ISLAM and MUSLIMS IN NEPAL

      

General Information

Kingdom of Nepal

Land area: 52,819 sq mi (136,801 sq km); total area: 54,363 sq mi (140,800 sq km)

Population (2007 est.): 28,901,790

Capital and largest city (2003 est.): Kathmandu, 1,203,100 (metro. area), 729,000 (city proper)

Other large cities: Biratnagar, 174,600; Lalitpur, 169,100

Monetary unit: Nepalese rupee

Languages: Nepali 48% (official), Maithali 12%, Bhojpuri 7%, Tharu 6%, Tamang 5%, others. English spoken by many in government and business (2001)

Ethnicity/race: Brahman-Hill 12.5%, Chetri 15.5%, Magar 7%, Tharu 6.6%, Tamang 5.5%, Newar 5.4%, Muslim 4.2%, Kami 3.9%, Yadav 3.9%, other 32.7%, unspecified 2.8% (2001)

Religions: Hindu 81%, Buddhist 11%, Islam 4%, Kirant 4% (2001)

Literacy rate: 45% (2003 est.)

Economic summary: GDP/PPP (2007 est.): $29.04 billion; per capita $1,200. Real growth rate: 2.5%. Inflation: 6.4%.

A landlocked country the size of Arkansas, lying between India and the Tibetan Autonomous Region of China, Nepal contains Mount Everest (29,035 ft; 8,850 m), the tallest mountain in the world. Along its southern border, Nepal has a strip of level land that is partly forested, partly cultivated. North of that is the slope of the main section of the Himalayan range, including Everest and many other peaks higher than 8,000 m.

The first civilizations in Nepal, which flourished around the 6th century B.C., were confined to the fertile Kathmandu Valley where the present-day capital of the same name is located. It was in this region that Prince Siddhartha Gautama was born c. 563 B.C. Gautama achieved enlightenment as Buddha and spawned Buddhist belief.

Nepali rulers' early patronage of Buddhism largely gave way to Hinduism, reflecting the increased influence of India, around the 12th century. Though the successive dynasties of the Gopalas, the Kiratis, and the Licchavis expanded their rule, it was not until the reign of the Malla kings from 1200–1769 that Nepal assumed the approximate dimensions of the modern state.

The kingdom of Nepal was unified in 1768 by King Prithvi Narayan Shah, who had fled India following the Moghul conquests of the subcontinent. Under Shah and his successors Nepal's borders expanded as far west as Kashmir and as far east as Sikkim (now part of India). A commercial treaty was signed with Britain in 1792 and again in 1816 after more than a year of hostilities with the British East India Company. In 1923, Britain recognized the absolute independence of Nepal.

Islamic History and Muslims

Islam is a minority religion in Nepal. According to a 2006 Nepalese census 4.2% of the population is Muslim. Islam generally thought to have been introduced by Indian Muslims that travelled through and began living in Nepal.
   Muslims of Nepal speak the Urdu language, and they constitute eight percent of the total population of 14,000,000, . The majority of the Muslims live in the mountainous areas adjacent to the border with India, but their economic situation leaves much to be desired. They are not involved in any commercial or industrial undertakings, and the majority of them are either unskilled laborers or small-scale subsistence farmers, with a sprinkling of some lower-level civil servants.

Thus ignorance and backwardness are rampant among Nepalese Muslims, and this had led to their forfeiture of their human rights in the country.

Even in the faith that they profess, their knowledge of Islamic principles and culture is very meager, and they do need guidance and direction in this respect. Many of them are Muslims in name only, but hardly know anything else about Islam.

In the capital, Katmandu, which is situated in the middle of a mountainous area, there are four mosques, though there also are Islamic schools, such as the Jankbur Daham School, which was set up in 1386 AH in that city. It is used as a center for producing Da’awa activists, as Islamic education and the teaching of the Arabic language are not allowed in government schools.

The Muslims of Nepal are not given the right to practice Islamic personal law, because there are no such laws in the country, though Islam dawned on it in the fifth century of the Hijri calendar, according to existing historical records. It was Arab and Muslim traders who introduced Islam to Nepal.

Sheikh Muhammad Nassir Al-Abboudy, Assistant Secretary General of the Makkah-based Muslim World League (MWL) said that the Muslims of Nepal are incapable of combating their backwardness in social, economic, and political matters, nor are they capable of confronting the missionary activities and their enticements. The missionaries have been able to open schools, clinics, libraries, and other facilities, including cash disbursements. They even send some of the Nepalese converts to their seminaries in Europe and the US, so as to brainwash them even more.

