Sunday, June 21, 2009

An Evening dedicated to Jewish-Muslim Relations in memory of Daniel Pearl

"An Evening dedicated to Jewish-Muslim Relations in Memory of Daniel Pearl" was organised by Open Space - Lucknow on Saturday, 27th June, 2009, (the event also commemorated the publication  of the Yiddish newspaper Die Yidishe Velt, which began publication in New York on 27th June, 1902) at the Academy of Mass Communication, Lucknow, among Muslim youth. On the occassion Brad Pitt produced film A Mighty Heart (2007), based on Pearl's widow Mariane's memoir, A Mighty Heart - The Brave Life and Death of My Husband Danny Pearl, was screened, and a bilingual publication (English and Urdu) of the Centre for Interfaith Studies, Faislabad, Pakistan, was distributed among the audience, who took part in a lively discussion after the screening. American Jewish journalist Daniel Pearl, who served as the South Asia Bureau Chief of the Wall Street Journal, was kidnapped and beheaded in Karachi in 2002. The killing of Pearl led his parents, Professor Judea Pearl and Ruth Pearl, to establish an organisation in his memory, the Daniel Pearl Foundation, dedicated to world peace and to the beterment of Jewish-Muslim relations. Below is the message from Daniel's parents, received on the ocassion of this event:

Mrs. Ruth Pearl and Professor Judea Pearl, parents of Daniel Pearl (courtesy: Daily Life)
On behalf of the family of Daniel Pearl we would like to express our gratitude to Navras Jaat Aafreedi and the organizer of this event, for honouring our son Daniel by dedicating this evening in his memory.
It has been heart-warming for us to see people from all walks of life reaffirming their commitments to the ideals for which Danny stood: truth, fairness and respect for all people.
But it is especially significant for us, and for Danny's son, Adam, to see Danny's legacy supported by people from the Muslim religion, the religion of the country where Danny's journey came to a sudden halt.
We live in an era where hate propagates with Internet speeds, and one can easily get the impression that humanity is losing ground to a rising tide of savagery. Adam's generation must understand that this is a misleading metaphor; that underneath the surface we have an ocean of decency and goodwill, and that hatred and ignorance are merely islands that can be conquered.
We witnessed this undercurrent of decency when so many Muslims offered us help and sympathy when Danny's death was made public.
We witnessed this undercurrent of decency throughout our journey with Professor Akbar Ahmad along the Daniel Pearl Muslim-Jewish dialogue trail.
We witnessed this undercurrent of decency when we celebrated Danny's would-be 45th birthday, on October 10, 2008. 1,100 concerts in 60 countries participated in this global event, including dozens of groups from Muslim countries, all united by the ideals for which Danny's stood, and all taking a stand for tolerance and humanity.
And we are witnessing this undercurrent here, tonight, through your inititative to establish this evening of Jewish-Muslim relations in Memory of Daniel Pearl.
We know that the people who attend this evening will continue Danny's quest for truth and understanding, and will venture to eradicate the ignorance and hatred that took Danny's life.
Thank you all for helping us uncover and activate this ocean of decency for Adam's generation.
Salam Aleikum!
Shalom Aleichem!

- Judea and Ruth Pearl
Los Angeles, California

Reports on the event can be read on the following websites:

The Times of India

Daniel Pearl Foundation

Saturday, June 6, 2009

New Muslim Cool

The youth of Lucknow came together for an exclusive sneak preview screening of the American documentary-film New Muslim Cool at the University Grants Commission Academic Staf College, University of Lucknow, on Monday, 22nd June, 2009, a day before its world premiere on the American channel PBS, thanks to Open Space - Lucknow, which won the exclusive right to screen the film in Lucknow even before it got released in the US., through a competition held by the makers of the film, non-profit media strategy company Active Voice and POV, as part of their worldwide community engagement campaign aimed at promoting dialogue and discussion among diverse groups the world over. The film was screened by Open Space in collaboration with the Lucknow chapter of the student organisation AIESEC, which is active in 107 countries.

A new documentary by Jennifer Maytorena Taylor, New Muslim Cool tells the true life story of Hamza Perez, a Puerto Rican American hip hop artist who converted to Islam at age 21, pulling himself off the streets to become a community activist and rising star. Forging unlikely friendships with a Jewish poet, a prison chaplain, and many others along his surprising spiritual journey, Hamza faces challenges with a message of hope, finding his balance in a world that never stops changing.

The broadcast premiere of New Muslim Cool took place on 23rd June , 2009, on the American channel PBS, a day after its preview screening in Lucknow, India.

The film was presented in partnership with Active Voice and Specific Pictures
For more information about the New Muslim Cool community engagement campaign, visit


Jonathan Curiel, San Francisco Chronicle reporter and author, Al' America
New Muslim Cool is a spellbinding documentary - a film that gives us the full dimension of a Muslim American man who's a rapper, educator, father, husband, and reformed idealist. His gang days behind him, Hamza Perez now tries to steer people away from that life. Perez's own life - hectic, challenging, full of love of his faith and his growing family - takes him on a circutous path that Jennifer Taylor captures with a sensitive and unblinking eye.

