ISLAMABAD: A Jordan-based publication has declared Prime Minister Imran Khan ‘Man of the Year’ in the Muslim world while US Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib has been declared ‘Woman of the Year’.

In its 11th annual issue, ‘The Muslim 500: The World’s 500 Most Influential Muslims’ has selected Mr Khan because of his various initiatives before and after becoming prime minister, including his efforts for long-lasting peace with India.

“What is particularly to his credit is that upon taking office in August 2018, Khan made it quite clear that one of his top priorities was to work for a lasting peace with India,” it said.

The publication said Mr Khan wanted to normalise relations through improving trade ties and settling the Kashmir dispute.

It said that in his first television broadcast as prime minister, Mr Khan addressed not just the people of Pakistan and the world, but also the people of India. He declared that Pakistan wanted a lasting peace with India.

Jordan-based publication calls Rashida Tlaib ‘Woman of the Year’

The publication revealed that Mr Khan said that “if it [India] took one step forward, we would take two steps”. He didn’t wait for that one step, the publication said, adding that a meeting between the Pakistani and Indian foreign ministers was arranged on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in September 2018, but India cancelled the meeting. That September, Mr Khan wrote the first of his three letters to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, calling for a dialogue and lasting peace. But, Mr Modi did not respond, the publication said.

According to it, Mr Khan says all his efforts to start a dialogue have been rebuffed by India. He and his cabinet assumed that Mr Modi’s increasingly hardline positions and his rhetoric against Pakistan were aimed at whipping up a nationalist frenzy among Indian voters with an eye to elections.

Mr Khan writes that after Modi’s re-election in June he congratulated the latter and expressed his hope that they could work together for peace, progress and prosperity in South Asia. One month later, Mr Khan repeated his hopes in another letter to Mr Modi. Again, the Indian prime minister chose not to respond.

“Of course, there is a certain and perhaps necessary apparent naiveté to Imran Khan’s efforts for a lasting peace as demonstrated in India’s openly aggressive behaviour in August 2019, imposing a military curfew in the Indian occupied portion of Kashmir, and the arrest of thousands of Kashmiris in occupied Kashmir and in India. As Imran Khan knows, this is not the India those of us old enough to remember and think of when we read or hear the name ‘India’ — the India of Mahatma Gandhi, the Congress Party as led by Nehru, or the Gandhi family and their partisans,” the publication said, adding that India’s present prime minister and his own ruling party which ended Congress rule were shaped by the Hindu Supremacist movement — Rashtriya Sawayamsevak Sangh (RSS). Mr Modi and several of his ministers remained members of this movement which can be described as a form of Hindu religious fascism.

According to the publication, Mr Modi is particularly reverent about one of the leading founders of the RSS who wrote: “To keep up the purity of the race and the culture, (Hitler’s) Germany shocked the world by purging the country of the Semitic Races — the Jews. National pride at its highest has been manifest here…a good lesson for us in Hindustan for us to learn and profit by.”

The new publication further said: “So, this is Imran Khan’s great dilemma — how do you make a much desired lasting peace with a nation governed by those who have neither interest nor need to make a lasting peace with Pakistan, and against whom any form of war would be hopeless.”

It also mentioned that if the Muslim 500 was in print back in 1992, Imran Khan would have been nominated as ‘Muslim Man of the Year’ because of his brilliant performance in cricket, which culminated in Pakistan winning the 1992 Cricket World Cup.

“The editor of the said publication also stated that he was touched when Khan launched a successful fund raising campaign to establish a hospital devoted to both the care of victims of cancer as well as research,” read the publication.

It said Imran Khan became Prime Minister of Pakistan in 2018 after 22 years devoted to building an opposition political party committed to reform; confronting Pakistan’s civilian political establishment over the issue of embedded corruption and mismanagement. “This and his other accomplishments are detailed in the biography that accompanies his ranking (Number 16) in this, the latest edition of The Muslim 500,” it added.

For Woman of the Year, the publication said that American Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib (Democrat, Michigan) is this year’s Muslim 500 Woman of the Year. It said that she is the first Palestinian-American woman and joint first Muslim woman (along with Ilhan Omar, Democrat, Minnesota) to be elected to the American Congress as member of the House of Representatives.

She took her individual oath of office with her hand on the Quran. Although she is serving her first term in office, she is certainly one of the most publicised members, largely because of President Trump who has publicly accused her and three other congresswomen of colour (collectively known as ‘the squad’) of hating America and saying that they should “go back to where they came from” — a trope that has been used by white American nativists (a polite way to refer to racists) since the 19th century responding to waves of immigrants.

Pakistan’s prominent religious scholars Mufti Muhammad Taqi Usmani and Maulana Tariq Jameel are also among the list of influential Muslims.

Published in Dawn, August 24th, 2020

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