Entrepreneurship Development is the key to economic upliftment

This picture which I took in Pune on my way to the airport after teaching a leadership course at SKF, is my all-time favorite. It is a picture of a man who decided to take his future into his own hands and become an entrepreneur. He gives the lie to all those who complain about lack of resources, education, government support, fate or whatever. He has less resources, education, government support than anyone who will read this post. Yet he is better than almost every one of us because he decided to do something instead of complaining. This is a picture of courage, enterprise, creativity and confidence. It is an inspiration for me and for anyone who is seriously interested in development. And a kick in the pants for all those who make excuses.

One thing that the Sachar Committee Report showed clearly to anyone who has eyes is that discrimination is a part of life for the Muslim in India. While we keep fighting for reservations and whatnot, I am one who believes that if one wants to succeed in life, he can’t rely on the mercy of others. One has to rely on oneself and one’s own effort for the simple reason that it is the only thing which is in our direct control. With that in mind I am writing what I have advocated all over the world. I have tried to devise a strategy that is self-sustaining and requires very little start-up funding. This strategy is not for Muslims alone. It is for anyone who wants to do something about poverty and economic deprivation. Discrimination is not a Muslim copyright. It is what every poor person faces. For poverty is the religion of the poor. And that is the conversion we need to make – from job seeker to job provider.
Action Plan
  1. Vocational training
  2. Entrepreneurial development
  3. Venture Capital Fund
Vocational Training
  1. Start a Vocational Training Centre in every school. This must be done in every Government and private school and Madrassa. Every child must learn a skill. Products can be sold and the income can be used for the Center. This will also provide employment opportunity for artisans/professionals who are presently unemployed. Parents and community members can be encouraged to participate in this venture by lending their time and skills.
  2. Funding can come from CSR of companies who will be happy to fund such ventures.
  3. The building infrastructure already exists. If the timetable is an issue (usually there is enough time in the normal day itself) then the Vocational Training can be done after school.
Entrepreneurial Development
Simultaneously an Entrepreneurial Development Training plan must be established teaching students of the Center how to turn the skill into a business. This will ensure interest in the Vocational Training Course itself as people will be interested if they see how they can make this into a viable business and career option.
I suggest opening both the Vocational Training and Entrepreneurial Development Training to local communities also to help everyone and gain popular support. The Entrepreneurial Development Training course must consist of the following skills to be taught in a completely practical mode. NO LECTURES except as initial explanations. All teaching by practitioners (preferably voluntary) and all practical only.
  1. Writing a Business Plan to pitch for investment
  2. Budgeting and P & L Accounting
  3. Hiring and Team building
  4. Selling and Service Orientation
Venture Capital Fund
Final strategy in this is to start a Venture Capital Fund in each District/city managed by an independent Board of Directors of five members who are all reputed and highly trust worthy business people (include at least two women) with active businesses. CEOs may also be taken on the board but NO RETIRED OFFICIALS. One very important consideration which must be written in, is that Board Members MUST attend all meetings and inability to do so for two meetings will eject them from the Board.  This is critical.
This VC Fund will give interest free loans based on Business Plan with easy installment payment options to graduates of the different Vocational Skills Training Centers in the District/city. The funding to set up the VC Fund can come from MNC/Public/Private firms CSR or philanthropists. Later it can be increased when beneficiaries donate to the fund which helped them to set up. A cap can be set on the amount of each loan so that the Fund is not over extended in any one loan. I recommend Rs. 2 laks as a cap. But the Board can decide.
I believe that this plan to create entrepreneurship will free us from our malaise of looking to government to solve our problems and the problem of discrimination which our children face when they try to apply for jobs. Help them to stand on their own feet and instead of asking for jobs, they will provide jobs to others. Economic development is at the root of self-respect. It is the biggest need today for the poor in every country. It is the most powerful bulwark against extremism. People who have something to lose, don’t become extremists. So give them something to lose.

