Category Archives: religion

How Many More ‘Halal’ Ponzi Schemes?

It is important to note that the very idea of Islamic banking and promoting it as a parallel to conventional banking – which is being portrayed as un-Islamic – and which has caught the imagination of a section of god-fearing Muslims, is a clear manifestation of shifts in Muslim politics over the world.

'Halal' Ponzi Schemes

Image for representational use only.Image Courtesy : Business Today

Afzal Pasha, a 55-year-old labourer, is dead. He died of a heart attack a few days back.

The news that the attractive scheme in which he had invested his life’s savings worth Rs 8 lakh went bust proved unbearable for him.

While Afzal’s tragic death could catch headlines, we will never know the plight of the thousands of investors – all of them belonging to the Muslim community – who had similarly invested their hard-earned savings in the said investment scheme launched by Mohammed Mansoor Khan in 2006 through his firm I Monetary Advisory (IMA).

The scheme was declared ‘Shariah-compliant’ and worked on ‘“no interest” policy of Islamic banking. A section of the clergy had even certified this scheme as “halal”, which means “lawful” or “permitted” in Arabic, which helped it easily earn the trust of the Muslim community. Small investors from across the state of Karnataka had flocked to it with their investments ranging from a few thousand rupees to a few lakhs.

A few days back, the promoter of IMA just disappeared from Bengaluru and is supposed to have fled to Dubai.

According to rough estimates, the size of the fraud is of more than Rs 2,000 crore and a special investigation team (SIT) has been constituted to look into the scam and punish the fraudsters. Apart from the fact that people invest in such schemes because of the promise of incredible returns, what is so particular about these schemes which lure Muslims from various strata to go for it?

One, as ‘Shariat’ compliant fund, they formally claim that they do not invest in companies that deal in alcohol, tobacco, weapons, pornography or gambling, among others.

Two, they do not take “deposits” or pay “interest”, rather convert the investors into limited liability partners and pay the investors dividends.

What is notable is that it is not for the first time that one witnessed a firm being run on purely ‘Islamic principles’ has similarly gone bankrupt. ‘The Milli Gazette’ had time and again reportedactivities of similar fraudsters who had robbed ordinary Muslims of their precious savings under the name of ‘Islamic investment’.

Al-Fahad goes Al-Falah way

… Another fraud in the name of ‘Islamic investment.’ Delhi-based Al-Fahad investment group downed its shutters in the densely Muslim populated area of Okhla and left investors high and dry. It is not the first instance when a non-banking investment company collecting millions of rupees in the name of Islamic and halal investment schemes has bolted with no trace. (…) According to a brochure of the company, Al-Fahad worked on the principle of participation in profits. The amount invested by people, a group or trust in different schemes was to be utilized to finance various profitable ventures. The profit so earned was to be shared among investors and the company (in the ratio of 80:20).

Four years later, it had reported about another such scam by ‘Al-Barr Finance House’ –headquartered in Mumbai with branches in different parts of India – which had adopted a little different method to defraud the gullible Muslims:

Islamic” fraud is back, New “al-Falah” on the prowl

While a sizable number of Muslim investors are still recuperating from the scars inflicted by Al-Falah brand of “Islamic” financial sharks, we now have another “al-” brand of companies claiming to be an associate of a multinational Islamic finance group. Unlike Al-Falah, this group has adopted another route for harassing poor Muslims.

Coming back to the busting of the IMA Ponzi scheme, one can also witness a palpable sense of anger among a section of Muslims who are venting against the Maulanas exemplified by what a young Asif told a reporter:

Hunt down the maulanas and ulemas who went about asking people to invest only in halal schemes. What makes anyone think this kind of scheme is halal?”

This techie had also a word of advice for Muslims:

Your earnings are halal only when you work hard for it. Otherwise it is haram (forbidden under Islamic law). At least now Muslims should realise this.” (-do-)

It is different matter that this advice is going to fall on deaf ears.

It is important to note that the very idea of Islamic banking and promoting it as a parallel to conventional banking – which is being portrayed as un-Islamic – and which has caught the imagination of a section of god-fearing Muslims, is a clear manifestation of shifts in Muslim politics over the world.

