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March 13, 2002 - Image 4

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4 - The Michigan Daily - Wednesday, March 13, 2002

OP/ED

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420 MAYNARD STREET
ANN ARBOR, MI 48109
letters@michigandaily.com

EDITED AND MANAGED BY
STUDENTS AT THE
UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN
SINCE 1890

JON SCHWARTZ
Editor in Chief
JOHANNA HANINK
Editorial Page Editor

Unless otherwise noted, unsigned editorials reflect the opinion of the majority of the Daily's
editorial board. All other articles, letters and cartoons do not
necessarily reflect the opinion of The Michigan Daily.

NOTABLE
QUOTABLE
Remember:
Prisoners, good.
Boy Scouts, bad.
Only in Ann Arbor.
No: Only in
America."
- Jon Nordlinger in his "Impromptus "feature
in this week's National Review. Nordlinger
is the magazine's managing editor.

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CHIP CULLEN GRINDCNG THE NIB

An intense challenge to Indian secularity
MANISH RAIJI NOTHING CATCHY

40

he strongest sort of
government is a demo-
cratic, secular one -
it's the only kind that can
really impress upon all of its
citizens the validity of its
actions. I once wrote about
the ridiculousness of calling
upon a higher power, which
the entire population does not
believe in, to justify policy. For Americans, the
push and pull of secularity versus religiosity seems
dim; besides some silly "God Bless America" slo-
gans and our faith-based president, it seems clear
that America is a secular state. Though the Christ-
ian majority certainly tries to use "God" as a good
explanation for legislation, we are by and large
sheltered from religious intrusion in our lives.
This struggle exists elsewhere. Save for a few
exceptions, the Middle East is theocratic. The Vat-
ican is a Christian state; Israel is a Jewish one.
Many of the problems facing Middle Eastern
states today stem from their adamant ties to Islam;
Vatican City will never be an inclusive society and
Israel, once it solves the host of issues it faces now,
will have to face up to the obvious contradictions
of being Jewish and democratic.
Others have faced this struggle by simply
eliminating religion. The Soviet Union and China
spring to mind as states that took anti-religiosity to
an extreme - refusing not only to be influenced
by religion, but refusing to allow its own citizens
to practice their religion freely.
There is a state that is facing the secular/theo-
cratic struggle today. It is the birthplace of four
major world religions; its history has been marred
by religious strife and its conquerors have often
had vile contempt for one religion, in the name of
another.
That state is India.
India, since its inception in 1947, has prided

itself for being a secular democracy - a status that
forces Indians to hold themselves to a high stan-
dard of governance. Yet religion in India, more so
than perhaps anywhere else in the worlds, cannot
simply be ignored - Hinduism, Buddhism,
Sikhism and Jainism sprung from it. To many,
India is considered a holy land. There is nothing
secular about holiness.
One of the greatest epics in Hindu mythology
is that of Rama - the perceived incarnation of
God on earth, whose kingdom's capitol was Ayo-
dhya. In 1526, the first of the Moghul emperors,
Babar, set up his kingdom and built a mosque in
Ayodhya - the Babri Masjid.
Of all the religious tensions in recent Indian
history, the Hindu-Muslim one has been the most
vitriolic, the most violent and the most devastating.
Starting from its birth as an independent state, the
partition of India and Pakistan proved an impetus
to a level of bloodshed that shocked rational peo-
ple on both sides of the still-disputed border. India
pledged to itself to rise above religious strife - to
practice a form of government that led with demo-
cratic values, not religious ones.
This government secularity has been India's
one and only saving grace throughout its short life.
There have been setbacks; Indira Gandhi's 1984
attack on extremist Sikh terrorists operating from
the Golden Temple in Amritsar - one of the holi-
est sites in Sikhism - led to her eventual assassi-
nation by two of her own Sikh bodyguards. The
lessons of Indira Gandhi are sadly being forgotten
in India today.
In .1989, amidst a rising current of Hindu
nationalism in India, members of the Bhartiya
Janarta Party (the party now at the helm of Indian
politics) and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (a right-
wing Hindu nationalist group) arrived in Ayodhya
under the auspices of the Rcan Janambhoomi
(Ram's Birthplace) movement to lay down the
first stone in what they pledged would be a recla-

mation of the holy city.
At the time, the army stood watching, taking
precaution to ensure that the mosque was not torn
down, as had been planned. Three years later, that
precaution was not taken; the Babri Masjid was
razed by fanatic Hindu nationalists - with the
army watching in smiling acceptance.
The Indian Supreme Court had pledged to
deal with the legal issue of Ayodhya - does
Indian secularity mean a negation of valid reli-
gious/cultural beliefs? The Babri Masjid in Ayo-
dhya was paramount to having a church in
Mecca, a temple in the Vatican - Hindus have a
valid reason to demand that their ties to Ayodhya
be respected.
But this demand should have been settled
through the courts. Hindus had a claim to the city;
though it would have been difficult for the courts
to settle the issue without stepping on some toes,
provisions could have been made to respectfully
move the Babri Masjid to another site. This would
have preserved a historical Indian monument (with
its own importance to a religious minority) while
reclaiming the holy city for Hindus. The 1992 raz-
ing of the Babri Masjid did nothing more than
incite some of the most violent riots the country
has seen. Until now.
Against the backdrop of 800 dead Indian Hin-
dus and Muslims, the Indian government faces one
of the fiercest challenges to its secularity. There is
no rebuilding the Babri Masjid and even if a gen-
uine legal process allows for the building of a
Hindu temple in Ayodhya, there needs to be a sea
change in Indian politics - a concerted effort by
moderate Hindus to usurp the right-wing fringe
and reclaim Indian secularity. If such a change
fails to occur, India risks becoming like the very
neighbors it so strongly criticizes.
Manish Ravi can be reached
at mraji@umich.edu.