Dealing with a political problem called ISIS

This is truly one of the saddest pictures that I have ever seen. You can see how she is holding back her tears. What have we adults done to our children?
I defend Islam. Not those who call themselves Muslim but go against Islam.
ISIS is a political problem. Not a religious one. 
So trying to explain ISIS and its actions through the Qur’an and Sunnah – the theological basis of Islam is futile and misleading. ISIS is a narrative started by those who created ISIS and to answer them is to play into their hands.
It is like someone who asks, ‘Have you stopped beating your wife?’ You can’t answer that question in the normal way by saying yes or no. You are damned if you say yes and you are damned if you say no. The only way to answer that question is to say, ‘I never beat my wife.’ Or even better, say, ‘I am not married.’
This is the raising of a voice in the hope that I will be joined by other voices – not only Muslim voices – but Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Sikh, Atheist, Anyone voices – of people who believe in compassion, morality, ethical behavior, justice and accountability. People who live by principles that reflect integrity and honesty and a sense of responsibility for our lives and actions. People who are not racist and who don’t put a differential value on the lives of other people; who consider murder to be equally heinous no matter who is killed. People of courage who are not afraid to stand for justice, especially when they stand alone. People who don’t do it because they think it will change the world. But who do it because they don’t want the world to change them. People who one day will then discover that the world did change. Change for the better to leave behind a legacy of honor. It is to such people that I speak. And it is they who I wish will respond by raising their own voices for justice, ethics, integrity and compassion.
The people of ISIS will never be able to justify their actions by the Qur’an and Sunnah. This corrupt and malicious group will continue to appear and be cut off until the Dajjal himself will emerge from among them.
Abdullah ibn Amrtreported: Rasoolullah said: ‘There will emerge from the east some people from my nation who recite the Qur’an but it will not go beyond their throats. Every time a faction of them emerges it will be cut off. The Prophet repeated this and on the tenth time he said:
كُلَّمَا خَرَجَ مِنْهُمْ قَرْنٌ قُطِعَ حَتَّى يَخْرُجَ الدَّجَّالُ فِي بَقِيَّتِهِمْ
Every time a faction of them emerges it will be cut off until the Dajjal emerges from their remnants. Source: Musnad Ahmad 27767, Grade: Sahih
Rasoolullah  warned of the coming of a people like ISIS and described their rigidity, rudeness and lack of mercy as signs of their distance from Islam and its true teaching and understanding.
Ali ibn Abi Talib (R) narrated from Rasoolullah: When you see the black flags, remain where you are and do not move your hands or your feet. Thereafter there shall appear a feeble insignificant folk. Their hearts will be like fragments of iron (no mercy). They will have the state. They will fulfil neither covenant nor agreement. They will call to the truth, but they will not be people of the truth. Their names will be parental attributions, and their aliases will be derived from towns. Their hair will be free-flowing like that of women. This situation will remain until they differ among themselves. Thereafter, Allah will bring forth the Truth through whomever He wills.
Those involved in the ISIS, have, by their own actions, removed themselves from the fold of Islam. They have left Islam and those who join them will also be among them. Those Muslims who kill innocent people, Muslim or not, have committed murder. They are liable for capital punishment and if they die before they are punished in this world, then their destination is the Hellfire. This is the consensus decision of all the Muslim scholars of the world. I can give a list of Fatwas for anyone who is interested. We are thankful to our media for publishing them. Every leader of Muslims has condemned the ISIS and their actions. People join the ISIS do so for two reasons: to fulfill their own perverted fantasies or giving in to despair and hitting out those who they imagine are the reason for their frustration. Both reasons have nothing to do with Islam.
When crimes against humanity are committed, it is the duty of Muslims to stand with the oppressed whether they are Muslims or not. If such crimes are committed in the name of Islam, we have a further obligation to clarify for people the truth about our religion.
I live by the motto: I will not allow what is not in my control to prevent me from doing what is in my control. I invite you to do the same. Do what you can. For you will not be asked, “What happened?” You will be asked, “What did you do?” Do something worthwhile. For to live, is not merely to draw breath.
The best and easiest way to deal with political phenomena like the ISIS is to ask one simple question: WHO GAINS and WHO LOSES?
In this case the answer is staring us in the face: Who gains?
Weapons manufacturing countries and weapons dealers gain. Money launderers gain. Human trafficking gangs gain. Leaders with political agendas gain. And power hungry criminals gain.
They say that numbers don’t lie. So here are some numbers. Please take a look and tell me what you think we are really promoting. We get what we pay for; so here goes.
How logical is it to ask for peace when our economy and financial well-being is based on war. Wars happen because they are profitable. ISIS is a highly profitable enterprise and it makes a lot of financial sense to those who benefit from it. Loss of life is called ‘collateral damage’. Not murder, genocide, crime, desolation and degradation of human life.
I graduated in history and political science and post graduated in management and applied behavioral science. Over the past 33 years I consult globally with government, public and private companies, major business families, clergy, police and administration professionals, journalists, teachers and educationists.  So I am speaking from my knowledge base.
In any dynamic system – politics is a dynamic system – a vacuum can’t exist. ISIS got created when the United States decided to wage war based on a pile of lies, in Iraq. That created a power vacuum which the ISIS has filled. Mercifully you don’t have to believe me. The Iraq Enquiry Report, called the Chilcot Report says it all though it stops short of naming the perpetrators as war criminals. But named or not, every man, woman or child with even a rudimentary idea of politics is saying, ‘Tell me something I don’t know.’ I am sure the report is not a surprise for anyone in this theatre.
But we the people of the world, are grateful to the Sir John Chilcot for having voiced all our opinions and backing them with clear data. What remains to be seen is what happens. I don’t know about you, but in my estimation, saying, ‘I am sorry’, after killing a million people, is not enough. Not enough in any criminal justice system in the world. Not enough in any religion. Not enough for any logical, moral human being in any part of the world.
Who doesn’t gain?
Muslims don’t gain. Muslims are the victims; the largest victims of the ISIS. Directly because they are the largest number killed by ISIS. Directly because their lands have been devastated, homes destroyed and millions have become refugees, wandering from door to door seeking charity and dying on the beaches and in the waters of the ocean. Directly because they have become the victims of knee jerk reactions of governments and people who, infuriated at the actions of ISIS, attack their local masjid, Muslim home, Muslim women who have the confidence and courage to wear their religious symbol – the Hijab. Governments are passing oppressive legislation denying Muslims their fundamental rights and using racial and religious profiling as a tool to victimize a Muslim for being Muslim. Governments are treating Muslim educational establishments as if they are dens of evil, seeking to restrict and disrupt their activities to educate their children. It has become literally dangerous for a Muslim in the West to go to school, travel to work or for pleasure or even to go to the masjid.
Truly today it is the Muslim woman who is the symbol of Islam. She is the champion of Islam. Allahis he witness and on the day when she meets Him she will stand with the Prophets. For like them she chose to face the world with courage, unsupported, except by the One who created her and whom alone she worships. I salute our sisters, mothers and daughters. You are our greatest and most inspiring leaders.
So ask, ‘Who gains and who loses?
Today the creators of ISIS are guilty of gross underestimation of its capability. People, even those who are expected to, don’t seem to realize that criminals are the best organized group in any society. ISIS are criminals. They are very well organized.
This underestimation is the result of hubris, arrogance and complacency. We don’t seem to realize that authoritarianism is the most efficient form of administration and volunteerism brings the greatest energy. Quick results that you can instantly enjoy are the highest form of motivation. Such an outfit, especially if it takes refuge in some religious chicanery and deception, attracts people who have passion but no perspective or wisdom. Wisdom and perspective come from introspection, reflection, learning with understanding and studying under a capable mentor. Such people can see through the deception of ISIS and will never join. So it is the former that we have to address, convince and wean away from a course that can only lead to destruction in this world and the next.
We can’t fight that by force or by our own version of oppression. We have to fight it by understanding, wisdom, a huge amount of patience and believe it or not, love. It is the battle of hearts that we have to win. You can’t do that by force. Nobody can do that by force. Add to this the fact that there are clear vested interests in this whole tragic scene, merchants of death who benefit from arms sale, buying stolen oil at cheap rates, human trafficking, using mercenaries to settle old scores and occupation of land. It is a very complex scenario which needs to be tackled on all fronts at once. It is a war of the heart. However, we seem to be bent on helping them to win it.
How does Radicalization happen?
The cycle of radicalization is: Discrimination (poverty, denial of opportunity, fear), fueled by Demonization (of Islam, community), leads to Alienation (feeling discarded, hated). Radicalization (start hating the ‘other’) develops and eventually can result in Violence (hit back). Hit back anyone who is seen as the ‘other’. Radicalization is the reaction to helplessness and despair; which results in desperation and a feeling of having ‘nothing to lose’. This is aided by internet preachers who preach false doctrines of violence in the name of taking ‘revenge’ which the recruits accept because they don’t have the knowledge to see through the farce.
Radicalization doesn’t happen in the Masaajid. It doesn’t happen in the home. Parents are often the last one to come to know that their children have become radicalized. Radicalization doesn’t happen in Muslim schools. The more you attack Masaajid, Madaaris, schools, Muslim homes and Muslims and Islam, the more you help radicalization. Mocking Islam and its symbols is as infuriating to Muslims as mocking the symbols of any religion would be to the followers of that religion. Calling that freedom of expression, is at best delusional and at worst premeditated mischief and evil. Insulting people and what they hold holy and dear is not freedom. Pope Francis, responded when asked about the cartoons seeking to mock the Prophet Muhammad, ‘If my secretary mocked my mother, I would punch him in the nose.’ When asked about so-called ‘Islamic Militancy’ and the demand that he should condemn it, he responded, “If I speak of Islamic violence, I should speak of Catholic violence.” He was referring to the despicable, brutal and barbaric killing of the French priest Jacques Hamel last week. The Pope is a man of rare integrity and courage in the world today. He is a man of god and I pray for him. The priest who was killed recognized his killers as they were about to kill him and said, ‘Go away Satan.’ That is what they are. Satan, Shaytaan. Asking Muslims to answer for them is insulting, misguided and completely unwarranted. The Pope spoke for Muslims and all sane, logical and fair minded people when he made his statement.
To quote a journalist friend of mine wrote to me, “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.”
This is why education is important. You need education to gain perspective and understand the games people play and how to counter those games.
Radicalization happens on the internet and it happens in prisons. And it is helped and supported by deprivation, discrimination, demonization of Islam and the whole community of Muslims. It is helped and supported by the knee jerk reactions of governments, law enforcement and security agencies and the biased reporting of the press and media. It is helped and supported by media trial of suspects, their torture by police and by their disappearance in extra judicial killings. It is helped when legal means for redressal of wrong are denied. Frustration, desperation, a feeling of being cornered fills the heart. All these are gifts from heaven for recruiters and those selling the doctrine of radicalization.
Let me give you some examples from the recent past:
Confessions of a Killer policeman: Thounaojam Herojit
Then the article quotes: “Herojit went with them as far as the front gate before his parents caught up, begging the men to let him go. He was too young, he didn’t know what he was saying. They would find the money. The insurgents gave in but said, “But first he needs to be taught a lesson.” They made him lie face-down on the ground. One of them brought over a bamboo rod, which the family used to bar the gate. Herojit does not remember how long they beat him, but afterwards the family sat around him and they all cried. And after that, he told us, “I was ready to kill.”
How many times do we need proof that it is heavy handed action that is the best way to recruit for extremism? In this case it was what we can call a reverse process but our actions at law enforcement produce plenty of such cases. Randomly picking up youth on suspicion, holding them incognito, torturing them to extract confessions and then ‘encountering’ them are all gifts for ISIS type recruiters. The law can’t be upheld by those who break it.
Another headline: Campus magazine ‘critical’ of government: After BJP protest, HRD ministry, L-G Bedi ask varsity to explain.
You can stop the open expression of dissent. But can you stop dissent itself? What happens when you try to enforce that? You drive the dissent underground and your problem gets compounded. Dissent is the most reliable sign of a democracy. Dissent is the border between democracy and dictatorship. Dissent is an early warning system for the Government to take corrective action failure to do which can result in them losing power. Dissent is the pulse of the people which indicates health or sickness. When governments shut down legitimate dissent, it goes underground and metamorphoses as extremism. The same thing happens in industry when short sighted managements try to prevent union activity or to play one union against the other. In the end it is the management which loses. I speak from over 16 years of hands on experience with highly militant communist unions in Guyana and Kerala.
In a now famous interview on December 5, 1996 on 60 Minutes, Lesley Stahl asked the then Secretary of State of the United States about U.S. sanctions against Iraq: We have heard that half a million children have died. That’s more children than died in Hiroshima. Do you think the price is worth it?
Secretary of State Madeleine Albright 60 Minutes (5/12/96) 
“I think this is a very hard choice, but the price – we think the price is worth it.”
I submit to you that differential pricing of human life doesn’t work. Human life is sacred. All human life is sacred. The value of a person’s life is not based on his race, color, culture, religion, belief or wealth. We are all human and all equally valuable in the eyes of the One who created us all. Islam doesn’t distinguish between the life of a Muslim and a non-Muslim. Both are sacred in Islam. Both are inviolable.
The punishment in the Shari’ah for murder is death – irrespective of who killed whom. And that is how it should be. Justice is portrayed as blindfolded because justice is when punishment depends on the crime, not the criminal. Differential punishment doesn’t work; just as differential value of human life doesn’t work.
Allah said in the Qur’an about this:
مِنْ أَجْلِ ذَلِكَ كَتَبْنَا عَلَى بَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ أَنَّهُ مَن قَتَلَ نَفْسًا بِغَيْرِ نَفْسٍ أَوْ فَسَادٍ فِي الأَرْضِ فَكَأَنَّمَا قَتَلَ النَّاسَ جَمِيعًا وَمَنْ أَحْيَاهَا فَكَأَنَّمَا أَحْيَا النَّاسَ جَمِيعًا
Maeda 5: 32:  Because of that We ordained for the Children of Israel that if anyone killed a person not in retaliation of murder, or (and) to spread mischief in the land – it would be as if he killed all mankind, and if anyone saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of all mankind.
I want to draw your attention to the obvious, that the Qur’an clearly doesn’t differentiate between the life of a Muslim and a non-Muslim. Killing any person is like killing of all humanity. And saving the life of any person is like saving the life of all humanity. I am proud to say that history is witness to Muslims who practiced this and saved the lives of countless non-Muslims in various conflicts. One of the most famous is the story of Imam Sidi Kaddour Benghrabit, the Founder and Imam of the Grand Mosque of Paris who at great danger to his own life, saved the lives of many Jews who would otherwise have gone to Hitler’s gas chambers. But the memory of the world is short.
Another headline: Israel to demolish 7 agricultural structures, water wells in southern Nablus. http://www.maannews.com/Content.aspx?id=772471
Is this a crime or not? What would happen if anyone other than Israel did this? Ask why the same law is not applied in this case. What is the logical effect of such discrimination? Does it need an Einstein to figure this out?
And if this is not enough, here is yet another headline: Israel passes law allowing imprisonment of Palestinians aged 14 and under:
Is this justice? How does this compare with laws related to crime by juveniles? What do you think will happen to those youngsters in prison? Who is ready to ask all this?
Incidentally all so-called mainstream media don’t publish this news. But remember it gets published anyway and so by hiding it, nothing is achieved apart from even more anger. I am not going to waste your time discussing the reasons here. Just want to highlight what is happening in the world which fuels anger and helps radicalization. If we are serious about fighting radicalization, we have to get serious about dealing with injustice no matter who does it or where. If you want to put out a fire, you can’t be adding fuel to it which trying to beat it down. You have to cut off its fuel. Then it will die on its own, even if you do nothing. That is what I mean.
We don’t simply achieve democracy by wanting it. We have to fight for it every single day. The same goes for human dignity, justice, morality and global peace. We have to fight for peace by establishing justice. Peace is the effect of justice. Those who like to talk about peace must ensure that justice is established. Until that is done, any apparent peace is only a recess between wars.
Justice is the enemy of ISIS and all extremist ideologies. Justice gives the lie to the recruiter’s tale. The extremist’s action is the scream of pain of someone who has lost hope. He feels he has no choice. All legal doors are closed to him. So he hits out as his last action to get attention in a world which has forgotten him and doesn’t care. He seeks negative attention which he sees as better than being ignored. Being ignored denies his existence. Negative attention helps him to assert himself once more, even if it is only once. It takes a very big heart to understand all this and to treat people who are hateful, with love. It has to come from within. It is not an act. Acting can’t be sustained. Despair is at the root of all violence and hope is its cure. Our choice.Hope will only come when we return hatred with love. Love those who are difficult to love. But love them because they need love. Love them because that is the cure for hatred. It is not easy. Neither is the product of hatred. We are the people of Mahatma Gandhi. We are people whose forbearers proved to the world that non-violence works. We are the people who proved to the world that it is possible to return evil with good. What has happened to us today? Gandhiji has gone out of fashion. Our rhetoric is characterized by hatred and extremism. Our reactions mirror the actions of our erstwhile colonial rulers, not the actions of our own parents and grandparents who fought back with love. We need to learn our own history.
As I mentioned, I am social scientist by preference and training. So let me talk to you about mental models and systems theory. That is how I believe the ISIS and all radicalization problems need to be addressed and solved. Through holistic thinking and holistic solutions. Not by fragmentation.
“We cannot solve our problems at the same mental level at which we created them.” Albert Einstein
“Although people do not always behave congruently with their espoused theories (what they say) they do behave congruently with their theories-in-use (mental models).” Chris Argyris, Harvard
We all have various mental models and for most of us they are unquestioned and unexamined objectively. We tend to have a lot of emotional baggage associated with them and strong links to our egos and so feel very vulnerable when invited to question them. Mental models we are aware of and question are beneficial to us. Mental models we are not aware of, enslave us.
What to do about Mental Models – 4 Steps
  1. Identify and articulate existing mental models
  2. Map them with desirable mental models
  3. Define behaviors which reflect the new mental models
  4. Put metrics on them to monitor performance
Mental models lead to formation of Stereotypes. What is a stereotype?
Something happens to me involving another individual
  1. I like or dislike what happened
  2. I form an opinion about that individual
  3. I then apply that opinion to all individuals who belong to that group.