Even Jews, the Chinese, and Indians have their schools, libraries, clinics and other facilities, for their own political agenda and influence.

Nepalese Muslims do, however, get help from such countries as Saudi Arabia and Egypt, in the form of scholarships to those who wish to study at the universities of the two countries.
 

Nepal: Muslims Demand Representation (January 5, 2007)

Today, according to Himalayan Times, Muslims in Nepal staged a protest, bringing traffic to a standstill for an hour. Members of the umbrella group Nepal Muslim Ettehad Organisation were behind the protests. The demonstrators sat in the road at Ratha Park today, protesting that they wanted to be proportionally represented in parliament. Ratna Park in Kathmandu is where the Jama Masjid mosque is situated. This is one of the four "traditional" mosques in the country.

Taj Mohammad Miya, joint coordinator of the Nepal Muslim Ettehad Organisation, said: "The interim constitution should show respect for the sacrifice we made during the Jana Andolan II. As the statute makes no mention of the sacrifice we made during the movement, how can we say the interim statute is inclusive?"

The Jana Andolan (People's Movement) II was the gathering of protests against the autocratic monarchy in Nepal in which King Gyanendra had decided that he was better able to contain Maoist insurgents than the civil politicians. He had appointed himself head of a personally-selected government in February 2005. Most of the members of the parliament Gyanendra had deposed fled to India. There they plotted to restore democracy.

The Jana Andolan II movement was formed, and in early 2006 it had caused enough demonstrations to force the monarch to back down and accept a democratically elected government. The group was named after the original Jana Andolan movement of 1990, which had first removed the "absolute" aspects of Nepal's monarchy and also the policy of "Hindu nationalism" espoused by the monarchy. Jana Andolan I began the process of instituting a constitutional monarchy, and abolished the "panchayat" system of justice, where village elders set up councils to judge people by their own values, rather than a set code of law.

Nepal has been in a state of chaos politically since Gyanendra's nephew slaughtered almost the entire royal family while allegedly high on drugs in June 2001. A Maoist insurgency, funded by China, which seeks to establish its influence and to make Nepal a "buffer state" between Tibet and India, has been ongoing since before Jana Andolan 1.

How the Muslims suffered in Jana Andolan II is not clear. But as we have not dealt with Nepal's Muslims here, it is worth examining what has been happening.

Muslims now comprise 8% of Nepal's total population of 27,000,000 according to one source. Traditionally, the Muslims of Nepal have been well-assimilated with the Hindu and Buddhist (about 10% of the total) population. This is quite a large increase on the 4% of the population recorded in the 2001 census. The Muslims speak Urdu, the "official" language of Pakistan.

This number has risen as a result of the Kashmir crisis, where for the last 16 years Muslims have been fleeing into Nepal. One source claims that the indigenous Muslims of Nepal are mainly unskilled laborers of subsistence farmers, leading to their lack of representation in the political process. "Even in the faith that they profess, their knowledge of Islamic principles and culture is very meager, and they do need guidance and direction in this respect. Many of them are Muslims in name only, but hardly know anything else about Islam", the report states.

However, with the rise of Muslims from Kashmir, there has been a politicization of Nepal's Muslims, and groups such as Al-Haramain (listed by the US as a terrorist entity) has been funding the construction of mosques and madrassas in Nepal. Saudi Arabia and Egypt also offer scholarships to their countries where the Muslims come directly into contact with political and "international" Islam.

Islam first arrived in Nepal in the 12th century. Muhammad Nassir Al-Abboudy of the Saudi Muslim World League has said that Nepalese Muslims are incapable of overcoming their socio-political and economic "backwardness". This reasoning was used to justify "dawah" or missionary work in Nepal.

In 2004, the Nepalese authorities began to regulate the Saudi-funded madrassas. Because of the Kashmiri issue with India, there has been Pakistani funding of madrassas. One Pakistani funder is Pantech, which is a front group for ISI, Pakistan's intelligence and security agency.

500,000 Nepalese work abroad, with an estimated 350,000 working in the Middle East. About 17,000 Nepalese were working in Iraq in 2004. On August 19 of that year, 12 Nepalese workers and two French workers were separately kidnapped in Iraq.

