Eid Shows Tablighis Do Not Represent India’s Muslims ( Sunday Guardian)

Eid was observed this year in homes, rather than in massive congregations.

The internet was meant to be a pathway to the world. Conversations can take place across time zones in real time, although it has taken the restrictions imposed during the Covid-19 pandemic to teach even Silicon Valley that the earlier insistence on staff working from offices was an error. The giants of the virtual world—Google, Amazon, Netflix, Baidu, Alibaba, to name a few—had to either follow manufacturing industries in shutting up shop temporarily or to allow the bulk of their employees to work from home. Surprisingly for those whose habits of thought remain moored to those acquired across generations, the work proffered by those at home often turned out to be better than when they were in their offices. A minister during the A.B. Vajpayee era began the still ongoing process of seeking to police the Information Technology (IT) industry in India the way other industries had long been. Some corporates that had flourished under Licence Raj began Information Technology outfits. Staff associated with the creation of software were asked to report for work punctually every morning (or get their salaries docked), leave only after office hours and wear ties and preferably a suit as well while at work. Needless to say, such corporates fared poorly. It is not an accident that the wearing of suits (or even jackets) is regarded with some disdain in locations where the Knowledge Industry flourishes. After all, who would want to put on such an uncomfortable garb if there were no compulsion to do so? The IT industry in India grew exponentially until the Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh governments sought to regulate it in a manner that included the criminalization of several outcomes in which internet platforms as such had no responsibility. Despite the laws and regulations proscribing “hate speech” (itself a somewhat diffuse term), webspace has witnessed a tendency for those having similar likes—and dislikes—to cluster around only each other. Through the consequent magnification of the echo of their views, several of their prejudices get embedded in their reasoning.

Among many netizens was the reflexive belief that Muslims in India are represented by the adherents of the Tablighi Jamaat (which managed to escape the eagle eye of the authorities to held a mammoth indoor rally in the heart of the national capital, with unfortunate consequences for the battle against Covid-19). The fact is that Tablighis represent only a tiny proportion of Muslims, although the way most of the community remained silent about the behaviour of some of the members of that group led to such a fact not being as obvious to the larger public as it ought to have been. However, Eid, the close of the period of Ramzan, showed India’s Muslims to be as conscientious about public health as any other community. The observance of Eid-ul-Fitr this year overwhelmingly took place in homes, rather than in massive congregations as previously. And in a welcome break from a tradition that has not been sanctioned in the Holy Quran (women and men being separated for prayer), women and men prayed together in several homes, often for the first time. Several individuals gave to the poor the moneys saved through the absence of the lavish Iftar parties that had been a staple of the past. Both these changes in past practice deserve to be continued even in a situation where the novel coronavirus may no longer be the public health threat that the WHO (somewhat belatedly) proclaimed it to be. In a country which in many regions regarded the education of women as a waste of money, time and effort, Muslim women are joining their sisters of other faiths in filling schools and colleges. Several have distinguished themselves, including in fields such as medicine and engineering. This is a world away from the vision of the Taliban or their ideological cousins in other parts of the world, who believe that a woman’s place is in the home, when not being made to do back-breaking work in the fields or elsewhere. Despite the continuation of the Great Indian Lockdown to (at least) the close of this month, many had believed that large groups of people would assemble and gather outside their homes in order to celebrate the end of the period of fasting. Instead, across India, Muslims remained at home during that day, acting no differently from Hindus, Christians, Buddhists, Sikhs and those of other faiths. They behaved in the manner good citizens are expected to, by obeying the rules of the lockdown and ensuring social distancing. If the images appearing on television screens about the doings even in hospital wards of some of those who had attended the New Delhi Tablighi Jamaat meeting are accurate, such was the opposite of the behaviour of a community that numbers nearly 200 million across India. Fortunately, such individuals are not taken as role models but as a fringe group by India’s Muslims.

Whether it be the world of cinema, education, business or literature—or in diverse other fields—Muslims in India have excelled, both men and women. The restraint and dignity shown by them during Eid proves the point that the people of India ought never to have been divided on the basis of faith. Such a division was sought (and successfully implemented) by Winston Churchill, Conrad Corfield and other backers of colonialism in their attempts to permanently weaken the people of the subcontinent through fragmentation.


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Sep 13, Grand Remembrances

Today is Grandparents Day in the United States. Being a Grand is a special honor. I feel very blessed that my wife and I have two grandchildren. We were able to visit them today. Yes, we are still being cautious with the coronavirus, but we also find it very difficult to not see them when they live so close. So today we did drop by to visit Jacob (age 10) and Sophia (age 7) along with their parents. We brought donuts and caught up with them. Our grandchildren are still pretty young and this is a precious time in their lives – and ours!