We don’t ask ourselves the critical questions: How representative of the group was that individual? Is it fair to that group to take an experience in isolation and form an opinion about the whole group, the majority of whom I have never met or interacted with?
The problem with this is that our behavior with others is based on our mental models about them. We then get responses from them which by means of selective perception, we use to ‘confirm’ our original opinion of them. I am sure with a little bit of reflection on how we think of people we can identify our own stereotypes. Stereotypes are almost all negative and must be dealt with urgently.
So what do we need to do? I don’t want to go into detail here. There is detail which involves working with Systems Theory and if someone is interested we can work on this. But in one line, we have to counter the vicious cycle of ISIS with our own virtuous cycle. Systems Theory tells us that if you want to reverse a Causal Loop you have to start a Compensating Loop. The Causal Loop that ISIS has started is well on its way helped and supported by global actions which can only be called insane. We can’t counter that loop by doing more of the same. So we have to do the opposite.
Action Plan
  1. Vocational training
  2. Entrepreneurial development
  3. Imam Development Program
  4. Transparency in law enforcement
  5. Responsible journalism
Vocational Training
  1. Start a Vocational Training Centre in every school
  2. Every child must learn a skill
  3. Products can be sold and income used for the Centre
  4. Employment opportunity for artisans/professionals
Entrepreneurial Development
  1. Writing a Business Plan to pitch for investment
  2. Budgeting and P & L Accounting
  3. Hiring and Team building
  4. Selling and Service Orientation
Teach them how to turn the skill into a business
Venture Capital Fund
  1. Interest free loans based on Business Plan
  2. Easy installment payment options
  3. MNC/Public/Private firms CSR to provide capital
  4. CEO’s on the Management Board
No government involvement after setting up
Imam Development Program
  1. Involve Ulama (with contemporary knowledge)
  2. Use Minorities Commission or NGO to run it
  3. Teach leadership skills to Imams
  4. Pay a stipend and travel costs (if necessary)
Give the Imam prominence and respect. Work through the Imams and Muslim scholars. Respect them, collaborate them and help them. They are your allies.
3 – 6 month course, covering the following topics:
  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. Refute 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
Transparency in law enforcement
1.    Sensitivity training for police officers and men. One of the best courses I taught was at the NPA in 1991 on Sensitivity Training which was mandated by the Home Ministry in Rajiv Gandhi’s government. Sadly, it was discontinued later, falling prey to change in politics. I suggest this is revived and replicated in all our states.
2.    Basic course on ‘What is Islam’, for police officers, to remove prejudice. Knowledge is essential to build cross-cultural understanding. It is a strange thing that we live together but know nothing about one another. Must change
3.    Police Public Partnership for Crime Prevention. Take people into confidence in Law Enforcement. Involve elders of the community, lawyers, Imams. Let them see the evidence on the basis of which the suspect has been arrested. Treat the suspect as a suspect, not as a sentenced criminal. Strictly follow due process to build credibility. Credibility and trust in government and police has been seriously eroded to the extent that the default reaction is to distrust and disbelieve anything that comes from either. So even when the police are speaking the truth, people won’t believe them. This sets off its own vicious cycle where policemen feel that there is no point in communicating with people who won’t believe them anyway. There are many cases however, to the contrary in the police, where police public participation and communication has worked wonders. Where highly toxic and volatile situations were defused because people trusted one officer. These cases must be documented and publicized and become case studies in the NPA and Police Training Colleges all over the country.
Responsible Journalism
  1. Media is the shield of the citizen
  2. Media is the conscience of the nation
  3. Journalists are the champions of civil society
  4. Media is not a PR company & media trial is injustice
मंझधार में नैय्या डोले तो मांझी पर लगाये 
मांझी जो नाव डुबोये उसे कौन बचाये 
In conclusion I would like to say that I hope this thought-share will help to put things in perspective and enable us to do what it takes to work for peace and harmony in our communities. The success of a democracy is not only dependent on the integrity of its leaders but even more on the activism of the public. It is the public which needs to remind leaders that they hold their positions at the pleasure of their electorate.
It is when the electorate forgets its power and becomes subservient to leaders that democracies metamorphose into dictatorships in all but name. The alternative to justice is injustice, pain and suffering. In our interconnected world, the much touted Global Village, nobody will escape.
I know that when all is said and done and when we stand before our Creator – all of us without exception – we will not be asked, ‘What happened?’ We will be asked, ‘What did you do?’ At that time, I want to be able to say, ‘I didn’t let what I couldn’t do prevent me from doing what I could.’ I wish the same for you all. I want to end with an excerpt from an excellent article that I read some time ago.
Its last paragraph beautifully sums up the issue: “All of this puts Muslims in a double bind: If they just go about their lives, they stand condemned by those who demand that Muslims “speak out.” But if they do speak out, they can expect to be told that short of declaring their sacred texts invalid, they are fooling themselves or deceiving the rest of us. Muslims are presented with a brutal logic in which the only way to truly disassociate from ISIS and escape suspicion is to renounce Islam altogether.”

