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Kashmir and the global Muslim Ummah

Crescent International

With the Ummah confronted by so many burning issues - Kosova, Palestine, Afghanistan, Sudan - it may appear a trifle incongruous to focus on the question of Kashmir at this time. But of all the other areas, together with Palestine, Kashmir stands at the top of the agenda. The question of Palestine and Al-Quds has a special place in Islamic history. Its importance is greatly enhanced by the Prophet’s nightly journey from Makkah to Al-Quds and from there to heaven. These are events deeply embedded in the psyche of every Muslim since these events are recorded in the noble Qur’an.

Kashmir unfortunately has been largely ignored by the Ummah. Part of the problem is a lack of understanding of the real issue. It is often confused as a territorial dispute between Pakistan and India. The other stems from the fact that given India’s large size and market, most, including many Muslim countries, are guided by self-interest rather than the plight of the 12 million Kashmiris. Both points need to be addressed.

First, the problem of Kashmir is not simply a territorial dispute between India and Pakistan. True, its final status has to be determined and Pakistan has always claimed it based on the partition plan of 1947. The lapse of time does not invalidate this stand. More importantly, its final status must be determined through a referendum to which the leaders of both India and Pakistan had agreed. This the Indians have reneged on since and stubbornly refuse to discuss it with Pakistan today. They maintain the fiction that Kashmir is an ‘integral’ part of India and that the people of the State have repeatedly expressed their wishes by participating in a number of elections held under Indian auspices since 1947. The Indian argument is spurious. Local elections cannot be a substitute for a referendum specifically called to determine the final status of the State as called for in a number UN security council resolutions.

From the Ummah’s point of view, Kashmir is as important as Kosova, Bosnia or any other part of the world where Muslims are suffering. Some Muslims unfortunately have developed a strange outlook. They only pay attention if Muslims are suffering grievously and are the victims of horrible crimes. Once the level of violence against them subsides, the Muslims’ interest in their plight also declines. The same has happened to Kashmir although, ironically, the people there continue to suffer at the hands of the Indian occupation forces. Scores of innocent Kashmiris are killed daily. The rape of Muslim women as well as the destruction of their homes continue unabated.

In recent months, the Kashmir dispute has also caught the attention of the world. The reason is the nuclearisation of the subcontinent. After ignoring the core issue between India and Pakistan for decades, the world has suddenly woken up to the fact that if the problem persists, it might lead to a nuclear war between the two protagonists. The consequences would be frighteningly catastrophic. The fate of 1.2 billion people - one-fifth of humanity - hangs in the balance. This is no ordinary matter.

Beyond the reaction of the world, the Muslim world must realise that the people of Jammu and Kashmir are an integral part of the Ummah. It is not the responsibility of Pakistan alone to be concerned about it even though it would be the principle beneficiary. The issues of the Ummah cannot be looked upon from a narrow perspective. The suffering of the people of Bosnia touched all Muslims; the same holds true for Kosova. Why should Kashmir be treated differently?

At the very least, the Muslim world can exert pressure on India to respect the wishes of the people of Kashmir and hold a referendum there rather than continue with the killings. Over the last eight years, more than 70,000 Kashmiris have been murdered by the 600,000 Indian occupation troops. Even one Kashmiri life lost is one too many. It is only when the Ummah begins to pay attention to these facts that areal sense of Islamic brotherhood will develop. Looking through the tunnel vision of each country’snarrow self-interests will neither advance the cause of Muslims nor of peace.

Muslimedia: October 16-31, 1998

Article from

Crescent International Vol. 27, No. 16

Jumada' al-Akhirah 25, 14191998-10-16

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