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Project IMDAAD

Jamshed Akhtar


[Project IMDAAD (Indian Muslims' Drive Against Atrocities and Degeneration) was originally conceived as a networking project for Indian Muslims, but the communication model can be used in other countries too with sizeable Muslim population. Such networks can then be linked together with their western counterparts to make a giant monolithic dynamic organism capable of positive contribution towards global peace and development.]

Introduction

Published statistics on Indian Muslim's low literacy rate, decline in the enrollment of children in schools, inconsequential employment figures, their maximal number in slums, their wallowing in an environment of disease, exploitation and persecution, do not really represent the all round suffering of the community. At the dawn of a new century when communication revolution is sweeping around us, improving the living standards, opening up the world markets and lowering of social barriers that had kept the different sections of population till now segregated, the attack of misery on this scale is ironical specifically since Ultimate Guidance is with us.

The community too is not small. Almost 120 million people, who are increasing daily, reside in India alone. To fight misery at this scale, we need to raise the general information level to an extent where it can become effective to combat the attacks of chaos with the help of the Quran. But few individual efforts, institutions or universities are not going to make a difference. A radical communication solution is needed that can reach the grass roots extensively, effectively and quickly.

Solution

Fortunately we have two different types of networks at our disposal - a centuries old physical system of mosques, and a modern cyber network encompassing and reaching every corner of the globe. If we connect the Internet with the Institution of mosques, and offer a common accessible platform for free exchange of information throughout the length and breadth of India, collection and exchange of high quantums of information, and reflection and debate on this information by masses in progressively increasing numbers, is possible on all aspects of Deen and Dunia. Such an exchange is bound to result in substantial benefits for all.

How can the two networks be combined?

Project IMDAAD does not envisage computerization of each and every mosque for its success. The basic plan is to encourage formation of small groups (chapters) with just one computer literate member with an Internet connection in any city, village or township of sizeable Muslim population. This lone member will initially be enough to act as a communication link with the central IMDAAD portal covering a particular area. Other members of such groups will then be required to request and enlist the help of Imams or management committees of different mosques of the area (irrespective of denominations) for exchange of information with Muslims, living around it. Mosques are natural nodal points of communication gifted by God to us. Through simple small boxes (cash box size) placed in mosques, individual and collective problems of the community and the informational databases can be collected easily. Locally solvable problems, will be put before relevant individuals of the area, while general problems relating to media distortions, human rights abuses, informational database and issues concerning average Muslims will be passed on to the central website.

The same process of communications will work in reverse also. All information available on the IMDAAD portal, pertaining to educational courses, legal and human rights, industrial and governmental schemes for minorities, city wide database of resources, technicians, businesses, mosques, schools and organizations etc., will be accessible to all, within and outside India.

How can Project IMDAAD can be supported?

Donations and commerce will be able to support all activities of this portal Inshallah. With the passage of Bill on IT, e-commerce has become a reality in India. The prime advantage of Internet is that it provides a level field for men competing in business with different resource capabilities. It also eliminates the middlemen in the business. This peculiarity of e-commerce can be organized to reap rich dividends for minority community where most of its members have preferred to learn crafts and services in the absence of education. Initially, IMDAAD portal will invite advertisements, listings in business directories, supply of forms, educational courses, and other information and services at reasonably minimum costs. Later, this portal can have its own shopping malls with virtual stores, transportation agents, service firms, financial institutions and other ways to help Muslim craftsmen display their wares and do business and trading nationally and internationally.

What can be achieved through such a union?

1. Interactive education on unprecedented scale

Publicized and made available through mosques of the area, lists of Institutions, Organizations, Query Centers, Courses available, Opportunities for long distance learning and Mailing lists for discussions etc. can be provided to average Muslims under all categories of education - religious; scientific; industrial; technical; financial and commercial etc. From a central database again collected through the mosques, volunteers of the area in the education field, will be asked to take up surveys and drives for establishing schools, vocational and adult education centers, night schools, and schools-on-wheels etc. in areas where such facilities are not present. The web site will provide details about government schemes, and listings of NGO's and other Institutions for help in this field.

2. Collective lobbying through electronic mailing lists and mosque's network

Mosques have grass route access and mailing lists have global reach. A combination of the two can produce lobbying on massive scale. The community can also use the combination effectively to convey all issues of interest, beneficial schemes and successful social experiments done elsewhere.

3. Media monitoring and interaction

Listing of all outlets - newspapers, news agencies, satellite channels and magazines etc, and media alerts through the mailing lists, will help the community monitor and interact with media in an effective and rational manner. Availability of exact data will also help us in this regard.

4. Information and help pertaining to individual and collective legal rights

Majority of Muslims do not know the legal rights Constitution provides for them. The portal can provide a comprehensive guidance on such matters, a database of lawyers of the area, free legal council, listing of legal search engines and various tips and advices useful for common man.