Accepting Freedom

Many years ago, I wrote a piece which I posted on my blog called, ‘Same Chairs, Different Bottoms’. Here it is for those who may not have read it. It is necessarily full of Indian (and Hindi) idiom which is not translatable so I apologize to those who don’t understand Hindi in advance. Also you need to know something of the history of India around 1947 when we became free of the British to appreciate the satire. But here goes.

I was in South Africa in August 2016, just before the Municipal Elections which are a big indicator of the mood of the nation with respect to the party that fought for and got them independence from apartheid, I can’t help but recall sadly our (India’s) own journey down that road. The inability to gain independence of the mind, while we got independence legally from a foreign ruler. It is for this reason that even today in India, a British national has more status, privileges and aura than an Indian, especially an Indian Muslim or Dalit.

The Indian National Congress which was the party that ‘got us independence’ if I may say so, lasted around forty years before it was ousted. Same evils of the euphoria of hubris that the ANC seems to be suffering from; the apparent belief that independence was the destination instead of the reality, that it was the beginning of the journey, even the race. Bringing a nation out of slavery is easy compared to making it own the responsibility of being free. Freedom is in the mind. Not in the law books. Free people behave differently because they believe that they’re the owners. So they don’t steal from themselves, they don’t abuse privilege, they don’t seek to enrich themselves at the expense of the nation.

That’s why in countries like Sweden you have the Prime Minister riding a bicycle to work and nobody even comments. It’s not a publicity gimmick like our Indian politicians do once in a while. It’s normal. Being PM is like being a teacher or a bus driver. All equally dignified and important. But that’s also because Sweden was never a colony, was never subjugated. But countries which have had oppressive governments for generations like South Africa and India have learnt a different equation with the government. India went from monarchy or monarchies to British colonial rule to democracy. Government was always alien. The few with the power to rule the many. To this day we use the term, Modi’s rule, Congress Raj, Collector’s Peshi (means ‘August Presence’…a Mughal Court term, used today for the District administrator). If you used the term ‘rule’ for Stefan Löfven they’d laugh you out of town. The titular ruler of Sweden, which is a constitutional monarchy is King Carl XVI Gustaf who has been King of Sweden since 1973. He is the 74thKing of Sweden, and also rides a bicycle normally. He’s a ruler like the British Queen, more a tourist attraction than anything else.

Democracy is supposed to be ‘government of the people, for the people, by the people’. At least this is what we were taught in school 45 years ago. But for this to happen, it is the people who must be educated and who must understand the meaning of ownership and exercise it. So whoever may be the political party in parliament, the power always belongs to the people of the nation who give it to a set of leaders to exercise it on their behalf for their (the people’s) benefit. It is the like the driver of a car. The car belongs to the owner. The driver drives it at the pleasure of the owner, as long as the owner employs him, to wherever the owner orders him and then when his day is over, he gets on his own personal transport and goes home. That is the actual meaning of government and ‘ruling’ party in a real democracy. It would never be acceptable for the driver of the car to take it home or to do with it anything at all without the permission of the owner. The driver will never be the owner of the car no matter how long he drives it. He will always be a driver. And be judged and rewarded on the basis of his driving and the care he lavishes on the car to keep it in pristine order. But today whether you look at the drama that’s called US elections or in UK or in the many other countries including India and South Africa you are looking at drivers whose real intentions seem to be to grab the car and dispossess the real owner.

Free nations have dignity. Self-respect is a characteristic of free people which prevents them from being corrupt. You can’t steal from yourself but when you see yourself as an outsider you can steal from the “Other”. Corruption is a sign that you don’t consider yourself to be a part of the nation. Corruption is treason. It is the most anti-national of acts. It is an act of war on the nation. But in all our countries, it is rampant, accepted, even aspirational. India and South Africa are not alone in this by any means. This seems to be the fate of almost every erstwhile colony which gained independence after a struggle. All are struggling from the phenomenon of ‘Same chairs, different bottoms’. They don’t seem to see the fact that it is the chair which must be changed. The change is not in the bottom which sits in the chair, but the mindset which defines what the chair actually means.

The change is by no means easy. It means that people must elect leaders based on principles, ethics, morals and character; not on tribe, caste or community. It means that leaders then have to behave like elected representatives, not like rulers, kings and queens. It means that they must be scrupulously objective, honest, non-partisan and just. It means that integrity, not anything else, must rule every transaction. It means that there must be no financial, social or other benefit in being a leader. It means that we need to take away every ‘benefit’ that we enjoy today when we are elected to office – yet want to be there only in order to serve.

It means that public servants must reflect, even meditate on the term ‘public servant’ and consciously accept it as their self-concept. They must act like servants of the public, not as their rulers. It means that we must remove all privilege that goes with so-called public service today in countries like India. It means that almost every reason why most people opt for public service today must be removed. Then only those who still want to serve will be there to serve; quietly, unsung heroes whose love will fill the hearts of those whose difficulty they alleviate. It means we need to create a generation which finds satisfaction from drying people’s tears and seeing their smiles.

It means that the public must behave with self-confidence, self-respect and fairness and not demand more than they are due; nor seek privilege over others based on caste, creed, community, tribe or social status. It means that the public must value and want justice, not injustice which they personally benefit from. It means that people must value the law and want to follow it even when it may be painful, because they know that it is good for everyone, including themselves. It means that the law must be superior to people. That crime doesn’t pay, criminals do. It means that if a crime is committed, the criminal will be punished no matter who he or she is. No exceptions. That is the meaning of rule of law and what differentiates a democracy from a dictatorship or feudal rule.