The two French workers were eventually released, and it was later claimed that their government had paid a secret ransom. The Nepalese were not so lucky. A week after their kidnapping, one Nepalese was decapitated, and 11 were shot. On Tuesday, August 31 2004, an Islamist website showed video footage of the beheaded man having his head sawn off and then held up as a bloody trophy.

The results in Nepal proved catastrophic for the Muslim population. For the first time in its modern history, there was inter-religious violence in Nepal, and the victims were the Muslims. The Jama Masjid was attacked, and two hundred copies of the Koran were taken and burned. Offices of Pakistan International Airlines and Emirates Air were attacked, as well as private residences and media outlets. On September 1, two people were killed. One of these died as a mob tried to storm the Egyptian Embassy.

Sayed Mohammed Habibulah, a Muslim in charge of Tribhuvan University's political science faculty said: "Muslims and non-Muslims have been living side by side for the past 1,000 years and there has never been any communal violence. This anti-Muslim wave will be short-lived. Muslims in Nepal are peace-loving people and loyal to the state."

Muslims took part in the Jana Andolan II protests, in which many civilians were attacked by forces loyal to King Gyanandra, but it is not clear that the 2006 protests saw the Muslim community specifically targeted. Jana Andolan II was successful in that it placed 90,000 troops under parliamentary control, rather than in the hands of the autocrat Gyanendra. For the first time in its history, Nepal was declared a secular country, rather than a Hindu Kingdom.

It is hard to say what significance today's protest really has. Is it a sign of genuine grievance or is it a sign of political manipulation carried out by imported Muslims and their ideas? Time will tell.
 

First Nepali Translation of Qur'an

By Ferdous Ahmad, IOL Correspondent

 The first-ever complete translation of the Noble Qur'an into the Nepali language is finally seeing the light as part of efforts to spread knowledge of Islam among Nepal's Muslims and Nepali-speaking people across South East Asia. "We have taken the initiative to send the message of Allah to Nepali people through the translation of Qur'an to the Nepali language," Maulana Nazrul Hasan Falahi, President of the Islami Sangh Nepal organization which did the translation, told IslamOnline.net in a phone interview. 

The Nepali translation of the meanings of the Qur'an was launched on May 31 in a special ceremony in the capital Kathmandu. It was attended by Hindu, Buddhist and Muslim religious leaders as well as hundreds of media figures, politicians, diplomats and community activists. The launch made headlines in all the major print and electronic media outlets. Islami Sangh, a leading Muslim organization in Nepal, has begun the project five years ago with funding from the Al-Quran Academy London, an international organisation engaged in Islamic research and publication. It took Nepali scholars and linguists years of hard work to bring this unprecedented translation to light. Previously there were only translations for short parts of the Muslim holy book published in Nepali. The complete translation comprises a total of 1,168 pages with the original version of Qur'an in Arabic language.

The translation of Islam's holy book is meeting the religious need of Nepalese who are thirst for understanding the meanings of Qur'an. "The Nepali translation will provide a unique tool to know Qur'an for the Nepali people," Hafiz Munir Uddin, Director General of Al-Quran Academy London, told IOL. Khadiza Akhter Rezaee, a scholar and a women rights activist from Britain who attended the launch ceremony, agrees. "Qur'an is the main source of Islamic knowledge, so the Nepali version of Qur'an is a golden opportunity for Nepali Muslims."

Jamila Marium, of Nepal Islami Sangh, believes the translation will help many, Muslims and non-Muslims, to understand Islam. "Qur'an translation into the Nepali language is good event for Nepali Muslims and the Nepali people in general," she says. "Now we know the message of Allah through our own language." The project sponsors hope the new translation will also serve Nepali-speaking people across South East Asia. Beside being the lingua-franca language spoken in Nepal, Nepali is also spoken in Bhutan, Myanmar and some parts of India. About 2000 copies of the new translation of the meanings of the Qur'an have so far been printed in New Delhi. "Qur'an is a complete code of life and true guidance for all human being," said Faizan Ahmad, Secretary General of Islami Sangh Nepal.

 

Mosque in Kathmandu, Nepal

         It took Nepali Muslim scholars and language experts years of hard work to bring this unprecedented Qur'an's Nepali translation to the light.

 

KASMIRI JAMAY MASJID,durbar Marg.Kathmandu,Nepal

The first time I saw these children, I did not have my camera ready, luckily the day before I left, I saw them again and was prepared. 