I

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LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

6

Undergraduate education
should not have to suffer
for quarreling GEO, 'U'
TO THE DAILY:
I am perplexed as to why any undergraduate stu-
dent would support the Graduate Employees Organi-
zation strike Monday. Why should undergraduates
support a group which, through its "strike," clearly
shows that it does not have the best interests of stu-
dents at heart, a group which can heartlessly deny
thousands of tuition paying students an education
which they deserve?
On top of the fact that the GEO is forcing under-
graduate students to lose a full day's education, it is
also making demands of the University that will have
a direct negatiye impact on the affordability'and qual-
ity of the undergraduate education in the future. They
are demanding, among other things, increased pay
and subsidized services including child care. Since
the University already has a strapped budget, these
changes will clearly result in tuition hikes in the near
future. They also want to change the University poli-
cy on English Language Proficiency so that graduate
students who clearly do not have the language profi-
ciency necessary to teach can receive the financial
benefits of working as graduate student instructors.
GSIs have a difficult job and they may have a
legitimate claim to better working conditions. How-
ever, undergraduates should not be forced to sacrifice
their tuition and their education because the GEO and
the University cannot get along.
KATHERINE ADAMS
LSA junior
Raiji's viewpoint 'biased;'
was misrepresentative of
Shafir's speech
TO THE DAILY:
As someone who attended the Israel confer-
ence this past Sunday, I found Manish Raiji's
viewpoint on General Relik Shafir's speech
(Israel under attack, 3/11/02) ironically very differ-
ent from the viewpoints Shafir expressed at the
conference. Raiji's viewpoint was not the picture
painted by Shafir, who acknowledged among
other things the fact that the Israeli settlements -in
Palestine are aggravating the Middle Eastern con-
flict and that their removal is necessary before a
peace agreement can be established.
Raiii asserts that Pales.'tinian refusa~l to recov-

Palestinians massacred in a refugee camp last
Friday, who were shot by invading Israeli troops
and then run over with tanks once injured or
beaten with pieces of a Palestinian ambulance
that was stopped and destroyed at a checkpoint).
However, since the 1970s Arab nations have
agreed to recognize the Israeli state in return for
an independent Palestinian state and Israeli
withdrawal from occupied land, land which
coincidentally already belongs to the Palestini-
ans under international law. Shafir himself stat-
ed in his lecture that in order for both parties to
receive justice, Palestine must be recognized as
an independent state by Israel.
Furthermore, Raiji writes his article as if
Arab and Muslim states are the worst enemies
the Jewish people have ever had, when in fact it
was stated by Shafir clearly that Jews have his-
torically have received far better treatment liv-
ing in Muslim countries than anywhere in the
West, where Christian anti-Semitism is ram-
pant.
In my admittedly humble opinion, a govern-
ment that wants peace does not roll into refugee
camps a few days after a peace plan is proposed
and start telling people to vacate their homes or
they will be killed by the hundreds, which hap-
pened last Friday after the Saudi peace plan was
proposed.
In short, Raiji has written a biased, unfair
piece which misrepresents the message present-
ed at the conference and furthers his obvious
personal agenda of painting Arabs and Muslims
as uncivilized. While admitting that Israeli
actions may have been "harsh" and that Arab
Israelis are treated unfairly, Raiji irrationally
draws the conclusion that because of Israeli
"suffering" resulting from their illegal occupa-
tion, these actions are justified. What about the
suffering of those people crushed outside their
homes by tanks, or who are humiliated and shot
at Israeli checkpoints? I suppose from this one-
sided perspective, their suffering shouldn't be
considered at all.
SARAH BEDY
LSA junior
Undergraduate population
should not cross picket lines
To THE DAILY:
I never had any intention of crossing the Grad-
uate Employees Organization picket lines on Mon-

such as food service employees, they are not
expendable and highly valuable, and thus have
should fight for the best contract that is possible,
including a pay raise that is above the rate of infla-
tion, as well as additional training to make them
not "suck" as much.
Additionally, I believe that a large part of the
undergraduate population simply does not under-
stand what it means to cross a picket line. After
hearipg what many undergraduates have had to
say regarding unions and picket lines, it is obvious
that most of my classmates do not realize the bene-
fits brought about by unionization in this country. I
can say with confidence that almost every student
has either a parent or a grandparent who is or once
was in a union, and that union's struggles for better
contracts has led to a more affluent way of life,
including the opportunity to attend the University.
KYLE METEYER
LSA sophomore
MSA reps, parties should put
aside 'business-as-usual politics'
To THE DAILY:
In a victory for the defense of affirmative
action, the Michigan Student Assembly voted to
pass a pro-affirmative action resolution at last
Tuesday's meeting. The only executive candidates
who spoke for the motion and declared openly
their endorsement of the resolution were we, the
Defend Affirmative Action Party candidates,
Agnes Aleobua for President and Ben Royal for
Vice-President. Neither the Students First nor Blue
Party candidates spoke for or explained their split
vote on the motion. In a cynical electioneering tac-
tic, the presidential candidates for both parties
voted for the resolution while the vice-presidential
candidates abstained
This week, in another critical campus issue, the
Graduate Employees Organization walkout,
DAAP again declared our support and endorse-
ment of GEO's struggle and actively campaigned
to get undergraduate support for the Monday boy-
cott. Again, Students First did not publicly declare
their support for the GEO struggle. And the Blue
Party remained silent on the issue.
Students have the right to know where the par-
ties stand on the key issues facing campus life. The
way to overcome voter apathy and disgust is for
the parties running to stand openly and proudly on
their principles and take clear public positions on

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