It means that the election process itself must be changed where it is the people who pay, not aspiring leaders. As long as elections involve fund raising by candidates, they will breed, even enforce corruption. Good leadership is the need of the people and we the people must pay to have good leaders. It means that campaigning must be dignified with candidates (and parties) speaking about what they have to offer. Not spend time in maligning and demeaning others. Elections must not be a circus nor a drain on the exchequer. Media must be restrained and report facts and give space to information. Not become the spokespeople for vested interests and peddle propaganda, innuendo and lies in the name of news. Media must be and keep itself free from external influence and be the conscience keepers and champions of the values of the nation. It means that accountability must be objective, absolute and unquestioned.

When we are able to accomplish this then and only then will we be truly free. Only then will we regain our self-respect. Only then will we be able to hold our heads high as a nation that has truly thrown off the chains of servitude. Slavery is in the mind. Subjugated nations become subjugated and remain subjugated because they accept these chains of the superiority of man over man based on external causes; race, position, power, authority or anything else. Equality means to treat yourself as equal to the other – not the other way round. If you say that equality means to treat the other like yourself, you are unconsciously placing yourself at a higher level and feel satisfied at ‘bringing’ the other to your level. That still means you are doing them a favor. So I prefer to describe it as seeing and treating yourself as equal to the ‘other’. In essence, it means eliminating the ‘other’. For in a free nation, all people are citizens; albeit with different responsibilities, but all equal to one another and all accountable to the nation which comprises of all of them.

Fantasy, you say? Well, I am a poor old man. Please indulge me. Or accept the fact that when you are far removed from reality, it looks like fantasy. Searching for justice, equity and dignity in our feudal, patriarchal nations, is the real fantasy. Change it or suffer.

Turkey – 2016 Coup aftermath

The coup in Turkey failed and democracy was saved. The president Tayyip Erdogan got a real vote of confidence where ordinary people from all walks of life came out in support of his call to defeat the coup and Allahhelped them. Subsequently a state of emergency has been declared in Turkey and over 60,000 people have been arrested. Admittedly it is stated that those arrested are not being tortured. But what is the credibility of such a claim made by the arresting party? I also want to point out that torture is not only physical. What do you think happens to a man/woman and his/her family who is suddenly arrested without any charge and taken away for an indefinite period, probably to an unknown location with the family being unable to remain in touch? Then when the case comes up and there is no evidence and the person is freed, the judgment doesn’t say, ‘He is innocent.’ It says, ‘The police were not able to produce sufficient evidence.’ Meanwhile his job, reputation, relationships, family’s reputation, police record (which he will need if he applies for a passport or any government job) are all destroyed. Many have to even leave the city they live in because they are boycotted by neighbors. All this for the one who returns proven innocent. Who says that the knock in the night is not torture?

The alleged (alleged only as of this writing as there is no concrete evidence yet) perpetrators of the coup are Fethullah Gulen and his followers of the Hizmet Movement.

This is what Wikipedia has to say about the Hizmet Movement:

Most Gülen Movement schools are private; its educational footprint extends to over 160 countries. In 2009 it was estimated that members of the Gülen Movement run schools in which more than two million students receive education. Estimates of the number of schools and educational institutions vary widely; it appears there are about 300 Gülen Movement schools in Turkey and over 1,000 schools worldwide.

Movement participants have set up a number of media organizations to promote its core values such as love, tolerance, hope, dialogue, activism, mutual acceptance and respect. These media organs include TV stations (Samanyolu TV, Mehtap TV), (Ebru TV) (English), the newspapers Zaman, Today’s Zaman (English), magazines and journals in Turkish like Aksiyon, Sızıntı, Yeni Ümit, The Fountain Magazine (English), Hira (Arabic), The International Cihan News Agency and the radio station Burç FM (tr).

In short the Hizmet Movement is spread over 160 countries with over 2 million students. And these are only estimates. By its very nature of being highly decentralized and secretive accurate numbers are not available (not even sure if Gulen himself knows) but in my opinion the actual number, if anything, would be more, not less. In short, it is a movement with a huge number of followers all over the world. To go into its history a little bit; the Hizmet Movement was designed to infiltrate the army and civil administration but even more importantly to do this by bringing about a change in mindset of the people, because it was the Kemalist Junta who were ruling Turkey. Hizmet operated on the age old principle of shaping minds of the youth. The Jesuits say, “Give us your child for the first five years of its life. Then take him back. He’ll always be ours.” Childhood conditioning is the most powerful. They did this very successfully resulting in the establishment of democracy in Turkey and its return to Islam without a military intervention. That itself is a very major phenomenon of the use of civil power that we were all witness to. That is how Erdogan came to power and introduced so many welcome changes of freeing Masaajid from slavery of the military, introduction of Quranic teaching, use of Arabic in Adhaan, permission for women to wear hijab and other things. We need to remember that none of this would have happened had it not been for the enormous ground work done by Hizmet. Done very subtly and secretively under the noses of the Military Junta rendering them ineffective and changing the mindset of the nation.

This is a very major phenomenon of social engineering sustained over 50 years or more that must be studied. Erdogan is a beneficiary of it without doubt. If there had been no Hizmet, there would have been no Erdogan. That is the truth; perhaps not so palatable today, but still the truth. All through that time Erdogan was with them. Later he fell out with Gulen but it was Gulen who was the Shaikh and the mastermind behind the movement without which Turkey would still have been the godless secular anti Muslim country it was, which Kemal Ataturk made of it. The ability of Gulen to inspire millions of people over at least two generations to work according to his principles is a feat not achieved by many. The highly decentralized nature of the movement, strong ideological commitment and loyalty of members to their leader and their willingness and ability to quietly do their work without any formal public appeals for funds has few parallels in history. It is a very big mistake to allow dislike for a person to cloud one’s perception of his strengths. That is what Erdogan seems to be in danger of doing.
In the case of the failed 2016 coup perhaps Gulen used the same network against him. I say perhaps because suspicion is not evidence. But assuming that the allegations are correct, Gulen’s sin was losing. And of course his weakness was in not being able to let go of power when his aims had been achieved. He should have stepped back and let Erdogan have the limelight. True, Erdogan may not have been toeing the exact line that Gulen drew but that is the nature of powerful successors; they paint the landscape in their own colors. However, the wisdom of the founder lies in taking satisfaction from the fact that only the colors of the picture have changed, not its structure. Gulen’s aim was to Islamize Turkey. Erdogan was doing that par excellence. Gulen should have left him alone and let him carry on and support his work, directly and indirectly. Instead, he demonstrated his own humanness (aren’t we all human?) by playing power games. And he lost. Losing is the cardinal sin.
What now?
I made some recommendations in my article:
Arrest and try those who actually killed civilians in the coup and let the courts pass sentence. Investigate suspected supporters of the coup and take action depending on the nature of their support. Once again, suspicion in not evidence in law. Any action taken without evidence is unislamic and illegal and will attract justified criticism. Erdogan must minimize all possible criticism as he is going to get a good bit of it in any case as he is not short of enemies. So don’t add to that by taking actions that can’t be defended in law.

The coup proved beyond doubt that the people of Turkey now view Erdogan as their rightful leader. Let’s reflect: the two critical factors that enabled the success of the coup were that CNN Turk was allowed to function and broadcast Erdogan’s appeal to the people to come out in the streets and the fact that his plane was not shot down though there were F16s of the coup rebels in the air. Thirdly despite the fact that there were so many tanks and armored carriers on the street, there was no bloodbath like in Tiananmen Square in Beijing. Ask yourself, ‘What prevented the F16s from shooting down Erdogan’s plane? What prevented the tanks from firing on the people? What prevented them from destroying CNN Turk’s ability to broadcast? Or why didn’t the operator simply refuse to broadcast Erdogan’s message?’ I would say that all these incidents (and I am sure there will be more if we analyze in more detail) show that Erdogan is seen as the rightful leader. People’s hopes are in him and they look up to him. Soldiers may come out into the street on the command of their generals because they have little choice but to obey; but having got there, to pull the trigger or not is at their discretion and they didn’t. Same is true about the F16s. So as far as Erdogan was concerned when he landed safely at Istanbul, he had won and the coup was defeated. This is where I have suggested following the example of Rasoolullahby showing mercy and not taking revenge. Honor those who were loyal. But honor even more those who could have harmed you but didn’t. They too deserve your mercy, perhaps even more.