Salman Ahmad, UN Goodwill Ambassador and acclaimed rock musician with Junoon
New Muslim Cool moved me deeply both on a visceral and spiritual level. Like me, Hamza's Muslim-American identity envelopes religious, racial, cultural, and nationalistic frontiers. It weaves the complex threads of his American story in a beautiful and sensitive way.

Ambassador Akbar Ahmad, Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies, American University
Almost single-handedly, New Muslim Cool challenges the distortions, stereotypes, and misunderstandings around Islam. See it for pleasure and a new outlook on Islam in America.

Dr. Ben Chavis, CEO and Co-Chairman of the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network
The temperature and resounding impact of New Muslim Cool is both hot and cool. While the film transcends race, ethnicity, class and religion, the settings, scenes and scope all reaffirm the universality of one humanity. New Muslim Cool, like hip hop culture, is all about irrepressible social transformation and empowerment.

Sylivia Chan-Malik, Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Ethnic Studies, University of California, Berkley
As a scholar, I am so excited to see a film about Islam in the US that demonstrates all the complexity and nuances of the Muslim American experience. I look forward to showing the film in my classroom in years to come and can hardly wait to hear what students might say about the intersections of race, gender, and religion that are highlighted in every frame of the piece.

Larry Kirkman, Dean, School of Communication, American University
What a show! Authentic, intimate, a true POV experience, a window on a culture that most viewers cannot imagine, and a powerful trigger for discussion and reflection by young people - asking what is family, religion, art, service, jobs, politics, freedom, interfaith.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

The Rural-Urban Divide in India


I drew a plan of the city -
tall housing
narrow offices,
roads for two-wheelers, four-wheelers,
space allocated for trees to stand,

I marked them all in the city,
not knowing how
to make space for me.

Carefully I created the city,
leaving myself out.

(Poem by A. Vennila, Translated by C. S. Lakshmi and Arundhati Subramaniam, Taken from the Open Space pamphlet titled, Coming to the City)

A Picture of an Indian Metropolitan

A Picture of an Indian Village

Indian Urban Women

Indian Rural Women

Indian Urban Women

Indian Rural Women

Padmashri Prof. Nissim Ezekiel (1924-2004)


The hills are always far away.
He knows the broken roads, and moves
In circles tracked within his head.
Before he wakes and has his say,
The river which he claims he loves
Is dry, and all the winds lie dead.

At dawn he never sees the skies
Which, silently, are born again.
Nor feels the shadows of the night
Recline their fingers on his eyes.
He welcomes neither sun nor rain.
His landscape has no depth or height.

The city like a passion burns.
He dreams of morning walks, alone,
And floating on a wave of sand.
But still his mind its traffic turns
Away from beach and tree and stone
To kindred clamour close at hand.

- Nissim Ezekiel

  • Inequalities in income, lack of employment opportunities, lack of infrastructure and civic amenities, inadequate access to education, healthcare and other basic services are some of the major areas where rural areas lag behind.
  • Over 70% of the population resides in rural areas, and agriculture which is its main occupation now, accounts for only a quarter of the country's GDP.
  • Rural India encompasses a little less than three-fourths of the country's poulation and is characterised by low income levels, poor quality of life and a weak base of human development.
  • The agriculture sector has been growing at less than half the pace of the other sectors. During the Seventh Plan, agriculture and allied sectors grew at a rate of 3.4 per cent, while the national economy grew at 6 per cent. In 1997-98, there was negative growth of 2 per cent in the agricultural sector, although the national economy grew by 5 per cent.
  • Agricultural investments account for 10 per cent of the total investments in the country.
  • According to one estimate, the average income of an urban dweller is four times higher than that of a rural dweller. Rural deprivation becomes crystal clear if we look at the data on rural India's contribution to the GDP and what the rural areas get back. Rural contribution is 27% but the return is 5%.
  • The gap between the average for urban and rural areas widened by over 8% between 1987-88 and 2000-01.
  • In 2001, the urban literacy rate was 80.6% but the rural literacy rate was 59.21%.
  • Of the illiterate people who are 15 years and above but not beyond 60 years, rural areas have 55.8% and the urban areas 25.1%.
  • Of the school-going children in the age group of 5-14 years, 82.4 per cent live in urban areas.
  • Data collected from the sample registration show that life expectancy at birth in rural areas is 58 years, in the case of urban India it is 64.9 years.
  • 84.4% of rural households are devoid of toilet facilities, in the case of urban areas it is 23%.
  • The all-India average monthly per capita consumer expenditure (MPCE) was Rs. 495 in rural areas and Rs. 914 in the urban ones.
  • S. Rajagopalan, "The Rural-Urban Divide in India", ICFAI Journal of Urban Policy, Vol. 2, No. 1, April 2007
  • Prabhat Datta, "The Great Indian Divide", Frontline, Vol. 21, Issue 14, July 3 -16, 2004
  • Dileep Rangachari, "The Wide Rural-Urban Divide", The Times of India, March 24, 2003

Open Space organised a discussion on the Rural-Urban Divide in India on Sunday, 14th June, 2009, at its premises in Lucknow. On the occasion a few of Nissim Ezekiel's poems were also recited. The great Indian Jewish poet Prof. Nissim Ezekiel (1924-2004), who was decorated with India's fourth highest civilian honour, the Padmashri, is widely known as an Urban Poet.