I wish I had known my grandparents better. We never lived in the same place. Dad was a career Air Force pilot, so we moved around a lot. But we did get to see them once in a while when they would visit us, or we them.

A Plague of Giants

There are five known magical ‘kennings’ or types: air, water, fire, earth, and plants. Each nation specializes in of these kennings, and the magic influences the society. There’s a big pitfall with this diversity of ability and locale–not everyone gets along.

Enter the Hathrim giants, or ‘lavaborn’ whose kenning is fire. Where they live the trees that fuel their fire are long gone, but the giants are definitely not welcome anywhere else. They’re big, they’re violent, and they’re ruthless. When a volcano erupts and they are forced to evacuate, they take the opportunity to relocate. They don’t care that it’s in a place where they aren’t wanted.

I first read Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid books and loved them (also the quirky The Tales of Pell), so was curious about this new venture, starting with A PLAGUE OF GIANTS. Think Avatar: The Last Airbender meets Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera series. Elemental magic, a variety of races, different lands. And it’s all thrown at you from page one.

But this story is told a little differently. It starts at the end of the war, after a difficult victory, and a bard with earth kenning uses his magic to re-tell the story of the war to a city of refugees. And it’s this movement back and forth in time and between key players in this war that we get a singularly grand view of the war as a whole. Hearne uses this method to great effect.

There are so many interesting characters in this book that I can’t cover them all here. Often in books like this such a large cast of ‘main’ character can make the storytelling suffer, especially since they don’t have a lot of interaction with each other for the first 3/4 of the book–but it doesn’t suffer, thankfully. And the characterization is good enough, despite these short bursts, that by the end we understand these people and care about what happens to them.

If there were a main character it would be Dervan, a historian who is assigned to record (also spy on?) the bard’s stories. He finds himself caught up in machinations he feels unfit to survive. Fintan is the bard from another country, who at first is rather mysterious and his true personality is hidden by the stories he tells; it takes a while to understand him. Gorin Mogen is the leader of the Hathrim giants who decide to find a new land to settle. He’s hard to like, but as far as villains go, you understand his motivations and he can be even a little convincing. There’s Abhi, the son of hunters, who decides hunting isn’t the life for him–and unexpectedly finds himself on a quest for the sixth kenning. And Gondel Vedd, a scholar of linguistics who finds himself tasked with finding a way to communicate with a race of giants never seen before (definitely not Hathrim) and stumbles onto a mystery no one could have guessed: there may be a seventh kenning.

There are other characters, but what makes them all interesting is that they’re regular people (well, maybe not Gorin Mogen or the viceroy–he’s a piece of work) who become heroes in their own little ways, whether it’s the teenage girl who isn’t afraid to share vital information, to the scholars who suddenly find how crucial their minds are to the survival of a nation, to the humble public servants who find bravery when they need it most. This is a story of loss, love, redemption, courage, unity, and overcoming despair to not give up. All very human experiences by simple people who do extraordinary things.

Hearne’s worldbuilding is engaging. He doesn’t bottle feed you, at first it feels like drinking from a hydrant, but then you settle in and pick up things along the way. Then he shows you stuff with a punch to the gut. This is no fluffy world with simple magic without price. All the magic has a price, and more often than not it leads you straight to death’s door. For most people just the seeking of the magic will kill you. I particularly enjoyed the scenes with Ahbi and his discovery of the sixth kenning and everything associated with it. But giants? I mean, really? It isn’t bad enough fighting people who can control fire that you have to add that they’re twice the size of normal people? For Hearne if it’s war, the stakes are pretty high, and it gets ugly.

The benefit of the storytelling style is that the book, despite its length, moves along steadily (Hearne is no novice, here). The bits of story lead you along without annoying cliffhangers (mostly), and I never got bored with the switch between characters. It was easy to move between them, and they were recognizable enough that I got lost or confused. The end of the novel felt a little abrupt, but I guess that has more to do with I was ready for the story to continue, despite the exiting climax.

If you’re looking for epic fantasy with fun storytelling and clever worldbuilding, check out A PLAGUE OF GIANTS.

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The Artwork Of Gary Choo

Gary Choo is a concept artist/illustrator based in Singapore. I’ve know Gary for a good many years ( 17, actually ), working together in animation studios in Singapore like Silicon Illusions and Lucasfilm. Gary currently runs an art team at Mighty Bear Games, but when time allows he also draws covers for Marvel comics, and they’re amazing –

The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo

To see more of Gary’s work or to engage him for freelance work, head down to his ArtStation.

The post The Art Of Gary Choo appeared first on Halcyon Realms – Art Book Reviews – Anime, Manga, Film, Photography.