VERSE OF MOSAB ABU TOHA AND HUMAN RIGHTSby HUMRA QURAISHI November 26 2023, 12:00 am Estimated Reading Time: 4 mins, 30 secs
Humra Quraishi wants to know why The World Human Rights Day should be observed this year, and questions the intentions of the Government of Uttar Pradesh for banning Halal certified edible items.
The World Human Rights Day is on the 10th December, but can we even think about observing the day when a full-fledged genocide is taking place in Gaza…where thousands of Palestinian men, women and children have been brutally killed? The survivors have not been left in any condition to live with dignity and pride. Their homes have been pounded and razed to the ground, their livelihoods ruined, they’re tortured, bruised and destroyed. The lives of thousands of innocent Palestinians are devastated. In such a scenario, human rights should be a dead chapter in text books and be relegated to the stale and rotten speeches of the self-serving politicians.
Mosab Abu Toha, the renowned poet, was detained in a mass arrest of Palestinians by the IDF on November 20th as per news reports. He was at a checkpoint in Gaza, travelling towards the Rafah border crossing, with his wife and children. Later came the news that he was released after he was “interrogated and beaten.”
I’m quoting here from the Literary Hub: “On October 29, 2023, Abu Toha posted an Instagram video of his family home, now flattened and reduced to rubble, in Beit Lahiya, North Gaza. “That used to be my house,” he says, looking over his shoulder. “There is nothing, there is nothing over there. Not my books. Not my heirlooms. Not the kitchen. Nothing.” Later that day, Abu Toha posted a screenshot of the poem “What Is Home?” from his debut poetry collection Things You May Find Hidden In My Ear published last year by City Lights. In the caption to the poem, he asks: “Please save this poem, recite to the people around you and tell them what happened to my home, and the homes of so many other people? Tell them some families were buried under the rubble?”
And, now I’m focusing on what’s happening here in our country - last week the Uttar Pradesh sarkar banned halal-certified edible items. Don’t ask me why! Perhaps, something to do with vote bank politics. This is just another tactic to distract from real issues and get people talking about the communal agenda. It is as though only the Muslims consume meat. Haven’t we been witness to the lynching of Muslim men, and teenaged boys, on suspicion of consuming, storing or trading beef? So many meat vendors and shops have been sealed using the same excuse. There are scores of Indians unemployed because the tanneries have been shut down.
Here's what former IIT Mumbai professor, academic and author Ram Puniyani has to say on this ban: “Interestingly, the ban on halal-certified edible products applies only to the local market. Products meant for export have been excluded, though all meat exported to countries where halal meat is consumed requires halal certification. Halal, in Arabic, simply designates what is permissible as per Islamic religious practices. Halal certification of meat items guarantees that the animals, including poultry, were slaughtered in the prescribed Islamic way. India has no clear nationwide law or rule that requires halal meat to be sold - it has been left to individual preferences. Meat that is exported is, naturally, subject to proper checks for halal certification. The halal trade is economically highly significant - a roughly $3.5 trillion industry - and India has benefitted vastly from the promotion of halal exports. Its significant trading partners are the Organization of Islamic Countries and South East Asian nations.”
He further says, “The Uttar Pradesh government has justified the ban by saying some companies had issued “forged” halal certificates for financial gain - meaning that they did not follow the prescribed rules, but claimed they did. Surprisingly, a communal angle has been inserted into the forgery allegation by claiming that these companies cause social animosity and violate public trust. If the issue is fake halal certificates, why impose a blanket ban on domestic sales? If it is about animosity, where is the evidence?”
He also states: “According to Mufti Habeeb Yusuf Qasmi, president of the Halal Council of India, ‘the controversy over halal certification reflects the propensity to view every development from a myopic Hindu-Muslim lens’. Halal is about hygiene and purity. It is not a Hindu-Muslim matter but about food”.
I will end this week’s column with this verse of poet Mosab Abu Toha.
What is home:/it is the shade of trees on my way to school before they were uprooted./It is my grandparents’ black-and-white wedding photo before the walls/crumbled./It is my uncle’s prayer rug, where dozens of ants slept on wintry nights, before it was looted and/put in a museum./It is the oven my mother used to bake bread and roast chicken before a bomb reduced our/
house to ashes./It is the café where I watched football matches and played/My child stops me: Can a four-letter word hold all of these?/