stocks did since the Iraq war. So that explains the imagination of the creators of WMD’s and the proponents of that theory who felt no shame in lying through their teeth before the UN. That’s why I fall off my chair laughing when anyone tries to peddle ‘Leadership Lessons’ of Gen. CP.
Let us look at who makes all this happen.
And then take the case of one of these importers and see the situation at home:
Why would a country with the greatest abject poverty and in no real danger from anyone want to spend a fortune importing arms? You tell me.
And finally to prove how beneficial wars are for those who run them here’s more data:

Consider our popular culture in the light of these facts and you will see why we glorify war and soldiers both in history as well as at present. Armies sell the story that they exist to protect civilians who owe them a debt of honor. That is true for armies that exist purely for defence and don’t invade and occupy and pillage others. But what about the great armies of the nations who have historically colonised other nations and to this day are engaged in wars of oppression, invading and looting nations who did them no harm and who represented no threat? Are these defending their people or serving their commercial masters? How honorable is such soldiering?
Ask yourself some questions:
We have all read about Alexander, The Great. We were taught in school always to use the title ‘The Great’ when referring to Alexander. What makes him great? He invaded lands, destroyed homes, killed people, enslaved the free, raped and plundered and became rich on the spoils of war. That makes him ‘The Great’?

What about those who resisted him, fought to defend their homes and families? Who was more honorable? The invader or the defender? The bandit or the householder who fights the bandits to save his family?

Check out the meaning of ‘spoil’. Then ask why even war mongers call them ‘spoils of war’?

The word, ‘Caesar’ has entered the language itself to mean King. Ask why, when Julius Caesar, the first Consul of Rome to hold that title, was not a king at all and on slaughtering one million Gauls remarked, ‘Today was a good day.’

Ask this question about all conquerors of all times. No exceptions.

Ask why we have always glorified conquerors and cast resistance fighters in the role of villians, calling them ‘insurgents’, ‘rebels’, ‘terrorists’ etc?

Ask why we call killing innocent civilians, ‘collateral damage’? Put your children in the place of the dead ones and then say, ‘collateral damage’.

Ask how else can you demonstrate the effectiveness of weapons unless you create a situation where you legalize their use, glorify murderers and demonize defenders?
Old story of looting in the name of civilizing nations that British and other colonials did and continue to do. One day someone will have to catalogue and write about the Iraqi artefacts that were stolen after ‘liberation’ of Iraq, both from Saddam and its art and treasure. Truly Iraqis must feel so free now. Don’t even ask about the Kohinoor diamond in the British Crown and where that came from and a million other things that were looted from India, Africa and Asia. When theft is glorified in the name of conquest, then there is no shame in wearing the proceeds of it in the crown.
But you say you want peace?

War is profitable. Hugely profitable. There will be war as long as there is profit in it. 

Want peace? Make war unprofitable. QED.

Dilemma of the Revolutionary

This is a thought-share primarily for South African leadership who may be interested in an outsider’s view of the changes happening in their country. I have taken the liberty of adding my comments on what I believe will be helpful to do. I am not preaching to anyone. This is a thought-share with anyone who is interested. That’s it.

When I graduated in Political Science in 1975, I never thought that I would live in a world where I would actually be able to see almost everything I studied and some more, happening. My world was a stable place with little change, yet poised to take the dive from there into the maelstrom of change that we have become so familiar with today. Yet that happened and that too in less than two decades.

I was in South Africa last week on my pilgrimage as I like to call my visit to Kruger National Park; truly one of the most beautiful places on earth. As always I also met my old friends, made new ones and watched with interest the changes since my last visit which in this case was in 2014. I have always maintained that there is much for South African leadership to learn from the post-independence history of India which would be learning without the pain of actually repeating that history in their own post-independence development. This article is to help those who are interested to do that.

India also came out of its colonial slavery, though without bloody revolution. We shall not mention the fact that we made up for the bloodletting during partition and the formation of Pakistan. The new leaders, Nehru and gang, who took over from the British White Sahib Bosses faced the same post revolution dilemma – how to make the dream you sold to the people come true.

