Muslims under siege in India, says SDPI chief

Updated 03 April 2014
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Muslims under siege in India, says SDPI chief

Muslims are under siege in India, not only from parties in the country but also from outside forces, the leader of the Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI) told Arab News here on Wednesday.
The threat was from the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS), the Bharatiya Janata Party and Shiv Sena in India, and rightwing Zionist organizations abroad, said A. Sayeed, SDPI’s national president.
Sayeed said the SDPI launched in June 2009 in New Delhi to bring serious politics to the table. He said politicians these days are only interested in positions and money. “This type of contaminated politics is found in India and all over the world.”
He said there are too many apolitical people in the country, including some intellectuals, writers and opinion makers watching from the sidelines. “They are not getting involved in politics. We find them on television programs discussing everything under the sun. There is a need for such people to come forward and work to clean up politics. This is the necessity of the time,” he said.
He said Israeli and other global anti-Muslim forces are influencing the Indian government. “They want political monopoly over Muslims in the entire world, not only in their countries, but communities in other countries. That is why they are targeting Indian Muslims,” he said.
Sayeed said the SDPI has formed committees in 13 states and has a presence in another five states. Some members hold seats on local bodies with the cooperation of others. “Rather than going for political positions we are at present focusing on organizing Muslims and other marginalized communities and bringing them under a single leader. That is more important for us than gaining any positions in the present situation.”
Sayeed claimed that many political parties have “bought” Muslim leaders. “Even ‘maulanas’ are sharing platforms with Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi. In such a situation, you cannot expect all Muslims to come together under one umbrella and work for a single cause. That is a truth from which we cannot escape,” he said. “We have to work for the emancipation of the community, and to achieve that we will have to fight very hard. Some internal work needs to be done in the community itself. At the same time we have to have internal secularism in the Muslim community.”
He said some Muslim parties are working toward this goal in parts of the country and have posts in various state governments. In Bangalore, the SDPI has one member, in Kerala three municipal councilors, and in Karnataka eight municipal councilors and several panchayat members.
“On a local level it is somewhat OK for a newly formed party. None of the leaders of our party has any experience in politics. This is not a party that has departed from any other main political party. It is not a faction. It is a grassroots party. We are training our cadres and members to work in the political field.”
He said the party does not have massive funding and collects monthly subscription fees from members. “We go to the public for donations. We don’t have much money in our purse. Ordinary people support us. That is our source of income,” he said.


How ‘Absher’ app liberates Saudis from government bureaucracy

The Absher website also provides information on how to report wanted persons, or administrative or financial corruption. (Supplied)
Updated 17 February 2019
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How ‘Absher’ app liberates Saudis from government bureaucracy

  • Western media mistaken in portraying app as a tool of repression, leading female journalist says

JEDDAH: Absher, the “one-click” e-services app launched by the Interior Ministry in 2015, is now regarded as the leading government platform for Saudi citizens, freeing them from bureaucratic inefficiency and endless queuing for everyday services.
However, in a recent New York Times article, the app was criticized as a “tool of repression” following claims by Democratic Senator Ron Wyden and women’s rights groups.
Apple and Google were urged to remove the application from their devices over claims that it “enables abhorrent surveillance and control of women.”
In an official statement, the ministry rejected the allegations and said the Absher platform centralized more than 160 different services for all members of society, including women, the elderly and people with special needs.
The app makes electronic government services available for beneficiaries to access directly at any time and from any place in the Kingdom, the ministry said.
Absher allows residents of the Kingdom to make appointments, renew IDs, passports, driver’s licenses, car registration and other services with one click.
Many Saudis still recall having to queue at government agencies, such as passport control offices and civil affairs departments, for a variety of official procedures. Appointments could take weeks to arrange, with people relying on their green files, or “malaf allagi” — the 1980s and 1990s paper form of Absher that was known as the citizen’s “lifeline,” both figuratively and literally.
Hours would be spent as government departments ferried files back and forth, and if a form was lost, the whole transaction process would have to start again. As complicated as it was for men, women suffered more.
Muna Abu Sulayman, an award-winning strategy adviser and media personality, told Arab News the introduction of Absher had helped strengthen women’s rights.
Sulayman said she was disappointed at comments on the e-services platform being made abroad. “There are consequences that people don’t understand. It’s a very idealistic and naive way of understanding what is going on,” she said.
“The discussion on the guardianship law is internal and ongoing — it is something that has to be decided by our society and not as a result of outside pressure. We’re making strides toward equality and Absher is a step in the right direction,” she said.
“In a Twitter survey, I asked how many women have access to their guardian’s Absher. Most answered that they control their own fate. Men who don’t believe in controlling women gave them access to their Absher and that shows an increase in the participation of women in their own decision-making.”
Absher also provides services such as e-forms, dealing with Hajj eligibility, passport control, civil affairs, public services, traffic control, and medical appointments at government hospitals.
The platform is available to all men and women, and removes much of the bureaucracy and time wasting associated with nonautomated administrative systems.
On the issue of granting women travel permits, the law requires a male guardian to grant it through the portal, as well as for men under the age of 21.
Retired King Abdullah University professor Dr. Zainab M. Zain told Arab News: “I always had issues with my passport renewal as well as my children’s as they are both non-Saudi. For years it was risky not to follow up properly at passport control — you never knew what could happen, but now I can renew their permits by paying their fees online through Absher from the comfort of my home in Abu Dhabi.”
Ehsanul Haque, a Pakistani engineer who has lived in the Kingdom for more than 30 years, said: “Absher has helped tremendously with requests, such as exit and entry visas for my family and myself. I can receive approval within an hour whereas once it would’ve taken me days,” he said.
“The platform has eased many of my troubles.”
The Absher website also provides information on how to report wanted persons, or administrative or financial corruption.
In April, 2018, the ministry launched “Absher Business,” a technical initiative to transfer its business services to an interactive digital system.
With an annual fee of SR2,000 ($533), business owners such as Marwan Bukhary, owner of Gold Sushi Club Restaurant in Jeddah, used the portal to help manage his workers’ needs in his expanding business.
“There are many features in Absher that helps both individual and establishment owners,” he said. “I took advantage of the great features it provided, and it saved me a lot of time and trouble and also my restaurant workers. It’s a dramatic change. When Absher Business was launched last year, it organized how I needed to manage my workers’ work permits.
“Through the system, I could see the status of all my employees, renew their permits, grant their exit and entry visas, and have their permits delivered to my house or my business through the post after paying the fees. It saved business owners a lot of time and energy.
“I used to have to do everything manually myself or have my courier help. I believe it’s the government’s most advanced system yet with more features being added every now and then,” Bukhary said.
“Absher has eased our burden, unlike the old days when we needed to visit government offices and it would take four weeks just to get an appointment. One click is all it takes now.”