Asghar Ali Engineer – India

Linked with Madrasa education myth and reality, with The Two Circles.net, and with Islamic banking in India: Challenges and prospects.

Asghar Ali Engineer is a Muslim scholar and engineer. Internationally he is known for his work on liberation theology in Islam, the leader of the Progressive Dawoodi Bohra movement, and his work on (and action against) communalism and communal and ethnic violence in India and South East Asia. He is an advocate of a culture of peace and non-violence. Asghar Ali Engineer was born 10 March 1939 in Salumbar, Rajasthan, India as the son of a Bohra priest. He was given training in Qur’anic tafsir (commentary), tawil (hidden meaning of Qur’an), fiqh (jurisprudence) and hadith (Prophet’s sayings), and learnt the Arabic language. He graduated in civil engineering in Indore, Madhya Pradesh), and served for 20 years as an engineer in the Bombay Municipal Corporation before he took voluntary retirement to devote himself to the Bohra reform movement. He began to play a leading role in the reform movement in 1972 when a revolt took place in Udaipur. He was unanimously elected as General Secretary of The Central Board of Dawoodi Bohra Community in its first conference in Udaipur in 1977. In 2004 due to criticism of the Dawoodi Bohra religious establishment he was expelled. Asghar Ali Engineer has been instrumental in publicizing the Progressive Dawoodi Bohra movement through his writings and speeches. He has authored more than 40 books and many articles in various national and international journals, and is founding chairman of the Asian Muslim Action Network, director of the Institute of Islamic Studies, and head of the Center for Study of Society and Secularism in Mumbai. He has been awarded several awards, among which the Communal Harmony Award in 1997 and the Right Livelihood Award in 2004 (with Swami Agnivesh) for his ’strong commitment to promote values of co-existence and tolerance’ … (full text).

He receives the Right Livelihood Award, Joint with Swami Agnivesh (2004).

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Asghar Ali Engineer – India

He says: … Yes, that is very true, that secularism is a must for us. It is so multi-religious, it is so multicultural, multilingual, and so diverse. Even within Hindu society there is so much diversity, within Muslim society there is so much diversity in India. How can it function smoothly without secularism? … and: Secularism in Indian context means equal respect for all religion, equal protection for all religion by State, and the State not associating with any one religion, but keeping equal distance from all religions. That is secularism … (full interview text).

Combat Terror Day’ on February 5, 2009: … The other dignitaries who will preside over this youth initiative against terrorism include secretary of Citizens for Justice and Peace, Teesta Setalvad; actress-cum-director Nandita Das; NDTV- Kashmir correspondent Zaffar Iqbal; journalist and editor of ‘Gujarat Carnage’, Asghar Ali Engineer; Centre for Health and Allied Services activist, Abhay Shukla along with director general of RSS-run NGO Rambhau Mhalgi Prabodhini Vinay Sahasrabuddhe … (full text, 27 Jan 2009).

Find his bio on cmss.uwa.edu.au; his archive on countercurrents; his publications on andromeda.rutgers.edu; on amazon; on wikipedia /some works; on blogs on word-press; on Gojaba; on Google Images-results; on inauthor Google-search; on Google Book-search; on Google Scholar-search; on Google Group-search; on Google Blog-search.

He writes:

  • Every year we monitor communal riots in India. Here is the account of riots, which took place in 2007, which we could monitor through various sources … (full long text, 01/16/2008).
  • Modernity was greatly celebrated during colonial days of 19th century throughout the world, especially in African and Asian countries colonized by European countries. It was hallmark of superiority of west over east. West was considered most modern, rational in its approach and technologically far more superior whereas Asian and African countries superstitious, irrational and ignorant and backward. Most of the intellectuals, mainly product of western colonial education felt ashamed of their ignorance and backwardness and lack of rationality and science and tried to reform their societies by spreading modern approach among their people. However, there was vertical division in these societies between those who refused to modernize and preferred their orthodoxy and those who considered modernization a must and celebrated modernity … // … Spiritual joy and material happiness must go together. Reason should not be devoid of values. Reason without higher goals, meaning and significance of life, is two-edged sword. Truth should not be mere conformity with facts but also beyond and above it, transcendent and all inclusive. Otherwise modernity will remain handmaiden of powerful vested interests which is what it is today and will generate more and more discontents. (full long text, January 2009).
  • After the carnage in Gujarat and subsequent victory of Narendra Modi-led BJP in Gujarat has intensified threat of Hindutva forces. The Hindutva forces not only celebrated the victory in Gujarat but also declared their intention to repeat the Gujarat model in other states in coming elections. It is not so surprising after all that even the Prime Minister Vajpayee when asked about it, confirmed it. When reporters asked him would you repeat Gujarat model in other states he said, ìWill Godhra be repeatedî? The implication of this cryptic reply is that if Godhra is repeated (or created?) in other states Gujarat model will be justified and the BJP Government will neither owe responsibility to prevent Godhra-like occurrence nor the subsequent events that followed in Gujarat. Thus the BJP owes no responsibility to enforce rule of law but rule of hate, blind revenge and violence … (full text, Feb. 1-15, 2003).