The Indian National Congress headed by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru as Prime Minister, ‘solved’ the problems of job creation and land distribution by creating huge Public Sector Organizations run by bureaucrats who knew as much about running a commercial operation as I know about flying a plane. The purpose was to create jobs. Not manufacturing efficiency, quality or innovation. And that purpose was achieved by employing at least three people to do the job of one. Worker friendly legislation made it a crime even to frown at a worker who didn’t – hold your breath – work. Trade unions became very strong, backed the political party which made the rules and later became the arbiters of power themselves. As long as nobody asked questions about efficiency, productivity, quality or profitability this completely impossible system continued and Nehru and his successors were able to ‘show’ how they were delivering on the promises made during the Independence Struggle. Nobody asked, ‘How long can this continue?’ It didn’t, as we shall see.

Land distribution was also handled in the same way through legislation which abolished the Zamindari system (feudal system where one person owned the land which was tilled by tenant farmers who were in many if not most cases, bonded laborers) and introduced the Land Ceiling Act. What happened was that large land holdings were divided up into small plots and given away to the tiller. Sounds so nice and cuddly but with it came the problem that the small owner – the erstwhile tiller – had neither the capital for inputs nor the knowhow about cultivation. He had been a poorly paid worker who did what he was told. Suddenly he became a land owner. So two things happened. Land which had been previously cultivated and yielded good crops, lay fallow and barren and the new ‘land owner’ went to work on a construction site in a city as a manual laborer; since that was the only marketable ‘skill’ he had. Others, many if not most of the new ‘land owners’ went back to the old owners and handed in their papers and said, ‘Please give me my job back and you can have the land.’ So officially they remained owners on paper. But the old status quo of the land owner returned. Militancy also came into being with some of the newly liberated bonded laborers wanting to keep their land and till it. Old owners tried to throw them out with the help of the police and the Naxalite Movement was born.
On the industrial front, Public Sector Corporations reached their size of self-implosion and simply got too unprofitable to run. Government ran out of money to pay salaries and mandatory increments. Labor laws originally created to protect the worker became means of encouraging non-productive behavior. Unions went over the top and in states likes Kerala and West Bengal literally paralyzed business and industry. Voting-in another party did nothing to change the situation. Finally, Government brought in what they called ‘Liberalization’ – liberating themselves from their false promises. The back of the trade union movement was broken. Today there are no unions in the entire IT and ITES industry in India. Privatization of many areas took place. Manufacturing became more efficient but the ranks of the unemployed increased. Problem still not solved. In India what helped was the intrinsic entrepreneurial nature of the Indian which resulted in a lot of small and medium enterprise happening all over. Credit became easier to get with nationalization of banks. And the strong family system helped to keep people alive and kicking.

Huge numbers of Indians went to work in Gulf countries and their inward remittances supported their families. Indians by nature are fatalistic and not militant and so no major public unrest happened though public misery is all too visible. We’re far from being out of the woods because we are now going on the track of fast becoming an oligarchy – with too many millionaires and too many poor people. And the future looks bleak, especially for the poor.

Naxalite militancy is on the increase though not in cities yet. Crime is rampant though since the media is the mouthpiece of the establishment, goes unreported. Rampant farmer suicides are one major indicator of a very sick society. Corruption at an unprecedented scale is another. From being something that existed quietly and was indulged in clandestinely, corruption is now an aspirational goal, indulged in totally without shame. The industrialist – politician – bureaucrat nexus is working very well to corner resources for the few at the expense of the many. Fear rules and life is cheap and easily lost.