Erdogan by his purges may root out some of the Gulenists but who will take their place? I would seriously doubt if the purges can even root out all those who sympathize with Gulen. After all, if the organization is really so secretive that it evaded the Turkish Military Junta for decades, what is the chance that suddenly Erdogan will be able to find every last one of them. And their leader, Fethullah Gulen is safely in the US anyway, but now able to capitalize on the sympathy wave and righteous anger with the arrest of every innocent person that Erdogan’s purge will create. They are talking of shutting down Hizmet schools. Who will be effected? The children of common people. Will this generate love for Erdogan? How much easier to monitor what they teach and leave the schooling system intact. Finally, even if Erdogan does all this, it will be only in Turkey; 1/160 countries that these schools operate in.

There are no vaccums in life. They always get filled. Only Erdogan won’t know who is taking the place of Gulenists. After all we are talking about feelings and thoughts and nobody can see those. Remember that these people have been successful because they are good at working quietly. Also all oppressive actions only strengthen the rebel and provide perfect proof for the need to rebel and are great recruiting material. It is a big mistake to provide grist to the mill of rebellion by your actions. By not showing mercy he’s playing into the hands of his enemies. At this time, he must show patience and maturity. Not anger. We stand out by what we do differently from others. Not by behaving like them. Rasoolullah didn’t eliminate his enemies by purging and killing them but by killing enmity. He showed mercy which removed the rai·son d’ê·tre for rebellion. He took the higher moral ground which took the wind out of the sails of his enemies. People who could have justifiably been put to death or imprisoned were freed. People who could have been financially ruined by being forced to pay compensation for the harm they did to the followers of Rasoolullahwere let off. How could anyone then raise a voice against him? He ended enmity, ended mutual hatred and the Ummah was born. He is our example. Erdogan’s example. I hope he follows it. The argument, ‘but others do the same’, doesn’t hold because they don’t have Rasoolullahas their role model. We do. We must show the difference. We must stand out. We must write history. There are only two kinds of people, those who write history and those who are its statistics. It is time to choose.

What to do about Gulen? First of all, stop making charges that can’t be proved – calling him a traitor and his movement a terrorist movement. Large scale arrests and detentions give the impression of running scared; or impending totalitarian dictatorship. Especially when this is not something that is intended, it is essential to lay all misgivings to rest by complete transparency. Don’t give the opposition a chance to level charges that appear to be true. It is not only important that justice is done but that it appears to be done. Allegations are not evidence. Suspicion is not evidence. When you have evidence bring the charges. Until then remain silent. Deal with those who participated in the coup as I have suggested earlier and so won’t repeat here. As for Gulen, I would definitely get him back on my team. Too much talent to lose. And too dangerous to have him as an enemy with US backing. Very stupid to continue the feud. As I said, he may not return but Erdogan would have taken the higher moral ground. Always better to know what your enemy is up to and keep him close to you. If he is far away, you don’t know what he’s doing and you’ll be more vulnerable. As Lenin said and which I quoted: I’d rather have him inside my tent pissing outside rather than outside pissing inside.

All this takes wisdom and patience. Not anger.

As for the charges of treason, sedition and so on, the question to ask is, ‘Who defines what is treason?’ Going against the government of the day is not treason. If going against the government of the day is defined as treason, then every freedom movement begins with treason. History is full of examples of those who were branded ‘traitor’ and hanged but whose blood sustained the struggle and gave it more strength until it overthrew those who hanged their leaders. It is oppressive retaliation, unprovable accusations and harsh punishments which sow the seeds for the ultimate destruction of those who have power. It is very important for Erdogan not to fall into that trap.

Erdogan is indeed the best Muslim leader we have today. This coup is a defining moment for him. It is up to him how he wants to use it. As a means of inspiring future generations by writing his own name in history. Or by having his name written in history by others showing him as someone who lacked the patience and foresight to overcome his anger. Anger is fire. The result is always ash.

I want to end by a beautiful story of Imam Ash Shafi and his student.

It is said that Yunus Ibn ‘Abd al-A’ala (a student of al-Imam ash-Shafi’i) differed with his teacher, al-Imam Muhammad Ibn Idrees ash-Shafi’i, over an issue while he was delivering a lesson in the mosque. So he angrily got up and went home.

At night, Yunus heard a knock at his door and asked who it was. The one knocking answered, Muhammad Ibn Idrees.

Yunus thought of everyone who he knew by that name except the Imam. Upon opening the door, he was shocked to see him.

The Imam said:
“O Yunus, hundreds of issues unite us, and only one issue divides us? Don’t try to be triumphant in all differences; sometimes, winning hearts is more important than winning situations. Don’t demolish bridges you built and crossed, for you may need them again one day for your return. Always hate what is wrong, but do not hate the one who errs. Hate sin with all your heart, but forgive and have mercy on the sinner. Criticize speech, but respect the speaker. Our job is to wipe out the disease, not the patient.”
I wish we can learn from the great lives of our teachers.

Democracy in practice

In 2013, I was in Egypt and wrote this piece.

On June 8, 2014 Sisi staged a military coup and succeeded as the Egyptian people who stood for democracy didn’t support the president they had elected and have since been living in self-invited slavery.

Today as I write this (July 18, 2016) a coup happened in Turkey but the people defeated it. So democracy apparently has more meaning in Turkey than it had in Egypt. But now what? And what really is the position of democracy in the Muslim world?

A brief, even cursory look at the history of Muslim rule shows that after a brief period in the Khilafa Rashida where the first two Khulafa were ‘elected’ by a group of leaders, in the period of the third Khalifa fault lines appeared and it all fell apart leading to his assassination and the installing of the fourth by force. That was contested and resulted in a huge amount of entirely preventable bloodshed and the nature of Khilafa changed from elected leadership (not in our conventional sense but still elected) to hereditary kingship which became the norm and remained that way until 1923 when the institution of Khilafa itself was abolished; the instrument of it ironically being a Turk, Kemal Pasha a.k.a. Ataturk. We had good and bad kings, called ‘Khulafa’ in this entire period but not a single one was ever elected. They were all hereditary monarchs, until even the title of Khalifa was abolished and the Ottoman Khilafa was dismembered and the pieces distributed to loyal allies of the Western powers who destroyed the Khilafa and who were content to be called Malik (king) instead of Khalifa. The Ottoman kings also used the term ‘Sultan’ and not ‘Khalifa’ though the institution was still called the Khilafa.

Democracy is very difficult to sustain in a Muslim country. We Muslims have no experience of oppressive feudalism like Europe did. Europeans suffered it for centuries, then fought and defeated it and so value democracy. We didn’t suffer oppression on that scale, ever, so we don’t see the need for democracy. This was not the case of mediaeval Europe. People suffered for centuries, died in their millions and eventually democracy emerged. We are used to benevolent dictatorships and monarchies. Authoritarian rulers are the norm in our society. Public participation in the sense of one man one vote has never been the rule in Islamic society. Our way at best, is consultation with leaders, experts and the powerful who advise the ruler but the ruler decides. Is this democracy? Is this better than democracy? Many people will probably say, ‘Yes’, after Brexit which wouldn’t have happened if it had been decided by economic and political experts instead of by a vote taken from people who didn’t understand the first thing about its implications. So one man one vote is not always the best thing – which even I with an almost pathological hatred for totalitarian rule and authoritarian rulers – have to admit. What is the alternative?

We don’t understand people power. We have oppressive kings in the Middle East but they are oppressive only to their opponents. To the general people they are very good. If you are a Saudi in Saudi Arabia, the only place better is Jannah and you have to die to get there. So the vast majority of locals are very happy. Don’t be carried away by the reporting of protests in the media which is very selective with what they show and then they try to interpret it in the way they want you to perceive it. If you don’t believe me ask yourself how many headlines, TV programs or Opeds you have seen about Sisi’s oppression in Egypt. On the contrary he is America, Israel and Saudi Arabia’s best friend and recipient of billions of dollars of aid and military supplies. While the man he deposed, the democratically elected President of Egypt, Mohammad Morsi, languishes in prison. So what’s the value of democracy?