Growing acceptability of halal investment groups among large sections of Muslims is also a reflection of a significant sections remaining aloof from conventional banking systems for various reasons. Sachar Commission had rightly noted:

The access of Muslims to bank credit, including priority sector advances, is low and inadequate. The average size of credit is also meagre and low compared with other socio-religious communities both in public sector and private sector banks. The position is similar with respect to finances from specialised institutions like the SIDBI and NABARD. Census 2001 data show that the percentage of households availing themselves of banking facilities is much lower in villages where the share of Muslim population is high…. The financial exclusion of Muslims has far-reaching implications for their socio-economic and educational uplift.”

This financial exclusion could be a considered a culmination of various factors. It has also to do with the fact that majority of the population is poor and engaged in informal sector; it is also because of a certain mindset prevailing in the banking sector, which has categorised Muslims and Muslim-dominated areas as “negative zones” (which is documented in the Sachar report), and also for reasons of faith. (Purnima S. Tripathi, “Inclusive Banking”, Frontline, vol. 26, no. 21, October 10-23, 2009)

Any neutral observer can see that these twin factors – shifts in Muslim politics over the world and financial exclusion of Muslims here in India – has led us to a situation where one witnesses proliferation of such schemes when “[o]ne can find these banks in almost every locality where a substantive Muslim population exists”.

As a caveat, one needs to admit that all such ventures cannot be painted with the same brush and there could be quite a few genuine people among them who, as pious Muslims, could be running these ventures with utmost transparency.

Question arises what needs to be done so that separating the genuine efforts one is able to curb proliferation of such schemes among minorities which have effectively turned into ventures where “[u]nscrupulous Muslim shylocks, supported by a section of the Muslim clergy, continue to operate in India and are able to hoodwink Muslims in the name of Islamic or non-interest banking”.

First of all, it is important that government and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) come forward to take stern action against this kind of scandalous banking. A necessary first step in this direction could be guidelines issued by the RBI are strictly enforced in all such cases which pursue financial activities of the banking/non-banking kind under the banner of ‘Islamic Banking’ or Sharia Compliant Funds etc.

Secondly, it is equally important that special attempts are made to end the financial exclusion of Muslims – evident at very many levels – by adopting special measures to accomplish it.

Thirdly, it is also important to raise broadly two categories of questions:

– How did Ulemas or Islamic scholars of yore looked at introduction of modern banking?

– How countries which call themselves Islamic look at this proposition; are they ready to convert their modern banking system into Islamic Banking or have kept their efforts at a symbolic level only?

It is instructive to look at the debates in colonial India between Muslim scholars when modern banking was being introduced and a section of the Ulemas who objected to it on the basis of their understanding of Islamic principles. In his important intervention on the subject, Ather Farouqui tells us:

According to eminent Muslim thinkers of the twentieth century including Maulana Shibli Nomani and Allama Iqbal, bank ‘interest’ is a profit on investment or charge on capital and when it is not exploitative, it is not riba.

(Islamic Banking in India at the Service of Pan-Islamists, MAINSTREAM, VOL L, NO 11, MARCH 3, 2012)

He also quotes a

…a letter dated January 17, 1932 to Khwaja Abdur Raheem, Allama Iqbal writes, “Interest in every form is prohibited. But this is so in an ideal society. Fatwa of Shah Abdul Azeez is that to draw bank interest is permissible.” [B.A. Dar (ed.), Anwaare-Iqbal (Karachi: 1967), p. 245 (publication house not known)]

What does the experience of Islamic countries tells us on this matter. One can refer to Farouqui’s observations once again:

In Saudi Arabia, banks, are involved in charging and paying interest. The only difference from other modern/conventional banking is that they ’employ semantics’ and instead of using the term interest use the terms profit-loss sharing. Looking at the fact that it is an oil-rich economy, banks there rarely face losses and the depositors ‘share the profits’ which is not considered ‘riba’ (usury)

The most interesting case vis-a-vis Islamic banking pertains to Pakistan. Here few years back Islamists demanded to overhaul the conventional/modern banking system for an end to the interest paying system. The Federal Shariat Court also ruled in their favour but the government did not take it up in the legislature. When the matter went to Supreme Court, it has set aside the judgement and the matter is still pending.

He adds:

Even in an Islamic state such as Pakistan, therefore, interest-free banking has till date been unsuccessful largely due to the lacunae in the existing system but also as a result of the dichotomy between overemphasis on religious principles while trying to find one’s place in a globalised market economy.