India is a notoriously corrupt country, with Transparency International giving it a rank of 76/168 (USA is 16/168) where crony capitalism thrives (On the World Bank Groups “ease of doing business index”, India is 130/168 and the USA is 7/168) and where inequality reins with extreme poverty (GINI index of 33.9, along with a HDI rank of 135/168).  India is also a thriving democracy.  All of these things combine into the one obvious conclusion:  one of several established parties compete on the best way to manipulate elections using money and muscle-power. (Source:
But India is a big country and as they say, ‘Even a dead elephant weighs five tons.’ So the effects of all this are not yet crippling. But we are getting there, fear not. We are getting there.
In 1995 I went to South Africa soon after they became independent but the only black people I saw were the waiters in my hotel and the servants in the houses of white people, who invited me to a braai. I stood on the viewing deck at the top of the Sun in Sandton at night, the city bright with lights except one big black hole in the distance. I asked someone if there was a power outage. The white man smirked and said, ‘This is not India. We don’t have power outages. That is Soweto. They have no power.’ Very interesting, I thought – arrogance apart. In India we have power outages and still do double digit growth while in Apartheid South Africa not giving power to the majority of citizens was state policy.

I went back to South Africa in 2005 and since then have been going there almost annually for what I call my ‘pilgrimage’ to the Kruger National Park. A journey of love which I look forward to for the eleven months that separate one from the next. I also meet lots of people, businessmen (have I met any businesswomen?), politicians, academics, educationists, farmers, doctors and other professionals, game rangers, students, professors (aren’t they academics?); Blacks, Whites, Indian, Colored, Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Atheist, Agnostic, Hindu, I-don’t-know-what-I-am; you name it and I’ve met it. They talk and I listen. I talk of course and sometimes they don’t like what I have to say but that is the risk of being an analyst – distance gives perspective because perspective is a function of distance but people who are close to the ground, who don’t like the diagnosis you give them, say, ‘You don’t live here. You don’t understand our reality’. Forgetting that it is precisely for that reason – because I don’t live in South Africa – that I can see and understand the reality of what is going on.

As I have said before, it is cheaper to learn from other’s mistakes than to make your own. South Africa is in the unique position to learn from the mistakes of India but seems unable or unwilling to do so. I have been trying to convince all those I speak to when I visit there, to study post-independence India and learn lessons to apply in post-independence South Africa. They all listen respectfully, agree with me entirely about the need to learn, feed me great food, take me to Kruger Park, I put on weight and come home. Nothing changes. I love the hospitality of course and thank my hosts but remind them that I can afford my meals and didn’t go there for free food. If they don’t change their ways, then I shudder to think about what will happen. And I can’t stop that from happening. There are enough examples in Africa itself to look at.

So what is going on in South Africa? A revolution is taking place. It is in progress. It is happening as we speak. But it is a revolution without formal leadership, without clear ideology, without a strategic game plan. It is a revolution of nature. Of human nature to do what it considers best for its own survival, without sometime bothering about any long term results of precipitate action. It is very dangerous.

‘Ha! Wrong again’, you say. ‘Our revolution ended in 1995 when we became free of the apartheid regime. Now it is payment time.’

‘No’, I gently remind you. ‘1995 was the first stage in that revolution to become free. You reached that step. The revolution continues and depending on what you do; it can make you truly free or enslave you once again.’ The choice is yours. I am the analyst, remember? Also remember, shooting the messenger doesn’t turn bad news into good. South Africa is poised on the brink. It can become a case study of what to do or what not to do. It is your choice.

Let me talk some theory first – Revolution 101.

Oppression is oppressive and sows the seeds of its own destruction at its inception. Those seeds germinate in thoughts of freedom. Grow in the atmosphere of yearning for freedom seeing others becoming free. Are watered with the blood of martyrs. Martyrs die and more are needed so those running the revolution have to sell a dream. A dream where in effect the oppressed get everything the oppressors have today. Streets paved with gold, big cars, bigger homes, jobs for everyone, food galore. As the lyrics of the song go, ‘Money for nothing and the chicks for free.’

Nobody asks the real question, ‘How likely is all this?’ Nobody asks and nobody cares, because dreams are supposed to be unrealistic. And let’s face it, if it was not attractive enough, why would I leave my family to go and die in the street? I didn’t go to die. But I went and I died. And that was some more irrigation for the dream to grow.

Finally, it comes true. We are free. Now what?