5. List of government and NGO sites, schemes, forms and other useful information.

The web sites of various government departments and NGOs' provide information for free that was available till now only through the courtesy of corrupt clerks after much harassment and waste of time. Now average Muslims will be able to get all such useful information, schemes, and forms etc. through the IMDAAD local chapter.

6. Collection and maintenance of interactive nation wide database

Data collected through mosques and transferred to a portal via Internet link of the area, can build and maintain a nationwide database of Muslim professionals, technicians, businesses, factories, resources, employees and workers, to help in job, business and trading etc.

7. Informational database on Muslim Institutions

In general Muslim Institutions are mismanaged everywhere. The community has lot of prime property locked up in mismanaged trusts (Waqf) and nazul lands etc. As the records are getting older the property is changing hands all over India with the connivance of corrupt clerks and officials. An exhaustive informational database on mosques, educational and financial institutions, trusts, Nazul lands, and graveyards etc will help tremendously in preservation, proper management and exploitation of this property to provide the needed resources for the betterment of community.

8. Facilities for community's feedback on persecution

Facilities for reporting incidents of bias in administration, police, public sector firms, educational and financial institutions and human right violations will go a long way to lessen persecution of Muslims. Wherever possible this bias will be combated through interaction, collective lobbying, media exposure and building of database of such incidents.

9. Gradual buildup of a Wire Service

It is a well-known fact that Indian media is relatively free in it's reporting till the identity of 'victim or cause' is not a Muslim. Starting from an average reporter to the editorial assistants and upward, the bias creeps up at all levels in the media hierarchy, and is most visible in the vernacular press. Such a state of affairs is really tragic because good and bad people exist in all communities, and denial of the right to communicate is playing havoc with the social structure. A combination of mosques and Internet can provide actual and timely reports, received directly from the victims themselves alongside the police version for a balanced perspective. The wire service would also strive to present insightful analysis and commentary on issues and events of importance to Muslims, written from an Indian Muslim perspective, to add balance and objectivity to an otherwise homogenous media pool.

10. Feedback of problems:

-To National Human Rights Commission

Most of the Muslims due either ignorance or lack of resources do not approach the appropriate authorities that can help them in case of persecution. The feedback on such problems collected through the network will be provided to National Human Rights Commission in an organized manner.

-To a body like 'Muslim Personal Law Board'

Most of the problems faced by Muslims are of their own making. The safeguards that Quran has built into the structure have been ignored consistently for a long time, to the peril of all. Fortunately we now have an apex legal body 'Muslim Personal Law Board' accepted by all sects of Muslims in India, which recognizes the need of Ijtehad. What we have to do is to provide feedback of problems in an organized manner for discussion and reform in the existing structure. Such an exercise will become easy once the Project IMDAAD gets working.

-To recognize Ulema of various sects

The results reached through consensus in 'Muslim Personal Law Board' or 'Islamic Fiqa Academy' can be conveyed to Muslim masses nationwide through Friday Khutaba'as by eminent scholars, in Arabic and translated versions, posted on the IMDAAD website weekly. These Khutaba's can be downloaded and printed through the Internet link, photocopied and sent to different mosques via a courier. Otherwise also, the extent of social problems and the associated data can be sent to Islamic scholars of all sects, who can write an appropriate Khutaba relevant with the time, to be posted regularly on the IMDAAD web site.

Computer illiteracy, PC penetration and other problems of infrastructure

Increasing business opportunities in establishment of Internet kiosks will encourage computer literacy automatically, like it did in the mushroom growth of PCOs in India. We can also ask government, NGOs', Zakat fund of Muslims to help increase PC penetration and our NRI brothers to donate new or second hand computers to Muslim institutions in India. Regarding other problems of low telephone penetration, inadequate power supplies and absence of cable modem connections for faster connections, we can go for VSAT technology later when our number of local chapters make this technology economically feasible.

An invisible advantage of this project will be the exercise of joining of have and have-nots, the literate and the illiterate of community. It will convey the problems at the grass root to the literate, and the illiterate in turn will benefit from the trained and well-informed minds of the community. The exercise can cultivate and distribute the leadership between two groups. With the involvement of Imams in such a movement, mosques could regain the status of focal points, from where a new breed of creative and moralist Muslim force will emerge Inshallah, playing a useful national and global part, conscious of the duty placed by God on them. IMDAAD has thus immense potential of benefit or khair for the community as the same experiment could then get repeated in Pakistan, Indonesia, Bangladesh and other countries with similar problems.

Note: A partially constructed IMDAAD website is available on http://www.imdaad.4t.com/index.html

It is sufficient for putting the concept across, but would need help and involvement of software professionals for its final shape



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