(Islamic Banking in India at the Service of Pan-Islamists, MAINSTREAM, VOL L, NO 11, MARCH 3, 2012)

Last but not the least, one also needs to brood over the fact that in a polarised ambience whether such a move would prove really beneficial for those Muslims who are financially excluded or would it pave the way for their further pauperisation?





God in the Classroom!

Unfolding Debate about Secularising Education

( To be published in ‘Indian Journal of Secularism)

“There is in every village a torch – the teacher; and an extinguisher – the priest.”
-Victor Hugo

“Keep the words God, Jesus and the devil out of the classroom.”

A school teacher’s message on the first day of the school for first-grade students had caused tremendous consternation among a section of the parents.

She had a simple rationale to present her proposal. With their being a public school with children coming from different religions and beliefs joining it, she did not “[w]ant to upset a child/parent because of these words being used,” In her letter she had also advised them to talk to the children when they go to the church/temple/synagogue – whatever might be the case – or discuss the issue at home at an appropriate time and place of talking about it.” (

Well, instead of the discussion getting fixed on the slow imposition of the concept of God or closing of child’s minds it turned into a debate on students’ free speech rights. It did not take much time for the management of the school to rescind this proposal.

There is nothing new about this dilemma faced by a teacher who has welfare of students at the center of her/his concerns. Continue reading God in the Classroom!

Modi’s Meditation ‘Tour’

The art of legitimising religiosity in a secular country and live happily ever after.

Modi in KedarnathReligion is regarded by the common people as true, by wise people as false and by the rulers as useful. — Seneca (4 BC-AD65)

A picture is worth a thousand words.

An outgoing Prime Minister of the ‘world’s biggest democracy’ seen meditating under the glare of cameras in a cave specially opened for the occasion and with a dress stitched for the event, conveys many things simultaneously.

First and foremost, it tells us that the present incumbent to the post would at least be remembered for his varied sartorial tastes among the galaxy of PMs who headed the republic earlier. It appears that either all the others lacked the sense to dress for the occasion or found it a mundane job not befitting the post and the responsibilities they held then. Continue reading Modi’s Meditation ‘Tour’

‘विश्व गुरु का सत्य’ और ज्ञान की दूसरी परम्परा : धीरेश सैनी

Guest Post by Dheeresh Saini – Review of ‘Charvak ke Vaaris’

 `चार्वाक के वारिस` को पढ़ते हुए ही मुझे हिंदी के आलोचक और जेएनयू के रिटायर्ड प्रोफेसर नामवर सिंह के निधन की ख़बर मिली। एक ऐसी किताब को, जो भारतीय समाज-संस्कृति में अतीत से लेकर आज तक ज्ञान-विज्ञान की विभिन्न प्रगतिशील, विवेकवादी, तर्कवादी और विद्रोही धाराओं के प्रति वर्णवादी-ब्राह्मणवादी शक्तियों के हिंसक रवैये की पड़ताल करती हो, पढ़ते हुए विचलित होते चले जाना स्वाभाविक था। Continue reading ‘विश्व गुरु का सत्य’ और ज्ञान की दूसरी परम्परा : धीरेश सैनी

The Triumph of Streevaashi! Women break the wall of caste at Sabarimala

Out of the dark, seemingly never-ending night, a streak of light! Two women of menstruating ages, Bindu and Kanakdurga, finally entered Sabarimala, breaking the concerted walls built against them by brahmanical-Hindutva male authorities on the right and left. Continue reading The Triumph of Streevaashi! Women break the wall of caste at Sabarimala

Scrap the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, It is Unconstitutional, Illegal and Immoral : 70 People’s Organizations of Assam

Guest Post by 70 People’s Organizations of Assam 

Image result for citizenship (amendment) bill 2016

( Photo Courtesy : AISA)