Now I am waiting for my job, new car, home, food, 24-hour power supply, clean water, hospitals – you name it and I want it. But it doesn’t come. Why not? Because the dream was a dream and dreams have an inconvenient way of coming true with strings attached. But nobody told me that. Well, let’s face it. If someone told you that you would have all of the above and more but that it would take two generations of hard work to get it, would you have fought to throw off apartheid? If someone had told you that you would have to go to school and college, study very hard, compete for jobs like everyone in every other country does, would you have died to give others a chance at that? If someone had told you that there’s no free meal and no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, would you have endured the suffering of the revolution? But that is the reality. Like it or not. So the chickens do come home to roost. The promises have to be fulfilled. People will hold you to them, Mr. Revolutionary Leader. And you can’t say, ‘They are not realistic.’ Because you made those promises and at that time you didn’t tell me that they were not realistic. You sold the dream. Now deliver. Or help me understand what to do to get it.

Every revolutionary party faces this. The let-down at the end of the revolution, when you expect to be in a permanent state of high in your dreamland come true. But instead face disillusionment, disappointment and even despair. This is the crucial threshold that all political parties who run revolutions have to face and cross if they want to succeed and actually give the people the beautiful life they promised them.

If this is not done, what’s the next step in this cycle?

Another party arises and sells another dream. ‘We will give you everything that these liars promised and failed to deliver. Jobs, electricity, water, homes, cars, everything. And you need do nothing except to support us. Support us and you will have it all.’ And believe it or not, people are ready to believe this story once again. They don’t ask the crucial question which they should have asked in the first place – “HOW?” And the cycle repeats. Until of course one day you get a new leader who decides that he can’t really give people what they want but also doesn’t want to give up power and so a new dictator is born. There are plenty of examples of this in Africa itself – Uganda under Idi Amin for example and others which I am sure I don’t need to name.

But as I said earlier, in our world of change you don’t have to go that far back to see this cycle come full circle. Look at Egypt. As they say, ‘Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.’ Hosni Mubarak was oppressive to put it politely, for decades. Then came Morsi and the Ikhwaan. Sold the dream of freedom, jobs, food and won an election that nobody thought they would win. But once again the people were not prepared to face the reality, that it is not magic. Everything will happen but not overnight. I was in Cairo and Marsa Alam in April and May that year and saw people sitting in roadside cafes, drinking tea and discussing politics. I knew this was a very ominous sign. Disgruntled people with real woes, sitting around in tea shops or bars talking politics in a free country is always dangerous. Sadly, my fears came true and Morsi’s government fell and Sisi came to power; even more oppressive than Mubarak. Circle is complete. The future is bleak.

Another good illustration of this process is that of growing up from childhood. A small child is dependent entirely on its parents. So it ascribes all its life experiences to them. If it is happy, parents are good. If it is unhappy, it the fault of the parents. To an extent this is correct because parents have power and the child doesn’t. However, when the child grows up, this equation changes. Parents are no longer powerful or even present. However, many people fail to grow up mentally and simply transfer this attitude of ‘Someone else is responsible for my happiness’, to their spouses or bosses and go through life blaming others for whatever happens to them. True growing up is to own responsibility for yourself. Not merely to grow facial hair or other indicators of physical maturity. Real maturity is when the individual takes charge of his or her own life and says, ‘This is my life and I am responsible and I will do what it takes to make it the most productive and beautiful life possible.’ Only then is the person truly grown up and not simply a 30 or 40-year-old child. And this transformation can happen at any age. Not only at 30 or 40.

The same is the case with countries that are under the yoke of oppression. People get used to being powerless and to blaming the ruling class for their problems. As in the case of the child, this is true because they are powerless. But oppression fuels rebellion so some take ownership for this powerlessness and decide to change it and the revolution is born. But what happens is that in the heat of the struggle, nothing is done to enable others to grow up also. And so when independence is won, others merely view the new leaders in the same role as the old – i.e. ruling class – and look up to them in the same way – they are responsible for my happiness. Same chairs, different bottoms. This is dangerous for the ‘ruling’ party especially as they will be held responsible for the dream not coming true. And the cycle which I mentioned above happens.

