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This Kerala village loves Saddam
George Iype in Kochi |
December 23, 2003 15:39 IST
Rising anti-American feelings in north Kerala's Muslim-dominated Malappuram district, where a village has been re-named as Saddam Beach, has led the American consulate at Chennai to organise a series of workshops on Islam in the state.
But the first workshop organised jointly by the US consulate and the Faroke College on Monday in Kozhikode witnessed hundreds of Muslims protesting outside the venue, shouting slogans against the capture of former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein.
Even as Margot Badran, fellow at the Centre for Muslim-Christian Understanding, George Town University, Washington, delivered a lecture on Islam and women, scores of Muslims groups alleged the US administration was following anti-Islamic foreign policies.
But Badran, who is on a tour to India under a US cultural exchange programme, talked at length about feminism and Islam, and the rights of Muslim women.
Outlining the emergence of Islamic feminism in the post-Khomeini Iran and Malaysia, she said that Islamic feminism is a discourse grounded in the Koran and not a response to the constitution of any country against its anti-woman provisions.
"Islamic feminism is a movement to demand equality and justice with men that had been clearly laid down in the Koran," Badran said.
But several Muslim leaders questioned the need for such a seminar.
"I do not understand why the US Consulate should organise a workshop on Islam in Kerala. They should instead hold workshops as to why the US administration has massacred a large number of women and children in Iraq and other countries," P Koya, a senior leader of the National Democratic Front, a radical Muslim outfit in north Kerala, told rediff.com
Koya said that Muslim organisations would not allow the US consulate to conduct any more workshops in Kerala. "The US administration wants to win our support for continuing its anti-Islamic policies. But we will continue glorifying Saddam Hussein," the NDF leader said.
But the organisers of the seminar said it would conduct similar workshops in future because anti-American feelings are running high in Muslim-dominated villages across north Kerala.
Last week, a small beachside village known as Saddam Beach, in Malappuram, decided to boycott American products in protest against the capture of Hussein by American forces.
Muslim leaders named the village Saddam Beach during the first Gulf War in 1991 to affirm their solidarity with the fallen Iraqi leader. Twelve years after the village was christened as Saddam Beach, the new name has gone down into revenue records and government documents.
Posters of Hussein and the Iraqi flags have been fluttering along the roadside of Saddam Beach. Villagers aided by various Muslim groups have been taking out regular processions expressing their solidarity with their fallen Iraqi hero.
A few months ago, anglers in the village built a fishing boat named Iraq with an inscription on it: "Every Bush will be ploughed someday."
The fishermen in the village have also named their country boats after the cities of Iraq, like Basra, Karbala and Baghdad.
Razak Chekalil of the youth wing of the Indian Union Muslim League says that anti-American protests are increasing across Malappuram because of the US actions in Iraq.
"Thousands of people from these villages are working in various countries in the Gulf. Many of them are coming back losing their jobs. Largely, the American occupation of Iraq is one reason for this," Chekalil told rediff.com
According to a study by the Trivandrum-based Centre for Development Studies, Kerala contributes the largest number of expatriates -- 1.6 million --working in the Persian Gulf.
Expatriate Keralites are credited with having boosted the state's economy in the past three decades by sending remittances worth billions of rupees every year.
The Kerala government in July established a new company to provide exclusive financial and social security services to the Non-Resident Keralites who are returning to settle down in the state.
The new company christened, as Roots-NRK Development Initiative is also the nodal government agency to channelise NRI investments to Kerala.