Protestors from various democratic organisations in Assam have began an indefinite dharna in Jantar Mantar from today 9 Dec. This includes KMSS and peasant leader Akhil Gogoi, AJYCP, Tai Ahom Satra Sontha, Asom Moran Sabha, All Asam Motok Sonmilon, All Asam Minority Students Union, and 70 other organizations of indigenous population of Assam, who are part of an umbrella platform against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016. This Bill seeks to change the very definition of a Citizen of the country and include a religious dimension to it as part of the RSS’s ideological project. The effects of this Bill can be seen in starkly in Assam – which has been to fuel ethnic and religious anxieties and conflict. Protests against it has also taken unprecedented forms in recent months with participation of millions of indigenous people, including Assam bandhs, and so on.
Find below the text of the Leaflet issued by them. Please forward and Join in the Solidarity.
The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 which was introduced in the Lok Sabha on 15thJuly, 2016 [Bill No. 172 of 2016] has already caused deep anguish in the minds of the democratic India. A Joint Parliamentary Committee has also been constituted to examine this Bill. Despite wide-spread protests in Assam against the Bill, the BJP aggressively aims to pass the Bill in the coming Winter Session of the Parliament which will help to make their dream of the Hindurashtra a reality. 
*Why the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 is unconstitutional, illegal, unethical and immoral?*
The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 seeks to make fundamental alterations in the citizenship and immigration norms of India on the basis of religion. The Bill proposes to exclude ‘minority communities, namely, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan’ – from the scope of the definition of being ‘illegal migrant’. The Bill further reduces the requirement of 11 years to acquire “citizenship by naturalization” to only six years of ordinary residence for such immigrants. The ‘Statement of objects and reasons’ of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 also makes it clear that the Bill intends to declare ‘illegal migrants’ as Indian citizens. Several Indian government notifications and orders have already enabled persons of these communities who had entered India till 31st December, 2014 to get shelter without valid documents. 
The Bill will change the philosophical premise on which Indian citizenship is granted. The principle on which Indian citizenship is granted is jus soli where citizenship of a person is determined by the place where a person is born. However,if the Bill passes, it will make a shift from jus soli to jus sanguinis, where a person acquires citizenship on the principle of blood, which our Constitution-makers consciously avoided. India’s Constitutional experts have opined that the Bill is unprecedented as never before has religion been specifically identified in the citizenship law as the ground for distinguishing between citizens and non-citizens. The ideas spelt out in the proposed Bill are against the ethos and spirit of the Indian Constitution. It will violate the spirit of the Preamble of the Indian Constitution and is also against the Articles 14, 15, 25 and 26 of the Indian Constitution. 
An extra-ordinary and widespread peoples’ movement has now swept across Assam and the entire North-East India against the Bill. We, the people of Assam feel that the Bill will change Assam’s political, economic and social fabric forever. The Bill will violate the clause 6 (A) of the Citizenship Act, 1955, a special provision for Assam, which is a non-obstante clause. If the Bill passes, it will make the Assam Accord null and void. It will be a violation of the national promise. The people of Assam are afraid that the Bill will open ways to creating further insecurity and pressures in a region already over-burdened with large-scale demographic changes due to illegal migration. It will create religious basis for it, and fuel fresh rounds of ethnic and religious conflict.
*We, an umbrella platform of 70 ‘Jatiya’ (national) organizations of Assam, are on a hunger strike for an indefinite period in Delhi from 9th December, 2018 demanding the immediate scrapping of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 for the sake of the Indian Constitution, and its moral, legal and ethical values, and to protect Assam and her inhabitants from another long spell of social and political strife.*
*The Government of India plans to pass the Bill in this Winter Session of the Parliament. We appeal all political parties, organizations and individuals of India to be united to oppose this unconstitutional Bill. We sincerely believe that you will extend your support to us, and oppose the Bill to save our Constitution and democracy.*
contact:, 8638084494, 8826219749






An Open Letter to Brinda Karat about Rehana Fathima: Why are we being hunted in Kerala?

Dear Comrade

Last year, around this time, I wrote you an open letter about the plight of Hadiya Asokan who was being hunted down by the Hindutva groups for her choice of faith and partner while the CPM and its cyber force was either actively abetting the violence or watching passively. I wrote in joy, because you had taken a firm stand and despite angry howls of protest against you from your own party. However, this time, I write in sheer despair at your silence; not just yours, but of the AIDWA in Kerala in general, in the wake of the twisted machinations of the Hindutva forces around the Supreme Court’s order permitting the entry of women of menstruating ages to the Sabarimala temple. Continue reading An Open Letter to Brinda Karat about Rehana Fathima: Why are we being hunted in Kerala?