Attack on Asghar Ali Engineer condemned, March 2000.

Social Reformermist Dr.Asghar Ali Engineer was attacked by a fundamentalist group headed by Syedna Mohammed Burdanuddin, head of the Bohra community, at the Santacruz airport yesterday. Ali Engineer who was hit in the head and the face, has been admitted to hospital, where he is recovering now … (full text, 24 February 2000).

… The Dalai Lama will give the Keynote Address at the Inaugural Function after which there will be an interactive session between His Holiness and the delegates. There will be two plenary sessions on the 17th January. The eminent panelists such as Prof. Samdhong Rinpoche, Prof. Mushirul Hasan, Sir Mark Tully, Dr. Kapila Vatsyayan, Srivatsa Goswami, D.R. Kaarthikeyan, Maulana Wahiduddin Khan, Swami Agnivesh, Prof. Joseph Prabhu, Prof. Asghar Ali Engineer and Prof. Bettina Baumer will be speaking on the themes: Is there an Asian Way of Resolving Religious Conflict? and Can Interfaith Dialogue Make a Difference? Other two plenary panelists Prof. Tariq Ramadan, University of Oxford will speak on Islam and the West on the 18th January at 9.00 am. Prof. Arvind Sharma, McGill University will speak on Mahatma Gandhi and Religious Pluralism on 19th January, at 9.00 am. (full text, 01/17/2009).

… At this Mela, Jamia’s annual convocation ceremony was presided over by famous Kannada writer UR Ananthamurthy, in which the University conferred degrees on sarod maestro Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, veteran filmmaker Shyam Benegal and eminent Urdu writer Qurratulain Hyder posthumously. The actor Shabana Azmi, who was felicitated with honorary degrees at the convocation, interacted with students. Veteran actor Naseeruddin Shah and social reformer Asghar Ali Engineer and Dr Vatsyayan were also felicitated with honorary degrees. Dressed in convocation gowns, the delighted students were given their degrees. “This Mela brought me one of my happiest moments in life as I was conferred with Ph D degree”, said Dr S Ramudu in a jubilant mood … (full text, 15 Jan 2009).

… Of particular concern to him was the growing conflict between Hindus and Muslims in India. Engineer wrote extensively on Hindu-Muslim relations, insisting that new understandings of religion were needed to help promote better relations between the two communities. In 1980, in order to promote new, more progressive understandings of Islam, he set up the Institute of Islamic Studies in Mumbai, through which he established links with progressive Muslims in other parts of India and elsewhere. In 1993 he established the Centre for the Study of Secularism and Society, also in Mumbai, in order to investigate incidents of Hindu-Muslim conflict, to promote new interpretations of both Hinduism and Islam as a means to promote communal harmony, and to network with activists and the media … (full text, September 29, 2004).

links:

The Right Livelihood Award;

Eyewitnesses recall Babri demolition as if it happened yesterday, 4 February 2009;

Politics and Religion in Modern India, January 10, 2009;

an article in arabic on Quantara.de (see our NGO presentation);

His short bio on Institute of Islamic Studies and Centre for Study of Society and Secularism;

the Bohra reform movement on Google web-results;

People’s Unio for Civil Liberties;

Categories on wikipedia: Dawoodi Bohras, Indian Ismailis.

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