Nobody tells the people that there is no ‘ruling class’ now. That they are the rulers. So if they don’t like something they have to change it. They can’t any longer blame someone else. They have to collaborate with government to make it productive. Not cop out and sulk or attempt to run away. There is nowhere to run. One can’t really run away from oneself, can one? Same logic.

This is exactly what is happening in South Africa today. I don’t need to describe what is happening there. It is all too visible. Hubris at the success of the struggle. Then like kids in a toy shop filling the pockets with all the toys you can get your hands on. Forgetting that now you own the shop and so you can’t steal from yourself. You can only harm yourself by filling your pockets. Meanwhile the people who followed you are still used to the ‘ruling class’ attitude. Nobody told them that there is no ruling class any longer. They are the rulers and so they get to carry the can. They supported you in the revolution – they believed that they were working for you, not themselves. They believed your sales talk about what they would get when they won the revolution. You forgot to tell them that it would take time, investment, sacrifice, hard work and still more time. So they are now waiting to get it.

“I am entitled to it. So give it to me.”
“Work? I already did that. I fought in the revolution (or my father or grandfather did) and so I am entitled to the candy. Where is it?”
“On top of that, I see the toys you put into your pocket. I see the candy (corruption, privilege) that you are eating. So why can’t I also eat it?”
But enough of diagnosis. Let us look at solutions. So what is the solution?

Two things:
  1.     Leadership: Put your own house in order.
  2.      Change the mindset from ‘Entitlement to Contribution.’

Here’s a more detailed explanation:

     Put your own house in order:

Take the candy out of your pocket and put it back on the shelf. And apologize for taking it out of turn. Help your friends also to do that. The sooner this is done the easier and less painful it is. Delay is suicidal. Corruption is a cancer that is infectious and kills as surely as the real thing. You have to look after your cow. You can’t milk it and not feed it. You can’t cut out a piece of meat because you are hungry. The cow will die and you will die with it. Corruption is suicide. Root it out ruthlessly and quickly, needless to say, starting at the top. If the head is sick the body can’t be healthy. So do whatever it takes to cure the sickness. Swallow bitter pills, perform surgery, cut out the cancer before it kills you. I don’t think it’s necessary to say anything more.

Tackle crime urgently. Investigate, prosecute and sentence. Sayings like, ‘South Africa’s national sport is rape’, are not funny and indicate a very sick society.

Sexual Offences
54, 927
53, 439
Cumulative since 2004
The figures are horrific and I can perhaps safely say that they don’t include a single politician of any hue. It is only poor people who have no protection who die and are raped. More people die violently in South Africa than in many war zones. And remember that it is safe to say that in all these cases the number of crimes actually committed is more than those reported.

I personally know of two cases of major robbery and one where a person was shot through the leg that were never reported. The reason, which I was amazed to hear, was that people have no faith in the police. This is a very serious matter, where the citizenry has lost faith in Government. Sad to say that there appears to be very little, if anything done by the Government about it. This is something that sits squarely in the lap of the Government and must be dealt with urgently. If necessary, reinstitute the death penalty. Criminals can’t have more human rights than victims.

South Africa’s crime is the single biggest deterrent for foreign investment. The apathy of the Government in tackling it is impossible to understand. It appears that there is a high level of collusion between police and criminals without which such levels of crime would be impossible.  

The second biggest deterrent for foreign investment is the general lack of skills, the result of a failed education system. This again is something that is critical to address and correct without which South Africa will not be able to attract large investors who would be very happy to invest there and set up manufacturing facilities. South Africa needs vocational schools that can train people in marketable skills that can enable them to earn a living. This would directly impact the job market and provide jobs and enhance the quality of life but it can happen only when the country can offer a high level of skills in the workforce. South Africa is the gateway to Africa but at present this seems to be used mostly by the drug trade. Control of crime, drug cartels and skill development to provide good jobs is the key. I have suggested some ways below.

Change the mindset of people from ‘Entitlement to Contribution’.