Having said that today even the democracy we see in the world (West) is not really in a pure form as in the Greek city states from where it takes its name. It is mostly an oligarchy in one form or the other – most obviously in America but also in most of Europe. Take Rome, which also took its inspiration from Greece. Democracy lasted for a very short time. After the assassination of Julius Caesar (who incidentally was killed because he was seen as being in danger of declaring himself to be an emperor) his successor – Augustus Caesar, actually became an emperor and Rome remained an empire until its demise almost 1000 years later. Today, Western countries follow the example of Rome to the last dot.

Take the UK where feudal titles and privileges are still alive and well. I can list the kind of things that Kings and the Nobility of Europe were allowed to do as their legal right including all kinds of atrocious acts. Islam prevented this kind of despotic behavior from rulers, so Muslim masses never had to suffer this humiliation and pain. Islam didn’t permit kings to confiscate property or to inherit the property of their subjects if they didn’t leave a will. Prince Charles is Duke of Cornwall in the UK which calls itself a democracy. See the Rights of the Duke of Cornwall and ask yourself how democratic all this is: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duke_of_Cornwall

The Duchy includes over 570 square kilometers of land, more than half of which lies in Devon. The Duke also has some rights over the territory of Cornwall, the county, and for this and other reasons there is debate as to the constitutional status of Cornwall. The High Sheriff of Cornwall is appointed by the Duke, not the monarch, in contrast to the other counties of England and Wales. The Duke has the right to the estates of all those who die without named heirs (bona vacantia) in the whole of Cornwall. In 2013, the Duchy had a revenue surplus of ₤19 million, a sum that was exempt from income tax, though the Prince of Wales chose to pay the tax voluntarily. Since the passing into law of the Sovereign Grant Act 2011, revenues of the Duchy of Cornwall pass to the heir to the throne, regardless of whether that heir is the Duke of Cornwall.  

Now how democratic is that? We are not talking about medieval times but about medieval laws in modern times about which Western media is silent and Western public, ignorant. Incidentally there is not a single Muslim king nor has there ever been – no matter how personally evil – who had or exercised such rights, because Islam has specific inheritance laws guaranteed by the Qur’an which no Muslim ruler can dare to question.

So also laws of governance, rights of subjects, freedom of the ruler and so on which no Muslim ruler could or can afford to ignore without risking both his temporal authority and fate in the Aakhira (Hereafter). So even though rulers may not necessarily have believed in the Aakhira so much, they didn’t dare cross the lines laid down by Islam for fear of general rebellion. The Muslim world didn’t see serfdom and feudalism like Europe because Islam saved them. So under Muslim rule there was never enough resentment built up to bring in democracy as an alternative. Muslims lived under kings who were both good and bad but who Islam held in check so that they never became as evil and oppressive as many medieval kings of Europe who incidentally sowed the seeds of their own demise by their oppression. People can accept the impious actions of kings (some actions are actually even expected and appreciated – people get a vicarious thrill from looking at the high living of their kings) as long as they are not personally hurt.

Our history is the history of conquest and its economics – though actual conquests stopped over 300 years ago but the hangover still remains. All you need to do is listen to various Islamic lectures and ask how many of them speak about conquests, wars, bravery, sacrifice and how many speak about social work, industry, creating products or services and you see where we draw our inspiration from. I have nothing against bravery. I believe physical courage and toughness is critical even in our present day sedentary lives and a very important element of effective leadership. But I also believe that we have to wake up and get out of our Empire mindset and realize that it was a glorious phase in our history but it is over. Today we have to draw inspiration from the use of knowledge, technology, systems and markets. We have to learn a whole new set of skills and contribute in a whole new bunch of ways to be viewed as productive and contributing members of society. Stories of previous martial glory are good only if they can be translated and connected to modern phenomena drawing application lessons for today. That is why I wrote my book, Leadership Lessons from the Life of Rasoolullah
http://amzn.to/1THGypy (free versions are available on Kindle, iBooks and Google Books). This means a whole new way of teaching and learning while keeping alive our link with our great history. It is not about denying our past but about relating to it in ways that help us to make our future even more glorious and praiseworthy. Our Muslim country economics has gone the same way – we have replaced state income from spoils of war to oil revenues. Local people never had to produce, pay taxes or show enterprise. They were on the dole and remain that way. Countries are bank accounts, not economies.

What we get confused also is with the time scale of history. The days of history are centuries and its years are millennia. We try to interpret history in our human life terms, where 24 hours is a long time. Add to this our frenetic lifestyles with focus on speed and our perception gets seriously flawed. 200 years ago (and if you take the First World War into consideration, the period reduces) there was blood in the streets in Europe. That is two days ago. Today there is blood in the streets in the so-called Muslim world (read Middle East). I see this as a natural and normal process of political development and maturity. The pain is serious. But so is all growing pain. It is a stage that has to be passed through, not bypassed.

Democracy like anything else can’t be enforced. Notwithstanding all of the above, the fact remains that democracy as we know it, is the best and most suitable form of government today. The rule of minorities, whether it is kings or oligarchs, has to and will end. As the saying goes, ‘There will only be five kings left in the world; four in the pack of cards and the King of England.’ All equally powerful.

This is where Turkey comes in and the reason why it is so important. Turkey is an experiment to see (and show) what Muslims will choose to do with their future; with the way they chose to govern themselves. The language is important and so I have not said, ‘How they choose to be ruled.’ That is the nature of most democracies today – we have substituted rulers. We have not become rulers. It is the purpose of democracy to give a voice to the individual about what his or her future should be like. It is in the mechanics and logistics of this that we seem to falter and which we have to overcome so that justice and compassion rule instead of self-interest and greed.

So what to do?

From the Muslim perspective I need to add two more elements to my argument:

  1. Effect of religion (Islam) on developing democracy
  2. Preparing consciously for democracy under Islam’s mantle

Effect of religion (Islam) on developing democracy

What Europe did when it adopted democracy instead of feudalism and monarchy was to jettison religion. The Christian Church had always supported kings and legalized all kinds of oppression, even atrocities because kings contributed to their coffers. Commoners also did but naturally the political power of kings was greater. The Roman Catholic Church learned what happens when you oppose kings too much. Anglican Christianity was born with the King of England as its head instead of the Pope. They never made that mistake again. This resulted in overall alienation of people from religion and the separation of the Church from temporal authority and government all over Europe. The Church tried to bend over backwards by permitting all kinds of innovations and even sins in order to get people back into the Church especially when people suddenly became a very important, if not the only, source of income after the demise of feudalism and monarchy. But they never really succeeded. Christianity in Europe declined and continues to do so although it has made big gains in the East and in Africa. But that is another story, not relevant to this discussion.

Islam on the other hand has always played a very active, participatory role in government and as mentioned earlier was a regulator on kings and commoners. The speech of Abu Bakr Siddique (RA) when he became the first Khalifa set the tone of the relationship of Islam to the State. He said, ‘As long as I obey the Book of Allahﷻ and the Sunnah of His Messengerﷺ, you must obey me. But if I go against the Book of Allahﷻ and the Sunnah of His Messengerﷺ you must not obey me.’ This was the foundational principle of the Muslim State. Even when rulers were clearly not obeying the Book of Allahﷻ and the Sunnah of His Messengerﷺ personally, they didn’t cross certain invisible lines for fear of losing their authority and life. So the State was always held in check. This also affected the economy and so there was never the kind of abject poverty and oppression that the serfs of Medieval Europe suffered. Compulsory charity (Zakat) is a part of the Islamic Creed. There is a huge focus on charity itself over and above this. All festivals are based on charity, Ramadan is a time for charity and there is a share for the poor person in almost every spending of the rich. Most importantly this money doesn’t go to the ‘Church’ as in the case of Christianity making priests rich, but it goes to the poor people of the land.

