Kashmir's Prayer: Life For Arafat, Death For Bush
5 November 2004
The Asian Age
Srinagar: As Muslims filled mosques and shrines across Jammu and Kashmir on the third Friday of the fasting month of Ramzan, the exceptional entreaty they made before Allah was to grant them two wishes apart from the prayers to seek collective forgiveness and salvation from him. One, they prayed for the recovery of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, who is lying unconscious and gravely ill at a hospital at Clamart in France; two, they prayed for Allah to 'punish' US President George W. Bush for the 'crimes against humanity' committed by him during his first tenure and 'save' particularly Muslims from his 'sharr' (wickedness) in the next four years. 'Aye Allah, tu George Bush ko nest-o nabud kar dey aur America ke zulum ka khud hi tod kar de (Oh God, destroy George Bush and give a counterblow to American tyranny),' said the Imam of a mosque at Samandar Bagh, down an alley along Srinagar's fashionable Regal Chowk. The cleric spoke in length about the turmoil in Iraq, Palestine, Afghanistan and some other parts of the world, accusing America, Israel and their allies of 'butchering' Muslims. President Bush was castigated, rather condemned, for many of his other 'sins'. The cleric concluded the sermon with a prayer for the victory of the mujahideen wherever they are engaged in jihad. At a neighbourhood mosque, the cleric was worried about the deteriorating health of Mr Arafat and when he prayed for his urgent healing, the devotees sitting in front of him said in unision, 'Amen.' There also solidarity was expressed with the oppressed Muslims of Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan and other 'occupied lands.' At many mosques and other places of worship, however, the issue of social evils having crept into Kashmiri society was the main topic of the sermons delivered by clerics. The subject was also touched upon, though briefly, by Kashmir's chief Muslim priest and moderate separatist leader, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq. He asked thousands of Muslims who converged at the city's historic Grand Mosque to extend their help towards the effort to eradicate social evils. The imam at another mosque was highly critical of the government for allegedly doing nothing to curb the wrongdoings of corrupt people. He referred to media reports suggesting that some senior police officials, bureaucrats and even ministers were involved in the leaning towards prostitution. At yet another place, a 16th century mosque that abounds in rich ancient architecture and lies on the banks of the river Jhelum, which runs through Kashmir's summer capital, the cleric delivered a sermon on 'the Muslim way of life.' He, too, criticised the police and administration's role in dealing with those involved in a recently busted flesh trade racket here. About three weeks ago when Ramzan began, the Muslim clergy in Kashmir had pledged to preach reconciliation. Mirwaiz Umar believed that Ramzan was a 'training period' wherein the Muslims could be taught how to bring in peace to their lives.