Educate people on the steps forward and show them a realistic plan where they can see how to succeed and taste that success in a reasonable period of time. It is essential that people see results in their main pain areas and see them fast. Government must be seen to be doing things. Saying, ‘We won freedom for you’, is not enough especially for a generation which didn’t see apartheid. This requires the following:

The public education system needs major overhauling. That is a subject in itself so I won’t talk about it here, except to mention the need to address this urgently. The current system is designed to create failures. It must change.

Introduce Vocational Training in all schools. Every child must learn a trade or skill by the time they complete schooling. That way they will have a marketable skill which they can use to earn a living. It is critical to develop a thriving middle class. Give people something to lose. The problem today is that people have nothing to lose.

Rejuvenate the Farm Schools and train children in farming while completing their primary, secondary and high school education. Get them connected to the earth. That is the best education and will prepare them for the real thing later. The Afrikaners knew what their Farm Schools produced. Just replicate that and you will get the same results. People connected to the soil are people who are interested in the development of the country.

Ministry of Small Business: The Right Step Forward – But…
o   It is completely untenable that the Government is the biggest employer in South Africa employing over 45% of the employed population. No government has the money to pay that salary bill or to take care of inevitable increments, social welfare expenses and so on. There is a critical need in South Africa to create a robust class of self-employed people who not only take care of themselves but provide employment for others.
o   As the sub-heading of this section says, the initiative to set up a Minister of Small Business is an excellent step. This must be supported and results measured. A good idea is to seek ‘Customer feedback’ to see how Government’s initiatives are being experienced by those for whom they are meant. In my own search on the net, I have seen some excellent articles. One is here: And another one: So listen to people and recruit them in enabling small businesses to succeed.
o   Provide training in all aspects of entrepreneurship. In my view this is the key to development, eradication of crime, handling the food and energy crisis and education in South Africa. Enforce entrepreneurship.
o   Set up a Venture Capital Fund to provide prospective entrepreneurs with interest free loans. These must be given after a rigorous selection process of examining business plans and ensuring that they have a high likelihood of success.
o   The capital for this fund can come from major multinational companies operating in South Africa as part of their CSR. I know this is being done by some progressive CEO’s but it must be hugely boosted. I believe that the way to do that is by creating a full-fledged Venture Capital Fund that is available to all aspiring entrepreneurs. Business CEO’s will recognize the value of such a fund and will fully support it. Invite them to sit on the Board and run it – not government bureaucrats. We need businessmen/women to run this Fund.
o   Pair new entrepreneurs with established businessmen and women who can coach and mentor them.
o   Set up a National Entrepreneurship University that trains in all kinds of vocational skills and starting up businesses.
o   Award Prizes for successful startup ventures in all provinces and at the national level. These should be significant monetary awards that encourage people to participate and are worth working for.
o   Institute special prizes for entrepreneurial initiatives in key areas like poverty eradication, alternate energy, education, food production, transportation, health management and other high need areas. Prizes must take into account, innovativeness, social consciousness, creativity.

A vibrant middle class is essential to survival in any economy. The bigger the middle class the bigger the market for goods and services and more money flows into the economy and is available for public services like healthcare, education, transport and so on. Contrary to the myth of trickle down, money doesn’t flow down from the superrich or from global multinational corporations into local economies. The superrich don’t use local services, live in ivory tower isolation and are generally unaffected by local conditions as they are surrounded by cordons of insulation. Multinational corporations are answerable to their shareholders who don’t live in Soweto (so to speak) and so they don’t care what happens in local economies. Many don’t even employ local people, except in menial jobs because locals may not have the education and skills that they need.

Countries like India and China score over South Africa in this regard because we have a very strong education and skill base and can actually provide potential employers, people of equal competence at a much lower cost. That’s not the best USP – buy me because I am cheap – but it works for a while anyway to build a middle class. South Africa has a lot of catching up to do. However, I believe that if the things that I have mentioned above are done and done urgently, then South Africa will be able to solve its problems of crime, unemployment and political unrest and create a stable, vibrant middle class with a high standard of living.