On the other hand, Islam is silent on people power or democracy. This is in keeping with the general principles of the Shari’ah where broad guidelines are given but you are left to use your intelligence and creativity to find solutions keeping within the boundaries of the Shari’ah. Allahﷻ doesn’t micromanage. For government the boundaries are to be just, compassionate, support the weak and powerless, enjoining good and forbidding evil. Islam advocates consultation as a general principle but doesn’t specifically say what form that should take or who should be consulted. Our history has a few examples of consultation with powerful people, but not a single one of a general consensus building like what is the norm today in all democracies. Like all human processes this is also not perfect and in some cases (as I mentioned earlier) it may even be the wrong thing to do, but it is now something that has come to be expected of functioning democracies – election, referendum, consultation are all powerful words.

Preparing for democracy

Having said all of the above the fact remains that democracy has come to stay. It is by far the better option of all the options of government that we have. It is not perfect and will have to be experimented with and changed until it becomes as close to perfect as anything that involves human choice can be. Democracy is not distinct from the idea of the ‘Nation State’ which itself needs to change as it is the cause of so much negativity all over the world. Democracy started with the Nation State and its citizens but must mature to become relevant to the idea of Global Citizen. Only then will we abolish boundaries and wars. Muslim countries are not unique and don’t stand apart from the rest of the world in this respect. We are all in the same boat. However Muslim states are behind by at least 200 years in terms of their evolution of government. We are still stuck with monarchies and dictatorships with dictators calling themselves ‘elected’ after orchestrating elections to their tune. The citizens of Muslim countries must reject all forms of totalitarian rule and use the power of the collective to take control of their countries and destinies. We saw the power of the people in the failed coup in Turkey where the people clearly demonstrated a very mature understanding of real democracy and their willingness to pay for it with their lives. The world in general and the Muslim world in particular owes a debt of gratitude to the people of Turkey for teaching us a lesson in taking charge of our lives and destiny. As I have said before, ‘We will not be asked, ‘What happened?’ We will be asked, ‘What did you do?’ The people of Turkey showed us how to answer that question.

Muslim countries need to prepare to become democratic. And that is NOT by running revolutions. For a revolution to succeed a huge amount of ground work needs to be done. Failure to do that will result in lives being lost in vain. We saw the most recent example of that in Egypt where in the so-called Arab Spring, Hosni Mubarak, one of the most oppressive of dictators was deposed, not by foreign aid but by the people of Egypt. However very soon it became clear that those who were successful in throwing him out, had no idea what to do with their new-found authority and freedom. So very quickly they lost both to another dictator, Sisi. Sadly, this is not the first time that this happened in the Muslim world. But we seem to be very slow learners. We are good at getting all charged up with emotion and fighting for a just cause. But we do almost nothing to set up systems and processes to fill the power vacuum that results from the removal of any system. Vacuums get filled, not necessarily with good things. As we have discovered repeatedly. Yet we don’t learn.

So what must we do?

The best example of what we must do already exists before our eyes and has done for decades – the Shadow Cabinet in the British Parliament. The Shadow Cabinet is the Cabinet of the Opposition Party, which is not in power and exists on the principle of asking one powerful question; ‘If the ruling party falls out of power tomorrow, how will we run the government?’ This question is based on the assumption that a time will come when we, the Opposition Party, will have the reins of power in our hands. So we must prepare for that day. And they do. The Shadow Cabinet has all the same roles as the ruling party, dealing with Finance & Fiscal Policy, Foreign Policy, Defense, Commerce etc. who create policies to deal with these subjects based on the ideology of the Opposition Party. That way when power devolves to them, they are ready.

My question to those who talk about the need for democracy in Muslim countries is, ‘Where is your Shadow Cabinet?’

Please remember that though I gave the example of the British Parliament, for a Shadow Cabinet to exist it doesn’t need to be in Parliament. We can and should set up think tanks which can play this role and create policies in the light of Islam.

In order to succeed we need four other things:

  1. Scenario Planning & Critical Thinking
  • Conceptualize What-If scenarios and prepare multiple plans to deal with them.
  1. Healthy debate
  • Use debate as a tool to fine tune the scenarios by finding faults and correcting them
  1. Openness to learning and change
  • Open minds and egos that are not fragile. Focusing on solutions, not on one-upmanship. Willing to look at new ideas and approaches that may be very different from what we have become used to.
  1. Willingness to collaborate with diverse people
  • Willingness to work with people who are not like us, don’t think like us, don’t believe what we believe, but have the knowledge and skills that we need.

The West is brilliant at all of the above and so they are successful in evolving a form of government that guarantees them peaceful transitions of power. If we want our blood off our streets, we need to live and work together as human beings; appreciating knowledge, collaborating across psychological boundaries and seeing the good in each other. Democracy in Muslim countries is not easy but it wasn’t easy for others either. Democracy is possible if we are ready to do what it takes to make it happen.

If I were President Erdogan

The Situation: They tried to kill me and topple my government. They failed. Allah helped me and I was able to provide the leadership for my people to come out into the streets. Allah caused even those who opposed me to support me. Truly I witnessed the help of Allah all through the night so that by the morning the coup failed and my government and I were both safe. My heart was touched to see how my people came out; the old, the young, men and women. They came out and risked their lives so that I and my government may be saved. Some even lost their lives in the process. I can’t possibly thank them. I ask Allah to count them among the Shuhada and to be pleased with them and to reward them with the best of the best.
The Challenge: Coup leaders have been arrested. Suspected and known sympathizers have been arrested. Those who fired shots which killed innocent citizens have been arrested. Fethullah Gulen who we suspect, masterminded the coup is safe in the US. The world leadership is disappointed that the coup failed. So their media is looking for any means to malign me and find fault with me and my work style so that they can undermine me and project me as an authoritarian dictator instead of the elected leader of my people. My challenge is to defeat them. To achieve a moral and PR victory after achieving a physical victory. In the world of today, the moral and PR victory is perhaps even more important now that the physical victory has been achieved. So what are my options?
Option 1: Purge. The word stinks for that is what a purge is. It results in a very big mess. Danger: For every single enemy I kill, no matter how justified that may be, I will create ten more who will be hidden, praying for my destruction and lying in wait for an opportunity to do me and my government harm in one way or another.
Option 2: Forgive. Danger: I will appear to be weak and unable to take ruthless action. Families of people who died in the coup will feel that they were betrayed and their dear ones not avenged. I can’t afford that as these are the people who supported me without question and paid for that with their lives. Also a coup is treason. It is rebellion against the legitimate government of the nation and the punishment for that is clear in every nation, every time. So I have to take action and take it fast and with justice foremost.
Option 3: Punish & Forgive. Punish the actual people who pulled the trigger and killed civilians. Proceed against them in the courts and let justice take its course. If that means a court martial for the soldiers followed by a firing squad, then so be it. Be transparent and just. Make sure the world sees what is happening.
Those who didn’t actually pull the trigger but still participated in the coup; once again let the courts decide. But no death penalty. Prison sentence plus stripping of all ranks and rewards.
Suspected sympathizers: Investigate them. If there is evidence that they plotted against the nation, then take action. If there is no evidence, then let them go. Suspicion is not evidence.
What not to do: Don’t be vengeful. Eliminate enemies by eliminating enmity as Rasoolullah did after the conquest of Makkah. Take the high moral ground and rise above the desire to get even. Remember that the long term consequences of revenge can be disastrous. I don’t need that. I need peace of mind to work to develop my nation. Not keep watching my back all the time. Don’t create martyrs. Nobody can fight a martyr because he is already dead. The power of a martyr to inspire is unlimited. So don’t give the enemies that power. Forgiveness takes the wind out of the sails of the enemy. He has nothing to gain support for. He becomes helpless.
The best example is the example of Rasoolullah. Here is an ideal opportunity to demonstrate it. Who better to do it than we, the Turks, who were the last standard bearers of the Khilafa. May Allah use us to demonstrate the goodness of Islam.
Coup de grâce: Fethullah Gulen. He is a suspect. Suspicion in not evidence. So offer him total amnesty and invite him to come and live in Turkey. Appoint him as my adviser. Acknowledge his contribution to the nation and ask him to advise us as a senior.

Am I insane? I am very sane. It is better to have a suspected enemy inside my tent pissing outside rather than outside, pissing in. Having him close to me means that I will always know what he is up to. That is a benefit in itself. Finally, it is highly unlikely that he will accept this offer. So be it. The fact that the offer was made will win the PR battle and put him on the back foot. That is also a victory. Sane or insane?