Bhaktapur is overwhelmingly a Hindu town, but also has Buddhist and even a Muslim population. Here's the mosque down by Hanuman Ghat. 

  Islamic Centers and Organizations

MUSLIM ASSOCIATION, Kathmandu
Phone: 00977-1-233759

MARKAZADDAWATUL ISLAMIA WATTALEEM, Kathmandu


HEALTH SERVICES & RELIEF ASSOCIATION, Kathmandu, Democratic State
Phone: 00977-1-4226259

azad metal works, Kathmandu, nepal
Phone: 00977-14274141

PARAGON SCHOOL, Kathmandu, BATTISPUTALI
Phone: 00977-4492006

NADWATU DAWAH AL-ISLAMIA, Kathmandu


WAMY OFFICE, Kathmandu
Phone: 00977-1-256912

MUSLIM CULTURAL EDUCATIONAL & WELFARE CENTRE, Janakpur


MUSLIM YOUTH & STUDENT ASSOCIATION, Kathmandu


MUSLIM STUDENTS FEDERATION, Kathmandu

  Al-markazulislami, Kathmandu
  Ghigate Jame Maszid, Gorkha
  Jama Masjid, Kathmandu
  Jama Masjid & Madarsha, Siraha
  Jame Abu bakar rziallahu anhu, Dhanusha
  jamia imam ibn baz alsafia, Janakpur
  Jamia Islamia, Biratnagar
  Jamia sirajul Uloom Al-salatia, Kirisna Nager
  Kashmiri Masjid, Kathmandu
  Leagal Reserch And Advice Center, Kathmandu
  Makki Masjid, Narayangadh
  Medina Masjid Madarsa, Butwal
 
Patan jame Masjid, Lalitpur

AL-FALAH CHARITY ORGANIZATION, Kapilbastu
  HEALTH SERVICES & RELIEF ASSOCIATION, Kathmandu
  MARKAZADDAWATUL ISLAMIA WATTALEEM, Kathmandu
  MUSLIM ASSOCIATION, Kathmandu
  MUSLIM CULTURAL EDUCATIONAL & WELFARE CENTRE, Janakpur
  MUSLIM STUDENTS FEDERATION, Kathmandu
  MUSLIM YOUTH & STUDENT ASSOCIATION, Kathmandu
  MUSLIM YOUTH SAMITI, Kathmandu
  NADWATU DAWAH AL-ISLAMIA, Kathmandu
  Nadwatush-shabab alislami Dhanusha, Jarahiya -janakpur D
  Nepal Muslim Relief Society of Bahuwari, Birganj
  PARAGON SCHOOL, Kathmandu
 
WAMY OFFICE, Kathmandu

  AbulSOFT Corporation., Narayanghat
  Alharamain Acedmic society, Lalitpur
  dar alta,aleem al salafia school, Dhanusha
  JAME-A-TUL ISLAH, Lumbini
  Jamia Furqania, Kapilbastu
  Jamia Mohammadia, Bhairahwa
  Madarsa kulliyatul arabiya al salafiya, Gaur
  Madrasa Islamia, Jeetpur
  Madrasa Salafiah Madinatul Islam,Bhangahiya, Rupandehi
  Madrasah Islamiah, Bara
  MARKAZUS SUNNAH, Lumbini
 
مركز التعليم والدعوة الإسلاميه القريه تنهوا, Rupandehi

   Muslim Owned Business

  azad metal works, Kathmandu
  Himalipatra Weekly (Newspaper), Kathmandu
  Mohammad Ashfaque stores, Dharan
 
Yeti Overseas Pvt Ltd, Kathmandu

References
Islam in Nepal ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islam_in_Nepal  , September, 2008).
Info please ( http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0107820.html  , September, 2008).
Islam Finder ( http://www.islamicfinder.org/cityPrayerNew.php?country=nepal  , September, 2008).
Nepal: Muslims Demand Representation ( http://www.westernresistance.com/blog/archives/003531.html  , September, 2008).
First Nepali Translation of Qur'an ( http://www.islamonline.net/servlet/Satellite?c=Article_C&cid=1212925422213&pagename=Zone-English-News%2FNWELayout  , September, 2008).               Muslims in Nepal (Report) ( http://www.islamicpopulation.com/nepal_muslim.html  , September, 2008).
Anonymous, Documents from Representatives of Islamic Organizations in Nepal, September 2008.